Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Jolly Librarian Ponders the Desperate, the Proactive, and the Dancing Girl in the Library

Spring semester ended last night  Students should have finished up their exams and papers by midnight.  In the library, all books and films were due back yesterday. Today, we officially started break hours, the quiet hours.

And the library is quieter.  But things are still happening. There are students who were trying to get their late assignments turned in. They are easy to spot. They are surrounded by papers and books and have a basic expression of desperation on their faces. Other students come in to turn in late books on their way to turn in those late papers to their instructors.

On the other end of the spectrum are the proactive students. These are the ones who have signed up for summer courses and are already checking to see if there are older versions of the textbooks available. Then there are those who just want to do some reading between terms or watch a few DVDs. One student needed to see how many courses she lacked before graduating.

Then there is the dancing girl. She comes in every so often to watch videos on the computers. One night, she started singing loudly with the artists on the screen, and we had to remind her that she needed to be quiet. that other students working on online tests were not  helped by her singing. Today, she was here, once again borrowing headphones, and listening to music. Every so often, she became so inspired by the music that she’d stand and start dancing in place. And if she’s thinking of going on reality shows, I’d recommend “So You Think You Can Dance” over “American Idol.”

As the break grows longer, we’ll see fewer students, but never less interesting ones.


Dear Future Jolly Librarian: The Jolly Librarian Contemplates Change

Reruns of How I Met Your Mother appear on my television  at least eight times a week. I am new to the show since I am usually working in the library when it comes on in prime time. So now I’m catching up on the adventures of Ted, Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin. The episode last night had Robin contemplating moving in with her boyfriend and Barney deciding that he wanted her back. Ted gave him some advice: To keep making bad relationship mistakes over and over again, when you break up, write a letter to your future self, explaining all the good reasons the relationship ended. Now, of course, by the end of the episode, both Barney and Ted had ignored this advice. But I still thought it made sense.

During finals week of any semester, there is a great deal of gnashing of teeth and promising to change:

  • Next time, I’ll start my paper earlier and not be asking the librarians to help me find sources 3 hours before the paper is due.
  • Next semester, I’ll do my math  homework every night.
  • Next time, if I fail the first test, I’ll see my instructor or a tutor immediately.
  • Next semester, I’ll schedule three hours each Sunday afternoon to keep up with my web course.

And so and so on. In fact, I’m guessing that the only time there are more promises to change is right before a potential diagnosis: “If I don’t have heart disease, I’ll never eat a French fry again.”

But in many cases, these promises do not result in needed change, mostly because the past is easily forgotten and the temptation of the now is so alluring. And you know we’ve all done this. We come home after a day of work or classes. We have to decide between sitting on the sofa watching some television or doing some homework. Watching television is just the sort of low-stress activity that would feel great. Doing homework would be painful and not fun. And we think that we can always catch up on homework tomorrow or the next day or the day after that.

So that’s why the equivalent of the “Dear Future Me”  letter can help in such cases. To write a vivid description of why things are going wrong now and what can be done to avoid it might just work. For my past academic history it might have gone something like this:

Dear Future Jolly Librarian:

Next semester, when you decide to put off writing your paper until the last night, think of yourself tonight: Your blood pressure is high. You have a headache. You want to sleep so bad you could cry. But you can’t because your paper, which is worth 40% of your grade, is due at 8 in the morning and there are no exceptions. Your stomach hurts from the stress and you are going to have walk across the quad alone at 3 a.m. to get back to the dorm. It is a stupid thing to do. Nothing, and I mean nothing is worth this.


Present Jolly Librarian

And now since every phone has video capability, you can actually record your wretched self in the misery caused by your procrastination. Then any time that you want to delay writing that paper or doing that math homework,you can play your video on your phone as a reminder of the grim future ahead of you.

Hey, it’s worth a try.  

The Library Life Listers: And It’s Ticking Away from Me

One of the things that you learn as life lister is how quickly a week can go by. One day, it’s Wednesday and you’re vowing to get more of your life list done. Then suddenly, it’s the next Wednesday, and you know not where the days went. And once again you (okay, mostly me) have to report failure.

This week, I went to lunch with my friend Mira (many of you know her). She mentioned a cruise she and her husband are taking this year, “another item off the bucket list.” I asked her how many places were on the list and was impressed that she had visited most of the countries that she really wanted to see. So Mira is my new life-list role model (as well as Allison, of course.)

