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We're having a party for our 100th anniversary at work this weekend. It should be quite the shindig - live music, refreshments and a velocipede. After all, no party is complete without a velocipede, is it?

Mind you, we wanted a barbershop quartet, and a clown who could do face painting and balloon animals. But our Friends have recently gone from merely refusing to pay for anything over $25 that they haven't approved to not even paying for the things they had voted to pay for. After they were already purchased, natch. So it was a no-go on the barbershop quartet, and the clown, and the only reason we have the velocipede is that we got an outside donation for half of the money and we're paying the other half out of petty cash. It's a shame - for $500 we could have something really kickass and the Friends could easily have made the money back from refreshment sales and other fundraising at the event. But they've worked themselves into a state of cranky paralysis where they can't agree on anything long enough to do anything useful. There have been a number of times recently (most recently when someone who's been in the group for years and has known me for over 2 years had to ask me my name, and then asked me to explain the work I was doing as if it never occurred to her that the books don't magically appear on the shelves courtesy of the paraprofessional fairies) that I have pondered how much of a factor dementia is in our dealings with some of most difficult members.

But! It should still be a great party. I got to go into the books from the original collection that are in storage to make a display. As it turns out, there are many, many Victorian novels that have remained in well-deserved obscurity for very good reason. For every Vanity Fair, there are 20 of things like "Erma's Engagement."

I also went through the circulating collection and was able to pull out a number of hundred year old books to put into a display that we'll actually let people touch, along with the 1913 Encyclopedia Britannica. And most exciting, we got a big donation last Friday that included some fantastic old children's books. There were some hundred year old school books, and two of the original Bobbsey Twins books from 1904, the original ones where they were 4 and 8 and didn't solve mysteries. So right next to the original library ledger, we'll have some gorgeous old children's books for people to look at too.

We're going to have people in costume and we blew up a couple pictures of people in Victorian outfits and cut out their faces so people can have their pictures taken. It will still be kickass, just working around the Friends.


I think there is a special circle of Parenting Hell where you find yourself humming the electronic music played by your childrens' toys.


You know, one of the things I've liked most about Glee is how well they've done the disabled characters for the most part. They're real people, who don't either unrealistically ignore their disabilities or sit around all day meditating on their tragic lives. They live their lives and their disabilities make life harder to greater or lesser degrees, but mostly they get along with what they have as if they were actually real people or something, not just disabilities.

Which is why it's all the more irritating to see them trot out a quadriplegic to be both pitied and inspirational in this week's episode. It's like we suddenly walked into an episode of Seventh Heaven. I know, he talked about all the things he found in his life that he could do without being able to move, but he was still mostly a disability lying in a bed, there for our Inspiration. This is the same version of disability we've seen ad nauseum on tv, where the disabled person pops up to teach an Important Lesson, because of course the purpose of the disabled is to 1) inspire us all with their saintly suffering, and 2) allow us normal people to prove how great we can be by treating the defective just like they're normal. It's condescending and demeaning. Which is par for the course of how people with visible disabilities get treated in real life, but surely the benefit of scripted television is the writers have time to stop and think before they trot out the thoughtless stupidity?

And I know this isn't a subtle show, but couldn't they have dialed it back a little and just hit us with a Message baseball bat, not two by four?

And for the record, it's really pretty common for people with spinal cord injuries to still have some movement and feeling below the level of their injury. It's called an incomplete injury, versus a complete, which involves severe injury to the spinal cord and results in the complete loss of movement and feeling that people seem to think is what comes along with paralysis. But the likelihood that someone would get hit hard enough to cause a complete injury in high school football? Pretty darn low, even given it was a freak accident. My mother is a C4, which is what the quadriplegic character was, and she has some use of her right hand and enough use of her legs to walk a bit with a walker and to stand enough to make it a lot easier to transfer her from her wheelchair. And from what I saw when she was in the rehab hospital, that's not that uncommon. She was luckier than many, but even the horrifying diving accidents often had at least a bit of hand movement, enough to drive a chair with their hands (and can I just say, after five months visiting a rehab hospital every day, I am never, ever, ever diving into any body of water ever again, no matter how clear it looks).


Since looking this over, this is kind of a complainy post, I will leave on an amusing quote.

