Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memories of a Great Lady, Dr. Janelle Paris

This afternoon I attended a memorial gathering for Dr. Janelle Paris, former professor at Sam Houston State University. She had been in poor health for several years, and died in June. Those in attendance were members of her church family, friends and neighbors, and members of the Department of Library Science at SHSU. Many people spoke fondly of Jan, but she will always be Dr. Paris for me. I had three classes with her back in the 1980's, Literature for Children, Library Administration, and Library Programming. They were all wonderful, and the programming class in particular influenced me. Because of this class, I became a librarian who placed a high value on special events, promotional activities, contests, and efforts to encourage everyone at my school to love books and enjoy visiting the library. At the gathering there was a table covered with written tributes to her from people who remembered her.

Dr. Paris did a lot for faculty and students at Sam Houston State University, and she continues that service through a bequest by which future students will receive scholarship money to assist them with their studies. But her reach went much further than that. It was Dr. Janelle Paris who led the campaign to have a state book award for children's literature. Like many state awards, the annual honor is given to a book chosen by boys and girls in Texas who choose from an annual list of outstanding titles. Because of her leadership, youngsters throughout the state and beyond its borders are encouraged to read widely and compare books in order to pick their choice each year. Information about this year's list, activities to accompany the reading of the books, and how to participate in the voting process can be found at

I hope that this year as librarians, parents, and teachers introduce the list to youngsters, they will take a minute to remember Dr. Paris, who loved children, loved books, and loved bringing them together. Her legacy will live on through the award, through the Janelle Paris Library at the First Methodist Church in Huntsville, TX, and through the Janelle Paris Memorial Scholarship to be awarded annually at Sam Houston State University. Thanks, Dr. Paris, for all you did for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing of Ted Kennedy and Video to View

Yes, I am being political again. I do recommend this video, so that is the technology part of this entry, that we can have such resources readily at hand these days:
It does not show a man that deserves the vilification that I fear will be forthcoming after his death last night. I know some foes will bring up his past mistakes and maybe express happiness that there is one less health care vote in the Senate. The video shows a man speaking from the heart. I hope all thinking Americans can view it and evaluate it on its face. I was struck by the story of his son and the clinical trial treatment that he received. Maybe that is what saved this youngster, who is of course alive and well today. Maybe not. But it gave him and his family hope at a tough time. Meanwhile, other participants had to drop the treatment after the trial funding terminated. This reminded me of my husband Ron's situation. He was lucky to have good health insurance when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was also lucky to have a boss who kept him on the payroll as long as possible so he would not lose that coverage. He worried every single day about losing that coverage when it would run out if he lived long enough. At one point during treatment, he was offered a chance to participate in a clinical trial. There was NO CHARGE for this treatment, which simply offered the combination of two drugs already proved effective. The question was whether they had increased value if offered together. Ron knew that his time was limited but this offer gave him hope on two fronts. First, we hoped it would give him a little more time. Second, and this meant a lot to him, he would be able to help others. He was greatly buoyed up by these two ideas. But when we went in to start the treatment, we learned his insurance company would not allow it. "How can this be?" we is FREE! We were told that the company had a strict policy to not allow any clinical trials, ever. If he participated, he would lose all present and future coverage. Of course he dropped out. The doctor in charge said sadly that this happens all too often with insurance companies. The result is, aside from denying patients immediate hope, that there is less opportunity to further research about treatment of grave diseases. Alas. Ron was not normally a cynical guy, but on this occasion he said, "Well, I guess they are just afraid I might live a little longer and cost them a little more money." He died four months later. To those who decry health care might want to check with your insurer and ask about your ability to participate in a clinical trial if you ever want to. Do you know if you will be allowed?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dynamite Speaker: Kozhi Makai

Confession time: I was not 100% enthusiastic about hauling out on a Saturday afternoon for an on-campus event, much as I do love the university where I teach. Normally I am more than ready to don my regalia for occasions, since it is incredibly beautiful. I have lovely robes in Baylor University's colors, green and gold. But I was tired, it was hot, and I was strongly tempted to stay home. BUT I was happy to be in the company of my colleagues and, once we got lined up and the music started, I was happy to be there. I was even happier to be in attendance when the speaker began his remarks. This posting is to praise our remarkable speaker, Dr. Kozhi Makai. Here is his website:
He gave an inspiring address to incoming freshmen at our university, and it is a tribute to him that he had their rapt attention. I am glad I went! Oh and, best wishes to all brand new Bearkats!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For Shame!

I don't have a way to tie this in with technology, but maybe with librarianship and certainly with education and educators in general. It troubles me that people are disrupting town hall meetings in our country by shouting and heckling to the point that the meetings really cannot proceed. This bothers me on many levels, and yes, I am in favor of health care and insurance reform, but I think I would oppose the shouting regardless of which side was acting out. Right now I am thinking about how this reflects behavior upon these people's educations and their respect for intelligent discourse. And more than that, I am concerned about the terrible example it sets for boys and girls. Political conservatives often are proponents of such "value based" educational movements as zero tolerance for misbehavior, strict adherence to school rules, school uniforms, etc. They love to talk about "back to basics" and teaching respect and strong moral values at school. Do these people feel that they are setting positive examples for their children and grandchildren when they shout and scream at speakers at political gatherings? I worked in public schools for 25 years--10 in the classroom and 15 in school libraries. One thing I tried to teach was proper audience behavior when students were given the opportunity to hear guest authors and other speakers. How would we react if students thought they could shout down an author?

When I was growing up, I was a high school debater. I even went to the state meet, where we were soundly and fairly defeated in the first round. This shows my age, but my senior year the debate topic was medicare. I was for it. My partner and best friend was against. But we learned to debate both sides. We also learned not to make any kind of statement or argument unless we could back it up with references. I did more research as a debater than I did for any other school experience. My friend and I did not get angry with one another because we disagreed on the topic. Our parents were friends, and their personal views mirrored ours. Susan's dad was a dentist and a Republican, and my dad was Chairman of the Democratic Party in our Texas county. These differences did not in any way mean we could not all be very close. If I were to call Susan today, I suspect she would be against health care reform, or at least the versions advanced by Democrats. But we could still have a friendly conversation. Where has that spirit gone? How can these disruptive people feel good about themselves when they think about the terrible example they are displaying for boys and girls? It makes me sad to see this rudeness be glorified as "free speech" or "patriotism." Alas and for shame.