Monday, December 28, 2009


My alma mater uses Facebook to keep current students and alumnae connected via announcements, pictures, videos, and the occasional discussion question. At the beginning of the fall semester, we were invited to recall move-in day. Oddly, one of my strongest memories has to do with breakfast that day. (I shared it more briefly than what follows.) We drove up from Virginia the day before move-in day and stayed at a hotel in Springfield. We had breakfast (in the then-still revolving-roof restaurant?? could that be true?) in the hotel. My nervous tummy lead me to order waffles - nice and bland. The waitress kindly said something along the lines of, You don't really want that - they're just frozen ones. I don't remember what I said as I ordered them anyway. I hope I showed my appreciation, because it was a kind gesture in the face of my - unknown to her - queasiness.

I had another meal on a nervous tummy with the folks, tonight. This time, add in my husband, but the reason is, once again, loaded with potential good. We'd just been looking at some houses Phusband and I are considering buying. I know they are just trying to keep me grounded and sensible, but my parents' talents at pointing out potential drawbacks are enough to make even stronger stomachs than mine sink. I had choked down just one piece of pizza. We started the meal with an unfamiliar waitress, but a favorite waitress checked on us and brought us the bill. Perhaps a good sign?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Values Study

When a study is done on something like making choices, how does one know the difference between what people say they would do and what they really do? Maybe the new Girl Scout Research Institute study simply indicates that more kids know how to give the Right Answer. Young people believe they should say the right answer is "smoking is not acceptable." It may not be what they live. I certainly see more than 18% of young people smoking when I'm on a campus or out. Of course, the study didn't survey college-aged people; it stopped at people in 12th grade. Maybe they all turn the minute they leave high school. I thought the point of instilling values, practicing making good choices was to help them, at age 16 or 22 or 27, turn away when asked to try something risky, unhealthy, or bad.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reading Notes

"The Future of Reading," by Tom Peters in Library Journal (11/1/2009).

- Don't fight the brand identity that libraries are about books/reading
- Reading is evolving (listening, digital reading, interactive like Amanda Project), but he doesn't think it's dying out
- "Because readers are atomized and disorganized as a power bloc, librarians must continue serving as clear, organized, professional advocates for them." (p. 19)
- Will need to know how to balance rights of content creators and those of readers' in increasingly complex situations
- Books may become "fleeting communal experiences" ; we may have to give up "the archival impulse" (p. 22) [See also this USA Today article, and note what an adult readers says about enjoying the Twilight reading community.]
- Proposes a" reader bill of rights for the digital era" with points like "When a reader purchases a book, he or she owns access to that text in all modes and instances and on all devices, for the duration of the ownership agreement." (p. 22)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Covers, Judging by

Publisher's Weekly has nice coverage of a recent survey on teen reading habits. Teens are influenced by their peers when it comes to choosing books; 81% of surveyed teens used the library once a month or more; at bookstores, they wish there was more to choose from (for real? Have you seen how huge the teen sections in big box bookstores has gotten?!).

Most importantly, 91% of them indicated that the copy on the book jacket "was the most important factor" when picking a book! And I'm pretty sure that phrases like "award winning" or "important bildungsroman" are not the winning phrases. I am always so embarrassed to hand books like that to a kid -- especially when it really is an awesome book. I hope more publishers will take note of this. From the repackaging of classics to look like the Twilight books, I can tell some publishing houses get it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This morning I finished reading When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins. Like The Feminine Mystique, it's journalistic, replete with stories of individual women that mark the changes. It's a solid synthesis of recent (women's) history.

Inevitably, it made me sad. Early on, we meet the woman thrown out of traffic court because her apparel -- slacks she had worn to her office job -- affronted the magistrate. ERA was not ratified. At the end, a bus driver whose faith tells her to wear dresses and skirts is fired for not wearing pants to work. Collins spends just a few pages on troubling social issues of the present, such as the increasingly sexy way little girls dress and the casual, unfulfilling sexual activities of young teens and 20-somethings. In that section, she does give us author Jessica Valenti's concise summation of the stain between conservative impulses (past or present) and contemporary Girls Gone Wild thinking: "'The message is still the same -- that women's sexuality doesn't belong to them.'" (p. 369)

Also inevitably, there's the personal. I've become a little fixated on Collins's summary of Lisa Belkin's article on shared housework. When husbands and wives "were seriously trying to divide housework and chores evenly ... it seemed like a tortuous process -- full of lists and negotiations and struggles on the part of the woman to jettison her higher standards for cleanliness, social niceties such as thank-you notes, and the way the children looked when they were dressed for school." (p. 360) Really?! Women are always the ones with the higher standard? I am certain I have known messy women, and women who didn't dress themselves in matching socks (so I'd imagine they wouldn't mind stripes and plaids on the kid). Surely not all men are slobs -- I think I know some who are very neat. But most off all, this of course, stabs at a sore spot of mine: I have done in the past, and do now, nearly all the housework because my expectations are "too high." And it drives me crazy. I read The Feminine Mystique; I followed recent articles on women needing to let go of the superwoman image as goal; I knew how not to be a victim of nonsense -- yet the sight of milk spilled all over the sink, cabinet, and floor this morning literally, truly made me cry this morning. Well, at least I can go to work in pants and expect to be treated with respect.

Friday, November 13, 2009

House (Not Mine)

My friend Kelly has started a blog about renovating a ranch house in Bon Air. Today's post involves a well-told, edge-of-your-seat, harrowing adventure to Ikea (about 75 miles north of Capital City).

Monday, November 09, 2009

In the Arts Section

Nice T-D article about local man, and sometime patron of my lib, honored in the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The portrait of his father gives us a little more of a regular patron than we like to see, but it is powerful.

I found Blake Gopnik's article in the Sunday Washington Post interesting, too. In short: yeah, nudes in art are meant to, um, arouse the passions.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reading: Where Did it All Come From?

