At The Circulation Desk

Serious About Serials

Tearing Staples And Cracking Spines:

Reader’s Advisory For The Horror Movie Magazine

By James Johnson

It should be prefaced that current readers of either title might actually consider Rue Morgue punching down and out of it’s weight with this month’s Versus instalment. I would agree with them on one point: these two titles are unique organisms. Either has contrasting characteristics, features, style, contributors, and even political ideologies. However, they both share a media landscape that we have culturally coined, and subsequently use to categorize, as Horror and compete in a market with truly forgiving consumers. I’m not recommending one over the other. Read both. Read more serials! Objectively, either of these titles can satisfy some fans of horror. The point of this versus series is to highlight titles of the same subject to expose new readers wishing to explore the options available to them. Too few library professionals advocate serial readers advisory, and that’s a shame in our opinion.

It becomes obvious as soon as you pick up this Halloween’s copy of Rue Morgue that there’s a level of authority assumed in the general quality. Perfect binding (a new feature I believe, since every prior issue I have is saddle stitched), heavier paper poundage, and custom cover art. Whereas SCREAM lends this reader a particular reminiscence – the fanzine wave (and decline), the slick pages of medium to low poundage, saddle stitch binding, and tacit Gonzo-Journo obsessive contributors, mark it as a true genre classic, even though it’s only 11 years in publication compared with Rue’s 24. Obviously, these thematic mags play at different speeds. I can easily see a Rue Morgue reader picking up a copy of SCREAM, and vice versa. Horror genre film critiques in print are not as common as general interest serials, such as US, Harper’s, or Cosmo. I think it’s fair to say that both titles are most likely bunk-mates on the toilet tank of the Horror movie fanatic and that’s why they’re in focus.

SCREAM Magazine #68

ISSN: 2045-2128
Audience: Adult

Boasting the title of “the world’s no. 1 horror magazine” (unverified!), SCREAM serializes bimonthly “100 bloody pages of content”. The words include surface to mid-depth analysis of modern and classic horror movies, often focusing on European and British Cinema, such as the Hammer and Giallo classics. Generally, the cover art or layout has an emphasis or theme which will be featured in the principal article. This cover (like every other so far) is a collage of iconic movie imagery arranged in such a way to inform the reader of the contents. It’s standard for this level of production value, though the colour choices, fonts, and arrangements are pleasant and engaging.

I have always had issue with magazines that boast the number of pages of content they’re selling. In my opinion, I think at best it’s misleading and at worse misinformation. The front and back cover should not be consider “pages of content” yet they are. Quarter, half, and even full page Ads are also not “content” in my opinion. If you’re trying to sell me something I can’t buy with my attention, but actual cash, I’m probably not going to refer to it warmly as “content”. So be warned, it’s more like 80-90 pages of content. Not bad. Other than the featured articles (#68 is a revisit of two Slashics, Freddy’s Revenge and Dream Warriors), readers can expect interviews, reviews of books and DVDs, retrospectives, and more. Standard genre fare.

The writing has a casual feel of an informed fan with experience in critiquing their favourite films. If you’re looking for a deep dive analysis, you’ll instead find an excellent though ultimately slim review of what the avid fan probably already knows. There’s no pandering, and the language meets the reader and the writer at eye level, increasing its accessibility and reach. SCREAM is a great title for explorers of the genre, eager to dip their toes in the world of horror cinema that’s not overbearingly esoteric. SCREAM wins with it’s gorgeous bright colours, full and rich border-less formatting, and clean presentation.

Pet Peeve: Recurring segments VHS Ate My Brain and Video Nasty are regrettably missing from this issue in favour of more retrospectives. These segments are often compelling and provide gritty insight for the casual consumer. Here is where SCREAM suffers from what most genre cinema zines suffer from at times: stale repetition. This issue continues a retrospective of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, where their competition in our spotlight has two solid features, Mexican Gothics and Folk Horror.

Kudos: The Halloween issue (Sept-Oct) could have been released at any season. There’s not a jack-o-lantern in sight. A horror movie magazine that keeps print’s version of click-bait out of its season of the witch issue? I’m impressed. Halloween is everyday in my world, and so it would seem at SCREAM.

Rue Morgue #202

ISSN: 1481-1103
Audience: Adult

Toronto based Rue Morgue sells a different story for our would-be horror readers and that’s not a bad thing! Rue Morgue’s subtitle reads “Horror in Culture & Entertainment”. Where SCREAM highlights modern and obscure films alike, Rue Morgue delves deeper and examines the cycles that Horror sub-genres naturally birth and die throughout time. There’s most certainly a firm hand in editorialship, where editor Andrea Subissati often acts as contributor to many segments. SCREAM seems to have a nice balance of freedom and control that I felt lacking in Rue Morgue. That’s their prerogative, of course, and I can respect the vision and commitment Subissati and the controllers of Rue’s assets have.

The content (articles and interviews) are insightful and creative, informative, and thoughtful. While written in plain-speak, the topics of discussion are often viewed through a post-modernist lens. This could quickly become tiresome, but the richness of the topics covered make it informative, albeit far from a place of neutrality. That may be indeed be fair, as the movie viewer brings with them their own biases and lenses, so why not reviewers themselves? By that metric I can agree, however, that does not mean Rue Morgue wouldn’t benefit from a broader spectrum of ideas and voices.

The advertisements for Rue Morgue products and third party toys and merchandise can get a little loud. Many fans love the exposure to horror collectibles and the latest trends, so this may be a feature many enjoy. The culture and entertainment of horror today is saturated with bits and bobs for the collector, and Rue Morgue advertises plenty of options for the consumer.

