Samantha's blog

Yet more on Vote Smart

Take heart, ALA, you are not the only ones being threatened by Project Vote Smart for not endorsing them. The Billings Gazette reports that PVS will leave the state of Montana because the university for which I now work didn't form a partnership with them. Good riddance, I say.

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper's speech to us at the American Library Association Annual Conference started out as most do, with jokes to break the ice and bad puns. After a bit of talk about how he became a journalist, he segued into his experiences last year in New Orleans. He asked the audience if they knew a particular person, Ethel Freeman. Only one person responded. He then told us her story.

When the flooding started last year, her son took Ethel, who was 91 and in poor health, to the convention center we were now sitting in, where they were told they'd be bused out of the city within a few hours. She had survived the storm, she had survived the trip down to the building, but she only lasted two days here before dying. All her son could do was drape a blanket over her in her wheelchair.

Anderson said that this was the first time he'd been back to the convention center since the day after people were finally bused out nearly a week after the hurricane. He said that it was hard to see the convention center repaired and renovated as if nothing at all happened here.

Earlier in the day before his speech, he'd been talking to folks around town, and they begged them to remind all of us about what happened here. They say they've been forgotten, the disaster has been forgotten. Anderson said, looking around the convention center, where were the memorials to those who suffered and died right in this very building? Where was the memorial to Ethel Freeman?

When I first got here it was strange to see these places I had only before seen on the news, underwater or full of suffering people. I was frankly weirded out about going into the convention center building, knowing what happened here. But over the past few days, with the mundanity of business travel, it just became meeting after meeting, where stepping around street people and waiting for a meal at a restaurant were annoying obstacles in my day. I forgot about what this town has gone through--is STILL going through. Outside the area of the French Quarter and the convention center, people still have nowhere to live, no electricity or other utilities, and are under a strict curfew with armed guards patrolling. And for my forgetfulness, my ugly American attitude right here in my own country, I am ashamed.

More than a few of us got teary during Anderson's presentation, least of all himself ("Look, I even cry when cameras aren't around," he joked) but hopefully it made more than a few of us remember.

"Go home and tell people what you have seen here," said Anderson in closing. "Remember New Orleans."

end is drawing near

Tomorrow is my last day of meetings at ALA. Today I actually got to go to a program in between committee meetings, the ACRL President's Program, which featured a debate on information literacy. As an old college debater I was excited but I found myself evaluating the logical fallacies more than the thoughts behind the presentation. Ah well. I will have to mull it all over.

I'll post more later on the session, but for now I have to run off and see Anderson Cooper!

Death count still zero (I think)

Well, I've made it to Sunday and even after a drink at Pat O'Briens (couldn't afford the Hurricane so I had a gin fizz) I still am not murdered. Dead on my feet, maybe. I made my way to the Quarter yesterday and there is a bit more activity over there, more shops open and fewer boarded up windows. We had dinner at Coop's Place and the waiter/bartender said he hadn't been this busy since the hurricane came through.

Anyhow, just attending meeting after meeting. Conference fatigue may be setting in. I will write a bit more on my experiences when I have a chance. I keep forgetting to bring my computer with me so then I have to wait for a public terminal! Helpful hint--the internet cafe in the exhibits has a *far* shorter line than the one by registration.

More later!

Not yet murdered in NOLA

I've made it through 24 hours in New Orleans with no major problems...yet. The conference doesn't officially start until tomorrow however. I've been busy with committee meetings and such. I attended the OCLC Symposium on core values and the future of librarianship today and that was fascinating.

Heh, everyone around me is blogging too.

Anyhow, I am having a good if somewhat sweaty time so far. A *lot* of stuff is closed however and wait times at restaurants have been long. The folks here, however, are very glad for the business and are welcoming us at every turn. It will be interesting to see how it works when the conference actually starts tomorrow.

My ALA Schedule

My ALA schedule can be found here if anyone wants to meet up. I will be doing a poster session again this year, from 1-2:30 on Saturday. This year it's on the IL class that I'm teaching online. I'll also be staffing the NMRT booth on Tuesday from 11-1. Come by and say hi!

