Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things Your Librarian Won't Tell You

...because it would likely get him/her fired.

If you read a certain monthly magazine available in check-out lines, you have seen a regular feature listing things your plumber/doctor/waitress would like you to know, but probably won't say to your face. I recently asked some fellow librarians from across the country what they would like to contribute to a librarian version. The question obviously struck a chord, so I decided to compile them all here. Some are funny, some are serious, all of them made me nod my head as I read them.

I do have to add one caveat: we all love our job, and we love our patrons. We like being able to help people, and we don't want any of these to scare anyone away. One of our worst moments is when we discover someone was at our library, didn't ask for help for whatever reason, and left thinking we didn't have what they wanted or needed. One of our best moments is when someone says, "I know this is a long shot, but I read this book when I was in middle school...and it was sort of in earth tones..and there was this girl with crazy hair who lived with robbers or something..." and we can lead them right to Ronia, the Robber's Daughter. So, please, go ahead and ask us those questions - just don't get mad at us if we can't work miracles!

Without further ado, and in no particular order, some of the things your librarian would like you to know:


While we are flattered by your assumption that we can control the weather, it is not actually our fault that the internet is down, and no, we do NOT know when it will be back up again!

(along the same lines, and hands-down winner:) By the arcane powers invested in our staff at library school graduation ceremony we will choose to resurrect the Internet when our beer fund has reached a much more respectable level.
Would you care to contribute?

Wikipedia: caveat emptor. Generally reliable, but use with caution.

No sir or ma'am, I can not turn the computers back on after they have automatically shut down for the day! And no amount of begging or pleading will change what I am UNABLE to do. 

While I'm happy to assist you in learning to use the computer, I cannot do your homework/job placement test/e-mail/etc. for you. You must navigate the mouse and read the screen in front of your face.

General Assistance:

I'd be very happy to help you. Perhaps if you put down your CELL PHONE we can find what you need!

I can direct you to information on basic computer use as well as the free classes the library offers: however, it is not my job to sit with you and teach you how to use the computer any more than it is my job to teach you how to read. I also do not give tax or legal advice.

Doing research and finding information is *part *of a student's homework, and is an important learning experience for them. Parents do their children a disservice when they ask the librarian to find books or information for their children's assignments. At the very least, the student should be with the parent when they ask.

The point of the children's literature class is that you are supposed to be able to search for the books and decide if it is a fairytale or within the age group you are telling me, not me. (Makes me worry about the education of our children. And yes I took that class for my education degree so I know you should be able to make the decision.)

If you don't see an item you want on the shelf, you can let us know and we can work hard to get it to you as quickly as possible.

We do not need to hear the details of your divorce/illness/sexual proclivities in order to help you find materials relating to it.
Please READ the information we have provided. We have gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that signage, websites and other printed materials will answer your questions.

Personal space! You keep yours and I'll keep mine and they won't intersect (unless you are on a computer and I need to reach in in order to assist)

If you ask a question, listen for the answer instead of cutting me off with a guess at what I am going to say. (If I'm way off base because I didn't do a good reference interview, then please go ahead and cut me off, in a polite way, of course. :))

We are here to help-please ASK! We WANT you to ask...please ask instead of walking out assuming we don't have what you want. That is a fail for both of us.

No, I don't remember that book you checked out three weeks ago that you liked. AND the book being black with a picture of a cloudy house with maybe a person or a gate isn't enough for me to find it.
I understand that your teacher said you must bring in by tomorrow three age-appropriate biographies of the doctor who treated Abraham Lincoln after he was shot but....

I'm sorry, but primary source materials on Julius Caesar weren't written in English.

I'm sorry, but we won't be able to get you any photographs of William the Conqueror.

Children (watch for a common theme here):

It is NOT okay to leave your two-year-old unattended in the play area of the children's department while you catch up on Facebook in the tech center on the other side of the building. We are not a babysitting service.

No, actually I haven't seen your child or been watching them when you just let them wonder in an hour ago. You are responsible for your child. I was helping people/working. ( And please don't ask me if it's ok to leave your child unattended while you go to grocery store, or the computers for an hour or more. This is a public building so anyone can come in.)

No, you may not check your children in here. You are responsible for them at all times.

Try reading or playing with your child while in the library instead of spending an hour on Facebook while your young child gets bored and you yell at him or her for acting developmentally appropriately like a child who is bored.

When you force your child/student to take a book that they don't really want just because it is AR and in his/her level, they are not going to love reading.

Yes, I understand the your child is exceptionally brilliant, talented and much advanced for his age, clever beyond the dreams of Einstein, but a 3 month old baby still can't come into Storytime for 3 year olds. I'm sorry if he is already bored with the Babytime program, but there is an age restriction.

To Parent- No the teacher did not just give your child the assignment yesterday. We have had kids in all month working on it.

Final Words:

I would like people to know that I don't just sit around all day and read books and say "Shhhhh." Library work is very challenging and rewarding.

A *biography* is a book about someone, written by someone else. An *autobiography* is a book about someone's life, written by the person it is about.

No really, we want you to put items on the cart instead of shoved behind something, on top of a shelf, or any spot on a shelf where it looks like it will fit. We would rather put it back in the right spot ourselves than have to hunt for it later.

I'm actually more excited about you NOT having overdue fines than squeezing any payments out of you!

The library is a GREAT place to preview a book/movie/CD before you buy it!

The signs hanging around the building often have information that you're looking for, like fun events. Please look at them!

Please, if at all possible, routinely bathe, wash clothes, brush teeth, etc. 

It's not our fault someone hasn't returned the book, CD, DVD, game, etc. that you have a hold on and which has been overdue for several days. Yelling at me will not make it magically appear, but I will probably remember your face and that you were rude to me about something over which I have no control.

Treat our pages like they were (beloved) family members. They are good, kind, hardworking people, working for minimum wage or just over it, with little power at the library yet who are on the "front lines". Don't yell at them, curse at them, or throw things (books, money, etc.) at them. It's usually not their fault.

When you request that the library purchase an item, please check beforehand to make sure that the item actually EXISTS!

No, that book obviously sitting on my desk is not meant for you, why do you have your hands on it???

No I can't renew your library book after I leave this check-out counter on my way home.

"We have always closed at 5:00 on Fridays" (because people are always so astonished that we do, and say "since when have you started closing at 5:00?" pretty much every week without fail. This said at 2 minutes till 5:00 when they have a bunch of stuff they want to look for....)

And one last caveat: Please don't think the librarians who contributed to this are bitter, negative people. The good experiences far outweigh the bad in our job, but sometimes, you just need to get something off your chest! We have all made exceptions to every one of these rules (except for maybe controlling the weather/internet), because we truly want people to leave happy - just remember to thank your local librarian when he or she goes above and beyond for you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

About Stinkin' Time!!!

Five and a half years ago, Mom and I were living together and doing foster care for both the local CYFD and the BIA. One day the BIA called and asked if we would take in a 5-month-old baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. That was the one issue we had said we didn't want to face again, but after much discussion, we decided to say yes.

Twenty-four hours later, it was clear C. no more had FAS than I do. When we later asked why they had thought that, the sw said, "because he cried a lot." Uh...try feeding him?

What was also clear from the start was that he was my boy. Mom and I actually got into an argument over whose room he would sleep in - I won. He slept next to my bed until he was one, and when he moved to his own room, he was fine - I was traumatized.

He has always been mine, but it has taken the courts a little bit longer to catch on. Finally, Wednesday morning, we appeared in tribal court for approximately three minutes, and today this arrived in the mail:

Absolutely worth the wait!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Picture Book Review - Dogs Don't Eat Jam, and Other Things a Big Kid Knows, by Sarah Tsiang

Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know

Books to go with a new baby on the way - or already here - are always in high demand, so I'm happy when I come across a new one kids will like. This one is written from the perspective of the big sister, telling her new brother about some of the things he will learn, such as:

"You'll learn about broccoli and cheese and yams.
You'll learn that things fall down (you'll learn that a lot).
You'll even learn that sounds can come from all sorts of body parts (yep, just like that)."

This one is perfect for my own household, because it includes both being a baby and toddlerhood, while told from the perspective of a Kindergartener - hitting my three youngest quite nicely. Not to mention, it refers to farts. Adults will get a chuckle out of it as well. I especially like the tone, however, of the big sibling helping out the little one, partnering up instead of competing for attention.
Wait, do I really want my three teaching each other what they know? I may have to rethink taking this one home. In the meantime, it's on our new shelf now!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Picture Book Review: In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc

I generally review picture books grouped together, but every once in a while there is one that stands out enough to get its own post.

In Front of My House

This absoluetly adorable offering from marianne Dubuc is one such book. The thickness makes you wonder if you are picking up an odd-shaped chapter book, but there are just a few words per page. Prepositions abound as the narrator tells us what is in front of his/her house - a rosebush, and on the rosebush, a little bird, and above the little bird, a window...and so on. Familiar items, with humor sprinkled throughout ("under my bed...Whew! Nothing at all."), just MAY inspire your young reader to create his or her own version.

In fact, after reading this, I immediately wanted to go back to teaching elementary school, just so I could read it to my class, then present them with little blank booklets and walk them through picturing what is in front of their house, as they created their own brilliantly individual works of art.

Then I realized that this probably wouldn't be on the standardized test, so I probably wouldn't be able to spend the time on it, and that I get to do a lot more teaching as a librarian than I did as a teacher, so maybe I will just save the idea for a field trip. In the meantime, I will definitely be bringing this one home to my kids, and probably hand-selling it to a few home schooling families. (Miss S. and Mr. X., what is in front of YOUR house?)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Books for You to Read...and then tell me about.

Note to potential library employees anywhere: when asked why you want to work in a library, do NOT answer that you like to read, and think a job where you get paid to do that sounds just ducky. Your interviewer will laugh while showing you the door.

In my job, I get to spend other people's money on books I would like to read. Awesome! I perk up when I see the UPS lady in her brown uniform appear at the door, and I bounce happily when I see the books being unpacked and marked with little green cards (the color for my department). As I catalog each book I read over the jacket description and sigh over the pretty cover...and hope that someday I will actually get a chance to look at it further.

My reading, and hence my reviews have been pretty sparse lately. So, today, I am going to share with you some of the most striking covers and the most interesting jacket descriptions I have seen lately, and those of you with actual spare time can read them and tell me how good they were!

Wild Dogs: Past and Present     Wild Cats: Past & Present

Preeeeeeetty! The titles are self-explanatory, but I keep going back to the covers. How can you walk by and not pick those up?


Yet another Titanic novel...with werewolves? What??? Okay, this I've gotta read!

The Talk-Funny Girl

Here's a little from the jacket description: "Marjorie has been raised by parents so intentionally isolated from normal society that they have developed their own dialect, a kind of mountain hybrid of English that displays both their ignorance of and disdain for the wider world. Marjorie is tormented by her classmates, who call her “The Talk-funny girl,” but as the nearby factory town sinks deeper into economic ruin and as her parents fall more completely under the influence of a sadistic cult leader, her options for escape dwindle."  Intriguing? Heck, yeah!

Zombie Mommy
J Mystery ANDE

Okay, given my little monster's predilection for all things zombie right now, it's somewhat of a personal pick - but, it's M. T. Anderson, who has never failed us yet. If this one is good, we'll get the rest of the series, with titles like "The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen".

Princess of Glass

Ooh, was not expecting a sequel to this one:

Princess of the Midnight Ball

but, here it is! A fractured fairy tale. And Jessica Day George. I will definitely have to fit this one in!

Never Forgotten
J 398.2 MCKI

The McKissacks are always worth reading, and the Dillons' illustrations worth gazing at. A combination I look forward to enjoying soon!

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery

As the jacket cover says, "there is more than one side to every good story", and who isn't familiar with Benedict Arnold's? You know how this one ends, but the in-between looks to be plenty interesting as well. One of this year's YALSA winners.

Sigh. And lots more to come. Think anyone would mind if we just closed the library for a week, and did what everyone thinks we do all day anyway???

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thud, Thud, Thud...

My mother ran into an old friend in the checkout line the other day. The woman had relatives visiting with her, and they alternated between chatting in English with my mother, and in Navajo with each other.

When they left, the cashier wondered out loud what dialect of Spanish that was.

"I think they were speaking Navajo," my mother replied.


(Mom again) "They are Native American."

(Cashier) "Oh! They have their own language?"

Thud, thud, thud....(this, if you can't tell, would be my head hitting the nearest wall.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Train Your Dragon(s)

It has been a while since we have had a family movie night, and even longer since I have posted about one. The last one was Mykela's pick (August Rush), so Christopher got to choose this one. I successfully steered him away from Batman, which nobody else wanted to see AGAIN, and settled for How to Train Your Dragon. I hadn't actually seen this one yet, and - I hesitate to admit this - haven't read any of the books, either!

Before I give my impressions of the movie, though: what meal do you plan for a dragon movie? We started with strips of flesh in a pepper and corn sauce. The flesh was left kind of ambiguous, since the people and dragons end up as friends (hope that wasn't a spoiler). Ours happened to be elk. I browned pieces in butter and garlic, then cooked bell peppers and onions in the drippings. Added the meat back in, along with some corn, beef broth, soy sauce and diced tomatoes and simmered about five minutes. The elk turned out a bit tough, so I may cut the leftovers into smaller bits and put them in a crock pot with more liquid. It looked pretty, though:

Or blurry. My camera and I were having issues, and then the battery went dead.

Here is where I should mention the silly thing Daddy said earlier. I was charging my fire department radio, and he mentioned that we haven't really had any calls lately.

So, all those people who spent the evening in the snow looking for the lost hikers? Yeah, that would be his fault. But, he was out there too, while we enjoyed our now non-family movie night. Sigh.

He definitely missed an interesting evening. We have to pick up toys before we eat supper, and Miss S. decided to assert her two-year-old independence and refuse, going so far as to dump out the ones Mommy had helped her with. So Mommy asserted her right into the time-out corner, and everyone else cleaned up, conspicuously giving a wide berth to the area she had been assigned. After a few minutes of being ignored, she quietly scootched over and started picking toys up - because SHE wanted to, of course, not because someone had TOLD her to. So two!!!

The somewhat disappointing meal was washed down with dragon's blood (Sprite and cranberry-pomegranate juice). C. and S. don't normally get sodas, so this went over well. Until S.'s started growling at her. Apparently carbonated beverages react strangely with the valves in sippy cups. We all joked about it, but she wasn't to sure about that, and ended up not finishing hers!

For dessert, I had a bag of spicy Chex Mix, which I called dragon food. S. normally likes spicy things, but these made her cry! Poor baby. C. and I didn't like them either, so M. got the whole bag. A bag of rice cakes I've been trying to get rid of made C. and S. happy, and we settled in to watch the movie.

Other than the minor distraction of trying to listen to the scanner at the same time, we enjoyed the movie. I love sarcasm (big surprise, I know), so I enjoyed several of the characters. Funny lines, great action scenes. I have no idea why the two generations have completely different accents - maybe it's in the book? - but it didn't bother me, just made it the more bizarre.

All in all, not our most successful family movie night, but it could have been worse. The hikers were found, Daddy made it home and got something to eat (we'll skip the part about the broken glass), and we remembered both the time change AND the tooth fairy. Well take it - and try again next week!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Genre-fication Complete! Now what do I do with all my spare time?

Last year I started reading about libraries - mostly school libraries - that were arranging their fiction books by genre, rather than strictly by author and title. "That's crazy," I thought. "If I read a book I like, I want to see what other books that author has, and I don't want to have to search all over the place for them."

After some thought, though, I realized that the flaw in that thought was the smallest word: "I". Yes, I like to browse by author, but  I am not my intended audience, am I? I started to look at my patrons - you know, the people who it is my job to help. Have I ever had a patron come in and ask, "Where are your John Bellairs books?" No, I have had patrons ask, "Where are your scary books?" - at which point, I direct them to John Bellairs.

"Genrefication" started to make a little more sense once I opened my mind to the possibility. In grocery stores, do we want things arranged by manufacturer, or by type of product? Could you imagine trying to shop for cheese if it was in six different places? What about the lesser-known manufacturers, would you ever even see that they had cheese? You might be missing out on some really good, cheap cheddar. Walmart is bad enough at making you second-guess where something might be, that would drive some shoppers over the edge!

For kids looking to browse, it's the same way. They don't want to search our computer catalog (and the new system we have is really cumbersome), or ask the scary librarian; they want to head right for one spot that will have several possible choices and be able to grab the books that most strike their fancy.

A couple weeks of informal polling, and watching kids' eyes light up, were all I needed to convince me that this was the right way to go. Next I had to win over staff. Ultimately, it was my decision to make, but that's not the way we work here. They were a bit skeptical at first, as I was, but as we talked they could see the advantages. Especially since I promised they didn't have to do the relabelling! I figured, with a little over 6,000 titles, it would take me a month or two to get that done.

That was in October. My optimistic timeline did not take into account that we have, at present, only three of our full-time, salaried positions filled, and one of those remaining three out on medical leave. Or, that I would be cruising along, labelling books by one of the six genres we chose, and then get stumped by one I hadn't read. usually you can make a good guess as to content fromt he jacket description, but some weren't very clear. I learned to set those aside and read them during my lunch hours.

I promised staff I would keep it to six genres, and chose - based on what my patrons ask for the most - Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Reality, and Science Fiction. Since our label program limits us to eight characters in a line, two of those were shortened to History and Sci-Fi. I won't bore anyone here with how I decided what was fantasy vs sci-fi, etc.. What it boiled down to, was: where would it most likely be read? Would a person perusing Fantasy be more likely to pick up an Arthurt Chapter book, or one cruising Reality? Was it more important to be strict about the genres, putting some Hank the Cowdog in Mystery and others in Fantasy, or to keep the series all together in Mystery?

I decided to change all the spine labels before rearranging, and considering how long that took, I'm glad I did. I generally took a cartful at a time to my desk, leaving a sign saying those books were being reprocessed, and would be available again soon. As I changed each call number in the computer, I stacked the books by genre:

This made typing up the new labels much faster. I also tried to remove old labels as I went. Over the years, a variety of sizes and styles have been used, with a varying degree of attention given to how neatly they were put on. The ladies we have doing processing right now are very neat and efficient, but some of the older books...well.

Don't these look better already? Sometimes uniformity is a good thing!

As I put the new spine labels on, I then sorted by AR level. I know, I know, we hate AR too, but it is a tool many of our patrons like to use, so we do mark it with a sticker.

Of course, changing all those stickers means I went through a few rolls of label tape. The woman who orders office supplies was not always pleased with me. The custodian, either.

Once the books were relabelled, I handed them over to the Children's Clerk to check and reshelve. Different eyes to check for mistakes (and I made a few!), and by the time we finished, he was quite familiar with the collection!

I finally got to Zindel in February, and scheduled a day with no programs to do the rearranging. By this time, I had had four months to decide how I wanted to go about this. I started with Fantasy, and, leaving those books, on the shelves, filled two tables with books from the other five genres - stacked in order, and separated into sections.

That gave me enough room to move the rest of the fantasy books into place, with a little shifting here and there as I went:

Don't they look pretty and neat? I don't think I am going to let any patrons in. They'll just mess them up again.

Obviously, this put my signage just a little bit off, but it's good to freshen that up occasionally anyway. In addition to changing the end tags, I made big signs to go on the top, marking the beginning of each section, and offering a few examples of what went into them:

Done! Whew! Now it's a matter of educating the patrons, and maybe wiggling shelving a little as needed. There are still a few books trickling in that weren't changed, but those are easy to spot since they don't have a genre on the spine - I just have the pages leave those on my chair. If anyone is interested in starting the same process in their library, I would be happy to answer any questions or give some things-I'm-glad-I-did, things-I-wish-I'd-done advice.

Now, what to do with all my spare time? I suppose I could start taking a look at Summer Reading...you know, that tiny little project that I'm usually finished preparing for by now...