Author Archives: Susan Knisely

Join the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase

This is a good time of year to remind Nebraska librarians that they can save money on the web and print versions of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system by participating in the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase!

Dewey on the Web

Enjoy web-based access to an enhanced version of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) database through WebDewey. WebDewey includes all content from the print edition and features:

  • deweywebregular updates (new developments, new built numbers and additional electronic index terms)
  • an easy-to-navigate, simple user interface that is suitable for the novice as well as the power user
  • BISAC-to-DDC mappings

Our next WebDewey Group annual subscription term will begin on January 1, 2017 and run through December 31, 2017. Libraries may join the Group at any time. Mid-term subscriptions will be prorated. Orders must be received by the 15th of the month for a start date of the 1st of the following month.

If your library is interested in subscribing to WebDewey, you will find Pricing information on the online WebDewey Order Form.

To see WebDewey in action, try the WebDewey 2.0: An Overview tutorial.

Dewey in Print

The Nebraska Dewey Group includes the print versions of the Abridged Edition 15 (1 volume) and the 23rd edition of the unabridged Dewey Decimal Classification (4 volumes).

dewey_23OCLC is offering group participants 10% off of the original list price on the DDC in print.

If your library is interested in ordering the DDC in print, you will find pricing information on the online Book Order Form.

For more information about the DDC, please visit Dewey Services.

If you have any questions about these Dewey products or the Nebraska Group, please contact Susan Knisely, 402-471-3849 or 800-307-2665.

NOTE: OCLC Membership is NOT required to purchase Dewey products.

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Friday Reads: Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon

manhoodforamateursMichael Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. He’s been on my radar for years, but I only recently sought out his work after running across a GQ article he wrote about attending Paris Fashion Week with his 13-year-old son. Because his account of the trip—a bar mitzvah present for his fashion-loving son, Abe—was so loving and insightful, I gravitated immediately to Chabon’s collection of personal essays, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son, rather than his fiction.

In Manhood for Amateurs, as the subtitle suggests, Chabon writes about the relationships he’s experienced and the roles he’s played as a boy and a man—son, brother, husband, son-in-law, father.  The essays that resonate most with me are those in which he contemplates fatherhood, a role he clearly cherishes. I think I find them so touching because they echo back to me experiences and feelings I’ve had as a parent.

In “William and I” he laments how little it takes to be considered a good father today (still apparently not much more than taking your 20-month-old grocery shopping with you), compared to what it takes to be considered a good mother (“[p]erhaps performing an emergency tracheotomy with a bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks’ worth of healthy but appealing break-time snacks for the entire cast of Lion King, Jr.”). He clearly expects more from himself and expresses reverence at the intimacy you develop with your children as a result of the mundane, day-to-day tedium of raising them, especially through “your contact with their bodies, with their shit and piss, sweat and vomit, . . . with their hair against your lips as you kiss the tops of their heads, with the bones of their shoulders and with the horror of their breath in the morning as they pursue the ancient art of forgetting to brush.”

I think what I appreciate most about Chabon’s essays is their honesty, which is both humorous and poignant. In “The Memory Hole,” Chabon begins with an admission that he and his wife regularly throw away a large percentage of the flood of artwork his four children bring home from school. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hear another parent admit to this. However, what begins as a self-deprecating account of how they try to manage the influx (“We don’t toss all of it. We keep the good stuff—or what strikes us, in the Zen of that instant between scraping out the lunch box and sorting the mail, as good.”), skillfully transitions into a meditation on how quickly childhood passes, how many moments we squander, and how few clear memories we carry forward with us into the future.

In “The Losers’ Club,” the introductory essay in Manhood, Chabon writes about his failed attempt, as a lonely boy in suburban Maryland, to convene a fellowship of likeminded individuals by founding the Columbia Comic Book Club. (No one attends the inaugural meeting, which results in it also being the final meeting.) It feels like a vindication, therefore, when in “The Amateur Family,” one of the last essays in the book, he describes himself as “the geek matrix of four bright geek spawn.” While this essay revolves around the family’s collective love of the Doctor Who television show, what it really celebrates is the fellowship Chabon shares with his children, and that they share with each other: “In the hands, minds, and geekish chatter of my children, I have found again that long-lost, long-desired connection. Each of us stands ready, at any moment, to talk Who, to riff and spin and sketch out new contours for the world we collectively inhabit, creating and endlessly re-creating the fandom that is our family.”

