2007 reading list, a year end summary

Here are previous year end lists: 2006, 2005, 2004. As you probably know, my booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed. I’m not a voracious reader and I’ve been heavy into genre fiction this year, but here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2007.

number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78
average read per month: 4.4
average read per week: 1
number read in worst month: 1 (November)
number read in best month: 9 (March)
percentage by male authors: 78
percentage by female authors: 22
fiction as percentage of total: 63
non-fiction as percentage of total: 37
percentage of total liked: 89
percentage of total ambivalent: 11
percentage of total disliked: 0

It was not a good year for reading, to put it mildly. I did more travel than ever before, but I spent more time on planes either working or watching back-of-seat movies or just sleeping. Last year I felt like I got a lot of reading done on planes.

This year I also had a new time-consuming hobby which was (and is) swimming. In an attempt to meet a pretty ambitious goal — one which I did not wind up meeting, but boy did I try! — I spent a lot more free time swimming, driving to the pool, showering, etc. And then of course when you swim you sleep like a log, which means less fidgety before sleep time for reading which was a standard reading time for me. I like swimming a lot, but the impact it has on my reading is, to me, quite clear.

So, it’s interesting to do this every year to see how the years compare. I read a lot of genre fiction — six books by John Lescroart, two by Greg Bear, two by Henry Petroski, four graphic novels — and that will probably continue. I read a few books that I enjoyed but which took me weeks to work through, 1491 and Men of Tomorrow, which really put a damper on other reading. I did less parallel reading this year and more serial reading, so when one book bogged me down, I was less able to pick up something else. In any case, I believe that every single one of those books was a loaner from a friend or family member, a library book or a library booksale book and to me that’s a decent accomplishment. Happy reading to everyone in the new year.

Here are some other reader’s lists: Anirvan, Ruby.

wrap-up before the wrap-up

As you know, I usually post the list of what I’ve read at around this time, but I haven’t read enough this year by my own admission so I will be adding a few more leftover links in this space and posting a “best of” list in a day or two. First of all check out what I saw in Boston.

sexy librarian?

It’s an ad for Sony’s “Reader Digital Book,” one of a zillion plastered all over the subway and train stations of Boston. I find it vaguely annoying, mostly because I find the commodifcation of reading annoying. The implication that some stupid computer is sexier than a real live person to help you with all your information needs? Stupid. Here are some other things left over from my inbox.

  • Well this was in my literal mailbox… I never renewed my ALA membership after 2006. Last week I got a “Hey former member, maybe you’d like to reconsider?” piece of junk mail from them. I’ve been very happy with my VLA contributions and interactions, moreso than I ever was with ALA. While I’m happy to see the good things that ALA is doing, the fact that I basically did everything I could to get off of spammy mailing lists and emailing lists only to continue to hear from them is a bit disheartening. That said, my ALA website logins still work despite me not having paid them a thing. It all balances.
  • The Michigan University Librarian has a blog. Not a lot there but I really enjoyed the first post: Being in Bed with Google.
  • Washington state is the latest battlefield in the “let’s cut library positions in schools to save money” debacle. There is a very organized group called Fund Our Future Washington that is trying to stop this problem before it starts. Here’s an LA Times article with more information and a good recent supportive editorial from the Seattle Times.
  • I am revising my review policy. People mostly don’t read it anyhow. In short, I am reading less and have less time for unsolicited books. While I still like to receive books that people think I may like, I do not want to set expectations inappropriately. The short form is: if you will be upset if I do not read your book, please do not send it to me.

That’s it until the booklist. Happy New Year!

MLK library in DC when it was new

I’ve shown you my sad set of MLK’s Library photos from when I went to DC. My friend Mary Early has found an older, niftier looking set of photos of the same library back when it was new and lovely and full of hope and promise. I wish the Save DC Libraries site looked like it was still alive. The DC Friends site is still kicking, albeit with bad news and the DC Public Library Foundation looks like they spent all their money on web design. Meanwhile DC Public hires teens to shelve books and answer phones which seems like a real good news/bad news situation in a library dealing with massive underfunding and understaffing.

Thanks to…

December is the wrap-up month around here. I’m still holding out hope that my booklist will gain another item or two, but I know I’m not doing any more public speaking in 2007 so I thought I’d do a wrap up and talk a little bit about behind the scenes stuff at librarian.net inc.

First of all, thanks to all the organizations that hosted me in 2007. This includes state and regional library associations like NELA, VLA, NSLA, NEASIS&T, ACURIL, ILN, LocLib and LARC. It also includes library systems that I came to do talks and workshops for, such as the University of Michigan, Halifax public libraries, Dodge City and Manhattan KS public libraries, a small group of New Hampshire libraries, and the State Library of South Australia. Lastly, I went to a few tech conferences like Computers in Libraries and Access 2007. Please forgive me for not linking to all of them, you can find more details as always on my Past Talks page. Some of these talks were paid gigs, some were gratis and allowed me to travel, some were supporting my local organizations, and some were all about spreading my ideas far and wide. Thanks to all these groups of librarians, technologists, administrators, and students for helping spread the word, whatever the word happens to be. Thanks to my day job for giving me the flexibility to do this much travelling.

One of the things that is challenging about my job teaching technology classes and working with local libraries is that the job pays terribly and it’s very very local. This means that I work with people who rely on me to use my big network to bring new ideas in and also to spread their stories and challenges to the larger world. I’m happy to get a chance to do that, and joyful that I’ve found a niche where I can be both local and global. Doing public speaking helps pay the bills a little but also allows me to do travelling that I could never do on my little local budget.

