Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Fourth of July, July 4th.

Hello, Reader.  I know, it's been awhile.  But every time I think I have a handle on how I want to say what I want to tell you, something else horrible happens and I have to think about that, and so on since March.

Not even a recap, but:

Hurricane Maria and power still out in many parts of Puerto Rico
Volcano in Hawaii
The wretched "leadership" of Republicans like McConnell, Sessions, and 45
And now Justice Kennedy retiring

But most wrenching of all are the reports of families being separated at points of entry to the United States because the current administration has made it impossible to apply for asylum.  In the "this is not who we are but it is happening" part of news, this is where my brain begins to short circuit into anger. 

Mr. B and I have donated to the following groups and I urge you to donate to them as well.  If donating is not in your budget, then donate your voice and energy and attention.  Here are the groups:

RAICES Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Women's Refugee Commission

Check on their webpages every day and post, retweet, and use your personal and media connections to support their work. 

I want to recognize my own Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for traveling to Texas to examine the situation personally.  This is what many of our elected representative should also be doing to see the consequences of the decisions of the current administration. 

It is easier to let one's brain persevate on the frustrating things happening nationally so while letting one part of my brain react to the news, I'm cultivating the other part that can boost good news, support progressive campaigns, and attempt to stay balanced.

Good news:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  So exciting to see someone with her candor and energy!

Poet Kwame Alexander  Check out his website for the fantastic work he is doing and prepare to anticipate his next work(s).

Sister District.  I'm fully on board with the strategy of supporting candidates in other states that will help build a national coalition of elected officials that give a damn about the environment, health care, and equal rights.  C'mon check it out:

So, that's my fourth of July message.  Know, be aware of the bad stuff and dig down into the good to make things better.  In order to form a more perfect union. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Twenty Years

Friends, think back with me to 1998.   What stands out in your mind?

Because I was younger and a more rarin' librarian then...giddy with excellent book budgets and the emerging world wide web, I had bigger expectations of what this year 2018 would look like. After all, we were knowing better, weren't we?  We were learning what was causing diseases, we had the tools to measure and compare effective treatments, a century of information to look back on as well as the outcomes of so many wars and political conflicts.

In my little higher education bubble where I was focused on the happy humanities (art!  music!  literature!) and the power that new technologies like instant communication could bring, I wasn't expecting scenes of misery and destruction.  That was the past, right?  Now (then) we had the powerful WorldCAT database, decades of journals online, databases of full text of information formerly trapped in microfilm to explore.

So, how is this little experiment turning out?

The ugly has been unveiled.  I know now I was living in a luxurious bubble.   I remember you fondly, Camelot.  But I'm going to hold on to the idea then when you know better, you do better.

The bigger truth I'm seeing is that there are in fact people who do not want solutions.  People who enjoy their sense of power so much that they will do anything to keep it. They are not logical, they are not kind, they are not caring, and they don't feel responsible.

I'm angry and I'm also disappointed.  I'm a citizen of one of the wealthiest countries AND one of the wealthiest counties in this country, and this is how we're behaving?  We collectively have access to more types of media the world has ever known, but the gaps of people left behind (digital divide sounds too quaint anymore) combined with the people who weaponize mis-information and fear mongering have left us more divided. 

Two places to find encouragement:

The brave young people of Majory Stoneman Douglas High Stone who are banding together and supporting each other.  They also have the knowledge and presence of mind to acknowledge the work of activists who have been working on the issue of gun violence and they are demonstrating their awareness of the divisive tactics of the gun lobby.  They are saying enough is enough.  A national walk out is planned for March 14, described by organizer Cate Whiman:  "It’s going to last for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 lives lost on February 14, and we are asking people to wear orange in solidarity. We want each school to spend those 17 minutes doing whatever they feel comfortable with and whatever they think is going help them heal most and whatever they think is going to make the most impact."  Source:

Sister District Project.  I attended a meeting this past Thursday of the South Bay chapter of the Sister District Project.  I was humbled to hear from the founder of this project, Rita Bosworth, and two other leaders who have stepped away from their careers to work on the Sister District Project.  I am deeply encouraged by the success rate of the SDP in supporting candidates across the country to leverage grass roots change and increasing the number of democrats and progressives in elected positions.  Find your Sister District chapter here:

This past week-end was the annual remembrance of "Bloody Sunday," the march for the right to vote in Selma Alabama that resulted in the attack on the peaceful protesters by state troopers.  I used to think that was a long time ago--not only personal age wise, but also as in "well that was the past."  The stories, narratives, evidence of so many people, our own people, our citizens, our fellow humans...that we are not done beating on each other but have moved on to devastating levels of violence on each other?

