Monthly Archives: March 2013

Reading Lives: Childhood Memories

Last semester, a three-year-old was looking at our children’s books while her father made some copies. I walked over and showed her my favorite.

“it has words in it,” she said. I agreed that it did.

“Then read it to me.”  So I did.

People are not always aware that the NSCC library has a solid collection of children’s books. We support the early childhood education program, but we encourage everyone to browse through the section. Parents can find some gorgeous Caldecott winners to take home to read to their kids. And anyone who wants to get re-acquainted with Pippi, Madeline, or Harold should also stop by.

Our question for this week: What children’s book made the biggest impact on you?

Colette: I grew up to become an English teacher and a Library employee, so it stands to reason that I love books; I always have.  I have so many fond memories of wiling away afternoons, reading, in the hay loft of our barn, or curled up in the exposed roots of a Cottonwood tree. I loved each and every book I read as a kid (except the insipid Little Bear nonsense), but books were just snippets of pleasure and escape.  It wasn’t until I was a little older (fifth grade perhaps?) that a book had a profound and lasting impact on me.  Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree knocked me sideways with its beautiful message and it was the first time I truly felt the power of language.   

Emily: My favorite author as a child was Beverly Cleary — in particular, the Ramona series. However, I don’t remember the Ramona books having any lasting impact on me. I also dabbled in the works of the Baby Sitter’s Club, American Girl Series, and Little House. All were something I consumed and forgot. The award for lasting impact goes to Little Women, not exactly a children’s book, but my dad gave it to me the Christmas of my kindergarten year and read it to me each night thereafter. I related to Beth and her desire to be good and was devastated when she died. As I grew older, I began to relate more to Jo and her fierce independence — I’m moving to the city to be a writer! I’ll never marry! For me, she was the model of what a woman should aspire to be. Amy, on the other hand, was loathsome and I’ve still not forgiven Laurie for marrying her. She was all I wanted to avoid in life (you know except maybe the European adventure part). And then there was Meg…poor, forgettable Meg. 

Pam: Perhaps my treasuring older things – versus brand new goes back to my pulling for Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Mary Ann! I so pulled for these two as they worked as a team to prove they were still worthy under big pressure and competition! Too, I’ve often adored the simple country life in a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny yard and teeny tiny garden with a teeny tiny cupboard and a dog and white picket fence…so I reckon The Teeny Tiny House made quite the impression on my teeny tiny brain 🙂 Third, (cause I can never choose just one) I have often remembered Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and how he lived in the city in that bathtub. I remember feeling so worried for him! Oh, and there was A Gift Bear for the King and Goldilocks and…I’m beginning to see what an important role these books did play in exciting my imagination! Great fun!

Sally: It’s hard to narrow it to narrow it to just one, so I have two. 1. William’s Doll.  Shows that there is nothing with boys playing with dolls.  It will help them become good fathers. 2. A Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist. About a little Swedish girl and her special day. My grandmother was Swedish. 

Jolly Librarian: One book that I loved was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Probably for a kid in Alabama, the idea of that much snow was as exotic as safaris in the desert would be for others. I also loved the book’s colors. It is the one book I always give as a gift to small children who come my way. I can’t imagine growing up without it. My other favorite book was Little Women. I think I probably started out with the abridged version from a trip to Murphy’s  Mart where I was allowed one book a week. Like Emily, I identified with Beth and was devastated at her death. I read that book over and over, hoping each time that Beth would somehow be miraculously saved. Alas, she never was. And I had to cry all over again.

 

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Getting Through the “Molasses Times”

“Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it” 
― Seth GodinThe Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit

A friend of mine used to call this time of the semester the walking-through-molasses weeks. There was so much to do, but we students were tired of doing all of it. We hated the food in the cafeteria. We hated the way our professors told the same old jokes or said the same things at the beginning of each test. We hated our teammates in group work. Everything seemed to take longer than it should; there seemed to be obstacles at every turn. We were unhappy and grumpy. 