By the way, thanks to everyone who supported me in my bids for ALA office. I was elected to an NMRT Directorship, which will be lots of fun! As for Council, I was next out from the elected list by only eleven votes. Maybe next year!

It's a small campus after all

Today I got to call campus security for the first time, thankfully for an incident outside the library that can best be described as 'youthful hijinks.' Some young people had set up a slingshot made of bicycle tires and were hurling water balloons across the campus. They were being careful to stop if anyone was in the way, but since I'm a crotchety old** librarian I thought maybe campus security should check it out.

I dialed the number for security that's on all the phones. "Campus Security Emergency!" yelped a breathless voice. Yikes!

"Oh, sorry, this isn't an emergency!" I said.

"Let me transfer you to the general line," said the voice. Ring ring, went the phone, and "Campus security, how can I help you?" answered the same voice, but much less breathless this time. It was just too funny, so I started laughing, and then she started laughing too. Anyhow, she was appalled by the young hoodlums' behaviour and sent an officer over to check it out. Now I feel kind of bad about ruining their fun, but it's good to know that if I call security I'll be properly transferred to the same person no matter which line I call.

**Disclaimer: I'm really not that old, but I am fairly crochety.

Calendaring websites reviewed

I've been meaning to post this review of calendaring websites for a few months. Maybe I've already posted it. Maybe I need a better calendar! Read on if you are also disorganized.

HipCal ( is my favorite so far because it looks very nice and is highly customizable. It can be synched with software and devices using the iCal standard (mostly Macs). You can set up alerts for events to be sent to your email or cell phone. Calendars can't be easily shared with others, however.

Yahoo ( is also very customizable and is easily shared. Alerts for events can be received via cell phone and email. It syncs with Outlook and many PDAs. It looks ugly, though.

30 Boxes ( has a lot of buzz due to its simple interface but I didn't like its appearance. Synchs via iCal. You can set up your calendar as an rss feed or public page, and can limit it to share only certain events.

Google Calendar ( synchs with iCal, Outlook and PDA software. It's as public as you want it to be--you can even have your schedule show up in Google searches! If you have Gmail, it can pick out emails that mention events and add them to your calendar. Sends alerts to email or cell phone. This was a close second to HipCal but lacks a to-do list feature.

If others have sites/software they've found useful, please share!

More info on Vote Smart

Library Journal had an update on the Project Vote Smart debacle today. Some interesting facts:

  • The library program costs PVS $250,000 each election year (although looking at GuideStar at their 990, they claim that it costs about half of that).
  • PVS is honoring the 153 orders already placed for materials this year and will distribute to all libraries again in 2008 (if they are still around--no, that wasn't in the article but is my own little aside).
  • Richard Kimball apparently sent out one of his patented "look how hard we tried to make this work" letters to participating libraries. If anyone has gotten one of these I'd love to see it. I remember having to send out a few of those when I worked there.

I'm pretty sure still that this whole "we're not sending materials to libraries because ALA won't return our calls" thing was a budget cut measure and they thought they'd found a convenient scapegoat. I've seen them do it before. I guess we'll have to wait till 2008 to see if I'm right. And as a helpful hint to librarians who didn't place their order in time to get materials--almost everything is available free from their website and if patrons want the print materials, they can call, email or write PVS individually for copies. Be sure to let patrons know that they can get copies of all these materials if they miss having them. And maybe those patrons can let PVS know that if they had stuck with their library program, they wouldn't have to individually mail out materials to voters. How's that going to help PVS save money and get the word out? They really shot themselves in the foot over this one.

Disclaimer--yes, I am a disgruntled former employee of PVS. But with good reason, as evinced by their actions lately.

The Project Vote Smart Debacle

I have been watching with interest the conversation on the Council listserv about Project Vote Smart's announcement today that they would no longer send free voter education materials to libraries as ALA would not write them a letter of endorsement.

My first job after I got my undergrad degree was working for PVS as their library relations person. I joined up right before the 2000 election and during my tenure I more than doubled the program from about 90 libraries to nearly 300.

I eventually quit because I felt that PVS was far more interested in getting their name out there and getting advertising than about helping libraries. Unfortunately, in my youthful stupidity I signed a contract that said I'd work there through the election, which I had to break. For this reason, PVS will either deny I worked there, or disparage my efforts. I had it go both ways until I finally took them off my resume in disgust. I've tried to have very little to do with them since then. I do have an admitted distrust and dislike of their organization.

