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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Did I Do This Puppy Thing?


It's not like I am asking this question out of desperation or any regrets. On the contrary, I'm literally amazed about what this "puppy path" has done for me. From my innermost place where there are no words, I finally began to form some coherent realizations to my "Why did I get a puppy?" question. After all, I'm more often a cat person. My disposition and life-style have demanded a less social and more independent friend and that has not changed.

What has changed?

It could be my age. I'm a mother with two young adult sons. Maybe since they don't need my attention so much I could turn my skills and nature toward another (and loving) being, to nurture and play, train and care for.

It could be my lifestyle. I'm a librarian who now holds three part-time jobs, and I have the blessed employers who are foresighted enough to allow some work from my home office. So I'm here more often than not and like the company. She reminds me to get up from my computer every couple of hours or so (we're house-training, after all). She's quiet, not yappy or wild, though she can get puppy-crazed at times. She likes routine as much as I do and she doesn't mind when I plan out the day as a schedule. We kind of let each other lead although really, I'm the boss and she seems to know and like that (maybe that will change during her adolescent phase).

It could be the puppy herself. I think this is the bottom line. Sophie is amazing. Her size (small, not toy), breed (Maltipoo), disposition, intelligence, and eagerness to learn are making this whole adjustment time work. She's the closest thing to a perfect puppy that I've ever seen. For the first time, I feel that I will miss her puppy-hood. Usually I'm drudging through the potty training, teething, mouthing, high energy, and initial training (sit, down) with a forced-upon patience.

This time, I'm laughing and playing and catch myself wondering what I did to deserve such a good friend. It's just what I needed to get me through this bleak recession and the winter months ahead.

I checked out a few books and did some research, of course. It took me about a year to come to Sophie after a couple of trials and errors. Books about the breeds, puppy training, and Dog 101 are essential and I'm a fierce advocate for puppy prep prior to bringing the bundle home. You just don't know what to expect, though.

Many people equate the new family member as similar to having a new baby in the house. I believe this is true to a point. Puppies grow a lot faster than humans and her needs are, in a sense, more basic. This little fluff ball is delightful, but there is no way I would confuse my daily interaction with her as anything more or less than the human-dog relationship. Yes, I coddle her some. I have to admit that. She goes with me just about everywhere I can take her.

But Sophie is no wimpy lap dog, either. The Maltese is a traditional royal dog, and I can see that in her. Her mix of Maltese and Poodle initiates intelligence and loyalty. She guards me with a growing love - and it's mutual. Her full white and apricot non-shedding coat keeps her from getting chilled during rain and chilly fall morning walks while we romp around the leaf-strewn paths.

And here's a bonus: Thanks to my Prius's GPS, I can see the park-lands in green with little evergreen trees identifying them, scrolling by while the map follows my car's route. Before, I had no reason to pull off my main errand-running ruts. Now, I say to Sophie "Let's go!" and her little tail gets a-waggin'. With leash and clean-up bag in hand, we see which way the path leads us. If a runner or another dog-walker approach, Sophie is delighted but is learning to also be polite.

Yesterday's revelation - that I would miss these walks in the woods, by creeks and riverbeds - hit me hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. This little being had brought me to places I really needed to see and be in. The early morning sunlight, fresh air, and exercise are generally a good thing. But combine that with a devoted look of love and delight from my black-eyed pup, and I am stunned.

This is why I have a puppy, and not just any puppy, either. This is why Sophie and I are friends forever. She is precocious and fun and challenges me to re-examine my wants, needs, and self. She is a gift as precious as any new found friend, and I am truly lucky.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Darkening

Standard time resumed a week ago. It's one of those things that cause cyclical feelings, which never seem to be resolved. As a librarian, I look forward to the inevitable question(s), "Why do we have Daylight Savings Time?" and "What's it all about, anyway?" because I can't ever remember this one. I know it has something to do with farms, or maybe school-aged children and safety, or perhaps it is really a way to save electricity (Daylight "Savings" is my clue). None of this really makes any sense to me however I look at it. So, every year I find the answer through a very good source, pass it along to my patron, and promptly forget.

Where I live (Delaware), when winter approaches I end up going to work in the dark and by the time I return, it's, well, dark. So what is the relevance of changing from Daylight Savings to Standard Time? How does it apply to my life and to those around me?

