New Leaves, Technopeasant, Are We Volunteers?

New Leaves
The live oaks around town have dropped their old leaves as new leaves emerge, creating perilous drifts on the city streets for the two-wheeled. Take a corner through a pile of dry, dead, live oak leaves, and you might go down, they are so slippery. I saw a man lay down a Harley a couple of years ago braking downhill into an oak leaf-strewn curbside parking space on Park Avenue outside the library.

Like so, new editions of often-used reference works have been pushing the old ones off the shelves at the reference desk this month: the 2009 Polk City Directory, Hill-Donnelly Reverse Phone Directory, U.S. and Florida Statistical Abstracts, Toll-Free Phone Directory, World Almanac. Their numbers have decreased over the years, but there are still books that are indispensable for "ready reference".

A young woman approached me about doing an offender search at the Florida Department of Corrections. Clearly her first time in the library, she seemed a little disoriented by all the activity around the reference desk and the public workstations. I was pretty busy. I gave her a reservation, pointed her to her PC, and said I'd be over to help in a minute.

When I got to her, she was just sitting in front of the PC. Hadn't started her session yet. I got her logged in while helping the guy next to her print something. (Browser File -> Print didn't work, multi-page form with in-page print button generating "unblock pop-ups" message to work.)

"Ok, now go to myflorida.com." She didn't make a move. With anything else, I'd normally take her to the desk and do it for her, but DOC offender searches need tact. A family member or boyfriend is in prison. There is worry and grief and pain. You want to leave them alone as soon as you can. I talked her through to the offender search page. She didn't know his DC number, so I told her to fill in the fields that she knew and submit.

I hope she found what she wanted. I kept looking over to her, but I was so busy. I think she only stayed about twenty minutes.

It was a bad call. She was too unskilled to be seated in front of a PC and given a push. I should have put aside my scruples and done it for her, handing her a print-out with photograph, ready to go.

I was trying to decipher a Martindale-Hubbell entry for a local attorney, something I don't do often enough to remember how to do from one time to the next. The patron was going to call back in twenty minutes. I couldn't get a five-minute block of time to do it. It was just one walk-up or phone call after another. Got my colleague to take the desk while I did it. Patron didn't call back until after lunch.

Are We Volunteers?
Yes, the Dreaded Question. Man wanting co-dependency literature, with court-ordered community service to do. Um, no, we have Master's Degrees and are paid staff.


Tomasky, Spring, Kosmix

I've added a link to Michael Tomasky's blog at the Manchester Guardian. I used to buy a weekly digest, printed in tabloid format on something like india paper, of the Guardian and Le Monde when I lived in New Orleans in the early '80's. When the Guardian went online, I became a daily reader, for it's international coverage and for a view on current affairs from afar. Tomasky is an American correspondent whom I came to like for his wry, good-natured coverage of the recent elections.

The Spring blooming peaked this weekend, and with rain forecast, I walked around my neighborhood taking pictures on Sunday, which you can see on my Facebook page. The rain came on Monday, much-needed.

Reading a story on the web-guide-generating site Kosmix in the Sunday New York Times, I was intrigued enough to take it for a spin. Pleasing to the eye, configurable interface, but, sorry to say, not especially useful for reference work. It is a commercial site, a sort of mega-portal, aggregating already selected content from hot apps like Google Trends, Twitter, Hulu, YouTube, and mainstream news sites Yahoo Buzz, Digg, CNN and Newsweek, like a cow's fourth stomach.

I did a search on the Reconstruction Era to see if Kosmix would index any gov or edu archives, like American Memory , or Documenting the American South at UNC. No, Kosmix leans almost entirely on Wikipedia for non-commercial content. It's handy for the casual browser, but it lacks the recall required for reference work.


Blogging Reference: Saturday, March 14.

9:43 After a week of warm weather, with azaleas and dogwoods in bloom, it's overcast and cool this a.m., with a 50% chance of rain tonight and tomorrow.

Policed the Park Avenue stairs, picked up empty Mott's Apple Sauce jar, dirty paper towel. About time for our lodger-on-the-landing to move in, now that winter is over.

Students still on Spring Break, so it may be quiet today.

5 public-access PC's out of action, 3 infected with "Antivirus 360". Has to be a record number.

Working with MF today.

10:00 Open.

W. brings me newspapers.

Phone: Can renew ILL, Sixties Songbook? Thinks due today, but system says 3/17. Is enough time, says she, never mind.

PC for James.

PC for Ben.

Tax people here?

