Monthly Archives: November 2011

Monday Motivator: Don’t Steal Another’s Time

In his book 18 Minutes, Peter Bregman tells the story of a rabbi who never goes anywhere without a book. You see, according to the Talmud, if people are late, they are committing the sin of stealing others’ time, and it’s one of the worst sins because time can’t be replaced. Therefore, the rabbi takes a book so his late friends won’t be guilty of sin since his time has not been wasted.

I also take a book wherever I go, not because of any charitable nature. But over the years, I’ve learned that people do tend to be rather free with others’ time. Like most of us, I have waited for people to show up for meetings, dinners, and other appointments. Having come from a family who showed up at every appointment at least thirty minutes early, I have little understanding or patience with the inability to show up on time. Still, over the years, I have developed some habits to keep myself engrossed while waiting for the Tardies, as I call them:

  • Have a book with me at all times.
  • Keep a notebook to list all the ways this person annoys me so that I get all the anger out before she/he finally shows up. Actually, I’ve found lists of all types helpful in the waiting process.
  • Tell the person the meeting is 15 minutes earlier than it actually is.
  • And in actual work meetings, start on time and let the person catch up.

Tardies are very resistant to change. They have in their mind that they are so extraordinarily busy that they simply can’t be held to a schedule. They are generally not malicious creatures who take pleasure in holding others up. They simply don’t understand the irritation they cause:”I would be on time if I weren’t so busy, but I am so busy, so it can’t be helped.”

And if you are the person who is chronically late, here are some tips for you as well:

  • Although you may never completely change, realize that people don’t find chronic lateness charming. It will improve all your relationships if you can be more punctual.
  • If you must be late, then don’t make things worse by telling people why you’re late in great detail. You think you’re impressing them with all you had to do that day, but they’re thinking, “Yeah, I had a lot to do too, but I made it on time.”
  •  Do say you’re sorry. Making people wait for you, good reason or not, is rude.

Perhaps there is a perfect world somewhere where the Tardies only have to interact with other Tardies, and the Punctual meet up with other Punctuals at the precise moment a meeting is scheduled. But it’s not this one.

Still, if we all thought of being late as stealing time from others, maybe we’d be a bit better. But I’m not counting on it. I’m  keeping that book in my purse.


The Mayfield Library Gives Thanks

Ah, the sights and sounds of the day before Thanksgiving on our campus. I was almost run over by a faculty member in the parking lot; she was clearly getting out of Dodge. And here in the library, staff are surrounded by students who are trying to find those last sources so they can indulge in that time-honored tradition–writing a research paper over the long holiday.

I asked my staff to name what they’re thankful for this season. And here they are, in no particular order:

Faye Vaughn: “I am so very thankful that my Lord, Jesus Christ, came into my life and saved me. I’m also thankful for my children, Bob (my son) and Becky (my daughter).  I’m thankful for my job, the Library staff, and my fellow coworkers at NSCC.May each and everyone have a very blessed Thanksgiving,”

Sally Robertson: “I am thankful for new Music City Bikeway that makes it safe to ride a bike from NSCC to downtown, via greenways, bike lanes and marked bike routes.”  She also mentioned that she’s glad not to be in surgery as she was this day last year after a bicycle/SUV accident.

Charles May: “I’m grateful for my family and grateful that there is snow in the forecast.”

Pam Gadd: “Everyday, in my little cloud of joyfulness, I wonder what it is that I will finally die from; so each day when I awake to find that I’m actually still here, I am very thankful that I get to continue this road of living.”

Allison Boyd: “One thing…so hard to narrow it down to just one thing! I’m thankful for all the great teachers I’ve had, from elementary school all the way through grad school, whose examples of hard work, precision, dedication, and compassion have kept me going this semester.”

Emily Bush: Poor Emily. This exercise brought back bad childhood memories Still, she managed it: “I’m thankful my problems are first world.” (This video is guaranteed to put you in a good mood.)

Jolly Librarian: “I’m grateful that Purchasing and Computer Services don’t go into together to hire a hit man. I’m grateful that Becky Abu-Orf will take time out during her evening at home to check to see if database links are working. I’m thankful for all the students and former students who stop by to let us know how they’re doing. And I’m especially grateful for the entire LRC staff.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life Lessons from the Library: Don’t Be Too Quick To Declare Things Fixed

Today I made a trip to what I like to call the innards of our web page. I had to go behind the scenes into HTML and make some changes. This is not one of my favorite jobs. For one, although I’ve been assured it can’t happen, I suspect that one wrong keystroke could lead to my taking down the college’s entire site. Second, just one letter out of place, one space that shouldn’t be there, and the thing won’t work. It’s quite frustrating for someone like me who is definitely more of a big-picture person. Still, I went in and made the changes, and, of course, the links didn’t work. So I called Computer Services, and Judy, as she often does, told me what was wrong. And now the page works. Problem solved, right?

