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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Prayer and Friends

This week at work I've been reading the story of Betty Greene, the first pilot to fly with the organization that became the Mission Aviation Fellowship. It's a really neat story on the surface, but it (along with several other bios I've read recently) have made me more aware of the power of prayer.

I was thinking this week that I serve the same God as Betty Greene, Elisabeth Elliott, James Dobson and so many other "faith-hall-of-famers." I often look at these great Christian examples and see how many ways God can and does work in their lives. Why is it that He hasn't done some of the same working in mine? Simply because I don't invite Him to do so!

I am really working right now to strengthen my prayers and my faith, and I would appreciate your prayers for me as well! Jason and I will be looking toward the future in the coming months, and I really want the reassurance that we're moving in the direction God wants for us, doing the work He wants us to do.

Has anyone read "The Power of a Praying Wife?" Is it worth the investment?

On another note, I've also been thinking about friends lately. I don't have the wide circle of friends my mother did. She didn't have a circle of acquaintances; she had a large circle of friends!

And she never really understood why I didn't.

But, my mother was an extrovert, and I am most definitely an introvert! My husband is definitely my best friend, and I'm so happy with and thankful for my small, but close group of girls...excuse me, YOUNG women!

No matter how long it is between visits, we just pick right back up where we left off the last time! And, with them, I know I could call them anywhere, anytime with any need (and I hope they know the same is true about me).

The question I've been mulling over this week is when to let a friendship go.

There have been a couple of close friends that have just drifted in different directions during the past few years. And I find myself wondering just how wide that gap has to be before acknowledging that I don't really know this person anymore (and acknowledging that's OK).

So, thoughts on prayer? On friends? E-mail them!

And I'll try not to let two weeks go between blogs next time!

Another Reason to Love Librarians!

OK, I'll admit. I didn't have anything really controversial or terribly interesting going on this week, but I did run across this neat little piece of writing that I'd like to pass along!
Enjoy

"Why I Love Librarians"
Julia Alvarez

I love how they know things only to pass them on, how they fade into the faux-wood-paneled walls of the reference room, their faces hidden between the covers of books, how they look up only to help you:

What is the capital of Afghanistan?

How do the Maori bury their dead?

Who invented Barbie?

How many were murdered in Guatemala in '84?

Every query worthy of their attention, any questioner taken seriously,curiosity the only requirement.

I love how they listen, their lined faces opening, their eyes already elsewhere: scanning a plain for the lights of a distant city, hunting for bodies in the highlands, searching the Web for Barbie—their minds like those flocks of little birds in winterswooping over a landscape, looking, looking.

And always when they get back to you,that sweet smile on their faces, pride and deep affection for what can be known, as if Barbie's inventor, the tally of the massacred could save you, could save the world!

And who knows if Stalin or Hitler had spent their youth in the library, history might be rewritten, re-catalogued by librarians?

Curiosity sends us out to a world both larger and smaller than what we know and believe in with a passion for finding an answer or at least understanding our questions.

That road is paved with librarians, bushwhackers, scouts with string through the labyrinths of information, helpers who disappear the moment you reach your destination.


Hmm...I actually think I'd rather be called a "bushwhacker" than a "media specialist." Just a suggestion!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Displays

I've been working on book displays this week. This is an area where I really struggle, too, so it's been challenging and fulfilling, but simultaneously time-consuming and frustrating!

There have been some resources on the Internet, but they're surprisingly vague. Makes me wish I'd paid a lot more attention in library school!

Also, it's been a double challenge because I'm working on Fall/Halloween displays, but I'm in a Christian school. Came across one cool site, though, that I'll pass on to my co-workers.

That's it in the library world this week! I'll try to generate more controversy for next time--just kidding!

Movies

Hi there. OK, let me get in a quick sales pitch; then we can move on. APR did not raise enough money in its Fall Fund Drive, so if you listen...ever...at all...please please please contribute! (So my husband can start working regular hours again--purely selfish motives). Seriously, it's a great station (and web site), so check it out sometime!

Moving on as promised, I finally figured out how to watch a DVD while I walk on the treadmill (long story), so I've been watching like crazy this week. New recommendations--"Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and "A Series of Unfortunate Events." If you loved the books, you'll like the movies! It's not that movies aren't as good as books, film is just a different art form. You have to appreciate different qualities, I think. I find it easier to get into the story, lose myself in the plot and characters if I'm reading the book.

