ala midwinter seattle — the end

I was up bright and early Saturday morning. Despite having drifted off to sleep around 11pm, my body decided that it was time to wake up around 5am. We ended up compromising and I got up at 6am. This allowed me time to drop by the convention center and use the wifi for a bit before my 8am ALCTS Serials Section Acquisitions Committee meeting. The meeting was moderately productive and also happened to be my first ALA committee meeting (I’m an intern).

After that, I headed back to the convention center to meet with my Dean and a potential candidate for a position we have open at my library. It was a good meeting and I learned a lot about how these sorts of things work. Very useful information if/when I decide to go into library administration. We also met with another potential candidate in the afternoon, and that, too was a good and informative meeting.

I ended up skipping the CSA lunch, the Google Tips for Librarians session, and the III e-resources sessions that I had planned to attend over the next few hours. Instead, I lunched with my Dean and met up with some friends for further lunching (desert for me, lunch for them). In between that and the afternoon meeting, I wandered around the overwhelmingly large exhibit hall and talked to some vendors.

In the evening, I attended the NMRT social at the Elephant and Castle Pub, met a few folks I didn’t know, and ended up having and unexpectedly good time. My usual posse were off at other events, so it was a bit of a struggle to feel comfortable on my own and to meet new people. And I’m subscribing to the Young Librarian‘s blog.

On Sunday morning, I attended the Electronic Resources Breakfast hosted by Ebsco. It was an interesting discussion, much like what I encounter regularly at NASIG. It surprised me to learn that this sort of thing is uncommon for ALA events. That’s a pity.

I had intended to go to the ACRL presidential candidates forum lunch, but I ended up in the exhibit hall instead. After snagging a few more advance reader copies of interesting books, and picking up a bit more swag, I headed back to my hotel to unload everything. I also stopped at Rite Aid for some aspirin (the previous night’s events had left their mark in the form of a killer headache) and shoe inserts for my tired feet. This turned out to be a very good move, since according to my pedometer, I walked a little over six miles by the end of the day.

Refreshed, and carrying a much lighter load, I returned to the convention center for what I thought was a meeting there. Turns out WEST meant the Westin, but I didn’t find that out until after the Academic Librarians advocacy group was supposed to be meeting. I trekked down to the Westing in a rush, only to discover that either the meeting was canceled or moved or no one else had shown up. Disappointed, I returned to the convention center and chatted with a vendor until it was time for my backup meeting — ALCTS Serials Section Journal Costs in Libraries Discussion Group.

I stayed for about twenty minutes until it became apparent that the meeting was more about Selden Durgom Lamoureux and Judy Luther’s project to develop a standard “best practices” license agreement that publishers and libraries could choose to invoke rather than spending time and money on the license negotiation process. It’s a good idea, and at some point this week it should be up on the NISO website. I would have stayed longer, but I received a phone call and the session wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

After a bit, I met up with Karen Schneider and a friend, and the three of us went to the Seattle Public Library for the GLBTRT social. The room was packed and I felt very out of place, for some reason. I ended up exploring the library, mostly on my own, instead of staying in the room for very long. When I get home, I’ll upload the pictures I took.

I snagged a cab instead of walking the mile or so to the Space Needle, and my feet thanked me. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the dessert tables at the III dessert reception, but I was so overwhelmed by the array of decadent chocolate (and other) desserts that it completely slipped my mind. This would also be the reason why I didn’t take pictures from the tower, either. By the end of the night, the sugar and wine combined to make me feel so exhausted I was almost ill. Yet another thing that was fun while it lasted, but the after-effects left much to be desired. Next time I won’t have the glass of wine.

My Monday morning meeting was canceled, which allowed me to sleep in (yay!) and sit here writing all this up. All I have left is a CMDS forum on collecting e-resources use, and then I go catch the shuttle home.

I feel like it’s been worthwhile for me to be here, but I’m also frustrated that so many of the things I would have attended conflicted with things I had to attend, and that there were a lot of gaps of nothing in between that could have been filled with meetings and sessions. I realize that ALA is a large organization and that scheduling is difficult under the circumstances, but it sure would be nice if some of the sessions and discussions were scheduled later in the day rather than at the same time as scheduled committee meetings. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that everything I’m interested in will be covered at NASIG, so I guess should just approach midwinter as a business meeting rather than professional development.

ala midwinter seattle day one

How much swag is too much swag?

