Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On the Nativity of Christ - St Gregory Nazianzus

    Christ is born, give glory; Christ is from the heavens, go to meet him; Christ is on earth, be lifted up. "Sing to the Lord, all the earth"; and to say both together, "Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice," for the heavenly one is now earthly. Christ is in the flesh, exult with trembling and joy; trembling because of sin, joy because of hope. Christ comes from a Virgin; women, practice virginity that you may become mothers of Christ. Who would not worship the one "from the beginning"? Who would not glorify "the Last"?

    This is our festival, this is the feast we celebrate today in which God comes to live with human beings, that we may journey toward God, or return,  - for so to speak thus is more exact - that laying aside the old human being we may be clothed with the new, and that as in Adam we have died so we may live in Christ, born with Christ and crucified with him, buried with him and rising with him.

A Reading from Festal Orations (Book, 2008) [WorldCat.org],   Oration 38, sections 1 & 4.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guest Post - Of Apocalyptic Murmurings

     This post is something my friend Dallas wrote recently on the subjects of Advent and the supposed (and now past) Mayan End of the World.

One hears rumors that huge numbers of people take the supposed Mayan calendar seriously, and expect the world to end sometime today. This seems highly unlikely - that is, that large numbers of people are actually taking it seriously, but it may be so. The BBC is reporting mobs of New Agers descending on remote villages in Serbia to escape the wrath to come. (Did the Mayans have anything to say about Serbia?) Disturbingly, the BBC is also reporting on a crackdown of the Chinese government on a Christian sect that is rabble-rousing about the coming apocalypse and "spreading discontent," riding on the back of 2012 angst, I do suppose. I must be far from the global pulse, finding this all so unlikely.

One is more used to hearing about the coming apocalypse from our own Christian evangelicals - a motley group who can put aside most differences to agree on the pre-tribulation rapture. A walk through any Lifeway Christian Bookstore is enough to make any impressionable evangelical a part-time survivalist. "End Times" literature has an unusual appeal, for it is supposedly where the Bible intersects with commentary on contemporary Mideast politics and the most recent election in Washington. The literature combines the excitement and terror of the seven bowls of God's wrath with the excitement and terror of the most recent violence in Gaza or Damascus. The "End Times" commentary and speculation will not pan out, of course. It will not be like Harold Camping's apoplectic failure in prediction. The "Left Behind" blockbuster will fade more quietly out of memory without utterly ruining its authors and champions only because it was less specific in the timing of its predictions. Commentary about the end of the world will continue through the shelves of the Christian bookstore because it is excellent business, and the prophecies of the Bible, taken alone, are inscrutable enough to support any amount of interpretation. This, however, is not my point.

"End Times" literature is the concern of all who claim the name Christian because the most vocal Christians in America (the ones on television, by definition) have associated the religion strongly with speculation on the end of the world. The best selling "Christian" books are littered with novels of the end of the world, speculations on the end of the world, and the inevitable Shacks and Purpose Driven scholarship. No matter where the serious-minded Christian may fall in the spectrum of opinions, one faces disturbing odds of being identified with Christian apocalypticism merely because one identifies as a Christian. I seriously doubt even the average New Ager wants to be identified with the supposed Mayan apocalypse of 2012. The error ultimately lies in the whole mess being based in individual opinions and sectarian notions of the apocalypse, and the salvation in the stability (and the refusal to politicize doctrine) in the teaching of the Church. Any brief comparison between the teaching of an evangelical sect and the Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church on eschatology will illustrate the difference between the new and political with the old and measured understanding.

When Christ told us to keep watch because no man knows the day when the Lord will come, He was not telling us to peddle tales of the end of the age, or invest our energies speculating on the coming apocalypse. We are meant to keep watch, but this is far secondary to the life of the Church. In the divine liturgy we remember the creed, that we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. In Advent, we recall Christ's first coming, incarnated in the womb of the Virgin, and we meditate on His second coming as foretold in the prophecies. We prepare for Christmas through prayer, holy readings, and spiritual discipline, and talk of Christmas each year as a holy feast, and a visitation of God in the mystical sense of the Christian calendar. This is what keeping watch and following Christ's command looks like.

Apocalypticism is stultifying and paralyzing. It brings disrepute on the our religion for obvious reasons, but it has serious, negative effects on the life of the Church. One who is convinced he lives on the eve of destruction cannot build for the future, of course. The smugness of evangelical apocalypticism lies in the conviction that the prognosticators speak from a hell-proof cocoon to denounce and warn of the end. This attitude is repulsive and naive, for no one is ready for virtually everything they know and see to burn. For the unconvinced outside of the Church, how can the evangelist convince the unbeliever of the love of Christ when the Christians are vocally calling for the destruction of the world and anticipating it with a devilish happiness? This is in contrast to the life of the Church in Advent, which is focused on spiritual discipline in community, preparing together to celebrate Christ's incarnation and to anticipate His second coming with prayers that we will be worthy of Him. When the Church meditates on the end of all things, we pray for God to postpone His judgment. We remember the scripture, "who can abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth?" Any man who claims to be ready and eager to stand before God and be judged is a man beyond my understanding. I remember the last words of an Orthodox saint: "Lord, give me more time! I have only begun to repent."

The Christian apocalypticism of the American imagination is unfortunate baggage of American Christianity. The rumors and speculations will most likely swirl around and fade away rather than be confronted with authority and dismissed, and this is a bad state of affairs. The stable testimony of the Christian tradition, which extends past all the strange teachings of our age, will reward all who search for it. The bad effects of apocalyptic convictions have damaged the faith of many in our own lives. The cautionary tales of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the false prophecy of their day of judgement, or the Seventh Day Adventists with their false prophecy, did nothing to slow the zeal of Camping and his followers. The sensational apocalyptic teachings always backfire, and the false prophets with the day and the hour are only the most disastrous and the most visible. The dark teachers in American Christianity who call for the day of judgment with excitement have a much larger and more damaging effect in the long-term. Through them, our faith is associated with their frank desire to watch the world burn and to watch the sinners suffer. We have a word for this desire, and it is sadism. Those who call for military maneuvers to bring about the end of the world are beyond the pale.This kind of teaching is perverse, and all of the faithful are best advised to join the Church in prayer that God will delay His day of judgment: that we will all have time to reform our own lives and to make ourselves and the world itself holy and prepared for His coming. Let us reflect this Advent on the wisdom of the Church, and may we use it to banish these confused speculations and the disrepute they have brought on our holy faith.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feast Day of St Thomas the Apostle

     Today in the West we celebrate the feast of my patron saint, Thomas the Apostle. 

