Category Archives: Librarical

I’m a library science student, so sometimes I want to talk about shushing.

John Irving in libraries

A friend of mine works at the Plymouth Regional High School in NH. He’s responsible for their zine collection and their movie club (therefore fits neatly into the ‘hot librarian’ category).

He pinged me to brag that after their committee to evaluate challenged books (to non-library/school folk, I mean books that are scrutinized for being inappropriate) sat down to look at John Irving’s “Hotel New Hampshire“, and deemed it appropriate enough to stay.

The head librarian wrote a letter to John Irving, and he wrote them back, and sent signed copies of 5 of his books. How awesome is that?

Can you imagine how many letters J.D. Salinger would have to write?

A question for the librarians

A lawyer friend brought this case to my attention:

Wisconsin woman, 20, arrested for two overdue library volumes

Basically, she borrowed two novels and didn’t return them. The library sent letters to her house, which she ignored. That’s when the Failure to Return Library Materials ordinance made it possible for police to go to her house and arrest her.

I’m not aware of the varying levels of procedure found at libraries around the country, but I was under the impression that at the very worst, someone would have their account frozen and a collection agency brought in to try to collect the amount (it would have to be a large amount to warrant the cost of the collection agency).

I don’t think this was covered anywhere in the classes I took – what do all y’all librarians know about this?

Open source library classification (or: eff Dewey)

(My apologies to the hundres on drinking_GSLIS who also read my blog.)

So, as you know, I work at LibraryThing now, and Tim (ye olde founder) just declared war on the Dewey Decimal System at the American Library Association conference last week.

Anyway, the point is, he’d like to start an open source classification system. That means instead of the Dewey System that public libraries tend to use (and you have to pay for, and is antiquated), we build a new one, based on everyone’s expertise – think hot wiki action.) Now, will this work? (My paycheck tells me ‘yes’.) Is it possible to get consensus? Is it possible to get enough crowdsourcing? Will it be discovered that everyone lurves Dewey and there’s no need for change, and we like paying for DDC access? Probably not that.

Having spent a goodly amount of time as a grad student thinking about things just like this, I’m totally enamored with this as an idea. (Also I get to spend work time thinking about it.)

His blog post outlining the idea.

The LibraryThing group that has started in on it.

Any questions or thoughts not meant for the group? You can email me at my work email
– sonya at

If this post is completely uninteresting, watch this instead.

Gork gork gork, says Keem.


I’m in Washington DC this week, exhibiting with LibraryThing at Computers in Libraries.

I’m staying with Shane and E, which has been wonderful, because they’re part of my friend family, and they don’t get mad when I come home late from working, or care that I fall asleep on the couch while Shane watches baseball mans.

There was a bonus Angela weekend, which I thoroughly took advantage of – eating food, lazing about, etc.

Ooh, I just read Shane and E’s blog post about me coming, and I echo all the sentiments. And then some.

Thoughts on Radical Reference

If you haven’t heard of Radical Reference, it’s a group of librarians dedicated to providing information and supporting social justice. The thing that appeals most to me about the organization is the event-based work they do. The whole thing started with the 2004 Republican National Convention, where a group of librarians provided assistance to demonstrators (you can read more on their ‘about’ page).

I can just imagine being at a big group gathering, providing any information I can to whomever walks up to me. I suppose one interpretation of the ‘radical reference’ term is that it’s no-holds-barred, street reference. I figured the librarians would have to do some research beforehand to be as well-versed as possible, then use their wits to answer questions. Perhaps they could be in cell-phone connection to people at home in front of computers to answer more detailed questions.

Yesterday it occurred to me that with an iPhone, I can provide answers to practically any reference question, on the fly. The thought gave me (good) chills.

PLA pals

So hey, I’m going to PLA.

What does that mean?

I’m going to be in Minneapolis from March 25th-30th. If you’re going to PLA, or live in Minneapolis, let me know so we can hang out.

Why are there no Babysitter’s Club readalike lists?

I’m just going to use Outsidecat to rant on reference questions I get.

Since my library has such a small space, we tend to get rid of things that don’t circulate – series takes up a lot of space, and although the occasional young person (or adult) inquires about them, it’s not worth the real estate.

A 19-year-old patron came in looking for the Babysitter’s Club series. As I asked her questions, I inferred that she had a low reading level. BSC is a great hi-lo (high interest, low reading leve) series – the language isn’t very difficult, but there’s enough responsibility and teen angst to appeal to older readers.

I found a few readalike lists that included BSC, but they all seemed to be about a younger age group. What I wish the interslice tubes could send me is a list of books like BSC for hi-lo readers.

Reference interview failures

A patron came in today asking for books for his 10- and 12-year olds on stealing and teasing animals, respectively.

I’m so impressed and glad the dad came to the library looking for information about these difficult issues, and I was sorely disappointed to find very little in the way of books that would address the animal cruelty issue at a level appropriate for a 12-year-old.

Every time I encounter this kind of situation, I think “Someone should write that book.”

(I realize that there is probably a book out there, but seriously, I couldn’t find it.)