Pet Peeve: Over-hyped subscriber mailbag section. Publishing letters from subscribers describing why they’re glad they subscribed is cringe. Perhaps there aren’t many fan mail complaints, but certainly there must be some.

Kudos: Accessible depth. A true challenge with zine word restrictions. Rue Morgue’s in depth analysis and excavation of lost or unexamined relics of cinema’s past puts them at the top of their peers.

DiscoverySeries: Genealogy

This is part two of a Library Tech Files editorial DiscoverySeries. Click here for the first instalment.

THE LOST STONES OF ZION, PART 2

LOST AMONG THE FENCE ROWS:

A Matter Of Memory And

The Price of Forgetting

By James Johnson

Approx. 10 minute reading time

As summer winds down with a feeling of wanting, the election results have met my expectations. Sitting at my desk, once again looking out on the leaves changing their hues, the desire to shout ‘I told you so’ at no one in particular is quelled by the piles of books, maps, photographs, jotted notes with ink blots, and grave-rubbings that make my corner a little more crazy. Mysteries upon mysteries continue to stack upon one another, the simplest distraction is delightful and regretfully rejected when the work starts begging to be done.

This feeling of wanting runs deeper than a desire for strong government, or the love of autumn; the search for the Zion Cemetery stones is over. The stones have been found, locked for decades in the darkness of a utility shed on the edge of the village’s most populated cemetery. A thousand times a thousand I have passed these gravestones unaware, sat for hour upon hour over four years across the road from them (the township’s high school sits across from the cemetery, and I still often wonder how the school hasn’t yet the been the setting of a cliched horror movie).

Balanced on the literal edge of the cemetery, the land abruptly ends in a perilous ravine where, without care, the resting place of hundreds will inevitably cascade down upon one another. Including this old rickety shed with a mother skunk living beneath its floorboards. The retired caretaker agreed to meet with me to see if the stones were truly there. With him he brought WD-40 and a crowbar “for convincing”. After some negotiations the lock gave and for the first time in decades light entered that place. The air was almost sweet with decay, when wood and earth have met and married too long. Not wet or humid, the dryness of the air made the smell pleasant. There was no mold or mildew or swirling dust motes. There wasn’t much of anything. Except three distinct marble stones lined against the far wall holding the names of our family. Not two stones, but three. After all, I was looking for two unknown sisters. The first portent of inevitable wanting.

The names on these stones were familiar but unfortunately neither Susan nor Jane’s. The three stones appeared to belong to brothers and wives, possibly already accounted for in the family tree, suggesting these were left behind with newer monuments replacing them at the newly opened cemetery. The dates of birth and death were strange and not what matched my own research, or those newer monuments currently in place. I reminded myself that names were often passed down and commonly shared between cousins and even siblings. But these dates of death predated my family’s earliest settler records. Since our family predates the village’s incorporation, every person sharing my matrilineal name is blood-related, unless by some coincidence a random family with the same surname moved to the same quaint village that has struggled to avoid joining the growing ranks of the dying Canadian town. How, therefore, can these people – their lives and deaths – predate current settlement evidence? The portents of wanting rage.

The story of the Zion Stones was one of chance, luck, and near misses. The first notion of their existence arose during a conversational interview with family. The kind where folks dig deep in the corners of memory, when faces or names connect an axon or two. Eventually a wrinkle of a maybe became a growing confidence, until finally someone said “I’m sure we went down to that old field, where Zion was before, and I think we put two stones the farmer found in the fence row in the back of your Grandpa’s pickup truck.” The near miss came when Grandpa couldn’t recall the event ever happening, as time has gone on his memory has started to slip. The topic of buried relatives on the tree continued to gnaw at me, and helpful family eager to see the story unfold shared their records. They did so with an obvious affection for the people, place, and lives of this assuredly special town. A good deal of this summer has been spent exploring the links these records have provided.

Though certainly a trove of treasure, these items quickly became an added challenge for my already cluttered desk. Using the advice from a previous article on the matter, I set to work preparing the materials for collection. A significant and revolutionary method crucial to modern archiving or forming a family fonds is digitization.

As those of you knowledgeable in archiving or genealogy know, digitization can offer a great deal of benefits for discovery, access, notation, and general organization. Most of the items given to me are scanned copies of originals that have been lost, dispersed, or destroyed. While there are original documents remaining, of which I have had the privileged of examining in person, I have however not been granted permission to digitize them. The method most applicable for these purposes therefore was preventative conservation, rather than any restorative (though the originals are in dire need of both). During an endless night of scanning, notating, and filing, It was during this effort I first discovered the old ream of yellowed paper that first provided insight into the possibility of unknown members of the family. From oral stories to private and public records, the names on the paper I could confirm as the town’s original Beatty’s, Irish immigrants fleeing the famine and crippling subjugation under the English Crown.

Why was this item was of particular concern? In a moment of cleared-eyed reminiscence, at Grandpa’s bedside, he recalled there being told of “two spinsters”. While certainly less palatable today, the term was used in many documents when referring to unmarried women of whatever age. Genealogists are well aware of the rabbit holes married, remarried, widowed, bachelor, and spinster branches can take an unprepared researcher down. Without any follow through records like a marriage certificate or declaration, evidencing a person’s place on your tree (especially going back 100 or 200 years) can be near impossible.

This is a representation, the original has yet to be archived. Photo by Library Tech Files.

