Thursday, November 29, 2007

51,000 words later...

Here's the end of my NaNo novel, Born Stellar:
Adam stepped in front of my mother and Jon. My mom just stood there with her jaw wide open. “She did some detective work,” he said. “Your daughter. I mean, our daughter found me and stayed with me. I thought she had your permission. I’m sorry, Essie, sorry for that and for everything.”
My mother was still looking at him as if she had never seen anything like him in the world. Then she said, “We’ll talk this over at some point, Adam. Right now, I want to get Stella home.”
Grandpa interrupted, “Why don’t we all come to our apartment. Zeesie’s made fresh cheese blintzes and I know that we’ll all have a lot of talking to do.”
Then Jon looked at me and said, “Stella, that’s a cool thing you’re wearing. What is it? A shirt? A jacket? Where did you get it?
Eli looked at me and winked. “Do tell, Stella.”
I took a deep breath, and looked at my father. He looked very amused. “You like this old thing?” I was tempted to say, “It’s a very long story,” but I knew my mom and half-brother wouldn’t understand.
I grabbed my father’s hand on one side, my mother’s on the other and instead I said, “I found it across the street, on a park bench.”



The End.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Born Stellar

I'm just going to post an excerpt from my novel, the brief bit I've put up at NaNoWrimo.

Before I could ask another question, Nadine hushed us. From the edge of the woods, I could see a darkness pouring forth. Before I could blink, something happened. The grass we were sitting on rose above me. I was close to the dirt. I looked at my hands—but they weren’t hands anymore. They were limbs, insect limbs. I looked at what I hoped was Eli. He was a pretty good sized grasshopper. Nadine on the other side of me was also a grasshopper. I think I must have been too. I felt a sense of danger and a desire to jump away. Nadine—at least I think it was Nadine—jumped toward on me and held me down. communicating to my shrinking brain that I had to hold still or They would find us and crush us.
I heard or sensed immense vibrations and felt heat. The urge to jump away was getting stronger and stronger and I had no sense of what exactly I would be fleeing. I sensed also smoke, ashes, something thick and killing. The bug next to me tapped me in a way in which I understood to mean “jump” and I did.
When I did I saw fire! The bus was on fire.
I also saw those feral shadowy beings surrounding what was left of the bus. They seemed to be directing flames at the bus. In my panic, I jumped higher even. Another grasshopper jumped after me and brought me down, but I was screaming. At least I thought it was screaming. It came out of me, the bug me, unbidden.
I felt them before I saw them. The evil Unravellers. They had seen me jump and were directing their hostility toward me. In blind panic I followed the beings next to me. I hoped that they were Nadine and Eli. We hopped as low to the ground as we could, through the tall grass, upon the increasingly parched-feeling soil. I saw a hole in the ground and dove in, alongside my companions.
Deeper and deeper I jumped, skittered underground. My antennae guided me. At first the walls were very close to me. Then there was more space and I slowed down. It’s much more difficult to feel your way if you’re small in a big place, than if you’re big in a small place.anyway. There were two insects near me. At least two. One of them stopped. Then the other did. Then I did.
One came over to me, touched antennae to mine. and before I knew it, I was back to human form.


As you can tell, it's very rough. It's the prehistory of a first draft even. I've written all my life, but have had only one "official" creative writing class. That was in college, a zillion years ago, with the poet Joan Larkin, and it was a great class. She was very encouraging.

Some of my story takes place in a library! :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Write 50,000 Word Novel in 30 Days or Less or No Money Back!!

I'm writing during National Novel Writing Month.
As you can see, I've added a widget. I'm more than halfway through and I'm just having fun!

One of the perks of signing up for NaNoWrimo is that we get pep talks from the likes of Tom Robbins, author of Jitterbug Perfume (what an imagination!) and Sara Gruen, who says she writes her novels during NaNo.

And the author of Coraline, Neil Gaiman!

I feel pepped.
And perked.

And in case anyone was wondering, I feel immensely so much better. The joy is back in my life.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I should live in Paris!



What City Should You Live In?

