Tag Archives: librarians

A Month in the Life of an Outreach Librarian

When I tell people that I’m a librarian, I can practically see the many stereotypical images that come to their mind in terms of what my day-to-day duties involve (and no, librarians do not get to sit around reading all day). I like to quickly dispel those stereotypes by describing all the fantastic projects that I get to be a part of thanks to my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, in my role of bringing a variety of services and learning opportunities to the residents of the city.

These were just some of the things that I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to do this past month alone:

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andrewcarnegiegreenscreen

I know, I know – I’ve just blown your mind! So next time you meet a librarian, you may look at us with a different image in mind – not one of someone dusting off old books, but maybe with a soldering iron in hand instead!

Maria J. –  “jack of all trades” librarian

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Fifty Shades Better

In case you hadn’t noticed the tidal wave of internet hater-ade about it, let me remind you that the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey opens in theaters this weekend. While there are multiple reasons to find James’s series problematic, my librarian issue* with Fifty Shades is all the attention it’s getting. James is hardly the first writer to tackle the more shadowy realms of erotica; you could be looking at any number of other, better books and films hidden by the disproportionate fuss made over her work.

If you normally wouldn’t touch this topic with a ten-foot riding crop, you might want to skip the rest of today’s post and go tell suzy why she’s wrong about those Primanti’s sandwiches. If you genuinely enjoyed Fifty Shades, fret not: the Library will continue to keep it in stock for you (it’s how librarians roll). But for everyone else, here’s a selection** of books and films that completely outclass Fifty Shades in every way imaginable.

Kushiel’s Legacy, Jacqueline Carey. This series, which combines elements of erotica, KDarthistorical fantasy and political intrigue, follows the adventures of Phèdre nó Delaunay in the court of Terre D’Ange.  Born with a scarlet mote in her eye that denotes her as favored of a particular god, Phèdre rises from humble beginnings to become one of the most admired, desired and feared women in the kingdom. But Kushiel is a god of very specific tastes, and his chosen children are bound—in a manner of speaking—to a particular form of service. Call this series erotica for the thinking person, and if that sounds like you, start with Kushiel’s Dart. Then, when you’re done with the set, move on to Carey’s Namaah Trilogy.

Secretary, a film by Steven Shainberg.  Adapted from short fiction by Mary Gaitskill, the secretarymovie stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lee Holloway. Lee’s life is a hot mess, but she’s silently determined to get over her neuroses and find happiness. This involves getting a job, which means meeting Edward Grey (James Spader), which means sparks flying as the two gradually realize their particular tastes mesh quite well. Although the film is incredibly erotic, the sex play is simply the vehicle for a larger scheme of liberation as Lee learns to see herself more clearly, and love herself exactly as she is. Add in some tender hilarity (yes really) and it all adds up to a Really Good Film.

Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica, Tristan Taormino, ed. Given that Taormino has an taorminoestablished reputation as an alternative sexpert, you can bet that any collection she’s put together merits the adjective “best.” The stories collected here describe the variety of games people play within the context of mutually negotiated limits and fantasies, in a variety of power dynamics and queer identities. If that sounds like fun to you, you might also enjoy other books by the publisher, Cleis Press, which publishes “provocative, intelligent books across genres,” including human rights, LGBTQ studies, and—of course—erotica.

9 1/2 Weeks, a film by Adrian Lyne. Based on Ingeborg Day‘s novel of the same name (she wrote under a pseudonym, like you do), Lyne’s film chronicles a Dominant/submissive ninerelationship that plays out over the course of a relatively brief time. Although some reviewers argue that the film is inferior to the book, the movie succeeds on its own merits as a fascinating peek at how people can behave one way in their “real” lives and very differently in their erotic ones. It’s also an examination of what happens when a game that used to be mutually satisfying turns uncomfortable for one of the participants. Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke’s chemistry tips this one into the check-it-out column.

