Thursday, February 01, 2018

Taking an extended blogging vacation here at A Simple Scholarly Librarian

For the few who have hung around, you may have noticed I keep blogging less and less here. It is not for lack of things to write about; it's more like I am just not feeling it. I am at a point where library world drama does not interest me (OK, let me be a bit blunt: I just do not give a fuck), and more importantly, work keeps me busy enough doing practical things that I do not have time to write them up and put them here. And while I am reading some LIS literature now and then, the pace on that has slowed in favor of reading more interesting things, including things in other areas.

So, starting today until I figure out what if anything I want to do with this my professional blog, I am turning out the lights and taking a break from here for a while. I am going to step back, take a walk or two, meander, and see what I can discover and rediscover. I have been blogging here for a while, and well, I can use a little time off. In the meantime, you can check out my book reviews and other more general things over at The Itinerant Librarian.

Paz y amor.

Friday, January 05, 2018

My Reading List for 2017

Welcome to my 2017 Reading List and end of year report. You may notice  I did a bit of housecleaning on this blog, including a small title change (as well as the URL); I also edited the "about me" stuff to simplify things. I think the new title in this blog is more plain, reflective of  how I try to be as a librarian. I was also inspired by that one poem (you can see it in my profile). My four readers have likely noticed I blog a lot less here. One of my recent resolutions is to avoid drama as much as possible, and the library field can have a lot of drama. Life is already tough in the "Hard Times" without having to worry over the asshats in my profession too. In addition, I just do not find too many things of interest to blog about here. So I just post here now and then if something comes up, but I am in no rush. One thing I am hoping to do is to go back to posting my notes on library literature I read, and I may shoot to do that once a week. (By the way, just because I am not blogging here much does not mean I am not reading, keeping notes, and doing professional development. I've done some nice presentations, including one at LOEX, but that is another story). We will see how it goes. I am not quite ready to shut down this blog, but the hiatus periods may stay. At the end of the day, I just feel I have more interesting things, and things that make me happier, to blog about elsewhere.I am at peace with that. I keep doing this list  here mostly because I started the tradition here. If the day comes I turn off the lights on this blog, I will move this feature over to The Itinerant Librarian.

On a positive note, I have been happily blogging and posting book reviews at The Itinerant Librarian blog. I have turned that blog into a small  but nice book blog. I am making plans to add some additional reading related content in 2018, so stay tuned for that. A big reason I do it, besides the fact I  enjoy reading and sharing what I read, is to serve in some small way as form of reader's advisory. By the way, if you are an author, editor, or publisher, and you think you have a book I may want to read and review, check out my book review statement, then let me know. I'd be happy to consider it if fits with my review statement and reading interests.

On another positive note, I recently came to my five years anniversary working at Berea College. I even got a small letter from the college president about it. Deity of choice allowing, I hope to stay here for a while longer (let's see if we can make at least another five, you know, start small and work our way up).

Getting to the reading part, even without reviewing my list of books for 2017, I could already feel I read less when compared to last year. The "Hard Times" we are living in the U.S. have wreaked havoc on my reading mood. I often read in the evening before bedtime, and I am often too tired to read, or I just tune out. In November, when I was reading some political/social issues books, I just finally burned out, and I declared a self-imposed moratorium on reading anything related to politics, social issues, activist topics, and/or most current events. In addition, I trimmed my feeds on social media to minimize my exposure to that kind of stuff because in the end it boiled down I need to do some self care and keep some sanity. In fact, I have a politics, social issues, activist, and/or current events moratorium on social media, with the penance that if I slip and post something on those topics, I have to post something about kittens to atone. A few kittens have made my feeds, but the number is dwindling. I am just done with the overall stupidity, selfishness, and bullshit at large. Thus I am doing my best to read more escapist and recreational things. Despite all that, I managed to read some good stuff, and that is always a good thing.