It's mysterious, like a ritual performed for a long-ago and shadowy cause. There are so many other problems that are screaming for attention, like the current debate surrounding universal health care and the double digit unemployment figures, the unsolved wars and threats of new wars - domestic and abroad. When I recall this week's shootings in Orlando and Fort Hood, I shudder with worry, helpless as a bowl of Jello facing a tsunami. The whipped cream - the upcoming holiday season - doesn't stand a chance.

How does the U.S. measure our anger index? The strength of such an emotion is made evident in a variety of ways, from seething silence to loud destructive behaviors.

I recall President Obama's words while on the campaign trail:

One of the things I think the next president has to do is to stop fanning people's fears. If we spend all our time feeding the American people fear and conflict and division, then they become fearful and conflicted and divided. And if we feed them hope and we feed them reason and tolerance, then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful. And that I think is one of the most important things that the next president can do, is try to bring us together, and stop trying to fan the flames of division that have become so standard in our politics in Washington.

— Barack Obama, You Tube

His message rang true and it fed the flames of hope in many of us. Fear is a short-term but effective way to control a nation. But where are we now? Why does my stomach still tense up when I face another month of bills and wonder if my and my family's health will hold on, our income will hold on, we need to hold on and get through this. It is a bleak time in America and I believe our complacency is wearing thin.

If only I could hibernate through the dark of our winter. Yes, a teasing and fleeting thought, but not this librarian's path.

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's October...and thoughts about Poe

The darkening chill entered our living spaces with a suddenness that surprised each of us. Most upset was our cat who took to burrowing under the blankets until the warming of a mid-day sun melted her disposition enough to emerge from a semi-hibernation. Thoughts about activating the heater with the initial smelly blast, or at least getting a fire going in the livingroom's fireplace creep into my thoughts. I find I am checking our candle supply, making lists of winter needs for hands and feet, and am urged outside to prepare the garden and pond for the icy cold north wind's soon arrival.

I also find I am looking at our collection of books and movies and am drawn to the spooky ones. "I am Legend," "The Sixth Sense," "The Masque of the Red Death." My mood embraces Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe's death is said to occur on October 7th, 1849. In honor of that, here are some resources to share and delight!

  1. A lengthy list of Poe's works are available through The Project Gutenberg. Scroll down about two-thirds of the page to find "Poe". Some are available as audio versions:
http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/p

2. Five works are listed through Literature.org. These include "The Cask of Amontillado",
"The Pit and the Pendulum", "The Assignation", "The Tell-Tale Heart", and "The Tale of
the Ragged Mountains":

http://www.literature.org/authors/poe-edgar-allan/

3. A well-known (and often humorous) tribute site to Poe is called "The House of Usher."
This site offers a biography, myths and legends, works, films, and more:

http://www.houseofusher.net/

4. The "Poe Decoder" is a site 'started by a small group of Poe enthusiasts,' who offer literary
criticisms and resources:

http://www.poedecoder.com/

5. Baltimore (Maryland) is rich with Poe history. Two resources offer interesting biographies and information:

  • The Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore, online at:
http://www.eapoe.org/

  • Enoch Pratt Library (of Baltimore) provides an online resource regarding its special Poe Collection:
http://www.prattlibrary.org/digital/index.aspx?id=180

Curl up with those lap blankets, a cup of tea, and a loving pet and experience Poe's world, deep into the recesses of madness and despair! But only for a while...we want you back in the real world by the morning!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Banned Books Week Web Resource List

It's here! Banned Books Week for 2009, September 26 through October 3.

The American Library Association's website states:

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events and Ideas and Resources. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or bbw@ala.org.
Resources and a delightfully entertaining puppet show are also linked on ALA's site, on: http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm

Resource Shelf
, a blog for information professionals, educators and journalists, offers more information about this important week. See the "Banned Books Week for September 26, 2009" posting.

Celebrate the week with awareness and advocacy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The transformation of passion into compassion

A deep and consistent thread of personal growth that I am sharing here concerns our culture's "awakening of the heart to compassion," as recounted by Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth, 1988). The context of this quote and the title of this posting is important - interviewer Bill Moyers asked Campbell for elaboration on the "sign of the cross" as a symbol for our culture. Besides its association with "the one historic moment on Calvary," the underlying meaning holds a connection between the physical and spiritual. Campbell begins his response with:




The big moment in the medieval myth is the awakening of the heart to compassion,
the transformation of passion into compassion...