     In the Orthodox Tradition, he is known not for his doubt, but for his wonderful confession of faith "My Lord and My God!" when he came face to face with the risen Savior.  It is a pious custom in the West to confess as did St Thomas "My Lord and My God" when the priest presents the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
     The Lord commended Thomas for his faith, and furthermore blessed those in the generations to come saying "Blessed are they that do not see, and yet believe." 
     Holy Apostle Thomas, by your intercession to Christ our God, may our faith be strengthened and may our souls be saved. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gaming Report - Kasserine Pass

     Yesterday afternoon my older son and I finished a game modeling the Battle of Kasserine Pass (1943), specifically the GDW game Bloody Kasserine [1992].  It is a mid-complexity wargame with units at the battalion level. I bought the game back in 1992, when it was new, and have finally, 20 years later, actually played against an opponent.
     Kasserine Pass was a step up in terms of the complexity of game for my son. This game includes air units, and specialized ground units like engineers and anti-aircraft (flak) units. Of course my son the plane expert knew all of the aircraft types, both American and German. I played the German side, which has more on the board in the first turns, but at least in the air finds the odds evening and shifting away to the Americans. My son had the rule booklet near memorized by the time we began, and he made few strategic errors. His plans may not have been Patton-esque yet, but he certainly stalled me out in the titular pass. The town of Kasserine is right in the middle of the map, but is actually one of the less strategically important towns. The airfield at Tebessa and the city of Le Kef are much more valuable. I never reached either of them, as the Allied forces went quickly on the offensive and hit me on the south side of the mountains, away from the crucial airbases. The Allied air support was notably more effective than the German's. Only time I've ever not liked the Supermarine Spitfire. They shot down a lot of my Me-109's and FW-190's. A lot of the battles were pitched at 1:1 odds, which is not my favorite, and resulted in the two sides locked in position without any ground being traded. There were a lot of flanking/surrounding moves on both sides. 
     In the end, my son held on to enough strategic ground to end up with a narrow Allied victory, nicely approximating the actual outcome of the battle. Maybe next time, we'll use the optional "what if?" rule that makes George Patton the commander of the Allied forces - this means the Allies get reinforced sooner, and get a movement point bonus reflecting Patton's hard-charging tactics. I'm pleased and excited to see my son's game improving, and as a bonus I have more fun from more serious challenge. I think I'm a big enough guy to congratulate my son if ever he should wipe the board with me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New (Old) Gaming Goodies

     Last month (or so) I mentioned that I had won second place in the Zhodani Base's "76 Patrons" contest with a little adventure called Renovations. With that honor came a gift cert good over at Drive Thru RPG. Yesterday I finally got around to spending my hard-earned credit, and I picked up some nice play aids. I got a D66 sheet of 66 Cargoes - things interesting and mundane to find in a ship's hold. I picked up some back issues of Signs & Portents, Mongoose Publishing's house organ, which usually features some material for Traveller. Best of all, I got a PDF version of the Judge's Guild supplement Starships and Spacecraft with it's selection of deck plans for some of the typical Traveller small starships. Deck plans are fun to make, but can be very time consuming, so this supplement is a time-saver, and looks cool as well.

Just Across Town nearing publication?

     Many, many months ago, I put up a series of posts introducing characters from a short story I was writing, called Just Across Town. I am glad to announce that I've finally gotten it done (enough) to submit to the good folks at Lantern Hollow Press, who published my story Snowball last year. I am hopeful that they will publish JAT in their spring issue, but I figure if they don't, then I'll break it up into segments and publish it here, in serial format, like Charles Dickens (no, I'm not putting myself in the same category of writer as Dickens).
     The story is how my four main characters, who are touring their way around My Traveller Universe, find themselves at the wrong (right?) place at the wrong (right?) time and have to take a dangerous journey of only a few miles under difficult conditions in order to save the day.

Friday, December 7, 2012

St Nicholas Day 2012

     So many of my Facebook friends were having fun yesterday on St Nicholas' feast day, posting fun pictures and videos about him, that I decided to gather some up and re-post them here. Last year I shared the story of St Nicholas, so I won't do that all again - you can check that post HERE. Enjoy, laugh, and may the Wonderworker of Myra pray for us to Christ our God.

One version of the story of his encounter with Arius says he boxed Arius' ears.

A Youtube video about St Nicholas

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Memory Eternal - Patriarch +Ignatius IV

     It is with much sadness that I report that His Beatitude Patriarch +Ignatius (IV) Hazim, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East fell asleep in the Lord early today, December 5th, 2012. He had suffered a stroke yesterday and reposed early this morning. He was 91 years old, and had been Patriarch of Antioch since 1979. This is a serious blow especially to the Orthodox Christians in Syria, where +Ignatius led the patriarchate from Damascus, on a Street called Straight. I have never met His Beatitude, but I am grateful to him (and many others) that I and my family were welcomed into the family of Orthodoxy. I intend to thank him personally some day for his work in sharing the light of Holy Orthodoxy in America.

 The Orthodox Wiki article on His Beatitude.

A news report of his repose: http://www.pravmir.com/patriarch-ignatius-of-antioch-has-reposed-after-suffering-stroke/
Another report: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Dec-05/197289-lebanons-patriarch-hazim-dies-at-91.ashx#axzz2EBi5dQJu
From the Antiochian Archdiocesan Website: Memory Eternal Patriarch Ignatius

     Lord, receive into your eternal kingdom your faithful servant +Ignatius. Grant him rest, grant him peace, may your Light Perpetual shine upon him, and may his memory be eternal. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nostalgia Success

     Today my boys and I finally finished our first game of Revolt on Antares, a TSR minigame from 1982. I bought the game back in the early 80's but owing to my lack of a consistent gaming group, I had never actually played the game against another person. The 'sci-fi-ness" of the game's pieces intrigued me, particularly the artifact known as the "Sonic Imploder."
     I bought it again a few months ago from an online shop mostly for the nostalgia value of having it about. Then after having enjoyed playing some other games, like House Divided and Monopoly with my two boys, I figured, why not try Revolt on Antares
     I am glad to report that the game went pretty well. It is a simple enough game in concept and mechanics, but with some complexity in decision making - who should I attack and with how much?  Should I try to form an alliance?  Should I buy mercenaries or just use my own troops?  How should I employ the Artifacts (very powerful alien tech left over and appropriated by the warring factions), in particular the Devastator, which will destroy everything in a one-hex radius from itself. My younger son was considering using the Big D to break a siege of his fortress by my older son, until I pointed out how much of his own stuff he'd lose in the process. The siege was never lifted, but the older one did not ever take the fortress. He was so distracted by the siege that he did not notice my sneaking up on one of his fortresses until I had snatched it. I almost grabbed one of the younger boy's fortresses as well, but just didn't have quite enough firepower to do it.
     In the end my younger son won, owing in part to having more initial territory by luck of the draw. I think that we'll have to play it a few more times before they really see the tactical possibilities of the multi-player game, where the one holding the most territory at the end wins.
     Both as a game experience and as practice in being a good sport and 'playing by the rules', Revolt on Antares was good fun and a win all around. Some day, I expect them to figure out that they can gang up on their old dad. So far, though, I'm safe.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Off the Cuff Movie Reivew - Hugo

