Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Jolly Librarian Recommends Books for Giving

It is better to give than to receive, so the Jolly Librarian has some recommendations for the book lovers on your list:

  • For the introvert: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book gives introverts their due, showing how their contributions are undervalued but necessary. 
  • For those who appreciate the quirkiness of life: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Okay, this book was probably also on my list last year. But any person who hasn’t read this beautifully-written novel about a family of performance artists is missing out!
  • For the history buff: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. I had probably the least intellectual response possible after reading this book: “Thomas Jefferson was kind of a meanie.” (And I immediately bought a biography of Jefferson to see how he appears when he’s center stage in a book of his own.) It’s always a good thing to read a biography to remind yourself that history is never as neat as textbooks (and certain politicians) try to make it.
  • For the mystery lover: A Question of Identify by Susan Hill. If you like British mystery series, the Simon Serrailler ones are a good choice. This is the latest in the series, but you might want to start with the first: The Various Haunts of Men. Just a warning: do not read them one right after the other in a short period of time. Hill is an author unafraid to pile up her protagonists with all sorts of tragic events. You’ll need a break.
  • For those who want to revisit the classics: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. There’s love. There’s adultery. And since it’s a Russian novel, there’s a little philosophy as well. It should be on everyone’s list.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Ending the Year

We have come to the end of our self-improvement journey for this year. Since most of the team has already gone on semester break, I’ll finish up by grading the team:

Colette: Colette, just hired this fall, has been a great sport. She delved right in with the right amount of sincerity, humor, and cynicism. We think we’ll keep her. Final grade: A

Emily: Emily’s final words before she left to start holiday baking with her mother: “I’m doing the best that I can.” Emily has also been a good sport, especially since she is not a huge fan of self-improvement; she is a stronger believer in self acceptance. Final Grade: A.

Pam: If I gave out awards, Pam would certainly get the one for “most enthusiasm.” She didn’t always particularly like the assignments, but she tried hard and analyzed each week with the rigor of an English lit major with a poem. Final grade: A

Jolly Librarian: On my various resolutions list I’ve made over the years, a constant one has been to travel more. Well, this year, I visited Italy, and was reminded, despite the hassles, traveling is one of the best things you can do to improve your mood and mind. The area I made the least progress in was weight. In fact, I’m afraid there’s a good chance I’ll end the year weighing more than when I started. But like Emily, I’m pretty good on the whole self-acceptance thing. So my final grade: A.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy semester break. We’ll be back next year with a new project!


The Jolly Librarian’s Christmas List (Books, Of Course!)

To be honest, books aren’t the only thing on my list for this year: lotion, a scarf, and a certain top all have a place. But, as usual, books take up the majority of the space:

  • John Adams by David McCullough. One of my goals has been to read a biography of each president as a way of becoming more familiar with American history. It is a goal that I keep putting off. But this year, I read the wonderful Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow and became inspired again.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This has been on my to-read list for a while, but when Mantel won two Booker awards, one for Wolf Hall and the next for its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.
  • Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. Pym has been called the Jane Austen of the 20th century. So how can I resist?
  • The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths. I’m always looking out for a new mystery series, and when I read The Crossing Places featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, I knew I’d found it. This one is the second in the series.
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I have a list of books that an English major (me) should have read by now but hasn’t. Each year, I try to knock off a couple of books from that list. Last year, it was Les Miserables and Anna Karenina. This year, I return to Victorian England.

Share the titles that are on your lists.

Monday Motivator: Always Come Home Covered in Dog Hair

I suppose that most of us would agree that a dog bounding through a group of mourners at a cemetery is inappropriate. Yet that happened just last week. The coffin was being lowered into the ground when the dog ran over and started jumping on the mourners. The funeral home representative, embarrassed, said the dog belonged to a nearby house but couldn’t resist the siren call of people.

“It’s a problem,” she said.  “Some people feel that it ruins the solemnity. Others don’t want a dog jumping on their good clothes. And others,” she looked at me, “don’t mind at all.”

Yes, my friends, I was petting the dog, letting it jump on me, and basically soaking up as much doggie love as I could. And, yes, my clothes were covered with dog hair.

In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin came up with her own personal commandments that primed her for happiness. I haven’t formally done that, but one would definitely be, “Never worry about your clothes.” So if there’s a dog or a cat to be petted, I’m going to pet it, with little worry about cat hair or doggie smell on my dress. If there’s a child with a lollipop and sticky fingers, you can be sure I’ll have clothes that need washing the next day. And if there’s an ice cream that’s melting too fast, I’ll end up with several splotches on my shirt.

As we are so often reminded, there is a great deal of suffering in the world. So when a moment of joy presents itself, grab it. Even if you do come home covered in dog hair.



The Jolly Librarian Ends the Semester

In exactly two hours and fifty-five minutes, fall semester will be over. Students will have finished their finals. Faculty will turn in their grades. We will still be here, but it will be a quiet time in the library.

At the end of each semester I like to take a moment to think over the good and the bad, the hits and misses of the previous fourteen weeks.

