Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Eng 325: Grammar & Usage
Eng 355: Children's Lit
GS101: Personal Achievement
G A 11 of GS counser [?]

The second one caught my eye, first. "Oh, neat. Someone planning to be a teacher. Or maybe even a librarian!" As I type, I think maybe this student thinks kid lit will be an easy A. I hope it's a good vigorous course, instead.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ref Grunt
Flying solo first 3.5 hours today. (Well, there is a children's librarian, at, you know, the children's desk.)

Large type bestseller found

Steven King

How to log on

Computer classes


Where's my printout?

World War II books

Sill Missing, by Stevens

Janet Evanovich

Computer classes

Seven Days Battle

Rhyming dictionary

Classified section

ILL returned without sticker - oh, no, he just was using "DO NOT REMOVE THIS STICKER" as a bookmark.

Read him three horoscopes

Self help books by a particular author - why they aren't all next to each other on the shelf

Oooh, you're saying Mysteries are in a different section

ILL a Quentin Tarantino movie?

Can we ILL a text book?

etc., etc.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Library Found

w kick Jump
Power VPE
Speciad Allerk
A Kicks

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I was a little embarrassed to learn the other day that Callao is not just a crossroads town on the Northern Neck, it's also an important Peruvian city. I'm pretty sure I learned this from Jeopardy, and I'm certain it wasn't pronounced like the Virginia town of the same name.

I'd always wondered about the town name, and figured it was a family name, or maybe an Indian word. According to The Heritage of Virginia: The Story of Place Names in the Old Dominion, by James Hagemann (Norfolk, Va. : the Donning Company, 1986), the first instinct was closer. A new postmaster, Jacob H. Callaway, wanted to name the place for himself, but Franklin County already had a Callaway, so Callao was his second pick. The brief entry doesn't suggest that he knew the Peruvian city. Mystery therefore only half-solved.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Candy Heart

For the last 10 - egad, that long?! - maroon has been my "official" Christmas color, and that's one of the reasons I hunt around for these Brach's goodies every year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Falling Behind my Creativity Schedule!

Unless this counts? I followed both folding directions and a template -- oh, and M helped by printing the pie wedges the right size -- so I wasn't creative. But I was "crafty." And I had fun! So there.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Test Drive

Phusband and I have work's iPad to test-drive. It doesn't much like the wireless at home -- neither do our iPod Touches-- so I took it out for breakfast at Stir Crazy. This is now the most I have typed on it or the Touch, and it's slow going!

I have been pretty happy, however, with the reading experience. I used Google books to download a free copy of James's Portrait of a Lady, and have been happy reading it in a chair or on bed. Google books seems to have its flaws. I'd guess the books have been scanned in, and so the occasional typo or missing space between words appears. This morning, after P left to do his 6 -8 a.m. radio show, I tried it in "night" mode, which was white letters on black, for reading without the light. Could be the bifocals or any number of other things, but I did
N't love the black-with-white letters, so I went back to the regular mode. Mission accomplished: I fell back asleep after ten or so pages. I turned it off, but I guess it would have timed out.

This morning, it' allowing for the perfect amount of pre-errand list making, FB checks and this "quick" blogging.

Using this is making me appreciate more that link Tina posted - let's see about hyperlinking to it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Fit Libraries Are Future Proof"

by Steven Bell (American Libraries, October 2010. online here)

To thrive / survive in our fast-changing times, he offers 12 "fitness" steps. Ones I want to try/use:

- engage the user, as in roaming ref, being in the community
- fix what's broken: "make finding and fixing what [day-to-day services are] broken part of our routine operations" "Would you patronize a retail operation where many things failed on a regular basis?" No, of course I don't. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Verizon. And you, work photocopier!
- master adaptability
- keep up
- create passionate users - How can I nurture TAB to advocate library use to their peers?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

More Fashion

Beautiful peacock-blue cashemere(?) sweater, nice black pants -- and a sizable black vinyl fanny pack worn more-or-less centered on her tummy.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A light dusting of snow fell in Capital City last night!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


One patron is wearing striped leg-warmers (they match her striped shirt) and sandals. She is unlikely to be a dancer.