What I love most about “The Amateur Family” is Chabon’s understanding of the innate human drive to connect with others in “a shared universe of enthusiasm”; the fact that he ultimately finds this connection within his own family just makes the account that much more wonderful. Not surprisingly, his respect for and recognition of this impulse also featured prominently in the GQ article on taking his son to Fashion Week—which is what turned me on to this book of essays in the first place. In the GQ article, it’s Chabon’s appreciation of his son’s need to connect with people who share his love of fashion, an interest that Chabon doesn’t share, that I found so moving. He obviously respected his son’s obsession before the trip, or he wouldn’t have taken him on it; but by the end of the trip he gets it—and his son—in a whole new way.

If you like reading meditations on parenthood, I’d definitely recommend this collection of essays. And if you don’t have time to read whole book, at least check out the GQ article!

Chabon, Michael. Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

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Friday Reads: Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

grasshopperI first listened to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle in fall 2015, and it instantly became my new favorite book! Since then I’ve read other Smith books (Winger, Stand-Off, 100 Sideways Miles, The Marbury Lens), and while I liked them all I’d have to say that Grasshopper Jungle stands out as something completely unique. As a piece of writing, it is distinctive – not just from Smith’s other books but from most other books I’ve read!

In part, this might be because Smith wrote it at a point in time when he had decided to get out of the business of writing for publication. “I never felt so free as when I wrote things that I believed nobody would ever see. Grasshopper Jungle was one of those things,” he confesses in the acknowledgements section of the book, which someone else evidently did read since they convinced him to publish it. (Publication was obviously a good idea: Grasshopper Jungle was a 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.)

What the book is ostensibly about, versus what I love about it, are two different things. On the surface, this book is about an apocalyptic plague of six-foot-tall, man-eating praying mantises, accidentally unleashed in the fictional, economically-depressed town of Ealing, Iowa. What I love most are the main characters, sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba, who narrates, and his best friend, Robby Brees. They are, among other things, smart, sincere, loyal, witty, matter-of-fact, unflinching, hilarious, and respectfully profane.

One thing I particularly love about Austin is his obsession with history and truth, which are recurring themes throughout the book. Austin begins his narration with the following rumination on history:

I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.
We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future.
But even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we’ve ever done, we also manage to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit.
This is my history.

Austin has been recording his own history for years, as evidenced by the thigh-high stack of journals in his closet; and his book narration is a continuation of this process. Included in Austin’s stream-of-consciousness recitations are his thoughts on the nature of history, the act of recording it, and the impossibility of getting it all down. These thoughts, at least in my opinion, inform, and are reinforced by, the stylistic quirks that permeate Smith’s writing in this particular book.

These quirks include repetition of words and phrases to the point where they become epigrammatic refrains; use of an almost clinical, detached language to describe horrifying and distressing events; and Austin’s practice of reporting not just the main event, but also a multitude of other events that are occurring simultaneously, to other people, in other parts of the world. While this last quirk would be considered digression in another book, in Grasshopper Jungle it is a manifestation of Austin’s beliefs about how to report history in order to approach the truth. Austin’s girlfriend Shann describes his process thusly: “I love how you tell stories. I love how, whenever you tell me a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction . . . .”

Elsewhere, addressing the futility of this endeavor, Austin states: “You could never get everything in a book. Good books are about everything;” and “Even when I tried to tell everything that happened, I knew my accounts were ultimately nothing more than an abbreviation.”

Austin is as devoted to telling the truth as he is to accurately recording history. To others, he never lies, especially if asked a direct question. The most he sometimes does is not volunteer the whole truth. (About a partial truth he told his parents, he says: “It wasn’t a lie; it was an abbreviation.”) From himself, he hides nothing, even if the truth is embarrassing or confusing. It’s why he doesn’t shy away from the realization that he is in love with, and sexually attracted to, both his best friend Robby, who is gay, and his girlfriend, Shann. He might not know what to do about these feelings, he might not know what they mean, but he never tries to lie to himself about them.

I also love the fact that Austin and Robby have favorite poems, which they recite out loud to each other. According to Austin:

Robby’s favorite poem is Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. It is a poem about war and lies, youth and thievery. . . .

My favorite poem is The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Wallace Stevens. It is a poem about everything else: sex, lust, pleasure, loneliness, and death. . . .