The Good:

  • We started ordering books in a shelf-ready format, which means they are available to students much faster.
  • Colette Strassburg joined our staff, and she is a great resource!
  • We tried a new research policy with certain comp classes, having the students come in for a research interview. This worked really well.

The Bad:

  • Attendance at our workshops was not great, and we’re trying to find a better way to provide that type of help to students.

I have to admit that it’s a pretty good semester when I can only list one negative.

On a more personal note, here are the Jolly Librarian’s own hits and misses:


  • I’m always touched by the students who come by to tell us that we helped them through the semester. And that personal mini-bundt cake was a nice touch as well, not necessary, but nice.
  • A student brought his little girl in one day as he needed to watch a video for his class. I showed her the children’s books. Looking at one, she said, “It has words.” I agreed. She then said, “Read it to me.”” So I did. Let’s face it: That’s a book person’s dream!
  • I am very lucky to come to work at a place where people love what they do and are genuinely amiable and fun.


  • My dream of a semester without getting a reprimand from the business office still remains a dream.
  • I have not been able to convince my staff of the necessity of a library music video.

All in all, it’s been a good semester. I hope yours has been as well, and I’m wishing us all a happy, healthy, and productive new year.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Looking a Gift Horse . . .

This week, just for fun, we decided to take a look back at gifts past and examine the best and the worst.

Colette: Over the years, I have been collecting pictures of trees, which my son has drawn or painted.  His first tree is from Kindergarten and then second grade, fourth grade, etc…He’s been giving me a tree picture every two years on Mother’s Day since he was 5 years old.  These trees and the growth and personality they reveal are my favorite gifts.  I received my last tree, a year and a half ago, when he graduated from high school and went off to college.  Every time I look at those trees, I smile.  The worst gift I’ve ever received (sorry Grandma) was indicative of just how out of touch my Grandmother was (is) with her grandkids and our lives.  When my sisters and I were 14, 16 and 18 years old, we all got the same crocheted pot holder for Christmas but in different colors.  Let me add here that my grandmother doesn’t crochet – she bought those pot holders at the store.  Let me also add, the pot holders each had a large, plastic face glued on the front, of a little Native American girl, with long yarn braids, so the pot holder was not only hideous, it was useless as a pot holder.

The best present I’ve ever given, or at least the biggest, was the car I bought for my son on Valentine’s Day.  (Note to self:  buying a brand new driver a nice car is a lousy idea.  Two months later he totaled that car – so this gift also wins as the shortest lived).  No one was hurt, except the car, and somewhere in the middle of the Prescott National Forest is a massive tree missing a lot of bark.


When we first started dating, my now husband,  Eric called me super-excited, “I was just walking around this store and I saw it and it screamed ‘Emily.'” A few days later a package arrived in the mail. In it were two wooden cats sitting in a boat fishing. My roommate said to me, “You’ll have to treasure that forever” (or, you know, as long as we were dating).Then there was the Valentine’s Day he went to Walgreens and bought me pink things — chapstick, a loofa, and some sugar-free candies (he claims he didn’t notice they were sugar-free).  As recently as my last birthday (less than a month ago), he came home with a paper bag of records and gave it to me. I’m now the proud owner of 10 CC Live! Am I closet fan of 10 CC? No. Is he trying to send me a message? Maybe?

There have been other bad gifts from Eric (and many wonderful gifts as well including a membership to a first edition signed book club), but there’s a moral to this story and I’m going to move along to it rather than telling the story of the plastic funeral plant, the oversized red turtleneck, or the 100 pack of Flav-o-Ice.

The Moral: The other night we reminisced about these gifts, I told Eric to never stop reaching for the stars. The memories of these bad gifts give me more joy than any good gift he could give (that’s probably not entirely true, but you get the point). He assured me that he’d never stop going “off list” for Christmas and birthday gifts. He’s true to his word. Later that evening I was googling something and I noticed that he’d googled “custom sharpened pencils. “Am I getting custom sharpened pencils for Christmas? What is a custom sharpened pencil?” Unfortunately, Eric said, the custom sharpened pencil guy was too backlogged so there will be no custom sharpened pencils this year. There’s still hope though, I also noticed he’d also been googling for fancy office supplies.

I should note that I’m in no way immune to bad gift giving. In college I gave my roommate a teapot shaped like a double-decker bus. I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchased this item — I guess I was drawn in by its shiny red exterior. It couldn’t actually be used – it was a set-about and I knew she hated knick-knacky things. She had no great affection for Great Britain. Anyhow I realized it was a horrible gift a couple weeks after I gave it and told her she could get rid of it, but she was too polite to do so. Instead, I’m pretty certain she trained her cat to destroy it. A few months later her cat went on a running rampage through our apartment and went head first into the teapot. Cats are typically pretty dexterous, so was it an accident? I suppose it’s possible. Needless to say, she was released of the burden of having to move the teapot when we graduated a few weeks later.

