Walter Benjamin – Storytelling vs. Fiction

Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller” in Illuminations: Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections (English translation 1968), will be thought-provoking for anyone who loves to write or read fiction.

Most of us think of fiction as storytelling, but it isn’t really. I can attest to this from experience.

Back on a September day in 2004, my drumming mentor, Barbara Borden, gave me a day pass to “The Healing Power of Art” at Moscone Center in San Francisco. On my way to Moscone I passed an intriguing stranger.

What caught my eye at first was a large patch of burnt-looking skin on his face. I recognized it immediately.

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Mobile Libraries on Four Legs

In What’s Going On at the Library, I noted that some librarians are making space for new kinds education within library walls while others are taking their expertise outside the library and on to the Internet.

The movement to go outside library walls isn’t exactly a new trend, though. In early California librarians used to ride out all over the state on horses all to deliver books. This WPA photo below shows one of these “pack horse librarians” delivering books to her patrons.

In Northeastern Kenya librarians are using camels to deliver books to children

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Building Libraries for African Children

Last December I published a post about an inspiring documentary featuring librarians In Northeastern Kenya who walk hundreds of miles with camels to deliver books to children. This year, along with part of that post below, I’m including ways you can help build African libraries.

In the US the African Library Project coordinates book drives here and partners with African schools and villages to start small libraries.

In Africa, some of the African Library Project’s partners include Peace Corps volunteers and school administrations.

Former Peace Corps members and others request books that are organized into libraries serving local African communities. One such Peace Corps volunteer was my sister-in-law Ginnie Humphreys who served in Lesotho about a decade ago.

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What is Metadata?

Working both as a librarian and as a computer network manager, one of the most annoying things in my job(s) was learning a second vocabulary for computing.

Every field of study has its jargon. So, at the end of this post, I’ll tell you how I think librarians and computer programmers came to use such different words for such similar things. But first, a look at library metadata.

Library science is the study of all existing fields of knowledge. For lack of a word, let’s call that the study of “meta-knowledge”. Metadata is a way of describing the meta-knowledge that librarians work with.

Librarians who create metadata

Catalogers are technical services librarians who work with the print materials, digital files, and media that come into a library. Catalogers create metadata for “documents” provided directly to patrons or for public services librarians to use in answering questions from their library patrons.

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Don’t Lie to Your Readers

One of the most egregious errors authors can make is creating a title that doesn’t deliver on what it promises. This can kill sales and/or leave the purchaser quite disappointed. In regard to the latter reaction, even if you don’t intend to write another book, keep in mind that the very best way to sell any book is by word-of-mouth endorsements of it. A vague or a misleading title won’t get talked about in the way you want! Let’s look at one example of this sin. The Joy of Signing: A Dictionary of American Signing (third edition) by Lottie L. Riekehof, PhD (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2014, 3rd ed.) The navy-blue cover of the 3rd edition of this bound book announces “Over 1 Million Copies Sold”. The book has several useful appendices and an informative preface. It’s a great textbook for both Signed English (used by hearing people) and American Sign Language (used by deaf people). But… There’s no joy in signing in The Joy of Signing. Certainly not like there is in paperbacks like Learn to Sign the Fun Way: Let Your Fingers Do the Talking with Games, Puzzles, and Activities in American Sign Language by Penny Warner (NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001) Worse, The Joy of Signing: A Dictionary of American Signing isn’t even a dictionary! What is a language dictionary? First of all, you may wonder if American Sign Language (ASL for short) is a language. Yes, it is. Linguists have officially classified ASL as a language. ASL uses a different word order than spoken English, and it has its own grammar. Even its way of communicating the plural forms of nouns is different. But, when we pick up almost any other language dictionary we expect to find two parts: an alphabetical list of foreign words with English equivalents and an alphabetical list of English words with foreign equivalents. However, American Sign Language, like Chinese, is not based on letters of an alphabet. Chinese people use symbolic characters to indicate words; deaf people use symbolic hand shapes, some of which involve movement, along with facial expressions. Still, one half of this book could be in alphabetical order. That half would be an alphabetical list of English-speaking people’s words followed by the equivalent ASL hand signs. Is that what The Joy of Signing includes? No! Instead, this book uses broad categories, such as family relationships, time, emotion and feeling, etc. followed by diagrams of each hand sign...
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