Monthly Archives: June 2011

Why the NY Public Library is Flourishing

“The New York Public Library is getting webbier by the day,” wrote The Atlantic reporter Alexis Madrigal in his compelling piece about the NYPL, one of the most famous libraries in the world.

In an age where libraries are dying due to e-books, budget cuts, and the ever-expanding “go green” and “paperless” movements, the New York Public Library not only remains open, but it makes significant profits. Granted, the NYPL receives massive donations unlike most other small libraries around the country. But the reason it’s succeeding is because of its  web-savvy ways. By connecting with library users through social media, the library is allowing people to expand on the information it’s already collected. Madrigal explains.

“Every magazine, television network, or radio station with an archive is sitting on gold. Get that stuff out of the basement and put it online for free, where people can link to, remix, and use it. But don’t just dump it there. Take advantage of what the web can do. Structure the work, as NYPL’s strategy head says, so that people can improve on your collection…When you put information in the hands of people, they come up with all kinds of stuff that people within an institution might not think about.”

For instance, the library has created its own iPad app, Biblion. And most recently, it launched a new log-in system through Bibliocommons, which both simplifies and strengthens the library’s catalog.

You can read much more about all of this in Madrigal’s article, “What Big Media Can Learn from the New York Public Library.”

It’s lengthy, but interesting and might give other media a clue about how to better connect with users, increase profit, and improve resources simultaneously.

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Review: Sweet Little Lies

Recap: The second novel in Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy series, Sweet Little Lies tells the story of Jane Roberts coming to terms with her relationships. At the end of L.A. Candy, indecent photos of her and her non-boyfriend, Braden, have been published in the tabloids. In Lies, Roberts relies on her new BFF, Madison, to get her life back on track. But her close bond with Madison pushes her away from longtime BFF, Scarlett. Scarlett moves on with a new man and unexpected friendship with Gaby (the “reality” show’s 4th lead girl). But Jane continues to spiral, making all the wrong decisions. She resumes her relationship with ex-boyfriend and celebrity manwhore, Jesse, and continues to confide in Madison – though she’s the one leaking all of her personal information to the gossip world. Ultimately, the sweet little lies come out.

Analysis: This novel serves its purpose: it’s a light and fluffy book that more or less gives tweens a look into Lauren Conrad’s life on The Hills. Though the plots are fictional, the series is semi-autobiographical, telling the story of two girls who move to L.A. and magically get picked to star in a new reality show.

The novel does a good job of showing how unrealistic “reality” TV is. For instance, when the show’s producer learns his “star” and boyfriend have broken up via text message, he begins piecing together a “breakup scene,” so the viewers will “understand what happened.” We also get further insight into the producer’s edits, with Scarlett picking her scenes apart word for word.

Aside from the ­­obvious platform on the current state of “reality” TV, this book is about relationships, between both lovers and friends. Friends become lovers (Scarlett and Liam). Friends grow apart (Scarlett and Jane). Girls become friends with each other too quickly (Jane and Madison). And someone you never thought you’d become friends with is suddenly your confidante (Scarlett and Gaby). Relationships are never easy, and that’s what Jane learns here. At points, she doesn’t know who to trust. Her boyfriend is abusive, her truest friend is out of her life, and her current friend is using her.

Jane’s a damsel in distress and annoying. But as readers, we relate to her for the same reasons the viewers of her show relate to her. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had friendships that have died, been revived, or grown. And when it comes down to it, we all know who will be there for us in the end.

MVP: Diego Nieri aka D. D’s a minor character, but he saves the day and shows Jane how naïve she’s been. D’s a little sidekick; a friend of Jane and Scarlett, who pops up a few times throughout the novel. But when he does, it’s always with flavor. He’s gay and fabulous, but most importantly reliable. In a city where Jane learns she has no one to trust, D is her rock. He protects his girls. And scenes with D always make me laugh. (Think Anthony Marentino in Sex and the City.)

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Movie vs. Book: Never Let Me Go

What would the world be like if genetic cloning was a common occurrence? If people were genetically designed to donate organs to those who were sick? If these donors weren’t even considered humans, but just clones? That’s the world that Never Let Me Go aims to explore.

A science fiction novel set in modern times, Never Let Me Go follows the lives of Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, who are students at Hailsham boarding school in England. Initially the reader learns Hailsham is not your average boarding school, but we don’t understand why until later. We learn that the students are all genetically designed to make organ donations to the ill until they “complete,” or die. This is never said outright, but the reader learns it from context clues. Suddenly, the dynamic of the relationships in the book become much more engaging.

The story sounds weird, but in actuality, it’s tragic. Tommy and Kathy have always been in love, but Tommy dates Kathy’s frenemy Ruth instead. After their schooling, the three friends join society and start their work. Ruth and Tommy become donors, spending their time preparing for surgery, undergoing surgery, and recovering from it. Kathy, in turn, becomes a carer – taking care of donors for years until she decides she is ready to become a donor herself.

