Bestseller Send-Up

I don't often read bestsellers.  It's irrational, I know, but if a novel has mass-appeal, I automatically assume that it is, well, (and here's an adjective you don't hear anymore), lowbrow.  I might read one if it has stood the test of time, like A. J. Cronin's The Keys of the Kingdom, or Maugham's Of Human Bondage.

(Reading this the next day, I feel I ought to add that on the "brow scale" I am probably a "middle".  I don't often read Booker Prize winners either.)

I haven't yet read Steve Hely's How I Became A Famous Novelist, which I found in the donation bin, but on the back cover, noted as the author's "competition", is a very funny fake NYT  Best Sellers list.  You'll recognize the imaginary spinoffs for a number of genres: the endless fantasy saga, the Da Vinci clone, the "big name" licensed techno-thriller.  The only genre conspicuously absent is the vampire novel.


Blogging Reference

10:07  Open.

WSJ came w/o section A.  Called in "delivery issue" to robot.

A/C is off.  Facilities thinks yesterday's thunderstorm may have caused "chiller" to shut down.

SIRSI, (library system software) is down.  Have to issue guest passes for PC's even to cardholders.

Overslept.  No time for breakfast, so brought boiled eggs, but M. brought samosas!  Delish!

Where is handout w book award lists?  Don't recall ever having one.  Can look up for him?  No, will do it himself.

A/C seems to be working now.

Where is restroom?

10:20 SIRSI up.

Today's NYT.

Returns Tallahassee Democrat.  Do me a favor, put it back together when you're through, I say, (putting the sections in order).  Think of the next person who's going to use it.  Says he is sorry.  Stifle urge to rant about self-centeredness of the homeless.  Tired of tidying their messes.

Where is Family Story Time?  Say Program Room, but see it's in use by another group.  Ask JD in Childrens'.  Is in Easy area of Childrens'.

His mouse pointer is frozen.  Mouse ball is very dirty.  Replace w clean one.  Still doesn't move.  Restart PC.

Make round of non-fiction area.  Straighten travel section.  Empty water from last night's leak out of wastebasket,

PC for Kinchlow.  Is visiting Tally for swim meet.

11:15  Make round of fiction area.  An upholstered chair has escaped from the conference room.  J. told me at closing yesterday.  Forgot to put it back this a.m.  Man has installed himself in it with huge plastic flagon & laptop.  Will wait 'til he's gone to put it back.

Kinchlow's done w 49 minutes left.  Offer to another patron.

11:34 Not bad for a Sat. morn.

Do we have any Chelsea Handler?  Are you there, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea is on shelf in bookmobile.  Get key from MC.  As always, find in last of half dozen places to look down there.

Brown wants another session.  Has a card but doesn't actually "have" it, or some such.  Don't feel like being hard-ass.  There's no queue to speak of, so give him another.  Get your card issue resolved and bring it with you to be sure of a second session, I advise him.

11:53  L., our volunteer is here.  We've missed each other for many weeks, she having been out of town on my Saturdays.

12:00  Lunch!

1:03  Back.  MK gone to lunch

Phone:  Man w three business titles, Rework, by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, How Successful People Think, by John C.Maxwell, and The Ultimate Strategy Library: The 50 Most Influential Strategic Ideas of All Time,  by John Middleton, none of which we own.  Send all three to Purchase/Interlibrary Loan.

MK gives me number of woman who wants requests pulled for pickup, Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark Levin, book & CD's both, Making Comics, by Scott McCloud, and  Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, by Jessica Abel.  Can't locate Liberty and Tyranny.

Woman picks up ILL photocopy, signs copyright notice.

MK back, move to satellite station.

Don't see Levin CD's in Media.  Get keys from VB, down to bookmobile again for other print copy of Levin.  3 out of 4 anyway.

She wants books on "multiples".  I hesitate, so she says twins.  Ah.  Take to shelf.

Tutor needs to get into the ESOL classroom for materials.  V. says send her down for key.

Entrepreneur Magazine's How to Become an Internet Entrepreneur.  Place hold.  Update contact info.  Show him similar titles.