In light of a recent annual library conference in which I was a co-presenter, I gave a lot of thought to the question of motivation. What gives us the desire to do the absolute best we can do? In library work, what moves us to provide that extra element for each patron? What is the passion that drives us to be librarians?

My personal passion is a great generator. Passion raises the level of my personal commitment to the quality. It challenges me to do more, be better, provide excellent service. It motivates me to learn and to seek information and the tools in finding that information so that I can bring this to my patrons in timely and effective ways.

Passion is a strong emotion, however, and can become enmeshed with my beliefs about myself - my ego. If I believe in something and become passionate about it, the playing field of my vunerability is exposed. I may have a passion about a politician, about intellectual freedom, my children and husband, my home - which in reality I do.

So I began to think about Campbell's words and meaning, moving from passion to compassion, in the context of my own work and life. I can have a passion for library work, but without compassion I have a hollow, egotistical career.

I must have compassion for those librarians, historians, educators, curators before me. I must have compassion for those who have tried to represent the best interests of freedom of information and the value of education. Most of all, I must have compassion for those who seek answers no matter how trivial it may seem. A young patron asked how to get unstuck in a Nintendo DS game. A student seeking research about the psychology of the interpretation of dreams. Another patron wanted to know how child custody laws work when each parent lives in a different state and told me her son hadn't seen his father in five years.

Moving the passion for library work into a compassionate realm moves our hearts from fear of attack (and being on the defensive) to quietly listening in a place of calm care. It's easier to calculate how best to help our patrons when we are confident enough in ourselves to focus upon their needs.

Have a wonderful Memorial weekend! I hope your days are restful and pleasant.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Goodbye President Papadakis

It is sad to hear of the passing of someone who has had such an effect on so many students, me included. Goodbye President Papadakis. Drexel University has been greatly influenced by your style and enormous presence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Exciting Week at DrupalCon DC 2009

DrupalCon DC
March 4-7, 2009 Washington Convention Center

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This was one of those “intense learning environment” conferences. I went to DrupalCon to learn about the software from the ground floor, and ended up learning a great deal of unexpected information.



There were 1400 attendees (up from 40 eight years ago), and over 100 workshops and sessions. My Baltimore County Public Library colleague, Jason, and I attended from the same office but with different web projects. While his involves the complexities of a large library’s website, I’m completely satisfied to be working with the Maryland AskUsNow’s Statewide Project Coordinator, Julie Strange, to move our current “Partners Page” site from its current foundation (shaky as it sometimes seems) into Drupal. Our site has twelve main areas, plus the home page. Julie’s previous work to incorporate widgets and to get all updated information uploaded via shortcuts set a tone for this next step.


I looked at DrupalCon as an immersion prior to the event (here is a link to the list of sessions), and while it was like this it was also a lot like a graduate school course condensed into a very small amount of time. The organization of the sessions made it possible for a newbie like me to target “how to start” and “where to go from there,” types of sessions.
I also picked up on three other very important things:


  1. No conference is a conference without a certain amount of networking. This was accomplished at DrupalCon as well, including the Birds of a Feather meeting with other librarians who are working with, or looking to work with, Drupal. This put me in touch with a place called Drupal.Groups online, which has many libraries involved (you’ll have to have a login to view the libraries and interact with them, but you can access the front area). Unfortunately, I was na├»ve to the attraction a meeting like this has for vendors, especially free lance web developers and companies who could provide everything we’d need for a price.Nonetheless, it was a good opportunity to at least meet the 20 or so others who are in various stages of “Drupal and library” web development. Some of the topics included how to work with catalog systems and the beginnings of basic planning to design a library site.

  2. Drupal uses applications and modules as ways to build upon a core. For example, if a site wants a calendar, there is a separate module to download and then incorporate into the desired area of a site. I not only gained more of an understanding of which modules may be usable for our site, but also where these modules are at in their own development stages. There are earlier versions of Drupal – the most current is version 6, and version 7 is in the works. However, many of the modules are still in earlier version form.





