Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Jolly Librarian Considers Facebook and the Job Applicant

Like many people, I was surprised when I saw on the news that some prospective employers are now asking applicants to provide their Facebook log-in information as part of the interview process. And people who know me will not be surprised to discover that I think this is a bad idea.

Of course, I think there are many good reasons to keep your Facebook information out of employers’ hands:

  • Everyone needs to have a private life separate from their work.
  • Privacy should not be given up for a job.
  • There are also just basic effectiveness: Applicants will just have two separate accounts.

But there’s another issue as well, one that would really concern me as a potential employer, and that’s the issue of my own bias.

I’ve read enough to know that bias is a most insidious foe. We’re all willing to throw the term at other people, but ridiculously slow to recognize it in ourselves. Also, because we think we’re unbiased, we unconsciously invent ‘rational’ reasons to dislike someone.

I think of my own Facebook friends, most of whom are old enough not to find it amusing to post pictures of themselves drunk or in compromising situations online. But still there are days when even my own friends can be a little off-putting:

  • The more conservative ones seem a little hard-hearted.
  • The more liberal ones seem a little sanctimonious.
  • Some are kind of whiny about their jobs, their families, or about the world in general.
  • Some, even when they’re not talking about religious issues, can get a little preachy.

But I know these people (well, most of them). I know them to be good and compassionate. But if I didn’t know them, and I was trying to make some sort of employment decision based on Facebook postings, would my bias take over and make me overlook someone who seemed to whine a little too much about work or who felt totally different about healthcare than I do? I’d like to think not, but I’m not certain.

My current staff includes people from all over the religious, moral, and political continuum. Several of them have invited me to be their Facebook friends. Today I tried to look at their pages as a potential employer. But I couldn’t. I now know them; I know that despite their eccentricities, political beliefs, or possibly annoying habits that they are good, hard-working people who are fun colleagues and make the library a pleasant place for students to visit.

And if their Facebook pages had turned me away from them, then I would have been the  real loser.


The Self-Improvement Chronicles: The Breakfast Club

Our task for this week was to eat breakfast. Now, the Jolly Librarian has always been puzzled by those who skip breakfast. Why would anyone give up an opportunity to eat, especially one that is socially and medically approved? It makes no sense.

So why should you eat breakfast? Well, according to one of the articles in one of our handy-dandy health databases, the advantages are numerous:

  • Reduce risk of obesity and high cholesterol
  • Decrease insulin resistance (a condition that increases risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease)
  • Improve performance on memory-related tasks
  • Minimize impulsive snacking and overeating at other meals
  • Increase intake of essential nutrients that are rarely replenished by other meals of the day
  • Enhance school performance in children and young adults

In fact, there is a plethora of articles about the benefits of breakfast. For those of you who are  not breakfast eaters (you alien creatures), here’s an article with some ideas for you.

In this task, our team excelled:

  • Emily eats oatmeal most mornings with flaxseed and fruit.
  • In her usual creative way, Pam has been making breakfast shakes. Here’s Tuesday’s: Parsley-Kale-Strawberries-Banana Breakfast morning Shake (If you follow Pam’s example, you will need to add a toothpick to later remove the parsley and kale from your teeth.)
  • The Jolly Librarian always has a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea.

Our grades for this week:  All A’s!

What Library Folks Wished Students Knew: Engagement Can Make the Difference

When I taught composition, I would have an individual conference with each student to discuss the research paper. I remember one young woman who had chosen extremely low frequency fields as her topic. As we were discussing her progress, it  became clear that she didn’t know much about the topic, although she had several sources. She also had no interest in  it.

“Why did you choose this topic?” I finally asked, truly puzzled since she’d had more than fifty to choose from, with the option of going beyond the list if needed.

She shrugged. “It was on the list, and when I did a search, a bunch of articles came up.”

I used her story as an example of a bad research paper topic once in a faculty inservice and drew the ire of a professor in engineering.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for her to learn about the topic and appreciate it,” he told me. “And you took that away from her.”