So when I saw this unknown record keeper’s scrawled hand the “spinsters” screamed out at me. Confirmation of someone, sometime ago, acknowledging the existence of phantoms. Names to rumours. Running with this new information, I located a Jane and Susan Beatty in the 1871 and 1881 censuses. They were registered as a family adjacent to one of the brother’s farms. Realistically, they probably lived in the farmhouse in the winter, helping to raise the children, then into their own cabin on the same lot near the farmhouse when the seasons warmed. I imagine the brother’s wife and eight children quickly outgrew this space, indicating why these single elderly women lived as a unit on the same land as their brother’s family, albeit separate. Even though they are often deeply flawed, the old censuses provide potentially useful data. In her final census appearance in 1891, Jane Beatty is now 85 years old (probably not accurate) living with her brother’s family. Sister Susan sadly missing from the entry (unfortunately, probably corporeal accurate). Presumably, the sisters would be interred in a tiny cemetery, not a quarter mile from the ancestral farm. As highlighted in a wonderfully useful monograph by one local historian, the village quickly became a beacon of commerce and manufacturing, outgrowing the old necropolis. The remains were moved, the land sold and farmed for the next hundred years, the soil turned again and again, while three marble monuments, swallowed by goldenrod and side-oat, remained wanting along the fence row.

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t convinced in my heart that when those shed doors swung open, the light of day too would swing the doors of this mystery wide open; and the headstones of the two sisters, long forgotten, would scream their names so loud the none of us would soon forget them. Instead, another mystery prompting yet another quest of uncovering perhaps an even older connection to my family and my hometown barged into a head-space not quite ready to deal with it.

The wanting comes again in finalizing my thoughts on the matter of the Lost Stones of Zion. How the names engraved unto them not only affirmed the perceived perpetual silence of the sisters whose names, births, lives, and deaths I remain unable to verify, but proffered a resolution for which I may not be ready to accept. That for all efforts to reclaim memory, It may be that I am not meant to know these women. How can a single word – Spinster – be all that remains of their memories? Are they the “village” for which raising not one but many children requires? A shoulders to bare the burden of loss; the neutral voices of embittered kin-conflicts; the steady hands delivering under candlelight the babies of other women, raising them as quiet guardians and favoured aunties. The wanting remains in the passing into oblivion of all their choices, decisions, dreams, creations, and contributions as a growing unshakable truth.

I acknowledge that this type of certaine fin thinking conjugates with the fear in the corner of my mind persistently engaged with the truth of my eventual and certain death. This is not a rare obsession; it infects you all. It just takes time and the right nudge. My sophomore year of university, I met a girl and the story goes about the same as any other. All that can and will be said is it didn’t go well, though we certainly had our fun when she was sober. One thing she left me with, besides a regretfully apathetic direction in life, was a newfound respect and paranoia for death’s obliteration. She was acutely aware of her own demise, or at least the spectre of it, and made sure I was too. Moreover, she made sure I knew that nothing I did mattered and that nothing would be left when I was gone. I know this came from a dark place for her, but it resonated as a lesson I have never forgotten. I’m happy to say I don’t think she is the same person today as the one I knew then, and for the better.

The lesson she taught me is it that it can go one of two ways. We can be forgotten among the fence rows just as easily as venerated on marble. In family records, the footprints of your having been here exist in photos, ticket stubs, old ledgers, journals, receipts, and promises on postcards. All this mess swirls online, especially for my fellow “Millenials”. Sure, you have ten thousand pictures of your face with silly filters, but do you have them really? How much control do you have of the cloud, or of the third-party social media platform curating your entire life? How much control do you want? Do yourself a favour and get organizing, or hand it off to a family member showing the most passion for preserving these artifacts of your own existence. Otherwise accept that even with today’s connected and self-publishing landscape, there will be a time when what makes you you, is no longer remembered.

A brighter side…

Despite the hard truth of knowing the Lost Stones of Zion probably will never bring back the memories of the forgotten sisters, hope springs eternal thanks to a group in the Netherlands that have done Canada an unforgettable service; by maintaining and honouring the graves of fallen Canadian soldiers from WW2. During this summer’s investigation into the family tree I was able to learn about John Edward Johnson and his sacrifice, to see his face and where he rests. This incredible organization seeks to preserve and honour the memories of those who served and died during the country’s liberation from Nazi Germany. Thanks to these dedicated individuals, time won’t be able to take his memory from my family, and though I may not be able to visit his grave, I can talk with him at the click of a button. For this I am truly grateful.

If you should take with you but one thing from my family tree genealogy experience so far, let it be this: you have at your disposal to either begin recording your story, or begin preserving the chapters passed down to you from your ancestors. Whichever way, you owe a responsibility to the roots, branches, leaves, and fruits of your growing family tree to steward your artifacts, tell and retell stories, and remember the lives that come before, so those of us ahead may not be left in wanting.

* A note to that linked article about dying Canadian towns: I agree with Campbell’s premise on the nature of the ever moving Canadian, however dispersion of traditions and values into surrounding communities in a jumping-ship fashion shouldn’t be considered the normal course of a town’s life cycle. With respect, our towns have souls of their own. Too few today acknowledge the living nature and growing history of a physical place. I understand and respect that reconciliation in our conversations today is crucial and both our first nations’ and settler histories and places should be preserved for all knowledge seekers.