You should live in Paris. The city of lights will appeal to your appreciation of beauty and romance. You are a lover and a poet by nature, and Paris' sensitive charms will be a perfect match for yours.
Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If Dumbledore is...

Well, who cares?

Honestly.

I'm assuming the wizard world is much more tolerant, accepting even of people's sexuality and their differences. But I don't go to the fan sites, so I don't know what the latest is--whether JK Rowling has said anything or not.

I'm sure there's all sorts of speculation. But can we do speculative studies of a fantasy world? For instance, what do Muggle-borns think of differences in sexual orientation? Or are Muggle-borns somehow gifted into the wizarding world because something about them would make them more open-minded?

Maybe I'll go visit some fan sites or Rowling's site to see if there are answers. Stay tuned.

I want to live in a world where people love whoever they love, and they can marry whoever they want to marry.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I am Dumbledore?!

This is probably old hat by now, but fun...I had no idea I was that wise.



Which Harry Potter Character Are You?

You are Dumbledore. You're the wise sage in any group. With your guidance, any situation can be resolved in the fairest way possible.
Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Post 9/11 Post

Wondering if I want to write an essay on my blog about September 11th, how it's become nine eleven, 9/11, Patriot Day (ugh).
Just some thoughts. Sparked by this:

How jarring it seems to me that yesterday's local baseball game (Royals vs. some other team what do I care) had members of the armed services participating--as the newspaper reported "to mark the sixth anniversary" of the terrorist attack on September 11th.

Does anyone besides me think this is out-of-whack? How sad it is that our men and women in the armed forces are risking their lives in Iraq and not helping our nation or Iraq for that matter? Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11th terrorist attacks. And yet, a baseball game commemorates the date with honor to the armed services.

It was civilians mostly, civilians. It could be called Civilian Day. National Memory Day. Anything but Patriot Day and anything but armed services day.

Yes, I know the Pentagon got hit--with a lot of civilian casualties there too. The civilian deaths outweighed...but every one of those deaths is a tragedy to those left behind to grieve

I will say no more on that right now. All day yesterday, I'm writing the date on slips of paper we use for holds and no-one I'm sitting next or talking to is talking about it. And yesterday was a Tuesday, like it was 6 years ago and here, at least, with sparkling clear weather, like it was 6 years ago. And Rosh Hashanah is starting tonight, close to the date it started 6 years ago (maybe a day off).

And the world seems so old and sad.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Up a Lazy River



My first attempt to use the movie setting of my digital camera. And the obligatory post on Youtube.
That's my son at WaTiki Waterpark, just east of Rapid City, South Dakota.

We had a great time visiting the Black Hills area.

Yesterday on our way out of Custer, we visited the Cosmos Mystery Area, stopped at the Reptile Gardens once more to buy a couple of t-shirts, drove through and stopped often to look in wonder at the Badlands National Park and finally the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.

In the Badlands, we learned it was something like 109 degrees and no shade, so every time we got out of the car to photograph something--like the incredible rock formations or the prairie dogs, we needed water once we got back in the car. We didn't have the energy to stop at the Fossil Park area of the Badlands and look for arrowheads or trilobites or anything.

The highlights of the trip:
Osc: the Waterpark and eating out. Our motel room in Custer.
Spouse: Badlands? Rushmore? Crazy Horse Memorial? Reptile Gardens, of course because of personal history.
Me: Reptile Gardens. Hmmm. Badlands--were immensely impressive. Rushmore, more fun and interesting than I'd thought it would be. I think it helped that we went on a gray, cool, rainy morning. Fewer people.
The Crazy Horse Memorialwas very impressive and immensely touching. IMHO, the US Government should foot the bill, but the family that started it wants it to be independent of government sources. IMHO, paying for it would be some (very) small way of making reparation for the great loss to the Native community of its lands and its way of life.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Errors of My Ways

I've been looking at a book by Ruth King. Looking at = reading it in bits and pieces. It's called The Ugly Truth About Managing People. I guess Management isn't exactly what I'd hoped or expected. In some ways, it is: I get to be a go-to person when things go wrong or need some adjustment.

In some ways, being the go-to person or the adjuster isn't all it's cracked up to be. For instance, I got called out on the 4th of July because our alarm went off and the police were in the building.

