Blogging Reference: Saturday, Feb. 21

Frosty, bright morning. Working with MF today, CH is supervisor of the day.

I have a feeling we'll not be as busy as we've been on Saturdays lately. We'll see.

Ever since that lady asked about dancing mermaids, Clapton, Bruce and Baker have been rocking my brain with Tales of Brave Ulysses.

You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.
Yes, it was just what I needed.

Weird. Everything works this morning. No broken equipment or hosed PC's. Knock on wood.

9:49 Have to get a display up. Mitford readalikes, I think. Been parking titles on this list for about 6 mos. Enough to start with. What to call it. Carry Me Home, maybe? I remember an old lady in a senior residence saying to me with great longing that she wished she could go live in Mitford.

10:00 Open

Today's paper.

Phone: Going Up the River: travels in a prison nation, by Joseph Hallinan. She'll get the copy at the Perry branch.

Where is childrens' program?

Check on poss. bather in mens' room. Only brushing teeth.

Childrens' program.

Ask DT in Youth Services what's on. School writing contest awards program.

10:18 Only 8 PC's in use. Quiet.

Shel comes off the stairs. Gets drink of water. Gets PC. Garnet & gold Seminoles hat & windbreaker.

10:52 Back from pulling books for display. Still quiet. M. is sorting the mail.

Phone: Living with Cerebral Palsy by Hocutt. No. She's frustrated, looking for memoir of living with a disability. Explain how to find them. Catalog KW search memoir and disability. Not much. KW search memoir and disease. Lots. Read off titles. Suggest play with KW's and add "bibliography" in Google to find lists.

Phone: Childrens' book. Transfer to YS.

Returns paper.

Making poster for display.

Phone: IRS form 8917, Tuition and Fees Deduction. No, can get from irs.gov. He had forgotten, thanks me.

Halsey's Typhoon : the true story of a fighting admiral, an epic storm, and an untold rescue. He didn't see on shelf. Check shelving cart. Find in checkin room.

Woman praises Rabby's The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida. Was perfect for her son's report.

Puzzled woman. Is PC ready for her to use? Yes.

Desi mom, dad, son want books on .NET programming. Title at Parkway branch appeals. They'll go there. Tell them about ILL.

PC for Molly.

PC for Leon.

Books on alligators. Take to shelf.

ESOL classes? No one in Lit. Ofc. Print out brochure from ACE-Leon.

Biographies of Charles Drew, Pioneer of Blood Plasma. Take to shelf.

12:05 Lunch

12:35 Back in a hurry to answer call.

Phone: Two "bestselling memwahs". Select & she'll pick up later. Do the interview. What kind? Doesn't understand. Political, show biz, sports? Writing instructor told her to read memoirs to help her write her own. All right ma'am, will do.

Three black girls, all wearing grey & white striped hoodies with cartoon faces on left breast: Muppet, Mickey Mouse. Oh dear, a little scared to ask me, but approach as group. Lead girl asks softly if they can have computers.

PC for Adrianna, help other girl get PC with card. Shoo man out of her chair. Third girl sits w Adrianna.

Phone: ILL renewal req. for Fallen stars, Bitter Waters by Gilbert Morris.

Gives me book request cards. "No hurry."

Rules of Court

Returns paper.

Ruled notebook paper.

Deputy Bill, "Beautiful day, too bad we're here!" Wants to visit, but I'm too busy.

Phone: "What age do you hire?" 18. "Ok bye."

Copier help.

Reposition Yourself: living life without limits by Jakes. Our copy out. Place hold, show resumé books.

Returns Rules of Court.

Phone: Toll-free number for GMAC Bank.

PC for Daniel.

Consumer Reports magazine.

Phone: S. in media wants break. CH was scheduled. Is not here? Oh, MD is super. She'll try Circ. M. is back, I'll come if no luck there.

1:15 (What kind of graphic for poster. Rocking chair?)

PC for Mike.

Where is tax help?

Old maps to show schoolchildren. Looked in 912, but didn't know to check Cartography in 526. We fill up her bag.

Where is PC 51?

Paper for copier.

Feed problem w printer.

"Where is your copy machine?" Has Consumer Reports mags.

