Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Little Librarian Kit

Thanks to Nancy Picchi for alerting me to this "Little Librarian" kit! As she says, it could be the start of a new trend...maybe a good gift for the holidays.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Change and NaNoWriMo

After a brief but intensely empowering experience as director of a small public library in southern Delaware, I'm turning a corner, returning to Maryland AskUsNow! as Operations Assistant, and keeping on as the Statewide Coordinator for Delaware's Ask a Librarian project. It's going to take me home, still a pauper but with more time and in a supportive, more restful environment. Freer to be creative, encouraged by my managers, with laughter and joy all around. It's a wonder how an experience can affect one's perspective!

And here comes November. Which means, now I'll have time to tackle another novel. I'm calling it "Flatland," (anyone ever read that math allegory?) and while I walk my little dog, Sophie, I plan it out.

November is for NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Underpaid and overworked

How many public librarians feel satisfied with the pay they receive? Out of those, how many justify the low pay with statements like, "I didn't get into library work to get rich," and "Well, we're in a recession..."

True, on both accounts, but self-sacrificing can certainly backfire. I've commonly taken on part-time work, through another library or as a tutor (or similar) to help supplement my income. Flat-lining salaries creates a lowering of annual take-home pay since prices continue to rise. Unfortunately, it also creates a mind-set in those who have the authority to accept or reject a budget request.

In public libraries, this is often the board of directors (also called the board of commissioners). Frequently, the overseeing board members are well meaning volunteers who take up the banner of their community library through serving, but their overseeing and managing can actually decrease the effectiveness of the library's administration when decisions are based upon limited information and/or assumptions. For example, a commonly held belief is that a female library staff member is supplementing her family's income through her part-time job at the local library. Women have taken on librarianship as a profession, but the image remains and it's not easy to break out of a stereotype. It takes generations, sometimes.

You may be reading this, disbelieving that particular view. It wasn't until I stepped back into a rural setting that I was reminded about how slow change can be. People may want change, but when it comes to questioning one's own personal views...well, that's hard. Very hard. Like sleeping on a rock.

I love library work. But I also love having the support of my supervisors and staff, colleagues and administrators, to take my work as far as it can go. My quest has been to be the most effective I can be, to enhance library work for patrons and communities, and to make the daily tasks as pleasant for staff as possible.

But in the meantime, I need more income. Perhaps I'll try for a couple of tutoring jobs. Maybe I'll search for another academic library job for a night or two a week. Or stretch outside the box of literacy and try my hand at buying and selling. I recently read about eBay and see that there are other options (see: "Skeptical Shopper: Tired of eBay? Consider these alternatives" October 1, 2010). But November is coming up and so I'll hunker down to indulge in my favorite work; writing. It's time to get ready for my next novel.

Maybe I'll come into a load of funds someday, somehow. I read enough stories to understand that there are some things I just don't know, so I might as well believe something good might occur. And a huge pile of money certainly sounds good right now!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Time to Revive the Library!

This article (from More Intelligent Life.com) certainly focuses upon another significant effect of our dismal economy, but it could be good news for libraries. When bookstores began popping up, libraries were hard hit and finally opened their eyes to the need for marketing and rethinking their physical spaces, including how shelves, books, and lighting work with foot traffic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer flash

How many times do we ask ourselves, "Where did the [hour, morning, afternoon, day, week, month, season, year, last decade] go?" It's been two months since I've posted here!

As a new public library director, I've had the pressure of learning new skills on the fly while digging deep into my personal toolbox for adaptive ways to use what I have, both in theory and in practice. Although the little library I oversee has a timeclock (it really does), I work way more hours than I can measure - and those that are tallied are calculated at 10 to 20 hours over the required "full-time" expectation. Well, I guess that's expected, too, but on top of needing to supplement my income with an additional part-time library job in chat reference (no, sometimes being a director doesn't mean earning a salary that pays all the bills), my goodness it's a busy working life I have these days.

The challenge for me is to keep on top of the projects, keep the library operating at a forward pace (not status quo), and keep my health and well-being. But once in a while the pace and pressure get a bit pushy. I've had a couple of nightmares.

