scion’s blood

The second book in the Chronicles of Firma trilogy leaves this reader eager for the final chapter.

My review of Scion’s Blood by Pat Nelson Childs was published on Blogcritics late last night. I’ve had it sitting on my review pile for a while, but between the move and other things demanding my attention, I didn’t get to it until this weekend. The rain canceled my softball game on Sunday, so after I got home from RavenCon, I put everything else on hold and started reading. It was a great way to wind down from the activity of the con.

…after the first eight chapters or so of re-introducing the characters and setting the stage for what is to come, the story moves along at a steady clip, hardly pausing for a breath until the end. And that breath catches in the throat as the final cliffhanger hints at what is to come in the third book. Firma is safe, for now, but Rokey and his companions still have much more to do.

RavenCon 2008

RavenCon — it’s not just for ravens anymore.

General Grievous, Princess Leia, & nobleman of the steampunk era
photo by me

I attended RavenCon for the first time this year. It’s a relatively new con, with this being the third year of its existence. One of the reasons why I attended was because it was held here in Richmond, and because several podcasters I listen to but have never met were planning to be in attendance. Over the course of the weekend, I had a chance to chat with all but one, who ended up being unable to attend.

By now, I’ve figured out how these small-ish regional cons tend to run, so aside from doing the fangirl thing, I was prepared for mediocre panels and lots of dead spaces where I attempted to make friends with people who are quite happy to remain in their little cliques, thankyouverymuch. I quickly discovered that this con is different.

Maybe it’s because it’s so new, or maybe I just had better luck, but in the end, I have to conclude that this was the best con I have attended so far. 95% of the panels I attended were interesting and informative. While I did run into a few cliques, I managed to quickly locate the room party with the types of folks who like to talk to new people, and I was able to make a few new friends by the end of the weekend.

All in all, I’m glad I went. And, I plan to go again next year.

more photos

how the university works

My review of Marc Bousquet’s book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation has been published on Blogcritics. It took me a few months of reading a little at a time to get through it, and I will admit to skimming quite a bit. I also had to put it down several times because it was too depressing to keep reading.

The stereotype of the tweedy professor — older, male, and white — is one that continues to be the common perception of academics in American culture. The reality is that this stereotype is such a minority, it might be a candidate for the endangered species list. It is this stereotype that prevents the average American from seriously considering the plight of college and university educators. Bousquet blasts that stereotype out of the water with his accurate and thorough descriptions of the true working conditions in higher education.

a tapestry of rich and royal hue

My review of Carole King’s Tapestry: Legacy Edition has been published on Blogcritics. I love this album, but I found myself without much to say about it, so I focused on what makes this edition different from previous ones.

The thing that makes this particular release of Tapestry unique and worthy of the collection of any Carole King fan is the second disc of previously unreleased live recordings. Producer Lou Adler says the live versions, with just her voice and piano, are like the demo versions he first heard of the songs.

Also, the review is a little late because I was operating under the assumption that it was going to be released on the 22nd, as was noted in previous press releases and on Amazon. However, as it turns out, the release date was moved up to the 15th. Oh, well!


I’ve been slowly working my way through a more academic book than my usual selection, and it’s taking me a lot longer to finish it. In the mean time, I agreed to send a book to a fellow member for her birthday, but I wanted to read it first. The slim young adult paperback clocks in at 118 pages and I finished it in less than an hour (over lunch today, actually). It’s called Star Ka’at and is written by Andre Norton and Dorothy Madlee.

The story involves two orphan kids and a pair of stray cats they find. The cats are not exactly your typical domestic tabbies, and there are hints of darker elements that a more adult-oriented book might cover. The mini-arc of the book ends satisfactorily, but there are enough questions remaining to make me seek out other titles in the series.

blogs are old skool?

I read a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog that declared that the end of blogs is near. Perhaps, but I think we have a few more months at least.

One of the tools that the writer points to is Shyftr, which looks like it could be as cool an RSS reader as Google Reader, and as handy a comment aggregator as coComment, but all in one place. Unfortunately, they don’t (yet) have a way to import an OPML file, so I’ll be leaving my nearly 250 feeds in Google Reader for now.

Eric Berlin, the Online Media Cultist, has some interesting things to say about Shyftr and its ilk.

unvocab debut

I made my debut on Uncontrolled Vocabulary the other evening. Everyone on the call were folks I had met at one point while at Computers in Libraries last week, and it kind of made my heart ache a little less to hear them all again. I called in on the ShoePhone, but it was glitchy, and I probably won’t use it again. Dunno if it was a TalkShoe problem or a ClearWire problem, but I think my cell phone would sound better.

