Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Subject vs. Keyword

You may recall a previous post in which I mentioned that I'd use an entry to explain what, exactly, the difference is between keywords and subjects. The distinction is not an intuitive one, but it's an important distinction just the same, one that will vastly change what kind of results you'll get in the Catalog searches that you do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Pirate's Life for Me

I love pirates. If you've ever met me, then you probably know this already -- I've got something of a reputation as a pirate fan. (Er. As in "historical, swashbuckling buccaneers," that is. Not the baseball team.) (Although, come to think of it, I'm a fan of the baseball team, too. They've got quite a cool name.)

Of course, as an obsessor of pirates, I'm quite aware that the happy-go-lucky swashbucklers of fiction and film are a far cry from the historical reality. Real pirates of the seventeenth and eighteenth century were rough, brutal men and women (yes, there were women pirates, too) who lived with constant violence and without regrets. But pirate crews were also notable for being made up of people escaping tyrannical naval captains, slavery, and impoverished living conditions. Pirate crews were also true democratic societies -- pirate ships would choose their own captain by election, and every major decision was first put to vote by the crew.

In history and in fantasy, the Golden Age pirates have captured the imagination of people the world over. As we approach the release of the new Disney film "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," check out these titles -- and find your inner swashbuckler!



  • Under the Black Flag: The Romance And The Reality Of Life Among The Pirates, by David Cordingly. [non-fiction]
    The quintessential modern overview to what life was like during the "Golden Age of Piracy" -- the period of time during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when piracy in the Caribbean ran rampant.
  • Pirate Hunter: The True Story Of Captain Kidd, by Richard Zacks. [non-fiction]
    Pop culture tells us that Captain Kidd was the epitome of a Golden Age pirate. But this account shows that Kidd was, instead, a licensed privateer who was set up by the East India Trading Company to take the fall after inadvertently pitting himself against them. A rip-roaring story, told in a fascinating style, Zacks's book is highly recommended.
  • Chase the Morning, by Michael Scott Rohan. [novel]
    A fantasy adventure featuring an unlikely protagonist, an import/export agent who finds himself sucked into an alternate world of heroes, demigods ... and pirates.
  • Pirate Latitudes: A Novel, by Michael Crichton. [novel]
    Published posthumously, this caper-style historical novel is notably different from Crichton's usual science thrillers.
  • The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook: A Swashbuckler's Guide from Pirates of the Caribbean, by Jason Heller. [humor]
    A great book for anyone looking to encourage their inner swashbuckler. Contains such "vital nautical information" as how to break a curse, how to stay alive when your ship sinks, and the Top Ten Pirate Superstitions.
  • Bloody Jack : Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, by L.A. Meyer. [YA novel]
    The first in a series of young adult novels, Jacky Faber -- a young orphan girl struggling to survive on the streets of London -- decides to disguise herself as a boy and sign on to serve on a merchant ship. She's not looking for adventure, she's merely trying to survive -- but adventure has a way of finding Jacky Faber!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome to Mallville Library

Several months ago I was lucky enough to attend the American Library Association's annual conference. There were a lot of amazing seminars and fantastic resources put on display that weekend, but a definite highlight of the conference was the chance to meet Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes -- and to thank them for their awesome online comic, "Unshelved."

"This comic improves the quality of my life!" I gushed to Gene Ambaum as he was signing my book of collected "Unshelved" comics, prompting a smile from Ambaum.

"We like to hear that," said Barnes, who had already signed my book, along with drawing a picture of Merv (one of my favorite "Unshelved" characters) for good measure. I'm hardly the only librarian to be a big fan of "Unshelved" -- although, as Ambaum and Barnes like to point out, their comic strip is definitely not meant just for librarians.

"Unshelved" is a daily comic strip which chronicles the adventures and misadventures of the library staff members at the fictional Mallville Public Library. Characters include Colleen, the "old school" reference librarian who doesn't care for all this suspicious new technology; Buddy, the library page (who was originally hired to be the summer reading mascot and still wears his beaver costume to work); and my favorite, Dewey, the comic-book-loving teen services librarian. (Can't imagine what would draw me to him.)

