Thursday, December 22, 2011

Musings of a Grad Student: Semester Three Complete

Classes are over and winter break is here! To recap, this semester I took Organizational Management, Literacy and Learning, and Beginning Cataloging and Classification. To read descriptions of these classes see my previous Musings post.

Literacy and Learning was my most interesting course. Our readings examined theories of learning while class discussions examined pedagogy in practice or, how exactly to implement those theories in the real world, as well as current trends and standards in library practice. One week, groups presented on the state of instruction in different types of libraries: special libraries, university libraries (including archives), school libraries and public libraries. My partner and I researched instruction in public libraries. We briefly covered youth services instruction then discussed adult instruction available in Iowa public libraries. This was my favorite assignment as it allowed me to research the type of institution I am most interested in while getting a feel from the other groups' presentations for what is happening in other libraries, too.

The management course looked at potential real world scenarios librarians encounter as managers. I appreciated the chance to read real grant proposals as well as writing our own theoretical grant proposal since this is something librarians do in order to get funding for special events/projects.

Looks like her cataloging book did kill her. 
The cataloging class covered technical jargon which librarians use like MARC, AACR2, RDA, DC, etc. Most of our time was spent learning to catalog according to the guidelines of AACR2 and applying MARC tags. The cataloging book tried to kill me by putting me to sleep then falling on my face (it's a brick of a book). But I'll have to say the information was worth the risk of reading and the instructor made the class fun. While studying for the final I was laughing at jokes in his power points. If you're going to study the Dewey Decimal classification system you might as well crack a few jokes, right?

The library children's department where I work is keeping busy. Our librarians our gearing up for a children's literature festival January 13-15. The festival is put on by the UNESCO City of Literature and the Pearson Foundation. Our library will be playing an active role. Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird, will be there and there will be activities and movies so if you're in the Iowa City area bring your kids! Learn more about the festival here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Today's review is from my mom! Enjoy!

With a cute cover and holiday-themed title, Skipping Christmas had all the right stuff to entice me to read it.  Having an obvious Scrooge-like sentiment as its title, I wanted to know what would make someone have that mentality, and how they could pull it off in a modern world.

Luther Krank, the tax accountant protagonist, decides he will not participate in Christmas, and he means all of it – the money spent being his number one complaint.  Living in a large city where he is constantly, aggressively bombarded with pleas for his charity and goodwill, he decides to forgo Christmas and take his wife on a luxury cruise instead.  What follows is a “shock and awe” reaction from his friends, coworkers and neighbors. No Frosty the Snowman on his roof?  No annual Christmas dinner for 50 of his closest friends?  No tree, calendar, fruitcake purchased for the Boy Scouts, Policemen's Charity, Fireman's toy drive? Scandalous!  Ridiculous!  Unheard of!

Although not everyone will experience the Krank's stress during the Holidays, everyone has experienced some form of these stressors: traffic congestion, sickness, absent children, needy people, greedy people, bad weather, etc.  I could understand why Luther decided to escape to a tropical climate and indulge in a little “me time.”  But his carefully calculated scheme unravels and is rewoven into a celebration of a different sort, one with an unusual twist, wrapped in kindness and generosity. 

Snow or no snow, presents or no presents, in sickness and in health, Christmas will come and go, and this story emphasizes that it's how we behave and live out our values that matter much more than whether everything looked, smelled and tasted picture-perfect.  After all, that only happens in our dreams! 

Publisher: Doubleday, 2002     Pages: 177     Source: purchased copy

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

The Maze Runner trilogy comes to a dramatic conclusion in The Death Cure. Thomas and the Gladers escaped the Maze (book 1) only to be thrown into the zombie infested Scorch (book 2) as part of a desperate experiment to save mankind from the Flare -- the zombie disease. Now, as all the variables have been tested for, Thomas realizes his role in the testing runs deeper than he knew.

The setting of each book is distinct, creating unique environments which the characters must survive in. The Death Cure's is an urban setting in the dead of winter. The last surviving towns are walled off to ensure the Flare is quarantined but civilization is crumbling as more and more people succumb to the disease.

Thomas realizes that fleeing is not an option as the city of Denver goes mad with disease and desperation. Instead, he confronts WICKED, the organization responsible for the tests, in order to get the answers he needs  about his past so he can decide what to do with his future.

Confronting WICKED results in a lot of fighting and near death escapes much like the first two books. Yet, I felt like The Death Cure dragged on a bit. Unlike the first two, this book did not keep my attention. I wasn't hanging on at the end of each chapter. The answers to some of the long-standing questions throughout the series were a little flat. I expected something slightly more clever or more grey. And the grand conclusion was a tad too easy and felt unusual for Thomas' character.

Fans of the series won't want to miss The Death Cure because if you're like me you'll have to know the ending to the story. Many characters from the first two books resurface to play interesting roles. This series isn't for the faint of heart. There's gore, death and destruction. Don't get too attached to a character because you never know when someone will turn zombie or turn coat. Despite the slight let down in book three, I have really enjoyed this young adult series and recommend it to dystopia fans.

Publisher: Delacorte, 2011     Pages: 336
Rating: 3 Stars     Source: Public Library