Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book review: Princess Recovery

Princess Recovery: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Daughter Who Can Create Her Own Happily Ever After Jennifer L. Harstein, PsyD.

There's no doubt that the the princess industry, that marketing and cultural juggernaut that includes Barbie, Disney and now even LEGO, is potentially destructive to our children.  Princess Recovery does an admirable job of laying bare the market forces that conspire to create girls and women who are image-obsessed, insecure and materialistic. It then goes on to provide options for parents looking to counter those influences with their own children. 

There is lots to like here - this title is extremely accessible, and the chapter structure, in which an issue is identified, along with a Princess Symptoms and contrasting Heroine Value, is well-suited for parents looking for help addressing specific behaviors. Suggestions for intervention are grouped by age, with a reminder that each child matures at a different rate, so parents should use their own best judgement when determining how to proceed.  Harstein lays out for parents the importance of modifying their own attitudes and behavior around body image and food.  While this sort of advice is common in contemporary books on raising girls, less common is the similar advice Harstein provides related to "retail therapy" and other consumerist behaviors.  In addition, parents are encouraged to see their children as individuals, and spend time having real conversations with their daughters, helping parents get past their own assumptions and address their children's lived experiences.

There are useful tips here, and I will certainly recommend this title to parents.  I plan to re-read a few chapters that are relevant to things happening in my home at the moment.  I question the age ranges for some of the Children's Books for Heroines (Appendix A), but that's a minor quibble; the Healthy Princess Play Ideas (Appendix B), re-focusing some of the most common modes of princess play in more active, creative and stimulating directions, are fun and likely to be acceptable to even the hard-core princesses.  I would have liked a more explicit discussion of sexism and capitalism, but the book succeeds even without that.  A solid addition to any parenting collection.

I received an e-book edition of this book for free through NetGalley.com.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 27th thing

So, 27 things, done and dusted.

I was most excited to see what libraries are doing to put their virtual collections out where people already are. When the Library of Congress shows up in your flickr photo search, you've accessed a public resource - maybe even by accident. I love that. And I'm thrilled to hear that, as part of an upcoming digitization project, the Sacramento Room will be exploring making images available via flickr.

Podcasts are another favorite of mine, and while I didn't take up the challenge to record a podcast, it was interesting to see what other libraries are doing with the technology. There's great potential for expanding our current dial-a-story programs into podcasts. I also think we should consider recording key author events and making them available via podcast. There are, of course, copyright issues involved with these sorts of activities, but it seems worth the hassle, given the potential for expanding our programming reach.

System-wide, I think 27-things has helped SPL staff to understand why it's important for us to have a presence in the online spaces inhabited by our public. The timing of bringing our (fabulous) digital services librarian on board could not have been better. Our facebook page has taken off, and has already yielded results in the form of customer feedback she's using to develop our mobile-accessible library pages. We're expanding our twitter presence. We're raising our profile in Sacramento area wikis, and we're looking to review sites like yelp to see what other folks are saying about us.

On a personal level, it's been fun to see what my colleagues at SPL are passionate about (and I really hope Natalie invites us all to her new house, once it's finished).

So, when do I get my flash drive?

Monday, July 27, 2009


OK, so here's today. I don't have times written down, but things are in generally chronological order.
  • Skim e-mail, feed reader, twitter, facebook
  • Check voicemail, make list of call-backs (many branches aren't open on Monday, so most calls need to wait until tomorrow)
  • Touch base with my office-mates (there are 6 of us in a large space - 4 Managers, a Digital Services Librarian, and an Administrative Assistant)
  • Respond to weekly reports from branches via e-mail
  • Discover an office-mate has brought us home-made peach pie
  • Attend weekly meeting with fellow Branch Services Managers and our boss, the Assistant Director for Public Services - debrief re. recent supervisor training seminar
  • Have short discussion with my boss re. specific ongoing issues
  • Send agenda items to conveners of 2 upcoming meetings
  • Eat piece of peach pie
  • Discuss with office-mate the possibility of getting library cell plan to included texting, as we're using twitter and other text-based services more
  • Start article on success of new Saturday hours at one of our rural branches; realize can't write it until tomorrow, when supervisor of said library is in and can answer my questions
  • Write 5 brief reports for SPL's 27 Things project - the deadline for all 27 is July 31st, and I want my commemorative flash drive!
  • Look at mock-ups for invitations for a grand opening at the end of August, and wonder how to make all the stakeholders happy with the print pieces
  • Discuss the merits of using a Folkmanis pig puppet to ease difficult discussions in the workplace
  • Open mail - receive a catalog of purportedly indestructible AV cases from a vendor I met at ALA; pass along to Collection Manager
  • Play with a Dell Latitude 2100; we're considering using these for a "check out a laptop" program in one of our new branches; pass to other office-mates
  • Discuss a customer-education sign suggestion with Marketing director
  • Get call from boss re. lapse in customer service at a branch
  • Notice I forgot to eat lunch
  • Write up today's dayinthelife and go home

Five at one blow...

