Monthly Archives: July 2011

Life Lessons from the Library: Affection Can Be Shown in Many Ways

Lately, I’ve been thinking that my attempt to make students feel comfortable in the library has succeeded a little too well. Just last week, a student asked a staff member on a date. Another announced that she had a friend visiting: her MONTHLY friend. Yikes! I’m thinking of re-establishing some boundaries.

Still, there is something a little charming about students feeling comfortable enough with the staff to treat us as people, even when the results are embarrassing for us. After all, a staff member told me today that she never raised her hand in class her entire college career. And I can’t remember ever talking to a librarian at the large university I attended. So although there are times that I am tempted to raise my hands and shout out, “TMI, TMI,” I can’t help but think of their comfort level as a sort of affectionate confidence in our staff.

After all, I’m guessing if you’re comfortable enough to ask us out, then you’re comfortable enough to let us help you with a research assignment.


Monday Motivator: Sometimes It IS Better to Suffer in Silence

Last winter when it was horribly cold day after day and I actually turned on the oven to help heat my condo since I was afraid my heating unit would wear itself out after running continuously for more than a week, I made a proclamation, “If it will just warm up, I won’t complain when the heat waves come this summer.”

I lied. Yesterday, my car thermometer read 98 degrees, although I didn’t need it to tell me how miserably hot it was: The steering wheel that burned my hands, the sweat pouring down my back, and the waves of humid heat that messed up my sinuses more than let me know that it was hot. And I complained each mile of the drive home. 

And I knew in the middle of winter that I was lying as well, even as I vowed that I would appreciate hot weather as never before. I am a wimp when it comes to weather extremes. I do quite well with temperatures in the 30s through the mid-80s, but below or above my range, I become quite the grump.

But as I’ve grown older, I have tried to keep the grumpiness private. I no longer feel the need to share the pain with others. Well, obviously, complaining about the cold or the heat doesn’t do a thing to make me more comfortable. And the complainer rarely is the most popular person in the room. And it’s not that I need to be popular, but if I’m to be ostracized, I’d rather for it to be for something more meaningful or even just more eccentric than being a complainer.   

Besides, even as I now look forward to wool socks and a fireplace (and even checked airline ticket prices for a jaunt across the sea to visit a Facebook ‘friend’ I’ve never met because the weather in her city is cool and rainy), I know that some months hence, I’ll be looking back on these days as the wonderful hazy days that I didn’t have to put on five layers of clothes and then take off four of them just so I could run at the Y.

So I’ll always be inconsistent and grumpy about weather extremes, but at least now I keep that to myself. Unless you ask me how I feel about the weather. So I warn you: don’t ask.



The Jolly Librarian Ponders Information and Relevance

Last week, I was trying to decide whether or not to buy tickets for a concert. This was one of the biggest shows to come to town in years, but the only tickets left were bad ones behind the stage for a $130. Plus, it was going to be miserably hot, the concert was outside, and I was not a fan of  the opening act. Still, it was a big concert, and I was tempted to click buy. But then I inadvertently hit a link on a story about the lead singer.

And there popped up a picture of him on a yacht with arms around two nineteen-year-old girls in bikinis. Men of a certain age can’t pose like that without looking skeezy.  And skeezy he looked. Put off by the photo,  I logged off without buying the tickets.

Now the point is not to make me sound prudish because I’m not or to make him sound like a dirty old man. I’m sure he’s not. And even if he is, it apparently doesn’t hurt his songwriting ability. The picture really should have had no impact on my decision. And that’s my point: Not all information is relevant.

That is an important point in an information-drenched society where news is often instantaneous and ubiquitous. When everyone has access to the same basic story immediately, reporters often have to drill deeper and deeper into personal and tangential pieces of information to have something different to report.  And, though the infobits  may be salacious and interesting, they also may be totally irrelevant to the subject at hand.

In my case, the worst thing that happened is that I didn’t go to the concert. And it was a good reminder that, like everyone else, I can be influenced by irrelevant factoids.

