"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Jun 30, 2010

Progress on the job front... and with MS Publisher

I haven't actually posted about this yet for some strange reason. It must be a very strange reason, in fact, because it's exciting news.

I have a job interview!

It's for a community librarian-type position in a public library about half an hour away from where I grew up. From the job ad, it sounds like there will be opportunities to do things I love (e.g. planning programs and services, some reference desk work) and also to gain skills in areas where I'm ready to grow (e.g. supervision/management, overseeing larger programs/projects). It's not 100% clear, but I'm also hoping that there will be opportunities to really go out and engage with the community and figure out their needs and how to bring them into the library.

I am excited and nervous and just want the next week to hurry up and get over with so I can have this interview! But I still have a lot of preparation to do. I have to go back over my notes on the library and do some additional research about the city it's in. I also need to practice, practice, practice interview questions and make lists of experiences and achievements that would make good examples to use when answering questions (I tend to forget specific experiences way too quickly, especially under pressure). I need to come up with one or two more good questions of my own to ask.

And I need to keep practicing MS Publisher. I've been told that after the interview I will have 30 minutes to make a flyer in Publisher. Apparently that's an important skill in this job. I have some experience with Publisher, but not tons, so I've spent the past few weeks getting some practice in whenever I can. I needed some inspiration for practice flyers to make, so I've been basing them on books I've read recently. I've made three so far:
(The last one is a .png because the computer I was on did not have the necessary add-on to save Publisher files as .pdf, and since it was a library computer I couldn't install anything on it.)

The interview is on July 8 -- I'll try to update soon afterward to reflect on how it went...

Jun 16, 2010

Read Something! _Eye of the Red Tsar_ (Sam Eastland)

Eye of the Red Tsar

278 pp.
Historical Suspense

Introducing Pekkala: a man with a near-photographic memory and an ironclad determination to do the right thing in any situation. Under the Romanovs he was the Emerald Eye -- the Tsar's infamously incorruptible chief investigator, accountable to no one but himself, with the authority to question or arrest anyone -- even the Tsar. Now he is a prisoner of Stalin's regime, sentenced to labor in a remote gulag.
But the state has need of Pekkala still. Released from the gulag, he is tasked with a final investigation: find the bodies of the Romanovs, their rumored still-living child, and their hidden treasure. If he scores this coup for Stalin, he will finally be free. But Pekkala is not the only person seeking lost treasure, and there are those who wish to ensure that the truth of what happened to the Romanovs is never known. Can Pekkala find the answers before he loses his life?

Appeal characteristics
  • Plot: 2 (2.5? 3?) plots are semi-interwoven throughout the book. One plot deals with the characters in the present, and the other deals with Pekkala's backstory, including a romance.
  • Plot (?): There is a mystery, but much more time is spent on character development than on unraveling the mystery
  • Characterization: Character-focused book; much of the novel is about the main character, his past, and his relationships with others
  • Pacing: Pacing is fairly slow for a suspense novel/thriller; generally, a major event happens every few sections, with a lot of slower filler dealing with character development and backstory
  • Pacing: Pacing increases markedly at the end; the book shifts more toward an emphasis on plot than characters, and the characters are put in increasing physical danger
  • Frame: Periodic moments of levity/humor break up the more serious tone of the rest of the book
Other notes
  • The mystery is fairly predictable for readers who are attentive to foreshadowing and hints. Readers who enjoy mysteries that force them to solve puzzles, as well as readers who don't like it when the main character(s) remain clueless for some time after the reader has already figured something out, may not be good matches for this book.
  • My Noting: Books entry on Eye of the Red Tsar: http://notingbooks.com/users/hbackman/readings/5638-Eye-of-the-Red-Tsar
  • Sherlock Holmes? (I have sadly not yet read any Conan Doyle so I don't actually know if this is a match at all...)
  • Child 44 (Tom Rob Smith) -- similar setting; both are thrillers/suspense novels; pacing, focus on characters vs. plot, and general content are quire different; level of suspense in Child 44 is much higher and is sustained throughout the book; Child 44 deals with the ethical issues related to working for a totalitarian state whereas Eye glosses it over; Eye is much better written, stylistically (the phrasing and flow are more evocative and less awkward)

Jun 8, 2010


I used to be an obsessive reader. I would have two or three books going at the same time. Every spare moment would be spent reading. My parents would admonish me to set the book down at the breakfast table, worry that I would crack my head open coming down the stairs because I would read while walking around the house. (Years later I put that skill to good use to get homework done while walking to class at Stanford.) I always seemed to need another bookcase in my room, and that was for books on top of everything I read that I got from school for assignments or checked out of the library.

Then I got to college. Homework assignments were much more time consuming there than at my high school. I had brought books with me to read, but I found that between academics and my extracurriculars, I didn't have much time for pleasure reading. And once I started my English major, I was reading for school constantly. I loved my major (and chose it because of the extent to which I loved books), but reading became homework, and I wanted to do something different during my downtime. This feeling only got more intense as I progressed through my BA and earned a MA as well. I loved reading, but I already did it constantly for school -- I didn't feel the urge to read for leisure anymore.

After I graduated and started my MSI, I slowly began to read for leisure again during vacations (there was still no time during the school year!). Mostly I was reading from the bookshelf-sized backlog I'd acquired during the past five years, but occasionally a different book would slip in. Still, since I only really had time for pleasure reading on vacations, I didn't get much done.

But now. NOW. This is definitely one of the ways in which being temporarily semi-unemployed is a blessing. I have so much time to read! I have started devouring books again like I used to -- not three at a time anymore (I stopped that when I realized I couldn't keep all of the plots straight at once!), but with the old easy rapidity. And here in Ann Arbor I am half a country away from that daunting loaded bookshelf, so I feel remarkably free to choose my reading materials. I am trying to select books from a broad range to reacquaint myself with what's out there, especially what's new. So far I've gotten through both Persepolis books, two thrillers set in Stalinist Russia (hopefully a blog post on those is forthcoming), a book of poetry, and Joy Luck Club, among others. And lined up I have a work of modern literary fiction, a horror novel, a YA book, Tinkers (whenever I get far enough up in the hold queue at my library), and The Passage (ditto the note on Tinkers). Going to my internship is dangerous because right now I don't have much desk work, so I spend a lot of time reading book publications like PW and the New York Times book reviews -- which just gives me more things I want to read...

It feels so good to be getting back to reading for pleasure like I used to!

(You will see reviews of some of the books I read on this blog, and you can find notes on many of them as well at my noting: books page.)