Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ten Things Library Folks Wished Students and Faculty Knew–A New Series

Twice a year, the deans and directors of the Tennessee Board of Regents Libraries meet to discuss issues and trends. At last fall’s meeting, the director of the Chattanooga Library, Vicky Leather, who is one of my librarian heroes, pointed out that people who work in the libraries have the opportunity to see students in a different way from other folks on campus.

I was struck by that remark and wrote it down. (Of course, I then lost the actual quotation in the pile of notebooks and papers that stay on my desk.) I do think those of us in libraries (perhaps especially community college libraries) have the opportunity to see students more holistically. Students don’t worry about our grading them. They are not trying to impress us in any way. So I think maybe how we see students might be of some service to students and faculty.

Maybe not. But hey, it’s my blog. So for the next ten Tuesdays, I’m going to offer some observations in order to help students see themselves more accurately in this wild world of academia.

Stay tuned.


Monday Motivator: Let Your Inner Child Come Out to Play

Yesterday, I played several rounds of Duck-Duck-Goose. I quickly realized that old people have a hard time getting up from the ground to chase a five-year-old. And beige corduroys do not do well on the damp ground. But what I’ll remember most was the constant laughter of both children and adults as  we played. No matter what our actual ages, for that game, we were all five.

Now some might say that playing a game with children on the weekend might be a good thing, but being silly and childish should stay there and certainly our inner children should stay hidden during work time. I don’t disagree, if by inner child, you’re thinking of the whiny, codependent entity that needs nurturing and approval. (Having read a couple of self-help books about the inner child several years ago, I decided that “little Faye” needed to stay right where she was: hidden from everyone.)

No, I’m talking about the child part of you who loves to giggle, who can make any activity a game, and who thinks everyone is a friend. Imagine a workplace where the following happens on a regular basis:

  • When something goes wrong, people don’t run around blaming each other, crying that the world is ending, and bemoaning how hard life is. Instead, they find the humor in it, have a laugh, and go about fixing it.
  • When given a tedious task, people find a way to make it a little more fun. Some folks compete to see who can finish first. In the library, shelving is often done with iPods in ears to cheer up the time. As every kindergarten teacher knows, almost everything is better when done with a song.

Now I’m not advocating  that your inner child come to work and throw tantrums and run away crying because someone was mean. The nice thing about being an adult is that you can control what parts of childlike behavior you bring to the office!

And yes, library staff,when I occasionally throw rubber balls at you from my office, it’s nothing more than “Little Faye coming out to play.”



The Jolly Librarian Considers the Most Depressing Time of the Year

While various websites choose different days (January 23, January 16) as the most depressing day of the year, most agree that the latter half of January is quite a desolate time. The holidays are over, but the bills are coming in. The weather is grey and dreary.  And spring seems a long way away.

I guess researchers have it right if my Facebook friends are any indication. There has been an upswing in grumpy posts that have little patience with anything or anyone. At least two have publicly unfriended people. And others are scolding folks for their posts. Yikes! If we can’t get along on Facebook, how will we manage when we have to see people in the flesh?

Being the captain of a fairly merry group in the library, I asked the staff what  they do to keep cheerful in the winter. Here are their responses:

  • Linda: I watch old movies and eat popcorn.
  • Emily: I take advantage of cold weather by not feeling guilty about sitting on the couch and reading. I also start planning my summer vacation.
  • Susan: I read and knit.
  • Pam: I hang out with my cats and read. I organize my office and eat snacks.
  • Jolly Librarian: I go to the track at the Y and listen to Snow Patrol for five miles. I read long mystery novels. And I go on Facebook and laugh at my crazy friends.
It’s probably no surprise that most of us chose reading or watching movies as a way to beat depressing days. After all, they are both excellent ways to get outside ourselves and live as someone else for a brief period.

