Great Resources for Social Statistics

Pie Chart
Pie Chart

Do you get asked to find social and cultural statistics a lot in your work? Maybe you’re like me, and you just really enjoy browsing through data and seeing what’s there (there’s a reason my undergraduate degree’s in sociology). Well, just for you, here’s some of my favorite online resources for social and cultural statistics.

  1. United States Census Bureau – The mother lode of statistics for the United States. Of course, the decennial census is the big draw, but there’s all kinds of things on this site. Be sure to check out the American FactFinder and the American Community Survey.
  2. The Association of Religion Data Archives – Do you need information about religion and religious groups in the US? This is the place you’re most likely to find what you want. Like the census, the primary update is every ten years, but in between there’s all kinds of survey information added to the site. If you’re a visual kind of person, be sure to check out the GIS maps.
  3. Need to know how people voted in the last (or any!) US presidential election? Check out Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. He’s got election returns down to the county level for free, going all the way back to 1960, state level returns to 1824, and national returns all the way back to our first presidential election in 1789.
  4. For Canadian information, you can’t do any better than Statistics Canada. It’s kind of like the US Census Bureau site, but it has data from more than just the Canadian census. There’s questionnaires, surveys, economic data, and more.
  5. Want a more global reach? Try the United Nations statistical databases. They’re not as comprehensive as some of the national sites, but there’s information you’ll have a hard time finding for some countries here.
  6. Everybody loves a survey. And the grandfather of all surveying organizations in the US is Gallup. Whether it’s election polls, opinion surveys, or economic opinions, you’ll find it here. A nice touch is that if you’re interested in a particular topic, you can subscribe to be notified when a new report is available on that topic.
  7. Another major polling organization is the Pew Research Center. In addition to their general polling, they have special ongoing topics, such as the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. They issue important (and fascinating) reports on a regular basis on a wide variety of topics.

I’m sure I’ve missed some, especially ones outside the US. If you have a favorite site I forgot to mention, let us know in the comments!


Cozies: 10 Favorite Series (and Not Quite 10 Not-So-Favorite)

When it comes to mysteries, the cozy sub-genre tends to draw pretty extreme reactions. Most readers either love them or hate them. You can count me in the “love them” camp. They’re usually written in series, which is something I enjoy. Part of it probably goes back to growing up with the Hardy Boys (and, yes, Nancy Drew), but mostly I like seeing how the main characters change as the series advances. Of course, like everyone, I have my favorites, and ones I don’t like so well. So here’s a list of ten of my favorite cozy mystery series, as well as ones I don’t like so much.
Continue reading


Mormon Literature and Resources, Part 1: Basic Information

Love him, hate him, or just don’t care, presumptive GOP-nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is increasing the visibility of-and curiosity about-Mormonism. In this series, I’ll be taking a look at books and other resources about the Mormon (Latter Day Saints) movement. I’ll be giving two recommendations on items. The first is whether or not it’s something I would recommend for a public library (would I place it in my library’s collection?). The second is the item’s suitability for more in-depth collections (would I buy it for myself?). First, let’s go over some basic information that all reference librarians should know about the Mormon movement. Continue reading


Ten Offbeat Science Fiction Reads

If you’re looking for some unusual science fiction books for the summer, here’s a list of ten of my favorites. Some of the are easy reads, some are extremely challenging (like Dhalgren). All of them are sure to make you think. I’ve included links to Kindle and Nook versions where available. The books are listed in no particular order, except as they came to mind.