     Last weekend, on our family movie night we watched for the first time, Hugo, the Martin Scorsese film from last year. We all enjoyed it, in our own ways. My boys were very intrigued, which is surprising for the younger one. The movie takes its time setting up the plot and asking the questions which will be answered in the second act. Such slow pacing usually leaves my younger son bored and restless, but Hugo had him in rapt attention all the way through. The movie is certainly a visual treat, both the complex warrens of pipes and clockwork through which Hugo moves, and the cityscape of Paris, where the story takes place. I found Hugo to be an interesting if not greatly sympathetic character; he displays very little emotion throughout the film, even after being subjected to a very cruel trick by an adult. So, it should not surprise that the cruel trick is never mentioned again, and does not impair the development of Hugo's relationship with the adult. Several secondary characters with no relevance to the plot get a decent amount of screen time, and even the titular 'bad guy' gets enough development to be human instead of a card-stock villain. The tone is hard to describe; the film is neither lightly comic nor depressingly serious, although it takes stabs at being both. I also can't tell whether the target audience is children or adults; it may be best to say that it tries to appeal to both, and succeeds very nicely. I never felt much dramatic tension while watching the film, I always was aware that somehow it was going to have a happy ending, which it did. Hugo's appeal may lie in the quiet but skillful acting jobs of the main characters and the slow, tantalizing explanation of the central 'mystery' of the plot. Based on a (largely) picture book by Brian Selznick, descendant of David O. Selznick the famous movie producer, Hugo is a good film, at least on the first watching. Once you know the ending, I think the film may lose a lot of its' ability to keep the viewer engaged.

Charleston Conference Wrap Up

Well the conference is done, and I'm home again. 

     Among the interesting things from the wrap-up sessions on Saturday morning were: Shared Shelf Commons, a site which hosts collections of publicly-accessible media. Check it out at www.sscommons.org
     The other interesting thing was an overview by a team of lawyers on the current state of a number of federal court cases that will have effects on libraries; like the seemingly never-ending Google Books Settlement case. I'll admit I didn't understand a good bit of what they were talking about, as legalese has always made me go a bit cross-eyed. But, I'm glad that people more learned and interested than me are keeping an eye on such things.
     The Charleston Conference is a fun experience. I have learned about new products, gotten some goodies, and have new project ideas to percolate in the brain and hopefully make a reality, and a renewed desire to do my work better. I have no desire or expectation that I'm going to change the world or even change the library I work in. As Dostoyevsky once said, "everyone wants to change the world; no one thinks about changing himself."  If I can manage that, I'll be happy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Charleston Conference Day Three

     Another good day of library conference presentations. One from this morning was titled "What Provosts want Librarians to know", a panel discussion about how the university administration views the library and it's staff. Rule one: it works better if we do something beyond just showing up once a year asking for money. Who knew? We moved on to University Presses, big fun there, and a project which could be interesting - the Digital Public Library of America. Did not know about this one before today. Bears watching. 
     After lunch (eaten outside in Marion Square - never waste a sunny day when you can sit outside) went back at it with a presentation on integration of electronic book collections in three small college libraries. Interesting bit of anecdote, which I've heard before elsewhere: all other things being equal, students prefer the e-book version of a text when they have to read a chapter or section; a 'chunk' of the book, but ask for the print version if it is a work that has to be read all the way through. I had rather suspected that, but it was helpful to hear someone else make the observation.
     While we're on e-books, I sat in on a report from a library that compared circulation data on print books with usage data on the same titles as e-books. Conclusion?  Well, there really weren't any. The data didn't support any definitive statements, but the presenter did speculate that perhaps what the patrons were really interested in is the content rather than the format in which they got it. It reminds me of what a former library director used to say, "students want the tomatoes, not the can". Make of that what you will.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Charleston Conference Day Two

      A good day of conference meetings. The conference is hosted at the historic Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston, which is a very nice hotel. The morning speakers talked about the evolving world of journal and academic publishing, and the curious place of Google Scholar in the world of academic libraries. Independent and self-publishing was extolled, the current and future state of e-books and e-publishing generally was much mused and discussed. During the lunch hour (after a quick dash to 5 Guys Burgers) I attended a discussion roundtable on "What keeps librarians up at night" - no, it was not about how to deal with noisy college student neighbors, rather about worrisome issues facing collection development librarians. 
Then on to a less-satisfying presentation about finding a middle ground between 'general' and 'special' collections. It might have been more interesting if I worked at a research university, as they talked a lot about research data sets, like census data or other statistical measures. The last session today was a lot more fun - librarians from UTC gave a report on their 3-year long project to identify and remove 35,000+ books from the collection prior to the move into a brand new library building. According to the presenter, one professor (no name given) stood up in a faculty senate meeting and screamed at them his objection to the removal of any books from the collection. The 35K count was about 9% of the whole collection. Lighten up, prof!
      This evening, I'm off to have dinner with my colleagues and reps from Credo Reference. That's the best kind of library swag! Might go to the annual Reception, unless I'm too tired.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Charleston Conference Day One

     I'm in Charleston, SC for the annual Charleston Conference on Acquisitions and Serials, one of the bigger library professional conferences. Over the next three days I'll be commenting on what's been going on in the world of librarianship, new ideas and whatever happens to come to mind. 
     Today was the preconference events, and that means Vendor Showcases, which means Library Swag. I've scored a ceramic mug, a metal mug, loads of pens and pencils, notepads, sticky notes and even a little cloth to clean my glasses. Oh, and I also got some advertising literature from a number of vendors. Maybe I'll talk some about what they've got to offer. Other than that, today was just getting here (seven hour drive - thanks be to God for audiobooks) and settling into the hotel.  Heading out in a bit to grab some dinner at Joe Pasta, a very nice little restaurant near the historic Marion Square.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Napping in the Library

     A colleague recently sent me a link to this article from Library Journal about how some libraries are taking a different approach to the perennial issue of students coming into the library not to read but to sleep. Snoring, unattended ringing phones (esp with annoying ring-tones), long-term occupation of limited seating space and other irritants are of concern for librarians who want the library as inviting, but not become a substitute apartment or lounge. Wesleyan University has installed a number of high-tech barcaloungers called Energy Pods which create a sleep-friendly environment for one person, complete with white noise generator and a vibration wake-up alarm to keep the occupant from missing their next class. Personally, I wouldn't mind being able to take a 20-minute nap in the middle of the afternoon, while at work. 

