Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Mayfield Library’s September Challenge: Break a Bad Habit.

Let’s face it. We all have them: those annoying habits that keep us from enjoying life as much as we could and certainly from being as productive as we know we can be. So the September challenge is to take on one of those irritating bad habits and conquer it for thirty days.

Now, I can you hear you groaning: “What? I can’t do this. I have no willpower. It’s too hard.”

We’re not talking about forever. You’re just committing to thirty days. After that, you can return to your habit if you wish. Second, we’re going to use some of the most current research on change that might make things easier.

First, you don’t have to rely on willpower alone. In fact, the authors of the book, Change Anything indicate that there are so many forces surrounding us that encourage us to indulge in bad habits that willpower, by itself, may not be effective. Instead, you need to analyze and change the six major sources of influence:

  • Personal Motivation. You have to keep your long-term goal in mind when enticed by your more-immediate impulses.
  • Personal Ability: You must learn new skills that will enable the new habit.
  • Social Motivation: Almost all bad habits are accompanied by ‘friends’ who encourage them. So get social support for the habit you want.
  • Social Ability: Find a teacher, someone who has kicked the bad habit or has the habit you want to gain.
  • Structural Motivation: Make up a system of short-term rewards and behaviors to the new habit.
  • Structural Ability: Modify your environment to keep your bad habit away and encourage a good one.
We’ll look at some of these things in more depth as the month goes on. If you are interested in reading further, I do recommend Change Anything. This book takes a systems approach to creating good habits and is worth your time.

Life Lessons from the Library: Start How You Plan to Finish

I admit that I am something of a procrastinator. I have finished more research papers on Thanksgiving weekend than I care to remember. And even now, I am much more likely to be scrambling to get something completed right before deadline than having it finished early. I usually make it, but it’s not a pretty sight.

From working in the library and watching students, I realized that the really successful ones are those who make a running start. They are the ones who are in the library before the semester begins: checking out the syllabi, looking for various versions of the textbooks, or even just checking out the locations of their classes.

They view the semester as a long-distance run, balancing out their time and energy over an entire semester period, instead of a last-of-term sprint. By starting out strong, these folks give themselves many advantages:

  • By keeping up with assignments or even staying a little ahead, they know immediately when they have a problem in a class and can solve it while it’s still small.
  • If a problem pops us (illness, work conflicts, or problem cars), they have enough time to still get class work done.
  • They don’t have to emotionally gear up halfway through the semester to get a mountain of work done. They are already there, and the amount of work left is more like a hill than a mountain.
Now, I’m sure that a list of advantages will not change a procrastinator’s ways. It’s not even going to change thus author’s ways completely. But, over the years, I’ve discovered that momentum is much easier to maintain when started early. Often, it’s not the amount of work itself that weighs us down, but the amount of it unfinished with its attached emotional tonnage that makes it so hard to get started.
So start early, start strong, and you’ll find it’s much easier to finish that way as well.

Monday Motivator: Your Job is Not What Makes a Difference; You Are!

Recently, a friend of mine, a Marine himself, posted the following quotation by Ronald Reagan on his Facebook page: “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

I guess some professions make it easier for people to know they’ve made a difference. But in general, I’d argue that, no matter what our jobs, we all have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others each day. The only question is whether or not we take advantage of that opportunity.

When I look back, I remember all sorts of people who made a difference in my life for simply being nicer than they had to be:

  • The family who lived downstairs from me in Pennsylvania after I totaled my car the first week I was there. They offered to take me to class, to the laundromat, or to the grocery store. although they had known me for a total of four days.
  • The radiologist who gave up her lunch hour so that I wouldn’t have to wait a weekend to find out if a lump were cancerous or not.
  • My college algebra instructor who calmed me down when I came in late for a final exam (My roommate had moved out the day before and took the alarm clock.)  “I’ll stay as long as you need,” he said as he saw the tears threatening.

