Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Begins...Summer Reading

Recently the Huffington Post asked readers to submit words that describe summer, which included: sleep, travel, adventure, fun, relaxation, greatness, peace, water, and books.  While others look forward to summer, those of us in the public library industry frequently feel a little bit queasy at the beginning of the season and may describe it with words like: screaming, anxiety, face-painting, live snakes, people wearing their bathing suits inside the library -- oh yeah and books.  Now is the time of year when I start to have night terrors about overflowing book drops and angry patrons when I cannot find them a copy of the latest New York Times bestseller.

Maybe it was because we were having a monsoon yesterday or were actually appropriately staffed, but it didn't seem that bad.  The children were fairly easy - looking for books on worms or the always popular Guinness Book of World Records; the teens occupied themselves with the onsite photo booth; but the adults -- that much coveted yet difficult to attain population who grimace at being asked to register themselves for the adult summer reading program...until we mention that there's a prize.  

image delightfully edited by me

"What's that?" a father with two wiggling children asks, pointing at the Parents: sign up for summer reading to win a FREE iPad mini! sign.

"You can win a iPad mini for signing up for summer reading," my coworker reads the sign to them.

"Just for signing up?!" the father asks.  I think I see bits of foam forming in the corners of his mouth.

"Well, you'll be entered in a drawing to win, if you finish your challenge card."

"Oh," the father's excitement falls as he realizes we don't have a box overflowing with iPad minis for the taking under the desk. "Ok, maybe I'lll sign up later.  I'll think about it," before he wanders away never to return.

Admittedly, only being entered to win a iPad mini is not as thrilling as getting one simply for signing your name on a scrap of colored paper, but the extremely low amount of adults who do register and manage to complete the insurmountable tasks of reading a book, attending a program, and learning to put a book on hold means that the chances of winning are pretty awesome.  I think last year my branch had less than 35 adults complete their challenge cards -- I'd take those odds but of course staff cannot enter.  We can only bribe our adult patrons with candy and free electronics while being chastised for not having unlimited copies Silver Linings Playbook on blu ray. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Random Subject Heading: WTF?!? Librarian Finds Smallpox Scabs Inside an Old Book

Grocery and to-do lists. Photographs. A Band-Aid.  A plane ticket to Frankfurt in the smoking section from 1989.  A moldy piece of Kraft cheese. Crushed up medication. All together now: “These are a few of my favorite things” – just kidding! These are few of the things I’ve found inside of library books during my amazing career, but fortunately none of them have been as much fun as smallpox scabs.

However one lucky librarian did have the pleasure of finding the red plague tucked inside a book.  At a university library in New Mexico, a book on Civil War medicine contained an ancient envelope that had the enticing description “scabs from vaccination of WB Yarrington’s children” which, of course, demanded that it be opened to release its guaranteed “dried up old mummy scabs.” 

Special Delivery: It's for you!
The librarian, Susanne Caro contacted the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which in turn called Walter Reed, then the CDC, and within a couple days the FBI arrived to get the scabs, but only after questioning the librarian as to whether someone could’ve planted the scabs in the book.  “Her answer ‘was a great big no,’ according to Caro.”

Aside from being a disgusting cautionary tale for those of us in the lib biz, my favorite part of this article was that “clearly, this was a book that no one but the author himself had ever read.” Imagine not only the journey and process involved in writing a book, but then shoving some crusted, poxed up skin flakes into said book in the name of medicine…and then no one bothers to read your damn book or find your disgusting science experiment.  That book is your work, your sweat, your time away from your kids who want to know why you are keeping the scabs of other kids, massaging them gently and whispering “my precious.”  It’s kinda embarrassing.

So if I ever get around to completing a novel, I think I might put some scabs inside it too.  That way if anyone bothers to crack the spine it will make the evening news.  And my parents will be proud.  

Footnote: A I am aware that I am quoting Cracked as a news source.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trending Topics: National Library Week - Reading, the difference between yucky and delicious

National Library Week and literacy go hand in hand.  Everyone knows reading is important, but when it comes to following directions, reading labels or warning signs it becomes especially significant. 
I considered this fact this morning when instead of "This medication may taste better if chewed or crushed" my cold medicine actually recommends "This medication may taste bitter if chewed or crushed."
I'm glad I took the time to reread it before following the false eating suggestion for improved tastiness.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Overheard @ The Info Desk: Make it work!

No, it wasn't a Tim Gunn "Make it work" moment, but rather a patron "Make it work FOR ME" situation when the phone rang this morning.

Me: Hello, X Public Library, information desk, may I help you? 

Not Tim Gunn: This CD I got from the library, I need help.

Me: What can I help you with? Is the CD not working?

NTG: (long pause, clattering sounds in the background)...No...I mean, yes...the CD won't play.  I borrowed it yesterday from your library...I want you to make it work.

Me: Ok...well, what are you trying to play it on?

NTG: ... (more clattering sounds) ...

Me: Hello? Are you still there?

NTG: Yes...sorry, I'm driving right now...I'm lost and trying to find this restaurant I'm going to meet my friend at... 

Me: Ok, well...I'm sorry you're lost, do you need directions?

NTG: (sounds like gears are grinding) No, I don't need directions, what I need is for you to make this CD work.

Me: Are you trying to play it on your car CD player?

NTG: No, my car doesn't play CDs, it's new and the stereo doesn't play CDs.  I am talking about at my house, my computer, it won't play.  I put the CD in and nothing happens, there's no sound.  I'm supposed to have it read for a class I'm taking but I don't have time, which is why I got the book on CD, but it won't work.

Me: What program are you using to play the CD on in your computer?

NTG: What do you mean? I put it in my computer and it won't play, I just need you to tell me how to make it work.

Me: I mean what program -- Windows Media Player, iTunes -- what program are you using to try to play the CD?

NTG: ...Um...I don't know...

Me: Ok, well have you tried to play it on another device aside from your computer? Do you have a regular CD player?

NTG: ...Um...uh...I'm going to have to call you back.  I'm meeting my friend right now for lunch and I don't have time to talk about this now.

This is one of my favorite phone call responses -- when I am made to feel that I have interrupted or disturbed someone when they called me.  I tell the patron to call back later when they have more time to talk and we hang up.  About two hours later she calls back, she has discovered what needed to happen to make it work: the laptop was not on.  Of course, I never came out and specifically asked her if it was on or plugged in, so it's partly my fault, but at least she now knows that in order to play a CD the device needs to be on -- instead of prying the CD tray open with her fingernails and putting the CD inside while the power's off.  It's nice when the problems are so quick and easy to fix

Fun way to kick off National Library Week! :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Random Subject Heading: Gimmicky Books -- Authorship

Maybe "gimmicky" is a harsh sounding word, perhaps "trendy" would be better, but it doesn't have the rawr of cattiness.  Anyway, on Tumblr yesterday I was accosted by Tumblr Staff’s announcement the The Great Tumblr Book Search was over and they have a winner: Shit Rough Draftswhich “imagines early drafts of famous literary works and screenplays” and, as grand prize winner, received a book deal.

Interested in seeing what made the top of the list, I clicked on the link and spent some time reading Shit Rough Drafts and unfortunately was let down.  A “laugh out loud” idea that would be pitched to Chronicle Books via Tumblr to get their attention, then the editors would select a winner for publication.  I don’t know, I guess since they stressed they were “looking for humor” I was hoping that it would be lol inducing, but Shit Rough Drafts is just…eh.  Maybe I shouldn’t expect that much considering the other Tumblrs Chronicle Books cites as examples, but I feel like it should at least be funny – “not amused smile but bored after two minutes.”  Incidentally, I’d much rather see Seinfelt be made into a book, of course the recent posts have been a bit long winded and not as hilarious as entries such as The Booger Wall (and yes, I am very immature, (as if you didn’t know that already)).

I also suppose it’s entirely possible that the book deal offer doesn’t have to involve the Tumblr entry and could be something else…but I have strayed from my original intended topic: gimmick books.  In recent years, popular fiction went from vampires to zombies to werewolves and now erotic fanfic is all the rage.  Lately it seems like the publishing industry has turned to popular websites – and not just typical blogs, but Tumblr accounts and Twitter, as a mine for books, tv shows, and movies.  I guess what interests me the most is that previously at least blogs had some sort of written and thought out content, but now the sites that are getting attention are ones with an idea that catches on and then all the content is generated by its readers, instead an actual traditional “author” (case in point any of the “Award __ Photos”).  I also realize that this is part of the cyclical nature of trends -- not just in the publishing world, but it's definitely not a new phenomena.

I suppose I should offer Shit Rough Drafts kudos for not just reposting submitted stuff from others, but at the same time I’m trying to think of a gimmick of my own that I can somehow spin off into a book deal, that doesn’t involve zombies, or cats, or singing and dancing.  Hmm…

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trending Topics: Don't touch that!

Aside from the bunned, bespectacled librarian, the other stereotype most closely associated with libraries is probably the library creep and, those of us in business know, that sometimes these creeps...take matters into their own hands.

Image from tumblr, source unknown

So although this isn't an uncommon occurrence, one of the top library stories this past week is the story of a man forbidden from "all libraries on the face of the Earth" after his activities at the Racine Public library.  How is that even enforceable?  An ankle monitor bracelet?

The story got some extra mileage by LJ's Annoyed Librarian entry yesterday dedicated to possible workarounds of the Earthly library ban for this man so that he can get his library fix and oddly likened public masturbation to sex in libraries (?).  What I'm curious about is when will these stories stop being newsworthy -- or maybe a better question is who are these stories newsworthy to?  As I mentioned before, library biz folk aren't really phased by these stories.  This is not to say that it's acceptable or in any way "normal," (one never forgets their first interaction with a 'bater) but the majority of people who seem to get worked up about it are the general public.  I suppose this is because they can't imagine coming into the office one day to find Jenkins openly shaking hands with the man downstairs.  I envy them in that way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trending Topics: Job Security for realz, this one has Secret Service agents involved

Last year I posted a job announcement for a "wine librarian," today I post one for being the Commander in Chief's librarian. That's right, Obam-arian! 

I'm trying to imagine myself saying, "Mr. President, I was able to locate that book with the blue cover you were searching for," or him swiveling around in his chair (yes, I know he's not a Bond character) and request that I brief him on how to download a book on his iPad -- oh, and fix the jam in the copier too...

I browsed the requirements and was like, " totally..." and then of course come the more important stuff like having specialized experience such as General Schedule grade equivalent salary, dealing with federal acquisitions and procuring government contracts.  You know, the stuff that would be key factors to obtaining such a high profile job, not advising him on what to read next.

So while I'm one DC metro librarian who won't be applying for this cool gig, those who are interested will need to get their act together since the position closes today.  Until Obama is interested in finding out what the book club selection will be this month, I'll just be over in the corner pretending that I scored that wine-o job and giving sassback to that copier.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Overheard @ The Info Desk: Ummm

A woman with bright red lipstick, a very pretty shade but just slightly on her front tooth, approaches the information desk:

Lipstick Tooth: I'm looking for books...

Me: ...Yes?

Lipstick Tooth: ...books by former CIA agents.

Me: Like biographies or a tell all, something like that?

Lipstick Tooth: ...sort-of.  But they should be exciting stories -- the people don't all have to be real.

Me:  So are you looking for nonfiction or fiction? Fictional stories about CIA agents that were perhaps written by former agents?

Lipstick Tooth: No, not fiction, I want them to be real, true stories.  You know how the story is true but the writer twists it and changes somethings, adds people.

Me:  Ok, maybe they are based on real events or people but are fictionalized? Based on a true story type of thing?

Lipstick Tooth: (slightly exasperated) Yes, but the basic plot should be true -- not make-believe.  The truth but with more added to it.  You know, building on the truth...but they have to be written by former CIA agents, what happened to them on their missions.

Me: (also slightly exasperated) So...based on a true story?

Lipstick Tooth: Yes except real.  Like those Bourne Identity movies.

Me: The Bourne Identity movies are actually based off of a series of books, would you be interested in those or books like those?

Lipstick Tooth: No, because it's not real.  I said like the Bourne Identity but true and it happened to a former CIA agent.  I want that. (pauses) Nevermind, I'll just go look for myself (heads off in the direction of fiction).

A few minutes later, she stops at the desk again:

Lipstick Tooth: What about a list of CIA agents that live in this area? I could look up books by them.

Me: Uhhh, I'm pretty sure that some of that information is classified.

Lipstick Tooth: It's ok, my friend has a list, I'll get it from him (walks off).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

More Cover Redesign for Classics -- CENSORED Edition

Earlier this week there was commotion about the recent cover updates for some classic literature titles and now there's another update to add to the list.  The newest printing of 1984 by Penguin features a "censored" cover with title and author blackened out.

(Techically, the title was released about a months and a half ago, but apparently I'm a little behind in my publishing news.)

Anyway, Penguin has released five new editions of books by George Orwell all with cover redesigns.  The most interesting of the lot of course being the discussion generating 1984 with its dramatic cover being self-referential, suggesting that Big Brother himself has tried to conceal the book from inquiring minds.  

This redesign has been labeled both "brilliant" and "a risky move" by Penguin, with a few curmudgeons complainging that the title is now illegible and potentially invisible to Amazon and other online book store customers who cannot see the debossed letters under the block, which I think is a little silly (won't the information about the book contain the title and author?).  I believe the new cover is definitely one of the most creative redesigns I've seen in a long time.  And it's definitely better than the sexy runner up...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Trending Topics: Cover Redesigns for Classics -- Oh Anne Shirley!

Are you prepped to get your literary panties in a twist?  Last week one of my former coworkers forwarded me a link to Jezebel’s story about the new cover redesign for The Bell Jar. Because I was busy (explaining how to print out an email to a patron for the hundredth time), I only had a few moments to glance over the article but my reaction was expected: I grimaced, did a Liz Lemon worthy eye roll, and chalked it up to corporate America’s idea to package and advertise a book about depression into something possibly teen or chick lit friendly – with pink and lipstick!

New and "Improved" vs Original
Yesterday I was browsing some trending headlines and my attention was drawn to a cover redesign for Anne of Green Gables and the fuss it has created.  The traditional cover has transformed into one featuring a sassy looking blonde who might suggest a story about a roll in the hay with the farmer’s daughter rather than the tale of an unwanted freckled ginger.  With some parents groups throwing a hissy because they think that the redesign is "sexy" or "too adult" for a children’s book, (I do have to admit that the new Anne Shirley would probably have no problems getting that headstrong Gilbert Blythe to be at her beck and call) it has some asking if the publishing industry has gone too far with covers.

Had I actually read the Jezebel article the first time, I would’ve seen that they had already linked a picture of the new Anne of Green Gables cover, but this made me curious about other classic titles getting makeovers.  Recently Wuthering Heights has been renovated to appeal to the Twilight crowd with its new cover – one that even boasts that it is Edward and Bella’s favorite book(!).   And the latest Breakfast at Tiffany’s edition is in Tiffany & Co.’s trademark blue and brings to mind something classier than a free spirited teenage call girl.  Wtf is going on and can we expect this trend to continue? 

The publishing industry doesn't seem to care what message the new jacket sends. Do these revamped and “updated” covers insult teens or other audiences as indicated (or even the long dead authors)?  Do they trivialize the subject matter? Are these any better than books that have the movie tie-in covers promoting “now a major motion picture”?  Does the end (baiting someone to read) justify the means? Obvi, I don’t have any concrete answers to these questions, but I do believe it lends to an interesting topic for discussion among librarians, teachers, readers, book industry employees, graphic designers, etc.  

This is a rare instance where I have actually read all of the books featured and I can honestly say that none of the “modern” alterations accurately represent any of the titles in my opinion, but some have posed that maybe the same could be said of previous covers.  Except the old Anne of Green Gables says awkward redhead. Oh, and previous The Bell Jar looks like a stone cold bummer.  Annnnd now that I'm thinking of it, the boring landscape of Wuthering Heights makes me yawn like I'm back in 11th grad lit.  Of course they don't have the same agenda either.  Looking up old covers, I find that the 1959 paperback edition of Breakfast appears to be fairly honest about its contents (I recall receiving the middle version as a gift and wondering if it contained the story of a pasty, little man).  In my searching, I also came across several Bell Jar parodies that this makeover s-storm has inspired.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Overheard @ The Info Desk: The Public Needs Help

A short man with shoulder length silver hair and a cowboy-styled mustache approaches the information desk:

Greystache: I can't seem to find any books about the materials needed to build a labyrinth.

Me: (tries to wipe the judgmental "uhhhh..?" off my face as I preform a search) I'm not finding anything in our collection either.  We have the movie Labyrinth, a book about Labyrinth fish, and another book titled Dating Again: A Labyrinth of Choices.

Greystache: Is the movie about building labyrinths?

Me: No, it's an 80's David Bowie movie with some muppets.

Greystache: You mean you don’t have any books on the subject?

Me: No books, would you like me to try searching our databases for--

Greystache:(interrupting and shaking his head) I’m shocked.  Frankly I’m shocked

Exit Greystache.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Third time’s the charm?

Greetings to anyone who may still be following this.  Not only is it embarrassing that the past two Januaries I have written about writing more, I am ashamed that my last post was about not posting and a promise of forthcoming posts that week.  All I can say is that the desire was there, but the focus and follow-through were obviously not present.  
I can offer up a litany of excuses (I purchased my home, started regularly dating someone, my home computer broke and then when I got it back my internet service was out for nearly a month, my soul and desire to further my career was being crushed by He Who Must Not Be Named at work, and/thus, I work at a new library), but the truth is even when I had the time and physical ability I couldn’t get motivated enough to do it.  Or I would sit in front of my laptop in a slightly depressed fog without any idea of what to write about (did I mention that for eight hours a day I had to share a workspace with He Who Must Not Be Named?).  I knew that I missed the practice, but I didn’t do anything about it.  
While I have always considered my life to be filled with I Love Lucy-esque adventures, I think that it’s safe to say that probably a lifetime of experiences (several of them less I Love Lucy and more Days of Our Lives) like have been mooshed into the past three years.  That said, I don’t want these hurdles to prevent me from doing something that I enjoy.  Nothing in this blog has ever been particularly noteworthy, but it was a small outlet for my creative urges.  Although I wasn’t doing any “serious writing,” that I felt that it was a form of exercise and I’d like to endeavor another (or third) crack at it. 
Soooo I’ve revamped things once again and, like many other blogs, I tried to come up with some sort of schedule to better focus my posts and help anyone (Bueller?) who is still following know when to check in.  This doesn’t mean that I’ll be posting every day, but when I do I’ll stick to the preselected topic for the day.  Weekends, should I manage to awaken from my drunken slumber, are a free-for-all.
Finally, though I do want and hope some will continue to follow me and others might join, I realized that I need to do this for myself.  The practice of writing is something I crave to get back into. I need this outlet and it’s cheaper than therapy :)