Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Library Losers Face Up to a Basic Truth.

But before I share that basic truth, first I must confess that once again we are having scale difficulties. One of our group misread her weight last week. So here are the correct totals:

Last week:   587.5 pounds

This week:   585.5 pounds

Emily and I are not impressed by this. Pam, the eternal optimist, thinks it’s great and reminds us that we weigh with our clothes on, so we’re even smaller than we think. Naomi’s head is still spinning from thinking she gained six pounds in one week one minute and then realizing she had simply stayed the same the next.

But here is our basic truth. In the United States, many people are overweight. And in our culture, we like to attribute all sorts of emotional reasons for our weight gain. It seems that it’s okay if you’re overweight because you’re bored or lonely or frightened or have low self-esteem. The one thing that it’s not okay to say is that you might be overweight because you simply love food.

So here goes our big admission. We like to eat, not because of any emotional trauma, but because we like the taste of food. Therefore, we are not going to do certain things that most dieters do. For example, Emily likes Easter candy that’s only available this time of year. She is going to buy it, and she is going to eat it. Maybe all of it. Naomi likes to cook, and she’s not going to cook something yummy and not eat it. And Pam and I like to eat Smarties at the circulation desk between 5 and 6 p.m. So there you have it. What we’re going to have to do is find a way around this.

So one of the main motivators for losing weight for most people (feeling better about ourselves) will not work for us. In fact, the times that I’ve ever lost weight have been when I’ve felt pretty rotten about myself–either from illness or a broken heart.

Still, this does not mean we’ve given up. I’m still bringing the tuna sandwiches for lunch and trying to get in 10,000 steps a day. Emily is also walking more. Since Pam doesn’t get home until after 9 p.m., instead of a heavy meal, she has a snack of a raw turnip or a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk. She is also doing some “Turkey Gobbler Prevention” head sit-ups which tighten her abs as well. (I’m going to try to get a film of this.) And Naomi is still riding her bike five miles daily.

So we thank those of you who have wished us well. And we’re determined to keep on the path. But it is obviously going to be a strange, windy path with many dark corners and circle-backs.

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Life Lessons from the Library: Make Only Necessary Rules!

Librarians don’t have the best representation in tv, movies, and literature. We’re usually shown as old women in poorly-fitting suits who shush and give evil looks at the person daring to talk or keep books past the due date.

And there is some truth to the stereotype. A colleague visited a library, and he set off the alarm as he was leaving the building. A librarian stopped him, and he explained that he didn’t have any library books. She looked in his bag and found nothing. He set off the alarm as he walked through again. She kept making him walk though until he could get by without setting off the alarm, because there was a rule, that if the alarm went off, there must be a hidden book or video on that person, and no one could leave until it was found. Finally, in frustation, he made a comment about what a waste of time all of this was. The reason I know about this is that the next day, I received a call from that library’s director saying her employee had found my colleague extremely abusive and rude. Now while there are many adjectives that can describe him, he’s neither abusive or rude. But he was determined never to put his head inside that particular library again.

Libraries are notorious for having rules:

  • no talking
  • no cell phones
  • no food
  • no checking out reference books
  • no sleeping
  • no putting feet on the chairs

Now, to be fair, most libraries no longer have most of those rules, but the stereotype remains. And the rules made sense at one time, but simply didn’t change after the reason for them was gone.

When I first came to the library, there was a rule that only database searches could be done on the library computers. Students wanting to check their emails had to go to an open lab. Now at one time, this made sense, since there were only a few computers and we needed to reserve them for students actually doing research. But unfortunately, it was a rule that was hurting the library since the President of the College only saw that students were lining up to use the open lab computers while many of the library computers sat empty. No new funding for us. Plus the times had changed: students received information from their instructors over email. They had assignments to look at YouTube and Facebook. We needed to change, so we did.

But it taught me an important lesson. Make only a few rules and make sure they are  necessary. For awhile, we fought a terrible battle against cell phone users in the library because they were noisy and people needed to study. And that is still true. But what became obvious is that we, the library staff, often made more noise trying to keep students off cell phones that the actual users themselves. Going on the loudspeaker to ask people to get off their cell phones generated more disruption for other students than perhaps seventy cell phone users. So we re-evaluated. If our goal was a fairly quiet environment, then cell phones were not the problem. It was noise. So we now only ask people to stop using their cell phones if they are disturbing others around them. Other than that, we leave them alone.

