FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

My Photo
Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Believe She Was Actually Called Glenda

The good news is that COSAD, the organization that my Collection Development class is partnering with to help build a library in Bukoba, Tanzania, has raised all the funds needed to ship the container of 22,000 books.

They want to build a collection concentrating on agriculture, health, children's books, business, and education, with particular emphasis on HIV-AIDS information and small business entrepreneurship. However, working with what gets donated to Books for Africa (a directory of Humanities faculty at some college filed under "Humanities," The Vitamin Bible filed under "religion," children's books with racial epitaphs written in the margins, etc.), I made an effort to find some good art books with a global emphasis and quality color reproductions, books on world history and other social sciences, reading and writing skills, teacher's guides, and basic sciences.

The bad news is, that means we need to get this project finished, or somewhere near finished, very soon, and we only have two pallets of books selected so far.

So I'll be busy tomorrow, at the Books for Africa warehouse and at the Textile Center, working on my other final project for Archival Services class, and this weekend, writing up my final presentations and papers, before going back to another busy work week.

Yes, I'm busy. But I'm sure people have noticed that despite my being tired and fighting an illness the last two months, I the "Wicked Witch of the North" as someone calls me (and I just noticed that tonight), don't get "too tired" to give you my honest opinion to a question, whether it be on common descent or whatnot. So feel free to drop in. Bye now!
Well, it's a good think I'm not the wicked witch, because I would have melted. I enjoyed selecting books for the library but it was also a very frustrating experience. It's a big responsibility made all the more difficult because it's not a public library in the U.S., but a library aimed at educating people in Africa. At times I was so overwhelmed, and even frightened a little, by this responsibility that I was almost in tears.

I think that it's very important to give library patrons the opportunity to browse a library's collection in a nonstructured manner, so that they can discover their interests and talents. This community wants medical, business, and agricultural texts and childrens' book so that they can train in careers that are important to them, but I want to round out the collection with art and humanities, literature and the social sciences. It's important for people to have an education, not just training, and in selecting books I remembered my own experiences of browsing the library and coming upon authors and subjects for which I would not have consciously searched, but which turned out to be crucial for the cultural literacy that gives context and depth to one's chosen career path.

So there I was in the literature section (remember, my degree is in English Literature), agonizing over whether or not there were sufficient cultural common ground between me and our intended audience for me to include books such as Moby Dick, The Canterbury Tales (a lovely translation into modern standard English), Profiles in Courage, and Dante's Paradiso, while contemplating a table nearly full of Sydney Sheldon, V.C. Andrews, Michael Crichton, and Robin Cook.

Don't get me wrong - I love Dean Koontz, had a good schmaltzy cry at V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic series in my senior year in high school, and devoured many an Agatha Christie book. But I also didn't include excellent works by Ursula Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, and Norah Labiner because I didn't think people in Bukoba who didn't have electricity would appreciate science fiction or an experimental style. (So many Norah Labiner books, too, obviously just unloaded. I was saddened. She's a local writer that I reviewed - really a great talent.)

But is that arrogant of me, to assume that people in Bukoba won't like science fiction, say? Or romance novels? I don't know. If this were, as I said, a public library in the States I wouldn't be worrying so. Should I have included what I included? We have made an effort to include world children's literature, picture books with African-American faces, not just whites - and I do think it's terribly important for people to be exposed to the classical canon, however elitist and western-oriented it is.

But should I have chosen Paradiso when there was no copy of Inferno to be found? Does it make sense to include Dante and Chaucer when I didn't find any Milton or Shakespeare? I don't know. Moreover, it is okay that I included a book on space flight (large, full color photos, very attractive) and adventure stories (conquering Everest and Antarctica) and tornadoes? I'm not sure.

Another frustration was that the book's physical condition also drove my selection: I would have included The Scarlet Letter had it not been so trashed. Many of the books are in rotten condition, because people obviously just emptied their attics and cellars, and I dug for gems in this pile with the sinking feeling that while I was dissatisfied with the spotty literary collection I was building, the people on the receiving end will probably be grateful for whatever we gave them. They deserve better.

