29 December 2003


When I got home today, I had a letter from the Secretary of State informing me that my request for a personalized license plate has been approved. As soon as I send in my check (tomorrow), I'll be set. Soon, I'll be cruisin' around town with my spiffy new SNARK plates. Yay!

Damn those reference books!

The FBI is warning police to be on the lookout for anyone carrying almanacs.

I don't even have a comment on this.

I miss them too, dear

The New York Times Magazine had a charming picture of Olivia yesterday along with text remembering William Steig and Robert McCloskey.

Should I be excited or alarmed?

Maybe everyone else already knew this, but Ella Enchanted is being made into a movie.

What will Ken say?

Naked pictures of Barbie have been protected by a court in San Francisco. The photos are part of an exhibit called (Illegal Art) that seems to be garnering some press. I can see where some artists would be upset at the hijacking of their images by the new exhibit. On the other hand, it seems to be a fascinating show and one of the dangers of creating instantly recognizable characters is that those same characters may well be used later for social commentary. (Hee. I like the Prozac stamps. I wonder if using them would calm you down? That'd be the way to ensure a renaissance of personal correspondence by mail!)

NOTE: Yes, I realize I linked to the Viagra stamps, not the Prozac. Freudian slip? I don't think so. But when I went back to fix it, I was unable to get the Prozac picture, but the Viagra one came right up. (Heh.) So, whatever.

Sometimes I'm a little slow...

I swear I thought that Lemony Snicket just made this book up, mostly because of the delicious absurdity of the title.

I'd feel more stupid, but I'm too busy looking forward to reading it...

Do you think they'll carry Mr. Popper's Penguins?

Someone wants to put a library in Antarctica.


Love Actually

I went last night with a friend to see Love Actually at the awesome little Town Theatre. I had expected it to be a mildly entertaining piece of fluff, but found that I really liked it. A lot. Way better than Mona Lisa Smile, which I saw last week. It was funny and sweet and everything that a good romantic comedy should be. (Though, to be fair, I am a sucker for a good -- or even fairly mediocre -- romantic comedy.) Not all of the love stories ended in the standard "happily ever" fairy tale way, but the film satisfied me. I left feeling happy.

The film actually fit in well with my mood over the last few weeks. I'm not quite sure how to articulate it without coming across at least a wee bit unbalanced, so I will just come out and say it. I have been absolutely in love. What makes this odd is that there is no one particular person I am in love with. I just go through my days feeling like I am in love with the world.

This isn't some idealistic "aren't people grand?" thing. Some people are crap, a fact of which I am all too aware. But overall, I just feel in love. I don't know quite how else to explain it...

Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine was poignant and (for lack of a better word) lovely yesterday.

NPR update

So, I wrote that letter to Chicago Public Radio's Eight Forty-Eight about their segment on libraries. I got an e-mail back from the associate editor of the programming saying they may air the letter during an upcoming letters segment. I'll letcha know how that pans out.

Library Busy-ness

Well, if I have any readers left at all after that hiatus, I apologize for the dearth of new material here. It has been a busy few weeks here at the library (never mind all the personal running around the holidays bring). We had a horrificially bad winter concert at job #1 (what amazes me is that he has performed here four times previously; has played his last show here!), followed by a wildly successful winter craft program (we had 43 attendees, which appears to be some kind of record based on the YS staff reaction I got).

Today is our first annual all-day film festival. This first year, we are doing animated Disney films, one from each decade of Disney feature-length animation, beginning with Snow White (playing as I type this). It will be interesting to see what kind of turnout we get here. I did this at my previous job and we had close to 200 attendees, but that was a community with way more latch-key kids, which I am sure added to our numbers. (Parents sometimes read "all day film festival" and see "free all day babysitting). So far I have 4 people in there, but it's only been 15 minutes, so...

15 December 2003

Winter time is Library time

Michael Farrelly makes a compelling case for "let[ting] the cold weather drive you into the arms of your library this winter."

