Monthly Archives: May 2009

New Books in the Library!

May gives us time to finish processing the new materials that have been coming in during the previous few months. Here is just a sample of the many new books that are now on exhibit.

  • My Stroke of Insight– Jill Bolte Taylor. A brain scientist’s story of her own massive stroke at 37.
  • The Inaugural Address 2009–Barack Obama.
  • Easy Everyday Excel 2007: A Beginner’s Guide to the Basics Plus Typical Not-So Basic Tasks!–Yvonne Hayden. So let’s say this is the summer you’ve promised to learn Excel, or maybe you’ve just been upgraded to 07 and need a tutorial. This is a neat little self-teaching book. I used it and found it very helpful.
  • A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx– Elaine Showalter.  This book is basically a literary history of women writers. Showalter is a well-known literary critic, but this book is just plain fun to read. It is also a needed reassessment of some women’s writing, a refreshing alternative to ignoring them or making them all important. (By the way, anyone who has had to struggle through Gertrude Stein and wondered why will feel vindicated at Showalter’s conclusion.)
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids–Madeline Levine. If you happened to think that emotional and personality disorders only result from poor and unhappy families, you need to read this book.

Come by and check out our new books!

The Jolly Librarian Thinks Critically about Buying a Car!

The Jolly Librarian recently found myself in the market for a new car. The last time I bought a car was a decade ago when I wrecked mine in Pennsylvania and had to buy one within walking distance of my apartment. In the intervening years, I hoped that cars would be stocked at Wal-mart and Target where I could go pick one out, pay for it with my credit card, and have to do little or no dealing. Since this most-practical method of car buying has still not caught on with the masses, I have been  forced to go out car shopping.

My experience has taught me the importance of both being prepared and thinking critically while looking for just the right car. Here is what I learned:

  • Know what you’re looking for. Know what you want and what you can live without. Once you get on the lot, it can be easy to think that it’s no big deal to add another $400 here and $1000 there for a few more bells and whistles. So know what you want on the front end, and ask only to see those cars. Also, know what you can afford. Don’t let yourself be talked into a car payment that makes it hard to meet all your bills each month.
  • Research. Research. Research. I read the Consumer Reports car issue from cover to cover and narrowed down my search from their top picks. Car & Driver and Motortrend are other good sources. I also looked at some websites including edmunds.com. On many of these sites, you can get both expert and consumer reviews. Also, ask your friends, coworkers, people you meet on the street about their experiences with certain cars and dealerships. I stopped a complete stranger in the  Target lot since she had the exact model car I was considering and obtained some good information. One note though: Analyze the information carefully. On many consumer review sites, I found that most people posted after having the car for only a few weeks; therefore, it was impossible to tell if the car had any long-term reliability issues. Also, one thing you do notice pretty quickly is that the very happy and the very dissatisfied seem to post the most, which may give a distorted view of the car.
  • You can now get quotations in advance over the internet, although I discovered that most salespeople still want to call you. A lot. (And I also discovered that sometimes getting the “great internet price” means you’re not eligible for other deals, such as low interest rates, etc. I don’t know why.)
  • Once you have all your information, you’re ready to test drive. Don’t test drive a car with lots of bells and whistles that you don’t need. You’re just going to start thinking that maybe you do need them, and then paying more than you want.
  • Although I told every dealer that I was not ready to buy a car yet and just wanted to see how it drove, each one still tried to “motivate” me in buying a car that day. If you’re wimpy, like me, you might want to take a tougher soul with you.
  • When you test drive the car you love, don’t let your heart rule your head. Because now you have the hardest, most distasteful part of the deal to endure: meeting the finance manager. No offense to my readers who may be finance managers or related to one, but almost every person I know hates this part of car buying. When I bought my car, even though I made it clear how much I wanted to put down and how many years I wanted to make car payments, I was presented with numbers that totally ignored what I’d said, presenting options where I’d pay much more in interest. He cheerfully ran the numbers again with what I’d originally told him, but I’m not sure why he simply wouldn’t do that the first time. He was not the only finance manager to do that.
  • Listen carefully and critically when they start talking that extended warranty talk! I was presented with 5 options, all of which significantly increased my monthly car payment. When I asked, they said that I didn’t have to take any of them, but that was certainly not the impression that was given on the charts. (At this point, the evil part of me always wants to ask, “Are you pushing these extended warranties because you are selling awful cars?”)

