library life

The Struggle is Real: Library Patron vs. Email

girl-1064658_1920This is a daily occurrence while at the Reference Desk at my public library. I’m not even joking. I have some version of this exchange almost every day at the Reference Desk.

Patron: Can you help me? I can’t get this dumb thing to work.
Me: Okay, sure. What are you trying to do?
Patron: I need to get into my email to print something, and it won’t let me!
Me: Okay, you’re already logged in the computer, so just double click on a browser to get on the Internet.
Patron: I just double click on a browser?
Me: Yes.
Patron: Which one? [choice of Internet Explorer or Google Chrome]
Me: Doesn’t matter. [I know it does, but they wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it]
Patron: But which one? Internet?
Me: [resignedly] Sure.
Patron: [clicks scroll wheel on mouse repeatedly]
Me: No, no, click it on the left side.
Patron: The left side?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [gingerly moves hand on top of computer mouse, gently clicks left side of mouse]
Me: You have to double click it.
Patron: [clicks twice slowly, achieves moving icon down a little]
Me: Here, try this. Click it once…
Patron: [clicks it once]
Me: … Now hit ‘enter.’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: This right here? [finger hovers over ‘enter’ key]
Me: Yes.
Patron: [hits ‘enter’]

Browser then opens to the library website as the default homepage.

Patron: It did this before! I don’t know what this is!
Me: This is just the library website. You just type where you want to go up at the top.
Patron: I want to go to my email!
Me: What email do you use?
Patron: What?
Me: Is it Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo…?
Patron: Oh, um, Yahoo. [it’s always Yahoo]
Me: Okay, type in Yahoo .com up at the top here.
Patron: Up here? [points at address bar]
Me: Yes, there.
Patron: [starts typing in full email address]
Me: No, no, just Yahoo .com.
Patron: But I need to get to my email address!
Me: Right, but first you have to go to Yahoo .com, and THEN you can get to your email.
Patron: [gives me a look like they don’t believe me, types in Yahoo .com, then stares blankly at the screen]
Me: Hit ‘enter’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [hits ‘enter,’ browser goes to Yahoo] Oh, yay!
Me: Okay, now click ‘Mail.’
Patron: Click ‘Mail’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [clicks ‘Mail’]
Me: Now type in your email here. [Indicates screen]
Patron: Type it in here? [Points at screen]
Me: Yes.
Patron: My whole email?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [Uses search-and-destroy method to slowly type out their email, not knowing where the “@” symbol is, and inevitably getting at least two letters wrong]
Me: Okay, now type in your password here. [Indicates space under email address]
Patron: My password?
Me: Yes.
Patron: What if I don’t remember my password?
Me: Well, you need your password to access your email.
Patron: I do? But I don’t need it on my phone!
Me: Right, because your phone is set up so you’re always logged in. But these are public computers, so lots of people access their email through them.
Patron: [putters, contemplating this] Okay, maybe I remember it. [starts typing in a password]

This could go on for some minutes while the patron maybe remembers their password or does not and gets increasingly more frustrated. If they do manage to log in —

Patron: [has over 5,000 unread messages in email inbox] There it is! Thank you! I just don’t get these machines!

If they don’t remember their password, I attempt to help them reset it, but they never remember a recently used password, backup email, or answers to security questions, and 9 times out of 10 decide whatever they needed to print wasn’t really that important and storm off.

Now, helping a patron to print something from their email is a whole other story.

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book review

Thoughts on Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman review
Go Set a Watchman cover

The publication of Go Set a Watchman is a pretty significant one in the scheme of things, and I was able to read it the week it came out. Being a book professional, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about the book.

First and foremost, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: Go Set a Watchman is not a sequelCalling it a sequel is the not-entirely-correct elevator pitch one says to sell the book. (And overhearing a book seller say that to customer kinda made my blood boil a little. Not something to get too worked up about, sure, but still an irritation for me.) Go Set a Watchman is the initial submission Harper Lee made to her publisher, and was not intended to be published 50 odd years ago. It follows some of the characters we met in To Kill a Mockingbird, but there are inconsistencies that stem from revisions and the fact that this book wasn’t going to be published, so why should Harper Lee worry about correcting it.

The way I chose to approach it is thus: It is entirely separate from To Kill a Mockingbird. These are not exactly the same characters we were introduced to before. These are versions of characters that were developed in a different fashion. I do love the story of TKAM, I just wanted to keep this one apart from that book, and look at it in more of an academic sense.