After 10 years of not seeing each other, the three reunite. Ruth apologizes for keeping Tommy and Kathy away from each other and urges them to try to get a deferral. A deferral, they’ve heard, is a 3-year delay for donations, granted to donors who can prove they’re in love.

As mentioned, this is a story of tragedy. And surprisingly, that’s felt both in the book and the movie. Though the movie leaves out a few minor plotlines (like Kathy’s exploration into sex), it follows the story pretty closely. The movie is more blunt about their purpose as donors than the book. Whereas the reader has to figure it out for him or herself in the book, the movie outright tells the audience what the situation is. The bluntness forces the movie to lose some of the story’s mystique, but it’s necessary to keep it moving.

Overall, the story translates quite well to screen. The acting is solid (with Carey Mulligan as Kathy, Andrew Garfield as Tommy, and Kiera Knightley as Ruth), the cinematography is beautiful and the story flows well. It didn’t do well in theaters, but I think that’s because the story is unusual when compared to your average love triangle. I would still recommend the movie, as well as the book.

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Who’s Ready for More Potter?

Oh Harry Potter, how we love you.

After 7 books and (almost) 8 movies, we still want more. And though J.K. Rowling has repeatedly said she won’t be writing anymore Harry Potter books, we’re still getting more Potter, thanks to Pottermore.

Rowling officially announced a new web site Thursday — Pottermore — which would not only allow people to purchase Harry Potter e-books, but also let readers into the mind of Rowling herself. Pottermore will offer never-before-read text about the characters and stories in the books. It will also feature games, wand fights, and what appears to be some sort of virtual map.

Needless to say, it sounds awesome. It debuts July 31st –Harry’s birthday, of course– but only for a select few. Those who want early access must register now and compete for it. For the rest of the universe, the site will go public in October.

Pottermore will be the only place for people to purchase e-book versions of the successful series. (Though they will be compatible with Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader, and Apple’s iPad.) Understandably, bookstores and other e-book retailers (ie Amazon) are upset to not have been included in what will surely be one helluva money-maker for Rowling. But retailers hope, and I agree, that it will probably once again boost paper copies of the series.

The true beauty of the Harry Potter series is that it sparked an interest in reading for children and adults. Who’s to say that it can’t continue to do that 14 years later?

For ALL the information about Pottermore, click here.


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Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Recap: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the third and “final” novel in the Millenium series. It picks up with the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, being transferred to the hospital after she narrowly escapes death in the second novel. Salander spends the majority of the book in the hospital, healing and waiting to stand trial for the attempted murder of her father, Alexander Zalachenko. Nest  centers on the way in which Mikael Blomkvist (a reporter, who is also a good friend and former lover of Salander’s) furthers his investigation. With his investigation also comes revelations about The Section, the group within Sweden’s Security Police, or Sapo, that has been covering up illegal activity for some 30+ years.

Analysis: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is everything a last story in a trilogy should be. It ties up loose ends, gives the reader a desirable ending, and still leaves a bit of room for growth should the author  change his/her mind and decide to write more. (**In this case, Stieg Larsson wrote half of a fourth book before he died in 2004, but more on that later.)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a direct sequel to The Girl Who Played With Fire. Whereas Fire explains Salander’s background and history to the reader, Nest reveals this information to the other characters. Salander is an undeniably jaded woman, but Nest confirms that she isn’t crazy. Her innocence is proven as the complicated web of lies, cover-ups, and murders unravels.

The best part of the book is learning about the Section – its function, power, and disregard for those hurt in the crimes they work to cover up. In Fire, we learn there are a bunch of rats, but we don’t care. In Nest, however, we learn how integral the Section is to the story. And let’s be honest. Audiences love a good story about a rat getting crushed. As a reader, one becomes more caught up in this plot than the fallout of the murders that happened in the second book.

The one downfall of the novel is the access Blomkvist gains regarding the police’s murder investigation. Yes, he’s a journalist and has the ability to investigate. But as a journalist myself, I know the police would never give media the access Blomkvist receives. Though one might say it makes sense because he is a part of the story being investigated, I don’t believe he’s so involved to be allowed to sit in on private meetings among the police and the Prime Minister.

MVP: Monica Figuerola. Figuerola is introduced in this novel as a Sapo investigator, assigned to look into The Section. The Section, of course, is made up of fellow officers, putting Figuerola in a tricky position. But she does her job successfully. We also learn Figuerola is a former bodybuilder. Herein lies her purpose: she is the anti-woman – a female with a male role. She takes charge and gets results. She’s actually a parallel to Salander, but a stable one. This is why we like her. (Plus, she sleeps with Blomkvist, and we’re jealous. )

**Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004. By then, he had written 3 novels and half of a fourth. His longtime girlfriend, Eva Gabrielsson, who has published her own memoir, could potentially publish the fourth. But right now, she has her own legal matters to contend with.


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