DiscoverySeries: Genealogy

PART ONE :
THE LOST STONES OF ZION

A Surprising Journey On Researching Roots And Remembering Our Stories

By James Johnson

Since the discovery of child remains in mass unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools, I have thought deeply about roots and the significance of knowing. Of telling stories and remembering. First Nation’s families had their babies stripped from them, often never returning. They have the right of remembrance, of knowing and putting names to lost loved ones, bringing them home. As I acknowledge these sins and responsibilities of Canada’s forefathers, I reaffirm the importance of knowing, of reclaiming lost stories. My family’s own story is on the brink of extinction, and the reality of never knowing the answers to the great questions of where do we come from, and why are we here, that they will never have a voice to answer them, is disturbing.

I knowledge that the land my ancestors cultivated has been contested by many for thousands of years, and my Irish ancestors fled an ancient land in the clutches of famine, disease, political persecution, and death; fled directly into the jaws of a hinterland so cruel and brutal it bred men and women of steel, with humble morals and familial ethics that shaped generations capable of enduring the worst humanity could shake at them. Their struggles, their voices, though not the first of this land, deserve the treatment of remembering, preserving, and knowing. It is with great respect that I offer this story for remembrance.

June, the 1990’s,

A summer sun climbed about noon high as the old Ford rambled down a dusty concession, rolling just fast enough for the dry gravel to kick up an orange haze in the rear view. Pretty dust clouds are not subject viewing on this Saturday morning. My mother kept a relaxed eye on the load in the bed (a mix of scrap, yard waste, and trash that was trying to make a permanent place in our garage). Every summer we would take our yard waste or scrap to the county dump. On the way back, for as long as I can remember, I would ask if we could take the long way home, just to drive past the “old farmhouse”. Each time I would ask the same questions: who’s farm, where did they come from, how are we related, and so on. Each time the same response: “that’s your great, great, great…well it was my grandfather’s, and his fathers, farm. And before that it was nothing. We settled from Ireland, probably Enniskillen.”

And that was that. Every year until I left for college, I’d ask the same questions. In the mid 90’s, when my mother purchased an internet connection (measured in, and charged by, the minute if you can believe that), the web wasn’t yet outfitted to meet the needs of certified sleuths, let alone wannabe genealogist’s like myself. It wasn’t until the 2010’s Ancestry.com would start making waves on my radar (though I would remain an unsubscribing lurker for the next decade). Instead of utilizing the growing database of records to search for my local roots and the “old farm”, I tried desperately to seek out any Irish or Scottish connections. Repeated barriers to access, poor research skills, and teenage girls impacted my already overwhelmed mind, and I soon shelved the family tree file.

You see, when the Irish Civil war erupted in 1922, the archives went up in smoke, and until recently, armchair genealogists wondered if their Emerald roots would ever see the light of day. Once a Scotch-Irish Canadian hits this research wall, there are typically two options. First, you can give up and wait for 2022’s Irish initiative to publish their salvaged records digitally. Or secondly, and proactively, you can start off your search at home. Dig deep and look for the roots your ancestors left behind. Listen to your elders and record their stories. Everything matters. Pieces to a puzzle.

On a recent return to my Canadian “ancestral” home town, my greatly improved research skills (thanks to my well rounded Library Technician education) and my mother’s generous gift-subscription to Ancestry.com, rekindled my desire to find our family’s stories amid the boxes and folders she had kept safe all these years

Annexing her dining room table, a week long research session led to discovery upon discovery, revealing themselves in artifacts; names; letters long forgotten in recipe drawers; a passport and postcard revealing a relative’s journey to the homeland; and stones that line the old town cemetery rows.

One such discovery came by pure chance, and nearly missed the light of day. Midway through the visit, my mother reached out to a cousin of ours that had particular interests in the family genealogy. Over the phone they discussed who belonged where on the tree, as I jotted notes and paired Mr. with Mrs. “Oh and don’t forget Dr. Bagshaw”, my dear cousin finished. Oh yes, my mother thought, how could I have forgotten?

How indeed? When I located a Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw’s birth certificate, I quickly confirmed that she was my 1st cousin 3X removed. With shaking hands, I plugged this new information into Google and promptly blew my mind. Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw graduated from the University of Toronto in 1905 as one of Canada’s first female doctors.

Dr. Bagshaw would start a practice in Hamilton, Ontario, providing, often times free, medical care to the city’s growing immigrant families. Comfortable with midwifery, immigrants often called on Dr. Bagshaw to deliver their babies, not trusting the usual male physicians that were commonplace. As a result, Dr. Bagshaw delivered more babies than any other doctor from that time. During the pandemic, she contracted the Spanish Flu while treating the sick and dying. Surviving this deadly influenza, Dr. Bagshaw continued to deliver babies, into the 1930’s and the Great Depression. Watching mothers give birth to babies she knew would starve, Dr. Bagshaw did the unthinkable. She helped open and operate the first birth control clinic in Canada, providing women with contraception (often at her own cost) and the knowledge of how to take control of their reproductive rights. She did this at great cost to her public image, personal safety, and professional career. Clergymen from the pulpit decried “Heretic”, “Whore”, and “Devil” every Sunday, despite her actions having significant benefits to society during the times where having more children meant welcoming more death.

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw (1881-1982) Medical director of the first birth control clinic in Canada.

Retiring at 95 as the oldest practicing physician in Canada, Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw’s long and storied career is capped with multiple honours and awards. These honours include Induction as a Member of the Order of Canada, Hamilton Citizen of the Year, a public school named after her, and the Governor General’s Persons Award for her efforts to advance the status of women in Canada.

Her story was nearly lost to me, and I will forever endeavour to ensure my children and their children remember the impact their ancestors, like Elizabeth Bagshaw, had on the lives of all Canadians. These stories are what we must strive to know, to pass on. These stories inspire our young daughters to realize their potentials, to overcome challenges. To build better worlds.