It seems to be a good lesson for life. Make few rules, make sure they cover the essentials, and don’t spend time trying to cover every possible misbehavior that might happen. Everyone will be happier, and, strangely enough, more order will reign.

Monday Motivator: Start a Streak!

Are you a sports fan? I’m not. But I often have sports on as background to my cleaning and chores on the weekend. Still, you don’t have to be much of a sports fan to know that there are always streaks going on, both of the winning and losing kind. Someone has scored more than 20 points in 20 consecutive games. Someone else has made a tackle in 30 games. A third has not lost on his serve for ten matches. You get the picture.

What I like about streaks in sports is that they honor perfection while not expecting it to last forever. Everyone, from fan to announcer to the players themselves, know the streak will end at some point. The basketball player will only score 18 points. The football player will sustain an injury and not get to play. The tennis pro will lose on his serve. And then what happens? Well, with the very best players, the streak begins again. They keep aiming at those goals and don’t particularly let a setback stop them. And while it’s inevitable that a streak will end, the more you do something, the more likely you’ll be able to do it the next time.

So your motivator for this week is to start a streak for something you want or need to do.  Whether it’s exercising, not complaining, drinking 8 glasses of water, or even sending some love to your librarian, start your streak today. And then keep up with it. You’ll find it surprisingly motivating to be able to put that check mark on your calendar each day. Go for a month, and you may just have a new happy habit formed. And if you flub up, guess what, the streak begins again the next day.

Copiers and Printers: The Bane of the Librarian’s Existence

There are many things I love about working in the library:

  • books
  • students
  • learning new things
  • helping people

To be honest, there are too many things to name. I love most things about my job.

But the one thing I hate, I hate with a passion: printer and copier problems.

Let’s take the printers. But first, a little background. As instructors started using their course shells more, they put more and more materials in them instead of handing things out in class. In  theory, students were to read these materials online. But in reality, students print them out. And these include massive Powerpoint and PDF files. According to Computer Services, these files take awhile to load on the printer and if students go to the print station and hit print too soon, it will cause the printer to suddenly cease all operations. So on days when the science students all need to print out 55 pictures of various body systems, the printers routinely stop working. Now, also routinely, when a student goes to the printer and finds that the document has not printed, he does not assume that it may take a few minutes, he assumes his job did not go to the printer, so he then goes to the next printer, and it jams as well.

I have to admit that there are some days that if one more student comes up and says the printers aren’t working, I think I might just burst into tears. Or just burst.

But the printers are not as bad as the copiers, because at least with the printers, we have the guys in Computer Services here on campus who can fix things. With the copiers, we have to call the company. The company is excellent about sending people out quickly, but quickly is not fast enough when you have a line of students who want their copies before they go to class. 

Breaking down is only part of the problem. There are the complaints that copies or prints are too light. There’s the problem of student getting blank pages. And then the old “the copier ate my money but wouldn’t give me a copy.”

Luckily, there are so many good things about working in the library that most days, printer and copier problems can be placed in that larger perspective. But there are the other days, the days when I wish that I lived in a more peaceful era, the time before printers and copiers. Or I wish that I lived in a more advanced future time–when printer and copier problems no longer exist. Now that would be quite the utopia.

The Library Losers Face a Week of Sabotage.

At our weigh-in today, we faced the dismaying fact that, as a group, we weigh 2 pounds more than we did last week. However, we did change scales, although no one, except for Pam, thinks that might be the reason. Today, we total 581.5 pounds. So not the best beginning.

We learned that there are always diet saboteurs lurking. The first came unexpectedly. It was our own Emily, who appeared on Thursday with home-baked bread. Then there was the box of double chocolate cookies left by an anonymous “friend.” Yesterday, a colleague gave us all candy bars. And we succumbed every time.

Still we had our successes:

  • Naomi, our student worker rode her bike two extra miles yesterday to burn off calories. (Bless her heart. She was stunned when she learned, while she’d been biking to school, her fellow losers were eating chocolate cookies. But I told her that she may have chosen the wrong group to lose weight with.)
  • Pam is inspired by a new food pyramid, anti-inflammatory eating plan by Dr. Weil. (If the pyramid fails, she is contemplating breast implants so that she’ll have a better excuse for weighing more.)
  • Emily is eating more fish to get her Omega-3’s.
  • Since I know that I’m going to accept any sweet snack that comes my way, I’m trying to balance things out by having a lighter, no-fat lunch: chicken or tuna sandwich with veggies. I’ve also committed to drinking 8 glasses a water each day.
  • I’m also walking at least 10,000 steps each day.
  • We are all considering public shaming as our strategy for next week.

