For the Love of Grmm

Recently, I have discovered a fantastic new television show at the perfect time. NBC’s Grimm just returned from summer hiatus last week. I remember hearing about this show as a “one to watch” from last fall’s freshman shows but had not gotten around to watching it. I was able to devour the complete first season just in time for the Season 2 premiere. It is a police procedural but with an added supernatural elements. In the pilot, Nick Burkhardt, is a police detective in Portland who starts to see normal-looking human morph into supernatural creatures. Nick has inherited this “gift” of being able to see these creatures, called “wesen”, and is charged killing the bad ones.

As a child of the 90s, I grew up on the sanitized Disney versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I remember looking up the original fairy tales later and falling in love with them. I thought they were so much darker and scarier than the animated movies I saw as a child. This show takes those fairy tales and brings them to life as if the Brothers Grimm were criminal profilers, documenting their encounters with the “wesen”. David Greenwalt (of Buffy and Angel fame) is co-creator and executive producer of Grimm. After watching the show, it has a similar tone of his previous work. The show also features lots of actual German words in the names of the different creatures. My family has a strong German ancestry and I studied it in college so this aspect of the show really excited me. Confession: I had to look up most of the words to see what they meant though. Kudos to the dialogue coach because the pronunciation of the actors are dead on.

I feel like the landscape of network television is flooded with police procedural programs but this one adds some twists and turns that make it very entertaining to watch. During the first season, Nick deals with solving crimes, killing wesen, and keeping his Grimm identity a secret. Not always an easy task. I am fascinated by how the show re-tells my favorite stories. Take a peek at the teaser for Season 2. Also, NBC is really trying to welcome newcomers to the show so they also published a free ebook available here. (I’m still amazed that something this good is on NBC!)

Grimm Season 2 Teaser

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Statistics are even harder to come by for public libraries

Finding statistics is something librarians have always been asked. In recent months, it has become even more difficult with the cessation of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. This publication has long been the “go -to” resource for librarians when asked questions regarding demographics and workforce statistics. It gathered information from hundreds of agencies, associations and other groups that gather statistics on the population. Information that I would have found in the statistical abstract I have to look for in other places. For instance, I was looking for the number of emergency medicine physicians in the United States. I found this information in a table in the Healthcare section of the online Statistical Abstract. The information I found was last updated in 2011. The cited source for the information is American Medical Association’s Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S. , an expensive publication that most public libraries (including my own) do not own. Therefore, I would have to contact a local universality library that owned a copy of this publication in order to obtain an updated number.

Now, public and academic libraries are faced with seeking other sources of information for their patrons.While some of these data sources are published by other federal agencies, many are only available in expensive print publications or fee-based online resources. Thankfully, the collection of the sources is still intact in previous version of the Statistical Abstract so librarians and other researcher can know where to start looking.

Possible Sources of Demographics info:

Demographics Now – This is a fee-based database to which an institution can subscribe to specific data sets. The Charleston County Public Library has access to South Carolina data. This is one of the most user-friendly databases out there. You can search by City, ZIP Code, and customized drive times as well as 13 other kinds of geographical divisions.

Government Printing Office – GPO maintains an online catalog of their printings. As with many other federal agency website, the GPO website is packed with information that is often hard to navigate. I often find that if I know the specific title of a publication that it’s easier to use Google as a search instead of the site’s search features.

Locating data is now more difficult and we need knowledgeable librarians more than ever. I do hope in the future Congress will reinstate funds to bring back the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Realistically, I know that is highly unlikely because it’s role in government was largely underappreciated.

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I was a shy extrovert..

Many who know me as an adult would scoff at that statement but as a child I had a very outgoing personality but I was very shy and self-conscious. (I still am sometimes especially when speaking in front of large groups.) I was a little overweight kid who wore thick-glasses so making friends was not the easiest thing in the world. As a result, I developed habits of an introvert especially reading and studying. These revelations come after reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in World that Can’t Stop Talking. A friend recommended this book to me not long ago and I thought it would be a great way to understand my introverted friends, family and coworkers. I found out a lot more about myself and how I relate to people. The author goes into great detail about the psychological mindset of introverts and explains the roots of America’s insistence on the “extrovert ideal.”

I found out things about myself while reading this book but also gained a better understanding of those around me. I work in the library profession where many of my coworkers are introverts. I have gone through times where I don’t seem to know how to relate to them and probably irritate them with endless chatter. I discovered that if you leave others their quiet time to recharge, they don’t mind engaging. I also realized that while reading this book that more extroverted individuals should flock to the library science profession. I mean I interact with people on a daily basis both face-to-face and on the phone. I think there is room for those who like a quieter work environment, maybe in technical services or at a small, quiet branch. However, it baffles me that the job “librarian” is still seen as something that bookish, introverted individuals should enjoy.  While there are elements of that, the type of work and the temperament of librarians is changing. There are many roles that almost require an extroverted personality.