Unfortunately, no. Like most libraries, we put our pages under something called a proxy server. That means that students off campus can get access, but not the general public. For a reason, I don’t understand, the fact that a link works on campus doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s working off campus. And that causes problems.

And that is what is happening tonight. The changes took, at least on campus. The databases pop up without a problem, but off-campus, students are getting a message that the database is inaccessible, not something you want happening right before Thanksgiving. So once again, we’re putting the problem in the capable hands of our Computer Services people. 

Still, it’s a good reminder that we sometimes declare success before we have a right to. In this case, students who are off-campus don’t care that things are working fine here. They need their databases. And until everyone is able to access this site, we can’t declare victory. 

Monday Motivator: Be Thankful

This is the week when we think about all the things we’re thankful for in our lives. If you don’t mind, I’m going to give the major and obvious things (family, health, friends, etc.) a pass in this blog, although I’m thankful for them.

During the year, there are many minor, off-center things that happen that make me thankful as well. And here are some of them:

  • After buying tickets for Les Miserables, I thought it would be a good idea of read the novel, all 1300 pages of it. It is many ways typically Victorian with its bizarre coincidences and depiction of social inequities.  Hugo also thinks nothing of adding 50-page digressions (on the history of the Paris sewer system, for one). Probably too long to ever be taught in school, it is a book that can be a hard read, but a rewarding one.  I’m thankful I took it on this year.
  • I’m grateful for Facebook. Odd, I know. but this website allows me to keep in touch with high school and college friends, with colleagues who have moved now to different states, former students, and even colleagues on the other campuses. FB allows us to joke, show other sides of our personalities. In general, it’s just good fun.
  • I’m thankful that I work at a place that values creativity and eccentricity.
  • I’m grateful for LRC staff that works so hard to provide services for students but never forgets how to have fun (or mock their supervisor).
  • And although he has had cause, I’m glad Dr. Van Allen has never run me down with his car when I’m out walking/running in Bellevue. Because, let’s face it, it would be easy to pretend that it was an accident on Old Harding.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


The Jolly Librarian Publicly Apologizes to All the Machines in the Library

On any given day, students come to the front desk and tell us they can’t log on our computers, print a document, or make a copy. These students tend to fall into basic groups: those who are irritated that the machines have let them down and those who believe they are technically challenged and have broken something.

Now, I have found the best way to deal with both groups is to lay the blame squarely on the computer, printer, and copier. “Goodness,” I’ll say (Hey, I live in the South.) “Those printers are just acting up today. I don’t know why they’re so grumpy.” Or something like, “That copier. It is just tired from overwork, and it’s acting just like an exhausted toddler.”

Now I know and the students know that a good portion of the time the machines in the library are operating just fine. Students have typed in their IDs  incorrectly, chosen the wrong printer from the queue, or tried to do fancy front-and-back copying that resulted in the paper being positioned wrong.

But this pretense calms the irritated students and eases the worries of the nervous ones.

Still, I know on that day when machines take over world, I will be on their hit list for having unfairly denigrated them.

So I take this opportunity to apologize to all the computers, printers, and copiers in our library. I know that most days, you provide us humans with continuous, excellent service. You never complain when hordes of Anatomy and Physiology students come in to print 65-slide color presentations. On any given day, over a hundred students log in, type, search, and even sleep over your keyboards. And, you little copier, you get the least respect of all. At an age when you should be enjoying a simpler life, making a couple of copies a day for an elderly Victorian scholar who still sends out articles by snail mail, you are continually mauled by impatient students who need to get something copied right now because class starts in three minutes!

A secretary told me that she used to work at a very large company that did massive amounts of copying, yet they almost never had to call in the copier repair guy. She said it was because one person was in charge of making copies for the division; the more hands that touched it, hit the wrong keys, and decided to do a little spur-of-the-moment fixing made it more likely to need constant care. If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then it’s amazing our library machines hold up as well as they do day after day.

So I thank the machines that work so hard for us. And beg that when they take over, they will not make me do math.

The Library November Challenge: Pick Up (and Drop) a Resolution

The Jolly Librarian has been staring at my computer screen trying to think of a way to put a good face on failure. Because fail we did this week. Most people dropped the ball on those resolutions:

Indecisive girl remained indecisive.

Exercise guy did none.

Work-out girl walked one day and then decided to change her resolution to clearing up her home office.

Cubicle guy still has a most crowded and messy cubicle.

And then poor Grandma girl went home sick and couldn’t report.

But there were three bright spots:

Vending machine guy hit the buttons for a Snickers and was told to make another selection. He used that opportunity to buy another untried treat and was rewarded by having both fall.

Novel girl is plugging along, writing each day.

And TLA has expressed interest in the “Cycling for Libraries” pre-conference idea.

Our blip made me wonder how to set up a goal so that there is a greater chance of success. One idea mentioned last week was to make sure the goals are SMART ones.

