or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




Romance Novels Bad For Your Health

   July 14th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Romance Novel coverI know this is a little random, but it is book-related. I was listening to NPR last weekend, when I heard a story claiming that reading romance novels is actually bad for your health.

There's a write-up on the Common Health blog, and it seems they are considered unhealthy because of all the unrealistic imagery and situations they contain. Not unlike magazines airbrushing the already almost-flawless supermodels, romance novels create a nearly-impossible fantasy world. If romance readers aren't diligent about separating fictional fantasy from reality, their expectations can get skewed, which can lead to unfulfillment, disappointment, and depression.

The article also referred to non-consensual sex, and the excitement of women being "taken" by dominating alpha-males. And that safe-sex is continually portrayed as unromantic. It seems that most of this would be counteracted by simple common sense (I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny growing up, but never tried to walk off a cliff or drop an anvil on someone), but their findings indicated that there is a correlation between frequent reading of romance novels and a disregard for healthy sexual practices.

Which is especially worrying in the ebook era, as the introduction of ereaders has increased the popularity of romance novels. Anecdotally, they're less embarrassing to read now that ereaders allow them to be read in public without anyone being able to see what your reading by the cover - although to be totally hidden, readers also need to keep their heaving bosoms in check.

Whenever I hear of something like this, my first reaction is for the library to try to somehow protect patrons from it. But you cannot protect people from themselves, and it's not really the library's place to restrict what people read - we can provide information, but they need to make their own decisions.

But wow, it would be funny if we had to ration patrons to no more than two romance novels a month - I'm sure our circ stats would take a hit.



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Books – That Is Exactly How They Work

   May 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This image was recently making the rounds - I saw it on BoingBoing and really like it:

Books - This Is Exactly How They Work poster

For a completely different take on how books work, or rather, for an informed academic/programming look at how they will work as ebooks evolve, read Eric Hellman's post on The Object-Oriented Book.

Incidentally, Eric's post came on the same day Cory posted the image above on BoingBoing - I love coincidence.



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Ich bin ein Bibliotecario

   November 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyLanguage is fascinating to me. I'm particularly interested in the idea that our brains are shaped by the language we use to interpret our environments and communicate - and therefore, people of different cultures do perceive the world differently.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing, here are the translations for a few library-related words, according to the Babel Fish translator.

English library librarian book reading information reference
Dutch bibliotheek bibliothecaris boek lezing informatie verwijzing
French bibliothèque bibliothécaire livre lecture l'information référence
German Bibliothek Bibliothekar Buch Messwert Informationen Hinweis
Greek βιβλιοθήκη βιβλιοθηκάριος βιβλίο ανάγνωση πληροφορίες αναφορά
Italian biblioteca bibliotecario libro lettura informazioni riferimento
Portuguese biblioteca bibliotecário livro leitura informação referência
Russian архив библиотекарь книга чтение информация справка
Spanish biblioteca bibliotecario libro lectura información referencia

Something else neat is that other language can be clever sources of product names - who among us wouldn't buy into a chat reference product called "Referencia?" But my favorite is the word for librarian - "bibliotecario" - I think I might change my business cards.



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Alikewise is for (Book) Lovers

   August 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Heart shadow in bookIt looks like Alikewise.com has been around all year, but I only heard about it this weekend - it's a dating website that matches people based on the books they like.

This is a great idea for a dating website - it seems a much better way to get at someone's true nature than filling out a profile by guessing what will make you attractive. I checked around the site a bit (without creating a profile), and wonder if there's a way to tie-in with sites like LibraryThing and Good Reads to capitalize on peoples' full libraries. LibraryThing sort of already does this, with their You and None Other meme.

But here's something funny: at my first library, we toyed with the idea of a "singles night" book group. We thought it'd be a perfect program for Friday nights, after work, to come and meet other single people interested in books. It never happened, but I always liked the idea. Maybe that'll eventually manifest in Alikewise meetups.

And wouldn't this be a heck of a social networking widget to add to a library catalog? "Like this book? Click here to meet other patrons that do, too."

via Burlington Free Press (thanks, Carney) and more at NPR



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What is the Point of Reading?

   July 9th, 2009 Brian Herzog

kids sharing a bookSome interesting comments on my last post got me thinking about reading, and why we encourage kids to read.

I know reading is vital for learning and personal development. But beyond that, is reading just for the benefit of the reader?

I wonder: is reading without sharing the experience akin to amassing a tremendous fortune and doing nothing with it? Society tends to paint as "greedy" people who accumulate wealth just for the sake of having more money than they know what to do with. At the same time, we reward philanthropists with awe and gratitude for "giving back" and sharing their excess wealth to benefit society.

So, should reading programs not just encourage kids to total up the number of pages and hours spent reading (which can lead to competition), but to also be "knowledge philanthropists" and share what they've learned and experienced from reading (which might lead to collaboration)? Or would that intimidate kids away from reading at all?

I'm not a children's librarian or parent, so perhaps I'm just late to the party on this.



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Ideas on Serving Students

   July 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog

stacks of textbooksTwo posts this weekend caught my eye, both being new (to me) ideas on serving kids and students.

Renting Textbooks
The first was a New York Times article about Chegg.com, a company that rents textbooks to college students. They use the Netflix model, which makes a lot of sense for something as temporary and expensive as textbooks.

I always try to imagine the long-term implications of things. For renting textbooks, if it really takes off, it could mean that fewer will be purchased, which may cause them to get even more expensive. If it impacts the publishers' profits, it might drive them faster towards ebooks, which are much more difficult than print books to loan/rent/use for lots of DRM and format issues.

Downside to Summer Reading?
The second was an article from a mother who homeschools her children, on why she doesn't enroll them in summer reading programs. My library's summer reading program is usually elaborate, and kids have always seem to love it - participating seems to make reading more fun.

I read her article and the comments, and I still don't see a downside. Summer Reading Programs are an incentive for kids reluctant to read, and for kids that read anyway, they are still a fun way for them to get recognition. But most important, it's participating in something bigger than themselves, and reading by suggesting books along with other kids their age. It's not just about inflating circ stats or even building reading skills and habits - it's also about the social aspect of being a part of a community of people who enjoy learning and imagination.

via LISNews and Slashdot/LibraryStuff



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