So for 2018 pretty much, this is where I stand:

A small reason I have read less in 2017 is that in my effort to escape the reality of the "Hard Times" I have  been binging on watching DVDs for films and specially for old television series. I have gotten some of those from my local public library. I will probably make a separate post to list some of the things I have enjoyed on video.

Six of Pentacles from the Modern Spellcaster's Tarot deck
The Six of Pentacles, from The Modern Spellcaster's Tarot Deck.
Another positive in 2017 is that I continue with my Tarot and oracle card studies. The main form of engagement with this is my morning ritual of a daily Tarot card draw. If you are interested, you can follow me on Twitter, where I am posting a photo of the daily card with my reading of  it. I do a daily card and the underneath card (i.e. I see what  is lurking under the deck). Based on the Twitter posts, I am considering exploring Instagram for sharing those photos. We will see. I am also working on focusing my commonplace blog, Alchemical Thoughts, into a bit more of a Tarot and divination blog where I can share some readings, some exercises, reviews of decks and books on Tarot, oracles, and other esoterica. The reviews are likely going to be crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian. Speaking of Alchemical Thoughts, for the month  of January I am participating in the "31 Days of Tarot" challenge. I am posting the daily prompts there, and I am crossposting them to my Tumblr, The Alchemical Annex. If interested, feel free to check that out. Here is the link for the first day. I am finding that studying Tarot, along with some esoteric topics, has helped me find some peace and calm in the "Hard Times," so I foresee I will keep at it. By the way, studying Tarot and oracle has also made me into a bit of a deck collector. However, I have at least one tight rule for any deck I add my collection: I have to be able to read with it. A deck may have gorgeous art, but if I am unable to actually use it, it is not going into my collection. This is why I do not add Marseilles-style decks (read here decks with non-illustrated pip cards); I can't really use them as they do not do much for me. However, there is a Marseilles-style deck I'd be willing to make an exception for and add to my collection, and that is Ciro Marchetti's Tarot Decoratif (which is actually a bit of homage to Marseilles with some Rider Waite Smith blended in. Link to Ciro's site). On a side note, I do have two Marseilles decks (reproductions, of course), and those were gifts from special people, which is why I have kept them. For those, I recently got myself a good book on Marseilles Tarot to teach myself how to work with such decks better. I will let you know down the road how that experience goes.
    Let's get on with it and look at what and how I read in 2017. After the list, you will find my comments and remarks. Note that books with an asterisk (*) are rereads.

    • Becky Diamond, The Thousand Dollar Dinner.
    • Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of the Samurai (graphic novel adaptation). 
    • Scott Jerry, Zits Sketchbook 1
    • The Usual Gang of Idiots, The Mad Bathroom Companion: Gushing Fourth Edition.
    • Mark Kurlansky, Paper: Paging Through History
    • Kaelan Rhywiol, Nera's Need.
    • Mike Barr,, Star Trek Archives Volume 4: The Best of Deep Space Nine.*

    • P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Marked (House of Night, Book 1).  
    • Lee Hammock, Halo Graphic Novel
    • Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Suarez, Where are all the Librarians of Color
    • Mario Benedetti, Biografia para encontrarme.  
    • John Lewis, March: Book Three
    • C.S. Goto, Blood Ravens: the Dawn of War Omnibus (Warhammer 40,000).*


    •  Yoav Ben-Dov, The Marseille Tarot Revealed
    • Artisan Press, Why We March
    • John Palfrey, BiblioTech (audiobook edition).
    • Colette Baron-Reid, The Enchanted Map oracle cards (oracle deck kit with book). 
    • Jennifer Worick, Things I Want to Punch in the Face (audiobook edition). 
    • Tommy Dades, Friends of the Family
    • Jay Fonseca, Banquete Total
    • Scott Martin, Bringing the Tarot to Life