Another has a T-shirt with a seal of some sort, and letters arcing above and below it proclaiming Y'ALL UNIVERSITY."

nuff said

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spent most of this week's creativity juices making the annual Christmas card scene. In involves robots, felt, and glitter. Here's a felt heart from the scraps.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Plus ca Change

While home sick recently, I read an article in the VHS's journal about outcries against modern art Virginians made at mid-century. Ross Valentine, art critic for the Times-Dispatch, led much of the complaining -- yet he did note that "the furor sparked an interest in art, but it also 'has given some of us something to talk about besides atom bombs, hidden treason, deficit embezzlement and other historical obscenities in an age that has, I am afraid, become hardened to obscenities.' "

Aiello, Thomas, "The Champion and the Corpse: Art and Identity in Richmond, 1950." (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 117 : 1)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bad Teen Librarian

When, in a nyquil-induced haze, I heard the announcement of the National Book Award on the radio this morning, I thought the "young people's" book was The Mockingbirds (by Daisy Whitney), which I remembered from blurbs as being about mean girls -- it turns out it's also about surviving date rape. I fretted people would confuse it with Mockingjay, the last of the Hunger Games series. It turns out, the winner is Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, about an eleven-year-old with Asperger's.

I gotta pay more attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Northside History

Cool blog about tourist homes on Chamberlayne! I don't think of this area as "in town" at all, but one card (part way down on this post) describes the house as "four minutes from the business section" and touts the fresh air and whatnot of being out of town.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

365 may be more creativity than I can handle, but one a week won't stress me out. How 'bout ... hearts! Spotted this leaf at Dutch Gap on a Veteran's Day outing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Place Holder

I'm not sure why I am not using delicious to save this blurb on interfiling YA genres. I'm just sticking it here, okay? I do plan to take out separate genre shelves -- I mean it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Earlier, a mom of two girls in the uniform of their private (Christian) school got my help deciding if Patterson's Angel Experiment would be appropriate for the younger girl. I began with the usual: Well, YA includes books for kids in grades 6 to 12, so it covers a lot of ground. Then we moved to: Let's see what some reviews say. Turns out most said grade 7, and I also read buzz words like suspense, thriller, action, and even "graphic laboratory scenes" just to be sure I wasn't leading the mom astray. She said, Oh, that's fine as long as it's not . . . you know. Which I guess means sex?

Now, I've got VOYA (June 2010) in front of me, and there's a nice interview with Blake Nelson (whose books I now want to read!). After some discussion of including a sex scene, the interviewer asks "Do you find it sad that our culture is so much more accepting of violence than it is of making love?" To which Nelson replies, "Yeah it's weird, . . . [P]arents let kids play computer games all day where you just shoot Middle Eastern people in the head all day, but then freak out if the same kid reads a book where someone has sex."

Not exactly the situation I'd just had, but similar enough to note it, I think.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The juxtaposition of a particular committee meeting and my reading of an article in WIRED* about the first hackers has me thinking about the idea that information wants to be free. As a librarian, I believe that . . . to an extent. I also believe in intellectual property, and that it's not fair to copy big hunks of someone else's work and present it as your own. I do believe that mechanisms must be in place to allow the free sharing of stuff you don't want to own, or don't have room (real shelf space or data storage space) to own. Just like you might like reading each new Daniel Steel or James Patterson print book and not want to keep it forever, mightn't you want your access to an ebook copy be transient?

Somewhere else I read something along the lines of "you know you have a pair of sunglasses that cost $150, quit complaining about buying a special ebook reader for that much." Which really annoys me: I don't live as near to the poverty line as so many library users I see daily, and I yet would never dream of spending that kind of money on shades. I can be a tech-savvy[ish] reader of yours, and still think $150 is a lot of money.