I arrived in Seattle yesterday around noon, thankfully without incident. I opted for taking the shuttle rather than taking my chances that the pass would be okay both going and returning. Plus there’s the whole finding and affording parking in downtown Seattle.

After getting checked into my hotel room, I went up to the convention center and picket up my badge holder and packet. ALA has got this conference thing down to a science, it seems. I haven’t been to an ALA conference since 2002, and I had forgotten how organized it is. The signage is very helpful and well placed.

My first official event was the Innovative Users Group meeting. The first part was all about the upcoming IUG meeting in Chicago, which I’m not attending, so it wasn’t of much interest. I took that time to make use of the free wifi and catch up on email. After that, Dinah Sanders did a presentation about III’s upcoming “discovery services platform” called Encore. It looks really good – lots of Library/Web 2.0 widgets done in a helpful and tasteful way. It’s not meant to be a replacement for the OPAC, just a different layer for delivering resources for basic information needs. Seems like something public and undergraduate libraries would find very useful, if they can afford to purchase the product. Knowing the pricing that tends to come with these things, it may take a while for it to catch on, no matter how cool (and useful) it may be.

After that, I attended the author’s forum. It featured three science fiction and fantasy authors talking about the rise of sf/f since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They all agreed that the premise of the talk is a bit off, since sf/f was already on the rise when that happened, but that world events leading to the attacks and the rise in popularity of sf/f are linked. Two good reasons are that sf/f presents a relatively non-threatening way of discussing current problems and possible solutions, and that readers are able to escape (in a good way) for a little while to a world where at some point there will be a resolution of something. Of course, depending on the series and author (*cough*Robert Jordan*cough*) that resolution may not come at the end of the book.

The grand opening of the vendor hall followed the author’s forum. This was yet another ALA conference — specifically ALA midwinter conference — event that I was not prepared for. Apparently this is a free-for-all get as much swag as you can while chowing down on the finger food event. I now know to leave the laptop in my room along with my heavy winter coat before embarking on that quest. By the time my group was ready to go to dinner, I was dragging from the weight in my bag, and I really didn’t take much of the swag.

folk in the city

This collection runs the gamut from solo acoustic singer/songwriters to blues to alternative rock, and nearly everything in between.

For some people, the words “folk music” conjures up images of old white guys with acoustic guitars singing squared up traditional tunes. The listeners of Forham University’s WFUV (Bronx, NY) are among those who know better. Every week day they get fifteen to seventeen hours of music in a program block called City Folk.

In the industry, the genre is known as adult album alternative, but for the common people, it’s just folk music; as in music about the common person and for the common person. Stylistically, this can range from solo acoustic singer/songwriters to blues to alternative rock, and just about everything else in between.

Along with playing recorded music, the station hosts and broadcasts concerts performed at Fordham University and local New York venues, as well as in-studio interviews and performances. Since 1998, WFUV has been putting together annual compilations of the in-studio performances, and last fall they released City Folk Live 9.

This collection is music-only, which is a pity since some listeners would probably enjoy hearing snippets of the interviews as well, but the trade-off is worth it. Eighteen live tracks by eighteen very different artists and bands results in 72 minutes of music that keeps the listener’s attention. As with listening to the radio, if a particular song does not appeal to you, just wait a bit (or skip it) and something different will follow.

The performances and production are so spot-on that except for a bit of reverb to give it a concert hall feel, it almost sounds like slick multi-tracked studio production. The sheer volume of in-studio performances allows the City Folk Live producers plenty of options to avoid weak recordings while still selecting tracks from both this year’s darlings as well as long-established musicians.

City Folk Live 9 has something for everyone. My personal favorites are Brandi Carlile’s “Throw It All Away,” Rosanne Cash’s “House on the Lake,” and Alejandro Escovedo’s “Arizona.” All of the other tracks are quite listenable, including the blues and soul tunes, which are outside of my usual genre preferences. One of the advantages that a live recording has over a studio recording is the energy and presence of the musicians. This can draw in listeners who may not have otherwise paid attention to the performer.

