Archive for June, 2008

Referential treatment

Posted: June 26, 2008 in Library, General

Who knew the reference desk was so much fun? Seasoned librarians are probably laughing their heads off thinking “You are SUCH a virgin!” But to me, the neophyte who’s only been on the desk a handful of times, it’s really an interesting change from working in the staff room. Back there it’s a rare thing seeing a non-librarian. When they occasionally do wander in we figure they’re aliens – or terrorists – and taser them. Then we check their i.d.s

Another big change working on the reference desk is the temperature. The staff room at our library could be used as a meat storage locker in the summer. I think the temperature in there hangs out at around 34 F – at least that’s how it feels. There are people who bring in quilts to keep warm, if that tells you something. Out in the library it’s comfortable and sometimes even a little warm. I come out to the library to defrost sometimes, trailing a puddle of melting ice behind me.

For the past almost three years I’ve worked at the library I’ve heard stories about patrons, some good, some a little weird. Now I’m getting to meet these people. As time goes on I’m sure I’ll grow to recognize them and tell the nice from the scary. For now they’re all a blur of non-librarian humanity, but these I can’t taser – as much as I may find I yearn to.

A big minus of sitting at the desk is how loud the lobby/foyer area is, and how children’s screams can be multiplied by about a thousand when you put them in an acoustically perfect environment. Through it all you gotta smile. Smile and look ready to help, pretending there isn’t blood trickling out your ears from your broken eardrums.

Today I was so happy I got to use my RA skills to help a patron. She was a sweet elderly woman who said she was looking for either fiction set in WW II or something about Henry VIII, but without so much of that head-chopping stuff. Now there’s a request you don’t get every day. I sent her home with one book she wanted, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and one I recommended, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, a book I’ve read and enjoyed. It’s inevitable she’ll get to the head-chopping part eventually, but maybe it won’t be so upsetting from Henry’s point of view. But she left smiling, and that’s the point.

Ask me in a few months if I’m still feeling cheery about the reference desk. Or better yet, I’ll just tell you. That’ll save you the trouble.



One resourceful librarian catches a thief:


” He’s the dastardly villain from a librarian’s worst nightmare, slashing rare books with a razor and stealing priceless tomes off lenders’ shelves.

Until the sleuthing skills of two American librarians helped police nab James Lyman Brubaker, the 74-year-old Montana shyster had stolen and vandalized thousands of irreplaceable books, including a collection from the shelves at the University of Calgary. ”

Read more …


Reference by cell phone?


” A new 24/7 service from ChaCha allows cell phone users on the go to ask a wide range of reference questions in conversational English and get answers free of charge. Each question is routed to a human guide who searches the Web for the information and within minutes returns the answer in a text message with a web reference link. The online and mobile search company announced the new voice service in April at CTIA: The Wireless Association’s 2008 convention in Las Vegas. At 800-2-ChaCha (800-224-2242), the service works on any mobile phone that supports normal SMS text and voice capability. ”

Read more …

This from The

” Amazon ( NSDQ: AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos has been famously tight lipped on anything to do with data on the Kindle. Just about the only hard stat ever given out is that of the 125,000 titles the company sells in both physical and electronic forms, the electronic ones account for 6 percent of unit sales. Other than that, it’s been all speculation. We’re not expecting any hard numbers for a long time, so here’s some more speculation: Pacific Crest analyst Steve Weinstein argues that global e-book sales at Amazon could reach $2.5 billion by the year 2012. ”

Okay, is this just speculation, someone talking out of his or her posterior, or is this really going to happen?

Everyone I know – or almost everyone, save my tech loving husband – poo poos the idea of electronic books ever taking over the paper and glue variety we know and love. There is nothing like the physical book. Nothing. It’s perfect as it is. It’s what the egg is to protein, the banana to… well, to a lot of good stuff.

My house is crammed full with books. I have so many we could never afford to buy enough shelves to hold them all. They’re overflowing everywhere, in every space with room to stack a few of them. The nightstand next to my bed is crammed with them, there are piles on the floor next to my bed I’m forever tripping over. There’s a pile on the fireplace hearth, another beneath the family room table… My books abhor a vacuum.

In the back of my car there are four bags of books I’ve been meaning to donate to the library – I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. And it’s been at least six months. My reason? Parting with them is such sweet sorrow.