That’s not true. I didn’t make her change her topic. If I remember correctly, she continued on and turned in a mediocre, at best, paper. But I see his point: research is about learning more and exploring new fields. But while students in his courses might have been no more knowledgeable about the topic of ELFs, they probably were more inherently interested in the technical world. And that makes a huge difference.

I’ve written on this before, but there is no substitute in finding a ‘hook’ for research, something that connects your assignment to your interests. When I was in graduate school, I knew I wanted to write my dissertation on Victorian authors, but there were many and most were extremely prolific.

Then one day, one of my professors mentioned how I always focused on characters who weren’t given a voice in novels. And I knew that what I wanted to focus on: those women characters who were always present in novels but never front and center, their viewpoints taken for granted.

It is usually possible to find a connection between research and your interests and your life. Even if there aren’t a million sources (and you don’t need a million), you’ll enjoy the process more and probably earn a better grade when you care about a topic.


Monday Motivator: Beware the Cardigan!

In the past two weeks, I have bought eight cardigans in three different styles:

  • one boyfriend cardigan in pink
  • one boyfriend cardigan in walnut
  • one boyfriend cardigan in red
  • one semi-boyfriend cardigan in natural
  • one semi-boyfriend cardigan in navy
  • one draped cardigan in natural
  • one draped cardigan in blue
  • one draped cardigan in pink

Even as I type this, two more cardigans are making their way across the Atlantic to my house.

Yes, the cardigan sings a siren’s call to me. I can be strolling down the mall to buy a present that has nothing to do with clothes, and I’ll have an urge to “just check to see if JJill has any new colors.” Or I’ll swear I have enough cardigans only to receive a Boden catalog that features a pretty new style on the cover, and I’m sunk. Or my credit card is.

I convince myself that I need cardigans, and I do. Anyone who has spent any time in the library during the summer knows it can get quite frigid back in the office area. Still, I realize that the need has become a want (even a vice)  when I have more cardigans than days in the week, and colleagues are saying things like, “So you are planning to send some back?”

Yes, cardigans are my vice. But I bet you have one too. It may be shoes. It may be make-up. It may be chocolate. And in many cases, these vices are fairly harmless. But when they can get in your way of happiness and financial security, you may have to develop an action plan.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Have a strict one-in, one-out policy. I can keep a new cardigan, only if an older one goes to a friend or Goodwill.
  • Set a limit that defines when cardigan love has moved to cardigan obsession. (And, yes, I have reached it this year.)
  • Do not open catalogs or emails from certain companies.
  • Expose myself to the scathing ridicule of my library colleagues. (You’ve never been put down until you’ve been put down by library folks! All that researching makes them hard to fool.)

And if you happen to be wearing an especially cute cardigan, please don’t come in the library.

The Jolly Librarian Goes into Hiding

Today has not been the most wonderful of days. I came to work three hours early to cover for two librarians who are at TLA. And if I had spent the morning helping students, that would not have been a problem. Instead, I was placed in the middle of a conflict (not of my own making) that left me with a bruising headache and what feels like a quickly growing ulcer in my stomach.

It is also this week that we make the official turn into one of the most stressful times of the semester. There are staff evaluations to be completed, this year’s budget to finish up, next year’s budget to plan, institutional effectiveness goals to either report on or develop, summer staffing schedule to have in place before the budget cut-off, input for accreditation teams who are coming on campus, and the little matter of hundreds of students who need research help as projects become due.

And this is true of every community college library across the country at the moment, so I’m not asking for sympathy. And I’m sure whoever is reading this had his/her own list of stressful things going on as well.

So at lunch, I decided two things: One, I would take my lunch hour (which I don’t always do). Two, I would find a place to hide.

Now Thoreau might have gone to the woods. My more cultured friends might have gone to an art gallery. I went to Costco.

I sat by myself eating a slice of pizza and reading a book on my iPad. Then having finished, I walked up and down the aisles and gazed upon cookware, socks, ten-pound bags of potato chips, cameras, computers, and azaleas. Most of the other customers were retired couples and moms with small children. I walked among them with no buggy and no purpose, just walked until my inner clock said a hour had passed and my inner calm let me know I could return to my office.