Couple checking out evolution display for Origins '09, big, week-long, FSU Darwin-Palooza w E.O. Wilson headlining. Woman takes book.

"Where is your Bibles and cookbooks at?" Is staying at the Shelter. "Cain't half walk back there for lunch. Maht just stay here and read." (Is no lunch at shelter.)

Phone: Teacher asking about CD audio guide for Big Read book, Fahrenheit 451. Give contact info for DD, our Big Read coordinator.

Change for Copier? Takes dollars.

Mom w stroller: Are more Laura Childs "Scrapbooking" mysteries than she sees in hb fiction? Yes, early titles are pb's, check pb carousels. "They're really easy to read!"


Where is printer?

Help foreign man start PC session.

Where is printer?

"Paper jam" is just misfeed. Tray too full.

MF pulling pb "send items" for holds. Mark Rogers's The Expected One hasn't moved since '98. Surely missing.

Where to buy envelope? Gift shop.

Phone: CH says husband has note about Origins '09 display in today's column, wanted to give us heads-up. Thanks.

Where to buy stamp? Post Office is across park.

Man w daughter: Can borrow books? Show where to get card.


PC for Nehemiah.

"I have to wait 'til he get off the computer?" Yes, 15 min. Rasta-themed man. Tall & thin, like an ibis, very dark w gold wire-rimmed glasses. Short-billed soft white "dreadlock-sack" cap w royal Ethiopian flag, embroidered lions. Bob Marley picture-medallion. Long, white t-shirt and black calf-length baggy shorts with striped trim on cuffs repeating flag colors. Immaculate unlaced white patent leather sneakers. Stunning.

PC for Tamil. Give card spiel.

PC for Kelly. Homeless white guy.

PC for Noah. Another HWG.

Security alarm. Pass him through.

Phone: Number for Kas Enterprises in Saint Louis MO.

Mom w stroller: Where is tax help?

Man gives me a "hello" knock on counter as he walks past, heading for the stairs.

Stocky but trim, tattooed, tank-topped grandad-biker type w short beard, grey ponytail and bandanna headband uses self-check out. Freshly laundered blue jeans.

Black marker.

PC for Nathan.

Young mom says thank you, for using PC I guess. Little boy echoes, "Thank You!".

Eleven o'clock rush over. Half dozen PC's vacant.

"Where they doin' the taxes?"

"Can I sign up for the Internet?"

PC for Ashley.

12:00 Lunch.

Pepsi and John Lukacs's At the End of an Age on Park Avenue bench.

"Taking a break?", says tax help man.

Two women ask directions to the Governor's Club.

12:30 Back. MF goes to lunch.

PC for Ayu Wun Chen.

Books and articles on African Americans & the Civil Rights movement. Show databases, 323, 305, 973.

Tax help.

Do we have a notary? No, try a bank or yellow pages.

PC for William.

Phone: Circulation issue, transfer to Circ.

Woman picks up copy of The Leopard by Lampedusa.

Relieving JL in Tech/Media.

PC for Tracy.

Madison Avenue Shoot : a Murder, She Wrote mystery by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. On order, take request.

PC for Lisa.

Man w cane and bandaged arm needs more time on PC.

Where is PC 10? His session expired. Give him another.

New trade paperbacks in donation bin. All girl-meets-boy potboilers, but Apart From the Crowd by Anna McPartlin looks like a keeper.

Card doesn't let him get PC. Is marked lost, send to circulation desk.

Can hear someone's ear buds from Gates Lab. Ask him to turn down.

Freckly white country girl unsure how to ask for PC. Accompanied by very young silent Marine all buttoned up in his dress uniform. Can't be over 18.

2:05 Back at refdesk. So quiet and serene up here after the crush downstairs.

PC for Shirley.

Problem with PC 64. LCD monitor has gone black and won't come on. Mark out-of-service and get him different PC.

Phone: Pop. of Tallahassee. Est 2007 176,429.

An American Tail. Place hold.

PC for Michael.

Where are V.C. Andrews books?

Shy pudgy boy wants dragon books. Find three good ones in 398.

Phone: Anthem by Ayn Rand. On shelf in YA fiction, transfer call.

Script for Broadway production of My Fair Lady. NOT screenplay, he emphasizes. Incredibly, is on shelf, but in 790's (?), two copies.

Phone: The John Couper Family at Cannon's Point by T. Reed Ferguson. Her mother saw it on back of Eugenia Price novel. Southern history from Mercer UP. ILL request.