Because favorite poems often reveal something about character, and because I suspected they might reinforce the underlying themes of the book, I sought them out to read in their entirety. Although very different on the surface, both call on readers to reject artifice and sentimentality in favor of seeing things exactly as they are – at least to the extent humanly possible. In “Dulce Et Decorum Est” a gruesome description of a World War I soldier choking to death on poisonous gas is presented in stark contrast to the slogan (“That old Lie”) used to encourage young men to enlist at the start of the war: “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” (The Latin phrase, borrowed from Horace, can be translated as “it is sweet and right to die for your country.”) And in “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” we are told to “Let be be finale of seem.” This philosophy definitely informs Austin’s approach to recording history, as evidenced by the matter-of-fact tone and blunt language he favors in his narration, along with his commitment to objectivity: “I do not know why, but that is not my job. My job is saying what.”

If you like quirky, irreverent books with absurd plots, which also have depths you can plumb, Grasshopper Jungle might be for you. As Andrew Smith said in a February 18, 2014 interview with Walter Heymann, “. . . Grasshopper Jungle is very realistic, but at the same time, it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s the same way our world is.”

Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. New York: Dutton, 2014.

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Internet Librarian Conference (October 17-19) Discount

IL2016-Logo-20-YearsThe Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all librarians in Nebraska who attend the 2016 Internet Librarian Conference. This year it will be held at the Monterey Marriott in Monterey, California, on October 17-19, 2016. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page at http://internet-librarian.infotoday.com/2016/

The price of the conference with the discount is $379 for the three-day event (regular rate is $549). That’s a $170 savings! (No discount rates are available for the pre-conference workshops.)

In addition, the discount price of $109 (regularly $219) on the Internet@Schools Track is also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance. Online registrations can be made until September 16 to receive the discounted rates.

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Friday Reads: Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

tellthewolves_I think my colleagues will be glad that I’m finished with this book, as I’ve been an emotional wreck every afternoon after listening to another installment over my lunch hour. The story is set in 1987, in and around New York City, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.  Several chapters in, 14-year-old June Elbus’s beloved uncle and godfather, Finn, dies of the disease. Fractures between June and her 16-year-old sister, Greta, which began prior to Finn’s death, open further, leaving each alone with her unique pain. And June’s mother, Finn’s sister, is so caught up in her own grief and resentment that she doesn’t see how her personal issues have contributed to her daughters’ crises.

A major catalyst for the emotional drama of the story is the secret June’s mother forced Finn to keep from June as a condition of him being allowed to be a part of her life: the very existence of his beloved partner Toby, with whom he shared his apartment and life. June learns of Toby’s existence at Finn’s funeral, when her mother spots him outside the funeral parlor, and her father tells June and Greta to alert him if “that man” tries to enter the building.

Several weeks after the funeral, Toby contacts June with a gift from Finn and a request to meet secretly, as she is, according to his note, “perhaps the only person who misses Finn as much as I do…” Thus begins a tentative and covert friendship, orchestrated in part, we find out, by Finn, which brings both comfort and additional pain to June.

What totally guts me about this book is the degree to which pain begets pain, especially between people who love each other. Greta’s pain, an outgrowth of her growing estrangement from June, along with pressure from her mother to not pass up any opportunities, even those she’s not ready for, leads her to cruelly and repeatedly lash out at June – behavior that, counterproductively, just causes more pain and further estrangement.

Similarly, the pain June and Greta’s mother holds on to from her own past – the abandonment she felt when Finn left home at seventeen; her jealousy and regret over the fact that he became the famous artist in New York City, while she wound up an accountant in the suburbs – leads to her irrational ultimatum about Toby, and its cascade of consequences. Her goal may have been to hurt Toby and teach Finn he “couldn’t have everything,” but her daughter June suffers significant collateral damage. Disoriented upon learning how much she didn’t know about Finn, June questions the very foundation of their relationship – essentially losing him twice. And even though she gets some of Finn back through Toby, she struggles with feelings of humiliation at having thought herself the most important person in Finn’s life at a time when everyone else knew he had Toby.

While this book doesn’t come with a “happily ever after” ending, it does suggest that, moving forward, there is hope for redemption and reconciliation for June, Greta, and their mother. Perhaps more significantly, it serves as a powerful reminder to those of us muddling through the mess of our own lives to resist acting out of pain and instead choose love.

Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell the Wolves I’m Home. New York: Dial Press, 2012.

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Computers in Libraries Conference (March 8-10) Discount

cil2016The Nebraska Library Commission is offering a group discount to all Nebraska librarians who attend the Computers in Libraries 2016 conference.  This year it will be held at the Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C., from March 8-10, 2016.  Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page.

