29 December 2014

Review: Us Conductors

Us Conductors
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written. The story does go slowly, so not a good choice if you're looking for a page turner. Termen is a sympathetic and contradictory character - eccentric genius inventor, quick to love and loyalty, naive and bumbling, but capable (perhaps only just) in the spy game he's fallen into. Every character in the book has a presence, however minor. 5/5

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16 December 2014

Review: MaddAddam

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Overall I really enjoyed this trilogy, even if Oryx and Crake was a bit of a weak start. This final book took a bit of time to warm up as it slowly knits together the reminisces of Zeb with the events leading up to, during, and following Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. The main voice in this book is the sage Toby, as she tells the stories of Crake, Zeb, and others to the Crakers. i listened to the audiobook, and while it took me awhile to warm up to the voice of Zeb (which I did) the rest of the characters were excellently read. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys both literary and science fiction because this is a beautiful blend of both.

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09 December 2014

Review: The Bear

The Bear
The Bear by Claire Cameron

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The child narrator just isn't my thing, and I felt like the voice was possibly too young for a 5 year old. The premise of the book and the writing was good. The wrap up was good too - the ending was very poignant. Others might read this and get more out of it, but it just wasn't for me.

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08 December 2014

Review: Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising
Truth in Advertising by John Kenney

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alternates between biting sarcastic humour about the vacuousness of advertising, consumerism and social detachment; and touching passages about grief, loss, and finding love. Liked the touching passages better than the biting humour, but I wonder if the contrast between the two made them that much sweeter. Not my usual read, and a bit of a slog for where I am in my reading right now (that is, staring down a pile of books that just aren't getting me jazzed), but a good book nonetheless.

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17 November 2014

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel opens with washed up Hollywood actor and tabloid darling Arthur Leander having a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. As a former paparazzo turned paramedic-in-training performs CPR and the curtain is dropped, a young girl watches from the wings as the nice man who gave her comic books only hours before dies. Little does anyone know that the world as they know it has begun to unravel, and nearly everyone in the audience will be gone in mere weeks, dead from a massive flu pandemic.

Years later, a troupe of nomads calling themselves the Traveling Symphony move from settlement to settlement along the Great Lakes through southwestern Ontario and northern Michigan performing music and Shakespeare – harkening back to an earlier time when theatre and the arts was salve to a world reeling from plague. Along the way they encounter pockets of humanity surviving in a world without electricity, gasoline, and medicine; a new generation where the trappings of what was the modern world before it collapsed are fading into history.

Scavenging through abandoned houses among the bones of the dead, Kirsten – who’s only memory of the collapse includes an actor who treated her kindly falling dead on a stage – searches for her fellow actors stolen away from the Traveling Symphony by a mysterious prophet. As the acting troupe and the cult venture to the fabled Museum of Civilization, they discover that they have more than a passing connection stretching back to that fateful performance of King Lear.

I'm conflicted about Station Eleven. I've come to the conclusion that I did like it... and actually liked it quite a lot... but that there were some stylistic things that I really didn't like. So it's a tough one.

I've also been reading the MaddAddam Trilogy at the same time, which is pretty brilliant post-apocalyptic writing, and I haven't been able to help comparing the two worlds. I found Station Eleven quite grounded and a bit more frighteningly plausible in the short term where Atwood really has a fondness for the ridiculous and really goes after the far end of the slippery slope.

I think my big problem with Station Eleven was it seemed to have one too many literary devices going on. Here we are in the past, then the present, then the recent past, now we're reading an interview, now we're back in the third person, now we're in the distant third... and all at sort of random times and duration. Perhaps a more even tone would have elevated the book to what I felt like it should be.

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08 November 2014

Connecting with Community Planning

Three ways that the Public Library can connect with municipal planning:

1. Align the library's strategic plan with the municipal government's strategic plan (or whatever documented goals and values that the municipality has in place). If the library and the municipality have disparate goals, they will always work at cross purposes and the relationship won't be productive.

