End of the Semester!

Right, so, I meant to talk about being a librarian a bit more throughout the semester, but it turns out that on a day-to-day basis it’s not terribly interesting — I mean, it interests me greatly but not everyone is going to think that the vast disparity between a search for “escapism” and a search for “escape” is riveting. (However, the other librarian I work with and I were very proud of coming up with that second search. Nerds.)

But I need something to show for all this librarian-ing I did, so here are a few stories I think we can all relate to:

Students really don’t like to expend effort: One of the rules we have at the library is that everything you borrow has to be officially checked out to a student ID card. This includes things like whiteboard markers and textbooks that can only be read in the library, and there are a lot of students who don’t seem to realize that these IDs exist until they need to borrow a calculator for their test that starts in 15 minutes. But when I tell them that they need to go over to another office for ten minutes to get an ID, many of these students are like, “Well, nevermind, I’ll just try to do calculus without a graphing calculator.” Similarly, our printers only take payment in the form of money put on that same student ID, and if I had a dime for every time someone asked me to print “just one page” on my “secret free printer” or told me it was ridiculous that they should have to plan ahead to print their term paper that’s due right this very second, I would have enough to put the five-dollar minimum on my own ID.

The school really doesn’t like to be reasonable: So, yeah, it only takes like ten minutes to get an ID, but it took me four tries of going to the student ID office to find someone there to make one for me! In that same office is the place where students can put cash money on their IDs (plastic money is done online), but it’s not open until 11am, a full three hours after the library opens and after I’ve already had six questions about how to put money on a card.

Students have a weird definition of weird: I could also make some money off of the number of times students have come up to me with a “weird” or “strange” or “stupid” question that is completely reasonable. Examples include “Do you lend out calculators?” “Where is the printer?” “Where is [insert office here]?” and “Can I borrow a pencil?” These are just regular questions, people, I promise. Asking if you can use our computer classroom’s projector so that you can trace snakes for your art class is a little weird, but also kinda cool. Asking if you can store breast milk in our staff fridge is really weird (but I said yes anyway). Pencils? Those are okay.

Students like our books: The rule at our campus libraries is that we don’t charge overdue fines; if you return a book we’re happy and if you don’t we ask for a ridiculous amount of money ($50 for any book, even a little paperback). That big fine goes on your student account and you can’t graduate or register for classes if you haven’t paid it or returned/replaced the book. People come in every once in a while returning stacks of overdue books or asking about how to pay for books lost last semester or last year, and less often asking about books they lost two or three years ago. But since about February I’ve been reassuring everyone about their overdue books because of a guy we’ll call Bob. Bob came in to ask how to pay for a lost book, since he was coming back to school after a long break and was sure the book was long gone. How long gone? It was due back in December of 2000. Even better, he managed to find the book hidden in some un-emptied moving box in his basement and returned it, at which point we promptly discarded it because we really didn’t need a 15-year old book of resume examples!

Being a good librarian can earn you cookies: I spent a few hours over the course of two days working with a professor and her English for Speakers of Other Languages students to get the students registered with the college portal system and teach them how to use the catalog on a basic level — here’s how to search for Florida, here’s how to find the book about Florida on the shelf. It was super slow going and it was hard for me not to use words these guys didn’t know, but it was heartening to watch them figure it out (especially compared to watching English speakers totally ignore my help and have no idea how to use the library!). A couple of days ago the professor came back to the library and said, “I was teaching my class about measurements, like cups and tablespoons, using a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Then I found out that some of them had no idea what a chocolate chip cookie is, and that just could not stand, so I made them some. Would you like the extras?” Heck yes! It’s nice to get an tangible reward, especially an edible one, for doing a good job.

Libraries are better than piracy

I love me some John Green, and he’s just recently posted a thing over on his Tumblr about why libraries are different from piracy, and so of course I love him a little bit more now.

Now, I’ve already seen season 2 of Sherlock, so I won’t try to argue that there’s never a reason (good or not) to pirate anything — it’s certainly faster than waiting until something makes it across the pond (or just into your library) and it’s obviously your cheapest option if you’re the kind of person who refuses to spend money on anything. And, as I’m learning from my husband’s law school paper on digital rights management, sometimes it is simply easier to pirate an e-book or a video game or what have you than to legally obtain it and fight through the DRM.

But of course, if everyone pirated everything you’d start to see less and less stuff available to pirate, because people who make things like to make some money here and there, or at least the ones who offer things up for sale do. And by forking over your hard-earned cash for a book or a video game, you’re telling the creators that you like what they do and you value the time and effort they put into doing it. As Green says in his post, “Right now, on Amazon, my brand new hardcover book costs about $10, which represents 1.2 hours of work at the federal minimum wage. I believe books are worth 1.2 hours of work.”