After settling back to earth, and having read all I could on the woman, I left Dr. Bagshaw alone for the moment, and went back to focusing on the family tree. But something kept pulling me to the female names that were scattered throughout the branches. I settled upon two names. Susan and Jane. Nothing was known about these two “sisters”, save for a handwritten letter from a cousin of long ago. In this letter he makes mention of an old cemetery. Not the one I had scoured the day before looking for leads among the rows. No, a secret cemetery placed at the end of the old concession, steps from the family homestead, and nearly two hundred years before, known as Zion. According to this cousin, Zion cemetery was supposedly moved, the remains of relatives interred at the new cemetery on a pretty hill. Years later a farmer would work the land upon forgotten Zion, and come across a pair of old stones.

The lost stones of Zion allegedly bore our name, and belonged to the sisters of the men who came before my mother, and before her father, and before his father, and his. I have only just begun my research into the validity of these stones, including their potential current whereabouts. I know this is a long journey, and the prospects of success are few. What certainly can be confirmed is that these women deserve to have their stories known, shared, and remembered. Whether quieted by time, disease, or terrible injustice, all our human stories must be told.

I wish you all peace and success in your search for knowing. For beginners in Ontario looking for research assistance, or simply a place to start, I encourage you to explore the Archives of Ontario’s guides and tools.

Digital Delights

Are Libraries Still Relevant?

How Future-Ready Libraries Overcame Physical Limitations to Serve Those Sheltering in Place

Estimated reading time for this article: 3 mins

By James Johnson

I recently completed a research paper examining the varied COVID-19 pandemic responses of North American libraries. Of the three major types reviewed (public, academic, school), a consensus was achieved: future-ready librarians, relying on prior years of commitment to digital resource acquisition from capable predecessors, were successful in pivoting to a new, remote mode of service.

In January of 2020 both the United States of America and Canada reported their first cases of the virus SARS-CoV-2. This synchronous infection caused most Canadian provinces and American states to declare emergency measures around mid-March of 2020, respectively. Libraries were ordered to shut in Ontario on March 17th 2020, by the Premier Doug Ford. Similarly, just across the border in New York at the same time, public libraries were shuttering for their part in stemming the corona virus tide

As the economy ground to a halt, so too did our cultural outlets. Concerts, museums, archives, galleries, and of course, libraries all closed. How these institutions responded to abrupt closures is indicated by their seamless ability to function in an entirely digital environment. Those who had prepared, dedicated and curated the components required to facilitate the inevitability of remote-access were incredibly successful.

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) system, an oft cited luminary here on Library Tech Files, provided even more digital resources than in pre-pandemic years, including 2.4 million more e-books than the previous year, an increase of 32%

Not only did TPL open its digital stacks to more Torontonians than ever before, other digital services number in the dozens. It’s sometimes overlooked that libraries are not simply vessels for passive entertainment. Research and education resources are jewels in the TPL services catalogue. Powerful research tools like Ancestry Library Edition were made available for at-home use. Wasting away at home because your job closed? Courses from Lydia, Sage, and Gale are freely available for skill development and enhancement.

I often hear from reluctant readers that news and current events can be hard to come by. Print papers are scooped up by early-risers, soaring subscription prices and soft-paywalls act as significant discouraging barriers. Whenever I hear this argument, at least from Torontonians, I direct them to PressReader, an app that lets users read a vast selection of magazines and newspapers of the day, both locally and globally. All you need is a library card. Everyday, I have the National Post and Toronto Star downloaded to my mobile device via my preference settings in the app. Of course these apps aren’t truly free, our collective citizenry pays for these services through taxes. By that standard, consider it your obligation to utilize them.

Not every library system has the resources or budget to come close to what TPL offers. I get that. I’ve seen the numbers. Every library has its limitations and If one day soon I find myself uprooted to a new, smaller township, I hope to view it as an opportunity to advocate and encourage development of the library-community engagement in an effort to increase the sorts of services I value.

Digital services will continue to develop and prove themselves valuable assets to the library and information user. How your library prepares for future use will determine the continuity of success and user engagement. Libraries have demonstrated that they are community resource organizers and not only relevant today, but perhaps more so than ever.

If you reside in Ontario, consult the ministry’s index for your library’s website and details.

Archivist or Hoarder?

Prioritizing Personal Property and Tossing out the Trash

“A couple of bankers boxes should tidy this place up…”

Estimated reading time for this article: 5 mins

By James Johnson

Today marks the start of the 70th annual Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Mental Health week. Looking out my office window I can see the birds reclaiming their posts in the iridescent foliage bursting with fresh buds. A smell of midday BBQ wafts up through the open window and transports me to a promised land: the return of Spring, the precursor to the dog days of summer weather and baseball. With the Government’s assurance of community-wide immunization, a blessed return to normal is on the horizon.

As I ponder this wonderful future, I’m reminded of the benefits of Spring’s arrival. The shutters are flung open, offering a welcoming blast of cool, clean, refreshing air. The mental relief from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is palpable. And as one relishes this new sense of natural freedom, the cascading dust motes and creeping cobwebs jar reality back to the fore. There’s clearly some work to be done.

Spring cleaning takes on many forms for many people. It can take form in yard work and de-winterizing a property. One of my chores as a kid was to crawl under the house to the outside water valve to turn it back on after the winter thaw, so we could water the flower beds. Often times in spring, my brother and I would be tasked with sorting and cleaning out the garage, sharpening the garden and lawn tools, and taking trips to the county dump.

