Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ottawa Sightseeing and ATLA Day 4

This is my last full day in Ottawa, and today was the last day of the conference. Before I talk about the conference, I have to mention the Haunted Walk of Ottawa. The Haunted Walk is one of those walking (duh) tours where the guide shows you places that are allegedly haunted, and also talks about other nearby haunted places. This of course is the perfect tour for me.

The tour started on Rue Sparks. Our tour guide was a young woman named Dana, who did a good job of telling the stories, and also navigating us around the jazz festival that is taking place in town. The first site she discussed was Rue Sparks and the surrounding area itself. The post office on the corner of Sparks and Elgin was the site of an old graveyard where cholera victims were buried. There were few records of the burials, so when the current set of buildings were built, the city moved as many bodies as they could find. Of course, bodies were still turning up in the 1970s, so the chances that there are still more bodies underneath the street is pretty good. She told us about the Chateau Laurier, a castle-like hotel that has a haunted 5th floor (dang, I knew I should have stayed there), the oldest building in Ottawa which used to be a doctor's house, and is now a restaurant (Friday's—no relation to the American chain), the old city hall, the old Normal School, and the old barracks that served as a high school in the early 20th century. She walked us along the Rideau Canal, and told a story about a haunted house in a nearby town, and also about some haunted log cabins near the river. Our final stop on the tour was the Bytown Museum, which is believed to be haunted by an old shopkeeper. The latter is supposed to be scary enough that even the founder of the Haunted Walk was freaked out by his experiences there in the evening. She also told us about the old jail, which is part of the Ghostly Gallows tour given by the same group. The jail is also supposed to be very scary. Dana said that her employers want her to learn that tour so she can give it, but she actually doesn't want to—she's freaked out by the jail every time she goes in there. Naturally, I wanted to visit both the jail AND the Bytown Museum. On the walk, I met a former Ottawa resident named Maria, who was also a veteran of the Canadian military. She pointed out some places to me, and also told me a few stories of her own.

Needless to say I got in late on Friday night, and was not moving too fast on Saturday morning. I went to one ATLA conference session, given by Chris Anderson of Drew University. Chris works in the Methodist Archives, and currently wears many hats with regard to the archives and special collections at Drew. I introduced myself, as I work right across the street (and I'm also a Drew alum who uses their library for research quite frequently). He gave a presentation on the history of lantern slides, including their uses in missionary work among different Protestant denominations. The way that the “magic lanterns” provided special effects was pretty cool, although the lanterns themselves were quite dangerous. Some of the slides contained nitrate, the projectors were very hot, and the projectionist was often in a room made of asbestos. The room would sometimes explode under these conditions, setting fire to the theater and killing the projectionist instantly. It's no wonder that 35mm projectors became a popular replacement in the early twentieth century. A couple of librarians from the Burke Theological Library showed a rotting and ill-organized collection of lantern slides that they were trying to get their hands on to properly preserve. The slides are in the theological school, but do not belong to the library. Another librarian from Yale showed some of the lantern slides from the East depicting life in the Asian countries where the missionaries were working. There was a quick discussion of preserving and handling lantern slides, and also a business meeting for the special collections interest group.

After this presentation, I went to the Bytown Museum, to see for myself if I thought it might be haunted. (We're expecting thunderstorms here tonight, so the Ghostly Gallows tour is out, unfortunately). The museum shows the development of Ottawa around the building of the Rideau Canal by Colonel By. It was originally developed as an outpost during the War of 1812, when the “American threat” faced Canada in the U.S.'s war with Britain. Thus answering the question regarding the last time anyone in the U.S. seriously thought of invading Canada. The museum itself was interesting, and had some real historical rarities from Ottawa history. As to the haunted part—naturally I am not equipped to make a scientific assessment, but if I was to go on my intuition, I would say that something seems to be going on there. When I walk into a place that seems to have paranormal activity, I tend to feel a buzzing in my head and a tight, swirling feeling in my chest. This does not happen in every reputedly haunted place; in fact, it's pretty rare for me to feel it. I did feel it when I examined the first floor of the museum. There is a basement area just outside the main room of the first floor, where there is a mannequin dressed in 19th century clothing, and some old trunks, in what appears to be some kind of display, but there is no description. When I stepped back there, the feeling was very strong, and I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around to see a winding staircase, but it was clearly a leftover from another time, because it didn't go anywhere except into the wall. I heard steps on the staircase, but no one was there. I left that room and went upstairs to the other two floors. I didn't experience anything upstairs at all.