Their actions today were not unusual. This is not an organization that is good at communicating. They use strong arm tactics like this to get concessions that they want. Their "board" (which is only their President, who acts unilaterally) will issue edicts such as this seemingly out of the blue. I don't doubt that no one at ALA had known they were to send a letter, and I don't doubt that they had no clue the publications would be cut off.

My theory is that PVS is not doing well financially. The library program is very expensive and they were probably looking for a reason to cut it. I definitely wouldn't blame ALA and I wouldn't blame the Library Program Coordinator at PVS, Kira Buscaglia. I'm sure she is just following orders from the President of PVS, Richard Kimball. I would place the blame for this situation squarely with him. As a former employee, I can say this sort of thing happens there all the time and he is the only one behind it.

Google Pages

I recently got my Google Pages account enabled and boy is it interesting. It's funny to think how I spent a good portion of the day hand coding html into my first website in 1996 and here in 2006 it's just as simple as typing a document. Check it out--it only took me about half an hour to make:

This required absolutely NO knowledge of html or css, and it looks really slick. Now my mom can have a website!

In other news, I discovered in my LISNews account how to link up to my flickr account and display random images on the right side of the screen under my profile. Do they show up for everyone looking at my blog, or are they just some entertainment for me? I will have to explore further.


Just wanted to post a quick note of thanks to those who are supporting me in my bid for ALA Council and NMRT Director. It is much appreciated--I haven't had much time lately to get myself out there and campaign! We'll see what happens.

For those few of you who haven't yet voted, may I suggest a few folks for Council:

Heidi Dolamore - I met her over a listserv (NexGenLib, I think) where newer librarians were being encouraged to run for Council. She's got endless enthusiasm and lots of vision.

Rochelle Hartman - Fellow LISNewster. I bumped into her at the OCLC Blog Salon this past midwinter and she greeted me as if we had known each other a long time. Which I guess we have, online, although that was the first time I met her face to face! She's friendly and has a great perspective.

Dora Ho and Aaron Dobbs - NMRT folks from way back. Hard workers with lots of ideas.

I voted for lots of other people too but these are the ones I have actually met/have experience with, and I wanted to share my impressions. If I forgot you, let me know (and I'm sorry!).

Book review: Motivating Students in Info Lit Classes

I just finished reading this book and I thought I'd share some thoughts on it in an informal way. Maybe this way I can remember more of what I've read :-)

_Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes_, by Trudi E. Jacobson and Lijuan Xu (Neal-Schuman, 2004), first came to my attention on the ILI-L listserv during a conversation on how to better engage students during library sessions. It sounded interesting so I got it via ILL and dug in.

The book begins with an in-depth examination of motivation and learning theory. This was fairly familiar to me from my grad school instruction class. The second half of the book analyzes, in a thematic way, techniques to incorporate motivational strategies into various classroom settings. Again, this was pretty familiar to me from my grad school days. Most of the ideas seemed better suited to semester-long courses or multiple sessions rather than the more typical library one-shot session.

There are excellent short tips and example assignments, forms and lessons throughout. In general, however, if you've been lucky enough to have some instruction training already you'd be better off taking a colleague or mentor to lunch and comparing strategies. If you haven't had any instruction classes or training, or don't have access to colleages to compare notes with, this book may be of value to you as you're starting out.

which ones have you read?

A few days ago the Guardian published the results of a poll of librarians asking, "what book should every adult read before they die?" Below is the list, and I've bolded the ones that I've read. Feel free to pass it on and do the same.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien (actually, I think I quit halfway through the third book, but I'm counting it anyway)
1984 by George Orwell
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

Looks like I have some reading to do!

ALA Update

I've been pretty much incommunicado the past couple weeks due to family issues and illnesses (although the only thing wrong with me personally is a slight cold, no worries!).

Anyhow, the past week was the NMRT Nominating Committee's candidate forum for Director. For those of you not on the NMRT listserv, I thought I'd post my answers here. Hopefully they'll be enlightening and encouraging! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

1. How will you work with committee chairs to develop rapport and foster good working relationships? What strategies will you use to achieve this?