I digress. Free information. Free information is great, it's democratic. It's a value the early tech heads espoused, and various companies seem to be taking it away, whether in the form of net neutrality or DRM and other schemes that make customarily legitimate sharing -- like sharing a work via a library -- really hard to do. It's looking like the new ebooks my library will get will be kind of limited. If we buy the rights to two copies of the newest Grisham, only two patrons will be able to "have" it at once. Our downloadable audio does not have that constraint. What's the point of "having" a digital version of something if only one person can have it at a time?

Maybe it will work out better than I think.

*"Geek Power: How Hacker Culture Conquered the World," by Steven Levy, May 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

At the New Library

At the big library, people often have to wait -- fairly politely and patiently, I will say -- for a public computer to be free. Many like to sit at one work table in particular, sometimes grabbing a book or magazine to look at while they wait. Folks seldom return these items, so I have made wandering over there an excuse to get up, and clean up.

Today's find on that table: Name that Cat: Over 1000 Inventive and Colorful Names. It seems tongue-in-cheek serious, with entries like

"Grapes. M/F. This kitten's dispositions is on the sour side, and he's the first to complain."


"Scraps. M/F/ Scraps likes to mix it up with the poodle next door."

and even "Mister Softee. M. For the cat who's a real pushover."

The section on entertainers (and fictional characters) is useful, if dated. May I interest you in Clark Kent, Elvis, Figaro, Fonzi or Ellwood (from the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey, not from The Blues Brothers)?

Literary: Blanche, Dinah, Fagin, Poirot, Walden. (Not Mink [Snopes], though.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Picking Sides

Perhaps the best way to see if I am Team Zombie or Team Unicorn is to assess each story. (Note to anyone wanting to rush out and get the book for a young person: there's a good bit of swearing and some mature themes: it's not the next thing to get your fan of Goosebumps books.) (Note to self: can I stack up colons like that?)

Zombies vs. Unicorns, Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, editors (2010)

"Highest Justice," Garth Nix - middle-weight fairy tale (unicorns: +2)

"Love Will Tear Us Apart," Alaya Dawn Jackson - pretty good love story; why do I feel like I don't get the ending? (zombies: +2)

"Purity Test," Naomi Novik - after various bit of suspense and bloodshed, ends with the line "okay - you know what, just shut up and give me some more chocolate milk." (unicorns: +4)

"Bougainvillea," by Carrie Ryan - elaborate, sad, bloody (zombies: +1)

"A Thousand Flowers," Margo Lanagan - medieval, sad, upper-tier fairy tale (unicorns: +3)

"Children of the Revolution," by Maureen Johnson - hauntingly awesome; captures the college-aged woman's voice perfectly (zombies: +5)

"The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn," Diana Peterfreund - freakin' awesome killer unicorn story, layered in with the a teen's struggle to know what her faith calls upon her to do (unicorns: +5)

"Inoculata," Scott Westerfeld - he's such a masterful describer of post-apocalyptic worlds and he captures/creates the language of young people so nicely that I'll give this one high marks even though bits are a lot like Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth (zombies: +4)

"Princess Prettypants," Meg Cabot - this hysterical story is the only thing by Cabot I have really liked! I may have to give her books another chance. (unicorns: +5)

"Cold Hands," Cassandra Clare - heavy-duty fairy tale-with-implied-lesson. Damn. (zombies: +4)

"The Third Virgin," Kathleen Duey - poignant; wished it had more depth (unicorns: +3)

"Prom Night," Libba Bray - while I love her off-the-wall humor: an ugly prom dress is an "unholy union of Hot Topic and mother-of-the-bride," another bleak zombie story is another bleak zombie story. Or were those fireworks a symbol of hope? (zombies: +3)

Looks like Team Unicorn for me! It strikes me that there's more room for variation in world-building for unicorns than for zombies, but great writing can take the day.

See also: Tor's interview with the cover artist, Josh Cochran.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ref Grunt

Book about a battle -- turns out to be a scholarly article, so we don't have it.


Eavesdrop on one woman asking another where she got the Betty Boop purse.

