Monthly Archives: June 2013

ALA Annual Conference Preview

When I heard that the American Library Association Annual Conference was going to be in Chicago this year, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to visit some old friends in one of my favorite parts of the country while also schmoozing with librarians, publishers, and other literary-minded individuals and gaining insights into new trends in the profession.  Then I learned that the trip I hoped to take to Israel through Birthright would be at the same time as ALA.  I know Birthright is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there will be other chances to go to ALA, but missing out on Chicago and on some of this year’s sessions still wasn’t the easiest decision to make.
Since I still don’t have a formal itinerary for Israel yet, and since Library Journal just (at the time that I’m writing this; here’s to scheduling posts in advance!) published their preview of ALA, I thought I’d take a look at the conference schedule.  Talk about overwhelming!  I’m a little relieved I won’t have to try to decide which sessions to attend — at some points there are three or four things I’d like to go to happening at once.  I’m most interested in the sessions focusing on reader’s advisory, emerging technologies, and programming.  A few that jumped out at me: “20 Programs Under $20,” “Beyond Genre: Exploring the Perception, Uses, and Misuses of Genre by Readers, Writers, and Librarians,” “What You Need to Know Before Gamifying Your Library,” “Leading Readers to Water…Guerilla Marketing for RA,” “40 Great Apps for Mobile Reference and Outreach,” and “GenLit & Genre X: Collections and Programming for 20- and 30-Somethings.”  There are also going to be scores of authors, author talks, and books signings competing with these sessions.  The one that makes me most wish I could clone myself or teleport for an evening will feature Cory Doctorow, Lois Lowry, Patrick Ness, and Veronica Roth presenting “Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia.”  Ness and Roth are two of my favorite authors and biggest inspirations, and I would have loved to hear them talk about the genre I enjoy both reading and writing the most.
So there’s my preview of ALA.  I’m sure next year’s conference will have some equally-exciting programs and speakers, and with another year of professional experience under my belt, I may be able to get more out of it than I would this time around.  And as much as I’d love to visit Chicago, next year’s conference will be in Las Vegas, a place that’s still on my to-see list.
For those of you who are going, enjoy the conference!  Hopefully I’ll catch you at the next one.


As a lover of language, I have always been fascinated by translation.  During my undergraduate studies I spent countless hours pouring over Latin and Greek dictionaries, and for my honors thesis I translated an excerpt from Aristophanes’ Acharnians.  I believe everything is best read in its original language — who better to decide what word or phrase an author would have used than the author himself?
Obviously, not everything I read is in its original form.  I’m not fluent enough in most other languages, and if I only read things whose author wrote in English, I would be missing out on a lot of wonderful literature.  And while I maintain that the original is preferable, if a publisher wanted to translate my work to sell in another country, I would do my best to help make it happen.  The upside to translation is that it makes a work accessible to a wider audience, and while some things are inevitably lost, these minutiae are almost always overwhelmed by what is gained.
Since I’ll be on my way to a foreign country when this post is published, I thought it might be fun to mention a few translations I’ve enjoyed over the years.  These range from classics to bestsellers, popular to obscure.  If you have a favorite work or author in translation (or perhaps a favorite translator), please share in the comments!
  1. The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz.  Originally published in 1954, the novel depicts the economic, moral, and spiritual struggles of a middle-class family during the Egyptian revolution of the 1950s following the death of the head of the household.  The different ways in which the siblings react to their father’s passing and the consequences of these reactions provide insights into both their characters and mid-twentieth-century Egypt.
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, and the subsequent books in the trilogy.  This was recently made into a movie, so I’ll keep the summary brief: Lisbeth Salander and Makeal Blomkvist are unique characters whose lives intersect in the investigation of a family secret in this mystery/thriller.
  3. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  In this tale, set in 1945 Barcelona, Daniel finds comfort after his mother’s death in Julian Carax’s mysterious book, The Shadow of the Wind.  Looking for other books by Carax, Daniel discovers that someone has been destroying every copy of every book he has written, and Daniel’s investigation plunges him into some of Barcelona’s darkest secrets in a story of murder, madness, and love.
  4. The Alchemist by Paolo Cuelho.  The story follows the Andalusian shepherd boy Santiago as he sets off in search of the most extravagant treasure in existence.  He journeys across Spain and parts of Africa before finally encountering the alchemist.  This tale of listening to one’s heart and following one’s dreams was more philosophical than what I usually read, but it was an interesting novel.
  5. Antigone by Sophocles.  I had to pick one Greek or Roman work, and I’ll be honest, this was a tough choice.  Part of the challenge of translating ancient works is that one also has to translate the cultural and historical references in them.  Antigone isn’t my favorite classical work, but I think this translation is the most accessible to the average reader.  (Some of my favorites include Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis and Aristophanes’ Acharnians, but both employ puns in the original language and require a lot of background knowledge for one to understand the humor.)