Fortunately for WFUV, but perhaps not quite so fortunate for those outside of its listening area (and who are unable to listen online), the only way to get a copy of City Folk Live 9 is to become a member of the public radio station. It seems a small price to pay for a strong folk compilation such as this.

Track listing:

  1. David Gray, "The One I Love"
  2. James Hunter, "No Smoke Without Fire"
  3. Wood Brothers, "Luckiest Man"
  4. Rosanne Cash, "House on the Lake"
  5. Alejandro Escovedo, "Arizona"
  6. Mason Jennings, "Be Here Now"
  7. Gomez, "Girlshapedlovedrug"
  8. Nicolai Dunger, "My Time is Now"
  9. Ben Taylor, "Nothing I Can Do"
  10. Brandi Carlile, "Throw it All Away"
  11. World Party, "Is it Like Today"
  12. Sonya Kitchell, "Train"
  13. Dr John, "Such a Night"
  14. Ben Harper, "Morning Yearning"
  15. Lewis Taylor, "Stoned"
  16. My Morning Jacket, "Off the Record"
  17. T Bone Burnett, "Baby Don't You Say You Love Me"
  18. Josh Ritter, "Thin Blue Flame"

#2

This book tries to be funny about librarians and libraries, but it has not aged well.

Last year, a fellow bookcrosser sent me a copy of Betty Vogel’s self-published attempt at library humor entitled A Librarian Is To Read. This copy is being passed around to librarians, and since I’ll be convening with quite a few of them at ALA Midwinter, I figured I’d better get it read and ready to pass off to someone else.

The book did not impress me. There were moments of genuine humor, but most of the book seemed to be a mixture of negativity and sarcasm. The age of the book did not assist it, either. While it might have been more applicable (and funny) at the time it was written, libraries and librarians have changed enough since then to make it less of an inside joke and more of a glimpse into a different time. Perhaps librarians who were active in the profession around the same time as the author would enjoy it more than I.

singin’ & sinnin’

This singer-songwriter’s latest project pulls together a unique collection of jazz standards, but be prepared for the unexpected.


by Erin Mckeown

Erin McKeown is hard to pigeonhole. When she began her career in music, it was her guitar skills that distinguished her from the flocks of folky New England singer-songwriters. In the flood of coffeehouse troubadours, McKeown was able to rise to the surface with what seems like a mixture of skill, planning, and luck. Fate brought her together with fellow Voices on the Verge members, and it was then that enough national attention was drawn to McKeown that she was able to launch a succession of highly lauded albums on major independent labels (Signature, Nettwerk). Her fifth album, Sing You Sinners, was released this week, and if listeners expect more along the lines of the last three, then they will not be disappointed.

McKeown is still exploring her love of the style of pop/jazz standards from the 1930s-50s, but this time around she's covering the work of songwriters from those eras, rather than writing her own compositions.Erin McKeown | Photographer: Marcelo Krasilcic With the exception of one song ("Melody") all of the tracks on Sing You Sinners are covers, but even that one song blends in so well that one would never know it was a McKeown original unless the liner notes were consulted. Even though these are not her songs, McKeown and her band have created an album that is just as unique and fresh as her previous ones. Yes, it is a collection of standards, but there are still plenty of surprises.

The liner notes of Sing You Sinners includes an interview with WFUV Music Director Rita Houston. In that interview, McKeown shares that Judy Garland was her window into this style of music, and no standards project would be complete without her. Thus, it is appropriate that the album would begin with "Get Happy." For the unaware such as myself, the opening piano flourishes leading into a very gospel tune is not what one expects to hear on an Erin McKeown album, but soon the song shifts into the sunny/bouncy style that longtime listeners have grown accustomed to.

Two of the most entertaining songs on the album are Dietz & Schwartz's "Rhode Island Is Famous For You" and Evans & Livingston's "I Was A Little Too Lonely (You Were A Little Too Late)." Both have just the right touch of camp and clever lyrics to fit McKeown's sense of humor and delivery. The former is a fan favorite and is requested frequently at her live performances. Given the added layer of Rhode Island being McKeown's home residence, one can understand why she would be drawn to the song in the first place.

