Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘reference


The list of books I wish to read some day keeps growing, but the time to read them does not always grow to match. Still, I do enjoy making these posts so I can keep track of things I find interesting. In sharing them, I hope it helps a bit in terms of reader’s advisory for folks looking for ideas on books to read.

Items about books I want to read:


Lists and bibliographies:






You  know the drill folks. These lists keep growing, but I still hold on to hope. I just keep finding interesting books I would like to read some day. These are also books I think some of my readers may find of interest. If any of you out there do read any of these, please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts.

Items about books I want to read:

  • I remember reading a while back the book Freakonomics (link to my review of the book) where it discusses how local drug dealers often lived with their moms and were not doing as well as many people think. However, like in many other major businesses, the guys on top usually do pretty well. NPR now highlights a new book that suggests that drug cartels are run a lot like Walmart and McDonald’s. The book is Narconomics.
  • Also via NPR, a cookbook on Korean food. The book is Koreatown.
  • I often remember seeing the ads for various tricks and pranks on the backs of comic books. Wink Books reviews a book looking at one of the companies that made such products: the S.S. Adams Company. The book is Life of the Party.
  • Another art book reviewed by the guys at Wink Books. This time it’s one of my favorite artists: Frank Frazetta. The book is Testament: A Celebration of the Life and Art of Frank Frazetta .
  • OK, one more from Wink Books because I really like the subject of this one: vintage postcards. The book is Postcard America: Curt Teich and the Imaging of a Nation, 1931-1950.
  • Joshua Kim wonders why people are not reading Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. It is an important topic in the United States, and you likely will not hear about it from any single mainstream politician in the 2016 election (Democrat or Republican).
  • Let’s put in a little something related to work. Via The Decolonized Librarian, a review of The Dialectic of Academic Librarianship.
  • Via Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, a note that the book Forked is out. The book is about low wage restaurant workers. As the book summary states, this book deals with “what we don’t talk about when we talk about restaurants: Is the line cook working through a case of stomach flu because he doesn’t get paid sick days? Is the busser not being promoted because he speaks with an accent? Is the server tolerating sexual harassment because tips are her only income?” and other questions that not only we should be asking but addressing.
  • Via Arabic Literature (in English) blog, a novel about Lybian dictator Muammar Ghaddafi. The novel is The Dictator’s Last Night. I have not read it, but it reminds me of Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat), which is about Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo.
  • This could be interesting. It alleges to be a history of the reference shelf; this is something that appeals to the librarian in me. The book is You Could Look It Up, and it was reviewed on NPR.
  • Why are people fleeing Central America? The violence is a big reason according to a new book discussed at In These Times.  The book is A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America.
  • Via Manga Report, a review of the first volume of Bloody Mary.
  • A Case of Suitable Treatment looks at Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler. This made me think of the five-volume series Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which I read a while back. (Link to to my review of the first volume).
  • Apparently Tim Burton draws even in napkins, and someone put some of that art in a book. The book is Things You Think About in a Bar (link to Amazon, since as of this post, WorldCat does not have it) and it was reviewed at Blogcritics.
  • Via Based on a True Story, a review of a new book on the rise of coffee behemoth Starbucks. The book is Starbucked.
  • On the one hand, this sounds like one of those hipster mixology books where the cocktails are made with all sorts of ingredients the average person will never find in a lifetime. On the other hand, the story of the bar that inspired the book sounds interesting, so there is just enough to catch my attention. The book is The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, and it was reviewed at Drinkhacker.


Lists and bibligraphies:



Ooh, we made it to 55 lists, nice number. Once again welcome to this semi-regular series in the blog where I keep expanding my TBR list. As always, comments are welcome.


Items about books that I want to read:

  • Let’s start this post with something nice and cute. I am a fan of Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars children’s books. Thus, I am looking forward to reading Star Wars: Jedi Academy. It was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • This one, even though the review was mixed, still sounds interesting. And given recent events, such as the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality, it may be a bit more of a relevant read. The book is How Not To Be American, and it was featured in San Francisco Book Review.
  • I will be honest on this next one. I am not quite sure what the deal is, but the idea of yeti-hybrids controlling society sounds just crazy enough to get my attention. The book is Behold!!! The Protong, and it was featured in Wink Books.
  • Though I do not foresee myself getting a tattoo anytime soon, I do find good tattoo art fascinating, and I do admire those who have good quality ink work done on their bodies. So, books about tattoos are something I find interesting. Here is a book about tattoos of folks into science. The book is Science Ink, and it was also featured in Wink Books.
  • To many people, books of quotations may seem like anachronisms. Aside from people looking for a quote to fix up a speech a bit, who reads them? Well, I do. I do enjoy and browsing quotation books, especially quotation books around a specific topic. In this case, we have the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, 5th edition. I discovered it via San Francisco Book Review.
  • Next, a little erotica with Best Women’s Erotica 2014. This line from the reviewer at San Francisco Book Review may say what you need to know, and it is a sentiment I concur with: “If your only experience with erotica is that ‘certain trilogy,’ you deserve better.” Need help finding similar books so you can get better, ask your local friendly librarian. Your librarian turns out to be a prude (or worse, a fan of that “trilogy”)? Find another librarian.
  • Some manga titles via A Case for Suitable Treatment:
    • High School DxD, Volume 1. From the review, ” It’s your classic harem comedy, with lots of added fantasy this time, where the goal is to see how many different types of women you can have fall in love with the hero without any actual fornication occurring. . . “. I had no idea this was a “classic” genre, so I am curious now.
    • Phantom Thief Jeanne, Volume 2. The review is for volume 2, but I will naturally seek out the first volume as well so I can read the series in order. The premise, according to the description of the first volume is: “Seemingly normal high school student Maron Kusakabe spends her nights sneaking into art collections to steal paintings haunted by heart-devouring demons. . . “.
    • Servamp, Volume 1. According to the review it’s about a vampire servant, who happens to be a very lazy vampire.
    • Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1. The reviewer writes, “The premise is simple and easy to understand. Our hero is a bit of a nerd with a crush on a gorgeous girl who reads the same erudite horror novels he does. On their first date, however, he discovers she is a ghoul out to kill him and eat his flesh.” You can take it from there.
  • I was reading this list of “7 Common Tequila Myths, Debunked.” I do drink tequila now and then, and I always find trivia related to alcoholic spirits to be interesting. The article also mentions a book: How the Gringos Stole Tequila. With that title, it sounds like a book to read.
  • I have been wanting to read this, and I thought I had added it to my TBR a while back. However, on searching this blog’s archive, I find that I did not add it previously, so here we go. The book is Secret Identity: the Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, which was mentioned at Wink Books.
  • I don’t read much romance other than some to keep some degree of cred as librarian and readers’ advisor when it comes to that genre. However, much like the reviewer at Erotica for All, I also “was totally intrigued by the unique premise of Keira Andrews’ novel, A Forbidden Rumspringa – an Amish M/M erotic romance. ” I usually favor full erotica over erotic romance, but this one has me curious, so if I manage to get my hands on it, expect a review down the road. Keep in mind, this one is an e-book, so it may not be as easy to find in your local library.
  • I do like pulp art, so I am adding Pulp Macabre to my list. It was reviewed at Bookgasm.


Lists and bibliographies:

I consider myself a fairly open-minded individual. So, when some close-minded asshat decides to accuse me of not being open-minded because I won’t accept his/her baseless claims of sky fairies, creationism, right winger politics, etc. I do find it irritating. You less than bright folks need to figure out that being open-minded means being willing to consider new ideas. It does not mean I have to buy your (often bad) ideas wholeheartedly, nor does it mean acceptance. Once your idea is found wanting, it can be rejected after said consideration. So, in other words, learn some logic.

This video does an excellent job in explaining that, much more eloquently than I could. It needs to be shared with a lot more people, especially those who really need to be watching it.

One of the workshops we are offering at my library this semester is on Advanced Google techniques. As I was preparing for the workshop, news came about Google Instant, and then I saw the item on Google Books.

  • On Google Instant, Phil Bradley gives us his take on it. I am not particularly thrilled with the feature, and I turned it off on my computer. I don’t feel a need for Google to try to tell me what I want to find. Here is another take on it, from the Free Technology for Teachers blog. I usually like FTFT, but this time I don’t agree with them saying this is good for school kids. Basically, I see this as lazy searching (and I don’t think, contrary to Google’s claim, that it is a timesaver).
  • On Google Books, Salon has a pretty good piece that I think deserves more dissemination on the problems and errors of Google Books. Stephen Abrams, who points to the article, conveniently breaks down the issues presented in the Salon piece into a nice list. I know a good number of librarians go ga-ga over Google Books, and I would think they would be interested in this issue.
My two readers might know that I write a semi-regular feature for our library blog entitled "Reference Book of the Week." What I usually do is look over a specific reference book, see what makes it useful, and highlight why someone would want to use it. Here is a sample post, the one I wrote for the Digest of Education Statistics. I was going to write a post for the DSM IV, but I came across a few issues. Anyhow, while I chose not to publish the post in the library blog, I still wanted to make a note of my observations about the book and share them. Do note that while I link to the Wikipedia article on the DSM IV for convenience here, it is something I would not do on the library's blog (even though I think that at times Wikipedia can have its uses for quick ready reference).