Speaking of books, I'm deep into some Dorothy Parker stuff this week. I've also been reading "Lord of the Flies" at school. Excellent choices.

I can't believe it's really October! We're having a beautiful Autumn so far here in Tuscaloosa. Hope yours is, too, wherever you are!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Home Schooling

I've been reading more about how public libraries can work with home schoolers, and I think there's a lot of potential there, depending on the community. A public library can fill a huge need in a home-schooled student's education.

School Library Journal had a great article on it, and I can't wait to do more research on this subject.

We see a lot of home-schooled kids at ACA. In fact, even though we're a K-12 school (and offer pre-school as well), a lot of parents will home-school their kids up to a certain point, then send them onto school.

I won't go into the pros/cons here and now; suffice it to say, home-schooling seems to be present in more and more communities, particularly here in the Southeast. And it seems to be growing in popularity.

That's where, as the SLJ article pointed out, public libraries can really step up and fill a critical need in these patrons' lives.

Long Weekend

OK, everyone, please pray for my husband! He's pulling LONG hours at work this weekend because it's APR's fund drive time. So I'll go ahead and ask you to contribute, and maybe he can come home early! Just kidding, but, if you want my opinion, it is a worthy cause.

Otherwise, we're good. I've had some time to catch up on reading this week, and I'm finishing up
Extravagance. Kind of odd, but it's been interesting. About to start Middlesex, so I'll let you know how it turns out next week! (Ambitious, aren't I?)

We were really able to tell this week that Autumn (or Fall--does anyone really know the difference?) is finally here! I LOVE this time of year. The crispness of it all-the leaves, the air, the clothes. I was actually able to turn off the air conditioner and just open up my back door!

I've also been playing the song
When Fall Comes to New England over and over and over. (Poor Fred.) I'll bet it's beautiful up there right now! Actually, this is the only time of year that I've never been to Connecticut. Mom and Dad did an Autumn train trip up there one year when Christopher was little, so I did get to see the famous leaves and all in pictures!

I hope, wherever you are, that your weather is as nice as ours. Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Continuing on Conservatives

Not to rant and rave about the same topic as the last post, but this column recently came across the SLIS listserv. (It was immediately trounced and ridiculed, but what did you expect?)

Anyway, this guy said it more eloquently than I did, so here you go! You have to have an account with the Chronicle of Higher Education to read the article, so I'm just posting it, even though it's long. (I've also added links.)

The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian
By DAVID DURANT

Much has been made of the left's domination of college and university faculties. Yet in terms of political composition, the library profession makes your typical Ivy League faculty look like the Heritage Foundation. Had the 2004 election been confined to librarians, I firmly believe that the presidential race would not have been between Kerry and Bush, but between Kerry and Nader.

When David Brooks did some research into political donations by profession for his September 11, 2004, column in The New York Times, he found that for librarians "the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1." By contrast, the corresponding ratio for academics was 11 to 1. As one of those rarest of beasts, a conservative librarian, I can attest firsthand to the stifling left-wing orthodoxy of modern American librarianship.

The problem is not that most librarians have liberal or leftist views. It is that the overwhelming prevalence of such views has created a politicized atmosphere of groupthink and even intolerance, in which left-wing politics permeate the library profession and are almost impossible to avoid.

In conversations with colleagues, on library e-mail lists, and at professional conferences, liberal and leftist attitudes are shoved in your face. Because most librarians are left-of-center politically, they automatically assume that you are as well. After all, only benighted Red State theocrats could possibly have voted for Bush. You quickly learn to keep your opinions to yourself, except among colleagues whom you know well.

To be fair, the situation wasn't always this bad. When I entered library school, in 1997, the political composition of my chosen profession was the last thing on my mind. I had a vague sense that the majority of librarians might be liberals or leftists, but it was hardly something I worried about. I pride myself on my ability to coexist with all kinds of people, and I try hard not to let my politics get in the way of my job or personal relationships. Besides, I had gone to graduate school, so I was used to being a token conservative.

I started work at my current institution in 1999 and have had no problems about politics with any of my colleagues. It's true that out of roughly 30 professional librarians here, you can count the number of us who are politically right-of-center on one hand, with a finger or two left over. Still, my colleagues have treated my heresy with respect and good humor.