The price of the conference with the discount is $319.00 for the three-day event (March 8-10). The non-discounted rate is $549, so this is a $230 savings! No discount rates are available for the preconference seminars and workshops.

In addition, discount prices of $599 (regularly $749) on the Library Leaders Digital Strategy Summit (includes all three days of CIL), and $109 (regularly $209) on the Internet@Schools Track are also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online using this link. Discounted rates should appear on the registration form. If you don’t see discounted rates on the form, please contact Susan Knisely for assistance. The registration deadline is February 5 to receive the discounted rates.

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Friday Reads: Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt

becomingnicoleBecoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, was released on October 20, 2015, two weeks before the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was defeated in large part due to fears generated over bathroom access by transgender individuals. I learned about the book through the flurry of news coverage immediately preceding its release, and I was first in line for Lincoln City Library’s print copy. Written by Amy Ellis Nutt, it tells the story of the Maines family who, in January 2014, won a landmark civil-rights case against the Orono school district after school officials denied their transgender daughter Nicole the right to use the girls’ restroom.

The value of this book at a time when every news story about transgender rights results in a flurry of mean-spirited comments is that it tells the story of a transgender child and her family from day one. It allows those of us who have no personal experience with being transgender or raising a transgender child to glean, just a little bit, through the power of story and the willingness of the Maines’ family to share theirs, what it might be like.

The story begins in 1997 when Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys named Wyatt and Jonas. Despite having the same DNA and being raised in the same household, the boys identify differently from early on. Even before he’s three Wyatt prefers girl things and displays distress over being treated as a boy. The anecdotes shared to illustrate this early dissonance are poignant and heartrending.

By the time the boys are three Kelly is already doing research, trying desperately to understand what is going on with Wyatt. Wayne, on the other hand, is deeply uncomfortable with Wyatt’s gender nonconformity and disapproves of Kelly’s willingness to partially accommodate the boy’s toy and clothing preferences. Although Wayne clearly loves both boys, his initial response is to withdraw and leave the reins primarily in Kelly’s hands.

Interestingly enough, at least early on the boys’ friends and classmates had the fewest problems with their differing gender identities: Wyatt had no problem making female friends and bonding with them over “girl” things; the son of a family friend contradicted his mother when she referenced the “Maines boys,” telling her that Jonas is a boy and Wyatt is a girl; and at one point, when the twins are nine, Jonas tells his dad to face the fact that he has a son and a daughter.

It wasn’t until fifth grade, when the grandfather of a classmate complained about a boy using the girls’ restroom, something Wyatt (now Nicole) had been doing with school approval for some time, that things got bad. In response to the complaint and ongoing harassment by the boy whose grandfather had lodged it, the school eventually told Nicole she had to use a staff restroom. The continuing conflict and increasingly hostile school climate began to take a toll on the family, and in 2009 they decided Kelly and the twins would relocate to Portland. They also filed their initial lawsuit against the school district.

Although this was a difficult time for the family financially and emotionally, it was also a turning point for Wayne who realized he needed to step up to the plate and begin advocating for his daughter. He became the more public face of the family, eventually giving speeches, writing letters and essays that appear in national publications, and lobbying politicians. In this sense, the story of Nicole’s transformation is also the story of her father’s transformation as he opened himself to a reality unfolding in front of him that contradicted his expectations and beliefs.

Nutt, Amy Ellis. Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. New York: Random House, 2015.

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Join the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase

This is a good time of year to remind Nebraska librarians that they can save money on the web and print versions of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system by participating in the Nebraska Dewey Group Purchase!

Dewey on the Web

Enjoy web-based access to an enhanced version of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) database through WebDewey. WebDewey includes all content from the print edition and features:

  • deweywebregular updates (new developments, new built numbers and additional electronic index terms)
  • an easy-to-navigate, simple user interface that is suitable for the novice as well as the power user
  • BISAC-to-DDC mappings

Our next WebDewey Group annual subscription term will begin on January 1, 2016 and run through December 31, 2016. Libraries may join the Group at any time. Mid-term subscriptions will be prorated. Orders must be received by the 15th of the month for a start date of the 1st of the following month.

If your library is interested in subscribing to WebDewey, you will find Pricing information on the online WebDewey Order Form.

To see WebDewey in action, try the WebDewey 2.0: An Overview tutorial.