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed that it was my turn to carry the rectangular wooden box around. I don't know who handed it to me, but I just knew I had to, that I was selected. The box had a handle, kind of like a tool box but with no latch or opening that I could see.

No matter where I was going or doing, the box and I were to be inseparable. There was a cord or security cord tying me to the box, too. I could set it down when I sat to work, etc., but it had to be by my side. And somehow, as in dreams when there is knowledge but no reason, I knew what it contained.

A small nuclear bomb.

I knew it was going to go off to destroy me sometime in the future. It would not hurt anyone else, just me. My time was coming up.

My only concern was to get everything done, as much as possible, before that happened.

No time to worry about it now...Back to work!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Welcoming a new director

When I was told that a reception and open house were in the works for my second week of work, I was relieved that I didn't have to be the lead program planner, but apprehensive about what was really going to occur. I'm a 'detail person.' I like knowing the names and titles of who is invited (show me the list) but I didn't want to overstep the planners' process and held my tongue. And I'm glad I did.

This was a delightful event. As a planner, I try to challenge myself to be more spontaneous. An old and dear friend of mine addressed this part of me two decades ago as I was getting the itinerary ready for a vacation at DisneyWorld. He was great at helping me move out of what could be rigid down-to-the-wire lists showing every hour's event to having blocks of loose time, play time, free time, down time - when anything could happen. Last minute changes are so much easier, of course, but what I really value is what I learn from others during these unplanned engages. The risks of saying too much or too little, of not forming the exact words in the moment, my body language, eye contact, what I am hoping will come out of a conversation or social meeting - these are like a Jackson Pollack painting. I've grown to like the messy colors and exciting exchanges. Even when I step on my words and stumble over a thought to try to truly listen, I can say that I now enjoy the ride of these types of social events.

I was honored to meet so many representatives from the community, civic and political leaders, the local schools' administrators and librarians. I was happy to have the physical presence and support from most of the library's board and the Friends and staff (those who could make it on a Saturday were there!). Local press and two local bloggers snapped pictures and took notes. For the Delmar Public Library, I truly believe this marks the stepping off point into a new era.

But for the rest of today, I think I'll just plan to have some down time!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Difficult Decision - Now Set in Motion

Moving on from Maryland Libraries...

To tell you that this has been a difficult decision for me is quite an understatement. However, my need for full time employment couldn’t be ignored or postponed any longer, and I was motivated to send out a few resumes (and Julie worked very hard to make it so I could stay!! Thank you Julie!). To my surprise and –mostly – delight, I was offered a full time position as library director with the Delmar Public Library, in southern Delaware. Usually, news of this type is really good, but honestly, it is with a mixture of happiness tinged with sadness that I am leaving Maryland libraries, effective May 18th.

...to the Delmar Public Library, Delaware

This small, rural library sits right on the Maryland/Delaware border just a few miles from Salisbury, Maryland and about 30 minutes from Ocean City.

My puppy and I are also relocating to the area. I have found a little cottage just minutes from the library, with a pool and lovely garden. It's interesting that, during this time of securing a full time job and home, I have been involved with Delaware's "Walk It Off" (10 miles each week for 10 weeks) program. As of today (just completed week 8), I've logged in over a hundred miles and I realized this is about how far it is from my Newark home to my new place in southern Delaware.

I am pleased to be able to work and reside in the same state, and if you know anything about Delaware's size, you understand this challenge. This will be great for taxes and to greatly reduce my commute, but most of all, I will learn more about the community I will serve by living there.

By extension, I will also need to learn the systems, processes, and atmosphere of Delaware's libraries. I've lived in Newark, Delaware for quite a few years and have enjoyed my local free library. But I've always wondered about the fragmented system - fragmented only in comparison to Maryland's statewide services. I know I'm not alone in this. I also see changes in Delaware's libraries through its OPAC and Ask service, and in other, subtle ways. And I'm excited to be stepping into this.