In the end, I bought a new car, which I like, and, yes, it does have some bells and whistles that I probably didn’t really need, but am enjoying. And the experience reminded me that critical thinking is not something that can be safely left in the classroom, but needs to a part of your everyday survival kit!

The Jolly Librarian Attends Graduation!

Guys and banners

One of my most pleasant duties each year is to attend graduation. It’s really nice to see students whom we’ve gotten to know in the library walk across the stage. Here are some highlights:

Mayor Karl Dean is NSCC's special guest.
Mayor Karl Dean is NSCC's special guest.
English faculty wait for the ceremony to begin.
English faculty wait for the ceremony to begin.
Business faculty are also happy to be at graduation!
Business faculty are also happy to be at graduation!
Diane Eagle motivates graduates to go out and be present to life!
Diane Eagle motivates graduates to go out and be present to life!

Book of the Month: Ethics for the Real World

Authors Ronald Howard and Clinton Korver take a very personal, hands-on approach to ethics in this book. Unlike many introductory books on ethics, they do not spend much time on assisted suicide, abortion, death penalty, etc. but examine the ethical choices that most of us have to make on a daily basis. They also refuse to give a cookie-cutter approach to ethics, but demand that readers come up with their own ethical code.

Some of their points really resonated with me:

  • Commit in advance to ethical priniciples so that you are less likely to rationalize when having to make an ethical choice.
  • Focus on improving yourself, not on criticizing others.
  • Do not blindly follow others’ ethics (including your religion, country, or subculture). Develop your own code.
  • One of the easiest ways to determine if something is unethical is the old-fashioned question:  Would I want this done to me?  Or how would I feel if this action were put on the front page of the newspaper?
  • Studies show that many of us tell “white lies” to save someone’s feelings. However, studies also show that the recipients of those lies do not feel especially grateful for being deceived.
  • We should be very careful about the secrets we agree to keep.

And I could go on and on. But your best bet is to check this book out to read. I promise you that you’ll probably feel uncomfortable about some of your previous ethical slip-ups and optimistic about doing better in the future.

Monday Motivator: Thank a Teacher!

The end of spring semester also sees the ending of the school year for most children. From my vantage point, it seems that teachers are too often criticized and not often enough praised. Having once taught junior high students as well as college, I remember how hard it is to teach, and how, sometimes, it seems that everyone wants to tell you how badly you’re doing your job.

Being a good teacher is very hard work. It takes patience, dedication, and time, time to prepare, to grade, and to take care of the hundreds of little problems that can come up in the day. Maybe that’s why, according to one poll, 50% of all teachers leave the profession by their fifth year.

So this week, thank a teacher. I know that when I meet a former student who tells me that I helped him or her become a better writer, I feel good about my years in the classroom.

Some ideas:

  • Write a thank-you note. Be specific about how your child’s teacher has made a difference to your child.
  • Volunteer to help out when you can.
  • Organize a class appreciation event. (Have all the children in the class write why their teacher is special to them on a piece of paper. Place all the pieces in a jar for the teacher to pull one out each day.)
  • Support education initiatives in your city. (According to one study, teachers would have to get a 30% raise in order to make competitive salaries with other professions that require equivalent levels of education.)

But even if your gratitude is expressed in a one verbal heart-felt thank-you, you’ll make a big difference in a teacher’s day.

Monday Motivator: Practice Patience!

It is final exam week at Nashville State. Students are trying to take exams and finish up papers and projects. Faculty are furiously grading. And here in the library, we’re trying to help students finish up those papers, check in all the books that have been used during the semester, and contact those folks who haven’t turned things in on time. It can be a stressful week for everyone involved.

So this finals week, let’s all take a little time out to have patience with each other. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to forget about other people, instead just focusing in on your pain or discomfort.

 But instead of snapping at people or just being in a bad mood so that no one enjoys being in your company, take a few seconds to breathe deeply and remind yourself that most people are doing the best they can. Also, be patient with yourself.

Some ways to get through finals week:

  • No matter how far behind you are, it can help to take a short break. A fifteen-minute walk can ease your stress and make you more mentally refreshed when you return to studying.
  • Try to get enough sleep.
  • When friends or famly are getting on your nerves, remind yourself that it’s your stress not theirs. Then find a place where you can be alone to study.
  • And if you’re stressed because you procrastinated or had bad study habits this semester, then once the finals are through, analyze your habits and come up with a plan to make things better next semester.
  • And for staff members, give students the benefit of the doubt this week if they seem a little impatient or irritated. Finals are stressful!

Good luck on finals!