Now, as is often the case, I'm pondering how I can apply a real-world technology/event to gaming. These sleeping-pods would be more likely to show up in a modern-day or sci-fi setting, but there's no reason why a fantasy/magic based game couldn't have them as well. And in the fictional world of the game, even a humble couch can be an adventure hook. Say there's a minor spell (or Vita-Rays, or some technobabble equivalent) that makes the couch work as a sleeping pod. What if some evil wizard or spy agency or subversive group has tampered with the couch so that it reads the sleeper's thoughts, stealing secrets or implanting subliminal suggestions? Or perhaps the couch keeps its occupant asleep for a long time, allowing the person to be kidnapped or shanghaied? A spy could arrange to leave messages in the sleeping pod, so a contact can pick them up either in hard copy or by the above mentioned spell/tech? In a more mundane vein, if the PC's are supposed to meet someone in the sleeping pod lounge, what complications can develop from popping open the wrong one? At the very least, in any game where the PC's do a lot of travelling, these short-rest stations could be as common as the tavern & the inn.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Theodore Roosevelt

Today is the 154th anniversary of the birth of Theodore "T R" Roosevelt, our 26th President and one of my favorite American characters.
A few quotes in honor of his birthday, courtesy of  the Theodore Roosevelt Association and others:

"There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility."

"We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less."

"It is no use to preach to [children] if you do not act decently yourself."
"If a man does not have an ideal and try to live up to it, then he becomes a mean, base and sordid creature, no matter how successful."
"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

"The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life."

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

A photo of me, standing by the Theodore Roosevelt memorial on Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, DC.

Friday, October 26, 2012

St Raphael the Archangel

     St. Raphael is one of seven Archangels who stand before the throne of the Lord. He was sent by God to help Tobit, Tobiah and Sarah. At the time, Tobit was blind and Tobiah's betrothed, Sarah, had had seven bridegrooms perish on the night of their weddings. Raphael accompanied Tobiah into Media disguised as a man named Azariah. Raphael helped him through his difficulties and taught him how to safely enter marriage with Sarah. Tobiah said that Raphael caused him to have his wife and that he gave joy to Sarah's parents for driving out the evil spirit in her. He also gave Raphael credit for his father's seeing the light of heaven and for receiving all good things through his intercession. Besides Raphael, Michael and Gabriel are the only Archangels mentioned by name in the Bible. Raphael's name means "God heals." This identity came about because of the biblical story which claims that he "healed" the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels. Raphael is also identified as the angel who moved the waters of the healing sheep pool.
A prayer:  
     O God, who gave blessed Raphael the Archangel unto thy servant Tobias to be the companion of his wayfaring : grant unto us thy servants ; that we may ever be protected by the guardianship of this same thine Archangel, and defended by his help. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

     As in real life, in my Traveller universe, Christians ask St Raphael for aid and protection on their journeys, and for aid in recovery when injured along the way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Lady of Walsingham

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is the most renowned sanctuary of the Mother of God in the whole of the British Isles.
     Walsingham itself is a village in a remote part of East Anglia some 125 miles from London.  Here in the year 1061, (when England was still considered part of the One Orthodox Catholic Church) Richeldis, Lady of the Manor, received a vision in the fields near her home.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and carried her in spirit to Nazareth.  There, Our Lady showed her the little house where the Annunciation took place, and directed her to construct an exact copy. In confirmation of this vision, a spring of water suddenly appeared at Richeldis’ feet.
     Richeldis obeyed, and so a chapel, after the model of the Holy House at Nazareth, was built beside the spring in honor of the mystery of the Incarnation.  By God’s blessing Walsingham grew into a great center of prayer.  Pilgrims came not only from distant parts of England or Scotland but from all over Europe, to pray before the venerable image of God’s Mother in the Holy House, and to drink from the waters of the spring. England’s Nazareth, as it was called, became famous for miracles of healing.
     The Mother of God is honored at Walsingham not only by Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but by Orthodox as well. Before World War 1, Archbishop Seraphim, of the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris, blessed a plot of land close to the nave of the Shrine Church, where it is hoped one day to establish a permanent place for Orthodox worship (this chapel has not so far been built). In 1938, at the consecration of the enlarged Shrine Church, a delegation from the Russian Church was present, led by Archbishop Nestor and Archimandrite Nicolas Gibbes. Then at Pentecost, 1944, a temporary chapel within the walls of the Anglican Shrine was blessed by Archbishop Sava of Grodno, of the Polish Orthodox Church. This continues to be used by Orthodox pilgrims. Although small, it has an icon screen and all the features necessary for Eastern Orthodox worship.
     Among the Orthodox who visited the Shrine after the war was the saintly Serbian Bishop, Nicholai Velimirovich. For several years a Serbian priest, Father Nadjanovich lived permanently at Walsingham. Since 1961 there have been regular Greek Orthodox pilgrimages. In 1964, the Orthodox Confraternity of Our Lady of Walsingharn was set up, under the patronage of Metropolitan Athenagoras, with Greek, Russian, Serbian, and English Orthodox representatives on the Council.
From Fr. Patrick Cardine, St. Patrick Orthodox Church  www.SaintPatrickOrthodox.org

Art of Manliness - TR on Integrity

A nice short 'manvotional' today from the Art of Manliness site. Since it quotes Theodore Roosevelt, who is much admired here at Deep in the Stacks, I present it for your consideration. 

From the speech, Citizenship in a Republic, 1910 By Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt On Integrity in Private and Public Life

Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest, "Theodore Roosevelt", accessed 15 Oct 2012, http://quest.eb.com/images/115_2248833

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fighting Smart in RPGs

In a previous post I shared an article from STRATFOR on dealing with emergency/danger situations in real life. Today I want to draw from that article a few thoughts on how players of RPGs can employ this advice in their gaming.