So it's time to start packing and getting my new office and home organized. It's time to rent a truck, get help moving, scout out a new band and martial arts school, figure out where to go for groceries, the vet, walking my dog, find the bank and post office and parks, oh my! And while I'm at it, whenever I feel afraid, I'll listen to Julie Andrews' version of "I Whistle a Happy Tune" - with the Muppet Monsters, and I know I'll smile again!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Destination: Change! Despite the messiness of it all

My previous post focused on these seasons of transition, alluding to changes within ourselves and extending outward to our environment. I have so much change going on right now that if I were a compass, I'd be uselessly and frantically spinning (or, maybe of some use to a crazy like Jack Sparrow).

Is change good? I believe that yes, usually it's a welcomed chaos that moves us out of complacency and into maturity. It stretches our limits and defines new boundaries and discoveries about ourselves. Change is challenging.

But it is also stressful and unsettling. Sleeping lightly, I easily awaken to all the chatter in my head - the details regarding what I need to do in a fixed set of time. What difference is this from having a baby, starting a new school, changing careers? None, really. On a smaller scale, even bringing in an eight-week old puppy last fall was right along a similar vein.

I rarely recount my personal life, but I'm taking a plunge here to describe some events in my life in order to, perhaps, connect with you.

For the most part, I am rewarded by the changes I embrace. Usually these are changes that I have opted for, though, and this new set of challenges have really been forced upon me. I think back upon the Great Depression as a setting for "The Journey of Natty Gann" and how her father chose to take a job 2,000 miles away; there just weren't any other options.

I'm in a similar situation: I need full time employment now (actually, a year ago would've been better!). The sustainability factor compels me. I must earn enough to live on as a single woman with my now eight-month-old puppy. And in this age of the Great Recession, I'm lucky enough to find something wonderful. Wonderful in that it is a perfect career step (from 'assistant' to 'director') and the project -running a small public library - will be fascinating and exciting.

I'm sad that I have to leave my present jobs, though. This is a very hard switch and, like most times of change, one I wouldn't choose for myself. My work with J has been terrific and she's been the best supervisor anyone could ask for. But when she told me that the funding for our project may be reduced so much as to eliminate my part-time position, that clinched it.

I also have two other doors open that I'll have to close soon: a job interview already set up (but not until June) and, I am told, I am a strong candidate for another position I applied for. But the interviews are not to take place until after April 15th. And after delaying this small public library a little, the final deadline is April 8th. I had to decide, with determination, fortitude, and confidence I lacked.

I can't say it any better than: It's scary! I have a to-do list, and I'll start at the beginning with my personal transformation. Then we'll take a look at how this can be applied to a more general process of change:
  • Find a full time job (I've been hoping my present part-time job would be able to blossom into full-time, but the economy even threatens its p/t existance). Check.

  • Find a place to live (I have narrowed down some possibilities - I think I'll have something settled by next week). Almost check.

  • Finish my obligations (this is important! - Besides not wanting to burn any bridges, it's just good to do)

  • Move, from reserving a "UHaul" to making all those address changes, banks, driver's license, etc. etc.

  • Settle in (The late Mr. Rogers said that it takes six months to fully adjust to such a major change, and to relax and enjoy it. I like that advice.)
Now we can look at this more broadly. The factors that compel us to change (for most of us are compelled and don't often seek it out) usually come from an outside source. When change has to happen, it can lead us to great adventures, growth, and, when the dust settles, a beautiful new life. Based upon the steps above, we can say it usually involves:
  • Find and pursue the thing that will lead you to change (a new job, career, beginning grad school, enlisting in the Peace Corps - something along those lines. Careful not to put "change" on someone else - such as marriage or a new puppy. Although we have to adapt to those situations, they involve the complexities of another personality. )

  • That commitment will affect other areas of your life - you may have to move, give up some luxuries, change some behaviors (like, get up really early in the morning!). Clean up the old, tie up loose ends as much as possible, and then fully face the new horizon.
  • Give it time! I'd say six months for a major change is a good amount, in my personal experience. This will vary, depending upon how quickly a person adapts. Once the honeymoon period is over, the reality of the situation will challenge us and at times, can cause doubt. Give yourself time to feel these uncertainties and move through them.
As I told J the other day, I am relying on quotes these days to fall back upon - my mind is quite muddled by all the details and stress at times. I tell myself I'll be okay, hang in there, think of the positive. I breathe as slowly and fully as I can, and stretch my arms to the sky and the earth. And I count my blessings. And read some quotes.

