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Diet Terminology

September 29, 2009 7 comments

It’s not easy to live in America and not follow the traditional American diet.  As a vegetarian I am highly aware of this.  Therefore I tend to try to send nothing but happy thoughts to my fellow non-traditional foodies, be they gluten-free, vegan, kosher, etc….  However I kind of have a beef (pun intended) with one group of them right now.  I’m looking at you pescetarians.

It is absolutely cool that you choose to abstain from all meat but fish.  I don’t agree with it, but I respect it.  What really pisses me the fuck off though is those of you who are running around claiming to be vegetarians.  You are not vegetarians!!

From Merriam-Webster: vegetarian: one whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products

Do you see fish listed in there? Are fish vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, eggs, or dairy products? No? Then you are not a vegetarian! You are a pescetarian.

Here’s Merriam-Webster to help you out again: pescetarian: one whose diet includes fish but no meat

I know. You’re sitting there going Why does this woman have such a problem with what I call myself, right?

How you label yourself directly impacts me.  It’s hard enough to be a vegetarian and have to explain to people things like it’s not appropriate to give your vegetarian niece marinara sauce cooked with meatballs in it, even though you’re not giving her meatballs there is still meat juice all up in that.  I know you face things like that yourself when you explain that you don’t eat chicken.  Pescetarians running around calling themselves vegetarians means I now repeatedly have this conversation:

Me: “I’m sorry. I can’t eat that.  It has fish in it, and I’m a vegetarian.”
Person: “Vegetarians eat fish.”
Me: “Um, no they don’t.”
Person: “But I know someone who’s vegetarian, and she totally eats fish!”

You are making things more difficult for us vegetarians.  It’d be like if I ran around calling myself vegan and gnawing down cheese.  Vegans already are a bit confusing to the public, how much more would that confuse them then? You are just wrong.   You are using the wrong word for your diet.  Even freaking Merriam-Webster says so.  I know pescetarian is a funky-sounding word and you will probably have to explain it a bit more to the public since it is not as well-known as vegetarian.  Do it anyway.  It’s what you are. If you really want to call yourself a vegetarian stop eating damn fish!

Banned Books Week

September 25, 2009 13 comments

Banned Books Week, the ALA’s yearly anti-censorship awareness campaign, starts tomorrow.  I hadn’t really thought much about it or paid much attention to it as I work in a special library.  We don’t exactly do the sorts of themes that public libraries do.  My GoogleReader had an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal that raised quite a few relevant issues with the theme that I hadn’t thought about before.

Muncy points out that traditionally censorship is seen as the government prohibiting their citizens from possessing or gaining access to something within the borders of that country.  China’s censorship of the internet is called to mind.  He then points out that public libraries are technically branches of the government.  In addition he points out that most of the “banned books” being celebrated this week have in fact only been challenged by patrons, usually patrons concerned about their children reading/viewing these materials.

You know those moments when you suddenly realize you’ve been indoctrinated into believing something that doesn’t make sense?  Reading this article gave me one of those moments.  Muncy is completely right.  When was the last time the US government–any branch of it–banned a book from being in the United States?  Um….I can’t even think of a single time in the last one hundred years at least.

Don’t patrons have a right to express their opinion regarding library holdings?  It doesn’t mean librarians have to acquiesce to these opinions, but shouldn’t patrons have the right to express them?  Aren’t librarians supposed to cater to their community?  Clearly if only one patron doesn’t want a book in the holdings but many others do, we shouldn’t remove the book, but what would be the harm in putting some sort of parental warning sticker on the book?  The parent could tell the kid “don’t read books with that sticker,” then it’d be up to the kid to be obedient.  Like it or not parents actually do have the right to censor what their kids are exposed to.  Would any librarian complain about a parent preventing a child from viewing porn?  No.  So why do we get all upset when a parent doesn’t want their child reading a book that has the n-word or that has a gay couple in it?  It may go against our politics, but our politics are not supposed to come into play when doing our job.  We are here to serve our patrons whether we agree with their political opinions and manner of raising their child (within the confines of the law of course) or not.