People always disappeared at this point in the semester. They were somewhat of a mystery to my friends and me. (And, later, when I started teaching, they remained a mystery.) These students had put in more than half of a semester, did not withdraw by the drop date, and then gave up with less than a month to go.

Sure, some of them were failing and probably realized that no amount of effort was going to change things, so they stopped coming to class. But others were passing the courses; they just stopped. I think what may have happened is that they lost sight of their goal, and the daily tedium no longer seemed worth it. However, those who felt just as weighed down by their courses but kept their ultimate goal in mind kept on slogging through the figurative molasses.

Now I’m not one who has made great use of vision boards and written affirmations, but this might be a good time to write down your ultimate dream and pin it up where you can be reminded of why you’re hurting your brain with organic chemistry or shaking at the thought of one more speech.

I’m going to be a nurse or a doctor.

I want to get into the honors program at the university.

 Keeping the ultimate goal in mind might not make the slogging easier, but it does keep you moving forward. 

 

Monday Motivator: Dial Back the Irritation Meter

I’ve been listening to some long-forgotten audiobooks that were in the depth of one of my computer’s drives, but were automatically downloaded to my iPhone. As I was waiting in the McDonalds drive-through, I listened to the speaker talk about various daily irritations that put people in a bad mood. As I listened, I felt pretty good about myself: “People get upset about that? I’d never let that bother me. Wow, maybe I’m all enlightened now!”

Unfortunately, I missed the next five minutes of the audiobook as I became fixated on the car in front of me. The driver, on his cell phone, could barely manage the corner to get to the speaker. Then he was still talking as he was asked for his order. He then negotiated the  next corner to the pay window still talking on his cell phone and obviously trying to get his billfold out of his pocket. Since I go to that McDonalds every day, I knew he was tripling my wait time by not hanging up and concentrating on the business at hand. 

Annoyed, I bought my drink and got on the road and started listening to my audio book again. The speaker was still talking about the ills of irritation, and suddenly my bad mood dissipated as  I had to laugh at myself. No, I wasn’t enlightened. I was a textbook case of useless irritation.

Let’s face it: I was going to be in the drive-through line the same amount of time whether I was annoyed or not. I had two options. I could have gotten out of my car and told the guy to hang up his phone. But that was something I was never going to do. Or I could have listened to my book, and let the time pass by more pleasantly. Being irritated at him simply resulted in my wasting a few minutes of life that I wasn’t going to get back.

So perhaps the lesson here is to ask the question: Can I do anything about this irritating situation? If the answer is yes, then do it. If the answer is no, find a more pleasant alternative than dwelling on your irritation.

Flash Your Way to Success

I’m guessing at some point during your childhood, you learned something via flash cards. You practiced sight words with your mom. You did the multiplication tables in small groups in fourth grade. There was something inherently satisfying in seeing the ‘learned’ stack grow larger and the ‘not yet’ stack get smaller and smaller.

Along the way, you may have given up the flash card habit, but I’m urging you to pick it back up. For courses with an overwhelming amount of vocabulary and factual information, flash cards can be a convenient and mobile way to learn.

You can get them ready-made (in card format as well as online), but you can also make them yourself, tailoring them to your own needs. 

What are the advantages of flash cards?

  • Obviously, they are portable. You can carry them around and study whenever you have a few minutes: in line at Starbucks, the doctor’s waiting room, even in the hallway before class starts.
  • Students often study by reading over chapters and notes again and again, but that can be passive and rarely result in learning the material. Flash cards force you to be more active.
  • Flash cards are like little mini-quizzes that  allow you to monitor your progress.
  • Once you get the basics down, you can use your cards for higher level learning. For example, I’m taking French. Once I learn my vocabulary cards, I can start over. For each card now, instead of defining the term, I can make up a sentence with each one. Or in nursing, I could take each symptom on the card and decide what would be my first action with a patient.