The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica, Rose Caraway, ed. With a name like that, I kind librarianof have to write about it, but don’t go getting any funny ideas! The titular librarian is a fictional construct whose job it is to guide you through the realm of fantasy, not a flesh-and-blood creature you should proposition at the reference desk (that’s just creepy). Caraway’s collection, another stunner from the folks at Cleis, is set in a very special library, where people can find exactly the sort of thing they need, but might be too shy to ask for. It’s a clever, if slightly overdone, conceit that unites various erotic tastes into a unified bouquet of short stories that you can pick and choose from, either sticking to what you know or trying something new.

Your turn: will you be lining up for Fifty Shades this weekend? Why or why not?

Leigh Anne

*My personal issue with FSoG is that Christian’s treatment of Anastasia isn’t BDSM—it’s abuse. If your romantic relationship exhibits certain behaviors, and/or you feel unsafe with your partner, keep in mind that you have options, and you’re not alone.

**Far too many titles for one blog post. Leave a comment if I’ve left out your favorite.

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Celebrate Good Times!

This week is National Library Week! 

Here are some reasons to celebrate. 8 Reasons to Hang Out at a Library. 9 Reasons Why Librarians are Awesome.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is celebrating library books that change lives. Visit our website and tell your story. Here is mine!

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The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

MistsofAvalonI knew the tales of Camelot and King Arthur when I was a kid. They didn’t appeal to me then and they didn’t appeal to me as a young adult. I was a feminist before I knew it and all of the tales were dominated by men, which did not interest me. All the chicks in the traditional tales are either dimwits (Gwenhwyfar) or evil, ball-busting witches (Morgan le Fay). None of them have any personality or power; they are boring one-dimensional stereotypes. The Mists of Avalon tells the tales of Camelot from a woman’s point of view. And what women they were! Morgaine (Morgan le Fay) isn’t an evil sorceress, she’s misunderstood and wants to be loved! But her aunt Morgause sure is a jerk. Gwenhwyfar has a three-way! Igraine was a secret bad-ass who fell in love with a not-so-secret bad-ass and produced Arthur! Lancelet isn’t so gallant. King Arthur is wonderful, but sometimes spoiled and petulant. If you’re a reader like me, you’ll also appreciate the boatload of prequels and sequels.

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

JamesWhen I first considered what books changed me, this is the first book I went to. I don’t necessarily relate to James: I’m not an orphan, no mean aunts abused me and unfortunately, no one has ever given me a sack of magical, glowing-green, crocodile tongues. What James and the Giant Peach did do was make me realize the potential for storytelling and fiction and OMG books are amazing. This is the first “chapter” book I was exposed to, thanks to my third grade teacher (shout out to Mrs. Cypher nee Garrett.) This is also the book I chose to read from for the library’s 24 Hour Read Aloud.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

CountOh, Edmund Dantes, how could Mercedes give up on you? Thanks to a very good friend (looking at you, DWR) I was more or less forced to read this book. There was some cajoling involved (“C’mon, you’ll love it. Honest!”) All I knew about Dumas was The Three Musketeers movie- which, no.  Again, being contrary means saying sorry because I loved- devoured- this book. It introduced me to a new genre (ADVENTURE!). I moved on from The Count of Monte Cristo to the rest of Dumas and then to books about pirates and prison breaks. The biography about Alexandre Dumas’ father (the son of an African slave and French nobleman) called The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss shows that many of Dumas’ characters were inspired by his own pops.

The Bachman Books, Stephen King

BachmanYou know the movie The Running Man? It came from this book of short stories. And it’s the worst story of the four! The other three stories, Rage, The Long Walk, and Road Work would all be amazing movies. I was probably too young to read this, but whatever. This book inspired me in two ways. First of all, as a budding writer, it introduced me to the idea of short stories. I mean, I was 11 and wanted to write a novel. There’s not much to go on at that age. But a short story? Oh yes, that could be done! Second, it was the first time I was ever emotionally invested in a character. I loved Peter McVries (The Long Walk) and his scar and his sub-conscious death wish (which honestly was just a preview of coming attractions for me).