Rennie K. from church says she and Kaz both enjoyed McCullough's Path Between the Seas.  Her pictures of their cruise through the Panama Canal turned out well.

2:36  Fun w printers.  Two women can't get jobs to print.  Printer says Ready.  Clear their job queues,   Try again.  Still nothing.  Turn printer off/on.  Nothing.  Try backup printer for them.  Works for one.  Other still can't print Japanese-like cartoon kitty.  Is unprintable or something, like lyrics sometimes are?  Her browser seems unstable.  Find fast-food pop-up in background, try to close.  IE crashes.  Restart IE, find kitty in history.  Still can't print.  She says thanks, it's ok, never mind.  Aargh.

Straighten heavily browsed new shelves, replenish display, straighten 200's.

2:57  About time for L. to leave, & me to go back to main desk.

Check out Four Freedoms by John Crowley to mending.  Back cover has come loose.

Books about probation?  No, sorry.  Can show her articles in Gale, but she's already tried those.

Man wonders if we still get Linux Magazine.  Tell him they were mine.  Someone gave me a sub, and I put them out on the rack for others to read.  I have July issue on my desk.  I get it for him.

1984.  "I'm going to make my husband read it!"  Laughs.  None on 2nd floor.  Point her to YA carousels on 1st floor.

Has author of The Shack written anything else?  Appears not, from a look at William P. Young's web site.  Do we have What's So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey?  Take to shelf.

Returns USA Today.

DT says hi.  She's not working today, but she came in to print out a Borders coupon because her printer at home is out of ink.

Liquid Paper®.

Sky very dark.  It's gone quiet.

She wants to know where to get a billed cap like the one on the Rose Society Display.  It is rose-colored, with the seal of the Tallahassee Area Rose Society on the front.  "It's a cool hat, isn't it?  I bet you have to join."  She inspects a membership application.

Today's Democrat?  Is in use.  Wants to read baseball stories.


Do we have study guide for Exceptional Student Education portion of the Florida Teacher Certification Exam?  No, sorry.

Phone:  What is full name of a Mr. Snow who worked for the Bush administration, and who was CEO of CSX Corporation?  John W. Snow.


(And the time was my last entry.  We got slammed from then until the library closed at 5:00.)


Ten Years After: Going To The End Of The Line

Opening day, 1991.  Paying my dues.

Working my way through weeding the 300's, (I finished the 364's, "Criminology", on Tuesday), I continue to weed titles that have not been checked out for roughly ten years, -2+x, about the length of time since I left the bookmobile and came to work in adult services at the main library in 2000.  Many of these weeds, published in the late '80's and early '90's, are visibly dated, with unattractive covers by today's standards.  Robert Vesco, (the Nixon-era swindler), the savings & loan crisis of 1988, (forerunner of our current banking troubles), the Jewish Mafioso Meyer Lansky, all have receded from our common memory.

Where has the time gone?  Into the rear-view mirror.  My elders have almost all retired.  Energetic young women are taking their places to chart the library's future.  And I, (now, at 56, eligible for the senior discount at the New Leaf food co-op), am in the mood for some "sense-making", if you will forgive the information science jargon.

In 2000, the much-hyped but mostly empty "Y2K" crisis, which had prompted a very profitable world-wide computer hardware upgrade, had just passed.  We had a mere 10 public-access Internet PC's in Adult Services, (with more downstairs in Media Services).  There are now 25 on the second floor, about as many as the wiring can handle.  Databases were moving from CD-ROM stations requiring manual updates to online subscriptions, and the PC's that were dedicated to CD-ROM apps, (Dun & Bradstreet, Car Shop, American Business Disc, Bible Explorer and others), were converted to additional Internet PC's by 2002.

My IP position, (Information Professional, aka Librarian), for which I was hired upon graduation with an MLS in 2001, was already obsolete.  My predecessor had been responsible for the PC's in Adult Services.  I had trained with her on how to clean off all the garbage programs patrons would install every day on the Internet PC's.  (Anyone remember Bonzi Buddy?)  But the county's Management of Information Services department took over the maintenance and upgrading of all library computers.  I inherited a box of cables and CD-ROM equipment that I had no use for.

