The Wild Librarian Makes a Decision

Wild LibrarianIt’s been thirty working days since I started my new job as a General Reference Librarian after working for fifteen years as a Specialist Librarian. My probationary period is over—time flies when you’re scrambling–and last week, the supervisor in charge of my training e-mailed me to set up an appointment for my evaluation.

My training supervisor is not an unreasonable person—on the contrary—and, logically, I knew that no matter what was decided, I would still be employed.  Under our contracts, unless I managed to do something actionable, I would be allowed to return to my old job as a Specialist Librarian if it was decided that I wasn’t cut out to cater to the informational needs of the general population.

But it still felt like my parole officer had called me up and said, “We need to have a little talk about your recent behavior.” And really, that’s what she did say, even if the adrenaline spike and subsequent stomach drop weren’t intentional.

When I mentioned my reaction to a fellow librarian, she reminded me that the evaluation goes both ways. My supervisor might suggest that I might be happier in my previous position, but even if the ink on her evaluation glowed with the holy light of pure approval, I was still allowed to say, “This was a lovely vacation, but . . .”

It dawned on me that if someone offers you the opportunity to make an informed decision, you’re about to make a decision that would benefit from a bit of thought.

So a wrote out a couple of lists.  First, the old job:

Pros and Cons

 Conclusion:  I’ve accumulated some baggage in fifteen years . . . and a good percentage of it is stored in the back seat.

The next list proved that some of my brainstormed cons weren’t actually cons, but I put ‘em in anyway, for the sake of verisimilitude, which is a word I like to air out when I can, mostly because I’m proud of myself for remembering to put that first ‘i’ between the ‘r’ and the ‘s’:

Pros and Cons2

Conclusion:  Just because my back hurts like a  hurting thing (especially when I get the hiccups, gosh $#!% it) and I don’t have a place to hang my kids’ latest deathless artwork and I don’t have anyone who will tolerate my compulsion to snap rubber bands over the exposed air vent shafts while I think up ways to get people excited about local history . . . it doesn’t mean General Reference work isn’t my calling.

Add this to my evaluation, which was actually fairly glowing—in the sunlight from the windows I forgot to mention that my old, lower-level department doesn’t have—and my decision was made.

This is where I belong, for the right reasons.



Rant of the Wild Librarian: Puzzlements Three

Wild LibrarianI’ve been a professional librarian for going on 18 years, now, and before that, I worked college summers at the main branch of my hometown library.*  Before that, I visited the small, storefront branch in my neighborhood as often as Mom would let me.

There are still many things that puzzle me about the job and also about the mindsets and motivations of the patrons who visit the library.

Here are three of them:



Why would anyone steal from a public library?

I’m not talking about thefts of rare books for profit or those enterprising citizens who check out hundreds of DVDs and CDs and pawn them, then think telling the library that their card was stolen or they lost all seventy-five of those CDs—In a fire! In the flood! In the divorce! Locusts!—will get them out of a Grand Theft charge.

I’m talking about people who rip off RFID tagged back covers and walk out with a damaged book they could have easily checked out or do any of a number of things with a CD or DVD to baffle the security gates.

Or who check out an item and keep it forever and always—because that’s stealing, too.

I don’t get it.

Shelf Reading CatPeople . . . if you’re a taxpaying resident,** you and your fellow residents already own these items. The whole collection is yours. We’re just storing it here to spare your overcrowded shelves.

The reason you have to return the stuff you check out is that it’s community property. You aren’t sole owner and sharing is caring.

So if you love an item, return it, undamaged, so others will have a chance to see how fantastic it is. You two can have another sleepover as soon as your schedules match up—and if your Very Favorite Library Item is retired from our shelves, you might be able to find it in our Friends book store and take it home for your very own, like a paginated Velveteen Rabbit.

If you hate something you checked out, return it anyway—it’s not your job to protect people from whatever sinks your battleship. If you’re compelled to make sure everyone knows what a waste of time/danger to one’s immortal soul this evil/ill-plotted/morally re-pugnant/politically agenda-ed/badly edited thing is, write a review.

Just don’t write your opinion in the pages of the book. Even grammar or spelling corrections.

That’s not justifiable post-editing, it’s prosecutable vandalism.



Why do people complain about paying fines?

You agreed to the rules, Sparky. Twice: once when you signed up for the card and once when you checked out the item you returned late.

Fork it over  and quit telling us the game is rigged.

If it is, it’s in your favor.

We make every effort to tell you when the item is due when you check it out; we’ll even e-mail you a couple of days before you have to return it.

We have phone and online renewals for slow readers and those inevitable “Oh, crap!” moments.

