Serena Serena

Serena is one scary, scary woman. serena

I loved Serena by Ron Rash except on the nights after binge reading when I woke up from nightmares about jaguars and eagles and death. Yeah, not so much fun that. This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal story, but not one that feels gratuitous like Game of Thrones can at times (After watching the Red Wedding I felt completely punk’d, but that’s a story for another day). It is a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense and, beyond its literary allusions, it is a gripping story.

Set in the Depression era North Carolina mountains, it is the story of a timber empire led by Serena and her new husband, Pemberton, and their machinations to become the most powerful (and frightening) couple in the forest. In so doing they compete with interests that would like to preserve the forests, as well as the surrounding impoverished community that is simultaneously beholden to the Pembertons for income and repulsed by their brutality. From the literary angle, there is a Greek chorus timber crew that comments on the action throughout while simultaneously trying to survive under horrific conditions (cold, falling limbs, death) where nature is an adversary and rarely a friend.

While it is almost impossible (for me at least) to relate to Serena, her husband is a much more sympathetic character. When he attempts to help his illegitimate child, he unfortunately stirs the ire of Serena, which leads the plot to its closing. At the same time that I can’t relate to her as a character, I absolutely loved reading this book and count it as one of my recent favorites. I can’t image Jennifer Lawrence as Serena in the upcoming film, but I will definitely be one of the first to see it. Here’s hoping it’s as good as the book.

The Essentials on #day100

I’ve been working on a class about data management plans and part of our assignment was to watch this video by Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism.*

While I know what he saying is truth, it was unsettling to hear it right now. I’ve been batting around some possible commitments and trying to figure out what is going to get a NO! So it was pretty timely to watch for that reason even if it threw me off a bit.

In addition it was timely because today I just finished #100happydays. If you are reading this post, I’m sure you know the meme. I just finished posting pictures for 100 days of things that made me happy. After watching the McKeown video, I realized that 100 happy days is a bit like the essential(ist?) approach. All of my posts were pictures of things things that I require for a good life. You can definitely see some themes: my husband, my family and friends, our cats, food, travel, government documents**, books, reading, students and teaching with some coffee thrown in. These are the essentials, the things that should get my time and attention. Without them, life is less happy.

So McKeown threw me for a loop because of the timing of his message. It is a good reminder though to remember what is necessary to life and what … well … can just get a NO. Now back to pondering those commitments.

* The connection to data management plans is a bit convoluted, but does it really matter?

** Not sure if it was so much the government documents as the problem solving aspects of working with a large project. I do love a good problem/project!

#100happydays and kyle's forehead

#100happydays and kyle’s forehead

Oh and for good measure, here’s a taste of my happy …


#100happydays and cats!

government documents and nuclear fallout #alaac14

I created a tumblr called A Docs Life to feature some of the fun, ridiculous, or cool government documents we have at the University of NC at Greensboro’s University Libraries. You should check it out.

Today I have a guest post from a display created by Kalan Davis at the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota. The display gives great advice on how to survive a nuclear fallout. Important information people!

Cardboard is great protection from radiation!

Cardboard is great protection from radiation!


yes I am going to be working in Vegas…promise. #alaac14 #alatt

Whichever wonderful soul decided to have ALA in Vegas gets mad props from me. I’ve never been, but that’s just it … I’ve never been!  Super excited. Want to travel now.

I haven’t been doing these posts lately, but I want to prove to my co-workers and family that I will be working … some :)  So here is my ALA schedule. I’ve reined my ambitious self in quite a bit this year. It will be gloriously low key compared to every other ALA. But if you know of something I should attend, let me know.

Thursday – Fly in and play … I mean network. Bar crawl while networking. Will get lots of business cards. ;)


  • 1 pm: GODORT Steering – I’m a co-chair of the GODORT Education Committee (Which recently put on this great webinar about sustainability and the government. You should check it out. Very informative.) Gotta go be a boss.
  • 3 pm: Emerging Leaders poster sessionCheck out these new awesome leaders!
  • 5ish pm: Conference kick off in the exhibit hall
  • 6 pm: GODORT social at Margaritaville (no joke. i’m going to order a margarita. just watch me.)



Monday – Going to the Hoover Dam!

Tuesday – fly out!

It is going to be awesome. What’s your ALA like?

Lots of Learning Part 1: Docs Librarians Keeping It Real

In the summer months I have more time for continuing education (and travel!) and have been attending a few meetings, conferences, and workshops. In the interest of sharing, I’m going to post some notes from the big ones. Enjoy!

On Friday, June 13 (scary), I attended the NCLA Government Resources Section’s annual workshop and business meeting. This is the group that puts on the most excellent webinar series ever! Check it! It was informative and a great opportunity to see some docs people from around the state.

