Under the Boolean radar.

I was going to write my annual post with book recommendations. But then, unexpectedly, I found where Nancy Pearl has been hiding. To be more accurate, and probably fairer, I accidentally stumbled upon Nancy Pearl’s Twitter feed during one of my Twitter drive-bys (my relationship with Twitter is complicated).

Re-finding Nancy Pearl was like seeing that first crocus in spring, or the first camellia blossom after the onset of winter, or some equally magical returning sign of hope.

Pearl, the legendary Seattle librarian, is one of my favorite librarians ever, another being Mary Seratt of the Memphis Public Library’s children’s department. I discovered the former years ago through a segment on NPR titled “Under the Radar Reads,” and I’ve followed her (wherever I could find her) ever since. The latter, who will forever have a special place in my heart because of her response when my three-year-old daughter vomited right in front of her, became a familiar face back in the days when my children begged to make a trip to the library to get books (which they now get, without me or Mary Seratt, from the libraries in their schools).

As a book nerd, I have an extreme fondness for librarians. They have always been magical to me, able to file away the most essential bits of information for immediate retrieval later, at just the right moment. “My son really enjoyed [name of two or three books],” I would say to Mary Seratt. “Hmmm,” she’d respond, giving herself a minute to think. “I bet he might enjoy…” and she would lead me straight to a specific title. More often than not – almost always, in fact – her selection would be a perfect match.

No algorithm will ever be able to replace this type of advising, at least not for me, and probably not for anyone else, not really. About a year ago I remember reading an article about digital publishing in which one of the industry heavy-hitters offered this gem:

On the other hand, librarianship is needed more than ever as there is more and more to read. There is real value in having professionals help navigate all that material, much of it unknown to most people. Now that has real value. As a result, libraries in the digital world will be different than in the physical world, but I don’t know how that gets sorted out. I see the library having decreasing value in the future but the librarian having increasing value.

(Alan Inouye, “What’s in Store for ebooks.” American Libraries, January 2016.)

Think about that for just a minute, the value of having a professional help navigate all of the material available to us today, much of it unknown to most of us.

Then, for added thought, there is this insightful piece, also from a year ago, also from a library trade journal, about the value of librarians to information literacy:

An echo chamber occurs when information is amplified by repetition inside an enclosed system, such as our Facebook or Twitter Feed, and where different or competing views are not provided. In related work, Andrew Revkin criticizes the journalistic tendency toward “single study syndrome,” which refers to the habit journalists have of seizing on the latest scientific finding and representing it as “the truth,” greatly oversimplifying the way science is communicated by implying it is an isolated event rather than a scholarly conversation that needs to be presented in context.

(Leslie Stebbins, “Markers of Quality: the Role of Librarians in Everyday Life Information Literacy. Library Journal, December 10, 2015)

Remember, these articles were written a year ago – a full year before this unsettling bombshell.

Perhaps we should have been paying closer attention to what librarians have been trying to tell us.

Anyway, back to the beginning, I was so delighted to find Nancy Pearl because if ever there were a need for professional guidance toward reading that might stir the spirit, nurture the heart, tempt imagination, and prompt soul-searching, surely it is now.

Certainly, I could ask my reading friends for recommendations – as I have done and will do again. I could search their social media feeds, look for shares and likes. But I wonder if it isn’t high time for us all to look outside our tiny sharing circles, at least for a little while.

So, no, I’m not offering a book list for 2016 – although I will continue to update the “What I’m Reading” page. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to do what I’m going to do: spend time looking more closely at what Nancy Pearl and her fellow librarians are reading, and writing, and doing; and then go to the library, renew a grand search for truth and beauty, stimulate some independent critical thinking, outside of shares and likes and newsfeeds.

That’s what I’m going to do. Maybe you’ll join me.

Food | Week of December 12, 2016


Tourtière | Green Salad
(I am planning to use leftover pork roast and a rotisserie chicken for this)

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Watercress, Walnuts & Gruyère

Weeknight Bolognese
(no, we never, ever get tired of this)

Broccoli Salad with Cheddar and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Farro Nicoise


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