Muncy is right.  Banned Books Week highlights censorship where there really isn’t any.  Why couldn’t Banned Books Week highlight actual censorship worldwide?  Books that have actually been banned by various governments, for instance.  For that matter, why couldn’t we have a Controversial Books Week?  That could show how powerful books can be ala the pen is mightier than the sword.  Books such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin that stir massively strong feelings in people would be such a wonderful tool for opening up dialogue.

Of course I am against censorship, but patrons voicing concerns about holdings isn’t censorship.  It’s their right as a public government-funded public libraries serve.

In Response to Catcalls and Car Honks

September 23, 2009 3 comments

I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking when you catcall me or honk your horn at me.
Maybe you think you’re paying me a complement.
Maybe you fantasize that I’ll respond with a flirtatious gesture.
Maybe you like seeing me jump in surprise or flinch in nervousness.

But I am telling you right here right now:

I do not consider it a complement.
I do not appreciate you scaring me with a honk of a horn.
I do not like looking around trying to see an accident only to see your laughing face and wave as you drive by.
I do not enjoy your invasion of my space as you lean into me to whisper thinly veiled aggressive comments.
I do not savor needing to quickly decide whether to pretend I didn’t hear your yelled comment or respond by telling you to leave me alone.

I know you do not think it but:

I have a right to walk the streets of my city without being scared by a man in a car with a horn who thinks he’s all that.
I have a right to walk the streets of my city without having my space aggressively invaded by a man who thinks I should naturally enjoy him hitting on me.
I have a right to walk the streets of my city without being harassed

Regardless of what I’m wearing.
Regardless of how hot you may think I am.
Regardless of how much you enjoy making women uncomfortable.

This is mine, and every other woman’s,  right.  I would like you to respect it immediately please.

Note: I don’t mean this to be a poem; this just happens to be the format it came out in.

Book Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall By Anne Bronte

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

coverthetenantofwildfellhallSummary:
Cited as the feminist antithesis to her contemporary Austen’s romantic 19th century ramblings, Anne Bronte’s best-known novel presents the much more dire image of the very real risk of marriage in a time where the wife loses all her human rights to her husband. Gilbert Markham becomes infatuated with the widow Helen Graham who has moved into his neighborhood with her son, but rumors soon start to spark up around her. When he confronts her about her conduct, she shows him her diary. There he learns her travails and sufferings at the hands of her still very much alive husband.

Review:
I came to this book with high expectations. I heard of it simply as the one of the earlier feminist novels written in response to such works as Austen’s. I felt this opened the door to many possibilities, but perhaps I was thinking about this with too much of a 21st century brain. What held The Tenant of Wildfell Hall back was the relentless presentation of Helen as the picture of Christian piety. Given the fact that Helen behaves quite willfully and controversially for the time period by leaving her husband’s home to live separately from him, this was probably quite necessary for Bronte’s contemporaries to find Helen a sympathetic character. For me though her severeness sometimes had me siding with her tyrant of a husband in my mind. He calls her cold and calculating. Well all she ever talks about is living piously now to be joyous in heaven after death. I would find that cold and calculating as well.

This book does hold value for the modern feminist though if we re-position ourselves to look at it through the lens of how society at the time has messed up both Helen and her husband, Arthur. Society tells Helen that it is her job as a woman to be the pious one. Although single men may go cavorting about she must sit respectably at home or go out to supervised dances. Men may behave however they desire as long as they settle down after marriage. This belief leads Helen to make her foolish, egotistical mistake of thinking that marrying Arthur is alright for she can change him after they are married. To a certain extent Arthur makes the same mistake. He has been told the ideal wife is a highly pious one, so he marries Helen thinking she will save him when, in fact, they are the most mis-matched couple ever.

Arthur enjoys cavorting, playing cards, and drinking. Helen refuses to do these things out of piety and nags Arthur not to do them. They both come to realize they are mis-matched, but in their society divorce is a painful embarrassment to both parties. Helen doesn’t even consider it for Christian reasons; Arthur in order to save face. This leads to their gradual loss of caring for each other, although Arthur’s comes much faster and more brutally when he carries out an affair with the wife of a visiting friend.