Why Costco? Who knows? Perhaps it’s the combination of both hustle and isolation. Perhaps it’s simply big enough to let me walk around for a hour without raising suspicion. And who cares why if it works. And it does work.

All folks should have a hiding place, a place where they can decompress until they feel they can safely return to the struggle that is simply a fact of life on some work days.

And yes, I did buy a book there.



The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Take a Deep Breath

I should have known better. Emily was never enthusiastic about this project. And Pam, while always enthusiastic, lacks a little in the follow-through department. I should have remembered the day she started (and ended) a blog. So this week, I report alone.

Our assignment for this week: Take 10-15 minutes for deep breathing. The research tells us that deep breathing has many benefits, including reducing stress by slowing down our heart rate and  moving our thoughts away from what’s troubling us. And it works.

But unfortunately, it’s not something that I remember to do when life is working just fine. So this week, since I didn’t drive in bad weather, have an  argument with anyone, or see a critter in my house, I didn’t work on my deep breathing skills.

So our grades for this week:

Emily:     F

Pam:       F

Jolly Librarian:  F


For those of you with tablets and smartphones, there are apps that will help you with your deep breathing; most are 99 cents.


What Library Folks Wished Students Knew: You Have to Know When to Fold Them.

The last day to withdraw from a course is fast approaching on our campus. We library folk would know this even if the official email had not been sent today by Records. For the past week, students have been dropping by the circulation desk wanting to know the date, wanting to make sure they still have time to drop a course without getting an “F.”

Some students are so sure that they are failing that they drop a course with the first bad grade. Others are so optimistic that they persevere even when there is no mathematical possibility of passing. And some students will even ask us in the library what they should do.

Of course, no one answer fits every situation. But when deciding whether to stay in a course or not, the following should be considered:

  • Is there a chance of passing? This is one thing my friends and I knew in college. Before every test, we took out our calculators and calculated our grade if we got a 100, then a 90, then a 80, etc. I’m always a little surprised when I ask students what their average is in the course and they have no idea. Of course, I may have been a little obsessed, but still, I knew where I stood in any given class.  And a 78 average at the drop date is better to pin hopes on than a 28.
  • What will the impact be if I drop the class? Will dropping the class affect financial aid? Is this course a pre-requisite for classes in your major? On the other hand, will staying in the class affect your ability to do well in your other courses? When I taught, students would sometimes say to me, “I have to keep all fifteen hours, so I can graduate in two years.” And I would gently respond that dropping down to twelve was better than keeping fifteen and failing nine of them.
  • Is there a reason to stay in this class even if I fail? Now this might sound like a dumb question, but if learning and not passing is the goal, then sometimes it does make sense to remain in a class where passing is no longer an option. Some second-language students elect to stay in writing classes so that they can practice their reading and writing skills to have a better shot next semester. So do some pre-nursing students in anatomy.
  • Do I have the time and energy to pass the course? We have lots of adult students here and the one thing they often have in common is that they are over-committed. They are trying to be good students, good workers,  and good parents. Sometimes, especially the first semester in, you simply don’t know how much time college is going to take. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “There’s only so much of me to give to all these parts of my life. I can handle two classes but not three. I’m dropping one.” Next semester you’ll know better.
  • What did I learn from this? Whether you stay in the class or withdraw, spend time evaluating what went wrong and decide how to make things better for next semester.  Did you get behind on assignments because you procrastinated? Do you need to visit the tutors or your instructor during office hours? Think of a way for a better start next time out.

In any case, it’s a personal decision that needs to be thought over carefully. Even when it’s the right thing to do, a dropped course simply moves that requirement to later in your program. So think it through and follow Kenny Roger’s advice: Know when to hold them; know when to fold them.



Monday Motivator: When Bad Moods Strike, Keep ’em to Yourself

I am in a bad mood today, the sort where I want nothing more than to slap everyone I see upside the head. Why? I don’t know. Everything was fine when I went to bed, and nothing had changed when I woke up–except my mood.