After visiting the Bytown Museum, I went to Darcy McGee's for lunch, and then returned to my room and collapsed. It was raining pretty steadily outside by this point, so I didn't feel like running around town. I've enjoyed Ottawa, but I am looking forward to getting back home.

Friday, June 27, 2008

ATLA in Ottawa (Day 2/3)

Today is actually Day 3 of ATLA—Day 2 was intense, so I never got back to my computer.

The first thing I attended on Thursday was the new member breakfast. I thought it started at 8, it actually began at 7. I had yet another clock alarm mishap. I set the alarm for 6 and turned it on. When I woke up at 7, it said “alarm off”. I am not alarm-clock-setting impaired, yet this has happened to me in two separate locations over the last two weeks. As though the gremlins think I need more sleep or something.

In any case, I did catch the end of the new member breakfast, and did meet a few folks. I then went over to the Plenary Address given by the University Librarian of the University of Ottawa, Leslie Weir. She discussed Scholar's Portal ( which is a large-scale digital collection of holdings from 72 libraries in Canada. They ingest materials from commercial vendors and open access initiatives. They opted for a uniform e-book interface via Ebrary, and the portal's front end is run through a software called Marklogic. The consortium behind Scholar's Portal does not lease materials; they buy the collections outright, which not only eliminates copyright issues, but allows them to check off the collections on their financial asset sheets as something owned. They do some large scale digitization (that was funded largely by Microsoft, but that funding will unfortunately ending), and everything they output is open access. I was impressed with the way the group started small with e-Journals and worked their way up to all types of materials. They are asking that publishers provide materials in XML format, but they have minimal compliance on that at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the future.

I was pleased that Leslie made a point of noting that print is not dead. Current students tend to look only for the electronic versions of books, journals, and other materials, but the scholar's portal setup helps “put the print version in front of their face” as well as the electronic options. A balance is definitely needed, even if digitization is widespread. Some cool features of Scholar's Portal include RefWorks, which allows Canadian students to retain their citations throughout their entire career in Canada (assuming that they go to all Canadian universities and eventually work in one). ODESI (pronounced “odyssey”) is a portal of social science and statistical data that allows researchers who need meaningful statistics but are not statisticians to actually get the numbers they need. They are also adding something called “Discovery Layer Search Capabilities” as an OPAC replacement. University of Toronto should be unveiling this soon, and I plan to look at it when it's up, to see how well the search technology works. Another interesting tidbit—the OLUC (consortium of Canadian libraries on the project) do not really care whether researchers use their home page or catalog—they are just as happy if the info is accessed through Google Scholar, or some other portal. It is good to see someone getting away from the “must-use-our-homepage” model of access.

After the plenary I attended a roundtable discussion of NACO. It turns out that ATLA has its own NACO funnel, coordinated by Judy Knop. We had an interesting discussion about NACO and how useful it is to be a NACO member, as well as discussions of quality of work from authority control vendors, specific heading-establishment conundrums, and the difficulties of balancing authority work with the rest of the Technical Services workload. Judy mentioned the virtual authority file, which allows access to the authority files of national libraries around the world. (I think I have the correct link posted above, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

I took a lunch break at the Highlander Pub on Rue William Street. I expected to find various varieties of Scotch, I did not expect to see Scotch Malt Liquor ice cream. (They were out of it, unfortunately, so I didn't get to try it). I did, however, try one of the lagers that was brewed locally. I don't drink lagers that often, but this one was pretty good. I think it is called Creemore Springs.
Later, I went to the LAC (Library and Archives of Canada). We all got onto chartered buses, but the driver apparently had the wrong directions. He took us to the Wellington St. facility, which is the National Library of Canada. We were supposed to go to Gatineau in Quebec to the Archives facility. After some random driving around in French Quebec (my favorite sign: Place du Wal-Mart), and after going past some row houses, our coordinator thought she saw a Canadian flag on top of a building, and told the bus driver to head that way. Turns out she was right. Interestingly enough, the LAC is located in front of a Home Depot.

The LAC catalogers were very welcoming, and talked about their cataloging operation. We were given complimentary CD-ROM copies of the National Bibliography of Canada, though it's also easily obtainable online as AMICUS. (I usually consult AMICUS when establishing Canadian authors via NACO). A couple of things highlighted were their bilingual cataloging program (English and French), the Canadian List of Subject Headings (which covers local interest subjects not treated adequately by LCSH), and the difficulties with classifying hymnals using LOC classification in Canada. With regard to the latter, there are apparently multiple class numbers and 57 cuttering variants for American hymnals, and one number for “all of Canada and Mexico” (M2133, I think, but I'd have to look it up to be sure). They outlined 3 proposals to LOC for modifying this without disrupting the schedules too much. I was surprised that we got all of the presentations in, plus had some time to chat with the LAC catalogers before getting on the bus to go back to Ottawa.