I had a recent conversation with Mr. Bookcharmer about my puzzling over the rise of rapid technology and the increase of the spread of vapid or useless information.  As usual, he had an excellent answer for me:  curation.  With few curators, i.e. editors, mis-information is galloping out of the starting gates faster than ever.

While wandering around the Internet today, I found a marvelous document I didn't know about before and that I think is well worth people reading today:  the report of the Hutchins Commission.  You can read it online from our good friends at the Internet Archive, which, by they way, is the open access publisher I would urge you to donate too rather than the one that rhymes with Ickypedia.  Here's the link to the Hutchins Commission:

Care to discuss?  Hashtag #HutchinsReport on the Interwebs. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Where to start

Dear reader,

I had a plucky little blog post in the works some time ago where I held court on the issue of print vs. ebooks but in the light of the unrelenting chaos that has been 2018 I haven't been able to finish it with any heart.  Hey, remember when we thought 2017 was crazy?

We've gone beyond crazy to the nightmarish.  But like I've told you before, I'm not giving up or losing steam.  You want crazy?  I can show you crazy.  Watch me donate more money, show up at more meetings, encourage more friends, get louder and more insistent about what matters.

Why is this so hard, America?  What do we collectively need to let go of to get on with the actual business of caring for ourselves, our family and friends, and our planet?  Have we been so whipped into pretend fear by poor physical and intellectual nutrition that our anxiety and fears have replaced whatever scrap of common sense we might have had?

I write to you on a morning when the past months have seen our government shut down, more environmental fallout from hurricanes and fires, and the most recent wound, an act of profound violence at a high school in Florida.

If you've been following the news at all, you know, and I"m not going to recount it all here.  What I will do is point to an example that gives me heart.

According to east coast news sources like the Washington Post and WTOP, a young republican leader Kyle McDaniel formally resigned from the Republican Party after our top elected official made some especially vile remarks about specific countries, including Haiti.  After some looking, I found the text of it here:

In case that link disappears in the future, I'm copying in this crucial part:

“I held my tongue for too long; hoping things would improve. I was wrong. I can no longer stomach those who support nativism, or their apologists and enablers. After a decade of work in the Republican Party in northern Virginia, it is time for me to step away."

That's what he said.  He spelled out his disagreements, pointed to his moral compass, and left.  I salute you Kyle McDaniel, and I know that your words are going to resonate and inspire others like you, the people who have perhaps always or just recently considered themselves Republicans and then found themselves betrayed and bewildered by the level of hate, greed, and racism currently occupying the highest level of office.  

So if you are casting about with where to start, the important thing is just to start.  Think about what makes you uncomfortable and start by pointing it out, saying it is not acceptable. Declare your state of independence and work toward what is next.

Despair is not an option, I say this as much as to myself as to you.  We have more resources now for organizing, communicating, and unifying than we ever have before.  So here's what I'm wearing on my sleeve for now.

I'm a feminist.

I'm a Democrat.

I'm an environmentalist.

I'm a supporter of the arts.

I'm a blood donor when my iron and blood pressure levels allow it.  

Honestly, it feels good to give and connect.  When you can give 10 dollars to a GoFundMe account like this one  or bring a bag of groceries to your local food bank or just spend an hour outside picking up litter and offering a friendly greeting to neighbors, just do it.  Don't wait.  Don't you dare let the weight of hate take away your ability to do good.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nonfiction November

Hello Reader,

I haven't posted for awhile because like many dispirited Democrats, 2017 has been one wretched rollercoaster on the national level.  For anyone with a heart or a conscience, watching one side of the country be ravaged by hurricanes and then smelling the smoke coming from the wildfires destroying huge swaths of the North Bay locally, while simultaneously seeing the lack of care, coordination, and concern from the highest levels of government...yes, that's what 2017 has been like on the large level.

All of this is also oddly bewildering considering that for your Bookcharmer, things are going gangbusters.   I've busted out of higher education and have landed in a darling library where there is so much happiness that if I'm dreaming I don't want to be pinched.  More on that another time.  Let's just say I'm more aware and grateful for my blessings and good fortune than ever, ever before.

So let's get down to business.  Today we going to get ready for nonfiction November, and I'll tell you why, and then, as usual, I'm going to shake you down for some cash or signal boosting for some important causes.  Ready?

Nonfiction November.  This comes on the heels of an October instagram challenge, which I mostly finished, called #ShowYourArt2107 that was an activity sponsored by the advocacy group Americans for the Arts to celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month.  I am guilty of keeping my poor little phone so crammed with photos that I can barely squeeze on another in time to keep up with photo challenges, so there is going to have to be some serious downloading/deleting if I'm going to keep up with Nonfiction November. 

