Clunes Booktown Festival

This year I finally made it across to Clunes for one of their annual Booktown festivals.

Clunes is a small town in country Victoria with a lot of bookshops, and is the first Booktown in the Southern Hemisphere to be recognised by the International Organisation of Booktowns. Instead of explaining the origins of the Booktown phenomena, I’m going to pop a few links below for interested parties. For everyone else, what you need to know is that in addition to the six or so permanent bookshops in the town on the festival weekend they close off a few streets in Clunes and booksellers from around the country set up stalls and take residence in the town hall hall, bank, garage and other assorted areas to sell their wares. There are  book signings, author talks, performances, discussion panels, and of course plenty of plenty of books to be seen all around. Continue reading

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Rot and Ruin – Jonathan Maberry

Published 2010 

Zombies, zombies, zombies. The literary world may be overrun, but personally this is the first young-adult book I’ve read featuring the bitey undead. I must say, I liked this take on the trope. Benny Imura was barely a toddler when the world ended. His first memory is of his now-zombie father going after his mother, while his half-brother just runs, carrying Benny away forever. He hates them both: the zombie monsters, and the coward brother. When Benny turns 15, his rations will be cut in half if he doesn’t find a job. Finally, exhausting all other options, Benny has no choice but to apprentice in the family business: zombie hunting. He loves the idea of killing zombies, but isn’t keen on doing it with his brother – both attitudes which are soon put to the test when he has to face the realities of life outside the protective walls of the town.

Maberry’s zombie-mythology is absolutely brilliant, and though the zombies never lose their inherent danger or scariness he allows the reader to pity the creatures for the humans they had once been. This is a crucial part of Benny’s growth as a character as well, and though the novel is action packed, it really is about his emotional journey and the choices he makes about the kind of person he wants to be.  To get back to the action though, there were some really dynamic scenes, with my favourite being the horse charge – from my experience you don’t often get them in zombie stories and it was just one of those small things which add to the uniqueness of the novel.

Were there some aspects of the novel I thought could have been executed better? Definitely. For instance, a clear idea of Tom’s age earlier in novel would have eased confusion over why Benny was so convinced he was a coward for not saving their mother. What flaws the novel does have are easily overlooked though, and I enjoyed the read very much. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a mixed-genre adventure.

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British Library Day Fifteen: Sound and Vision, Exhibitions, and Goodbyes

12/07/2013

Today was my LAST DAY. I took my backpack for the only time, because I’d bought a huge box of chocolates for the team and it wouldn’t fit in my handbag. I also thought it was a good idea because an acquaintance was trying to get us tickets to the BBC Proms and my shoulders had started screaming at me with the handbag over the last few days. Understandable; I’d been putting a lot in the bag, and walking a fair distance with it.

Lynn stopped me before taking me down to Rod in sound and vision, and gave me a present for my friend, which I’d been debating buying. That was just about the sweetest thing ever. I mean, she doesn’t even know my friend. I chose this moment to hand over the chocolates, also so people could have some for morning tea. When Lynn did take me across, it was with the stipulation that I be back by 12 because we were going to do lunch. Continue reading

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British Library Day Fourteen: Electronic Services and Digital Scholarship

11/07/2013

Second last entry!

Today was a pretty long day, with a lot of talking.  I did take a fair amount of notes, but it was a case of information overload, and I don’t know that specific projects in the departments I was in are all too relevant as opposed to a general overview.

I started with the Electronic Services team, who sit kind of between the reading rooms and tech-support in the grand scheme of things. The department is heavily involved with the Explore the British Library catalogue, ordering systems, print services, user accounts, database subscription and management, IT testing, and training staff in new applications among other things. I spent some time with each member of the team, and each went over their area with me. Continue reading

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British Library Day Thirteen: Conservation and Picture Library/Studios

10/07/2013

A bit of a sad day today as it hit me that I only have two days left after this. I’ve just gotten my balance it seems, and now I’ll be leaving. I’ll actually miss everyone – strange as it seems after spending most of my time outside of the department. Without a question though, everyone has been lovely. They all have a smile or nod for you. People who I’ve shadowed with have been extraordinarily willing to take time out of their day to show me their work and collection – as well as show me back to where I need to be. One person even helped make the cafeteria experience a lot less stressful just by stopping and asking if I was alright and did I need a card because they don’t take money (I did, thankfully, as Lynn had set me up with one, but I have no doubt this person would have offered to get my lunch otherwise). Continue reading

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British Library Day Twelve: Presentation Day

09/07/2013

I had my presentation today, so of course I just about worked myself into a panic attack before I even arrived in the morning – and the presentation wasn’t until the afternoon!