So here are our reports:


an excellent (flute) performance at my little brother’s wedding in May

Our last rehearsal went well, and we’re rehearsing again tomorrow night. Monday evening we’re meeting with the bride so that she can make final calls about the selection.

translate the book of Esther

I’m two verses into chapter 3 (on schedule). Last night’s translation was particularly rewarding: I came across a verb with an unusual stem, but I easily recognized it as a verb and was able to identify the tense, gender, and number of both forms of this verb in 3:2. The word was much longer than most verbs, though, so I had trouble identifying the lexical root. After much pondering and turning of pages, I remembered (how, I do not know…other than an excellent Hebrew teacher who took care to emphasize this point) the name of a weird Hebrew verb stem (hishtaphel!), which happened to be perfectly fit the verb in question (indeed, the verb in question is the only extant example of this particular stem, but it’s a rather common verb, so there’s reason enough to identify the stem to help explain what’s going on morphologically). Recognizing the stem helped me isolate the root, which led me to the meaning. I guess this might sound rather tedious and dull…but trust me, it was exhilarating. (Not tedious, perhaps a bit geeky! editorial comment by Jolly Librarian)

work toward solving the problem of homelessness in Nashville

Bought a copy of The Contributor. Nothing else.

write some things I’m proud of

become more fluent in Spanish
Over the weekend I went to a cookout at which most people spoke Spanish; that gave me an opportunity to practice. I attended the Spanish-speaking church Sunday night, and I’ve listened to a couple episodes of Coffee Break Spanish.

give my best to the ESL classes I help teach
I taught class by myself this past Sunday. I’d say it went well. We’re working our way through a Clifford story.


Learn French: Still haven’t activated Live Mocha account, but plan to this month.

Read less tripe, more classics: Reading last in Hunger Games series. Will someday be a classic series. (This is doubtful, editorial comment by Jolly Librarian.)

Grow vegetable garden and herb garden: Planted a few things over the weekend. Still have much to do.

Get a hobby: Last week it was established that Life Listing is my new hobby.

 New Life List goal: Write fewer sentence fragments.



  • Booked the SC July 12th date as a trio. NOTE: One of the 3 is not able to make the date, so we are having to figure out a new gig format.
  • Guitarist fell off ladder and crushed knee, broke leg. May 21 gig cancelled due to house concert host’s sickness in family.
  • Filmed a studio performance at Vol State Community College for the upcoming Fall Bluegrass Program. Lots of fun.
  • Feeling almost lost with no true steps toward a solid musical goal. So much uncertainty. I find that my true LIFE LIST is changing before my eyes. Have sunk into depression somewhat… (Concentrate on what you ARE getting done. editorial comment by Jolly Librarian)


  • Not at all, however, continue to strengthen legs with squats and do countertop push-ups. It helps boost my morale.


  • Reading by ‘books on tape’ a Patrick McMannis book that Charles recommended. I laugh out loud it is so entertaining. The narration is superb, the writing gloriously funny. I realized that I did not finish the History of Everything—only postponed it, so I am resuming it. Gave up on Agatha Raisin and checked out a new nutrition book and country music book of early male/female roles.


Am back in control, allowing some sugars, but controlling. I’m slimming down some. Have been miserable in my clothes. This has been incentive enough. Was miserable. Must eat nutritious foods or I start getting sick.

 ORGANIC FARMING / Farmer Gadd Chronicles

  • Worked all day on Saturday and put together my new fence around my garden! It was so rewarding! Was so tired all I wanted to do was sit and sleep on Sunday. The yard work/garden work is so satisfying; I want to do virtually nothing else on the weekends.
  • PUMPKINS, SQUASHES, AND CUCUMBERS ARE BLOOMING! Such a sweet thing to watch them grow each day. Pea plants are a foot long! Planted tomatoes and peppers to make up for the possum plants.


Head hung in sorrow. In truth…I felt I had nothing to say. This paralyzed me. End of point. How to move beyond “not in the mood”…any suggestions?


  • Awoke at 4:30 worrying about an upcoming gig that my broken-legged guitar player could now not attend (that has since cancelled), and got up and whirled through cleaning the house like a madwoman for 3 hours! This morning…I stood and did dishes. I’m back on track, loving my abode. I need help. I am a slob.


  • I’ve “not been in the mood”. Admittedly, I’ve let my worry and depression make me a slacker and only want to do “what I want”. Is that immature?… I want my mommy…to make me donuts fried in grease and shaken in powdered sugar.


  • Haven’t struck a key. Still plan to…


  • Ran out of time…my friend and I cancelled our walking day. Have not rescheduled


 This list hasn’t helped. I only want to do what I’m in the mood to do. (IS this immature, I again inquire)?

New additions to my Life List:

  • Set a goal and break it into small goals and create steps to my goal. Any suggestions?
  • Go canoeing
  • Go kayaking
  • Revisit the Rocky Mts. in Colorado and go canoeing
  • Retire and live on a small boat docked at Old Hickory Lake in the summer and at a fish camp trailer in Florida in the winter
  • Travel to Machu Piccu
  • Travel to Rome
  • Visit Greece and see the Parthenon
  • Visit the Great Pyramids
  • Hike to Base Camp at Mt. Everest with Charles (This is doubtful. Editorial comment by Jolly Librarian)


  • My leg hurts a little more today.  Perhaps because I went to the doctor today and he moved it around a lot, or because I drove my car and therefore did not get my biking exercise in – see biking is good therapy.  He did say it will just take some time to get the muscles strong again, but that I am doing well. 
  • I continue to tell everyone about MERLOT and TEL.  At the app forum in Dickson last Friday my favorite app (as well as a lot of other librarians) was Access My Library. 
  • I learned about a lot of new apps.  One of which is called “Bump”.  You download it for free and it lets you share apps with another mobile device just by touching devices!  (The Jolly Librarian does not approve of any apps that violate personal space.) Another cool app I learned about is the iFlow Reader.  It’s different from other eBook Readers because it does not have any pages.  Another cool app is iAnnotate. 
  • CleanWell  offers all-natural alternatives to heavy-duty hand washes and sanitizers.
  • I am still working on Cycling for Libraries conference idea.  Maybe having a book delivery with Ride for Reading. 

