Monthly Archives: May 2013

Beginnings

The summer semester officially starts tomorrow, The library is ready. We have our brochures sitting by the circulation desk. The displays are set up. Student numbers are loaded into the system. We’ve checked all student computers to make sure they’re working. We’ve double-checked the databases. A thousand students could rush in right now, and we’d handle them just fine. (Of course, since it’s a Friday afternoon, the only people walking through the doors are the last-minute students hoping against hope to get in one of the Anatomy and Physiology classes that have been full since the first day of pre-registration.)

I have my own pre-semester rituals that help me get ready, mostly getting rid of last semester’s detritus. First, I go through my email in-box, being ruthless with those emails that I’ve kept around because I’m not sure what to do with them. Today, they have been answered, archived, saved to our Wiki, or simply deleted. Now, I’m going through the actual papers on my desk. While I often do filing on Fridays, there is one stack that has remained in the corner because, once again, I’m not quite sure what I need to do with the information. So, today, I’ll make that final hard call. The papers will either go in recycling and the projects forgotten or they’ll get their own folder and move up in status.

Once the papers are gone, it is time to literally clean the desk. I admit it; I am a bit of a desk slob. Right now, on its surface, there are two packages of crackers that I didn’t eat with my chili today, a bottle of hand lotion that I almost never use, three pencils that I stole from the front desk, a dead plant, and scattered coins that I carelessly throw on the desk when I come back from the vending machines. Now this wouldn’t be so bad except, that connecting them all, is a elaborate pattern of crumbs from my various snacks. It’s not pretty. But even less pretty is my keyboard. Yesterday I had a sandwich made with crumbly bread,  and, now, about half of that bread is lodged between the keys. 

Next I plan to take the reams of paper in my recycling box to the recycling cart. I’m afraid this box is usually overflowing, mainly because I am of an eccentric, forgetful nature, and I throw paper in the box and then need it the next day.  My worst semester occurred when a zealous housekeeping staff member emptied my box each morning. Although it has been pointed out to me (repeatedly) that the recycling box is not a file folder, I like having those papers in sort of purgatory, not quite useful, not quite dead. But now, it’s time for them to go.

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My recycling box

Once that is done, for a brief, shiny moment (until I come in on Monday), the office is pristine. Then I move to my last two pre-semester rituals. I change out the motto on my blocks. (Yes, I have blocks. And, yes, I have positive sayings on them. Don’t judge.) 

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This was spring’s saying. I haven’t decided on the one for summer yet.

 

Finally, I pick out my notebook to start the new semester. This one Imageis a gift from a colleague. She and I went to the Hallmark store together where they were giving these away with a purchase. She was in front of me in line and got the last one. A few weeks later, she gave me hers. It wasn’t that she was feeling guilty; it was just that it was still in the bag in her car, and she realized that she was never going to use it. 

So the check list is complete. I am ready for summer term!

 

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Random Thoughts While Reading Shelves

  • Why do we have so many books about Thomas Hobbes? Maybe I should read one. Maybe not.
  • JV 241.38; JV 241.39; JX 761; JV241.50  Wait, what was that?
  • Umm, I think this book about how great it is to be a liberal in the midst of books about the Republican party might be a deliberate placement.
  • How long have I been up here? 20 minutes? Can I back to my office now without looking like a lazy loser?
  • If I have to find misplaced books, why can’t they be on the middle shelves where I don’t have to reach up on my tippy toes or bend double to move them?
  • I wonder if I have an important message and should return to my office to check my email.
  • Aark. Aaark. Aaaark! That was one dusty book.
  • Oh well, at least it’s Friday, and it’s a holiday weekend. And I am taking Tuesday off. Maybe my colleagues will have this finished by the time I return.
  • Who am I trying to kid?

The Dark Days of the Library: Reading the Shelves

At the end of this semester after the student workers had gone, we were called to go up to the stacks and find books. Once the overdue lists are run, we do a last check to make sure that the books are truly not here and were just not discharged properly.

We did find a few that had slipped through the cracks. But worse, we found there were books in the wrong spots, enough of those that we needed to read the shelves and get things in order. 