FDLP Update

North Carolina’s Regional Depository librarian, Beth Rowe from UNC Chapel Hill gave an update on the happenings at the GPO. And oh those kids are getting a bit cray. At the Depository Library Council the GPO announced a National Plan for the Future of the FDLP. It is not an official document but more like a vision. You can read more about it here. Those slides go into quite a bit of detail. The highlights are first that the name FDLP will be changed to Federal Information Access Library Program. In addition besides regional and selective depositories, we will also have Affiliated Federal Access Libraries, which will be small libraries with under 10,000 documents. These are just some highlights. More information can be found in the document and a lot more is to come. There isn’t a timeline yet for implementation because the GPO is gathering comments and suggestions during the summer conferences. Let them know your thoughts!

State Documents Update

Jennifer and Denise from the State Library’s Government Documents Clearinghouse provided a lot of information. Again here are some highlights. An exciting addition to their site is a research guides page. The NC session laws page is especially nice. Another really cool project is the Symphony Stories. These are digitized programs back to 1947 from the NCS Kids Young People’s Concerts. They are also working on digitizing several serials like Wildlife in NC. Pretty cool stuff.

The NC agencies aren’t the best about sending their documents to the clearinghouse, so Denise Jones is the person tasked to acquire information and documents from state agencies. She is pretty active in that process. Next year she will be targeting the community colleges in NC for documents acquisitions.

Phil McDaniel – Online Mapping Made Easy

McDaniel from UNC Chapel Hill talked about two platforms for quick and easy data mapping: ArcGIS Online through ESRI and Google Fusion. ESRI primarily has a subscription account, but you can do basic mapping for free through ArcGIS online, while Fusion tables is also free but doesn’t benefit from ESRI’s map catalog. The cool thing about Fusion is that you don’t need latitude and longitude coordinates for your data as the program looks for geography within your table. Of the two Fusion has the most promise for my work, but it will take some playing around. Summer project! His materials are available to download from Dropbox.

NC Open Government Coalition

This was a fun session on the NC Open Government Coalition’s work. This coalition includes NGOs, local governments, universities and more (NCLA!) that are interested in open government and advocating for best practices in government transparency. The Director Jonathan Jones talked about NCGS 132-1 the law that defines public records and discussed some of the exemptions to the law and why those documents might be exempt. It was a great discussion and I encourage you take a look at their materials. You can connect with them through facebook and they have an app.  You can also email or call their hotline ( / 336-278-5506).


Geological love story

Considering all the earthquake talk and stories about animals fleeing Yellowstone (but not really), I figured now would be a good time for a review of Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World: American and the Great California Earthquake of 1906.

I admit that I sometimes like to read disaster nonfiction (I don’t get out enough anymore) and from the title it seems like a disaster story, but it is much more than that. Winchester in good geologist fashion gives you the entire view  of why the earthquake happened and not just a description of its aftermath. Quite frankly it makes the story more engaging if quite a bit longer. It isn’t just death, gore, and destruction, but you feel you’ve learned a few new things along the way.

A Crack in the Edge

Places I never want to live

So, it is the story of the Great California Earthquake of 1906 and its fiery aftermath. To set up that story up though he begins with plate tectonics. (Side note: It KILLS me that plate tectonics was only discovered in the 1960s. I remember learning about it in school and thinking that it was the one science thing that just made sense. When I read Winchester’s Krakatoa I was floored by the fact that it was a recent discovery.)  He then takes a long trip from one edge of the North American plate to the other. He starts in Iceland and moves across North America to California giving science and history lessons along the way. My favorite chapters were actually the social histories of California during the gold rush and in the period before the earthquake, but the science holds up too for the non-scientist.

The closing chapters are of interest considering recent events/news. He visits Yellowstone and talks to some geologists there who are studying the geysers. One of the fun sentences in this chapter is “Yellowstone is thus, on purely statistical grounds, ready for an eruption almost any day.” At least he reaffirms that I don’t want to live anywhere in California, or the west coast, or west of the Mississippi. At least not until I’ve lived a long full life and have made peace with my maker.

Incidentally, this book has one of the best description of dawn I’ve ever read. In his prologue he asks you to imagine watching the earth from the moon as dawn arrives on April 18, 1906, the morning of the earthquake. He says “To the east of the line, all would have been bright and daylight. To the west, an impenetrable dark.” When the earthquake happens it would have been indiscernible from space, a mere shrug of the planet, but on land it was nothing but hell.

Simon Winchester is shaping up to be one of my favorite writers. He deftly creates readable descriptions of difficult scientific ideas while placing the science in the social and historical context. In this book, he is at the top of his game.