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!

Advertisements

Monday Motivator: Happy Holidays

This is the last Monday Motivator for 2018. The semester ends this week, and, even as we all feel the stress of finals, we know the break is coming. Faculty and students will finish this weekend. And then it will just be staff members left until we close for the holidays.

While I always miss students, it’s nice to have a few days to tidy up from the semester and make some plans for the next one. The library staff will have a holiday lunch, and then, one by one, folks will start taking days off to finish shopping, to start huge cooking projects, or to fly home to see family members.

I hope everyone has a nice holiday filled with at least some of the following:

  • Family and friends
  • Good food
  • Music
  • At least two books that you’ve been putting off until you have time to read them (and time to read)
  • At least one version of “A Christmas Carol”
  • A special gift (It’s totally appropriate to give it to yourself)
  • A chance to give to others
  • One day during the holiday when you get to do nothing but chill

 

Happy Holidays, everyone. See you in 2019.

Monday Motivator: Some Tips for the Semester’s End

As the semester comes to an end, the stress levels go up. Students are writing papers and completing projects before final exams begin. Faculty are grading papers and projects and writing those final exams. Now fall semester finals are even more stressful because they coincide with the beginning of the holiday season.

So how do you handle the anxiety of these last couple of weeks of the semester? Here are the Jolly Librarian’s tips:

  • Be realistic. Look at the time you have and the amount of work you have to do. Schedule your time and energy wisely.
  • Don’t get discouraged by all you have to do. There is one saving grace at college. Semesters have a finite length. So no matter how bad the next two weeks are, the semester will be over after the last final exam (or after you’ve graded that exam).
  • Find a buddy. One thing I’ve noticed this semester is the increase of study groups using the library. Groups are great: they hold you accountable for material learned and for actually showing up. And they can provide you with the knowledge you’re not suffering alone. From my years as a faculty member, I know the same idea works for teachers as well. We might not be in the same room, but just knowing that there are colleagues grading away in the offices down the hall who can provide support, a laugh or two, and a needed dip into their chocolate supply is a big help.
  • Take a short break. I know we all turn to our phones for entertainment. But I actually think getting up and moving around is a better stress buster. If it’s cold, wrap up in your coat and scarf and take a quick walk around the campus.
  • Do something nice for someone. Sometimes just remembering that other people are out there and need help is enough to break the self-centered drain that stress can drown us in. It’s great that the holiday season means there are plenty of opportunities to be nice. (Buy a secret Santa gift for someone. Give to a charity. Bring donuts to your next study session.)
  • Remember why you’re doing this. Keeping the bigger goal in mind won’t make the stress go away, but it’ll keep it in context.
  • Find a way to laugh every day.

Monday Motivator: Go with the Flow

On Saturday, coming home from Alabama, I stopped at a mall outside of town. I needed some gloves and a scarf since the weather was about to turn cold again. My plan was to run in, buy the items, and be back on the road in twenty minutes.

The first problem was that no store had what I needed. I ended up walking into every store that sold scarves (which was more than two and less than two hundred. At some point, I gave up on counting.) At the end I had to admit failure, so I went back to my car.

And there I met problem two. While I was in the mall, someone driving the most massive white truck I had ever seen parked beside me. Now this truck was parked at such an angle that there was no room between it and my car. I couldn’t back out.

I sat in my car for a moment and thought over my options:

  1. Just back out, taking part of the truck with me. Morally, I couldn’t do it. Practically, it was likely my tiny car would come out the worst in any such encounter.
  2. Wait in my car until the person left. (Or, more happily, until the car across from me left because I couldn’t see anyway that the truck could leave without hitting me.)
  3. Go back inside.

I chose option 3. I made a mental list of presents that I needed to buy and returned to the mall. Every thirty minutes or so, I walked back to the parking lot to see if the truck was still there. After ninety minutes, I found the white truck gone with no harm done to my car, and I went home.