While most library workers have their favorite tasks (some like to work with students, others like the solitude of cataloging), almost no one likes reading shelves. There are several reasons for this:

  • It is a tedious job. After all, it’s not as if you’re reading books or even titles. You’re reading a group of letters and numbers. It goes something like this:  E185.96.A37; E185.96.A38; E185.96.A389; etc. (An iPod with your favorite music can reduce but not eliminate the tedium.)
  • It is a dusty job. Books collect dust. Moving a misplaced book to its rightful space can stir up that dust. A day of reading shelves can also be a day of sneezing.
  • It can be emotionally and physically draining. Besides the eye strain of looking at number after  number, there is the moment when you realize that one book was put in the wrong spot at some point, and then all subsequent shelvers put more books right behind it. So not only do you have to move several books, it may also mean that they can’t return to their rightful place until a shelf is cleared for them, and in a crowded section, that can mean mean moving several shelves of books. (Usually, when a loud groan comes from upstairs, we know this is what has happened, and the rest of us stay away.)

When I go to library conferences, the talk is always of instruction, mobilization, and information commons. No one wants to talk about the dreary (old-fashioned!) chore of reading shelves. But students have a right to be able to find a book when they need one. So this May, a-reading we shall go.

 

Summer Bucket List 2013: Week 1

Our goal for this summer is to get some things done: both work-related and fun. We’re doing this because we, like so many other people, often talk about all the stuff we’re going to do during the summer. And then when summer ends, we find ourselves stunned that nothing was accomplished. So here goes:

Our assignment for this week was to do one thing that we’ve been meaning to do for ages. It can be work-related, home-related, a task, or even something fun. 

For the library, we went through the handouts that are around the building to see if they are up-to-date and relevant for what we’re doing. A good many things were thrown away, emails were sent to other offices to see if the information is still relevant, and plans are being made to make better use of the space. 

Colette: Every night when I get home at dinner time, and open my refrigerator, I turn into Mother Hubbard.  Surprisingly enough, nothing good to eat has materialized since I left for work that morning.  My dinner choices are to either cook real food or forage.  I usually forage because my hunger is pressing and because I’m lazy.  Each time this happens, I think, “Why didn’t I cook over the weekend?”  This past weekend, I finally did just that! I cooked my hump off on Sunday and made chicken and dumplings, pork green chili and brown rice, grilled some chicken and made a Caesar dressing rue.  The last couple nights, I’ve arrived home hungry, gone to the fridge and had an array of already cooked choices.  My bucket runneth over. 

Emily: The trim on our house has needed painting since we bought it nearly three years ago. I’m quite the procrastinator when it comes to home maintenance, but this week I got one estimate for the job. Now that one estimate was dramatically more than I anticipated, so I’ll probably think about it for a few more years. In the meantime, I’m looking into returning a phone call from another painter and considering doing some interior painting over the long weekend. I’m thinking this may get done by the end of the summer! 

Jolly Librarian: I came down with a cold last Friday, so any hopes of doing something fun over the weekend were dashed. Still, there were two nit-picky items that have been nagging at me for weeks that even my Nyquil-addled brain could handle. I replaced the air conditioner filter. (I had bought a filter two months ago, and it had been sitting in the hallway ever since.) Then I took down a nasty shower curtain liner and replaced it with a nice new one. I also had my deck pressure washed and sealed, something that has needed doing for quite a while now. 

Reminder: The quicker you get these sorts of things out of the way, the more time you’ll have for fun this summer.

Monday Motivator: Take a Moment to Celebrate

Last Tuesday we held our graduation ceremony. As usual, it was hot in the gym, and I did my customary prayer that I wouldn’t faint in front of all those people. Also, I had my usual difficulties with my cap; my curly hair does not like caps. It tends to spring them right off my head.

Still, I like the ceremony itself. I enjoy listening to the families cheer their graduates. I enjoy the smiles on the students’ faces as they cross the stage. I love the happiness of the entire night.

Like students, faculty are also tired–after a long year of preparing, presenting, and grading, not to mention the obligations to the college outside of the classroom. But I hope they took a moment during the ceremony to celebrate their contributions to students’ goals and dreams.

If we ever doubt the importance of our work, I think all we have to do is remember those happy faces of our graduates and their families. We need to celebrate such moments! 