Everyday Advocates

I think what bothered me the most about the NPR segment on libraries last week was that I felt that the ball was dropped in terms of stressing the financial burdens many public libraries are facing now. I won't rehash my entire last post, but it just felt to me that Ms. Long should have been more assertive about the pay inequities inherent in the public library system.

I believe, so much, that every one of us has a responsibility to be a library advocate in our everyday lives. I talk about libraries whenever I can, because I truly believe in the power of public libraries to change lives.

Real Simple magazine had a shout-out to libraries. I don't have the issue in front of me (I will post the exact quote after I get home), but it reminded readers that public libraries can borrow books that their local library doesn't own through interlibrary loan. That seems obvious to those of us who work in and love libraries, but so many people have no idea. It felt huge to see this reminder (in bright orange text!) in a nationally distributed magazine.

When the local press writes a favorable article about our libraries, we often call or write to thank them. This positive reinforcement makes them more likely to write about the library in the future. Why not do the same thing with the national press? Instead of bitching because we are offended by stereotypes or action figures (it's just a doll, Sparky!), how about expending our energy on thanking those who present a positive view of libraries. And if we disagree with a view, instead of a vitriolic attack, how about beginning by thanking whatever organization we are writing (calling, whatever) for focusing some of their program (newspaper, magazine, etc.) on public libraries in the first place? Then, we can gently point out whatever errors we viewed in their presentation.

By gently, I in no way mean that we should back down and let ourselves be trampled on. But let's save our sarcasm and biting wit for the 'blogs and each other. There's a reason, "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar" has been a long-standing proverb!

Let's all be advocates in every area of our everyday life. It can't possibly hurt us and may very well help.

14 December 2003

Okay, back to NPR

I have many opinions about the segment NPR ran on libraries last week. However, in the interest of retaining some professional integrity, I decided not to post my ranting. Instead, I will post the letter I sent to Eight Forty-Eight's Steve Edwards in response to the program:

Thank you for your segment about the increased use of libraries over the past years (which aired Thursday, Dec. 11). It is true that public libraries are one of the"best-kept secrets" around. However, while Ms. Long chose to highlight internet and electronic resources in her interview, libraries provide so much more -- we provide books, storytimes and other programs for all ages, expert reference help, and a sense of community that is often missing from other segments of society. Trained librarians using careful questioning, can often help patrons find exactly what they are looking for, even when the patrons aren't often sure themselves.

Ms. Long answered the question about why there is a shortage of public librarians by pointing out the demand for information specialists in other fields. While this is a valid point, she neglected to explain why so many of my colleagues are choosing the private sector over public libraries. Quite simply, public libraries, with few exceptions, are not able to pay their employees as well as private employers. A quick glance at the recently updated survey by LACONI (Library Adminstrators Conference of Northern Illinois) shows a startling range of salaries throughout northern Illinois. While some libraries pay well (sometimes well over $75,000 to administrators), many more librarians make shockingly small salaries (under $25,000 to administration, less for other employees).

Many public library employees have earned Masters' degrees in Library Science before being employed as librarians full-time. We have spent much time, energy, and money on our educations in order that we may serve all those who walk through the doors of our libraries, yet are not always fairly compensated for our efforts, especially when librarian salaries are measured against the salaries of other professionals with comparable schooling. Furthermore, the inequity of librarian salaries throughout the state make it difficult to convince librarians to work in certain communities when the willingness to relocate or commute could mean fairer pay. Sadly, this inequity means that communities where parent could afford to purchase books for their children if they so chose are able to afford more librarians and bigger libraries while those communities which need public libraries the most often are unable to pay competitive wages, buy new materials, and expand too-small facilities.

I truly love my job and cannot imagine doing another. I also love the communities I have chosen to work in, which have thus far been communities on the lower end of the economic spectrum. I could make much more money than I do now by working in the city of Chicago or in the north suburbs. However, if we all follow the money, who will be left to serve the communities that need us most?

As long as poor pay and salary inequities remain, I fear there will be a shortage of professional librarians. I passionately believe in the value of public libraries and the potential they have to change lives. Most of us who work in public libraries do so out of love. We joke amongst each other that we didn't go into this profession to get rich. The fact that we love our jobs, though, doesn't make them less meaningful and less worthy of recognition and fair compensation. We didn't go into this profession to get rich, but it would be nice if we were able to stop worrying whether our paychecks will stretch enough to cover our basic needs.