My reading of late has been eclectic. I diligently keep up with a variety of print and online resources that can tip me to cool books coming out, books patrons at my lib will like. Friends and colleagues make suggestions, of course. I try to read across genres, of course: just reading what would appeal to me won't help me "sell" books. With all of this going on, I always have a list (formerly paper, increasingly Shelfari) of To Read titles. Or, I have a stack: I'm looking at you, right-hand side of my cubicle!

Off said stack, I grabbed Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice to read on my dinner break. I give it several pages, and find it fragmented. "Why did I want to read this? What made me think I would like it?"

From there, I wonder why it matters. Here it is: read it on its own merits. See what happens. (You can always give up - like Jurgen which you know you must owe Capital City Library fines on.) Will it change the way I read it if I know why I thought I should read it, why I put it on a list, why I put a hold on it to get it from another branch? Maybe. I might not have finished Terry Pratchett's Nation if a friend hadn't said "it picks up; it's worth it."

I flipped over Children of the Waters - race, estranged family members; "insightful" and "resonate[s]." Hunh. Sounds like I may well like it and that some of our patrons might, too. I still wonder where I heard about it. Someone connected it to Big Machine maybe?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

M.T. Anderson Week

Monday: my lib's (adult) book club discussed Feed. One high school teen fellow joined us. He actually cut off possible over generalizations about "you kids today with your technology" by initiating conversation about how he dislikes people with their phones plugged into their ears, seemingly talking to themselves and not engaging with those around them. Pretty much no one but me found it funny; Kid was first to pipe up and say, "well, it's satirical." Most of the group liked it, even those who thought they wouldn't, had trouble getting into it, and whatnot.

Tuesday: teen librarians were charmed by the author at dinner (thanks Friends of the Library!). Topics covered: Virginia during the Revolution (setting for 2nd book of Octavian Nothing), horror films (especially Asian), things we're reading. In the latter category: The Arrival, and also Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan; Stitches by David Small; Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms; and The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex.

Tonight: Anderson speaks (mostly about Feed -- about consumerism and technology gone rampant) at a local high school. Join us for this free event!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday at the Ref Desk

Study room

Study room

Book Thief

An Inconvenient Book

Read me the grocery store's Saturday specials


Siblings looking for "Reading Olympics" books seem nice, mature -- until sister snaps at brother "I don't know WHERE she is!"

No cell use in lib, please

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cool Blog

Color Online is a cool blog I put in my RSS a while ago. Right now, they have a book give away they'd like you to know about.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pictured: October 9?, 2007, Bath County, Va.


You know how Seasonal Decor -- tiny banners to stake into the ground by your suburban mailbox, tchotkes to put on the sideboard, the things grade-school teachers put up to cue in students on the month -- assigns yellow and orange leaves to September? Why in the world is that? Admiring the green trees all around me as I drift about town this month, I vaguely imagined it was more of the Northeast's hegemony over the US's view of itself: orange leaves to kick walking to school on the first day back, snow at Christmas, new spring flowers in May, etc. But I have located shocking new evidence that suggests that only the remotest bits of New England (and the far West) hit peak color as early as September! (That's a map; the one I read was different, but the gist, of course, was the same. I'll just be darned if I can find the other.) Nearly all of us see green leaves all September long!

Of course, I exaggerate a touch. After a dry summer, certain Virginia trees, like tulip poplars, will turn yellow in August; and decorative sugar maples started to show colors a few days ago. But -- most of the first half of September, you could have gone swimming, too. As a Virginian, the idea of equating September with sweaters, scuffling through leaves, and chilly nights misses the mark.

You know what doesn't miss the mark? Mountain Day at Mount Holyoke College! Just seeing the words in my in box (well, on Facebook, this year) raises my spirits, even though I still have to report to work. To celebrate, my walking buddy and I headed to Maymont. Walking up the hill by the bison is sort of like climbing Mount Holyoke, right?

And speaking of The Mountain (as we said at school), I have been thinking about how nineteenth century tourists knew it and the Mountain House well -- as well as Niagara Falls, says a speaker in this Convocation video. Yet now it's an unknown and a quaint bit of history.

And speaking of Niagara Falls, more than once, I have heard voices in "The National Parks" assert that various founding figures wanted to avoid the over-commercialization of the newly protected places -- to be sure that "what happened to Niagara Falls doesn't happen here." Mt. Holyoke, once as well known as Niagara, is now a mild-mannered state park (except today, when it's swarming with students!); Niagara, considered in the nineteenth century too tacky, remains, ah, busy and developed in the, um, best capitalist way. Maybe the lesson is that setting aside land works; certainly my advice for the day is get outside and enjoy autumn, whatever color the leaves are where you live!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Banned Books Week Greetings (from Capital City Library)!

For the second time in a year, I just began reading Something About Eve by James Branch Cabell. Last time, I gave up on it for the more pressing project of planning our June camping trip. This time, I may put it down in favor of Jurgen, the truly challenged title of his. I had to use my suburban library card account to get at a good online literary reference work (hmm, Cabell being 100 years past, there's probably a perfectly good print reference around here that would have answered it) to check the facts. According to an entry by Joseph Flora in Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature ( :

Before Jurgen, C.'s reputation was modest. But on January 14, 1920, John Sumner, executive secretary for the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, assured C. of national attention by pressing charges against Guy Holt of McBride's for publishing an obscene book. In October 1922 the work was exonerated in a famous trial important to freedom of expression in America. Meanwhile, a host of defenders were discovering C. One of his most vocal defenders was H. L. MENCKEN. With Mencken, C. became one of the chief symbols for rebellion against the genteel tradition and for new directions in life and art.

Interestingly, despite the praise Flora and others heap on Cabell in the various entries collected in the Literary Reference Center's database, he doesn't make the cut on the American Library Association's list of challenged classics. And if I am going to link to a list like that, I guess I ought to ask: how many of those have you read?

