Saturday, February 27, 2010

Library work: Refreshing change in environment

During my weekly stint as a library volunteer, I see a growing stack of books — and CDs and DVDs — that will be sent to people who requested them. These successful connections are the direct result of my volunteer effort. Those 800,000 hold requests a year throughout our three-county system are tangible results. (Figure based on number of holds placed by Sonoma County Library cardholders during Fiscal Year 2009, as reported in the Winter 2010 issue, Sonoma County Library Newsletter.)

Lake County Library: What’s next after pulling holds

The column I wrote for next Tuesday’s Lake County Record-Bee is about the time I spent pulling requested items from the library shelves last Saturday. Today I got hands-on experience in the next step of the process.

Toastmasters ad lib Dewey-shelved books

For the Table Topics exercise on Thursday at our local Toastmasters meeting, I had the speakers pick a number between 1 and 999. I gave them the corresponding classification under the Dewey Decimal System and they had to describe a book, real or imaginary, that might be shelved under that category.

I noticed that 020 corresponds to “Library Science” so I went looking for books today while at the Lakeport library. I checked out a few that looked interesting: The Library in America: A Celebration in Words and Pictures by Paul Dickson, Getting Political: An Action Guide for Librarians and Library Supporters by Anne M. Turner and Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's in a name and is it even important?

Let someone solicit an opinion about Asperger's syndrome and a clamor of voices answer back. I would venture, to use a cliche, that it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

The issue that I am considering is whether Asperger's syndrome should remain a specific diagnosis or whether, as is being proposed by the American Psychiatric Association, Asperger's syndrome and other autism spectrum mileposts should be absorbed into one diagnosis of "autism spectrum disorder."

These revisions would take effect with publication of the fifth edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The APA is presently inviting comment upon these proposed changes.

Writers have issued opinions in a variety of venues, including the New York Times, arguing the relative benefits to using the single diagnosis of "autism spectrum disorder" and to keeping "Asperger's syndrome" as its own diagnosis. Most of these arguments are well-thought out and offer valid points, including self-identity with a particular term.

I am unaware of similar arguments to retain as separate diagnoses, "childhood disintegrative disorder" and "pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified)."

My personal opinion is that I don't care whether my possession of certain traits is described by "Asperger's syndrome" or by "autism spectrum disorder." I make use of both terms. "Aspergian" is useful as a noun or adjective but as far as my insurance is concerned, the valid billing code term is "autism."

Of far greater concern to me is that the progress made in acknowledging a spectrum of intensity among the condition's documented traits doesn't give way to more rigidly-defined criteria as were used prior to the fourth edition of the DSM.

When I was growing up, my challenges remained unclassified. I knew that I was "different" from other people but had no access to an explanation of exactly why and how. Learning in adulthood that my differences had a name, that they were documented and understood and that there were other people like me was a revelatory moment for me.

As I was reflecting how to formulate my opinion in the current debate, my attention was struck by a recent post on the Asperger Women Association's Facebook "wall." Linking to an article about a new movie, "My Name Is Khan," Alyson Bradley AsPlanet reminded other members of the group that other people around the world "struggle to be accepted at all and dare even to mention they are on the autism spectrum."

Khan, the title character of the movie, happens to have Asperger's syndrome and, after 9/11, he undertakes to be an ambassador for Islam. His message for Americans and for the U.S. president is, "My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist."

Similarly, when I attempt to be an ambassador for Asperger's syndrome and for ASDs, I am by far most urgently concerned with broad and inaccurate stereotypes to further a political agenda: by a therapist, self-promoting her new book, attempting to assign all blame in challenged male-female relationships to the male partner with Asperger's syndrome or by a nonprofit agency's video portrayal of "autism" as a malevolent entity that deliberately destroys families.

When confronted by these examples of what I consider hate speech, does it really matter, after all, which term psychiatric professionals use to describe my condition? What matters is the degree of accuracy with which my condition is understood and depicted.

To learn more about proposed draft revisions for the fifth edition of the DSM, visit www.DSM5.org. Public comments are being accepted until April 20.