Another issue that really resonated for me was Cain’s discussion of office dynamics and team collaboration. She discussed many instances where an individual’s best work is often done alone. I feel like many employers today over-emphasize the role of collaboration. If you have many employees that lean towards introversion, it might be better to see what they can do on their own. I think when team and committees are formed, the extroverts tend to win out over the others. (I say this because I am guilty of doing on probably more than one occasion.) I went to primary school at the beginning of the trend of group learning in schools. I had so many group assignments and projects and I really hating doing them because I ended doing the bulk of the work even when trying to distribute it evenly. Even as an adult, That’s not to say that nothing good comes from a committee but sometimes that are just too many cooks and you have to go it alone to get things done.

I firmly believe that my profession would be better served if more extroverts were to consider library science. I think it adds balance to any workplace. Personally, I seem to get along better with my more introverted coworkers. Maybe it has something to do with the yin-yang or different temperaments complementing each other. As a side note, if you have kids who are a different temperament than you, this book also offers a very informative section on parenting those kids to help them fully know who they are and not be ashamed of it.

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First Annual Google Fest at TTC!

 The Google Data Center in Berkeley County organized the first annual Google Fest which brought together educators, small business owners and nonprofits to Trident Technical College. Even though I work for a government agency, I work with a lot of nonprofit organizations so it was great to go and learn about some of the products that can help nonprofits conduct their business more efficiently.

The morning consisted of some general sessions that were quite informative. Alex Abelin from Google spoke of the technological revolution and the creation of the digital marketplace over the past few years.  He cited a statistic that 60 % of South Carolina businesses are not online. (I personally couldn’t believe it was that high.) The consumers are driving the marketplace with successes such as eBay, Amazon, Farmville and Youtube. Much of the growth lately has been in mobile commerce. 79% of consumers use their smartphone while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to comparison shop for the best deal. Abelin stated that businesses should strive to have less disparity between the online price and the price offered in brick-and-mortar stores. I have to agree but it will be a challenge for retailers to keep up with Amazon and eBay.
One of the reasons I came to this conference was learn more about “the cloud” and what it meant for online storage.  Enoch Moeller and Eric Wages gave a presentation about the future of the “Cloud.” They covered a brief history of computing, starting with when computers took up entire rooms to the present. I could see many eyes glaze over as he talked about mainframes and servers but I found it interesting. Businesses can use cloud storage to their advantage so they don’t have to spend the time and the money setting up their own storage and can focus more on running their business. There are many advantages to using cloud stage: , redundancy, access from anywhere, reduction of carbon footprint and ease of online collaboration. Business can turn a capital expenditure into an operational expenditure in their budgets. I personally use the new Google Drive for my personal and professional work. I think all in attendance were given food for thought about the possibilities of these online tools and storage.

Google Apps & Drive for Business:

Why Google Drive?

  • files are everywhere
  • Computers crash, easy to recreate from online backups.
  • Sharing & collaboration
  • Storage is expensive

The Google Apps suite consists of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), Sites, Gmail, Groups, Calendar. Within Google Drive, you can create documents, spreadsheets and presentation and share them collaboratively. You can download an application to your computer and sync to any Google Drive and download the files locally to your computer.
Right now, there is a mobile app for Andriod devices for using Google Apps and an iOS app is in development, (Not soon enough!) The Google representative said the API would be released very soon.

AdWords for Nonprofits
AdWords is Google platform for creating online advertising through the Google search engine. Google has lots of options for organizations and business. Check out the AdWords Beginners’ Guide before setting up an account. The key to success with AdWords is creating ads that match keywords that your potential users/customers might use. They have a keyword generator but most people can probably do a better job creating their because they know their own organization.

Goolge Grants – Google offers grants of free advertising dollars to nonprofit organizations. The organization must have 501(c)(3) status   as defined by the IRS. The ads created must also link to a relevant website. The awards can be up to $10,000 per month but the cost per click is limited to $1. Therefore, some keywords might not be available because they have a higher cost-per-click rate.

Google does have phone support for AdWords and they can be reached at 1-866-2GOOGLE (246-6459).

All in all, it was a good conference. I thought it was very well-planned. I am not sure I liked how the sessions were divided. I ended hearing the same thing in one of the small business sessions that I had heard in one of the nonprofit sessions. I would have liked more description for the breakout sessions so I could prioritize what to go to. I really hope that can repeat next year for those who could not attend this year.

