Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Oh yeah...that book

This kid approaches the reference desk, he looks about 10 or 11.
"I'm looking for a book that my grandpa told me to get," he says.
"Do you remember what it's called or who wrote it?" I ask.
"Uh, it's by Mitch Albom," he says.
"Do you know which one by Mitch Albom?" I'm thinking it might be his latest book and that the kid is fetching it for his grandfather, but one can never be certain.
"Uh, It's called The Professor," he says.
The Professor? Hmmm, I haven't heard of that one. "Is this a new book? Is it for adults or is it for kids?" I ask. Popular authors often cash in by penning kids books and though I'd never heard of "The Professor" or a Mitch Albom book written for kids it's not impossible and I'm not the children's librarian either. When my search in the catalog comes up empty for an Albom book with that title I start looking on Amazon.
"Yeah, it's for kids, my grandpa wants me to read it," he says.
"Are you sure Albom was the author? That The Professor is the right title?" I ask.
"Yes, yes," he says, then thinks for a minute, "Or it could have been called The Magic Coat."
When The Magic Coat just as mysteriously receives no hits I send the kid back to his grandpa waiting nearby to make sure he has the right author, as I'm pretty sure Albom's not the one that this kid is looking for.
He jogs back over to the reference desk, "Oh yeah, the book is really called Tuesdays with Morrie."

(Of course, had I actually read Tuesdays with Morrie, I might've been able to figure it out since it's about Mitch Albom's relationship with a former professor (thanks Wikipedia!), but I thought it was about a young guy spending time with an old guy who was dying, talking about life and shiz, like a dude's version of Fried Green Tomatoes, but now I know and next time someone asks me for The Professor (or The Magic Coat) I'll be able to help them!)

the more you know!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stop the holidays, I want to get off

Last Thursday when I was rushing out to Target to grab some more wrapping paper because I'd run out, I was totally depressed to see all the Valentine's displays already dragged out and set up -- THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I know it gets earlier and earlier each year, but really?

Also, because Best Buy has always been kind in the past and allowed me to return the godawful unwanted movies that my aunt gives me for xmas (Lakehouse anyone? Or maybe I can interest someone in Shall We Dance?) for store credit so that I can get something kickass and more my speed, if they've changed their policy to "no receipt, no returny" could they please post it on a giant sign somewhere near the returns register so that I don't waste nearly an hour of my life in a line that goes nowhere? Really, I love looking like a total jerkwad to the other customers, waving a copy of Love, Actually above my head while trying to strike some type of deal with 18-year-old cashier.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A quiet day

Snowy winter days not at work = cocoa and some good books!

Today I finished Catching Fire the second book in the young adult Hunger Games Series and found out I have to wait until late August for the next book! I also read the first graphic novel in the Scott Pilgrim Series and thought it was cute so I'll have to request the next one, which should only take a couple days.

Also, when I was taking a break from reading I made my own ALA style READ Poster:

Ok, ok, not a very productive day, but I promise to do laundry and dishes tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's just a small example

Today at work we were asked to respond to a request from up high on how we can make our customer service better. I usually feel that these requests are silly because the best way to make things better is to fire all the insane or lazy employees and burn down the library branch that smells like an armpit so we can start to build a new one, yet admin always ignores my suggestions. This time they want specific examples of customer service transactions and how they could have been improved.
This made me think back to last week's episode on "Parks and Rec," which is mainly about that government department, but it serves as a good example of what working with the public is often really like. In the episode, at some sort of public meeting, one guy was upset that the government was still focusing on swine flu when he was now worried about turtle flu and a woman was outraged that she found a sandwich in the park but it didn't have mayonnaise on it.
Yes, that pretty much sums it up. And aside from discovering a way to make porn download faster, setting aside special computer stations only for Facebook, or letting the local mommy group set up permanent headquarters in our public meeting room I just don't know how we can keep all our little darlings happy 24/7.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seeing what the public can do to a restroom can turn down the volume down on everything else

Of course I haven't seen everything, but let's just say once you're the unfortunate discoverer of book that has a used condom as a bookmark or have been called to help unstop a toilet with a dildo in it, it is safe to say it changes you. It changes you in ways that library school never thought to cover during instruction.

So I'm often amused when someone tries to get a rise out of me by requesting help finding books on "taboo" subjects. Today, I was approached by two older teenage boys who kept elbowing each other while I waited with my best patient impression for them to make their request. The more mature of the two finally leaned in and, in a mock whisper, said, "We want books on...MARIJUANA!" which prompted them into a fit of nervous Beavis and Butthead like "heh-heheheh-heheh-heh" laughter.
Without batting an eyelash I asked what specifically they'd like to know about marijuana and was met with silence. I informed them that we did have books in our collection that dealt with the topic of marijuana, but that these were books on substance abuse or the argument for and against decriminalization of the drug. I also explained we had articles in our databases, but these probably related to the same topics, but also some medical purposes and perhaps pop culture references.
The two stood in front of me without saying anything so I finally asked, "Are you looking for information on growing marijuana?"
They started giggling again, but when I told them that the library didn't have any books on that topic they gave up and walked away.

Last year, when I was working at another branch, a junior college student asked if we had any books on "toad licking" because, in his words, he had heard "that stuff will totally fuck you up." I concurred that I had heard the same information and then blew his mind by telling him that there was a documentary about the psychedelic effects of toad licking available at the nearby university library. When I told him that he couldn't check out the video since he wasn't a student there, but could view it in the library, I sensed his disappointment.
"What's wrong? Would you like me to continue the search or do you think this video will provide the type of information you're looking for?" I asked.
He sat in the chair and after a minute confessed, "Oh, I just didn't expect you to really find anything. Nevermind," and then left.