Once we returned to Ottawa, we stayed on the bus to get to the riverboat cruise on the Ottawa River. This was a pretty nice event, and it was lovely to see all of the buildings lit up at night near the Rideau Canal, but it was an exhausting event. The boat was full, and we were all sort of crammed in together at dinner. I chatted with some librarians from Toronto and Southern California, but eventually I was getting tired, and really wanted to get back and get to bed. Dinner was just sandwiches and such, so I was glad that I'd eaten a full lunch, as I don't do sandwiches. I felt pretty lousy by the time I got to my hotel room again, but a couple of Advil and a shower took care of that.

Today is Friday, and after some debate, I decided that I'm not going to any sessions today. I'm very tired, and I do want a chance to see some museums and other sites downtown. I also want to check out the one Irish pub I seem to have missed. (There are probably others that I have missed, but these look like the most fun). Tomorrow is another full day of presentations, plus the closing banquet, so I won't be here too much longer. While I've enjoyed the company of the other librarians here at the conference, I do need a little “down time” to myself. (OK, those of you who know me know that I need LOTS of downtime, evidenced by the fact that I disappear for days at a time and don't return calls for weeks).

I'll post about the last leg of the trip tomorrow, or Sunday.

I should note that I was interrupted by a random fire alarm in the hotel while writing this. I went outside as instructed, and ran into Tolonda Henderson from New Brunswick Theological Seminary (I mention her presentation on Alice Walker in my posting on MAAR). We noted with interest that there was no hotel staff outside instructing people NOT to come in, and no one around whatsoever to provide any direction as to what to do. They let us back in within about 10 minutes, so I'm guessing it wasn't that serious. Good thing, too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ATLA in Ottawa (Day 1)

I've been in Ottawa, Canada for the past two days now. I'm attending the ATLA (American Theological Librarian Association) conference. I've never been to Canada, in spite of the fact that I only live about 5 or 6 hours away by car. I flew into the Ottawa airport, which I've been told is a whole lot better than the Toronto airport by the locals. Quite a difference from Newark, which is total chaos—I was surprised to see the radio tower popping up from a green hill, a grassy clearing surrounded by what appeared to be pine trees. Our passengers were the only ones at the airport, besides the folks who worked there.

On the shuttle bus over, I met a gentleman who was attending the conference, and he introduced me to a few others that he knew at the hotel. A group of us ended up heading to a pub in the Byward Market (Marché By), and having a number of interesting conversations about Canadian politics, beer, travel, library systems, and life in general. It was a great evening, but I was really tired this morning.

Today's conference sessions were optional workshops, and I ended up going to two sessions. The first session was on writing for Theological Librarianship, the new peer-reviewed journal published by ATLA. Beth Bidlack was the main presenter of this session, and she gave a lot of excellent tips on researching, writing, and revising in general for scholarly articles. The main thrust of her talk included three things: 1. Use questions to narrow your interests into a specific topic, 2. Read your work critically (and have others do the same) to find areas that are overdeveloped or underdeveloped, and 3. Think about who your audience is, and what you want them to do with the information you are giving them.
We then had breakout sessions to discuss different types of contributions: bibliographic essays, reviews, and articles. I was in the articles session. Dr. Ron Crown, one of the editors, led the session, and discussed specific guidelines for submission and answered questions about specific topics. Overall it was very useful, and Beth provided a bibliography of resources for writers that looks very much on target.

The second session I attended was on the new CONSER standard record for serials. (Non-catalogers can just skip right over this paragraph). It was presented by Judy Knop, ATLA's digitization coordinator. I could tell that these were modified from a PCC CONSER presentation, most likely one given by LC. Judy did a great job of modifying the slides to make them clear, concise, and helpful. The biggest change in serials has been simplification to promote access and decrease description. Apparently RDA is also going in this direction. Currently, if one follows the CONSER minimum standards, it will be simple if one only does serials cataloging, but if you also do monograph cataloging, there is some contradiction with AACR2, though Judy said the LCRIs have been updated to reflect the CONSER changes. It's both good and bad; the simplification of the standard makes it easier for the average non-serials librarian to enter CONSER level records, but you lose your breadcrumb trail through the record's history. If there are no notes, how the heck do I know what was done before and for what reasons? The CONSER committee has a proposal in to MARBI to add certain 5XX fields for CONSER standard notes; having separate fields would allow the sys admins to suppress those fields in the OPAC, but still allow them to be available for the catalogers. One way that notes are being eliminated is by adding $i's to the 710 added entries (similar to those added to linking entries), so that you can see the year(s) that a particular corporate body was involved in the publication (this is still a MARBI proposal, not a fait accompli). At the end of the session Judy asked about interest in a CONSER funnel, with the only requirement being NACO corporate body training; independent status was not necessary. I'm definitely interested in doing this, and let her know.