Woman says Mary is holding books for her. Send her to Childrens'.

Where are audio books?

PC for Willie.

Where is Young Adult Fiction?

Woman thinks car towed. Talks to Deputy.

2:55 (Poster finished, putting out display.)

Do we charge for copies? Where is copier?

Where are books in Spanish?

PC for Sam.

Help with copier.

Return Black History ref. book to Childrens', check on S. in Media. Yes, J. gave her a break.

Finished with display. Already made a "sale".

Help make enlarged copy of photo of Marian Anderson.

Woman looked some more, found car. Tell Deputy.

Remembered the "memwahs" I said I would pick out. Hmm.. Jill Ker Conway's Road to Coorain, Poitier's The Measure of a Man, Patricia Gaines's Laughing in the Dark.

3:40 M. says she feels like it should be 5:00. It's quiet. The tide of people and need has has gone out, and we feel how drained we are.

Out for smoke. Hear Bob Marley, dead these 28 years, wailing a sad song far off. Guiltiness, sounds like.

Help man get PC.

Number for US DOJ.


Phone: Out of Control and Loving It by Lisa Bevere. Don't own, ILL? No, what about How to Start a School? No. Thanks me.

"I want to get Meestah Obama nombah. I want to go to Washington, but ees too cole. I weht 'til the ice gone." (laughs)

USB port on LCD monitor doesn't work. Get him plugged into one on back of PC.

Phone: CD audio book of Kinch by Matthew Braun, for delivery at Parkway branch. Place hold, update patron record.

Pressed on my conscience.
Oh yeah.

Final flurry. Can't even remember what they were.


Journal articles on WWI chemical warfare. Sorry, try Strozier at FSU.

5:00 Closed


"Dancing Mermaid" en Español

Sirena del baile, according to BabelFish. My caller was doubtful, but it sounded right to me. Googling the phrase gets me a couple of Spanish-language hits for Esther Williams.

The Sirens, against whom Ulysses lashed himself to the mast, wishing to hear their song without being lured to his death.

The translation is problematic because, as John William Waterhouse has correctly painted them here, the Sirens were bird-women, not fish-women. But the Spaniards call mermaids sirens, and that's that.

Tiny purple fishes...


Blinded by Black History

It's embarrassing when this happens. A young woman approached me this evening, wondering if we had a biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the "first woman doctor". My patron was black, it's Black History Month, and all but one of our biographies of Elizabeth Blackwell were childrens' books. The one adult biography was checked out, and she needed something right away. I took her to Contemporary Black Biography, in the reference collection. Finding no profile there, my patron said, "But she wasn't black".

"So she was just the first woman doctor?", I said, (thinking, "Hey, Womens' History is next month!"). I explained my confusion. 99% of the requests I get at this time of year for people who were the "first (name profession)" are for Black History assignments. She was good-humored about my faux pas. I found a couple of titles at the State Library, down the street, that she could get tomorrow.

1600 lbs. of books

I finally got my 41 boxes of Baker & Taylor lease returns out of the workroom and down to the loading dock for pick-up. Took me two hours in batches of seven using the big flatbed truck. Goodbye, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, Dean Koontz, Stuart Woods, John Grisham. I actually enjoyed it. I don't often perform manual labor on the library dime, the kind that makes you sweat, and savor a cold Pepsi afterwards.


Frank Schaeffer's Apologia

One of my jobs in Adult Services is to comb through book donations for titles to add to the collection. Recently a copy of The God Who is There, by Francis Schaeffer, turned up in my pile. I had not seen this book in over thirty years, but I remembered it now as a work that shaped my future.

I don't recall his name, that campus evangelist with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship whom I met in the plaza of the FSU Student Union in the mid-'70's. He was a mild and kind young man. He did not talk about himself, which is probably why I can't remember much about him. He was disseminating the publications of the InterVarsity Press, primarily the works of Francis Schaeffer, but others as well. Os Guinness comes to mind.

He gave me copies of Schaeffer's books; The God Who is There, and He is There and He is Not Silent are the two I remember. We would sit together on a campus lawn, and he would play cassette tapes of Schaeffer's lectures. Schaeffer was something different, as a Protestant evangelist. Back-to-the-Bible revivalism had little to offer to university students. Schaeffer was engaged with modern culture. He would take issue, for example, with Ingmar Bergman's film, Winter Light. Is Bergman right? Is God not there?