Situational Awareness
Players have to make an effort to keep their characters aware of the world around them. Most game systems have a pre-combat mechanic for spotting danger or avoiding surprise attacks. The GM should be employing that mechanic, and if the players do not announce that they are being watchful and alert for suspicious activity in their surroundings, the GM can feel free to surprise them as often as it takes for them to learn. Set up a standard observation/crowd-scan policy and announce that your character is doing it in any situation that you think could get dangerous. GMs should keep in mind that not all antagonists are going to be masters of stealth, so keep it varied and challenge the players to keep vigilant.
Run, Hide, Fight
Run Just because some NPC wants to start a fight does not mean your character has to go along. Ever considered negotiating? If talking doesn't work running is a viable option. Fight on your terms, not on theirs. If for some reason your characters are unwilling to run, they had better be aware and looking out for possible trouble.
Hide Going into a potential conflict situation, the players should pay attention to the layout and keep in mind escape routs and places that provide concealment or cover. Remember that concealment is not the same as cover unless you have not been spotted yet. If your opponent hasn't seen you yet, don't break concealment unless you're going to get trapped in that spot. When the shooting starts, don't stand out in the open or you make yourself target number one – get to cover fast.
Fight Know your capabilities as a character and as a team so you'll know when you're over-matched. Assess your opponent's weaponry and power. Have a general plan in place for handling different kinds of threats; a grenade launcher and a sub-machine gun are not employed the same way. Coordinate with your fellow characters; teamwork is a force multiplier.
Whenever you fight, remember that your first objective is always survival. Don't hesitate to break contact if things are going against you.
In World Wars 1 & 2, automatic weapons and artillery caused far more casualties than personal weapon fire. So identify your opponent's biggest gun and target it first. Suppress the heavy hitter while protecting your own biggest gun, because the enemy will likely be using the same tactic.
Use maneuver to get to the combat range that is most favorable to your side. Handguns are close range weapons, if you've got better ranged weapons, don't let your opponents get close.
Maneuver Moving targets are harder to hit, plain and simple. If you're not under cover, maneuver to cover as quickly as possible.
Distance Again, avoid close range combat if at all possible. The closer you are to your opponent, the easier it is for him to hit you, and you want to survive.
Angle Rather than running in straight lines, dodge and weave about, forcing an opponent to track and lead you, throwing off his aim. In Traveller, this is called Evading.
Cover & Concealment Cover is anything solid that will stop attacks from hitting you. Concealment is anything that blocks your opponent from seeing you. You can hide behind cover as it offers protection, but you should move behind concealment, as it will not stop bullets. Anything between you and an opponent is helpful, but always try to get to cover.
Survival Mindset
If the game system you're playing has 'panic rules', expect the GM to enforce them. This should encourage more planning and non-combative solutions to confrontation, as no-one wants to freeze out in the open to get shot. Rules for initiative, or who acts first in a combat turn, can also simulate this hesitation under fire. GMs should allow players a chance to improve their character's performance under fire.
Not all RPG's try to be realistic, but for those that do, where combat is expected, your characters should fight smart or face the likelihood of getting beaten by NPCs who do.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Second Place and I'm Happy

     BeRKA at the Zhodani Base ranked my "76 Patrons" entry Renovations as the second place entry in this years' contest. I'm surprised and pleased to have one of my entries chosen; I read all of them and there were lots of great ideas all around. Check it out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Librarians in the Classroom

      Today I had another opportunity to get out of my office and interact with the students. I spoke with an English class, freshman composition, talking about the library's resources, Interlibrary loan and what we can do to help the students in their research. I always appreciate the chance to do this, if for not other reason than it give me a chance to talk about a subject that I enjoy. I cannot, however, help but notice that not all of the students react with the same enthusiasm about the library that I have.
      I see a remarkable contrast from one class to another in their reactions. Just last week I met with two classes, back to back, giving the same lecture on the same subject to both. The first group seemed to be paying attention, asking questions and answering the ones I throw out to give them a chance to interact with the material I present. The even laughed at my few laugh lines. I have had to monitor myself to resist the urge to 'play to my audience' and try to be funny.
      The second class had the same number of students, but they spoke not a word. I was only a few minutes into my lecture when I realized that this group was not as 'live' as the previous one. This kind of class is why I don't try to be funny. It's dreadful when you pop a knee-slapper and it dies in the first row. No questions were asked or answered and a dull silence for the rest of the lecture.
      Now which of these two groups got more out of my presentation? I couldn't say. Hopefully, they all got one or two bits of useful information about the research process and I pointed them towards new and appropriate research resources. At least the classroom teachers get to give them quizzes to find out if they've learned anything. Once in a great while I have a student drop by my office to ask for help, so I must at least that often make a positive impression.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Things Go Bad

     I have on several occasions before referenced Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) as an invaluable resource for understanding the geopolitics of our world, and how that knowledge can be translated into gaming 'worlds' such as Traveller. This article in not only good practical advice for us here in the real world, but it provides some useful tips and tools for handling fight scenes in gaming or in writing fiction. This article is reproduced with permission.

"When Things Go Bad is republished with permission of Stratfor."

When Things Go Bad
By Scott Stewart

Over the past several weeks, we have discussed a number of different situations that can present a common problem to people caught up in them. First, we discussed how domestic terrorism remains a persistent threat in the United States, and that despite improvements in security measures since 2001, soft targets still remain vulnerable to attack by terrorist actors driven by a variety of motivations. Due to the devolution of the jihadist threat toward the grassroots, there is also a growing trend of jihadist actors using armed assaults instead of bombing attacks. We also discussed the continuing problem of workplace violence, and finally, we discussed last week evacuation plans for expatriates due to natural disaster, civil unrest or war.

People caught in any of these situations could find themselves either confronted by an armed assailant or actually coming under fire in an active shooter scenario. Of course, there are other situations where people can find themselves confronted by armed assailants, from street muggings and carjackings to bank robberies. Because of this, we thought it might be useful to our readers to discuss such situations and how to react when caught in one.

Perhaps the most important factor affecting a person's reaction to a life-threatening incident is their mindset going into the situation. As we have previously noted when discussing situational awareness, the way the brain is wired makes it very difficult for a person to go from a state of being "tuned out" and completely unaware of what is going on around them to a state of high alert. When confronted by such a jump, it is not uncommon for people to freeze, go into shock and become totally unable to respond to the situation confronting them. This type of panic-induced paralysis can be extremely deadly, and at that point the only hope of surviving an incident is sheer luck or divine providence. People in such a state can do nothing to save themselves.

