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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mentors and administrative practica

While in Chicago, I also had the chance to lift a couple of glasses with Dr. Fred Schlipf, one of my library school professors. Dr. Schlipf, I am proud to say, was one of my mentors. I have many memories of him, but here are the two key ones.

I signed up for an administrative practicum with him. During that time, I had the opportunity to tour the various departments, watch him do some legislative lobbying, and eventually, offer some insights about what needed to be improved within his institution. Then, Fred had me work up a proposal, and start working to change things. More than anything from library school, this told me how change happened: observation, conversation, progress toward a goal of improvement through various meetings. But the key memory was this: on my first day, I showed up only to be told that the director was in the basement, the children's room. There had been a big rain the night before. I walked down the stairs, and there he was, shoes off, pants rolled up, mop in one hand, bucket in the other, and water up to his knees. "Welcome to the administrative life!" he said.

The second one was a class I took from him about genre fiction. I wound up writing, for my final, a Nurse-Romance-Gothic-Science Fiction-Western-Mystery. I hope I will not appear immodest when I declare that it was brilliant. History, I am confident, will confirm me. At any rate, I got an "A."

Dr. Schlipf: a man of rare judgment.

I also learned during this trip that he was a product of the University of Chicago. That explains a lot. A good many smart, thoughtful, quirky people emerge from that school. I could have gone there....

The torment of Armenian women

I lit out of Chicago this morning hoping to catch an early flight back to Denver. No luck. So I had a four hour layover at Midway. And you know what? That sounded great.

First, it turns out that someone has sprinkled the airport with big white rocking chairs. I bought a cup of coffee, and happened upon such a chair. For about an hour, I rocked and beamed at the many, extraordinarily beautiful people on the slidewalks. Many people remarked to me about how utterly happy I looked, in my straw hat, sport coat, Hawaiian shirt, white chinos, bare feet in dun Crocs, and beatific smile. I most certainly was.

One woman I saw reminded me of a charming story I should tell. During my talk at the Illinois Library Association, I blurted out a tale of my childhood. Long ago, I fell in love with the Marsoobian twins, Nina and Lisa. They were beautiful, with their long, glossy black hair, their olive skin, their dark and flashing eyes, their fascinatingly accented voices. My relationship with these Armenian beauties was, I admitted, complicated, and I said no more.

After my talk, I was wandering through the exhibits and a small, dark woman approached me. She was Armenian, and had married a Frenchman, now deceased. She said nice things about my talk, but said that mostly she had been deeply touched to hear the unexpected story of a Frenchman whose heart had been captured by Armenian beauties.

I was in 6th grade at the time. Nina and Lisa were fraternal twins. Mostly, they kept asking me to choose between them. Finally, I did. And at that moment, both of them completely lost interest in me. My choice was about the contest between them, not about me at all. The cruelty of Armenian women!

I remarked to the Illinois librarian that Nina and Lisa's father had looked upon me, so long ago, with a cold and appraising eye. Yes, she said, this is the visage of the Armenian poppa.

And she gave me the heartbreaking smile of Armenian beauties. Oh bless and curse them!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Inquisition talk for Illinois Library Association

It was at the Navy Pier, just a few hours ago. It always does my soul good to see the Lake again. And I'd never been to Navy Pier -- a cool place.

I got to see Carl Volkmann (and got him to sign his book, "Springfield's Sculptures, Monuments and Plaques"). Saw Carl Lorber, who left Lincoln Library about the same time I did to work at a university library in Illinois. Saw Nancy Huntley, current library director at Springfield, and the woman who hired me there. Saw the Waukegan Public Library crowd (Richard Lee and Heidi Smith). Later I'll see Fred Schlipf and others.

There are many wonderful colleagues here. Wish it wasn't so hot, though. Whew!

I gather that there are a lot of intellectual freedom issues here, too. I hope my own approach will be helpful to people: to turn away from the rigid and bureaucratic, and strive to create service that both staff and patron can be proud of.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Laptop Lust Part 3

As Oscar Wilde put it, the best way to rid oneself of temptation is to yield to it immediately. I bought the Acer Aspire One today from MicroCenter. It's cool.

The instructions were simplicity itself. It found my home wireless. It loads programs fast. I used the quick little hack to make it easier to add programs:

Launch My Document
File>Terminal
xfce-settings-show
Select Desktop Preferences>Behavior>Show desktop menu on right click
Close

Then a right click brings up the Xfce menu, which allows (among other things), the ability to add new programs.

Then I went to the Notecase Pro page and downloaded the Fedora 8 version.

Then I stuck a USB flash drive into my home PC and copied over the files I care about: my newspaper columns, my journals, my bookmarks, my contacts, my calendar. (And my Notecase.key file.) Then popped the into the Aspire One and dragged over the files.

Now I have a tiny little computer that's fast, full-featured, and portable. I can surf the net, do IM, write, check and send email (a fast program for that, too -- Claws?). It also has enough ports for connecting to a bigger monitor or projector, and a printer. It's about as good as my desktop!

So I'm going to try to do my talk for ILA on this. I'm amazed that this is actually cheaper than my Nokia.

Many thanks to Greenwood Press, my publisher, for a little disposable income.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Laptop Lust Part 2

See, this is what I hate. No sooner do I start to get all misty-eyed about the Acer Aspire One, then it turns out there's also a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (click the title for the link). The Dell is about $20 more expensive than the Aspire, and roughly the same hardware specs (although maybe the Dell SSD is a little smaller). The big difference is the operating system: the Dell comes with Ubuntu. I really like Ubuntu.

See, now I have to read reviews, and try to figure out which one of the things I don't need I need the most.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Laptop Lust

Generally speaking, I am not a man who longs for "stuff." But at a recent browse through of the local MicroCenter, I found a little netbook computer I really like: the Acer Aspire One. (I've also heard this called a "lapTOT.")

It's small, although not quite as small as the Asus EEEPC. But that's good, because the keyboard is actually usable with two hands. The display is just 8.9" diagonally, but remarkably clear and crisp. It has a full complement of ports (several USB, two SD, a VGA and Ethernet port) as well as built in 3G wifi.

The whole thing weighs 2.1 pounds, and is quite handsome. It boots from a cold start in 15-20 seconds.

The operating system is GNU/Linux, specifically, Linpus Lite -- a highly customized version of a Fedora 8/Xfce desktop that is immediately obvious to use. With just a few simple steps, you can turn on the Xfce right-click menu, allowing you to add additional programs.

Built-in are most of the things that a Netbook would want: Firefox, email and IM clients, Openoffice.org, a file manager, and some odds and ends. For me, I would really just have to add about two programs to have everything I actually use: Freemind and Notecase Pro.

The price: $329.

Click on the title of this blog entry to get to the Wikipedia entry, which is a good introduction.

I'll be honest. I don't actually need a laptop. On the other hand, the Nokia is a little slow for travel, and I couldn't do a presentation on it. With the Aspire One, I could. For travel, professional doings and such, it would a convenience.

Now begins the long process of talking myself into an extravagance.