Blogging Reference: Saturday, August 29

The long summer hiatus is over. The children are back in school. The college students are back in town.

10:00 Open. Working with M. today. Let's see how this goes. Don't think I'm up to putting everything down today.

Completed summer Baker & Taylor lease book returns this week. 47 cartons are ready for pick-up down in the garage. Taking a final look at the inventory list to mark off titles to keep.

Check out large print copy of Web of Dreams by V.C. Andrews to mending. Loose pages.

PC for Sorrell.

D. calls, can get money for cash drawer. Get money.

D. calls again. A's called in sick, needs us to cover her lunch at 12:30 at Media desk.

10:20 11 PC's in use.

Results for Texas Lottery Mega Millions drawing on 4/28/09. His ticket has not a single match. Interesting, jackpot was 181 million, but payout was only 55+ million.

Korean woman wants to apply for English tutor, but no one in Literacy office. Give brochure, tell her come back on Monday.

PC for Daniel.

Set woman up with microfilm.

Man liked Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, Cod: a Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, wants recommendation. Likes history, but it must "read good". Suggest Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea or Sea of Glory. He takes Sea of Glory.

Rain Gods, by James Lee Burke in large print. Place hold.

Microfilm help.

Where is printer?


Where is PC 62?

Help w screen resolution size.

Man returns ILL, The "I Love Lucy" Book. Check in & put on ILL returns shelf in workroom.

11:40 Still 3 PC's open.

Man wants library address. Takes our business card.

11:43 PC's full.

Young couple: how to get card, where are State Archives?

4 sorority girls ask where the typewriters are. Return & ask for help. Have never used typewriters before.

12:05 Lunch. Barbecue sandwich & Pepsi, To Command a King's Ship, in the gazebo in the park. Bolitho and his men capture a Malay pirate schooner. Aaaarrr...

1:09 L., our intern, is here. M. has gone to relieve D.

Boy wants Wet Ones hand towel.

Woman thinks she's getting error message with State of Florida job search, but it's simply advising her that she must have cookies enabled to submit an application. She did not see that her query had produced no results.

How can she print online resume w/o web page trimmings? Help find in-page print command, & she's good.

PC for Day.

1:20 Make round. Straighten new books. Study areas are busy, but quiet. Straighten magazine reading area. All's well.

Staple remover.

Phone: The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C to 2000 A.D. by Chancellor Williams. Can hold 24 hrs. What she needs to get card.

Scooter Man shows up, old guy who kids me about letting him "test-drive" my Vespa. He once had a 1959 Lambretta 250cc. Gets me to show him pictures of different scooters on the computer, (he doesn't want to try using a computer himself).

2:34 Quiet.

Where are Space Travel, Bermuda Triangle, Star Trek books? Take to shelves.

Work on B&T inventory.

Wants Iran picture book for Hospice patient. End up doing ILL.

Paper for printers.

PC's for several people.

Where are math books?

Paper for copier.

Help using photocopier to make coloring sheets of Mickey Mouse.

PC for Savannah.

Man has late materials, story about camping trip. Send to circulation.

Can he have oceanography mag from rack? Yes.

PC for Jennifer.

Today's paper.


Scooter Man: What is the Doctrine of Balaam in Revelation 2:14?

APA Publication Manual. Needs 6th ed. Copies avail. at branches. Place hold.

4:30 First closing announcement.

Her browser's frozen.

PC for Aslaf.

She says copier gave her Canadian quarter in change. Hmmm... Give her the nickel she needs for last copy anyway.

Phone: number for Sheriff's Dept.

Phone: directions to library.

When open tomorrow morn? 1 pm, (makes face). Thought we closed at 6 today.

Phone: have MS Word to borrow and install? No, sorry, try OpenOffice. Can save as Word.

Rastaman w knitted Rasta-colored cap needs book on writing essay. Take to shelf.

5 min. to closing.

The Grapes of Wrath revisited

I recently mentioned The Grapes of Wrath in my post, Poor Folks Online. From Oklahoma to California, the Guardian's Chris McGreal re-traces the route of Steinbeck's epic depression era novel.


On Being Spoiled by Patrick O'Brian

Having read the twenty Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian in the last five months, I was in a comfortable, nautical groove. I thought I might stay there with the novels of Alexander Kent, (the pen name of Douglas Reeman for his late 18th - early 19th century wooden ship series featuring Richard Bolitho).

After reading a couple, I don't think I will continue with them. I miss O'Brian's encyclopedic erudition and psychological depth. More than once, Reeman has described a tropical coast as "a mass of rotting vegetation". O'Brian would name the species of trees and shrubs to be seen. Reeman imagines "red birds". O'Brian would name the birds.

There is no question that Reeman knows his ships. He gives a much grittier account of the life on the lower decks, and his seamen are a good deal less content than Aubrey's jolly crews. But on the whole, the Bolitho series does not rise above the level of "men's adventure" fiction. Too often, the action is driven by "bad guys". The characters are very roughly sketched. Bolitho seems to have no inner life apart from his role as a ship's captain.