    • Jen Mann, People I Want to Punch in the Throat (audiobook edition).
    • Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (audiobook edition).
    • Leeza Robertson, Tarot Court Cards for Beginners
    • Yankee Magazine, Living Well on a Shoestring
    • Melissa Cynova, Kitchen Table Tarot
    • Josh Katz, Speaking American
    • Jason Aaron, Showdown on the Smugglers' Moon (Star Wars comics).
    • Penelope Bagieu, California Dreamin'
    • Ray Garton, Live Girls


    •  Eileen Kaur Alden, Super Sikh, Issue 1
    • Matt Kindt, Divinity III: Stalinverse.
    • Colin Dickey, Ghostland
    • P.J. O'Rourke, How the Hell Did This Happen?
    • Sideshow Collectibles, Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard
    • Jancis Robinson, The 24-Hour Wine Expert
    • Serafin Mendez Mendez, Puerto Rico Past and Present: an Encyclopedia
    • Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop
    • Clay Cane, Live Through This


    • Cullen Bunn, Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
    • Kathryn Petras, The Stupidest Things Ever Said Book of Top Ten Lists
    • Roger Langridge, Betty Boop.
    • Jennifer Adams, Emma: a BabyLit Emotions Book
    • Jennifer Adams, Treasure Island: a BabyLit Shapes Primer
    • Andy Diggle, James Bond: Hammerhead
    • Vincent Terrace, Television Series of the 1960s
    • Michael Ruhlman, Grocery


    •  Andy Schmidt, G.I. Joe: Future Noir, Volume 1
    • Sybille Titieux de la Croix, Muhammad Ali.
    • Alana Fairchild, The Isis Oracle (oracle cards deck with book kit). 
    • Gerard Way, Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick
    • Joanna Powell Colbert, The Gaian Tarot (Tarot cards deck with book kit). 
    • Sarah Vaughn, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
    • Leonardo Lucarelli, Mincemeat
    • Matt Kindt, X-O Manowar, Volume 1: Soldier
    • David Gonzales, Homies
    • Norman Ohler, Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich
    • E.K. Johnston, Ahsoka (Star Wars YA novel). 


    • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 2: Joker Loves Harley
    • Graham Masterton, Figures of Fear.

    • Tracking books this year got a little tricky. I left GoodReads mostly after it got acquired by the online book retail behemoth. I discovered BookLikes, which is a bit of a hybrid between GoodReads and Tumblr, and I was using that to keep track of books as well as another place to post  my reviews. Well, last year BL had some serious clusterfuck where they were down for almost two months with no response whatsoever. A few of us thought the site was gone for good. They hobbled back online, but I have not gone back since. I may in the future; I have not decided yet. So, I reluctantly went back to GoodReads for tracking, where I just record I read something and rate it. I do not post reviews in GR unless requested.

    Finally, first of all, thank you for hanging around and stopping by the blogs throughout the year. Also thank you for reading this far on this post. Hope you will come back in 2018. As I have done before, I am ending this post with a sampling of reading reports from other bloggers out there. By the way, if you did an end of year reader summary, and you want to share it, you are welcome to share it in the comments.

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    Booknote: Television Series of the 1960s

    (Post crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

    Vincent Terrace, Television Series of the 1960s: Essential Facts and Quirky Details. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4422-6834-0.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: reference, television, trivia, pop culture
    Format: hardback
    Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

    This is a reference book about trivia of 1960s television shows. If you watched TV during this decade, or like me caught the reruns in syndication later, you'll remember these were some of the most loved and popular shows of American television. They were so popular that they keep providing fodder for remakes and movie adaptations, often with  bad results. There is something to be said for not messing with classics.

    The book is arranged as follows:

    • Short introduction where the author describes how the book was put together. 
    • 82 individual entries arranged alphabetically. 
    • An index that is basically actor's names. There is also an additional thematic index, which may be more valuable. 
    As the author states, this book does not have essays or opinions. It is just a collection of facts and trivia about the shows. The book covers programs that premiered from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969. The author notes that shows that premiered in the 1950s and were still running in first run in the 1960s are not included. Some examples of shows not included are Bonanza, The Donna Reed Show, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, and Zorro. The author focuses on really trivial facts, not so much things you could find in places like You get things like street addresses, names of pets, and other details that other sources often miss. A fascinating thing for me is show producers, intentionally or not, could be very inconsistent. Street addresses and car license plates often change without reason, sometimes even in midseason.