Vampirates (his grown up asserted "there's no such thing")

Try to track down someone with a huge, terrible cough - turns out to be smallish older woman who needs The Help, in large print.

Woman is haughty about having to reserve a study room and agree to use room policies.

Award summer reading prizes.

Second encounter with a woman with whom I talked about books being in the teen area not because they are harder to read but because the topics are for more mature readers. Her boy (7? 8? -- but an Advanced Reader) did not like Grisham's Kid Lawyer book. Let me know it really isn't for younger kids. Got it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Change is in the Air

We're re-arranging some staff in my library system -- as a hiring freeze keeps us from replacing folks who have left over the past year and a half -- and I need to pack up my stuff and head to one of the big libraries soon. Yeah, that's right: I moved house in February (learned a new phone number), got new phones at this lib (learned a new phone number), and now I need to move my office (and learn another new number!). Once again, I am becoming friends with copier paper boxes full of things I think I need at the new place. As at home, I am trying to toss unneeded stuff, rather than move it across town. Pictured below, two items I won't move. The 1970s GRE prep book was donated to us. You know, for the collection or book sale. Because patrons always ask for oldest test help book we have. Or - no -- because a professor writing a definitive history of test prep books might shop our book sale!

The gems below (scanner made them washed out - click and they look better) have been on my cubicle wall, to make me smile. The note reports a patron's comments to a circ staff member. I agreed with the patron that the book was too old to be useful in a public library collection and withdrew it. Someone drew the bugs on a bit of scrap paper and left it by a computer. I think I found it the year the summer reading club had the theme "catch the reading bug," but these weren't like any of the official art. They were much more fun.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


By random drawing, our library system will give away a Kindle this summer. Maybe one quarter of my branch's patron's say "what's that?" when I tell them. Meanwhile, according to this LA Times item, early adapters face prejudice -- perhaps linked to the inability to identify the object and its purpose.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


On facebook the other evening, a friend posted an emergency call to friends on her street: "anyone have a dollar? The tooth fairy needs to visit!" People immediately replied with variations on Yes (including an offer of a gold $1 coin), or "darn, no," or at least "I've been in this straight, before too!" stories. One friend wrote "Best.Post.Ever." But one or two folks seem to chide her for the practice - give her a note, a small present instead they implored. Which could be a great tradition, but she asked for a dollar: this is what her family does. And perhaps this is Child #2: really unfair to change it up on her. Save your advice. Help or bite your tongue.

I could be too sensitive; maybe it was all in the spirit of Sharing Traditions. Just goes to show that typed words can be harder to interpret than spoken.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Even the New Yorker Has Something to Say about YA Lit

For a nice introduction to dystopian novels for teens, take a look at t Laura Miller's article "Fresh Hell" in The New Yorker (June 14 & 21, 2010). She focuses on Suzanne Collins' fine Hunger Games, gives Scott Westerfeld's Uglies its due, and notes other works.

Miller notes why such novels -- series, often -- appeal: with so many hovering parents, any adventure is welcome; the pool of ideas is deep, and as "new" readers, teens don't mind if the plot is kinda like that one Twilight Zone episode; and they are not didactic. In fact, she asserts
Dystopian fiction may be the only genre written for children that's routinely less didactic than its adult counterpart. It's not about persuading the reader to stop something terrible from happening -- it's about what's happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader.
To sum up, Miller points us to Westerfeld's observation that perhaps dystopias appeal "'partly thanks to high school being a dystopia.'" Even if the machinations of the dystopia change, Miller predicts, the appeal to teens of stories set in a broken world, won't go away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Great Book

As ever, I don't remember why Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande appeared on my To Read list. I do know that I am digging her writing! Check out this scene in a high school science class:

The teacher, Ms. Shepherd says, "Because if you don't believe in evolution, then you must not believe that diseases change over time. In which case, there wold be no need for anyone to get new flu shots every year, because obviously if we've been vaccinated once, that should last forever, right?"
"Brilliant," Casey whispered.
"Just something to think about," Ms. Shepherd said. And then the bell rang.
And I just sat there. I didn't want to move. I wanted to sit there and understand everything I'd just heard.
Because until that moment, i was only sort of paying attention. I was treating biology like any other one of my classes -- just something to learn so I could get a good grade and move on. I appreciated that Ms. shepherd was making it fun and interesting, but it was still just a class.
But as of today, I have to admit: I have a crush on science.
Can you love a thought? Can you love a concept?
Nor to be too dramatic, but when Ms. Shepherd explained that about the flu shot and about us all being freaks of nature, it was like something reach inside my chest and yanked on my soul. Like somebody opened up my head and shouted down into my brain, "Do you get? Mena, are you listening?"
Didja like it? Go get a copy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Late Last Night

After signing up folks for our Summer Reading Club, it had gotten pretty quiet at my lib. I might even admit to having zoned out for a bit. At about 8:44, I had to snap back into action and do readers' advisory for a reluctant reader (teen boy) and for a young man (teen, 20-something?) who wanted science fiction recommendations. Between them, Intertwined, one of the James Pattersons, Feed, Leviathan, and a couple of other things went out the door -- just in time to lock up at 9!

Despite this, I have got to brush up on my s/f.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Short Cut

A a public librarian, I find reading book reviews an invaluable time-saver. A good review (The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post) summarizes the book, compares it other things, and gives an assessment of its worth. The New Yorker offers many kinds of reviews, some under the expansive heading "Critic at Large." One of these, by Hilton Als in the April 26, 2010 issue, filled me in on Tyler Perry. His Don't Make a Black Woman Take off Her Earrings... was wildly popular here. For some reason, I had imagined his Madea as an incarnation of Flip Wilson's Geraldine, or someone low and raunchy. Instead I find - duh! - stories (plays and movies and books and TV shows) featuring exactly the kinds of suffering-but-triumphant Christian characters many of our patrons relate to and enjoy. I can't read and watch everything: thanks, Mr. Als, for keeping my understanding nuanced.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Controlled Vocabulary vs Natural Language

I just finished Libby Bray's witty, dark, deep Going Bovine and added it to my Shlefari. "How shall I tag it," I asked myself (yes, I not only talk to myself, I also use words like "shall" - deal with it). I never remember if I prefer "urban fantasy" or "alt fantasy"; should I choose "death and dying" from the suggested tags?; "road trip" goes without saying.

Then, for whatever reason, I took a look at the catalog record: "automobile travel - fiction" and "Bovine spongiform encephalopathy - fiction" and "dwarfs - fiction" -- seriously? I never considered that buddy Gonzo's dwarfism was part of the "aboutness" of the book. And why on earth isn't "road trip" a proper subject heading?

One thing subject headings (controlled vocabulary) and tags (natural language) can do is get us back to the book, even if it word or scene in our mind isn't a critical part of the book's aboutness. Imagine a patron saying, My friend told me about this book about a guy with mad cow disease who goes on a road trip with this other guy and they pick up a talking yard gnome. You'd want to try key words like "road trip" and "yard gnome" in your search. In library school, we certainly didn't memorize massive lists of subject headings, but we know how they work. Through practice, we learn to type things like "theater vocational guidance" to replace the patron's "get theater jobs" and, it seems, "automobile travel" for "road trips."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I wonder if one could use Facebook to build - or at least tone - one's memory? Can I teach myself to remember that E's status that I "liked" earlier this morning was that she got into graduate school, and, therefore, all the notifications that others commented on her status are likely to be of the "way to go variety," and so I need not keep clicking on them??

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What is the Use of a Book Without Pictures of Conversations?

The fab Scott Westerfeld invites conversation on pictures at the Reader Girlz blog.

