Sunday, April 28, 2013

CBR5 #7 The 500 by Matthew Quirk

Mike Ford is a former con artist who's been plucked from his Harvard Law School classroom to be an associate at The Davies Group, Washington's most high-powered and well-respected strategic consulting firm. Their specialty: pulling strings and peddling influence for the five hundred most powerful people inside the Beltway, the men and women who really run Washington -- and by extension the country, and the world. The namesake of the firm, Henry Davies, knows everyone who matters; more importantly, he knows their secrets. Davies' experience goes back 40 years -- he worked for Lyndon Johnson, jumped shipped to Nixon, then put out his own shingle as the Hill's most cut-throat and expensive fixer. Now he's looking for a protégé to tackle his most high-stakes deal yet, and Mike fits the bill. Quickly pulled into a seductive, dangerous web of power and corruption, Mike struggles to find his way out. But how do you save your soul when you've made a deal with the devil?
I found this book via Amazon's Kindle Deal of the Day.  Any book that deals with politics, intrigue and the DC metro area usually grabs my attention.  To me this book was 1 part Nicolle Wallace Washington politics with 1 part David Baldacci thriller.

I had a hard time putting this book down, but at the same time the plot seemed familiar.  If you are looking for a Washington thriller then this book is for you.  I was surprised by the ending, but in a way I kinda knew that was the way the book was going to end.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Read-A-Thon Day!

Today is the spring read-a-thon hosted over at Dewey's Read-a-Thon. You can also follow the action on Twitter as well. It is hard to believe that during the last read-a-thon, my girls were still gestating nicely. Time has flown by!

I'm going to do my best to read a bit, cheer on folks and possibly participate in some mini-challenges. We have a baby shower to go this afternoon, outside of watching our girls will distract me from the read-a-thon fun!  I will be updating this post throughout the day with my updates.

Hour 1 - my little ones woke up within 5 minutes of me posting initially.  So I gave them baths and got them dressed for the day.

Hour 2 - I am cheering on Team Tiger, so I spent some time going through the blogs from M-Z posting some commenting love.

Hour 3 - I spent some time cheering Team Tiger blogs from G-K and responding to some earlier comments as well.

Hour 4 - More cheering on readers and playing with my girls.

Hour 5 - Hour 11 - heading to a baby shower and will catch up with read-a-thon fun hopefully in hour 12.

Hour 12 - dinner and relaxing for a bit

Hour 13 & 14  - went through the rest of the Team Tiger blog list and cheered on more readers.  I might check out a mini-challenge, but I am fading as I have been up since 5:30 this morning.  Even though I didn't get any reading done today, I enjoyed cheering others on and seeing what they were reading.

Introductory Questions
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
           DC Metro area
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
           I haven't even picked out a TBR stack (shocker!), but I might focus on reading some e-books
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
           I am very unprepared with read-a-thon snacks.  Whatever I have in the house will have to work
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
           I am a librarian and a mother of twin girls who just turned 6 month yesterday
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
          This read-a-thon is now my 5th or 6th one.  I am planning to participate as much as I can and encourage on other readers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

CBR5 #6 Faking It by Elisa Lorello

What happens when a writing professor and a male escort become friends? Thirty-four-year old professor Andi Cutrone has broken up with her fiance in Massachusetts, moved back to her native New York, and wants to be a better lover. So after meeting Devin, a handsome, charming escort, she proposes an unusual arrangement: lessons about writing in exchange for lessons about sex. When Devin accepts Andi's proposal, he draws up a contract in which the two are forbidden to see each other socially. There's just one problem: Andi also wants Devin. Faking It is a witty, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching story about relationships, writing, and getting real
I'm not sure where I heard about this book, but it was the first book I read as my hour commute started up. Andi is a likeable character and the reader is immediately drawn into the proposal between her and Devin. I was glad to see that Lorello provided some depth to her characters.  This book is more than a normal romantic comedy/chick lit book.

Without giving away too much of how the book ends, I was glad to see that Lorello didn't take the traditional approach with her characters.  But there was a nice twist at the very end that definitely will keep the reader guessing.  This book is another good beach read.

CBR5 #5 The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett

What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty--unaware that she is changing too.But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him
March Book Club

This year my book club is reading selections from our Childhood.  In February, we started off with The Great Gatsby.  I don't remember reading The Secret Garden as a child, although I'm sure I did.  I was familiar with the story to know that multiple movies and a musical were made based on the book.

I found it hard to read the prose when Burnett used the Yorkshire speak and at times I ended up skimming the descriptive parts to find out what happened next to the characters.  During our book club we discussed how important to the growth of a child is adult guidance and attention. We also discussed if redemption should be given to Colin's father once he realized what he had been missing by not having a big relationship with Colin.

Reading this book as an adult, I focused on different things than if I had been reading this book as a child. But I feel like there is still a powerful message to take from the book whether reading it as an adult or as a child.

CBR5 #4 How Lucky You Are by Kristyn Kusek Lewis

In the tradition of Emily Giffin and Marisa de los Santos, HOW LUCKY YOU ARE is an engaging and moving novel about three women struggling to keep their longstanding friendship alive. Waverly, who's always been the group's anchor, runs a cozy bakery but worries each month about her mounting debt. Kate is married to a man who's on track to be the next governor of Virginia, but the larger questions brewing in their future are unsettling her. Stay-at-home mom Amy has a perfect life on paper, but as the horrific secret she's keeping from her friends threatens to reveal itself, she panics. As life's pressures build all around them, Waverly knows she has some big decisions to make. In doing so, she will discover that the lines between loyalty and betrayal can become blurred, happy endings aren't always clear-cut, and sometimes you have to risk everything to gain the life you deserve.
I read the bulk of this book while my one daughter was in the hospital for an outpatient procedure.  Up until that day, my reading time had been non-existent.  But when given hours of uninterrupted time to kill reading a book becomes a great activity.