The things you can learn at your local library.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't believe everything that you read, but dammit, listen to what I say

So I guess earlier this week The New York Times The Moment blog Tweeted that Morrissey was dead and while I missed that "X is dead!" go around, all I can think is "What, really?! We're playing this again?" I know that the interwebs didn't start this type of rumor (I'm flashing back to 8th grade when our head cheerleader broke down hysterically crying in Algebra I because she heard Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Zack Morris fame had died in a motorcycle accident), but cripes, when the real newspapers go down the tubes will all actual fact checking go with them?

Yesterday I was at work when a man approached the desk looking for Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, which I looked up in the computer and found that all four of our copies were checked out. I explained this to the man, letting him know that Albom's new book has probably renewed interest in his earlier works, but that I would be happy to put it on hold with him.
"Can you just tell me where the book is? Like what number?" he asked.
"The call number? Yeah, it would be under 921 Schwartz if it was checked in--"
The man held up his hand, as he was done listening to me. "I'll just take my chances and have a look for myself to see if any happen to be on the shelf," he said and walked away.
Ok...I mean, I'll be damned if I ever let a computer tell me what to do, but four copies checked out means four copies checked out. It's just simple math folks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am not Google!

I like getting interesting reference questions, it's half of the reason why I chose this profession and it can be fun and interesting to learn along with a patron the answer to their question. That being said, I feel like I need to create myself a badge that says "I am not Google!" for all the people who approach me with their questions and are annoyed that I have to look the answer up and don't know it off the top of my head.
Want to become a licensed home daycare provider? You need to find out if your car was recalled? Not sure which microwave to buy? There was a documentary on some channel last night and you want to know who was the narrator?
Yes, I can help you with these questions, but it is just not instantaneous! I wonder if we are creating a super impatient breed of people for the future.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The guilty consciences of some people

The negative library related news story from the other day is now followed up by this story about some anonymous person returning their high school library books after being overdue for more than 50 years. I have found that these stories turn up occasionally (similar to stories involving the post office where mail shows up after several decades or letter carriers are discovered to be hording mail), but the two things I found interesting about this story were: 1)the books were returned with a money order for $1000 -- the accompanying letter said it was to cover fines of 2 cents per day for each book, which would total about $745. The letter said the extra money was added in case the rates had changed. According to the present librarian, they no longer charge fees for overdue books, so I wonder if the guilty conscience book borrower regrets adding on all that cash.
And 2)The end of the article says "the overdue books will be returned to the shelves." I know that they are Audubon Society books, but are they still relevant? Has the library not obtained any new Audubon Society books in the last 50 years that aren't more up to date? I suppose it wouldn't have been as interesting to the public to say that they books were to be weeded and put in the community book sale.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

*gasp* Theft in the library?! Shocking!

The Post had an article about how 12 naughty patrons in Maryland are being indicted for stealing nearly $90,000 worth of books from the county libraries. The group of library users were checking out the maximum of 75 items for that county, most of them textbooks, never returning the items, then reselling the textbooks and sometimes CDs and DVDs online.
Two things shocked me about this story and neither of them had to do with theft in the library. The first thing that shocked me was that the people were actually being indicted and held responsible for their stolen book fines. Many times I have looked up a patron's account to give them their internet password to discover that they have at least $100 in fees for lost library items. Once, there was this girl who was a student and begged us to let her go over the regular interlibrary loan limit for her research paper and never returned any of the books, ruined our relationship with several lending libraries, and to this day still has an outstanding $843.99 in lost items on her card. What does my library system do when you don't return a book? We send you a letter. Are you scared yet?! I have heard of library systems that actually turn their nonpaying patrons over to collection agencies to try and recoup some of the costs, so obviously I'm pretty impressed that Maryland's state's attorney is going balls to the wall over this.
The second thing that shocked me was that these book recycling morons actually checked the items out to their own account, leaving a noticeable paper trail as to who had the missing book last instead of just stealing the stupid books in the first place since that's what they planned to do anyway. Sure, we have those electronic security gates at the entrance of our library, but we stopped putting the tattle-tape in the books eons ago. In fact, our security gates are just for show because they kept breaking and were so expensive to fix that they were left broken as a visual deterrent. You want to steal a book? No one's going to stop you. Hell, that's the reason why we can't keep any of the sex instruction books on the shelves. But then again I work for a library system that doesn't have loan limits or late fees, so maybe that's why our patrons take advantage of us.