If you return stuff after hours, don’t worry: we back date overnight returns.

If you tell us you’ve already returned the item, we’ll suspend our disbelief long enough to do a thorough search. If you claim the item is lost, we freeze the fines long enough for you to make a reasonable effort to locate it.

We aren’t being unreasonable, here.

We just want all taxpayer property back on time so that other taxpayers—including you—can borrow it.

If fining you a dime a day—a dime a day***—is so unreasonable, maybe should should stick to short books in the reference collections; you know, thing that can’t be checked out in the first place.


Apple Orange

Why would one stand in the Orangetown Public Library
and tell the staff that the Appletown Public Library
is superior in every possible way?

Is the Appletown Library closed today? Have the buses stopped running?

Do you really think that library systems have match pricing for printouts? Do you think Orangetown librarians will give you extra computer time because Appletown has a higher limit?

Do you think we’ll bend ourselves into pretzels to prove that our library is the best?

No two library systems are alike and our library policies aren’t arbitrary, they’re tailored to the community they primarily serve.

Here are two math problems to illustrate:

The Orangetown Public Library System has 70 public workstations from which patrons print 900 pages a day and the Appletown Public Library System has 20 Public workstations from which patrons print 400 pages a day.

If both library systems have the same budget, per capita, and both get the same discount on printer toner and paper, which library is statistically more likely to offer five free printouts to patrons who print from their workstations?


The Orangetown Public Library System has 70 public workstations. On average, each workstation is in use 95% of the hours the library is open.

The Appletown Public Library System has 50 Public workstations. On average, each workstation is in use 50% of the hours the library is open.

Which library is statistically more likely to offer higher computer time limits and still be able to accommodate the majority of patrons who wish to use the workstations?

If you need any help with these, I’m sure  the Appletown Public Library will be able to assist you.  They don’t look busy over there . . .


Ahhhh.  That’s better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spelunking under the kids’ beds for overdue library books. And yeah, I’m planning on complaining about that at great length.

But not to the library.


* Yes, ’twas fate.  Fate, and a sincere loathing of the local frozen yogurt place, where I worked the summer before college. But that’s a different rant.

** If you aren’t a taxpaying resident and you have a library card that we accept, you are our honored guest and our collection is also your collection. But that doesn’t exempt you from minding the House Rules. Guests that steal from their hosts aren’t invited back.

***Yeah, some items are a dollar a day, now. But those items are iPads, so . . .

The Wild Librarian Goes Migratory

Wild Librarian

In honor of National Library Week, I quit my job.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

After fifteen years in the genealogy and local history mines, I’ve moved out of the archives and into the sunlight of general Reference.

Literally—my old department was in the lower level of the central branch, with no windows and only a couple of vents to circulate all the leather dust  spores of history historical ambiance.  THe staff there have dubbed themselves The Mushroom People.

Vitamin D and fresh(er) air aren’t the only changes in my library life.

I’ll be handling InterLibrary Loans and homework help instead of historical architectural surveys and genealogy charts.  I’ll be running up lists of read-alikes instead of indexing newspapers and compiling data.  Writing quick, cheerful review posts instead of  historical snapshots with thorough source citations—lest someone call to complain that I made it sound like one of our city’s founding fathers had two children with his stepdaughter.*  I’ll be swapping recalcitrant microfilm reader/printers for stubborn meeting room projectors.

And instead of in-depth research for a few patrons, I’ll be supplying ready reference answers for, well, all of ’em.

On the whole, it’s  like trading complicated surgery for triage, but with more readers’ advisory.**

It’s also like leaving an established household for the migratory life.

My current schedule has me working at all of our branches throughout the week.  I don’t have a cubicle anymore, I have drawers and shared workstations.

This is in no way a complaint; now that my job isn’t dependent on a single reference collection in a single building, I won’t need all that space.

Unfortunately, this meant that fifteen years of accumulated stuff had to be sorted through and condensed into three small desk drawers.

It took the better part of a week, but I managed to transform this:

Organized Mind--Left

and the six square feet of space behind the camera, into this:***



Clean Desk 2

I may have left this space less cluttered than when I moved in, and marginally cleaner.  The desk part, I mean—there’s a reason you aren’t seeing the floor.

The Wesson Children’s Art Gallery was taken down, tchotchkes and coffee cups (all full of pens and pencils and pennies) were wrapped in bubble wrap borrowed from acquisitions and put in empty Girl Scout cookie cartons^ to take home, extraneous desk accessories—twenty-three library pencils, seven rulers, a stapler, two pairs of scissors, a box of obsolete computer cards, three nail files, a box of decorative pushpins, and a lot of etcetera—were distributed with great pomp and ceremony, and several reams of papers were examined and dealt with.

I might have teared up a little.  You know, from the dust.

The essence of my librarianship—by which I mean the three folders holding employee contracts, certifications, handbooks, my Short Story Binder, and my cache of individual caffeinated acai-blueberry drink mix packets—is now in a single drawer at the Favored Branch.

I have thirty days—twenty nine, now—to decide if I can handle the vagaries of life as a migratory disseminator of information.

Bring it.


* Someone did.  Because I did.  Because it’s totally true.

**Not that there’s anything wrong with my old job, or I wouldn’t have enjoyed doing it for so long.  I’m sure I’ll miss it, especially my lovely and snarktastic co-workers.  But . . . it was time to make a change, before I started phoning it in.

***Minus the green document stand.  It’s mine and it’s staying mine.

^This is either a metaphor or a microcosm for my life.



The Wild Librarian Says : Wheeeee!

I was offered the job!

That’s right! Starting next month,* I’ll be working on a different floor! With windows.

Sunglasses and vitamin D, here I come!

That’s not the only difference, or I wouldn’t have bothered, but it isn’t an insignificant one.  Neither is stepping away from the enclosed environs of the Archives—breathing history is tough on chronic sinusitis.**

I’ll have to work one night a week,*** travel more between branches, and trade in my personal workstation and cubicle space for a login and a couple of assigned drawers.

But the questions will be quicker and the patrons will have different interests, and most of my new duties will be my very favorite parts of library work.Wild Librarian

I will be moving around instead of waiting in the basement lower level for petitioners like the Mushroom of Wisdom.  And no one will ever ask me how to find genealogical proof that their great-great-great grandmother was born a Cherokee Princess—which is not and never has been a Real Thing™—right here in Pottawattomie territory.^  If they do, I’ll direct them to the person who replaces me.^^

And there’s a rumor I might get to select adult graphic novels.

I am overcome, y’all.


*Assuming that the person who left that department for another department doesn’t want her job back after her probationary period is up.

**I can’t claim it as the cause, though—I grew up in southern Ohio and “Cincinnati Sinus” is no joke.

***I’m working one a month, now, which is why I can never remember when it is.

^Which at the time would have been approximately than 400 miles north of the nearest Cherokee settlement—give or take, as the United States spent a lot of time and resources keeping most native nations unsettled.  But that’s a rant for another time.

^^Again assuming  the person who left the ref department won’t return, bumping us all back to our original places like an Occupational Newton’s Cradle . . .

Random Thursday: Literary Trompe Romps and Well-Read Street Art

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

I had a lot of fun with this one—turns out when you work with, for, around, and at books approximately 17/6 (I do parent and sleep when truly necessary) and ask your friends for cool stuff to post on Thursdays, you get a lot of cool book-related stuff.

Who knew?


Alice on the Runway at Watership Down

Alice in London

No, not really. It’s in London.

My alternative title was Reason #768,987 to visit England.

(Downith and Vonnie, you’re tied for #1)


Faux Distractions

Artist Don Gray gave a garage door a library look for Lee Dembert,
a former book reviewer for the LA Times.


Garage Door Bookcase

True Confessions:

I knew what this was before I opened the attachment, because my friend Siobhan likes to use subject lines that are nearly as long as her e-mail messages.

So instead of “Cool art!” or “Want that!” my first thought when I saw this image was “Whoa!  That’s a really clean garage!”

And my second was, “Is that track lighting? What on earth needs to be directly lit in a garage?”

His rare, first edition Chilton’s Manuals?

And does he know the damage direct lighting can do to those schematics?



For all the DIYers

 Roger Light shows you how to paint a trompe l’oeil bookcase very, very quickly.

I love how the time lapse makes the books pop into 3-D like magic.

Which, in a way, I guess they did.


Little Prince Sighting

Little Prince Graffiti

Not sure where this is, but that it exists somewhere is good enough for me.


It’s Always Literate in Portland

Even the parking garages.

Portalnd Parking Garage

If this isn’t awesome enough,
The stairwells  give you something to read
while you’re looking for your car.

Book Stairs Portland

(first photo by Michael R. Allen)


Melbourne Timequake

Vonnegut Timequake

Hey, Lyra!  Wanna go to Australia?

We can put Sherry in charge of the plane tickets and Laura in charge of the map.

Or we could stay here and start a band called the Melborne Timequakes.

Let me know.


Trompe Librarians

Entirely wrong and yet so remarkably realistic . . .

(Dee? Kev? Did you send me this?)