I've had to deal with some sensitive personnel issues. I've had to see how I was making grave errors and hope that I can work on changing the aspects of myself that will easily fall into these errors.

I am watchful and this watchfulness robs me of the joy I got in the spontaneity of library life. It's always something different in a public library and I like that. I am for the most part a positive person, but this stuff sent me into an emotional tailspin.

So I wonder, are there any other managers out there who've done what I have and what did they do to make it better for themselves? Or am I in the wrong place? Do I need more time just at the desk, not being too responsible?

It's past my 6 month probationary period, and there's a lot of good, so I'm staying put for now, but I wonder, wonder, wonder...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Library as Public Utility

Today, someone wanted to know where an outlet was so he could charge his cell phone.

What do we say? "No--use your own electricity, dammit?"

No, we don't say that. We say yes.
We have one outlet up here at our old branch--only one that's available and in a comfy enough position.

Public Utility Number One.

Grover (I think it was Grover) was right.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My MLS at work

The original link here for a comic strip dated June 11th did not work, so I'm finally getting around to editing.
Here's the link for Unshelved, a comic strip about a library done by Gene Ambaum and Tom Barnes.

I think if you visit, you'll find the June 11th strip, but it's all funny because it's true!

Hallmark Enters the 21st Century

At last!

I live in a part of the world where Hallmark rules. I happen to like buying Hallmark cards and products in part because I'm helping to pay the salaries of the some of the creative people who work there. The artists and writers who create Hallmark cards are not "sell-outs" as you might think. They are people who have chosen to work in a more structured environment, one that pays pretty well, but can be creatively stifling from time to time.

So it was exciting for me to see that Hallmark has a blog. Specifically, a Shoebox blog. Check out the Limericks and the Newsdroppings feature. Also be on the lookout for musical files coming up.

These guys get paid to write the cards that make you giggle or pull at your heartstrings (well, not the Shoebox people), but here they are goofing around just like any other humorous bloggers. I'm so happy. I hope Corporate does not pull the plug on the blog.

Like anyone reads my blog, but still...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Change is good--change is change, anyway

Here where I work, not only have I transitioned up into management (and that's literally as well as figuratively--we have two levels and youth services is down below), but we are getting a new branch manager!

Our current manager is retiring after 30 years in the system and she's been a pretty good mentor for me.

I'm looking forward to working with our new manager. He's got to be different. Our retiring one was very autocratic. At the same time, she was very hands off.

We'll see how things go.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rubber Room: a rantlet about confrontation

What we need at our branch is a rubber room. Or just a private, quiet office where we can punch or shake a pillow that we can call "Bad Patron."

Or "Bad Administrator."

Or "Bad President."

Pick your bad guy.

I guess the thing about Public Libraries is that we who work in them at times feel so damn beholden to the public for our jobs that we bend over backwards to accomodate them. Yet we are supposed to have rules and guidelines to follow. And our admin procedures often have the cautionary rubric: "Follow to the Letter."

So when we follow to the letter, but a patron is upset about what we do and calls a higher up (hereafter known as HU) and the HU 1) accomodates the patron 2) rebukes the librarian and/or 3) promises to accomodate but makes the librarian do the accomodating, what does that say about the organization?

I'll tell you what it says: "we have no policies. You can always get over. Always. Because we want to please You, the Public, no matter what."

It's not about materials necessarily--we believe that for every reader, there should be a book and it should be in the hands of the reader ASAP!!! It's about boundaries. I like working with the public, but shoot. They think they OWN us.

Well, some of them act like they do. And if HU doesn't back us up, well no wonder we public librarians sometimes feel like we're slave labour. And we don't smile. And we seem tense and uptight all the way up to our upswept be-bunned hair.

Certain things, yeah, we want to use our best judgment for. Fine. Certain things we can bend for. But if there are circumstances in which we feel we can't or shouldn't bend--because otherwise everyone and their grandmother will want us to bend--can we just abide by the rules and have done with it?

Otherwise, why bother with patron confidentiality? You forgot your library card? Just tell me your name and I'll get your info to you.