From a recent episode of Phineas and Ferb, the main villain was listening to Tom Sawyer on tape, translated into Evil: "Tom's dislike of Aunt Polly was only rivaled by his hatred of puppies."
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I spent last Friday at work discovering just how much of an appalling mess our shelf list and card catalog are in. I spent literally all day trying to file cards and in general finding five cards to refile in the correct place for every one I filed initially. And now I get to figure out a way to diplomatically put the elderly volunteer who filed those cards out to pasture.

For those of you who are trying to dredge up from the dim recesses of your memories how card catalogs work, every book at minimum has three cards - author, title and shelf list, the shelf list being the list that reflects the order of books on, well, the shelf (there are also cards for each subject heading, and series, and artists, ad infinitum. Basically any way you would want to find a book, you need a card. But of course, since creating and filing cards takes time and space, you're always constrained by not wanting to create any more cards than necessary, even though since you can't do a keyword search, they're the only way you will find a book. Do you begin to see what a revolutionary thing the computerized catalog was?). But as I was going through the catalog, I would find all three cards shoved in together in the shelf list, so instead of being able to look up a book by its title or author to find out where it is on the shelf, you could only find a book by already knowing where it belongs on the shelf. This is... not helpful.

The volunteer who was doing such a creative filing job hasn't been in for the past six months, and while he was going to come in that day, we weren't expecting him to do any work. So when I mentioned to my manager that he shouldn't file cards any more, she said that it probably wouldn't be an issue. Instead, after catching up with my manager, he came over to me and asked if he should start filing some cards. Argh! I said something non-committal, and my manager asked him to help double-check her accounting with the petty cash, avoiding this issue for that week. But he's planning on coming in next week. Double argh.

Volunteers are a great thing for any cash-strapped organization. But the problem with them as opposed to a paid employee is that it's a lot harder to fire them for incompetence without feeling like an absolute heel. He's a sweet man, and I really don't know how to say that we don't want his help any more. I'm cravenly hoping that my manager will be the bad guy in this.


On a completely different topic, tonight's dinner (recipe courtesy of a Facebook friend) didn't taste exactly like the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden, but it was darn tasty, and surprisingly quick and easy. It helped that I've been trying to be better about meal planning recently, and doing things like making meals that can use the same ingredient more than once, so I can cut up a bunch of potatoes or cook up a bunch of chicken to use over a couple meals and have ingredients ready when I go to cook.

Note: this recipe makes a tankload of soup. I cut it in half and still had to use two pots when one was getting overfull. I would cut it down to about a third if you don't want leftovers for the next five years.

3 (14 ounce) cans of chicken broth
9 cups water
3-5 pieces bacon
1 lb italian sausage, loose ground
4 large russet potatoes; skin on and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2-11/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2-1 Tablespoon black pepper (to taste)
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 cups kale leaves, chopped (optional)


1. In a large stock pot combine the water, chicken broth, salt and potatoes and set to a low boil.

2. In a separate pan fry up the bacon until lightly crispy and set aside; save the bacon grease.

3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon add the Italian sausage, onion and olive oil and simmer on low until the sausage is browned and the consistency of hamburger.

4. Chop the bacon into small shreds and add to the cooked sausage, then add everything into the soup pot.

5. Mix the garlic, powders and half-and-half into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

6. 5 Minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.


Apr. 19th, 2009 07:44 pm
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Work Saturday featured our most exciting Friends meeting to date, which is really saying something. And surprisingly, it didn't come from my poor co-workers head exploding after the third time that she was simultaneously asked a question by someone and then shushed by someone else trying to listen to the rest of the meeting when she attempted to answer said question. It didn't even come from the treasurer, who is on a power trip of such Caligula-like proportions that she is refusing to write checks because she feels all purchases we make over twenty dollars should be approved at the monthly Friends meetings, leaving us with the prospect having to wait three weeks every time we need office supplies like printer ink or copier paper. She has also tacitly or outright accused three fifths of the staff of thefts ranging up to $15000. The usefulness of a treasurer who refuses to dispense money is an exercise I shall leave to the reader.

No, the excitement came afterwards, with the attempted book theft in broad daylight.

We've had a patron who for quite a while has had a habit of keeping books out for huge periods of time (as in months) and then returning them in bad condition. She came to the Friends meeting today and in the process returned two books that were four months overdue. Which is good and all, if not for the five she still had at home. After the meeting was over (at which she volunteered to head approx. 212 committees. Any guesses on how well she'll do with that given her track record with returning library books?), she came up and wanted to borrow another four books. I should add at this point that we only allow people to have five books out at a time.