I can't say that I regretted it.  The next few years would see solutions for things that had been real headaches.  The reservation of public-access PC's was automated, ending the recruitment of volunteers to do it with a paper log.  Centurion Guard hardware was installed that wiped all user modifications to PC's, including viruses, upon reboot.

Automation of library tasks extended far beyond the management of public-access PC's.  As the decade wore on, it would encompass much of the work that had kept us occupied from day to day, particularly with the ordering of materials and the processing of patron requests.  OCLC retired its Interlibrary Loan client applications in favor of a web-based interface.  The book wholesaler, Ingram, did the same with iPage.  The library granted patrons the power to request library materials online.  We developed web applications that let patrons "subscribe" to new hardcover releases for a selection of bestselling authors, and fill out request web-forms for materials the library did not own, new or otherwise.

This was all oddly fortunate, as the economy began to slide into recession at the end of 2006, and positions were lost or left unfilled.  If we had fewer staff to do the work, at least there was less to do.

With fewer staff, the center of gravity for the IP's shifted from the workroom to the service desk.  The reference workroom was once a lively place, where librarians bantered as they worked away at their desks.  Now the workroom is normally almost deserted.  We are out on the floor most of the time.  And that is all right with me.  It's what I do best.

This busy week in June, with the phones ringing, students needing help finding books for their summer reading assignments, Internet users needing all kinds of help navigating the Web for work and school and play, only brings home to me how very much reference librarians are still indispensable.  The information landscape has changed, but we are still the ones with the map, who can point the way.


Spinoff Book Titles

In the course of putting together a display of Malcolm Gladwell "readalikes", I looked at the potential for a display of Freakonomics spinoffs.  Freakonomics is the assigned reading for all levels of AP English at Leon High this summer.  I concluded that, although Freakonomics inspired a number of "-onomics" imitators, there were not enough of them to furnish a two-week display.  But I did find this amusing article in the NYT from a year ago on how publishers try to capitalize on the titles of successful books:  Titlenomics, or Creating Bestsellers, by Patricia Cohen.


Rock Paper Tiger has me hooked.

Fearing that I was becoming terminally fogeyish on my diet of WWII naval fiction, I decided to try something new.  Lisa Brackmann's Rock Paper Tiger got good reviews in the journals, so I took it home.

It's neo-noir and headline-fresh, complete with messed-up war veteran heroine.  Adrift in post-Olympics Beijing, running from a failed marriage and on painkillers for an injury sustained as a National Guard medic in Iraq, 26-year-old Ellie McEnroe waits tables in an expat bar and hangs with the Beijing art scene.  A casual friendship with a Chinese artist lands her in a world of trouble involving a mysterious Uighur, contract American security agents, and a WOW-like online game, Sword of Ill Repute.

Brackmann has a power of description for 21st century urban life that reminds me of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

A noir-ish exchange:
John brushes a stray hunk of hair off my face.
"So, Trey, he does not work for American government."
"Big corporation."  I laugh.  "What's the difference?"
John nods sagely.  "You know, here in China, PLA, Peoples' Liberation Army, owns many businesses.  They hide this better now than before, but still it is this way.  So maybe this is somewhat the same as America."
This irritates me, and I'm not sure why.  "It's the other way around in America," I tell him.  "Companies own the Army.  They send us where they want us to go.  To do their shit for them.  So they can get rich."
"Ah.  I see.  So you are in the Army, Yili?"
"I don't wanna talk about it."
"Why not?  It can be good to talk, I think."
"No.  It's not."
We may see the movie for this one.


Weeding the Social Sciences

A collection of library books is a living thing.  Its cells are individual books, each one with a span of life, and belonging to a subject heading, representing a topic with its own life-span.  The 300's, Social Sciences, are especially volatile.  They map the rise and decline of attention paid to various social and political issues over time,  (examples: women having both careers and families, Communism, AIDS, drug testing, date rape, electromagnetic health threats, sports doping).

