December 31, 2005

Books/ Magazines Read in 2005 (amended)

ll[Compiled & posted on 28 Feb 2006]

The list includes only books and magazines (AV items are excluded).
  • Total items read in 2005 = 91 items
  • Fiction Vs Non-fiction = 79% Fiction Vs. 21% Non-fiction
  • Subject composition (top 3 in terms of %) = Fantasy 23%, Science Fiction 23% (21 items each); Society/ Contemporary Fiction 15% (14 items); Military 4%, Art 4%, Science 4% (4 items each)
  • Items from Singapore Collection = 9 (10% of total read)
  • Formats = Books 48% (44 books), Magazines 12% (11 magazines), Graphic Novels 40% (36 graphic novels)
  • Value of items as per prices (excluding Out of Print items) = USD$1,019.13 (or SGD$1,654.35, as at 28 Feb 2006 conversion rates)

Titles read in 2005:
  1. 9-11: Artists respond – Vol 1
  2. 9-11: Emergency relief
  3. A bit of earth/ Suchen Christine Lim
  4. A life force/ Will Eisner
  5. A morbid taste for bones (a Brother Cadfael series)/ Ellis Peters
  6. AD & D (Asian Defence & Diplomacy)/ Feb 2005 vol 12 no.2
  7. Aliens: Stronghold/ Dark Horse Comics
  8. American Gods/ Neil Gaiman
  9. Analog Science Fiction & Fact/ Jan-Feb 2005
  10. Asian geographic/ n27, issue 5, 2004
  11. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Apr-May 2005
  12. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Feb 2005
  13. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Jan 2005
  14. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Mar 2005
  15. Asimov's Science Fiction/ Dec 2004
  16. Astronomy/ Aug 2005
  17. Astronomy/ Oct 2004
  18. Balzac & the little chinese seamstress/ Dai Sijie
  19. Cities/ (ed. Peter Crowther)
  20. City people notebook/ Will Eisner
  21. Concrete: Killer smile/ Paul Chadwick
  22. Concrete: Think like a mountain/ Paul Chadwick
  23. Digital Painting/ (pub. Ballistics/ digital artists master class)
  24. Dreaming down under/ edited by Jack Dann & Janeen Webb
  25. Fax from Sarajevo: A story of survival/ Joe Kubert
  26. Finding Ben: A mother's journey through the maze of Asperger's/ Barbara Lasalle
  27. Firebirds: Anthology of original fantasy and Science Fiction/ Sharyn November (editor)
  28. Fistful of colours/ Suchen Christine Lim
  29. Getting results: Five absolutes for high performers/ Clinton O. Longnecker & Jack L. Simonetti
  30. Google power: Unleash the full potential of Google/ Chris Sherman
  31. Heartland/ Daren V. L. Shiau
  32. Hellboy: Seeds of destruction/ Mike Mignola
  33. Hellboy: The chained coffin & others/ Mike Mignola
  34. How to draw and sell comic strips for newspapers and comic books/ Alan McKenzie
  35. Insider's Singapore: The alternative city guide/ David Brazil
  36. Iron Council/ China Mieville
  37. Isn't Singapore somewhere in China, luv? Stories about Singaporeans abroad/ Josephine Chia Over
  38. King Rat/ China Mieville
  39. Kite runner/ Khaled Hosseini
  40. Last day in vietnam: A memory/ Will Eisner
  41. Lila: An inquiry into morals/ Robert M. Pirsig
  42. Lonely planet norway
  43. Marching to Valhalla/ Michael Blake
  44. New Spring (A Wheel of Time novel)/ Robert Jordan
  45. Norway rough guide
  46. Orbiter/ DC Comics
  47. Perdido Street Station/ China Mieville
  48. Reading & the reference librarian: The importance to library service of staff reading habits/ Juris Dilevko & Lisa Gottlieb
  49. Reinventing comics: How imagination and technology are revolutionizing an art form/ Scott McCloud
  50. Samurai cat goes to hell/ Mark E. Rogers
  51. Scientific American/ Dec 2003
  52. Seabiscuit/ Laura Hildebrand
  53. Seventeen/ Colin Cheong
  54. Sleeper: Out in the Cold/ Ed Brubaker & Sean Philips
  55. Space Usagi/ Stan Sakai
  56. Star Wars: Chewbacca/ Dark Horse Comics
  57. Star wars: X-wing rogue squadron. Mandatory retirement
  58. StormWatch Vol. 1. Force of nature/ Warren Ellis
  59. Stormwatch. Vol. 2. Lightning strikes
  60. Stormwatch. Vol. 3. Change or die
  61. Stormwatch. Vol. 4. A finer world
  62. Stormwatch. Vol. 5. Final orbit
  63. Stormwatch. Team Achilles. Book 1
  64. Stormwatch: Team Achilles book 2
  65. Tangerine/ Colin Cheong
  66. Terry Pratchett's The light Fantastic
  67. The alchemist/ Paulo Coelho
  68. The complete Concrete/ Paul Chadwick
  69. The dreamer (A graphic novella set during the dawn of comic bks)/ Will Eisner
  70. The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein/ Robert A. Heinlein
  71. The fifth mountain/ Paulo Coelho
  72. The five star stories (vol 10)/ Mamoru Nagano
  73. The green man: Tales from the mythic forest/ Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (editors)
  74. The last heros/ W. E. B. Griffin
  75. The matrix comics Vol 2
  76. The reef/ Nora Roberts
  77. The Sandman: Endless nights/ Neil Gaiman
  78. The Sandman: The wake/ Neil Gaiman
  79. The Scar/ China Mieville
  80. The secret history/ Donna Tartt
  81. The seige of Singapore/ Lim Thean Soo
  82. The Sgt. Rock archives Vol. 1/ DC Comics
  83. To kill a mockingbird/ Harper Lee
  84. Tuesdays with morrie/ Mitch Albom
  85. Understanding comics: The invisible art/ Scott McCloud
  86. Void decks and other empty places/ Colin Cheong
  87. Walk like a dragon: Short stories/ Goh Sin Tub
  88. We, the media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people/ Dan Gillmor
  89. Wildcats Version 3.0: Brand Building
  90. Wildcats Volume 3: Serial boxes
  91. X-wing Rogue Squadron: Mandatory Retirement/ Michael A. Stackpole