I think part of it is the mindset of us librarians. We're nice people. We'd prefer really open access to everything. We're people pleasers and would prefer not to have confrontations or arguments. Some of our policies are designed to protect us, yet we feel guilty for taking advantage of them--or let ourselves be pushed to the brink before we do. There are fine lines and everyone's different. If you're easily irritated don't go in for public work.

But still. We need our boundaries!!!!

Writing

Ummm, one of the last projects I did with a group for a class was to create a website that would be a resource for LIS authors.
We called ourselves the Kansas City Information Wizards and this is our writing and publication guide.

Please visit and tell us what you think about it. We still haven't been graded yet! Many thanks!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

SLIM for Life!

I'm sure that joke has been made before.

For the past 5 years, I have been studying in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. This spring, I'm done.

What does this mean? I'm now working at a professional level. I've got the word "librarian" in my title. This is a good thing.

Mostly I hope I exemplify the values and outcomes of the SLIM program. From the outset, the faculty strives to inculcate professional values into the students. It lifted me up and gave me something to which to aspire.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reports of Our Demise...

...are greatly exaggerated, according to these new stats published by the ALA: an increase of 61% in folks visiting the library between 1994 and 2004. Read the rest here.
Loriene Roy ALA president-elect says:
"Far from hurting American libraries, the Internet has actually helped to spur more people to use their local libraries because it has increased our hunger for knowledge and information."
.

And porn. But we won't go there, even if some of our patrons do...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Transformation, Part 2

I'm almost there.
Next weekend is my final class meeting.
I get to say how I became the professional librarian I am.

I remember thinking, the first time I introduced myself in class, that I didn't say enough. I heard the next person and I thought, wow, she's really telling a lot about herself.

Why can't I--or why couldn't I say more?

Plainly, in a room of strangers, I was scared. I had a bit of the "imposter" syndrome going on, thinking, maybe I didn't belong. Here were people who mostly it seemed, went into school without taking the detours I did.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Info Literacy Access Gap

Today, at work there was an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair.
He wondered if he could use a computer station to look up books and print out pages. We told him yes--did he have a library card?

He did, but it was way too old for use.

He could have used our "Catalog Only" stations, but they're on high desks. There was no way to lower them to his wheelchair.

So we make him up a new card and give him his pin number. He wheels slowly over to the one ADA accessible computer station in our branch and has no idea of what to do. He can barely type and has no knowledge of tabbing or hitting "enter"...not to mention using the mouse.

I try to go slowly. But basically all I seem to be showing him is how complicated the system has become for him.

He wanted books about some mid-20th century event and we found him some. One of my colleagues helped by pulling a bunch of books. But the whole event made me realize how inadequate our self-service system is for someone in a wheelchair, first of all: in addition to there being only one convenient ADA accessible station, for him to have to print, he'd need to wheel over to the Print Release station, get assistance--because that station is not low enough for wheelchairs, and then have to put money in the station.

Then for someone who is not experienced with PCs, this is perhaps both frustrating and maybe shaming. The gentleman, who was born in the early part of the last century had all his mental facilities intact. His interest in history was keen. He wanted to use the computer catalog--but as I was showing him, I became so aware of the huge gap in ability.

I realize the generation that doesn't know from PCs is fading, but technology is so speedy, there will always be something to challenge our ability to use it to get information. It is my hope that public libraries will always stay aware of this, that we will try to stay on top of it.

One of these days, I may be wheeling myself into a public library, looking for something good to read, or wanting to research early 21st century history. What if the mouseless, keyboard-less catalog station of the future can't track my eye movements, because my eyes are too old and slow?

Something to think about as Americans live and stay active, thinking and working longer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mr. Breakfast!

Mr. Breakfast, where have you been my whole life?
I only today, this morning, after my eggs, cheese, ham breakfast (no toast, I'm low carb!) came across this wonderful website:
Mr. Breakfast. It's got articles and recipes about my favorite meal of the day. His article about Breakfast on Death Row says:
Will the promotion of breakfast appreciation deter crime? It will take a great deal of further study to answer that question. But it is imperative that we ask the question, if only because of one surprising, perhaps ground-breaking, statistic that cannot be overlooked. Of the 281 death row inmates studied, not a single inmate requested pancakes, waffles or oatmeal.

