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Convivial Librarian

con·viv·i·al (kon-vĭv'ē-al) adj. Fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable. See synonyms at social. Merry; festive: a convivial atmosphere at the reunion.

Updated: 2016-01-05T07:46:17.630-08:00


On Libraries & The Classics


This is excerpted from an email I sent my friend Lisa, who asked my opinion about a recent Wall Street Journal article on collection development in public libraries. The article is from 1/3/07, titled "In the Fray: Should Libraries' Target Audience Be Cheapskates With Mass-Market Tastes?" I would link to the article, but WSJ is chintzy about putting their archives online.

Regarding the article:

My first reaction is, "this guy obviously hasn't spent much time in his local library." His overgeneralization and "the sky is falling" panicked attitude was based on the actions of one library. His complete lack of detail in the article leads me to believe that he truly does not understand what that specific library (and public libraries as a whole) is actually doing. No public collection development librarian worth her salt would pull every copy of Hemingway or Shakespeare, even if they haven't been checked out in 2 years. Perhaps she would reduce the number of copies, because lack of space is truly an issue at many libraries. I believe his theory about libraries pulling all of the classics simply because they haven't circulated is completely invalid.

He seemed out of touch with library systems - since the dawn of libraries, librarians have kept count of how many times a book has circulated. It's not as if this is a new-fangled thing with online library catalogs. That alone diminishes his credibility.

I had a discussion about this article with one of the law librarians at work. She took the side of the author, saying that taxpayers' money shouldn't pay for the entertainment of the middle class. First, the middle class aren't the only ones who take advantage of the local library. A public library is there for the community, period - rich, middle, poor. If rich people have elsewhere to spend their money than buying books off of Amazon, then good for them - they are welcome to use the library. The disadvantaged use the library as a refuge and a place of improvement - I saw many poor or immigrant people searching for jobs via internet or newspaper when they couldn't afford a computer or the 10+ copies of the Sunday newspapers. The library exists to serve all.

Just because books are more accessible than they have been throughout history doesn't mean that the average reader wants to purchase $2,400 worth of books each year. I go through 2 hardback books, at least, per week, and that's how much it would cost me. Economically speaking, libraries benefit the taxpayers because of the collective pool of money that can be used for the greater (and personal!) good. In other words, I would rather pay $300 per year in taxes as opposed to $2,400 for books.

He completely ignored that libraries are present in communities for reasons in addition to reading. Libraries are cultural hubs for concerts, presentations, and lectures. Libraries provide top-quality research through reference collections and databases. To say that they should be closed simply because they are going towards popular collections is omitting 2/3 of the services that libraries provide.

I'm so firing off a letter to the WSJ editor.

Dewey Donate? Yes, We Should!


News article on the Dewey Donate site, which is collecting donations for the Harrison County Library System. The system is located in Mississippi and was hit by Hurricane Katrina, who very meanly put several libraries' collections under water and mud. (As of this writing, the system's web site contained a picture of their bookmobile with what looks to be a pole through the front windshield.) Check out the donors map, made courtesy of Frappr. Choose from 8 different libraries' Amazon wish lists and away you go... a warm fuzzy for helping libraries in dire need. Publishers should step up to the plate, too, and donate reference materials to those collections damaged by the hurricane.

Hug Your Librarian


I love linking to positive marketing and reports like this one on the MSN Encarta site. Librarians are often self-contained to a fault - we laud our accomplishments within the industry, but oftentimes don't (or can't) publish them for the whole world to see. In this case, it's a non-librarian providing very practical advice on how to squeeze the best out of your local library. Now, if ALA will just create a commercial for network TV...

Long Overdue


"Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century" reports the results of a national study of the general public as well as interviews with national and local civic leaders (see methodology below). This multi-level public opinion study identifies a troubling issue for library advocates: While Americans give their public libraries an "A" more often than any other community service asked about (45% give libraries an "A") and a large majority of the public (71%) says their local library uses public money well, few Americans are aware of the increasingly tenuous financial picture faced by many libraries.
Take a look at the full 84-page report.

Podcasting, Take One!


