Thu. May 23rd, 2024

I’m jumping over April 30 because I didn’t do much pop culture-wise. The main thing I did in that area was listen to some Sweet, the British glam rock band of the Seventies. It was the Sweet Action double cd compilation I have. I bought it not long before my Japan trip last year, and I haven’t given it much of a listen. All the great hits are front and centre – Ballroom Blitz, Action, Fox On the Run and so on, including my favourite song, The Sixteens, and I’m familiar with them all. It’s the others I’m concentrating on at the moment. My playlist for today was ‘the others’ from disc one, some 11 of 19 tracks. It was pretty solid stuff, especially Lost Angels, New York Groove and the bawdy Yesterday’s Rain (sample lyric: ‘She gave me love, bonafida/Up to my balls inside her’). New York Groove was a bit of a revelation. Recorded much later, about 2012 for guitarist Andy Scott‘s incarnation of Sweet, it was a hit for Kiss’s Ace Frehley, and the original was done by Sweet knock-offs, Hello. But Andy’s version adds a bit of Alicia Keys and Jay-Z‘s Empire State of Mind into the chorus, and it works brilliantly. Yeah, I know, they were gimmicky and crude, but they put me in touch with the teenage boy inside me. And it has to be said, they were an influence on lots of rock bands, from Kiss to Motley Crue (compare Kickstart My Heart to Action) and beyond. The Sweet story, as the album’s liner notes attest, was a fascinating one, reminding me of the Monkees, actually. It’s interesting how their early bubblegum songs, like Little Willy and Funny Funny, morphed into the glam rock of Ballroom Blitz and Blockbuster. Then there was the fight for control and identity away from the Chinn and Chapman management team. All very Monkees.

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I suspect music like the Sweet is something a character like Carol Kennicot would look down on. She was the main character in Sinclair Lewis‘s 1920 novel, Main Street. It was brought to my mind because I read an interesting article in the old Australian Library Journal today titled Carol Kennicot’s Dilemma, by Miroslav Kruk (Volume 64, 2015 – Issue 1). The novel was a satire of small town American values, and Kennicot’s character was a librarian intent on ‘improving’ the town’s citizens with good reading. The fact that the citizens were more interested in enjoying their own mediocrity and narrow-mindedness was Carol’s dilemma. Kruk brings two ancient Greek philosophers into the discourse here, namely Plato and Aristotle, highlighting Plato’s idealism and Aristotle’s pragmatism. We see these shifting values played out in the novel, just as they continue to play out in libraries over the years and all over the world, including Australia. Kennicot is clearly an idealist librarian. Many of us are not, many of us see ourselves at the service of the public, pragmatically giving them whatever they want. My own position is I’m an idealist, with a bit of pragmatism thrown in. That should be clear to anyone who has read my writings in this blog! I think we find our greatest happiness in striving for perfection, for the ideal. We don’t have to be caught up in attaining it, or even properly visualising it, we just need to try. Like listening to Sweet – even being in Sweet – that is where the fun is. Anyway, it’s a good article. You should read it!

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Speaking of ‘improvements’, we at my library have been tasked with reading and responding to a training resource document called Mastering Reader Development. From what I’ve read of it, it’s a good document, well thought out and with some terrific suggestions. It feeds into a lot of stuff I’ve thought about and written about here in this blog. It also plays, in its way, with the dichotomies of Plato and Aristotle introduced above. Here are some sample questions suggested for use when communicating with our patrons:

  • What have you read lately that you enjoyed?
  • What was it about the book that you enjoyed most?
  • How do you usually decide what to read next?
  • Have you ever found a book you enjoyed by browsing our library
    displays?
  • Are you returning a book today that you would recommend for
    display?
  • What parts of a book cover attract your attention?
  • Do you seek out books that have been reviewed in newspapers, or
    recommended by friends?
  • How did you discover your favourite book?
  • Which displays in our library are your go-to spots for browsing?
  • Are you interested in what other library patrons have been reading? If
    so, do you ever browse the recent returns trolley?

And the ideas keep coming. I would add, ‘Are there any particular words in a book title that usually attract you?’ I’m thinking about the trigger words I mentioned in an earlier diary entry. I think I’ll highlight some more in this document in future entries here.

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