Published Feb. 23, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, February 22, 2010

Resigning from Lake County Arts Council newsletter

I have decided to step down as editor of ArtNotes in order to devote time toward earning my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

I wish to let everyone know that I have appreciated working with you during the past four years to produce each edition of ArtNotes. (I will continue working with many of you in my capacity as A&E editor for the Clear Lake Observer American and the Lake County Record-Bee.)

Our LCAC Web master, Xian Yeagan, has agreed to take responsibility for producing the quarterly ArtNotes.

Once again, it has been my privilege to work with each of you in producing each edition of ArtNotes. I look forward to continuing to partner with you in the newspapers’ A&E coverage.

Distributed to Lake County Arts Council representatives

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lake County Library: First volunteer shift

Today I worked my first volunteer shift at the Lake County Library, pulling requested books from the shelves so that they can be transported throughout our three-county network of branch libraries. I started at just before 3 p.m. and worked for an hour and 45 minutes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

MLS degree: High tuition is discouraging

I've been accumulating information on colleges that offer a Master's degree in Library and Information Science. Tuition research is discouraging. San Jose State University will charge more than $200 per unit. I don't see how I can complete this goal without some financial assistance.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What better gift for Valentine’s Day than support for freedom to marry

For years, Valentine’s Day held little to no interest for me. In fact, I viewed this holiday with outright antipathy.

My dislike for the holiday began in school, when students sent each other Valentines. The teachers embraced a tenuous theory that every student in the class would give every other student a Valentine. But it didn’t work out like that. Some children ended up with a brimming heap of Valentines while others ended up with far less. And the visual proof that some students were adored while others were if not despised then at least ignored by their classmates was on everybody’s desks for the entire class to see.

As I grew older, the people around me began to group in romantic pairs. That nearly every other person on the planet had at least one other person with whom to form this unique connection seemed an alien mystery to me. Valentine’s Day embodied, for me, a significant part of human existence that I was cut off from.

The sappy romanticism of the holiday also seemed entirely pointless.

I disliked the holiday so intensely that I postponed by two days my husband’s and my first date. I didn’t want our first date to fall upon a day that, for me, held such negative connotations.

In intervening years my dislike has lessened, tempered by positive experience.

This year, I view the holiday through the lens of an opportunity to advocate for freedom to love and the freedom of a religious faith to offer the sacrament of marriage to all of its adherents equally.

A case before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in the San Francisco U.S. District Court, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is intended to overturn Proposition 8.

A group of faith-based organizations has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff in the case. Authored by attorney Eric Isaccson, it makes the case that Prop. 8, by restricting which relationships a church can solemnize, poses a threat to religious liberty.

Under current law, no church can be forced to sanctify a union that its religious doctrines oppose. This protection will not go away when same-sex marriage is once again legalized in the state of California.

As the amicus brief explains, “Allowing same-sex couples to marry threatens religious liberty of Catholics no more than does allowing civilly divorced citizens to marry in contravention of Catholic doctrine.

“Allowing same-sex couples to marry no more threatens the religious liberty of those who oppose such unions in their churches and synagogues than permitting interfaith marriage threatens religious liberty of synagogues and rabbis who interpret their scripture and tradition to prohibit such unions ...

“The real threat to religious liberty comes from enforcing as law religious doctrines of society’s most powerful sects, to outlaw marriages that others both recognize and sanctify.”

I belong to a religious faith that recognizes same-sex marriages. Until this law is overturned, any same-sex marriage ceremony performed by clergy who are of my faith will not be recognized under California law. This is a direct violation of my faith’s religious freedom.

What does all of this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Everything, if you look at history.

According to History.com, the original Saint Valentine was a priest who performed illegal wedding ceremonies after a Roman emperor outlawed marriage for young men. When the emperor discovered what Valentine was doing, he had him put to death.

So what better gift for you to have given your Valentine than to support religious liberty and the right to marry the person you want to?

The Prop. 8 Trial Tracker is reporting that the case has been suspended while Walker goes through mountains of evidence and testimony. The organization anticipates that it will be several weeks before Walker calls the lawyers back to make their closing arguments.

