Monthly Archives: January 2013

200 Years Strong

Today marks 200 years since Jane Austen’s most-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice was published.

I learned to love Austen at an early age. I am sure my high school English teacher mom has something to do with this fact. The quintessential film adaptation of an Austen book – the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth came out when I was in 5th grade. While I could not understand all of the nuances then the story, the costuming, and the characters mesmerized me.

** Sidenote: It always bothered me that Jennifer Ehle, who is such a beauty, was described in the movie as not as beautiful as her sister Jane who I perceived as slightly horsey-faced. Years later I asked my British Literature teacher in high school (who was from England), who was more beautiful – Jane or Lizzie in the BBC adaptation, and Mr. Vickers supported Jane. I have thus decided that British men prefer their women thin and drawn while Americans prefer fuller, rosy cheeks. **

To sum – I am a Pride and Prejudice enthusiast. So it was to my delight this weekend the community reading program run by my public library – Linn Area Reads – announced that this year’s book is Austen’s first novel. I look forward to the March book discussions and have already signed up for a tea that is scheduled.

My main concern? One of the events is a film showing – but they have not specified which adaptation will be shown. Is it the ultimate Pride and Prejudice with Firth and Ehle, and not the disappointing portrayal of Lizzie that I have been able to bring myself to watch in its entirety : the Keira Knightly edition.

A somewhat irreverent metaphor was made to me once by a friend. She was leaving the movie theater after watching the Knightly rendition and I asked her how it was.  “You know how the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice is like The Bible?” she asked? “Yes,” I responded. “Well, this one was like the Book of Mormon.”

To demonstrate:

Pride and Prejudice has taken an almost sacred place in our household. My mom, my sister, and I all watched it several times a year together – bonding over our disdain and then adoration of Darcy, our hatred of Wickham, and our agony over the entire Bennett Family’s decisions. We quote lines back and forth to each other and although the three of us live in different states now, it continues to be a cornerstone of our relationships.

So today I thank Austen for creating strong female characters, for her wit and her wisdom,  and for putting it into words that have crossed two centuries and found their way to our hearts in the 21st century.


Update: The library has confirmed that the film event will be showing the newer version. I might consider attending the event however because it is being held at the fabulous theater downtown that recently re-opened after being flooded 4 years ago. We’ll see.


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Exhibit: Put It On Paper

The Michigan Historical Museum has an interesting new exhibit titled Put It On Paper featuring works from a variety of authors and creative minds.

It includes one of my favorite authors from childhood – Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Apparently she donated some of her original manuscripts to a library in Detroit and they are on loan for the exhibit. I was all a twitter when I saw the land deed signed by her husband Almanzo Wilder (illegally since he wasn’t of age to buy land and lied to get in on a good price) which is on display at the National Archives in Washington D.C. It would be amazing to see some works in her own handwriting. Especially These Happy Golden Years which I re-read all through high school (romantic sop that I was).

The exhibit also includes works from authors Ernest Hemingway, original drawings of the Twin Towers by Minoru Yamasaki, and pieces from illustrator Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (best known for the illustrations in The Legend of Sleeping Bear).

Across the disciplines this exhibit is supposed to provide a window into the creative process – while encouraging visitors to engage in their own creativity.

I hope to make it back to Michigan before August 25 – the last day of this exhibit. Not only would it be great to see these materials but it would be nice to revisit the Michigan Historical Museum. It is housed in the Michigan Library and Historical Center which includes the Archives of Michigan – where I first started on my path in libraries as an undergraduate intern.

Visit here for more information about the Michigan Historical Museum.

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Library BINGO

Bingo Numbers/Leo Reynolds/CC BY-NC-SA

I just finished up with a Composition I class playing library BINGO. My twitter update drew some interest so I thought a brief explanation might be in order.

There are 3 general education classes I visit every term : Pathways to Student Success, Composition I, and Composition II. I have created a information literacy program with these 3 classes at the heart of it – building search and evaluation strengths as students progress through each term.

Composition I is my favorite because we play Library BINGO.

At the start of the class a give a 10-15 minute explanation and demonstration of accessing the library website, different search functions, databases, collections, and research guides. I talk about why it’s important not to just rely on Google but to search through these reliable, in-depth resources to support school assignments, and how they might use these skills in the workplace.

Then I pass out BINGO cards. I have 4 different cards with the numbers 1-25 scattered differently. This allows students to work together as a team and help each other but not allow 1 student to carry the other entirely. They are also given a 3-page handout with 25 different questions.


Complete the citation (APA Format):

  1. Hawn, R. (2009). _________________. Parks & Recreation, 44(1), 34-38. Retrieved from
  2. Search for “aneurysm” in the title field in the Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition database. How many results do you retrieve? Now limit the search to academic (scholarly journals). What is the number of your results now?
  3. Using the Simple Search Box locate an electronic book written about the Iditarod. Provide the title and author.