    So how did the author compile all this? He acquired and watched every available episode of each show. And not every show is featured in the book; it depends on what information is available. A show like Dr. Kildare, very popular in its time, is not included in the book because there  is not enough available material to make an entry. In the end, the book is a selective compilation that often documents details not found elsewhere.

    This is a book to browse at your leisure. For shows I knew, it was nice to go down memory lane and recall details. I also learned about some shows I did not know before. Entries are pretty basic, just the facts. There are a few black and white photos, but overall the book is minimally illustrated. For television buffs, this may be a good option. I'd say public libraries may wish to consider it. Academic libraries with strong pop culture programs may see it as an optional selection.

    In the end, I liked it.

    3 out of 5 stars

    This  book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

    Friday, September 08, 2017

    Booknote: Puerto Rico Past and Present: an Encyclopedia

    (Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

    Serafin Mendez Mendez, with Ronald Fernandez, Puerto Rico Past and Present: an Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4408-2831-7.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: reference, Latino Studies, Puerto Rico, country studies
    Format: hardback
    Source: Borrowed from Hutchins Library, Berea College 

    This was a recent acquisition for my library. My library does not have much on Puerto Rico. Before this volume, our copy of War Against All Puerto Ricans (link to my review) was about the only current thing we had, and I ordered that book. Now, we are a small liberal arts college in Kentucky, so I get Puerto Rico as topic is not a high priority. However, when the "latest" books are ones that still spell the island's name as "Porto Rico" that is a problem in my humble opinion. So this reference book provides a start to to alleviating the issue. With Puerto Rico in the news recently in light of the island's economic and humanitarian crisis (here is a small account explaining it a bit), some timely and  basic sources are needed. This reference book at least provides some of the basics.

    This is the second edition of this reference work. I have not seen the first edition, so I cannot do a comparison. According to the current author, the first edition won an ALA Denali Award; the previous edition was published in 1998, so an update was long overdue, and I am glad it got done.

    The one-volume encyclopedia is arranged as follows:

    • Acknowledgments
    • Introduction
    • Chronology of important events. It goes from 1493 to 2015
    • 189 entries arranged alphabetically
    • Two appendices
      • Representative leaders of the first stage of the feminist movement in Puerto Rico
      • Representative writers by generation
    • A selected bibliography

    On the entries, the author writes,

    "It provides longer and extended entries with a deep sense of context as well as reliable historic background. There are new, revised, and extended essays on language, education, religion, geography, the environment, social media, and many other subjects" (xviii). 

    Entries range from historical subjects and topics to politics and pop culture. The book's focus is on more contemporary topics, but it still provides plenty of material for folks interested in history.

    For students, this is a solid resource to learn more about Puerto Rico. The book features entries on major topics that may be of timely interest such as the recently implemented IVU (a sales and use tax, think an "added value tax"), the LGBT movement on the island, and political representation of the island in the United States. Such entries will give a newcomer a broad overview. Readers wanting to dig deeper will find additional entries on more specific topics.

    Each entry includes the essay, cross-references, and a short list of references for those wanting to learn more on a topic. The book also features some good black and white photography on certain topics.

    In addition, I'd say for Puerto Rican readers, this book can be a bit of a nostalgia trip, especially for those like me who have been living in the U.S. mainland for many years. Browsing through the entries brought back many memories.

    This is a good selection for libraries. For students seeking information on Puerto Rico, say for a paper, this is a good start. It can be a very good start for libraries with little or no materials on  Puerto Rico. If you want to say  you have at least something, you can't go wrong with this basic, solid, well-written, and reliable reference book. I'd recommend it for both public and academic libraries.