Arthur no longer wants Helen, but she is his wife and he would be a laughing-stock if he couldn’t control her, so he starts abusing her emotionally–repeatedly telling her it disgusts him to see her pale skin, for instance. He also carries out the afore-mentioned affairs with her full knowledge and at first forbids her from having any of her own. I am not condoning Arthur’s ill-treatment of Helen. He made the situation far more worse than society alone would have had them make it. He could, for instance, have allowed them to set up separate households, which was sometimes done. He at least could have shown her the respect she deserved as a human being, but instead he came to view her almost as a hated prison guard. This would not have been the case if they could have parted ways amicably.

I must admit what struck me far more than the restrictive society was Helen’s restrictive religion. She almost constantly lives only thinking of her reward after death in Heaven. She possesses nearly no joy for her beliefs require that she squander her life away serving a man who hates her. The only reason she even leaves him for a time, relieving some of her pain, is because she believes her duty to raise a pious son outweighs her duty as a wife, so she is justified to remove her son from the soul-risking influence of his father. Helen’s faith seems to bring her no joy, but instead demand she behave as a judging marble statue.

Although The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not an obvious feminist manifesto, it as an excellent rendition of the oppression of 19th century society on both men and women. Reading of their struggles and realizing as a 21st century observer that there is essentially no way out for either of them beautifully demonstrates how far we’ve come. Bronte’s writing style is complex enough that what could be a bit of a boring, straight-forward tale remains interesting throughout. She changes perspectives a few times via diaries and letters. She does suffer from the 19th century literature trap of overly extensive descriptions of settings, but these are easily skimmed. An excellent example of 19th century literature, I wish Bronte’s realistic work was assigned more often in literature classes than Austen’s fluffy, unrealistic drivel.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

September 18, 2009 6 comments

I discovered via Random Musings from the Desert that this week – September 14-20 – is National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.  I was unaware that such a week or an organization exists, but this is awesome!  Too often people suffering from illnesses without obvious symptoms are told it’s all in their heads.  Well, it’s not.  In honor of raising awareness, I decided to complete the groups’ 30 things questionnaire about my own invisible illness.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2006

3. But I had symptoms since: Well that’s hard to pin down.  I had minor symptoms periodically in my teens, but they grew insanely consistent and nearly unlivable in December 2005.  Imagine the worst stomach bug you’ve ever had.  Now imagine that lasting two months, but only showing up in the mornings and that was my life.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: My diet, my diet, my diet.  IBS caused me to become vegetarian and severely limits what processed foods I can eat.  It’s really hard to tell people “I can’t eat there” or “I can’t eat that,” because if they don’t know I have IBS then they relentlessly question me, mock my food choices, or even just assume that I’m picky and spoiled.

5. Most people assume: That symptoms are consistent.  That it’s my fault because I’m stressed out too much.  It’s true that stress-reduction techniques can help IBS symptoms, but stress does not cause IBS.  It’s true that sometimes I puke but not every time I’m symptomatic.  There’s nothing really consistent about IBS.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Breakfast.  Do I attempt to eat breakfast? Should I eat even though I don’t feel hungry?  Lots of times I’m nauseous in the mornings.  Even if I’m not nauseous there’s no guarantee that eating breakfast won’t cause me to become symptomatic.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Scrubs.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My iPod (not sure what this has to do with anything…..)

9. The hardest part about nights are: Nights are actually usually the easy part for me as long as I ate well that day.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. I don’t take any consistently. Though I do try to take B12.  When I was first diagnosed, I took a lot more until I got the symptoms under control.  It was mostly herbs and digestive support alt med stuff.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: would be in hell without them.  The regular medical doctors were only able to give me a pill that added passing out on top of my other symptoms.  A naturopath gave me dietary and exercise advice as well as the dietary supplements previously mentioned.  Changing my diet and exercise routines combined with those pills were a serious life-saver.  I went from being symptomatic every day to about two days a month.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: An invisible one.  It’s relatively easy to hide if I don’t feel like talking about it, which is most of the time.