  1. The Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy (Robert Anton Wilson). Includes The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, and The Homing Pigeons. Wilson’s solo follow-up to the Illuminatus! trilogy, this book is just as strange, but less dated. An amusingly weird exploration of what quantum physics can mean for individuals. (KindleNook)
  2. And, of course, the Illuminatus! Trilogy (Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson). Includes The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan. A funny, at times disturbing, piece of 70’s weirdness. (KindleNook)
  3. I Will Fear No Evil (Robert Heinlein). Not as widely known as Stranger in a Strange Land, this book tells the story of a dying, immensely wealthy old man who has his brain transplanted into the body of his beautiful young secretary. Part trashy sci-fi romp, part serious philosophical work on the nature of consciousness, all good! (KindleNook)
  4. Stand on Zanzibar (John Brunner). I first read this years ago. It’s an oddly frightening look at the consequences of unlimited population growth. (KindleNook)
  5. The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton). One of his early works, yet it can still be creepy. Definitely  a foreshadowing of some of Crichton’s later “dangerous technology” works, like Prey. (KindleNook)
  6. Pebble in the Sky (Isaac Asimov). You can’t have a sci-fi list without Asimov! This is his first published book and the first in his Galactic Empire series. Late WWII concerns about atomic energy and weapons are clearly evident in this story of a 20th-century American transported to a future Earth rendered virtually uninhabitable by radioactivity. (Kindle – Nook)
  7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick). The basis for the dystopian film Bladerunner. If you’ve seen the movie, read the book. If you haven’t seen the movie, read the book and then see the movie! (KindleNook)
  8. Dhalgren (Samuel R. Delany). Massive in scope, this post-apocalyptic novel tackles serious questions of race, gender and sexuality in a ruined mid-America. Difficult, but well worth the effort.
  9. Alongside Night (J. Neil Schulman). A dystopian/utopian story of a United States in collapse and the brave new world that follows. A bit over the top in some places, but still an excellent read. (Kindle)
  10. The Probability Broach (L. Neil Smith). An interesting polemic about a Denver cop who is transported to an alternate world where the United States as we know it doesn’t exist, and the national hero is the man who killed George Washington. Also available as a graphic novel, but I prefer the original.

There we go. My list of favorite offbeat sci-fi. I’m sure you have your favorites. Tell me about them in the comments.

Share now The Unexpected Librarian

My job title at work has changed, and now I suddenly find myself to be a librarian (although without the MLS yet). So to reflect that, and give a little more focus to the site, I’m renaming the site to The Unexpected Librarian. It will still be accessible under the old domain (, but going forward will be found at There will also be some additional changes, such as more of a focus on librarianship. There will still be some personal things on here, since I need a place for longer personal articles that don’t fit well on Facebook or Google+, but they’ll be tagged as such. I’m sure there’s a way to move personal articles to their own page and exclude them from the general feed, so I plan to work on doing that.

Things you can expect to find here that aren’t personal:

  • Book reviews, especially genre fiction, religion (DDC 200’s), and languages (DDC 400’s)
  • News and events from New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
  • General articles about libraries and librarianship
  • More specific articles about being an “accidental” librarian and my experiences studying Library Science

It goes without saying, but needs to be said anyway, that all views and opinions expressed on this site are mine. They in no way are intended to reflect or be interpreted as the views of other staff, administration, or the board of the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library. I’ve got a few articles I’m working on, including library funding issues and the place of knowledge in religious tradition, so expect them within the next few days.


An “Accidental” Librarian

Well, due to some changes at work, I’m now officially a “librarian.” I’ve worked in libraries most of my life, mostly on the technology side, but I’ve never really actively pursued a “librarian” position. Can someone with no formal library training or education even be a librarian? According to my library and the Indiana state public librarian certification standards, someone can. I can get a temporary state certification, but for the “real” certification, I’ll need to take at least 9 hours of library education from an ALA-certified Library Science program. Fortunately for me, Indiana University (IUPUI campus) has what I need online. I could even get the entire MLS program online if I choose to.

So, I’m now in the Reference Services department. My duties, in addition to the usual public service desk, include: ebook acquisitions and collection development; developing the website for, and assisting in developing the program for, our library’s Job Center; book reviewing; and some marketing duties. I’ve also volunteered to help with weeding and collection development in the religion and languages sections, since those are the areas I’m most familiar with. I’m going to have to pretty much give up on all my personal reading for a wile. I’m going to be very busy with professional reading and keeping up with my book group reading and following new material in the languages and religion subjects. I’ll continue to have reviews here, and I’ll probably be posting here more often (since this has been my “professional” weblog). Right now, I’m reading The Accidental Librarian, by Pamela H. MacKellar. I’m hoping it’ll give me some insight into my current position.

Until next time, thanks for reading!


Computers in Libraries 2012

In case you don’t know, the 2012 Computers in Libraries conference starts today. It’s probably the biggest non-ALA conference on the use of technology in libraries of all types. Lots of good information. I won’t be there (next year?), but I’ve added a page (CIL 2012 Blog Aggregation) where I’ll be tracking the attendees who are blogging about the conference. If anyone knows of a blogger who should be included but isn’t, let me know through the contact form at the bottom of the page.


Library Training Resources

On Brain Dump (see sidebar) I’ve started collecting links to training materials for librarians. It’s mostly archived webinars and handouts on topics that are interesting, like writing a blog, using social networking, and other things. My plan is to add more things, especially content I create for work such as FAQs, screencasts, and handouts for staff training. Keep an eye on it, especially if you work in a library. You might find something useful. And if there’s something you’d like to see included, drop me a line through the contact form at the bottom of the page.