But in the wake of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, librarianship as a profession no longer simply leans to the left; it has become openly politicized. By 2004, to work in a major American public or academic library was to find yourself in a left-wing echo chamber.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the situation is the way in which the supposedly nonpolitical American Library Association has become a platform for left-wing partisanship. The ALA's Council, its elected governing body, is dominated by left-wing activists who recently passed a resolution calling for the United States to leave Iraq.

It is, of course, the right of the vast majority of my colleagues to hold positions I disagree with. But it's a very different matter when the major professional association in librarianship takes openly political stands on issues that have no direct bearing on the field.

Proponents of the resolution on Iraq argue that abandoning the country to Al Qaeda would allow us to spend lots more money on libraries here at home. I believe that allowing radical Islam to run rampant in the Middle East would be utterly disastrous for libraries and intellectual freedom, both here and abroad. It is for individuals to choose between those positions; a professional organization like the ALA has no business adopting such a blatantly partisan resolution.

The open politicization of the ALA has also trampled on the association's commitment to intellectual freedom and diversity of opinion. The ALA's Social Responsibilities Round Table, for example, has become the exclusive plaything of radical leftists, and they have made it abundantly clear that those holding differing viewpoints are not welcome. For instance, conservative posts to the SRRT e-mail list are treated with open hostility.

The ALA's annual conferences have become akin to MoveOn.org meetings, where Bush bashing and liberal groupthink are the order of the day. At the association's June 2003 convention, in Toronto, the lineup of speakers included Ralph Nader, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, Naomi Klein, and Gloria Steinem. That was merely a warm-up, however, for the blatantly political event that was the 2004 convention in Orlando, Fla.

The featured speaker in Orlando was Richard A. Clarke, once a member of the Bush administration and now its bitter foe. Others included E.L. Doctorow, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Amy Goodman, the left-wing radio host. The highlight was a special benefit showing of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which drew a capacity crowd of over 2,000. The association's own magazine, American Libraries, described the proceedings with the headline "Opposition to Iraq War Pervades ALA in Orlando."

The politicized atmosphere in Orlando included clear intolerance toward dissenting viewpoints. Whitney Davison-Turley, a liberal, spoke at the membership meeting against a resolution condemning the war in Iraq, arguing that it was inappropriate for the ALA to take a stand on the issue. Her comments got a hostile response. Later she wrote: "Protecting the freedom of speech is a core tenet of librarianship, and this tenet was violated during the Membership Meeting. Shaming alternative opinions into silence is the same as placing a gag over our mouths, and this is not what librarians supposedly stand for."

The issue on which I am probably most out of step with the bulk of the library profession is the USA Patriot Act. Section 215 of the act gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation the authority to obtain a court order granting the agency access to business and other types of records as part of "an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." The section has become known as the library section -- despite the fact that it never uses the word "library" -- because it gives the federal government the theoretical ability to obtain patrons' library records. Section 215 also states explicitly that such an investigation may "not be conducted of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

Section 215 is not without its flaws, and I firmly believe that ensuring the privacy of library transactions is an important priority for our profession. However, much of the reaction among librarians to the USA Patriot Act has been over the top. As an example, some libraries have put up posters that warn patrons the FBI can view their library records. That is little short of fearmongering.

For one thing, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies have always been able to obtain library records after getting a subpoena. In addition, the available evidence indicates that FBI agents aren't exactly trampling each other in a rush to scrutinize libraries' circulation records.

In a study released in June, the ALA reported the results of a survey of more than 1,500 public and 4,000 academic libraries about requests for information from law-enforcement agencies. A large majority of the libraries that responded to the survey reported receiving no such requests; only 137 formal and 66 informal requests were reported since October 2001. Of that total, 73 came from federal agencies; the rest were from state or local law enforcement. The survey does not reveal how many of those inquiries were related to terrorism investigations, nor does it provide any figures from before 9/11 for comparison. Most important, the requests were almost certainly in accordance with earlier laws, given that at the time, the Justice Department said Section 215 had never been applied in a library or bookstore setting. (Section 505 of the act was evidently used this summer, according to recent reports, in the only known instance of the act's provisions being applied to library records.)