However, we don't carry textbooks either -- I mean, come on, that's just asking for it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Punk ass book jockeys

A long time fan of Amy Poehler, I was very amused when this week's episode of Parks and Recreation centered around a turf war between the parks and rec department and the "diabolical”, “ruthless”, "worst group of people ever assembled in history" who are “extremely well-read which makes them very dangerous” -- the library!
Probably what made this even more entertaining was that my group of friends centered around the tv kept howling with laughter and checking my reaction every time librarians or the library were mentioned especially as, according to Poehler's character Leslie Knope, we're "like a biker gang, but instead of shot guns and crystal meth they use political savvy, and shushing" who "work at the worst place in the world."
You can become a fan of the show and watch all the librarian stereotype smashing fun here on Hulu:

Friday, October 30, 2009

I was a bad nerd

I just finished my latest read, American Nerd: The Story of My People, which I pretty much enjoyed, but was surprised to learn from the book's definition that I was not a nerd. Imagine my astonishment to the bombshell that I was not in fact a nerd (intellectually and socially awkward in ways that strike people as machinelike or someone forced into nerd-dom by social exclusion, according to the book) but instead I was just a "socially awkward intellectual." Those jocks were really operating under a misconception about my social status in high school when they barked and threw trash at me!
The people who I considered nerds as a teen usually fit the stereotype completely: glasses, braces, acne, an unfortunate sense of personal style (or a complete lack thereof) and a strong desire to do extra science projects involving robots. I never considered myself a nerd because I had been a mediocre student and was a bit of a social butterfly at my previous school. Starting over someplace new made me shy, but I was definitely not a nerd. However, all it took was a newly acquired pair of glasses and an unsuccessful attempt at "cool" late 80's/early 90's mall hair to earn me my new moniker to the socially elite crowd: nerd!
Perhaps the worst part was that the actual nerds didn't accept me into their crowd either. While I enjoyed logging several hours on the old Nintendo, I had no interest in D&D, fantasy card games, or debating Star Trek episodes. A couple times I was invited to anime marathons at various friend's homes I found myself bored out of my mind or fighting to stay awake. I was a bad nerd.
Not fitting in anywhere, I kind of tried to keep my own course of steering clear of the extreme high school social stereotypes and just doing my own thing, like starting a slightly subversive zine, dying my hair weird colors, and joining the National Honor Society (it took being labeled a nerd to actually make me a good student). If I labeled myself anything back then, it was geek, which I felt was at least cooler than a nerd. To me a geek was someone who could just geek-out and obsess about music or books and still get laid, while a nerd was doomed to wedgies and self-love.
I thought there had been a difference, but then again maybe I was operating under a misconception too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A cranky library day

Today I was verbally abused by some woman who couldn't get on her precious internet because she was trying to use her old inactive library card. After explaining this several times to her, she finally heard me and agreed to fill out a new card application. Her email address was Yeah, nice. She was at the internet computer station for the next five hours.

Later, a teen working on a science project wanted to know if we had any books on "water policy and like what happens to run off water when it gets into vegetable gardens or like water and animal waste management." Since we didn't have any books on this subject, I showed her how to use the databases to find some articles on her topic. At one point I turned around to see if she understood what I was showing her and she wasn't even paying attention, just texting away on her cell phone. When I asked her to watch what I was doing so she could continue the search on her own she said, "Couldn't you just find the articles for me and then email me them?"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The taxpayers will be pleased

With public libraries across the country facing massive budget cuts which are resulting in cuts in staff, reduction in service hours and materials , and and libraries closing, it is refreshing to see that my own library system, which is also undergoing a budget shortage, is purchasing several copies of the New Kids on the Block Christmas album Merry, Merry Christmas. Yup, that’s right, the one that came out in 1989 and contains the holiday classic “Funky, Funky Xmas” and what sounds like a groin punched Jordan Knight signing falsetto on “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire).” This is not offensive to me just because the budget shortfall, but also because I have in the past suggested for purchase several books, CDs, and DVDs that I was informed would not be purchased because the library’s policy was to only buy newly published materials.
Oh well, I guess someone in purchasing might be drunk with power or sniffing the book glue again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don't care how, I want it now

Earlier in the week, a patron approached the reference desk and asked about getting Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. I assured the lady that the children's book was very popular at the moment but I would be happy to put her on hold for a copy.
Lady: Oh I don't want the book, I'm looking for the movie.
Me (confused): The movie?
Lady: Yes, the 3-D cartoon movie.
Me: The movie that out in the theaters right now? Oh we won't have a copy of that for awhile, at least not until it comes out on dvd.
Lady: Could you check?
Me: Well, I know we don't own-
Lady (annoyed): Just look it up, ok? How will you know if you don't even look?
Me (double checking): Yup, I'm afraid we don't own it yet, but if you check back in a couple of months-
Lady: Put me on hold for it.
Me: I'm afraid I can't put a hold on an item unless there is a record for the item. Maybe as it gets closer to the dvd release date-
Lady (giant unnecessary eye-roll): Listen, I don't want an explanation, I want you to just put me on hold for it.
Me: Ma'am, I'd be happy to put you on hold for it, but I'm trying to tell you-
Lady: Sweetie, either you can put it on hold for me or you can get your manager.

Since the branch manager was currently in a meeting and I did not want to pull her out for such ridiculousness, I decided that the only way to end her childish behavior was to get caught in playing her game. With a few nonsense keystrokes I nodded at the lady and told her that I put her on hold for the brand new movie we did not own. She walked away satisfied in the transaction, despite the fact that she never handed me her card. I know I'll probably regret it at a later date when she discovers I deceived her, but luckily crazy has a way of outing itself so I'm hoping whoever she complains to will be on my side.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Ok, so I have a totally embarrassing confession to make: since July I've been working with my brother on our own classic literature retelling with monsters. And if that wasn't awkward enough, I've been beaten to the humiliating punch with nearly the same concept!
A little while back my brother and I started discussing how all the classics with zombies were going to be lame (as a side note, I'm trying to get through Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters right now (shudder)) and we came up with Little Werewolf Women. I read the original in late elementary school and thought I had better brush up on it, but also I thought I should really engross myself in all things werewolf so I've been researching and rewriting things for three months now. Then just yesterday evening my brother breaks the news that some equally bored but much faster person named Porter Grand has already sold the idea to Del Ray books as Little Women and Werewolves. *howls*
I can at least say that the plots were different and ours was much more interesting sounding with us making the little women themselves the werewolves, trying to cope with the Civil War era life in addition to a deep desire to eat their neighbors. I was even going to have Beth killed by a silver bullet!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Banned books and library hypocrisy

