YA DOGS

That is, “young adult” literature about dogs.

I’ve recently been reading some young adult literature. There’s so much of it out there! The output is massive, and many YA authors publish books every year! I thought I’d mention three here that all featured dogs.

First up was Gary Paulsen’s Notes from the Dog (2009). I’m constantly surprised by how often YA novels deal with weighty topics, and this one is no different. The novel features Finn, a high school boy who likes to be alone but ends up meeting lots of people one summer. The cause of this more active social life is a new neighbor who is house-sitting next door. Her name is Johanna, and she is a library science graduate student in her twenties. With the constant companionship of his dog Dylan, Finn befriends Johanna and sets about making a garden in his back yard with her guidance. Along the way, we discover that Johanna is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and planning to compete in a fundraiser triathlon for cancer research. The title of the novel comes from handwritten notes that Dylan brings Finn to boost his ego, and of course we deduce that Johanna is the one sending them. I thought it was really fascinating how the novel is about Johanna and her cancer treatment, but the topic isn’t really addressed head on. Instead, the novel is about Finn’s friendship with this woman who is full of life yet periodically gets extremely weak from her illness and treatment.

Then, I read John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. (1969), a recently re-published novel that YA novelists and scholars tout as the first LGBT YA novel. The protagonist is teenaged Davy Ross who gets uprooted from an idyllic childhood in Boston with his grandmother to a new life with his alcoholic mother in New York City upon the death of the grandmother. He is able to take along his trusty sidekick, the dachshund Fred, and together they try to make sense of their new living arrangement, his mother, a new school, and a new acquaintance/friend Altschuler. I really loved the descriptions of Fred and the way Davy interacted with him. Donovan is definitely a dog person! The novel is also quite subtle and ambiguous in its treatment of same-sex attraction for Davy, and I quite like the understated quality of it all.

Finally, I picked up David LaRochelle’s Absolutely, Positively Not… (2005) after hearing the author speak at a panel on LGBT YA literature a few weeks ago. This book is his first YA novel (after many other children’s and picture books aimed at a younger audience). The story has a basis in a short story he wrote about a boy who takes his dog to prom. In Absolutely, Positively Not…, the protagonist Steven is a high school boy who tries to convince himself that he is not gay. It’s a rather humorous novel, though, despite the premise which could easily be a horror story of self-hate and suicide. Steven goes about trying to prove to himself that he is straight. Among the things he does are: rips up his International Male catalog, plasters his room’s walls with pictures of half-naked women, checks out a book by a self-proclaimed guru of making boys straight, hangs out with the hockey team, and practices aversion therapy (via a rubber band that he snaps on his wrist whenever he thinks of hot men). He does indeed end up taking his best friend’s golden retriever Kelly to a school dance when his initial plans to take a girl fell through.

My favorite scene, however, was not the one dealing with the dog but rather the one in which Steven goes to the public library to find a book on how to be not gay. He is cautious in his search, not wanting the librarian to see what he is typing into the computer catalog and then not wanting some jocks to see the book he has pulled off the shelf. Steven eventually shoves the book down his pants and walks out the library, reasoning that he would return it and thus was not really stealing it. The whole scene really captures well that dynamic of shame about being seen with anything that might mark one as gay (even though in this case, Steven has picked up a book about how to grow up to be a straight man).

LIS 7030: Reading Responses on Crosswalks and Federated Searches

(These are in response to specific discussion questions that I am not reproducing here.)

1) “Crosswalks, Metadata Harvesting, Federated Searching, Metasearching: Using Metadata to Connect Users and Information,” Mary S. Woodley

While many of the problems of metadata element crosswalks occur at the level of data structure standards, where elements of one schema may not match exactly to another element in a different schema, there are also possible problems at the data content standard level when the specifications of one standard might differ from that of another. It seems that the crosswalk could be configured, however, to address these differences though automation of the conversion of one standard to another may be tricky. Where some information might be lost or difficult to parse is when there are fields in one data content standard that contain more information than in another.