This exercise of sorting the clutter from the crucial served more than the purpose of tidying. Taking stock of what you have and what you need (or don’t need, as is most often the case) allows the home/work/play space to remain inventoried and relevant. A good rule of thumb, say in a home handy-workshop, is to categorize the tools and materials by storing or displaying them according to group and size. When stock is depleted (screws, nails, solvents) it’s easy to know when to replenish it. Organizing our things in a structured manner also helps determine what is essential to us. Out of place tidbits usually get tossed.

The satisfying results of organization demonstrated in the image above not only indicates an organized workplace but an organized mental space. Much of our mental health concerns can be attributed to the quality of our living spaces and how well we care for our persons in private. A strong indication of good health is a clean living space, both in organization and hygiene. Far too often we neglect these spaces by overcrowding them with the uncatagorized. Just the other day I was filing mail that had been left to pile on my desk. After writing on last week’s periodical review I still hadn’t sorted and filed the current issues, resulting in a backlog of completed and yet to be reviewed titles.

I managed to sort out my workspace fairly quickly thanks to some preparation and a simplified classification system anyone can customize to suit their needs. For instance, an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of data redundancy is the hard copy element. It’s also often overlooked that physical representations of data, when stored appropriately, can stay safe and unharmed for hundreds or even thousands of years. On the other hand, digital data loss can occur as quickly as a snap of the finger. Demagnetization, a small drop from a short height, or even an ounce of water can wipe away an entire family’s historical record from a hard drive. For my part, the most important documents are scanned and saved on an external hard drive. The hard copy is filed in the appropriate section of my personal records. This is the most affordable and simplistic home-brew data redundancy methodology and it works great for me.

Alternatively, Cloud based solutions are finally at such an affordable price that securing your data digitally has never been more accessible. But that data, as soon as it leaves your hands, is no longer truly in your control. No doubt you’ve given those privileges away in your user agreement. Alternatively, you can set up your own cloud servers at home, using a RAID setup with network sharing. This can be costly and technologically challenging to the general public, serving as solution for the more privacy-focused individuals bent on preserving their data.

In my case, our family does not need comprehensive data storage services. We are not operating any businesses, save for self-enterprise. Our needs are simple, and so too should the solution: a device’s internal storage for convenient access, externally through solid state hard drives as back-up, and hard-copy for long-term preservation.

Hard-copy is integral, and I’ll give you an example as to why. One tax season, we forgot to declare an income line and were audited. Failure to supply the document could have resulted in serious fines. Thanks to our hard copy organization system, the document was located quickly, scanned, uploaded and received within minutes. It was stress free. Can you say the same of your tax season experiences?

Not only must we keep our spaces organized, so too must we keep our information. Acknowledging hard-copy’s value in data redundancy, filing and storing using colour codes and alphabetization is as easy as it can be. We have several large, water tight bins that stack and allow for quick access using vertical hanging file folders, similar to the image below.

Files” by T a k is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Whatever method you end up employing, data collection, storage, and maintenance should be tailored to your needs. Photo-focused and intent on capturing life’s precious moments? Structure your digital photo library with hierarchies, nested folders, and date points. Most stock operating systems come with organization tools in their photo-viewers. Researching ancient civilizations and cross-continental genealogies? Hard copy those documents for preservation and reference. The outcome should be the same.

Organize your spaces and the information you store in them. Shake off the primal need to save everything for that rainy day. Focus on the essentials first. Taking stock in what you value is no small task and you may find yourself losing enthusiasm as the “keep” pile quickly outgrows the “toss” pile. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, take a break and return to sorting after some time. You may find that a little time and a second pass can help make it easier to reassess an items value.

Most importantly, have fun with it. This is an exercise where the singular purpose is to benefit your work space and mental well being. Stay healthy and remember to reach out to someone if you’re experiencing mental or physical distress. And finally, I ask that if you enjoyed this article and wish to see more content like it, please consider commenting and sharing on your social media.

At the Circulation Desk

Serious about Serials: a periodical discussion on titles you may not find in your local library

Highlight: Drive In Asylum, Iss. 14

Photo by Library Tech Files

“In celebration of printer paper and stapled bindings, there is a love affair with the content and a hinted desire to share it with as many fans as possible…”

Estimated reading time for this article: 6 mins

By James Johnson

At the end of 2020 we discussed the unfortunate passing of editor Joe Kane, the man that cast the shadow of the Phantom of the Movie’s; a cinema reviewer extraordinaire. Truly one of the greats, Joe Kane cultivated a tone and message as columnist and film critic. He distilled this character into the pages of the cult magazine for cinema freaks, Videoscope. Although we had hoped someone would carry the mantel, the truth is many of these treasures are either in decline or defunct. Despite the sad loss of Joe, the article I wrote about Videoscope fostered a new hope in me, similar to feelings I get when searching for lost media. With this new hope and my long-time love of the medium, a series on articles, reviews, and discussions of periodicals seemed inevitable.

Of course I anticipate the reader rolling their eyes in frustration, miffed that we discuss magazines far too often. And of those discussed, fringe cinema and cult movie zines have been front and centre. Perhaps pulpy periodicals are not as popular to the average reader as “contemporary fiction on social commentary” advisory may be. There is growing cultural and social angst in our communities, and coming together to recognize injustices is more relevant than ever. Municipal funding for library programming, collection development, and resource advisory likewise could not be more relevant or needed than right now. For the most part I think our librarians are capable, qualified, and effective at delivering these services to the community. Now, more than ever, libraries are serving us in so many ways it can be hard to keep track of the apps and third party subscription services metropolitan systems tend to support. Toronto Public Library’s services are plenty, ranging from research assistance to dial-a story for sleepy time.