I felt guilty for not making a post about celebrating "Banned Books Week" last week, but I thought that there were probably enough librarians, teachers, and others already talking about it, and I was lazy. Actually, as I was changing out our library's "read a banned book" display this morning I felt a bit silly because few of the books actually moved off of the display. I don't think this was because our patrons were offended or in favor of censorship, but rather it isn't such a big deal since I believe the majority of the books in the display have been on local high schools' reading lists for quite awhile.
I made the display because all the branches were encouraged to do so, but at the same time I'm making the display for 1984 and Catcher in the Rye, a few feet away is our graphic novel section which is largely classified as adult material, although most of the series are geared toward teenagers and are labeled as young adult in other library systems. While working in a fairly metropolitan, liberal area, I am often caught off guard when I come across titles like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Ready or Not? A Girl's Guide to Making Her Own Decisions About Dating, Love, and Sex, or another teen resource book about teen dating violence that are all cataloged as adult materials. One could argue that at least they are technically available at the library, but their circulation numbers are lower (and practically nonexistent for the non-fiction materials) when compared to neighboring systems that rightly classify them as YA. Since I was encouraged to make the banned books display, I wonder what my system would have done if I had instead made a display of titles that were being subjected to a form of internal censorship.
But then again I'd rather just keep my job and not get any annoying emails.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Easiest reference transaction ever?

Yesterday a woman approaches the desk.
The woman seriously asks, "Where are the books?"
The question catches me off guard and, taking the bait, I ask her, "Which books are you looking for?"
The woman replies, "All of them."
At this point I get to do a little Vanna White-esque razzle dazzle of the hands to demonstrate that the books are all around us.

Later, this was appropriately followed up by an annoying reference transaction where a girl (who should have known better), comes to the desk and thrusts a stapled copy of her class reading list in my face. She's a freshman at the local university and she needs to read one of the books on the list but her university library is out of all the titles. I glance down and see Things Fall Apart, The Sound and the Fury, Catch-22, The Bell Jar, and so on of classic literature titles for two pages. I notice that along the side of the list she has make various check marks and crossed a couple titles out.
With my fingers ready over the keyboard, I say, "Out of all these, which titles were the ones you were most interested in reading?"
She answers, "I need whatever one has the least amount of pages. My paper is due Monday."
To this response I lead her to the OPACs where she can look up each title and its page number herself. Afterall, there is a line waiting for my services and I am not her personal secretary.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blaming teh interweb

Interestingly enough, earlier I had responded to a topic on current civility (or the lack thereof) over on @ the library , and came across a somewhat similar story on msn here just now. I tend to agree that at least all the blogging, twitting, and talking about these incidents at least demonstrates that we are trying to police ourselves on bad behavior, but I wouldn’t place the blame on the internet. True, the internet provides a "new" outlet for bad behavior, but it's not the culprit. As I responded in librarianwoes’s post, I think this is more a problem with society/cultural norms shifting than anything else. The 70’s were known as the “Me Decade” and I’m beginning to wonder if looking back the Ought’s will be seen the same way. But the free wheelin’ 70’s were followed up by the more conservative 80’s so I’m actually more worried about what type of backlash/lock down we might be seeing in the future.
So before anyone gets their panties in a wad over the internet ruining our society’s previously Victorian values, remember things could always be worse. You could be set on fire during surgery or enjoying a lovely day at the fair with an escaped insane killer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nodding and smiling politely

Special patrons find their way to the library every day of the week, but sometimes it seems like Sundays have the lock on being the day one is most likely to encounter strange happenings and interesting requests.
I was helping a lady when a short man came up and asked to borrow a pencil. I don't like other patrons interrupting while I'm conducting a reference transaction with someone else, but quick things like writing utensils or pointing to the bathrooms I don't mind (as much). I handed the gentleman the pencil and continued to help the lady who was looking for a DVD movie version of a book that doesn't actually exist (I get this question a lot, usually from students though who are looking to skip reading a book in favor of just watching the film version, but just because you may want there to be a movie of this book doesn't mean that someone has actually made the movie yet!). After the lady got huffy about our library not owning the non-existent film adaptation of the book and walked away, I turned my attention back to the man with the pencil, who was standing at the end of the desk writing something on a slip of scrap paper. At first I thought perhaps he was taking some information down about the book like the author or title so he could return for it later, but once I viewed him slipping the paper inside the book and placing it on a nearby shelf I decided to stop him. What was he doing? He wrote his name on the slip of paper and was putting it inside the book so he could find it later and remember to check it out(?!?). When I offered to put it on hold for him so that he could pick it up later he refused, but did reluctantly remove his "reminder" from the book.
Later, right before closing, a boy of about 11 or 12 approached the reference desk holding his hands up as if he were a doctor preparing to scrub up for surgery. Then I noticed his hands were dripping wet and he informed me that the boy's restroom was out of paper towels. I thanked him for letting me know so that I could put a request in with the janitor and apologized for not having anything else present like tissues or napkins. The boy just stood there staring though and finally said, "Well what am I supposed to do?" still holding his hands stiff.
I shrugged. "I don't know, maybe dry your hands on your jeans?"
The boy wrinkled his nose up, obviously not liking my uncouth response.
I apologized again, "I'm really sorry, I just don't have anything else here for you to wipe your hands on."
What happened next took me by surprise and grossed me out: the boy started licking his hands! It was like he was attempting to drink the excess water off of his hands. So very weird, especially considering that he found wiping his hands on his pants to be repulsive when compared to treating his fingers like his own personal water fountain.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Well this is a terrible idea

First you tell me there's no more Reading Rainbow and now there's a library without books? What's going on?!?