Now I'm an absurdly nice person. If I were any softer touch, you would have to just stick me in a cup of hot chocolate because I would be too much of a marshmallow to be a good librarian. I almost never charge fines, I let people go a couple books over the limit and I'll extend borrowing periods without a problem. But this woman managed to find my limit. When I refused to let her check the books out, she tried to bargain me down to two. If she had brought two more back, I might have gone for it since it would have brought her up to five. But no dice.

Bear in mind that the meeting was still breaking up at this point, so there were a ton of people milling around. Which made it all the more astonishing when she put two of the books down, grabbed the other two and ran onto the elevator, which was open since some people were getting on it.

I think this is the point that being the parent of a small child came in handy, because I'm used to running to stop misbehavior. I didn't even think about it - I ran around the desk, dashed onto the elevator and grabbed the books out of her hands and made it back off before the doors closed.

I'm still gaping at bit at what happened. I'm certainly familiar with library theft, but it usually takes the form of people checking stuff out and never bringing it back, or people trying to sneak stuff out. I've encountered the "Oh, I don't know how that got in my pocket" phenomenon in my day. But at least those people have the good grace to at least try to conceal what they're doing. Daylight snatch and grab jobs in the middle of a crowd is something I've never seen before.

On the plus side, I seem to have raised my cred with the rest of the friends with my brand of Wild West heroism. Just call me Wild Bill, I guess.
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K and I took two blessedly uneventful flights home yesterday and have gratefully settled back in at home. Our week in Michigan was really great, much to my surprise. Based on my previous experience of travelling alone with K, I thought adding having to work on top of that would smash me flat.

But as it turns out, K has turned a major developmental corner recently and was happy to spend huge amounts of time playing on her own with my old Playmobil and Fisher Price figures, and spending time hanging out with my mother or her aides (her aides are almost universally middle aged women who have children of their own, so they were pretty good with her). She also took a good nap every day, so I was able to get enough work done during the day that I didn't have to stay up too late at night, before then having to get up with K in the morning. Between getting something resembling enough sleep and not having a preschooler velcroed to me (and being so freakin' cute and pleasant that it was a joy to be around her most of the time), it was a remarkably relaxing visit.

It's been a long time since I've felt like that visiting my parents. Before my mother's accident, going home was very relaxing - being the child of two introverts means that the atmosphere of their house tended to be very quiet and uncluttered. But then Dad got sick and Mom had her accident, and there were always strangers in the house and my mother always needed me to do things for her. Add a baby on top of that and visits home turned into a gigantic vortex of need, pulling me in twelve directions. But unlike Christmas, we weren't trying to shove six people into a two bedroom condo, my mother didn't seem to need anything from me and life was pretty calm.

That doesn't mean that I'm not really looking forward to tomorrow when I can ship K off to daycare and [livejournal.com profile] longstrider to work and have the whole house to myself for a few blissful hours though.


I went to work today and spent most of the day taming our new museum and library software, Past Perfect. So far, I've managed to figure out how to add books and perform searches, format everything so that our catalog cards and spine labels would print correctly and set up a file that can be imported into Past Perfect so we can catalog books the computer without the new software, put it on a disk and then import it into PP. If we're going to put the entire catalog on computer, we're going to have to clock a few million monkeys' worth of typing time, but my boss is being all picky and insisting that other people be able to use PP occasionally, so we have to figure out how to do some of the typing on our other computer. Stupid selfish museum workers grumble grumble.

Importing data into PP naturally is far more complicated than it needs to be. Part of it is PP's fault, since it's only willing to import either very specifically formatted text files or obscure or out of date programs like Excel 5 (for reference sake, Excel 5 is the one that came out with Windows 95, which of course we don't have. I mean, we're a Victorian museum and all, but that doesn't mean we keep around antiques that old). But mostly it's because Microsoft Excel was being a complete butthead, refusing to either maintain accurate formatting in an older version of itself or dancing around being willing to save the data in a format that PP would accept. "Well, I can do comma-delimited, but I'm not going to save it in a text file. I can do a text file, but it'll be tab delimited and I won't use the quotes around the data that PP wants. And if you want me to do any of this, you'll have to balance three teacups on your head while wearing roller skates and doing the hora. Now dance for me, monkey. Dance!"