With that prefaced: I’m not a librarian. I’m a library technician by trade. I don’t work in a library. The pandemic has made it even harder for newer graduates to get a fair shot and those with the most experience are usually considered first for interviews. But what kind of library tech would I be if my best solution was to do nothing? Not a very good one, I can tell you. So I use this platform, which I have worked hard to build and brand, to exercise my skills and training.

Though I know reaching the most patrons possible is part of policy and for good reason. It’s cost effective and addresses common elements in most mission statements, usually something to do with equitable access and resource allocation. However, it is my opinion that I should reflect on the less obvious titles in order to promote and support content and creators, and to promote discovery of new sources otherwise overlooked.

Mainstream magazines get enough of the spotlight and certainly most of the shelf and budget space. I can use this venue to share some of the better unknown publications I have had great fun researching and reading. In a way, I get to develop my own advocacy, a skill library technicians should cultivate for career development.

In the spirit of literacy and promotion and getting out of my wheelhouse from time to time, I do plan on sharing a review of some of the resources librarians in my neck of the woods utilize. Resources for collection development and acquisitions can be websites, catalogues, and (you guessed it) periodicals. Watch for a Quill & Quire review in the near future.

What’s important to remember is this: if I only showcase or recommended the resources typically found in a public library system, the content I think has value would remain lost to a broader audience. Or potentially lost all together. Libraries can be discovery hubs to resources not in the library itself and I’m happy to support and encourage patrons to seek alternatives to the library holdings.

For now, I’d like to share a few alternatives to Videoscope in a short series of reviews. I’ve gathered some titles I think meet the requirements. These range from mainstream glossy newsstand quality to the independent enthusiast with an inkjet fanzine.

Home internet access was a launching pad for indie content creators that reached the masses like never before. I wasted many hours combing the web for “zines”

The 90’s opened the door for home-brew publications to reach greater audiences with access to the internet. E-shopping indie zines and newsletters was easy, even on dial-up. I remember receiving my Art Bell After Dark newsletter after purchasing a subscription through his website. Thumbing through pages of UFO and Bigfoot Polaroids scanned and pasted in glorious black and white with clip art highlights remains vivid in memory. Especially after receiving and reviewing Drive In Asylum’s 14th issue.

Drive-In Asylum from editor Bill Van Ryn of Groovy Doom reminds me so much from that time. When I stumbled upon their Etsy page I new I wanted to get a closer look. Scrolling through their past issues I quickly settled on issue 14, a Joe Bob Briggs feature I thought looked great. The cover illustration by contributing writer Sam Panico is eye catching and evocative. The pages are lined with classic drive in movie posters and full of reviews, commentaries, a point/counter point column, and of course, interviews. The writing has that unmistakable tone of a schlock movie mag you’d find on the stand, with informal writing, shot from the hip. I love it. I’m not reading this for an authoritative deconstruction of the narrative and structure in The Killer Shrews, I want to feel like I’m sitting on the couch with an old friend, the credits are rolling and the discussion’s are frank.

That’s not to say the articles aren’t accurate, comprehensive, or intelligent. On the contrary, the contributors are skilled and talented writers. I’ve been reading Rob Freese’s work for years and I respect his insight and opinions.

The simple but effective printing and binding method allows for a smaller bottom line for the reader, albeit at a significant sacrifice in quality. The content overshadows any misdemeanours in quality. In celebration of printer paper and stapled bindings, there is a love affair with the content and a hinted desire to share it with as many fans as possible. You can’t help but appreciate the work that goes in to editing a fanzine like this. To organize your colleagues and come together for the joy of the reel. Any points I would be willing to dock are forgiven on such merit alone. The insight gained from the Joe Bob interview stands on its own as qualifier for a great read.

Drive In Asylum provides an intimate and appreciative perspective on movies, and the contributors clearly love what they do. The old movie poster and Drive In adverts are a pleasure to look at. Despite the quantity of these images, it doesn’t feel like any of it is filler for a lack of content. The movie posters are essential, and I found myself reminiscing over my days behind the video rental counter, hanging posters and watching screeners.

It’s almost impossible to suggest a fanzine for readers advisory. When it comes to the budget, a library has to put priority on popular items to reach a broader audience. My unique position and experience in advisory in the private sector (books and movies) and obvious lack of current library employment allows me to shed those policy limitations and recommend whatever the heck I want. Within reason of course, I’m not a madman.

Titles like Drive In Asylum are what keep bringing me back to periodicals. Without a doubt there are significant challenges with publishing a recurring title and I applaud any effort given to producing such content with frequency. Support independent creators like Groovy Doom’s fanzine and check out Drive In Asylum.

Item details:

Title: Drive In Asylum, iss. 14.
Publisher: Groovy Doom and Co.
Type: Fanzine (independent publication)
Date: February 2019
ISSN: NA
Recommended Audience: 16+
Order from: http://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/GroovyDoom?ref=shop_sugg

Walk The Talk: Information Professionals and Discrimination

By James Johnson

It can be said that archivists, librarians, digital curators of modern data etc., all share core systemic values that fall in the realm of civil liberties and what that means to public hubs of information sharing and consuming. Some of these values include privacy, non-discriminatory access to information, and neutrality when it comes to engaging the public or community as access points to that information.