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

AtlasAny time I mention enjoying Rand books, I immediately get flamed for being an egoist, an elitist, or a Republican. I’m none of those things. Not too many elitists work for the public library (I’m just saying). Like any book, you should take what you want/need from it. I didn’t swallow her philosophy whole, but you know what? She had some smart things to say about the nature of happiness and joy, and valuing yourself. I’m not going to push an old lady into the street and I donate to charity, but there is something to be said for being aware of your worth. Self-confidence is sexy, yo. It’s also simply a good story, especially if you like heavy industry, politics, and trains. And for readers that object to Objectivism (see what I did there?) as a philosophy, read this awesomeness.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

WarDuring my final semester as an undergrad, I took 19th Century Russian Masterpieces (I was there a long time, it was slim pickins’ at that point). The reading list was intense. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), Chekhov plays, Dead Souls (Gogol), Pushkin, and of course, the granddaddy of Russian novels, War and Peace. I was dreading it. I was intimidated by it. The name alone hurt my stomach. But since I wanted to graduate from college before I was 50, I sucked it up and opened it. Oh. My. Word. Four days later, I finished it, crying. It’s the Russian Gone with the Wind and don’t let anyone tell you different. Go Team Andrei!

I could write about a ton more books that have made a difference in my life. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything taught me how to make a perfect hamburger and boil an egg. I have a line from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem tattooed on me, so I’ll include him, too.

What books made a difference in your life?

happy reading!

suzy

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April 18, 2014 · 5:00 am

Missing Books, (by accident)

Working at a library can have some major benefits…especially if you are a book person. One of the many benefits that I’ve found is the exposure to books that I normally wouldn’t hear about in my day-to-day. The plus is also that, being surrounded by books and DVDs and CDs, sometimes these things literally just cross your path by pure happenstance.

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The book! From the Author’s website.

 

One such book for me is The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom. This is a mystery, but it doesn’t really fit into the accepted categories for mysteries. It’s by no means hard-boiled, and it’s not exactly cozy. (In full disclosure, I love cozy mysteries and I’ve even written about them on this blog!) Sansom’s book lives somewhere in between. I like that.

ian sansom

The Author! From the Publisher’s website. (Harper)

 

As the title indicates, the crime is a heist, not a murder, and the unwilling sleuth is a librarian named Israel Armstrong who is charged by his brand new employers, to find some 15,000 missing library books. (Also in full disclosure, I wanted to read this book after reading the description!) So, we have no murder, no cats, and the sleuth is a man…not exactly cozy fodder. Did I mention that it’s set in Northern Ireland and our librarian sleuth arrives from London for the job? That probably sealed the deal for me wanting to look into this book.

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The Author, a dog, and a VW minibus. (culled from a Google image search)

 

I’m glad I did. It’s funny. VERY funny. Very uncomfortably, awkwardly funny (think the first season of the original BBC series The Office).  It’s also well written. It also reads very quickly. I am, what I believe to be, one of the slowest readers on the planet. That said, I tore through this quickly. Again, I think it’s due to Sansom being quite a good writer.

Add to all of this the fact that Sansom has created a cast of interesting, quirky, memorable characters that are a bit more than you’d expect, and you have a winner. Much like other books that fall into the “better than it needs to be” category, Sansom’s writing and characterizations give the reader much more to work with than one might expect. His ability to balance the elements of his fiction are not lost here. It’s a real pleasure to read a piece of so-called genre fiction that is so well crafted. There are plenty of cases where the skill of the writer is not evident in fiction like this, and it’s a fantastic treat to find a case where it is present.

I devoured the first in this series and I am looking forward to getting into the second. Here’s to finding a new writer by total accident, and here’s to finding a new series by the same wonderful accident.

Eric (who is eagerly awaiting the next book in this series, and the next amazing author and book he’s never  even heard of yet)

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“So What Do You Do?”