OK, there were too many acronyms in that last paragraph. Such is the plight of the librarian. This evening I skipped out on the receptions and took a long walk through town, hitting a couple of different pubs for dinner and drinks (and a visit to the drugstore for some things I forgot to bring). Ottawa is not really like any other place I've been. The best description I can come up with is that it's like an integration of Oxford, England and Madison, Wisconsin, without Oxford's ROS (Really Old Stuff). The buildings are gorgeous, and the town is overflowing with culture. Even with all of the college kids out on the town, it still feels more like a European city, though one could easily imagine the Madison farmer's market, or the night life on State Street. So far, I like it a lot.

I will write more tomorrow, after the day's session.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Erik Estrada and Sexual Predators

I found this link via another blog that I read:
Erik Estrada Having an Actual Conversation with a Sexual Predator

So, sexual predators remember--you might not be talking to some cute young thing--you may be talking to Erik Estrada.

Let that be a lesson to you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I don't get this at all. But I can't stop watching it:


Maybe it is the 96 degrees plus high humidity here this week, but I’ve been thinking a lot about “hotness”. By that I mean “hotness” in the sense of “attractiveness”.
I don’t normally spend time thinking about this. But recently a Facebook friend of mine invited me to add the “Hot, Cute, or Okay?” application. So, I thought, what the heck, why not. I was rather surprised to see the number of guys—cute guys (!)—who rated me as “hot”, or even as “cute”. Perhaps some of it should be taken with a grain of salt.

But more interesting to me was my own response: “why would a guy find me hot?” Mind you, I don’t think I’m an ugly person, or even undesirable. But somehow I don’t think of myself as having “hotness”.

When I was in my teens, I had a cute body but a terrible face—I had lots of skin problems. My nose was also too large and out of proportion (that was fixed 20 years ago via plastic surgery). Over the years, the cruel hormones of teen years have turned kinder, and not only have my major skin issues disappeared, I also look much younger than my actual years. I’ve inherited my father’s skin—he had skin issues similar to mine, but at the age of 76, he has very few wrinkles at all. Mom doesn’t look so bad, either at 70. So, what was a liability is now something envied by my contemporaries. However, in this bargain, I have traded an awesome figure for one that I merely consider OK. I’m not fat, but I’m not as skinny as I used to be, either. My Mom being a size 4 does not help that image. I’ve noticed that my body type is not necessarily a problem for guys; girls seem to think that they have to be very thin, while guys like a few curves. I’m still a size 8, which I’ve been most of my life.

So, all things considered, I should be pretty satisfied with my appearance, and overall I’m not complaining. But I’m still shocked by the idea that someone would consider me “hot”. I don’t think I’ve let go of the physical insecurities of my younger years, in spite of all the revelations and enlightened moments I’ve had about self-image and popular culture.

Which leads me to flirting problems. When men flirt with me, I don’t really know how to respond. I either think they’re joking, or I’m embarrassed. So, my apologies to my male friends out there who have gotten flirty with me and were met by silence or an awkward response. It’s not personal. Really. As I told someone recently, I’m a retarded flirt.

The other problem I have is the relationship problem. In spite of the fact that many dating relationships do not end up as serious relationships, some backwards part of my brain still evaluates long-term possibilities when considering a date with a guy. I’m not a fan of marriage, having suffered through that for many years, but what the heck do I want anyway? One day I’m happy to have a fling, the next day it’s long-term or forget it. Not knowing what I want has been a problem, and has made me something of a hermit.

Sex is yet another thing. I have a very sexual side, but usually it’s hidden. I’m not into the idea of getting down and dirty with strangers, and like the flirting problem, I still feel awkward about being “sexual”. Maybe astrology has the answer—in my chart, Venus and Mars (sexual and aggressive energies) are in the 12th house—the house of hidden things and fears—along with Saturn, which is the planetary influence that puts the brakes on everything. As one astrologer told me, “It’s not that you’re not sexual. It just expresses itself very awkwardly.” That does seem to fit.

In a wider perspective, I don’t think I’m the only woman who feels this way. Thoughts, anyone?