Dewey in Print

The Nebraska Dewey Group includes the print versions of the Abridged Edition 15 (1 volume) and the 23rd edition of the unabridged Dewey Decimal Classification (4 volumes).

dewey_23OCLC is offering group participants 10% off of the original list price on the DDC in print.

If your library is interested in ordering the DDC in print, you will find pricing information on the online Book Order Form.

For more information about the DDC, please visit Dewey Services.

If you have any questions about these Dewey products or the Nebraska Group, please contact Susan Knisely, 402-471-3849 or 800-307-2665.

NOTE: OCLC Membership is NOT required to purchase Dewey products.

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Friday Reads: Boys Don’t Knit (In Public), by T.S. Easton

boysdontknit“Meet Ben Fletcher: Accidental criminal. Liar. Master of mohair.” So proclaims the cover of UK author T.S. Easton’s delightfully silly YA novel Boys Don’t Knit. Ben Fletcher is a 17-year-old good kid and worrier, who gets drawn into an act of juvenile delinquency by his misfit friends. Ironically, considering he was the most reluctant participant, and due in part to a series of unfortunate circumstances, Ben winds up in the most trouble when they’re caught. Placed on probation, Ben is required to keep a journal (hence the diary-format of the novel) and to take an evening class at the local community college.

Due to limited choices, he winds up as the only male student in an introductory knitting class. (Other options included a car maintenance class taught by his father; pottery taught by the mother of a female classmate he has a crush on; and Microsoft Office for beginners, which he describes as being “for grannies and people who’ve just arrived in civilization after having been raised by wolves in the Appalachians.”) The challenge for Ben is how to keep his participation in the knitting class a secret from his father, who wants Ben to share his manly interest in soccer, cars, and World War II, and his classmates.

Of course, Ben winds up being a natural talent at knitting, so much so that he is drafted to participate in the regional heat of the All-UK Knitting Championship, in the junior category. He also ends up REALLY LIKING knitting, not only the social aspects of class, but also the calming effect it has on his mind. It begins to take over his life: He listens to knitting podcasts; furtively reads knitting magazines at the store (hiding a girly magazine inside the knitting magazine when he sees his friends approaching so they’ll think that’s what he’s really looking at, when it’s actually the other way around); and even sets up an Etsy shop. Eventually, despite his best efforts, he’s “outed” at school by an administrator wanting to capitalize on his success as a young entrepreneur. As you can imagine, this leads to constant ribbing from friends and enemies alike, and while it is painful to Ben it makes for amusing reading.

There is a lot of humorously cringe-worthy material in this book (intentional on the part of the author) which we, the readers, get to experience along with Ben (though as readers we are in a better position to be tickled by it than Ben). This includes conversations between Ben’s parents, which are filled with food-based double entendres that used to go over Ben’s head but now cause him no end of psychic pain. We also get to read excerpts of his friend Joz’s horribly-written novel-in-progress, titled Fifty Shades of Graham, which he’s having Ben proofread. It contains winning lines such as “Her large chest heaved angrily at me.” All in all, Ben has a lot of crosses to bear. His voice, as he shares his experiences with us via his diary entries, is as delightful and appealing as can be, making this a wonderful romp of a read.

Easton, T.S. Boys Don’t Knit (In Public). New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2015.

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Internet Librarian Conference (October 26-28) Discount

Information Today is offering a group discount through the Nebraska Library Commission to all Nebraska librarians who attend the 2015 Internet Librarian Conference. This conference will be held at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, California on October 26-28. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web site.

The price of the conference with the discount is $369 for the 3-day event (October 26-28), $109 on the Internet@Schools Track (October 26-27), and $649 for Library Leaders Digital Strategy Summit (which includes all three days of IL).

To receive the discount you will need to register online and enter a promotional discount code assigned to the Nebraska Library Commission. After successfully entering the discount code the discounted prices should appear on the Conference Options portion of the online form. Online registration can be made until September 25 to receive the discounted rates. To request the discount code please contact Susan Knisely.

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Friday Reads: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain

kitchenconfidentialI remember hearing buzz about Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s account of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen, shortly after it was published in the summer of 2000. Interviews and reviews that surfaced in the media piqued my interest, but I never got around to reading it at the time. Since then Bourdain’s fame has grown due to his participation in several television series, most notably No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Finally, last week, my husband checked out the eBook edition from Lincoln City Libraries’ OverDrive collection. He laughed so hard he cried as he consumed it nightly before bed, interrupting my reading to share excerpts so frequently that I felt compelled to check out, download, and listen to the audiobook edition, read by Bourdain, himself.