What is Nonfiction November?  Well, meet some new internet friends to find out!  Go here:


and maybe even here:

or perhaps here:

Wherever you choose to land, I hope you'll participate and signal boost nonfiction with me in November, because it is clear to me now more than ever that facts, realities, truths, and proofs need elevating and attending. 

I remember reading a column by Steven J. Gould years ago, in Discover magazine I think, where he provided an analogy of Americans' level of science literacy as being like offering someone a chocolate truffle to discover they choose to eat the wrapper instead of the truffle.  And I'm afraid that's more true now than ever before. 

And if you need some inspiration on how studying the very presence of nature in search of understandings still leaves room for awe and joy, let me direct you to one of the all time best videos on the internet, happy scientists on the Nautilus delighted to catch sight of a whale coming by to check out the deep sea rover:

So that's the deep joy side of nature.  Nature does not play however, and all the crap we've dumped in the oceans, all the pollution we've pumped into the air, all of the pavement we've spread all over the earth is coming back to repay us in the form of extreme weather that has creating devastating hurricanes and floods in some parts of the world and drought in others.  Add to that lazy habits in attending to infrastructure, negelected maintenance of power lines, some Santa Ana winds, and just like that, nearly overnight in wine country fire took the lives of at least 42 people and destroyed 8,700 homes and buildings.

So it is a time to get serious and get serious about sharing and supporting and caring and rebuilding and fixing.  Here are some places where you can help:

Nonfiction November, let's get started.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Your Yarn Your Narrative

Hello Reader,

As I was pressing "new post" just now, I quickly noted as the screen began to change that I have 99 previous posts, could that be true?  Is this post 100?

You'll note in my banner this blog began as a record of how I search library databases.  This was part of the 23 Things project that many libraries participated in some years ago to get people who work in libraries more comfortable and proficient with social media.  And just as library databases have grown and expanded and also become less easy to use, so have the topics I am interested become more cumbersome.

When was the future ever uncomplicated?  Technology has delivered on some of the jet-pack promises (hear the voice of beloved family and friends across long distances, instantly post pictures of beloved pets, have a variety of items delivered to your door if you have lots of money) but the Pandora's box of technology has also robusted the evils--the destructive powers, the ability to distort narrative with fancy visual technologies.

I opened up the blogger website with the intention of updating you on what happened in regard to the Harriet Tubman photo that was indeed auctioned by Swann Galleries.  As you might recall, the Harriet Tubman House was fundraising in preparation to meet an expected auction price of 25,000. The final price for the album containing this photo and other historic photos was in fact 130,000 and I'm greatly relieved to tell you it was purchased jointly by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. And this quote appeared in the April 1 edition of the Washington Post:  “The institutions have agreed to joint ownership and will digitize the photographs as soon as possible,” she (Gayle Osterburg of LOC) wrote. “The intention is to make them as widely available as possible through online images everyone can use.”

Thank goodness.  But I am a little wistful for the Harriet Tubman Home, because without their signal boosting of the photo's sale, it might not have come into public hands.  So thank you Harriet Tubman House, thank you for getting this dialogue and this image into national light.  I hope to visit on a future trip to the east coast.

Now, let's turn to the fact that the LOC and the Smithsonian, both federal institutions, had to suddenly come up with 130,00 to make this joint purchase.  As two of the biggest federal institutions in the country, I am very pleased they were able and chose to make this purchase.  For smaller museums and libraries, one of the very important funding streams that is under threat is the Institute for Museum and Libraries Services.  For information on this important federal agency please see the fine write-up and campaign here:

Why do we need libraries and museums?  Not just for pleasure reading and community building, not just to support small businesses and lifelong learning, we need them as the living repositories of your story.  You have the yarn, you can weave your narrative.  What or where are your family photos? What perspective do you bring to the larger national story?  Because you do.  You matter.

And the elders and the immigrants, the people who know because they have lived through terror, we need your knowledge and your testimony.  Among the many appalling statements to come from the current federal administration is press secretary Sean Spicer denying that chemical weapons were used by the Axis in World War II.  His statements were discussed in a variety of news outlets, I'll direct you to the discussion in the Atlantic I don't think I could have dreamed up a more significant example of the dangers of not knowing history, even recent history, because hardly a generation's difference in event and description and Spicer is attempting to justify the actions of our current administration with revisionism.

Which also made a fine distraction fest from a new abomination, a destructive device called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB and according to the New York Times it can obliterate everything within a 1,000 yard radius.

This device--how does it exist, how is there something that in its own way just as bad as a nuclear device?  When someone asks me in 20 years if I know why my country dropped such a "device" on another part of the planet, what will I say? Why must we always be inventing new weapons instead of building diplomacy?