As I was driving, I thought of a time that I overheard a conversation between a friend of mine and a customer at her store. The customer said that she believed in the idea that everything, no matter how bad, had a good side. My friend disagreed, giving an example that was so horrible that the conversation ended abruptly and uncomfortably.

But most of the time, we don’t face extreme, horrible circumstances. In my case, at the worst, I was inconvenienced. And there were indeed some good things that came out of it:

  • I don’t have to return to this mall during the holiday season, since I am now well acquainted with all its goods.
  • I added 15,000 steps on my Fitbit.
  • Since I had my phone with me, I could keep tabs on the Alabama game, which my alma mater won in a convincing manner.

 

Monday Motivator: Be Thankful

Like most people, I am thankful for family, friends, health, and home this Thanksgiving.  I am truly fortunate.

But sometimes, I think it also helps to look at things at a “slant” as Emily Dickinson says. So here is a list of the less-obvious things that make me thankful:

  1. I am grateful that I work in a place that has a wide diversity of folks. I really think my own outlook has been broadened by my constant interaction with students from different countries, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and with different goals.
  2. I am thankful for my somewhat phlegmatic temperament because it apparently means that I will never yell at waiters, clerks, or customer service reps. In fact, when someone apologizes for a line being slow, I am at a loss on how to answer because I’m usually thinking that if waiting in a line is the worst thing that happens to me on any given day, then I’m one fortunate person. This personality quirk means that I rarely mull over wrongdoings after they happen, and my blood pressure seems to stay at a decent level despite my love of salt.
  3. I have no musical talent at all, but I am grateful that I live in Nashville. I’ve rarely seen stars out and about (except for Nicole and Keith at Whole Foods and Vince and Amy leaving Office Depot once), but I am constantly energized by the music being made around me. It is inspiring to see my library colleagues finish their workday and then go out to play music or to write.
  4. I don’t remember learning to read. To me, reading is like breathing, something that I’ve always done. So I’m not sure whom to thank on this one: probably a combination of my mother, elementary school teachers and librarians, and friends who loved books as much as I did. So I thank everyone along the way who encouraged me love of reading. I’m grateful to the world you opened up for me.
  5. And, finally, I am grateful that I live in a world where I was born after George Eliot and Jane Austen. I can’t imagine a life without the worlds you created.

 

 

Monday Motivator: What’s Done Is Done

This can be a hard time of the semester. For students, every course is now racing to the end, with due dates for tests, papers, and projects accumulating like the bugs on the rotting apple that someone left in the back of the library. The same is true for faculty, as they have to grade all those materials being turned in.

At this point in the semester, there is always some looking backwards and wishing things had been different. Students wish they’d studied harder at the beginning of the semester and had not failed that first test or bombed that second speech; they would be in so much better shape now. Faculty wish that they had changed the syllabus a bit, so there would be less grading in the final four weeks.

Now there is no problem with this sort of thinking if it effects change. We make a note reminding ourselves to make a different start next semester, and then we do so. But too often, we just get mired down in regrets.

So now is the time to realize what done is done. We can’t go back and make a new beginning for the semester. We can only make the best of the time we now have.

And that’s just as true with relationships as with semesters.  We may have ignored a friend because we’ve been too busy. We may have said some truly hurtful words because we were irritated and angry. We may caused our colleagues more work and time because we were focused on ourselves.

We’re humans. We make mistakes. But we can’t pretend these things didn’t happen. We have to admit them and start the process of reconciliation. Because what’s done is done. But that doesn’t mean it’s over.

 

 

Monday Motivator: Imagine You’re New

Sunday afternoon, I went to my local Staples store to buy an ink cartridge for my printer. It was raining, and since the clocks had changed the night before, it wasn’t hard to feel that it was the middle of the night and we should all be at home in our beds.