One of the prominent issues with the book is that it is not terribly intuitive. It is meant to be used by trained practitioners. This probably explains why I get the occasional student complain about how difficult it is to use. It takes some time to go through it and learn how to find what you need.

What follows is the draft I started for the library's blog:

* * * *

The DSM IV, currently in its fourth edition, is the classification manual for mental disorders. It is used by clinicians and researchers in various fields such as biology, social work, psychology and psychiatry, counseling, etc. This manual is the result of a long journey to classify and define mental disorders and illnesses that started with a desire to gather mental health statistics. When did the effort start? According to the manual's introduction, "what might be considered the first official attempt to gather information about mental illness in the United States was the recording of the frequency of one category– 'idiocy/insanity' in the 1840 census" (xxv). Over time, the American Psychiatric Association, in collaboration with other groups, developed the vocabulary and definitions that eventually became the DSM. The DSM basically provides criteria to diagnose a mental disorder, and the clinician doing the diagnosis would follow that criteria using a specified assessment system (the multiaxial system) to reach a diagnosis.

* * * *

Next are other things I wanted to write about or include in the draft:

  • The manual has become a medical billing tool. Government and many insurance companies often require a specific diagnosis to approve payment for treatment. This issue does raise some questions about the use of the manual for things other than its stated purpose, and I think it is something that students should recognize. I think it may also make for a good information literacy lesson in terms of questioning a source.
  • The compilers of the manual have been very inflexible in terms of making changes. In addition, there have been and continue to be controversies over the DSM. For instance, the notable inclusion of homosexuality as a disease; homosexuality was not removed until 1974, and to this day a lot of religious and political interests, which have nothing to do with science, continue to grouse over the 1974 removal of homosexuality from the DSM. In addition, the most current edition, the DSM IV TR (text revision) still includes sex-related diagnoses on the basis of sexual paraphilias (fetishes) for instance. I am sure any consenting adult who enjoys a little fetish play has a thing or two to say about that. Overall what this illustrates is that there are political and religious interests trying to bring influence to the scientific endeavor, plus keep in mind that those compiling the book have had their own interests as well. This is definitely the kind of thing that I think should be discussed with students, but I could not bring myself to write about it in the library blog, which is considered an official forum, and given certain community sensibilities, bringing up something like sexual paraphilias, even to make a point, could get me in hot water. I have to choose my battles.
  • In the end, what I would want students to take away from this is that the DSM IV is a very specific reference book, to be used mostly by trained professionals, but that it is not without controversy. The book is not infallible. In fact, it has been edited and changed over time as we gain new knowledge or realize that something should not have been labeled a mental disease in the first place.

And there are my thoughts as I learned a bit about this manual.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

(Note: This is moved over from Blogger, which is being a pain in the ass and unresponsive again. Apparently, it did not want to handle a somewhat long post. Anyhow, you can read it here, and I just linked this over there, which it seems Blogger can  handle. If you want to comment, you can do so here, or back on the Blogger page, where the comments are a bit more open).

Citation for the article:

O'Gorman, Jack and Barry Trott, "What Will Become of Reference in Academic and Public Libraries?" Journal of Library Administration 49 (2009): 327-339.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

This is basically a speculative piece; it looks at some current trends, and then authors try to tell us what the future holds for academic and public libraries in terms of their reference services. I found a lot here that made me think, and I found myself making a lot of notes on the margins. Some things I agree with, and others I have reasons to disagree. Either way, the article is worth reading, and it may provoke some conversations in libraries, especially at a time when the value of libraries is constantly questioned by those who either do not really use the library or those just looking to save a few bucks.

The article looks begins with an introduction discussing the contrast between the number of people who visit libraries and the number of people who consider the library as a source of assistance with questions. On a positive note, it seems that people are still coming to the library for their information needs once they have tried the Internet and failed. The authors argue that libraries will continue to have a role in working with patrons, even if those roles will evolve and/or change. We may need to have a serious look at our core values as well.

