The Librarian’s Paradox: There are too many goddamn books.

That’s right. There are too goddamn many. I was so excited to get into this field, overcome with joy at the books I would be exposed to, the hours of reading pleasure to which I was about to surrender. I was not prepared for the very obvious problem that any decent person who listened to my declarations of delight (I’m looking at you, friends and family) could have pointed out to me: working a 40 hour week means I cannot possibly read the amount of books I have checked out in anything like the amount of time I’m used to. I’m a five-hours-a-day-minimum kind of reader. I like to get drunk off it and pass out at four in the morning with a great last line still buzzing in my head. I like to read a book every week, or two at time, or five or six a month, which is HELLA easy when you are unemployed. That’s what the library is made for!

Now I’m lucky if I can squeeze in two hours before I have to make and eat dinner, only to subsequently pass out.

And it’s not just that I have less time to read. It’s also that I now have a surplus of reading material! Every day I hear about a new book, a novel, a short story collection, a nonfiction work, a children’s adventure book, a graphic novel, a something, old or new, that I MUST get my hands on. It’s a terrible, terrible affliction, and I place the blame squarely in the blogosphere. (That, and my propensity to pick up books when I’m shelving, occasionally taking down more than I put back…) At some point I will get around to linking all the book blogs I started reading and you will see that I clearly have no idea what I’m doing.

I should stress that prior to landing this gig, I was a book lover on my own terms. I don’t like book clubs, because I hate defending my opinion in front of a group. I was a solitary reader up until college (with one or two exceptions) because I was the only person I knew who liked to read like a fiend. And although I was among the lucky children to embrace the first tentative webs of the internet (I’m talking Prodigy, bitches), I have almost never used it to get book recommendations. In between being autonomous and being a chronic rereader, it wasn’t so much that I read a lot of books, but that I read the same books A LOT. When I grew tired of traipsing after Bilbo or running from Cujo, I would bust out my library card and hit the shelves, book by book, looking for my own personal treasure.

Whatever appealed to me, that’s what I read. It did not occur to me that the world of reading had a structure, a community that kept track of who was making something worthwhile and who was not, when they were making it and for whom. My unconscious theory was if it was that good, I would hear about it eventually, and in the meantime, why not have the added fun of doing my own legwork? I actually KNEW my library, if someone wanted to know where to find an author, I could tell them just from memory. My reading has always been intensely personal, because it’s like living another person’s life, thinking their thoughts, and actually being somewhere else, if only for a short time. My biggest regret in life is that this gift has waned and I don’t yet know how to get it to come back. (Possibly by giving up the internet.)

But enough self-pity. The point is, I found the lair of the Bookish and also found myself dangerously under-read. Now I’m lost on the sea of books with not a single compass to guide me, or rather, too many compasses. In the space of one hour at the info desk, I can find myself on BookRiot, EarlyWord, and NPR: Books, as well as Shelf Talk, Shelf Check, Shelf Renewal, and No Shelf Required… And I don’t even OWN an eReader. Granted, there are many worse places to be, and planning time for books is not totally out of the question. I already squeeze pages out of my breaks and during my lunches, wrest a few paragraphs between cooking and eating dinner, and giving up TV in the evenings in exchange for tea and parchment, and of course, my blessed, often obligingly rainy weekends. But I’m still way, WAY behind.

At this point in the program, I would like to share with you an illuminating anecdote about those who read for pleasure vs. those who don’t read, or read only because they think they should.

One evening, I was at the apartment of a close friend, and we were moments away from leaving for dinner, when he had to go to the restroom. I’ll spare you the details of what that trip was like, because uh, ew? Anyway, I had just started The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherine Valente, and with my few precious minutes, I decided to finish the first chapter. My friend returned to find me in my reading “zone,” where I look somewhat like an angry shrubbery (hunched over, face scrunched up in concentration, hair sticking out like twigs, etc.), and he says, “Were you that bored?”

And I said, “aHA!” Actually, that’s just what I WISH I said, what I really said was something silly explaining myself, when I didn’t have to, because aHA! That’s what some people think of reading. That’s it’s something you do when you have nothing else to do. They think of it as a leisure activity, not as drinking the golden waters of eternity from the diamond cup of creativity… to put it mildly. It’s not necessary for their mental well-being. I’ll have to assume it’s because they’re aliens.

Reading is LIFE. And while I will hyperbolize greatly in this blog, I mean that completely… for me, and anyone else who finds themselves taken with it, burying themselves in ink and paper like happy little book hamsters.

I wouldn’t normally use a watermarked image, but this one was by far the cutest.

Anyway, I’m off to put my money where my mouth is. Or my eyes where my fingers… wait, no… I’m gonna put my… Screw it, I’m going to go read. Peace out, ya’ll. Also, if you know where there is an Ultimate Reading Guide for Book Addicts Who Are Newbs, holla at me. Otherwise, I’ll have to make another blog with that title.