Almost-read in 2005
Nil - I guess I was pretty selective this year.

December 23, 2005

Reading & the reference librarian: The importance to library service of staff reading habits/ Juris Dilevko & Lisa Gottlieb

Published in 2004, the book elaborates on a survey of the reading habits of librarians from academic libraries and public libraries in the US and Canada.
NLB Call No.: q025.52 DIL
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One key takeaway from reading the book -- the librarians surveyed recognise the importance of reading (for personal and job competencies), but they have no time to read on the job, and most did it outside working hours. Some librarians surveyed do have time to read on the job, but that's the minority.

As I read the book, I wondered how Singapore librarians would fare. I'm sure many of the survey results would be consistent, especially the "no time to read" part. It was interesting to note that this seems to be a problem faced by librarians across the world!

The first part of the book is on academic librarians & second part on public library reference librarians.

The book puts a convincing case that reading gives an edge to the reference librarian (in collection development, programmes & outreach etc). I thought the real question is whether those reference librarians who don't read (or not as often) are less effective than those who do? (chpt 7 addresses this, which says there's a link between effectiveness and reading).

In fact, same applies to "successful" people. I think there definitely a strong positive correlation bet reading & personal effectiveness but it's one's ability to assimilate & apply info that really gives an edge -- and that is something hard to qualify & quantify.