Now none of these deeds will go down in the annals of history, but they all made a difference in my history. I’ve never forgotten them, and I try to pay those kindnesses forward when I can.

It’s amazing how small kindnesses are remembered. At the end of one semester, a student stopped me in front of the building. I didn’t recognize him, but he told me that at the beginning of the term, he had been totally lost and didn’t know how to log in to his courses or even find his schedule. “You showed me how,” he said, “and you were so friendly, I knew I’d have a place to go if things went wrong again. I want to thank you for that.”

And if I lost my job today, that memory would be enough.


August Challenge: Read A Book for Pleasure, Week 4

The Mayfield Library staff has continued its happy progress in reading for pleasure. Almost everyone has finished at least one book, and most are on book 2, 3, or 4. And most of us are reading more than one book at a time. So here are our updates. I hope you find something that will interest you as well.


Last week I read The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. If you haven’t heard of Wilson, he’s a quasi-local author (he teaches at Sewanee) and is — quite possibly — my favorite new author. The Family Fang — aptly deemed the literary equivalent of The Royal Tenenbaums — follows two grown children of avant-garde performance artists. Obviously, the children, Annie and Buster, aren’t the most well-adjusted grown-ups, their lives spin out of control, and they end up back at home where they unwittingly take part in their parents Swan Song (it’s really not as formulaic as I make it sound). I also highly recommend his equally inventive collection of short stories: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth — they offer the perfect blend of magical realism and dark humor (if you’re into that sort of thing).


I’m currently between books (reading that lowliest form of literature – the magazine).  Up next, it looks like I’ll be on a Southern authors binge (unless I change my mind, which is likely). On my nightstand I have: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.  I actually took As I Lay Dying to a doctor’s appointment, read a chapter, realized it was the most melodramatic* of doctor’s office choices, proceeded to become self-conscious, and failed to digest the subsequent three chapters. I’ll need to start over.

* I realize that it may now appear that I’m dying. I’m not, so I guess it was really more inconsiderate than melodramatic. If I were dying, I’d throw caution to the wind and read US Weekly.


Trying to decide what to read next!

I’m currently reading four books:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul

Spinning Straw Into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman’s Life by Joan Gould


The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Jolly Librarian:

This weekend, I read the book Prophecy by S. J. Parris. This is the second in a series of a monk, Giordano Bruno,  who has fled his native Italy because of his need for knowledge puts him at odds with the Inquisition. He ends up in England where he solves murders and becomes a spy for Walsingham in Elizabethan England

However, I am having second thoughts about my country history reading plan. I really don’t care much about wars and political intrigue. I like finding out how people lived daily lives, so I may need to go back and find more social histories instead.




Life Lessons from the Library: Know Your Audience

Actually this life lesson more accurately comes from my dentist. I was there this morning to have six (!) teeth worked on. Now my former dentist has retired and the new ones have another office in a nearby city where they are “dentists to the stars.” The elite of country music can be seen there.

So they have added some frills to their services at mine. Halfway through the session today, I was asked if I wanted a smoothie when it was all over. Then a little later, I was told I could relax my tense muscles by sitting in the massage chair when the procedure was done.

Now this probably works with people more used to pampering. But I have only one thought in mind while in the dentist’s chair: when I will be out and back home. I do not want a smoothie dribbling down my numb chin. And I don’t want a massage. I want to go home. And that’s what I did.

But that’s something we librarians need to remember as well. We can be too pushy or too aloof. Experienced researchers want to use our books or databases, and if they have a question, they want us to be there to answer it. Otherwise, they want to be left alone.

Others, on the other hand, need some hand holding. They are afraid of asking questions or unsure of what questions to ask. In that case, we need to get out there and be available to them–letting them know we exist and are more than willing to help.

But it’s important to know the difference between the groups. And in order to do that, nothing beats spending some time listening to what patrons actually want, not what we just assume they do. And then we actually have to follow through on what they tell us.