You think at first that a title is too old, only to find that its subject hasn't been much addressed recently, and that your book is not so bad after all.  It's just not going out because the subject isn't on society's radar anymore.   

In other cases, more recent material is out there, but no longer in printed form.  Vocational rehabilitation and careers for the disabled is a good example here.  A Google search limited to .org or .gov domains will yield a wealth of information.  Support groups, which I recently blogged about, are another example.  Ratings and help for choosing senior communities and facilities are a third.  The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has gone completely digital.  Resources and forums for these issues and others like them have left the print world and now exist primarily in cyberspace.

This is a heartening rebuttal to the impression that the Internet has gone to the dogs.  Yes, the Web is host to all manner of vanities now, but it continues to fulfill the high expectations of its founders as well.

It leaves me to wonder, though, what lies in store for my print collection in the Social Sciences?  There will be far fewer printed directories, handbooks, manuals, and other kinds of institutional literature.

In some cases, the collection will be the poorer for it.  I found that Peterson's, a publisher of directories in the field of education and of test-preparation materials, appears unlikely to update its 2005 print directory of internships.  They want instead to sell access online, with single-user accounts.  This is a disturbing trend for libraries:  publishers not wanting to sell them a printed work that can be used by many.

Treatises and subject surveys with new perspectives and fresh arguments to make will continue to engage a print readership.


Blogging Reference

10:00  Open

We have Healthy Hands® sanitizer dispensers at both entrances these days, and Purell® bottles at the computer sign-up stations.  Thanks a lot, swine flu.  Sanitizer goo had seeped from the Healthy Hands dispenser, collecting on the square, steel base of the stand, where it had dried.  I wiped it off with wet paper towels.

Phone: B. at the B.L.Perry Branch.  Pull Body Marks:  Tattooing, Piercing and Scarification by Kathlyn Gay for pickup here.

Korean mom & daughter.  Daughter asks where are magazines.  Mom likes to read them.

Korean mom asks where is restroom.

Anyway, this hand sanitizer thing bugs me.  Don't people know how to wash their hands?  It's like bottled water.  What's wrong with tap water, or a water fountain?

She hasn't been to the main library in a while, where is fiction?

Dad w little girl and babe on hip.  Girl wants to hand me DVD's out of a sack.  Tell Dad to go downstairs to book drop.

Fiction woman returns, smiling, with books by favorite authors, Michelle Richmond's Dream of the Blue Room, and William Kent Krueger's Copper River.  Is leaving on a trip.  Help her use self-check machine.

It really IS quiet this Sat. morn, thank God.

Phone:  woman upset about hold.  Thought Suze Orman's The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke would be here when she came to pick it up, but it wasn't, and was checked out to someone else.  I say I have no way of knowing what happened, but am really sorry, and can I try to get branch copy here for her ASAP?  Call BLP & get copy pulled and trapped, but there's a mystery about the courier.  He's not been around to any branches yet.  Uh oh.  Hanging up, I find from MD that courier run has been delayed.  Call patron, tell her I'm not sure her book will get here today, but will call when I know for sure.  If not, will get here on Tuesday?  Yes.  She thanks me, sounds satisfied.

11:17  4 PC's still available up here.

Phone:  She wants to renew interlibrary loan, Detoxify or Die by Sherry A. Rogers.  Requests 2 others by same author, Chemical Sensitivity:  Environmental Diseases and Pollutants, How They Hurt Us, How to Deal With Them, and Wellness Against All Odds.

Man wants NYT article from the '60's.  Sorry, Newsbank only goes back to '87.  Log into my own account online, but find that even as a subscriber, articles older than '87 are not free.  Sorry, can try Strozier Library at FSU.

12:05  Lunch!

12:35  Back.

Help woman photocopy pages from Interpreter's Bible.

How does she request an ILL?  Doesn't know her PIN.

PC he just got is shutting down.  Yes, reboots between sessions.

ILL woman wants to use WorldCat.

Phone:  Where is the bookmobile today?  Off road in garage.  Wants DVD, Trading Places w Eddie Murphy.  Take name, number, will look when S. gets back from lunch.