I don’t know about you, but I cringe when people ask me this question. Why, you may ask? Contradictory reactions.

When I say I’m a reference librarian, sometimes the reaction is, oddly yet interestingly, excitement.

Them: “Oh! How nice! I’ve always loved libraries!”  or “I love to read!” or “What a great job! How fun to be able to read all day!”

Me: (big smile)

Thank you, but no. Yes, libraries are wonderful places and we librarians love our chosen career and, yes, many of us love to read. But, alas, we do not get to read all day. I wish. Except review journals and computer screens!

But, on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had quite another reaction.

Them: “Really? Huh.” (looks blank)

Me: (sighs inwardly and smiles politely)

Many people have no idea what librarians do all day. Really. And I admit that even I hadn’t a clue when I got my first library job as a page shelving endless carts of books over twenty-five years ago. But I quickly learned and was quite fascinated.

So here, in a nutshell, is what reference librarians do all day:

We help you formulate a research strategy.

This is my favorite and the number one reason that I am a librarian. We love to do research. Tell us what your project is and we’ll help you devise keywords to find subjects that will lead you to sources that will assist you. We will search every catalog, every database, every reference and citation to find as much information as possible. And we’re happy to show you how you can, too!

We help you learn how to use library resources that seem really confusing sometimes.

Whether looking at multi-volume reference book sets, downloading an e-audiobook, or searching an online journal database, we can teach you how to use the library’s resource tools so that you, too, can understand (and maybe even teach others).

We evaluate and order the materials in the library that you use and enjoy.

Librarians are given budgets every year in specific subject categories–mine are crafts and world literature–with specific dollar amounts to spend on new materials so that our users can discover new and exciting things every day. And this includes digital, electronic, as well as physical item formats.

We help you navigate the library building so you don’t get lost and help you find treasures.

Some libraries are huge buildings with multiple levels, corridors, and nooks and crannies. And we realize that can sometimes be intimidating. Librarians want to make it exciting and fun and love nothing more than to see our patrons light up with delight as they discover something new or finally find the answer to their question.

~Maria

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How I Spent the Morning

Every so often it takes something a little out of the ordinary to recharge the Reference skills. I’ve been filling in this week answering the E-mail reference questions for Tom, who’s on vacation.  Here’s a smattering of what I’ve responded to and in some cases, had to dig for over the last two days. By the way, this service is available for all of you; just e-mail us at info@carnegielibrary.org.

“Love your E-books now that we’ve figured out how to get them, how can we do the same for your e-video content?”

So, I needed to re-familiarize myself with the video offerings in E-CLP, make the acquaintance of Overdrive Media Console, and look over the Overdrive video offerings. What my narration is leaving out is that I’m responding to the user with instructions of “go here”, “click this”, “download and install that”, “go back to this page” and another dozen directions and answers in their original question. Hopefully they were able to jump in and successfully connect all the parts.

“I’d like some information on building and financing a home from scratch.” “I need to know how to find a contractor and sub-contractors, an architect, how to get a mortgage for it, and what else I might need to know.”

My initial response was straight out of the classroom; use the catalog. After some keyword searching to find an appropriate title, I latched onto the following subject heading –  House construction — Amateurs’ manuals – to build the user a healthy selection of reading material.  That should at least cover the planning and contractor stages.  Since I don’t know where she wants to build, I referred her to the City’s Bureau of Building Inspection and the city’s General Guide to Permitting for additional information.  I also informed her that if she was building outside the city, that she’d need to contact the municipality where she wants to build.  Finally I referred her to the local banks, and even real estate agents to find out about the financing for owner built construction, assuming the books I’d referred her to earlier wouldn’t address financing in a local fashion.

“Thank you for the confirmation, I am interested in finding out if any newspaper articles or sports magazines have the line score or box scores for the game for possible recreation of that game? In the microfilms of newspapers for that day can you possibly find out the weather report for Aug.5, 1921? Or do you know of a weather report history site?”