And as an always-recovering know-it-all, believe me when I say, that can be the truly hard part!

Monday Motivator: Make a Plan (and Stick to It)

For those of us who have spent most of our lives in schools as students and then teachers, the real beginning of each year occurs now. It’s a time when things start new: new students, new courses, even new colleagues in some cases.

Like a kid, I’ve been buying new school supplies: a desk organizer, a calendar, and notebooks. I’ve even toyed with the idea of a new computer; unfortunately, it appears that some dental work will prevent that from happening. I also have not bought any new clothes since the summer weight-loss challenge has not gone my way. Still, there is just something about a new semester that fills me with a sense of optimism and change.

In the library, many of us are preparing for new things this semester:

  • Andrew is doing his counseling internship.
  • Pam is taking a math class.
  • Allison is teaching two ESL classes.

Of course, since they are doing these things while still working in the library, they will need a plan to make sure everything gets done successfully.

That, of course, is one of the secrets to success. There has to be a plan behind the idea. My failure at weight loss this summer is a good example of not having a plan. I knew I wanted to lose weight. I knew I was going to check in with two friends each Friday. But I didn’t have a plan to achieve that goal. Therefore, the goal and even the accountability were of little use without a daily plan to get through each day. On a more positive note, I now see where my weaknesses lay, and I am started the challenge anew for fall with a plan in place. The plan where the actual work takes place is the foundation for the goal.

As Thoreau said, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

I wish you luck and hard work ahead!


August Challenge: Read a Book for Pleasure-Week 3

I hope you’ve chosen a book and are enjoying it. Our library group certainly is. Emily has gone to the beach, so I’m sure she’s reading another cook-lit guilty pleasure.

I finished reading about the English Civil War and just started China: A History by John Keay. I’m taking the opportunity to discover more about countries, and I love the Brits’ dry wit that comes across in their academic writing.

This week, three more library staff members have shared their pleasure reading choices. Here they are:


Sally Robertson:

Eat, Sleep, Ride, by Paul Howard.

” I am enjoying this book because it is a fun and entertaining story about the world’s longest mountain bike race, the Tour Divide. (I would love to try this one day.) The ride follows the Continental Divide through the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. He tells all of his adventures in a humorous way.  I recommend this book for anyone who likes mountain biking or any high adventure stories.”  Call number: GV1049.2 .T73 H6 2011.

Allison's Afternoon

Allison Boyd:

Title: The Brothers Karamazov

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Why I’m reading it: A professor I deeply respect recommended it, and I found it at McKay’s.

Why I’m enjoying it: Philosophy, theology, and Russian love triangles.

Pam at Lunch

Pam Gadd:

“Hi and welcome from the front desk 🙂

I discovered my new read–still in my bag from school, yesterday and flung it into my bedroom so that I may dig in. It is:

 Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff.”


Until next week, keep reading!


Life Lessons from the Library: Mom Was Right, Take a Sweater

The air conditioning will be going off sometime this week in the library. We thought yesterday, so we came to work in the lightest clothes we could find. But the air conditioning was working fine; in fact, it seemed to be in some type of overdrive. I had to go outside more than once just to warm up enough to continue working.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of my mother’s constant warning when I was a kid: “Take a sweater. You don’t know what the temperature is going to be at the (fill in the blank).”

And she was right. If small things can increase happiness and research suggests they can, then, for me, it’s being comfortable. And while I don’t like being too warm, at least I can proceed with my work in such conditions. But when it gets too cold, I can barely pay attention. Meetings become unbearable; all I can think about is rubbing some heat into my arms.

One horrendous, hot summer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I would take my bike each morning to Morgan Hall where I had class. Running into the bathroom before class started, I would take off my tank top and shorts and slip on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Then I’d go to class and be able to pay attention in the cold room. After class, I’d return to the bathroom and put on the shorts again for the ride home.

