The things I will miss about Open Library

I put it on my newsletter and up on TILT (my online magazine? Whatever that is) but I left my job at Open Library this week. This is bittersweet since I left because I could not get the hours to pay me for all the work that needs doing there. I was paid for ten, looking for (at least) twenty.

Open Library is a bit of a singular beast. They lend ebooks worldwide for free. It’s a grand experiment that’s so far been going pretty well. I like using it because I can search for keywords inside of millions of books and because their reading interface is one of the best there is. I use their public domain books to find illustrations for the talks I give (either on the site or from these five million images on Flickr) and shared out some of my favorites on their Twitter account. So now that I’m not doing that, I can share out some stuff I find here…

Like a neat-looking bookplate, and then doing some research to figure out whose it was. And learning a thing as a result. Here is a bookplate that pointed me towards knowing more about Robert Lowie an early social anthropologist. The book it’s in is actually a book about old books and so has some great illustrations.

Ex Libris Robert Lowie, image of native american man in headdress

I’ll also miss learning more about librarianship as it was once practiced. This Union class-list of the libraries of the Library and Library Assistants’ Associations looks fascinating and yet I’m not even totally sure what it is. Its companion book, the Bibliography of library economy is 400 pages of Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature type of things only for libraries. I’d almost be reading it for fun but I couldn’t help picking out a few keywords and browsing.

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As library topics remain prevalent in the news, everyone likes to thing that being good at Google makes them a proto-librarian. But the longstanding traditions of this institution are more than just finding things. It’s so much more about linking people to the information they want. Every book its reader. Every reader their book. I’m 100% down with digital librarianship being an efficient and effective way to do this, I just need to orient myself to doing that work in more of an actual digital library.

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2015 reading list and commentary

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I started 91 books this year and finished 89. I’m now fully in the swing of reading at least 30 minutes before bed which has been great. Last year I had a lot of random low-level health issues which complicated matters a bit but I’m still pretty happy with how the Year in Reading turned out.

average read per month: 7.47
average read per week: 1.7
number read in worst month: 5 (Apr)
number read in best month: 11 (Aug)
number unfinished: 2
percentage by male authors: 59
percentage by female authors: 41
percentage of authors of color: 3
fiction as percentage of total: 73
non-fiction as percentage of total: 27
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 7
percentage of total disliked: 3

The biggest issue this year was that I didn’t actively prioritize reading authors of color and so I just didn’t. No good. Must do better. Did okay with non-US authors but that’s not the same. I did a lot of social justice online reading and kept a bookshelf of worthwhile articles over at This.cm but I needed to translate more of this into book length reading and I did not. Digging into the Louise Penny series upped my percentage of female authors but I still need to work on that. I read a lot of books that I really enjoyed this past year including a history of spam and a photography book about large trees. I got a lot more suggestions from reading Library Journal than usual which was good and bad. I added a few books to my Best in Show shortlist. If you’ve made a reading list for last year, I’d love to read it. Happy New Year.

Previous librarian.net summaries: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My always-updated booklist lives at jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed which is mostly not broken.

2014 reading list, a year end summary

books this year

I started 104 books this year and finished 102. This year’s goals were twofold: read more books than last year, and read more diversely. I got the first goal accomplished but sort of at the expense of the second goal. I tried to get into a good daily reading pattern, and dug in to some book series. This meant that when I finished up the books by Archer Mayor, I had just read a large number of books by yet another white guy from New England. I didn’t read as many books by women as I’d wanted. I read a higher percentage of books by non-white, non-Western authors but I still need to do a lot better. I’m really happy to have managed a lifestyle where I read almost every day, off screen, for 30 minutes or more. Now I need to get choosier about what I am reading.

average read per month: 8.67
average read per week: 2
number read in worst month: 7 (Jan/July/Sep)
number read in best month: 11 (May)
number unfinished: 2
percentage by male authors: 79
percentage by female authors: 21
percentage of authors of color: 8
fiction as percentage of total: 70
non-fiction as percentage of total: 30
percentage of total liked: 93
percentage of total ambivalent: 7
percentage of total disliked: 0

A few book-specific notes. I really enjoyed Archer Mayor’s books and am now caught up. I recommend them to anyone looking for a place-based set of cop procedurals. I read almost every book suggested in this Ask MetaFilter thread and I enjoyed most of them. I also read a bunch of YA-ish techie nerdish books like Soon I will be Invincible and Ready Player One which are great books that any people who spend a lot of time online will enjoy. Many of the graphic novels I read were published by First Second and I probably need to read more books by them. I also enjoyed some local New England books both fiction (The Lace Reader) and non-fiction (Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks). One of the things that is odd about reading this many more books than last year is that the books from earlier in the year seem like I read them forever ago and they fade into distant memory. 2014 seemed long in mostly good ways. I also have a few books that I am halfway done with and they have been halfway done for months. I need to find a new way to kick books more quickly to the “unfinished” list. Here’s a chart for this information instead of a long list of numbers. I’m more concerned with trends than specific numbers.

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Previous librarian.net summaries: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My always-updated booklist lives at jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed which is mostly not broken.

If you’ve made a reading list for last year, I’d love to read it. Happy New Year.

if we want to see more diversity in literature, we have to buy the books

school library journal graphic

School Library Journal came out with their Diversity Issue a few months ago and it’s been on my “to read” pile since then. Their lead article Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? tells a depressing tale of under-representation of black children in US children’s books (they are the only ethnic group mentioned, I am presuming this goes doubly so for groups with smaller representation in the US) and ends with a call to action for librarians to make sure they are creating a market for these titles to encourage more books by and about all kinds of people.

I grew up in a Free to Be You and Me sort of world where my mother actively selected books for me to read with a wide range of ethnicities represented. I had dolls representing many backgrounds. My mother wrote textbooks where there were strict rules about being inclusive and representative and, living in a small town, I assumed this was the way the rest of the world worked. Not so. Reading this article drove home the point that while I may have been a young person during a rare time of expansion of titles and characters of color, that expansion slowed and the situation is still stagnant even as the US is becoming more diverse than ever. Another article in the Diversity Issue highlights research which indicates that “the inclusion of these cross-group images encourages cross-group play“. Sounds like a good thing. We should be doing more.

2013 reading list, a year end summary

The "to read" pile 5feb13

Here are previous year end lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My always-updated booklist lives at jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

Number of books read in 2013: 50
2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.17
average read per week: 1.04
number read in worst month: 1 (April)
number read in best month: 7 (Jan/Dec)
percentage by male authors: 76
percentage by female authors: 24
percentage of authors of color: 4?
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 8
percentage of total disliked: 2

Some of the same patterns as last year. I didn’t travel as much and I think this means I read a bit less. I binge-read the His Dark Materials books and read every book by Brad Meltzer. The Kindle lets me plow through sort of simple fiction and humor stuff, but I’m still not really using it for non-fiction or tougher books. In looking at my to-read pile from February (above), I’m realizing I have a pile of books someplace in my house that has some of these books on it (the Miss Manners book and the RV book in particular) that I must have moved when I spruced up my bedroom. Graphic novels continue to entertain me but it’s getting harder and harder to find new long ones that I like. I still use paperbackswap.com for random serendipity–things come in from my wish list occasionally and I’m never expecting them–and to get rid of older books I just don’t need to have around.

This year I’m going to try to actively read more books by women, more books by authors of color, more non-European authors and more books that fall under the general GLBTQ umbrella. It’s too easy to fall into grabbing the most available titles and these have a tendency to reflect the mainstream. No big deal, and I read some good books, but I’d like to expand my range. It’s good to have goals.