Sunday, May 02, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 18: Granta, Aussie Librarians, Pippi Longstocking, Special Collections

In advance of the Sydney Writers festival, The Australia profiles Granta Editor (and American) John Freeman (Australian):
Gracefully chuffed to find himself in the enviable position of editing a magazine he reveres, Freeman must nevertheless be a little shell-shocked from the barrage of choose-me writing that has come his way since he became Granta's editor. He is also an anti-email campaigner, so it is doubly difficult for him not to feel as if he's drowning in the demands that ping into his inbox unceasingly. He has written an entire book about how new communication methods are turning us into the linguistic equivalent of laboratory rats, churning on endless, meaningless wheels of words. But although he admits to missing the reading time his reviewing life gave him, and finds the "editing, acquiring, stroking and supporting, the making of the thing" more tiring than he had anticipated, he is determined to succeed.

Freeman began at Granta as acting editor following the precipitous departure of Alexandra Clark, who had lasted less than a year, as had the previous editor, Jason Cowley. Given this instability after the long and stable editorship of Ian Jack, Freeman says he perfectly understands why the magazine's publisher, Sigrid Rausing, hesitated in appointing him to the role.

It was a risky manoeuvre: Freeman is only 35, he is American and he has not had much editing experience.

The secret of his success, it seems, is an affable and practical positivism that is pervasive even in a phone conversation. Some of this he puts down to the influence of his grandmother, whose letters taught him how to listen and to give.

Again in the land downunder but this time in The Age, it seems the profession of librarian faces the same issues as it does in the US (The Age):

Like many of her peers, she is also due to retire in the next few years, and her position will be difficult to fill.

A national inquiry into school libraries heard evidence last week to suggest that teacher-librarians are a dying breed. While the Rudd Government is building thousands of libraries as part of the $16 billion ''building the education revolution'', experts warn there will be no one to staff them.

About 13 per cent of Victorian primary school libraries are staffed by a professional librarian, a recent survey suggested, and the figure is expected to fall as teacher-librarians retire. There are no official statistics.

More than 90 per cent of teacher-librarians in Australia are believed to be over 40, compared to half of teachers generally. Many teacher-librarians also retire early because of a lack of promotional opportunities.

Meanwhile, there are just four tertiary courses nationally to train them, from a peak of 15, and only about 100 graduates a year.

Library associations say job security is poor, discouraging potential students. In Victoria, rationalisation during the Kennett era and dwindling budgets has meant many principals have chosen to hire extra classroom teachers instead of librarians to reduce class sizes.

''The view is that libraries are not important because students just access information online,'' Mrs Ellingworth told The Sunday Age. ''But the thing is, students have got information overload. They don't know where to start.''

The London Times suggests there is a 'real-story' behind the Stieg Larsson heroine. Turns out to be Pippi Longstocking (Times):

As a boy he read Enid Blyton and the much-loved adventures of Pippi Longstocking. His tenacious heroine Salander is a radically reworked — and tattooed — modern version of Pippi with a polymorphous sex life.

He explained to a Swedish journalist shortly before his death that he had begun to wonder how Pippi, the classic Swedish children’s heroine, would behave today. What sort of an adult had she become? How would one define her — as a sociopath, a childwoman?

Larsson construed that Pippi might have an alternative view of society and transmogrified her into Salander, a girl completely alienated from society. She doesn’t know anyone; she has no ability to socialise.

Salander is introduced into the first story in single-minded and skilful pursuit of a paedophile — the sexual abuse of women and children is a key theme of the novel. She is a white-faced young woman of anorexic appearance with facial piercings and a wasp tattoo on her neck. The bicep of her left arm is similarly festooned and on her left shoulder blade she has a dragon tattoo. Her hair is dyed a deep black and her boss describes her as looking like she has emerged from a lengthy orgy. Despite her anorexic appearance she seems able to vacuum up massive quantities of junk food.

She is 24, but with her small breasts she sometimes appears to be about 14.

Erland Larsson, the author’s father, believes that although “Salander is a mixture of different people”, a possible inspiration may have been Stieg’s niece, Therese, who was very close to him. The two often used to visit each other.

Since my only library work experience was in the special collections department at Boston University, I am always interested to read about these departments. In the Chronicle of Higher Ed, a warning about guarding the hoard (Chron):

Since she hadn't offered to let me search myself, I knew she was determined to make quick work of me. After perhaps three of her very narrow searches yielded nothing unique—only secondary sources I had seen before—I realized I wouldn't find anything useful unless I had the opportunity to search on my own, trying different approaches as I discovered the scope of the collection.

That was so obviously not going to happen that I finally just thanked her politely and turned to leave. I had been in her office perhaps five minutes. Realizing she had won her battle even more quickly than expected, she mumbled an apology about how it was just a bad day, what with her being short staffed and having to train a new person and all.

And so the dragon succeeded in guarding the hoard.

The worst part is that I honestly think she believed she was doing her job—that her behavior was justified because I was foolish enough to just "turn up" expecting to use "her" collection.

Let this, then, serve as a gentle reminder to rare-book curators that your job is not to keep readers from your books but just the opposite: to facilitate readers' use of the collections. If altruism or professional integrity aren't sufficient motivators to get you to play nice, you might consider the fact that you have a job only because people want to read what's in those collections, and you will keep your job for only as long as readers feel welcome to approach you to make use of the materials.

From the twitter this week:

More Publishers Trying Outsourced Journalism AdAge Fascinating implications and some interesting comments.

A new set of police heroes hits the UK small screen based on book characters. Hopefully over here soon. Independent

Ian McEwan sees funny side of Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize nomination Independent Funny Not.

Cancel Publish - A Call For the End of Tumblr Book Deals GQ Hilarious & True.

History on the web "One of the most important collections of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts " BBC News

Farrar, Straus & Giroux announced Marilyn Monroe writings to be released this fall - Conn Post

In Sports, Liverpool put in a lame, pathetic and typical performance to hand Chelsea the title. Man United should have done better this season.

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