For example, in AACR2 and CCO, while both suggest using authority files for names, AACR2 specifies entering the name with the surname followed by the given name and CCO specifies a “natural order” for the name. In other words, AACR2 would lead us to use “Huysum, Jan van, 1682-1749” in the Name Heading field while CCO would have us use “Jan van Huysum (Dutch, 1682-1749)” in the Creator Display field. Additionally, CCO includes the nationality of the creator in addition to the birth and death dates. And if the creator is unknown, CCO allows “unknown” to be used in the field or “unknown Dutch,” with an additional nationality qualifier added.

So, if we were to map the CCO to AACR2 element, we lose the nationality information. And going in the other direction, we wouldn’t necessarily have the requisite information in the Name Heading field to specify the nationality of the creator. This issue could be problematic in the long run because it may be important for art scholars and curators to know the nationality of creators since that is how people often create collections of works to study or to display.

2) Federated Search Blog, Sol Lederman

It was interesting to read about federated searches as ways of accessing the hidden web via a single search. Instead of having to type searches into a number of different web portals that have records inaccessible to web crawlers that index pages for search engines, these federated searches will fill in those forms for you with a single search request. The primary problem, it seems, is that these federated searches can be slow since the user interface search page actually has to then query other databases to retrieve results.

The discovery tools mentioned by Lederman function by indexing the records of information in the hidden web. In this way, they seem to function like the web crawlers of the visible web, but they go a step further to query web portals that are inaccessible to the search engine crawlers in order to come up with an index that is then more quickly searchable. These discovery tools cut down the time it takes for users to get results for their searches since the tools have, in advance, already searched for all the metadata and keywords of the various databases and assembled that information in indexes.

It does seem like these discovery tools are able to solve the problem of slow searches in the federated search model. The only problem is that the discovery tools have to constantly search those databases in order to keep an up-to-date index.

LIS 7010: Reading Response for October 5, 2011

– Rubin, Foundations of Library and Information Science, Chapter 5

This week’s reading focused on the organization of libraries in three ways: 1) by functions within libraries (governing boards, library administration, public service, technical services, and support units), 2) by types of authority within libraries (bureaucratic, professional, and informal), and 3) by types of libraries (public, school, academic, and special). Much of the discussion expanded on the textbook’s earlier exploration of libraries’ missions, values, and future in a changing technological and economic landscape. What this chapter underscores is how the structures and infrastructures of libraries as they exist today are under various pressures to adapt to changes in communication, information, and financial technologies. I don’t have much to add about the organization of libraries except to say that the breakdown of the different facets of libraries helps us think about possible reconfigurations of those facets (whether they are job positions, job duties, physical spaces, or other of the various components).

A friend sent me a link to a companion web site for a new book titled The Atlas for New Librarianship by R. David Lankes that offers a way to move forward. Lankes seems to be interested primarily in shifting thinking of libraries away from these organizations that we call libraries—both their physical embodiments and the technologies that undergird the services librarians we provide—and towards librarians as active agents in providing information services. The shift is subtle but perhaps worth considering for its concerted attempt to champion librarians rather than libraries, people over institutions. For Lankes, the work of new librarianship is to focus on how conversations create and disseminate knowledge. It’s also interesting that he seems to favor “knowledge” over “information” as the domain of librarians’ work.

(Slight tangent: Another friend tipped me off to a new web site for librarians-in-training called Librareo that gives MLIS students access to a number of Gale’s databases and resources. Their tagline is “Where Tomorrow’s Librarian Superheroes Shine.” They also aim to build a support community for students via discussion forums. Sign up for free if you’re interested!)

Question for consideration: How does thinking about librarians as facilitators of knowledge (production, circulation, consumption) change the way we think about the organizational structures of libraries?

IT AND LIBRARIES

My friend E posted this article, “Integrated Solutions,” about the move to consolidate information technology departments and libraries in liberal arts colleges. It’s really quite worrisome that the reasoning is primarily fiscal rather than driven by other needs and issues such as access and responsibility. There is a bit of a claim to efficiency of information access, but even that is subsumed under business-speak. It really troubles me how much universities are using the vocabulary of the business world more and more these days, from “integrated solutions” to “vice presidents” and “chief _____ officers.” I’m not suggesting that the academy has ever been free of capitalistic interests, but the less distance we put between the two worlds of education and business, the less likely people are to question that the impulses behind money-making endeavors are or ought to be disentangled from the interests of learning, research, and an open exchange of ideas and values.