I agree with that, and I do buy (at full price, at my local indie) books that I have already read and loved and want to share with others or display with prominence on my bookshelf but never let anyone touch. But if I had purchased, even at Amazon prices, every book I’ve read over the past, say, five years? One, I would be a few thousand dollars poorer, which is a lot to me, and two, I would need way more bookshelf space, which I simply don’t have. (Sidebar: I guess I could also have an e-reader full of those hundreds of books, but if I’m going to drop a couple thousand dollars on anything I want it to be tangible and unequivocally mine. The fact that neither of these is true for e-books is really why we’re in this piracy mess in the first place, yes?)

Of course, that’s theoretical — practically, if I had to pay $10 for every book I read I wouldn’t read nearly as many books. I wouldn’t be willing to try something that sounded only kind of okay and I really wouldn’t be willing to try something I’d never heard of, and I would be the sadder for it. And what would I do with all that time?

And what if I decided to pirate those hundreds of books instead (presuming my necessary e-reader ownership)? Well, I’d save a lot of money, sure. But I’d also have a lot of kind of okay on my e-reader that I might or might not get around to reading and that I would have to wade through every time I wanted to find something actually good to read. And I still probably wouldn’t be willing to try something I’d never heard of, because I don’t know about your internet connection, but mine is not terribly fast and I don’t want to give over all of my computer’s time and bandwidth to downloading something that has an interesting title.

So give me my libraries! I personally may not want to pay $10 for a book I might not like, but my library system will have six or ten or twenty-one or one hundred copies of it if the powers that be think that someone out there, somewhere, is going to like it. And the more people who do like a book and check it out, the more copies the library will buy, to meet demand. And libraries buy those copies just like you and me, so those authors are still getting money they deserve and reaching an audience that might not have been interested at any price greater than free.

If you’re the type to pirate for piracy’s sake, have fun with that. Nothing I say is going to change your mind. But if you’re downloading the latest blockbuster movie or John Green novel because it’s cheaper than a Netflix subscription or because you just don’t know if you’re going to like it enough to make up for that $10 cost, let me introduce you to my library. You might have to wait a few days for those super-popular items, but there are so many other things you can check out (and check out) in the meantime.

The First Two Weeks

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve started a new job as a librarian at the local state college (like a community college, but with more four-year degrees). It’s part-time, so I’m actually still doing my old job at the public library as well, cataloging things and whatnot, but it is so fabulous to finally be able to say “I’m a librarian” when people ask what I do, instead of, “I work in a library.” I didn’t spend all that money on a master’s degree for nothing! Hurray!

So, job title, awesome. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve had this since my first day:

My fancy office!
It’s an office! With a door! And a window! And my name on it! Eeeee! AND I got a box of business cards so large that there is no possible way I will ever run out of them, unless I start using them for origami or something. This is a good idea. I will look into it.

So, fancy things, awesome. But how am I liking the job?

Oh my goodness, it’s fantastic. I’m a librarian! I get to play in a library all day! And I get to show other people how to play in a library all day, because we encourage the professors to bring their classes in for tours and lessons on using the catalog and databases, so I’ve gotten to show a lot of kids where the books live and how to use filters on their search results and how to figure out what they’re actually searching for and you’re probably like, nerd, which is true. I was disappointed on Thursday because I found out that most of the databases my library subscribes to are available through an Android (and iOS) app, but the orientation I thought I had didn’t actually exist so I couldn’t show the app off to the students. So I just played with it myself for twenty minutes. I would strike that last sentence but it amuses me.

I totally love my job. Even when I’m just telling students where to go get a student ID so they can come back and use the course reserves or the printer or whatever, I love that a) they’re asking me that question because b) I know the answer. And I find it gratifying when a student that has come in for a tour or a database lesson comes up to the desk and asks for clarification on a point I made earlier. I’m like, you were listening! And you want to know more! You are my new best friend! I only have a couple new best friends, but that’s more than I was expecting in the first two weeks. 🙂

Soooooo yeah! That’s my fortnight, it’s been pretty good. Keep your fingers crossed that all my future ones are equally awesome!

Wisconsin Library Debate

This showed up in my Google Reader today and links to a CNN article about a public library in West Bend, WI that has some patrons railing against inappropriate books. These books include The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Baby Be-bop, neither of which I’ve read, but both of which are apparently inappropriate for teens.

But what really strikes me about this protest is the proposed solution. CNN, of course, latches on to the radical group that wants to burn some books, but the intent of the original protesters was to have the books moved from the young adult section to the adult section. Young adults would still be allowed to check out Chbosky’s book, but they’d have to know that they wanted it and either be able to use the library’s catalog or be willing to ask a librarian to find the book for them.