Actually, I understand the library without books, but what happens when that technology becomes outdated? Will this school's library go the way of laserdisk or what are their plans for replacing and updating their electronic materials? At least print resources are compatible no matter what computer you're using.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Proof that librarians rock *and* roll

A few years ago I thought about joining our local roller derby league, but then after visiting their team site and seeing the gallery photos of ugly bruises, a broken arm, a broken wrist, and one girl with a partial bridge, I said to myself hmmm, maybe this isn't for me. I just like to skate and look kickass, I don't really want to shove anybody and I'm petite enough that I'd be roadkill for some of those ladies (I come from the Marge Simpson school of "Can't we just bet that everyone will have a good time going around in circles?"). So even though I'm chicken, at least this librarian isn't afraid to throw some elbows in the rink.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

But what about calling the electronic highway “Data Zoomy Land”?

The other day BusinessWeek created a list of 12 outdated tech terms deemed to get you a workplace paddling if used or at least give cause to have the nearest teenager roll their eyes. I feel a little guilty that the other day when explaining what our computer tutor does to an inquiring patron, I mentioned that “learning how to surf the web” was part of the instruction session. However, I do think that specifying long distance versus local calls is still somewhat relevant since we occasionally have sneaky patrons trying to make out of state calls from our desk phone.

This post was brought to you by my 1200 baud modem.
Beep boop.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Libraries ARE punk

A blog I follow, Swiss Army Librarian, had an entry discussing a LJ article and follow up post that compare libraries to punk rock. The original entry pointed out a few of these similarities and common stereotypes. Though I never really thought of it before, perhaps this is part of what drew me to working in libraries in the first place: libraries are punk!
As a little punk teen (pre-mallification of punk with the ease of Hot Topic) my core values centered around equality, freedom, knowledge – values similarily shared by most librarians. As a teen I cared deeply about changing the world and was disappointed by my generation’s lack of activism. After completing my undergraduate degree I was disappointed by how little difference my office cubicle jobs made in the world and I often felt lost and a like a phony. When I first started working in libraries in 2004, for the first time in my career I felt like I belonged and that I could give back. While it’s not always about fighting censorship or promoting banned or controversial books, I feel pretty good when I can connect someone with the information they are seeking. Getting my graduate degree made me more aware of the library’s importance in a democratic society and the outside forces that are constantly attempting to impede the access of information.
My only issue: the books mentioned in the LJ bibliography aren’t just for dudes! Chicks are rebels too!

Friday, August 21, 2009

That’s not my interweb!

An elderly gentleman approached the reference desk upset because he couldn’t get on the internet. I followed him back to the terminal he was working on and was surprised when we passed the card catalogue stations (my first assumption was that he was trying to use one of the card catalogue computers because at least once a day someone complains about the “internet not working” while sitting at an OPAC station which has giant signs around it saying “Card Catalogue and Databases Only"). When we got to the station he was working at I was a bit confused because the library’s homepage was clearly up and running and he was in fact on the internet.
“It looks like things are working fine to me.” I said.
He shook his head, “That’s not the real internet.”
I asked if he could explain what the real internet was.
“How come it doesn’t look like my internet at home?” he asked.
When I asked him to further elaborate he was at a loss for words. Then I had a hunch: “Who is your internet service provider?” I asked.
He stared blankly at me.
I tried again. “Where do you log on to get your email? Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, AOL?”
“AOL!” he exclaimed.
I entered in in the address bar and all was right with the world when AOL’s homepage came to give this gentleman access to the “real internet.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

what you say?

So I signed up for Twitter awhile back, but it is barely functioning because I can't think of any headline worthy microblog posts to make that aren't the typical lame "Just had my second cup of coffee!" I am verbose by nature and usually if I have anything to say I want at least a few sentences to speak my mind (Twitter brags that "Its 140-character limit also precludes users from the long-winded navel-gazing that makes most personal blogs insufferable" -- I might admit to navel-gazing, but am I insufferable?). However, I must be really out of it because I just came across Tumblr, another social networking site that I am not on. It looks like it's more about posting media, but also has the whole microblogging thingy and lets people "follow" you like Twitter.
Since I barely have a toe on the platform of Twitter, I highly doubt I'll be jumping on the Tumblr wagon anytime soon, but with this increasingly "gimmie info now" society that can hardly stand to wait for me to look up the author of "that book with the woman where her son dies in the car accident with a blue cover," I wonder if regular blogging will soon become obsolete.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Almost like bad mad libs

A couple months back I confessed that I had jumped on that bandwagon that helped fund the "and Zombies/with Vampires" explosion with my purchase of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (my review was a solid "meh"). And now it appears that there is much more on the horizon with the upcoming Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Mr Darcy, Vampyre, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim. Is this good that we are getting people to take a look at the classics they would normally ignore just because of some promised gore and violence? How long do you think this literary trend will last? Oh yeah, and before I forget, what about this?
My sibbling is urging me to get to work on our own version of a literary classic with monsters, but I feel so ridiculous even thinking about it. The possible interest in publishers and a check are the only motivating factors.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Library...