And he seems anachronistic to me. I doubt whether many British naval officers would, in the 1780's, have been so opposed to flogging and slavery. Aubrey, 20 years later, dislikes flogging, but accepts slavery as a fact of life.

(8/27/09) Reading on through Command a King's Ship, I feel I may have been too harsh here. Perhaps it is not really fair to make O'Brian a yardstick to measure other authors of nautical fiction. I will let you know when I find a work that matches the power of Desolation Island, IMO O'Brian's best.


Death in a Cold Climate

PBS had aired several Henning Mankell mysteries earlier this year, so I thought a display of Scandinavian crime fiction might do well. The sub-genre seemed to be reaching a critical mass. Aided by Barbara Fister's excellent list at Gustavus Adolphus College, I assembled about thirty titles from our holdings system-wide. Just nearly enough, I thought, for a two-week display. I put the display out before leaving for a week. When I returned last Monday, scarcely any remained!

What could I do to last out the week? I would have to cheat. I pressed Janwillem van de Wetering's Dutch Inspector Grijpstra mysteries into service. Maybe our readers wouldn't know they weren't Scandinavian. They were Northern European, at least. I looked for Russian crime fiction, only to find, to my surprise, that there is no such thing in English translation, apart from Boris Akunin's Tsarist-era confections. Crime fiction had not taken root in the former Soviet Union, the notion of crime in a people's paradise being disloyal. Gorky Park, for example, was written by Martin Cruz Smith, an American. By this afternoon, with almost no books left, I took the display down, three days early.

For the poster, I chose a snow-laden typeface for the title, a bleak "midnight sun" image, and a modern, sans-serif, "Scan-Haus" typeface for the subtitle, the idea being that novels set in cold climes might tempt our readers, weary of our hot and humid days in August.


Melanie Travis mystery series finished

Just for the benefit of librarians and book people who might get requests, as I did today, there will be no new titles in this series of "dog mysteries" by Laurien Berenson. Berenson's publisher, Kensington, has dropped the series, according to the author on her web site. Doggie Day Care Murder, (2008), the fifteenth book in the series, is the last.


Shelf Love: reviews by a couple of book-lovers

A nice book blog by two women that does so well what I do not really do here, review books. I found it while searching for references to Ringle, the Baltimore clipper in the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian.

With copies of Library Journal, Booklist, and Ingram's Advance landing weekly in my in-box, I am confronted with so many capsule reviews that it would make me cross-eyed if I tried to read them all. I dispensed with Publishers Weekly long ago to cut down on the volume. It's refreshing to read a blog where a couple of readers pick what they think they might like and ignore the rest.

Their most recent review is of Laurie Colwin's 1974 short story collection, Passion and Affect. Readers who know her fiction may not know that she was also one of the great food writers. Because my wife subscribed for years to Gourmet magazine, I first heard of Laurie Colwin in connection with her writing about cooking. Her column about how to roast a chicken is legendary. She published two books about food, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, largely collections of her columns from Gourmet, which I gave my wife for Christmas last year.


Slow Reading

'The wind is almost due west now,' he told Stephen, returning from one of these tours, very near the night's end: but Stephen was asleep, bowed in an elbow-chair, his head moving with the roll and pitch of the ship, and she racing through the blackness with him.
The image of Stephen Maturin, asleep in an armchair, as the HMS Bellona bowled along in the night, deaf to his friend Commodore Jack Aubrey's observation, woke me up. I had been skimming, following the narrative with little real attention, and now I was there in the cabin with Stephen and Jack. Jack's squadron, having made a show of intercepting slave traders off the coast of Africa, raced now through dirty weather to accomplish its real mission, to prevent a French invasion of Ireland.

A handful of times over the years, library patrons have told me of their capacity for speed-reading. They would finish reading the novel they were borrowing in a single night. I have never said anything, but I always wondered why they thought this was a good thing. I could understand speed-reading a textbook, if time was short.

We hear about the virtues of "slow food", meals cooked at home from whole, unprocessed ingredients. I would like to recommend "slow reading", a thorough chewing of texts. When I lose the thread of the narrative, I try to back up to where I lost it and read it over. When I read a word I do not know, I try to make myself look it up.

I don't much care for audio books. I tried a couple, but I feel as though I am being marched relentlessly along. When I read a text, I am always paging back to see how the narrative makes sense. I guess it's just a matter of temperament.

(This post edited 8/15 for pomposity and harshness.)


"I read your blog!"

I was startled to hear this from G., who hailed me in the parking lot at the Tallahassee Mall. Ronda and I had just seen Julie & Julia, a film about Julie Powell's blog chronicling her effort to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. It is said to be the first film about a blog.

G. worked in Adult Services at our library, but left for greener pastures shortly after I graduated from the School of Information Science and joined the reference staff in 2001. She and her husband had just seen the film as well.