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Top of the Rock: The Rise and Fall of Must See TV: Book Review

I am a big fan of great comedy and grew up watching many of the hit shows that Warren Littlefield was responsible for on NBC during the 80s and 90s. Top of the Rock: The Rise and Fall of Must See TV is a great oral history from the executives, directors, producers and actors who were involved in one of the greatest eras in television history. This book is  fast, entertaining read.

Littlefield talks about the behind-the-scenes developments of great shows: Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, ER and Will & Grace. I find it fascinating for him to describe the situation of NBC in the early 80s; it’s not that different from NBC’s current predicament. Littlefield mentions several times that most of his success came from allowing creative people to be creative and trusting them. What a concept? If creativity and innovation are respected, success is sure to follow. It is kind of odd to think these shows would not even be made in today’s market.

I found this book interesting and a great read for anyone who loves television and pop culture.  It was interesting to get an insider’s view on how certain shows get on the air. Confession: the shows in this book that aired in the 80s I watched as reruns!


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Book Review- The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

I was delightfully surprised when I started reading Steven Greenblatt’s new book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. Many have recommended it to me and it sounded like a book I should buy because of its relevance to history, classical literature and the modern world. It mad me remember so much from my college classes. I was a History major with a minor in Classics and Latin. So I have quite a few tidbits of knowledge.

This book explores the history of the discovery of a seminal piece of classical literature, Lucretius’s De Rerum natura or”On the Nature of Things” As many know, many classical works were “lost” after the fall of the Roman Empire. These works somehow survived in monastic libraries for hundreds of years. Greenblatt follows the journey of one the famed book hunters from the early Renaissance, Poggio. He follows this humanist from his early beginnings in Florence to his position in the Roman Curia.

I find this kind of history fascinating. Greenblatt takes you on a journey of one man’s quest to hunt for hidden treasures in monasteries and “rescue” books from obscurity. It is mind-boggling to think that this classic piece of literature had to be un-earthed. I had to read it when I was in college. I am glad that I decided to purchase this book because of the wealth of information included.

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The Art of Networking

Everyone has always told me that since I was an extrovert that I should be a natural at networking. This has usually been true but I found my self not really excelling at it. I heard about a great book on networking from a career podcast. The book is called Work the Pond: Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and in Life. It is co-authored by Darcy Rezac, Judy Thompson and Gayle Hallgreen-Rezac. This book was written in 2005 and while the technology has changed, the strategies in it still hold true. I have always been able to start conversations with people I don’t know and build rapport easily. However, I have always struggled with organization and follow-up. I picked up some good tips from this book on staying organized and wrapping up conversation so I can talk to as many people as possible. This book offers some practical tips such as where to keep your business cards while at an event. Men have it so easy. They can just put their cards in their suit jacket pocket. As a woman, sometimes it’s hard to have an easy place to put cards when mingling at a party of function.

I work in a profession that doesn’t rely as heavily on networking as it should. I strongly believe that a good public services librarian take every opportunity to develop a personal network. In my experience this has helped me to meet new people who may not be aware of library resources. I have also met contacts that I have invited to do library programs and activities.  I also try to take the opportunity to make contacts at local and national conferences. I like that I have a large network at my fingertips because of the ease of connection with social media. This book gave me some more practical tools to network in a more effective way.  So no matter your personality type, this book can make you into an effective networking guru.

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New Facebook Timeline for Libraries: What We Need to Know

It would not be Facebook if they did not change their layout and rules. It seems that just when you get the hang of the rules, they change. This is the nature of the beast I suppose.  I know many who work with social media in libraries and other not-for-profit organizations are wondering how the new changes affect them.

1. Choose a cover image. This is the first thing users will see when they visit your page. The landing pages has gone away. (This was a relief to me because I had created my library’s landing page from scratch quite some time ago and was bemoaning designing a new one.) Many libraries and nonprofit organizations don’t have the resources to hire a designer but that doesn’t mean your cover image has to suffer. Check out these tips: How to Create A Terrific Facebook Cover Image if You Don’t Have the Resources to Hire a Designer

Some considerations:
– The ideal size for this is 810 x 315 pixels. However, if you upload an image that is larger, you can drag the image to fit the allowed space.
-You cannot have a call to action in your cover photo
-This is a great opportunity for libraries to show off their brand, highlights new programs or new materials.

2. New features – There are a few new features that were added and some that were taken away. Fangates and landing pages have gone away. You can now receive private messages from users which is a nice feature but if you don’t want to connect to users in this way, you can turn off this feature. You can choose what is visible on your page: Highlights, Posts by Others, Post by you, or Friend Activity. As far as I can tell; Highlights is a good default because it show a little bit of everything. But depending how active your users are, one of the other options may serve you better. You can also highlight or pin posts to the top of your page. This feature is located in the corner of each post. Facebook has a help page to guide you through the new features which I found helpful.

