help the LSW send Walt Crawford to ALA!

On Saturday, Walt Crawford, friend to many of us, foe to the absolutist, “library voice of the radical middle,” author, blogger, lover of stone fruit and old movies and the Lovin’ Spoonful, and probably the foremost expert on blogs by library people in the English-speaking world, announced that he had lost his job and that he might thus not be able to go to ALA this year or to continue Cites & Insights. In the course of chatting with a few people about this, Laura Harris said it would be really great if the LSW could somehow sponsor Walt to go to ALA, with any extra money going toward Cites & Insights. Meg Smith came up with a clever way of soliciting help on FriendFeed without Walt knowing about it. After Steve Lawson and Rochelle Hartman pointed out this morning’s post from Walt, though, we decided we’d better go ahead and tell him, and I’m very happy to say that he has accepted our sponsorship.

Since Saturday night, when we first announced this project, 26 people have so far donated $815. If you’d like to help out (I figure this will get Walt to Washington, D.C. and lodged for a bit, but he might want to get back to California at some point), you can send your contributions

  • to me via PayPal (my account is newrambler at gmail dot com)
  • to me by check (Laura Crossett, Send Walt to ALA Fund, PO Box 85, Meeteetse, WY 82433)
  • directly to Walt via the PayPal button on Cites & Insights

I was a wee baby blogger five years ago, when I first heard the name Walt Crawford. Everyone in the library blogosphere was abuzz (we were not yet a-twitter; Twitter didn’t exist then) with the word that Walt Crawford was going to start blogging. I’d never heard of the guy at that point, but I went ahead and subscribed to this new blog, and to the RSS feed for this other project of his that people were always raving about, a monthly ejournal called Cites & Insights. I soon learned that Walt was smart and funny, that he had a great talent for reading and synthesizing information, and that he had little patience for grammatical gaffes. A few months later, I met him in person at the first ever OCLC Blog Salon at ALA in Chicago, and I learned that he was also personable and generous (Walt, you may not remember this, but you offered to share a cab with me, and you were deeply apologetic about not paying the whole fare, since you had to get off first).

What I really learned, though, was that Walt wasn’t cool because he had a blog (although it was cool that he had one). Walt was, and is, cool because he takes us seriously. He reads our blog posts and our FriendFeed conversations; he points out the flaws in our logic, and then he writes cogently and well about the ideas he sees emerging.

I don’t always agree with Walt, and he can be exasperating (although who among us is not, at some time or other? — I certainly am), but I admire and respect the work he has done. His one-time co-author, Michael Gorman, famously ranted about the “Blog People.” A lot of us ranted and raved about that, and proudly put up “Blog Person” badges on our sites, and added Gorman pictures to the lolbrarians group. Walt didn’t do any of those things. He read our blogs, and he thought about them, and he wrote about them — and he continues to do so.

If you’ve ever read Walt at Random or Cites & Insights (or just searched for your name) or talked (or sparred) with Walt in a comment thread, please consider making a donation.

january and february reading, 2010

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc — LeBlanc spent a decade hanging out with two young women in the Bronx and the many people who came in and out of their lives — boyfriends, husbands, children, friends, and other family. It’s a long book, and one that took a long time to write, and one that took me a long time to read, but I am still stunned at how she managed to make me go from a sort of revulsion to a real love of these people in the course of a few hundred pages.

The History of Love by Nicole Kraus — January’s book discussion book. Meh. Not a bad book in any way, just not one I got very excited about.

[listen] That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo — While I love all of Russo’s books (and I’ve read most of them), I kind of keep hoping that someday he will write Straight Man again. That Old Cape Magic comes closest, as it also deals largely with academics. It’s not as funny (but few things could be), but it’s quite good, and the narrator did a decent, if not inspired, job.

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinskey — Delinskey’s novel about high school girls who form a pregnancy pact and its effects on them and their mothers (who are all best friends, too!) is just as melodramatic and terrible as you might suspect. Melodrama is my favorite indulgence, though, so it worked for me.

[reread] A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle — I had forgotten, or perhaps I never knew, how very preachy L’Engle can sound at times. I was rereading bits of A Wrinkle in Time because I was thinking about using it for a set of booktalks, and I was thinking about how I always think of that book as a sort of touchstone for smart kids who grow up feeling isolated and as though no one understands them. All of her books have a bit of that, and not surprisingly, as a kid and a teenager I gobbled them up and starred pages and copied out passages and generally regarded them as being up there with JD Salinger’s Glass family stories. I feel more comfortable in the world now, which is good, but it oddly makes me feel ever so slightly less at home in some of these books, which is. . . interesting.

Reconsidering Happiness by Sherrie Flick — Just the sort of writerly novel about people figuring out their lives and their relationships that I love.

[listen] Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by Frank Bruni — I’ve written about this over on my other blog, where I’m doing a little month-long five days a week blogging project, so if you are interested in things I write about other than libraries, please check it out.

I also reread, in part, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, which was February’s book discussion book. It was my favorite book in all the world when I was fourteen, and I read it many times in high school, but in the same way that I can’t quite bear to look at pictures from that time, I also could not quite bear rereading this, because it made me remember not just how I loved the book but also how very unhappy I was, and how the book was a part of my own loneliness, because I loved it so much and I so desperately wished I had someone to talk to about it, and I did not.