Monday, October 13, 2014

No, You Can't Just Do My Job

There is a woman I have known for years via a listserv who is now working as a library page in her local system.

I have never met her, but I know that she is a freelance writer. I know that she is a reader, that her husband is a reader, that her son is a reader.

But I have been wincing for months every time she triumphantly reports on Facebook about her helping people find the books they are looking for. And now, today, she has apparently been rapped by a supervisor who doesn't like her attitude. And my guess is, that her attitude is that even though as far as I know she's never worked as a librarian, she can do the same job because of all her other skills.

Sorry, but that ain't so.

This woman's husband has been through a major, terrifying series of hospitalizations recently, during which I was one of her chief boosters. I know what she went through--been there myself.  However, I don't think that either of our experiences qualified us to be a nurse or a doctor.  And loving to read and knowing books is not all there is to being a librarian.
We get that on applications for all our jobs. Often on the misspelled applications, I might add.

Let's start with something called the "reference interview."  What this means is that when someone comes up and asks for a specific book, fine. You can point out the Jodi Picoult, or the Dan Brown or whatever other piece of crap fine literature they are looking for.

But when someone walks in and asks for a cookbook, you need to say "Are you looking for something in particular?"   When someone asked about "third grade books," there are NO SUCH THING as "third grade books".  I've dealt with third graders that are reading "Harry Potter" and others who can't read "Hop On Pop"!

When a kid asks for an "autobiography", you need to know that they are probably asking for a BIOGRAPHY.  And you need to ask them if they are doing a one paragraph report or a ten page paper, or if they just have to dress up as the character.

When a mom asks for "toilet training" books you need to know if they are for her or the kid.  When they want a book about death, you need to know if it's because a grandparent has died or because they don't get what happened to their puppy.

More often than not, what they are asking you for is NOT what they need. Adults often come in with a vague question. You need to ask them details. Sometimes they ask for something general because they "don't want to bother you,". I love being bothered! One example: I had a lady ask for books about France for her kid's report. Turned out what he needed was French COOKING, and I was able to find her much better books than if I'd just waved her over to the 914.5 section where the books on France live!

I read beyond the best sellers. When a kid asks me for a book, I know what's popular. But I also know other books as well. I read the books reviews, I buy the books--and I read them, all but some of the YA that I've taken to skimming because I'm sick of vampires and dystopias (!)

I've referred people to medical libraries, to embassies, to their family doctor, to the school reading teacher.  I've tried to persuade many a mom that her "advanced" reader is still a little girl who needs to be a little girl, and that just because they CAN read young adult books doesn't mean they SHOULD read stuff in that section.  And that "Harry Potter" is NOT the cure for reluctant boy readers and that sometimes non-fiction is what will turn that child on to reading.

(And I haven't even mentioned catalog searching. Suffice it to say, it's more than doing a Google search--and it teaches you to do a really good Google search in the process....)

I've done this for 30 years. It's been my only career from grad school onward. And that's why I'm good at it. Lots and lots and LOTS of experience.

So if I were the librarian in that librarian where Ms Library Page is working, I'd be pissed too if I saw her trying to do my job.

And I find it damn condescending of her to think that she can, just like that.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12,2001

That's the day it was all different.

I was home with a baby during the Oklahoma City bombing. Pregnant with another baby and on bed rest when Columbine happened. And I cried, and they frightened me.

But somehow, it was far away and couldn't hurt me or my family.

And then 9-11 happened and I had to drive past the tattered side of the Pentagon regularly. Had to go to NYC and see the gap in the skyline, and hear tales from my brother-in-law who'd witnessed the towers go down from nearby, and from my sister-in-law about how the smoke had traveled across the river to Brooklyn Heights.

For months after 9-11 I winced every time I heard the jets in their flight paths to National (NOT Reagan to us) Airport. Every time I heard a siren.

About 2 years later we had the DC sniper and I had a month of being frightened every time I took the girls to school. Every time I went to the gas station. Every time my husband and children weren't safe in the house with me. I was at the Home Depot where the last shooting happened days before it happened.

Suddenly the world was no longer safe. Because it had happened right where I live.

This morning I dropped JR at the high school (!) early. The school is in the park where my community garden is located, so I headed over there to pick tomatoes and raspberries.

And as I was picking things the sirens started. There were a good 10 minutes of sirens--fire trucks mostly I think. I couldn't tell if they were just passing the area or heading for where I was.

I finished picked and drove past the school. All was well. No sign of the trucks. Everything  normal.

But that fear never, EVER goes totally away. All it takes is a siren, or an airplane to remind me of that horrible day when suddenly the world was no longer as safe as it had seemed.

As I said yesterday, I don't need flags or memorials to remember that. It's here with me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2014

Thirteen years and the memories burn bright.

On Facebook people who live thousands of miles from NYC, who had no one there, or in DC, or in PA post flags and pictures of the WTC towers and trite sentiments.  Eventually, I think it will be as pat as posting stuff in remembrance of Veteran's Day or Memorial Day.

No "patriotic" pictures today, or meaningful sayings.

September 11,2001 is burned into my brain as the day I sat hearing the fire engines rushing towards the Pentagon and you could see the smoke from my neighborhood when I went home that night.As the day I waited to hear that my parents, brother and all my in-laws were okay. The day when my two home cities suffered horrifying disasters and I feared for the safety of nearly everyone I loved.

This September 11 the memories are especially poignant. Next week I'll drive to NYC probably for the last time to visit the place that was home because my parents were there. But even without themit, the city will still be home and I'll still be looking for those twin towers each time I near the city. I didn't love them the way I did--and do--love the Empire State Building. But they meant HOME.