Jolly Librarian:

  • Writing: Wrote a review for the Chapter 16 Humanities website. It should be out tomorrow.
  • Reading: Read book for review. Also started Les Miserables, one of the books on my “Books an English Professor Should Have Read” list. Was stunned to find the unabridged version is 1186 pages long. Am now on page 30.
  • Socializing: Went to lunch with Mira; this was a great success. Attended surprise lunch for Dr. Weed. Tried small talk with neighbors. I think they now suspect me as a spy or serial killer. Looked at Royal Wedding hats with the library staff. This seemed to be an excellent bonding experience.
  • Exercising: Went to gym 6 out of the last 7 days.
  • Learn French: Have been listening to my tapes and talking with Noeline. I have “Je ne comprends pas” down pat.

Life Lessons from the Library: Put People Before Policy

Last night at 7:30, I noticed that the students at the computers had an unusual intensity about them as they typed frantically to get papers finished. As my colleague Pam came back to the circulation desk from helping one of them, I mentioned, “I wonder if we should stay open a bit later tonight since so many folks are working on papers.”

She walked away and I thought she hadn’t heard me when suddenly her voice boomed over our loud-speaker announcing our extended hours for the evening. We stayed a little longer, but the students were much happier and relieved. You could feel the tension actually drain out of them.

Polices and procedures have their place, but their purpose should always be to serve people. And, believe me, I’m not one to throw out all policies. When students ask if they can take reserve books home, for example, I am always more hard-hearted than my staff would like me to be. But the idea is the same: do what serves students. Reserve textbooks are for all students to use. When one student takes one home, it doesn’t allow access for other students. So the policy, in this case, always stands.

However, policies need to be continuously monitored to ensure that they still serve their purpose. Once we had a strict policy about no cell phones in the library. But with the advent of smart phone technology, students do much more than chat. They can research; they can listen to music on their headphones. In fact, in many cases, the only cell phone noise issue occurred when staff members used the microphone to say, “Get off your cell phone!” So we modified the policy to deal with noise, not cell phones.

This constant review and analysis of policies and procedures is helpful, and I’ve learned that I need to do it in other areas of my life as well. Sometimes I get caught up in rules that might have worked a decade ago but have no purpose any more. Why am I still doing it? Yep, haven’t taken time to evaluate myself. So take a life lesson from the library: Periodically review the rules you live by. And put people, including yourself, ahead of policies.

Monday Motivator: Be Kind; Life Is Hard Enough

Last Wednesday after the first Facebook accounts came in, I spent much of the afternoon checking the weather in  Alabama. My parents and sister live in Madison County, and I went to school and worked in Tuscaloosa for eight years. At one point, Madison County had three separate tornado warnings, one heading towards my parents’ town, another towards my sister’s city. And then, of course, came the first videos from Tuscaloosa. It was a most horrible day.

But then came spots of good news, both big and small. My parents and sister were fine, one lost tree in the back yard and no electricity. But fine. Slowly but surely, Facebook posts started coming in from my friends in Alabama. They too had made it through the storms with their lives and most of their property. A friend’s 90-year-old mother-in-law crouched in her hallway while the house basically blew away around her, but she was physically unhurt. One man was hurt in a morning tornado and brought to the hospital in Tuscaloosa, just in time for the second one to hit. In the first tornado, this man’s son was actually blown out of the house. But all survived. 

Of course, there were stories that had no good news. According to one of the doctors at the Tuscaloosa hospital, the first two victims brought in were infants. As of Sunday, there were still many people who had not been located. And people are trying to pick up the pieces with very few resources. Almost all of Madison County was without electricity through the weekend–which also meant they were without gasoline and other basic goods (although stores, like Publix put bread, batteries, etc. out on the sidewalk for people to pick up). 

What always strikes me about situations like these is the amount of resilience that people show during such tragedies. Folks who literally had their homes blown away around them talked about how lucky they were to escape death. Through tears, one woman whose home was gone expressed sympathy for those who weren’t so lucky: the injured and dead.

Tornadoes have a bizarre capriciousness all their own.  They can destroy five houses in a row and then leave one untouched. They can jump back in the clouds, or they can stay on the ground for more than 80 miles.  They bear down on a place only to make a sudden turn and leave everyone unscathed, physically if not mentally. Although it is wrong to ascribe emotions to natural events, I always think of tornadoes as slightly crazy, striking randomly with no forethought.

Horrible tragedies like this always remind me of the saying: Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind to one another? None of us knows when tragedy or pain can strike. unexpectedly. We’re all vulnerable. So why make life harder than it is by being unnecessarily rigid and demanding on others?

So for this week, help out those victims in East Tennessee or Alabama. Or help those who are still suffering from last year’s flood here in Nashville. And be kind.