Pornography in the Library, Part II

Last time, in Pornography in the Library, I talked about pornography and its discoverability.  This week, it’s another post about Pornography in the Library.  This time, it’s a link roundup on various illicit collections.

pederastic courtship
“Pederastic courtship Louvre F43” by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Saucy Victorian Escort Cards – Want to get laid tonight?  Or, you know, after marriage?  So did Victorians.  Escort cards helped the horny make acquaintances, to skirt around rigid social expectations.  Right swipe on Tinder, or sneak a little envelope asking if you “may C U home?”

New York Public Library Erotica Collection – “I was in charge of the chubbies.”  Yes, that could be part of your job description if you’re a librarian at the NYPL.  (Or at least, in the past.)  Research libraries and archives try to collect culture – and pornography (labeled therein as “erotica”) is a snippet that you can find at the New York Public Library.

L’enfer at the Bibliotheque nationale de France – Want a taste of Hell?  The Bibliotheque Nationale in France has got you covered.  I think lust is the big sin here.

The British Museum’s Private Case – I personally prefer the other title to this collection – the Secretum.  Implies all sorts of secrets and secretions, which go very nicely with pornography.


A Few of My Favorite Things (Fantasy)

Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory.  Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians.  Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.

In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.

In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I want to talk about fantasy fiction.  If you’re going to see me reading something, it’s probably a fantasy novel.  I’ve loved fantasy since the beginning of my memory, when I would compel my mother to read me Tolkien.  Just as I love Tolkien, you probably do too.  Or, you’ve probably at least read him.  Likewise for Ursula Le Guin or George R.R. Martin or Terry Prachett or a host of others.  So, herein, I’m going to suggest some “off the beaten path” fantasy novels.

51kqmymui0l-_sx315_bo1204203200_Eyes of God (John Marco). This is my favorite “off the beaten path” fantasy novel.  (It’s the first in a series that’s also worth reading in its entirety.)  Eyes of God is definitely standard fantasy fare, so I feel quite safe recommending it.  What makes this book stand out is its grotesque characters.  If you like your characters flawed, you’ve come to the right place.  Every well-intentioned yet flawed choice drives the plot further and further forward in an exquisite tale of betrayal and hidden magic.

Feist_&_Wurts_-_Daughter_of_the_Empire_CoverartDaughter of the Empire (Raymond E Feist, Janny Wurts).  Daughter of the Empire is the oldest of these books, and the most popular. It’s popular for good reason. A part of Feist’s larger Riftwar Cycle, this novel (and its two sequels) take readers to the Japanese-inspired world of Kelewan where an untested but crafty Ruling lady fights for the survival of her family. If you want intelligent and feminine protagonists, Mara is it.  And I personally love the alien species, the cho-ja.  Always great to see a fantasy race that isn’t elf-like or dwarf-like – and is very clearly not human.

81h8qe2bmbalWho Fears Death (Nnedi Okorafor). Nnedi Okorafor’s award-winning novel Who Fears Death is the newest title on here, and the least fantasy-like of the three.  Some have even classified the novel as sci-fi or dystopian future. While the novel is set in what is now known as the Sudan and includes electronics like computers, GPSes, and MP3 players, this book is truly fantasy – a journey across an unfamiliar landscape with magic and fantastic beasts. It’s different and a tad experimental – but you won’t regret reading Who Fears Death.

Pornography in the Library, Part I

This is Part I of a (hopefully) multi-part series on pornography and libraries.

The Fall semester of 2015, I took a class on metadata.  (Metadata is data that describes other data; basically, if you take a metadata class, you’re cataloging things just with standards/languages other than MaRC).  For the final project, we were supposed to create our own metadata schema.

Perhaps this is strange, but I immediately thought of pornography.

Metadata (and cataloging) is all about discovery.  While porn can be strangely easy to find, it can also be incredibly difficult to find.  We can see (softcore) porn on billboards, on television, etc., but search engines like Google censor their suggested search functions when the search relates to porn. Porn websites have a phenomenal number of tags (folksonomies or metadata), but the user might have to trawl through pages and pages, videos and videos, images and images to find the material that fulfills the user’s needs/wants.  Pornography could very well benefit from a metadata schema.  Creating a metadata schema is all about findability.  For a library school metadata project, pornography would be really cool to do.

Then, pornography is fascinating from a cataloging perspective (discoverability aside).  Pornography can come in all shapes, sizes, textures, etc.  It can be text, video, audio (audiobook or phone sex), still image.  It can be digital or analog. It could be 1,000 years old, or 1 second.  Wow, how can you create a structure (of metadata) that can encompass all these potential attributes?  It’s a compelling challenge, one that I really wish I could have jumped on.

And therein arises the second part of this post.  While I have constructed the barest skeleton of a metadata schema for pornography, I did that on a boring morning in December.  I didn’t have the support or time to create anything like a viable metadata schema.  My group was great to work with and, in the end, we created a decent artists’ books schema.  But, well, I didn’t get to create an in-depth metadata schema for pornography.

“White peach and cross section edit” by Fir0002 – File:White peach and cross section.jpg modified by User:Noodle snacks. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons.

I also became the subject of the Graduate School for Library and Information Science’s gossip.

