Friday, December 28, 2007
Most of whom deserve it anyway.
I spent my morning today doing e-rate forms. This is the easy set, and it was still a pain in the butt. Why the federal government has to create this much paperwork for something as simple as funding my library's telecommunications I will never understand. Wouldn't it be a much more efficient use of everybody's time (not to mention money and energy and expertise) if they made it simpler? Like, only two sets of forms for each library instead of so much paperwork that it takes two file folders to hold it all?
I am also miffed at the people who manage the server that hosts www.blueridgepackards.org for changing the file management software and not telling me. And not making it intuitive enough that I could barge right in and update our website without having to spend an hour figuring out the new program. And for making me have to rename every single image file on the site to comply with their new software's requirements. Nothing like making me waste inordinate amounts of time when all I wanted to do was post some new photos from the fall tour.
On the plus side, I suppose I should mention that the roofer the Carpenters recommended is going to be at the house today - yup, two whole hours after I called him - and might even manage to fix the leak in the next six months. I still can't get an electrician to come do the work the house needs, but seeing as I managed to wire in the new range hood myself yesterday I might just give up and learn how to ground outlets myself. Which probably violates sixteen different codes, or would if Pageland had that many. I refuse to figure out how to disconnect my own dishwasher and install the new one, though. Henry is just going to have to get someone out there and get the new dishwasher out of my living room. (And how bad a sign is it when you're on a first-name basis with your plumber and his entire crew?)
Friday, December 14, 2007
The meeting I attended last Saturday (yes, Saturday - and no, I don't know what we discussed that could not have been covered in a meeting during actual business hours) consisted of fifteen people sitting around talking at each other. There was not a great deal of productive discussion because everyone was too busy throwing their point of view around to pay much attention at all to what anyone else was saying. Why we could not have put our ideas into writing and put them on a wiki or a website or the listserv and then actually taken the time to consider not only what other people were saying but what we wanted to say (and whether saying it at all was in fact necessary), I do not know.
Then there was the meeting I attended this morning. If we had just had wifi in the meeting room I could have accomplished a ton, but none of it would have had anything to do with what the meeting was supposedly about. I say "supposedly" because after about five minutes of stultifying boredom my brain shut down completely and I resorted to writing a to-do list, making art out of a roll of tape conveniently left on the table near me, and considering whether I could carve out a vacation sometime in the next few months. I think I said a couple of things during this meeting, but since I wasn't listening to myself I can't be sure. However, no one else was listening to me either, so it can't have mattered much. This particular group seems to meet mostly to repeat things they have already said, to state the obvious with various degrees of clarity, and to make themselves feel important. You would think I would have learned by now just how big a waste of time this is. Next month, I'm bringing a book.
Although even this morning's meeting was not as bad as one I attended earlier this week. (See? My job really is to fill out paperwork and go to meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.) We hadn't even made it half way through the day when I decided that this is hopeless. Not just the sitting through a meeting and expecting a solution from it. The whole task of being a library director in South Carolina is just hopeless. There is so much that we could be doing - if we had the people, or the money, or the space, or the infrastructure, or if things hadn't been done some other way for the past twenty years. But I as an individual am simply never going to be able to make enough of a difference to matter. Which was brought home to me quite forcibly somewhere around eleven thirty on Tuesday morning. This is not the fault of the person running the meeting, of course. It was just sort of the cumulative effect of the whole agenda.
So, what's worse than a meeting that is so boring you wish someone would start throwing rocks just because it would make a change? A meeting at which you realize that change is never going to happen, and that the job you do might as well involve beating your head against a brick wall for all the effect it's going to have.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Let's take Tuesday as the perfect example of what is euphemistically referred to as a "typical" day.
At 9:00 I was greeted with a pile of mail and forms and other unidentifiable papers a foot high on my desk. After managing to deal with this (mostly by transferring it to other people's desks) I sent out a round of faxes to the branches reminding them of assorted things of various degrees of importance.
So far, so good.
At 10:00 I raced a requested book from here to one of the branches. While there, the day's newspaper was delivered. Said newspaper featured a prominent headline about a shooting. At a library branch.
Which I did not know about.
While I was still processing this information, a call came in from another branch, informing me that there was no heat, and the branch manager was in the process of freezing her tail off. She was, however, more concerned about her patrons, many of whom are elderly. Off I went to that branch to see what could be done. Two space heaters, one extension cord, and assorted phone calls to assorted people later, the temperature in the branch was no longer hovering at the freezing mark and the repair man had promised to come as soon as possible. Maybe even this week.
From there, it was back to the main library. On the way there I got an urgent call asking me to call one of the staff on her cell phone. Of course, I promptly drove into the black hole of the wildlife refuge, where there is no hope of a signal for my cell phone. On the outskirts of Chesterfield, twenty-five minutes later, my phone indicated that there might be hope of making a call. I called the staff member, who was having a minor health crisis, sorted things out with her, and arrived back at the headquarters.
Consultation with other staff members revealed that no one else had heard about the shooting either.
Back into the car for the drive to the branch where the shooting happened, where I had a conversation with the branch manager about why I had not been told about the incident, and why this would never happen again. We then agreed that she would call the police and arrange for them to patrol the library, while I ascertained whether any of the patrons had been injured or whether the bullet had hit the library. (If you injure a patron, I'll be mad, but if you hurt my library building I will have to kill you.)
According to the newspaper account, incidentally, this was not in fact a drive-by shooting. It was a pedal-by. We're working on making it into the bigtime, but so far all we can manage is a fifteen-year-old on a bicycle.
I then returned to the main library, to be greeted by yet another foot-high pile of mail, forms, paperwork, memos, and other paper crud on my desk, and a mile-long list of new emails in my in-boxes.
And this, my friends, is a typical day in the life of a library director.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Why is it that goats are such photogenic creatures? I'm not terribly fond of them as a general rule, but they do know how to pose.
We also saw the biggest gator I have ever seen, along with a cooperative grizzly who walked veeerrryyy slowly closer so that I could get his best side.
And of course, no trip to the zoo is complete without several minutes spent trying to figure out how to smuggle a koala home. No luck this trip, but one of these days...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Never mind how horrifying I think it is that half the county had its Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving - as it is now after Thanksgiving, the library has joined the trend and is sticking red and gold ornaments on everything that will hold still long enough. After much discussion, we determined that the ancient and now rather bedraggled tree for the reading area wasn't big enough, so D and J headed out on a tree-finding mission and returned with a nine-foot one, complete with fake pinecones. So I spent an hour this afternoon sticking little hooks on more ornaments than you would think a tree could hold, including (appropriately enough) little tiny books.
Why is it that the one person who doesn't celebrate the holiday is the one who has to make the decisions like "how big a tree should we get," and "should it be pre-lit," and "should we add the garland, or does that just make it look tacky"? Surely there must be someone else around here better qualified for this job than I am...
Friday, October 26, 2007
Of course, the amount of fun we're having planning this makes me worry. (Because it wouldn't be me if I didn't.) If we're enjoying this, are the kids going to? Or are we going to have thirty sulky twelve-year-olds stuck in a dark room looking at a movie they're all seen twenty times, and wondering why these stupid adults won't just let them stuff their faces with pizza and then go home. And possibly making obnoxious comments from the corners and throwing popcorn at each other.
Since this is the first event we've ever done for kids in this age group, I suppose I should expect that we're going to make mistakes. But on the other hand I'm afraid that if we screw this one up we won't get another chance, because the word will go out that we're a bunch of boring old ladies without a clue. And there is so little for kids to do around here. There isn't even cow tipping, despite the vast quantity of cows, since getting to the cows requires transportation, and twelve-year-olds in the country don't have that. I want to give them a chance to have some fun, and to escape their parents the way we did when we were that age by meeting friends at the mall or the movies, and also remind them that occasionally the library can be a pretty cool place.
Which is a heck of a lot to have riding on a party involving kids in funny glasses and grown ups in really big pointy hats.
Friday, October 19, 2007
- Hauling boxes of books from one end of a building to another.
- When that gets boring, hauling piles of books without the boxes. Preferable large and awkward piles.
- Moving shelf-loads of books from the bottom of an eight-foot shelf to the very top, and then moving the books from a top shelf to the very bottom.
- Running up and down aisles with an armload of books, looking for the spot they belong while trying not to be away from the desk for more than thirty seconds.
- Escorting demanding patrons from one section to another, and then another, and another...
- Nodding and smiling at the demanding patrons while escorting them (this move for advanced librarians only).
- Beating one's head against the wall. Hard.
Which is probably a good thing, since some days the only way we can get through it without screaming is by the judicious application of chocolate. Sometimes in alarmingly large quantities.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It's off to a good home with one of my several sets of adopted grandparents from the Packard Club, and J is about as excited as a kid with a new puppy at Christmas. Which is good to see, and I am glad someone is going to do the work it needs and keep it cared for.
But that didn't make it any easier to watch it rocket off down the road with someone else behind the wheel.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Just another baffling aspect of life in the south, I guess.
Friday, October 5, 2007
- wash lettuce
- choose upholstery fabric that no one can object to
- move chairs and tables
- repair chairs and tables
- find a stuffed rat
- escort a Big Red Dog to story time
- tell a member of the prison work crew how to get a library card
- debate the merits of various heads for a scarecrow
- act like a jumping bean
- care for a (deeply perturbed) box turtle for seven days
- arrange for the removal of a petrified lizard (no, I was not going to do it myself)
- carry a dragon through three states in twenty-four hours
- bake more cakes than you can shake a stick at
- make friends with local clergy, unreconstructed rednecks, fourteen-year-olds, and convicted felons
- bully someone into cutting an access door to a crawl space, supporting a library policy, and finishing electrical work that should have been done twenty years ago
- learn about manga, wikis, yeast-free recipes, teen psychology, the Fourth Circuit Court, feral cats, storytelling techniques, county government, and how to spend $2500 on DVDs in forty-five minutes
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Like adding comic books to the collection. Which I would love to do. There are so many great reasons for it, not least is that teens (especially teen boys) love them. They're cheap, they're bright and attractive, and, as Patrick pointed out, they weed themselves. Which, after our current experience with weeding all five libraries, is a major point in their favor. But those pesky adults get in the way. The board would question the decision to include them in the collection, the acquisitions librarian would mutter about them, and every staff member and adult in the library would think it was evidence of my poor management skills. Encouraging teenagers to come and be teenagers in the library is not something the rest of the staff want. We don't even have a teen area in any of the branches, with the possible exception of Jefferson, which has a teen corner of the porch. In the spare space we can carve out of the children's area, of course.
Adults seem to get in the way of teen services all the time. Some of it deliberately - let's not spend money on them, let's shush them when the get rowdy, let's limit what they can borrow and what they can look at and when they can do it. And some of it is unintentional, but no less damaging. How do so many people forget completely what it was like to be a teenager? Was it such a horrible experience that they have blocked it out? Or so awful that they don't want to be reminded of it by interacting with anyone in their teenage years ever again? I hated being a teenager. It was a gdawful few years. Which is all the more reason to try and make the experience slightly less horrific for the poor kids who are going through it now.
Patrick has some great points, and some of the resources like the 40 Developmental Assets and Frontline's study of the teenage brain are fascinating. If you have the chance to hear him, I highly recommend it. (Or you could just go read his book.) But should it alarm me that I got these insights from a man whose life-defining experience was being bled on by Rick Flair in 1992?
I’ve been spending my spare moments recently musing on the incredible variety of debates the presidential candidates are trotting through with their dog-and-pony acts. I was just starting to develop some opinions on the new theme of special interest groups hosting debates to discuss “their” issues – the MTV-affiliated homosexual debate, the Latino debate by Univision, and most recently the debate on African-American issues.
Then on NPR this weekend I heard a social scientist discussing his latest findings, which indicate that – completely unconsciously – white teachers tend to punish black students more harshly for behavior they see as rowdy or disruptive. And I started thinking. This expert was talking about the fact that, despite the supposed gains in race relations over the past fifty-odd years, there are still prejudices buried in the American psyche, except now they are subtle and so deep down that even the people who have them don’t always realize it, and that causes things like the unequal treatment of students according to their race. So I wonder. How much of the gains in civil rights and equality for all are counteracted by this trend of separating everyone according to what group they’re a part of? We may not have debates for women’s issues and men’s issues, but at the rate we’re going they can’t be far behind.
Yes, of course, these groups have their own concerns that don’t necessarily affect the rest of the population. But they also have a heck of a lot more concerns that are exactly the same as everyone else’s. We all wonder about social security, and child care, and health insurance, and probably have strong opinions on abortion and the environment and the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. But instead of having a series of general debates, where the candidates field questions from anyone and everyone about every kind of issue, we have to split it up. So we focus on our differences. And on top of that, we make it seem as though the issue of gay rights or illegal immigration or equality doesn’t affect anyone except the small percentage of the population that identifies itself as gay, or Latino, or African American. Why?
Now, I know that my fifty-something African American neighbor has some unique concerns about the way this country is going. And so does the family of recent immigrants from Mexico who live next door, not least the evangelical Christian pastor who is the head of that household. But as a young Jewish woman, I also have concerns that are different from those of my neighbors. What are we going to do, break it down so that every possible permutation of a special interest group has its own debate for the candidates? No wonder the campaigning is starting so early. At this rate, the candidates are going to have to travel door to door in packs, until they talk to every single individual man, woman, and possibly child in the United States.
There is also the minor detail that just because I am not part of one of these groups in no way means that I am not concerned about their rights or the issues they want to raise. Some of my best friends are gay, as is a cousin, and I know that I will never be able to attend their weddings. I will never have the joy of watching them unite themselves with the person they love. Why can’t I go to a debate where I am able to hear the answers the candidates give them when they ask why that is? And when my friends who are treated as second class citizens (or worse) because they speak with an accent, or because of the color of their skin, ask what the candidates are going to do about the issues that matter to them, why can I not be a part of that audience to express my anger and my shame that my country treats human beings this way? Is it not supposed to matter to me, because I’m not gay or Latino or black?
We spend so much time lamenting the lack of true equality, and then we throw any chance of it right out the window when we rush to separate ourselves from our fellow citizens as much as possible. I am sure that the various groups hosting these debates for the candidates mean well, and I know they want to hear the answers to the questions affecting their constituency. But I know that some of those questions are of interest to me as well, even if I am not the same race or age or sexual orientation. And I also know that I would not have even thought of attending the debate hosted by Tavis Smiley, no matter how interested I might be in the opinions expressed, because the effect of a debate that so carefully limits its audience is to make anyone who is not expressly invited to be part of that audience feel unwelcome. I would have felt deeply uncomfortable walking in the door, just because of the color of my skin. And isn’t that precisely what the men and women who fought for civil rights were trying to stop?
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
(Please note that I am not saying anything about rain. It did not, in fact, rain, despite three hours of thunder and lightning. Sheesh.)
I've been cooking my way through the cookbook known to my family as "the bread book." Also known as the Food Processor Bread Book, now out of print but still my family's bible when it comes to bread making. And since I grew up with a mother who set bread for the week on Sunday evening, that's saying something. This weekend's recipe was: plain old ordinary white bread. Which I never eat, and therefore never make. After the kugelhupf and the pain d'anis and the cardamom buns of the past few weeks, I figured it was time for a change.
I've also been entertaining myself by reading other people's food-related blogs. N's, of course, which is always fun since she keeps coming across vegetables that no one around here would give garden space to. (People in Pageland grow corn, tomatoes, okra, and watermelon. Lots and lots of watermelon.) You can check out her latest experiment here. Then there's Ree, who goes off in the opposite direction and uses piles of butter and white flour and sugar and all those things I try not to cook with. And there are the newer (to me) blogs I have taken to checking out during my lunch hour: All Things Edible, Closet Cooking, and Big City Little Kitchen. Obviously, all of these people have way more creativity in the cooking department than I do, not to mention a heck of a lot more time to blog.
Now, if only one of them would blog about a surefire way to use the sixteen-pound watermelon sitting on my counter. I bought the smallest one the stand up the road had, and it's still waaaay too big for one person. Sigh.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I know that I can't be just a public servant. I have to worry about the realities of things like the (utterly pitiful) library budget and how short-staffed we are. But I, personally, refuse to buy into the notion that my purpose is to analyze everything we do in order to extract political and financial gain.
Does this make me a bad director? A poor advocate for my library and for public libraries in general? Am I missing part of what it takes to be a great librarian?
I've been wondering about this in the wake of a meeting last week in which, after discussing the possibility of introducing a new statewide service, the other directors in the room jumped straight to the question of whether this would boost the image and "brand recognition" of public libraries in the state. My brain was still working on the question of how I was going to provide this service to the children in my county whose only access to the internet is for brief periods during the school day. The question of how this service could be used as a means of prodding legislators (and the public) into recognizing the good we do in libraries simply never occurred to me. All that I was thinking was how to get to patrons.
So I have to ask: am I missing a piece of the puzzle? Does focusing solely on the services we provide and on the things we can do for our patrons, without worrying about how we market ourselves and what the people in the state capitol think of us, mean that I am losing a chance to help people?
Reading over this post, I realize that it sounds as though I am criticizing the other directors at that meeting. I'm not. They're all fiercely dedicated to their libraries and to improving the services they offer. They're good librarians, as I define that. But somehow they are operating on a completely different wavelength than I am. Maybe after twenty years of directing a public library I will think like they do. Or maybe not. Which might be better. Someone has to speak up for the raving idealists, after all, and some of us have to be in a position to put our ideals into action.
I just wonder if I am not missing a chance to do more good for libraries, and thus for our communities, because I lack the political viewfinder that so many of my colleagues seem to have.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
You have to admit they're the cuddliest looking giant flightless parrots you've ever seen.
Kakapos are found in New Zealand, where there are only 86 of them left (see http://www.kakapo.net/). The problem with being a giant flightless parrot with an extremely loud mating call and a very distinctive smell is that those things make you a very appealing meal for a large number of predators. However, word is that the kakapos are hatching chicks, so there will be more very cute birds on New Zealand. Which is a good thing.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
In the process, I've been rehousing photos in inert plastic sleeves and putting them all in archival-type binders and storing them in acid free boxes and so on. Some of them are beyond help, at this point, but at least I'm making the effort. Oddly enough, a lot of Dad's photos and a bunch of my grandparents' are in better shape than the ones I've taken. Obviously the quality of photographic prints is degenerating, like everything else these days.
The thing that really shocked me, though, was that there are a couple of major events of which I don't have a single photograph. Not one. Because I was happily lugging around the digital camera and thinking something along the lines of "this will make it so much easier to upload the pictures to the flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/14607479@N00/) or the website (http://www.blueridgepackards.org)." And the result is that I have a hundred images on my hard drive and not a single print. Now, this is despite the fact that I know just how much of an oxymoron the term "digital preservation" is - even with all that training and even though I have spent plenty of time fighting to retrieve old files from the old laptop or a floppy or even a CD-ROM. It makes me wonder: what chance do we have of preserving an archive of images of life in the twenty-first century when even the trained professionals can't do any better than this?
From now on I'm carrying the film camera, and I'll drag out the scanner for those things that need to go online.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Turns out his mother is going to Israel in the fall (I'm jealous). And although he has never seen a car mezuzah before he thinks it's pretty cool. Bet I know what his mom is getting for Mother's Day.
It fascinates me that Jews can meet, have never seen each other and have nothing in common, but the very fact that we're Jews makes us sort of friends without having to know anything else. We may even discover that we despise each others' politics or morals or child-rearing philosophies. We may be on completely opposite ends of the observance spectrum. But since we're both Jews we're still somehow allies, if not actually friends. Technically, I'm not actually Jewish yet. But since I will be eventually, I'm sort of loosely bundled into the "Jewishish" catagory and included under that "more friend than foe" heading.
David Plotz over at Slate has been blogging the Bible, or more accurately the Torah, for a while now. Sometimes I find what he's reading and what he has to say about it fascinating. Sometimes, of course, it bores me stiff. (Turns out I have no patience for Job, and that I think certain prophets need a good smack.) But today he was blogging about Ruth. He mentions the fact that people, especially women, have a "fierce loyalty" to the book of Ruth. They love the story. He thinks that for some it's because the story shows how observance of laws can bring good things, and for most because it's just a feel-good kind of story. I emailed him to point out that there's another reason. There are an awful lot of Jews who think that because I am a convert I will never be a real Jew. I will never be anything other than a ger, a stranger. I will never be good enough, always be less than part of their community, always be under suspicion. But when Ruth marries Boaz there isn't any howling about the fact that he's marrying a shiksa. Instead, the community welcomes her warmly and completely, delighted that an obviously respected leader has found a good woman. I may never get that kind of welcome from the community I am working to join. (I may never be half the Jew that Ruth was, either.) But I have chosen to take their people as my people, and their Gd as my Gd. And the kind of homecoming that the Jews in the book of Ruth provide is the kind that I, as a convert, would like mine to be.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
This one is the classic, of course: http://www.peepresearch.org/
Then there is the proof of what happens when librarians get sugar-high around this time of year: http://www.millikin.edu/staley/peeps/
And for the do-it-yourselfers in the crowd: http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/peeps
All of which begs the question. Who the heck came up with the idea of peeps, anyway? I mean, I love the things, but really. Would it have occurred to me to make little marshmallow blobs that look vaguely like chicks, cover them in scary neon sugar, and market them to the masses? Not hardly. So, being the proud possessor of bonafide whiz-bang research skills, I wandered over to the Just Born site, which is almost as alarmingly colored as the peeps themselves, in search of the answers. According to their company history, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company in 1953. And it was Rodda Co. that made marshmallow chicks first. No one, however, including those intrepid reporters over at Slate, has been able to figure out why the folks at Rodda started making peeps in the first place.
Yet another thing to contemplate while in one of those long and unproductive meetings.
(And, in vaguely related news, today's winner of the "there's a contradiction in there somewhere" award is Just Born's newest product, Hot Tamales Ice.)
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
So in light of all this, I have been roaming around the libraries listening to people talk. I find it fascinating that there are people out there who do high pitched shrieking when attempting to calm their children, or drop their pitch along with their volume and then wonder why no one can hear them. And I have also been having fun listening to accents and weird speech patterns. Because of course I don't have one, being from Connecticut - but everyone else does. (Do you know, someone actually told me a few days ago that he visited Connecticut once, and "no one up there has any accent at all!" He seemed very excited about this. I'm not sure where he went, though, because I can usually tell where in CT someone is from by how they say certain words.)
Friday, March 30, 2007
And another news item that makes me roll my eyes is the report from the hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Kyle Sampson is doing a really impressive show of dodging and twisting when asked direct questions. He may only have tried one case, but boy does he have the lawyers' two-step down pat. Of course, some of the questions he was asked are pretty impressively off-course, too. Like the senator who asked him whether the president had seen a report. How on earth is Sampson supposed to know? It's not like he was high enough up the ladder to be privy to the president's decisions.
Sometimes I really do think it would be better if I just moved to Canada.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Anyhow, we're emulating Charlotte-Mecklenburg's public library and tackling the 23 Things - complete with ipod nanos as prizes. We all look like a bunch of techno-geeks around here, with library laptops up next to our desktop computers, typing away during breaks on blogs and flickr pages and what-have-you. Since we can't do much about bringing people in to do training, we're just going to have to do it ourselves!
Sometimes I envy the bigger libraries, like Spartanburg or Richland, with IT staff coming out their ears and training budgets big enough to actually do some good. On the other hand, those of us in tiny libraries like this one are the experts on self-sufficiency.