Another factor of this mindset is the need for people to recognize that there are bad people in the world who want to hurt innocent people, and that they could be potential targets. This means that people must not only practice situational awareness but also trust their gut when they feel something isn't quite right. Denial can be a very dangerous thing when it overrides or rationalizes away gut feelings of danger. Over my former careers as a special agent and corporate security officer, I have interviewed numerous people who allowed denial to override suspicious indicators they noted, and who then proceeded to do things that resulted in their victimization -- all because they had the mindset that they could not possibly become victims. These situations ranged from a mugging victim, who thought there was something odd about the way three guys on the corner looked at her, to the kidnapping victim who spotted the deployed abduction team but proceeded into the attack zone anyway because he thought the team would target someone with more money than his family had. In shooting situations, I have spoken with victims who did not realize that shots were actually being fired and instead dismissed them as pranks or fireworks. I have seen media reports of similar remarks from witnesses regarding recent shooting incidents, such as the July 20 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. In short, denial is deadly.

By practicing the proper level of situational awareness and understanding the possibility of being targeted, a person will be mentally prepared to realize that an attack is happening -- something we call attack recognition. The earlier a target recognizes the attack, the better. In the kidnapping case noted above, the victim recognized the attack before it was sprung, and could have avoided a long (and costly) hostage ordeal, had he taken immediate action to avoid the attack site. As we have mentioned repeatedly, criminal and terrorist attacks do not appear out of a vacuum. Instead, they are part of a planning process that can be recognized if one is looking for it. We have also noted over the years that criminals and terrorists tend to be very bad at camouflaging their actions, and their suspicious demeanors often leave them vulnerable to early detection.

Admittedly, there is the slight danger of embarrassment in the aftermath of a false reaction. I have blushed after hitting the ground and rolling to cover in response to unexpected celebratory gunfire in Yemen, but in general it is far better to initially overreact when there is no threat than it is to underreact in a truly dangerous situation.

But even if one cannot avoid an attack, recognizing danger immediately and then quickly taking action to avoid it can often mean the difference between survival and death.
Run, Hide, Fight

Some people have been critical of the simplicity of the "Run, Hide, Fight" public service video available on YouTube, which was produced by the City of Houston and funded by the Department of Homeland Security. In our assessment, the video does a good job achieving its goal of raising awareness of active shooter situations and of providing a simple, easy-to-remember mantra similar to the "stop, drop and roll" fire-prevention slogan. The video also discusses the necessity of having an evacuation plan and being aware of surroundings. Is the video a complete self-defense course? Clearly not, but it does meet its limited objectives.

Once a person has recognized that an attack is taking place, a critical step must be taken before they can decide to run, hide or fight -- they must determine where the gunfire (or threat) is coming from. Without doing so, the victim could run blindly from a position of relative safety into danger. We certainly encourage anyone under attack to get out of the attack site and run away from danger, but you must first ascertain that you are in the attack site before taking action. Many times, the source of the threat will be evident and will not take much time to locate. But sometimes, depending on the location -- whether in a building or out on the street -- the sounds of gunfire can echo and it may take a few seconds to determine the direction it is coming from. In such a scenario, it is prudent to quickly take cover until the direction of the threat can be located. In some instances, there may even be more than one gunman, which can complicate escape plans.

Fortunately, most attackers engaging in active shooter scenarios are not well-trained. They tend to be poor marksmen who lack tactical experience with their weapons. For example, in his attack on a Los Angeles Jewish community center daycare Aug. 10, 1999, Buford Furrow fired 70 shots from an Uzi-style submachine gun but only wounded five people. The Uzi is an effective and highly accurate weapon at short distances, meaning the only reason Furrow did so little damage was his poor marksmanship. During the July 20 shooting in Aurora, James Holmes only managed to kill 12 people -- despite achieving almost total tactical surprise in a fully packed theater -- due to a combination of poor marksmanship and his inability to clear a malfunction from his rifle.

This typical lack of marksmanship implies that most people killed in active shooter situations are shot at very close range. There are some obvious exceptions, like the shooting at the University of Texas on Aug. 1, 1966, when ex-Marine Charles Whitman shot several people from the top of a tower on the college campus. But even then, most of Whitman's victims were shot early on in his attack, and his ability to successfully engage targets declined rapidly as victims realized where the shots were coming from and either moved away from the threat or took cover and waited for the authorities to respond.

As seen in the Whitman case, potential victims can do several things to reduce their chances of being shot, even with a trained shooter. We use an old acronym to describe these steps: MDACC, which stands for motion, distance, angle, cover and concealment.

First, it is much harder to shoot a moving target than a stationary one, especially if that target is moving at a distance. Most tactical shootings happen at distances of less than 7 meters. Indeed, there are very few people who can consistently hit a stationary target beyond 25 meters with a pistol, much less a moving target. Most people can put 25 meters between them and an attacker in just a few seconds, so motion and distance are your friends.

The angle between the target and the shooter is also important, because shooting a target running away in a straight line is easier than shooting a target running away at an angle, since the second scenario would require the shooter to swing the barrel of the weapon and lead the target. Both require a good deal of practice, even with a rifle or shotgun. If the target can run at an angle behind objects like trees, cars, office furniture or walls that obstruct the shooter's view of the target (concealment) or stop bullets (cover), that is even more effective.

Whether running or trying to hide, it is important to distinguish between concealment and cover. Items that provide concealment will hide you from the shooter's eye but will not protect you from bullets. A bush or tree leaves may provide concealment, but only a substantial tree trunk will provide cover. A typical office drywall-construction interior wall will provide concealment but not cover. This means that if a person is forced to hide inside an office or classroom, they might be able to lock the door but the shooter will in all likelihood still be able to fire through the walls and the door, should they choose to do so. Still, if the shooter cannot see his or her target, they will be firing by chance rather than intentionally aiming.

In any case, those hiding inside a room should attempt to find some sort of additional cover, like a filing cabinet or heavy desk. It is always better to find cover than concealment, but even partial cover -- something that will only deflect or fragment the projectiles -- is better than no cover at all.
The Inner Warrior

Mindset also becomes critical when a person is wounded. In active shooter situations it is not unusual for many more people to be wounded than killed; this also relates to the issue of poor marksmanship discussed above. In such a situation, it is extremely important for the wounded person to understand that, unlike what is portrayed in the movies, most wounds are not immediately fatal and rarely immobilize the victim right away. However, it is not uncommon for people to drop to the ground when they are shot and freeze in panic or go into shock. This gives the shooter an opportunity to approach them for a point-blank coup de grace.

