Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Incognito Librarian

who is that hot guy? While it is most certainly our jobs as librarians to have photographic recall, the same can not be said of those around us. Take me for example.

I realized this morning as I left the house, I did not really need to bring my fabulous vintage tortoise shell sunglasses with me. The sun is not up when I leave the house, and it has already set by the time I drive home in my gas friendly mid size SUV.

However, every day on my lunch - I stroll around in a near by park, so as to whet my appetite for my well packed lunch. Though the sun has almost completely disappeared from this part of the world, at noon, it is shining brightly. Of course, I need my sunglasses - to prevent me squinting, possibly ruining my caramel colored eyes for the rest of my life; as well as preventing premature wrinkling in the form of crows feet.

Why, despite the fact that this behavior could actually have a clock set to it, does no one recognize the man in the camel overcoat with the tortoise shell sunglasses? I must admit, I wonder.

The security guard stops me and asks to see the contents of my bag everyday. I pull my badge on a lariat out of my coat, to which he always replies "OH! It's you!"

I know understand the concept behind Clark Kent/Superman. It really does work.

It assures me of a peaceful walk around the park. I am masked even as I sit on a park bench and fill in pages of my Moleskine with a fine nibbed Waterman fountain pen.

On entering the building, the usual barrage of paparazzi like hello's fails to buzz in my ears - because I am so well hidden.

Now I do admit, wearing sunglasses inside the library on my way in and on my way out may seem a bit over the top. At first it was practice for being a celebrity librarian.

Now it is essential. I am given an entire hour of lunch, in peace and quiet. No more adoring fans stopping me. I am not elite, I do say hello to people on my way out, as well as when I enter.

I recently learned, thanks to my reality TV obsessed partner, that good supermodels wear sunglasses all the time, because when photographed, they do not have to worry about their eyes looking funny.

The last thing I want is my mug showing up somewhere on the "Lifestyles" page of Library Journal, looking like I just got out of bed. My G-d, the talk in the community would be awful.

My suggestion is that all librarians wear sunglasses when they are not in the building. A scarf is not a bad idea either - safe for both sexes, while helping shatter the myth of the awkward, ill dressed librarian. It is a trans-seasonal look. Fedora in the summer with a fitted denim jacket, ladies, hat with brim and a chiffon scarf.

Moral of this blog: We are public figures, my dear readers, whether we like it or not.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Well Dressed Thanksgiving, III

Gorgeous Tabletop A Well Dressed Librarian is more than a gorgeous, gay,Jewish, bookish guy. He is also a host. Thanksgiving planning (as any worthy event) starts several months beforehand. Ordering roses, buying the proper tapers, picking out the wine, and deciding which dishes to use is very important, and should have much thought applied.

You see dear readers, our friends and families count on us to remember the details.

My Thanksgiving is Grandmotherly. I'm all about traditional (whatever that means), and while I don't require my guests to wear black bucket hats with silver buckles, I do ask the guests to "dress smart".

Cream colored table clothes, autumnal colored napkins, little cast iron squirrel place card holders (with the guests name painted in watercolors), napkin rings, wine glasses, water glasses etc. I think next year I'll invest in 8 more settings of Johnson Brothers Old Britain Castles. Though I admit, the contrast was lovely this year, against the gold rimmed dishes from my Mother-in-"Law".

Thanksgiving has, for the past 5 years, meant new people in my home. I host a Thanksgiving dinner for those people who either can't go home, don't want to go home, or have never experienced it before.

The table is set with fabulous china:

aren't you jealous?

The roses really captured the idea of a old world dinner. I know during the War, they may not have been able to use roses, but the idea is nice. I put two of the arrangements in tortoise shell vases, and 4 in depression era amber glass coffee cups. I ended with lavender and ivy that I cut from my own garden. The guests thought they were breath taking. They were.

Dinner was a wonderful experience. I am not one for praying, but do like to elicit from my guests what they are thankful for. I like this part best because it ensures tears at some point - and a sure sign of thankfulness. Or allergies. But that is beside the point. I'm talking about me here.