To read more about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, visit http://prop8trialtracker.com/. To sign up for e-mail alerts, visit www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/Prop8TrialUpdate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Investigating MLS degree programs

I've begun investigating schools that offer Master's degrees in Library and Information Science. I'm also looking forward to volunteering on Saturdays to help out at the Lakeport library.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We need high school journalism courses

The days that the Oak Leaf arrived in bins was a recurring highlight for me at Santa Rosa Junior College. I read the student newspaper faithfully, frequently issuing submissions and rebuttals. During my final semester at JC, I was one of its student reporters and the paper's arrival took on renewed importance because it meant that I could view my bylines.

My first experience as a beat reporter evolved, quite naturally, out of my daily quest to park at the JC campus. Parking spaces were tight, so the JC offered a shuttle service between the campus and the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. As a result of either trying to park on-site or riding to campus in the shuttle, I ended up filing several stories.

Today, student bylines are as likely to be online as they are to appear in print. The Oak Leaf also uses social media to "Tweet" about notable links on www.theoakleafonline.com.

Despite the platform's changing face, the principle remains the same: Oak Leaf students are learning journalism. When covering the news, a student reporter must establish the who, what, where, when and why.

My earliest exposure to journalism was at Calistoga Junior/Senior High School, where I wrote essays and drew cartoons for a high school student newsletter. Since it didn't take an entire year to produce the high school yearbook, the newsletter was what we yearbook students produced during the rest of the year. It offered me an opportunity to experiment with different types of writing, including satire and reviews.

My favorite piece of journalistic juvenilia, which I have regrettably misplaced, was for a high school English class. I produced trial coverage for William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." The official sponsor was "Poniard Cutlery."

I have accrued lifelong benefits from taking media and journalism courses: first in working as a reporter and later as an editor and columnist.

Sadly, fewer students have access to these potentially life-changing courses. A recent article at Bakersfield.com detailed a 14 percent drop in the number of high schools statewide that offer journalism programs. High school journalism course enrollment also dropped, by 24 percent, while total state enrollment increased 24 percent.

I can't explain why fewer students want to take journalism classes. Even if they prefer "new" media, producing news for an online platform, they still have to understand the difference between writing objective copy and venting a personal opinion.

Declining student interest is only one factor; the article also cites high schools placing a standards-driven focus on test scores and core subjects to the detriment of electives like journalism.

But where will journalists learn their craft in an era in which newsrooms are hiring less and less? Journalistic education at a university may additionally be cost-prohibitive.

Absent an opportunity to be trained on the job or to enroll in a four-year or post-graduate school, high school and community college programs become all the more critical for training would-be journalists.

Even for students who do not go on to pursue a career in journalism, newspaper production courses can have lifelong benefits. Speaking in the article at Bakersfield.com, Steve O'Donoghue, director of the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative, says that newspaper production courses help teach analytical and writing skills. Other educators credit these courses with teaching computer use, design, fact-checking and research skills.

Our society needs trained journalists to accurately report the news. These programs are more than worth the investment in terms of the benefit they provide.

Published Feb. 9, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lake County Library: Applied to volunteer

I filled out an application to volunteer at the Lake County Library. It looks like I can help at 3:30 p.m. each Saturday pulling hold requests from the shelves.

UUCLC Lending Library: Core set of books

The UUCLC Lending Library is shaping up to be a nice resource. Eclectic donations give it broad diversity but with a core set of books that speak to the UU faith.

As people make their interests known, I try to obtain those resources. I recently added copies of UU World quarterly magazine.

Friday, February 5, 2010

UU World in UUCLC Lending Library

Magazine cover: UU World
The Unitarian Universalist Association publishes the quarterly UU World magazine in behalf of its member congregations, which provide free subscriptions as a benefit to their voting members.

Those of you who are not yet members but would like to read this publication, can find copies of UU World in our UUCLC Lending Library.

The magazine descends from a long line of Unitarian and Universalist publications going back almost two centuries: Universalist Magazine was founded in 1819 and the Unitarian Christian Register in 1821.

UU World’s mission is to help its readers build their faith and act on it more effectively in their personal lives, their congregations, their communities and the world. To this end, it strives to be not only informative but also useful, provocative and even prophetic.

UU World’s current issue and archives can also be read online at www.uuworld.org. Its online counterpart is updated with news and original content each week. Look for UU World on Facebook (it’s among this library’s “favorite” pages).

Originally posted to the UUCLC Lending Library’s public Facebook page