My dear friend M. had recommended my blog to her, (they share an interest in quilting). It blew my mind a little. Some months ago, at supper with my sisters, I began to hold forth upon a topic and my sister Carol forestalled me, saying, "We read your blog", where I had apparently already written about it. But it's different to meet someone in a parking lot whom I have not seen in years, and who then says that she reads my blog.

"Oh, G.", I wanted to say, "you don't know the half of what's happened since you left.". But I didn't. I resolved, when I started this blog, not to write about office politics, not to murmur, but rather to write only about the work. Ref Grunt, who inspired this blog, and who said, "Some days I love working the reference desk, some days I hate it, and it's often the same day", left off blogging last year, uncomfortable with his celebrity, and wanting to be anonymous again.



A man came in asking for the Book of Enoch, which he said he had been trying to find for a year. Which one was he looking for, the Slavonic or the Amharic? There were three, he maintained, the third being in Hebrew and of medieval origin, but he wanted the Amharic, or Ethiopian, the other two being, in his opinion, spurious. Of course, they are all "spurious" in the sense that none of them could possibly have been written by that ante-diluvian Enoch. But the Ethiopian BOE is quoted in the Epistle of Jude, (1:14).

Well, I had the Ethiopian BOE at home, in the R. H. Charles translation, but I didn't think we had it in the library. However, I thought he might find it in the Sacred Text Archive . I showed him our Old Testament Pseudepigraphia, which had the Ethiopian BOE in a more recent translation in volume one, and he was satisfied.

Enoch has the distinction, like Elijah in the Old Testament, of having been bodily taken up to heaven, (as was Our Lord Jesus Christ, though unlike Our Lord, he and Elijah did not see death). "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him", (Gen. 5:24). He is to Noah in an earlier epoch as Elijah was to Moses. His book is included in the Ethiopian Coptic canon, and is in the spirit of the apocalyptic books, Daniel, Ezekiel and Zachariah. Some hold that he was Hermes Trismegistus, or Thoth of the Egyptians.

The Elizabethan Dr. John Dee obtained a system of "Enochian Magic" by conversation with "angels", and I have a curious book dating from 1977, The Book of Knowledge: The Keys of Enoch, by J. J. Hurtak, which is more or less along the lines of the Urantia Book, with Enoch as a sort of Blavatskian Ascended Master. But these sorts of what the Church calls, "private revelations", will unhinge you.

No, all we've got is, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him", a bare scrap recorded by the author of Genesis at a date which is itself lost to us in time. The Ethiopian BOE can tell us who the Post-Exilic Jews thought he was.

Should I by the Grace of God pass through the Pearly Gates, and enter the Heavenly Library, I hope that I may discover the truth about the Prophet Enoch.


But if you try, sometimes...

Branches and Rain awards a laurel wreath to our own Danielle, who graduates this week with her MLS. She will "walk" on Saturday. Well done, Danielle! We had cake in the workroom today to celebrate.


You can't always get...

It's worth recording times when the Web fails people, and they do not get what they came in for. Today I had several examples, almost as a rebuke to yesterday's post.

A man had been told at a Popeyes Chicken restaurant to apply for a job online, but he and I tried together and separately to navigate to the page on the Popeyes web site where he could apply, and failed utterly. (No, Popeyes has no apostrophe.)

A woman called me over to help her complete an application for a credit card. The page was poorly coded, so that she couldn't see how to enter her zip code. The zip code field, when selected, put the cursor to the left of the box, in a blue-tinted area. I told her to type it in anyway. She did, and was able to then submit, but instantly received a rejection message.

A man had seen a classified ad about "free money", and wanted to print out information from a web site listed in the ad. As I said below, it was less trouble for me to do it for him than for me to give him a short course on how to use a PC. It was clearly a scam. If he paid them $49.95, they would open the storehouse of riches to him. But I printed it out for him, and he left with the information.

A man wanted a comprehensive listing of health agency offices, top to bottom, from the federal level down to state and county, so that he could market a health database application. D. and I suggested the NIH, the CDC, and in Florida the AHCA, but really, such a list is not out there for free, in part because the states dispose their health care so differently. He could pay someone, like InfoUSA, to generate such a list, but no one has done it and put it out there for free.

Don't know much about computers...

...but they need to apply for food stamps, claim weeks for unemployment compensation, apply for a SafeLink Wireless cell phone, print out an application to work at the Subway. We've helped people do all these things in the last few days. They come in so anxious and worried. If it is obvious that they do not have the skills to do it themselves, it is easier for everyone if we take them through it, asking them the questions and entering their replies. It gladdens my heart when we have completed their task, and they are satisfied with having done what they needed to do.

I encourage them to come in at their leisure and just play around with a PC. It's not really very hard, I say. They will pick it up, just as I did.


Peru, NOT!

Prompted by Stephen Maturin's ramble in Lima and its environs in O'Brian's The Wine Dark Sea, I went there with Google Earth tonight. What a forlorn slag-heap of a place! No doubt for Peruvians it is God's Country, but to me it looked utterly desolate: a barren, cold, stark, hostile moonscape. Brrr! I'll take North Florida, thanks very much.