As it turns out, the secret of getting the data in the right format is actually to use Access, a fact that is so secret that they were completely unwilling to include it in any of the PP documentation or training materials. It may be that it's available in a secret file that only becomes visible on the third Thursday of every month with a gibbous moon after the computer has been spun widdershins five times. However, I had to just apply my poor overheated brain to the problem to figure it out instead. On the plus side, I felt like a Sooper Computer Genius once I managed to successfully set up the Access database, add a couple books and then import the file successfully into PP. And even more on the plus side, an Access database means that I'll be able to set up a more user-friendly interface for inputting books for any suckersvolunteers willing to help with the project.


In a strange twist of events, we've seen Olwen twice in the past few days. I had truly thought that she had either been rescued or was dead. Finding her alive as a stray over a year after losing her was about the last thing we expected. She wouldn't let us get near her, but we put food out and found her eating it tonight. We're planning to buy a live trap tomorrow to see if we can catch her that way.

And then... we're not sure. This would have been a lot simpler before we added two more cats to the house. IF she is healthy or can be made healthy with vet care and TLC and IF she can be resocialized to us and the other cats, we have to then decide if we really want four cats. We like the kittens, but I haven't really fallen in love with them yet. I definitely don't love them the way I loved Olwen. Four cats starts to get into the realm of not being affordable.

But we can worry about that later. Right now, I'm just praying we can catch our poor wayward kitty.
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I occasionally feel like an anthropologist at work, a visitor from the distant land of Rational, observing the strange customs and beliefs of the Elderly Volunteer. I learned something today that cemented that feeling.

It all started this morning when I was informed by two of the Friends that I was to tell P (the other librarian) not to go into the booksale room and take the books that N (the woman who runs the monthly booksale) had brought in. Apparently he was taking boxes' worth of books out, and N works very hard to bring those books in, and it's their only source of income.*

Heh. I can't say for certain that P** isn't going and taking entire boxes of books, but I'm pretty darn sure he isn't. And I'm not either. I do go down and take books out of donations that other people have made, but in those cases, the person has donated the books to the institution as a whole, and in that case, the library gets first dibs.

What this is, of course, is a rehashing of the old conflict over whether donated books should go to the library or the booksale. Because according to F, the (senile) president of the Friends, the library has plenty of books, and therefore they should go to the booksale. The fact that the library might occasionally benefit from new books, and donations are my only source of new children's books doesn't signify. It's a fascinating example of how a friends group can get so caught up in their activities that they actually wind up attempting to compete with the very organization they were formed to support.

Anyway, I was talking about this to R, one of the museum workers who talks more to N than I do, and decided from what she was saying was that this was simply yet another repetition of a constant theme from these people instead of stemming from a new incident. But I also learned something absolutely insane:

The incident I linked to above where N was so upset about books being taken from the booksale for the library was over a couple very nice Julia Child cookbooks that I had cataloged but hadn't personally acquired. I was under the impression at the time that my boss had seen them and decided they were too nice to sell for fifty cents and took them for the library. But no. Apparently R had BOUGHT them, and then donated them to the library. N was terribly upset about books that had been paid for, because they ultimately ended up in the library. And today when R was down at the booksale buying some books and mentioned that she might donate some of the books she was buying to the library after she had read them, F's shocked response was "You can't DO that, can you?"

This is so insane that all I can do is stand and gape in befuddlement. Yes, once R has bought a book, she owns it and do anything she wants with it, including burning it for heat, tearing out pages to use for toilet paper, or *gasp*, give it to the library. I don't know why they spend so much time with their knickers in a twist over the idea of a library acquiring books, but they can tie them into an entire Boy Scout manual full of knots for all I care. My boss, the person who actually runs the museum, says I get first crack at the donations, so that's that.

My method of dealing with them this morning was to use my patented Smile Noncommittally and Nod approach. If things come to a pass where that's not enough, I'll calmly explain who the donations actually belong to when they're donated to the museum and library (here's a hint: the museum and library, not its support group). And add that one great way to get me to stop taking donated books is to give me money to buy books. To actually do what they were formed to do and support the library, since I don't think I've seen an example of that since I started working there.***

*This last is what is technically known as a Gigantic Lie, and I don't know what she was thinking when she said it, or how she had the nerve to say it to me as I stood surrounded by the pens, greeting card, stationary, t-shirts, charms, informative booklets and bookmarks all for sale with profits going to the Friends, not to mention the basket for the fundraising raffle (brought in at the open house in December, one of our several fundraising events) not twenty feet away from me. If she really wants me to believe they survive on the twenty bucks a month the booksale room brings in, I'm a little insulted at her opinion of my intelligence.

**As an aside, I'm really not sure why they assumed P was taking the books and not me. Unless it was their passive aggressive way of telling me to keep my thieving hands off their books.

***In fairness, they do quite a lot and we appreciate having them. It's just all the support they give is to the museum, and I get a little tired of being treated like the entryway to the museum rather than an actual important part of the organization.
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So! Remember when I wrote about the city of Philadelphia attempting to make up a billion dollar budget shortfall by making huge cuts to city departments, including closing 11 libraries and laying off 110 staff? Matters have taken a fascinating turn:

Neighborhoods losing their libraries were understandably upset, and some filed a lawsuit to prevent the library closings. Today, a judge granted an injunction to prevent the library closings on the quite reasonable grounds that the mayor neglected the little detail of the law requiring city council approval for closing city facilities. The mayor is a bit of a high-handed moron.

But here's where it gets fascinating: the reason libraries were being closed was that there was no way to cut the library budget without cutting staff (since staffing makes up 85% of the budget), and staffing is already thin enough that losing any more positions meant that not all libraries could be adequately staffed. But the layoffs have already happened. People are leaving their jobs this week. And even if they somehow rehired all of the laid off people, they had managed to get the number fired down to 59 by reducing the rest of the positions through attrition - people retiring, quitting or transferring.

I truly don't know what they're going to do. There has been a truly moronic plan floating around for all of the libraries in the city to be open three days a week, which sounds like a nightmare of confusion for both patrons and staff. But how are they going to keep the libraries open without enough people to run them? And if they start hiring, where is the money going to come from?

The money issue is the sticker, and the reason that while I don't like the idea of closing libraries, particularly when we thought it could be affecting us badly, I couldn't see an alternative. The city really is short on money and cuts are being made across the board. Even the mayor is taking a pay cut. I can't point to any place they could take the money from, and as valuable as I think libraries are, I think police and sanitation are pretty important too. It sucks to lose your closest library, but the ones closed were the smallest ones and no person in the city will live more than two miles from a library branch.

All I know is that whatever happens, the next few weeks are going to be highly interesting.

Mostly good

Dec. 6th, 2008 11:12 pm
juthwara: (Default)
1. [livejournal.com profile] longstrider isn't on the layoff list!
We are so very relieved. And while I hadn't been letting myself think too much about it, it's so, so nice to realize that instead of taking a pay cut in January, he'll be getting his scheduled raise. Oh, that extra $200 a month will make a difference.

2. I didn't get the cold and the rest of the household seems pretty much over it.

3. Unfortunately, after falling asleep uncharacteristically easily, K woke up puking tonight. Poor pukey baby. There goes our lucky streak with puke - K has only thrown up once before tonight since she aged past the spit-up stage, and it turned out to be a pretty minor illness. She's gone back to sleep, and I hope this turns out to be a minor 24-hour bug as well. I'm also hoping it doesn't get passed on, since the last thing I need is a virus making me puke when my hormones are doing that just fine on their own.

4. Although while I'm definitely still having my rocky moments and brushing my teeth is fraught with danger, it feels like the morning sickness is starting to ease up a bit. I'm finding myself thinking about individual foods and how good they might taste. My stomach is still highly unpredictable though, leading to days like Monday when I ate an Italian sub and a grapefruit with no problem, but I had to give up on the potato soup only 1/4 of the way through because it was making me so ill.

5. The open house at work went very well. We got over 600 people, the same number as last year, but unlike last year when it seems like 500 of them showed up in the same hour, we got a steady stream of people throughout the day, which made for a much more relaxing pace. Perhaps the best part was that we had enough volunteers to make setup and breakdown very easy and quick. I may have various kvetchy things to say about the Friends, but the annual Christmas Bazaar is one area where they prove their worth.

6. And now I get to collapse and recover from a tiring week.
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I staged a daring daylight raid on the Friends' booksale room at work today. It felt deliciously dangerous, although the danger involved in taking a couple books out of two large boxes brought in by a senile woman who would likely never see them again was admittedly pretty small.

I had helped the head of the Friends bring in books from her car for the booksale room when I spotted two Series of Unfortunate Events books that we don't have in the library (not hard, since we only had three), a Dear America book and Louise Rennison's Angus, Thongs and Full-Front Snogging. Which is to say, four very popular children's/YA books in great condition that we don't have in the library, about to be sold for 25-75 cents.

Later that day, I listened to the Friend's head tell my manager that how well the booksale room is doing, selling lots of children's books. Last weekend, they made $45. Which don't get me wrong, is incredibly good for a used book sale of that type. But it's at that point my head exploded. Because $45 is about what it would cost to buy those books I saw for the library, and I don't like to even think how many books they had to sell to get that $45. So I decided it was time to do a little liberation in the name of greater efficiency. Just call me a Gilbreth guerilla. I waited until she left, took the keys and went down to the booksale room and took the damn books, and cataloged them within an inch of their lives. And I'll probably do it again, dammit.*

It's really not such a hard concept, is it? That new, clean books are more appealing that 40-year-old crumbling books and are therefore much more likely to attract people who want to check them out? Apparently one of the ways the booksale room is doing so well is by getting rid of old, lousy books. Well, guess what? I'd like to do that in the library too, except I need something to replace them with. So you might understand then why I had to count to ten a couple times when a few weeks ago the head of the Friends said to me that she felt all donated books should go to the booksale room since the library already has plenty of books. Um, yes. We do. Plenty of crumbling, 40 year old books and a children's non-fiction section that would have been an excellent educational resource for children in 1970.

She's an elderly woman and going senile, so I'm not inclined to start picking fights with her. But it gets hard not to snap a bit when every time she comes in, she looks over the donated books in queue to be cataloged and asks speculatively if they're being added to the library. Stay away from my books, old woman. I have book tape and I'm not afraid to use it.

* I'm actually going to get a budget for adding to the children's section soon, so the book turf wars will hopefully get better at that point. But that's soon in Park Commission time, which is to say I'll be lucky if it happens before the next geologic era comes around.
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Talking to one of my co-workers yesterday, I found out that she has also had problems with Mr. Charming. This made me feel a lot better, because R is about the sweetest and most self-effacing person you could ever hope to meet, to the point that if you stepped on her foot, she would apologize for inconsiderately putting her foot in your way. So if he makes her mad, I clearly wasn't overreacting. In fact, we were both relieved to hear that the other had had such bad experiences with him, because it meant it wasn't us, it was him. Much like my boss was happy a couple weeks ago when I was there to witness an ambush from one of our battier ladies over a sign they want to put up. As she said, "I'm glad you're here to say that she's crazy, because after a while I begin to wonder if it's me."


I've never been a visual person. I'm not the sort to do much decoration for holidays - in fact, I don't think we've done any decorating for Christmas at all the past couple years since we were moving or planning on moving. One of the reasons I wasn't interested in going into public libraries while I was in library school was that I hated the thought of having to do displays.

And yet, I'm sitting here on a day that I'm not actually working, looking for Easter decorations online and wracking my brain to figure out what display I can put up after Easter is over. In the past four months, I've spent quite a bit of time cutting out and putting up Halloween pumpkins and skeletons, Thanksgiving turkeys, snowflakes, Valentine's hearts. I've been gnashing my teeth over the fact that a month as short as February has so many potential displays to put up - Valentine's Day, African American history month, Lunar new year and President's Day (I went with Valentine's Day and African American history month, partly because I could recycle so much of the Martin Luther King Day display).

I find this all very bemusing. I'm glad that this is an area of my job that it turns out I can do well despite my natural inclinations, and I've gotten a lot of compliments, which is nice to hear. There are so many things to do at that job and so few working hours to do them in, it can feel like I'm never making a noticeable dent. But at least it gets noticed when I make the library look purty.
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The library and museum where I work is what could be diplomatically called a "well-kept secret." We're smack dab in the middle of a busy park, but with limited hours keeping us closed during the week and a lack of signs saying explicitly "Yes we're open! Come on in!" (which is in the process of being rememdied), we don't get a lot of people. Which is a shame, because the people who do come in are invariably impressed. We tend to hear a lot of "I went to this library all the time when I was a kid, but I didn't realize you're still open." Sigh. So as much as we value our core of (ancient, slightly dusty) regulars, we keep looking for ways to bring more people in.

One way is through children, and I plan to get on starting a story time once my knees stop quaking in terror at the thought. I'm not sure if I'm more scared that no one will show up or if they will. I think a Friday afternoon story time has the potential to be very popular, since one of my eternal frustrations is that every single story time in this part of the city is on Tuesday morning (the children's librarian at [livejournal.com profile] longstrider's branch is talking about starting up a story time - I plan to get down on my knees and beg him to choose any time other than Tuesday morning). I don't know what's so popular about Tuesday morning, but clearly some sort of diabolical hive mind is at work here. Now that I think about it, since the public schools often have inservices on Friday afternoons and the public preschool never meets Friday afternoons, Friday afternoon is an excellent time to try and lure in kids with their parents in tow.

All I have to do is get past the tiny insignificant fact that I went to library school planning to be a cataloger in an academic library and have absolutely no training in children's services. And did I mention I wanted to be a cataloger partly because I'm shy and introverted and didn't want to deal with people? *brave gulp* Well, I suppose new challenges are good for the soul, even if they're hard on the nerves.

I had what might be a brilliant idea yesterday afternoon. A lot of public libraries have had success with hosting knitting circles. There are currently over 500 members of only one of the Philadelphia area groups on Ravelry. Surely there are enough people on Ravelry living in the Northeast that would like a knitting circle they didn't have to brave Center City traffic for that I could get something going at the library. My initial unscientific research of scanning the introduction posts revealed that there are enough people living in Elkins Park (the suburb immediately to the west of us) alone to get a decent sized group together. So ideally, I could get 15 or so new people to come in, perhaps take a tour while they're there, wow them with the fantastic architecture, they would go home and tell all of their friends and family about us and hey presto! Instant popularity, fame and fortune. Or maybe not. But 15 people is often as many people we get in two days, so just getting that many in on a semi-regular basis would be a huge achievement.

Of course, there are some days I think it would be nice to continue languishing in anonymity. It certainly makes for a more relaxing day at work.
juthwara: (Default)
I talked to my boss today about getting catalog cards that could go through the printer, and while I had her blessing to make free with the Gaylord catalog, talked her into spine labels for the printer as well as more book tape. Christmas gifts for the geeky librarian!

I completed my campaign to pull the library into the 20th century by making my best pitch for putting the catalog on the computer, and I think I've talked her into it (as far as I can tell, her hesitation is due to the number of staff hours it would take to do the data entry. But the museum worker there and I pointed out that it was the sort of work you could do during quiet times and pick up and put down. Plus we have a couple of new volunteers just ripe to abuse with a stultifying project). And it's a good thing I did because I discovered a couple powerful new reasons to have the catalog on computer.

First, I dropped an entire drawerful of cards. Fortunately, they dropped in a clump and didn't get out of order, so it was easy to clean them up. But that wouldn't happen with a computer. Of course, dropping a computer would have much more disastrous consequences, but I don't think I would have as many occasions to be carrying around our desktop. Also, electronic records are much easier to duplicate than five hundred billion catalog cards.

Then, I was filing cards and discovered a problem I hadn't thought of before but is an obvious issue in any library with records going back far enough: outdated subject headings. More to the point, outdated subject headings that use terms that are now considered offensive. Specifically, I was in the N drawer and found the section of cards for the subject headings that start with "Negro." Erk. I pulled them all as quickly as I could so I could update them to the current term and went through the rest of the catalog to get the other related cards that might have those subject headings on them.* And while I was at that tedious task, I thought about how easy it would be to simply call up on the computer all the records that use that term and change them in one fell swoop. A five minute job, which will take me much longer since I have to retype all of the cards and then file them again. I can't wait until we move our level of technology into the 1980s.

*If reading about this makes you want to rant about all of the PCness rampant in the world today, please don't bother sharing it. While on the one hand I certainly have my eye-rolling moments and occasionally want to point out that changing what you call yourself isn't necessarily going to leave behind the baggage of prejudice you experience, it seems to me that an awful lot of what people call PC is common politeness. And it seems like an awful lot of the time, when I see people ranting about it, what they're really saying is that they don't want to interrogate their internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and they resent being made uncomfortable by you bringing the topic up and making them think about it.


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May 2015



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