PC for Victoria.
PC for Antonio.

2:00  Just ended rush.  Was able to get DVD for woman from Bookmobile.  She's on her way.

MC, just here to relieve SJ in Media, brought delicious samosas from Indian grocery!

Man says PC can't read  his Flash drive.  Can see portable device icon in system tray, but when we try to open folder, PC says "insert drive".  Try one of ours.  Works fine, opens right away.  I think problem is with his drive, but offer another PC.  No, but thanks, says he.

Do we have the Bible in Hebrew and Greek?  We have the Tanakh in Hebrew w facing English trans., but no Greek New Testament.  He is pleased w the Tanakh.  Says he speaks five languages.  How wonderful, I reply.

Woman arrives to get Trading Places DVD.

Paper for printer.

Phone:  What channel for FSU baseball game?  ESPN.

Phone:  Did she do right to look up title in WorldCat and then request it through Request Materials?  Yes, perfect.

PC for Caroline.

Give sanitary wipe, facial tissue.

3:17  Searched a couple obits on microfilm, took down to scan in media workroom, eat another samosa.

E-mail obit scans.

PC for Clara.
PC Chakia.

Where are Rolling Stone Magazines?

Paper for copier.

The Official Blackbook Price Guide to U.S. Coins.  He has a 1902 Indian Head penny, possibly worth a few dollars.

Paper for printer.

Returns paper.

Take application for conference room.  S. lets them in.

Phone:  Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, waiting list, place hold.  2001: a Space Odyssey, on shelf, trap for hold.  Summer reading assignments.  More copies of Persepolis are on order.

PC for Steve.

Help w copier.

Phone: she wants 2 books by Phillip Keller, What Makes Life Worth Living and A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.  Send to Interlibrary Loan.

Cathy finishes at her PC, says good night to me as she leaves.

His reservation expired, get him another PC.  Closing in 15 min.


B&R Briefs

Summer Is Here
As of Monday morning, the library shifted gears from the rhythm of school to that of summertime.  Boom, just like that.  Book circulation increases: already there is a backlog of shelving carts.  To the normal congestion of demand on Mondays for Internet PC's, due in part to the branches being closed, is added the all-day presence of children who are here instead of in school.  Waits for PC's reached 70 minutes for a time on Monday afternoon.

Still, it's good to see parents coming in with their children to find books to read for fun, and leaving with each child carrying their selections.  The perennial titles on school summer reading lists go out once again:  A Land Remembered, Night, The Life of Pi, A Separate Peace.  Leon High's Advanced Placement Language assignment is a non-fiction title, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

Gazebo Stabbing Update
Friday's incident has continued to be a topic of conversation at the library.  Reading in the park today, I happened to overhear a conversation between several men in the gazebo.  The victim, having been patched up, was there with a couple of friends.  One of his friends upbraided him, saying that he had tried to warn him to stay away from the man who attacked him; that the man was trouble waiting to happen.  The victim complained that he was told by the police not to leave town until the trial was concluded.  He said that the incident had not been precipitated by any kind of argument.  His friend accused the attacker of trying to turn him against his other friends.  It sounded to me like a kind of "spat", very personal and complicated.  I found the attacker's picture and rap-sheet at the Leon County Detention Center web site.  He had been arrested for numerous incidents of violence and drug possession dating from 2002.

The Trane Retires
Benson's is putting in a new heating/cooling system on Wednesday, replacing our trusty 20+ years old Trane unit:  a big, expensive deal.  It was either that or replace a costly "coil" on a system that had reached obsolescence.  It's time to bite the bullet.  You've had these major appliances forever, heat pumps, water heaters, refrigerators:  but technology has made such huge improvements since you bought them, that when they begin to go, you might as well upgrade.  You will save money in the long run.