All I can say is, when I was young I read all these stories from Africa, Asia, and South America - folk tales, myths, adventures, tales of exploration, encyclopedia entries - as well as American stories, and I became fascinated with the world. I want to give someone else the chance to have that experience. It's important to learn how to work, but it's also important to learn to dream and to enjoy, and to develop intellectual curiosity about a subject not only because it is practical, but because it is a pleasure, like fine wine or cuisine - and because the overwhelming coincidence of where you happen to be born shouldn't prevent you from accessing the world's knowledge and discovering your talents and dreams.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Spoiler Shirley Nagel Actually Gave Me an Idea

Though I love Halloween, I've never been big on handing out the candy to the kiddies, but I love to decorate and think of new ideas to celebrate.

One year I had the brainstorm to go to Goodwill, buy a bunch of kids' books (coloring books, science books, picture books, and dinosaurs) that were in good condition, wipe them with a mild bleach solution, put them in a caldron-type pan and slip a note in a scary font in each book ("We thought your kids would enjoy a book this year, from your neighbors at blah, blah"), add a bunch of dracula pencils, pumpkin bubble-blowers, and black cat erasers, and let the kids dig for what they wanted.

Well, don't let anyone tell you that reading is dead (arh, arh) because the little tykes loved it! They didn't need my help. Every kid took one book. The parents thanked us profusely. I got to light candles, eat popcorn, and watch all the Vincent Price movies I could stand. It was a success.
Well, I've been majorly sick this year, for months actually, and was finally put on antibiotics just before this Halloween, so all I could do this year was unscrew the outside bulb and lie down until my headache subsided and I could keep some food down. Ugh. It sucked. (I want to dress as the undead, not feel like them.)

But it didn't suck as much as the Halloween in Grosse Pointe Farms, where some fanatical McCain delegate to the RNC named Shirley Nagel is in real need of an intervention:

Shirley, Sugar (what else can I call you?), you are taking this election wayyyyy too seriously! Holy crap. Then there's the footage of her being interviewed by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog after she denied her fellow delegates their turn at the cabernet trough.

Would this Renaissance woman be able to tell Amantillado from sherry? Somehow I doubt it.

But at least when she gave blood (50 proof?) earlier this year, as she claims, she didn't designate whether it should go to a McCain or an Obama supporter, and all those red-state corpuscles probably contained both cabernet and all the candy corns she saved for herself from the Halloween jar. Ooh! Cab 'n candy! Vampire's delight. Somebody keep Lestat from this mortal.

But her idiocy (not to mention sheer meanness) gave me an idea. Why not teach the kiddies to vote on Halloween?

Voting is one of the things you'd think they'd learn in school, but don't - along with compound interest and how to balance a checkbook. (We had a mock stock exchange in junior high - talk about bedlam. Fun.)

Next year, make up ballots for the kids and tell them to circle their choice and place their ballot in the witches cauldron you have in the yard:

Who would make the best President of Halloween?
a) The Great Pumpkin (Do kids know who this is anymore?)
b) Santa Claus
c) Spiderman
d) Dora the Explorer
e) Frankenstein
f) [Write in your candidate here]

Or whoever/whatever. Then keep a running tally throughout the evening and post the updates on the sign held by the ghost hanging from your tree in the front yard.

If you hand out candy in addition to this, give out candy to everyone (duh!) but hand out "I voted really scary" stickers to those who fill out a ballot. Glow-in-the-dark ones. That'll get the stragglers to register.

That would be fun! That would be a kick. Unlike the brainstorm of Shirley Nagel, who just won an all-expenses-paid, bipartisan house toilet-papering, egg-throwing, and flaming-dog-poop-on-the-stoop party for the entire next year. And well deserved, I must say.

I just don't know how anyone could work compound interest/balancing the checkbook into Halloween, though. Next year, we'll probably just go to a party, as we did last year.

Maybe I'll go as Shirley Nagel.

(Listen, though - If I eventually manage to convince kids to "straighten up your room for Halloween," I expect someone to nominate me for the Nobel Peace Prize. Got that?)

Labels: , , ,