11 December 2003

Libraries on NPR

This morning, NPR ran a segment on public libraries. I have opinions on this, but they will have to wait until tomorrow, as it is time to (finally!) get home.


Okay, so tomorrow, when the staff of my library comes back from a multi-library staff development day, I am supposed to give a brief presentation on 'blogs, including introducing the rest of the staff to the new 'blog we are using in Youth Services.

That's pretty swell. I am excited by it and I am hoping my enthusiasm will be at least interesting, if not infectious.


But, my Reference pal and I spent the last five hours getting this stupid laptop and the projector to work.

And when one of the Circ crew came through, asked what we were doing, and we told her, she didn't even pretend she didn't want to sit through that.

Hey, at least appreciate what it took to get this stuff to work!

I dunno if we should shut this down or just let it run all night...

Nobel Lecture

The lecture given by the Nobel Laureate in Literature, J. M. Coetzee, is now available, as text or a video.

10 December 2003

Kingly words

Now you can read (or watch, or listen to) the acceptance speech given by Stephen King upon receiving the National Book Foundation's Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award.

Ooh! Ooh! How 'bout this?

Okay, I finally found something else that my loving family can get me for Christmas! Everyone can chip in and I don't need any gifts next year, either! (I prefer the letter written from Milan.)

I want this!

Darn! If only I hadn't just redecorated the bathroom, I could have a truly fabulous place to relax!

Dangerous nursery rhymes

A brilliant new study examines the carelessness many of us have exhibited in reciting these tragic tales to children for so many years.

A smile to start my day

This morning, when I came in to work, I had an e-mail from one of "my" kids from my previous job. It was one of those soppy bits o' glurge that have a life message within. In this case it was, "Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion." I think that's a pretty good bit of advice, even if I abhor the chain letter aspects these pieces usually contain.

The best part, though, wasn't the moral. The best part was seeing that I haven't been forgotten by my kids. So many children have passed through my life, and I have genuinely loved many of them. My last job was especially meaningful to me. I wept when I left because I didn't want to leave those children, even though I could no longer bear to remain in that place. I have a large folder of their drawings and letters at home and a picture a small boy drew of me taped to my bedroom wall. I have a hideous silver Chihuahua one of my girls gave me (shortly before she and her sister were whisked out of school by a parent and then disappeared). I have a heart broken by the leaving that is now, finally, slowly, healing.

I also know that, in the way that the minds and loyalties of children work, sometimes they mean much more to me than I do to them. I am, after all, just the librarian. But I love them and remember so many of them. It is heartening to see that some of them remember me, too.

09 December 2003

Fair and Balanced

I am pretty well a fan of librarian-generated 'blogs, but not everyone is.

New links

Finally, I have added links to some of the other (mostly librarian-generated) 'blogs I read (with varying degress of regularity, I must admit). There's some pretty entertaining stuff out there...

08 December 2003

Ups and downs

I am at job #2 tonight. The evening got off to a stellar start when I came in to find yet another memo from our psychotic computer guy in my mailbox about the almost hourly needless changes to the computers.

What? I didn't tell you about Crazy Computer Guy (henceforth referred to here as CCG)? Huh. Prob'ly I was just trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism by not revealing inappropriately malicious ranting. This guy is insane. Just trust me on this.

Anyway, this means that, again, the rules for letting patrons use the computers have changed. What that means is that, as Reference Girl, I will have angry patrons asking about inconsistent rules again all evening. Fun.

I have a headache. I am starting to get more and more stress from this place that I love. I am starting to dread coming in because I know there will always be some new, irrational rules and behavior (from CCG, not the patrons) that will cause problems and complaints.

So far this evening, I have had some teenage girls bitch at me after I remind them of the "one person per computer rule." Heck, the rules around here are so elastic and inconsistent that I almost can't blame them and consider caving, but I know that will quickly cause a descent into utter chaos, so I stand firm and am later rewarded by their better behavior and apologies for their earlier behavior.

