Audio books and reading #blogjune

So, apart from semantics, is listening to an audiobook the same as reading? The question is only important to me because I set myself a Goodreads target each year, and some of those are audiobooks. Given that I do about 15-16 hours of commuting per week, at also means a lot less time to kick back and read with my eyes.

As you might expect reading with the eyes affects the brain slightly differently to reading with one’s ears. According to Eric Jaffe, we are more easily distracted when we listen. Indeed, it seems that if you’re eye-reading, you concentrate better when you read out aloud. I don’t especially like ear-reading while doing other things so that I don’t get distracted. This includes driving in traffic – I’d much rather listen to the radio.  Most of my driving is on country roads with little traffic, so really it’s a case of watching out for the odd kangaroo.

I had a cassette recorder as a kid and can remember borrowing things like Kipling’s Just So Stories, plugging in an ear jack, and listening away after it was time to turn out the lights. So I find something quite comforting in being read to. And, while eye-reading lets you imagine speech, intonation, and so on, a masterful reader can spice things up wonderfully.

And our stories once were told orally. These guys have a short podcast on what the differences between ear-reading and eye-reading, and why the former isn’t a short-cut.


Tonight I start first-time ear-reading of an old favourite.




Distributed Collections #blogjune

At the end of last year, the shelves at our campus were full, and we were getting more items for our Women’s Studies program transferred from another campus. We’d weeded the collection relatively recently, and so my bright idea (one of the few that I have) was to relocate most of the resources relevant to their study to another location – in this case, their classroom.

The cleverest part of the plan was that I was on Long Service Leave when the work had to be done, but still, someone has to come up with the ideas. Now that I’m back at work it seems to be working very well. The program uses a single classroom, which isn’t used by others, and they use a thin version of our LMS to book things out. We seem to be getting *more* of their students coming over to the library. I wonder whether it’s because it’s a relatively safe intorduction to using us? Most of them get tours and/or information literacy sessions at the beginning of the year, but from the student’s point of view it’s probably just part of the background noise of information that they have to process. And most of them are new to study, often many years after they finished school.

Students often return their items here, which we then have to take back to their classroom, but the little extra work (and exercise!) is worth it if it means that it makes access to our collection easier for our patrons. One thing that I would like do do is to convince the lecturers to let us arrange the stuff according to DDC. They have it arranged in ‘categories’ and, I suspect that the funny numbers on the spine are just made up.

I’ll be interested to see whether our end of year stats reflect increased use. I’m even thinking of trying with another program area. Academic libraries often have distributed collections – Law libraries, Medical, and so on. Anyone have positive (or negative) experiences of a distributed collection?



Serendipity and some new (to me) presentation tools

There are times that I don’t use Twitter a lot. Sometimes I’m busy, or preoccupied. Which is OK. It’s a bit like a radio. You don’t miss what you’ve missed.

I don’t do a lot of presentations at work except at the beginning of semester, so I have lots of time to rework them. I go to lots of presentations though, most of them really quite dreadful. They need to read this presentation that I stumbled across this morning.

It reinforces stuff that you will have heard before (keep the text to a minimum, for example). But it also has links to useful free stuff. if you’re pressed for time, I’ve listed these below. The first five help you find Creative Commons images. The last has some nice looking free fonts. (excellent for searching Flickr) (lots of stock photography) (more stock images) (add your text into images) (search for images by colour)

And that is all.

Why our future depends on libraries.

An absolutely brilliant lecture by one of my favourite writers, delivered to The Reading Agency earlier in October. You can read an edited version here.

One thing that it reinforces for me the is link between imagination and creativity. If creative problem solving is going to remain important, then everything that we do to foster imagination is important.

Another is that when you have a glut of information, you need guides to help you find what you need. Simply making something available, while important, isn’t sufficient.

Goodreads Reading Challenge 10/65 – Dragonkeeper

This is also my first review for the year for the Australian Women’s Writers’ Challenge for this year. Huzzah! And I’ve almost read my second of these for the year as well. It’s not Tolkien, but it’s an excellent story with a very good female lead character. This is suitable for older children up to about 14 years, said the expert without kids. But, I did do Young Adult literature when I was at librarty school and, I have to say, it was far and away my favourite subject. Knocked cataloguing right into a cocked hat. And I loved cataloguing!

Really. I did.

Good reading, everybody 🙂


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Dragon Keeper (Dragon Keeper, #1)Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In western literature, dragons are objects of terror that hoard treasure and breathe fire. There are exceptions, like the dragons in Ursula le Gun’s Earthsea series, and any Dungeons and Dragons player will know that there are dragons benign, and not all breathe fire. But the red fire-breather la Smaug think is usually our first picture.

So when I spotted a copy of Australian author Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper at the Goodwood library I made sure that it came home to visit. China also has a rich tradition of dragon lore that I’ve only encountered once before. It was a wonderful short story called Dragon…Ghost by M. Lucie Chin, published in the first issue of the long-defunct (but soon to be relaunched) Ares magazine.

Dragonkeeper is set in the 2nd century BC, during the Han dynasty. It tells the story of Ping, an 11-yar old girl who was sold into slavery by her parents. She is badly mistreated by her master, who is tasked with the care of the emperor’s dragons. These are also badly mistreated, and one dies. Ping eventually escapes with the last surviving dragon, Long Danzi (Long simply meaning dragon), and Hua, her pet rat. Also with them is a mysterious stone that Danzi was desperate to save. He must make the long journey to far-off Ocean to recover and Ping, with much reluctance, agrees to accompany him.

What Wilkinson has given us is a wonderfully told bildungsroman. It also sensitively explores the long effects of abuse upon Ping. She, illiterate and malnourished, is initially reluctant to escape her slavery. Though she desperately hates it, she knows no other life. The modicum of security it offers is some comfort for her. Later, when the reason for the title becomes evident, Danza reveals that he misread crucial signs because Ping is a girl.

I don’t know how well Dragonkeeper fits established Chinese dragon stories, but it is certainly evocative. Rather than roar, Chinese dragons gong. They have whiskers reminiscent of catfish and are mortally afraid of iron. Danza only communicates telepathically, so when she first hears his voice she’s not aware that she was ‘hearing’ a dragon.

It is not always an easy relationship. Given the task of looking after the dragon stone, Ping loses it to Diao, a dragon hunter. Dragon blood and organs are worth a lot of money because of their medicinal value. When Danzi learns that Ping has lost the stone, his anger is terrible;

‘Ping has failed’ he said over and over again. ‘Ping responsible for stone. Dragon stone comes first. Even before own safety.’

But Danza’s Confucian wisdom recognises Ping’s true worth, which is great indeed. She gains in confidence as the story progresses, though without bravado. Ping has to screw her courage up, which makes her the more worthy of praise.

Though it’s a book for older children, it isn’t a nice, safe book. Dragons are butchered, animal parts are sold and people die horribly. At one point, they come to a village that is suffering terribly from drought:

Fragments of their shouted conversation reached Ping on the wind.
‘…just a girl.’
‘Only Heaven…take life away.’
The woman was crying. Ping edged closer, trying to make out what it was they were talking about.
‘…a single life will be lost…’

In the end, Ping must confront her own desire for comfort and safety and make a decision. This is simply a wonderful and deservedly award winning book, suitable for readers from 10 to about 14. I’ve not read any of Carole Wilkinson’s works before. I’m looking forward very much to reading more.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Challenge 6/65 – Roman Centurions

A thin little book that I finished on the way to work. Including in the challenge feels like cheating, but it’s a read book. So there!. I borrowed this from our local library (actually, they borrowed it from another local library for me). I was interested in the dress and organisation of a centurion from the 5th century, and bingo! It was on the final plate. Just a bit of detail for my book.

I must say that I really like the One Library service that the South Australian Public Library Network provides. A member at Unley, so far this year my loans have come from:

Mount Gambier
Roxby Downs (this one)
Mount Barker (twice)
Salisbury (I think also twice)

Plus a couple from my local. And I’ve returned them on time. All of them. Actually, one may have been a day late. As we all know of course, we librarians are the worst at returning stuff on time. Mostly.

Anyway, enjoy your reading folks. There is some fiction to come. And more Roman stuff. Sorry about that.

Roman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500: The Classical and Late EmpireRoman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500: The Classical and Late Empire by Raffaele D’Amato
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is concise summary of the evidence available on what was the backbone of the Roman beyond the dissolution of the Empire in the West. It covers organisation, career progression, pay, equipment and clothing.

The thing that is striking is that, despite the tremendous changes within the Roman Military over the 500+ years covered, the role and status of the centurion remained remarkably stable. They were very well paid indeed: often as much as 15 times the salary of a legionary. But while they shared the risks of their men, they were also responsible for their men’s performance on and off the battlefield. A perceived dereliction of duty could mean death.

There were a several important distinctions that marked a centurion, but the one that characterised the whole period was the vine staff. This was a mark of office and it could be used to discipline their men. It was fascinating to see the evolutions in its shape. One illustration shows a staff peeking out from behind a shield, its shape a lotus.

Apart from numerous references there is a lot of excellent archaeological information, including fragments of a leg greave. As you would expect, funerary monuments also feature prominently. Finally, the plate illustrations are first-class. I was pleased to see that the 5th century centurion in the final plate was based on the wonderful mosaics at Santa Maria Maggiore (perhaps my favourite church in Rome).

A thin volume for the price but an excellent reference. I wouldn’t recommend the kindle version unless you’re reading on a tablet because the illustrations add so much.

View all my reviews

23 Things – Twitter

I am on Twitter and Yammer all the time at work. I love them! Yes, they can be inane. Yes, they can be distracting. But they are invaluable network and research tools.

I found Yammer easier to get into, in part because your network is already made for you (because it’s your colleagues in your workplace). Twitter takes time and effort to build up networks, so the adoption curve is that much greater. It too me a couple years (and a lot of Yammer use) to get tweeting. At this stage, I find that while I post prolifically on Yammer, I’m still tend towards lurking in Twitter.

So why do I like them so much?

  1. Because they are micro-blogging sites they are excellent at capturing the immediacy of a moment. A blog post is good for reflection and analysis.
  2. It’s an excellent search tool. If I want information on a subject I will often go to Twitter before Google. Twitter searches turn up more recent information. It is also filtered by the best form of intelligence – people. In Twitter, the cream really does rise. Good posts are tweeted and re-tweeted, and the fact that tweets can include URLs mean that you can find blog posts, images, podcasts, etc.
  3. Twitter helps improve your writing. Trying to pack in 140 characters means that you sometimes have to carefully edit before you post.
  4. It’s a great way to ask for information. I’ve had a number of queries answered via both Twitter and Yammer. It’s often quicker and more efficient than sending e-mails to lists of people.
  5. Twitter has a lot of really cool tools. Twitpics allows you to post photos to Twitter. Tweetdeck can help you manage your Twitter, Facebook and Myspace accounts from the one application. Echofon is a nice Firefox app that sits quietly in the corner of your browser and pops up when you receive a new tweet.
  6. It enables you to be helpful. Building a network is as much about giving as getting. The more you give time and help to your networks, the more you’ll get back.

Twitter has recently added lists to its bag of tricks. Now you can sort the twits that you follow into lists, which seems to be a popuilar activity amongst people that I follow.

Applications for libraries? Again, organising a community around you, which you can use for promotion is one obvious use. Another is Reference Queries by Tweet. Or check out this ning site for more ideas.