It is very important for people to realize that most gunshots are survivable and that, even after being wounded, their bodies can continue to function to get them away from the attack site and to safety. Certainly, once a target gets out of the immediate danger zone they will want to seek first aid or treat themselves with improvised pressure bandages to stop the bleeding and avoid going into shock. Modern trauma medicine is very good, and as seen in the Aurora shooting, most victims wounded in these types of attacks will survive if they get prompt medical assistance.

It is no mistake that training regimens for special operations forces soldiers and serious athletes place so much emphasis on the mental aspect of combat and sports -- that is, learning that your body can keep functioning and continue to do amazing things, even after your mind has told you that it is time to quit. That same sense of drive and determination, the inner warrior, can help keep a person's body functioning after they have been wounded. The inner warrior is also critical when it is time to fight rather than to run or hide, but that is a topic for another time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Things that go on in a library

     I was walking from my office through the computer lab area of our library, and as I came around a corner into a narrow hallway by the elevator, I very nearly tripped over a student, sitting on the floor with legs straight out, resting a laptop on her lap. I pointed out that there were tables nearby, in the area I had just left, to which she responded "but I needed the outlet," pointing to the electrical outlet in the wall next to her. I had often wondered why this narrow hallway needed an electrical outlet. Now I know. As a second effort to get her to stop blocking the hallway (did I mention the elevator?) I suggested that around the corner from where I had just come was another outlet, and the hall was much wider there. That seemed to register as a good idea, and so she moved around the corner, and even found a chair to pull over next to the outlet. At the other end of the hallway, in another study area, I saw any number of tables free that have electrical sockets built right into them. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Print Vs E-books

       I've been asked many times, most recently this past weekend, what my opinion is of e-books and e-book readers, such as the Kindle or Nook. I don't know but I suspect that many folk assume that since I'm a librarian who works with print books, that I must therefore suspect, fear or despise the electronic book. As it turns out, not so much.
      First of all, full disclosure here. I do not own an e-reader, but my wife does, a Kindle. I've picked it up and looked it over but I've never read anything with it. Years ago I wag given a PDA that had a text editor which meant that I could read books from Project Gutenberg, if I could stand only seeing one paragraph a t a time. It was OK, but not great. I read a few novels or parts thereof and went back to reading them on paper. I think I've since lost the PDA.
      Even today, I will use our library's e-book collection, by finding a book I want to read and then printing off a chapter or so, as allowed by the interface and then reading the print copy. I've never taken to reading long texts on a screen. I routinely print off STRATFOR articles or journal articles instead of reading them on-screen.
      Conversely, my wife uses her Kindle frequently. She reads for pleasure, as well as using it in class (she teaches literature as well as homeschooling our children) because it's more portable than a stack of print books, and she can keep all her notes in one place in a way that is difficult to lose. At the same time, she reads in print and listens to audio books.
This is just my opinion, supported by no studies or research, but I do not see the print book going away any time soon. It is a proven technology that has existed for millenia. Books have seen changes before: scrolls to bound books, hand-copying to printing presses, changes in paper, ink and printing methods, print on demand as well as competition from radio, television, movies and the internet. Print has endured. As long as I see piles of printed articles from electronic journals sitting unused by the printer, am not worried about the death of print.
      I see e-books and print books as co-existing very nicely for quite a while. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, but neither format, in my view, is so superior as to make the other pointless.
      To summarize and answer the question, I think e-books are a useful technology, but one that for the time being I am happy to use only sparingly. I've no objection to anyone else using them but I am not myself that impressed with them.

September 11, 2001

     I don't need to say much and I'm not going to say much about this day and what it means to us as Americans. Yes, we have our political differences but 9-11 wasn't an attack on a political party or candidate, it was an attack on all of us who bear the name American. Even as we wrestle with the important issues of choosing a future course for this country, let us remember that while we may be political opponents, we are all Americans together. 
     May God have mercy upon our nation, and remember with mercy the souls of the departed who were taken from us by our enemies. 

A moment of silence, please. That is all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

76 Patrons - Custom Build

My second entry in the 76 Patrons contest at the Zhodani Base has been posted here.

The player's & referee's information is here:

Custom Build
for 4+ characters

Patron: Scout Pilot
Skills Required: Technical skills, Administration
Equipment Required: tools

Player's Information:
The PC's are contacted by a detached duty Scout, who is looking 
for help on a building project. He has acquired a starship hull, 
which is sound but lacking some key components. The Scout has 
borrowed against the selling price of the ship to purchase or 
build the required parts. He offers the party a share of the 
selling price, initially 30% to him and 70% split amongst the 
group. The Scout claims to have a buyer already lined up.

Referee's Information:
The situation is as the Scout has explained it, the hull is legally
his, and he has secured funding. Referee can choose the size of 
the ship based upon the size of the PC group and their skills. 
Any starship, even a rebuild should be worth several MCr. The ship
sits on a paved area that used to be a warehouse floor, outside of
the local metropolis, and he has rented some heavy equipment 
necessary to lift large components. The referee must determine the
number of parts still needed and their cost. It is suggested that 
the referee consult the Traveller Book,p. 78 'Repair parts', the 
Starship Operator's Manual page on Maintenance, under Other Tasks,
the JTAS article Starship Malfunctions, (JTAS 15 p.16), and 
'Refitting Ships' and 'Repairs' in Adventure 5: Trillion Credit 
Of course there will be complications. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

RIP Harry Harrison

     The news is no longer current, but I have just learned that author Harry Harrison died on August 15th. Harrison was the author of (among other things) a long running series of sci-fi stories featuring the intergalactic master thief James "Slippery Jim" DiGriz, better known as the Stainless Steel Rat. I first read Harrison's stories in Junior High school because my sister was reading them. I enjoyed the stories immensely, and even tried once to make a home-made audio book of "The Stainless Steel Rat for President". 
     I can't say that Harrison directly influenced any of my Traveller gaming, but I'm going to go back and re-read The Stainless Steel Rat books to mine them for Traveller ideas.

     Some of his works are available for free online from Project Gutenburg and from Librivox, including "Deathworld" and "The Misplaced Battleship". Have a read/listen of some great classic science fiction and say a prayer for the soul of our departed friend. May his memory be eternal!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Saint of the Day - Aiden of Lindisfarne

     Today is the feast day of St Aiden of Lindisfarne, one of the Saints of the British Isles for whom I've always had a fondness. 

