Hello from the Jolly Librarian!

The Mayfield Library is always looking for ways to let you know what’s going on with us, so we can serve you better. To better achieve that aim, we’re starting this library blog.

As we communicate with you, please keep in touch with us. We welcome all feedback.

After all, the Mayfield Library is here for you!

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Monday Motivator: Monitor What Leads to Unkindness

A friend of mine sent a message last week. He wanted my personal email address because he was about to leave social media. He said he needed to save his humanity. Now he is one of the best people I know, and it is just like him to phrase it that way. No blaming others. Just saying that he was becoming a person he didn’t like, and he needed to change that. For him, that meant leaving Facebook.

For a former colleague, it was a reality show. One version featured children, but it was done in the same way as the regular show. One day, he found himself hurling abuse at a child participant and was so horrified at himself that he turned off the television, never to return to that particular show.

Social media, of course, can make being thoughtless and unkind a fairly easy endeavor, not just for the semi-anonymity of it, but because for any cruel thought we might have, there will be thousands of like-minded individuals and the very number of them can make our unkind thoughts seem normal.

But social media only magnifies our cruelty; it’s not the cause. Hundreds of years ago, wise people realized that a measure was needed to keep our thoughts in check. For some, it was a nightly examination of the conscience.

It is a simple listing of the virtues we want to be known for and evaluating how close to or how far from our goal. I like to use an outside source, because I suspect I have a tendency to think that I’m a little more moral than I am. This year, it’s the Stoic philosophers. Sometimes I return to the Beatitudes. At other times, I use books on the Jewish teaching of Mussar.

Like most people, I want to possess many virtues. I want to be brave. I want to stand up for myself. I want to be fair. And I work in a library, so I want to share only factual information on my social media accounts. But if I’m honest (and I want to be honest too!), I’m aware that there is a part of me that can too easily be unkind but then pretend that I’m just outspoken, or ‘telling it like it is,’ or being funny.

So the question at the top of my nightly examination is always the same: Was I kind today?

 

Monday Motivator: Choose the Right Role Model

After a bomb went off in Afghanistan, Eric Greitens, a Navy Seal, thought that perhaps he had lost his hearing. One of the things that he did in response was to read a biography. Of Beethoven. At that moment, he desperately needed the story of someone who had gone deaf and still thrived.

I wish I had known this story when I went off to college. Being the first in my family to leave home and attend a university, I was in unknown waters. My parents were great role models for many things, but they knew little about what it took to succeed in college. I found my way and went on to graduate and spend the rest of my career teaching or earning more degrees. Still, looking back, I think I would have had a much more fulfilling experience if I’d had a success story to hold up in front of me, to help me understand my options.

Later, when I became dean of the Learning Resources division, I was lucky enough to know how much I didn’t know and to latch on to those who were able and visionary administrators. My vice president, Ellen Weed, showed me what it was like to be tough and fair. She also demonstrated a skill that I didn’t realize at the time was incredibly rare: the ability to reprimand and not hold grudges. From the library world, the other deans and directors were so willing to share their knowledge and experience that I have remained grateful to this day, especially to Vicky Leather and Peter Nerzak.

As we go through our lives, our role models will change. Greitens certainly had lots of role models as he was preparing to become a SEAL. But when he feared he had lost his hearing, he needed to go outside that group. Someone who showed us how to succeed in  college might not be the best person to guide us through a rough patch on the job. Someone who was a role model after our wedding might not be able to help us navigate a divorce. That’s the not the fault of the role model, just a changing of the circumstances.

I’m now at the stage in life when people often ask when I’m planning on retiring. It occurred to me while writing this post that my best answer might be, “When I find the right role model.”

Monday Motivator: Don’t Waste A Failure

(The Jolly Librarian has been sick. So the post is a little late this week!)

Today’s title comes from Nick Saban, the football coach of The University of Alabama, for those of you who do not bleed crimson. He said this after a loss. (Apparently, besides winning, one requirement for a coach is to come up with quick, snappy sayings that can be used in various situations.)