So I was interested to read his son Frank's memoir, Crazy for God, about growing up at L'Abri, his parents' mission-house in Switzerland, and what followed after. I could identify with him, in a way, having been brought up Anti-Communist. But I did not know the pivotal role that he played in enlisting his father and American evangelicals in the anti-abortion movement and in the service of the Republican party.

When I did convert, five years later, I would find my home not among the evangelical "Bible-believers", but in the liturgical and sacramental Episcopal church, and finally, in 1989, in the Roman Catholic church. Frank Schaeffer ultimately entered an Eastern Orthodox church.

I confess that after the first 150 pages, covering his childhood, I skimmed the rest. He proved not to be as interesting to me as his father. It reads like a show-biz memoir, a bit slapdash and overly anecdotal. My own life, were I to attempt to write it, would sound the same. Like me, he is not really a thinker, but a dreamer. Frank Schaeffer concludes that his father would have wished to be remembered as a witness to, not a warrior against, secular culture.


Dare to be Dumb

I have to marvel at the success of the For Dummies series. People just love these books. It shows you how intimidating books and reading can be. Knowing that this series exists has actually given people a comfortable way of asking for a book on a topic they know nothing about. They will ask, "Do you have something like a (Subject) for Dummies?". A rival series, the Idiot's Guides, has not done nearly as well. I remember a similar effort, years ago, the For the Millions books.

Today I had a man ask for a beginner's book on Windows. I asked what version of Windows he was using, and he said XP. "This has all passed me by", he said, "it's time to catch up." After showing him some of the "easy reader" books on PC's for seniors, I decided he could handle stronger stuff, so we looked at the XP books. We had a Peter Norton title, a Sam's title, a title in the Missing Manual series. We do actually own Windows XP for Dummies, but it was, of course, checked out.

I spotted Teach Yourself VISUALLY Windows XP, one of a series that teaches using color screenshots. I handed it to him, saying, "This is the closest thing we have on the shelf to an XP for Dummies book". And that closed the sale.


Grrrr... College Students!

With about 54,000 students from two universities and over 10,000 students at the community college in town, the number who choose to do their work here at the public library must amount to a tiny percentage. But it can seem like a lot to us. Maybe it's the free printing.

Whatever the reason, the first weeks of a new term bring many college students to the reference desk, course syllabus in hand, hoping to save precious dollars by finding their textbooks and other materials in our collection. Far and away, most of them aspire to the "helping professions", e.g. education and nursing. Sometimes they have not even tried their school libraries before coming to us.

We explain that our library cannot adequately serve the needs of college students, that our collection does not include professional literature, that we cannot attempt to supply college textbooks.

Our education section has primarily books for parents and home-schoolers, not books on the latest pedagogical theories and teaching module design. Our health and medicine section has books on diet and exercise, and on how to preserve your sanity when your mother has Alzheimer's, not clinical case studies and academic monographs on various medical conditions.

It was five minutes to closing, and I was in full shutting-things-down mode when she flagged me down with a cry of "excuse me!". Her Royal Highness had printed out an article on Alzheimer's from our Gale Health Reference Center database, and she wanted the anthology that contained it, which she thought we must have, and also "all your books on DNA methylation".

Lord have mercy. Give her credit, she had found some articles in Gale, which is vastly more than many can manage on their own. But it was the last thing I wanted to hear at closing, especially in the tone she used. I'd helped the man navigate applying for a job online at McDonalds. I'd helped the mechanic find what he needed in our Chilton auto repair database on BMW engine control sensors. I'd helped and helped and helped. Bite your tongue and help one more time, I told myself.

No, we don't have that Alzheimer's book, but here is where you'll find our books on Alzheimer's. We don't have any books on DNA methylation. She must have sensed my irritation, for she took what I gave her and left. I was mightily pissed off, and so glad that I kept a lid on it. Stupid woman! I fumed all the way home on my Vespa in the cold night, dodging throngs making their way to their cars from the Civic Center.