2. Be involved in the municipality - what a CEO or manager are considered at a municipal level may differ from system to system (some are department heads, some are not) but in whatever capacity is appropriate, to work with other municipal employees and managers will mean that the library is thought of in terms of planning - not just including the library in municipal planning, but finding key uses for the library in fulfilling the goals set out by municipal planning.

3. Provide a proven track record - show concrete examples of how the library is helping to fulfill municipal goals through the annual report. If the library proves itself a productive member of the municipality by contributing to the goals of the municipality, then the library will continue to be included in municipal planning and be valued as a partner in that planning.

06 November 2014

Key Concepts from the Planning Classroom Session

Two of the ideas that stuck with me the most from the Planning classroom session:

1. Everything goes back to the strategic plan, and your strategic plan should be aligned with the strategic goals of your municipality.

2. Step into the future.

I guess the common thread here is anchoring. The strat plan anchors our decision making and keeps us on the path that we set out for the library. Stepping into the future anchors our planning - gives us the "why" of what we are doing. Why do we want to do this? Because it will lead to the future we envision for the library.

05 November 2014

Review: The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this one, and having read it, I actually like Oryx and Crakebetter than I did when I read it alone. You could probably interleave The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake and have one big novel. Looking forward to finishing the trilogy with MaddAddam. The audio was read in multiple voices, all done well. The song lyrics of the Gardeners are brought to life with guitar accompaniment and occasionally others singing along. 5/5

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28 October 2014

Review: Consumed

Consumed by David Cronenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This debut novel from Cronenberg will likely appeal to fans of his films, and to readers looking for something strange but smartly written. Tech, fetishism, medical obsession, body horror, cannibalism, sex and philosophy all feature prominently. There was a fairly jarring change from third to first person in the last third of the novel or so. You get the sense that the themes explored in the book have been bouncing around Cronenberg's head for some time, and once it all comes out the book just kind of ends. This is one of those books where even though I didn't really enjoy the characters very much, I was compelled to keep reading just to see where the story was going. 3.5/5

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27 October 2014

Review: Tell

Tell by Frances Itani

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quiet and gentle story about something that is neither quiet or gentle. Itani deftly weaves a story about two couples, each dealing with their own personal tragedies and the secrets which burden them. This novel will appeal especially to people who find themselves in genealogy libraries and pouring over old community newspapers and who will enjoy the detailed descriptions of post-WWI life in Ontario. 4/5

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25 October 2014

Review: The Martian

The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book for space geeks - Weir writes tech in a very accessible and enthusiastic way. R.C. Bray reads the audiobook and is a master of accents. My only quibbles are some stylistic aspects of the novel - jarring changes in tense from first to third to distant third person, and that Bray's voice had sometimes a little too much gravity for the jokerish Mark Watney. 4/5

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13 October 2014

APLL: Planning Pre-work

The three things I would like to take away from the APLL Planning Course are:

1. How to evaluate your current planning as time goes on and the environment changes.
2. How to integrate your plan into the daily culture of your library - staff buy-in etc.
3. How to evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of your plan through qualitative and quantitative means.

Haliburton County Public Library's mission and vision statements can be found within our strategic plan: http://www.haliburtonlibrary.ca/stratplan2013.pdf

09 October 2014

Module 4: Missions and Visions

For me the value of the public library ties directly to freedom of expression which is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Inextricably bound with freedom of expression are the rights to seek, find, and spread ideas. This not only involves information sources (books, internet access, etc.) but it also involves interacting with others in a common space. Freedom of expression being a fundamental right in our culture, we need to strive to make access to our public libraries barrier free. Words that struck me as I read through a variety of public library mission and vision statements included words that directly relate to freedom of expression as a fundamental value of public libraries: Connection, community, knowledge, collaboration.

As a point of interest, this video (one of my favourites) kept jumping to mind as I read through the different pieces for this module.

06 October 2014


What a crazy couple of weeks this has been!

When I wrote my last APLL post it was 2 days before I was to move house,  and I wrote it on my bed surrounded by boxes (you can see I got a little punchy at the end). I'm writing this surrounded by boxes too, but in a new house!

