Posts tagged ‘technology’

January 8, 2011

Book Review: This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

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by Marilyn Johnson

Harper Perennial
January 2011 (paperback), $14.99, 304 pages)

I’ve often wondered what would happen to libraries in a world with instant online access, so I selected This Book Is Overdue with high expectations. Marilyn Johnson begins with a brief historical example and an explanation of how librarians have helped libraries (and, especially, their patrons) adapt to this ever-changing online environment.

The first few chapters are full of stories from librarians illustrating their invaluable knowledge that a computer alone cannot provide, from helping the unemployed create resumes (usually people who have never even heard of resumes) to making themselves available to answer questions 24/7 through web blogs. The chapter, “Big Brother and the Holdout Company,” was extremely disturbing. I didn’t know about the gag-order on librarians during the debates on the U.S.A. Patriot Act until I read this book. If you value your privacy and you live in the U.S, you will find this chapter relevant to your life. Similarly, the chapter “Gotham City” was a fascinating revelation into information about librarians not known outside the field.

Another chapter, “How to Change the World” showed how some librarians use technology to improve the quality of life in less-fortunate countries. Though interesting, this chapter didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book because it was focused mostly on available technology – not unlike an infomercial. I almost felt like I was reading another book entirely.

After that, the author seemed to wander away from the direction she established in the beginning. She spends several chapters making a big deal about librarians who don’t look like the stereotype: blue hair, tattoos, using obscenities, etc. Had Johnson stuck to the transitional experiences of librarians, especially in regard to the modernization of libraries and librarians’ personal dedication to sharing knowledge, instead of sensationalizing the career by discussing topics like librarians who enjoy swearing, I wouldn’t think this book was such a huge disservice to librarians and library science.

I want to make sure people understand that my review is not a reflection of my opinion of librarians (I worked in a library for nearly five years). Unfortunately, This Book is Overdue lacked a serious focus, and strayed from the product description. Instead, if you love libraries, Library: An Unquiet History is a better choice.

– review by Ursula K. Raphael

October 24, 2010

Book Trailer of the Week: It’s A Book by Lane Smith

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Lane Smith’s charming picture book for children, It’s A Book answers the questions of our time: what is a book? What can it do? Why should I read it?

March 29, 2010

Author Privacy in the Digital World

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I treasure my privacy. For an aspiring writer, however, treasured privacy might be a suicide wish for publication in today’s hyper-tech world where everyone is expected to “put themselves out there.” As Nathan Bransford points out, publishers want authors who are “Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, and everything they can do to get out there.” New media is an obvious part of modern publicity and promotion, not only of one’s work, but of one’s self. To take it a step further, I think publishers want authors who can utilize new media in highly effective ways because new media is where the new audience is. Young people (the under 30s) are connected with technology in intimate ways and any author who can exploit that connection through regular blog posts, twitter updates, and a basic ability to put oneself out there continuously will naturally have a better chance to connect with those young people who will be the book purchasers of the future.

Would J.D. Salinger have survived the pummel of promotion today to become a beloved and enduring author, given his reclusive stance? If Thomas Pynchon had been twittering his life this whole time, what effects would that have on the reading public’s perception and acceptance of his work? (Imagine Pynchon tweets: #notanauthor Took baby to park, hung with other parents. Decided to include defecation sex scene for in-progress novel, Gravity’s Rainbow)

Then again, writers aren’t like pop music stars or actors. Their public image is still a private one, based on their writing that, in all likelihood, has less readers and fans than even a mid-grade actor like, say, Steve Bushemi. In her promotions for the film The Incredibles, writer and NPR commentator Sarah Vowell was asked about her experience on the red carpet. She said it was horrifying, with paparazzi chirping her name left and right while snapping pictures with enormous flashbulbs. “We don’t have paparazzi in public radio,” she said. Author privacy, though a little less private in today’s world, certainly still exists.

February 15, 2010

Want to Tweet Your Day? Here’s Some Tips

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A great, concise little blog post from The Fiction Desk for authors (and others!) looking to join twitter. Take the tips to heart tweeters!