In other news, Downtown CCL got timers for the public PCs. This kind leaves a little box on my screen, showing me the minutes ticking down. Useful, yet stress-inducing. In non-news: they still haven't weeded non-fiction.

Capital City weather: cool and cloudy

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I've always rolled my eyes when people use the term "bittersweet" as in "retiring from this place feels bittersweet." Yet as we gear up to buy a bigger house, I do feel this crazy mix of excited and sad.

How great will it be to never have to clean teen gunk out of the sink before brushing my teeth because she will have her own bathroom? To have enough space to revive my hobby of buying mid-century chairs and lamps?! To have a home that's Ours, not Mine? Maybe the yard will get enough sun for tomatoes and zinnias.

And then again, I get pangs every time I merely walk to Ellwood Thompson, or Avalon, or Mongrel, or For the Love of Chocolate, or Coppola's. Have I mentioned that I have been shopping at Bygones since I was about 16 years old? Damn: how spoiled is it to have all these wonders -- and more -- moments from my front door? Ukrop's, our regional grocery, may get sucked up by a bigger chain -- or it may be rumor. Either way, the Carytown one is nice and small. I feel overwhelmed when I shop in the massive suburban ones, any one of which may be closest to our new place. And I actually love the only quasi-functional baggers at C'town, and the bizarre mix of unfortunates and Windsor Farms housewives who shop the early morning discount bins with me. Surely no Northside store will provide such comforting weirdness.

Even as I dread these losses, the irritants resurface. Step-teen complains about the homeless people she has to walk by on the way home from the bus. Drunks (aged, poor ones; foolish college boys) shout in the back alley at 3 a.m. The kids the lady two doors down babysits ride their bigwheels endlessly up and down the block, shouting; or they beat up the ivy by by my front steps. No, with all that crap, it's not worth putting an addition on the house.

And so here I am, waiting for a junk removal company to take away the long-dead washer and dryer, and for the Realtor's photographer to come in and be shocked by how messy it still is. Is it his/her job to hide all this junk, or should I? Have you really thought about those pictures: no trashcans, dish drainers, cat food bowls, toothbrushes, boxes of tissues in sight.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


A week or so ago, an acquaintance and I talked about Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and how it had chilled him. As the father of a six-year-old, he found a story about children fighting to the death -- and one death scene in particular -- unbearably grim. I routinely shun stories I find too sad, grim, and disturbing, especially ones on TV like CSI. I put myself in the shoes of the devostated survivors, families, and can't bear it. Yet, I really enjoyed Hunger Games. As I spoke -- sheepishly -- to the fellow last week, I couldn't defend it. He asserted he really couldn't see it being "for" anyone younger than 16. We nearly underwent a challenge of another book on pretty much the same grounds recently, so his turn of phrase bothered me all week.

Yesterday, I began the sequel, Catching Fire, and now I can find some words for defese. (Not that his comment was meant as a real attack.) It is good, suspenseful storytelling. There are Robin Hood elements -- the oppressed trying to rise up, that sort of thing. It's got survival elements like tracking and hunting. Even with ugly deeds to be done, we know who the heroes are. And even in this dark world, Collins proves a laugh line or two [of course, I didn't mark one to quote]. I am engrossed in the story, and yet I don't absorb ugly images. Possibly, I have never been great at tranforming words into pictures. Unless it's a book I reread often, I don't think I picture the town or the character so well that "the movie spoils it." Maybe that's what's protecting me from the kind of story I wouldn't normally like, but now can't put down.

I suggest these two books -- read Hunger Games first -- to fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan), or post-apocolyptic stories in general.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Morning Walk

The only pleasant part of my walk this morning was the friendly banter with the staff at Ellwood Thompson.

I knew it would be hot; that's why I set out early and purposefully: walk to ET, get some H&H bagels, come straight back, and call it exercise. My route seemed cursed: dead squirrel in the first alley I passed, Cary Street all torn up and stinky, workmen clogged the streets, diesel machinery idled, and the natural market's parking lot was full of SUVs intent on running me over.

For a moment, I thought an update like "I noticed on my morning walk that drivers approach a road stripped for repaving in one of two way: proceed cautiously up the center of the street, or stake out a lane of one's own and floor it" would be charming. After two or three blocks more blocks, though, the stench on the sidewalks left from the Watermelon Festival combined with the muggy heat and the street repaving machines warming up drove whimsy from my mind. This is why we are a minor league town. Sure, we can organically grow a charming shopping district that draws suburbanites, but we cannot instill the practice, custom, ordinance, or plain old sense of pride enough to get merchants to hose off the sidewalk in front of their shops from time to time. The festival was ten days ago! Why does the place reek of garbage still?

Ellwood Thompson's parking lot did not stink, and the cashier and bagger admired my insulated day pack. I said it was designed for carrying a lunch on a hike, but it I find it perfect for walking to ET. The bagger said, "I'm always impressed by how much you can fit in! Sometimes I think 'There's no way she's getting it all in this time!' But you always do!" I credited years as a Girl Scout camp counselor and cheerfully headed home. (The pack a plainer version of this.)

The heat dampened my mood -- well, all of me -- as did block after block of apartment buildings with the recently-delivered phone books left kicked around on the doorstep or into the sidewalk. Kids, we know you are too cool to use a phone book, but at least take it inside and put it in the trash or recycling bin. Don't leave it in the street like roadkill.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tanita Davis

I'm on the brink of becoming a fan of author Tanita Davis. I read her book A la Carte and liked it okay. I selected her new book, Mare's War, for my branch, but haven't read it because, you know, it's historical fiction. Both books get pretty circulation, partly because I can recommend them to mamas who want a Nice Book, with a black main character, for their daughters.

Davis's thoughtful, artful blog post over at ReaderGirlz moves me closer to serious fandom. Give it a read.