I couldn’t help but think that it was a bit like if someone from the estate of Harper Lee had authorized this as a sequel (Donald McCaig and his Gone With the Wind sequels come to mind). Sequels like that shift perceptions of well-loved characters to have “adapt” to more modern sensibilities and come up with some slightly fantastical plot lines and introduce new characters. Naturally that’s not exactly the case, but it was another way to frame it.

The opening chapters are absolutely DELIGHTFUL. Full of the charm of To Kill a Mockingbird and a really sweet and comforting return to Maycomb. Of course, this is before the big Atticus reveals are made, but just the same, I was giggling my way through the first few chapters. It totally sucked me in. I would have loved it if it even if it had remained a light-hearted story of Jean Louise returning to Alabama from New York for her annual visit and running into typical Small Town South characters and engage in a few meaningful escapades that means she learns something new about herself and returns to New York with a different heart towards her hometown. Or ultimately decides to stay. It would have made for a cute novel, but Harper Lee does not write that simply. No, no — Jean Louise returns home and makes a realization that changes her whole world so much she becomes physically ill and doesn’t know how to move forward.

Ultimately, I felt the way the story played out of how Jean Louise makes these discoveries, deals with them, and how it is reconciled in the end was effective, but needed a little more editorial guidance to really make it zing. Of course, I may come to another conclusion upon a reread. This is definitely a book I will reread at some future date. Likely not as many times as I have or will read To Kill a Mockingbird, but it will be reread. And considering this was only lightly edited from Lee’s original manuscript submission, it’s impressive from a writing perspective.

The part that stood out the most for me was the chapter of Jean Louise’s Coffee that Aunt Alexandra hosts for her during her visit. I think MANY of us have experienced something akin to this. The way Lee wrote the disconnected conversations happening around the room, and Jean Louise’s internal monologue as she listens and then participates in it is fantastic and depressing. People you’ve known your whole life, or are a part of the community, and you can’t stand them, and their history and current events tidbits are all wrong and you can’t even begin to correct them because they wouldn’t believe you anyway because you lived in the CITY or went to college (or lived in the “Mission Field” for some LDS folks) and you obviously just don’t know how it really is. It’s SO AGGRAVATING and discouraging and makes you want to get outta Dodge as fast as possible. Jean Louise’s frustration with the small-minded and misguided women around her hit close to home, and that chapter in and of itself is a real great piece of writing.

The flashbacks to Jean Louise’s childhood are priceless. Those reminded me of Cheaper By the Dozen hi-jinks and I can definitely see how an editor would say, these are so wonderful, why don’t you write about the kids instead? And the rest is history, really. It was effective storytelling to have Scout tell about life in the 30s in Alabama, and about a few significant events in her life and the town’s history. Those events are barely mentioned in Go Set a Watchman – I can’t recall the Radleys being mentioned at all, and if they were it was in passing.

The ending didn’t entirely sit right with me. The overall feeling of the ending is unsettling, and I think motivations and explanations could have been made clearer with a good editor. (But from what’s been presented, it’s still debatable whether or not Harper Lee really had a hand in allowing this to be published in the first place.) Some have said they would have preferred this be released as an annotated academic book, and I wonder if that may actually happen. Will Lee leave enough of her papers to be used to contribute to an annotated version? It will certainly be dissected for the foreseeable future by many academics and after the initial buzz dies down we might get some productive dialogue going. In the meantime, it’s interesting to me to have this book released as a major publication simply because more people will read it for the very reason. The novel brings up a lot of very uncomfortable questions that are pretty relevant to what’s going on in our society now – even more astounding that it was written almost 60 years ago* – and maybe we can appropriately bring it into the discussion at large of race and inequality. So far my usual book review outlets are preoccupied with the fact that Atticus is not the white knight we know him from To Kill a Mockingbird and not much else is being said… yet.

It’s a good book and I’m glad I read it, and I’m anticipating reading many more in depth and academic reviews and studies of the book moving forward.