In any case, whether you go old-school (index cards) or high tech (there’s an app for that) flash cards can be useful in learning!  

Reading Lives: Being Presidential

Recently the library acquired the book Destiny’s Consul: America’s Ten Greatest Presidents by Michael Riccards. (Before reading his list, come up with your own.)  Here’s who made the presidential top ten:

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Andrew Jackson
  • James K. Polk
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • Ronald Reagan

Now the library has biographies of all the presidents if you want to refresh your American history. But the Riccards book brought up the topic of our own favorite and least favorite presidents. (Note: We are not being politicians here, just stating personal preferences.)

Colette: I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not going to make any Tennessee friends this week.  The only friends I might make are the ones who will appreciate that I’m going to keep this short, and less “ranty” than I can be prone.  My least favorite President (by a land slide) is Andrew Jackson.  The Indian Removal Act, the Trail of Tears, the death of thousands of Native people during forced migrations. Bleh.  Jackson also actively worked to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, had himself a little sex scandal and he had unfortunate hair.  Enough said.

 For my favorite President, I have limited my selection pool to only those with which I’ve had citizen contact – I’ve heard their speeches, watched them debate, read articles about their policies, voted for or against them, etc…so this rules out everyone before Carter. Barack Obama is my favorite (by a land slide); he is intelligent, compassionate, articulate and he has never made me cringe while he addressed the nation in full view of the world.  Also he has never thrown up on any dignitaries, had any trouble with his interns, or shot anyone in the face. 

Emily: One of the few things I remember from my AP US History class is that Harding was among the most corrupt presidents, so I’ll choose him as my least favorite. As for my favorite, I’ll go for William Henry Harrison — he wasn’t in office long enough to mess anything up. 

Pam: I hang my head in shame that I have to crack a big fat joke in order to participate in this week’s round of conversation on the presidents – favorite or least favorite. Sigh, but so it goes. I grew up (oh, here we go friends….) hearing one parent proclaim so far-right, that I never (will I ever?) learned to trust that any of them were really good candidates. I learned they were all puppets, controlled by the bigger power, the power that was going to lead us to a one-world government, where we would eventually, completely lose our freedom as a nation. I have been frozen at the polls ever since I could first cast a ballot, where I would stand nervously, brain swishing back and forth between who to trust, what intuition to maybe be able to listen to, what source could I read, seeking wisdom in pleaded prayers, blah, blah, blah. Not a whole lot has changed because once that seed of doubt is cast and rooted so threateningly deep, mental health deteriorates a bit, at least in certain regions.(Thank God for the banjo region that it couldn’t touch 🙂  SO, who was my favorite president? I laugh at that question and don’t know how to answer it, for I fear I’m not sure I have respect for any of them.  Do I repeat what I hear other people say? Reagan because he built up our defenses and brought down the Berlin wall. I guess he is my favorite. He had a warm face (and beautiful, dark hair, too). My second favorite is Richard Nixon because when I was 8 years old he sent me his autograph (ink-stamped –so he had a nice secretary, thanking me for my suggestion to cure air pollution by hanging giant screens from helicopters and fly all around the air – filtering it all up. I’m still astonished it has not been brought to task….The End.

Sally: Being a history major, I have two favorite U.S. Presidents.

1. Abraham Lincoln: He seemed liked a very smart man, and I like the Civil War period in History.  Everything I have read about him makes him seem like a very nice and down-to-earth type of person.  I also like the story about him walking 20 miles to return a book he borrowed from a friend.

2. Theodore Roosevelt: From books I have read about him I just like him. His childhood was very interesting.

 Least favorite President is probably Andrew Jackson because of his treatment of American Indians and slaves

Jolly Librarian: I have started a project to read a biography of each president, although I’m not sure how far I’ll get. So far, I’ve read bios of George Washington and John Adams, and I’m halfway through one on Jefferson. One thing I’ve discovered is that you have to be a fairly complex and savvy person to become president. And you have to walk a line between your ideals and practicality. Ironically, reading these biographies of the first presidents has made me more sympathetic to the ones of my own time, as I realize that I’ll probably never have the necessary distance to judge their terms objectively. 