5-in-a-row gets them BINGO. I check the answers to make sure they are all correct. If not, I provide some advice about locating the correct answer and give them a chance to correct it. For every BINGO a student gets, I let them choose a piece of candy. They are allowed to work for more than 1 BINGO. This gives students who catch on faster an incentive to keep working and not play around or distract the others in the class.

I like this activity because it encourages them to use the different library resources and become more comfortable with them in a supportive setting -where they can ask their peers or me for help. (Since we all know students like to ask their friends for help)

Disclaimer: Library BINGO was not my brain child. I know I read about it in an information literacy book but off the top-of-my-head I can’t claim what one. It is also similar to a scavenger hunt I know many academic libraries do including an information literacy session I had as an undergrad at Michigan State. But this has become a cornerstone of my program at school and I think its effectiveness lies (in part) on the looser environment and the hands-on experience.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been very big on forced resolutions. I don’t really remember ever making New Year’s Resolutions as a kid and can only really recall 2 I’ve made as an adult. My 2012 NYR was to stop buying products that were tested on animals.

That NYR was inspired by watching a video posted by the Beagle Freedom Project. It really spoke to my husband who grew up with a Beagle and I’ve always been a sucker for a dog’s sweet brown eyes. I still have to change the channel or step out of the room when the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial comes on the screen. **SPOILER** My husband says he’s never seen anyone cry so hard as when he watched The Adventures of Yellow Dog with me and I thought the dog had died falling off the tree bridge.

Seriously though, the moment in the video from The Beagle Freedom Project when they touch grass for the first time in their lives, is beyond wonderful and sad at the same time.

So I made my resolution. And supposedly my mom made it too although I’m not sure how rigorous she was. To be fair, I will admit straight up that I was not perfect. For one thing my husband called me out on the fact that I still am using animal-tested beauty products. But I figured that rather than throwing everything I had away I might as well use up what I had and slowly integrate new products into my routine. Somehow I am still working through all of the shampoo I had in the closet.

Things I did buy that were cruelty-free in 2012:

1) Burts Bees lotions

2) Method bathroom cleaner and wood polish

3) Alba astringent and face lotion

4) Green Works dish soap

5) E.L.F. cuticle pen (Eyes, Lips, Face)

6) EOS lip balm & shave lotions

7) Ecos laundry detergent

8) Aveda conditioner

9) Say Yes to Carrots facewash

10) Eco Lips

The most full-proof system I could find was to use products that either have the Leaping Bunny logo on the packaging or are listed by The Leaping Bunny as cruelty-free. That said, I’m sure there are companies out there that are not licensed by such organizations that are cruelty-free. Plus, then there’s the murky decision if you purchase products from one company if they owned by another larger company that DOES test on animals – it’s quite the rabbit hole (no pun intended…okay a little).

Not everything I purchased as certified by Leaping Bunny but I did make a large effort that it at least said no animal testing on the packaging or on the website. There were a couple of times that I stumbled.

1) Drano – I tried home remedies first like baking soda and vinegar but to no avail. With my parents coming for the holidays plumbing took priority and clogs had to be cleared.

2) Lip balm. I made it almost all the way through 2012 but then Draco came and a big cold front and my lips dried and cracked and were so painful. I tried my regular lip balms, face lotion, and olive oil and finally cracked and bought a cold weather Blistex tube.

I had stocked up so much on deodorant I haven’t run out yet but that is my other main concern. I have had  a number of people recommend Tom’s to me but I have my doubts. I guess 2013 shall find out. I plan to continue my cruelty-free purchases in the following year, not as a resolution but as a continued way of life (which is the ultimate goal of resolutions, right?). That they become ingrained and we continue without giving as much effort and thought into the tasks.

Still unsure about a 2013 goal – what are you giving a whirl this year?

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Top 10 Reads of 2012

Well, I made my Goodreads goal of 40 books for 2012. I feel a little bit guilty about it, however, since in the last weeks in December I specifically chose some very slim books off of my “to be read” bookshelf with the purpose of hitting that goal. My last book was a more normal length and that means I am going to (attempt to) celebrate with a clear conscience.

I sort of missed #libfavs2012 on Twitter this year with a flurry of new responsibilities at work and vacation and the challenges of not going home for the holidays which meant getting shopping and shipping done in time rather than waiting ’til the last minute. So, here I will share my favorite 10 books I read in 2012. This does not mean they were published in this last year – I rarely get to buy new releases and the wait in the library can be very long, but that’s okay – I’m patient. (Oh, and I borrowed this format from BrassyLibrarian at A Librarian’s Lists & Letters)

10) A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Why I Read It: It had been sitting on my shelf.