Early in the book Bourdain describes the life lived by restaurant kitchen workers as a subculture. From his anecdotes, which my husband swears aren’t exaggerations (he cooked for two years while I attended library school), that sounds spot on. This is not a ponderous or philosophical book, though Bourdain does share interesting insights and opinions. The prose is raw, in-your-face, and eloquently crude. As Bourdain reads his own words one imagines this is just the way he speaks in real life, when not restrained by television censors. If profanity bothers you, this is not the book for you!

By the end of the book any illusions the reader might have had that cooking for a living is glamorous will have been completely shattered. Bourdain paints a picture of a physically and psychically hard life, where drug addiction and dysfunction reign. Kitchen crews are described at various times as pirate crews and mercenaries. It wouldn’t be the life for me, but I enjoyed reading about it!

Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2001. Internet resource. (Listen to sample)

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Friday Reads: Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

eleanorandparkI know Eleanor & Park has been out for almost two years and many librarian-types have already read and loved it, but I just got around to listening to it this past week. I’m glad I did. It was evocative, filled with both angst and sweetness. The tragedy is that in the end Eleanor’s family situation is too dire to overcome by any other means than escape. I don’t want to provide a plot summary or review – those are plentiful elsewhere – but I will share a few personal thoughts/impressions:

  • The fact that the story was set in Omaha in 1984, when the characters were 16, definitely brought back memories. Though I graduated from a Lincoln high school in 1983, Rowell’s descriptions of students’ styles and (sadly) interactions rang true. References to music, the Old Market, and coffee at Village Inn also firmly grounded the narrative in a familiar time and place.
  • I loved Park’s parents, the way sometimes one was the good guy while the other was the bad guy, and then at other times the roles would be reversed. It seemed realistic, since as parents we each have blind spots as well as soft spots. I also loved the way the point of view switched back and forth between Eleanor and Park, sometimes moment by moment.
  • While high school definitely wasn’t a high point in my life (I considered myself somewhat disaffected at the time) I was completely sheltered from the type of dysfunction in which Eleanor’s life was steeped. However, I’m sure I had classmates who, unbeknownst to me, lived lives very similar to Eleanor’s. This is why I absolutely abhor the fact that parents try to ban books like Eleanor & Park from school libraries. If a book accurately portrays the lived experiences of some students, it strikes me as condescending and dismissive to claim that it is “inappropriate” for other students to even read about it, especially if the subject matter is handled compassionately, in a way that may cultivate empathy. And what about the potential value to students living lives similar to Eleanor’s in seeing their own experiences in print? Eleanor is beaten down, but she retains a sense of self, her quirky point of view, and is able to experience moments of sweetness and acceptance with Park. Although she doesn’t get the proverbial fairy-tale happy ending, she survives long enough to escape – and sometimes in real life maybe that takes precedence over the stereotypical though not universal “happy highs” of high school (e.g. boyfriends/girlfriends, parties, football, prom). That seems like an important message to me.

Having finished Eleanor & Park, I’ve now moved on to Fangirl, another book by Rainbow Rowell. This one is set in Lincoln, on the University of Nebraska campus. The main character lives in Pound Hall, is an English major who hangs out in Andrews Hall, and haunts the north basement of Love Library. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Rowell, Rainbow, Rebecca Lowman, and Sunil Malhotra. Eleanor & Park. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2013. Internet resource. (Listen to excerpt)

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ProQuest K12 Databases Trial

ProQuest is offering two months of trial access to their most popular K12 databases:

  • CultureGrams
  • eLibrary
  • eLibrary Science
  • Government Reporter
  • History Study Center
  • Learning: Literature
  • ProQuest Research Companion
  • SIRS Decades
  • SIRS Discoverer
  • SIRS Issues Researcher
  • SIRS Renaissance
  • SIRS WebSelect

Trial Dates: January 27, 2015 through March 27, 2015

Trial access instructions were distributed via a January 28, 2015 message to the TRIAL mailing list. If you did not receive this information and would like to have it sent to you, please email Susan Knisely.

Want to receive email notification of future database trials and discounted pricing? Make sure you are signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list. you can learn more about mailing lists maintained by the Nebraska Library Commission, including how to subscribe, on our Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page.

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Computers in Libraries Conference (April 27-29) Discount

cil2015Information Today is offering a group discount through the Nebraska Library Commission to all Nebraska librarians who attend the 2015 Computers in Libraries Conference. This conference will be held April 27-29 at the Washington Hilton, Washington, DC. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page.