Now I always think it’s fair to let my staff know when I’m a bad mood. I make a general announcement at the beginning of the day, so they know that this is probably not the best time to complain about the refrigerator or ask for the rest of the week off. But after that, I try to keep it to myself.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that folks tend to treat their own bad moods in one of two ways: they shut themselves away to let the mood dissipate on its own or they try to get rid of it by making as many other people suffer as possible. Probably all of us have had the experience of coming in to work and someone whispering to us, “Avoid X today. He (she) is in an awful mood.”  And then folks tiptoe around that person the rest of the day, never sure what will set off an explosion. Ugh. No one likes living like that.

So I decided to follow the ‘suffer in silence’ group. (Well, relative silence.) I go to my office and work on solitary projects and only leave my cocoon when necessary. If I’m forced to interact with someone who starts to annoy me (And on these days, just the act of breathing can annoy me.), I silently tell myself that this has everything to do with my nasty mood and nothing to do with them. So I give a smile (or probably more like a pained grimace) and be polite– if not my usual effusive self.

One of the nice things about being older is that I know that, just as this mood inexplicably appeared, there’s a very good chance it will have disappeared by the time I wake up tomorrow.


The Jolly Librarian Goes Pinning: Pinterest

I first heard of Pinterest when one of my Facebook friends welcomed another to it. Not wanting to be left out, I immediately went to the website to find out what my friends were doing. For those of you who haven’t been affected by the Pinterest craze, it’s like a giant online bulletin board. You create boards and then pin pictures from the web on them. Most of my friends seem to have boards on four or five main subjects: fashion, home, cooking, kids’ stuff, etc.

Although I am not a great homemaker and certainly no fashionista, I did create some boards around my own interests. And I’m having a pretty good time. My boards include books I’d recommend, inspiring quotations, things that make me laugh, places I’ve visited, and desserts to try at least once. To be totally honest, I also have boards on fashion and home, but it’s not as easy for me to find things for those. I think Pinterest simply confirmed what I long suspected: I have very little fashion sense when it comes to decorating rooms or myself.

While I enjoy Pinterest, I didn’t see a connection between it and the library until Librarian Emily suggested that it might be a good way to have virtual exhibits for students who are in online courses or on our other campuses and that it would allow us to exhibit our e-books more effectively as well.

So we created the Mayfield Library Pinterest page. Currently, we have eight boards:

  • New Books
  • Women’s History
  • Cookbooks We Like
  • Children’s and YA Books
  • Leisure Reading
  • Staff Recommendations
  • Quotations
  • Just for Fun

Only time will tell if this will serve our purpose of reaching more students. We emailed the campus yesterday, and today, I had one faculty member checking out a book from the “New Books” board. A good start, I think.

If your library has a Pinterest account, let me know, so we can follow you!



The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Refusing to be Labeled

A few weeks ago, I bought some pot pies on sale for my lunch. As I was making my way to the microwave on Monday, I noticed Emily’s askance look. “Do you know how many calories are in a pot pie?” she asked. I didn’t, but when someone asks that question, you know the answer can’t be good. And it wasn’t. My petite pot pie contained 640 calories.

Our assignment for this week, ‘read food labels,’ was easy for both Pam and Emily. They are constantly checking calorie, fat, and sodium counts in foods. In fact, Emily has a basic formula she uses: “Is the taste worth the calories?”

Pam, too, is aware of the labels, although her actual computation skills leave something to be desired. For example, last week, I brought in a piece of Cheesecake Factory chocolate raspberry cheesecake for us all to share. After Pam had one bite, she estimated she had consumed a hundred calories. But that number didn’t change after three more bites. And there was a strange consistency to whatever she ate that day; everything was a hundred calories.

Now the Jolly Librarian is not much of a label reader. In fact, I’ve been known to glower at folks who tell me how many calories or how much sodium is contained in what I’m eating. So I truly need to improve. And I have to admit while reading the labels has not transformed my eating habits, it has moved me in a better direction.

Our final grades for this week:

Emily:  A

Pam:   A

Jolly Librarian:  D-