     St. Aidan was born in Ireland in the latter part of the 6th Century. He was tonsured a monk at Iona (Scotland) in the community that St. Columba had founded earlier as a holy isle and staging ground for the evangelization of Britain. St. Aidan was chosen to evangelize Northumbria, because of his skilful and gentle manner of teaching. He was consecrated bishop and sent to Northumbria. He arrived at Lindesfarne in 635, establishing it as a second holy isle on the opposite coast of Britain, which became his see. He evangelized the native pagans. At times, he encountered rival gangs of young men, ready to do battle. He instructed them in the Gospel of Peace and they laid down their weapons, were baptized, and became monastics. St. Aidan held to the eastern traditions, which were the norm in Ireland. He taught and practiced the stricter fasting rules, the eastern date for Pascha and the collegial nature of church rule, giving preference to abbots over bishops. Many times, King Oswald would accompany St. Aidan on his missionary trips through the countryside, acting as an interpreter. St. Aidan was always teaching, preaching and encouraging, but he led by example. He was known by his asceticism and his almsgiving. King Oswin gave him a fine horse to use in his ministry. Aidan gave it with all of its fancy gear, to a beggar who asked for alms. He used some of what was given him to redeem slaves out of their slavery. Some of these became his disciples. St. Aidan sent missionaries out across England and as far as the Netherlands, establishing monasteries. He also tonsured the first nun in Northumbria, Hieu. He also persuaded Hilda to stay in England and supported her work of establishing monasteries for women throughout England. The godly bishop accomplished all of this and more in just sixteen years. He reposed in the Lord on August 31, 651. He was immediately acclaimed as "the Apostle to Northumbria." He was buried at Lindesfarne. In 664, when the Lindesfarne monastery succumbed to the pressure from Rome and accepted the Synod of Whitby, St. Colman took St. Aidan's relics and retired to Iona, which remained a stronghold of Celtic Christianity.

Hymn to St Aiden:
O holy Bishop Aidan, Apostle of the North and light of the Celtic Church, glorious in humility, noble in poverty, zealous monk and loving missionary, intercede for us sinners that Christ our God may have mercy on our souls.
This text taken from Come and See Icons

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dysfunctional library post

      I've been meaning to do this post ever since last week when the Collection = Connection blog put up “Dysfunctional & Codependent” OK, I note that one of the tags is humor. Is this meant to be straight parody, or 'laugh to keep from crying'?, because as a humor piece I don't find it that funny. This is not 'how dare you make such levity about the serious business of our profession'/boxers in a bunch kind of not-funny, rather it's the it's not funny kind of not-funny. As a commentary on the state of print collection policies, the piece is hardly more than an unorganized group of rants about the problems of having a collection of books. Size, shape, durability are thrown together with frustrating publisher behavior, donations and books in foreign languages. In an effort to clarify without trying to be funny, let me address these issue in some semblance of order.

      Firstly, the post mentions physical problems of a book collection. Yes, books do not come in one standard size. This has been true since the invention of the printing press, and up until now, I've never heard a librarian seriously discuss this fact as though it were a problem. Maybe I still haven't. In our library we have most of the books in a robotic storage and retrieval system, where the storage bins are designed to accommodate the height of the book. The really large ones, which used to be on specially-spaced shelves in the Oversize collection, get their own bins where they lay flat. This is actually much better for the books, as in this position their spines are not stressed by the book's own weight. In libraries that do not utilize such storage systems, there are adjustable height shelves to make room for books of unusually large size.
      Wear and tear on books will happen, as the book gets used. This is only to be expected. A collection development policy should address the need to identify and replace worn books. It is possible to look at wear on a book as a positive sign, as it most often means that the book is coming off the shelf and being read. That's why we collect them, for them to be used. This is not a problem, it's the plan.

      Secondly, the post addresses what I'll call librarian attitude problems. The question of what to do with things that people donate to the library is a common one, common enough that it has been effectively answered. Any library that does not have a policy in place to address donations deserves to be buried under piles of out-of-date textbooks and old Harlequin romance novels. At my library, I'm the donations evaluator. We'll agree to take just about anything, but once the donor signs the form it's ours and we can do anything we choose with the books. This is made clear to the donor on the form. The policy gives me a lot of discretion in deciding the fate of donations. Do we have it already? If we don't need another copy, it goes to the book sale. Out of date material? Book Sale! In poor condition? Trash can or Book Sale! Book on a subject that has no relation to our academic programs? You get the idea.
      Yes, I know, librarians are stereotypically afraid of weeding. In an age of tight budgets and crowded shelves, however, weeding is a very practical matter. I happen to like weeding. If it helps, think of it in terms of the overall health of a collection, as if it were a fruit tree. A healthy collection is one that meets the needs of its user group, whether public or student or professional. Weeding prunes the tree, allowing it to grow in a healthy way. Our browsing shelves are no place for irrelevant, dated books. We do not serve our students by giving them what they want, or what we want, but what they need.

      Thirdly, the post talks about issues with publishers. First, the easy one. So you have books in your collection that are not in English? Find out if any of your user group reads that language (French majors, anyone?) and if they do, then the books make sense. If they don't see the bit above about weeding. Simple.
Next, books go out of print. Book publishing is a business, and we just have to accept the fact that publishers will do what is in their best interest. I see books at Amazon and Books in Print all the time that are noted as “out of print” but are still available. I don't really understand the point of including this issue in the post.
      On the subject of changing editions, may I please suggest that you check a little more carefully before deciding to buy the new 'edition'. As I suspect this refers to the publishers of textbooks, you could also take our approach. We don't buy textbooks. Period. If you're talking $700 books, likely it is a reference work like a specialized encyclopedia. With print reference taking such a drubbing from the e-book editions, I don't see many print works being revised that often, especially not at full price. Our e-book reference works get updated, but we only pay for the updates, not the whole work.

      In conclusion, while this post does speak to some real issues of print collection management, it is done in such a disorganized way and in such a whiny tone that any serious points are obscured by the presentation. From the opening paragraph it seems like the post I going to be about librarians' relationship to the books in their collections, but the post rapidly wanders off from this. The post opening is too harsh to be funny, and the post does not support the assertion well enough to be serious. I hope ALCTS can do better than this.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quotes about Libraries

I came upon a book at our library staff meeting today, the Librarian's Book of Quotes. A few gems from this collection: 

From his refined accent, quiet voice and apparent omniscience, I took him for a librarian. 
George Orwell, Author

A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. The Library is the University.
Shelby Foote, author

You must live feverishly in a library. Colleges are not going to do you any good unless you are raised and live in a library every day of your life. 
Ray Bradbury, author
This is a library. Kids and adventurers welcome. All others STAY OUT.
Dean Koontz, author

And one I heard myself, walking through the halls several years ago:
     "Oh, the library. Where the serious people go." (Anonymous)

For more fun, read the book and check out these sites: