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…