p. 8 - web call centre. Describes how chat works
p. 10 - scathing review of S & Coffman's paper
p. 12 - on the role of librarians & librarianship
p. 21 - "re-intellectualise ref work in the 21st century"
p. 22 - walking resource - role of lib
p. 30 - issue of whether there's value in becoming a mini-expert
p. 31 - pple often ask what they read from newspapers
p. 43 - diff bet an adequate lib & a great one (on reading newspaper & mags)
p. 59 - impact on job specific responsibilities
p. 66 - conversation starters
p. 68 - debunkers
p. 78/ 81 - types of fiction & NF read (NF mostly biographies)
p. 83 - *how reading fiction helps (see also p101)
p. 84 - "it's the totality of reading that is impt" & "it doesn't matter where the content comes from"
p. 95 - on reader's advisory
p. 115 - by inference above 76% read on their personal time
p. 118 - why some don't read/ don't want to read outside work time

p. 133 - PL ref staff/ p134 - successful (pl) ref lib is one with a quizzical mind. 79.2% surveyed don't have paid time to read but are strongly encouraged to during "slow times"/ p135 - reading is part of professionalism & resp of salaried staff so not necc to have paid time

p. 148 - how keeping current helps PL ref (but undelying assump is that users want to ask PL. A chicken-egg issue?)

p. 164 - diff deg of emphasis placed by academic & pl lib wrt reading & ability to relate to the cust they serve. For PL, it is the relationship rather than direct bk knowledge.

p. 177 - 187: char of "impressive ref svc" by academics, why they were disappointed, char of "preferred ref lib"

p. 192 - advice/ feedback from academics to ref lib on what makes good svc/ p202 - on how to stay current

Appendices - methodology & survey questions asked

December 20, 2005

King Rat/ China Mieville

The problem with writing about stories like King Rat is that it's easy to give the plot away. But if you don't describe with details, the review's very cryptic. So forget it, I told myself. This isn't a review.

NLB Call No.: MIE
Search in NLB Catalogue

Here are my thoughts/ notes on the book:
  • Saul was told about his heritage a bit like Harry Potter style.
  • It cuts from boring fantasy to something weirdly intriguing.
  • There's a british-fantasy flavour to his writings. A Faery-tale (rather than a fairy-tale).
  • It's not as grim & grungy as the New Crobuzon stories; it's almost Stephen-King-ish but not quite horror.
  • A play on the pied piper of Hamelin myth(oops, plot spoiler..)
  • I find that I actually sympathised with the rodents than humans.
  • A novel that makes hiphop (Jungle) hip! Rewind!*

* Mieville mentions this in his intro. Why "rewind"? You have to read the book to find out!

December 19, 2005

The Secret History/ Donna Tartt

If you enjoy murder mysteries, you're really going to like this. The story takes place around the 1990s, revolving around six college students (five boys and one girl in their 20s) enrolled in a laid back American town.
NLB Call No.: TAR
Search in NLB Catalogue

The story is told from the perspective of a young man, Richard. What's interesting is that by the first paragraph of the novel, you're already told that Bunny is they guy who gets killed, and Richard and the rest seems to have gotten away with the deed (yet you're not quite sure yet).

The novel proceeds at a leisurely pace yet not boring, mind you (quite a delft stroke or storytelling which I thought is refective of the quite and laidback mood of the surroundings in which they meet and form their bonds. The characters slowly develop with complex layers added as the story proceeds.

You learn more about Henry, the quiet intellect and unspoken leader of the group. Francis is a closet gay; Charles and Camille are twins; then there's 'Bunny'. You can't help but dislike the guy (a sponge, taking advantage of the good will of others). Yet halfway after I learn why they killed Bunny, I couldn't help but pity Bunny and thought that no one deserves to be murdered.

Before long, I was asking asking yourself what was it that made them want to murder Bunny and the beauty is that the reason is revealed right smack in my face -- not quite a slap but more like a gust of wind. As suddenly as that.

The story doesn't stop there. It's only halfway. The police and FBI gets into act when Bunny is discovered missing. I started wondering if the five of them get caught? More complex layers are added to the characters as they get caught up in the crime investigation.

The Greek Tragedy also plays itself out, but alas I'm know very little about Greek Tragedies. I'm sure if I did, I'd appreciate the novel even more. I suspect the whole story is a Greek Tragedy in itself. I understand that Greek Tragedies were dedications to the gods... which in a way, that was what they were doing.

Ok, so do they get caught? You'll have to read the book! And then reflect on why the title is called "Secret History"...

