Monday, December 28, 2015

In appreciation for a gift - an essay

I moved out of my parent’s house in 1995. You know what I miss the most from the house? I mean the house itself, not the family who lived with me, or the occasions & events that happened there.

I miss the pencil sharpener. It was a 1960’s vintage mechanical hand-crank type, in technical terms a "planetary sharpener". It was mounted on the wall in the basement room where I hung out as a teenager.

The room was square, wood walls and floor, no carpet, no windows and no door. But right there by the doorway was the pencil sharpener. 
Sharpening Old School, baby!

I graduated from high school in the late 80’s, in the days before the Internet and Microsoft Word. At least it was at my house. So, I wrote all of my book reports and did all of my homework on paper, with a pencil. I tried to avoid pen because my handwriting is terrible and I had to go back and erase a lot.

Now, that should explain why I used the pencil sharpener, but why was that the thing I miss the most?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Met's Open Acces for Scholarly Content

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering rights-cleared access to over 400,000 digital images of objets d'art in their collection. 

Works that are covered by the new policy are identified on the Museum’s website ( with the acronym OASC. Like this one:

Mary Cassatt's The Barefoot Child

And yes, they have works that are not the product of Western Civilization. Because we should enjoy them as well. 

Read the full announcement here:

OASC was developed as a resource for students, educators, researchers, curators, academic publishers, non-commercial documentary filmmakers, and others involved in scholarly or cultural work. Prior to the establishment of OASC, the Metropolitan Museum provided images upon request, for a fee, and authorization was subject to terms and conditions.
Additional information and instructions on OASC can be found on the Museum’s website at

The civilization most concerned with property rights is also concerned about sharing the results of creative work. Because Western Civilization should be shared and celebrated.

Image credit:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) in 1787.

You may be cool, but you're not "my first name has Wolf in it" cool.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is the byname of Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K 525serenade for two violins, viola, cello, and double bass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, admired for its lively, joyful quality and its memorable melodies. The piece was completed on August 10, 1787, but was published posthumously. In present-day practice, it is typically performed in orchestral arrangement.

Mozart produced many serenades, the 13th of which, nicknamed Eine kleine Nachtmusik, is his best known. The four-movement work opens with a bright allegro in sonata form, and a slow, lyrical second movement follows. The third movement is a light minuet, and the finale is a brisk rondo. Originally, the piece contained a second minuet, but that movement has been lost. The specific occasion, if any, for which Eine kleine Nachtmusik was composed has never been determined.

Because Western Civilization has some of the greatest works of art mankind has ever known.

Britannica Academic, s. v. "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," accessed December 18, 2015,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales are:
A collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales (mostly in verse, although some are in prose) are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

He uses the tales and the descriptions of the characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church.

You can read the entire Tales in Middle English or Modern English at

Through the marvels of the Internet and the Public Domain doctrine of Western copyright law. 

Because Western Civilization should be celebrated, even though it's not perfect.

Image credit:

Text credit to The Open Library's description of the work. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Madame X

John Singer Sargent's most famous portrait, popularly known as "Madame X". 

Because Western Civilization is worth preserving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas and Symbolsim

Yet at this point let us ask a few questions. Are these “symbols” merely “symbolic”? Or is their failure perhaps to be explained precisely by the symbolic value attached to them by Christian s themselves, who ceased to understand their true nature? And did they not cease to understand this nature because at one time (it would take too long to elaborate on this here) Christians came to think that "religion" has nothing to do with time, is in fact salvation from time? Before we gain the right to dispose of the old "symbols" we must understand that the real tragedy of Christianity is not is "compromise" with the world and progressive "materialism" but on the contrary it "spiritualization" and transformation into “religion”. And "religion" as we know already has thus come to mean a world of pure spirituality, a concentration of attention on matters pertaining to the "soul". 

Christians were tempted to reject time altogether and replace it with mysticism and "spiritual" pursuits, to live as Christians out of time an thereby escape its frustration; to insist that time has no real meaning from the point of view of the Kingdom which is “beyond time”. And they finally succeeded. They left time meaningless indeed, although full of Christian "symbols", and today they themselves do not know what to do with these symbols. For it is impossible to “put Christ back in Christmas” if He has not redeemed-that is, made meaningful-time itself.”