13. Regarding working and career: Most of my jobs have been really understanding about it. Yay libraries!

14. People would be surprised to know: That people with IBS are at a higher risk for developing eating disorders, because they come to view food as evil.  This is not a big surprise since people with IBS know that the only time they are guaranteed no symptoms is when their digestive tracts are empty.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: That I can’t eat whatever I want anymore.   Also, the fact that when I’m symptomatic and puking in a public restroom, people always make snarky asides about me being either bulimic or pregnant.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: There’s nothing I thought I’d never be able to do again that I now can do.  I still can’t eat Pringles, for example. (Hey, I really like Pringles).

17. The commercials about my illness: Make it look like only women have it, and we all bloat up and stand around holding our stomachs.  They also make it seem like a pill could fix it, when it can’t. (yet)

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Again, being able to eat whatever I want!   Ah, to vary this up, how about puking only occurring the once in a blue moon I got a stomach bug.  Now it’s a monthly occurrence.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: Fried food. I can still eat it somewhat, but it’s risky.  I also miss Doritoes.  And bacon.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Yoga!  It’s so beneficial for IBS symptoms.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: (repeating myself) Eat whatever the hell I wanted all day without worrying about how I’d feel later.

22. My illness has taught me: It led me to reading vegetarian cookbooks, which educated me about factory farms (terrible places).  It has also taught me to respect people’s food choices without asking them annoying questions about them.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “It’s your fault because you’re too stressed.”

24. But I love it when people: Make a point to do the extra checking to make sure a restaurant we’re going to will have food I can eat.  I also love the various people who’ve held my hair when I’m throwing up.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I really don’t have one.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Skip the regular doctors and go alt med.  Make lifestyle changes and your symptoms will improve.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How much other people care about my stomach.  In both the good and the bad sense. ;-)

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Anybody who’s held my hair and/or cleaned up for me when I was too ill to is really high up there.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I think it’s a good cause!  I wasn’t even aware IBS existed when I was first symptomatic.  Awareness of these things is always a good thing.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Honored. :-)

The Rifqa Runaway Case

September 17, 2009 6 comments

Maybe through all the hubbub of the Yale murder this week you heard about the teenage girl named Rifqa.  Rifqa ran away from home.  She told the authorities her parents had threatened to kill her.  Child custody cases happen a lot, so why did this one get picked up by Newsweek?  Rifqa’s parents are Muslim; she converted to Christianity and says this is why they threatened her.

I am angry about this.  I am angry at the way the media is handling the story.  I am angry that representitives from both religions are using this to argue over religion.  I am angry that the court is even considering giving Rifqa back to her family.  In fact, that is what I am the most angry about, because this case should not be about religion.

We have a frightened, terrified child who gathered up the courage to run away from home and tell someone her parents were threatening her.  Most children fear their abusive parents far too much to ever do such a thing, and what is the court saying?  They’re saying there is no evidence.  Rifqa’s testimony is hearsay.  Her father seems genuinely upset.  He was just like any other concerned parent when she went missing.  The Newsweek writer keeps pointing out how nice he seems.

Newsflash!  Abusers don’t seem like abusers!  If they did, we wouldn’t have so many cases of adults raised in abusive homes who never escaped.  Ask any person who was abused as a child.  They will tell you mommy/daddy was a real angel around everyone else.  Only the child ever saw the monster inside.  Abusers can be the most upstanding citizen in your community.  They can be active participants in your local church/mosque/temple/whatever.  They can seem perfectly holy.  Why?  Because abusers are masters of deceit, whether they are deceiving themselves or others around them.  Some abusers actively work to deceive the community.  Others deceive themselves into thinking they never abused their child.  I know people whose parents who abused them claim to this day when confronted that it never happened.  The child is lying.  The child is crazy.