Sure, winter can be a depressing time of year, but the older I get the more I realize the Camus quotation is true: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”



Research Is Not Always Pretty

Today we had one of those orientations that we’d prefer just to forget. Students couldn’t log in.  Articles wouldn’t pop up. And a search of one newspaper database brought up articles from another.  This probably did not go a long way in proving that research is easy or fun, but it did serve a purpose.

For those of us who go into academic fields, research is usually fun. But it is not always easy. There are false leads and dead ends everywhere.   We gather up information left and right only to discover later on that, regrettably, we can’t use any of it in a project. We set aside an afternoon for research only to find the books we need have been checked out by someone else or the database is down.

Recently, I found myself doing research on mobile devices in education. I thought I was going to have a fairly easy time of it since every search I did brought up hundreds of results. However, on further investigation, most of those were based on very small groups with little rigorous attempt to control variables. Others were simply based on self-reports. So I’m still slogging through material I can’t use. But that’s part of the process.

Of course, the librarians prefer that things go right during orientations, and I don’t blame them. But I still don’t find it a failure when things go wrong–because out in the real world, they will.

Another Year: Another (Failed?) Attempt at Self-Improvement

Followers of the Jolly Librarian know that I am often forcing my colleagues to participate in team-building activities, such as weight loss, goal setting, and thirty-day improvement boot camps. In general. there have been two results: First,we have failed in our goals. Two, most of the library staff will now not meet my eye when I start talking up another project.

But right before Christmas, Charles told Pam about a new book she might be interested in, and she told me. We both ordered it and decided to give it a go for this year. The book is 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal. We decided that, since we had not been able to do anything big, we might be more successful with smaller week-long projects. 

So we started the first Sunday of January. Our first change was to drink more water. That was not hard to do, especially since most experts have backed off from the eight glasses a day regimen. The second week we were to get more rest; in my case, that was helped by a stomach virus which meant I was in the bed for the greater part of 72 hours. The third week instructed that we move more. So far, so good.

Then this week, we were to keep track of everything we ate. Oddly, this seems to have had an opposite effect of what the author intended. Pam and I both seem to have taken this to mean to eat as much as possible, to fill up the maximum number of pages with items we’ve consumed. Still, it’s not been a complete waste: We are more aware of what we’re eating, although that has not served as a prevention technique yet.

I have not given up hope of having more of the library staff join us in our attempt to “improve ourselves in 12.” I’ll keep you posted.


Noisy Libraries: Who Would Have Thought It?

One of library staff was stopped in the parking lot on his way back from lunch and informed if he didn’t turn his music down, he was headed for a ticket. I was glad of the heads up, because I too have a tendency to play my music loud on the way in to work; singing is kind of preemptive strike against any stressful things that might be hovering at the door of my office.

At the same time my colleague was receiving a warning,  I was sitting at the reference desk, trying to get a word processing application to work on my iPad. I’m still not sure what key was the culprit, but whenever I hit it, suddenly Snow Patrol was serenading the entire library. Loudly. I would run back to my office, turn it off, and then come out and try again. Only to have the same result. No students complained. Maybe they have the good taste to like Snow Patrol. Or maybe they simply have become immune to noise. But they reminded me that libraries are not the places they used to be.

Even a decade ago, when I started work here, there was still quite a bit of shushing going on. Students were expected to turn off their cell phones, not talk to each other, and make as little noise as possible. A former colleague from the English department said that every employee looked unhappy. I found that not to be true, but I have to admit that when you spend time reprimanding people, it’s hard to keep a happy expression on your face.

Now, though, things have shifted. There are students who still want a quiet  place to work, and we work hard to maintain places that allow for that. But we also make the library a friendly place where people want to visit. So as long as cell phones discussions are quiet, we don’t forbid them. (After all, it was pointed out that we made more noise telling students to get off their cell phones than the actual call ever did.)  We  have an ongoing student/staff chess match going on. And students often come by just to chat to let us know how their classes and lives are going. And I think of all this has made the library a friendlier place to be.