Our library signed up to participate in OPAL - Online Programming for All Libraries. A subscription means that we can both listen to the real-time or archived podcasts, but also offer some of our own. Last Tuesday, with the help of my brave colleagues Jane and Jill, I recorded my Introduction to eBay program. The only hitch was when we realized that closing the door of the conference room blocks the wireless signal... but that was quickly, and easily, fixed once it dawned on us why the computer kept losing the connection. The program is in the OPAL archives. Our Reader's Services department will also be offering a booktalk program on OPAL in the near future.

OPAL will also be the host to the state-wide discussion of the Kite Runner. "The One State One Listen program of ListenIllinois brings together library patrons from across Illinois in an online, virtual, audio ebook discussion."

OPAL is a growing entity and a very easy way to offer programs to patrons who don't want to visit or can't make it to the library. The technology that it utilizes is very simple - all the library needs is a microphone ($10 at a retailer), computer and a couple of staff members who don't mind having their voices recorded. All the patron requires is a computer, speaker or headphones, and if they want to speak, a microphone.

Librarians in Leather


...riding leather, that is. I just fulfilled a life-long dream to obtain my M-class license. My father, a former competitive trials rider, taught me how to ride off-road motorcycles from the time I was eleven years old until I moved away from home at 24. A few weekends ago, my father-in-law and I completed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, which teaches you how to ride more safely on the road. It rained the entire weekend, so needless to say, none of us knew how to brake on dry pavement when the sun finally came out!

It seems that I am not alone in my love of both motorcycles and librarianship - check out the MotoFemina blog. One of the contributors, Laura, is a librarian at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Motorcycling is a controversial hobby. Many people think it's risky. Indeed it is, but I would rather take the risk and love life than to live it so safely as to miss out on the incredible experience of riding a motorcycle. Maybe I'll start my own Dewey's Angels riding group.

A+ in Penmanship


No wonder librarians were judged on their handwriting skills at one time... Thank God for automation.

Earth Day Irony


I have to be honest and say the last time I really paid attention to Earth Day was somewhere around 1992. (Earth Day was April 22nd this year). However, living with less and taking better care of our world really struck me this week. It's Spring Clean-Out around town, which means everyone purges their basement and garage junk to the curb to be picked up and hauled to the dump. I've seen all the stuff multiply during my 10-minute commute to work each day through the neighborhoods - TVs, baby strollers in perfect condition, broken chairs, plumbing supplies, 1970s front doors. Old wicker furniture seems to be particularly popular, sunfaded and scratchy.

What really comes to mind is that we have the ability to stop all this stuff before it even gets into our homes. Shop less, live with less, stress less. This is a big revelation for a girl who enjoys spending free time at Ann Taylor Loft and Anthropologie. But more and more I'm realizing what an empty perusal more stuff, more stuff is. Others are on the same track as a rebellion against too many things - Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine; those dedicated participants of Craig's List (please, please come to Chicago); and the Freecycle people in your local neighborhood. Way to go; I'm using you all as an inspiration.

Make mine a nice shiraz


This came through my Google alert today... I probably have had too much cold medicine, because at first glance I thought it said "Libraries Offer Free Wine Week." Alas, that is not the case. However, the West Palm Beach Library, a fantastic Florida library (they have orange fish stamped into their carpet, no kidding), offer a Friday night Wine and Jazz evening. They partner with a local jazz group, who arranges the performers each month. It started out as a wine tasting and went full-fledged into a night of entertainment and tasty wine. Show me where to sign up.

Tea, Anyone?


I'm off to PLA in Boston next week. I haven't been there before, so I'm particularly excited. What's dragging me down, though, is figuring out how to get my schedule into the blasted Blackberry. What would be incredibly useful is the ability to download a customized program schedule from the PLA website to Outlook, and then dump it into the Blackberry. Voila... a nice, neat, paper-free way to keep track of which program I'm supposed to be attending at 8 a.m. on Thursday, after some breakfast waffles. What I did in the meantime was to copy and paste into a Word doc to see it all laid out, and then I'll copy the final schedule into Outlook. Kind of a pain but I think it'll work. How do you organize your conference schedules? Chisel it out on a rock? Roll it up in a scroll? Print out 20 pieces of paper? Wait for the 40-pound conference schedule and then go crazy with the highlighter?

The Rural Life


I grew up on a small farm (7 acres, 4 barns, 2 horses and a whole mess of cats) in the 1970s. Recently, on a recommendation, I picked up Verlyn Klinkenborg's book The Rural Life. Immediately, memories of my childhood came flooding back, a result of Verlyn's descriptive and lyrical prose. He has the unique ability to describe the mundane and bring it to full-color life. The breaking apart of a haybale, with its dusty, grassy smell that burst forth was made as real to me as yesterday. He noted the many uses of a hank of twine from the bale, which we used for everything from temporarily tying up loose barbed wire to extending the low handle on the red Ryder wagon.

Growing up on a farm wasn't easy. Many weekends with my friends were sacrificed because a fence needed to be put in or the alfa alfa from the small field needed to be brought to the barn before it rained. However, I wouldn't trade it - the experience of sliding off a horse to the ground while galloping full-out, finding newborn kittens in the hay loft, or driving a tractor with my dad for the first time - for anything. You can easily see Verlyn's affection for this tough, and incredibly rewarding, life, too.

Generations in the Workplace


Interesting little clip from NPR on January 4th: "Steve Inskeep talks with CEO Fred Miller and President Corey Jamison of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, which specializes in corporate culture, about generation differences and conflict in the office." Wish they would've expanded on it a little; it was mostly Corey talking about how Gen X is different from the Baby Boomers. But worth a listen.

Not So Trivial


There is a new show on the Discovery Channel called Cash Cab. It's a take-off of a British show (isn't that usually the case with entertaining shows? See Also: What Not To Wear). The premise behind the show is that unsuspecting New Yorkers hail a trivia cab, in which they're given the chance to answer questions for cash. Ah, brain candy for librarians!

Hubby and I listened to A.J. Jacob's book The Know It All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become the Smartest Person in the World on the way home for Christmas. It's a very entertaining and sometimes poignant look at his journey through reading the entire set of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The author's aspiration was to be on Jeopardy, but I bet he'd do well on Cash Cab.

I've also been working on compiling the 80+ trivia questions for the annual Literacy Volunteers Trivia Bee (I'm on the board of directors. We're a very involved board.) It is getting more difficult over the years to find unique trivia using the library's resources. How is this possible? Well, the questions have to fit on a PowerPoint slide, not be so esoteric as to totally frustrate the audience, and they have to cover the gamut of subjects - science, pop culture, weather, astronomy, mathematics, literature, sports, and especially cartoons.

So all of this trivia that's been swirling around lately has me thinking - what makes up intelligence? Trivia certainly doesn't equal intelligence, although it seems that lots of Mensa members revel in trivial facts (see Jacob's comments in his book when he attends a Staten Island Mensa shindig). Is intelligence simply remembering facts and figures? No, I think it's more. Intelligence is the ability to make connections between facts and experience, and to then devise the best means of getting from A to B.

Librarians deal with facts and figures all day - everything from patron requests to balanacing budgets. I remember some of my patrons' inquiries, although certainly not all; often, they're the things that are unimportant to everyday life. The building of the Chunnel, who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the name of the Senator that spoke before Lincoln's Four Score speech have all stuck with me. I couldn't tell you the entire short text of Lincoln's speech, or explain Einstein's relativity theory to you, or even tell you what's on my grocery list at home. Why do some things stick in our memory but other things, most often the important things, fade away?

Merry Christmas, Everyone


I love those end-of-the-year lists: Best/Worst Dressed, Top 10 Events, etc. We've seen to much happen to libraries this year -
Hurricane Katrina wiping out Southern libraries, another run at the Patriot Act, Google releasing a librarians' newsletter, Wikipedia gaining popularity, Firefox taking off, iPods for patrons, mergers, Gormangate, etc. etc. etc. Wow. I can't wait to see what next year brings. What developments do you see that are on the horizon for libraries?

It's Like Christmas!


Wheee! Just about to go to the 'rents' house in Arkansas for Thanksgiving and I got a notice that three of my books are in from Baker & Taylor. (Crazy librarian that I am, I use some of my salary to splurge on vendor-discounted paperback books.) One is the Gourmet Toaster Oven cookbook (got to try out the bruschetta when I get home from vakashun), Cheryl Peck's new Revenge of the Paste Eaters , and Laurie Notaro's An Idiot Girl's Christmas. For once I am excited about stuffing myself along with a hundred strangers into a metal container 35,000 feet above the earth. I get to read my new books for a blissful, 2 1/2 hour stretch (barring turbulence and other scary things.) Lovely!

ILA Conference


Just returned from the Illinois Library Association conference. Very good stuff there, including Stephen Abram's opening session speech on Google and a zillion other things.We asked him if a podcast of his talk would be on his blog, but unfortunately the best available is a copy of his powerpoint presentation. Needless to say he wandered a bit from the canned presentation and the meaty things were really in his speech. Ah well, let's take what we can get. For you Chicago area librarians, Stephen (and Jenny Levine) will be back with the Chicago Scholars in Residence program on November 9th.

That evening I also attended the ILSDO 40th anniversary bash. You've never seen so many librarians cut a rug, and even to Sir Mix Alot's "Baby Got Back." I think I sweated off my buffet pasta doin' the YMCA.

Also went to the tech trends talk by Jenny Levine, Paul Mills from the Prairie Area Library System, and Theresa Ross Embery from Library Associates. Blogging, podcasting and gaming were among the hot topics. To sum up, we need to reach out to our patrons and not expect them to come to us, and technology can be very effective in achieving this. Jenny provided an excellent example in the Ann Arbor Library District, where their director maintains a blog. Another great point was that blogs allow for patron interaction with the site - especially important for YA librarians to go forth and allow comments. I was completely geeked out, nodding along with everything these excellent and well-informed presenters were saying, when the guy behind me leaned over to his colleague and whispered, "Well, gee, all this stuff would be great if it wasn't totally irrelevant and impractical." *sigh*

It was a very worthwhile conference, although my one gripe is that no program seemed to start and end on time. They need an obnoxious bell to signal the end of class like we had in high school.

Weeding, a catharsis for the librarian soul


I love to weed. For those of you that are not librarians, it's simply the act of deciding what stays and what goes on a library's shelves. I've found that a near obsessive attitude isn't generational among the librarians here - one Baby Boomer gets a thrill out of getting rid of old resume books, while a 30-something holds on for dear life.

Weeding makes the shelves so much more accessible. No longer are the well-loved books sharing space with moldy oldies that haven't gone out since the Nixon administration. After weeding, the collection looks approachable, with so much more potential for things to be discovered.

It's probably silly to wax poetic about the simple act of removing books from a library's shelves and dumping them in the bin for the used book sale, where they'll most likely sit on someone's shelves at home, unopened, for the next decade. But heck, librarianship can be a sentimental and romantic calling.

A few books that I weeded today:

~ Best Loved Songs of the American People (1975; we didn't need two copies on the shelf.)

~1900-1919 The Dawn of the 20th Century (1973; hadn't circulated in five years. Ahchoo!)

~Conversation with the Blues (1965; includes illustrations by the author)

Want any of these? Be sure to stop by our booksale next month.

Turning 30


First, next Friday I turn thirty. Second, Miami, Ink is becoming one of my favorite TV shows. (I swear these two topics relate; let me explain.)

A milestone birthday, for sure. When I turned 21 and hit Laclede's Landing with my older sister, I never would've imagined that I'd become a librarian. At 25, newly minted MLS and working for a corporate library, 30 seemed so distant. Well, now it's smacked me upside the head and I'm thinking about ways to mark this birthday. The nose piercings that I've always envied on other women? Nah, I'm too Ann Taylor Prep to pull that off. A permanent mark on back or hip, perhaps? There's where the Miami, Ink comes in.

I mentioned the show to one of the other reference librarians, and we laughed about what we might get etched into our bodies. Of course we thought we'd get our own special Dewey Decimal numbers, hers being 808 and mine, 025 or 027. We'd probably look like prison escapees to those outside the library world, but can you imagine the reaction we'd get if we flashed them at ALA?

So help me out, here. Tell me your suggestions for library- or literary- related tattoos. I may not always be a librarian, but it would mark a certain time in my life that I will always value.

Giant Steps and... Nevermind?


Librarian of Congress James Billington announced that Nirvana's Nevermind is one of the nation's most "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" sound recordings. The 1991 album has been added to a list of 150 others in the National Recording Registry. Incidentally it also includes John Coltrane's Giant Steps and the John Williams soundtrack to Star Wars. The Library of Congress "buttoned down"? No way!

Hungry? Go to a Library


Today in the library staff room, I had my choice of:

1. New England Baked Beans (warm, in a plugged-in crockpot)
2. homemade brownies
3. a 2-lb bag of Hershey's Miniatures
4. black jelly beans from Easter
5. foil-covered chocolate Santas
6. fudge from somebody's trip the Wisconsin Dells

What is it with libraries and food?

Revisiting the Library


My two nephews, ages 7 and 10, stayed with Aunt Michelle and Uncle Jason for a week in July. The extent to which I have cared for other beings includes experience with a goldfish named Tolstoy (Chekov, his partner in fishiness, died quickly), an onery orange tabby cat, a dwarf bunny dubbed Miss Buns, and a bi-eyed, lazy Siberian Husky who is new to the zoological family.

It is quite a shock to introduce two hyper young boys into a relatively quiet household. (Although fur- and hair-free, we are not.) I spent most of the week digging out random army men from the couch, clearing empty Capri Suns from behind the toliet (no clue there) and coming up with ways to entertain the kids.

Of course, a visit to the public library where I work was on the list. It felt very strange to walk in the doors in shorts and t-shirt. I realized it had been a very long time since I visited the library just as a patron, and not as a library worker in some form. Probably about ten years, I would guess. Even if I routinely stop into the library during my off-hours, it's not usually for the sole purpose of browsing the new book shelves for something tasty to read, or plonking down with the latest issue of Budget Living.

I have to say, it felt great to just be in a library again. As an adult services librarian, typically I don't make it down to the youth services department very often. It struck me as a joyful realization that the whole wide library was open to my nephews, to gather up and enjoy. I could sit with them in the faux train car that's in the middle of the youth department and read with them for hours. We could go to a cartoon program and sit in the middle of the half-moon rug. My nephews could discover the orange clown fish swimming slowly in the tank and exclaim, "Nemo!"

We indulged. The three of us read Batman comics and Frog and Toad on the bright blue, comfy upholstered chairs. The ten-year-old peppered the librarian on duty with questions about the graphic novel collection. The seven-year-old read aloud to me with his finger moving along the page, sounding out unfamiliar words and looking into my eyes for affirmation.

Being a patron reminded me of why libraries exist - not for legislators, not for the people that work there, not for community leaders - but for our everyday patrons that walk through the front doors seeking the services that libraries provide so freely.

What's Next? The Verizon Community Library?


Oh, yuck. The Rogers Public Library in Rogers, Arkasas just dedicated their new Wal-Mart Children's Library, named of course for the retail giant headquartered in Bentonville, AR. According to the article, Wal-Mart will also be helping out with the renovation of the entire library. Hm, I wonder what kind of collection policy Wal-Mart will be enforcing on RPL? "If you want new furniture, librarians, you have to promise not to buy that evil rap music..." Complete corporate sponsorship of public libraries is wrong on so many counts.

Great Press


Just came through my Google Alert (that's irony for you) : Google Isn't Everything, an article from the August 15th Forbes magazine. The author does a nice job of detailing the types of information - squirreled away in library's databases, waiting to be discovered - that are widely available through public libraries. Free registration is required to read the article, but it's worth it.

Share Your Successes


Joined the Library Success Wiki today. There are about 16 contributors at this time, but it would be beneficial to have as many as possible - that's what makes a wiki flourish. This wiki attracted me because it's all about the positives that are going on in libraries, and of course, about the philosophy of sharing great ideas. The purpose of Library Success is to share popular programs, tips for working with vendors, team building exercises, marketing your library, and much, much more. There isn't an overwhelming amount of content right now, which makes it a good time to jump in and share. Let's all encourage each other!

New Presidential Libraries Stamp


New commemorative presidential libraries stamp is to be unvieled at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. "The stamp not only commemorates the Presidential Libraries, it is a reminder of the important role the libraries play in a democracy."