The lead up to moving was very hectic. I took my holidays starting on the closing date of our home purchase, which was October 1st, knowing I would be back to work today to help lead our annual Staff Day. So prior to October 1st I had to do all the things I normally needed to do, then do all the things I normally would need to do, then make sure that all my staff day stuff was in place and ready to go this morning. I actually dreaded this morning a little bit - I have filled, lugged, and emptied more boxes than I could count, cleaned corners, assembled furniture, and organized rooms that up until now I have had no say in. Last night as I went to sleep I could only keep asking myself how the heck I was going to switch gears and stand in front of a room full of Branch Supervisors and Branch Assistants and talk about library stuff.

I met my CEO at the office this morning before going to the staff day venue and said "I have no idea how I'm going to pull off today." She just said "You'll be fine!" Sometimes all you need to hear is that someone else has more faith in your organizational skills than you do - we are our own worst critics.

Anyway, it was a very good day. Staff Day is an annual event that's part training, part staff appreciation. We go over refresher type stuff, have draws and prizes, lunch, guest speakers, service awards, and a bit of easy yoga was thrown in for good measure. This is my second staff day I have attended, and the first I have helped organize and lead. In a system where our farthest branches are a good hour-and-a-half apart, it's really important that we get to see each other at least once a year! 

Now, having switched gears from moving to libraries, I'm catching up on APLL and relieved that I am not as far behind as I thought I might be. Staff Day (and seeing that my Planning package arrived via SOLS courier) made me think about our APLL Intensive coming up and how I am looking forward to meeting all of you and having that face-to-face.

29 September 2014

Review: Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a toughie - I feel like it took a lot of time for this one to get warmed up, and then it seemed to fizzle out before it really got started. At the same time, all the ideas are really intriguing - it's a near-future periapocalyptic dystopia peppered with things that are nascently recognizable today only brought to a morbid and sinister maturity. I felt sorry for Snowman, class clown turned possible last human on earth. He seems a man totally out of his depth throughout, but in touch with it as well as his own unravelling. The titular characters of Oryx and Crake seemed a little flat, as if part of the overall bleak landscape. The audio is masterfully read by Campbell Scott. 3.5/5

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28 September 2014

5 Minute Paper: Preliminary Observations on Leadership

In reading the wide variety of literature on leadership, and seeing the stories of seasoned and fledgling leaders, the thing I noticed most was how leaders and leadership is often paradoxical. Linda Hill of the Harvard Business school and her colleagues describe a leader as:

Similarly, Warren G. Bennis describes a leader as:

I also enjoyed reading about the softer side of leadership, something that I relate to more than some of the more "Type A" readings out there. Paul Sloane talks about "Lateral Leadership" which he attributes to innovation in organizations (something Linda Hill also focuses on when she provided the paradoxical attributes above).

Finally, I find comfort in reading from several sources that “leaders are more made than born”. It was inspiring to read about Seana O'Neill, the founder of Cottage Dreams, finding connections at the Banff Centre which has ultimately lead her to begin expanding Cottage Dreams into the Maritimes. Seana started Cottage Dreams in Haliburton County, and it provides an excellent service for those who have been through cancer treatment. 

**Afterwit: Thoughts thought after the 5 minutes... so they don't really count.**

Along the lines of "leaders are more made than born" ... Leader Values has this at the end of their self assessment tool (which was interesting to try out):

Remember, there are three stages in the Leadership journey:

1. skill development - know what to do
2. behaviour development - walk the talk
3. authenticity - be comfortable with your role

Another theme that came up in almost every single resource was that leadership was changing - the nature of, the approach to, etc.  

Finally, in the "what the..!?" file: Leaders Values had a video talking about Genghis Khan and a values approach to leadership (um...) While an admirable cherry picking and reduction of his reign as leader of Mongolia, it may have been a little bit of a stretch. But given the above thought that leadership is changing, could this be an illustration of plus ça change plus c'est la même chose? To quote John Cleese as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart "Take it away, Genghis."