In my time as a committee chair, the best strategies directors used was to maintain open lines of communication: checking in occasionally to see if I needed anything, letting me know of opportunities to work with other committees or groups in ALA, passing on ideas or feedback. I would want to continue in this vein. It was great to know that, as a chair, there was someone looking out for my committee and helping me make necessary connections. As a director, I would do the same for the committees I manage--pass on ideas or possible partners for projects to committee chairs, keep my committees' goals in mind when meeting with the executive board, and keep the lines of communication open. Email is a great tool for this, and meeting in person at the all-committee meeting is also helpful when possible.

2. Describe a committee experience that you've had where the chair was especially effective or ineffective, and why you felt that way. As NMRT Director, what will you do to help committee chairs be strong leaders?

I have had the unfortunate experience of being on a committee where the chair went AWOL--we just never heard from her again after the first few months. After trying to put things together on our own for a few weeks, one of the committee members had the idea to contact the Director overseeing the committee, and she helped put things back in order.

Obviously, as a committee member, you expect a certain amount of leadership and responsibility from your chair, and this is almost always the case, but there are those situations where things just fall apart. I would hope that as Director I would help manage things before they get to that point, by remaining in contact with chairs, checking up on folks I haven't heard from in a while, and so on. I would trust in chairs to lead their committees well, but I would maintain a presence and be a resource for chairs and members with questions or concerns. I would encourage committee chairs to copy me on all correspondence and keep me updated as to what's going on; if I noticed this wasn't happening, I'd check in before things went too far.

3. What will be your goal(s) as Director?

Generally, my goal as Director will be to keep a great organization running smoothly. NMRT has provided me with so many excellent opportunities and now that I have a bit more experience and the ability to travel to conferences, I want to give back some time and effort.

I would model my actions after the folks who have served as Director for the committees I was on, by keeping communication open, looking for chances to network for my committees, and representing my committees' interests to the NMRT Executive Board. The Directors I've had have been invaluable in finding out how to promote what my committees were doing internally and externally, and finding partners for us to work with throughout ALA. I would aspire to work in the same way.

Thanks again to the Nominating Committee for this opportunity, and to you all for reading. If anyone has any final questions or concerns I can be reached at

I've been tagged!

Thanks, Heidi! It's fun to be tagged for these things.

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Telephone surveyor (only lasted ten days!)
  2. 'Sales Associate' (aka retail drone)
  3. Library Program Coordinator
  4. all the rest are in libraries--I guess the most interesting would be cataloger at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library

Four movies I can (and do) watch over and over:

  1. The Muppet Movie
  2. Star Wars trilogy (eps IV-VI)
  3. Airplane
  4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Four places I've lived:

  1. Portland, Oregon
  2. Vienna, Austria
  3. Philipsburg, Montana
  4. Iowa City, Iowa

Four TV shows I love:

  1. Buffy (the whole Jossverse, actually)
  2. Arrested Development
  3. Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
  4. Farscape

Four places I've vacationed:

  1. Krakow, Poland
  2. Prague, Czech Republic
  3. Gold Beach, Oregon
  4. St. Louis, Missouri

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. chocolate in all its myriad forms
  2. a good medium-rare steak
  3. greek salad
  4. dessert, generally

Four sites I visit daily:

  1. GMail
  2. HipCal
  3. MPOW
  4. LJ (but not the one you're thinking of!)

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. Home
  2. Visiting my parents
  3. Seaside, Oregon (although it may be a bit cold at the moment)
  4. Disneyland

Four books (or series) I love:

  1. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  2. Anne of Green Gables (used to re-read the whole series every summer!)
  3. the Stephanie Plum series (not really re-readable but I love them!)
  4. Geez, this one is too hard! I read everything, but don't re-read a lot.

Four video games I can (and do) play over and over:

  1. DDR Extreme
  2. Bejeweled
  3. Buffy: Chaos Bleeds
  4. Kingdom of Loathing

Four bloggers I am tagging:

Aww, geez. Who hasn't been tagged? How about:

  1. Birdie
  2. Arnie
  3. SlashGirl
  4. my spouse

No pressure, though, tagged people!!! Only if you want to.