Why I Loved It: This is my second Waugh – my first was Brideshead Revisisted. His wit is fantastic and this book just flew by! Waughs books bring the interwar years to life in highly riveting and entertaining ways.

9) High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver

Why I Read It: I loved all of Kingsolver’s fiction pieces so my mom gave me this book of essays.

Why I Loved It: The topics Kingsolver discusses within these pages – becoming a mother, heartbreak, the desire to escape – are timeless. Each essay contains a multitude of stories within it and yet the entire book is cohesive and moves through topics and time as a whole. Her essays drive me to be what I perceive as a better person and to feel calm and at peace.

8) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Why I Read It: This was a book club pick – I heard it was artful and interesting so I voted for it.

Why I Loved It: The story itself is wonderfully fantastical and Selznick does an amazing job marrying the text with the images. The variety of images was very interesting as well – from charcoal pencil drawings to black and white photographs (or drawings so well done they looked like photographs).

7) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Why I Read It: This has been sitting on my shelf for at least 5 years, I thought the movie was very good in high school, and that it was about time to read this book.

Why I Loved It: A beautiful and extremely well-written novel. Guterson’s book is set on an island off the shore of Washington. His main character, Ishmael, grew up on the island. The story follows Ishmael from his current time back to growing up and his love for a girl. Center to the story is the issue of racism and nativism – pitting the “American” islanders against the “Japanese” islanders. Guterson was masterful in setting the beautiful scene of the island, and drawing the various characters together in this compelling story.

6) A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R. R. Martin

Why I Read It: A book club pick – I voted for this title because it seemed like something I wouldn’t read on my own.

Why I Loved It: Each chapter in this book changes the narrator between the characters which provides a well rounded view of events but does not prevent the reader from becoming attached to individual players. Some of the characters you love, some you love to hate. However because no one character is the central player it is easier for the author to dispose of (potentially) everyone should the storyline require it.

5) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Why I Read It: I had ordered a copy for my nursing and MA students at school and thought it would be beneficial to read so I could recommend it more thoroughly (it worked I came up with a suggestion for a resource for a student looking for good things that resulted from German Nazis).

Why I Loved It: This book was very well written. It alternates between the medical community and the Lacks family – demonstrating the two sides of the story in an even and thorough manner. The story does jump around chronologically but each chapter clearly indicates where in time it is set with a timeline at the top. This book is a great background on current issues – from obtaining consent from human subjects to the issue of modifying cells and access to DNA records. I would recommend this book to anyone and I was pleasantly surprised that despite the grave issues contained in the story, that it was not a depressing read.

4) Bossypants by Tina Fey

Why I Read It: This is a highly popular book and I wanted to see why.

Why I Loved It: A fast read and widely amusing book. I knew very little about Tina Fey before reading this book other than she worked at SNL, had a show called 30 Rock, and was perhaps best known for her impersonation of Sarah Palin. It was an absolutely delightful read. Repeatedly throughout I wanted to read sections aloud but could not have done justice to the Tina Fey voice in my head.

3) The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

Why I Read It: This book had been calling to me for a while because of the subject matter – and I was given it as a present.

Why I Loved It: The Dirty Life chronicles not just the ups and downs of farm lie, but of holding a vision outside of the contemporary concept of “normal,” and of love and relationships. It demonstrates how finding something you love and someone to share it with forms a strong bond that can completely transform your life and that the future is often not what you planned. I loved reading this book but would like to find something with the story a bit switched – urban man falls for rustic farm girl – any suggestions?

2) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Why I Read It: The cover was interesting, my friend suggested to lend me her copy, and I was looking for a “Halloween Read.”

Why I Loved It: The prose is easy to read and the story sucks you in until you’re paging through chapter after chapter. How Jacob’s current events fit in with the tall tales of his grandfather takes a while to become clear to the reader but it was an enjoyable experience. The ending is a little unsatisfactory because it seems unfinished – and perhaps will be solved with a sequel. The novel is a combination of mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure. Written for the young adult crowd, many “regular” adults will enjoy it as well.

1) Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Why I Read It: I loved Moore’s Lamb and was excited as soon as I found out he was writing a book about French artists -right up my alley! My husband gave it to me for my birthday.

Why I Loved It: Sacre Bleu is set in one of my favorite places (Paris) in one of my favorite historical times (late 19th century) with fascinating real characters (Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissaro, and Whistler). The book is absorbing but it does not have the same comedic quality that Moore’s other novels (most notably in my opinion Lamb) have – and does not live up to its subtitle: A Comedy d’Art. The book is better characterized as historical fiction and fantasy (with a heavy dash of irreverence and satire). However the characters, the twists and turns, and the masterly way Moore recreated the art scene on the butte makes this a must-read.

What were your favorite reads in 2012? Anything you think I should read?

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