Also, there is a very good article on the “I don’t have time to read” baloney over at Bookriot, one of my new favorite websites I use when ignoring loud patrons. Check it out.


Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Goody No Shoes Guide to Etiquette, Part 2: Flirting with Disaster

I’m not sure how people, let alone other librarians feel about this, but I cannot stand being flirted with while I’m working. I’ve always been that way. Sure, on the street, in my civvies, I’m more tolerant, willing to humor you for about five seconds before I awkwardly shuffle off, but at work, my anger level spikes like a rocket, Incredible Hulk style. The combination of being offended, disgusted, and contemptuous is too much for my normally sweet disposition to handle, and it makes me want to reach across the information desk and make you choke on my stapler.

One: Guys don’t flirt with me when I’m not at work… that I’m aware of. I’m bad at noticing that kind of thing, so I could be wrong, but at work, it’s so obvious, and totally frustrating. What is it? Is it the nametag that does it? I guess my friendliness at work, not to mention the sexy librarian aspect (they make those shirts low cut on purpose!), apparently makes young men think that I am interested in something besides doing a computer search for them or showing them how to use the printer.

Two: I’m trying. To fucking. WORK. Your dumbass pickup line is wasting my time that could be spent helping the sweet, innocent child next to you find a book so she can do her homework. You are RUINING her education, you selfish asshole.

Three, and possibly most annoying: It is never the shy, bookish type who tries to flirt with me. It always has to be some type A, overconfident douchebag, who is mistaking my rage face for my amorous face. Maybe they do look alike, but there’s nothing more irritating than trying to communicate venom to someone who is thinking its the opposite because stapling their hand to the desk would cost me my job. Thus, I created this handy guide to flirting with the cute librarian, that can only be really used on me and other introverted types, but if it catches, maybe people will make some of their own.

1. If you are thinking that hitting on with the librarian while she is working is a reasonable, unobtrusive thing to do, DO NOT FLIRT WITH THE LIBRARIAN.

2. If you actually came to the library for books, notice the librarian is cute, but would never talk to her because that would be disrespectful and she may not like you, FLIRT WITH THE LIBRARIAN. Even if she is not interested, she will let you down gently, rather than look at you as if you were a silverfish in her bedroom.

3. If you are not put off by polite, professional rebuttals, or fierce, angry rebuttals, or the words “go away,” DO NOT FLIRT WITH THE LIBRARIAN.

4. If your pick up line involves asking how old she is, DO NOT FLIRT WITH THE LIBRARIAN.

5. If your pick up line involves tickets to see Joshua Bell, PLEASE, PLEASE, DO FLIRT WITH THE LIBRARIAN. That’s an almost guaranteed in.

There. I hope that will clear things up for some people. And, if you have any rules of your own, please feel free to add them.


Filed under Library, Personal

Mini-Post, Real One Forthcoming

Do NOT read the The Oatmeal while working at the Information Desk. Patrons will find your hysterical laughter upsetting and be afraid to ask you anything. Co-workers will object to your extreme levels of mirth. Just keep looking at tor and io9 until the place clears out five minutes before closing… THEN read the Oatmeal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Library, Uncategorized

Weeding vs. Keeping Up Appearances

If Awful Library Books has taught me anything (and it has), it’s that some books no longer merit taking up sacred shelf space in the hallowed carpeted areas of the public library. Some books are outdated, some books are too beat up, and still some books are just too weird (a magnificent feat in a place that stocks everything from mid-20th century erotica to Mein Kampf.) But what about the books that fall into none of the above categories, but have to go simply because they aren’t moving?

Innocent until no longer socially relevant.

As you may have guessed, I was given my first real weeding assignment this week, in a section that apparently desperately needs it: romance. And my criteria was simple: if it hadn’t been checked out or requested within the past year, dump it. At first, I was dubious, but then I thought, what the hell, they’re romance novels, not literary genius, so I began orchestrating their demise… also known as deleting them from the system and putting them in the dark, mysterious “discards” bin. In the morning, a delivery truck would come and take them away to live on a farm with all the other unwanted books and we would never see them again.

I like to think the romance novels spend their days being read by people who were silly enough to pose for their covers. Who let him wear that hat?

I amused myself for the first hour by poking fun at the models, laughing at the hilarious titles (“One Night Pregnancy” took the gold), and occasionally wondering who was checking these things out, since I had not seen hide nor hair of a harlequin within 20 feet of the check out desk. But apparently, except for these unlucky few, they were flying off the shelf. It was only after I tired of playing God of Book Death that I began to think about what was actually happening to the books… well, not those books, but other, more interesting books that hadn’t been checked out in a year.