As usual for me, I am just going to make some notes of items that caught my interest with some comments.

  • "Students would not pick up a printed reference book to save themselves hours of time" (327). One thing these students need to learn is not so much "don't use Wikipedia" as when to use Wikipedia and when to go beyond it. Another thing: in many of my library instruction classes I do teach about printed reference books. As I always tell my students, a good reference book will do three things for you: it will give you a good overview of your topic; it will give you suggestions and ideas of keywords and terms you can then type into an article database to expand your research, and it will give you a small list of items for further reading. A good reference book can save students research time as well as expand their research. But this is something that we librarians need to point out to them.
  • The authors are citing the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which "notes that while 53% of all Americans visited a library in the previous year, only 13% considered the library as a source for assistance in dealing with a specific question" (328). I thought of this as I had a little bit of a tiff over at Digg. Yes, I do use and read items from Digg. I rarely if ever comment because I do have the account linked to my Facebook, so it shows my real name. Should I have considered setting it up with a pseudonym? Probably, but that is another post. Anyhow, what happened was someone dugg a story about Matthew Lesko. I made the comment that much, if not all, the information that Lesko puts in the books he peddles are things that anyone could find for free. The nameless person who replied said that who cared because Lesko was making it convenient (actually, he or she, probably he, was less polite than that, but this is an online forum not known for civility). I replied that, if a person did not want to do their own research, that any good librarian would be happy to help them do it, for free, and without trying to sell them anything. In the end, the pseudonymous commenter still preferred the sub-par "convenience" of paying Lesko money for a book of dubious value than asking for help from an expert. I learned a couple of things from the encounter. One, people who do not put their name on a profile rarely are reasonable or willing to listen to alternatives even when the alternatives may be favorable (ok, I sort of knew that one, but this was a reminder). Two, I thought of incident as I was reading the article and found the statistic from Pew. Most people do not think about going to the library (or calling the library or even contacting it online somehow) to answer basic questions. And let's not even go into the issue of verifying any information there is out there for things like accuracy, so on. Again, as long as there are people who prefer "convenience" over accuracy, I will have a job.
  • "Librarians have an important role to play in teaching patrons how to use online resources and in helping users sort through the vast amount of information that is available in electronic format" (328). It is not just pointing them to the databases and hoping for the best. We will need to teach them how to use the database, but more importantly how to focus and create a search strategy, how to come up with keywords, etc. In other words, we will teach them not only how to use a database but the skills they need to go from one electronic resource to the next. The authors also argue that librarians will have a role in the mediation of information, that is, someone who can sort through all the chaff in order to get the good, relevant stuff.
  • "Reference work has always been about helping the user find the best information, and the skills librarians have developed in this area will prove useful in the coming years–that is, if librarians are willing to take on this role" (328). The key operative words in that sentence are "if librarians are willing to take on this role." If they are willing and able to take the role seriously instead of just keeping an illusion of strict neutrality. If they are willing and able to take the role seriously instead of just falling back into the role of technolusty 2.0 toy peddlers.
  • Another reason why I expect to remain employed: "If anything, in this complex information environment, students and public library users require even more assistance. Finding and critically evaluating information are skills that are necessary, yet are not necessarily being taught" (329). Guess who should be doing that teaching and educating. 
  • The authors go on to mention common suggestions about librarians need to rove, for academic librarians to have office hours in academic departments, and to do a better job in promoting what they do. This is not new; it has been mentioned in the literature, but it is still a good reminder. The part about roving is especially important. You have to get up from the reference desk and at least walk around your library once in a while to engage your patrons. The attitude of "if they need anything, they can come ask" (which I have heard from other librarians) is not going to cut it.
  • Some questions I commonly ask: ". . .what happens to electronic collections when the library decides it can no longer afford a particular database. For many users, there will be issues relating to access to these resources, particularly remote access for users without Internet connections or using dial-up connections" (330-331). Issues with remote access are pretty common at my library, especially with folks in more rural areas who may still be on dial-up (if they are lucky). I always get the vibe that a lot of the profession works on the assumption that everyone has a fast Internet connection no matter where they are, so therefore no need to worry about those who may not have access. The vibe seems to be to make services for those with the fast connections, often disregarding the rest. It's something that personally and professionally bothers me.