Summer Bucket List: Part Deux

Yesterday was graduation, so summer has now unofficially started. A couple of  years ago, I came across the idea of the ‘summer bucket list,’ items that you wanted to do before the summer ended. 

Although some people might scoff at the idea of putting summer in a ‘strait jacket,’ I’m a fan. For one, I can’t count the number of times, people have said to me or I’ve said to them, “We really must get together this summer.” And then in August, we’d look at each other mystified that somehow we’d not managed to see each other once. In our minds, summer tends to be this one long magical period, somehow glistening with promise, but always in the future. So too often, that promise is unfulfilled. The summer bucket list keeps those vague promises we make to ourselves in front of our eyes, so we can either follow up or admit that maybe we never wanted to do them in the first place.

Second, as much as I hate to admit it, I am not good with unstructured time. I’ll say that this is the afternoon, I plan to go to the museum, and then two hours later, I have instead filled up a Pinterest board with images of pretty paintings. The bucket list, for me, is just a fancy way of saying a to-do list, but with more entertaining and meaningful items on it.

So this summer, the library staff will again writing and marking items off their summer bucket lists. Follow along and make one of your own.

The Jolly Librarian’s Graduation Message

Once again, the Jolly Librarian is stunned to find that no college has requested her wisdom for a commencement address. So once again, she will share her feelings with the world on this blog:

I have a certificate stating that I have worked at this college for almost as long as I have been an adult. Besides part-time jobs, my only other professional employment was four years teaching at a Catholic school. I came to NSCC thinking I would stay three or four years, earn my doctorate, and move on. I did earn my doctorate, but I’m still here. Mainly because I am proud of the community college mission.

Each year, as I watch the graduates walk across the stage, I see those who were in the library every week and others who were regulars in the Learning Center working with our tutors. I have witnessed ESL students’ struggles as they mastered a new language and culture. I’ve seen older students insecure about their inability to compete with younger people and then become progressively confident. And some I’ll see again later on their Facebook pages when they celebrate graduating from universities, getting jobs in their fields, and/or choosing to go for advanced degrees. It is a good feeling.

Each of you made a commitment to enter college, and each of you fulfilled it. That is a huge accomplishment. You faced your hurdles, both external and internal, and persevered. Take time to celebrate and relish this moment!

My wishes for you as you take the next step in life are simple, but not necessarily easy. I hope you

  • continue learning. Whether or not, you continue your formal education, take opportunities to keep learning. There are, of course, practical reasons for this. Job requirements are always changing, and you have to keep learning to be relevant. But beyond that, I hope we at NSCC have instilled in you a love of learning, of always wanting to stretch yourself a little more.
  • take responsibility for your own happiness. Take it from someone who has too often allowed herself to be blown around by the whims of others. You can spend time being angry and upset about the unfairness of life.Or you can change your circumstances. Or you can change your attitude. Continuing to be unhappy in an attempt to punish others never works. And it can eat up way too much of your life.
  • will always “be of use.” Never pass up a chance to make someone’s life a little easier, no matter how small it seems. Many of us grow up wanting to be heroes, the ones who race into burning buildings to rescue crying babies. Even if such heroism is never asked of us, every day presents an opportunity to do something to make our part of the world a little better if we only look for it.
  • do your research (What else could you expect from the Jolly Librarian?) We are inundated with bits and bytes of information each day, a good deal of it wrong. When reading the latest diatribe against a politician, the handling of an event, or a policy,  consider if you are being presented with all the facts. Take a moment to check things out before you take a position. (You know we taught you how.)

Congratulations, graduates! This is your day. Enjoy it.

Monday Motivator: Do Some Debugging

If you have an iPad (or any other tablet), you are familiar with the number popping up on your screen by the App Store icon, letting you know that one of your apps needs updating. And almost always, one of the things that is being done is ‘fixing some bugs.’ Most of the times, these bugs don’t keep the apps from running; they just prevent them from running as well as they should.

The end of the semester is just the time to debug some of our own routines, things that are getting in the way of our own effectiveness. As I looked around my house and my office, here are some things that need debugging:

  • At both home and office, I have a tendency to put papers down on a table or my desk, and then they start piling up. So whenever I begin working on a project, the first thing I have to do is find the relevant paperwork! So I’m going to keep a separate folder for each project.
  • I don’t write stuff down that I need, thinking “there’s no way I’ll forget that I need deodorant,” and then come home with dental floss (I already have 10 packets) but no deodorant. This should be a simple fix. I have a smart phone; I’ll just keep the list there.
  • In the office, we often end up having the same discussions more than once because we don’t write down the procedures. The fix: This year we are (finally) going to get our procedures manuals in shape.