There is no easy way.  (I) You have to find out for (my) yourself.  You will find out things you don't want to hear, or things that make you sad.  Learning does not come without understanding, and understanding requires that we challenge ourselves. But in your journey you will have the pleasure of learning from others.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bring Harriet Home

Reader, I've been mulling the topic I'm going to address for awhile but have found new motivation just today.  I've spent the past year and a half as interim director for the special collections and archives unit of my library, which in many ways has expanded my skills as a librarian.  I'm happy to have had this chance to get to know a collection in depth, mostly for the exposure to the amount of art found in archives (illustrations, paintings, photographs....photographs) but have also come to realize just how much information a. never makes it into an archive b. languishes once it does.  More to follow at a later date on point b., but today is all about point a., information that never makes it into an archive.

Being the Interim Director has had the perk of lots of lovely catalogs crossing my desk.  The antiquarian book world knows its audience--it knows we want color photos and lavish pictures (similar rant may ensue about the art history in auction catalogs, but stay focused Rebecca)  and detailed descriptions about provenance, condition, and other juicy book details.  Dealers in antiquarian books and ephemera are also purveyors of letters, posters, postcards, photos, maps, menus...and it is a genteel free for all of what gets sold and where it goes.

To the point:  Swann Galleries has listed for an auction an incredibly rare and previously unknown photo of Harriet Tubman, one of the most significant women in American history.  You can see it here along with another photo that is for sale:

What's particularly ugly about this is that it is being auctioned.  Auctioned.  Auction.  The image of Harriet Tubman is something that not only should not be sold, but to auction it?

Now come on.  Seller, whoever you are, and Swann Galleries, you cannot tell me you are blind to the deep inherent wrongness of auctioning a photo of Harriet Tubman.  This is an appalling level of insensitivity if not an ugly act of racism and potential erasure of history.  To sell this photo is bad enough, to auction it is reprehensible.

The Harriet Tubman home is currently fundraising to have a cash reserve to bid on the photo that should rightly be in the Tubman home already.  For those of you who have done fundraising for cash strapped non-profits, you can imagine the incredible stress this puts on the board and staff.  Just think what else they could do with that 25,000?  But raise it they will and I'm going to help.  Please join me.

1.  Ask Swann Galleries to ask the person who has consigned this item with them to consider donating it to the Harriet Tubman Home.

2.  Ask Swann Galleries their policies on auctioning vital pieces of American history that should transcend ownership by an individual.

3.  Give, give, give.  Even if there is a change of heart by the owner/auctioneer, I'm sure the Tubman Home could use some additional funds.

4.  Signal boost, retweet, write your own post, tell people you know.  Copy in historical societies, filmmakers, historians, writers, photographers, archivists, librarians, your family members.

I have often been surprised when I leaf through those gorgeous catalogs from antiquarian dealers at the things I think "why isn't that in a museum?"  I know, many museums are busting at the seams right now and archivists are wise to not accept collections that they don't have room for or money to process.  But this is one photograph, one rare precious photograph, that so clearly deserves to be in its rightful home.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I got the ebook blues

Publishers.  Publishers!  C'mere.  Let's chat.  Sit right here in my office and let's look at this entirely reasonable request from a faculty member, who wants to know if two art history titles published in this decade by two different entities are available as ebooks.

They are not.

In the ongoing drama of what is where and what is accessible, not licensing academic titles as ebooks is detrimental to both of us.  Libraries can't afford to buy multiple copies of books, yet some course sections run to 50 or 70 students on my campus.  If you don't offer an e-book that we can license and make accessible to students enrolled on the campus, guess what?

Guess what indeed.  I continue to be shocked and amazed at the expectation of what people think "is on the Internet."  Much of the world's useful content is paywalled, but a great deal more is simply only available in one format.

I feel as if publishers are slow to embrace the e format for books much in the way radio stations responded to music videos in the 1980s.  But ultimately, what did those delicious little videos do?  Why they made us consumers even crazier for music!  Music we could download onto little devices and carry around with us so we could have music all the time!

Yes, I love print books.  You love print books.  Some of us love books too much.  But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of getting the content that authors have labored over, editors have overseen, and you, dear publisher, have chosen to offer, it doesn't make a lot of sense to squeeze access into one channel.

Dear lord, what might happen if readers had access to a greater array of intellectual content?  Pretty sure they will read more.  Just going to make that speculation.

I feel silly telling a faculty member "no" when I'm asked if an e-book version is available so her students have easier access to the content she has chosen.  Especially when the book was produced in this decade so I'm pretty sure it was produced, gasp, on a word processor and computer software was used to layout the book.

What can we do? The Art History Publishing Initiative is a very good start but we are going to need more than four presses to fully support this field.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this over the course of the semester.  It is an "interesting" time in the sense that new technologies are emerging but old technologies remain necessary, yet there is an expectation, at least here in Silicon Valley, that the new technologies are much more robust than performance demonstrates.