After dinner, when you serve dessert, break out the vintage coffee service, it is a delight to guests who don't ususally use a coffee service. And of course, more vino:

johnson brothers coffee service

I used a lot of dishes this year:

17 wine glasses
17 water glasses
17 forks/knives
17 dessert forks
17 dinner plates
17 dessert plates
17 coffee cups & 17 saucers
17 demitasse spoons
Assorted serving pieces & serving silver
2 creamers
2 sugar bowls
2 coffee pots
the cooking things (bowls, pans, spoons, whisks, pots)
5 pie plates
6 port glasses
6 whiskey glasses
4 butter plates
2 sets of salt and pepper shakers
17 napkin rings (though - I didn't have to wash them)
17 place card holders (again, no washing up there)
17 cloth napkins (twice)

It was like playing house. Who am I kidding?

G-d. It's no wonder that it took me 4 hours to do all the dishes & put them back! Even with the help of one drunk guest who managed to put a dessert fork down the garbage disposal(! - I'll recover, eventually), it was a seamless and perfect evening. Besides everything looks beautiful under the glow of candle light. Well, almost anything. That's a whole other blog.

So you say, what does this have to do with being a librarian? I respond, it has everything to do with being a celebrity librarian. Our skills are put to the test, everything in order, timing things properly, asking the right questions (who is a vegetarian?, rather, "Are all the lesbians coming to dinner vegetarians? - Imagine my surprise when I found out they weren't! At least they all liked folk music and had dogs...)

It is more than keeping up appearances. It is BEING. Faking won't cut it. This is the ultimate test, and much to my delight, I think I aced it.

Most rewarding, were the flower arrangements the morning after, on my mantle. The morning light really made them look spectacular!

everything is perfect

Moral of this blog: Well Dressed Librarians. Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Well Dressed Osteopathy

ostrich bones!

Librarians are often asked "favors". Being the only librarian in a family often makes me the walking card catalogue. I of course take it in stride. We've often called my ER Nurse Mother-in-"law" with questions while we are sick, asked my mechanic Dad how to knock the sale price of a new car down, and once, asked my social worker mother about Living Wills.

My task: find a victorian-esque medical/anatomical drawing of an ostrich skeleton. Labeled drawings are a plus.

And like any resourceful librarian, I turn to you my dear readers. Please send me information, if you have any. I'd appreciate e-mailed scans of books, directions to great websites, or titles of volumes that contain this information request.

Thank you in advance.

moral of this blog: the thigh bone connected to the hip bone....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Well Dressed Forgery

what EVER! Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. And apparently liked it a lot.

What is it that the kids are all saying? Imitation is the highest form of flattery?

Apparently, I've been flattered.

Titling each post like mine, ending with a moral, even a name like mine.

moral of this blog: Celebrity librarians have such trying lives.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Well Dressed Dialing

one ringy dingy "HELLO?"

Yes dear readers. It is that time when I impart more wisdom of library service to you. All of you have used the phone, I assume. Unless your Amish. But at least you know how to quilt. That's something. Anyway,

I am constantly amazed at what people expect from the phone, or the person on the other end (i.e. the WDL). By the time the phone rings in the Administrative Office, you know something has gone terribly wrong at some level. This means the patron (or customer as we trendily call them)has not been satisfied by a)the customer service / circulation person, b)the Circulation Manager, c)the Branch Manager. Now it is my turn to bat.

Some prime examples of the calls, what they expect, what I find out, and what they get.

Call #1:

Patron Issue: My daughter has an unfair fine on her card.
Suggested resolution: Remove the fine from the card.
Backstory they didn't mention: Her daughter is 25.
Actual Resolution: Tell your daughter she needs to resolve this. She is an adult, despite the fact that she still lives at home while she is in college. Even if your daughter does call, how is a .10/a day fine unfair because she forgot to return her book before she went to Palm Springs for spring break?

Call #2

Patron Issue:I feel like I was mistreated because I'm a)old b)a different race than the customer service person c)I was sleeping on the floor of the bathroom d)poor e)rich f)not usually a patron of that location.
Suggested Resolution:An apology from Administration
Backstory they didn't mention:a)they cussed at the Manager of the branch b)they pee'd in the stacks c)they were sleeping on the floor of the bathroom d)they have a history 3 pages long in the notes section of the patron screen for repeat problems e)they think this is the local utility company
Actual Resolution:A warm recital of a prepared apology, with blanks to say their name at least 3 times.

Call #3

Patron Issue:I only got 3 hours on the internet, and I know they kicked me off because I was looking at artistic sites.
Suggested Resolution: More time on the internet, (he is a tax payer, you know).
Backstory they didn't mention:He was looking at porn on the filtered computer. Patrons only get three 1 hour sessions per day. He wasn't kicked off the computer, his time ran out.
Actual ResolutionA quick recital of library policy, a few "but sir, no one gets more than 3 sessions per day", and an "I'm sorry to hear that", when they tell me they "will NEVER use our library again"

Call #4

This one is just a lot of cussing from the patron, where I can't get a word in edge wise. I have no idea what is wrong. I assume they have Tourettes.

Actual Resolution: Hang up. Resume good posture, and put a pencil behind my ear.

I also think that people have a lot more chutzpah when they are on the phone, then they would in real life, should they manage to come into my office. Oh my dear G-d. Besides they would be astounded if they saw how hot I was.

Moral of this blog: One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy.

Well Dressed Hump

Not lady lumps Far be it from me to judge. I just make strong recommendations about what is and what isn't polite.

Today, as I was driving home from work, as I always do at a red light, I press each button on my radio dial to see what else people listen to. And my ears were assaulted with "MY HUMP MY HUMP". I of course, could not stop listening, perhaps thinking I would suddenly be hip to pop culture, and was horrified to hear the rest of the lyrics.

I then laughed.

My Grandmother hums while she cooks, and does light housework. She tends to hum Nat King Coles "Baby...Baby..All the time". My Mother, the next generation, tends to sing when in the kitchen, and in the car...70's songs -, I pay tribute more than often to the great and grand Andrew's Sisters (who can help but sing Tico Tico?). I just imagine in 40 years some Grandmother stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey, singing "My hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps".

There is humor in that.

Moral of this blog: My hump is from a curvature of the shoulders. That's hot.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Well Dressed Immaculate Assistant

You rang?
A new order of the Catholic faith? No dear gentle reader. This is your daily dose of graceful librarianship.

Yes, I am a part of the library world. I have my degree, and I am ready to personally aid you in your research needs. But do I? No. Why do you ask? Or shall I que you to ask? I am an Assistant. The Immaculate Assistant. This you may have garnered, is not the title I use on my resume, but nevertheless, I am the Immaculate Assistant.

My job is to make your job easier. No money left in your travel & conference account? Call Matthew. Haven't heard back from Executive Management? Call Matthew. HR never returned you call? Ask Matthew. I wave my magic wand, and create the paperwork necessary to set afloat your sinking ship.

How, do you ask, do you manage day after day to make everything so rose colored and set all my soldiers in a row? The answer my dear friends is not quite so magical. It is all about interpersonal relationships.

It helps to know who in accounting is a soccer mom, and who in HR has an ailing mother, and who in community relations likes cats. Social candor can lead to miraculous accomplishments. A quick exchange of a quiche recipe can result in getting two weeks worth of paperwork signed off on in less than 10 minutes. If you care, they will care back. It works like a charm.

Yet this behavior can not be feigned. You must take a serious interest in your co-workers to make this happen. I intended to write a post about being a "personal librarian", and realized this too happens because of a)proximity to information and b)knowing where to find it. It is my role as the Immaculate Assistant to plumb the depths of human information repositories.

Think of it as calling Great Aunt Agatha for that missing bit of information in your family tree. She isn't going to just tell you. You need to ask over her sciatica, and further carry a small arsenal of intimate questions to the table. She wants to tell you about her canary Peter, you should ask her about him BEFORE she is able to steer the conversation in that direction. Its all about anticipation. You need to know before they know they even want to tell you.

Its that whole clairvoyance thing they never offer a class on in Library School.

So it is this vein of information you must be adept in tapping. The reference interview doesn't have to happen behind the reference desk. It should be happening in your everyday life.

I mention this because I have been told:

"Well, you were the only person that could have fixed this situation"
"You're the only person who knows X- in accounting so well"
"No one else likes to talk to her because she cut to the chase"
"You are in a position to get this information, one of the few..."
"They only told you that because you've formed a relationship..."
"People don't know how the organization works - they know you do"

To this I say "poppycock and rubbish". Yes, I do say that.

I am admittedly a people person. Yes, some of our most valuable resources are our co-workers. While I am not going so far as to say "EMBRACE THEM", I am saying "get to know them."

The Immaculate Assistant knows they are a key resource. They enjoy the attention that they receive because they know that no one else will take the time they take to groom relationships. I am sure many of you have taken the time to get to know the Director of Finance's personal assistant. Rather, do many of you even know this person? What about the Director of Property Managements Administrative Assistant? Both are wealth's of knowledge.

In an organization as small as (and I say small, even if you are 1000 employees)you can't afford not to let the right hand touch the left. Breeches are created when resources can't be found. They are all there, and unlike reference materials, can talk. They can verbalize the answer. I am not saying that the Assistant to the Children's Services director knows the blue book value of a 1975 Chevy - I am saying that you'll never know unless you ask.

Moral of this blog: Reference 101 isn't all about books & databases. Its about learning who you work with, and what they know - or don't.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Well Dressed Training

Being sensitive is all part of the job. My library, like any good library, offers continuing staff development - which includes trainings on diversity, sexual harassment, customer service skills, and the like.

Recently, I was treated to a session on diversity. This was learning about stereotypes, and how they can live in the work place. I found this interesting for several reasons. For one, very sensitive issues on race, sexuality, and gender were brought up - as if we were discussing favorite cake recipes. No punches pulled, we just went straight for the facts. The leader of the session did a good job.

I was imagining that it could have gone out of control. Finding out about co - workers prejudices, and beliefs (a.k.a. morals) is always a tough thing for me, especially because I do not bring my private life to work. This lead to many conversations, etc. I thought I had escaped the day without really learning too much about anyone. Shall I say I was wrong?

Stereotypes about homosexuality are awful. I loved the trainer because the word "orientation" was used, not "choice". I loved the trainer because the subject was treated with respect, and not looked at as the "alternate life style".

So, to all those tough guys, who like to note that I sleep with men, I say "so does your mother".

I also don't like that people say "men", because I only spend my time with one man.

This is one of the stereotypes that really sent me off my gourd. Not all gay men want to have sex with every single man they walk past. Many of us are in successful relationships with other bright, well dressed, educated guys. We have families. Our living rooms are not disco strobe parties on the weekend, and surprise: we don't all wear tight jeans.

I only mention this because when the strereotype was mentioned, a few people rushed in, and agreed...perhaps before they realized that this was the part of the conversation you were at least secretly allowed to think things, but not actually say them outloud. Oops. Talk about sensitive.

At any rate, this blog is about librarians. Well, this librarian.

Believe it or not, I do not talk about my personal life at work. I think most of my co-workers know that I have someone special in my life. But that may be about it. I'd like to think that I lend a positive light to ideas that some may carry about being gay.

I'm educated.
I'm well dressed.
I'm in a committed relationship.
I show up to work everyday.
I have a good relationship with my family.
Excitement on the weekend stems from finishing or NEARLY finishing the NYT Sunday Crossword Puzzle.

I'm not an ignorant slut, who spends all spare time clubbing and soliciting the male species.

I sadly learned that is what some people think gay folks do. To you I say:" do not collect $200, and go straight to jail".

It is true that some gay men do this. It is also true some straight women do this. The same people who wouldn't say "women are sluts" will say it about gays. Go figure. It amazes me when the oppressed oppress.

Moral of this blog: Don't you wish your boyfriend was hot like me?