  3. Finally, and to me just as essential as learning about the software is to fully fathom the organic, lively quality of what “open source” really means. I was amazed at the overlap of mission between the world of librarians and the Drupal community. On a deeper level, I was moved by the commitment to share quality information. This theme presented itself as a cornerstone for the growth of Drupal, the standard of its software and the future of its community (which is its users and developers). Those who use Drupal often tend to shape it in some way, from involvement as a source of support for others, to testing modules and apps, to making new parts of Drupal. Somehow, it works well in this way. I know nothing else like this. Two of DrupalCon’s keynote speakers, the founder Dries Buytaert and Twittering Chris Messina, addressed this aspect of Drupal very well, as well as to bring in some of the future aspects of social net - working. (I divided “net” with “working” to give the indication that I am talking about something more than FaceBook/MySpace. More like, “working with each other on the net” in a fun but productive way.) If you have any interest in social networking, please watch the hour-long recording of “Chris Messina’s address, “Our Identity Online.”

I’m not a programmer. In my past, I’ve looked at open source software and dabbled a little in this and that, but found the available software and easy-to-install applications (like widgets) just enough to work well enough for my uses. I have created a few simple websites and worked on design aspects of others. I went into the conference with some trepidation, somewhat like Dorothy entering the Land of Oz, and came out with an excitement to get started! With our community and connections, with some careful project planning, and with plenty of flexibility and testing, I believe Julie and I will find Drupal to be a frontier that offers us just what we need to create a site that offers information, multimedia options, and with ease of design appeal that will encourage frequent use by all Maryland AskUsNow! providers.

Let me know if you would like access to the detailed notes of the daily sessions I attended, provided through Google Docs online. I’ll be happy to link you there. You can also browse through the recordings available through the Internet Archives, “DrupalCon 2009” online at:
http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=DrupalCon%202009%20AND%20collection%3Aopensource_movies

Here is a shortened (easier) link, which takes you to the same place:
http://tinyurl.com/dh559p

---------
For more about Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal:
http://buytaert.net/


(posted by Cathay Crosby, Operations Assistant, Maryland AskUsNow!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jamaica Library Service’s 60th International Conference

A Fabulous Week at the Jamaica Library Service’s 60th International Conference
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
http://www.jls.gov.jm/

Sometimes a librarian gets an opportunity to attend a conference outside her system, whether it is beyond the boundaries of her library’s community or job responsibilities. I have recently returned from the Jamaica Library Services 60th International Conference, and this is a good time for me to dive in with my first attempt at writing a blog posting for Maryland AskUsNow!

The JLS conference was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica during February 16-21, 2009. The theme of this conference was “Public and School Libraries: your partners in National Development” and centered upon Jamaica’s Vision 2030. It has been ten years since the previous conference. The level of excitement and involvement was nationwide, from the Minister of Education who spoke at the opening (Plenary) session to representatives from many of the island’s numerous libraries.

Just for the record, JLS was started in 1948 (before Jamaica’s emancipation/independence from Great Britain). It has 13 Parish libraries, and within those, numerous branch libraries (148 in all). Jamaica’s outreach service extends to hundreds of stops all over the island. The library’s partnership with its schools is well enmeshed, and collaboration with the National Library and the University of the West Indies is apparent.

I was a speaker who, with my husband’s assistance (he was my ‘live example’), presented a workshop on programming lifelong learning in public libraries. Throughout the week, other workshops covered e-resources, social networking, unified access of OPACs, and the overall theme of where the library is going. (Note: I am told that information, pictures, and recordings of my workshop and others will be available in the near future, from JLS online. - CC)

As of a year ago, the JLS initiated free Internet access at all their libraries, and their new website (linked above) was rolled out just a few days ago. Plans for unification of the cataloging system, renovations, incorporating more activities and building upon ones they have now are underway. The island’s biggest program is the National Reading Competition, which now includes an adult category. You can see more about this at:

http://www.jls.gov.jm/Prog_serv.htm


From the overall organization of the conference to the information presented, I was newly impressed with the Jamaica Library Service.

Its Director General, Mrs. Patricia Roberts, is an amazing woman of charm, energy and vision. She clearly motivates those around her. Her background in business and management is a grounding force for the library island-wide.

One event I was able to hook up with was a field trip to St. Ann’s Parish library.

The library’s renovations include revamping the teen area, moving the reference department to a larger area upstairs, increasing the number of public computers, and the creation of the Marcus Garvey room (a huge event is planned for its opening).




The library is surrounded by a park, and the Marcus Garvey statue stands solidly in front.



I feel extremely fortunate that I could participate in and attend the Jamaica Library Services 60th International Conference. The location (the Sunset Grande Resort in Ocho Rios) was almost secondary to the tremendous conference itself. Almost.