My friend A was waiting for me outside the library, sitting on a misshapen lump of concrete. (Maybe it’s considered “art”?)  “They’re talking about you,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I was with my metadata group,” he said.  “They said how one group had a member who wanted to do pornography.”

I raised my hand cynically.  “That’s me.”

He knew that.  We’d already discussed the idea of a metadata schema for pornography.  “I told them it was a cool idea.  They sort of agreed.  But they said it was ‘unprofessional’.”

“Unprofessional,” I mused.

Well, when you become the subject of gossip, you’re likely on to something.  That’s at least what I told myself.

Pornography exists on the fringes of library and information science.  We deem it “unprofessional” and thus it never gets cataloged, never gets discovered.  Sometimes, we don’t know how to even classify it (pornography or erotica or art).  Our libraries avoid buying it, even if there might be value (research, cultural, community needs). When we do buy material considered “pornographic,” we get challenged – by staff and by patrons.  Our libraries and institutions might have policies on collecting pornography…or they might be utterly silent on it.

Pornography’s challenges for information professionals is what fascinates me about pornography in the library.


Big Changes, Big Excitement, Big Stress

For #LISMentalHealthWeek (January 17 – 23), the “Information water witchAngela Galvan wrote a vignette titled “All that you leave behind” about dealing with a mental health issue after moving to a vastly new location (New York state from southern Ohio) for work.  It meant leaving her support network and learning a new environment while struggling with simply surviving – eating, sleeping, etc.  It’s an excellent piece, and I recommend reading it.

suitcase on platform
“Lost Lonely Luggage” by Strange Luke. 2011. Attribution 2.0 Generic, via

And it also reminded me of a blog post on Hack Library School, “The Perils of Seeing a Job as Your Endgame” by Callie Wiygul – which also discusses burning out after library school.  (The two pieces are vastly different, but they both discuss the emotional struggles individuals go through when switching jobs and relocating.)

These pieces got me thinking: what will it be like when I graduate from my masters program?

All-in-all, I’m excited.  I love my graduate assistantship in acquisitions, but I don’t love my classes.  (To put it nicely.)  The area in which I live is…fine.  And yes, I do have friends here – and I’m close to family.  Moving on will require giving up an awesome job, a reasonably nice place to live, and the friends I’ve made.  But leaving also means finally getting a break from school – after 18 years.  Making more money (but probably spending more, too).  An opportunity for (another) fresh start.

It’s a balance between losses and gains.  I suppose every major life change is.

After having read the aforementioned articles, though, I know I need to remind myself to be self-aware.  This last semester of library school will challenge me by forcing me to juggle schoolwork with applying and interviewing for jobs with taking care of my Reggie with taking care of myself.  I will need to monitor myself to know when maybe I need to take a break, or indulge in something special to get me through.

For all those other librarians out there who are managing a job search, here’s a gentle reminder to make sure you take care of yourself. Big changes can mean big excitement, and big stress.

Toulouse Bookstore

A Few of My Favorite Things (Nonfiction), Part II

Public librarians get to do the cool job of readers’ advisory.  Academic librarians rarely do; and definitely not academic acquisitions librarians.  Even though I don’t have the opportunity to recommend books particularly often, I have a few books that are favorites that I would like to recommend.

In the series “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll perform some readers’ advisory and give some reading recommendations.

In this iteration of “A Few of My Favorite Things,” I’ll discuss 3 of my favorite nonfiction books.  (See my first set of nonfiction recommendations in Part I.)  Unlike Part I, these are a little more geeky, a little more academic in scope.  These are for the serious knowledge-seekers out there.

The Book in Japan by Peter KornickiThe Book in Japan: A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century (Peter Kornicki). I sold my copy of this book back in 2014. I’m still regretting it. For anyone who wants facts about Japanese book culture (like me), this is the book to have.  It is plain old chock full of almost anything you would want to know. Or at least, anything that you could find out without learning grass script. I’ve found that a book with such a narrow scope actually comes in extremely handy when you’re trying to prove a point at being more multicultural in a profession (librarianship) that is much too Eurocentric.

The Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro's Western Experience by Wintz and GlasrudThe Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro’s Western Experience (Cary D. Wintz & Bruce Glasrud). I’ve read historians that say – and have been flat out told by an archivist – that blacks did not exist in the Southwest during the first half of the 20th century. I did not believe them – and still don’t. This collection of rather pithy essays collected by Wintz and Glasrud proves that blacks did in fact live in the Southwestern United States in the first half of the 20th century. And these black communities and individuals had thriving cultures. Read about literature and music with The Harlem Renaissance in the American West, and try to lessen the impact of the erasure of People of Color in United States history.

Mysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon (Robin Wright). ThisMysteries of the Jaguar Shamans of the Northwest Amazon by Robin Wright book is for only the staunchest geeks: it’s ultra-academic and ultra-niche. When you’ve gone over European history more than three times, know a little too much for comfort about East Asian (book) history, have read tens of books and articles on North American Natives and First Nations, what else do you have to look at? What can you learn about that no one within a 50-mile radius will know? I recommend learning about the jaguar shamans of the Baniwa people of the northwest Amazon rain forest. Yeah, that’s a very specific and geeky person who would want to read about that…but I definitely came out with a lot more rare knowledge when I finished this book.