This has been one of our favorite questions, covering several iterations over a few weeks. This originated as an inquiry (the user was referred to us by the Baseball Hall of Fame) into whether there was a recording or transcript of the August 5th, 1921 Pirates game against the Phillies (aka the Quakers in the newspaper articles.)  This game was the first baseball game to ever be broadcast over the radio, by Pittsburgh’s KDKA.  After looking through our Reference Services and PA Dept. resources, and inquiries with KDKA and the Heinz History Center the sad conclusion is that none of us had a record of the broadcast.

To answer the followup questions, I fell back on the tools of a scoundrel, and found a reservoir of historic box scores by searching Google.  My search came up with www.baseball-reference.com, and any box score you could possibly imagine.  I then backed it up with making sure one was available in the newspapers if she wanted.  I spent some additional time in Microfilm viewing the August 6th, 1921 Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, one of the predecessor titles to the current PG.  Besides the box score I also looked at the previous day’s weather, but it was pretty sparse. It gave the high for the day, and that it was cloudy (big surprise there).  Could I find a better answer?

Squirreled away in our closed shelving are about 50 very dark and gritty Original Monthly Record of Observations at Pittsburgh, PA of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau.  Each volume corresponds to a given year, running from 1875 through 1927 or so.  Each month has four pages dedicated to it; two daily recordings at 8am and 8pm, a daily log of minimum and maximum temps, precipitation and details about hail, snow, etc.  The fourth page for each month is a calculation of the mean air pressure, temperature, wind, precipitation and … “Miscellaneous Phenomena” which include high winds, solar and lunar halos, fog, haze, and smoke. Having found the 1921 journal I was able to confirm that the day was seasonably warm, mid 60s and clear in the morning, 80s and cloudy that night.  I also informed the user that she could either request photocopies of the newspaper pages through ILL at her library, or directly from us.

weather page

Obviously not all the questions have such promise. There are the requisite “Is my card expired?” and declamations of perfidy on the part of our bookdrops.  But I will leave you with one last question that I ended up referring to our colleagues at the Downtown & Business Library.

“I am trying to find out the dividend reinvestment price for XYZ Corp, from 1995 to 1999 the period until they merged with Acme Widgets, and then from there the dividend reinvestment price for XYZ Corp until they split in 2005. The help would be much appreciated.”

This called for self-education: I didn’t feel like I knew enough to know whether I should transfer it or not.  I started in the Morningstar Investment Research Center, one of our business databases.  It gave me an introductory explanation in one of the investor discussion forums.  It turns out that a dividend reinvestment price is a different way to calculate a stock’s price (per share) when dividends are automatically reinvested in the same stock.  After some more investigating I determined that there is no register of DRP the way there is for regular stock prices (along with splits and dividend payout dates) but rather it’s something that the investor needs to calculate on their own (isn’t this why Providence invented Accountants?)  However, to cover my bases I did refer the question to Downtown & Business. Our colleague Scott provided the following response to the inquiry.

Dear Mr. Q. Public:

We can provide you with stock prices for specific dates and dividends paid by XYZ Corp. during the period your question mentions, but the Dividend Reinvestment Price is something you will need to calculate yourself. Check this site for a handy calculator:
http://www.buyupside.com/calculators/dividendreinvestmentdec07.htm

There is also a fee-based service that might be of some help:
http://www.netbasis.com/start-now/

As you know, on 5/1/1999 XYZ Corp. merged into Acme.  Shareholders got 1.085 shares of Acme Class B for each share of XYZ Corp. common stock held.  In terms of stock prices, we can furnish you with year-end prices for XYZ Corp. (trading as Acme Class B) for the years 1998 – 2005:

12/31/2005
Acme sheds XYZ Corp.; shareholders of Acme Cl. B received .5 shares of XYZ Corp. Class B common and .5 shares of Acme Inc. (New) Cl. B common.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance to you.