Two other factors that lead to success are regular monitoring and accountability. Checking up on your progress can keep the goals in the front of your mind. There are a million ways to do it from a simple check on a calendar to websites designed for just such a purpose. People who like to their monitoring online should check out the following:

Joe’s Goals



For iPad or iPhone fans, there are apps such as “Your Chain” and “Goal Tracker.”

Accountability is the second part. And I just realized that having to tell me their progress each week should be a form of accountability for my staff. Obviously, I need to get meaner.

Life Lessons from the Library: Be Kind But Teach Skills

Last night I received an email request from a student who needed information on an author. I sent the student a link to one of our databases and told him the search term I’d used to ensure that he had results. Fewer than three minutes later, another email popped up. It was the same student asking for information on another author. This time, my answer was much more concise. Basically, do the same thing for this author as well.

There is a fine line between helping and helping too much. Sometimes, students are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of resources available to them in today’s average, heavily electronic, library. Even the most basic of searches can result in thousands of hits. So we work hard to make sure they’re comfortable with the process of searching, including doing sample searches, so that they can see how the process works. Usually, this approach is successful: Students relax not having to know how to do everything the first time but learn the process for themselves.

Well, usually it works that way. Sometimes, students become too reliant on us and simply want us to do all the searches for them. Then we have to show a little tough love. Well, let’s face it: We’re not that tough. But we do try to encourage and cajole students into believing that they too can successfully do these searches. 

If they’re physically in the library with us, we’ll sit with them and walk them through it together. Online, we’ll offer just a little bit less detailed information each time, referring them to earlier emails or sending handouts that we’ve developed for just such occasions. What students don’t know is that we still probably do the search before sending them those short emails. We’re not going to leave them hanging, and if there is truly very little on a topic, we’ll be there to help.

Our goal is that our students, long after they cease to be our students, will be able to conduct searches for good materials on topics that affect their lives. And to make sure they do that, sometimes we have to be tough. Well, semi-tough at least.

Monday Motivator: Be Part of a Group. Or Not.

Last night I joined two clubs. In one, I’m the treasurer. My job is to make sure there is enough money to buy ice cream. In the other, I had to undergo a stressful initiation which included moving animals from one place to another and kicking a ball. Did I mention that all the other members of these clubs are five?

Sting once sang, “Men go crazy in congregations; they only get better one by one.”  And I have always come down on Sting’s side on the whole group thing. I was never very successful at it. I joined Girl Scouts because all my friends did, but I didn’t care much for it. I sold almost no cookies and only earned one badge. Then in high school, I made the Flags Corps. Once again, I tried out because I didn’t want to be the only one of my friends without a place on the football field on Friday nights. I was horrible. I’m just grateful that this was the time before YouTube, or I would never outlive the embarrassment.

I even hated group work in college. My favorite group project was in graduate school when everyone else in the group dropped the class, and I researched and gave the report alone.

Still, I could understand where my little friends were coming from. There is something appealing about a club, even when you don’t have the personality to be a member of such a group, maybe even more so then. Who hasn’t read books about kids in their tree houses or secret clubs and all the fun adventures they had? But the groups I belonged to never had such fun adventures. No one in the books ever had to make an apron or egg-carton flowers as I did in the clubs I joined.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making egg-carton flowers. The problem was that there was always a disconnection between the groups and me. I realize now that I was so afraid of being the only person  not in the club that I joined groups that held little interest for me. The irony was that I was so unhappy at the thought of being left out that I joined groups that made me unhappy. A real Zen puzzle.

Still, I was happy to be asked to join the clubs yesterday evening. For one reason, I’m pretty sure both clubs ceased to exist the minute I left for home. And that there will be new clubs to join the next time I visit. For another, these were the best type of clubs: Everyone was admitted, and if you couldn’t pass the initiation ritual, the rules mysteriously changed to make sure you got in after all. And third, well, come on, these were clubs about eating ice cream and kicking ball in the house!


The Jolly Librarian Book Recommendation

The Family Fang


Kevin  Wilson

This darkly humorous novel about one of the most dysfunctional families in recent literary history will draw you in and keep you glued to the last page. As an added bonus for us Nashvillians, adopted resident Nicole Kidman, has acquired the rights to make the movie.

For a more poetic analysis, read Maria Browning’s review on the Chapter 16, Tennessee Humanities website.

Five Surprising Facts about Librarians Outside of Libraries

  1. They laugh. A lot.
  2. They never shush anyone. In fact, sometimes they’re the ones who need to be shushed (Okay, that could just be me.)
  3. Okay, this is not so surprising, but they usually carry books or tablets with books downloaded so that they can read at any time.
  4. Their conversation can shift from databases to rampaging elephants to Snow Patrol songs over one glass of wine.
  5. They have a wicked sense of humor and can hold their own with any other group at a restaurant. With the possible exception of Irish rugby teams.