I also feel incredibly fortunate that for someone as technologically interested as I am I’ve been able to find an additional job really making a lot of my 2.0 interests live and breathe on the web. Being a community moderator at MetaFilter has been a full-time real paying job for me this year. Not only have I gotten to see Ask MetaFilter, our Q and A part of the site, become even more popular than the original linkblog part of the site, but I’ve also seen many librarians join and help people with their questions. I maintain a “last five questions on AskMe” sidebar to the web version of librarian.net, check it out if you’re interested.

With the site owner and two other employees, we’ve been able to use a lot of social tools to help people connect and share interests and get to know each other. This year alone we’ve added twitter, flickr and last.fm feeds to user profile pages, created an “also on” feature so that users can find MeFites on other social sites, and made our tagging system much more robust with the addition of a concerted backtagging effort. We’ve created resources that I’ve mentioned here such as the ReadMe wiki page for reading suggestions, the EatMe wiki page for food and cooking suggestions and a ShopMe section where users buying holiday gifts are encouraged to patronize the online shops of other MeFites.

I’m aware that a lot of this may just seem like frippery. However, I’ve spent a lot of time this year in between trips, in my Vermont fortress of solitude, thinking about what people want out of life and what I want out of life and how libraries do or do not meet those needs. Out here, I go to libraries for work and to get books and movies, but also to see people and have people see me. There’s a sense in which we don’t entirely exist, to me, unless our presence in the world has an impact, however small or however fleeting. Thursday I went to staff my usual drop-in time at the computer lab. My only student that day was a regular attendee who hadn’t been around in a while. She had been in my email class and I had helped her get her first email account. Her son, about my age, committed suicide in November. She had been home with her husband receiving a steady flow of well-wishers and co-grievers and casseroles. She was tired and she was sad but she wanted to leave the house and do something “normal” where people wouldn’t be clutching her arm saying “I’m SO sorry!” I had heard the news but hadn’t known what to say and as a result said nothing.

I’ve been dealing with my own melancholy thoughts lately and I haven’t had a lot of free cycles for other people, to my regret. So she came by, and we turned on the computer, and then just sat and talked in the lab for a few hours while the screen saver blinked at us. I think we both walked out the door feeling marginally better about our lives and the impending Wall of Holidays that I find difficult even in the very best of years.

So, thanks to you for reading this and for doing what you do, whatever you do, as well. Peace to you in the new year.

a 2.0 story that doesn’t really involve libraries but does involve saving $12 and a car trip

One of the things I tell people in my 2.0 talks is that the digital divide is becoming about much more than people who have computers/email/web sites and people who don’t. The difference, to me, is people who have folded the web into their day to day lives and those who haven’t. This matters for a few reasons. As I have said before, I think it’s anyone’s personal choice whether they want to use a computer recreationally or not. However as more and more of our government’s services are available either primarily or most easily online, being able to at least navigate the online world becomes important, if not mission critical.

I’ve often thought that I should do a program on “The life of a 2.0-pian” (pretty sure I’ve seen that before) where I outline the many ways in which being able to use the web as another resource makes my life simpler, easier and saves me money. Here is the example that came to mind this week. As some background, when I worked at a public library of medium size, when we needed supplies we had two main choices, possibly three. 1) buy the supply from the Big Catalog 2) send the systems librarian out to Staples to buy the item 3) get the supply ourselves on the way to work (on our own time) and get reimbursed. While I am not one of those “My tax dollars at work!” people, I have to note that this process was rarely cost- or time-efficient for anyone involved except, sometimes, the accountant.

In any case, I was printing out holiday cards this week — I have a group of online friends who swap cards every year, I do not normally do a holiday card thing — and ran out of printer ink. As you know, printer ink is one of those notoriously overpriced items and if it’s something you buy often it’s best to have an angle. The ink I need at Staples is $20. At my local office supply store it is $27. My angle is a price comparison site called dealink.com which lets me search competing ink prices. They told me I could get it for $18.50 shipped, HP brand ink, no knock-offs. That was pretty good. Then I headed over to my favorite coupon site, RetailMeNot to see if they had any online coupons for DataBazaar which had the lowest ink prices. They did. I hope you are noticing that I can link to all these things. I can’t link to the ink page at Staples.com. So, I got an extra $5 off if I bought three (I needed a few anyhow) making my total $48.85, delivered to my door, for three ink cartridges for my photo printer.

So, the reason this matters and why I’m putting this on a libraran-oriented blog is that first, we tend to not buy things this way where I am, in libraries or elsewhere. Getting to Staples from my house takes at least 90 minutes round trip and $5 worth of gasoline and yet we still sometimes act like buying things online is somehow risky or uncharted territory. What’s risky for me is getting on the highway this time of year, to say nothing about the time I’d have to take off from work when there’s work do be done. Second, this is the type of efficency that 2.0 stuff gets us. A computer can compare prices. A computer can stockpile and share coupons. A computer can show me a photo of an item so I can see if it’s the one I want. Letting the computer do these parts of the shopping-for-supplies experience that is one of the less fun parts of librarianship leaves our bodies and big old brains free for doing what a computer can’t do like helping someone navigate their first email account, or doing a storytime puppet show, or having a book group discussion or forgiving someone’s library fines because it’s the holidays or making a book display about the Solstice.

Working on the web isn’t just about collecting real and/or imaginary friends and new interactive ways of sharing photos of your cat, it’s also about saving real time and real money so that you can do real things in your offline world. That’s my twopointopia report, over and out.