In related news, M.T. Anderson pulled ahead of Neil Gaiman on my list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Internal dialog on the way to work:

Aw, look, that nice man is taking mama for a ride in his convertible! Or, Granny? Her perm sure is good -- she's really got poodle curls.

Gaining on top-downers, as they prepare to turn: Is mama in the back seat? Those curls sure hold up --- OH! That IS a white standard poodle!

Thursday, August 06, 2009


The Facebook update I wrote that generated the most conversation of the last several months:

No. No, we do not have a typewriter.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Places I Remember
A Visit to Camp, Part 2

There are places I remember, all my life
Though some have changed

Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I loved them all.

Because I live an observed life, I had ideas of what I would blog about camp when I got home: memory, connectedness, smell as a memory-trigger, songs that are exactly the same, songs that have become dirge-like (seriously, "On the Loose"* is up-beat!), snapshot views that are real, etc.

But then stuff happened, and I have forgotten the thread. Impressions that remain: it feels good to see my former campers in leadership roles; I can see that the Council put money into the site this year, but not much love or attention to detail**; and that moment when I stared pointedly into the dark until Tent 12 showed itself against the sky, blank over the river.

I also remember sharing my little Friendship and Quote Books with the CITs and being caught off guard when I saw how much of my 18 or 20-something year-old self they captured. I remember weeping dramatically as we left one or two Augusts, but geeze! I feel that strongly, still, but quieter, maybe?

Click the "CK" tag below for more, and see also my poorly-maintained maroon website. Here's another "name the view":

*For instance, there's an awesome new low-ropes course in the little playing field. A volleyball net is still there, but you'd be hard-pressed to use it because some kind of pegs or poles have been left there so long that two or three pine trees have grown up around them, a strange oasis in the mown*** grass.

**Searching the song online was a mess, so I will give you two links, here: My first search I included "Lefty" -- with out my CIT notebook I could recall only her camp name-- and a I found a comment here [search with "lefty" to find it fast] got me the name of the camp. A search with the camp name got me here, where a comment includes the words.

***Really, spell check? I can't use "mown"?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It seems the T-D apologized for its role in massive resistance. Too little too late? "Rats on a sinking form of media" is a totally messed up metaphor, right?

Let's see: "The hour was ignoble"; "complicit"; "regret" -- okay, about what I expected. What's this? "Memories remain painful. Editorial enthusiasm for a dreadful doctrine still affects attitudes toward the newspaper." Ha! Maybe I got close with "sinking media." After all, I have, one or twice, repeated my mother's words to phone salespeople: "No, I don't want to subscribe to your lousy right-wing rag."

But if I forgive them "right-wing" because of this July 16 editorial, will they next address the "lousy" part?

via Encyclopedia Virginia Blog.
A Visit to Camp, Part I

A few years ago, I started to work on learning to identify birds by ear. I'd call myself an advanced beginner, at this point. For example, every spring, I need to relearn the red-eyed vireo, a common self-chatterer in these parts; and once I do that, I name it with confidence (and, I hope, correctly) until it migrates again.

The last time I stayed at Kitty overnight in the summer, I had mastered the difference between a chuck-will's-widow and a whip-poor-will. And also, having had them try to nest in my tent flaps more than once, I knew all about the songs and calls of Carolina wrens. But beyond that, I wasn't too knowledgeable.

This past weekend, I heard so much that was familiar, or nearly so, that I had to remind myself more than once to concentrate on listening to people not the riot of birdsong! It was very distracting - how on earth did I live with all that chatter for so many years?

As I learned at a lecture at Maymont this spring (or was it last?), osprey (and eagles) have made a strong comeback from a 1970s die-off, and this was very evident along the Great Wicomico. An opsrey's was the first call I heard as I clambered out of the car behind the dining hall. It must have been one of the pair with the nest on a platform near the mouth of Blackwell's Creek that I could see from my tent in Pine Ridge. We used to make such a drama, in the 80s, of finding the one nest for miles right there on our own Jetty Point. Now, I imagine, like elsewhere in the Bay region, their nests dot every platform, dock, promising tree and buoy from camp to the Chesapeake.

As well as the osprey, wrens and a wood thrush welcomed me to Pine Ridge. Once settled, I was off for a day with the CITs.

I felt a little overwhelmed, as we talked at the Tree House, by the calling of pewees, and, later, of the chuck-will's-widow. Come on, y'all, I am trying to train, here! Binocular-less for this short trip, I spotted birds most clearly there on the lake, too. A male goldfinch flashed through the reeds in the afternoon sun, bluebirds tended to a nest in the pilings, and phoebes and pewees snatched up bugs and returned to the power lines or the rope along the Tree House bridge.

Sunday morning's cacophonous wake-up call included herons, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, osprey, and a woodpecker's squeaking. When the woodpecker finally moved round the tree so I could see it, I saw that it had to be a hairy woodpecker, since I didn't hear the downward trill of the similar-looking downy woodpecker. Good, that's settled, now I can look at people when they talk to me.

At a Girl Scout's Own, making eye contact with other congregants (as it were) is not required, but listening to the ceremony is. But, really, the pewees were shouting and diving about the walnut trees in the most distracting way! And surely someone else was with them -- several someones? -- none of which I could ID.

When I packed, I decided not to pull out my binoculars, knowing that the goal of my trip lay elsewhere, but, wow, what a list I could have had! As it stands, my unofficial list is made up of birds I identified by ear:

great blue heron
hairy woodpecker
eastern phoebe
eastern wood pewee
carolina chickadee
carolina wren
blue-gray gnatcatcher
eastern bluebird
wood thrush
red-eyed vireo
American crow

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Funny 'Cause It's True Files
See also, gag gifts

Smell of Books comes in New Book, Bacon, and, Eua You Have Cats. If you have ever spent time around library books, you know they do seem to hang on to odors.