To be honest, we have to admit defeat for this week. If we were on “The Biggest Loser” television show, Jillian would be yelling at us until we cried. But we have not given up the fight. So check on us next week when I hope we have better news.

Life Lessons from the Library: Never Stop Learning!

One of the saddest moments of my childhood was the day I realized that life was too short to know everything that had gone on and was going on in the world, whether it was a secret two girls were telling each other in the back of the classroom or all the world’s languages. In fourth grade, I remember standing in the library of Owens Cross Roads Elementary School and realizing that I would never be able to read all the books in this room, let alone all the books in the world.

But I decided to give the OXR library’s collection the old fourth grade try.  I soon learned something else about myself. I did not have an onmivorous desire to know things. As I was reading a doctor’s memoir of his practice in a rural town, I had to face the fact that I really didn’t care about birthing babies or curing indigestion. So I gave up my dream of reading everything and concentrated on just a few subjects: literature, history, and psychology.

Still, probably in every librarian’s heart, there is or was this inordinate need to learn things. For some of us, we have narrowed it down; for others, the lucky few, it is still that wide-ranging desire to know something about everything.

Let me use my colleague Pam as an example. Yesterday was a typical day for her. At 3 p.m. a colleague gave her some cashews as a snack. At 3:15, she was online, telling us interesting tidbits about the cashew. At 4:30, I came by the circulation desk to find her discussing with a student the meaning of the name “Woolfolk.” And as I passed by the desk on my way home, she and an international student were looking up his homeland on a globe.  I no longer let her check out new books to exhibit or they will go home with her. (Sometimes, this can be a little wearying as when I told her I enjoyed the music of Snow Patrol and she questioned me for thirty minutes on the possible meanings and interpretations of the group’s name.)

But this is not a criticism. It is very important for students to see that research can be a joy and not just a nasty assignment that counts 30% of the grade and requires memorizing MLA rules. And I’m very lucky to have a staff that loves to learn new things.

But this is not something that should be only for librarians. All of us should always be learning something new. Let’s face it. We live in a time when studying anything from a new language to world religions can be just a mouse click away. Even if you have doubts about the validity of the internet, there are excellent sites like ITunes U and BBC Languages that are easily accessible. And, of course, there are libraries with all sorts of materials for you to take home. 

So for the next week, make like a librarian and get excited about learning something new.

Monday Motivator: New Season, New Beginnings

This past Saturday, I took all of my last spring and summer clothes out of boxes and put all of my fall and winter clothes into boxes. It is a twice-yearly tradition with me since I don’t have enough room to keep all my clothes out at one time. It is also a time to do a quick evaluation: Do any of the clothes that were too small now fit? (Usually that answer is no.) Why did I think certain outfits ever looked good? (There is no good answer to that.) 

And it occurred to me that spring is also a good time to evaluate goals, see which ones are worth keeping, and maybe set some new ones. After all, those new year’s resolutions were set in the midst of winter, on a holiday come-down, and perhaps in a fog of leftover fruitcake and Christmas cookies. With flowers blooming and weather warming (and I do realize the irony of writing that today with the temps in the 30’s), it is the perfect season to make a new beginning.

So your motivator for this week is to evaluate some of those January resolutions and see if they need discarding or updating. Here are some examples:

  • Were you going to start an exercise plan that never materialized? Well, now the weather is warm,and the days are longer. It might be a little easier to get started. Or maybe you could modify it to working in the garden!
  • Were you going to spend more time with friends? Well, snowy, cold days may have made you a hibernator instead. But now, restaurants have opened their patios, and it would be nice to sit outside in the twilight and catch up.

Anyway, you get the idea. Me, I think I’ll revamp my resolution to save money into save money for a vacation.

Until next Monday!