This is what the God of Book Death looks like. That blade is for gently removing bar code stickers.

Were there different criteria for different sections? What about keeping the shelves looking full? What about discovering an old book no one had checked out in ages? And where did these dead books go? I received worrying answers to these questions, mainly along the lines of “I don’t know” and “Shouldn’t you be working?” As a new hire, it seemed prudent to do as I was told, but still, I wondered.

Work: Apparently more important than asking probing, but irrelevant questions.

Anyway, in my neck of the woods, all energy flows according to the whim of the great magnet and all books are discarded after approximately one year of idleness, give or take. Do all libraries have this rule? This was something that, in my days as a blissfully ignorant patron, I had never given thought to, but apparently weeding is a major deal. Supposedly, all “good” librarians do it, and I want very much to be a good librarian. But I can’t help feeling badly for the books that are consigned to the scary discard bin, to go off to who knows what fate, just because no one had noticed them for a while. Although, maybe it’s just the beginning of their adventure…

Further up and further in! … you know, the book version of that.

But from this end, it seems pretty unusual to me. Weeding is major part of collection evaluation and development, I get that, but based on what the internet has told me, there seems to be more to it than the last activity date. The coolest (and I use that term very loosely) guideline on weeding had a set of criteria called MUSTIE that, in addition to being an adorable pun, actually laid out really good reasons to get rid of books.

M= Misleading, full of outdated or inaccurate information

U=Ugly, kid drew on it too many times in what we hope is brown lipstick

S=Superseded, replaced by a new edition

T=Trivial, book is about post-modern art

I=Irrelevant, see above

E= Elsewhere, the book is totally obscure, probably no one will ever ask for it, and even if they do, there are other copies available

I am sure you noticed, as I also did, that the T does not stand for Time, no one has checked out this book since dirt was invented.

Clever quip about old books.

So why is my library doing this? It’s not as if books are pouring off our shelves and out into the street, but the way the other librarians go at it, you’d think we get a tax break for every inch of free shelf space they can wrangle… We actually might, I really don’t know, but that’s not the point!

Not pictured: the point.

Part of going to the library, for me anyway, was the strangely reassuring look of packed shelves. Knowing I had a relatively unlimited supply of knowledge, actually SEEING the manifestation of it, was a source of immense comfort to me. It’s not terribly important to the functioning of the library, I guess, but why the hell would I want to look at a half empty bookshelf? I don’t have half-empty bookshelves at home! I like them full to bursting, spilling out over my dressers, books piling up in the corners and on my bed. But that’s just me, maybe other library-goers like the “spartan” look. I personally find it depressing.

Way back when, when the card catalog was emperor and borrower provenance was kept track of using stamps instead of bar code scanners, I used to LOVE pulling a book off the shelf and seeing a ridiculously old date stamped on that little card in the back. I felt like an archaeologist unearthing a relic, something no one had seen in a thousand years. (When you are seven years old, 50 years might as well be a thousand years.) It meant I was special too. The book and I were meant for each other. It had been waiting on that shelf for decades for my tiny little hands to grab it and now it could at last be taken home and read once more. It was glorious and it fed my love of books by allowing me to bond with them in an admittedly not-quite-sane fashion. But you can’t want your kid to love reading and not have them be a little insane. It doesn’t work that way.

So where are the patrons supposed to get that high from now? Granted, it’s not as if the age of the book is really visible to the borrower any longer, but every reader knows a neglected book when they see one. The dust on the top that belies the neatness of the spine, or, in the case of very old books, that musty smell, the way they sort of fall open in that “Yes! Read me now!” sort of way. Or even just by the old-sounding titles, e.g. A Blah-blahery of Blah-Blah in Blah, or the Blah-blahbying of Blahbler. (I’d read the hell out of that book.)

Despite these (in my opinion, quite valid) complaints, I really have no say in the matter. I still don’t know where the books go after the delivery truck takes them. The person I asked muttered something vague about a sorting facility or something or other, and couldn’t explain why we don’t just sell the ones that are in good shape. Not that I am particularly eager to add “One Night Pregnancy” to my own collection, but I’m not convinced it deserves whatever fate it eventually comes to wherever that truck stops. But then again, it’s not in my nature to get rid of any book, ever… except maybe this one.

The worst abuse of alliteration I’ve seen in a long time.

I may update with other amusing titles as my weeding continues. Also, if you’re interested in a buttload of free romantic novels, let me know, maybe we can work something out. I still kind of want to rescue them from the so-called “sorting facility.”

Sources: Weeding GuidelinesA Weeding Bibliography


Filed under Books, Library

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

I feel I should explain myself a little better. I didn’t just wander into a library and sit down behind the desk and no one asked me to leave… though that would’ve been cool. I always wanted to be a librarian, I just didn’t know it for oh, the first 24 years of my life. I am not well-known for my powers of observation.