Why do I not agree with most of my colleagues that the USA Patriot Act is a grave threat to privacy? Because my fundamental worldview differs so starkly from theirs. I believe that the primary threats to our freedom are named bin Laden and Zarqawi, not Ashcroft and Gonzales. My main worry is not FBI agents with subpoenas but the supporters of a totalitarian ideology of death that represents the antithesis of everything our profession is supposed to stand for.

At least five of the 9/11 hijackers used computers at public or academic libraries to plot their atrocities. As important as it is to protect the privacy of library patrons, protecting the lives of our fellow citizens and the safety of our country is even more important.

A large number of American librarians simply don't see things that way. Many of them honestly believe that the war on terror is merely a pretext to allow the FBI to fulfill its long-held dream of wantonly rummaging through libraries' circulation records. The idea that, under some circumstances, granting law-enforcement agencies access to library records might save lives is inconceivable to those librarians. Not all librarians opposed to the USA Patriot Act feel that way. It would be a mistake, however, to pretend that the sentiment doesn't exist in our profession.

Librarians are supposed to stand for intellectual freedom, diversity of opinion, and providing access to materials that represent all points of view. How can we do that when many of us are intolerant of dissenting views? Allowing our profession to be a bastion of orthodoxy of any kind defeats our purpose.

Do I think that the situation will change? I have to admit to a certain amount of cynicism and disillusionment. After three years of feeling that I am not wanted in my profession, I have grown increasingly alienated. I am so tired of having left-of-center politics thrust on me that I have retreated into my work, cutting myself off from much of the broader profession. When I do go to a professional meeting, I sit silently. When the conservative-bashing starts, as it so often does, I know better than to complain.

I have responded in the only ways I can: To protest the ALA's growing politicization, I allowed my membership to lapse and have no intention of renewing it. In June 2004 I started an obscure blog, Heretical Librarian, where I can finally express the opinions that I would never dare voice among librarians I don't know.

Ironically, I rarely write about library issues per se, but blogging has provided me with a welcome forum for laying out my own beliefs. Some might ask what right I have to complain about politicization when I talk mostly about political issues on my blog. My response is that that's exactly why I started the blog: It's a personal site where I claim to speak for no one but myself. I can voice my views in a venue that is separate from my professional responsibilities. That is an approach other librarians might want to consider. Besides, when I look at groups like Radical Reference or Librarians Against Bush, I feel more than justified in blogging not just as a conservative, but as a conservative librarian.

I do see one positive development: A growing number of librarians, not all of them conservative, are calling for our profession to leave politics alone and focus on librarianship. As Steven Bell recently suggested in Library Journal, the ALA should either invite speakers to its meetings from across the political spectrum, or not invite political speakers at all.

The solution is not to replace left-wing with right-wing politicization. Rather it is to leave politics to the individual. Just as we should collect and provide access to materials representing a broad range of beliefs, we should welcome diverse viewpoints within our profession.

David Durant is head of government documents and microforms at East Carolina University.

Book Fairs and Books!

Whew! It's been another crazy couple of weeks here in Tuscaloosa!

Roll Tide! 31-3!

We just finished up our Book Fair at school, and it went quite well! By the way, this was my first Book Fair since the days at Highland Park Elementary in Muscle Shoals. (And is that the same Mrs. Mayfield that was there when I was?)

It was fun seeing the kids so excited about all the books and being able to encourage them in a different way than we do week-to-week.

Speaking of books, I've just finished Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Now stay with me here. I read the first one in library school and hated it! But we can't keep the books on the shelves!

So, I thought I'd give it another try and reread the first one and go ahead and check out the second one as well. That was a couple of weeks ago, and now I've read all 11 as well as Lemony Snicket's unauthorized autobiography.

The books are cool, and they get more complicated and mysterious as you go along. Also, I love the vocabulary! So, there's my plug.

In my defense, I'm reading grown-up novels, too, but I haven't read any lately that I like as well. I'll let you know if that changes!

And I just want to say how nice it is to be able to read for pleasure. For the past year (in grad school), I didn't have time to read for fun. In fact, it took me the whole year just to read "Cousin Bette." So I'm glad to be back on track in the reading department.

Everything else is going well. Jason is busy and getting busier with work. APR's fund drive is starting soon, and he's got a lot of other irons in the fire as well. Please keep us both in your prayers!

That's about it for now. Again, I'll try to get back to weekly blogs, instead of bi-monthly! Keep reading!

Read from the beginning...