Bacon -- or greasy kitchen, at least -- I have encountered many times. New Book lingers as briefly as New Car. I hope they are developing ashtray. Many of the books donated for our Friends of the Library book sale come in that flavor. Even if it's a title we really could use an additional, free, copy of, I won't send a cigarette-y book to cataloging. Yuck.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Girls and Gaming

Wired takes a look at video games for girls, and concludes that most offer "ridiculous life lessons." "The Daring Game for Girls," however, has some good stuff to offer:
Like the book, the game offers handy tips and facts as well as non-stereotypically female activities, encouraging girls to seek adventure — not boyfriends or cute clothes, for once. So, of course, no one will actually play it.

The other games they looked at surprised me - they look like the "dress-up websites," as I call them to myself, that I see girls look at. I never thought of them as games. But apparently, a having a goal of "collect[ing] 'sparkly, virtual charms" makes it a game.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Vacation Slides

Oooooh, eight carousels! We're in for a real treat!
-- Marge welcomes her sisters, laden with slides of their latest trip,
``Krusty Gets Busted''

For most of the 20th century, wags made a standing joke of vacation slides (snaps, photos, lantern slides - what you will). No one wants to see them, everyone goes on about theirs for too long, most people don't weed out the bad shots, etc., etc. While I was a curator for a photo collection, and I did write a paper once on family photo albums, I am no more eager than anyone else to watch you struggle with a screen and finding the replacement bulb so I can share in the wonders of your tip to Paris.

Yet here in the 21st century, with Facebook (and to some extent blogs or Flickr), I often click over to see more photos of botanical gardens in distant state or children I never met playing at the beach. What gives?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cool Stuff Online! (Federal Art Project)

Sometimes, the fact that Capital City Library never removes dated books leads to wonderful discoveries. I like to check out art books and just flip through them, maybe skim the text. Recently, I picked up The New Deal for Artists, by Richard D. McKinzie (Princeton University Press, 1973). The picture of a mural Stuart Davis did for WNYC seemed really cool -- and I wondered if it still existed. It moved to the Metropolitan -- learn more about it and other art works completed for WNYC from this short documentary on their website.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Choosing Asides

I really enjoyed the book I just finished, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. In short: boy genius wins fellowship from Smithsonian and hobos himself across the country to accept.

I liked the quirky plot, and I really liked that it's an illustrated novel with sidebar pictures and notes. Maps and nature pictures? Count me in. The reflectiveness of the asides makes me think of Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine -- one of my all-time favorite books, perhaps because it was one of the first books I read after college, when I could pick anything I wanted. Perhaps because I like his asides because it's the way I, too, think. (Maybe we all do?)

I like that our hero, T.S., keeps notebooks and jots things down. Well, he maps things out -- like his sister shucking corn. I jot. Not as fanatically. Sometimes, I curb it: no one wants to see the Collected Scribbles of Lisa! But with T.S. in my head today, I went ahead and grabbed a notebook from the glove compartment as I sat in the line at the drive-through at a burger joint on U.S. Route 1, near work. In line with me were a truck with the bumper sticker "I [heart] the Latin Mass!" a Honda with the plate "VCU CHIC," and another car with the plate "DRA9ON." Wow. Can one hear a Latin Mass in Richmond?? Maybe our modest Catholic population has increased because of immigrants? The Honda didn't surprise me -- she must be a design major at the local university; and as for DRA9ON, well, he (or she) just rounded off our odd little group.

It cheers me up to capture these quirky moments. If you like this kind of serendipity, too, you might like both Spivit and The Mezzanine.
Ref Desk Random

Helpless Job-Applier is here, again.

I tell overweight woman I will not do anything about the body odor of the man next to her. I point out other PCs available.


Books she placed on hold an hour ago.


How to print.

Stormy: Misty's Foal



Surprise a 60-something with the news that fiction is arranged by the author's last name.

City map.


Distinguished Alumnus of this Lib calls; I put him on hold to check something for him. When I pick up again, he notes that our hold music sounds "spacey" -- like Dr. Who. Awesome.

And now, Angry Facebooker is here. . . I'm stopping this list before I cry!

Friday, June 05, 2009


Library Journal
's "Library by Design" insert features the new Darien Library on the cover. Notes LJ, of the "contemporary version of the classic 'schoolhouse chair[s],'" teens have "remarked how [the furniture] reminds them of Hogwarts." LJ features pictures in another room with long tables that match those chairs, but this picture gives you the idea.

I love that -- that a book (okay, probably the movie more so) could make young people love what used to be thought of as stuffy and old fashioned! I grew up with chairs like these in my schools, and the public library probably had something like this, only in brown or orange. Everything was brown and orange and yellow in the 70s. Even while the the houses all around us were Colonial revival (or at least inspired) furniture in public spaces was bland-to-modern. I don't think I ever saw "classic schoolhouse" or library furniture until college. (OK, it didn't look like that when I was there. This picture is from last year; the table more so than the chairs is the look I remember.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

New Search Engines

While the
BBC found mild approval for "Bing" as a search engine name, I think I am with Shelf Check's Jan:

See also: Bing Crosby.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tuesday Last Half-Hour Ref Duties

- Yes you can call your mom for a ride.

- Asked adult couple seated near center of the room to quit with the foreplay.

- Queried my teen volunteer on what she meant by "I rounded my hours off."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Part One: Ethics
Is it okay to book-talk books I haven't read?

If I already book-talked a book, do I have to finish it? It's sooooo girl-drama.

Part Two: Lists
Books Book-Talked at WMS
this month (I get credit for circ stats on all copies this summer, right?):

Step to This / Nikki Carter
No Way Out / Peggy Kern
We Are the Ship / Kadir Nelson
Slam Dunk
/ Sharon Robinson

I talked about those consistently. I displayed these and/or mentioned these to some classes:
Postcard / Tony Abbot
Burger Wuss
/ M.T. Anderson
A La Carte / Tanita Davis
Scat / Carl Hiaasen
InuYasha Rumiko Takahashi
Hip-Hop: A Short History / Rosa Waters

See my LibraryThing to search for books by tags when kids say "this lady came to our school and talked about a baseball book" or whatever.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I wish I could wait until banned books week, but I can't wait. Here's a diverting blog entry from the Library of Virginia on James Branch Cabell.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Is that Why the Interwebs Are Slow at My House?