The other day I heard about the Library Day in the Life project and wanted to participate. I'm just doing it for today, but if you haven't already gotten the gist of my library life, for better or worse this is pretty much it:

9:00 am: - Get to Library
· Check email, which includes deleting about 15 system messages from the night before about how the power was off/on at the neighboring branches due to the thunderstorm last night.
· Get the “cash drawer” (a half rusted metal box with about $5 in quarters in it) out of the locker and place it behind the reference desk.
· Check daily desk schedule to see where I’m at what time.
· Take a cart of children’s books out of shelve.

10:00-11:00 – Library opens
· Greet the incoming sea of patrons who float by the reference desk and go directly to the public internet stations. It’s never too early to update one’s status on Facebook or search for young attractive females living in the area on Myspace.
· Make several internet station visitor passes.
· Take a couple phone calls about tomorrow’s children’s program that is already maxed out in attendance.
· Request a few titles of books we don’t hold at this branch for patrons.
· Get asked where our DVD collection is located at least twice.

· Back to my own desk to follow up some phone calls about unsolicted donated books (usually by self published authors or religious nuts) when I get paged for back up by the branch manager (it’s just the two of us this morning).
· Out on the floor I see that copy machine is yet again jammed and the branch manager is already involved with another patron so it’s my job to try to fix it.
· After nearly 20 minutes of pulling out crumpled sheets of paper, opening various copier drawers, trying not to burn myself or get ink all over my hands I achieve success! The copier is working again! The teen who was in the process of using it before it broke returns to photocopying pages in People featuring Twilight star Robert Pattinson.

· Hey, it’s time to go back out on the reference desk already! There are several moms in posession of cranky toddlers who need to go home for lunch/nap time. Library is filled with periodic wailing over the next half hour.
· Book the meeting room for a local HOA.
· Make a couple more internet station passes.
· Put a copy of the all checked out Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on hold for a little girl who is disappointed we don’t have it currently in, but informs me that the movie is the “best thing (she’s) ever seen,” which is good news for me since I’ve yet to go see it.
· Show a patron to our consumer reports holdings.
· Shelve some of our “new” titles that are in the bookshelves across from the reference desk.

· Use my break off the reference desk to go back to my own cube to work on individual projects and eat lunch (tuna fish sandwich).
· Finish making unsolicted materials phone calls to their donars.
· Check email and respond as needed.
· Branch manager has sent me a message about her idea for a new book display for August. I make a few notes to myself and start searching the catalog for possible corresponding titles.

· Back out to the reference desk, one of our regulars (yes, this one’s crazy) wants me to call the city branch to make sure that their internet stations are working “just in case” she wants to go over there because we now have a bit of a queue. She was at the other branch last night and very upset that she could not use the internet when they lost their power. I explain to her that we receive notification emails whenever there’s a problem with service and that none have gone out today. This is not good enough for her and she impatiently taps her fingernails on the desk as I call the downtown branch, wait on hold for about two minutes, and ask a colleague if they have power and if the internet stations are up and working. He responds with a slightly confused “yes” (with a hint of “duh”), and I relay the info to the patron. She says thanks and goes back to waiting in line for our internet stations.
· Make a couple more internet passes and direct patrons to our DVDs.
· Stop giant toddler from climbing shelves in children’s section. He is unattended and when I find mom (browsing the DVDs) and explain our policy to her she laughs and thinks the whole situation is funny.
· Put a whole list of Jodi Picoult books on hold for patron.
· Give patron on the phone directions to our branch.
· Print out directions to the nearby academic library for a student.
· Teen boy asks for books on “car parts” but has a hard time articulating what parts he’s interested in. After interviewing him for a few minutes I’m still not sure what he’s looking for except he’s not repairing a car nor is he interested in how a car works. I decide to take him over to our automotive section to see if looking at any of the titles help and immediately he sees what he was looking for. He wanted books on hot rods.
· One of my coworkers appears to relieve me and it’s time to go home!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Librarians: impressions and behind closed doors

I think anyone involved in the profession today is quite tired of the old stereotype: the bun, the ugly shoes, the oatmeal colored cardigan. But then again, how many librarians actually look like that (oh, I know a few and quite worse) and what are we doing about it?
Last year I couldn’t help but get annoyed every time some media person labeled Sarah Palin physically as having the “sexy librarian” look, especially since she was someone that I thought epitomized all things not librarian (like somewhat educated
or against censorship). But maybe I was more irritated that the description was referring to the uptight librarian stereotype of someone who is thought to be mild, bookish, and sexy only because they appear so completely the opposite (repressed). And how unfair is it that someone not even part of our profession was incorrectly identified as not only being one of us, but also being the “sexy” one?
What made me start thinking about this was this article about the ALA conference last week (yes, I know it has been mentioned a lot, but sometimes I’m a little late on these things (and no, I was not there!)). I found myself both shocked and amused – a Twitter account to post wanted sexual encounters during a professional conference was created by a bunch of librarians?!? I’ll admit, I was guilty at first of imagining a stomach-churning clumsy orgy of hobbit looking people: a mass of pasty cankles, coke-bottle glasses, and unfortunate facial hair on both genders. However, at the same time I am “inspired by the perceived lack of cultural acceptance for a librarian’s sex life” and agree with the poster who commented, “I am an adult. I am a librarian. I enjoy good sex…What’s the problem?”