Just take a look around. There are many people going through hard times and many who offer their support and wisdom. We've all been there (or will be), and we can give something of ourselves to each other in this way. I took a look online and came to a Universalist Unitarian's sermon, with the following excerpt:

And so it is that I charge us to messiness. If you live a relatively sanitized life, get messy. Engage in the muck. Have a crisis. Get dirty.

If you already are living with the mess, then reconcile yourself to it. Reconcile yourself to the fact that indeed the marvelous doesn’t come from the sanitized life, it comes from engaging in the muck.

As Nietzsche wrote: “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” I have a friend whose grandmother used to say, “things that hurt us instruct.” He asks the questions of us, who has ever understood life without first having his heart broken? Who has really seen, except through tears? Who really lives, without the mess?

From: "Despite the Mess" sermon by Kaaren

Broadening my view even further, I can see how small my problems are as compared to so many. At least I have fresh drinking water, vitamins, food, a family's love, friends, great colleagues, and a job to look forward to.

As Sheryl Crow sings, "God bless this mess."

It's good to keep things in perspective.

Congratulations to each of us who embrace - and live through - these changes!

Monday, March 29, 2010

What does it take?

Ever since my first library job took me behind the desk where the librarians worked and I began to join them in their mysterious process, I have had a increasingly distorted view of information seeking. From that point on, finding library materials and information is very different from what I remember as a patron. It's not that I can see over the counter any better, although I'm taller than I used to be. It's more that I understand some of the secrets librarians learn in library school and while on the desk, helping patrons and each other.

And there are many! It just depends upon who you talk to; if you find a colleague entrenched in 'library-speak,' you can really gain some valuable tips. Like, calling audio books "nonmusical recordings" so that you remember to use this search term on the catalog. And that's sure to impress patrons.

Or is it?

In my ideal library, patrons can look up audio books through a variety of terms; audio books, recorded books, talking books, books on tape, downloadable books, ebooks, and yes, nonmusical recordings will all bring the same results. Exactly.

We use our expertise to help, and that's impressive enough. When we click with a patron, it's amazing. And when we work together to find, learn, discover, and locate the treasure of information, that's the relationship building aspect of library work that lasts forever. It can happen with children, students, peers, adults, home-bound, seniors and teens. It's a social interaction that provides substance to the questions asked. It's the tension of the moment of internalizing, growing those synapsis, and always respectful of the customer's turf in which we are invited (or sometimes subtly need to invade) to participate in the world of our patrons.

Instead of correcting and instructing, maybe we can someday make our catalogs and resources reflect each side of the desk, like a double rainbow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Transition Months Bring Treasures

The last few early spring mornings and lengthening evenings rouse even the most grumbling, sleepy lives. Each day moves onto our streets and yards and into our homes as we go through our routines, bringing rosy-golden light and relaxing warmth, like the palm of a loving mother on our backs. The birds and squirrels play and chase. Songs fill the air and I catch myself humming a tune I really don't like, so it surprises me. But then I nod and acknowledge that it is, indeed, appropriate:

"Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh, what a beautiful day!"

Every day is filled with surprises. I shy away from the darkening clouds and bad news (of which there are plenty to last a decade) in favor of a smile at these charming discoveries: a nest building here, a compliment from a neighbor, an unexpected "thank you" email from a library patron, a funny story, sweet talking telephone calls.

Here, to help greet you with a silly video is Hugh Jackman singing...yes, you guessed it. "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!" complete with farmer's garb. (Honest, it's Hugh Jackman!)

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shoulds are invasive

Lately, "should" is a word that has been creeping in around me, infusing my thoughts and conversations like an unwanted ivy that has invaded every space of my garden before I realized it was there. Now I see lengths of wiry green tendrils drape my deck, trees, swinging chair, statuary, even the bushes. And when I look closer, I see new ivy growth everywhere. The "shoulds" are buds sprouting into my life.