I never considered checking for ants; a good tip from Mr. Gaiman.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Good News

Patron who's in today stopped to talk with each of us to thank us for help as she worked on her master's degree at our lib. the last year or so. She just turned in the thesis! She tends to be smiley -- today it was an extra-big grin.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This Weekend Was For the Birds

In all senses. The sinus ick I had dragged me to rock-bottom Thursday; Friday and Saturday were a slow, up-hill climb. Head full of snot = for the birds.

The Byrd Theatre Foundation had a fund-raiser showing of Hitchcock's The Birds. A fine, creepy movie, marred only a tiny bit but the younger folks laughing at -- surely not the fact of violent death, but by the catsup-y-ness of the special effects? Plus, we got to hear the Mighty Wurlitzer.

I was just well enough this morning for a leisurely bit of birdwatching by the river. Some highlights:
palm warbler, black-throated blue warbler (pictured below and here), blue grosbeak, ovenbird.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ref Desk Random

State tax forms

Study room

Meeting room

Meeting room

Luncheon of the Boating Party / Vreelander. In reaction to my scanning her card, my PC shuts down the catalog. Nice. Well, that's what the "extra" PC at ref is for -- whew.

Helpless computer user/job seeker snags co-worker, not me, for assistance!

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

At the Byrd: Mall Cop

Friday, April 10, 2009


(By the by, when did it become, not .gov?)

(shout out to EM for the news)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Saturday at the Ref Desk

- Did that man really just burp at me?

- What is that poster that Conspiracy Theory Man is sneaking into the lib.?

- Teen girl enters the library and announces "I hate the library."

- Little boy and adult chaperone (grandma?) are having heated discussion: He didn't want to come to this dumb old library anyway - wants to play video games. I find books on the Constitution that the adult wanted him to have. He finds book on guns and begins turning pages gleefully: "My step-dad had this one! And this one, and this one. . . ."

- Books on women in the Bible for a college-level paper.

- What's my card number?

- Helped various young people with Teen Treasure Hunt.

- Helped Chatty Cathy hunt down today's paper. Actually, it may have walked out the door. . . . "People do that?!"

- Complain to maintenance about the cold; 3 hours later someone comes and restarts boiler.

- Fighting with photocopier.

- Computer class sign up.

- Learn about Nooma from friendly man who asks all kinds of questions as I try to ILL them for him.

- African-American books for teens; I get to hand out the snappy new list a co-worker made.

- Woman complains about computer logging off (after the 2 warnings it gives) before she was ready.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Um, Me?

Crabby Lady: I can't find any of these books on the shelf with the novels. They're for the book club.

Me, looking at list: Oh, book club! Well, this first one is a kids' book we're discussing . . .

CL (with disdain): Uh. I don't know who picked these books.

Me: Well, the librarians make suggestions and the members of the book club, too. I suggested that one.
Local library blog to follow: Library Lady.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good News Everybody!

I declared myself a library Shover & Maker this morning. I'm too old for Style's Top 40 Under 40, and too B- to be a LJ Mover & Shaker, so this will have to do!

If you're in the library field, click on over and write yourself the pat on the back I know you deserve!

Shovers and Makers 2009: I’m a winner! (So are you.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birding - James River Park, Wetlands

wood duck
red-shouldered hawk
bald eagle
mourning dove
pileated woodpecker
common flicker
red-bellied woodpecker
yellow-bellied sapsucker
downy woodpecker
eastern phoebe
american crow
blue jay
carolina chickadee
tufted titmouse
carolina wren
american robin
hermit thrush
yellow-rumped warbler
pine warbler
white-throated sparrow

Watched: Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night (About call centers in India. Very interesting.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Way back in 2006, Stephen Abram wrote about 43 tech things to try. This in turn inspired a library system in North Carolina to train its staff in 23 tech things to keep folks up-to-date. In 2007-08, I made doing 10 or so of their 23 things part of my work goals, and kept very brief blog notes about it.

Sadly, no patron ever asks for help starting a blog, or doing a mash-up, or joining Flickr or Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes, the tools suggested in these trainings have behind the scenes applications, such Delicious bookmarks for use at whatever reference desk I am on, or a blog for ref desk staff to leave each other notes. (The former is used only be me, the latter started strong but faded.)

This year is my library system's year for 2.0 training and I started out as that pill who said, "I know all of this, can I test out?" But then I shaped up and got in the team player mode. This past week I pushed myself far into the optional part of the training and did a teeny tiny podcast of the sort I would love to have library teens do. Since I had some trouble understanding all the things I needed to know and do to make it work, I am rather proud of myself.

I am trying not to let the fact that I have yet to conquer the movie-making software the county bought bring me down. After all, maybe some teens won't be camera shy and we can do Minute Critic type reviews, too!

At the Byrd on Friday: The General and a great Wurlitzer concert (a Theatre Organ Society event)
Read: Cairo: A Graphic Novel, a great, well-told story of adventure and mysticism (language and violence warning)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Really Most Surprising"

From an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker on Damon Runyon:

So Runyon's key insight into American slang is double: first, that street speech tends to be more, not less, complicated than "standard" speech; but, second, that slang speakers, when they're cornered to write, write not just fancy, but stiff.

I believe I have seen that in cover letters I have proofread for patrons.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Four Days Later

Not pictured: temperature around 65.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Like any respectable Southerners, one of the first things we did this morning was dash out with our cameras to capture the snow before it's gone!

Snow drifting in the doorway at World of Mirth.