Other Stress Management Techniques for Students

Yesterday, I wrote about seeking help from counselors when things get too stressful. But there are other ways of relieving stress. Here is a list of things that have helped other students over the years:

  • Talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be a counselor. Confide in a friend. Talk to your instructor about the problems you’re having. People really really do want to help when they can, and sometimes all you  need is to be listened to.
  • Set priorities. There is a basic truth that no one really wants to hear: You can’t do all things equally well at the same time. Therefore, you need to decide what is most important at this point in your life. If nursing school is your goal, then perhaps making an “A” in anatomy and physiology is your  priority and you sacrifice some other things to make the grade. But if you’re going to school part-time and have a full-time job, you may not have the time to make an “A” in every class. So your job is your first priorty and school is second. You don’t blow off your classes, but you know that a “B” or even the occasional “C” is okay.
  • Learn time management skills. In the library, we see folks who have been putting off their research papers and then are panicked when the deadline is three days away and they have nothing  written. Learning to use time wisely can make the difference between success and failure in college.
  • Exercise. It may sound counterintuitive to add something to your schedule when you can’t get all the way through your to-do list. But exercise really does help in many ways. It reduces stress. It helps you sleep. And it just plain makes you feel better.
  • Get enough sleep. Students like to brag about  how little sleep they need. But it doesn’t work that way. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep to keep a sharp mind. Maybe one of the reasons you’re feeling so down is that you’re exhausted.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga all can help.
  • Laugh at yourself. We can all get so caught up in ourselves that we look at every problem as if it is life or death. Instead see the humor in what’s happening. And if you can’t quite laugh at yourself, take a minute to watch something funny. I recommend “The Office.”
  • And here’s one thing that helped me in college. When I was really stressed out, I would just remind myself, for better or worse, in May (or December or August), the semester would be over. And I would get to begin again.

So this weekend, concentrate a little on relaxing and having a little fun. I promise you’ll get more work done than if you spend it worrying.

Ask for Help!

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You just can’t seem to get a handle on your math class no matter how hard you try.
  • Family members are complaining that, now you’re in college, you don’t have any time for them.
  • Assignments keep stacking up, and you don’t seem to be making headway on them.
  • You need to study for a test, but you also need to go to work.
  • You haven’t gotten enough sleep this semester.
  • You can’t remember the last time you ate anything other than fast food and candy out of the vending machine.
  • You don’t think you can take much more.
  • You think you’re the only one who is feeling this way.

If you’re feeling stressed over your classes, the first thing to know is that you’re not alone. College can be very stressful, and, especially at a community college like NSCC, where so many students are also working with families, it can be doubly so. So there is nothing to feel embarrassed about if you feel overwhelmed.

But know that help is available. One free service for students is Centerstone Counseling. There is an office on campus and all you have to do is email or call for an appointment. The phone number is 615-460-4026 or email at Danielle.Kiehler@centerstone.org.

You may not think you have time or energy to add one more thing to your life, but a counseling session might be just the thing to get the semester in perspective.

The Library Losers Begin, Not With a Bang, But with A Whine.

Today is the Library Losers first official day on our weight loss program. It has not been an auspicious beginning. We have been arguing over the accuracy of our scale. In short, I brought my scale from home, and none of my sister losers trusts it. My original plan was for us all to weigh at home on scales we trusted and then just report our weight. But someone (Pam) thought it would be more fun for us all to use the same one. This has not proven true so far. Pam is the main scale hater at the moment,but you have to remember that she is the one who weighed at home this morning with her clothes off and then her clothes on and gained 5 pounds in five minutes. She is not convinced her scale is wrong. “I have heavy clothes!”

But Pam is not the only one. Emily too weighed on the scale twice this morning and had different weights. So while we figure this out, we are still beginning our quest.

There are four of us: a dean, a librarian, a library assistant, and a student worker. As of yesterday, our total weight (on the suspect scales) was 579.5 pounds.

Here are our goals:

Emily wants to be able to fit into the pants she wore when she was first hired. This is a common problem in the library where we measure our time here not in service ribbons but in increased clothing sizes.

I want to weigh what Emily does now.

Our student worker has been losing weight and is using us to continue her motivation. This may have been a poor decision on her part.

And Pam has many motives, and I am going to try to get her to narrow them down to one or two.

What are our obstacles to losing weight?

  • Food is everywhere in the library. During my birthday week, folks brought in three cakes. This week, which is no one’s birthday, has seen one cake so far. Even when we bring our lunches, there is always someone about to go to Captain D’s or Taco Bell and asking “Do you want me to bring you anything?”
  • Our jobs are mostly sedentary.  This morning I went out for a 2 mile walk/run, which, according to my pedometer, took  4547 steps. Since I’ve been at work, I’ve only added 1900 more.
  • At least 2 of us have no willpower. (Guess which 2?)

So we are going public with our efforts so that you can help keep us motivated or at least embarrassed enough not to eat whole cakes on the sly in our offices (And yes, I am the only one with an actual office!) So our five regular readers, we are depending on you.

Until next time,

The Library Losers