Luckily I had finished all my notes etc and just needed to print them out, as well as adding a few extra citations which we decided to provide as a handout as Lynn said often people would like to have extra information to take with them. Powerpoint of course cut off the bottom of half my notes, so I ended up having to copy and paste them into a Word document, a task which was interrupted halfway when two of my teachers, Sue and Mary, arrived for a visit. A nice interruption indeed. Continue reading

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British Library Day Eleven: Humanities

I apologise for taking so long to post these. Only four more posts after this one, and I promise to have them up soon. I really want to finish posting them before it’s a year since my placement occurred.

08/07/2013

I spent the morning with Rod and Adrian on the Humanities reference desk today.  It is one of the bigger and busier reading rooms in the library, covering everything from general reference works to history, philosophy and literature works. It is also one of the reading rooms which employs Dewey. The British Library used to run the library of the UK Library Association and the humanities reading room now holds a fairly large library and information services section. This is Adrian’s baby, and I made sure to go up and have a look at it before I went to lunch. It certainly made me remember that I am supposed to be rethinking my topic for Professional Project in my free time  but I am no closer to coming up with an alternative query.

Physically, Humanities is set up a little differently from other reading rooms, with the reference desk directly opposite and fairly close to the issue and return desks. This can be a little confusing for readers when they first enter, but also makes that area feel a little squashed (just a little). This design does however mean more room for seats, and shelves.

The humanities reading room also still uses table numbers as reference issuing books, so they know where readers are in case something is amiss later. The old ordering system used to do this by having the table number included on the item request, and turning on a little light at the desk so the reader knew when their item was ready for pick up. Pretty nifty, but I suppose it wasn’t as cool as it seems because they did get rid of it in the end.

Most of the queries I observed were to do with upgrading accounts, WiFi issues, and ordering assistance. The WiFi of course is handled by an outside company, and the patrons were given a phone to ask their support team for help. Sometimes this didn’t work and the reference team had to soothe the reader.

One patron was asking about newspapers, and while the humanities room has some digital subscriptions, they ended up having to direct the patron to Colindale. Another reader was after an item which the library didn’t have, and so Adrian checked Copac, which is similar to WorldCat or Trove, and contains the holdings of many of the larger academic libraries in the UK. Luckily, one of the universities did have the item in question, and it was convenient for the reader to visit there as he had a lending card.

One thing which did come up a couple of times, and for the first time I had seen, was an issue with ordering on the catalogue whereby journals or multi-volume monographs had not been enabled to be ordered in parts on the system. This means that the reader can only order the whole range, which will be denied in the basement, as they will not send up hundreds of journals at a time. Luckily it only took a quick call (presumably because the metadata was already there) to what I later found out was the electronic services team to fix the issue.

As always, we chatted about a range of things, including the sorts of qualifications people have (a huge range, and not nearly all library qualifications). I tend to ask whatever pops in my head when it is quiet, so we also discussed the first aid requirements of the organisation. It turned out there was no specific requirement for staff at any level to have first aid training, but that the library does like to have one volunteer in each geographical area of the library, and encourages people to train.It wasn’t too long before my time was up, though I had stayed until the end of the morning shift.

During and after lunch I had time to work on my presentation. Lynn had left the library while I was out, and when my headache from the day before returned accompanied by wooziness I left early, but wrote a note to leave on her desk. I wanted to tell someone, but the office was pretty empty, and having only crossed paths with Louise briefly I wasn’t sure I’d actually be talking to her not someone else when I went over there. The perils of meeting too many people at once!

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