3. Layout. As I said previously, you can choose what is displayed on your page. Unfortunately, when viewing Highlights, there is no way to change the layout of what is displayed. Hopefully, if enough people complain, Facebook will allow the pages more flexibility. You can customize by highlighting posts and updating a variety of content to give variety to your page. Admins can also choose three “apps” to feature under the cover image. Photos are automatically featured in the first box. I chose to feature Photos, Events and the Youtube app. Then, users would have to click on the more tabs to see others apps such as Notes or Map.

This is by no means a comprehensive overview, but it just scratches the surface. One of the most important things to think about with the new layout is that you should keep you should keep content fresh and visually stimulating. I look forward to hearing what others in the nonprofit world share regarding the new fomrat.



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Geeking out is my perrogative

Some might say I am in the perfect profession to fan the the flames of my inner geek. I freely admit to having a lot of geek loves and sharing them with whoever will listen. I have always loved discovered new things to geek out over and re-visiting old favorites. Currently, I am indulging in several gems that I just can’t stop talking about.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – This is a fantastic short film that I saw just a few days ago for the first time. The SC State Library shared it on their Facebook page. (Like a good tech geek, I followed suit and shared with all my online friends too ). I was enthralled with the artistry of the film. The books we read become such a large part of who we are and this lovely film celebrates that. You can only imagine how excited I was when this lovely little film won an Academy Award this past Sunday night. I have always been fascinated by short films;they seem to be able to tell a great story in a very short time, and this one in particular as it has no dialogue.

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks and Other Misfits are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon – I heard about this book a few months ago but just got around to reading it this week (Story of my life.) Anyway, I enjoyed the premise of celebrating geekishness. The author highlights different types of girls geeks in each chapter and heralds top “goddesses” that have accomplished great things. I like books like this because if I read about something I love, I am excited but If I discover something new, I am equally excited to expand my horizons. I am a funny-girl, film, literary and fangirly geek and proud of it. I sincerely hope that young girls read this and can celebrate all that is offbeat and awesome.

Bossypants by Tina Fey – In the Simon book, she heralds Tina Fey as the queen bee of funny girl geeks. I could not agree more. Tina’s biography came out almost a year ago and I   completely loved it. This is one of the few books that I have read and listened to. If you have already read it, take a listen to the audiobook because it’s amazing. Tina is even more hilarious when you hear her read her words.  I fell in love with her comedy watching her on Saturday Night Live  in my teens. I was amazing to see a funny, smart woman who was also a writer. I highly recommend this book and exploring Tina’s time on SNL and her current show 30 Rock. I am also very excited because one of the book clubs at my library will be discussing Bossypants next month. I am excited to hear others’ perspectives on one of my favorite books.

Keep on geeking out…


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Is it Really Ours?: Ownership and digital content

Ownership in the digital age is fleeting. Libraries are in quite a conundrum when it comes to digital content. We want to be able to provide access to digital content like downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, but do not have the infrastructure to do so on our own. So libraries are at the mercy of vendors to provide this content. We purchase content that is reliant on continued contracts with these vendors. If something happens to the company or we are not happy with their content delivery, the content that was purchased is non-transferable and we are just out of luck. In reality, the library doesn’t really own the electronic content but merely the rights to access it so long as the company is in business.

In years past, when a library purchased a book, ownership was guaranteed. But now, that is not the case at all. When a library purchases rights to electronic content in the form of ebooks and audiobooks, that ownership is at the mercy of the vendor. If the company goes under or is bought out, the libraries are forced to deal with the consequences. In a perfect world, libraries would be able to purchase online content, host it on their own servers and provide it to patrons directly. This would give libraries control over the situation.  However, this is not the case. Libraries lack the means to do this, so we have to rely on vendors to manage our digital collections.

I am not quite sure what the future holds for the relationship among libraries, vendors and publishers regarding eBooks. Part of me can’t stand the fact that we are purchasing rights to content that may be taken away at any time. We have some publishers who are terminating contracts with vendors (see TheDigitalShift’s Penguin Group Terminating It’s Contract with Overdrive ).

Many libraries are biting the bullet and signing contracts with Overdrive merely because they have the largest catalog of material for their patrons. From my own experience, my library has previously offered downloads with  OneClickDigital, which had taken over Ingram Media. We were faced with a service that was unpredictable. We had some troubleshooting issues, it worked for some and not others. Many factors went into the decision to purchase alternative titles through another vendor in order to provide the convenience of audiobook downloads to our patrons. In that instance, we were faced with the issue of having a catalog of titles that no one could really use. I am hoping OneClickDigital resolves its software issues and can lure libraries back to its service.

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