Perry Branch had called over to reserve Twilight for girl, but Circulation can't find. JD has a copy in Childrens'.

Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. Place hold. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One by David Kilcullen. New, take request to purchase.

PC for Nate.

Where to get card.

PC for Danielle.

How to File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Needs now, but no circulating copy on shelf. Where is copier?

3:25 Pooped.

Can hold books for Bibles/cookbooks woman to read some more tomorrow? Yes. Where is Perry library? Where is Presbyterian Church? Heard they serve free meals on Sunday. Where is Baptist Church? "I started out as a Baptist." (Have to cut this short, people waiting.)

Copier questions.

Where is PC 51?

Returns bankruptcy book.

Where to check out?

Phone: Parkway branch with ILL renewal request, The Mating Game w Debbie Reynolds & Tony Randall.

Man says PC 45 has gotten very slow. Is going to get one downstairs.

Looking for her brother.

How many books can she check out? Do we have a basket?

Printer needs paper.

Phone: Drood by Dan Simmons, House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Place holds, House on shelf, trap hold.

Fill 2 watering cans and water snapdragons on Park Ave. 1st floor landing.

PC for Lauri.

ESOL questions.

Almost 4:30, time for 1st closing announcement.

Put in call to MIS on PC 64.

MF counting drawer.

Too late to get on a computer?

Turn off Catalog PC's, pick up trash, push chairs in, put mags on rack.

At three minutes to closing, man asks MF about salaries of Florida legislators, which goes nowhere pretty quickly.

5:00 Closed.


Hump Day

Instant Me:

1. Rinse well.
2. Add coffee.
3. Wrap in fabric.

Me and several billion other shmoes. Come on people, up 'n' at 'em! Let's do this thing.

And thanks and praise to the Creator for this day of life.


Hey Joe

If I had to take one album with me into the afterlife, in the style of the Egyptian Pharaohs, one of the two or three candidates would be Are You Experienced, on which, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together", (Romans 8:22).

Listening to Hey Joe tonight, I'm blown away by Mitch Mitchell's drumming. He was on fire all through this album, especially on Third Stone From The Sun, but here he seems almost to seize the melody.

Listen to Hey Joe.



When I drove the library bookmobile in the '90's, I used to long for the return of Daylight Saving Time. Our stops at Chaires, Miccosukee and Fort Braden ended at 7:30 p.m. In winter, we would return to the main library in total darkness until we came to Capital Circle. We would pull into the library garage at around eight o' clock.

It wore you down, the dark and the cold, on top of the odd loneliness of the bookmobile librarian. I was everything to the people who waited for me to come; the country folk, the elderly, the prisoners; and almost nothing to the rest of the library staff. Out of sight, out of mind. I carried a folding knife, just in case, (yes, bookmobile librarians carry knives).

We thought of ourselves as the "Marines of the Library", in the sense that bookmobile stops were "beachheads" that might later become full-fledged branch libraries. Several of my stops in the '90's have been replaced by branch libraries now. Our library director once gave me a toy soldier that I still have on my desk.

What a comfort it was, then, to return home in daylight, before the sun went down. Back to the land of the living.


Coldest Winter...

...in almost fourteen years. Sing it, Rod. Mercy...


Trooper Down!

I've been helping a man down in Hernando assemble a tribute to Florida Highway Patrol troopers who died in the line of duty. He is a retired trooper from New York State. I've been searching our microfilm of the Tallahassee Democrat from the 1930's up to the present for stories about these men. Today I completed his final requests for information.

Microfilm searches are always, well, trippy for me. Time travel: Watergate, Carter's Camp David Accords, the death of Pope John Paul I.

If you are my age or older, you might remember the television series, Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford. They are the big boys, like the Texas Rangers, expected to handle any situation they encounter alone, without hope of immediate backup.

I've never been stopped by an FHP trooper. Having driven the bookmobile for 9 years, I hold a chauffeur's license, and I am a designated Safe Driver.

These troopers died in encounters with fugitives and smugglers. The most heartbreaking stories are the ones where they stopped to try to help. Like the Miami trooper who stopped because someone's car was on fire. He called a wrecker, but when he asked the driver, a 15-year-old runaway, to show his license, the youth pulled out a .357 magnum and killed him and the wrecker driver.

When you see a trooper out on the highway, say a prayer for him. He is doing a dangerous job, all alone.

Listen to Junior Brown perform Highway Patrol.


Web 2.0 for Smarties

Novelist and futurist Bruce Sterling on Web 2.0. Thanks to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.