Category Archives: thinking aloud

killing time at the bookstore – not the library

A quick observation – while reading a New York Times article on the closing of Barnes & Noble stores, I was immediately struck by their first interviewee’s comment: I kill time at the bookstore.

The theme of the article is that bookstores are used in non book purchasing ways just as often, and that the demise of a brick and mortar store is saddening those who don’t buy anything on top of both employees and those who do enjoy purchasing while they browse.

Or just browsing, in general. Amazon does a fairly good job of this but it’s far from the real thing.

I couldn’t help thinking about this situation in terms of libraries: because that’s what libraries are for. I think rather than talking about libraries attempting to simulate the bookstore experience – comfortable furniture, events, coffee – we could think of this from the perspective of the large chain bookstore taking over the library’s role in the community.

When it’s far more convenient to get to a Borders or Barnes & Noble (and there are more of them, making it easier to just pop in wherever you are), why bother funding libraries? If they let you hang out and read as much as you want (again, the interviewee talks about reading a book a chapter at a time when he comes in with time to kill), what need are libraries fulfilling, other than letting you check the books out without paying something on top of your taxes?

Why not rethink this upsetting situation in which bookstores are closing as an opportunity for libraries to make their case as the original entities fulfilling this role, and as an essential part of the community?

It seems to me that “community” spaces are more and more private, commercial spaces in the US. The bookstore, the coffee shop, the gym. I can’t remember ever going to a community center in my entire life. And my local library in Ypsilanti is very isolated, a drive away from where I live downtown, and is not even on public transit (which I use most of the time rather than driving). It’s easier for me to wander into the Barnes & Noble or Borders (or three) that are on my local errand runs – and that are on multiple bus lines – than to take a trip out of my way to the library.

Instead of focusing on single focal points, why not a distributed form of libraries – small storefronts, if you will? I can’t think of anything that could serve a community better than more spread-out, accessible, convenient service that promotes itself clearly and loudly as an antidote to disappearing bookstores – and as an irreplaceable part of the private-but-public fabric of the community.

series proposals

In lieu of actual content (which I promise I am actually working on in draft form), I have a few proposals and I’d be interested to hear some feedback on them.

As a beginning professional blogger (and by that I mean “blog about my profession,” not “it’s my job”), I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach it. How do I attract and retain readers? How much substance is enough, is expected, or is too much? Do I act as a link referral service, commentary, or something closer to my academic work?

I could do all three, but what I am coming to think is that I need serious consistency. I am thinking of it in the following ways:

  • posting frequency
  • posting content consistency
  • focus on my academic and professional work, big picture style
  • currency/timeliness

But I think a fine and perhaps necessary addition to this kind of stream of consciousness style posting is a series. A series or two?

My ideas boil down to these three:

  • weekly On the Media review and commentary
  • monthly Moratoria highlighting terms and methodology within my fields that “I find problematic” (that’s academic slang for “they piss me off and I can’t believe people actually use them in this day and age”)
  • perhaps most important, Read the Fine Print (the original title of this blog, stricken for being too forgettable), highlighting the complexities of ownership, intellectual property, contracts, power relationships in publishing, publishing customs, assumptions and their reality, and issues in authorship.
  • I spoke too soon – on par in importance, Librarian Alert, covering topics that are less well-represented in the library blogosphere and academic literature – some examples are net neutrality, thinking of plagiarism from the standpoint of student authorship rather than source evaluation, and critical information literacy theory and practice in instruction.

What do you think? Is there anything else related to book history, librarianship, journalism, communication, information science, Japanese literature, literature in general, or my fascinating (read: not) life that you’re interested in hearing about regularly? Topics I haven’t covered or seem to be unintentionally avoiding?

Thoughts?

arbitrary categorization: temporal boundary installment

An arbitrary annoyance of mine has piqued a strange and obsessive interest, and perhaps you could say, a one-woman mission to rethink the way we cut off time.

A fancy way of saying this: as midnight approaches (well beyond my bedtime on a school night), I look at the clock in the playground below my balcony. And I think, it’s almost tomorrow.

But why is it almost tomorrow? Why mark the day with midnight, why that arbitrary division? Not that any division won’t be arbitrary, that any border or category of “day” and “hour” and any other subdivision won’t be, but that I wonder – why not the dawn?

Surely, one can protest, it is fluid and doesn’t remain constant on every day. It ruins, as Benedict Anderson put it, homogenous, empty time. Is time homogeneous, even for those of us who live in supposed modernity? I argue that it is not, although that’s not much of an argument. I state that is not. I put forward that we give great meaning to temporal boundaries, that those meanings change day today, season to season, year to year. Those boundaries can, and are, meaningful markers, no matter how arbitrary.

As a technical Catholic (there is no escape; trust me, I tried), I reflected recently on my idea to spend Christmas as a vacation, to indulge my atheism. And then it hit me – perhaps I could enjoy a really spectacular Christmas in finding an opulent Catholic church and attending midnight mass.

Midnight mass. What an example. I’ve got my own intellectual issues with Anderson. They are legion. I can’t think of a better example to contradict his argument about time and modernity. Midnight mass is a technicality, like so much in the Catholic faith (and I say that with the utmost good will), a way to get in an obligation just-in-time, before getting off the hook for the commercial and gustatory hedonism that is Christmas Day. It’s predicted “just-in-time” delivery of business services by, well, as long as it’s existed. Something tells me that’s quite longer than the 1990s.

Back to my proposition, which is this: forget this day change at midnight. What is the point? We sleep through it. (Well, some of us. We should. And we don’t.) We can’t directly experience our social marking of the boundaries of the day. There is, really, no social marking, save for those on the night shift or those who are rushing to finish a project that was due tomorrow one minute, then today the next. Midnight projects an air of sadness, loneliness, and sometimes one of panic.

I’m on a one-woman mission to change this. From now on, I call for a universal change of marking the passage of one day to the next. My choice is 5 am. I’d love dawn. But our homogeneous empty time seems to call for an arbitrary number. 5 am. This is what I want.

Anyone with me?

photography and the real

originally published 2010.03.02 at http://mali-in-japan.livejournal.com/49238.html

Regarding this article (okay, David Pogue’s blog entry) in today’s New York Times: Photoshop and Photography: When Is It Real?

So, the basic issue here is – when does photography cross the line from “photography” to, well something else? Something “fake” or set up or constructed? In other words, to put it in the simpler words of the headline – when is it photography and when is it just Photoshop?
Continue reading photography and the real

moratoria: “western” edition

Some of you who know me well (academically) will probably not be surprised by this post, but here I go anyway. I just need to vent a little.

I am typing up handwritten notes right now, getting organized. I am typing some words over and over (used by the authors of the things I took notes on, not me): “western,” “european” and their “influence”.

Okay, I am officially calling you out on this, scholars. This, as far as I am concerned, is about as INTELLECTUALLY LAZY as you can get.
Continue reading moratoria: “western” edition