Monday, January 29, 2007

Chango, Presto

Poof, your a librarianWhat do librarians do? This is a magical question. I say it is magical because you will never get the same answer from two librarians.

Because you asked, I will break down the responses by type:

a)"The Librarian who is assuming you are questioning their integrity" response
b) The "Well, since you asked - pull up a chair" response
c) The "We're magic" response

I don't know why this happens. Librarians are generally a very gentle breed, friendly with children and often have favorites. They do tend to snack and or graze frequently. Studies show that Librarians hoard chocolates,candies, and mints in their desk drawers. Sadly, many are drawn to unflattering holiday sweaters - which can usually be corrected by rubbing their noses on the offending item.

But back to what I was telling you about, gentle readers.

Librarians seem to be awfully protective about what they do. This may stem from where the question comes from. When placed in a review - often there is a visceral reaction. Faster than a frog at Calaveras County Fair, a Librarian can leap to unimaginable conclusions. This librarian might feel their integrity is in question - and rather than explain what they do, they defend what they do. This behavior is often accompanied by severe migraines, snappish behavior toward innocent by standers, and coffee breath.

Then their is the librarian who loves what they do - as it could and should fairly be said. Most librarians love their jobs. When asked what they do, this librarian explains to you the history of written language. Further, they might even bring a website up to illustrate their point - carefully describing everything from cuniform tablets to Melville Dewey. This librarian misinterprets the question as "what have libraries and librarians done throughout history?" - still not answering the question "what do librarians do?" These librarians are often have a gentle sparkle in their eyes, tend towards having a small bit of spittle in the middle of the top lip, and keep band aids in their pockets.

The third librarian is a challenge to the profession. When the question is posed, suddenly the subject changes altogether - the weather is fine today! Why don't you take a seat while I do this for you? They tend to click faster than the customer can comprehend, don't relay sources to the customer when giving information, and retrieve materials from the shelve without walking the customer to them. This librarian is under the impression they are helping the customer. When confronted with this behavior - teary, doe eyes appear and true shock sets in. Iterations of "But I was just helping the customer" can be heard throughout the building. This type of librarian is characterized by slightly sweaty hands, quick movements, and a full knowledge of the collection they deal with. Very non-agressive, usually passive - may have a penchant for houseplants or older paperback books.

Why the secret kids?

In my esteemed opinion, it should be our job to put ourselves out of work everyday. There should be no mystery to the profession. While the above librarian types are all paid actors, they may seem familiar.

Many librarians seem to think that if they spill the proverbial MLS beans, no one will ever come back to ask them a question. Some face this with anger, some with confusion, some with dillusion.

The fact of the matter is, the more we teach them, the better user they will become. The questions will be formed better before they hit the desk - allowing us to give better responses. Our answers will be better because we are teaching the customer to speak our language. Administratively, talking about what you do lets the management know that you aren't blogging from work, creating naughty avatars for Second Life, and generally moving up the Literatti championship ladder.

In fact, if anyone, the bosses should know what you are doing. But group these things into nice packets - do not note "sent 43 e-mails Monday, weeded 236 titles from collection (PS if you did HURRAH!!), etc." They want to know things like "Sent out materials for Grant Proposal, completed 2 staff trainings with handouts, etc".

And last, your co-workers. Librarians should always tell their coworkers what they are doing. This is a must, and it is more than good librarian etiquette. You will assist in eliminating duplication, confusion, and overall hatred of yourself. No one wants to work with the mystery librarian.

You ask, how do you know all this, you are so young (some might even add "and evenly complected"). To them I reply,openly, and honestly - I read it in Chan's Guide to Cataloging.

Moral of this blog: Don't question the librarian

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jews can do it too!

OI!Yesterday, an elderly Gentleman had several questions for me. The interview started with him asking me if I could help him with a certain Geological problem. When we found what he was looking for (or what I was looking for) he told me that I couldn't have found the right answer.

15,000 years ago? How could that be. Why G-d hadn't created the Earth by then. The Bible tells us so.


I told him that an Academic Library might be more his cup of tea, and he said no, that he'd be fine.

****10 minutes later****

Same man. Would I now help him find out about a holiday called kwanz- AYE?

You mean Kwanzaa? OK, I thought so.