But anyway, my favorite president: John Adams. I can see myself in him, feeling the force of my convictions to the point that I don’t have the political savvy to get ahead. I also have to give a shout-out to the first President Bush. I remember seeing the tape of his throwing up on the Japanese prime minister. Putting myself in his place, I thought how horrified and embarrassed I’d be. But since then, whenever I’ve been worried about being embarrassed or humiliated, I’ve used that event as a sort of touchstone: “If President Bush could be taped throwing up on a leader of a nation, have it broadcast all over the world, and go on to make contributions, then I certainly can get over this.”

My least favorite president at the moment is Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the simple reason that his biography has to be very, very long!

The Librarian Work Out

A friend sent me this a few weeks ago. First, watch and laugh.

It made me wonder how the librarian workout tape would look today. I think the following exercises would have to be included:

  • The Printer Problem Dash. When students can’t print, they push a bell and the librarian comes running. No problem getting those 10,000 steps a day now.
  • Paper-lift. Lift those reams of paper over your head as you go to fill up the printers. Get rid of those bat wings.
  • iPad Chase. Take the library’s iPads and chase down unsuspecting students who are thinking that Wikipedia is their only search option.
  • The Reference Book Dead Lift. As more and more reference materials are in ebook format, take those dusty encyclopedias and dictionaries to the stacks or the withdrawn box. Move them one by one and make sure to do some quick bicep and tricep curls as you go.
  • The Book Cart Sprint. This is an oldie but a goodie. Put on your headphones and shelve those books!

And what music would go with this updated video?

  1. Of course, there would have to be the librarian parody of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
  2. “Everyday I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello
  3. “Library Rap” by MC Poindexter and the Study Crew
  4. “White and Nerdy” by Weird Al Yankovic. 

Hopefully, some well-exercised librarians will take this project on!

 

Monday Motivator: Be Grateful for What Didn’t Happen

On Saturday, my left eye was suspiciously red. A few years ago, I came down with an eye infection that was painful and ugly. It took weeks of steroids eye drops to make it go away. So, of course, my first thought was “Oh Lord, it’s come back!” 

I monitored my poor eye the rest of the day, noting that it was sensitive to sunlight, feeling every slight pain that might occur on that side of my head, and looking into every mirror I passed by. I was already planning on trying to get in to see my doctor first thing Monday morning.

But when I got up Sunday morning, I found that the redness had lessened, and the pain was gone. Apparently, I was not coming down with an eye infection, at least not this week.

It reminded me of something I once read in a book: We are so focused on the bad things that happen and ask why me, that we forget to think about the bad things that could have happened but didn’t.

So, I took a moment to be thankful for my normal eye and set out to face the day, a day in which many more bad things didn’t happen 🙂 

 

I’ve Got the Midterm Blues; Oh Yes I Do

This semester, three of us in the library are taking classes. Emily and I are studying French while Pam is taking an introduction to American Sign Language. During the last few weeks, we have all discovered our inner freshman: not wanting to do our homework and definitely not wanting to take tests. The other thing we’ve discovered is midterm exhaustion. We’ve done our assignments and taken our tests, and now, during spring break, we want nothing more to do with our classes. 