The price of the conference with the discount is $319 for the 3-day event (regular rate is $549). That’s a $230 savings! (No discount rates are available for the pre- or post-conference seminars and workshops).

In addition, discount prices of $599 (regularly $749) on the Library Leaders Summit (includes all three days of CIL) and $109 (regularly $209) on the Internet@Schools Track are also available.

To receive the discount you will need to register online and enter a promotional discount code assigned to the Nebraska Library Commission. (After successfully entering the discount code the discounted prices should appear on the Conference Options portion of the online form.) The registration deadline is March 27, 2015. To request the discount code please contact Susan Knisely.

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Friday Reads: SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin

sealteamsix_I’ve recently been reading some of Suzanne Brockmann’s romantic suspense novels, which feature Navy SEALS as leading men. This got me wondering about real Navy SEALS—can they truly be as accomplished and multi-talented as Brockmann makes them out to be? My curiosity piqued, I searched Lincoln City Libraries’ OverDrive collection and wound up checking out the audiobook edition of SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard Wasdin.

I’m about half-way through at this point, and so far have found it quite interesting. Wasdin begins by recounting his difficult childhood, which he later credits with preparing him to withstand many of the rigors of the SEAL training and selection process. His descriptions of the physical and mental challenges SEAL candidates endure definitely inspire awe and respect. At the same time, it’s easy to see what a toll this career would take on family life. At the point I’m at in the story Wasdin is still married, with two kids, but his allusions to relationship strain make me think the marriage won’t survive.

So far I’d say that Wasdin’s non-fiction account of the numerous and incredibly varied skills and abilities of Navy SEALS is every bit as impressive as Brockmann’s fictional version—meaning maybe she’s not exaggerating. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the path to a happy ending is going to be quite as straight-forward and assured.

Wasdin’s memoir definitely offers a window into a life very different from my own. It’s impossible not to admire and respect the strength, tenacity, and intelligence required to make it as a SEAL, and I’m definitely looking forward to listening to the rest of his story.

Wasdin, Howard E, Stephen Templin, and Ray Porter. Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper. Ashland, Or.: Blackstone Audio, Inc, 2011. Internet resource. (Listen to excerpt)

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EBSCO Fall Database Trials: Flipster, MyHeritage, MasterFILE Premier, and NoveList Plus

This fall EBSCO is offering Nebraska libraries trial access to the following databases:

  • MyHeritage Library Edition – Leading family history network MyHeritage is now available to libraries exclusively through EBSCO Information Services. The new MyHeritage Library Edition will provide access to a vast collection of U.S. and international documents online, including birth, death, and marriage records from 48 countries, the complete US and UK censuses, immigration, military and tombstone records and more than 1.5 billion family tree profiles. Library subscriptions to this service include remote access, allowing patrons to search the service from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Flipster – Flipster provides libraries with digital magazine subscription packages to popular magazines. that patrons can easily access via computers, laptops, and mobile devices. Flipster boasts no hidden platform fees and a simple sign-in process.
  • MasterFile Premier – Designed specifically for public libraries, MasterFILE Premier provides access to nearly 17,000 full-text periodicals (including Time, Inc. titles), more than 500 full-text reference books, and over 81,900 primary source documents, as well as over 935,000 photos, maps and flags.
  • NoveList Plus – NoveList Plus features reading recommendations for both fiction and nonfiction for all ages and, in the near future, will add audiobook recommendations. It also includes series information, professional reviews, read-alikes, award winners, and more!
  • NoveList K-8 Plus – NoveList K-8 Plus is especially for younger readers. It has reading recommendations for both fiction and nonfiction, for kids in grades K-8. Use it to find just the right books for every reader.

Trial access instructions were distributed via an October 16 message to the Trial mailing list. Nebraska librarians who didn’t receive this information or who would like it sent to them again may contact Susan Knisely. The Flipster database trial is set to expire on November 18, 2014; all other EBSCO database trials run through the end of the calendar year (12/31/14).

Please feel free to contact inside account executive Phil Gallant for questions or price quotes, phone 800-653-2726 ext 3560 or pgallant@ebsco.com

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Friday Reads: Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin

book cover imageAt the end of summer, my 12-year-old son and I road tripped to South Texas to visit friends. This involved a two-day drive down and a two-day drive back. To me, road trips mean audiobooks. Although my son is the stereotypical boy who doesn’t read, he has enjoyed audiobooks in the past; therefore I came prepared with three young adult possibilities, checked out from OverDrive and downloaded to my Kindle Fire: a dystopian thriller, a baseball mystery, and a nonfiction history book.