Still, I like this saying and not just because I’m a Bama alum. It’s a given that we’re all going to fail at times. So the question is not if, but how are we going to respond when we do fail?

Are we going to give up?

Are we going to find someone to blame?

Are we going to keep on doing the same thing, just maybe a little harder?

Are we going to whine and complain? (My personal favorite.)

Are we going to feel sorry for ourselves while eating a pint of ice cream?       (Another personal favorite.)

If we’re honest, we all probably remember times when we’ve done one or all of the above.

But really, that is wasting a failure. To be able to move off the failure road, we have to spend some time thinking about it. We have to realize what went wrong. We have to admit our own part. And we have to come up with a plan that to avoid those pitfalls the next time.

Let’s face it. Football is not life (except in some parts of Alabama). It’s easy to see when winning and losing takes place. The ball going across the goal line is a win. The ball falling out of your hands and into those of the other team is a failure. In real life, the steps to both success and failure may not be so clear.

Still, I think Saban is onto something. We can wallow in our failures. Or we can analyze them and turn them into something else. And we get to choose every time which path we’ll take.

 

Monday Motivator: Make the Goal Worthy

In her book, The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy, Anne de Courcy tells the stories of the crazy-rich families in Gilded Age America. While most people might think that these young women wanted to become duchesses, de Courcy argues that it was often the mothers who orchestrated the marriages.

Many of these women were smart, probably as smart as their husbands. But they lived in a time where their ambitions were severely curtailed. So they put all their energy into society. They fought to outdo each other with their glamorous homes and ritzy parties. They worked hard, especially those whose husbands might have made their fortunes in blue-collar fields, to be invited to the right houses and parties. And one way to ensure success was to have a daughter marry a European earl or duke.

And some of these women were quite ruthless. One broke up a relationship between her son and a young woman (Edith Jones whom we know as Edith Wharton). Later when that son died, she took the unusual step of ordering an autopsy. She didn’t want people to think her son had succumbed to a broken heart due to her actions. Another virtually locked her daughter up in their summer home until the younger woman agreed to her mother’s marriage plans for her.

While, to be honest, after the fourth or fifth such tale, I became a little bored with the stories. But after I’d finished, I realized there was a great lesson to be learned here.

All of these women had tremendous drive, and if they lived today, they probably would be leaders in their field. They certainly knew how to set a goal and achieve it. But were these goals worthy?

This is something we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis. The news is filled with people who are willing to break rules to get what they want. There are those who have put family and friends aside as they climb the corporate ladder. And I admit that I sometimes listen to public officials make a statement and wonder how they go home and face their children at night.

It’s not enough to have a big goal. That goal needs to be worthy of our intellect. It should not require us to compromise our morals and ethics. And it should, in a way large or small, make the world a bit better for those around us.

 

Monday Motivator: Don’t Depend on Willpower

Radio personality Bobby Bones avoids all alcohol and drugs. Not because he has any sort of moral objections to them. But he comes from a family with a variety of addiction problems, and he made a decision that the best path for his life would be to simply not engage in those behaviors and tempt fate.

The older I get, the more I think such an approach may be a wise one. It seems to me that many of my problems have resulted from not accepting my own weaknesses and thinking I can manage them.

For example, I have a problem getting up in the mornings. I have been known to sleep through multiple alarms, even the kinds that were especially invented for people who have a hard time getting up. One really bad morning, in the spring, I ignored my alarm as usual. Unfortunately, for my neighbors, it was a fresh spring morning, and I had kept my window open overnight. I set my alarm in that window. The idea was that I would have to walk across the room and turn it off and would be motivated to stay up. The result was that my neighbors were serenaded with Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak” for two hours as they left for work.

For years, I tried to control this weakness. In college, I would tell myself that I could go to bed and get up early the next morning and finish that paper or project. Spoiler alert: I never did.  I was always rushing, always anxious. Finally, I learned to admit that this weakness was always going to be with me and stop pretending I could control it. So now I never pretend that I will get up early to finish a project. I try to get things done before it’s time for bed. But if not, I stay up late to finish.