A woman called and yelled at me because we do not have books about silicon for her daughter to use for science fair. I offered to get something through interlibrary loan and she started yelling at me that the paper is due tomorrow and what the hell is wrong with the libraries? We know the kids are doing these projects! We should have the book here! NOW! She was disgusted with me for offering to get her information from our seven zillion different (and pretty current) science encyclopedias and ended up hanging up on me.

Another satisfied patron.


Did I mention that I seriously HATE science fair? No, we do not have any books on working underwater with paper or that specifically spell out the result of your child's project. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF DOING THE EXPERIMENT! Maybe I am suffering from senile nostalgia, but I swear it wasn't this complicated back in my day -- and I'm only 30. I built a simple water filtration plant out of tubing and some other crap -- or rather, I tried to and, when that failed, I drew a lovely diagram of what my plant should have looked like. I wrote a paper explaining what I had learned from my experiment and...

Oh, why do I bother complaining? No amount of bitching will change the fact that these parents want me to do their children's science fair projects for them.

On the other extreme, an elderly gentleman patron told me I was a "credit to [my] whole profession" this evening after I had answered some simple request.

How odd to have a job that you can love passionately but dislike a bit at the same time ever once in a while.

I guess as long as the scales stay weighed to the side of love, I'll be all right.

My least favorite part of the holiday season...

... is trying to think of enough stuff with which to compile (er, update) the wish list my family requests every year. I can never think of enough stuff I want other people to buy me, except for piles o' books, which I can almost guarantee I will not be receiving.


So, without further ado, my dearest relations, here ya go.

(You know I love you all, right?)

06 December 2003

Better than a shiny gold star sticker

This afternoon, a tenth grader came to the Reference desk to ask for help finding information on the Eastland disaster. I was kind of excited by this request, since I had stumbled across a phenomenal Eastland site earlier today while looking for info on the Iroquois Theatre fire for this very 'blog, so I showed her that and told her about some other materials we could borrow through interlibrary loan.

Her sister -- a child around 10 years of age -- was with her, listening to all of this. When I paused for a moment, she said, "Excuse me?" I thought maybe she wanted to find a book to occupy her time while I helped her sister, so I said, "Yes, Miss?"

She looked right at me and said, "You really love this job, don't you?" I was a little surprised by her question, but then I felt myself grin, and I answered her. "Yeah, I really do love my job. I think it's the best job in the world!"

And I do.

Later, when I thought about it, I decided that this was a good indication that I am doing something right. I feel that one of my strengths is my love for all things bookish and my passion for and absolute belief in the potential of the public library system. That a child was able to glean that from observing a brief transaction... well, that made me all warm and fuzzy and more than a wee bit proud that that love shines through.


... the Oriental Theatre stands on the same site as the infamous Iroquois Theatre, site of the deadliest fire in Chicago History. (Yes, even when considering the Great Chicago Fire. That one killed 250 people. 602 people perished at the Iroquois Theatre.) The 100th anniversary of this tragedy will occur on 30 December 2003.


I am a happy girl! I bought my tickets and I'm going to see Elvis Costello in March at the beautiful Oriental Theatre! I have been lucky enough to see the mighty EC 3 times before, and every time he has blown me away. He has one of the strongest, most amazing voices I have ever heard.

I bought two tickets, although I'm not sure if I know any other real Costello fans (except The Boy, who won't be allowed to go on a school night, and mine sister, who lives far, far away now). I'll figure that out when the concert gets closer.

In the meantime, I can't wait to get home from work today so I can listen to North again!

Poor, poor squirrels

Who knew that squirrels were the victims of such violent and senseless hazing?

And now, that marvelous song Dr. Demento used to play is running through my head. Swell.

And, as long as I have squirrels on the brain, I would be remiss if I didn't implore you all to listen to the hilarious "Squirrel Cop" segment of This American Life, post haste.

Maybe snow globes aren't as peaceful as they seem...

I love snow globes. In fact, I was just thinking that I should buy one for my snow-deprived nephew. Then I found a swell one on-line...