===

*I’m hosting a To Kill a Mockingbird book and film discussion at my library at the end of the month, so I rewatched the film after many years. I watched it only days after the Charleston church shooting, so having that in my mind while I watched contributed to me sobbing through most of the film. It takes place in the 30s and was written in the 50s, and it is still sadly relevant to our society.

digital, library life

Using Evernote for Reader’s Advisory

I love reader’s advisory. I love learning about new books and backlist titles, and figuring out what someone might like to read next based on their past reading habits or other interests. Sadly it’s not something I’m asked to do a lot in my current community face-to-face (no matter how much I beg), so I channel my energy into making RA bookmarks of various topics that patrons can passively pick up and use. (And some of them have been quite popular, so I must be doing something right!) And since I am the primary selector for adult fiction, I come across A LOT of new titles that sound awesome and I want to make sure don’t get lost in the stacks. My solution? Evernote.

evernote-logo-design

Evernote is a free application (with options to upgrade, but the free version is perfectly acceptable for my needs) for gathering information. I added the plug-in to my browser, and it can clip articles I find interesting so I can access them later. It’s just a nice, clean way to organize. And it dawned on me a number of months ago that it would be a great way to collect book data as well!

As I go through a catalog, or read a book blog, or skim through a publisher’s email push, if a book sounds good to me for any reason, or is part of a trend I’ve noticed recently, is related to a popular movie release that might spark further reading interest, or is applicable to a display I might want to do, I make note of the title and author in an Evernote list. Later on, when I want to make up an RA bookmark on that topic, or am building a display, I have a list ready to go of fresh titles (and some backlist) to suggest to my patrons.

Evernote desktopAt last count I had 48 lists in my “RA Book Lists” notebook, with topics like “Roaring 20s,” “Small Town Stories,” “Georgia Novels,” “Fairy Tale Twists,” “Ripped From the Headlines,” etc. And that number grows with every month! If a new topic piques my interest, I start another list!

Best part? I can add tags and keyword search! So I can see if I put a book in multiple lists, or if I have already created a list for haunted houses, or if my World War II list is big enough to start breaking out into sub-lists. As you know, the larger the collection, the better the cataloging needs to be.

I have the Evernote app on my iPhone and iPad Mini, and the desktop app on my home and work laptops with my account linked on all of them so I have easy access to my lists wherever I am if I find a new title to add to a list, or to suggest a book to a friend.

evernote appThis might not be the optimal method for everyone, but I’m sure getting a lot of success out of it! It’s digital, it’s portable, it’s got the metadata I need, and now I can keep tabs on books that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

library life

Public Librarianship – the downlow

I’ve had a mixed reaction from people I’ve known for years when they find out I’m a librarian. Most go, “Oh, that makes sense!”, but I did run into a high school buddy who had assumed I would end up an accountant. Anyway, a Public Librarian is what I am, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. And while most librarians are not of the “shushing old lady with a hairbun” type (and can we PLEASE move away from that already!), I am not of the “dye my hair a funky color, dress steampunk, and have lots of Twitter followers” librarians either. I’m far more middle ground. I’ve been in the profession a solid two years, and have been reflecting on my career expectations. While I am pleased with the position I am currently in (and very lucky to have it), it has occurred to me that my job is quite different from what I had initially anticipated. And while some of it has to do with the kind of library I work it, some of it has to do with the profession at large.

  • I rarely talk books with the public. My library keeps track of the “reader’s advisory” interactions we have at the desk (when we talk books with a patron and hopefully make a good suggestion to them of what to read next), and in the past few months we’re still in single digits for the grand total. Which, seeing as many librarians enter the profession because of a love of reading and books, is super sad. I’ve been proactive about reading ARCs (advance reader copies of books), and spend some of my work hours creating book lists for patrons, and practically BEG patrons to talk books with me, and it almost never happens. A lot of this has to do with the community I’m in, and the size of the library. We’re not big enough to have a specific reader’s advisory department, and though we do have some voracious readers for patrons, they tend to be old ladies who have specific interests for what they read, and they don’t need me to help them out. So I find myself brainstorming about ways I can use this book knowledge I’ve curated, channel it, because IRL I tend to only talk about what I’m reading with my library director.
  • Libraries in general are moving towards a more “community center” kind of mentality, what with the different kinds of programming, MakerSpaces, and things of that nature. But at least in the two communities I’ve worked in thus far, the library is pretty much just the place where harried moms can take their children for a short break, unemployed people can apply for jobs and force me to realize how little they know about computers, and where the odd community organizations will hold some function in our meeting rooms and then maybe one of them will wander into the rest of the building, be impressed, but never set foot in here again. Also, where middle-aged women can get ALL the mystery and romance novels they desire, all by well-known authors or specialty publishers who publish frequently. People in my demographic don’t use the library, and everybody knows that. So many people don’t use the library because they don’t read much, and if they do, they buy the books. Most people don’t even realize they can check out eBooks from the library for free! (This has become my life’s mission, to tell the masses about free eBooks at the library.) In general, college students don’t come here. Professionals don’t come here. My demographic, my people, don’t come here.
  • When I tell people I’m from the library, I usually get a glazed-over look from them. To a lot of people, I have a super boring-sounding job. They don’t know how much work I put into a program that hardly anyone shows up to. They don’t know all the different kinds of books I buy that nobody checks out. They don’t know that I went to grad school to get this job. They don’t know that I am a creative person, looking for ways to have the library help them. The especially annoying interaction will involve the other party saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I never read. I bet you hate me! Har har har!” When I meet someone new and learn their profession, you can bet I’m already thinking about ways to use your skills in a library program. But some people just brush me off because they think my job is boring.