5 Minute Paper: My Ideal Mentor

My ideal mentor is someone who knows when to let me learn for myself, but also knows when I need guidance, or provides guidance when I ask for it. See "How I Learn" -- I learn by doing. My ideal mentor is also someone who shares the big picture with me, even if it means I'm learning things that aren't directly applicable to the nuts and bolts of the job I am doing. Seeing this big picture, I find, actually helps me do my job better, and grow within and better understand my position within an organization. When I think of past and current mentors that I have had, there has always been a relationship of trust - trust that I will fulfill my duties in the best way I know how, trust that they will provide correction when I need it, trust that we will approach problems in an analytical and problem solving manner to meet our mutual goals. I have been lucky to have some wonderful mentors in my life.

22 September 2014

Review: Watch How We Walk

Watch How We Walk
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LoveGrove is a poet as well as a novelist, and it shows. This is not an easy read, but it is a quick read. The writing cuts to the quick and is not overbearing. While the religious subject matter can be viewed as quite specific (and part of the draw of the book is that it is), there are themes that are universal throughout the book including isolation, trauma, and despair. This is an emotional and raw story, but not without a thread of hope.

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19 September 2014

5 Minute Paper: How I Learn

I learn best by doing. Some of my most rewarding and rich learning experiences were hands-on exercises. In my pre-library life it was the crime scene to court exercise for the M.Sc. in Forensic Science program at the University of Strathclyde, where as a team we processed a mock crime scene, processed the evidence, and then spoke to it in court 3 months later in front of a real judge and student lawyers. In my library life it was my MLIS co-op at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. in their special library at Chalk River, doing real reference interviews with real scientists and engineers doing projects with concrete outcomes.

I find I learn best when I'm given a bit of the big picture, taken through a process at face value, and then analyzing that process afterwords with the "whys" and "why nots". This logical progression is probably not surprising as my highest score on the HRSDC quizzes were in logical/mathematical and visual/spacial.

18 September 2014

Review: Monster Calls, A: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd

Monster Calls, A: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd
Monster Calls, A: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something of a fable. A very poignant tale about fear, loss, and grief. Patrick Ness does a great job of writing a very sad story, but providing some levity as well. Read brilliantly by Jason Isaacs. 4.5/5

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17 September 2014

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but it's difficult to rate book one of two. The photography was interesting and worked in well. Though it would be just as good a story without. Some of Jacob's thoughts about his grandfather (the "a seventy year old hurt" passage in particular) were very poignant. Writing was a bit uneven with Jacob in some places sounding like an old soul and in others sounding like a bratty teenager. The end was a little "and then ... And then ... And then" and could have been tightened up a bit. I am looking forward to reading Hollow City. 3.5/5

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10 September 2014

Review: The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table
The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio, which was read by Michael Ondaatje. Once I was settled in, I really enjoyed Ondaatje's reading of this.

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08 September 2014

Review: yolo

yolo by Lauren Myracle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting premise but falls short. Texts try too hard to be cool (a constant barrage of pithy sarcasm that verges on the ridiculous). Dated memes and inauthentic formatting (no one would type "The Onion" in quotes in a text to someone who knows what The Onion is) sort of pull you out of it. That said... I wouldn't not recommend this book. Someone who enjoys a light read with a heartwarming story will like this. Myracle also touches on some universal themes - how relationships change in those first few months of post-secondary ed, how people change, life on your own for the first time, navigating roommates, dorms, meal plans, new friends, finding yourself, making your own decisions, etc. While the subject matter is timeless, I'm not sure the style of telling a story through the medium of texts will stand the test of time. 2.75/5

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28 August 2014

APLL Ice Breaker Post

So it's time to dust off the ol' blog!

I have enrolled in the Advanced Public Library Leadership Institute through the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS). The program is for public library professionals who are in management positions or who aspire to management positions. I'm looking forward to the next two years of learning from our instructor, Anne Marie, and the women in library leadership positions all over Ontario who are enrolled as well.