Most of the time we feel lucky that we live in an information age where we can find almost everything at the click of a mouse. But we must always remember that information is only good when used wisely. So keep the following tips in mind:

  • Something  may be true without being relevant.  (Despite what you see on news shows, a husband or wife can cheat without also being a murderer.)
  • When pundits are telling you about something, don’t be fooled. Sometimes not everything you’re hearing or reading is fact. Some of it is opinion carefully slipped in. Learn to separate the two.
  • When information is presented as a package, take the time to tease out the different pieces. Determine what is relevant and what is not. Determine what is important. For example, a woman who goes out partying after the death of her child may not be the sort of person you want to ‘friend’ on Facebook, but that does not necessarily mean she’s a murderer. Those of us old enough to remember Susan Smith’s tears and pleas know better.
  • Be aware of your own prejudices. Now that I know that skeezy photos of my favorite singers make me a bit nauseated, I have declared a celebrity gossip blackout. I don’t need to know about their bed mates, their egos, or their plastic surgeries. In the case of celebrity news, I’m finding ignorance is indeed bliss.
On the old Dragnet show, witnesses were asked to provide “just the facts.” But the critical thinker (and citizen) knows that facts don’t get a free pass when it comes to analysis. Sometimes you’ve got to treat a fact like a hostile witness.


The Library Life Listers: Long, Hot, Lazy (Emphasis on Lazy) Summer Days

One of my friends has proclaimed this the summer of fun. Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re only on campus once a week. For those of us still working each day, we have to dig deeper to find the fun part of summer. Still, the pace is a little slower, and three of us are on modified contracts. So, theoretically, we should be finding more time to do the things on our life lists. This is not exactly proving to be the case for all of us. Here are the lows and highs for this week:


Write some things I’m proud of:

I’ve started working on a third draft of the piece I’m editing.

Give my best to the ESL classes I help teach:

No class this week…which I didn’t realize until I was the only one who showed up Sunday afternoon. Well…this means I have a head start on preparation for next week’s class.



Share wealth of vegetables, some in the form of pies :

Gave the Jolly Librarian a cucumber. (The Jolly Librarian is grateful for the gift and also that it didn’t come in the form of a pie. However, she doubts Emily’s dedication to the Life List process.)

Jolly Librarian:

Socialize More:

Attended a happy hour on Friday. Went to lunch with fellow deans on Tuesday. And celebrated friend Michelle’s birthday today at lunch. Then had a surprise visit from my best bud, LA, and we spent some quality time drawing pictures.


Took another chapter to Writing Group and this chapter was more than three pages long. Was quite pleased with myself. However, that turned into frustration as I’ve struggled with how to begin the next chapter.

Be More Physically Fit:

Went to the gym five times. But gained weight on our challenge weigh-in day. And today, I weigh more than I have in over a year. Something is quite wrong here.



Wrote a letter to my niece, Hannah. J


  • Picked on Monday night with friend at 4th July party. Had a great time.
  • High Hampton, NC gig will be this coming Monday with trio. I’m rehearsing for it.


  • Am contemplating joining the Sportsplex for swimming. It is just too durn hot to walk during the days at work – even to get a chocolate covered banana at Bobbie’s Dairy Dip! Student discount rates at the Sportsplex are only $27 a month! I do plan to start walking in the early mornings.


  • Read 2 books a month:
  1. Have not read all week. TBA


  • As vegetables are coming in, I am eating more nutritiously. Have gotten into the fudgecicles again. Oh, good grief. Still determined to not gain weight.


  • Fed nutrients to all plants. Things are looking better. Have weeded so hard this week. Great


Shampooed my carpets for 3 hours. They look new. Have taken great pride in the house ever since. It is so important to live orderly.