Some people have the same approach to certain foods. Like me, they know they are not going to eat just one Yasso yogurt bar. Unlike me, they don’t pretend they are; instead, they just don’t buy them.

Studies have shown that our willpower is limited and gets used up as the day goes on. Good intentions won’t help us when that willpower muscle is exhausted and screams in pain.

So if you know you can’t get up early in the morning, finish the report at night. If you know you’re going to check your phone every three minutes, leave it in the other room while you study. And if a quart of ice cream is a single serving carton for you, don’t buy it (if you want to lose weight.)

I am a huge fan of willpower and the ability to break habits. But I’m also a realist. And sometimes the way to success is a workaround.

 

Monday Motivator: Pack Your Suitcase

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a retreat at our college with our new president. Our first speaker asked us to write down on cards  stories about our work and our past at the college. After we finished, she brought out a suitcase. Then she asked us to put the stories that were either no longer accurate or no useful into the suitcase and say goodbye to them.

I have to admit that I am someone who usually shuns activities like these at meetings and retreats. But I found this one interesting for several reasons. One, I had been thinking of something similar for myself over the past few months. I wasn’t thinking in terms of suitcases, but I didn’t want to bring old baggage to a new day. Two, as I looked around our group, I was surprised at how much people were writing. For whatever reason, this was not an activity where people rolled their eyes, jotted down one thing, and then checked their phones until the leader called time. There were some strong emotions in the room, and it was clear that they needed to be expressed. Three, even after we put the feelings and thoughts that no longer served us in that suitcase, for some of us, it was still hard to let them go.

Even so, for many of us, the day really did bring a sense of making a new start, and I know that I was not the only one who went home exhausted but energized.

It occurred to me that a version of this exercise might be in order for the beginning of the semester. Let’s make a list of the ideas and feelings that haven’t helped us get where we need to be. I recommend index cards, but any scrap of paper will do. (A word document, unfortunately, will not. Deleting a document doesn’t give the physical effect that you need.)

And in many ways, it’s really not about whether the thoughts are true or false, fact or opinion. The key is that they are no longer doing you any good.

For students, it may be something like this:

  • I’m not good at math.
  • I’m not college material.
  • Professors don’t like me.
  • Only losers have to ask questions and meet up with the professors during office hours.

Or it could be more general things that could apply to anyone, no matter what the circumstance:

  • My colleagues don’t respect how hard I work.
  • I’m too old to change my (career, marriage, location, etc.)
  • If everyone would just do things my way, we could get some things done around here.

You get the picture.

After you finish, then take the cards and destroy them one by one. You can burn them.  You can shred them. You can rip them into tiny pieces. You can give them to the cat.

And then, you let those thoughts and feelings go. When they reappear (and they will), you just say, “Sorry. I left you at the trash can or at the mercy of Boots’s claws a week back. You’re done.”

There will always be obstacles that get in the way of our goals and our happiness. Let’s not let useless thoughts be one of them.

 

 

 

Monday Motivator: Think about Your Mark

I am listening to the book Fail Until You Don’t: Fight, Grind, Repeat by Bobby Bones. Since I am not a radio listener, I didn’t know who he was until I started the book. And I’m not sure I would have chosen the book if someone hadn’t recommended it. But I’m glad I did.

It takes me a long time to listen to an audiobook, mostly because I have a fifteen-minute commute. And there are many times I hear something that I want to share, but by the time I come to write the blog, I’ve forgotten it. (I could blame my age, but I’ve always had a bad memory.) But on the drive today, Bones told a story from back when he was a waiter, which is going to stay with me for a long time.

He spilled a tray of drinks on waiting customers, mostly on one man. Bones ran to get towels and to do as much to alleviate the damage as possible. And the customers stayed and finished their meal. But Bones was embarrassed and upset. After they left, Bones went up to the table to find that the drenched man had left a hundred dollar tip for a $120 bill. And a message: “It happens to the best of us. It’s not the mistakes we make, but how we handle them afterwards. Thanks for hanging in there.”