"I'd like to check out some Spider-Man comics."

New strips are released Monday through Friday, with "rerun" comics featured on the weekends. Despite its central cast of librarians, however, "Unshelved" is something which can be read and enjoyed by anybody who loves their local library.

The writing is sharp and witty; I've laughed out loud at punchlines more often than I can count. And the artwork matches up to the writing; I love the cartoony aspects of the characters, particularly their more exasperated and exaggerated facial expressions.

Stephen King observed in his writing memoir that "people like to read about work. I don't know why, but they do." (I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we spend so much of our time at our jobs!) One need only to look as far as the success of a show like "The Office," which is all about the awkward and hilarious dynamics of the workplace.

"Book Returned 47 Years Late."

What makes "Unshelved" so special is that it manages to combine the workplace humor that so many people enjoy with a genuine love of books, reading, and libraries. This must be due in large part to the fact that Ambaum is a librarian himself, and both Ambaum and Barnes are clearly book-lovers (they review their latest reads every Friday).

Their affection for the world of reading -- and for the world of libraries -- adds a dash of heart to their comic strip, making it a truly unique read. So if you're a library-lover, be sure to check it out.

… no pun intended, of course.

Check out more "Unshelved" by checking out their collections in our Catalog!

What Would Dewey Do?
Library Mascot Cage Match
Book Club
Frequently Asked Questions
Reader's Advisory
Large Print

Monday, May 9, 2011

Staff Recommendation #2: "After the Golden Age" by Carrie Vaughn

"After the Golden Age" by Carrie Vaughn

Staff Review by Ms. B

I love superheroes. I've been a devout fan of Batman and Superman since childhood, I get excited for each and every big blockbuster superhero flick to come to the summertime movie screens, and I have a ever-expanding pull list of comic books on reserve for me at the local comic book shop. Lois Lane was my childhood heroine -- and the Joker is my all-time favorite villain, not just from comic books but from fiction in general.

So I really enjoy comic books, but it's also true that I enjoy superhero tales in just about any format. And, as I love reading novels, I'm always on the look-out for books that use the novel format to tell stories about these super-characters which are more often reserved for the comic book format. Carrie Vaughn's new, comic-book-inspired novel "After the Golden Age" is a surprisingly wonderful book that fits the bill exactly. Although, don't get me wrong -- it's not just for fans of comic book superheroes like myself, but for anyone looking for a well-written, character-rich coming-of-age story.

The book stars Celia West, only child of Suzanne and Warren West -- or, as her parents are better known, Captain Olympus and Spark, the leaders of the Olympiad (the story's Fantastic-Four-esque band of superheroes). Celia, however, has inherited no superpowers of her own, meaning that the child of Commerce City's greatest superhero duo is herself ... an accountant.

She's also a frequent kidnapping victim (the city's supervillains like to use Celia as leverage against her parents), a disappointment to her father (who, in addition to being super-strong, has anger management issues), and she's hiding a horrible mistake in her past that she's still trying to put behind her (this of course does not work). But as Celia is hired by the D.A.'s office in order to prepare a case against the Destructor (the city's most notorious criminal mastermind), it's not really to the city or her parents that Celia needs to prove herself.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book's humor and world-building detail, as well as by the intricate mystery plot that unfolds during Celia's determined digging for details into the court case she's working. But I was stunned by the depth of character development that Celia undergoes, as she struggles to forgive herself for her past, and decide who she is and what it is that's truly important to her. Most twentysomethings -- or anybody who has ever been twentysomething -- could relate to a character like Celia West, who has a lot of self-doubt and anger but is still filled with determination to find herself and fight for what she believes in.

For comic book fans, there's no denying that this book -- with its in-jokes and references (I have no doubt that Vaughn's Hawk is a nod to Batman) -- is a special treat. But for anyone looking for a quirky mystery story with a strong, relatable, developing central character, you can't do much better than "After the Golden Age."

Request "After the Golden Age" by Carrie Vaughn