The final meal of Odell Barnes, Jr. (executed March 1, 2000) was not included in this study because it failed to meet a standard definition of a meal. When asked what he wanted for his final meal, Barnes, Jr. requested Justice, Equality, and World Peace. Prison personnel were not able to fulfill that request. We can only hope that in a future with more breakfast, we will all be able to eat that meal, and murderous scum like Odell Barnes, Jr. will use their knives on pancakes instead of people.


I even eat breakfast when I wake up especially early to get to the gym before I go to work. I need a small cup of coffee and something solid in my stomach before I pump iron and traverse the miles on the elliptical machine. Sometimes it's a flax muffin. Sometimes an egg. Sometimes some avocado and bacon.

But always breakfast. I'm wondering how many librarians have a good breakfast before heading to work. Any librarians reading this care to answer?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Transformation

I've just spent the last 2 weeks in my first professional position.
I've been hired as an Assistant Branch Manager at my library.

This is desirable and challenging for a number of reasons. The challenges first:
--I'm still working on my degree. I have 2 demanding courses. Life feels overwhelming with my spouse and son also taking my time. I've never been the "best" student. Managing coursework (i.e. I am a Big Procrastinator) has never been my strong suit.

--I am now a supervisor. Some of my supervisées, while they have not been my peers in terms of the work hierarchy, have not been people I've had to supervise. We've had more of a sense of camaraderie. I still want to encourage camaraderie, but I will have to be able to draw the line.

Sandy Puccino, in American Libraries, the magazine you get when you become a member of the ALA writes that, "Rather than looking at support staff as the serfs of the stacks, librarians should see the as associates in information management or librarians-in-waiting." (p. 41, American Libraries, January 2007).

I have always felt that way, since my own experience has reflected that. I started as a library clerk in a synagogue library. I hated shelving, filing catalog cards and writing accession numbers in books, in part because the people I worked with made me feel what I was doing was because I was too uneducated to do anything else.

Gradually, I became the synagogue's librarian. My title and name got on the stationery's masthead. Nevertheless, my pay was nothing like professional and the way management treated me--again, it was as if I knew nothing. I knew I loved what I was doing, but I wanted to be A Professional. So I started library school and quit my synagogue job.

The first public library I job I got, I was a Page. I shelved books. I yearned to answer questions. I kept being told that my job was only to shelve books, tidy the place up and make xeroxes for the staff who requested them. I also helped package materials for ILL. The place I worked was very hierarchical in its operations at the time. I began to grow unhappy.

Then I got a job in Youth Services at a branch. This is what I observed: While most Pages aren't officially expected to do info specialist work at the branch, they do learn the collection and can often help when an Info Spec or Librarian isn't around. Same with the Clerks--the front line of defense at the circ desk.

Now my job is to supervise these Clerks and Pages. I want to do more, though. I want to nurture their ability to be information specialists. It can only help our users if more skilled people are there to help them.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More Classics, Please?

I read this one last week.

So what do you think? Should we push the classics or let the schools do their job of pushing them (and often ruining them for) on kids?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Info Literacy vs. Literacy

My friend, the Coffee Crone over at Taming Coffeesent me this link to an article in the Washington Post. In it the author laments that books are a hard sell, that the library profession nowadays tends to contribute to that trend by eschewing the title "librarian," in favor of something like "media and information specialist."
The author, Thomas Washington, a teacher-librarian further says:
"The buzzword in the trade is 'information literacy,' a misnomer, because what it is really about is mastering computer skills, not promoting a love of reading and books."

Now tell me something, is it always supposed to be about a love of reading and books?
Don't get me wrong--I do love to read. I enjoy reading books. I enjoy reading just about anything that comes my way, except what I have to read for school (and don't get me started on that!) (that's my problem--getting started!).

Some of us get into the profession because of our love of reading and books and our desire to promote it. Others get into the profession--and have always gotten into the profession because of our love of sharing information, our love of providing access to information.