I thought I had learned my lesson, but yesterday reminded me that I had not. So today, I brought a jacket and it will remain in my office for those unexpected cold days.

Even at my age, it’s good to remember, Mom was usually right.


Monday Motivator: Let Duke Be Duke


Duke is our neighborhood cat. Although he has an owner, he spends most of his time outside. Duke sleeps under our cars, sits on our steps, and stares meaningfully at us as we leave for work and return home.

At 5:30, he can be seen running to my neighbor’s place because soft-hearted guy that he is, he feeds Duke supper each night. The rest of us have a much more formal relationship with Duke. Sometimes he will meow as if he wants some loving, and he’ll allow petting and tickling under his chin, but only for a specified time. Then he swats away your hand, gets up, and walks away as if he doesn’t even know you. And believe me, he’s not above giving you a little bite if you refuse to believe that he’s done with the petting.

He can be even more capricious. More than once, he’s given me a heart-rending meow and taken a step towards me only to run off when I reach out to pet him. Obviously, Duke is not an animal you want to depend on  for a sense of feeling loved and worthy.

But if you just accept Duke for what he is, then he adds quite a bit to the neighborhood from the occasional pat to the Buddha-like gaze he bestows on us as we come home.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. We spend an awful lot of time wanting people to be other than who they are, even trying to make them be other than who they are.  And it almost never works.

Let’s say that we have a friend who is constantly late and often cancels dinners and dates at the last moment. We get mad at her and want her to change. When she doesn’t, we take it personally as a sign that she doesn’t respect us. But we don’t see our other options:

  • Tell her to meet for lunch thirty minutes before you plan to be there so that you won’t have to wait so long.
  • Never make plans with her alone so that you continue on when she cancels or have someone to talk with when she’s late.
  • Admit that the hassle is not the worth the pleasure of her company, and stop making plans with her.
  • Admit that the pleasure of her company is worth the hassle and bring a book to restaurants and join Netflix so you can watch a movie when she cancels yet again.

Besides, if you go around telling people all the things they must change to be acceptable to you, they might reciprocate. Yikes!

August Challenge: Read a Book, Week 1

The first of our monthly challenges was straightforward: Read a book. Not read a book a day or a week. Just read one book for pleasure during the month of August. So let me know if you’ve chosen your book. Library staff members are on this challenge as you might imagine. Here is what’s going on so far:

Terry Kane

“I’m reading John Brown by W.E.B. Dubois. ”

Emily Bush

“I’ve finished my book for the month: Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. It’s a thoroughly indulgent read – chocolate cake for the mind, if you will – with no redeeming value. The deepest thinking it evokes: “Should I try the ratatouille recipe first? Or the chocolate mousse?” This, however, is the type of thinking I like to do when reading for pleasure, which is why I’m following up Lunch in Paris with yet more food lit.  I plan to complete The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto any day now (see above for description, insert New York as setting). Two food lit books in a row is bit too indulgent, for even me, so next I’ll move onto this year’s Pulitzer winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Or, perhaps, I’ll become the last woman in the U.S. to read The Help.”

Charles May

“I’m reading two mysteries: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and Iron Horse  by John Hart.

Jolly Librarian

“I endured some mocking last week when I mentioned I was reading The English Civil War: Papists, Gentlewomen, Soldiers, and Witchfinders in the Birth of Modern Britain by  Diane Purkill. Some thought  I was trying to show off; others thought I was just a disgusting nerd. But hear me out. My mom is English, and I was born there. As for the U.S., the Civil War was a pivotal event so I wanted to learn more about it. And it’s not a dry story of battles. It’s about people’s lives during the War.  On another note, I just finished The Heretic’s Wife  by Brenda Rickman Vantrease who is a Nashville author. This is about Tudor England and people who braved the threat of  bringing in Bibles written in English so that everyday people could read God’s word. It is a book I recommend, although there are some very sad parts.”

So that’s where we are this week. Check next week for the next update.