No need to memorialize it and no wish to give in to the jingoism that patriotism became after that day. It just is.

Friday, September 05, 2014


I feel more and more like Job, with one thing hitting me after another.

My new boss is doing my evaluation soon and I am sure it will be less than rosy. He is also meeting with each of the "managers" and is hinting darkly at "change", both his own ideas and the nonsense we get from Admin, and just thinking about it all scares me. I feel more and more as if I am not going to be allowed to love my job. And I am not looking forward to the new "assistant", who will make more work for me and I'm not even sure I will really like.  Meanwhile the nannies and the babies and toddlers destroy the toys I carefully selected and bought, scatter food and books all over the place and then generally leave without having checked out a thing. And I have to get back on the program treadmill last week. I love doing programs, but it's endless and exhausting.

The Man is depressed and angry and directs a lot of it at me. And last night he was busy cleaning book jackets with alcohol on the kitchen table--our only table--on SC's end because he has half the table covered with his own crap and barely has room for a plate. And when JR tried to sit down and eat her dessert he fussed at her for getting food near his stuff and reduced her to tears. She is so angry at the way he treats her at times--he has developed this fantasy ideal of her, and it isn't her and it makes me feel like nothing and she hates that for me and for herself.

All of SC's textbooks and other fall needs have sent our finances spiraling again, and I am struggling to pay for JR's 529 fund. Meanwhile my incredibly rich brother and his lawyer tell me that Mom's money can't really be touched till next winter, and my brother wants to leave the savings bonds that could pay for JR's education earning interest and untouched.

My parents' apartment is a hollow shell and we need to close it but the days I carefully cleared so the movers can come conflict with my brother's plans and his son's hockey games out of town. The Man and I are going up in 2 weeks with a van to take last things and after that, if my brother can't make the days I can, he can handle the rest and say goodbye to the place himself. I can't believe how fucking selfish he is being about this, after my spending 2 years dealing with things. He never lost a day with his kids and barely any work time and he doesn't get what it's cost me.

Menopause seems to be here and I keep waking up with damn hot flashes, I can't lose the weight I've gained back and I can't stop eating. And I am scared of all the medical tests I should be having and all the doctors visits I am not doing. I am afraid all the time.

I am afraid, and I feel lost and lonely and alone and exhausted. And I don't see better things ahead.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear Mommy

You've been gone six months today. How did that happen?

We scattered most of your ashes and Daddy's on Cape Cod on your anniversary. I didn't write about it here--about how good it turned out to be to be with my brother's family. How I got seasick on the boat, but not till the end. How We took 2 more boats on the way home and saw dolphins near Cape May.

The Man and I took a tiny amount of your ashes and Daddy's and put them in small containers before the funeral. I didn't tell Andy--they were just so the Man and the girls and I could scatter them on Assateague, as we did Nay's 6 years ago.  But SC got sick, and things went wrong and they're still with us.

We'll go in October and scatter them then. They're not really you--just what was left of your poor tired bodies. But we need to do this.

And keep wanting to call you. Tell you about how JR passed the dratted geometry SOL and how well SC is doing in college. About my poor sad community garden and about the 8 foot high sunflower growing on my library lawn.  About the bitch next door and her loud get togethers that have spoiled my patio time, and about hiring my new assistant who I hope will be okay since she's not the one I wanted.

Above all, I want to tell you that I love you and always will. But you know that, you and Daddy.
I know that you do.

All my love, always,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dear New Boss

It's fine that you want to raise circulation. Hell, so do I, as I have for the last decade as I have begged, grovelled, screamed and pleased with the patrons who love my programs to borrow some books. Or some DVDs. Or something!

Fine if , as you say. you are going to  use your money to buy popular DVD crap to add to my shelves. And if you want to give me money to buy mass media crap for my book collections, I will hold my nose and do so as well.

But I've been in this business 30 years. Been in this system 25. And none of my bosses has ever tried to supervise my book purchases. It's micromanagement and it's damn insulting.

You have, as far as I know, no children's book training. You come from a system where they buy stuff CENTRALLY, for chrissake.

So you can put the mass media crap on my shelves and perhaps people will borrow it.  But I don't think that is the problem. Or the solution.

It's times like these when I wonder if my job, the job I love, isn't getting a lot less fun.


The Library Lady  a.k.a. "The Youth Services Manager"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Help NOT Wanted

I have spent the last 5 years (almost 6)  working without an assistant, and for the most part it's been fine.  I don't think last year's nasty encounter with a patron and the subsequent broo-ha-ha had anything to do with this.

I've learned to do my own art work. I do the bulletin boards, the displays. I've always done all the programs.

I have relished being able to do what I want as I want. I have had the sheer bliss of an office to myself.

So getting an assistant doesn't excite me. Particularly when I have to have the new "Youth Services Manager" from our Central Library (whom I'm hoping is better than the last twit, who I found patronizing and sanctimonious) AND the b*tch who is our "Human Resource" officer AND my new boss on a "hiring panel" with me.

I have a former assistant who is about to come back as a volunteer. I don't know if she wants the job, but I'm hoping she'll apply. I love yer--she's my favorite assistant ever. I could stand sharing an office with her.

But I fear that she won't, or that the "committee" will hook onto some nice-nice anal retentive type who will fuss about the office mess and try to do things the way they did them elsewhere. I've had that.

I will hope for the best. But I really didn't need this stress. Not right now. Maybe not ever.