So, go listen to the episode and revel in our memories of CiL!

reflections on CiL 2008

or… Nine Things From CiL That Are Made Of Awesome

9. Meeting a bunch of people I have admired from afar for many years but have never had a chance to talk to in person.

8. Having too many concurrent sessions to choose from.

7. According to the folks who attended the Pecha Kucha, it was an informative and entertaining presentation. I can avow the entertaining bit — at times the laughter and clapping coming from the other side of the divider overwhelmed the session I was attending. I will choose that session next time.

6. Thinking about gaming and libraries in a new way, and pondering how libraries can take ideas from gaming to make our resources more intuitive and rewarding for our users.

5. Learning about an overwhelming number of tools that can help me do my job better.

4. Being inspired to promote the library as a place to solve problems.

3. Learning about studies that contradict the commonly held belief that students go to online search engines first, rather than library resources, when doing research.

2. Getting inspired to un-suck my OPAC in the “Woepac to Wowpac” session.

1. Networking with my tweeps at the Brickskeller. “Best. CiL. Ever.”

CiL 2008: What’s Hot in RSS & Social Software

Speaker: Steven M. “I’m just sayin'” Cohen

[More links to cool stuff that I did not included can be found at the presentation wiki linked above.]

Google Reader is now more popular than Bloglines, which Cohen thinks has to do with the amount of money that Google can sink into it. Both have tools that tell you how many people are subscribed/reading it, which can be helpful in convincing administrators to support the use of RSS feeds from various sources. Offline feed readers don’t make much sense, since so often the things you are reading will direct you to other sources online.

If you’re not using Google Reader, do it now.

No, really. Steven says to do it.

Google + Feedburner = advertisements on your feeds, which means that they are now revenue generating, like the ads on your website. RSS is no longer sucking away your revenue source, so get over it and add feeds for your content! Plus, anyone using Page2RSS can scrape your content and turn it into a feed, so really, you should give them something that benefits you, too.

LibWorm is a site that indexes library-related blogs and news sources, and it provides RSS feeds, so use it for keeping current if you’re not already doing so.

Follow what is been twittered on your topic of choice using TweetScan. Follow all of your friends’ online activities at FriendFeed (notification once a day, which seems possibly even reasonably infrequent enough that I might actually use it).

Go check out his top ten eleven twelve favorite tools. They’re all really cool and worth playing with.

CiL 2008: Staff Tech Training

Speaker: Sarah Houghton-Jan

It’s important to invest in staff training to build staff skills and morale, in addition to improving customer service. It takes time and money, which are not often plentiful. Evaluate where you are and what you need to get to where you want to be: planning & brainstorming to creation to assessment to training to reassessment to planning & brainstorming, etc.

What does your staff need to know how to do with technology to do their jobs well? Using competencies creates equitable expectations for all staff, reveals training needs, accurate job descriptions, helps with performance evaluations, consistent customer service, and helps staff adjust and handle change. Work with your staff to brainstorm on what they want to learn, and be sure to reassure them that they don’t need to know everything right now.

Work with a well-represented taskforce to create competencies and get management buy-in. Oh, and don’t call them competencies! Call them technology skills or anything else with less negative connotations. Break competencies out by categories, and be sure to include a “staying current” category. Best practices: keep it core & task-based, be aware of the different needs of different positions, include competencies in job descriptions, and revise frequently as new technologies are adopted in your library.

Online survey tools are the easiest way to assess competencies, but take care with how the results are presented so that there is less of a negative impact. Self-assessment is best. Review the assessments to track trends and then work with supervisors to create training lists for specific employees.

Training techniques will be determined based on topic and need, and there are plenty of resources out there to help with that. Just make sure you have the budget to do whatever you decide to do. People like rewards, as was noted in this morning’s keynote, so include that in your training budget.

Reassess on a regular basis, and include rewards and consequences to be effective. Celebrate the success of your staff!

Speakers: Maurice Coleman & Annette Gaskins

They are at a public library system with a very diverse population. The library staff wanted to have a technology fair/petting zoo, and there was enough buy-in from administration and the resources to do it. Time was the most crucial factor in planning for this. The topics were picked based on the tools that public service staff would use on a regular basis, as well as hot 2.0 topics that attract patron participation.

If you are planning to do several sessions in one day, make sure you have plenty of trainers so that no one gets burnt out. Also, have people available to direct people traffic. Make sure the facilities you use are sufficient to meet the needs of the training and the attendees.

I found it difficult to find take-away things from this presentation. Houghton-Jan went over the concepts behind the process, and I was hoping that Coleman & Gaskins could go into the applied aspect, which they did, but at such a detailed level that I couldn’t find many things relevant to my own library. Most of what they had to say were basic event planning tips, which are useful, but not what I came into the session expecting to get. Maybe I should have read the description in more detail.