I couldn’t have said it any better.  This does indicate though, not everything is available on the Internet, and not everyone’s needs are best met using digital means.

– Richard

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What, it’s not on the Internet?

demographicsGenerally when we talk about the Digital Divide, we’re talking about the disparities in use and access to the Internet and other digital resources – primarily due to income, education, and/or geography. In April last year the Pew Research Center / Pew Internet Project released a comprehensive report on the Digital Divide – Digital differences – a survey based analysis of who’s using the Internet and how/where they’re accessing it.  While absolute trends have changed as the technologies have changed, The US is still faced with 20% of its adult population not using the Internet – though half of that is a choice, not a circumstance.

As librarians, we at the Carnegie and libraries around the country help overcome the digital divide on regular basis; running the spectrum of users from those who become self-sufficient to varying degrees, and those for whom the mouse and PC are the tools of the devil, wholly unclean and not to be touched.  I also regularly work with others for whom there is another variety of the digital divide; one that determines their future course of work and changes their otherwise comfortable relationship with the library, its librarians, and greatly challenges their 21st Century assumptions.  This divide occupies a narrow spectrum of information – that which isn’t available online – no way, no how.

telegraphIsn’t everything available online? No, it isn’t.  Generally speaking, most of what the average library user asks for is available online; maybe in a full-text database, perhaps in a published government document, possibly in a curated digitized collection, and of course in e-books.  There are also some standard tools like the USPTO’s patent search engine with accompanying displays, and one of my favorites – Google Earth. Of course we’re also positioned, and more importantly trained, to help our users with the non-digital resources they need.  Sometimes we need to do things as if it’s 1970, and that’s not necessarily a given for many students and other library users. We’ve all become comfortable with both the actual access and the assumption of access that “our” information is a click away.

The danger with that assumption is two-fold. The first will be the conclusion after an unsuccessful search that the information you’re seeking doesn’t exist – if it’s not digital, ipso-facto, it hasn’t been created.  The second concern, and maybe the more prevalent one, is that knowing it doesn’t exist electronically simply drives the user to an electronic source that they make meet their need, even if it’s a tertiary (or worse) source.  Just because most of what you might seek is available online, that doesn’t mean it all is, or that the best of it is, and that is why you can always Ask a Librarianask_a_librarian150

– Richard

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Revenge of the Digital Bookmobile

Well, I don’t necessarily think that it’s out for revenge, but OverDrive’s Digital Bookmobile will be visiting Pittsburgh once more this week. We’ll have two full days of bookmobile goodness, where you can stop by and learn about the library’s downloadable ebooks, audio books, and videos (you can also enjoy their refreshing air conditioning).

Friday, August 5th – Market Square, 10 AM – 3 PM

Saturday, August 6th – Pittsburgh Public Market, 10 AM – 4 PM

Digital Bookmobile

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's free downloadable content!

Super-friendly OverDrive staff will be on hand to tell you just how to get that book onto your nook. And when I say super-friendly, boy do I mean it. Those OverDrive people make us look like grumpy jerks, and that takes some doing. Heck, even their truck driver is a cool guy. I love OverDrive, and they’re not paying me to say that, either (though they once bribed me with an orange frisbee).

So stop by on Friday or Saturday, and see what we have to offer!

– Amy, not a grumpy jerk, but a rather pleasant librarian

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Gratitude

One of my wildly improbable long-term goals is to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Given that, up to now, I’ve only written plays, I have some work to do before I’ll be able to cross this one off my to-do list. However, I already have the important part down pat:  the thank-yous. After repeat observations of past winners, I’ve mentally composed an acceptance speech that properly acknowledges all the people who helped me succeed as a writer, yet remains short enough that I’m not politely forced offstage. Really, after hammering that out, finishing a brilliant screenplay itself should be a piece of cake.