At the checkout counter, the woman in front of me was obviously irritated with the clerk. She had bought something online to be picked up, and the clerk was not familiar with the procedure. There was no yelling, but it was clear that the woman was impatient and that impatience was making the clerk more nervous, which was slowing her down. The manager came over to help, and the clerk said over and over that she rarely did this and had forgotten some of the steps. Finally, the sale went through, the customer left, and the manager said some comforting words to the clerk. And I bought my cartridge and came home.

But it occurred to me that the world might be a kinder place if, every so often, we were all lifted up and made to do something new. You know, like a vocational tornado blew us out of our offices and behind the cash register at the Dollar Tree on a busy Saturday afternoon? Or in the kitchen at Cracker Barrel after church on Sunday? Or on the phone in a call center for an insurance company?

Maybe, if we were periodically forced to experience doing something new under observation by critical strangers, we would be nicer to people who do those jobs for real.

 

Monday Motivator: It Ain’t Over

For some reason, this past week, I found myself talking to some friends about my goals for 2018. It was not a pleasant conversation. I only had four, and three of them had somehow fallen by the wayside (or into the ice cream aisle at Publix.)

I have to face the facts:

  • I am not going to lose twenty pounds.
  • I am not going to be able to play Christmas carols on the piano.
  • I am not going to get my 100 rejections on my writing (I am not even going to get 100 submissions out.)

I felt like a loser.

But that’s one of the reasons why I have friends. They agreed that those things weren’t going to happen, but I still had the chance to accomplish the following:

  • lose five pounds.
  • improve on “Good King Wenceslas” in my Easy Play piano book.
  • collect ten rejections before the year is up.

As Lenny Kravitz once sang, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

And this year ain’t over yet.

Monday Motivator: Do a Maintenance Check on Your Morals

Last week I received a letter from my condo association. I was told that I needed to replace the door to the closet on my deck. For about two years, my door has refused to close. To be honest, I didn’t get it fixed because I simply didn’t think it was a big deal. Still, I want to be a good neighbor, so I put a call out on our neighborhood Facebook page asking for recommendations.

A few minutes later, a guy posted back and said he could do it. So I sent him a text, and he came by my condo. The good news was that he said I didn’t need a new door; it just needed a little shaving. And he was happy to do it for me. I just needed to pay him half now and half when he completed the job.

I was relieved, but then my phone rang. The guy was up the street at a check-cashing place and they needed some information from me. Had I written the check? How much was it for? Could I supply my birth date? I was a little unnerved. I had never cashed a check at any place other than a bank where I had an account.

I became suspicious. What did I know about this guy? Nothing. I knew that home improvement scammers were everywhere, and I had not checked on this guy’s reputation in my rush to get the door fixed. The next day didn’t make me feel any better. He said he was coming in the afternoon. By 5:30, he was still not there. At 7 p.m., he sent a text saying that he was finishing up a job and would be at my place soon. But he didn’t come.

The next day, I sent him another text asking when he would come by to fix the door. A little later, I received a message saying that it would be in the afternoon. That was the last I heard from him that day. I reconciled myself that I had been scammed.

Then on Saturday, I was about to leave for the day when he called me. He apologized for not showing up the day before, but said he was on his way. I was going out of town but left his money on the front porch. When I came home that night, my door was fixed.

And I felt like a jerk. You see, for most of my life, I have said that I would rather be tricked a thousand times than turn down someone who needed my help. And I not only say it, I believe it is part of who I am. I think of myself as a person who trusts others until it is proven that I should not.

But in this case, I made a snap judgment. Based on what? That the guy cashed my check less than ten minutes after I wrote it? That he didn’t get around until doing the work until three days after I hired him. (At that point, I had waited three weeks for an electrician.)

Later, one of my colleagues gently said to me, “You know that there are many good reasons that someone might need money immediately.” And she was absolutely right.

I am not proud of myself, and I have spent the last two days reflecting on my assumptions. But I’m not unhappy that it happened. Occasionally, it’s good to realize that you have veered off the road you wanted to be on and have to find a way to get back on track.

 

 

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.”