December 17, 2005

Google power: Unleash the full potential of google/ Chris Sherman

If you want to increase your search productivity using Google, read this book. Experienced searchers might also find this as a good refresher.

The book is obviously about using Google but where relevant, other search features and tools (like those from Yahoo!, Altavista and others) are also introduced. Later chapters include interviews of expert searchers, where they explain their favoured search techniques and resources.

NLB Call No.: 025.04 SHE - [COM]
Click here to check for item availability.

Some notes that I took:
  • Chapter 1 - mainly on how google works (good diagram to show how the crawler, indexer, and search engine works)
  • Faster to retrieve cache copy (than click on website) if required info isn't time sensitive
  • Some "metrics" related to how google retrieves webpages (these could be important clues when designing blogs and websites):
  1. - terms appearing in the title of webpage
  2. - appearing in unique font elements (bold, italics)
  3. - other "prominent" areas of pg, e.g. Bulleted list
  4. - frequency in which the terms appear on a page
  5. - off-page metrics like no of links to that page

  • Page 25 - Google isn't case sensitive. E.g. NLB and nlb is the same to google
  • Recommends that you use multiple search terms to make your search more specific. E.g. qi gong will give very broad results Vs qi gong chinese medicine
  • internal exercises asthma)
  • Use 32 words or less in your search (Google will ignore any thing more than 32 words)
  • Use quotes, i.e. phrase searching. E.g. "qi gong" Vs qi gong (it seems that phrase searching is a favoured techique by the experts cited in the book).
  • You also use quotations to ensure stop words (i.e. the, a, is) are included in your search terms. E.g. "to be or not to be".
  • 32 google translation tool
  • 36 abt boolean searching (common mistake is confusing or and And operator)
  • 38 other operators + - *wildcard ~fuzzy
  • "Brave new *"
  • "Dinosaur ~facts" will return "dino info"

Chpt 3 is about understanding google's search results page. Intuitive to most users but if you're planning on how to max the retrieval of your blog post or page, worth a read (e.g. Impt of page title & link, even image alt text)

Chpt 4 - using the advanced search page.
From p.105 on google operators:
  • cache: (shows most recently crawled version of stored page in google)
  • (shows similar pages)
  • (shows all pages linking to a specific URL)
  • (show info about a specific URL)
  • "burning man" filetype:ppt (restrict results to a file type)
  • "employee memo" ext:doc (restricts to pages of specific file type)
  • goliath frog (limit to particular site)
  • allintest:dormedary arabia water (show pages where all search terms appear in the body portion of the page)
  • allintitle:combinatorial mathematics (show pages where search terms appear in title)
  • intitle:funicular (show pages where single search term appears in title)
  • allinurl:crazy eights (show pages where all search terms appear in URL)
  • inurl:ouagadougou (show pages where a single search term appears in URL)
  • allinanchor:issaquena county (show pages where all search terms appear in the text of links pointing to the page)
  • inanchor:neanderthal (show pages where a single search term appears in the text of links pointing to the page)

Chapter 6: searching for images (how google searches for clues for images, and therefore how you can improve retrieval of your images if you want them to be found). Results depend on file name, text surrounding the image. P. 151 - operators like cache:, link:, and related: have no effect on image search. Tip: to limit to Macromedia Flash files, search for "filetype:swf" operator. Try search terms filetype:pdf

What I like about this book is how it shows tools beyond google. Examples listed (for images):

Chpt 7 on google groups, various ways of searching (useful if you want to go beyond webpages and into information from discussions). Tip: combine with terms like "forums", "message boards", "discussion groups", "mailing lists".