1.      In one or two sentences describe your primary job responsibilities.

As the Branch Services Librarian at Haliburton County Public Library I am responsible for supporting the day-to-day operations of the eight branches in our system which includes things like staff training, liaising with other departments (admin, IT, etc.), maintaining our website, implementing automation, and promoting branch programming. I split my day-to-day between our two largest branches and visit our smaller branches as needed. Another major aspect of my duties includes marketing and readers' advisory outreach through the local media and social media.

2.      Tell us something personal about yourself.

How about a picture of my cat? This is my cat.

He was a stray who came meowing at our door one winter. He kept coming back and eventually we fed him (congratulations, we have a new cat), and he slept in a box on top of our woodpile for a few months until we were too heartsick to let him live outside anymore. I named him Fehlend... which was chosen because a quick online search led me to believe that it was German for "missing". It is, sort of. The phrase unentschuldigt fehlend, means "unexcused absent" or more to our vernacular "playing hooky" - appropriate for a stray. We think Fehlend is a Norwegian Forest cat (or a mix thereof). He found us when he was around 9 months old and looked fully grown then. He's now 4 years old and 16 lbs which is where he will likely stay.

Another fun fact. My name is Erin and my husband's name is also Aaron. So we cause no end of confusion when answering the phone.

3.      What is it you like about libraries?

I started out liking libraries because of the books, of course. But don't we all?

I've spent a lot of time in libraries, whether public, academic, or special. I think the common thread through each is providing access to a piece of your own narrative. Whether it's knowledge to fill a gap in your own, a story to touch a piece of your heart not touched, or a place to be when you don't have a place for yourself.

I also think libraries represent, and offer, the basic human right to acquiring knowledge, and that as librarians we can provide the tools to people who seek knowledge. I've met many interesting people who are on the fringes of society who use the library in exactly that way, and we're the only ones who give them that free unencumbered access to something that fills a need in them. That never fails to touch me.

4.      Why are you interested in leadership?

I am interested in leadership because I often find myself in leadership positions without really considering myself a leader. That's not to say I don't feel like I have leadership experience, I do. But I feel that my leadership style is not really defined nor am I a natural leader (are any of us?). When working on leadership development at my former job (which was in distance education) we were fed quite a lot of sports analogies. A fellow coworker compared his leadership style more to that of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz rather than an NFL team captain. I think I feel the same way, and hope to develop my leadership skills along that vein - which seems harmonious with library leadership (I may learn otherwise, and that's okay).

More importantly, I am looking to fill those gaps that I find my MLIS didn't address when it comes to leadership in libraries. Things like the intricacies of dealing with municipal government, budgeting, facilities, etc. As well, my leadership experience is in more corporate (albeit, non-profit) environments, and I think there is a difference in library leadership, especially in terms of the library as public institution. I think I have an idea of those pieces, but feel they can come together more in my own mind. I'm lucky in that I have a really great mentor in my CEO at HCPL, but I am also looking forward to learning with and from my fellow professionals in APLL as well.

Review: Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Mr. Mercedes. Stephen King has written a really fun hard boiled detective/detective noir type novel that takes place in a contemporary setting. There are moments of delight, revulsion, suspense and drama in a page turner that you'll be loathe to put down. I read the audiobook narrated by Will Patton, who did a superb job. His inflection changed just enough to convey changes in character without being a caricature. 4.5/5

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12 August 2014

Review: The Good Dream

The Good Dream
The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Audiobook is definitely the way to go with this. Wonderfully read, and really pulls you in.

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29 July 2014

Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have no idea how to rate this book. The second and third quarters are a good novel. The first quarter I had a hard time getting into, and the last quarter felt like an essay on all the themes that the author had tried to weave into the story but never really managed to fully integrate. If the first and last quarter were chopped into bite-sized pieces and scattered throughout the book, then I think it might have been perfect.

I really liked Tartt's writing, even though her structure left something to be desired. Pittu's narration in the audio version, all 32.5 hours of it, is very enjoyable. He did start out a bit over emphatic at the beginning, but once more and more characters emerge he really shines. I'd listen to more books voiced by him.

I think in the end I need to separate what I thought of the book itself from my sense of accomplishment for having made it through. 3.5/5 for the book, 5/5 for I can't believe I read the whole thing.

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