Monthly Archives: September 2015

Monday Motivator: Keep Looking

On Saturday, my friend Margaret and I stopped at a rest stop on our way back from Chattanooga for a friend’s wedding. I was following her into the building-very slowly, because that’s how I walk in high heels- when she stopped suddenly. “Oh no,” she wailed.

Rain falling on my head, I glanced around her to see that a large sign announced the bathroom was closed for cleaning. Disconsolate, we stood staring at that sign for several more seconds. Then a man sitting under the eave growled, “There’s another bathroom in there.”

Maybe it was the fact that we were coming down from the emotional high of seeing our friend get her happy-ever-after. Maybe the sugar rush from eating pieces of both the bride’s and groom’s cakes had done something to our problem solving ability. But for some reason, two intelligent women with traveling experience were stymied by a sign at an I24 rest stop.

But it happens:

  • A friend’s wife attended a famous writing workshop. She was treated brusquely by one of the instructors and, as far as I know, never sent her poems out again.
  • When I was in college, many students gave up on their premed programs after failing their first chemistry exam.

Of course, we should pay attention to signs. But we also should pay attention to their multiple meanings.

Just like our sign didn’t mention there was another bathroom,

  • The poet may have been in a bad mood. He may have been a lousy teacher. Or he may have liked the next poem.
  • The premed students could have used the test as a sign that they needed to study harder, not that they needed to change majors.

We owe it to ourselves to keep looking.

Recommendation Friday: Pam Gadd Recommends “Bel Canto”

opry bench

Pam Gadd, Library Assistant,


Bel Canto


Ann Patchett

Without hesitation, I recommend Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I am nearly finished with it, and my heart aches wondering how it can possibly have a hopeful ending. Still, this book is phenomenal in how it takes a most negative scenario – terrorists versus hostages of multiple languages all stuck together in a house for months on end. It beautifully weaves  the commonality of human emotion and need with the unexpected and touching relationships that unfold between the array of characters.

Bel canto

Monday Motivator: Got a Chip on Your Shoulder? Be Like Aaron Rodgers

After watching Fear the Walking Dead  last night, I turned over to football. Since I don’t really follow sports, I find them relaxing to have on as I’m getting ready for the next day. The Green Bay Packers had just scored a touchdown, which put them ahead. The announcers were discussing how calm the quarterback Aaron Rodgers usually is and how he helps the team and the fans calm down and get things done.

One said that it was hard to believe now that he sat through several rounds on draft day waiting to be picked.

The other said that he kept that particular chip on his shoulder for several years and it made him a determined, perhaps even better, player.

It seems to me that when we have that proverbial chip on the shoulder, things can go either one of two ways. It can weigh us down mentally, becoming the excuse for every bad thing that happens to us.

Or we can be like Aaron. We still feel the sting and the anger, but with it, a determination to persist and succeed, to show the people who didn’t like, respect, or want us that we have what it takes.

So if you have to a have a chip on your shoulder (and let’s face it: We’re all human, so we will at some point.), be like Aaron.

BTW, watching the game last night made me wonder where the expression came from. Which is why I’m the Jolly Librarian and not the Jolly Sports Announcer.

Ask the Jolly Librarian: What’s Up with Wikipedia?

Dear Jolly Librarian,

My professor keeps ranting on about how we can’t use Wikipedia in our research assignments. I’m beginning to think he was scared by the site when he was a baby or something, he’s so manic about it. It’s like he’s never even heard of the 21st century. Can you help me talk him into a more reasonable position?


Give me Wikipedia or Give me Death

Dear Give me,

The Jolly Librarian indeed does use Wikipedia on a regular basis. I find it a quick, easy to use, and accurate source in most cases. In fact, I have more than once defended Wikipedia on this very blog. Even 60 Minutes couldn’t find a scandal.

Still, I have to agree with your professor, although it has nothing to do with Wikipedia itself and everything to do with its being an encyclopedia. I’ve also written on that subject. The encyclopedia’s very purpose is to provide an overview of a subject. However, for college papers, students need to be able to analyze and evaluate sources, and scholarly journals are what you need.

Still, although you can’t list Wikipedia as a source in your paper, it can still help you in your research:

  • Read the entry to get an overview of the subject, especially if it’s something you don’t know much about.
  • Look at the sources at the end of the entry. They can provide you with a good starting place for your own research.

You are welcome to show this blog to your instructor. (But the whole blog, not just the first paragraph.)


Monday Motivator: “I Care for Myself”

In the past few months, I’ve heard the word ‘care’ used quite often:

  • My teacher doesn’t care if I learn.
  • My boss doesn’t care that I work hard.
  • My friend doesn’t care that she hurt my feelings.

I am not judging. I certainly have used the ‘care’ word enough times in my life. And certainly life is pleasant when the people we work and live with care about our feelings. But recently I was revisiting Jane Eyre and came upon the section where Rochester tries to convince Jane to stay with him although (spoiler alert) he’s already married. Jane loves him, and she is almost taken in by his despair and misery. She asks herself, “Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?”

But Jane has an answer: “care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” These are my favorite lines in the novel, where Jane takes a stand for herself. She knows that she can’t stay at Thornfield and leaves Rochester to face the uncertainties of a world unfriendly to the poor and the plain.

Yes, it is wonderful to be cared for and helped. But if that caring is not forthcoming, we can still make our way in the world by caring for ourselves. We learn because education is important to us. We do a good job because we have a good work ethic. If a friend doesn’t care that she hurt our feelings, we forgive or we move on. But we don’t wallow.

Don’t let others’ concern or lack of ever decide what your goals should be. Be like Jane: Care for yourself.

Ask the Jolly Librarian: Primary Sources

Dear Jolly Librarian,

One of my history assignments says I have to use primary sources. What are they?

Also, my instructor gives me mean looks when I text in her class. Any advice?


History is not my Thing

Dear History:

Primary sources are materials that were developed during the period that you’re studying. For examples, documents, such as wills, bills of sale, or laws are primary sources. So are diaries, newspapers, interviews, and magazines from the period.

Secondary sources are those that analyze primary sources.

So, for example. a letter written to Benjamin Franklin from his wife is considered a primary source. An article using that letter to discuss women’s education in 18th-century America would be a secondary source.

Click this link for a good explanation of primary and secondary sources.

As far as texting in class, you know it’s wrong. Just don’t do it.



Ask the Jolly Librarian: Scholarly Books

Hi, Jolly Librarian:

My instructor requires that we bring a scholarly book to class. How do I find such a thing?

Also, my snacks are getting hung up in the vending machine in the library building. Any help?


Books Look All the Same to Me

Dear Books:

An excellent question. Here are a few guidelines to help you in your search:

  • Look at the publisher. University presses are an indicator that you’re on the right track. But there are many publishers that focus on scholarly works. Wikipedia has a good list.
  • Look at the author page. You want the authors to be experts in the field. Do they have degrees in the subject? Have they conducted studies or research? Have they published other books on the topic?
  • Ask your friendly librarian for help.

As far as the snack machine, I know just the one you mean. I just buy a second snack that knocks the first one down as well. Then I have two! One warning, though: that doesn’t work with Veggie Straws. They are too light to make an impact.