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:


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back on the Track again

     This past weekend, (my, the days have been busy since the peace & quiet of Saturday morning) I went to the local HS track again to run two miles. My younger son accompanied me this time. He tried to keep up with Daddy but at his age, that wasn't going to happen. However, he did manage to complete four laps around for a total of one mile, in about 15 minutes.  Several times he waited for me at the 'finish line' and ran part of the lap around with me until he couldn't keep up. Now what I'm hoping to do is get my older son up there as well. He's started with a local soccer league, and needs to build his wind up. Plus it will keep me honest with doing my own running. I finished two miles in a little over 17 minutes, and if I want to do any races this fall, I should pick up the pace and get that time down.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Off the Cuff Movie Review - Dallas and Springfield Rifle

     My dear wife got for me for Father's Day a box set of Gary Cooper movies. So far we've watched two of them for our weekly family movie night. Two rip-roarin' westerns, Dallas and Springfield Rifle.
   In both films, Coop plays a confident, strait-shooting guy who knows what he wants and will fight and sacrifice to get it. In both, he plays a man who is at odds with the law, but in the end is fighting for what's right.  Also in both cases, Coop's characters are playing roles that are not quite what they seem to be. 
   In Dallas, Coop is Blayde Hollister (no, that's not a nickname), a former Confederate officer now turned outlaw after the war, on a quest for justice, or is it revenge?  In Rifle, Coop is Union Major Lex Kearney, court-martialed out of the Cavalry for failing to protect a badly needed shipment of horses from horse thieves during the Civil War. But there's more than meets the eye going on. Tight-lipped Coop never complains, never tells anyone what he's after, and is willing to lose the lady-love interest in both movies (in Rifle it's his wife)to get the job done.
     The movies are not long by modern standards, so the plot hums right along to some really good musical scores. There's plenty of gorgeous western scenery filmed in glorious Technicolor, film buffs will recognize a lot of the supporting cast as well: Lon Chaney and Alan Hale, Jr. appear in Rifle, Raymond Massey appears in Dallas. There's loads of exciting action scenes, and as was standard at the time, the fighting and shooting were near totally bloodless. 
     Despite the brisk pacing, the plots were not simplistic, I found that I had to pay attention to keep up with what was going on. Of course, Coop's laconic cowboy characters don't go in for exposition much.
     We all enjoyed these two films a lot, especially Coop's tough/good guy performances. Both films had tense climaxes, but nothing happened that would be scary or upsetting for younger children. Next time we watch a Coop film it's going to be Sergeant York, based on the exploits of the real Sgt York in the First World War. Look for my review to follow.

Back on (the) Track

  I'm back to running again. For the last few weeks I've been hitting the local high school track once or twice a week to run 2 miles at a pop. During the week, two miles is all I have time for, my mornings are pretty busy getting myself and our two boys up and going in the right direction. 
This morning I really focused on my form: stride, pace, the movement of my arms. It worked, I finished 2 miles in 16:51 today, down from 17 1/2 minutes last week. 
This past weekend, while visiting the in-laws, I had a free morning and some lovely country roads in northern Virginia, so I mapped out at 5 mile out-and-back run, finishing in 46:05. 
I wonder sometimes while I'm running (who am I kidding, it occurs to me every time I run) why I'm doing this. At my age, shouldn't I be ok with slowing down a little?  I know my doctor, and my wife tell me that it's good for my heart, helps lower cholesterol and all those good medical things so I'll still be around to see my grandchildren. The real reason, though, is simpler than that. I run. It's what I do. I would not be happy with myself if I stopped. My mom tells me that at the age of 11 months, I got up on my feet and started running. I haven't really stopped since. Maybe I like the challenge, the difference from my sit-down office job, but mostly I just like to do it. Like reading, I don't always have the time to do as much as I would like, but when I get the chance, I take it. I'm a runner.