Listening to an audiobook held no appeal for him on the way down to Texas, but on the way back, the novelty of road tripping having completely worn off, he gave in to my suggestion that he select a title for us to listen to. Scanning the three I’d downloaded, it was really no contest: he immediately picked the nonfiction history book, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin.

This is a great example of a nonfiction title that reads like fiction, and my son was rapt throughout the seven hour narration. The story jumps back and forth between Soviet agents recruiting young, initially unemployed U.S. chemist Harry Gold as a spy, Robert Oppenheimer’s efforts to assemble a team of scientists to build an atomic bomb at Los Alamos, and Norwegian resistance fighters’ intricate and ultimately successful plan to sabotage a heavy water plant in Norway in order to disrupt Nazi development of nuclear weapons.

The plot involving the Norwegian commandos was like something out of a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie, and my son sat bolt upright in his seat, the Kindle held to his ear so he wouldn’t miss a word. At one point he exclaimed “I could listen to this book forever!” Talk about music to a librarian mother’s ears! And when the team succeeded in infiltrating and blowing up the plant, he reacted with a fist pump and a “Yes!”

Learning about the espionage networks at work at the time was also fascinating. One of my favorite scenes involved two spies meeting up. Their handlers had given each spy half a Jell-O box cover. At first contact each man produced his half of the Jell-O box cover; when placed next to one another they matched up perfectly, letting each spy know that the other was legitimate.

Upon returning home I looked up author Steve Sheinkin and discovered that he’s penned additional nonfiction history books for young adults. And what do you know! My son had previously read and enjoyed two of them: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery and King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution. Given his 100% satisfaction rating to date, Steve Sheinkin is definitely an author who’ll stay on my radar as I continue to search for the right books for my particular reluctant reader!

Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Listening Library, 2013. (Listen to excerpt)

 

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Internet Librarian Conference (October 27-29) Discount

Information Today is offering a group discount through the Nebraska Library Commission to all Nebraska librarians who attend the 2014 Internet Librarian conference. This conference will be held at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, California on October 27-29. Detailed information about the conference can be found on the conference web page.

The price of the conference with the discount is $349 for the three-day event (October 27-29) and $99 on the Internet@Schools Track (October 27-28) and $649 for Library Leaders Digital Strategy Summit. (No discount rates are available for the pre-conference seminars).

To receive the discount you will need to register online and enter a promotional discount code assigned to the Nebraska Library Commission. (After successfully entering the discount code the discounted prices should appear on the Conference Options portion of the online form.) Online registration can be made until September 26. To request the discount code please contact Susan Knisely.

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Are You Signed Up For the TRIAL Mailing List?

Are you signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list? If so, then you know I just sent out a mailing list message with instructions on how to log in to Infobase Learning’s open trial of over 20 of their popular online databases, including Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center, Issues & Controversies, and World News Digest.

If you’re not signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list, then you missed this juicy announcement, along with at least three others in the last two weeks announcing free trial access to McGraw-Hill’s AccessScience and AccessEngineering databases, the new ProQuest Research Companion information literacy solution, and six CountryWatch databases.

To make sure you don’t miss future trial announcements go to the Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page and subscribe today! To request copies of recent trial announcements you might have missed, contact Susan Knisely.

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CountryWatch Database Trials

CountryWatch Inc. is offering Nebraska libraries trial access to the following databases through May 15, 2014:

  • CountryWatch Premium Online
  • CountryWatch Youth Edition
  • CountryWatch Forecasts (Macro, Energy, Metals & Agriculture)
  • CountryWatch Election Central
  • CountryWatch Political Intelligence Briefing
  • Country Profile Video Series


Trial URL: http://www.countrywatch.com/login.aspx

Trial access instructions were distributed via a March 20, 2014 message to the TRIAL mailing list. If you did not receive this information and would like to have it sent to you, please email Susan Knisely

Discounted pricing and ordering instructions for these databases are available online.

Want to receive email notification of future database trials and discounted pricing? Make sure you are signed up for the Nebraska Library Commission’s TRIAL mailing list. You can learn more about mailing lists maintained by the Nebraska Library Commission, including how to subscribe, on our Nebraska Library Commission Mailing Lists page.

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