Out of Office

The sun is shining, school is out, and summer reading is in full swing!  I’ll be taking my own summer vacation for the next two weeks, traveling Israel on a trip sponsored by Birthright.  I’m looking forward to seeing some of the cultural and historical sites — the Western Wall, the Holocaust Museum, the Golan Heights — as well as just experiencing life in another country for a little while.  I always like to immerse myself as much as possible in the native culture when I travel, so I’ve been brushing up on my Hebrew and am ready for some good falafel!
Rather than abandon my readers for two weeks, I’ve scheduled some posts in advance that will be published while I’m abroad.  However, I’ll have limited Internet access, so don’t be offended if I don’t approve or respond to your comments right away.  Most likely I just haven’t seen them yet.
Have a great couple weeks!  I’ll be back in July, hopefully with a whole new set of stories to share.

Why everyone should be an intern at some point

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune discussed the increase in high school students seeking internships rather than part-time jobs.  This trend has trickled down from developments that I’ve seen at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the last several years.  The economic downturn has led to an increased focus on career preparation, and an increased willingness to “settle” for less-glamorous positions or locations early in one’s career.
Anyone who has applied for a job in the last five years has come across the catch-22: “How do I get experience if no one will hire me if I don’t have experience?”  Enter the internship.
Internships are a way to break the “experience cycle.”  But more than that, they’re an experience that I would argue everyone should have at some point.  If you’re thinking about a certain career, an internship is a great way to determine whether that would be right for you before you invest the time and money necessary to enter that profession.  A summer internship at a law practice saved me two years and thousands of dollars on a JD by teaching me — along with many useful skills like how to work with angry customers and how to write a business letter — that I did not want to be a lawyer.  Years later, when I was completing my MLIS, my practicum at a local branch library taught me a lot of those on-the-job things that library school can’t really teach: how to politely excuse yourself when someone has spent the last ten minutes telling you her life story/medical history/criminal record and you have work you need to do; how to adjust a class or a storytime on the fly because your audience isn’t the one you’d prepared for; how to decide whether to call the police when a patron may pose a threat to himself or those around him.  Yes, my classes taught me how to conduct a reference interview and teach a class; but there’s no way to prepare for the intangibles we face on the job every day other than actually doing the job.
I think there’s also something to be said for spending some time at the bottom of the totem pole.  Anyone who has worked a cash register or answered the phones for a company is likely to be more sympathetic to the customer service representatives they interact with both personally and professionally.  Being an intern gives you greater appreciation for what your own future interns will do.
And if that doesn’t sell you on internships, consider the networking opportunities.  If a position opens up where you’re interning, you’ll have a leg up on other applicants who are strangers to that organization.  Your supervisor as an intern could know someone who’s looking to hire, or could provide the reference that lands you a full-time job.
So if your degree program or job search “forces” to take an internship, don’t think of it as settling.  And on the flip side, if you find yourself working with interns, don’t think them as “free labor”; think of them as developing professionals.  If you get to know them, you might be surprised by what you can learn from one another.

IRQ: Geologist for a day

I’ve been contemplating posting a series of the interesting questions that I get asked at the Information Services desk, but after a few slow weeks, I’m not confident that I’ll be able to post them with any regularity.  Maybe I’m just picky.  I answer reference questions every day, but not all of them have me doing in-depth research on quirky topics.  So, rather than promise a question of the day or week, I’ve decided to post the fun ones (minus any personally-identifying information, of course) as they come, and tag them as IRQ (Interesting Reference Question) posts.  If you have your own IRQs, please feel free to share in the comments section!
The other day a patron called asking about a number of cities in Ohio as possible places for her aging parents to relocate.  The research came with a number of specifications: she wanted the city to be located on a limestone foundation, at a high elevation, and as close as possible to their family in D.C. and Atlanta.  Follow-up questions also included cost of living and crime statistics, public transportation systems in the various cities, and directions from here to the city she decided would be the best fit.
This query had me looking in all kinds of places.  I found a Bedrock Geologic Map of Ohio, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey and looked at the composition of the bedrock in the different regions she’d selected.  (After first determining which county each city was in, and in some cases zooming in on maps of said counties to get a better idea of what the bedrock in that specific location looked like.)  I also looked up elevations, directions from each city to D.C. and Atlanta, and whether there was a public transit system.  While most of that was found on Google, I did take a look at some census statistics, and returned to an old favorite from my days of location scouting while I was job hunting, Sperling’s BestPlaces.  The site provides information about cost of living, crime, demographics, and more, compared against the U.S. averages for reference.  (If you want to know where they get their data, check out their about page.)
While I certainly don’t consider myself a geologist, or a Realtor, I had fun investigating these parts of Ohio.  I learned a little more about the state, and about geology.