MW Conference Blogging-ACRL prez candidates edition

Better late than never, here is some MW blogging action.

Most of my time at the meeting was taken up by the Intellectual Freedom Committee, on which I am an intern. This was the start of my term and this is a very active committee and there was a lot for me to learn. I'm still kind of processing all that transpired and will probably write a bigger post about it later.

One tidbit that I want to pass along that didn't have anything to do with IFC was about the ACRL Presidential Candidates Forum, which I attended, and not just because there was a free lunch (although it was muchly appreciated!). For most of the forum it was pretty pedestrian, but then during the Q&A a librarian from one of the universities in Oregon asked what the candidates would do to recruit new librarians to ACRL.

Julie Todaro answered first, saying that ACRL needed to be more hip and sexy, and perhaps one way of doing that would be to run sessions at conference from 10 pm to 4 am. I nearly fell out of my chair when she said this. I'm already busy from 8 am to 10 pm when I go to conferences; now there's going to be stuff for me to do until 4 am??? Yikes!

Cynthia Steinhoff answered this by saying that not all new librarians are young librarians, and that we can do things supporting better salaries and the like to attract these new librarians. Now that's more like it!

There were a couple further questions on this point, and while the specifics of each have since receded into the murky corners of my mind, it seemed to me that Julie was very much of an "us vs. them" attitude when it came to new librarians--lots of uses of the terms "them" and "they" and how "they" don't think like "us" or work like "us," which I found very off putting.

For my fellow new librarians, based on this forum, I think our interests are best represented by Cynthia. If anyone has any comments, corrections, insight, discussion or questions, please have at it!

Midwinter Schedule

Here's a collection of where I'll be when at Midwinter, sometimes called a schedule. I'm trying to get myself organized before I go, and ALA's online scheduler is terrible.

Thursday: Arrive in San Antonio, late evening.


Sometime in the AM - visit Alamo, sightsee

12:30-2 Chat Reference Focus Group, Marriot Rivercenter

4-6 ALA Interns Reception, Marriot Riverwalk

5:15 Exhibits Opening/Reception

7:30-8:30 NMRT Meet and Greet, at some place called ANTH Bowie (?)


7-8 Wilson Breakfast, Marriot Rivercenter

8-10 IFC I, Marriot Rivercenter

10:30-12:30 IFC Issues Brief, Marriot Rivercenter

1:30-3:30 NMRT Candidate Forum and All Committee Meeting, Convention Center (I'm a candidate for NMRT Director, come cheer me on!)

4-6 QuestionPoint Users Meeting, Convention Center

6-8 Thompson Scientific Reception, Buckhorn Saloon

6-8 NMRT Social, Hard Rock Cafe


7-9 OCLC Update Breakfast, Marriot Rivercenter

8-11 DLS All Committee Meeting, Convention Center

11:30-1:30 ACRL Presidential Candidate Forum, Menger Hotel

1:30-6 IFC II, Marriot Rivercenter

6-? OCLC Blog Salon, Marriot Rivercenter

6:30-? CSA Reception & Dinner, Buckhorn Saloon


8-10 DLS Discussion Group, St Anthony Hotel (perhaps the elusive ANTH?)

1:30-6 IFC III, Marriot Rivercenter

Tuesday: Leave San Antonio waaaay too early in the morning

If anyone wants to meet up, that's where you can find me, or you can leave me a message on the ALA message center.

RSS feeds for LISNews journals?

Hey folks, there used to be a shiny orange RSS button for my LISNews journal and now it's gone (or at least I can't see it, it might still be there somewhere that I'm overlooking). If someone could tell me the link for my journal RSS feed, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

libraries and MySpace/Facebook

I've heard tales of librarians setting up outposts on MySpace and Facebook to reach the kids these days. Has anyone here tried it? Any success stories?

I've set up accounts at each and it was definitely a learning experience to see what students spend so much time doing on our internet terminals, but I'm not sure I see the outreach potential. I wouldn't want librarians bugging me on either of those spaces, but Facebook did provide a bit more insight into the campus community.

Click here for my MySpace

On Facebook you can search for me by name and I should turn up. If you don't know my full name just use your librarian skills to hunt me down :-) Or drop me a comment if you want to know.

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