Chpt 8 on using google tool bar

Chpt 9: google labs (try google scholar)
P. 195 - something called google sets ( where it generates a visual image of related terms

p. 198 - On Google WebAlerts (
p. 200 - or newsalerts

p. 204 - - snapshot of most popular queries Google received during previous month

Chpt 11 talks about web research managers, collaborative bookmark managers like,

p. 224 - monitoring fav websites:
  • product update pages:
  • movie trailers:
  • fav blogs:
  • radio prog schedules:
  • best selling books:

chapt 12, p.230 - the art of googling people;
p. 231 rules of thumb:
  • always put person's name in double quotes
  • google ignores most punctuation symbols, so "john smith" also results "st. john's, smith square". advises that put a plus sign infront of search terms to force an exact match
  • google isn't case sensitive
  • use boolean OR to expand results

p. 232 on strategies to search for people (create your own biography, basically build list of terms; start with few terms; eliminate negative words; dont' overlook googlegroups)

p. 241 - finding email address tricky bec google ignores "@" symbol. try things like DOT AT anselATadmasDOTcom or insert space ivanchew @ nlb . gov . sg)

p. 243 - 245 finding personal webpages and blogs (but google just came up with blogger search)
tip like "barbara smith" intitle:"home page" or allintitle: "barbara smith" "home page"
"charles miller" OR

p. 250 - Examples listed:
  • "charles miller" OR
  • "name" intitle:"user profile" (find blogger's profile)
  • "name" "my web page" (find blogger's homepage)
  • "name" "recent posts" (find recent posts mentioning other people)
Mentions tools like,,,

p. 261 - finding reliable health information. good coverage on how to evaluate information

286 - searching googlenews using the advanced news search interface. Other tools like:

p. 295 - on "weblogs and nontraditional news sources"... "bloggers have broken numerous news stories before the mainstream media picked them up." [Aside: Librarians need to ask & answer the question "why search for content in blogs?" ~ Ivan]

p. 296 brief mention of RSS (alternative name for RSS - "rich site summary")
Recommends this site for list of news -

p. 300 - on

p. 348 - about discovering relationships with linkage maps TouchGraph GoogleBrowser

p. 351 - 4 : finding out what companies don't want found; "googledorking" - googledork is "an inept or foolish person as revealed by google".
Googledorking - process of trolling the internet for confidential information (that has been placed there by mistake). Some common key words in googledorking - ("total", "profit margin", "salary", "marketing plan", "confidential", "secret", "do not circulate") with "filetype:" operator.

December 15, 2005

Stormwatch/ Wildstorm Productions

I normally don't go for SuperHero-type of comics but for some reason, I picked up Stormwatch and I got hooked. Managed to borrow the complete series (over a few visits to libraries).

Maybe it's the gritty and fast-paced storyline. Or the fantastic powers of the superheros fighting against equally powerful and strange superpowered beings. It's kind of like X-men but somewhat more violent.

Ok, a lot more violent.

It deserves a "Parental Guidance" warning label. But then children are exposed to alot more weirder and violent stuff on TV and movies, I must say.

My favourite was "Team Achilles" -- where strangely it's a group of non-superpowered humans who kick the butts of superpowered beings, using hi-tech weapons, skill and plain luck. You just have got to read it to believe it.

Stormwatch. Force of nature (c.1999) - Vol. 1
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 156389646X
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Stormwatch. Lightning strikes (c.2000) - Vol. 2
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1563896508
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Stormwatch. Change or die (c.2000) - vol. 3
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 156389646X
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Stormwatch. A finer world (c.2000) - vol. 4
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN 1563895358
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Stormwatch. Final orbit (c.2001) - vol. 5
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1563897881
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Stormwatch. Team Achilles. [Book 1] (c.2003)
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1401201032
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Stormwatch. Team Achilles, Book 2
(Last I checked, NLB only has up to Book 2 for Team Achilles)
NLB Call No.: q741.5973
ISBN: 1401201237
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There's also "The Authority" series. Search for "Warren Ellis" in Amazon.
NLB OPAC keyword = "Stormwatch"

Sleeper Vol. 1: Out in the Cold/ Wildstorm Productions

Imagine being a secret agent, forced to go deep undercover into a criminal organisation carrying out acts of terrorism and killings -- the very things you were sworn to protect against. And imagine the only person who could prove you are one of the good guys is now lying in a coma with little hope of being revived.

"Sleeper" is like that, but with the added dimension of a world where there are humans and superhumans (both good and bad) infused with super-powers.

by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
ISBN 1401201156
NLB Call. No: q741.5973
Click here to check for item availability.

