Friday, September 3, 2010

The Future of Libraries and Why I Care

I don't know if it's the same way where you live, but California has but cutting back the hours and days that the library system is open. There's even talk of closing a few down, shifting the books to bigger branches and not purchasing many new ones. It's very sad to see and I don't think people understand what the library means to the community. I know I didn't until just recently when I started to use mine.

Not long ago, I didn't even see the library as an option for me. I bought all the books I wanted to read and always had a huge stack to get through at home. It was a luxury, something that I chose to spend my hard earned money on. Since writing full time, I've had to watch my spending a little more, not buying every book I want the day it comes out (of course, Mockingjay the exception). There was something about going out on Tuesday and buying them right away, even if I wasn't going to read it until months later. It was thrilling to look on my bookshelf (and I must add, still is!) and see so many unread books to choose from. It was like having my own library at home, but I was able to read them at my pace and not worry about a return policy or late fee. Another thing, and this may make me a little weird, I always thought about where the book had been. I'm no germaphobe (is that a word?), but the thought of hundreds, if not thousands of people bringing these books into their house kind of gave me the chills and not in a good way.

My mind changed a little when I got my Nook. My library system has ebooks that you can check out. I went to my local library (that's seriously less than a mile away from my house) and got a library card. I couldn't believe how easy it was. I was looking through their ebooks instantly. It's so convenient, it's ridiculous. You browse the ebook catalog at home, get on the wait list (if there is one) and when it's available they send an email. All you have to do is click on the link and download the book, loading it into your nook from the USB cord. You have the book for 21 days and once the time is up, it's returned to the library's system. No need to worry about late fees, the ebook does it for you! No need to worry about the germy hands that touched the book before you! I've read several books this way, and I have to say, it's magical. It feels as if I own the ebook and the time allotted is a lot longer than I would ever need to read a book.

I was shocked this week when I went to the library to write. I decided to give the books a chance, and went to check out the crochet books they have available. There was a book I saw they had in their catalog that I'd been wanting to get, but didn't want to spend the $20 on. I couldn't believe it when I saw it sitting on the shelf, waiting for me to check it out. While I walked the shelves, I was shocked at how busy the library was. Who said no one uses the library system anymore? There were people there of all ages, most of them ready to check items out. In fact, I couldn't find a empty seat near a table, and ended up writing with my laptop on my lap. Everyone seemed happy to be there, among so many books that they could check out for free. There were several people with huge stacks of books, the look on their faces was like they had hit the lotto jackpot.

I understand that with a state that is as poor as California is right now, there needs to be cuts somewhere, but how can you take away something that makes so many people happy? I bet most people there don't have the extra income to buy all of the books they were checking out. Books are expensive, and like I said earlier, are a luxury.

I was completely converted to a library user as I walked about with my two crochet books (one not even in print anymore!) Hey, next time I may even check out a YA book or two.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

This week I purchased a title I've read a lot of buzz about online and I'm happy to report it's as well organized and targeted to youth as they say. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook was written by children's authors, Anne Mazer (the Amazing Days of Abby Hayes series, Sister Magic series, etc.) and Ellen Potter (the Olivia Kidney series, Pish Posh, etc.), illustrated by Matt Phelan. Working in an elementary school, I know just how popular these authors have become. I love their quirky, endearing characters.

If you work with kids and need a resource to help you, help them, to write, or if you know a child with an interest in writing - heck, writers of any age will benefit from the information - get a copy. 23 chapters (or sections) cover everything from Ugly First Drafts, Suspense, Writers Are Strange Creatures. Thank Heavens!, Criticism and ends with a great question and answer session. The writing within the book is entertaining and age appropriate. There's nothing dull about learning to write here. The exercises, aptly titled, I Dare You, offer opportunities for readers to try their hand at the concepts being discussed.

I'll be using Spilling Ink as a resource for my own presentations with students during school visits - hauling my copy around Alberta (along with my other wonderful writing texts!) and encouraging writers of all ages, as well as educators to check it out.

Side Note of Irony: A friend pointed this out to me as she skimmed the book while I raved on and on about it....but on my copy of Spilling Ink, the back cover has a typo in the praise quote from Bruce Coville. "...have craftedsuch a wonderful" - did you catch it? Should be "crafted [space] such". The lack of a space between these two words doesn't diminish the quality of the information in Spilling Ink. I intend to draw attention to this oopsy and use it as an example of how, even big publishers, aka books with lots of "eyes" on them, can still have errors. Again, Spilling Ink teaches right to the last page, and then some. ;)