Non-snow picture on Phusband's blog.

Capital City weather: snow taper off; cold and clear over night
At the Byrd:

Snow Day Bird List

house sparrow
mourning dove
white-throated sparrow
carolina wren

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Like most of you, I don't read my spam, I just mark it as such and move on to reminders from legitimate businesses Snapfish and Talbots that they would like more of my money. But how could I mercilessly trash something with the subject line "Offers authentic-looking fake university_Dip1oma/ price offer!" My tiny Mount Holyoke diploma looks completely inauthentic to most people: maybe I need to look into this?

Apparently, with just a little "personal motivation," I will find that "[t]o buy a degree is quite easy these days. Nevertheless most students just sit around in their usually boring local University classes, wasting money." And to think I went to usually fascinating college classes to get a degree.

The grammar and the logic deteriorate from there. On the one hand, Denita Xiao writes about verifying life experience to get the degree, as if the target audience has worked for a while, and just needs some degree. But then there's all this guidance counselor stuff, as if it matters what you "studied": "Having a University degree is very important these days, and as always in life you should only stick with something you want."

As for why we lucky folk getting this email never got a "diploma certificate" before, maybe we were too far from the degree we needed:
The actual reason why people buy a life experience degree is because they can not go to a institution in their surrounding area that offers the diploma program they are heading for: For example, if you live near a College which only offers renowned marketing degree, then this doesn't help you a bit if you're looking for a marketing degree.
I'm pretty certain the word "not" belongs in between "you're" and "looking." And so you see, it is for this grammatical slip-up -- and that reason, only, not because I disagree with the statement "Buying a degree is nothing harmful. It's a win-win situation for the Colleges involved as well as for you, getting the degree you dreamed of" -- that I will not be calling the 718 area code at the bottom of the email. Thank you for your attention to this blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Not long ago, on a walk all the way to Kroger -- or maybe Mary Angela's -- I noticed new bike racks on the sidewalks of C'town. Wonderful, I thought. How nice of the city (or the Carytown merchants group?) to get this done. They are an interesting, low-slung design. Imagine taking a piece of paper, cutting out some vertical slots, then arching the paper, and holding it up with two upside-down Us. Phusband and I walked by them again the other day and we realized that it's a design fail: except for the two end bikes, there's no way to lock one's bike to these new racks. Bummer.

At the Byrd: "Twilight"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


While my coworkers talked to a cranky fellow, I helped a small girl look up James and the Giant Peach. I walked with her to the shelves - "Okay, here's the beginning of the alphabet: Cs, D-A . . . oh, there he is, on the bottom shelf. Do you see James?" She reached out a hand, "No one more over. But all those books are by the same man."

- What's this one?!

With no dust jacket the cover was worn, but I could tell it was The BFG and said so.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Full Moon

In an hour and twenty minutes:

- 3 people need help printing resumes
- A senior calls about needing tax help. He told me Big Lib told him Not here, but when I called Big Lib to say "what gives," the librarian said, Of course we are doing it, here are the hours.
- photocopy tax form -- hold this little button down and hit print, and oh, yes ma'am, you're right, you can't print from PC while she copies
- Coworker gave patron scissors: "I need to cut the filter off my cigarette"
- book on leadership
- books on presidents
- Coworker deals with patron who wants to spread the word about the dangers of drinking battery acid. She hands coworker a piece of paper and asks if the words are spelled right; coworker replies, "Uh-hunh, that's close: just add a "y" to battery and spell acid A-C-I-D." She seems to do it with a straight face.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Most Unusual Book

This blogger has initiated conversation on unusual books, asking what's the strangest thing on your shelves.

Unusual is of course in the eye of the beholder. I'll treat the books in my Girl Scout collection as usual - even the ones from the 60s on sports, horse stories, and "beauty" (which includes party manners and making friends as I recall). Surely Googie and other books on popular culture and architectural history and material culture aren't that odd.

How about Henrico: A Photographic Celebration (1989). The Industrial Development Authority of Henrico County put it out. It's a boosterism kind of item, written in English, German, and Japanese, and full of pictures of fire trucks, libraries, homes, highways and smiling people with the goal of luring business to the county.

What's on your shelf that's odd?

Sunday, February 01, 2009


I'm a little embarrassed that the first stories I read in today's Washington Post were about the first family -- Mother Robinson must make arrangements with security to take a walk beyond White House ground, Sasha went to a children's show with a school friend and security (who briefly seemed nervous when the magician on stage made her "disappear") -- not the economy. Though I did find 8 Questions on the Stimulus Package informative. When I got to it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Many People Are Nice

A coworker, over at the big library, wants to make a point about blogging about good things that happen at the lib. There are too many whiny blogs, she says.

Sometimes, I like to vent. Sometimes, I feel the need to tell a funny patron story. I do feel like I'm teetering on a Professionalism fulcrum. I don't mind reading the complaining blogs from time to time. Some force little practice scenarios into my head: Wow, I wonder what I will do when I get someone like that?

With D as a role model, today I will pause to be grateful for a nice fellow. He was in the middle of the front row of PC, just next to a cell phone-talker. I gave the young woman my pat cell phone phrase -- "Ma'am, I'm sorry, we ask that you use your cell phone outside of the library" -- and she said No, this is important. At the other end of the row, a man needed help: he couldn't get his e-mail by typing MYNAME[at]gmail[dot]com in the address bar. I sorted him out and eyed the woman. She migrated to the lobby.

Nice Man got up from his computer, smiled and said, "That's some tough job you have."

At my lib, random patrons often thank us for trying to rein in mayhem or just for being here. It feels good.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Day in Virginia History

Daily dose of Virginia history, thanks to the Library of Virginia.
On Technology at the White House

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of the White House's outdated tech.