    Though I think the author tries to be too cheery at times (the island is currently experiencing some seriously hard times), it is a balanced work overall. There are not many books I'd add to my personal collection; I'd add this one.

    (Reference Book, no rating given)

    Wednesday, March 08, 2017

    Booknote: Where are all the librarians of color?

    Rebecca Hankins and  Miguel Juarez, Where are all the librarians of color?: the experiences of people of color in academia. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press, 2015. 978-1-936117-83-3.

    Genre: nonfiction
    Subgenre: LIS, minority studies, academia
    Format: trade paperback
    Source: My library (Hutchins Library, Berea College)

    This may be one of those books that more librarians should read, especially non-POC librarians. For me, I had some mixed feelings as I read it. In part, much of what I read is stuff that I have experienced; some of it is part of my life experience. Also, after a while, the book can get a bit repetitive on things like arguing for recruiting more minorities and why that is good for the profession. Now, I agree with those ideas, although I am very skeptical of encouraging people to apply for work in a field with  an over-saturated job market. Just run an online search or two to find plenty of tales of woe from unemployed and underemployed librarians. And no, telling people to just "look for alternative career paths" is not exactly a great solution or comfort. So with those concerns, I kept reading the book.

    If anything, the best parts are the individual stories of those who made it and are gainfully working in the profession. Also, the parts on mentoring and networking at small, local levels were good. There was not enough of that. However, there were many mentions of ALA programs which,  while they may be good, often boil down to "pay to play" (you have to be a member to gain access, and there is no mention of the significant expenses nor the fact many people of color, or just plain many people, might  not have good enough finances to afford said access) and being the right age. As I discovered from personal experience, being too old even if  you are a newly minted MLS can limit some of your options.

    The book is organized as follows:

    • A short preface by Loriene Roy.
    • An introduction by the editors. 
    • Three sections on  the following topics: 
      • "Setting the stage for diversity in the profession." 
      • "How diversity benefits the profession." 
      • "Personal diversity stories." 
    • The book has a total of 13 essays.
     The book does provide a good start on an important topic: the experiences of librarians of color in academia. It can be lonely for us in academia, so at least through this book we get reassurance that we are not alone. For librarians of color who keep up, much of the material is likely familiar ground. For everyone else, especially academic administrators, the book may be an important read. It is not a book to read cover to cover as it can be pretty dry as much LIS literature can be. If you read a bit here and a bit there, and maybe talk about it with others, you may get more out of it. 

    I liked it, but I think I liked the idea more than the execution. LIS school libraries may want to acquire this one. I would also say that colleges and universities with strong interests in minorities and their condition, such as HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions among others, need to have this. It was part of why I ordered it for our library, the history of our college. Other campuses interested in diversity may want to consider it.

    3 out of 5 stars.

    * * * * * 

    Some additional reading notes:

    On  the "pay to play:"

    "Such involvement is voluntary and both membership and association work are usually dependent upon the individual paying personal due and creating a plan of involvement-- from attending meetings and conferences to serving on committees and/or election to various offices" (viii). 

    No mention of the  often prohibitive cost of membership (and let's not even go into meetings and conference costs, and woe unto you if your employer lacks the funds and/or willingness to send you anywhere). Two, also not mentioned, is that for many on a tenure track line, being involved is often required, so it is not always "voluntary."

    The isolation, which is something I can relate to:

    "As libraries remain predominantly staffed and structured by the majority White culture, the few librarians of color often find themselves feeling marginalized and without access to a supportive group of similarly diverse-minded colleagues to whom they can relate and confide. This in turn can also affect their own advancement in the profession, as professionals are generally better equipped to grow and succeed when they have such collegial group environments and networks at their disposal" (32).

    A quote I liked that I think more libraries should mind:

    "Running an effective library goes beyond just doing a 'good thing' for a particular minority group; in other words, doing the best work with all of the staff involved is, at a fundamental level, an ethical, inclusive organizational practice to which libraries should aspire" (34).