Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Books and Sharing

I have determined that sharing books makes them more enjoyable for all parties involved. This means that being a librarian is a fantastic job! I've also found that passing off a book to a friend, or receiving one, makes reading a shared experience, instead of a private one. I used to always have my pile of books that I would blaze through and not really talk about with anyone. Books were a private affair, something personal and intimate that had nothing to do with anyone else. Of course, books present themselves differently to each reader depending on that person's history, but there are certainly things that may be common to multiple readers, and this is what is enjoyable when sharing.

And in the vein of sharing, don't forget about Bookcrossing, where you can tag and release a book into the wild. I found my first Bookcrossing book in Glastonbury Tor, lying on a bench in the corner. It was Caught in the Light, and it was a very odd read, but something new and different that I might not have picked out for myself. Having another person's insight (un-informed in this case) into what I might like broadens the spectrum of book possibilities.

Recently, I've shared the following books in some way:

MFK Fisher's Gastronomical Me, originally lent to me by Tristan (who might in some circumstances be called my boss) when he found that I was helplessly interested in the culture and cooking of food. The book came to me at a critical turning point in my life in the Fall of 2008, and gave me great hope for the future, not to mention inspiration for a way of living fully. I received my own copy as a birthday gift this year, and immediately passed it on to Dan, who is plodding through it and enjoying it thoroughly.

Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, came to me from D, although we found the copy together in the Arlington Public Library's bookshop. There's a theme emerging here about food writing, which goes on to include Deep Economy (to some extent. Also lent to me by T) and Secret Ingredients, which I picked up in a moment of impulsiveness at Brattleboro Books (website has issues).

I just passed off The World Without Us to T last night, my copy of Ex Libris is with D, and I'm moseying around in D's copy of High Tide in Tuscon. I ritually post links in my twitter to interesting reviews, poke people when I think they might like something, and talk to shopkeepers and librarians for recommendations. The nice guy in Mystery on Main (David?) and I spent a while perusing shelves for books about books (a new favourite category, along with food/cookbooks). We came up with The Last Detective and The Oxford Murders, which I need to go back and get. At the time I bought Booked to Die and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. All of this was inspired by The Club Dumas (made into the movie The 9th Gate), which was lent to me by Don, mid 2008. At some point I'll collect more of Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte's books.

Of course, before any of my books leave home, I brand them with my embossing stamp, just to be sure then come back.

Questions for readers: Too many links? Would you prefer links to Amazon for books? I think Library thing is more useful for seeing recommendations, tags and similar works with.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wherein I wish I had better colour correction capabilities

A couple of weeks ago Marlboro VT had its annual town rummage sale. The first day, everything is for sale by donation. The second day, everything is free. There are two parts to the sale: the clothing and accessories, and housewares, which covers pretty much any random piece of junk you want to get rid of. So there I was, walking into the housewares section, located in the Town House (where Town Meetings are held each year), and lying plaintively on a table near the door was an open case with an old typewriter sitting in it.

Hello, the typewriter seemed to say. I'm old, and beat up, I could use some help, maybe a little love and a new ribbon. Just take me home, please? Don't leave me here...

Well. I browsed the rest of housewares for a while, and was leaving again when I felt its lonely little self reach out to me. Oh, all right, I said to myself, and bundled the thing up and brought it home with me. A girl and her Remington Rem-riter, a Remington Rem-riter and its girl. hm. I felt hugely guilty stripping the paint off of its casings, but I'm pretty pleased with the results. It also took a while.

The process included: dismantling the casing, unscrewing the carriage/ruler assembly, stripping the paint using a green stripper and a lot of patience, doing a coat of rustoleum primer, then a coat of copper spray paint, then some acrylic topcoat, dusting, wiping and oiling the insides, figuring out which pieces went where in what order (my notes were uniquely unhelpful), and finally, the test run. It still needs new ribbon, but it's damn shiny and happy looking now.

Somewhat ironically, or anachronistically, I don't have a printer, which leaves me without blank sheets of paper for my typewriter...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

LC-Primary Sources

I recently became more interested in exploring the Library of Congress both as a resource, an entity, and (because everything is right now) as a place to potentially work. Today I ran across this in my news feed: The Library of Congress Teacher's Page. It's intended to provide primary sources for the typical classroom lesson, and dabbles in most of the standard themes we all went through in school.

Several things struck me immediately. First, there are pre-constructed lesson plans available (there's not log in to the site, which is nice. Yay free information!). Now this may just be me, but I'd be irked if I knew my teacher was pulling something straight off the internet. However, using some of these for ideas and as support could be good. An example:

I'm interested in WWII, so I browse down the lesson plan list (by theme) to there, and find... mostly sources from the great depression. Hm. Actually there's nothing from the war in there, so I try "What is an American." This gets me a reference to de Crevecoeur (surprise), and some "life history" stories collected by the WPA. There's also an extensive, drawn out lesson plan, which (dear god) takes up classes from September to June! eesh. In any case, a teacher who knows what they want to present to the class could use the lesson plan themes to track down the sources. Kind of neat, but like most things on the internet, a lot of links to click through to find what you want.

A simple search using the search box on the front page brings up a few more hits for "World War Two", but it's still all within lesson plans and feels like it's being handed to me: This is what you should know! *ribbon on top* The point of the Teacher pages is primary sources, and if you dig a little you can get to a good chunk of information, but it can't possibly be everything the Library has. However, I do definitely support using primary sources for research, as they allow students to put more effort into reading and analyzing, unlike standard textbooks. Students will also get first hand perspectives and different voices from a primary source, which makes the experience of learning less monotonous, and hopefully more engaging.

Without the structure of a lesson plan, I think it's wildly entertaining to just browse the collections. And just in case everything the Library has isn't enough, they provide a nicely selected set of links from the outside.