The term "sleeper agent" refers to an agent who lies hidden until called into action.

Holden Carver is that sleeper agent. What I enjoyed about this graphic novel is that it really tells the story of his dilemmia. He's faced with a boss (the head of that criminal organisation he's forced to work in) named Tao, whose superpowers is actually in manipulation and strategy. You get the impression that Tao suspects and perhaps even knows Holden is a sleeper but for some reason, he made Holden one of his top henchmen.

Another thing I enjoyed is the many plots and sub-plots, like the elicit romance between Holden and Misery (who has to do evil deeds to stay alive!). Along the way, Holden even has to kill some good guys who were on the verge of discovering his double-agent status. He hates himself even more of course and wonders if he's falling into "the dark side".

It's complex storytelling in comic-art form.

I would rate this graphic novel for adults, and not for children. Parental guidance might be required for teens as there is nudity, depiction of sex and swearing. Mild by today's adult standards but something to watch out for in any case.

Holden has a superhuman power too, but I'll leave you to read it for yourself on what it is, and how he got it...

BTW, Tao was mentioned in "WildC.A.T.s covert-action-teams: Homecoming". I learnt that "Tao" stood for "Tactically Augmented Organism".
ISBN: 156389582X
Click here to check for item availability.

d'artiste: Digital Painting

If you are into computer art, computer drawing or computer graphics, then you'd love 'Digital Painting' featuring the works of Linda Bergkvist, John Wallin, Philip Straub and Robert Chang.
Ballistic Pub., Australia: c2004
Call No.: q750.285
ISBN: 09 750 9655 9
Click here to check for item availability.

Each of the featured artist talks about their style and techniques, where they draw their inspiration and ideas. There's also a step-by-step tutorial where you get to see how the digital canvas is transformed into a picture.

Amazing stuff. I thought the paintings were acrylics or oils but was stunned to learn that it's all digital.

The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein/ Robert A. Heinlein

I was surprised to learn that Heinlein wrote "Fantasy". But reading this, I felt only two of the stories ('Magic Inc.' and 'The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag' fitted the Fantasy Genre while the rest were closer to Sci Fi. But a good read anyway. Heinlein rarely fails to please, at least for me.

ISBN: 0312875576
here to check for item availability.

  • Magic Inc. - About a man who got "cursed" by a syndicated out to monopolise the magic market. Turns out that the "man" responsible for this was a devil...
  • "-- And He Built A Crooked House" - About a house built along the laws of quantum physics or something (it definitely defied normal physics.
  • "They --" - A man being treated for mental disorder claims that the doctor, his wife and his life aren't real; that they are the implanted memories...
  • Waldo - The technology powering the world is failing and it seems only Waldo can help. Waldo is an eccentric & crippled boy-genius. But turns out he can't figure out what's happening, until he receives guidance from an old man.
  • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag - Hoag can't remember what he does during his waking hours and hires a private investigator to tail him. But turns the P.I. and his wife can't quite fantom what's happening (they seem to see different versions). The plot turns into the fantastic, involving some god-like beings. Hoag turns out to be a, ahem, "art-critic" of worlds as Heinlein explains.
  • Our Fair City
  • The Man Who Travelled In Elephants
  • "--All You Zombies --" -- A narrative by An Unmarried Mother, who used to be a man, who signed up and joined the Space Corps "Woman's Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen" (go figure the acroymn!)

December 08, 2005

Book Blog Partner - Lansing Adult News blog & High Browse Online

Earlier, when Kelli and I were IMing about her library podcasts, I told her about High Browse Online and we discussed the possibility of a "sister blog" (e.g. cross posting, referrals etc).

Recently she emailed me to follow up on the idea, and also crafted this short and sweet statement:
Taking advantage of the world wide web's abilities to transcend boundaries, we are teaming up with another library blog to offer you additional book reviews and reading suggestions.

So, High Browse Online and Lansing Adult News Blog are Book Blog Partners. Any other libraries interested in this? It costs nothing. : )

Would love to hear from you.