And to add one more question to this already loaded post, is all this coming to light more sexually liberating for librarians or TMI?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm freaking out man!

We have a few recognizable patrons who are special (read: crazy) and one of our regulars approached the reference desk this evening very upset.
"The computer is covered with blood!" she said.
"What?" I said, already imagining all the horrible ways that this scenario could end.
"There's blood all over the keyboard," she says then starts to walk toward the internet stations so I follow her.
This is an elderly lady with long gray hair, dressed in a pink tracksuit, who might've gone by the name "Starshine" 40 years ago.
We get to the computer she is talking about and I don't see anything. I lean in to inspect the keyboard and look at the other stations for comparison for some reason.
"It's covered in blood," she says again.
I don't have an answer for this because the blood is purely the result of a flashback or something. There is nothing there. Other patrons are looking over and I imagine I sound alot like Butthead with "Uhhhh" as my only response for awhile. I walk to an adjacent terminal and pat the back of the chair, "Why don't you use computer 11 instead?"
She shakes her head. Computer 10 is like her soul mate. "I don't think it's very hygienic to have keyboards covered in blood," she says quietly.
"You want me to get you a paper towel?" I offer.
She considers it then says yes. This makes her happy after she wipes it down and she gets back on computer 10.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Helping the elderly

Today as I was stranded alone on the ref. desk for almost four hours a seemingly endless stream of patrons needing help bombarded me left and right. One such patron was an elderly lady who came up to me and said she wanted to get on the internet. When I started to explain the simple procedure for signing up she held up her hand interrupting me and said she didn’t have time for me to tell her, that I had to show her. I explained to her how busy the library was she said she was willing to wait and plopped down in one of the seating areas.
After about ten minutes things had calmed down some and I went over to the lady offering to help her get on the internet, but still explaining that I would have to leave her if someone approached the reference desk or the phone rang. She seemed understanding, and showed me the notepad she was carrying outlining how she wanted to set up a free email account and list some items on craigslist. Simple enough, I thought, but was I ever wrong…
I got her to Yahoo’s account sign up screen and since she was about as slow as molasses, I said I’d give her a few minutes to fill in all the information and then she could come get me if she had any problems. Another ten minutes went by and she came up to the reference desk quite angry.
“This stupid thing isn’t working right!” she yelled.
Since she was getting some attention, I tried to calm her down and said that it would be ok and we’d have a look at what was going wrong. Approaching her screen I found myself both confused and trying hard to suppress my laughter, as I have never seen someone fill out such a basic form in such a way. Her name was right, but all hell broke loose after that. For her birthday she entered today’s date, in the blank for the zip code she put the correct zip, but for some strange reason wrote her name “Candace” after it. I gently, but quickly went through trying to correct the errors. I pointed them out to her as we went along, but she would just wave her hand dismissively as if she had meant to do that and it was the computer’s fault they weren’t acceptable answers.
When I got to the email address she had tried to choose I stopped. In the blank she had typed “”
“This isn’t going to work,” I said pointing at the email address on the screen.
She didn’t like that answer. She turned to me with eyes blazing and screeched “WHAT??!” then she whipped out her little notepad and pounded on it saying “My son said I could have any email address I wanted and I want this one.”
I spent the next several minutes trying to explain to her the various reasons why her desired email address would never work, but in the end she just waved her hand again and said she would agree to one of the more sensible email addresses that Yahoo suggested in its place (but not before trying to enter in her home mailing address).
“Are you sure about this one?” I asked pointing to the screen. “Is this something that you want and think you can remember?”
She got angry again replying that it obviously wasn’t the email address she wanted and balked at my suggestion that she couldn’t remember something.
Next we went to the password section, where I could see by her little dots that she had chosen a password that contained about 15 characters and that also, in the blank below where she was to repeat it she had entered a password with probably at least two extra characters.
“These don’t match,” I tried showing her. Her response was to angrily delete them and start over, where again they didn’t match, nor did they on the third try. I told her that the password didn’t need to be so lengthy and she grabbed her notepad again, showing me a page where reportedly her son told her that “1234567” would be a good password. I told her that I didn’t agree with that and that passwords should be something that one can remember and still be secure, but all that got me was another dismissive wave. She entered in something different this time, about 10 characters long, and this time both password blanks matched.
I decided not to even explain the captcha to her (where instead of typing AW4r7t she entered “hello”) and just corrected it. We looked over the page once more, made sure everything was correct, and then submitted it. I brought up the sign in page for her and told her to go ahead and log in, where she stared blankly at me. Of course, she did not remember her email address or password. The alternate email address that she gave so she could get her information if she forgot? “Oh, I that’s my old email, I don’t remember the password to that one either.”
So I brought the sign up page back up, told her to fill it out again, but this time write down all her information in her notepad. I went away for 10 minutes and came back and we were back to square one: she was still angry about not being able to have as her email. We picked something else suggested by Yahoo again (wrote it down) and then her password, which she selected to be the make and year of her first car (and we had her write that down). After submitting it a second time, I brought the sign in screen up and let her have a go. And it wasn’t working. The email address was right, (I least I thought it was) but then again she had selected a random stream of numbers after her name – could we have written them down wrong? Skipped a number? But I couldn’t figure out how we would have the Chevy1965 wrong. After her third unsuccessful log in I basically ripped the keyboard from her hands and frustrated tried various password combinations to try to get it to work.
“Did you type Chevy in all caps or all lowercase or a combination of both?” I asked.
“The hell if I know!” she barked back. “Maybe I used capital numbers?”
I tried using the different characters after Chevy, but nothing worked. Now she got really mad and decided to just yell because of course she was right because even the librarian couldn’t get it to work.
Exhausted, I went back to the reference desk and got the name and number of our computer tutorial volunteer who does one on one instruction.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think we have any more time to work on this today and I have other patrons waiting, but if you schedule an appointment with our computer tutor they will be more than happy to help you set your email account up and they can give you more one on one attention,” I said handing her a slip of paper.
She grabbed the paper out of my fingers, crumpled it up into a ball, and tossed it on the floor. “Computer classes? That’s for mental defectives!” she shouted. I protested that it wasn’t, but as I looked around at the other computer users who were growing nervous by her behavior, I agreed with them that there was definitely a mental defective present. In her last stand she took her notepad and shoved it in my face, pointing to a now blank page and yelling, “My son told me I could have any name I wanted! He said so! I knew I should’ve never come to the library!” before storming off.
I hope that she will remember this interaction and never come to the library again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things I did today (on my day off)