It is awful, terrible that in cases like this, in abuse cases, rape cases–cases where the victims are predominantly women and children–the victim is the one being put on trial.  It is assumed the victim is lying until proven otherwise.  This is wrong!  I am not saying in cases like this where there is no physical evidence that the parents should go to jail, but the child should be removed from the home and placed into protective custody!  That is the very least a terrified victim deserves.  The trust of the authorities that she actually is in danger and the guarantee of protection.

Reading Meme

September 16, 2009 5 comments

I’m not a huge meme person.  You won’t see this type of thing often on my blog, but seeing as how I frequently post book reviews and am a librarian,  I thought this one might be a fun way for ya’ll to get to know me.  Also it’s a nice light note before my much more serious post coming up at the end of the week.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
I don’t snack every time that I’m reading then I’d be like the fattest person on the planet.  I do read while eating dinner or breakfast sometimes.  If I do snack, it’s usually chips or crackers and cheese.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I love writing in my books!  I think it’s so cool to go back later and see what I was thinking.  However, I don’t get to do it much because most of the books I read are borrowed from a library or a friend.  If I bought every book I read I’d be broke.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I use a bookmark, usually the really cheap paper variety.  I like to see how long they last before falling completely apart.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Both!  I don’t understand not liking either genre.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy.  I’m far too easily distracted for audiobooks.  I wind up not listening for five minutes and having no idea what’s going on.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I read whenever the opportunity strikes, so by necessity I put a book down at any point.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m always happy about what point that is.  Nothing like hitting the climax right at the end of lunch break, for instance.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
No, you can usually figure it out by context.

What are you currently reading?
Excluding schoolwork:
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them by Arthur Freeman
The Creation of Psychopharmacology by David Healy
The Broken Mirror by Katharine Phillips

What is the last book you bought?
Italian Vegetarian Cooking by Jo Marcangelo (for $2.13 in a thrift store, yayyyy)

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
As is evident by the “currently reading” answer, I read multiple books at one time.  Always have. I get in different moods for different books.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
My favorite places to read are flopped out on a bed on my stomach, curled up in a chair with hot chocolate, or lying in the sun.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I have this philosophical preference for stand alone books, because I feel this pressure from series to finish them all. Yet I wind up reading a lot of series.  There’s some really good ones out there!

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
The Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. (see!)

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
This is kind of embarrassing for a librarian, but I actually organize them based on how much I like them, so my favorites are on the best bookshelves in my bedroom, my least favorite on the crappier bookshelves in my living room.  Beyond that, I keep series together, but otherwise just organize based on size and where they fit.

*phew* Ok, there we go!  You now have some ideas as to my reading habits to keep in mind when reading my book reviews.  You now know there’s a good chance that book was read while eating crackers and cheese flopped on my bed. Or while sipping spiked hot chocolate. Either or. ;-)

Five Questions to Minimize Your Possessions

September 15, 2009 11 comments

I’ve been doing my best to be a minimalist for the last four years.  Most people don’t know this about me, but they do notice the results.  My friends have made comments ranging from how quick helping me move was to how does a librarian only have around 200 books of her very own?

Recently a couple of friends have told me they would love to have the organization and ease of care that comes with owning less random stuff like I do, but they don’t know how to accomplish it.  I’m actually going to be helping one of them out in person, but I thought given American’s propensity to be packrats, perhaps a blog post of my techniques might be useful to other folks on the interwebs.

In order to minimize the stuff you already own, you of course will have to sort through it.  Allot yourself plenty of uninterrupted time to do this.  Have trash bags handy for junk and boxes for donations.  I recommend doing the sort as close to trash day as possible so you can get the junk out of your house asap.  Here are the questions I use when evaluating whether to keep something:

1.  Is it actually junk? If it’s a piece of clothing, is it torn/stained/beyond repair?  If it’s a game, is it missing pieces?  If you think you can repair it, stop and think if you actually will.  How long has it been waiting to be repaired?  If it’s going to take you more than a week to get to it, toss it!

2.  Do I need this? By need I mean need as in I’ll have to go naked/starve/will lose my sanity without this.  I count clothing, bedding, and things that help me relax under this category.