  • Then again, librarians have their bad habits too: "Nonetheless, the trend for many librarians is to start with electronic resources first. If librarians are going straight to the Web, then we certainly cannot fault our users for doing the same" (331). Give me a librarian who knows his/her reference collection well and knows how to use it. That seems to be a decreasing skill in the new and upcoming librarians. I try to balance things depending on the request. Articles? I do online to our databases. Ready reference? I will try for the reference book. In the end, it is about what the patron needs, so I use whatever resources I have on hand.
  • "The question is, do we have enough to serve the information needs of our clientele? If the answer is yes, then we need to ask if we are doing enough to encourage the use of the content we already have?" (332). We have to promote our resources as well as teach users how to use them. Buying another database is not always the solution, even if some faculty member thinks so (yes, another little experience I've had to deal with). If we have the resources to meet the information needs, we need to make sure promote and educate the patrons on how to use those resources and what needs such resources can meet.
  • "There are a lot of tools out there, but librarians do not always make the best use of these resources. Continued staff training on these databases and continued awareness of what these resources are useful for is essential for maintaining staff skills that will then translated into useful assistance for library patrons" (332). This points to the importance of good, substantive, and continuous professional development. This is a big reason also why I take time on my own to review resources in print and electronic formats. It is so I know what is available and how to use it in order to help my patrons. A good exercise in this regard has been posting to the library's blog on reference resources. When I implemented our library's blog, I put in a feature known as "The Reference Book of the Week." This type of post allows me to highlight a reference item from our collections for our patrons. In reviewing the item, I learn more about the item or, if it is an item I know already, I get to review its usefulness. I write those posts keeping the following question in mind: why would I want to use this? Here is a sample post. 
  • "Librarians have a strong professional commitment to finding information that is both accurate and has the backing of some authority. However, in the Wikipedia culture, there seems to be an increasing willingness to accept electronic information as accurate without critical analysis of the sources" (332). This reminded me of an article out of LOEX Quarterly I just read
  • "Librarians could simply respond to user disinterest in these areas by giving the user what they want without regard to accuracy or confidentiality concerns" (332). And a good number of librarians already do that; it's not something I agree with. The authors continue to write, "we would argue, however, that librarians have a responsibility to uphold an important foundation of the profession, a commitment to accuracy and the best information as well as to intellectual freedom and privacy. Only by doing so in a visible fashion will we ever be able to communicate the importance of these concerns to our users" (332). I think the part about the commitment to accuracy and best information and intellectual freedom and privacy should be engraved in plaques and placed in every reference desk as far as I am concerned. I think also we should make sure, both in library school and in the field, that the librarians we hire meet and embody those values. If they do not, fire them for they are not giving our patrons the best service possible. We have to lead by example, and we have to continue to educate our patrons and promote our services and values and show they best serve our patrons. It is those values that make us who we are as a professionals and what sets us apart from the Internet noise, misinformation peddling pundits, and other poor substitutes for good accurate information and resources.
  • The authors additionally discuss reader's advisory briefly, which is a topic of interest for me. Personally, I don't think academic libraries are paying enough attention to recreational reading needs of their students, but I think things may be getting better. I know that I do get the occasional question about "what can I read that is good?" or similar. I also try to post awards lists on the library's FB as a way to promote reading when I can. While I do post book reviews of items I read in my GoodReads page (the page is linked on the right side column of this blog, and some of those reviews make it to my blogs), I would like to do some reviews for the library blog. I do read one or two of the new books that arrive now and then. I think it could be a good promotional tool. However, that has not proven as easy. For one, the writing style would be a bit different (probably a bit more formal for the library blog), and it would be nice to get other librarians and library staff to contribute (a suggestion I made that met with some indifference at the time I suggested it). Anyhow, I still like the idea. The authors writes, "the role of extracurricular reading in academic institutions is also being more carefully examined (Elliot, 2007). Readers' advisory services offer academic librarians an opportunity to expand their role and to reach out to their users in new ways" (336). The Elliot citation is an article I have read. Here is the link to my note on it. And while we are on the RA topic, my two readers may also want to see this article by Smith and Young on the subject as it applies to academic libraries. 
  • Finally, the authors conclude that "coupled with a user-centered focus, reference librarians should also reaffirm their commitment to the essential foundations of our profession: service to users, intellectual freedom, and an openness to change" (338). I don't think we need to say much more. Let's get to work.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

September 2017
« Aug    


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 72 other followers

%d bloggers like this: