Interactive Displays in the Library

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One of my interactive displays @ CLP’s JCEC

It’s been a while since I wrote about my work in libraries. I honestly haven’t had too many fun things to mention, just business as usual for the most part. But recently, a colleague sent me this blog post from the Pennsylvania Library Association’s College & Research Division about using interactive displays in your library. I’ve actually been doing these kinds of displays for a long time, so I thought maybe I would talk about them and how I’ve been expanding them into the digital humanities realm.

Interactive displays and polls are a concept borrowed from museums as a way to engage patrons. If used strategically, you can also gather anonymous data about your users that can then be used to inform your services and programs. When I was at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Job and Career Education Center a few years back, I started putting together what were basically interactive graphs. They were basically just large sheets of paper with a graph and it’s axes written on it and patrons would follow the directions to insert their own data point on the graph. We made graphs that asked why people moved to or away from Pittsburgh (the color of the sticker you picked to put on the graph would indicate the reason), what industry folks worked in, how confident they were in their job search, stuff like that. The information we gathered was important to how we ran the department.

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Geek Girl Brunch: Pittsburgh

ggb_brunchette_badgeI don’t plan on posting about this regularly because I’ll be updating the group blog and group specific social media, but I’ve recently become an officer of the Pittsburgh chapter of Geek Girl Brunch. GGB is a volunteer organization that “hopes to create a safe environment where identifying geek girls can be themselves to give voice, network, create friendships, inspire each other and hang out!”

The main point is to promote friendship amongst like-minded women. Those who identify as non-binary and gender fluid are also welcome, as long as their cool with taking on the geeky girl identity. GGB also challenges its brunchettes to do better (#GGBDoBetter). Go out in your community and make a difference, volunteer, help others, start something, make the world better.

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Old Hobbies Rediscovered

For most of my life I’ve enjoyed photography. I took classes in high school and college, but afterward it became difficult to keep up. I didn’t have access to a dark room or chemicals, and I didn’t have the money for a nice DSLR. But as I’ve been cleaning out some of my old things, I found pictures from my college class that made me smile. I liked the worked I used to do, and while it’s not terribly impressive, I’m proud of it. I always felt that photography was another way I could tell stories. Below are some of the pictures I found.

These are just photos of the photos that I took with my phone. You can see the glare from my light and such, but you get the idea. I plan on scanning these and creating some really nice digital copies. These were taken with a Nikon 35mm on black and white, developed and printed by yours truly in the spring of 2007. I’ve had to color correct these because I wasn’t smart enough to scan them with a proper scanner, but whatever.

Alan (Spring 2007)

Alan (Spring 2007)

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The Shameful Book Club: Mystery Novels for Spring

magnifying-glasMystery novels — my favorite! My selections for this Spring’s reading challenge are by far the most random, but I think they will compliment each other well. I put together a healthy mix of classic and contemporary detective and mystery novels from writers I love and writers I’ve never read. There are six core novels and then three bonus novels on this list. But since these are fast-paced, exciting, and usually short books, I hope I’ll be able to get through at least the majority of them in the March-June timeline. I don’t have the greatest track record, however.

As usual, there are some books on this list that are embarrassing for me to admit that I haven’t read them yet, but that is the entire reason for the Shameful Book Club. If you have read any of these already, let me know what you think of them. And if you have a good mystery series that you think I should pick up, let me know! If mysteries aren’t really your thing, take this as an opportunity to give them a try. Otherwise, I’ll be doing science fiction novels in the summer. I hope you guys participate with me this season. It’s going to be a thrilling thaw.

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The Shameful Book Club: Gothic Novel Update

fall-readingAll right! I hope you guys had a wonderful fall and are super excited for the shit winter we are already lucky enough to be on the receiving end of. It’s the perfect weather to curl up next to a fire in a creepy house and devour some old-school 19th century lit!  As you’ll see, I’m reading these slightly out of order and am behind schedule yet again. My excuse this time is that my new job turned out to have a different definition of “full-time hours” than the rest of the world, and I’m pretty much exhausted all the time. As soon as I read one word of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s I’ve already been asleep for an hour.

Anyway, I’ll either rage quit my job or work harder to finish my books. I know which one I’d rather do, but I guess we’ll see. Without further complaining, my first installment in fall’s Gothic Novels for The Shameful Book Club:

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The Shameful Book Club: Gothic Novels for Fall

220px-Vampyre_title_page_1819It’s time for my second seasonal writing challenge! Over the summer I attempted to tackled an enormous amount of Southern writers’ work that I had never gotten to before, and even though I wasn’t able to reach my goal, the books I did read were awesome. Now it’s time to move on to a genre that I am better versed in: Gothic literature!

I took a Gothic lit class in college, and we hit the classics like Poe, Jane Eyre, and The Castle of Otronto, but there are so many good ones out there. I even allowed some flexibility to bring in some more recent gothic literature, because sometimes the old stuff can get, well, old. Please don’t be turned off by that, we should all be reading Gothic literature.

I chose Gothic novels for the fall (October through December) because obviously the fall is a dark and spooky (yet beautiful) time of year. You feel naturally inclined to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a creepy book. And obviously there’s Halloween. Next fall I will probably pick more modern horror novels (because I have a couple of holes in that genre as well), but this year I wanted to get back to the basics.

Here are the Gothic novels in (flexible) order of how I will read them:

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The Shameful Book Club: Southern Novel Final Update

Well, my first attempt at this new experiment did not go as planned. I wanted to read eight books this summer (in addition to my other book club reads), but I only managed four and 2/5ths. Granted, I’ve been ridiculously busy with unexpected events, but I’m a bit disappointed that I never got to all the southern novels I picked out, because they all looked so damned interesting! I’ll probably revisit this category to finish off the list, as well as add some other important reads (like everything Carson McCullers ever wrote). Below are my opinions on the two books I was able to finish up this month.

516hFppzjjLI was incredibly skeptical about starting Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. Either people are exhausted by William Faulkner or they love him too much, which leads me to believe that they are a bit too pretentious for me. I had to really pump myself up to start this book, but once I did I had a hard time putting it down. I felt myself both aggravated and completely fascinated by the characters, the stylistic choices, and the fact that it felt like there was nothing happening and everything happening at the same time. I did feel a little betrayed by the novel, because not much was answered for me by the end (and boy did I have questions!). Did Caddy and Quentin actually commit incest? How badly did Benjy hurt those girls? I like juicy intrigue as much as the next gossip, but Faulkner only gives us vague suggestions and veiled context. I tend to over think things, so maybe I’m making these plot points into mountains, but the unknown tends to bother me. Regardless, The Sound and the Fury really stuck with me. It was beautiful and sad and really very haunting, and while the first part of the book was incredibly frustrating (and it only got marginally less so later on), I am very thankful that I finally read it.

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The Shameful Book Club: Southern Novel Update

adventures-of-huckleberry-finnIt’s been about a month and a half since I started my quest to catch up on classic novels I’ve always lied about reading. The category of my  first installation of the Shameful Book Club is “Southern Novels.” In the 1.5 months that I have been reading these (among others), I have knocked out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Color Purple, and about half of The Sound and the Fury.

I enjoyed Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quite a lot. I (admittedly) listened to it on audiobook, read by Elijah Wood (delightful), and experienced more than one occasion of pulling up to a stop sign with the windows down and having passerbys side-eye me for the amount of racial profanity coming from my car stereo. Regardless, I found Huck Finn very funny and insightful.  It had the excitement of a child’s adventure, but the social weight of a critical work of fiction. In a way it’s America’s Odyssey, and I felt like I was reading/listening to something that was a mashup of The Goonies and Mud. It’s a snap shot of America and a very particular time and place that deserves to be preserved for many reasons (some of those being cautionary).

Baby Elijah as Huck

Baby Elijah as Huck

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The Shameful Book Club: Southern Novels for Summer

3-28-13_ReadingSo I have a deep dark secret that I tend to hide pretty well. I am very ashamed of this, especially since my mother is a librarian, and over 50% of my immediate family members are writers (including myself), and I also consider myself a bibliophile. This is hard for me to admit, but I am not as well read as most people think I am. There, I said it.

Now that I’ve admitted this, I aim to rectify it. After all, one of the best things a writer can do is read. I’ve decided to create for myself a reading challenge. Each season of the year I will dictate a genre or category that I feel would compliment that season and try to read as many of the “must-reads” in that category as I can. Some categories and genres are very embarrassing for me, and others just have a lot of really great novels that I want to get to. Southern novels is one category where I’m really lacking, despite my absolute love of southern writing.

A lot of these books, like The Grapes of Wrath and The Color Purple, were books that were assigned in high school English classes. I had kind of a strange high school English experience, and a lot of classics (in all genres) slipped through the cracks. Now is my time to catch up.

I have put together a lofty list of novels that I will try to read between the months of June and September. I’m giving myself a lot of time, because, as you’ll see, there are an ass-load of novels. I actually had more, but then I realized that Gone with the Wind is roughly seven books in one, so I cut my list up a bit. I also might start this week instead of June, we’ll see. I’m currently trying to prepare for that devil called the GRE, so who knows what time I’ll actually have to devote to this. I’ve listed the novels below in the order I would like to read them in, but sometimes plans change, so I’m not holding myself to it.

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Camp NaNo: A change in plans

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Camp NaNoWriMo is a delightful off-season (if you will) NaNo event that is held in the spring every year. Like November’s NaNo, it is a time to push yourself and connect with other writers, but being Camp, it is also much more relaxed. Your options are cracked wide open, so instead of being restricted to just a novel, you can write a screenplay, short story collection, poems, anything your heart desires. The word count can be set to whatever is most appropriate for your project (as opposed to the traditional 50K), and you can be very specific about which medium and genre you’re writing in. Another awesome element are Cabins. You can fill out a quick questionnaire and be put in a small group of 11 people who are working on like projects. You can go with a random selection or pick a group of people you already know. This is incredible for helping you meet others that enjoy writing what you write.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to participate in this year’s first Camp NaNo. Like NaNoWriMo, I have never tried it before, and it sounded amazing to me. Most especially because I COULD WRITE A SCREENPLAY!! I started planning my plot, loosely outlining, building a brainstorming board on Pinterest, putting together a playlist, and getting really excited. But then I looked at all the projects I still have on my plate.

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