3.  If I don’t need it, do I have valid reasons for wanting it? or Am I only keeping this for sentimental reasons? Things that are ok to want for sentimental reasons:  a picture, a letter.  Things that are not ok to keep for sentimental reasons:  that piece of ribbon your girlfriend tied around that bunch of flowers she gave you one time.  The key behind this logic is the minimalist mantra of quality over quantity.  You won’t lose the memory of her giving you the flowers if you throw out the ribbon any more than you did when the flowers died.  It really is just a piece of ribbon taking up space and how often do you really look at it?  In contrast, a stuffed animal she gave you that you snuggle periodically is a quality reminder of your love for each other.  See the difference?

4.  Are there negative emotions/memories attached to this item? Even if an item is useful and in good condition, if every time you see it you remember a negative experience or emotion, you shouldn’t keep it.  It just serves to bring a negative vibe to your household.  Maybe you dread opening a particular drawer because that item is in there, or a lovely painting is on display that everyone likes but you feel badly looking at it.  These are simply not worth keeping.  They aren’t improving your quality of life; they’re bringing it down.  This goes for items that predominantly bring negative emotions/memories, not that have a minor one attached that you rarely think of when seeing it.

5.  Is this a quality item? This is my final sorting step, and one that has really helped me keep items I’m prone to collect down to a reasonable number.  Remember that your possessions take time to maintain.  Items that aren’t as high-quality to you will prevent you from enjoying other items as much.  My book collection is a good example of how quality vs. quantity helps to minimize possessions.  I only keep books that I either loved or want to have around to loan to people.  Yes I love books in general, but my collection is a reflection of me.  I want to look at my bookshelves and know that I only kept around the ones that are truly of quality to me.  Otherwise it’s just collecting for the sake of collecting isn’t about the enjoyment received from the item.

After you’ve finished sorting, bag up the junk and get it out of your house.  Take the boxes of donations to the best places for them to be used.  Now you are left with only things you need or that truly bring more happiness to your life.  Put everything left away.  Don’t be afraid to reorganize as you go.  You’ll have much more free space and new ideas may present themselves.

MLIS Programs Need To Be Revamped

September 11, 2009 4 comments

I’m a big fan of education, really.  I wouldn’t have acquired a BA in not one but two majors, not to mention carried a minor, if I wasn’t.  I’m also pursuing my Masters and am a big advocate of the need for public libraries so the populace can educate themselves.  However, I have to say, the graduate programs in this nation have some serious issues.  Of course, the education in general in this nation have some serious issues, but that doesn’t excuse the graduate programs.

Even though I was irritated by the irrelevance of some assignments/requirements of my BA programs, this was definitely the case for only a minority of my requirements.  I’d say it probably around 20% of the overall requirements had zero benefit to me.  That is so insanely not the case in my graduate program.

My graduate program is a Masters of Library and Information Science.  This is a profession requiring certain skills different from say a Masters in History with an eye toward a PhD.  This is more like, although not nearly as difficult as, med school.  We need to acquire knowledge that can then be utilized on the field, so to say.  The thing is though, unlike med students who spend a year or so hitting the books then hit the field, most MLIS students have already or are currently working in a library.  Thus, by the time we get to a reference class, for example, many of us have already logged hundreds of hours on the reference desk.  You really don’t need to explain to us how to conduct a reference interview.  It would have been nice if that had been explained to us prior to being thrown behind a reference desk, yes.  That’s just not the case though.  We learned on-the-fly how to conduct a reference interview and wasting three hours of our precious little free time being told how to do it is just incentive to bang our heads on said desk.

Of course there is value to graduate school.  My job never took the time to help me take apart a computer and put it back together again like my technology class did, for example.  This, however, is the vast minority of graduate school.  Most of it winds up being busy work, because we already learned it on the job.  Yet we can’t claim to know it officially because we don’t have the little piece of MLIS paper.