Through my studies I have come to learn there are a great many perspectives in the world of information professionals. And that means there will be differences that may come in to conflict with the core principles of library philosophy. These differences arise from the simple fact that we are all human beings with our own moral compasses; freethinkers in a free society. Is it possible that champions of these cherished freedoms could suffer from the same ills they seek to eliminate? Is it even possible that librarians and information professionals, who often have the loudest voices in social justice congress, discriminate against some of their patrons?

As it turns out, yes.

An economics paper on racial discrimination in public service sectors highlights some interesting findings. The authors sent emails to libraries (and other public offices) using fake names. Either black sounding names or white sounding names. They found that the more “white” a name appeared the more likely the email would garner a response to their inquiries, often times with a more polite tone than when the name appeared more “black”. These are information professionals (probably, the datasets on whether the staff are LIS trained are unclear) appearing to provide weaker quality services to blacks.

It’s clear this issue needs to be addressed and I’m not entirely certain it can be at the systemic level. What I believe can help is active observation of the self. How are we as service providers, those on the front lines of customer service, positioning ourselves when responding to others? Are we placing labels on these individuals based on how they present themselves? And if so, how can we remain neutral and provide quality, non-discriminatory service to everyone?

I think Donna Walker’s article on active listening is a good start. Instead of thinking in terms of ideas or arguments in the work place as she outlines, transition this methodology towards customer service. Use active listening to address the queries of a patron. We may not hear these concerns over our own biases, and these may very well be internal or subconscious. This can be a difficult concept to overcome, maybe even Herculean. That’s why it may be best to combat this issue on a purely customer service oriented re-positioning. Take the active listening position. Hear all queries and comments from this angle. Provide the best service you can by being a better listener. Doing this can remove invisible barriers and meet the needs of the community as neutral facilitators of information.

I think its important for everyone to have the freedom to hold their own opinions, unpopular or otherwise. We do not need thought police in our free society. But as providers of crucial services, information professionals need to be cautious and ever-present when dealing with all types of patrons. Walk the talk and actively pursue patron interactions with positivity and good listening skills. It’ll make everybody’s day better.

Gaming in libraries: Addressing Contemporary Literacy Challenges Through Play

Estimated reading time for article: 4 mins

By James Johnson

Today’s youth have vast opportunities to access games and other forms of play media. Gaming has long since been a large part of play for generations, however today we see gaming incorporated not simply as tools of play but learning tools for multimedia literacy. Acknowledging the importance of gaming has become vital in implementing literacy strategies and policies for many modern libraries. As gaming develops and becomes a bigger part of society, so too develop problematic concerns surrounding potentially negative aspects of gaming, such as addiction and violence. Though it has been demonstrated that modern games can contain graphic violence and can be potentially addictive, it has also been demonstrated that these issues pale in comparison to the benefits of gaming as promotion for literacy.

Gaming has been present and a part of library culture for quite some time. In the past libraries in the UK installed billiard tables and chess boards to attract more patrons. Decisions to add gaming fixtures in the library was progressive, an attempt to draw more people to a building long believed to be solely for the purpose of quiet, reflective reading.

The games we enjoy today are quite different from those of yesteryear. Board games have evolved into creative, challenging, and engaging mediums of gaming. Video games have grown with technology to incorporate intensely realistic and troubling themes. Concerns have arisen regarding the influence these games can have on our reactions and contributions to violence.

News agencies have reported in the past on violent incidents in the public, suggesting a correlation between violence in reality and violence in video games . But this is not the case according to Ferguson et al. In their 2016 study they found that stating video games are a source for aggressive behavior and violence is too simplistic a response to the issue, and their results suggest the correlation is null

Another concern often voiced regarding gaming is the potentiality of addiction. However, Scott Nicholson suggests that there are plenty of preexisting addictive mediums in the library already, such as books or movies.

In addition to the Ferguson findings, further readings can find links to how video games engage players in new forms of literacy development. Buchanan and Vanden-Elzen write that “Video games do introduce a new literacy because messages are encoded and decoded in new ways”. This introduction of a new type of literacy is extremely important and supporting it as a library service is specifically important.

Children are learning with new mediums. Technology is more than a tool for literacy. Technological literacy is paramount for the development of children to become successful adults in society. I believe that the technology sector will be a primary employer of the next generation. Vivian Alvarez has a similar view in the connection between tech literacy and the future success of our children in the workforce, stating it is “more important than ever before as we foster a generation of students who must be lifelong learners as technology—and its impact on their careers—rapidly evolves throughout their lives”.

Storytelling has evolved and we share experiences with each other using these evolved mediums. Education can be bolstered by incorporating video games to assist in children’s literacy. Librarians Swiatek and Gorsse believe that their profession will inevitably deal with developing and supporting gaming services as core policies become standard.

The components of gaming like education, learning, addiction, violence, literacy, and it’s history are important factors in determining how the library can adopt services that address the complexity and significance of gaming for the community. I think it’s clear that gaming has more positive potential than negative, and like Swiatek and Gorsse, I believe that addressing the need for policy and service development is crucial for the library to continue to stay relevant.

For more information, check out the sources contained in this article:

“Playing Games at the Library: Seriously?” By Swiatek and Gorsse
“Do Video Games Lead to Violence?” By Susan Scutti
“Games and Literacy”  and “Gaming in Library Session: concern about gaming in libraries” by Scott Nicholson
“Violent Video Games Don’t Increase Hostility in Teens, but They Do Stress Girls out.”  By Christopher Ferguson et al.
“Beyond a Fad: Why Video Games Should Be Part of 21st Century Libraries.” By Kym Buchanan and Angela M. Vanden Elzen
“Engaging Students in the Library through Tabletop Gaming.” By Vivian Alvarez