While I agree that the books should not be moved, mostly because browsing is how I found many a book before I joined the book blogging world, this does bring up the question of how and why we separate books into children’s, young adult, and adult. I read plenty of novels that are considered children’s or young adult and I am not either, anymore. Conversely, I was reading YA books at the age of seven or eight and venturing into the adult section not long after. But in all crossing-over cases, I was pointed to a specific book either by a blog, now, or by a friend or librarian, years ago. And there are plenty of books that I’ve recommended to friends that I’ve purposely not declared young adult, because said friends don’t read “kid books.” Doesn’t this arbitrary separation itself limit access to a lot of great novels?

The other day I noticed books 5-7 of the Harry Potter series in the adult fiction stacks at my library. A quick look on the library’s online catalog shows that they are also in the young adult and children’s areas. How was this determined?

I’m sure these aren’t questions that can really be answered, but what makes a young adult novel? What makes an adult novel? Why can’t we combine them? Why can’t there be a section for “sexually explicit” material (and wouldn’t that really just encourage kids to read them, anyway)? Is there a better way to lay out the library?

Musing Mondays (22 June)

Today’s Musing Mondays question is very appropriate for me: “Do you restrict yourself on how many books you take out from the library at a time? Do you borrow books if you already have some out? Do you always reborrow books you don’t get to?”

Restrict myself? Ha. No, no, no. This is mostly because I get a lot of books through the holds process, so I’ll get an e-mail one day that says, “You have three books to pick up!” and then by the time I get to the library a day or two later there are two more to pick up as well! And then, after I’ve grabbed the five books and put them in my bag, I’ll go browse the new fiction shelves and see if anything looks good there.

As to the second question, I borrow books 99 out of 100 times that I go to the library. I’m lucky in that my library has an e-mail system that lets me know when my books are two days away from being due, so I always know what of my giant fluctuating pile of books has to go back to its mommy library.

This also helps me renew books that I haven’t read within the borrowing period (usually three weeks). It often surprises me how many books I end up renewing; it’s probably around 20 percent. This is because I constantly have ten or so books checked out that I read in order of interest, not due date. Of course, this causes problems on non-renewable books — new books, books with holds on them, books I’ve renewed five times already. If I can’t renew a book that I really did mean to read, I’ll put a hold on it right away, but mostly I figure I’ll find them again when the mood strikes me. The new Jodi Picoult was one of those (has anyone read it? I haven’t seen a review yet!), but another was Elantris, one of my favorite books ever. It took me a few months to decide to check it out again, but I’m certainly glad I did!

Musing Mondays (23 February)

I’m currently reading a chunkster of a book that is taking a long time to get going… Scott promises me that the ending is well worth it, but I keep getting distracted away from it by movies and the mindlessness of watching him play Fable II. Since I foresee a post on that book taking a while, I will entertain you in the meantime with this meme.

The Musing Mondays question this week is:

“How often do you visit the library? Do you have a scheduled library day/time, or do you go whenever? Do you go alone, or take people with you?”

I have been pretty constantly at the library since becoming unemployed (and, with luck, will find employment at a library in the near future!), checking out piles of books and DVDs. I’m lucky because my library system is ginormous, so I can get pretty much any book or movie or TV show I can think of as long as I’m willing to wait for it to arrive from the far reaches. The branch library I usually go to also has three-week checkout periods with four online renewals allowed, so I don’t feel bad about stocking up on books!

Most things end up coming from holds I’ve placed (the library is like free Netflix!), so I end up going to the library at least once a week, usually twice, to pick them up and return everything I’m done with. I also usually browse the new releases and mystery sections before I get out of the library. If I bring Scott with me, we also end up looking through the movies, though the library’s own selection is pretty limited.

The Twelfth Card, by Jeffery Deaver (11 August − 12 August)

I picked this up for a go at a mystery book discussion group, so I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Here we have a quadriplegic detective, Lincoln Rhyme, who picks up a seemingly simple case to avoid a doctor’s appointment (great idea!) and gets way more than he bargained for. The case involves a clever girl called Geneva who avoids an attack in a library by putting a mannequin in her place at the microfiche. Unfortunately, the bad guy is out to kill her, so that’s not the last she’s seen of him. She can’t figure out why he’d be attacking her — is it because of what she read? Something she might have seen out the window? Something she got involved with earlier? There are a lot of possible motives, a lot of potential killers, and a whole slew of red herrings to confuse the crap out of you.

But it’s good. Every once in a while Deaver throws up a dossier of facts and clues that Rhyme has collected so that you don’t get too lost, but he also writes from nearly every character’s point of view at some point in the story so you’ve got extra clues floating around that may or may not be useful. Deaver gets a little preachy about African American Vernacular English and the plight of blacks in Harlem, but the story is engaging enough that I didn’t feel too smacked in the face by it.

Rating: 7/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005)