Where the hell am I?

To make a long story about as long as it should be, I majored in art (art history, really) in college because I was good at it. Using basic researching skills, writing papers at dawn the day they were due, and exploiting the subjectivity of the subject to its fullest extent, I was able to pursue those topics more aligned with my undergraduate pursuits, mainly drinking and watching Adult Swim. Basically, my degree says B.A., but really it should say BS. I’m sure many of you can relate.

Not that I didn’t enjoy it. I love art, so that made it even easier to work toward some shadowy, idealistic goal, curating, in my case, without having to consider the consequences, which were as such: I loved art, but not curating it, restoring it, making it, or teaching it. So, by graduation, I was pretty much boned.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?

I panicked. I panicked for a LONG time, 6 months, give or take. Being utterly directionless and having been GROSSLY misinformed about how difficult the adult world actually is, I pretty much sat in my room, applying for jobs I knew I wouldn’t get and crying. A lot of crying took place, not to mention nerding it up reading novels at the back of library stacks whenever I found the energy to crawl from the house.

Don’t judge me.

Eventually, I landed an unpaid internship (score!) which was not too bad, but pretty much cemented the fact that I had a degree for a profession that was never going to make me happy. It was most distressing. So, I took the next logical step. I left my internship to work as a volunteer farmhand, knowing absolutely nothing about farming… because I am Goody, the Super Genius.

This is a great idea.

It actually worked out in my favor. I worked strictly on organic farms in podunk little towns, away from billboards, highways, TV, the Internet, with only my cell phone that hardly ever had a signal and $100 a month to live on. I was eating right, getting constant fresh air and exercise, meeting great people, getting drunk in places I’d never been to, and barely wearing my shoes. (I actually lived in a town where I almost never had to wear shoes, EVER. Ever go shopping barefoot? It’s freakin amazing.) I had planned to do this for six months, but I was gone little more than a year. The experience changed my life.

But, I couldn’t live like that forever. I needed some stability, so I came back home for round two of the punishing game known as Finding a Job. Six months experience and being somewhat more emotionally sound made round two slightly less awful, but still didn’t go too well. I got hired at a place where the words “employee health and safety” had obviously never been uttered, was swiftly injured, and found myself back at home, facing the unhappy prospect of going back to a seedy business or being unemployed again.

How much does panhandling pay?

With my familiar friend panic staring down the barrel of his shotgun at me, I started looking at grad school. I hadn’t wanted to spend the money for something I knew I wasn’t passionate about, but I had paid an exorbitant amount for a secondary education already, only to get hurt working for jerks and morons, so I had to do something. I read somewhere that art librarian is actually a real thing, so I had libraries in the back of my mind from the start, but only after reading about what it entailed did I begin to take it seriously.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” ~ Harper Lee

That was me when I was a kid… and a teenager… and for quite some time as an adult, until I realized not everybody read as much as I did. So when I finally looked seriously into librarianship, I felt like an idiot. What did I love more than books? Nothing! My bedroom even has its own nonfiction section. Where did I spend most of my non-crying hours? HOW did I not pick up on this!? I immediately quit working for shady douchebags and scoured the internet for library jobs. There were not many for those without an MLS. I began networking, something at which I had previously been completely awful. I also started interviewing well because I was actually excited about the work I would be doing. And lo and behold, I got a job offer. I get to read about, discuss, and be around books ALL DAY. Putting the right book in someone’s hand gives me goosebumps and I get paid to tell people how the Internet works! It may be the perfect job, though I suspect I will have my share of struggles once the honeymoon is over. But anyway, that’s my story. I’ve been a library assistant for about two weeks and my so-called adult life has never been better. How long it will last, I have no idea. How long were you happy with your first career choice?

Leave a comment

Filed under Intro, Personal

Goody No-Shoes Guide to Etiquette, Part 1: Introducing Oneself

These are the chronicles of my life as a brand spanking new librarian. I go by Goody, since being excessively polite and good-natured is my current modus operandi while working in the public sector. (Before you ask, no, it doesn’t work that well.) I’ve always loved books, but as an art student turned hippie turned impromptu librarian, I’m just a tad in over my head, working in a library with people who at a minimum have years of experience on me. But the library can be a very interesting place, every day brings new challenges and people with levels of crazy I’ve never before witnessed… and I had a schizophrenic grandparent.

To people who already work in one, it may not seem like much, but I intend to offer a n00b’s perspective as I receive my education; not to mention keeping track of the challenges I face, observations I make, and the every-growing pile of books I add to each day as I am exposed to authors I’ve never read, topics I’ve never thought of, and titles I never even knew existed. Please have your tickets ready. It’s time to Keep Calm and Serve the Public.

Leave a comment

Filed under Intro