Things 22-26 of my 27 Things

22. "Check out" and download an audiobook from the Library's collection - I used the new myilibrary audio collection for this activity, as I've already successfully downloaded a bunch of material from our overdrive collection. My biggest frustration with both of these collections is actually in the cataloging (or lack thereof). I don't want to have to browse, or rather, I don't want to have to browse through a mass of unrelated materials to see what is available. The simple non-tagged keyword search both resources offer doesn't really work for me. As more and more of our users are using the library without setting foot inside of our buildings, I think we need to think hard about how we treat these kind of virtual services. Are they "add-ons", bells and whistles we include so we can be like the cool kids? Or are they materials as important to the collection as the latest hardcover? Right now, it feels like the two formats are living in separate worlds; I'd argue we need to integrate them better (and a lot more seamlessly) to be truly format-agnostic.

23. Peruse the new SPL website - I like the look and feel of the new website. They've made some improvements lately, most importantly substituting regular GoogleMaps for the GoogleEarth which had been the default map. Most of it seems pretty intuitive, though it's still tough to find JPA board documents, or contact info for the Friends or the Foundation. And it's still worlds better than what came before. In any case, it's a work that is now and forever in progress, and I've been pleased with the direction we've been taking it.

24. Learn a new language with Mango Language Learning - Oh, Mango, how do I love you! I included some straight from the trade show scoop on Mango in an earlier entry. Like audiobooks, this is a resource we make available to customers for use from anywhere. As I've said before, this kind of remote, format-neutral content provision is going to become more and more important. Once again, I think we need to figure out how to leverage this - people are willing to pay big bucks for similar programs, why is it so hard for us to get them to use our stuff for free?

25. Tweet on Twitter - I was a Twitter naysayer. I've been turned - I think it's a useful tool for publicizing the Library. While I've heard all the arguments about mediated relationships and fake intimacy, I also think it's a fun way to keep up with friends and colleagues. Yeah, and I like Facebook, too. I tweet as sarahdentan. If you're looking for ways to justify Twitter as a professional activity, Mashable offers lots of business applications (for Facebook, too).

26. What is Thingfo? Thingfo is invite only, so I'm substituting A Day in the Life of the Library.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Outsourcing collection development

Another report from ALA. Please note, my notes/thoughts/asides/etc. do not reflect policy directions, management fait accompli, or anything else. They're just my thoughts.

UNLV and PHX public, with their CDV partner vendors. I'm concentrating on the PHX experience here.


Started with completely decentralized selection [like SPL], selectors in branches with 4 hrs/wk to do selection. Selecting from reviews, they were only able to spend 25% of book budget, CDV manager was spending the rest based on customer requests. Opening collections were more current, more diverse, and better meeting customer needs. Even selectors saw that that was better customer service.

Now, vendors do selection (PHX moving toward more standing orders where feasible - approval plan time consuming). CDV manager maintains small, centralized discretionary budget for requested materials. Ex-selectors still manage collection, but differently - provide course corrections, refine profiles, speak to vendor biweekly. Time is freed up in branch for outreach, desk time, weeding and collection analysis (important and often overlooked CDV jobs).

Experience is showing vendors do a good job, even naysayers are starting to see that. In some case, vendor can be more on-track than librarians (fixing gaps in GLBT collections, recognizing aging knitting collection) and sometimes can be ahead of the curve. No problem with access to small presses. Ex-selectors are becoming converts because vendor selectors are good, and because it is faster - materials are often on the shelf before customers are looking for them.

Important to communicate the power of the approval plan. Focus should be - what can the vendor do that makes sense for my collection? It's still the library's collection, still needs to be managed, vendor is a partner [or a tool].

PHX using ILS system reports/stats to adjust profiles and budgets. Customer behavior is driving CDV. The customer is now the primary selector.

Complication, slowness of current process is a common reason for moving toward outsourcing. Vendors can also handle end-of-year funds in a way that maximizes your flexibility, bonus!

How to start:
  • Staff has to trust CDV manager and vendor, because the expertise on publishers, new books will shift out of selectors' hands.
  • Understand current process, where you want to be, before you sit down with vendors. It's still the library's collection - know what you DO want, not just what you don't want, from the vendor.
  • Approval plans provide opportunity to prioritize, re-prioritize, re-re-re-prioritize.
  • Expertise of (ex)-selectors important for refining profiles.
How do you train newbies on CDV if they're not selecting?
Lots of CDV to do besides selection: weeding (all new librarians should do lots of this) and collection analysis are and will remain key activities. [I'd add community analysis]