Sing You Sinners was recorded live in four days and retains the energy and spontaneity that this type of recording process can create while at the same time maintaining the production quality listeners have come to expect from McKeown. This is also her first project as a solo producer, and it seems she has learned well from mentor Dave Chalfant, although it remains to be seen if she can be as democratic and even handed with an album of her own material. Regardless of what is to come, McKeown continues to prove that she can create high-caliber music and find the right people to help her get it out there.

the future of the journal

pontificating on the impending demise of the journal

Karen Schneider will be speaking on a panel at ALA Midwinter on the topic of tech trends. She asks her readers if they have any thoughts about what is on the horizon.

The other day I was pontificating on the impending demise of the journal to a patient friend. Well, okay, not pontificating, but I was going off a bit about it. And not really the demise of the journal per se, but more about the change in how journals will be published in the future. The electronic format suits the nature of journals very well, and the trend towards born digital content is plainly glaring us in the face. However, one thing I have not heard discussed much is what this is doing to the concept of units within a journal.

Will we continue the arcane practice of breaking up journals into discrete volumes and issues? I don’t think so. Already we are seeing publishers take advantage of the electronic format by providing access (for subscribers) to articles in press prior to the actual publication date of the issue. I think that eventually, the journal as an entity will be comprised of an editorial board and review process, with a certain quantity of articles per year made available to subscribers as they clear that process.

Unless an issue has a particular theme, there’s almost no need to maintain the discreteness of paper publishing in the electronic world. Sure, we’ll need identifiers for citations and references and such, but we have that already with the DOI and OpenURL frameworks.

And besides, if our students no longer think of the journal as an entity, then eventually researchers will do the same because today’s students are tomorrow’s content providers.

ALA gets something right

There will be free wireless access in the conference center for ALA Midwinter attendees. Of course, being in Seattle, it would be simple to find a café with free wireless if one needed it.

#1

I’m starting over on the 50 Book Challenge. Last year I read 23 books. This year I hope to get closer to my goal. To assist in that, I’m trying to change the way I read books.

For most of my life, reading a book meant reading the book cover-to-cover in one go. I don’t have the time or energy for that anymore. My body won’t let me read until dawn and still function at work. So I stopped reading because I didn’t have the hours set aside to do it.

Now I’m trying to keep a set sleep schedule: 10pm-6:30am. I need eight hours of sleep in order to be fully rested, and this gives me enough time to dink around in the morning before going to work (as I am doing right now). This means that if I want to read, I have to do it before 10pm and stop at or around 10pm. I didn’t know if I had enough discipline to put down a book when the time came, but I was able to do it with the first book of 2007, so I’m hopeful.

The Empty Chair is the fifth book in Diane Duane’s twenty-two year long tale of the Romulans. The first four books (My Enemy, My Ally, The Romulan Way, Swordhunt, and Honor Blade) have been collected and published in an omnibus entitled Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages which was released last month along with The Empty Chair. I have been eager to read this final book ever since I finished the cliffhanger Honor Blade in 2005, and I was quite frustrated with my local bookstores for not carrying it. However, I was able to pick up a copy during my holiday travels.

The plot is complex and well-executed, but as with most Duane books, it isn’t as much about the plot as it is about the characters. She is one of few authors who writes Kirk so sympathetically that he doesn’t come off as an arrogant ass. I have particularly enjoyed the character development and insight into Rihannsu (Romulan) culture that this series of books has provided, and The Empty Chair neatly brought everything full circle to end the adventure with sufficient closure.

It’s much longer than the other books, clocking in at 421 pages (mass market paperback). I suspect that Duane would have preferred to split it into two novels, since there are a few minor plots that were not fully played out, and the ending battle seemed a bit rushed and anti-climactic compared to other events in the book. However, it is still a satisfying read.

Any interested readers should pick up copies of the previous books first before tackling this one. Although it can stand on its own, there are many references to previous events, and it would help to know the details and the weight they carry. Even though I have read those books in the past couple of years, I found myself struggling to remember exactly what happened and who was involved.

I’d like to go back and re-read the entire series without the long gaps between books, but that will have to wait. I still have 276 unread books in my house that await my attention. Sigh.