John Kralik would probably approve of my priorities.  His own gratitude journey, as detailed in the book 365 Thank-Yous, describes how Kralik devoted a year to consciously giving thanks by writing one note every day to someone who had been influential to him.  Brought to such a pass by desperation rather than inspiration, Kralik stumbled upon the idea for the practice during a walk in the woods, and stuck with it despite business difficulties, financial problems, and relationship struggles.  Mindfully practicing gratitude didn’t magically transform Kralik’s life into a sunny vista of unicorns and rainbows, but, more often than not, writing and sending the notes re-opened long-closed lines of communication and opened up new opportunities and adventures for him, which convinced him to make some changes to his attitude and lifestyle.

Reading Kralik’s book has inspired some of the library staff to start a similar project and see what happens.  I’m looking forward to making a trip downtown to Weldin’s to treat myself to some pretty notecards, but I will probably also make a fair number of them by hand as well. I’m brushing up on the art of writing letters, and mentally making my list of people who have changed my life for the better; the list is already fairly long, and includes family, friends, teachers and — no surprise here — librarians.

Other library titles on the practice of gratitude include:

Serendipitously, while writing this, I received a thank you note in library mail from a co-worker.  That was really sweet, entirely unexpected, and definitely day-making!  What are you most thankful for right now?  How could you best express it?  Whose day could you brighten just by being there?

–Leigh Anne
thirty-eight years young today, appreciating every second

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What Is Your Obsession?

The Night Bookmobile Book CoverAs I was shelving in our Graphic Novel section the other day, I stumbled upon The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger.  Now I already knew that this book existed so the title wasn’t new to me, but this was the first time I had seen it in person. Being an individual of the librarian persuasion, I was compelled to pick it up. I found myself standing there in the middle of the first floor and reading the entire thing from cover to cover. Which, because it’s a graphic novel of less than 35 pages, isn’t really as daunting (or lollygagging on work time) as it sounds.  I then put it back into its display holder and walked away to continue my book shelving duties.  But on my second pass I picked it up again. I put it on my truck and knew it would be coming with me.  But why?  I had already read it. Why was it still calling to me?

Just to give you a brief synopsis without giving away the ending, a young woman out late at night stumbles across a bookmobile. She enters and discovers that every book on every shelf is one she has read at some point in her lifetime. They are ALL there. Her children’s books, those noteworthy classics she ‘tried to read’ as a teenager, college textbooks, magazines, cereal boxes, even her own diary. Then it’s dawn and it’s time for the bookmobile, HER bookmobile, to leave. She becomes obsessed with finding this bookmobile again. Her late night wanderings to locate it cause her boyfriend to think she is seeing someone else and drive him away.

During the long years between its appearances, she reads voraciously to add to her bookmobile’s collection. Reading becomes her obsession. She reads to please the librarian that drives her bookmobile and wonders if he is proud of her choices. She reads to the detriment of her personal relationships. She decides to become a librarian. (Loving to read, by the way, is not the best reason to become a librarian. We deal with people more than books.) Her whole life becomes centered around this obsession to read more books and to become a librarian on her bookmobile.

This book spoke to me on a number of levels. First, the woman was able to revisit her life by perusing her reading history. It made me think about the different kinds of books I have read during the different stages in my life. There are many I would like to revisit. Did my stage in life affect my reading choices, or did what I chose to read affect each stage in my life?

Also, the woman’s reading fixation caused me to stop and think about my own personal obsessions. What have I been obsessed with in the past?  What am I fixated on now that is affecting other parts of my life? What have I lost or overlooked due to my passion for something else?

And now I ask you – what does your reading history say about you? If you were to revisit all the items you had ever read, would there be a discernable pattern? If someone else were to peruse the shelves of your personal library, what ideas about you as a person would they walk away with?  Would they know you better than someone who had met you in person?

What is your obsession? What do you over-engage in to the detriment of everything else? Is it sports? Television or movies? Video games? Food? Shopping? Having to be right all the time, or the first/best?

What have you sacrificed for your obsession? Your friends? Family? Relationships? Career? Taking care of your own self and well-being?

Was it worth it?

-Melissa M.

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