For more, go to WIRED.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Notes From I-95

According to MapQuest, my commute to work includes 4.1 miles on Interstate 95. At a few minutes before noon today, I counted 7 south-bound tour buses. :-)

Last night, as I drove home at 9 p.m., I don't think there was a single south-bound truck on my four mile stretch (I saw many driving north).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

I remember the last time I felt excited about an Inauguration Day.

I voted in the fall of 1992, by placing an X on a paper ballot, at the local power company in Oxford, Mississippi (where we had moved so my then-sig other could get a master's degree). The state went Republican, of course, but I felt like my "X" by Clinton's name had played a part in a change for the good.

On Inauguration Day 1993, I had swimmer's ear. As an employee of the University of Mississippi, I had full gym privileges, so I swam laps a couple of times a week. And gave myself an ear ache so bad I cried and whimpered most of that Monday night. I must have had a mid-morning appointment, because by the time I saw the doctor and got my prescription, I listened to the ceremonies nearing the climax on the radio. I listened to Maya Angelou read her powerful poem, and I heard President Clinton take his oath as I sat in my parked car behind the library.

Today, I'll head to my job at a public library early so I can watch the whole ceremony on TV before starting my 12:30 - 9 p.m. shift. It's been a long time since I felt optimistic about the chances that our country can do good and be good. Optimism feels good.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Subject: always-in-need-of-repaving Cary St.
A line I like from a book I am reading

Maria gave them the finger, but it was futile.

Debbie Harry Sings in French, by Meagan Brothers

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Reading and Race

I'm seeing a good bit written about race and reading, lately. It's a topic I think about almost daily at the library. It's not that you start with someone's race, of course, when helping him find a book, but often it comes up. One person asks where to find African-American authors; the next says she wants to read more books by authors like Zane; and then some parent will want a book for her kid that has black characters who are good role models (i.e., no street lit for my kid!). I have helped a tiny number of white people find street lit ("more by, like, Nikki Turner and stuff").

There's a precept in librarianship: Every reader his / her book. Find out what the person likes to read, and help him or her find some books: easy (with practice, anyway). And then there's the one that goes, Save the time of the reader. That's when you can get into murky waters. Trying to save time is why a librarian might want to keep a section for mysteries, a section for fantasy, and a section for black authors: so readers can go straight to their favorites. The latter "genre" throws my liberal white guilt into overdrive, though: I don't wanna segregate the books by race!!

Carleen Brice, a black author, seems uneasy with it, too. She took up the subject of separate sections in bookstores in a recent Washington Post editorial:
To me, it seems a bit ironic that, at a time when black authors are fighting not to be marginalized, some black readers are asking for African American fiction sections. But I can understand their reasons. Some blacks read only books by black authors out of loyalty or a desire to keep seeing stories about themselves in print. It makes sense that they'd like to find those books in one location, but it also speaks to the way readers have come to expect a dividing line, books clearly marked "us" and "them."
She's encountered merchants who want to Save the time of the reader/shopper, and it made her ask, " 'Who says all black readers are alike?' " Who says all black-authored books are alike?, I reply. In a small library or bookstore does it feel right to have Alice Walker and Zane so close together there at the end of the alphabet? And, I just learned I was missing a genre nuance I thought I got: that some of my library's African-American authored books were "Christian" (clean, "gentle reads") and that all of those were "safe" books . It turns out that there's Christian / inspirational, and then there's urban inspirational: the latter will have the sort of graphic details that readers of street lit like, but then the main character finds God and is saved from a wicked life. The former skips the rough stuff, and readers who prefer that don't want the grittiness of the urban inspirational story. (For more, see Leonard Thompson's conference notes, here.)

Brice has a material concern about African-American sections: she wants all people to have a chance to find books she's written. "I'm black and would never feel out of place browsing in the black books section. A white reader, on the other hand, might not take that same look and might not know that the books exist at all," she explains.

Author Tina McElroy Ansa also wrote recently about the current trends in popular fiction by African-Americans. She called for a balance: it's nice to have page turners, like street lit, but let's have the middle-of-the-road stuff, too:

Yes, we must, indeed, care what they read. It is not enough to merely fill our minds with words and distractions and lowest common denominators. In these fragile, turbulent, uneasy times, it is more essential than ever to make sure that we and our children are digesting wisdom and strengths and possibilities and dreams of all kinds. Dreams that lead to the White House as well as the jailhouse. This is no time for one kind of reading, living or thinking. . . .

It behooves all those folks who decry the hijacking of African-American culture and literature by urban fiction to let their public libraries know that they wish a balance of high-brow, low-brow and everything in between on their bookshelves.

(link to full Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece)

Ansa calls a greater variety of kinds of stories, and Brice desires an greater audience, two nobel goals. Ansa's call could be the more important one to libraries: when people ask for and check out the high-brow and "in between," libraries can direct more resources towards them. At my library, paperbacks by African-Americans are in their own section (as are Classics, Mysteries, and several other genres), pushing against Brice's desire for a broad audience, but meeting the need our customers repeatedly express.

For a long time, we had a permant "end cap" display with books by African-American authors at my library. Literary titles shared space with Omar Tyree and Nikki Turner. Zadie Smith (an English author, who's black) ends up there, too, as do books by J. J. Murray, so that display always felt dishonest to me. A book display should say, "If you liked Harry Potter, try these next," and linking authors by race isn't the same as by genre (but it is a customer need! Save the time of the reader!). For a while, under a co-worker's initiative, that display was filled with more literary titles by blacks. Okay, that's one segment's need. Does that mean we need to address the other sement, too? Will we soon change it to Street Lit? Can we live with the high risk for complaint, as in "you're spending our tax dollars on this?" (A perpetual complaint in public libaries, anyway.)

Can you tell I don't know what to think? I want people to find the books they'd like, I want to be fair to authors and readers. I can't seem to get to "In conclusion, I pledge to . . . at my library." I can only pledge to listen to, think, talk, and read about race, publishing, reading, and libraries.