Mysterious Innocuous Comments

 The following are examples of comments I get from time to time, all seeming to follow a formula:  they are new commenters, they find my "site/forum" helpful, and they hope to "give something back" like I have helped them.  These comments were all made to my April 14th post, Shipboard Weddings, but the first comments like them were to a post about how I was going to moderate comments, due to comment spam.  Pretty harmless, I guess, but mysterious.  Is it the same person? Are they a sort of "form comment" that foreign students of English might use?
Anonymous said...

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May 21, 2010 6:12 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey i am new here. I stumbled upon this forum I find It positively accommodating and it has helped me out a great deal. I hope to give something back & help others like it has helped me. Cheers, See Ya About.
June 5, 2010 12:57 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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June 6, 2010 3:43 PM


The Body in the Gazebo

Not long after I went on the service desk for the final 2 hours of the day on Friday, from 4-6, our sheriff's deputy came up off the stairs and asked me if anything was going on.  His walkie-talkie was crackling with dispatches.  I knew nothing.  He walked past me out the doors to Park Avenue.  Not long after that, I heard that a man had been knifed in the gazebo in the park.  I immediately informed our Director.  I heard sirens: growing louder, converging.

I had clocked the gazebo at lunch.  I like to sit there to smoke and read, if I can.  But today, as it has been lately, the gazebo was occupied by homeless white men, who had parked their baggage there and made it their camp.  The local shelter turns them out during the day.  There were more of them than usual today.  All of the shady, comfortable spots in or around the gazebo were occupied by these men.  I repaired to another spot under a magnolia, where a library fire escape issues out behind the Chamber of Commerce next door.

They had moved in to fill the vacuum left by some of the black teens who attend the nearby Life Skills Academy, which occupies the premises of the old Trailways Bus Station.

The Life Skills Academy attempts to educate  teens who have been expelled from high school in the rudiments of modern life: how to apply for a job, how to get a bank account, etc.  The gazebo had become the gathering place for Life Skills bad boys, until the city sent in the narcs, busting a number of them for drug possession.

It wasn't always this way.  Time was when the gazebo and park were quiet spaces, inviting working Tallahasseans on their lunch breaks to enjoy them.  A sign of the times, I guess.

P.S.  According to today's paper, the victim is in stable condition at Tallahassee Memorial.  His assailant was caught a few blocks away.


Mr. Rouse

I just finished Convoy, by Dudley Pope.  If you've been following my reading list, then you know that I've been on a heavy diet of sea novels for the last year or so.  After reading all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, I branched out to other authors, some of whom also wrote about the decades-long battle for empire between England and France that ended at Waterloo, and others who wrote about the World Wars of the last century.

Dudley Pope's Convoy is the first novel I have read that talks about what it was like to travel in a convoy of escorted merchant ships in wartime.  Oddly, we are more likely to be familiar with the predatory submariner's point of view if we have seen the film, Das Boot, or if we are gamers, since so many "subsims" are German-oriented, (Aces of the Deep, Silent Hunter).

Convoy made me think of Mr. Rouse, on this Memorial Day.  Mr. Rouse was my American History teacher in the 11th Grade.  He was short and balding, with glasses and a clipped mustache.  He had an acerbic, deadpan way of speaking.  It was 1970, and I carried Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman in my book bag.  The hippies and war protesters didn't  upset him, exactly, but he was unimpressed.

I found myself enjoying his lectures.  I only did well in high school when the subject interested me, and for Mr. Rouse, I outlined the textbook, scoring well on his tests.  I credit Mr. Rouse, after my father, for awakening in me a love of history that would earn me a B.A. in the subject.

He did not normally talk about himself, but one time he did.  We must have reached the WWII period.  He told us about the time when he was in a convoy of troop ships in the Strait of Gibraltar.  The ship next to his was torpedoed, and went down with all hands, as he looked on. 

I learned from Dudley Pope that ships in convoys were forbidden from stopping to pick up survivors, since they would then be sitting ducks in turn for the attacking submarines.  If a torpedoed ship was unable to get its lifeboats away before it sank, its crew and passengers were almost certainly doomed.

It was clearly something that he replayed over and over in his mind, an enormity, like 9/11.  Something that you just can't get your head around, as long as you live.  But we watched 9/11 on TV.  He was there.