I’ve already made the first round of donations. About four years ago I cleared out hundreds upon hundreds of books – once I stopped online bookselling – donating them all to the library. Now I’m starting to dig into the ones I was reluctant to give away the first time around, the ones I put my hands on but couldn’t quite bear to give away.

I think I’ve admitted it here before – or maybe it was on my other blog – I have bought back books I’ve donated to the library while at used book sales. Yes, I have bought back my own books. Paying for them twice seemed a very small price to have them back where they belong.

I’d never have that experience with the Kindle. I’d never have that attachment, that stab of happiness I feel in the pit of my stomach when I bring home more books, or when I drag a finger over the bindings of the books I own. I’d be worried about dropping the damned thing, and I’d never take it into the tub with me, I’d never look at it lovingly thinking “this is mine.” The Kindle is not a thing of beauty, not a joy to behold.

Maybe ebooks are more efficient. Maybe they’re cheaper than buying paper and glue new books, but for one thing they’ll never have every book in that format. And for another, no electronic medium can ever replicate the book. Nothing else can replace the soothing comfort of curling up with a good read, turning pages quickly if it’s a thriller, or more slowly if it’s a poetically written work of literary fiction, feeling the paper between your fingers. Caring about ebooks is like preferring robots to living, breathing humans. It’s not organic. It has no soul.

It may happen. In the publishing world’s zeal to improve the bottom line there may come a day they’ll stop publishing real books and make them all electronic. I just hope I’m not here to see it. That would break my heart.

Okay, I’ve signed up for summer reading and not just because I lust after the book bag that’s the final prize for turning in my completed form. I’ve also felt like such a loser not signing up before, especially since I work here.

Now, what the heck do I read? A burning question that’s driving me near madness. I refuse to watch DVDs, count CD books or magazines, all allowable materials that count toward the six total items required to finish. That goes against my grain. Why call it “Summer Reading Program” if you aren’t required to actually read? Sorry, but that irritates me.

I know the point is to get people into the library, partly so they’ll look around in shock and see, “Wow they do have books here!” Dear uninformed patrons, “DUH.”

Six books in eleven weeks. But WHICH SIX BOOKS?!

The practical side of me says I should break out of my literary fiction, bio/auto bio, nonfiction and memoir mold and read popular mysteries, romance and other genre fiction. The vain/uptight part of me would be embarrassed in the worst way to list six romances as the books I’ve read over the summer. You can see my dilemma.

Ah, the heck with it. I’m reading what I want to read. I’ll just read six authors I’ve never read before. That’s counts as breaking out of my mold.

Time to do some serious catalog and soul searching. When I pick number one I’ll let you know how it goes and what I think about it, too. You’re welcome!

If anyone else out there wants to share what you’re reading for your own Summer Reading Programs leave me a comment. If you have suggestions for what I could read I’d love to know those, too. Believe me, I can use all the help I can get.

Loved this article about the new generation of male librarians trying desperately to break out of the traditional librarian mold. I’m not sure what the male equivalent of “frumpy” is, maybe “geeky” or “nerdy”?

Whatever you call it, these guys are sick of it. And about time, too. These guybrarians are fighting back. I say, more power to them!


” These are exactly the stereotypes today’s librarians would like to get rid of, especially one new class of librarians – “guybrarians,” or male librarians who are daring to take their careers where previous generations of men rarely did. Using 1990 and 2000 Census data (the most current available), an American Library Association study found that men make up 18 percent of all credentialed librarians. There was a 4.6 percent decrease in male librarians between 1990 and 2000. But as the library profession becomes more and more high-tech, those numbers may be changing. Meet some younger, hipper male librarians. ”

Read more …

I find articles like this incredibly irritating. Someone decides he doesn’t like certain books so he declares them “garbage” worthy of being burned. Then he opens up comments and others list books they’d throw onto the pyre.

And, incidentally, I found the photo accompanying the article upsetting and disturbing (below)..

The irritating part is one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Whether or not you enjoy a book is highly subjective and personal. I find the elitism of this article insulting, but I thought I’d send the link so you can judge for yourself:

From The (London) Times:

“Burning is too good for them”


Here’s a bunch of stuff we were all told we had to read by the political and cultural climate of the day; because it would be good for us and because, way beyond this, it was our responsibility to start patronising writers from minorities because it was only the oppressive white male cultural hegemony that kept them in an ethnic- or gender-defined ghetto. ”

Read more …