This book captured my attention within the first couple of pages.  I was lost in the lives of Waverly, Kate and Amy.  Lewis did a good job of showing the push and pull of their relationship as new details of each of their lives were discovered.  I could see this book being turned into a Romantic Comedy/Chick Flick no problem. I felt that each character tried to grow a bit by the end of the book even if that meant potentially losing their long staying friendships. I liked the DC Metro area being featured within the book as well. The intrigue of politics and the city life added an extra element to the overall plot.

This book would definitely be a great beach read or a good book to pick up when you need some light, but touching reading.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Computers in Libraries 2013 Summary

Last week I spent half days attending the 2013 Computers in Libraries conference here in Washington, DC.  This year's theme was "Evolving in New Directions."

Keynote Speakers
This conference likes to bring in speakers from outside of the library/information profession world and have them apply their expertise to the theme of the conference.  I felt that only Wednesday's speaker, Daniel Rasmus, was able to really circle back to the library/information profession world with his talk.  The other two speakers' messages got lost in infomercials for their books (or Amazon) or awkward speaker techniques. Videos of each of the talks are posted here on the LibConf blog.

Here are some takeaways I had from the three keynote speakers:
  • The pace of technology is increasing.  There are more iPhones being bought than there are babies being born. 
  • There is a shift to a subscription economy, companies are trying to keep customers coming back to them each week/month/year, where true service does pay off. 
  • Customers don't want a generic experience - they want the experience customized to them.
  • Libraries need to harness the power of citizen led communities and crowd technologies to revitalize our services. 
  • When thinking about the future of libraries, remember that we have no data from the future so it is hard to be evidence based.
  • Document the uncertainties you face and actively engage with the uncertainities when making strategic decisions. 
  • Use scenario planning to help think about possible ways the future may turn out; then plan for contingencies and mitigate risks.
Session Highlights
Below are highlights from sessions that I attended.  I was only able to be at the conference for the morning and early afternoon sessions.

Making Libraries - Getting Into the Hardware Biz​ by Jason Griffey (slides)

Jason was my mentor in ALA's Emerging Leaders program back in 2010.  I'm always curious to see what interesting things he is exploring within the technology world.  This year's talk was about how libraries can get into the hardware building space using open source hardware.  I had never heard the term open source hardware before until this talk.

Two principles influence the open source hardware world - Moore's Law which states every 18 months, processors get more powerful for half the price &  Koomey's Law  which states every 18 months, the amount of power needed for processors are cut in half. 

There are two open source hardware platforms
  1. Arduino single board micro controller - digital board that allows you to measure things in the physical world - control sensors, inputs, lights ($30); thousands of ready to go library driven modules using Arduino via GitHub and other places
  2. Raspberry Pi  -a full computer - has memory, input and outputs; runs Linux, runs memory - no hard drive, has slot for memory card
Jason provided some comparisons between building and buying hardware which highlighted the financial reasons for libraries using more open source hardware.

ItemVendor CostOpen Source Cost
Patron Counter$200-300$70
Temperature/Humidity Loggers$200-1500$85

Taking a step back, Jason shared an example of how hardware can give us the ability to measure things that we couldn't before.  If a library hooked up a XBox Kinect in front of a book display, they could measure patron behavior as they browsed.   Jason challenged us to make the tools that measure the future which will provide more data about what our patrons do in libraries and help focus our services to our patrons needs.

Evolving Libraries: What's At Our Core? by Rudy Leon (slides)

Rudy heard John Seely Brown speak at Internet Librarian 2011 and was inspired to focus on the question "Who are libraries if we don't focus on warehousing books?"

Libraries provide access to information via findable content and learning environments and skilled professionals to teach, train and lead users to content.  Given this statement - she challenged us to consider if the physical items on shelves really define libraries or not.

Rudy stated that libraries are makerspaces. (Aside - Makerspaces has been the buzz topic in the library world & #MaykersMondays in the recent months.

Rudy left us with the following question to ponder: What are we, if all the books go away?

After her presentation there was a good 20 minutes of discussion and sharing between the session participants about what is working and what isn't working for them.  This session seemed to go fast and I felt like the discussion could have gone on for another hour. 

Change Without Pain by Laura Botts & Jill Sodt (slides)

We often assume that our staff will learn tools without much training during a period of change. Jill encouraged us to take time to survey your users and staff before implementing a new process and plan out support for the new tool/process.

Laura provided the tip of finding mentors online who have dealt with similar change.  These mentors could be within your professional organizations or by contacting the authors of articles or blogs.

Don't just look for a mentor, but also be a mentor to someone else.  Keep in mind "Someone knows what you need. Someone needs what you know."

"Lazy consensus" is a methodology for collaborative change.  When a decision needs to be made, someone steps up with a proposal about how to proceed and the whole group gets a certain amount of time to speak up against it.  The default answer is always yes.
Tools Providing Outcome Measures  - Charlotte Mecklenberg Library
Staff from the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library shared their stories about two development projects that helped provide better metrics around their summer reading program and year round programming. They tackled these development projects in response to having a 30% budget cut and feedback from a patron task force.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library revolutionized its approach to summer reading and year-round programming by developing technology-based tools to provide outcome measures that are meaningful to funders and advocates.
  • Program Portal - a cloud-based database that is accessible to all programming and management staff and facilitates planning, full-costing, and evaluation.
  • Summer Reading Online Database - created for the annual summer reading program for all ages, captures in real time the progress toward specific targets such as minutes read per participant and completion rates, tied into research about summer learning loss.
I liked that the IT & Library staff presented the tools together at the conference. I would love to see more of these two groups presenting together.