Marylaine Block

Marylaine Block



What I've been is first an English teacher, and then a librarian for 22 years (I was never clear whether this was going up in the world or not). What I am now is a writer, an itinerant internet guru, and a "librarian without walls." As Jerry Garcia said, "What a long strange trip it's been."

I grew up in Michigan, got an undergraduate degree in English at Northwestern University, and an M.A. in American Civilization at the University of Iowa. Which, as it turned out, qualified me to become a secretary, at the University of Iowa's Broadcasting and Film program, but what the hey, at least I got to see a whole lot of classic movies and even run my own comedy film society.

I worked there until eight hours before my son Brian was born, the night Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President (I wanted my baby to at least wait until after Agnew's press conference, but even then he was operating on "Brian time").

I got another boring job as a secretary and suddenly realized that since I spent my life telling people what books they should read, I should become a librarian. I got my M.A. in Library Science at the University of Iowa in 1977, and became a reference librarian, then associate director for public services, at St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, Iowa.

Though I left St. Ambrose to work full-time as a writer and internet trainer, I lived in Davenport for 40 years, which I guess made me an Iowan (who nonetheless still roots for Lions and Tigers and Pistons, oh my!).

From 1980 through 2002, I wrote book reviews for Library Journal, specializing in sports novels, and I've contributed entries to the book Twentieth Century Romance and Gothic Writers (St. James, Gale, 1982). With my son Brian, I've edited an unpublished quote book of great lines from rock music--I supplied the Dylan, Beatles, etc.; he supplied King Swamp, Shriekback, the Dead Kennedys, and such, making me a fan of these guys in the process.

I became a confirmed magazine junkie when I was in charge of periodicals for my library -- when I went down into the storage room with the really old magazines from the 1800's, I'd get caught up in them and they'd have to send a St. Bernard after me. I subscribe to magazines on topics like sports, rock and roll, journalism, politics, the internet, and African-American culture, which results in my being on some very odd mailing lists. (Marketers clearly believe me to be a black metalhead liberal online journalist who roots for the Detroit Tigers).

My career as a writer and speaker came about through a series of accidents. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, checking out new sites to add to the site I created for St. Ambrose, Best Information on the Net. It was while cruising the announcements that I found out the London Mall Magazine was looking for an American columnist. I got the gig, and my weekly column, My Word's Worth, was published there from July, 1995 until January, 1997, when the London Mall decided it no longer needed an American columnist. The column now lives on the my own web site. This is where I talked about everything that intrigued me: about words and language, books, American history and culture, how our new technologies change us, and whatever else comes into my mind.

One of the editors at Fox News Online came across one of those columns and invited me to write for them. From April, 1998 through November, 2002, I wrote a weekly column called "Observing US" for Fox News Online, which was devoted to telling Americans who we are and how we came to be that way. Unfortunately, in November, 2000, Fox decided to scuttle its Views columns, so I am currently in the process of putting all those columns on my web site, http://marylaine.com/observe/index.html

When I quit my job, I decided to start a weekly e-zine for librarians which I called ExLibris (as in, I'm OUTTA the library now!). It's where I offered ideas about the profession, the internet, and information, wrote an occasional book review, and interviewed internet gurus. I continue to publish Neat New Stuff I Found This Week on the Net, where I choose and describe useful and/or delightful internet sites.

My prominence on the web in its early days led to my new career as a speaker and writer. I've written for a variety of library publications, including Library Journal, American Libraries, Searcher, and Cyberskeptic's Guide to the Internet; from 2002 through 2009 I also wrote and edited profiles of Library Journal's Movers and Shakers. Check out the complete list of my publications -- some of them hyperlinked -- and the presentation outlines for my speaking engagements and workshops.

I've published three books for the library trade: The Thriving Library: Successful Strategies for Challenging Times; Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet, and The Quintessential Searcher: The Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint. I'm still hoping to find a publisher for a collection of my columns about America, to be called Land of Why Not.

And of course I write about books, too -- you can take the girl out of the library, but you can't take the library out of the girl. I have another web site called Book Bytes, where I tell people about really nifty books.

When my ex-husband Bob Block died, I constructed both a memorial page for him and a photo gallery of his life, mine, and our son Brian's. Brian found the girl of his dreams, Cindy Miller, and married her on Memorial Day weekend in 2002 on a pier in the Charles River, just before a concert by the rock group that brought them together, They Might Be Giants. The wedding and the blessing ceremony at a castle in Scotland were thoroughly photographed by her father, Charles Miller, who mounted them on the web at http://mywebpages.comcast.net/softek/Boston/boston.html.

In May, 2007, I uprooted myself and moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, to be near my son Brian, his wife Cindy, and their sons Donovan and Everett. I'm now happily retired and enjoying being a grandma to two rambunctious little boys. About the only way I still keep my hand in is by still posting Neat New Stuff almost every week.

I figure the point in my being here is to love people a lot, learn as much as I can, think and write about things, and help keep books and reading alive in this new age of multimedia and the internet.



These are a few of my favorite things:

  • Favorite Rock Groups and Performers:

    XTC, The Church, They Might Be Giants, Something Happens!, the Beatles, the Candyskins, Died Pretty, Love Spit Love (love the music, don't much like the name), Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Dar Williams, the Nields, Sara Hickman, Simon and Garfunkel, Men without Hats, Crack the Sky, the Boomtown Rats, and Martin Newell (including the other bands he was associated with, Captain Sensible, the Brotherhood of Lizards, and Cleaners from Venus).

  • Favorite Children's Books:

    The ones I come back to time after time are Judith Viorst's If I Were in Charge of the World, Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Dorothy Gilman's The Maze in the Heart of the Castle, and Gordon Korman's No Coins, Please. (Also see my column on Read Alouds).

  • Favorite Grownup Books:

    The adult novels I read over and over are Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Dorothy Gilman's The Tightrope Walker, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Stephen King's The Stand.

  • Favorite Quote:

    a Nigerian folk saying:
    Not to know is bad.
    Not to want to know is worse.
    Not to hope is unthinkable.
    Not to care is unforgivable.


Favorite Rock Music Quotes:

It's really hard to choose from so much great poetry, but the top competitors are:

  • Boomtown Rats: The only act of revolution left in this connected world/ Is thinking for yourself

  • Suzanne Vega: I would shelter you, keep you in light/ But I can only teach you night vision

  • Del Amitri: So look into the mirror, do you recognize someone/ Is it who you always hoped you would become/ When you were young

  • Dar Williams: Well, sometimes life gives us lessons sent in ridiculous packaging.

  • And the one I think I would most like to have used to describe me:
    Suzanne Vega: In my book of dreams...The spine is bound to last a life/ Tough enough to take the pounding/ Pages made of days of open hand


Last updated July 7, 2009



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