I’ve been thinking that I may want to get back into book retail someday, since that’s where my interests lie. Maybe I’ll change what kind of library I work in. Maybe I’ll go for another degree and end up in a completely different field. I don’t know yet. But I do know that sometimes it’s really hard to be a librarian.

book review, library life

Favorite Books of 2014

Happy New Year!! I rang in the new year by myself – super enjoyable because I watched disaster films! (It’s sort of become a family tradition.) Airport, Airport 1975 (which is one of my favorite films of all time now, simply because it’s so over-the-top and if you grew up watching Airplane! you’ll recognize where the gags came from), and the original Poseidon Adventure. So many famous movie stars in all of them, too!!

Anyway, back to bookish things. In 2014, I read 74 books, for a total of 24,542 pages. 27% male writers, and 63% ebooks. Not too shabby. I set my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge to 60 books because if I read more, great! If I don’t, no matter!

This was the first year in a long while where I actually kept track of what I read (honestly, I think the last time was middle school where you could win prizes based on how many books you read), and the first year since becoming a librarian that I read so voraciously! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, and I’ve dipped my toe into some genres I don’t normally read. I’m looking forward to lots of great reading to come. But I did want to document my picks for 2014:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Hands down, my favorite book of the year. If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is the first one I mention. It’s categorized as science fiction, and is set in a dystopian society of sorts, which had initially turned me off, but the reviews were so good, and the premise so intriguing I threw caution to the wind and dove in. I stayed up very late to finish this book. It’s an intense emotional roller coaster that follows a few different story lines, and will make you sit and think about the book long after you’ve read it. It starts with a famous actor dying on stage during King Lear, and all the characters we follow throughout the rest of the book are connected to that one night. We see what life what like before that night when the pandemic flu came, and what life was like after, up to 20 years later. It’s absolutely fascinating, and heartbreaking, and utterly beautiful.

2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I had not previously read any Waters, but won this book from a Shelf Awareness giveaway and gave it a try. DUDE. First off – it’s historical fiction, very evocative of the era just after World War I. Not quite Downton Abbey level, but that connection may still draw you in. The relationships in this book are complex and heart-wrenching, and will appeal to many. And there’s a murder in it, and once you reach that point in the book, you can’t put it down. I was told to set aside a weekend to read this, and that was definitely the case. You’ll get sucked in and won’t let up until the very end.

3. As You Wish by Carey Elwes. Like most people, I LOVE The Princess Bride! When I heard Elwes (“my sweet Westley”) was publishing a book about his experiences with Princess Bride, I was overjoyed. Elwes definitely delivers! The book is SO SWEET. You can tell this man had the time of his life making this movie, and loved the cast and crew for enabling this silly little film to be made. He’s utterly charming as he tells about how he got the job, what working with Rob Reiner was like, his relationship with Robin Wright, and a number of fun stories about Andre the Giant. Plus he gets fellow cast and crew to tell short asides about their version of events. An absolute delight to read, and you’ll want to watch the film again immediately after reading.

4. The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow. I read this earlier in the year, and once I finished it I immediately had to write an aunt of mine to tell her she should read it. The MacGuffin (if you will) is an old family quilt. A modern English woman is going through her own daily troubles, and is trying to find out more about this quilt that was passed down in her family. Meanwhile, we alternate to a young English woman in the past who might have connection to the quilt, and we follow her sad life after a very Downton Abbey run-in with a man of means. Not quite a cozy mystery, but if you’re into family history, upstairs/downstairs stories, and mysteries that don’t necessarily involve a murder, this one may be for you.

5. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. This was one of the first books this year that I flipped out over. We follow a young immigrant Russian girl go from rags to riches over the course of her life. She is badly injured after her family comes to America, and is taking in by an Italian family who make gelato. She grows up with the family, learning the business, and gaining shrewd business practices that will help her continue to climb the economic ladder. The woman is like a more humorous Scarlett O’Hara, who finds herself involved with so many 20th century milestones it’s a little like Forrest Gump, too. A hefty book, but a mighty entertaining story of a woman determined to make her life better than what she was handed.

Plenty more on my list of great reads, but these particularly stood out, and were ones I found myself recommending to friends, family, and library patrons alike. Onward in 2015!

book life

My love/hate relationship with BookTube

So as I stated in my last post, I recently discovered BookTube. I am both intrigued and annoyed by the phenomenon of BookTube. I love it for showcasing lots of great books, and getting the enthusiasm from other book lovers rubbed off on you. But there are a couple of things that really get under my skin about the BookTube community (at least what I have seen of it thus far):

“This book is SO GOOD. UH. SO GOOD. I JUST LOVE IT. And this cover is GORGEOUS.”
This is about 90% of the reviews I have seen. Just unleashed giddiness. But as a potential reader, I would like to know WHY do you find it a good read? What is the plot? Did characters stand out? Was the writing evocative? What other books are like it? What kind of reader might like this book? As a book professional for a number of years, I find this extremely lacking, and not good sells at all. If a publisher or author is sending you a review or even finished copy of a book, I would think you owe them a little more time and space in your videos. Which leads me to my second point…

“LOOK AT ALL THE BOOKS I GOT.”
I get book hauls. I do. But these BookTubers… they seem more materialistic than anything. They get sent books for review, sure, but they also buy books like crazy, and might buy three copies of the same book because they want the UK cover and the new reboot cover in addition to the one they actually read. Some people are book collectors, and I get it, but I also get annoyed with all these book haul videos that number DOZENS of books that these BookTubers cannot possibly read. I just seem them as greedy teens who are being reckless with daddy’s money. YES, I do see a number of review videos, but that leads me to my third point….

All YA. Almost nothing but YA.
I like YA. I do! But I’m very selective with the YA I read because I find much of it fluff, and I’m in charge of Adult Fiction purchasing at my library, so that’s what I pay the most attention to. So I get bored super fast with the majority of BookTube videos that just gush about YA titles. Where are the literary fiction BookTubers? If they do go into literary fiction, it’s mixed in with YA, and it’s frequently something like, “what classic books should I read?” *sigh* Again.

I wish there were more vibrant librarians on BookTube. Book professionals who know how to book talk, and have some method to the madness of book accumulation. Avid readers of adult fiction who can speak more authoritatively about it than just on dead white guys. Librarians who know their stuff, yet can also command a video camera with enthusiasm like the best young BookTubers. Many librarian book talk videos are of poor quality, and have not particularly inviting women (not many guys in general) talking about books. That’s also boring. And after a few solid updates, they stop having the time or energy to keep producing and uploading videos. Many of the reader’s advisory librarians are busy doing their jobs, or posting useful blog links, and are thus not able or equipped to make BookTube videos. But it’s still my wish.

Le sigh. I’m not the kind of person to actually make this change, I just know what needs to be done. That can be an annoying position for everyone. But I hope some more outgoing and experimental librarian tries to tackle an unexplored area of BookTube!

book life

BookTube and September Haul

Do you know about BookTube? I only recently discovered it. It seems to mostly be young ladies in their teens or early twenties to make videos about the stacks of YA novels they just got, and gushing about how beautiful the covers are. I think it’s neat (if somewhat overwhelming), but I would be more into it if there was more… uh… grown-up(?) content to be had. More literary fiction, maybe some subject non-fiction. So I briefly entertained the idea of starting a BookTube channel myself doing that very thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided against it because A) I don’t think I look very good on camera, nor do I have camera equipment besides a webcam, B) I don’t know if I want to make the “brand” commitment and stick to it, and C) that’s a lot of content creation, and I don’t know if I want to dedicate some of my free time to doing something that will inevitably stress me out. So I’m backing off the idea of BookTube and going to see about doing more on the Twitter side of the bookish social media, and maybe use this blog as more of a platform for what I would put in a BookTube video without the anxiety of being on camera and working in a medium I’m not as familiar with.

So, in the spirit of BookTube, I thought I would do a “September Haul,” here on the blog! (Because, gosh, my TBR is sinking under the weight.)

September 2014 Book Haul

Continue reading “BookTube and September Haul”