A Day in the Life with the New Catalog

A staff member’s day with the Library’s new catalog:

12:33 PM: While on a break, I want to do a quick post to my blog about a documentary I watched last night, but can’t remember the name. I type “dogs unconditional” into the new catalog’s search box and the film pops up as the very first result: My Dog, An Unconditional Love Story. I put a link to the item in my review, knowing it’s a permanent link that will never change.  While I’m at it, I add the review as a comment under the item in the catalog. Continue reading “A Day in the Life with the New Catalog”

Book clubs for kids

The Kids book club book coverEver since I started the Kids’ Book Club at the Northeast Branch, I’ve been getting requests from families about offering more book clubs for different ages, schedules and so on. I often tell families that they can help their kids start their own book club. “Oh no, that would be so much work!” It sounds intimidating at first: the logistics of getting a club together, deciding where to meet, how to get the books and so on. However, starting your own kids’ book club can be easy and fun if you have the right tools.

The Seattle Public Library has several books for readers who want to put together a book club. These are two of my favorites that focus on book clubs for kids:

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp’s The Kids’ Book Club Book’s first pages are indispensible because they help readers determine what kind of book Continue reading “Book clubs for kids”

Kirkus Reviews to cease publication.

More bad news on the publishing front, I’m afraid. Today it was announced that KIRKUS Reviews will be closing its doors, to image of Sculpture of Fernando Pessoa at Biblioteca Camões, Lisbon, courtesy of Bob and Jan Truss via Flickrthe dismay of librarians (and the secret delight of authors) around the world. I can think of few better ways to pay tribute to and commemmorate the passing of this epoch-making review source, than to share a few passages from the Kirkus Style Sheet – a document of truly Churchillian elegance, with worthy thoughts and sage considerations for book people everywhere. It isn’t hard to imagine the following advice in the voice of Julia Child:

…At the same time, we also strive to convey a sense of each book’s distinctiveness. Just as Maupassant learned about description by following Flaubert’s advice to watch Parisian cabdrivers and catch the mannerisms that made each one different from the next, every Kirkus review tries to identify the features that make even the most formulaic books (The Body in the Chaise Longue; New Help for Arthritis Sufferers) distinctive, however slightly and subtly, from others.

This would work well in the deliberate intonation of John Houseman:

Interest is not generated by flippant antics, stylistic adventurousness, snarling displeasure or unmodulated intensity of judgment (e.g., “This is a really, really bad book”), but rather by the same sorts of techniques that make good books themselves work: an authoritative grasp of the material; an ability to inspire faith in one’s judgements; a voice that is engaging without being over-familiar; and a sense of humor that transcends mere facetiousness or sniping.

And here’s a summation worthy of Ian McKellen’s or Jeremy Irons’ erudite delivery:

Kirkus has a well-established reputation as the most valuable, critical, intellectually honest of the review journals. We often bristle when our collective tone is described as captious, nit-picking or hostile, yet we wear our reputation for unblinking criticism like a badge of honor. One of the prices we pay for this honor is the constant need to uphold standards of clarity and consistency in writing that help defend us against the occassional imprecations of authors, agents and publishers who would not care nearly so much about Kirkus style if Kirkus judgments were less prinicipled, less sound and less influential.

As a librarian who has had frequent occassion to gather around the familiar quartet of trade reviews to consult over the suitability of a particular book for a reader, I am going to deeply miss Kirkus’ anchoring presence at that head of that table. Among its fellows – Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Library JournalKirkus often held itself apart, slow to join in a chorus of adulation, and often the only eye to catch some promising talent or sleeper sensation in the offing. Its criticism was at times merciless, but its knack for highlighting truly interesting and satisfying books will be deeply missed.

Book Groups for Busy People

Did you get a chance to make the lastest meeting of the Central library’s book discussion group “Let’s Talk About Books”?  I missed it, and it’s too bad, because LTAB is a wonderful opportunity for book lovers like us to share our thoughts on whatever we’re reading now and get ideas for what to read next.  Plus there’s no advance preparation: just bring what you’re reading and come ready to share. Brilliant!

image of Rules of Book Club shirt courtesy of Bob Boyetche via FlickrI’d like to try the book group at my local branch, or some of the fantastic options at other branches.  They’re offered  in many languages, for all age groups, on various topics, and even for the visually impaired.  Check them out!  (Select “Book Group” from the Event Type drop-down menu.)  I’m definitely going to one of them – right after I finish class, work, errands, and making sure my husband sees me often enough that he doesn’t think I’ve left him and moved to Uzbekistan. 

Okay, so despite our best intentions to make it to that book group, sometimes life just gets in the way.  But what if you could join one without having to make a major time commitment or even leave your home?  You can – by joining an online book group.  They’re usually message boards or email discussions, so you can post and read comments at your own convenience. 

You can also find one that fits your style, no matter what your age and interests may be.  Book Clubs Resource  is a great place for finding online book groups of all shapes and sizes.  The section “Special Interest Book Clubs” lists groups designed for African-Americans, mystery lovers, teens and children, and women, among others.  Booktalk  is a nice classic book group with an attractive interface. 

Of course, with the web becoming ever-more interactive, you might be inspired to start your own online book group.  You can get lots of great tips on how to set up and run your own online book group here, or on the library’s website

So there go all our excuses about being too busy or not being able to get away from the house.  If you have time to read a book, you have time to join an online book group.  Of course, we’d still love to see you at the library’s in-person discussions!

Have you participated in an online book group, or found one that looks particularly interesting?  Tell us about your experience!

Appreciating Book Bloggers

Did you know we’re smack in the middle of Book Blogger’s Appreciation Week? Yuh-huh. So let me take this opportunity to appreciate a recent arrival on the scene that really fills a gap in the local blogosphere: Reading Local Seattle. Started by up this past July by local author Matt Briggs as a sibling of Reading Local Portland in what we hope will be the beginning of a more widespread movement of local literary sites, Reading Local Seattle (is it too early to call it RLS?) is a gathering place for information and opinion on “locally produced literature, zines, pamphlets, blogs, novels, chapbooks, poetry, performance and anything else concerned with the written or spoken Image of a woman reading at Bauhause Coffee courtesy of Jennifer Conley via Flickrword.” You can read more about the site’s Puget Sound-wide plans in their first post, and be sure and link up and subscribe to their feed while you’re there – this could be just the sort of  hangout that our bookish city deserves. See you there.