Assuming we were not alone in this feeling, we asked around to get some tips to get over the midterm blues:

  • Use spring break wisely. If you’re caught up, take a break from studying. It doesn’t have to be the entire week, just a day or two from the books can refresh you and get you ready to start the second half of the semester. If you are behind in your courses, use this week to catch up. Don’t start next week even further behind.
  • Analyze the first half of the semester. If you did well, keep doing what you’ve been doing. If not, analyze your study habits and see what needs to change. 
  • Mentally, make a break from the last few weeks. Don’t think of being halfway through an endless semester. Think of this as a new start. New beginnings bring energy. 
  • Don’t let your feelings lead the way. Almost every student, at some point, decides he/she has had enough and just wants to drop out. (I felt that way about 300 times during the writing of my dissertation.) But feelings come and go. You made a decision and a commitment to take these courses. Follow through. Even if you decide at the end of the semester to take a break, then you’ll still have a semester of college credit under your belt.
  • Give yourself a small treat for making it this far. (A dinner out, a new lip gloss from Target, a night of Hulu, etc.) But keep it small. Save the big treat for actually finishing the semester.

Sometimes, you think you’re the only person who feels this way. But you’re not. You’re a normal student. Just keep going. We are!

Reading Lives: Desert Island Books

This week is spring break. With most of the students gone, the library feels a bit deserted. So our group decided to come up with our own list of desert island books:

Colette: I could whip myself into a frenzy trying to choose only two or three books with which to spend the rest of my days; that seems almost as horrific as being faced with Sophie’s choice.  Well, not quite that awful, but pretty icky. How does one narrow the field of so many great books, down to just a handful?  Honestly, I’ll get catatonic if I even try.

I know what I wouldn’t want.  I would avoid choosing anything too dark or depressing or scary.  No sense sitting on an isolated island, desperate, hungry and alone, and starting each day by reading Heart of Darkness or closing each day with The Shining, just before I pull up my palm frond and try to sleep.  My deserted island would feel a bit like Sartre’s No Exit if I didn’t have any books and then, one day, a piece of pap like Twilight or a Danielle Steel novel washed ashore.  I’d rather be bookless than be mocked by the cruel fate of rereading either of those for an eternity.

I know it wouldn’t feed my soul, but it would be handy to have a couple survival guides like This Plant Will Kill You or Cooking with Sand.  I might skip the pleasure of a Faulkner sentence in favor of not dying too soon, too soon.

Emily:

  1. The Ultimate Survival Manual by Rich Johnson
  2. Campfire Cuisine by Robin Donavan
  3. A Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (I’ve never felt the need to read this, but it’s long and I’ll have time.)
  4. Harry Potter series for escapism

Pam:

  • How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O’Shei
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Naked Into The Wilderness: Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills by John and Geri McPherson
  • The world’s longest book–According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it would be  Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

SallyThe Guide to Camping and Walking (contains great survival tips), the Harry Potter series, Huckleberry Finn, and The Golden Name Day.

Jolly Librarian: Since I have almost no practical skills, it would be certain I would perish within a week or so. I wouldn’t waste time with survival books. In the week that I had before hunger and exposure carried me away, I would read the following:

  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  3. One book by Kate Atkinson. It doesn’t matter which one; I would just want one more taste of that dark British wit.
  4. A book of poetry by Billy Collins.

Monday Motivator: Throw Something Away

I once had a framed poster hanging on the wall over my desk. There was nothing special about it, just a print from an exhibit on the Ottoman Empire.

Then one day, I read an article that said to throw out all the things in your life that made you feel bad in one way or another. (Things that were ugly, worn-out, had bad emotional vibrations coming from them. You know the sort of article that shows up every so often in women’s magazines.)

But because I do like to de-clutter, I went through my house, I tossed some old tattered underwear and socks. I got rid of some jeans that were never ever going to fit again. Still, I kept coming back to the poster. Sitting in my desk chair, I remembered that right after I returned from the museum, I showed it to a man with whom I was having a rocky relationship. As I was unrolling the poster, he made some off-hand comment, letting me know he didn’t particularly want to see it. Not something I especially wanted to be reminded of each time I walked into my home.

I gave the poster away. And it did make me feel better.

So while everyone’s on spring break, time a moment to get rid of something from your past that weighs you down. (Or just some old tattered socks, for the emotionally healthy among you!)