Was at the DMV for three hours.
Watched a homeless man try to steal a cantaloupe from Giant.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What year are you calling from?

The desk phone rings and I answer it and the patron asks to be “connected to” the city library. I inform them that I can’t directly connect them, but I’ll be happy to provide them with the number (though I am wondering if they looked up our library number why they didn’t look up another one?).
The patron replies “ok” and I start reading off the phone number when simultaneously in my ear I hear “beep boop beep beep!” I stop giving the number and say, “Uh, you can’t be dialing while we’re on the line, you have to wait until I finish giving it to you and then hang up.”
There’s a pause. “Oh,” the patron says. Longer pause.
“Why don’t you write the number I’m giving you down and then call it,” I suggest.
Another pause. “Oh ok, hold on, let me go find a pen.”

I have never had a phone transaction quite like this and find it hard to imagine that this person has lived their life without knowing how properly use the phone. Who starts dialing while someone is talking? How did they think this transaction would work?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Romance and copious amounts of vomit

I just Googled the phrase life is a series of down endings and the first return was a Google book page for Jane Eyre, which seems appropriate.

In other classical literature downer news, I finished Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the other day and felt it fell short of its full potential with the promised "ultra-violent zombie mayhem" just barely making an appearance. Still, in general it was an amusing read and the dining scenes at Hunsford and Rosings Park received quite a few lolz, even though I thought it borrowed some from Dead Alive.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Wikipedia Problem

I'll admit that I'm a Wikipedia fan, but as an information professional I get tired by how many people use it as an unquestionable authority for information or research. I must tell at least one high school student every day that Wikipedia is not always reliable and that they really need to look into their sources.

Perhaps this recent news story will wake up some people to the problem: Irish student's Jarre wiki hoax dupes journalists.

In a slightly related note, yesterday I was bored at work and playing around on Wikipedia and was reading Glenn Danzig's entry which contains a link to Danzig's supposed Twitter feed which is either really sad or really funny, but maybe a bit of both.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We also work as psychiatrists...

Newsweek has an article out about libraries becoming career centers and librarians doing double duty as career counselors, which I understand in this economy as I have been asked for advice on applications, proofreading cover letters, helping locate the best aggregated job sites. Perhaps my favorite unemployed patron to assist was an elderly man who claimed to be a former lawyer and was doing some consulting work on the side. He would book one of our study rooms and use it all day as his personal office, letting our phone line serve as his "line 2" (for when his cell was busy). As interesting a character as he was, I was surprised to discover a few years later when I was going through the local achieves researching another topic when I came across his obituary. It included a black and white photograph of a young man in a soldier’s uniform and detailed his life in the military and career as a lawyer. The only problem was it wasn't my patron's obituary, because it was from 1972. I learned later that my patron had stolen the dead guy's identity and was using his name and attempting to use his career as an entry point to pretend to practice law. When I thought about it, there were definite signs: he never had any clients and couldn’t get a library card because he had no ID. He carried a briefcase, but he was also living out of his car.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

dream job?

Since they aren't hiring people to bottle feed the new baby leopards at the zoo, I think my next idea on my fantasy job wishlist would be curator for the Museum of Bad Art. Maybe I could start my own library or museum...?
Actually, what I need to get to work on is writing some reanimated human corpse fiction over a literary classic (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - 15% new material!) so that I can get into a Hollywood bidding war before said book is even published.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

children r stoopid

These were actually written by middle school students, not elementary:

"The Library of Congress is where congressmen go to steal books."
"Copyright is using the copier the right way."
"Plagiarism is when you copy someone without them finding out."
"Literature is long stories in tiny letters with no fun happening."

Warrior Librarian

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Am I a luddite?

Apparently I might be because I'm not a fan of the Kindle, or Kindle 2 even. If Kindle owners can like books, why must it be assumed the book lovers can't like Kindle? Even though I don't.
Do Kindle owners hate books

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just another library blog.

A new place for me to complain, blather about library related topics, and ponder the truly weird aspects of my chosen profession. But first some Married to The Sea:

I like that the scanner goes "bloop"!