Pam: The best present that I ever got for Christmas, without a doubt, was when my sister and I each got our very own mini-bike! I remember coming into the living room on Christmas morning and screeching with jubilation when I spotted 2 glitter-red motorcycle helmets sitting perched on the arm of the white sofa. I was elated!! I didn’t see the minibike to go with it, though, and Daddy said “We couldn’t afford the bike this year, you just got the helmet, but maybe next year.” I was so downcast, but had a good attitude of appreciation, I can remember, AND THEN I STEPPED AROUND THE COUNTER THAT LEAD INTO THE KITCHEN! There they were—beautiful red and silver Rupp minibikes parked right next to each other!!! I could have just cried I was so happy! Daddy quickly hushed me so that we could then surprise my sister. We rode those bikes constantly and felt so cool! Gosh, what an amazing memory…

To this day my sister and I crack up at our memory of the year that we got Mom a SPLATTER SCREEN for Christmas! It was not her only gift, mind you, butttt WHAT were we thinking? Ha! Every time I see one I think of that.

Jolly Librarian: The worst gift-giving experience was one year I bought a box of expensive candy for a friend. That would not be a problem, but we celebrated at a restaurant first, and he spent most of the dinner talking about his new Atkins diet and how he was not eating any sugar. Ugh!

The worst gift I ever received was a bust of Aristotle or Plato.  (I forget which.) The gift itself was not the problem, but it was given to me by my (then) boyfriend during a trip to visit him in Washington, D. C. I had to spend the entire trip home lugging around a statue!

Monday Motivator: Give without Expectation

Saturday, I needed to go to the grocery store. So, of course, I switched on the television and channel surfed awhile. One station was interviewing the homeless man who had been given a pair of boots by a policeman. This picture has become an internet sensation. The point of this particular story on Saturday was that the man was no long wearing his boots and, in the words of the reporter, did not seem “especially grateful.”

Gratitude is a virtue, and as Oprah has told us many times, it goes a long way to make us happy people. But I’m thinking of the other side of the coin here. What happens when we’re the givers and no gratitude is expressed?

Of course, religions tell us to give without expectation, but apparently that is easier said than done. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people complain that someone didn’t say thanks, or acknowledge a gift or a kindness.

There is certainly nothing wrong with our wanting our generosity to be acknowledged and appreciated. But if it becomes so important that we’re always assessing where we are in the give versus receive tally, then it might be time to take action.

So this week, give something anonymously with the recipient never knowing who  you are. And let the joy  of giving can be in simply the giving.




The Jolly Librarian’s Guide to Studying for Finals

It’s final exam time, and stress abounds. There are many books, articles, and posts on dealing with stressful times, most of them having really good advice.  The Jolly Librarian adds her own wisdom to the list:

  • Take a social media break. One of my friends logs off Facebook during finals each semester. She is very aware of how a quick check-in can become fifteen minutes, then thirty minutes, and then maybe even a hour. Know the things that will suck up time, and take a temporary break from them.
  • Study where there are no distractions. That might mean the library instead of home where there are kids and television. For others, it might be home because the library is the place where your friends hang out.
  • Don’t spend time beating yourself up about this semester’s mistakes. Salvage what you can.  Being upset because you didn’t turn in two papers and can only get a C won’t help. Studying so that you can get that C will. (But do conduct a honest evaluation of your study habits after the semester is over!)
  •  Know when and where your finals are. Every semester we have students come to the library looking for their final exam rooms. Double check the final exam schedule and your instructor’s emails to make sure you have the correct information.
  • Put as much as possible on the back burner this week, so that you can focus on exams.
  • Tutors and librarians are available to help you up to the last moment of finals week. Take advantage of them.
  • And remember, no matter how bad it is, finals week is only a week.


The Jolly Librarian Ponders Study Day

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

The library on study day reminds me of Dickens, for there are two equal groups of students who inhabit the library on the day before final exams.

That first group consists of those who have come for a quiet place to review notes or meet with their fellow classmates for study sessions. They smile and wave as they pass by, but they ask very little from us. They want us to keep the library quiet and they like that we have a bowl of candy by the circulation desk.

The second group consists of the folks who are desperately trying to finish up projects that probably were due earlier in the week. They have questions. They need sources, although they are not to picky about what they are. “Just print it out,” one person said today. “I’ll make it fit.” And they need help with their works cited pages. In some cases, they need help re-finding sources they discarded, not realizing they would need to turn them in. The only thing these folks have in common with those in the first group is that they both enjoy the candy at the circulation desk.

Like most of us who make our careers at colleges, I see myself in these students, although, to be honest, it is the second group with whom I most identify. I too was a procrastinator. If I didn’t understand something, I simply let my ignorance sit until the deadline was so close that I had no choice but to act. Then I rushed around, trying to do everything at once, and turning in projects that would probably make me blush with shame today if they suddenly reappeared.

It took me more semesters than I’m willing to admit before I was able to use the study day as a time to actually study for finals than a day to try to finish up work that should have been completed weeks before. I hope today’s students are faster learners than I.

But whether you’re the student who keeps up with your work or the procrastinator, there’s candy in the library to help ease the stress of the end of the semester!