Like some people who commented, I found the pictures for his latest, Leviathan, helpful as I don't have the right sort of imagination for war machines. The illustrations made vivid scenes that might have been blurry to me without the help. On the other hand, his Uglies series was full of things I could picture -- though I wouldn't be surprised if I have hoverboards "wrong" -- and I could have even done without the cover pictures forcing faces on me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

User Experience

In the January 2010 Library Journal, Aaron Schmidt writes about the user experience. "Any time you choose how people will interact with your library, you're making a design decision." Take his example -- and how many of the rest of us have done something similar -- of the stapler in the drawer at his reference desk. They let patrons use it, and every time someone asks for it, a librarian opens the drawer and takes it out. Good design or bad? He started keeping it on the desk and improved the user experience. Naturally, someone who thinks like this must invoke Ranganathan: save the time of the user. He uses Ranganathan to remind us of our professional values and show how they apply to so much more than the collection.

"We need to consider [patrons'] lives and what they're trying to accomplish." This kind of thinking draws our attention to the many unnecessary barriers libraries build. We can control and make positive the user experience by considering how we plan -- or design -- our spaces and interactions. Of course, Schmidt won me over with an opening quote from Ray and Charles Eames: "The role of the designer is that of a good host anticipating the needs of their guest." This is exactly how I have perceived my roles when opening a weekend camping event, a summer camp, and this library each morning: "Is this space ready and welcoming? Is everything we need at hand?"

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Still Reflecting on Moving, Because it is Taking so Long to Get a Move Date Set and so it Seems Both Prolonged and Surreal

A grad school classmate often posts random mobile shots from her day. She lives in D.C. and seems to visit other cities often. Something about one I glanced at toady helped me identify part of what makes me feel sad about moving. She took a picture from, perhaps, a bus window of a street of smallish row houses, some with their front porches closed in with vinyl siding. There are wires and signs -- it's a cluttered shot. And the shoveled sidewalk -- widely cleared here, a narrow path at that point -- draws my eye all the way in. It feels urban, and familiar, yet not familiar in the "what street in Richmond must that be" way because it seems more D.C. or Philly or Balto. somehow. It does makes me think, Yeah, that's we city folk know. And then I remember that she's n times hipper than me, maybe grew up in a city not a suburb, and that D.C. is a major league city (if unusual in so many ways). I remember that I'm headed for a house with a plot of grass and a neighborhood with only about 4 restaurants in walking distance (and those are longish walks!).

Many people I know left the Fan area years ago, when they started families and need space and better schools. Living here still made me feel younger. Not having kids, helps, too. Moving "to the suburbs" (it is in the city, really) makes me feel like I am finally having to say goodbye to young adulthood. Next time she posts a cool city scene, I might have to think "yeah, I remember what it was like to live in town."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Always Wanted to Pretend I Was an Architect

Tipped of by the Washington Post item on the show, I watched a PBS program on Benjamin Latrobe. Interesting stuff: a competition for a plan for the US Capitol got dismal submissions; the man who started the project was a political choice -- his work resulted in a roof collapse; Latrobe made improvements that were mostly lost to fire; all good neo-classicism in the US is thanks to Latrobe; he died broke. Dan, I reckon you will have to take me to the Baltimore cathedral, now that I know more about this interesting man.

Watch the show online (or in rerun, I bet).

(I wish I could take time to say more about this, but packing seems to fill my time these days.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

New House

Late February will find us in a new place! While it's not as walkable a neighborhood as where we live now, there is

- a city library at 4/10 mile
- a drugstore and some fast food at 7/10 mile
- a Ukrop's at 1.5 mile (but hills and intersection and I think a lack of sidewalk make it an unlikely walk).

My work is 4.5 miles away. Yup, that's right! Fun with the odometer on the way to work, today.

And Mapquest says the block of restaurants, bookstore, and wine shop is 7/10 mile!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Another Book I Wonder Why I Wanted to Read

I finished The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, by Jack Gantos last night. What a strange - no, creepy story. It's gothic in an old-fashioned sense, with the curse being something repulsive that we watch the narrator rationalize. It's gripping, and the writing is strong, but I can't imagine recommeding it to any of my lib patrons. And, I wonder, again, where I read about it -- what end of the year list, what passing mention made me want to call it from another branch and read it. Should I start noting the source when I Shelfari something as "want to read"?