05 December 2003

And Santa said, "Let there be light." And there was light. And it was good.

Truth be told, I wasn't really looking forward to the Township tree-lighting ceremony tonight. However, I promised to attend, to represent the library, so that was that. My Library Director agreed to meet me there, too, so there was really no backing out of it.

Now I'm glad I went. It was really a nice evening. It wasn't too cold at all. There were a number of kids waiting to see Santa, running around in the wet grass, gathering whatever pathetic snow was left to make a tiny slushman. When Santa arrived (chauffeured in a fire truck, sirens ablaze), the kids went wild with excitement. The tiniest ones were fairly shaking with joy. Only Scrooge (pre-ghost, of course) could have failed to be touched by the Christmas Spirit.

Some speeches by local politicians (including a rather touching one about how all of them need to pay attention to how they behave, even at election time, because children are always watching and they need to set a good example, not just as politicians, but as people), and Santa turned on the lights.

My Library Director introduced me to the Mayor of the town we serve and I chatted with some kids and sipped some cocoa. I was proud of our library tree, proud of our larger community, proud of our township for trying to create a true community, not just a collection of cities and towns and villages.

In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one!"

No lectures for me!

Yesterday, before my yoga class, Odysseus (my little purple Escort) was workin' just fine. After class, though, he was ill. No heat -- or, indeed, air of any kind -- was blowing through my vents. Of course, yesterday was the first really cold day we had.


So, I called the dealership where mine uncle (a master mechanic) works, made an appointment for early this morning, and prepared for another, "you need a new car"lecture.

I know my uncle loves me and has my best interests at heart, but still. Yeah, okay, so Odysseus is 7 (almost 8) years old and has nearly 150,000 miles on him. So what? He runs pretty well most days and I love him. Besides which, at this point, I'm not getting any money for him, anyway, so why not drive him 'til he just cain't no more?

Plus, I really want a hybrid, and Ford doesn't make one yet, so...

(I used this argument with my uncle last time and he informed me that Ford will have a hybrid out next year. An SUV. Before I could react, The Boy piped up: "An SUV?! Have you even met Katharine?" Hee.)

Basically, I was readying myself to hear another refrain of the "Betray Odysseus" tune.


It was just a bad wire. My car was fixed in 15 minutes. It cost me $9.

So there! Odysseus rocks!

04 December 2003

Say it ain't so!

In one of the sadder moments of my life, I recently got back the check I sent to Book Magazine. I was excited to finally be subscribing (and wondering what took me so long).

But, as I said, my check came back. Apparently, the November/December 2003 issue is their last.

Strangely enough, this is not mentioned on their webpage -- at least not that I can find.


Oh, Tannenbaum...

Today, I was lucky enough to go decorate a tree for our library's town at the township building.

In the rain.

Still and all, it turned out pretty spiffy, what with all the little wooden book ornaments we had. I also found a lovely old-timey Santa to adorn the top of the tree. Yeah, he'll probably be wrecked after enduring the winter, but hey, he was a buck, so no bad.

Friday night is the tree-lighting ceremony and I -- lucky me! -- get to go to represent the library. Should be a hoot and a half.

01 December 2003

Little things make me happy

Last night, my nephew called me. Well, actually, my sister called me and put my three-year-old nephew on the phone. He said, "Hi, auntie Katharine!" and then asked, "Is it snowing there?"

Because he lives so far away, I see him seldom, and don't talk to him on the phone a super lot, either. But that question made me melt. It showed that he remembered me, that he recalled our last conversation, when I told him it was snowing here.

A little thing, to be sure, but an important one.

I love him.

Look for the silver lining...

I have been trying to find some good in having the flu attack so viciously last week, causing my Thanksgiving feast to be a kingly four saltine crackers and half a cup of soup, but it hasn't been easy, especially since I'm still feeling pretty beat up by the influenza.

Here's something good, though. I haven't smoked a cigarette since the day before I got sick and, honestly, I haven't missed it a bit. I know that in a few days I may change my mind, but I am gonna try my level best not to start up again...