In essence many of us are teachers, but we are just not comfortable with the classroom setting.

I regret that the teens in Mr. Washington's school seem not to be interested in books, but perhaps it's the books themselves. As I said, I am reluctant to read anything for school--unless it's a lit class and I get to read lots of, well, literature. If Mr. Washington is pushing nothing but "classics" at his student, no wonder they're not reading.

He might try interesting them in young adult works by contemporary authors: Avi, Chris Crutcher, Anthony Horowitz, Edith Pattou, Tamora Pierce to name a few. Even the books that some dismiss as trash can serve a purpose: they get kids reading.

It could be "the Gossip Girls," or "Undead and Unwed." Maybe manga. Of course, Harry Potter, Eragon and others like that.

Maybe instead of measuring literacy by how well the classics are read, it's time we redefined the term to include, well, just reading.

By the way, book is the new cool.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't Let the Curmudgeon Read a Book

School has started, so of course I'm reading about information design, and reflecting over the my life as an MLS student.

But more importantly, we have the metrowide Librarian's Read Challenge. We read YA and J titles, fiction or non-fiction, keep track of them and the pages. The person with the most pages read gets a prize and the branch with the most pages read gets to keep the Cat-in-the-Hat trophy for a year. And the system with the most pages read gets our admiration and envy!



The Newbery Award winner by Lynne Rae Perkins, Criss Cross was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It's about people, who happen to be teenagers, on the cusp of events. A girl,Debbie and a boy, Hector who like other people (like, like) but you're rooting for them to like (like, like) each other.It's like examining what happens in the moment before something actually happens. Really good--except for the illustrations. I think they're hokey.


Scott Westerfield's So Yesterday, on the other hand had nothing hokey about it. The aptly named Hunter is a "cool hunter." He meets a creative girl, Jen (an Innovator), intrigued by her shoelaces and the two of them join forces to find Hunter's missing boss. In the process, they uncover a plot by some of the coolest people in the world--people who threaten to topple the world of consumer market and Cool itself.

Funny, snarky, strong teen voice and character and absolutely wonderful on-target portrayals of New York.

Just to see what all the fuss is about, I've read one of "The Clique" novels by Lisi Harrison. Invasion of the Boy Snatchers is okay. I wouldn't condemn it, but I wouldn't recommend it. Perhaps because it's not the first in the series, it didn't hold my attention. And yeah, the characters seem shallow and uninteresting.
I see why kids like it. Brand name-dropping. Romantic tension. The typical middle school angst compounded with the lives of the wealthy. Gee--their problems are just as bad. If not worse.

Too bad the writing and editing, you should pardon the expression, sucks.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tell Me Something New

Changing role of librarians? From the Wall Street Journal.

Been there, done that.

I am almost at the end of my MLS program. The very first day, it got hammered into our heads that we're in transit, we're in flux, we need to be nimble. We think outside the bun.

What is sobering about this article--another thing I've been hearing about for the past 4.5 years (yes, it's taking me this long!)(that's another post down the road)is that the librarian(the be-bunned one) population is aging and retiring and there may not be enough skilled fresh new librarians to fill their shoes.

Do the powers-that-employ expect us to have the same appearance, attitude and skill set as the ones who are retiring?
See,the sensible shoes are changing too.

This I think reflects reality a bit more:
Talk of a shortage doesn't worry many veteran librarians, who remember similar predictions in the late 1960s and early 1970s -- followed by a glut of job candidates a few years later. As new information-retrieval systems simplify tasks and government budgets tighten, growth in the profession may be slower, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Quarterly.


I'm currently applying for jobs again--just within my library system. Being 3 credit hours away from the degree (and I'm registered and have paid for them already!)it's just making me think of possibilities.

I'm relatively young in my profession, but relatively old next to the average MLS program graduate. I hope that doesn't count against me. I think I've posted before about this, but I also think my age and life experience should count for something.

Even if I don't IM my friends every night. And I'm still catching up on pop culture icons like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Okay, I'll quit kvetching. I sure don't miss card catalogs. My hair's cut too short for bunnage. And I don't know what I'd do without the Internet.