As I sit here typing, I can hear a student giggling over something a staff member has said. A staff member has bellowed (Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit) for another to come over and help him fix the copier. Students are helping each other with some homework. And one of my colleagues is bemoaning a weight problem to anyone who will listen as she munches on vinegar and salt potato chips at the back table.

We may not be an ideal library. We don’t pretend to be. Our structure probably won’t work everywhere. But, somehow, our imperfect, noisy selves mesh and work quite well here.



Monday Motivator: Eat Your Krystal with Pride!

My friend Janusz said the other day as I was telling him the sad news that the Krystal across from my house had closed, “You know, you’re one of the few people I know who freely admits to liking  those hamburgers.”

And I’m not sure why, but he’s right. Among our group of friends, Krystals are not something that you admit that like. Now, granted, there are many good reasons not to eat junk food, but I’m not talking about that. People who line up at other drive-throughs, smoke cigarettes like chimneys, and drink themselves into oblivion somehow feel comfortable making fun of the little square bun with mustard, pickle, and onions.

In fact, I was once in a Krystal in a ritzy part of town. I was behind these two families who spent the entire waiting time talking about all the unfortunate coincidences that led them there and how they never ate at Krystal. I almost expected one of them to say she had been put in a trance and had no idea how she’d ended up in line.

Not me. I love everything about Krystal. I love the steamed buns. I love the chili pups. I think the fries are some of the fast food’s best.

But my love for these little hamburgers reminds me of how easy it is to become snobs about the strangest things. Classical music buffs often think popular music beneath them. Alternative music fans look down on basic top 40 groups. And some alternative groups are cooler than others. The same goes for books and movies. And sometimes it seems that it never stops: that everyone needs some reason to look down on others.

So here is my manifesto. I will eat my Krystals with pride. I will buy my clothes at Target if they fit and be quite content. I will listen to any music that makes me happy, whether or not it is approved by my musician friends. And, yes, I’ll read some George Eliot but probably follow it up with a mystery novel. And while I love “Downton Abbey,” I will still watch the episode of America’s Next Top Model where some woman gets a haircut and cries about it.

I like to think of myself as well-rounded, but if others look down on my choices, so be it. As long as I’m not hurting anyone, then my choices should be my business.

So if see you in the Krystal line this weekend, just beware. I’ll shout out a great “hello” and won’t listen to any excuses about why you’re there.


Five Things to Keep in Mind the First Week of the Semester (for Library Staff)

  1. Students will not know the name of their textbook, instructor, or class on the first day of class even when they have come to the library for the purpose of checking out the textbook.
  2. If the campus computers do not default to an actual printer when students need to print, you must be prepared to go out to the student computers about fifty times a day. Wear comfortable shoes and keep a smile on your face. This is not the students’ fault.
  3. When students can’t find their class and the library is the only office open at night, they will not believe you can’t tell them what happened to their instructor and classmates. At such times, it is good to have the home numbers of all the academic coordinators.
  4. As much as they complain about students’ not reading directions, faculty are no better. Therefore, be prepared to send out emails about library policy changes numerous times and still be assaulted later by stunned cries of ” When did this happen? You never told me!”
  5. This is the week to set the  tone for students. How you welcome students to the library this week will determine if they think it is a place of welcome or a place to be avoided.

Five Things To Keep in Mind the First Week of College (for Students)

If you are entering college in spring semester, you may feel more nervous than if you were starting in the fall. You look around and think that everyone else knows where classes are, how to get books, how to log in to course shells, etc. But relax. Keep these five things in mind:

  1. In college, things are always changing, so you are never the only one who doesn’t know how to do something. Over semester break at our college, the course management system was upgraded, several textbooks went to new editions, and the entire parking lot changed.  So just relax and realize that your not knowing something may have nothing to do with you and everything to do with the ever-changing college world.
  2. One day, you will forget something important. It is inevitable. Just accept it. It might be your course schedule that tells you the location of your classes. It might be your notebook. It might be your pen. It might be the calculator that you paid $100 for. I will now admit something to you: In my long, long history as a student, more than once, I rushed into the classroom on the first day, relieved not to be late, only to realize I’d left my pen on my desk and, for some reason, didn’t have any other writing implement on me. So I sucked it up and asked the person next to me to borrow one. And there were times I took notes in pencil or some sort of lilac ink. And yes, I was a little embarrassed that my classmates might think I was unprepared. But I got over it. And so will you.
  3. Ask for help. Now as the Jolly Librarian, I am inclined to recommend that you make friends with your college librarians. In our office, we’ve been known to give out pens, pencils, paper, and folders, even contact lens solution. There is a secret that more people need to know: Folks like to help. They like to be given opportunities to prove that they are helpful people. I’m not making this up. Scientific studies have been done. So get in the habit of asking.
  4. Buy a calendar or use the one on your smartphone or computer. As soon as you get your syllabus, write down when everything’s due. You might think you’ll remember. You won’t.
  5. Give yourself a theme song. Think about every movie you’ve ever seen. When heroes embark on a journey that will change their lives, music swells as you see their backs head off into the sun. Pick your song. Put this song on your iPod, phone, or whatever, and play it every time you feel a little lost or out of place. You too are embarking on something heroic. 

If Librarians Ran the Music Business (Or at least the ticket-selling part)

This morning started with a relatively minor task: I was to buy concert tickets for two friends and me. I had my password for the presale, and I had my credit card. So when the site opened at 10, I entered my information. But instead of having three tickets for the show, I was turned away with a message that there were no tickets that matched my exact criteria. And I received that same message for the next two hours.

Now let’s make sure that you understand the situation. I went in the very first minute of the presale with the special password I was emailed. I wanted three tickets in any location. And yet there were none that matched my “exact” criteria.

If  you’re like me, you find this hard to believe. I’ve never had this much trouble getting tickets, although I rarely go the presale route since I’m not fans of radio stations, arenas, or even bands where they would send me such information.

So I’ve decided that it has to be something to do with the whole presale promotion. I’m beginning to think there are very few tickets and the password was sent out to lots of people.

And this irritated me, so far, not enough not to buy tickets, but I am rapidly reaching that point. Because halfway in my search, I decided to leave the site and start over  in case something was wrong with my computer. I mistakenly went to a ticket resale site, and there were plenty of tickets for the concert I wanted already being scalped, while my puny three tickets remained beyond my reach. So somebody was getting tickets,  just not this loyal fan.

As I waited for “tickets not available” screen to come up again and again, it occurred to me that if librarians ran ticket sales sites, things like this simply wouldn’t happen.

  • It would never occur to librarians to send out an email to many people advertising something that would only be available to a small group. And if for some unfathomable reason we had to, we’d let everyone know up front. Librarians are big fans of everyone having access.
  • We would never send out a password that didn’t lead to somewhere. If a librarian were in a charge, I would not have gotten ‘these tickets are not available’ when I knew they were, just not to me. Instead, there would have been a more helpful notice, perhaps telling me that only a certain number of tickets were available on the presale day and those were gone. And so please stop trying until tomorrow. And there certainly would have been a number to call if this answer didn’t satisfy me.
  • Librarians would never expect anyone to spend hours searching for something that could not be obtained.
  • And librarians would get pretty mean with scalpers who had tickets while loyal fans went without. We’re serious about equal access to all.

Living in Nashville, I am constantly bombarded with news of fears that the music industry is dying. Well, if my attempt to buy a ticket today is typical of how fans are treated, I can give at least a partial explanation why. We’re not all college students with unlimited time to hit refresh as we try to buy tickets. And if we’re willing to pay good money for a concert, then the ticket sellers should treat us with some courtesy.

Yep, the term “fallen empires” did come to mind quite often today, but probably not in the way the industry, the band, or even the ticket sellers had hoped.