Research Library: A Day in the Life

I’m Emily Hamstra, Learning Librarian and Kinesiology Librarian at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, University of Michigan Library. I support undergraduate students and the School of Kinesiology by building great collections and teaching how to use the collections for research. No day in any library is ever typical, but this is what I did at the library on Friday, April 19th.

9-10am: I’m at the Library Public Services Meeting. This meeting is a giant meetup of U-M librarians who work the reference desks, circulation desks, and our technology centers. Staff often present projects they are working on or we discuss issues related to library public services. This month we had presentations from another unit on campus discussing how they support faculty technology needs related to research. The second presentation was from librarians from the Ann Arbor District Library about collections and services available for students at the public library. Of course, we all had lots of questions. Librarians love questions.

10-10:15: I’m on the RUSA Reading List Committee this year. My first shipment of books arrived today! I’m reading like a mad woman this year for the committee. It’s been great to read outside of my usual genres. I’m reading some really great books.

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What We’re Reading

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

It’s been a particularly hectic and busy spring semester, which is at least partly due to the fact that I spent January teaching twenty hours a week rather than preparing for the spring semester. I’m still finding time to read, but I’ve been finding myself craving mysteries more than my usual literary fiction. When my husband and I went to Chicago for a spring break mini-vacation, I continued a long tradition of reading books set in the city I’m visiting. For my trip I picked the first novel in two different Chicago-based mystery series: Clare O’Donohue’s Kate Conway series, whose protagonist is a documentary film producer, and Michael Harvey’s Michael Kelley series, whose protagonist is a thirty-five-year-old disgraced Chicago cop turned P.I. I enjoyed both of them so much I quickly devoured the second books in each series and am about to begin the third Michael Kelley mystery (I have to wait for Clare O’Donohue to write a third Kate Conway book.) –Carrie

I went on a wild and rollicking road trip this month with the delightful novel You Don’t Know About Me by Brian Meehl. When 16 year old Billy Allbright receives a package in the mail from his father, a man Billy thought was dead, his life is turned upside. The package contains the first clue in a wild treasure hunt across America, in search of Mark Twain’s lost sequel to The Adventures of Huck Finn. As Billy travels the country in hunt of his elusive treasure, the people he meets and the adventures he has mirrors those of Twain’s Huck. The result is an amusing and charming tale of adventure and self –discovery, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. –Heather

On this week’s edition of the Slate Culture Gabfest, Stephen, Dana, and June joked about hating to read books that are over-reviewed and over-recommended. In doing so, they liberated a problem that I’ve always struggled with as a reference librarian: There’s little that makes me less inclined to pick up a book than to hear a chorus of praise, made undoubtedly louder by the fact that I am a known librarian. You must read Lean In! You haven’t read Franzen? You need to now!! To be fair, I’m pleased that people enjoy printed stories enough to spread the word, and I appreciate thoughtful suggestions from avid readers. It is in this spirit that I would like to complement the authors of Chasing Reference for their off-beat recommendations. I also wish to beg their forgiveness for promoting an excellent collection of short stories called I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro It’s really well reviewed, everyone is talking about it, and I loved it to pieces. I immediately reread several of the stories after finishing them. Stephen, Dana, and June will resist this one, but you must read!  –Amy

I’ve just started reading Helene Wrecker’s forthcoming fantasy novel The Golem and the Jinni. I’m usually don’t read fantasy, but this book has me hooked. The golem was created in Poland and brought to the United States. Her owner dies during the crossing shortly after he wakes her up. She arrives in New York City literally quite new to the world. In a parallel story a tinsmith, while rubbing a scratch out of a flask, awakens the jinni living within it. The jinni, a Syrian over a thousand years old, suddenly finds himself living in New York City at the turn of the century. Of course the golem and jinni are going to meet up. The book is a lovely mix of fantasy, folklore, and historical fiction. –Emily

Being the new guy on the block, I felt some pressure to be all professional and “I’m reading [fill in the blank with a dense, academic tome concerning librarianship].” Well, the book I’m actually reading right now is Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. It’s been on my must-read list for a while, but I’ve finally just picked it up recently. While it is firmly in the fantasy genre, it has some intriguing twists. The world in which the story takes place draws its inspiration from Middle Eastern and North African influences rather than the stereotypical medieval-European milieu. The protagonist is not a young unsuspecting wizard or peasant with a secret past but rather an old experienced “ghul hunter” who is ready for retirement but gets dragged back into an adventure due to circumstances beyond his control. The book has won wide recognition: Reddit Fantasy’s Debut of the Year for 2012, multiple “Best of” lists, and Nebula and Hugo Award nominations. I’m very much looking forward to diving into the Crescent Moon Kingdoms! –Don

Chasing Reference: One Year Later

This week, Chasing Reference is celebrating our first anniversary. After meeting in person and beginning to plan this blog in January 2012, we quietly launched in April 2012 by posting about what the typical day is like for each of us. (Want to reminisce? Check out what Carrie, Heather, Amy, Sarah, and Emily were up to this time last year.)

In celebration of this anniversary, we’re taking the entire month of April to celebrate. Today we’re highlighting some of our personal favorite posts from the past year. It’s no surprise these also proved to be some of our most popular posts too. On Friday we’ll share our monthly What We’re Reading post. Starting Monday, we’ll be writing brand new Day in the Life posts each Monday and Wednesday. How much has changed in a year? Here are a few teasers:

  • one of us changed jobs (you can read all about her new job on April 17!)
  • there’s now a brand new Chasing Reference contributor (look for his introductory post on April 24!)
  • you’ll also be treated to a special guest post from our fearless adviser on May 1!

April will be full month of posting here, and May will mark a return to regularly scheduled programming with posts each Wednesday, as well as the first Friday of the month.

We’re also always looking for guests posts. If you’d like to contribute, send us an email with your idea(s).

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite Chasing Reference posts from the first year:

Last but not least, do you remember how we came to call ourselves Chasing Reference? It all began with C-H-A-S-E.

Thanks for reading. We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us for many more years to come.