  • Learn to Scuba Dive
  • Go to Hawaii with my mom
  • Hike some on the Appalachian trail
  • Go fishing and camping this summer in NC under the stars
  • Set up telescope.
  • Make my office into a teaching studio
  • Visit the pyramids and Egypt
  • Visit Machu Pichu


My leg continues to get stronger every day thanks to being a bike librarian! One good thing that came out of bike vs. car accident is that I am an even bigger advocate for safer conditions for bicyclists. I am currently reading a book called Pedal Power: the quiet rise of the bicycle in American public life. It is written by a Political Science professor, J. Harry Wray. He teaches at DePaul University in Chicago where he takes his students on rides through Chicago and shows them how politics, economics and the environment combine to affect culture and be affected by it.  There is a chapter about biking in Amsterdam and how more people bike than drive cars over there – safely – from young children to old people. That is one reason I want to do plan a Cycling for Libraries conference here in Tennessee.

I continue to tell everyone about MERLOT and TEL.

I want to add this to my life list: Do an excellent session and poster session at the Sloan-C/MERLOT Emerging Technologies Conference next week.

I am also working on granting a grant through Pepsi to turn a vacant lot in Mt. Juliet into a fitness park/connector greenway.

Some new things I have learned:

  • The classic pizza, the Margherita, which is topped with Italy’s colors—red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (fresh basil) was intended to represent the colors of the Italian flag. Created in the late 19th century, it was named in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy.
  • The daisy was originally known as day’s eye because its petals, like the human eye, open in the morning and close at night. Through usage, day’s eye eventually became daisy.
  • For the 4th of July — In the chemistry of fireworks, the minerals that are used to produce the colors red, white, and blue are red, strontium; white, aluminum or magnesium; and blue, copper.
  • Gummo, whose real first name was Milton, never appeared in the zany films that featured his siblings. He was the first of the brothers to appear onstage—in vaudeville—but gave up acting and represented his brothers and other talent. His four brothers were Groucho (Julius), Harpo (Adolph), Chico (Leonard), and Zeppo (Herbert).
  • The brand-name image that was chosen as the 20th century’s top ad icon by Advertising Age magazine was The Marlboro Man. In second and third place on the list of the Top 10 ad icons were Ronald McDonald and the Green Giant respectively.
  • The official summer sport of Canada is Lacrosse. It was named the official summer sport in 1994, when hockey was designated the country’s official winter sport.
  • The charitable organization set up by baseball legend Willie Mays was The Say Hey Foundation. Mays’ baseball nickname was the Say Hey Kid. His foundation promotes educational and enrichment opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters.
  • In boot-shaped southern Italy, the toe is Calabria; the heel is Puglia (Apulia, in English)





The Jolly Librarian Considers Grumpiness

Today, I woke up on time, but didn’t feel rested at all. I was coming off what can only be described as a bad weekend. (Well, to be fair, only the Sunday and Monday of the long holiday weekend were bad. But, obviously, that was the part I remembered most vividly.)  As Tom Petty would say, I “was tired of myself and tired of this town.”  Even my morning workout didn’t improve my mood. As I drove into work, I thought of just driving until I ran out of gas or road.

But I’d agreed to meet some colleagues for lunch, so I did, although I felt a little sorry for them being exposed to my grumpy self.

Now it would be nice to say that my companions’ good spirit cheered me and brought me back to myself, but that would a lie. I was still more than a little grumpy when a friend to the right of me leaned in and whispered that she had to go to the bathroom and that she wouldn’t be back soon, but for no one to get worried.

To explain, she has a condition that, when she drinks too much caffeine, sends her heart into palpitations that then causes her to be sick, very sick. It’s apparently not life-threatening, although it does appear that way to those out of the loop: nausea, sweating, light-headedness, etc.

“No one better feel sorry for me,” she said as I drove her home. “I did this to myself. I know what caffeine does to me.” But not only did I feel for her, I also felt less aggrieved at the world.

That’s the thing about grumpiness: Often, it only takes getting out of yourself for it to dissipate. There wasn’t much I could do for my friend, except drive her home. But just the act of thinking about someone else was enough to turn the day around for me.

Now, there’s no doubt that I’ll have more grumpy days ahead, but for this one day, a chance to help someone else made things better. And I’m going to try to remember that for next times as well.