Anyway, you get the picture. Life goes on quite well without any of the above. (Well, except the deodorant!) But I’d be just as a little more effective, a little less harried, and probably a little happier if I could I just debug those inefficiencies.

So what do you need to debug? This might be a good time to start.

 

 

The Library Cop: “Just the Books, Ma’am”

Ninety-nine percent of my job consists of being the ‘good guy.’ We’re the ones who help students find books and other sources when they despair of ever doing so. If they forgot a pencil to take a test, we have one. If their calculator died, we have one to lend. I love going home each day, feeling that I have helped to make the day better for others in some small way.

But then, there is the one percent of the time that the Jolly Librarian has to bring out her dark alter-ego (Justice Librarian). I have to go after those patrons who refuse to bring items back. Now as a group, the overdue people are few, and the vast majority of them are simply forgetful. One simple reminder is all it takes. But, like in most fields, the one or two egregious offenders can take up a lot of time and mental anguish.

In almost every case, these offenders take home textbooks on reserve, meaning that other students without the textbook are left in the lurch. So it’s not the rule-breaking, but the  selfishness that gets me. And as anyone on the library staff can tell you, it can turn “jolly” into “holy terror.”

Now we have a procedure to deal with these folks: We either call or send an email with the gentle, “You must have forgotten that the book shouldn’t leave the library. Please return it immediately.” Each succeeding message gets less and less gentle until we have to turn the student over to the Dean of Student Services for disciplinary action. 

This takes up our time and energy; it upsets other students who need the book, and it probably isn’t that much fun for the offenders who are having to withstand our many, many attempts to contact them. Still most books come back with an apology, and the matter ends there.

But then each year, there a few who take the textbook removal to a whole new level. I am now dealing with a student I’ll call Clementine. (I’ve changed names and details to protect the guilty.) Clementine took home a physics book. After being contacted four times, she brought it back, claimed she didn’t know the policy, and promised never to do it again. The next month, she checked out the book and once again took it home. 

After calling her cell phone repeatedly (always getting voice mail) and emailing her (never receiving a response), my staff told me about it. I went to her classroom and left a message for her to come see me immediately. 

Which she did, but not to return the book. Instead, apparently not knowing she was talking to the very person who had left the message, she tried to check out another textbook. When I reminded her of her current troubles, she said that she had no idea she couldn’t take the book home. A reminder that she had been in the same situation last month did not jog her memory. 

Finally, the book returned after she had taken her final. She must have supposed that this would be the end of it, but we had already turned her case over to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action, and I refused to drop the ‘charge.’ So now that dean is the only person who can remove the hold. (And she happens to be out of town at the moment.)

“But it’s not fair,” she says. “I brought the books back.” And that’s true. But it was also unfair for other students to not have access to the book while the class was going on. She was told what would happen. She just didn’t believe us. 

And while I am usually upset when anyone is angry with the library, I’m bearing up rather well this time.

 

Some Reflections on Candy Week in the Library

Every finals week, the library supplies candy to weary students as they finish projects and take finals. (Now, no worries: The only tax-payer money used for this is our own personal funds.) Students seem to appreciate the gesture. Now, several semesters in, we have drawn some basic conclusions about candy week:]

  • Students can go through a lot of candy. Yesterday, we gave away five pounds in less than 24 hours (and 9.5 of those hours, we were closed.)
  • Judging by the candy packets in our own waste baskets, staff can go through a lot of candy as well.
  • There are definite preferences. When we get down to the bottom of the basket, there are always lots of Krackels left while the Snickers bar is a perennial favorite. On the non-chocolate side of the house, Skittles rule while Smarties languish. 
  • Some students are frugal, taking only one piece. Some grab a handful. Some take a handful, but only after searching through the basket, making sure that a favorite flavor is not missed. (There is probably some psychological analysis that could be done from how people choose candy if any of you psych types want to come do a study.)
  • Candy does seem to make everyone a little more cheerful!