I place value in the MLIS.  It’s supposed to be there to show that we have the special skill set we need to be the best librarians we can be.  Yet, in most graduate programs, that isn’t the case.  They waste time explaining the reference interview to us instead of helping us understand how to create studies and get published in scholarly journals; something that is necessary for many librarians to advance in their fields.  Instead of discussing innovations, we waste time going over old, out-dated management strategies.  It’s mind-bogglingly frustrating to a young librarian, and worse it’s stagnating the profession.

I repeatedly see students who have near to zero understanding of technology, Web 2.0, or even just of where their patrons will be coming from breezing through courses that should be difficult.  These graduate programs are granting the MLIS to people who, frankly, are not qualified to be a great librarian in the coming decades.  Sure, they’re qualified to be average, but shouldn’t our graduate programs be assisting us in becoming great?  I don’t want to hold a degree that denotes averageness.  I want my degree to be proof that I am a great librarian.  I want my graduate program to challenge me.  I want to come away feeling that I learned something valuable that I can then take to my library and utilize to improve it.  I don’t want to come away from my program feeling that it’s just me wasting my time demonstrating that my job already taught me how to do these things.

Graduate programs are valuable, but they need to understand where students are coming from.  Most MLIS students have some to a lot of experience in a library.  The coursework should address the things we won’t learn on the job, as well as future innovations and skill sets we will need to advance in the field.  They shouldn’t consist of busywork.  Yet, I’m practical to the core.  I know I need my MLIS to advance in the field, so I will continue to complete my busywork and attempt not to bang my head on my desk too often….or at least pad it with bubble-wrap first.

Categories: Librarianship

Book Review: The Glass Castle By Jeannette Walls

September 10, 2009 2 comments

covertheglasscastleSummary:
Jeannette Walls, a successful writer for MSNBC, hid the real story of her childhood for years.  In her memoir she finally lets the world know the truth.  She was raised by an alcoholic father and an incredibly selfish artist mother, both of whom were brilliant.  Yet their personal demons and quirks meant Jeannette was raised in near constant neglect and also suffered emotional and some physical abuse.  The memoir chronicles her changing perception of her parents from brilliant counter-culturalists to an embarassment she wanted to escape.

Review:
Jeannette’s memoir is incredibly well-written.  She manges to recapture her young perceptions at each point in the story from her idolization of her father at the age of five to her disgust at her mother at the age of fifteen.  Often memoirs about bad childhoods are entirely caught up in the writer’s knowledge as an adult that this was all wrong.  While this is most certainly true, it makes for a better experience for the reader to almost feel what it is like for a child to become disillusioned of her parents.  Children naturally love their parents, and abused and/or neglected children are no different.  It is just for them instead of just realizing their parents are human like children from normal families do, they also realize that their parents screwed them over.  Jeannette subtly and brilliantly presents this realization and all the pain that comes with it.  She doesn’t want to believe her father would endanger her when he’s drunk.  She doesn’t want to believe that her mother makes her children eat popcorn for three days straight while she herself pigs out on all the king-sized chocolate bars she can eat.  Yet Jeannette cannot escape the facts.

This memoir is also different from other bad childhood memoirs in that Jeannette never loses compassion for her parents.  As her awareness grows throughout the book, she also struggles to understand how her parents ended up the way they did.  [Spoiler Warning]  A particularly moving scene is when the family goes to visit Jeannette’s father’s mother in spite of his protests.  Jeannette walks in on her grandmother claiming to be mending her brother’s pants while they are still on him, but actually groping him.  Jeannette’s reaction, after saving her brother from the groping, is to wonder if maybe this is why her father drinks so much.  Maybe her grandmother did the same thing to her father, and there was no one to save him.  Maybe these are really the demons he is fighting.  To realize this, to even care about it after everything her father has put her through is truly remarkable.  [End Spoiler]

Jeannette is an excellent writer and an incredible human being.  Readers will be astounded not only at her unique, messed-up childhood but also at how she overcame it and simultaneously maintained sympathy for her parents who so wronged her.  Jeannette is an inspiration in multiple ways, and her memoir is definitely worth the read.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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