Personally, I am on a brink of a major change. These life-changing challenges affect every aspect of my life, from my daily awakened world of work and play to my nightly dreaming world of processing and rest. "Should" comes knocking, politely asking questions as it enters my home;

"Should I allow myself to feel...what? Sad? Happy? Relieved? All of the above?"
"Should I show these feelings? Should I scream and be dramatic or be silent and calm?"
"Should I stay away or continue on as if these moments are a continuation of a string of changing days?"
"Should I seek help or refuse it?"
"Should I rejoice or mourn?"
"Should I plan or wait to make any decisions?"

But then, the Should starts showing signs of worry, coloring the innocent questions like a drop of food dye in a crystal glass of water. I begin to hear judgments;

"She should've known."
"She should've known better."
"She should've been a better [fill in the blank with a noun]."

Is this the cousin of the innocent Should, or just another side to its personality?

Instead of becoming overwhelmed, I decide I can find a reasonable solution. Options:
  1. Change - stop using Should.
  2. Accept - so what if "should" is used?
Should can be a harsh and fierce judge standing on the soapbox of Assumption. I hope to be careful about my use of this word as I work with patrons, students, my family, and myself. Although I sometimes "should've known," I am capable of not knowing and even defiance (though not so much as when I was a teen). Despite knowledge of what we should do, we can choose to try some new style, accent, plant, life lesson...

...but with the steps in that direction comes the responsibility wrapped up in choice.

And that is a topic for another time.

May each of us balance Should with Want and find our heart's desires!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Day of February 2010, with a St. Bernard and a Goat

This has been quite a year so far. It came on with a fierceness like the White Tiger's pouncing attack and play. It came to my home and family, my neighborhood, my community, and my library work from many directions, from the snapping teeth of winter to the growling threats of something predatory lurking just beyond my door.

Oftentimes in such challenging days and nights, a person can feel shell-shocked and unsettled. I think of the Haitians and Chileans who look to the sky and sea and earth, waiting for the next strike. How many years will it take to feel secure again? How many years before the anxious worry abates enough to experience a deep, restful sleep?

Personally, a similar sense of fragility exists around my jobs' budgets. What once was accepted is now coveted. It seeps into my daily finances, and, as with all my neighbors, affects our future spending decisions regarding the new car, a vacation, how to afford our children's tuition. I work two to three part-time jobs and have no health insurance, and I consider myself lucky as I move from day to day, week to week, and look forward to a new month.

March may come in as a lion tomorrow, and with it, the promise of a calm, warm spring in just 21 days (well, I know that is the equinox, but it's nice to have a date to look forward to).

I believe that in these next three weeks something good is going to happen, and this is why:

This morning, after taking my puppy for a walk and getting the laundry going, I zipped to the store and then to drop in on a friend I hadn't seen in a while. I needed a shoulder to cry on and sound advice from this level-headed woman. After cups of herbal tea (from Seattle) and a good visit (thanks Joan!), I was ready to get on home. I took the back way; it is a scenic, Sunday drive road. As I moved past the apple orchard, I saw two animals crossing the road in the distance. At first I thought these were deer, but as I neared, I saw that the one in front was a St. Bernard and following, a dark gray goat.

The goat had stopped although the huge dog seemed to try to get the goat to follow it up the snowy drift. But the goat bleated and protested as it stood in the ongoing traffic's lane. Luckily there was very little by way of cars at this time of day on a Sunday.

I slowed and pulled up beside her and rolled down my window. The goat immediately turned and looked me right in the eyes and bleahed at me.

"Hey now," I said, always believing that animals somehow understand our tone if not our words. "Get off the road," said, shooing it with a wave of my hand. "Go on. It's not safe here."

"Bleah," said the goat with a tremolo effect as she took a couple of rapid steps toward me. So much for understanding.

Just then, the huge St. Bernard then lumbered off the snow bank and headed toward me at a trot. I immediately thought "Cujo." My heart picked up its pace and my hand reached for the button to quickly move the window up. By then another car was in view behind me, so I thought I'd just get going, that they had probably noticed this event. Sure enough, while I tooled on down the road I saw the silver Volvo slow down and come to a stop by the pair. It wasn't long before they, too, followed me down the road.