Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Readers advisory for the difficult

Today a guy in a gas station attendant's uniform wanted me to help him find a book he read and really enjoyed 15 years ago from another library. He could not remember the title or author, but that the book was about "a wealthy man who has a mistress and wants to get rid of his wife. She has this huge garden and puts a lion in it. When she finds out of his plans to murder her she decides not to feed the lion for a few days and the lion eats the husband while the wife has a tea party. How long do you think it will take you to find it? Should I wait here or come back in a few minutes?"

I took his information down and told him he could go home as I would contact him when I found it, but after an hour searching a couple databases and posting the plot description to some book websites I still have nothing.

Later, I watched as a shrunken elderly man took about 10 years to approach the reference desk. He pulled out the chair and eased down, never a sign that it will be a quick transaction.

Old Man River: I’m looking for a book on Hilary Clinton.
Me: Do you know the title?
OMR: Hilary Clinton, she wrote it.
Me: I believe she's written a few, do you know which one you're interested in?
OMR: It's the one Hilary Clinton wrote.
Me: (I imagine I have one of those cartoon scribble clouds appearing above my head) Let me take a look in the catalog.
OMR: It is copyright 2003, I think.
Me: Is it Living History?
OMR: Hilary Clinton. I want the one by Hilary Clinton.
Me: Yes, this is by Hilary Clinton. If this is the title you're looking for we have a copy, but it's at another library.
OMR: Only one copy?
Me: Only one checked in, but it’s at another library.
OMR: Not here?
Me: No, not here.
OMR: Hilary Clinton?
Me: If it's Living History you want it's not here, but I can request it for you to be sent here.
OMR: What about Bill Clinton?
Me: (does a search) We have two of his titles but neither is currently checked in.
OMR: No Bill Clinton?
Me: Not right now, but I can put it on hold, would you like me to put it on hold?
OMR: No Hilary Clinton?
Me: Not checked in at his library, no.
OMR: Do you have George Bush?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's okay to be quirky, self-obsessed and a loser, just as long as you're wearing great vintage clothing

I was sent this article on Counterpunch by a friend for shiz and giggles and as I was reading it in all it's snarky glory, I found myself both laughing and furrowing my eyebrows. Have I danced dangerously close to the edge of becoming a dreaded stereotype -- HIPSTER LIBRARIAN?!

"I liked _____ way before they were popular." Hipster, please!
(images from

Ok, I can at least swear that I'm not as bad as the above, but still "Bettie Page bangs and winsome skirts with felted bird appliqués" -- uh, yeah, that's me. The really tragic part is that I've been used to looking different from the general population for so long that I'm kinda shocked and disappointed that I've become a stereotype. And not just irritated that I've become a stereotype, but that I actually am a degree holdin' librarian, AND all those fake hipster librarians are doing it cooler than me. Where was this population when I was growing up? Why was I labeled weird for wearing handmade skirts with Salvation Army t-shirts and when exactly did big plastic framed glasses become hot?! I guess I should feel happy that at least today's nerdy teen girl can rock specs that could rival Larry King's and be worshiped for her sick gaming skills, but I'm also a wee bit jealous that this trend is 15 years too late to repair my own miserable teen experience.

While I would never label myself as a hipster librarian (especially since I find hipsters with their too tight jeans and complicated shoes annoying), I can certainly see some of my coworkers and probably some of the public I serve giving me that description and I don't know how I feel about that. I mean, I don't really care what most people think of me, and as long as I'm providing good information services it doesn't matter. However, I'd not like for a potential employer to judge me by my looks and think that I may not be "serious" about my career. Likewise, I would like patrons to respect me as a librarian and not some mall girl, just because I don't want to wear my hair in a bun and don a cat hair sweater -- you know, the other librarian stereotype. Because if we don't have facial piercings and wear vintage slips as dresses then we're the equivalent of a sexually repressed Cathy strip comic.

What bothers me the most is the fake hipster librarians wanting to be librarians...simply because they look like hipster librarians? Really, I cannot think of a worse way to choose a career and the stupid thing is so many of them think we just get to read all day. The Counterpunch article has some tips on how hipsters can fake a lifetime of getting food stuck in your braces and a worthless liberal arts degree in order to avoid becoming a real librarian. My advice is that your denim mini skirt and flowing scarf tend to get in the way when you've got to clean up some barf in the children's department.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The joys of the internet

After going without internet access at home for over a month in my new apartment, today the Comcast guy finally came out to hook me up. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel happy or sad.

I've seen this video clip posted a few places, but hadn't been able to watch it at work or on my magic phone. So yeah, I'm late to the snark party, but if you haven't seen it yet enjoy:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Library of the future: If you want it, it exists!

A woman approaches the desk, dragging her son on a leash behind her.
Woman: I want the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving book for Mickey Mouse, where is it?
Me: ?!
Woman: That book, Charlie Brown Happy Thanksgiving, I want that but for Mickey Mouse. Actually, I want both, give me both.
Me: (does some typing in the catalog) We have the movie "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" but no book.
Woman: No, not the movie, the book.
Me: We don't own it.
Woman: What about the (one of our other branches) library?
Me: I'm checking for the whole system, we don't own it.
Woman: Well, what about the book version with Mickey Mouse?
Me: You mean, you would like a book about Thanksgiving with Mickey Mouse as one of the characters?
Woman: Yes! (this is said in a tone like, "duh!")
Me: We don't have many materials with Mickey Mouse as the main character and most of the ones that we do own are movies, and none of them are about Thanksgiving.
Woman: No, not the movie, the book.
Me: Yes, I understand, but there are no books, or at least the library does not own them.
Woman: Oh.
Me: Would you like me to put you on hold for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving movie?
Woman: Yes (takes 10 minutes to locate her card)
Me: Ok, all copies are currently out but we will email you as soon as this movie checks in.
Woman: No, not movie, the book is what I want!
Me: But we don't have the book, just the movie. And nothing for Mickey Mouse, only Charlie Brown, but again only the movie.
Woman: Well take it off hold then, I said I don't want the movie!

15 minutes later, the woman returns. Now she wants to be on hold for the movie.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reasons why I should never be left in charge

I have never wanted to be President. In elementary school, as my classmates crafted letters to The-Big-Jellybean-Eater-Himself and drew their future selves cloaked in American flags and living in the White House, I was on a different path. I never aspired to be the man, the head honcho, the big cheese, supreme dictator, etc. Sure, I wanted a title, but one of much less importance, less responsibility. When I ran for position in student government or for club chairs I aimed my sights low. Even vice president was too lofty a position, why not treasurer? When was the last time someone looked to parent council representative to make an important decision?

For my graduate school courses I elected not to take any focusing in management because, who are we kidding, I do not belong there. It's not that I don't think I'm capable of doing the job, because I often find myself in the unenviable role of leader, it's just that I'm lazy and don't want to do it. I am the real life female equivalent to Billy Madison -- my ideal life is all about Snack Pack pudding and pummelling small children with dodgeballs while blasting the Ramones.

So you can imagine that I pee a little every time I'm told that I'm the "PIC" or "person in charge" of the building for the day. Every time I'm scheduled to work on a day or night that my branch manager and supervisor are not present, I make silent deals with any religious deity that will listen that during the time I'm in charge the building should not burn down, the internets should not stop working, nor should the homeless get antsy and start throwing books. Hell, I don't even want a kid to have a temper tantrum or see some Starbucks crazed mom bitch about paying late fees. I like living in cruise control, which is why all the things that can go wrong magically happen when I'm left to steer the library boat off course. Such as having a kid throw a rock through a window. Or having an angry and out of control adolescent beating up his tutor and screaming cuss words. Oh the countless joys of filling out legal forms hours after you stopped getting paid! They say you never forget your first incident report...

Should there every be a zombie invasion I will probably be the PIC that day too.
Aw, who am I kidding? I just wanted to show off my nifty zombie librarian Halloween costume...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Virtual Reference Question of the Week

As I have mentioned before, my library system also provides a virtual reference service that our branches take turns manning, which provides email and chat assistance. Unfortunately 95% of its users are using it incorrectly as they are either asking account questions (it says in bold that account and fee questions will not be answered in the service), or questions for services that we don't provide (such as emailing them pdf's of newspaper back editions). It looks like nobody takes time to read the virtual ref FAQ, which explains what the service is for -- ready reference questions, database assistance, readers' advisory, ebook help, etc.
That's why when we get questions in our virtual reference email I just want to smack someone:

Message Subject: Help!
Hello. I need to log into my own account at aol.

I responded, I'm not sure what you mean, could you clarify? and, of course, the email address bounced.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gems from the children's department

With some more recent staff absenses, I've found myself staffing the children's department info desk often in the last couple weeks.

A little girl approached the desk and asked if we had any books on (*deep breath*) ghosts, mysteries, but not baby mysteries, scary stories that might be true, magic, but no Harry Potter, and stories that involve vampires, but only girl vampires. She held up two books of different widths and said, "If I'm in fifth grade, how long does the book need to be?"

While I was helping one woman and her son (who was old enough to do his own report) find books for his vague American history research paper, I was irritated that the woman's other son kept jumping up and going, "Hey lady! Hey lady!"

He was maybe 5-years-old, was wearing a plaid button-down shirt, and had what looked like sticky jam and toast crumbs making a ring around his mouth. He waved his arms at me like he was trying to land an airplane, so I finally turned to him and said, "I'll be with you in just a minute," kinda giving the mom the raised eyebrow for not stepping up and telling her kid to be quiet. Then when I was finished looking up some books, the woman left with her son and I realized that jam-boy was not her other kid at all, but some random, parentless child.

He grabbed a stuffed toy dog that was sitting on the counter. The children's department staff leave lost n' found items on the desk with the theory that the original owner will see them and claim their blankie, action figure, Barbie, etc. But really what it does is make other children wild for the toy that doesn't belong to them.
"Why is this here?" Jam-boy asked, holding the stuffed dog up in the air.
"We're hoping that its owners will find it," I replied.
It looked like Jam-boy was rolling this around in his head and really thinking about it. Then he said, "Uh, I think I am going to take this."
"Don't you know you're not supposed to take other people's toys?" This came from Girl-Vampire girl, who was using the computer nearest the desk.

Defeated, Jam-boy set the stuffed dog back on the desk, but still eyeballed it. "Hey lady!" he suddenly remembered what he was there for. "Lady, can you find me books on horses, but only teeny, tiny, baby horses?" He held his hands up to show he was only interested in miniature horses no bigger than 4 inches.
"What about books on ponies?" I asked.
He thought about it, "No, just baby horses. Also books on vacuum trucks!"
"What's a vacuum truck?" I was completely baffled.
"A vacuum truck is a really, really big truck!" he informed me.

We found books on baby horses, but sadly no vacuum trucks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Things not to donate to the library (other than National Geographic)

At our branch we have an ongoing book sale so that we will take small donations from the public to try to raise money. It seems like "small" is a subjective term, where I believe it means a couple of items and may include a plastic grocery bag of books or box that can easily be carried by a normal person. To others, "small" means backing up to the library a medium sized moving truck that was rented for the purposes of donating your dead Aunt Trudy's entire collection of romance paperbacks from the past 40 years that could not be sold on eBay because they are falling apart, reek of Newports and cat pee, and because no one wanted them. And yes, they had the nerve to call ahead and ask if we took "small" donations.
Recently a man came to the library with a small shopping bag of items he wanted to donate to the library. He explained that the bag was filled old dvds that he had only watched once or twice and didn't care to own anymore now that he had Blu-ray. He asked if we were going to add them to the library collection.
Me: Possibly, sometimes we use good donated dvds to replace our scratched copies if needed. Occasionally someone will donate something we feel should be added to the library collection and in those cases we will put it in the catalog, but it doesn't happen very often.
The man just nodded, took his tax credit receipt, and left the bag on the desk.
The shopping bag contained about 20 dvds, containing boxed sets of seasons 1 & 2 of "Hogan's Heroes," a "Saturday Night Live" Best of Chris Farley dvd, and about five pornos -- including the very classy sounding The Erotic Witch Project. Yeah, those porn dvds can't be added to the collection, nor sold in the library book sale.

Other items the library would not like the public to donate:
1. Copies of the Bible or the Book of Mormon
2. Colored in coloring books or solved Sudoku puzzle books
3. Jewel's Pieces of You cd (I think everyone in the US was issued a copy)
4. Expired medication
5. Old textbooks (get over the fact that you paid $100 for it, nobody wants it)
6. 50 copies of your self-published memoir
7. Computer books from the 1980's (or even from 5 years ago)
8. A broken calculator you stepped on
9. Encyclopedia volumes or complete encyclopedia sets
10. (Say it with me!) National Geographic, National Geographic, National Geographic!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Say something!

A comment left on my last post mentioning how the reader wished my updates were more regular made me think about writing, what I like to write, and what's standing in my way.
I enjoy writing and have since childhood, writing stories to accompany my vast illustrations. I also started keeping a diary in second grade, though it was extremely dull. In high school I started writing in a journal, which was more interesting, but also terribly embarrassing to read in hindsight. Back in 2007, I started posting some of those high school journal entries in a now defunct blog called "Mad Super Cool." I stopped posting because I didn't know if anyone was reading it and I felt a little spread thin because I also had a (now very neglected) livejournal account that actually had followers, and just followed my regular life.
I started "shushie" because I didn't want to bore my friends and readers of my livejournal with library stories that seemed to be in danger of taking over my life. Around this time, I also started a side blog with my brother called, "What Mom Had For Dinner," which chronicled the odd restaurant ordering habits of my mother for the entertainment purposes of my other family members.
Since starting "shushie," I've changed jobs, which has put a bit of a damper on my posting, as I had much more off the desk time at my previous library, and have started casually (very casually) modeling -- again eating up more of my free time. In June I was very excited to be offered a writing gig on "closed stacks," another library journal I followed and respected, but now had to think of more topics to write about while my time to actually sit down and write them has been dwindling. I'm also reading horrible books in my free time and writing about them in the "Very Bad Book Blog." Plus after spending nearly 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen at work, I will admit that I'm less than excited to sit in front of my own computer when I get home -- especially if half of the time I figure I'm just talking to myself and maybe two or three other people.
So what does all this rambling mean? It means that I want and hope to write more frequently and I don't want to lose any readers, but it also means that sometimes you have to be patient with me. While it may seem like I just slap some of these entries together, I do actually try to put thought into them instead of just saying anything. So stay tuned (and don't be afraid to let me know you're reading)!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What I'm reading now

Since I think I probably unintentionally do too much complaining here, I thought I could lighten things up with periodic entries on what I'm currently reading. This will be different than the Very Bad Book Blog, because these will be "normal" books and I will try to impart some sort of literary knowledge so that you, the dear reader, will run out to your library to check out this book because I told you to. Or you will avoid it at all costs.

Currently, I'm reading The Year of Endless Sorrows by Adam Rapp. I picked it out because the book literally jumped off the shelf at me while I was trying to do some shifting, but also because the title seemed vaguely familiar and I remembered it came up as a possible match for me in NoveList. So, I'm about a third of the way through and enjoying it for the most part. The novel takes place in the 90's as a recent college grad, his brother, a friend, and a squatter take residence in the East Village. The chapters are linear, but almost like little micro-stories, which make it interesting, but also provide good stopping points, if your boss suddenly appears behind you and wants you to do some real work. The main character works a slave like position in a publishing company, but is writing his own sci-fi novel involving an injured knee and basketball. There have been several laugh out loud parts, probably more that are merely amusing, but my biggest problem is that Rapp seems to be addicted to using similies and metaphors, averaging one third sentence. It's a bit distracting, so we'll see how it goes.

What I won't be reading anymore is the effing librarian, one of my favorite library related blogs, as now it ceases to exist. Too many library blogs out there are stone cold serious and sound like they were written by boring weirdo catalogers (no offense to you personally, if you are a boring weirdo cataloger), or they are constant ragefests that get dull quickly and are depressing. The effing librarian was humorous, informative, nay might I dare say intellectual, and often chock full of made up shiz and crazy pictures. You know you loved it, but it's gone now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Email Fail

This morning at work, as we are clearing the bins from the mountains of items returned during yesterday's holiday and preparing for the onslaught upon opening, everyone's computer goes "beep boop" indicating a new email.
I was in the middle of printing out the daily schedule and clicked on my inbox to see an email from one of our high up county officials with a subject like "Very Important! High Priority!" So I open it and am greeted to a message that says, "It is extremely important that you not discuss details of this morning's budget meeting with your staff nor reproduce any of the information in the handouts." That last part is in bold. Then it mentions something about the next meeting, yada, yada, yada and I hear my computer go "beep boop!" again.
New email: High county official is trying to unsend previous email.
Way to send out an email about top secret information to all county employees!

A second email fail occurred right before lunch where a patron violently waved me down instead of, oh you know, getting out of his seat and walking the 10 steps to talk to me like a human being. When I ask him what he needs help with he points at the screen, "This, can you make this disappear?" What he wants to make disappear is a name in his contact list in his email.
To verify I ask him, "You want to delete this person from your contact list?"
He nods, "Yeah, that person is me! I don't want anyone to know I am sending them emails."
Of course his email address was the very anonymous "firstname.lastname" format.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Library cell phone etiquette

Patrons will be glad to learn that the days of shushing loud people in the library are as long gone as checking out cassette tapes. However, the freedom to talk above a whisper also comes with the freedom to use your cell phone and we ask that you please observe proper library cell phone etiquette:

1. Don't turn your ringer off. Those signs that we have posted about switching your phone to vibrate are for entertainment purposes only, please ignore them.
2. Select the most annoying ring tone possible. I personally enjoy an old school telephone bell ring set around 100 decibels, but we also like hearing ring tones of popular music, unpopular music, and anything else that takes you a really long time to notice and answer.
3. Upon finally answering your phone shout, "Oh hey, (insert name here), I'm at the library!" This allows not only the person calling you to know your location, but also alerts everyone at the library that you know you're actually at the library and not Starbucks.
4. Forget personal space and stay mobile. You might be sitting next to a stranger who is studying for their MCAT exam, but by the time you're finished with this conversation they will probably move elsewhere giving you lots of extra table room. Also, it is good to tour around the library either browsing, making photocopies you don't want to pay for, using the ready reference bookshelf as a leaning post, going to the bathroom, or just wandering aimlessly while you talk on the phone.
5. Keep conversations long and not private. On hold with your credit card company for the next 20 minutes? Be sure to let everyone know your business! Other great topics to discuss on the phone include upcoming doctor appointments (especially ones for illness and infections), your probation officer, why you're unemployed, why you're single, what you're going to eat for lunch, and that bitch, Stacy. Never forget that what's going on in your life is important to everyone around you and think of these little announcements as live Facebook or Twitter updates for people you aren't friends with. This will also provide the librarians with something to talk about, mainly if your cell phone still has batteries and the possibility that you are only talking to yourself.

Have I forgotten anything?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pay no attention to the woman behind the desk

Due to a system upgrade, our card catalog has been down for the last few days. This means we cannot look up books, cannot place items on hold, cannot renew items for patrons, cannot check items in, and cannot tell a patron where they are on the waitlist for Eat, Pray, Love. OH YEAH, DID I MENTION THAT WE CANNOT LOOK UP BOOKS? Because if I forgot to say it in the last thirty seconds let me tell you again that no, we cannot look up books to see if they’re checked in here or at another branch, or even if our library owns that title.
Patron, who looks like a mildly intelligent man: Could you check the computer?

So this is what it comes down to: an undergraduate degree in English, a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, but apparently I’m just some unemployed volunteer that shows up here because the real librarian is the computer. I’m a hairless ape, but it’s the computer that has all the knowledge! Please ignore me and what I’m telling you, let’s check the computer!

Old woman who probably has never used a computer: Could you print me out a list of your current book club kit books?
Me: I’m sorry, but as I already said we’re experiencing a countywide outage with our card catalog and do not have the ability to check on items in the collection. If you come back tomorrow or maybe even check online at home tomorrow evening everything should be back to normal.
Old woman, gesturing to my coworker next to me who is helping another patron: I can wait and ask her. Maybe her computer is working.

When did people stop using their brains and give over to the idea that computers have all the answers to every single thing in life?

Patron with a “Guns Don’t Kill People” trucker hat: My cousin Clayton’s in the hospital?
Me: ???
Gun lovin’ Patron: My cousin, he was in a car accident yesterday, what hospital is he in?
Me: Uhhh…Was his accident local? Do you have another family member you can ask?
Gun lovin’ Patron: No, I can’t reach anyone on the phone. Can you look it up in the computer?
Me: !

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Self-affirmation, it's what's wrong with America

No offense, but your child is probably not going to be the next Da Vinci. They probably won't even be the next "genius" that does things like staple dryer lint to a canvas, but that's no reason not to build up their confidence now!

Last night we were short staffed (again) and I spent time covering the desk in the children's department. This is usually an ok job, the two biggest drawbacks are that every parent believes their 5-year-old is reading at an 8th grade level and wants book recommendations, and that the information desk backs up to the children's computer area. The computers in the children's department do not have access to the internet, but are preloaded with games. One game plays animal sounds as the child playing is supposed to click on the animal that makes that sound in order to move forward. I will admit that I'm a little disturbed by how many children click on the wrong animal when the sound playing is clearly a cat. What are these preschools teaching children if they think a sheep goes "meow"? Another "game" features nursery rhymes and songs with animated graphics -- almost like MTV for toddlers. So, it would be accurate to say that after an hour of background noise that consisted of nothing but "Row, row, row your boat" and "MEOW" on repeat, my brain started to feel a little mushy and I longed to return to the adult reference area. I actually caught myself nodding my head, tapping my foot, or drumming my fingers on the keyboard in time with "Row, row, row your boat" and felt as though the parents that witnessed this thought of me as some sort of idiot sitting in for the regular "normal" children's librarian.

But I digress. The game I had the most problems with was an art themed game, where children were encouraged to "color" a black and white picture using computer paint tools. I watched as one little girl nicely (though drab with the color choices) colored in a picture of an elephant having a picnic. After a few minutes, her father came to collect her and she left the computer game playing, where another girl approached the computer and sat down, her mother almost collapsing in the chair next to her. I was curious to see if this little girl would start over with a fresh drawing to make her own or if she would change the colors and improve on the work done by the previous artist. Of course neither of these things happened.

The first thing she did was select a black crayon and with violent movements of her hand on the mouse, she raked a black streak back and forth across the picture before concentrating on creating a black hole where the elephant's picnic blanket had previously been. It was at this moment that the computer decided to pipe up with its automated positive reinforcement, "Good job!" At hearing this, the little girl gasped and turned to her mother, "It said I'm doing good!" she squealed, meanwhile I thought, "Hmmm, you really think so?"

Confident in her skills, the little girl then selected the paint tool in a shade of baby poop brown and proceeded to click randomly all over the screen, filling the sky, the grass, and the elephant himself with the offensive color. As the pièce de résistance, she decided to employ the "sticker" function, where the child selects a graphic from the toolbar to enhance their creation. This little girl chose the basketball sticker (which makes a "bloop!" sound everytime it is used) and continued to cover the landscape with basketballs (bloop! bloop! bloop!) until only the elephant's poo brown head peeking out from the black hole, surrounded by basketballs could be seen. The computer decided to chime in, "You're a great artist!" here and the little girl beamed in repeating this well deserved praise to her mother.

Ok, I know the above makes me sound like a total bitch and it's not like I would want the mom to actually say to her daughter, "No, that sucks sweetie," but pumping her up with delusions of grandeur is acceptable? Why must we all be special unique snowflakes who never do anything wrong?

My parents grew up in a time where children still served utilitarian purposes, and therefore thought it was important to instill a belief in brother and myself that we were amazingly talented and special children. The end result? My brother and I have not always had the easiest times, carrying on as if our shit didn't stink, all because our parents had written "some pig" in the Charlotte's web of our lives. A public booing during my 5th grade solo was enough to end my poorly conceived musical career, while my brother spent six years at a party college, touring different majors because none of his professors could see him for the radiant ball of creativity that he was. Even today, with my Lisa Simpson type personality, I find myself suffering from praise withdrawl from my superiors and fantasize about some alternate reality where the president phones the library with an emergency request that I perform on Broadway. After a lifetime of thinking one is special, how does one cope with the truth that one is, at best, ordinary?

I ask this question, partly because I feel our society is so self obsessed, but also because every teen sensation that comes along is apparently the second comming of Christ: not only is Paris Hilton a lucky individual who will inherit wealth, but she is also an amazing author, actress, and has a star quality singing voice! I am disturbed by the child who cannot recognize that it is a cat who meows, but also by the fact that this child will most likely grow up believing they will get their own tv show and recording contract.

So I ask you, the reader, to do your part. Go out today and tell someone that their drawing is ugly, that they can't sing along to that song on the radio, that they have the bone structure of an accountant. Let's do our part to destroy what's destroying this country: positive thinking! Please take someone aside and tell them that they are not a special snowflake, unless that person is me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If you lived here you'd be home now

According to the police, a man lived in a NJ library for nearly two weeks. The homeless Charles Jones Jr. had been living in the basement for nearly two weeks and taking food from the staff break room, which, anyone who has ever worked in a library knows, is an endless supply of unwanted Hydrox cookies, stale leftover chips from birthday parties, and old Halloween candy/vacation candy like salt water taffy. The jig was up when Charles was caught peeking out of one of the library's basement windows.
Peekaboo! (Not Charles Jones Jr.)

Whenever something like this happens, people will ask, "How could this happen? How could anyone not notice?" and I am here to say, yeah, it happens. You stop noticing some things when you work a routine job. It isn't even like the homeless are sneaky either, you just get used to seeing some of the regulars there that sometimes at the end of the day one forgets to make sure that they all go out.
While I do not work at the NJ library where this took place, I did once work at a library that had an incident where one of our homeless regulars spent the night in the library (luckily, not during my shift). He had been watching Gone With the Wind at one of our viewing stations and fallen asleep, making him unable to hear our closing announcements, I suppose, and probably all the lights being turned off didn't help wake him. The next morning he was still there in the same chair, awake, but afraid to move because he was worried he'd set off an alarm or get in trouble. The whole thing was more of an embarrassment on the library's part than anything else. I think we bribed him with some Hydrox cookies not to tell anyone that we were locking people in the building...
As a child, I used to fantasize about getting locked in the library overnight, or as a teen, locked in the library with my secret crush. As an adult who now works in the library, I can honestly say I'm pretty much cured of that fantasy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What is it that you do?

No one likes to be pestered about what they do at work all day, but if it's coming from your boss it can't be a good thing.

We've been having regular staff meetings lately do deal with the downsizing of staff and some of the new job roles we've had to take on as no one new is going to be hired under our current budget. Today I met with someone from admin to go over what it is I do exactly, and while I felt good about the meeting going in, I wasn't feeling to great about it afterward.*

Big Boss: It says here that you run the Night Knitter's group on Tuesday nights?
Me: Well, I don't really run it, I mean I don't knit, I'm not like, the presenter.
Big Boss: You aren't the presenter? But it's still your program, right?
Me: It's not really an official library program, it's more like a community group. I mean, I book the room for them, I help...uh organize it.
Big Boss: You help advertise it?
Me: Uh, I put their meeting notices on the bulletin board.
Big Boss: (looks grim, writes something in file folder) Now, I read that you input all of the program descriptions into the computer - that's impressive!
Me: Yeah...actually, everyone types in their own program descriptions but I go through and "lock" each item when they're finished.
Big Boss: Oh, so you proofread what they enter?
Me: Usually, if I have time. But normally we cut and paste from previous events, like the storytimes for example, so nothing changes. It doesn't really need to be proofread.
Big Boss: So why doesn't everyone lock their own description? Why do they need you to do it for them?
Me: Uh...I guess they usually forget?
Big Boss: (writes something in file folder)
Me: Oh yeah, I also update the library Facebook page!
Big Boss: (avoids eye contact, writes something in file folder)

Yeah, it was that painful. Despite the fact that I spend several hours at my desk doing real work, after this meeting I felt that it would be perfectly justified to fire my ass because from this info session it sounds like I might just be sitting there picking my nose and playing Farmville.

*Specific details have been changed to protect certain individuals. (ahem, me)

Death of the book projected (again)

X-Posted to Closed Stacks

In his 1979 book, The Micro Millennium, Christopher Evans predicted that due to electronic media, “the 1980’s will see the book as we know it, and as our ancestors created and cherished it, begin a slow but steady slide into oblivion.” The book “as we know it,” aka the physical book managed to survive the 80’s (in your faces Betamax, IBM’s PCjr, and New Coke!), but just last month Amazon reported that e-book sales for its Kindle outsold hardcover books. Could it be true? Has the death knell for the book arrived?
book tombstone
First of all, while I concede that sales for e-book readers are on the rise, let’s not kid ourselves either, Amazon, the creator of the Kindle, are the ones who released the report but do not release the actual Kindle sales figures. They also currently represent 50% of the market share for e-book sales so they want to look successful. However, now computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte is starting to put the nails on the coffin, placing the death of the physical book sometime in the next five years.
At a tech conference on Friday, Negroponte pronounced the physical book dead and acknowledged that the death of the book was not something the public was ready to hear (maybe he should’ve told us the book ran away or went to live on a really nice farm, like my old dog). To soften the blow, Negroponte referenced the film camera and music industries, their physical formats dying but the concept living on in digital format. “It’s happening. It not happening in 10 years. It’s happening in 5 years,” Negroponte was quoted as saying.
If so many are choosing e-books over the physical book, perhaps the writing is on the wall and it is time to start mourning the death of all print media. Print news got just a little bit deader as it was reported that the American public would not support a monthly tax to help the struggling newspaper industry. I suppose this makes sense as we didn’t do anything to prevent television taking over radio’s dominance and the government didn’t help bail out the Victrola industry.
But five years? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Copyright will certainly make the journey interesting as will the differing formats of the competing e-readers, but I can imagine like any previous technology battle one will end up prevailing, yet who will it be?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

im in ur library stealing ur _____.

Stealing books from the library is not headline making news. Seriously, are we not asking for it the way we populate the shelves with sex books that you can borrow for free?! Why check it out, just steal the damn thing, afterall isn't it yours anyway, Mr. Taxpayer?
This morning while I was reading some local news headlines, one caught my attention "Md. Man Sentenced for Stealing Library's Tarantula." Huh? I clicked on the link and read further, "A Maryland man has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for stealing a spider from a public library." Ok, so it was the library's pet, which explains why a tarantula was at the library, other than it's creepy, though the article did not mention if the spider had received the boo-worthy name of "Dewey." The guy who stole it apparently got caught because he couldn't shut up about his amazing score -- way to go!
This odd bit of news made me curious if there were any similar stories nationally. Stolen books aren't news, but what other bizarre, attention getting things can be stolen from the library?
I decided to Google "stolen from the library." Here's some of what I found:
At the Ponce de Leon Boulevard Public Library in Florida, the emergency defibrillators were stolen from the cabinet at the library's entrance. I think the most interesting part of this article is that they blame the theft on the homeless without any real proof.
In Texas, a statue of a boy reading was stolen from the Allen Library. I feel at least lucky that my library does the "Paws to Read" program and lets kids read to dogs, where it looks like the poor children of North Texas are reduced to reading to statues. And now that statue is gone!
In Cincinnati the news story was a little different, the item in question was not stolen from the library, but brought to the library. Yes, at the Cincinnati Public Library, Police arrested a man accused of being naked at the library with a bag full of stolen cheese: "When officers searched his bag, they said they found a knife, a razor, two stolen DVDs and 4 pounds of stolen parmesan cheese."
I decided to stop my search there, because everyone knows anytime you read a story about someone getting naked and weird at the library you're only jinxing yourself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It was like that when I got it

One of my favorite patron comments, aside from the obligatory "I know I returned that book because I keep all my library items (insert on a table, in a basket, on a shelf next to the door, etc.) and never take them anywhere else," would be "It was like that when I got it."
You can tell when someone is going to pull out this excuse, they usually have a bored expression on their face that translates to "I don't care," or "I can't hear you over the shouts of my 8 uncontrollable children," or "I could stab you and hide your body in a crawlspace that no one would find until it began to stink." Visually, these people look like they may also have a guest spot on People of Walmart, and they never smile. Yeah, I'm sure it was like that when you got it.
What I would really like to say in return is, "Take some adult responsibility and pay the $9.99 for the Tom and Jerry DVD that your toddler snapped in half." Instead, I have to go through the game where I explain that each item is checked upon return and that it could not have been like that when they got it, even though we both know what really happened.
According to these people, my branch circulates DVDs and music CDs that are not only broken in two, but books with large chew and tear marks, books with covers pre-ripped off, DVD cases that have bits of moldy food in them, Hooked on Phonics kits that are completely empty, magazines with entire sections cut out, and, in two separate cases, books that were returned still completely soaking wet (dripping is an understatement) that were all miraculously like that when the person checked it out.
Now, I realize that the library isn't perfect, and that sometimes an item is returned damaged and not caught, but then wouldn't the next borrower notify the library as soon as they noticed a problem to ensure that they aren't held responsible? Or at the very least, bring it to the circulation desk and talk to someone about it, instead of just putting it in the bookdrop like nothing happened?
What prompted this post was a recent incident when a patron who claimed a book that had been marked as returned damaged by her was like that when she got it. The item in question: Liar, liar! That book's been on fire!
The book was actually ashing on my desk and the binding was so damaged that the cover was falling off. You might ask what other detective skills I used to confirm that she was the guilty party? Well, the dust jacket had been suspiciously taped on and the book was practically brand new, only previously checked out twice. She ended up paying for the book (an outrageous, bank breaking $23), but let us know she wasn't happy about it. Lucky for her, I didn't care, though I was curious to know what had happened to this book, but I suppose it will just go as an unsolved library mystery.
I only wish I'd had the staff digital camera around the day that the teen returned a book that had been put in the microwave.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Make this work

X-Posted to Closed Stacks

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books on my Kindle lately, but I have some complaints.These complaints are chiefly that I do not own a Kindle and I’m not reading e-books but actual regular physical books that do not allow me to expertly assist the general public needing help with their e-readers. You don’t know how to download your college textbook onto your MacBook Pro? Guess what? I don’t either.

Last week a patron placed his iPad under my nose and asked me why it was having trouble connecting to the WiFi network. When I started to explain that I wasn’t sure why and if he could show me what he was doing, he interrupted me to shout, “What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the librarian!” I responded by acknowledging that I was the librarian, but also mentioned that this was the first iPad I’d seen in person and he was the first person I had met that owned one (aside from my coworker who claims he has one at home). I did not say this as a “Well, hello Mr. Fancy Pants” sort of dig, but to try to get the point across that librarians do not know all technical thingamabobs intuitively. I think if the public understood that if they can be patient and willing to learn with me, then I might possibly be able to find an answer their question.

In the past, staff would receive training opportunities to learn new databases and software as it was implemented in the library. Several years ago, we were scheduled to participate in Library 2.0 activities like playing with image generators or setting up an RSS feed reader. However, with the current economic climate of slash and burn library budgets, there’s no way we can ask for a staff Sony Reader to practice on. At the same time the public still expects that same level of expertise and in today’s world of Google-on-the-spot answers, they want it now.
Which leaves me to ask, where, or to whom does the responsibility to educate staff on current technology trends fall? Should staff run out and buy the newest item with all the bells and whistles in order to learn? Librarian stereotypes are notoriously split among being technophobes and gadget geeks, but the one thing we usually have in common is a limited budget – both in the workplace and at home.
So we have to come to an understanding. As of right now, what I can do for you is this: (metaphorically) hold your hand and offer reassurance while we navigate your shiny new doohickey together. It’s probably going to take a few minutes but if we figure it out then maybe next time you won’t need me to show you and I’ll know how to help the next person who asks that question. What I can’t do is glance at your Droid and instantaneously tell you why your gmail isn’t loading properly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kids say...

I was making pleasant library smalltalk with my coworker at the reference desk when he stopped talking and raised his eyebrows. This is code for "there is someone behind you." I turned around ready to assist another teen who is grief stricken that all copies of Dear John are currently out but was surprised by the small boy leaning on the counter and earnestly looking up at me. I was so surprised that my mouth hung open for a full 30 seconds. IT WAS EFFING GAVIN!!!!
Complete with the nasal robot voice, coke bottle glasses, ill fitting trucker's cap, the backpack, the weird trailing off of sentences, bizarro questions, and no parent or responsible guardian in sight! Never have I wanted a fancy camera phone so badly!
(If, for some strange reason you don't know who Gavin is, please educate yourself on him here).

What brought real life Gavin to the library? He wanted to know what number he was on the wait list for his Naruto books because he couldn't look at his account online, which he confessed was due to him opening an email on his grandma's computer that "(his) dad said (he) definitely should not have opened." Then he asked to make a guess on our candy jar guessing game for kids and informed me that there was a certain mathematical equation he knew of that would help him solve how many Jolly Ranchers were in the jar, but he couldn't tell me what it was because then I would use it for myself. Never have I wanted to kidnap someone so badly!

Later, a tiny little girl bounced up to the desk and asked me "Is this school?" I told her that it was not school, but the library. Then she asked to make a guess on the candy jar and guessed "5," when the actual number is somewhere closer to 170.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A day of crazy patrons

AKA, just an ordinary day at the library.

My day was off to a poor start since I only managed to get 2 1/2 hours of sleep since I was in DC the night before, hanging out at Apex for the ALA dance party (tip the bartender well there, dude hooked me up with serious drinks), eating pancakes at 2am, and trying to convince my friend to drive me to this carnival we saw near her place in Alexandria. So I was not my usual chipper self at 10 am Saturday morning as we opened the doors for the madness that is SUMMER READING PROGRAM!!!

Luckily, I am in adult services and our children's staff and volunteers were able to handle most of that business, though I did have a lost child or teen wondering by my desk at least once an hour looking for a reading log. One such boy was wearing some tattered looking blue footie pajamas, followed by his mother who was running after him, looking a bit like a hunched up crab as she picked up everything he was knocking on the floor pinballing from one shelf to another. The mother stopped at my desk to ask if I had some book on parenting that she saw "on some show on tv the other day, not last week, it was written by someone, no one famous, but someone you know, and the word parenting may have been in the title" but not sure. If you're guessing that we didn't find the book, you're correct, but what was more annoying than her vague description was that her little boy kept shouting things at me (and in general) the whole time we were talking and it made the transaction difficult. As I was searching in the catalog and a few websites he did a jig on the chair and frothed from the mouth as he pointed at my keyboard proclaiming it was a spaceship, that the whole library was his house, and he and his mother arrived at the library via pterodactyl. This was interspliced with him repeatedly shouting "bang" and making gun fingers at me whenever I made eye contact with him. Oh yes, call the orphanage - I'll take ten just like him!
Later, I had to deal with a woman who seemed to be this boy's distant relative as she had no patience for me to answer a single question she asked. For an elderly woman who confessed that she didn't like computers when I tried showing her NoveList to look up recommended authors, she certainly wanted her information at lightening speed. This was our conversation as best as I can recall it:
Impatient elderly woman: Yes, find me books and authors like David Baldacci -- I like him, he's great, do you read him? He's my favorite. What was the last book he wrote? Am I on hold for anything? What about James Patterson, what has he done lately? Did I read his latest? I'll have to call my husband and ask him. Who is like Robert Parker? He died recently, didn't he? What was the last book he wrote before he died? I just picked up this book by Harlen Coban as I walked in because I like the cover, what authors is he like? This cover reminded me of another book by another author, it was green like this with a woman on the front, do you know which one I'm talking about? I started reading Mary Jane Clark recently, but I don't think I like her, so can you recommend someone like her but better? I also don't want to read anyone who writes too much sex or violence. I don't like bad language either, but I don't mind it as much. You know who else I like? Stuart Woods - did he also die? Are you able to look up and see if he's still alive?
Me: My computer is slow, I'm still trying to look up David Baldacci.

A few minutes later she asked me to look up Sidney Sheldon because he was also one of her favorite authors but she forgot why she stopped reading his books. Then she wanted to know when he died.
Me: His author record lists his death as 2007.
Impatient elderly woman: What? Oh honey, you're wrong. No, he died in like the 1980's. I think you meant to say 1987, not 2007.
Me: Well, let me check on that. (looks up his bio on our author database). Author of The Other Side of Midnight?
Impatient elderly woman: Yes! That's him, that was a great one, did you read it?
Me: No...but this is the same Sidney Sheldon and it says he died in January of 2007. He was 89, it says he died of pneumonia.
Impatient elderly woman: No, you're wrong. He died a long time ago, I remember, I was really sad. I think you're probably thinking of someone else, honey. You're confused. (and she walks away!)

My favorite part is that she clearly saw me typing all this into the computer and reading the screen, but I'm the one who's wrong, I'm confused.

*End Scene!*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Updates and obligations

So my attending ALA dilemma has been solved because our director decided to get all full time employees exhibit passes for the conference and letting us have a day off to go downtown and check it out (this dilemma was already solved because I wasn't paying to go and I was scheduled to work this weekend, but let's just forget about those parts now)! The worst part is since I registered my work email is being spammed every 15 seconds by "Stop by our booth at ALA" garbage that is ruining my concentration on my minesweeper games, but I'm willing to overlook it since I am getting a day off from "real" work.
Some of the activities around ALA sound like they may actually be fun, but of course these are usually not conference sanctioned events (like spending the afternoon drunk by the pool at the Days Inn). One such event is the Brand Yourself a Librarian project going down at Jinx Proof where some librarians are going to get inked during the conference. I've had a literary tattoo in mind for awhile, but don't know if this will be the right weekend for it, plus I've been less than impressed with the work at Jinx Proof (tho to be fair, it's been awhile). If self mutilation is not your thing, how about shaking your hips with the nerd elite at Apex, aka: ALA 2010 Dance Party?
(Prince is asking you to join him!!!)

Which brings me to exciting news, as I've been asked join the folks over at another blog I follow, Closed Stacks, in writing about kickin' it library style. Closed Stacks got nominated for that same Library Blog Awards contest, but they got a gold star(!) so be sure to take a looksee over there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pron and defending your right to library boners

So yesterday I had a library first: my very own library public masturbator! Yes, I know what you're thinking (besides Ewww!), how can I have worked in various library jobs over the past six years and not yet encountered someone masturbating in public? Good luck, I guess? I've had at least one incident with indecent exposure (that, thankfully I only had to report and did not witness), and countless run-ins with internet porn, but so far those pervs have only been viewing it (or pretending not to view it while really playing chess online) or printing it out and showing it to me to ask how much their copies will cost, but so far no one had been caught in the act of working the rocket launcher. Until yesterday.

Shortly before lunchtime we received a complaint that a teen at one of the internet stations was viewing porn and the two attempts my branch manager made to catch him in the act failed as his spidey-sense must have alerted him that we were trying to peep over his shoulder. This prompted a discussion between me and my branch manager about the library's policy on porn. In library school, we would be forced to have these ridiculous debates on what we would do as a librarian if our library theoretically decided to stock Playboy as a magazine in our collection and a member of the public became outraged and complained. I found these arguments useless because a)what public library would want to walk into the firing squad that would be stocking Playboy? and b)it wasn't an argument that I really agreed with most of the time.
Now I realize that the buttress to the librarians defending porn argument is the "slippery slope theory," in that once you censor pornography, everything else is up for grabs so it's an "either you're with us or against us" mentality, very black and white. Yeah, I understand that theory, but I don't necessarily agree, and it's not even from the "oh, think of the children!" point of view -- it's more like "things that are better done in the privacy of your own home" point of view. Why should some guy (who smells like a brewery) have more of a right to watch YouPorn in public than my right not to see it or hear it as I use or work in the library? I'm certainly not going to come over to his house and regulate his personal life or get all Big Brother on his ass, but really, why is porn in public places a constitutional right?

This is why I'm glad that while ALA may stand behind your right to view teh interweb pron at the library, the second you decide to unzip those rights are quickly superseded by laws requiring you to keep it in your pants at the library. My boss was on the phone helping a patron when she suddenly exclaimed "Oh no!" and my head snapped around to the direction she was running where the teen internet porn suspect was fully engaged in the most urgent self love, almost to the point where it looked like his chair might lift off the floor into orbit. He was reminded of the library code of conduct policy and asked to leave, but I feel a little better about the world knowing that ALA welcomes him with open arms to come back today, just as long as he looks and doesn't touch.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reference question of the week

Teen: Is it true Elvis died on the toilet?

I'd heard this rumor before of course, but I wasn't sure if it was actually true or not. I doubted any of our classy database biography resources would go into that type of detail so I started searching the catalog for print biographies, hoping to come across a tabloid style one that might answer this question.

Teen: The Wikipedia entry said he was found on the bathroom floor, but I always heard heard he was on the toilet.

I looked up the Wikipedia page for Elvis. I don't usually use Wikipedia for an answer unless there's nothing else I can find, and even then I remind the patron what an unreliable source it is. One thing I think Wikipedia can be useful for is references if they are properly cited. The reference attributed to Elvis's death in the entry was from the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick, which we actually happened to own. I thought it was interesting that our copy had only circulated once since it's purchase 10 years ago, but another branch's copy had circulated 43 times. I guess we don't serve a big Elvis fanbase here.
We went to the shelves and got the book, which smelled as if the one person who had checked it out had smoked directly into it. In the index, Death of Elvis, The started on page 650.
Me: According to Guralnick, the medical investigator reported that Elvis was found on the bathroom floor, slightly away from the toilet as if he had been crawling and it looked as if he had been using the toilet at the time.
Teen: Were his pants around his ankles?
Me: (reading) It doesn't say that specifically, but hold on...

I flipped a few pages back and started scanning until I found what appeared to be the first page of Elvis's death, p647.
Me: Here is says, "When there was no answer (at Elvis's bathroom door), she (Elvis's girlfriend at the time) pushed on it and discovered him lying on the floor, his gold pajama bottoms down around his ankles, his face burried in a pool of vomit on the thick shag carpet." So, yes, his pants were around his ankles, but he was probably going to the toilet beforehand. Does that answer your question?
Teen: Yeah, thanks! That was some messed up shit.
Me: You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Libraries: helping shut-ins who should stay shut-in

Like the set up for a bad joke, I was sitting at the reference desk when the phone rang. It was an elderly lady who wanted help in finding out if some old books she cleaned out of her parents house were worth anything (*cough*no*cough*). I tried directing her to some local appraisers who would be more knowledgeable about rare books, but she was more interested in coming in and speaking to me directly for some reason (Yes, if you haven't already guessed part of the outcome of this story, let me spoil it for you: she now thinks we're best friends!)
Anyway, so Ruth Gordon comes in a couple hours later and settles in for a nice long chat at the reference desk. Has she brought in any of the books she wants me to help her find the value of? No. Has she written down any of the titles, authors, publication dates, or anything relevant that could help us? No. Why, you ask? Oh, because batshit insane Ruth Gordon keeps looking over her shoulder and tells me that she thinks her enemy from the old folks home followed her here and is eavesdropping and will come into her apartment and steal her valuable books. So she scribbled down titles that she could remember on slips of scrap paper, folded them up, and passed them to me across the desk. And she talked in code. Oh hell yeah, it was one of those mornings.
Some of the books were Nancy Drews, but without the publication date of copies there's not much I could do, since I explained to her repeatedly that an original Nancy Drew from the 1930's or 40's would be different than a reprint, and still it may not be worth much since it was mass produced or may no longer be collectible. Seeing I was not impressed, Ruth Gordon decided to pull out her big gun: a KKK propaganda romance novel! As she started telling me what a fascinating read the book was I decided to pull the plug, giving her the book dealer's contact info and restating he would be a much better judge of her items worth.
As she got up from the desk, she pointed to a group of teen boys crowded around our internet stations wearing short-sleeved button up shirts and black ties and pants. "So nice to see your employees so formally dressed!" she beamed.
"Those are Mormons, not library employees," I informed her.
"Oh," she said. "Nevermind."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's in a name?

A post over on on Love the Liberry and a recent policy change in my own system has me thinking. Apparently, there was a vote I don't even remember at our recent staff day to give us new employee badges that will only have our title and not our names. The reason: these badges will save the county money by being generic and badges can be reused after an employee leaves a position. The real reason: Creepy McCreeperson is about to have a restraining order against him for stalking one of our teen pages, Old Lady Crazy-Make-Up is leaving nearly 10 messages a day on a coworker's voicemail, and Home-Schooling-Mom-of-13 thinks another coworker is her personal librarian/research assistant.
Ok, so it's not the official reason, but things have gotten a little weird around here within the last few months with patrons having boundary issues with staff. Yes, we are friendly, but that's because we are paid to do it. We are not friendly because we enjoy hearing hour long stories about your sick parrot and want to be your friend. We are having too many issues with patrons calling and wanting to speak with one person and one person only. This would be different perhaps if it were for the branch manager or a specific question, but instead it is for a specific staff member and usually something that can be answered by anyone.
What I'd like to do instead is allow everyone to create a stage name to use at work. The staff member who's obsessed with "True Blood" can be Sookie, our dirty joke telling old AV guy can be Buck Naked for all I care.
Don't get me wrong, I like helping people and it is nice to have someone seek out your help because they enjoyed the service you provided. However, it isn't so nice when a patron who has learned your name calls the library and pretends to be your dad in order to talk to you, or calls the police and says you stole her laptop, or shouts your name across the library and threatens to physically assault you for not allowing them to check out a book. Yes, all of these things have happened to me on the job and a generic ID badge probably won't eliminate all of those problems, but maybe if I can start going by my alterego I won't have to make that mad dash from the building to my car everynight, looking over my shoulder and running in a zig-zag formation to avoid snippers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bugs and other pests @ your library

We have had an ant problem at our branch for quite some time, so it's not uncommon for a patron to report ants in the children's storytime room, or to get emails with the subject line "Ants in 200's - tell exterminator when you see him!"
A couple weeks ago I received an inner office memo from admin and when I took out the paper I saw that an ant had traveled with it. So why were we surprised when one of our pages noticed that there were actual ant hills, several of them in the staff lunch room lining the wall? Or maybe, why are we surprised period when we're leaving Phyllis's old birthday cake out all night?!

In a new email this morning, a coworker reported the addition of a baby mouse being spotted in the kitchen. I emailed her back asking how she knew it was a baby, but didn't get a response (maybe I like asking asshole questions), instead she asked if we should put traps out. This sent me into a flashback from my old job when we had a rat and my boss kept putting glue traps out, which I collected behind him and promptly threw away. The glue traps are disgusting if you've ever come across an occupied on and I've always felt they are inhumane. I also liked this rat because he, or one of his friends or relatives, had a hole right outside my window and I'd spend some mornings (after I'd played zookeeper, checked my email 17 times, and zoned out long enough) watching him dig in his hole. First he would dig with his front feet, then switch and dig with his back, then switch again. I felt like I was watching National Geographic at home, except I was sitting next to a basement level window at work. To reward my rat friend, I would often dump my remaining french fries from the McDonald's across the street into his hole. It made my boss pissed, but I didn't care, and one day I thought I saw the rat waving at me, but I had also been breathing in varnish all morning in a poorly ventilated basement library.
What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, I never got to eat any of Phyllis's cake.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You lower those eyebrows, missy!

Woman approaches the reference desk slowly as if I am a small animal that might get frightened and run. Her whole way of moving is what makes me look up, her spidery legs taking steps forward from the circulation desk, but the entire upper part of her body is stiff. There is a frozen smile on her face, her eyes are bulging to the size of golf balls and the eyebrows are raised so high they are almost to her hairline.
Possibly Crazy Woman: Hiiiiiiii, there. How are you doing?
Me: (thinks: Greaaaat. Someone who wants a favor from me) Hello. How can I help you?
PCW: The funniest thing happened: I've been waiting and waiting for this The Lovely Bones to come in, and I finally got the call it was ready and I come to pick it up and it's the book on CD version, not the DVD.
Whenever someone says "the funniest thing happened" it usually isn't funny at all, but something that reflects their stupidity.
Me: ... Would you like me to request you the DVD version?
PCW: Well, you see, I went to go do that myself, but I noticed that I'd be number 80 and it doesn't seem fair for me to have to go to the end of the wait list, just because I put a hold on the wrong one.
Me: But you see, it wouldn't be fair to put you at the front of the list to everyone who put the right format on hold.
Her expression doesn't change. I'm slightly concerned she is trying to mentally bend me to her will.
Me: I'm sorry, I can request the DVD for you, but I can't move you to the front of the wait list.
PCW: ...?

Finally, it seemed she understood that she wasn't going to get what she wanted just because she made googly eyes at me and spoke in a sugary voice. Her smile faded and her eyeballs receded back into her skull, but her eyebrows stayed raised, as if she was surprised someone told her 45-year-old-SUV-driving-white-lady-with-fake-nails-and-spray-tan ass "no" for the first time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Resume trends for job seekers and the insane!

Today I spent a large portion of my day off today writing revising my brother's resume for him. Why you ask? Mainly emotional blackmail from my parents. They are convinced that since I was the one who benefited (? girl nerd is a benefit?) from being in all those AP and honors classes and, more recently, a fancy pants master's degree; and that my poor brother who suffered from popularity, hangovers, years of partying school and now has a mediocre job in retail -- well it's my responsibility to help him get a better job.
This type of thankless expectancy would outrage some, but at this point in my life I'm so over/use to it (after all, I did compose his college entrance essays for him). Revising his resume to fit this particular job he's interested in wasn't too bad, but this is largely because his resume is mostly my old resume from two years ago when I sent it to him as a sample of what a resume should look like. I don't know if there's anything more amusing than reading my old job objectives with suddenly my brother's job history attached to it. Or maybe anything more sad. I suppose it's not much different than the resume/job clinics that have been foisted upon us recently at work, where I try to delicately explain to a patron why they should try specifically tailoring their resume for a job at Pizza Hut differently than the job at Cash 4 Title Loans. At least with my brother I can just say, "Because I said so, asshat!"
With the resume/job clinic thing, I've been collecting information for handouts on resume tips and trends, but all my notes are back at work, so I decided to do some research at home to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. One thing I was totally unaware of was the new trendy job description of NINJA!
According to The Wall Street Journal, "Ninja" is the hot new job title for resumes: "In 2009, the growth of "ninja" as a new job description far outpaced the growth of other trendy titles, according to LinkedIn Corp...While the numbers are still small on LinkedIn—some 800 current or former ninjas have public profiles on the site—their growth has skyrocketed past other fashionable careers such as "gurus" and "evangelists," says Monica Rogati, a scientist at LinkedIn who finds patterns in jobs data."
What exactly is a ninja? Well, it looks like it's mainly IT people using it to describe their skills, but some finance and customer service reps too. While the converted believe it's a fresh new way to phrase your mastery of an area (and the ability to disappear during a meeting?), I think it reeks of hipster fail. As if "guru" wasn't annoying enough, (the article says, "Guru is so Web 1.0." - barf!), what kind of crazy person puts "ninja" on their resume?! A resume is supposed to not only grab the reader's attention, but make them want to hire you, not pronounce you a complete idiot or consider calling local mental health facilities.

So if you must know, I did not use "ninja" as a descriptor on my brother's resume, nor will I advocate its use to my patrons who come in for the clinics. I believe its use would only appeal to other insane people or men in some state of arrested development, and would ultimately scare off more job offers than invite. However, I should also note that in 2002, while desperate for a job, I applied for a position at a nearby radio station and made it known in my cover letter that I had an unfilled prescription for oxycodone at my disposal. Just sayin'!

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 - the librarian in vogue?

I keep reading different design blogs or ads that tout "librarian chic" as the hot new trend, so I thought I'd consolidate a few and post them here. Archival Allure recently blogged Elle's librarian inspired trends for spring, some of which I like, but are too expensive for my library paycheck or sometimes too severe for my personal fashion tastes.

Earlier in the spring Kate Spade's new spring collection featured some very bookish looks that I first found mentioned on ooh la la du jour! and a quick search of Polyvore (a totally fun fashion site) found put together collections for "vintage librarian" and "library chic" looks. Most of the fashions still follow the stereotype of cardigans and black framed glasses (and too much cheap Forever 21 junk), but I am also seeing lots of whimsical prints, romantic dresses, hot chunky heels, and adorable floaty skirts.
Growing up, if someone said "librarian" I usually pictured Velma from Scooby Doo or old Mrs. Kepler, the school librarian who had frizzy permed hair and smelled like mildewy books, so it's cool that some of the younger generation is restyling the profession as fashionable: smart, with classic lines and often hints of urban sophistication -- this could be a stereotype I could get on board with.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Library kitsch

Ok, so I'm reposting this from Awful Library Books, and it's probably better suited for The Very Bad Book Blog, but it's just too fun not to mention. I'm going to have to read it in order to figure out why it took two people to author this amazing piece of literature and to understand just what a "career romance" is. Does poor Jinny Williams, library assistant, hope to find love on the job? If so she is in trouble because the pickings are slim -- better stock up on cats, Jinny!
I am also liking the stiff illustration on the cover. This is the exact position I stand in at the reference desk with a book in each hand, ready to dispense knowledge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ALA: yay or nay?

ALA's annual conference is around the corner and I'm still on the fence about attending. I haven't attended any of the conferences in the past, the big difference being this time around that it's practically in my backyard so I wouldn't have to worry about travel or hotel, etc. It won't be this close again for at least several more years, so that's another reason why it might be nice to go, but on the cons side it's a little more than $200 that my work won't be reimbursing me for and I'll have to use my own personal vacation time to attend. So I'd be paying a couple hundred bucks and using my do something work related? Hmmm...

The peanut gallery isn't making the decision any easier, as I've been told by friends and coworkers that this is both an event that "can't be missed" as well as being "as dull as watching paint dry." Quite the conundrum.

Monday, April 12, 2010

No. No, I won't.

Boy, about 11 or 12 with a bowl haircut approaches the ref desk.
Boy: Will you make my brochure for me?
Me: What?
Boy: Will you make my brochure for me?
Me:...What? I'm not sure what you're asking for.
Boy: (slight eyeroll detected) My geography teacher says we have to make brochures for different countries. I have Guatemala.
Me: And you want me to show you how to make a brochure on the computer?
Boy: Kind of. Do these computers have Word on them?
Me: Not these, but a program that is similar. I can still help you set up the page though so you can make a brochure. Do you have a copy of the assignment that I can see?
Boy: (long pause) No, but I don't want to use Word anyway. We are using Publisher at school and that's what I want to use.
Me: Oh, well...we don't have Publisher on the public computers for you to use.
Boy: Is it on your computer?
Me: (slight pause) Yes...
Boy: Will you make my brochure for me?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Card catalogs - making a graceful exit

Photo credit: sukisuki
This was something I’d been meaning to post for awhile, but kept getting sidetracked. Although most (if not all) libraries have stopped using the old physical card catalogs, it seems that there are many out there that still have them, either in storage or out in public view, just not in use. Lately, I’ve caught a few blurbs here and there about catalogs that are finally being axed, mainly from academic libraries. One such mention was about the University of Michigan's card catalog getting the boot, but not without some nice nostalgic photos as a fond farewell, in addition to an educational pictorial. It is interesting to note that one case is being kept intact and on display for historical purposes.

Some universities are taking a creative approach. The University of South Carolina sent their analog catalog cards off in style with “It’s All in the Cards,” a year-long series of events honoring the card catalog, including a poetry and short prose contest inviting the composition to be written on the back of old catalog cards. Then there is the University of Iowa’s cARTalog project, which aimed to “find as many creative uses as possible for the salvaged card catalog cards and generate a sense of community among those who love the card catalog.”

The cards are neat, but I’m more interested in the drawer units specifically. Over the years, I’ve come across a few Craigslist and eBay ads for old card catalog units, but none have been in a price range or driving distance to my liking. A couple years ago there was one available at a reasonable price at what would’ve been a three hour drive (one way) near one of my former roommates so I figured I could pick up the card catalog and knock out a visit all at once, but it never happened. Perhaps I started thinking too much about what I would do with it once I got it home (not considering how I would get it up two floors) since I don’t own too many things that need to go in long narrow drawers. One of my favorite design blogs, Apartment Therapy, does provide some interesting suggestions though should I ever fully commit to library chic.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

With an ebook, no one will notice that you’re reading Tolstoy over Tori Spelling (a lesson for pretentious readers)

Yesterday, there was an article in the NY Times about how the social aspects of reading might change in the digital age – mainly, book covers and the ability to browse/snoop on what others around you are reading. Attractive book covers not only help attract potential buyers at bookstores and patrons at libraries, but they also facilitate book discussions among total strangers in the park or on the bus, and most importantly, bring comfort to librarians with low self-esteem who like to show up in the staff lunch room with giant hardback copies of Crime and Punishment for pleasure reading while they scowl at their coworkers with their latest Janet Evanovich paperback.

As someone who likes to spy on observe others, not being able to see what someone is reading is a bit of a disturbance. How else will I pass judgment on them for their inferior reading choice (ahem, Wuthering Heights)? How will I know when to clap someone on the back and shout “Huzzah!” for their decision to read John Hodgman’s The Area’s of My Expertise, aka “The Greatest Book Ever Flippin’ Written”?

This matter is actually more important for me personally because I make a lot of my reading choices based on the book’s cover (THAT’S RIGHT! I’m a librarian who judges books by their cover, how do you like them apples?!). Like a child, I am drawn to bright graphics, bold fonts, clever art concepts, and intelligent photographs. I like my literature’s packaging to basically resemble the box of a kid’s cereal that is high in sugar (more candy marshmallows, please!). I would like to say that it is overwhelmingly successful, but admittedly only works probably 50% of the time (read 40%). When a book I have selected based on its cover and perhaps interesting dust jacket blurb disappoint me as a reader I feel betrayed, maybe a little abused. I suppose someone judging my reading material by the cover art would come to the conclusion that I have the attention span of an insect and that I will read anything bound in a design reflecting pop art. They might be right…

However, since I am famously slow to upgrade to new technology (yes, I actually own a rotary phone), absent covers from ebooks most likely won’t be a problem for me…for now. I will continue to pick out books based on their covers that I can hold in my hot little hands, but I’ll probably have to come up with new ways to spy on what my coworkers are reading. And, of course, that is what the internet is for.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You and everyone's mothers collect National Geographic

chat user: I have 4-5 years worth of old National Geographic.
Ask a Librarian: thinks: Yes?...And? Are you looking to donate them to the library? or are you just bragging?
chat user: yeah that.
chat user: I want to donate them to you.
Ask a Librarian: Unfortunately we do not accept magazine donations. I can provide you with a list of local places that will take your magazines.*
chat user: what about Haiti?
Ask a Librarian: ?
chat user: why aren't you collecting them to send to Haiti?

Oh, I don't know, maybe because Haiti has enough problems on its plate without worrying about your back issues of a magazine that's in English? We're also not collecting them to send to Haiti because it's a bad idea.

I get annoyed with a lot of the actual charity collections that we do because people are always donating garbage that they don't want to get rid of themselves under the guise of helping others. "Gently used" does not mean broken, stained, moldy, or ancient. We just finished a prom dress drive and I was horrified by the amount of navy blue business suits that Janet Reno wouldn't have accidently put on in the dark but somehow ended up in our donation box. You think a teenage girl today wants to wear this? To her prom? Remember how hard your eyes rolled when your cousin asked you to don that sea green monster pretending to be a bridesmaid dress? Well, throw it away then, don't keep it for 10 years and then think you're doing good by clogging up our donations box. The drive was called "Prom Dreams" not "Prom Nightmares"!

And don't even get me started on the encyclopedia donations. Chances are that since they don't publish Funk and Wagnalls anymore it isn't going to be something we want. This is a public library folks, not your personal archive.

*Side note: I actually collect some older National Geographic issues from the 1950's and 1960's, but I usually just tear out the retrotastic ads and recycle the rest.