We found a webpage, and when he saw the Kinara - he said "SO, what is this? Some Black Jew Holiday? I assured him it wasn't. He seemed content with the real definition and such.

He thanked me and walked away.

****3 minutes later*****

The same little old man came over and put his hand on my shoulder, and leaned in with a question "Are you a Christian?"

I shook my head and said no, that I was Jewish. To which he replied...

"Well, you still did very well."

Moral of this blog: Oh, I'm so relieved.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Collections, Just In Case

But I might need this -
There are two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession - being the keepers of information & knowledge AND collection development.

Perhaps I should re-word this: To some professionals there seem to be two conflicting sentiments at play in our profession.

I imagine many of you putting your tea cup back into your saucers, and declaring "What is this man driving at?" I hope none of you slopped.

The Just In Case collection is smothering hundreds of libraries across the world. We must realize that our organizations can not be everything to everyone. Go ahead. Gasp. It is true. We need to depend our on sister organizations to provide content that we simply do not have room for.

I'm sure many of you have heard of those places called "Archives" - they are entire buildings. I'm not talking about the few shelves and rooms that have been put aside in libraries across this nation. Perhaps a private collection of your library's history is appropriate in these spaces. 100 years worth of Newspapers from any town but your own is NOT an archive. It is a pile of rubbish. Go ahead, delcare me crazy. I stand by what I say, and I am unanimous.

Further than old, rotting paper - you do not need to keep the 1982 Guide to Atari repair. "But its the only one in my county!" you counter. Just because it is the last one, does not make it special. Would you keep the last piece of cheese in your icebox, simply because it was the last piece? Do you leave the last piece of pie in the tin to rot? Do you leave a box of tissue on the side table for years, simply because it holds the last tissue? Of course not. If it is not doing anyone good, if it is not being used - throw it away, price and sell the volume at a library book sale, or sell it on an online auction. If it is really, and truely that valuable - you will be richly rewarded with enough cash to purchase several more titles for your collection.

In this age of consortium, we would be unwise not to utilize them. We do not need to have everything in our own collection - our friends in the consortium can lend it to us! Quelle Concept!

And the predecessor, ILL! We can get those volumes from another library!

I hope the fog has parted for some of you. Be proactive in getting into your collections and weeding.

Then, there is the other breed of librarian, who keeps things for other purposes.

"Well, we should keep 456 phone books, just in case the program we pay $12,500.00 each year for goes down for a few hours"

"What if the power goes out? Then what?" [n.b. Nothing. No light = no reading]

"What if someone doesn't want to use the computer?" [n.b. Then go ahead and interlibrary loan in 23 reels of microfilm containing the 1930 census from Cook County, Illinois] Better yet, maybe we should buy every census in paper form! We can stack them ontop of the pile of Newspapers that are making the shelves sag!

"What if the other 4 copies get ruined/stolen/damaged?"

"It's easier for me to just use the print version, even though we pay $43,000 for an electronic database that does it faster." [n.b. see post below, practice makes perfect - you are saying to me I don't know how to use the other resource well, and I can't be bothered.

"What is a library without books?" Oh my G-d, you did not just say that outloud!

So now, my advice to you:

1. If it has dust on it, weed it.
2. If the spine is broken, weed it.
3. If there are more current books on the subject, weed it. No one wants a Fodors 1981 Florida guide. Trust me.
4. If it requires more than 2 pieces of book tape to repair, weed it.
5. If it hasn't circulated in 24 months, seriously consider weeding the book. I don't care if it cost $30.00.
6. It is true that someone might want to write a report on it, but one book isn't going to put them that far ahead. We can use the consortium, or ILL. TOSS IT.
7. Foxing - TOSS IT
8. If it is an antique - then maybe it shouldn't be in the collection. If it has local interest, keep it. If it is esoteric, sell it.
9. Do not let sentiment be your guide. Step back - as a customer would you check out a book that was soiled, torn, or missing pages? Of course not. Weed this.

Now onto ready reference. Is your Ready Reference more like a "I could hole up and live back here through a long winter" collection? I worked with a librarian, who I affectionately call the "Kentucky Librarian" - she kept a lean, mean Ready Reference collection.

I assure you that it is not hard to get out of your ergonomically correct chair, out from behind Fort Reference, and walk to the Reference Collection to find the material you are looking for/being asked for.

Do you say "BUT IT IS TOO VALUABLE to leave out for the general public" - well, we do the same thing with those crazy computers, art work, and there are 100's of unattended purses in a library at any given time. Give me a break. Get up and get it.

I want to be surrounded by a collection that supports my community of users, and enough ready reference to answer quick, "ready reference" style questions. I want a well used collection, not shelves of dusty, unattractive books.

Clinically, this behavior is known as hoarding. And trust me, with an A type personality, and border line OCD - I do not need another diagnosis. A tidy library is a happy library. And I am unanimous.

Moral of this blog: Read My Brothers Keeper if this hasn't made an impression on you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dressed, Getting

Best costume for the DayAs one can probably imagine, getting dressed for me is an ordeal. One may look at me and think "My goodness, he is so put together", but few people realize that being in the public eye is hard. Some people are willing to waltz into the workplace wearing little more than a house jacket and slippers. I, on the other hand, have placed an extreme pressure on myself to look not only good, but impeccable. This is not only challenging, but at times upsetting, when I realize that the ascot I want to wear is at the dry cleaners, or the bowtie I like has a speck of red wine (that only I would notice) on it.

This morning for instance, I was hard pressed with what I had on. After I had changed cufflinks twice, ironed 3 pairs of trousers, and chose to wear a pair that was already hanging up, and then had the great cardigan/sports coat hunt. This is trying - really trying.

I finished finally, after 35 minutes - a very sharp, British school boy look. A navy and yellow striped tie, with a brushed silver tie bar. A white french cuff shirt, with blue cufflinks, a navy cardigan and and khakis. Completed with patent leather cordovan shoes & matching belt.

This was the process after eyebrows, moisturizer, hair (always hair last), and a once over of fragrance. I still after all these years recommend Happy for Men by Clinique. Then the hair one more time. A few pieces have to be strategically pomaded. And best, the pomade smells faintly of orange sorbet. Mmm. Delicious. But not too delicious. I want them to look, not touch. Or taste.

All for the public. I have to make these sacrifices.

Are these details lost? In our profession, isn't it the details that count?

As above pictured Edie would say "This is the best costume for the day."

A few gentle reminders to my dear readers:

*Bathe daily. This washes yesterdays grime away. Use warm water in the shower, not hot. It dries the skin.
*Moisturize. Even the bits no one sees. Our jobs are arid - and we touch lots of paper. Do this when you get out of the shower.
*Simple style. Save the special glittered, sequined, and themed sweaters for Mardi Gras.
*Geek chic is hot. Glasses, and well fitted sweaters and trousers keep the customers attention - OK, not really, but you look tremendous.
*Style is individual - find yours. What do you want to look like? What's stopping you? If you want to look like a renaissance princess, that is understandable - I would stop you too.
*Your shoes and belt should match at the very least.
*Accessorize. Don't whine and say "But I crawl around with kids all day" - you are their role model. If you want them to think looking like a schlub is OK in public, then go ahead- set your example, however flawed I may judge it to be.
*People silently judge you. At least I think people silently judge me. It makes me feel better to think they do it to you too.
*Comfortable clothes can be stylish - so don't even TRY to sell that one to me. I know better.
*Be inspired: This image puts me in the mood to dress the nines each day. I have a small post card on my dresser behind my cufflink boxLovers in a paris Cafe

Moral of this blog: Yes. I do get up at 5 AM.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vu, Deja

Practice makes perfect. Isn't that what Mother always says? If this cliché is true, that would make all librarians nearly perfect.

A librarian who is listening will notice that we get asked the same question over and over again.

"Where are the tax forms?"
"I am writing a paper on a biography, can you help me?"
"Do you have books with legal forms?"
"Where are the law books?"
"Will you marry me?"

While it would be easy to respond in a jaded tone, roll our eyes, or point rather than move - we should ALWAYS abstain from this behavior. At all costs. Really, I feel foolish even mentioning it - but the propriety I take for granted sometimes needs to be iterated.

Each time we are asked a question, it is our chance to polish our skills one more time. How many chances in life do we have to perfect an experience? Rarely, if ever. We can do a better job each time we are approached. In fact, we should embrace each chance. They are leaving with a product we have provided them with.

Who would go back to a dentist that gave you cavities?
Who would go back to an electrician who shorted your wiring?
Who would go back to a brothel where... well, you get the idea.

We can not assure the customers that our co-workers will not respond this way, but we can assure them with our actions that we will not respond this way.

They are all original questions, with original voices. Minus the guy who mutters himself over and over again, and smells like wet baby diapers. Professionally we can not afford to marginalize the importance of our customers questions.

We'd all be out of work if it wasn't for their questions and information needs- even if your customers are college students, business men, or the general public. If you work for a library, yet never have to look for an answer - are you in the right field? Really! Imagine a gardener without a garden or plants. Wouldn't be much of a gardener. More of an armchair hobbyist - and certainly, none of us would want to be described that way.

I admit, I haven't always had nice things to say about customers, but it hasn't stopped me from providing them with the best librarianship I could muster. Each time it really does get better.

Soon, I shall be able to clairvoy the needs of the customers.

Moral of this blog: Repeat performances make us stronger

Monday, January 08, 2007

Snobs, Book

I just took this quiz that I found over at one of my favorite blogs Tiny Little Librarian. I was delighted to see I'm a book snob, first and foremost.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Moral of this blog: Reading is hot.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tables, Cocktail

please save a cocktail table2007 is upon us gentle readers. The last month has been filled with travel, guests, and cocktails.

Usually, I spend time thinking of what my New Year's resolutions are going to be - only this year I started thinking about what was already good - not what I wanted to change. When I say "already good", I am talking about what works in my life, what positive things have come from my over the top, neurotic behavior. What is the clever saying? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" - there were too many things to focus on retaining, rather that what behaviors I would discard, or modify. G-d knows I have enough bad habits, but I quite enjoy them.

One of the things I decided that I loved were my cocktail tables. How can a person have cocktail parties if they don't own cocktail tables? This is a question I am not prepared to even think about, life would be so challenging without them.

And because I love my cocktail tables sooo much, I have decided to impart more gentle wisdom on my devoted readers. There is one thing you can have in your life, if you too are devotees of the cocktail table.


I have been accused in the past of being a "Coaster Nazi", and while not a term that is often used in polite society, it is none the less true. Do not set a beverage or bevvy as we call them in my world, on a cocktail table without a coaster. To mar the beauty of a cocktail table is an unfathomable tragedy, by my own standards. Like pulling whiskers off a kitten, or letting the water run low in the goldfish bowl. Pure acts of horror. Horror. Why deface such a valuable member of your household furniture?

Now I am sure some of you are thinking "there are starving children in China, unrest in the middle east - and you are worried about water rings on a cocktail table?" To those people I say "but someone must be concerned", and frankly, I am ready to champion this cause.

My cocktail tables are vintage War era furniture. And for those of you who are virgin readers may ask "War? Which war? Vietnam?" To you, I say "no", THE WAR. WWII my dear, new, reader. They have been white washed, and look quite smart. One misplaced coffee mug could ruin them for all eternity - and so, I suggest the coaster.

My coasters are made of tumbled marble. They are smart and sturdy, and serve to protect my tables like little knights in shining marble. How many of you have suffered trying to remove a water circle from your table? I understand your pain. I purchased several pieces of War era furniture for my bedroom - the bureau was scarred with one of these milky rings. It took me forever to bring it back to its original glory - and with this task, I was converted into an advocate for those who can't speak for themselves.

My advice dear reader, as in any organized neat space, is to keep it that way. No one wants to have a cocktail party on a table that looks like it spent its best years in the back room of an Odd Bins. Encourage/Force your guests to use coasters.

This can be done by setting a good example for them by doing so yourself. If the host is doing it, it is de rigeur for the visitor as well. Some people with carpet (and I choke at the idea of carpet) ask people to remove their shoes. I have found that I'd rather have guests fully clothed in my home - but aware of leaving behind no evidence that they were here. Perhaps I've had too much Agatha Christie, but trust me, coasters are a fantastic suggestion.

May your 2007 be ring free, gentle readers.

Moral of this blog: Save the cocktail tables. What would this world be like without them?