Fr. Alexander Schmemman, For the Life of the World pp 48-49

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Library Journal reviewed my presentation!

Wow! Earlier this month I attended the Charleston Conference: Issues in Book and Serial Acquisition, which I've attended for years. This year was something new, as on Friday I got to do my first major conference presentation.

I spoke about a big project from last year, the receipt and ingestion of a very large donation of books from the estate of a former faculty, Dr. Homer Blass, who reposed in 2013. May he rest in peace.
The most "-phile" bibliophile I've ever known.

The presentation, which I called "Emptying the Dump Truck" was all about the planning and execution of receiving large donations to your library. I spoke about the critical necessity of planning, most of which can be done before a large donation appears, as often donors don't give much advance notice of a donation being given. 

These were just two of the many, many shelves of books he had.

Well, rather than talk about it all here, I'll share this instead. Library Journal's online edition published a review of my presentation!  You can read about it here.  I'm very grateful to LJ for taking notice of my work, calling it " perhaps the most actionable information of the conference".  Who knew?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What I'm Reading Now - Toxic Charity

What I’m reading Right Now: Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton

Why I’m reading it:
Lupton’s follow-up book Charity Detox came to my attention as I was putting up a New Books display. When I went later to look it up in the catalog, I got the name wrong and found this book, which came before it. I decided to start with this one.

What I think of it:
Lupton’s style is the familiar “let me tell you a story, then explain my point” sort of narrative, which is easy and fast to read. However, it is also a painful read at times. The idea that charitable efforts may actually be hurting people rather than helping is unpleasant. This is partly wounded ego “I’m helping people. See what a good person I am” and partly recognition of “wow, I’ve done that very thing,” whether it be thoughtless money-in-the-bucket or a semi/sub conscious feeling of superiority. I don’t like to consciously consider that I might be fostering dependency in someone, and taking away their dignity and agency to improve their life. But if I am, my duty to honest almsgiving means I should critically consider what I do and how & why I do it.

Will I finish it?
Yes, I will. Chapters seven through ten are Lupton’s suggestions on how to be a charitable giver in ways that really help – or in the words of the Hippocratic Oath which he quotes several times, “First do no harm”. Lupton melds this idea into the Oath of Compassionate Service:

Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.

Limit one-way giving to emergencies.

Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.

Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.

Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said – unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.

Above all, do no harm.

Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. I know lots of people who are actively supporting charitable causes. Neither I nor Lupton want to suppress the desire to help others – it is a Christian as well as an American virtue. If we’re going to help, we should actually, well, help. This book points the way.

Gimme a quote:
Dambisa Moyo, in her best-selling expose Dead Aid, writes about assistance to her native Africa: “The reality is aid has helped make the poor poorer and growth slower. Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster most parts of the developing world.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What I'm Reading Now - Fundamentals for Liaisons

What I’m reading Right Now:
Fundamentals for the Academic Liaison, part of the ALA’s Fundamentals series. Written by Richard Moniz, Jo Henry, Joe Eshleman

Why I’m reading it:
A big part of my job is to serve as liaison between the library and several academic departments. This academic year liaison work is getting more attention and priority from the library administration.

What I think of it:
It is well written, and each chapter covers a distinct aspect of the liaison librarian’s job. The chapters I’ve read so far all have a lot of useful information and suggestions, and very little fluff.

Will I finish it?
Yes. This is information I can put to use right away. One of the advantages of working for the library is that I can always renew or extend my book borrowing. Which is good, as I get to read this about 1/3 of a chapter a week.

Would I recommend it?
Yes, I would, particularly for new librarians. I don’t recall my MLS program covering liaison work, and if yours hasn’t, this book really is a must.

Gimme a quote:
“As a library liaison, prepare to become a master of communication. Communication is the key to establishing faculty relationships and those relationships lead to success as a liaison.” Chapter 3, p. 35