Now I admit I’m something of a softy, and I had tears in my eyes as I listened to this. After all, this story could have ended so many other ways. The man could have caused a scene, insisted on calling the manager, and getting Bones fired. Or he could have made mean jokes each time Bones brought something else to the table. And no one would have blamed him if he didn’t leave a tip at all.

Instead he put himself in the waiter’s shoes.

It reminded me that we are all in a position to make a mark on others everyday. If the guy had gotten him fired, Bones would still remember him today, although not in the same way. Instead, the way this man handled this uncomfortable (Hey, I’ve sat through a meal after having water spilled on me. It’s uncomfortable.) moment made him a mentor.

So this week, before we act or react, let’s take a moment to consider the mark we’re about to make on someone else’s life.

Monday Motivator: Take Care of Yourself

Last night, I asked a colleague how she was doing.

“Just tired of all the sadness,” she answered.

We were at the funeral for a colleague, Ted, who had been at the college since 1977. As a student, professor, director, and associate vice president, he had worked with almost everyone on campus. Those who didn’t know him well still recognized him from graduation where he announced the students’ names as they walked across the stage each year. Others knew him from accreditation meetings, as he guided us through another SACS visit.

Though he had been with the college for a long time, he wasn’t very old. We should have had many more years of hearing his laugh and his “You got that right” when he heartily agreed with something said at a meeting.

But if we’ve learned anything this year at our college, it’s that disease doesn’t care about  ‘should.’ It takes when it wishes. This is our second death of a current colleague in less than a year. And it has taken its toll.

So my friend was right when she said she was tired. Both emotionally and physically.

When we have a long period of grieving, it becomes important to take care of ourselves. Yes, we need to grieve, but we also need comfort. Perhaps it’s a long nap. Perhaps it’s a walk in the woods. Perhaps it’s a book. Whatever brings comfort is not just nice, but necessary, in times like these.

So if you are going through a period of grief, I wish you comfort. And remind you to take care of yourself.

 

Monday Motivator: When the Internet Goes Down

We all realize how addicted we are to the Internet when it goes down. That happened to us this today.

Basically our morning went something like this:

Student enters library.

We say the internet is down.

Student wants to know when it will be back up.

We say we don’t know.

Student leaves library.

For the staff, we spent the morning trying to answer chats while not being able to access our databases and responding to emails. (Yes, it was the cruelest of outages, leaving email intact.) Some staff members shelved books. Others straightened shelves. Our packrat librarian actually cleaned out a few boxes.

But we were all relieved a little before noon when we could access our databases again. Unfortunately, most students had already gone home.

I have been monitoring my own internet addiction, and I’m not happy with what I’ve discovered. I noticed that, if I’m watching a show, I am often also playing Words with Friends, checking Facebook, or seeing news updates on my Flipboard app. So I’ve started leaving my iPad upstairs when I’m watching a movie or a show, so I have to concentrate on the program. And I hate to admit it, but the first couple of times, I was more than a little antsy. But after a while, I found my focus improving.

It might be time to check your own addiction to the Internet. You might be as horrified as I was.

Monday Motivator: Cool Off!

Nashville is in the middle of a heat wave. Yesterday, I got to the Y two minutes before it opened, and I was already dripping with sweat when they unlocked the door. Yuk! And it’s supposed to stay this hot for the foreseeable future.

When I complain about the heat, people remind me that many of us didn’t grow up with air conditioning, and back when we were kids, we didn’t mind the heat. This may be true for them, but it’s definitely not true for me. I remember lying in bed on a July night, tossing and turning in the heat and hating every minute of it.

Heat has always made me grumpy. And, apparently, I’m not the only one. Studies show that hot weather increases violence not just between individuals, but also groups.

So as the temperature approaches one hundred and that Southern humidity kicks in, we all might do well to ask ourselves: “Am I really justifiably angry, or am I just hot?” If it’s something that we would just shrug off in October, then walk away and get a cool drink.