OMG, has it been cold.  And slushy.  And miserable.  And yet sometimes also lovely:

Snow Covered Fence at NightThis was a snow-covered fence I saw on my way home from work after the first major snowfall.

Giant IciclesOn Wednesday morning after a major snow / ice / slush combo, I waited over half an hour for the bus that would take me to my chiropractor’s office.  Finally I gave up and took a cab to get there … and she was late, too!  While I stood shivering on the sidewalk waiting for her to arrive, I took this picture of some giant icicles nearby.

Waiting for a BusWaiting for a bus in Riverdale.  Hmmm … I wonder how treacherous that bus stop is?

Snow and Slush Pit at the Bus StopAh.  It turns out that it was very dangerous, indeed.  It also turns out that my boots, while warm and fleecy on ordinary days, were not at all waterproof when it came to icy-cold slush pits at bus stops and intersections.  And my super-absorbent socks didn’t help the situation at all.  My feet got soaked FOUR TIMES in one day!

Today things were still icy, but overall more bearable.  I didn’t slip and fall and my feet didn’t get soaked once, so it was relatively positive for me.  Although Betsy couldn’t even get her car out of her driveway this morning, so things were not happy all over.

I did get to go out to dinner with my friends tonight, which was lovely.  The good news was that we didn’t have to cancel our plans entirely, but the bad news was that we had to meet up closer to work, which was a little awkward because part of our conversation was about work-related gossip.  Luckily, we are highly skilled at speaking in code.

… Okay, actually we’re not.  Especially not after splitting a bottle of hot sake with dinner.  I kept losing track of what code name I was supposed to be using.  Anyway, I certainly hope that Monica Lewinsky wasn’t eating at the same restaurant, because otherwise it could be very embarassing.

Oh, and speaking of embarassing, I mentioned last week that several Big Things had happened.  Well, one of them was embarassing to me and the other one was embarassing to me but could also be potentially embarassing to someone else, so I’m only going to write about one of them here …

So here was the “embarassing to me” story, which I’m sharing in the interest of full disclosure and general hilarity.  So I’m working at the public service desk when a former co-worker stops by to visit me.  She says, “I’ve been reading your blog …” and that’s when I start mentally sifting through everything I’ve been blogging about for the last few months to figure out which topic she wants to talk about.  Of course, it’s my health, which is the most embarassing one.  Now, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who a) read my blog, b) might stop by my library at any given moment, and c) care enough about me to ask about my well-being, and she’s on that very short list.  Usually when people care about me or are worried about me they either comment on my blog or send me an email (Mr. X’s “I am reading your blog with increasing alarm” subject lines always tend to jump-start my heart).

But anyway, the invitation is now open to have a deeply personal conversation … except I’m at the frigging service desk, which means that I have to decide if I’m going to talk about my perimenopause, my hormone fluctuations, my crying jags, and whether or not I’ve started to go to therapy WHILE THERE’S SOMEONE ELSE STANDING TWO FEET AWAY WAITING TO CHECK OUT BOOKS.  So this led to a very strange conversation, in which I tried to touch on these life-changing subjects in a vague and roundabout way, using phrases like “this condition” and “that kind of treatment.”

Ironically, I was having this conversation just one day after a patron who’d been looking for her library card in her purse said to me, “Oh, good, my wallet’s here.  I was worried I’d left it in the therapist’s office.”  I wonder if I would ever be comfortable enough with the idea of therapy that I would mention it in casual conversation with total strangers.

Yeah, probably not.  But I could probably afford to lighten up a little.

Anyway, the rest of the week will be filled with work, more work, some tumblr stuff (I’m slowly getting the hang of this thing), and … oh, yeah … I’m going to see Vampire Academy!  Could it POSSIBLY be as good as the book?  I have no idea, but the trailer looks pretty doofy.

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I’ve spent the better part of the last hour reading entries from the staff blog that I maintained from 2007 – 2009.  It all started because I was rereading my blog post about Mary, which you will probably remember if you were one of my Dear Readers from way back when.  Yes, she still comes to my library, and she was asking us to clear her fines again just last week.  So she came up in conversation, she was on my mind, and the ache in my heart that recurs whenever I think of her started throbbing like an old bruise.

But anyway, I started reading more and more entries, and before long I had fallen into a vortex of nostalgia and sadness.  My “What’s Your Specialty?” post, in which I described my training and experiences in young adult and children’s services, opened up into a dilaogue between different librarians who commented on how many years they spent working as a Children’s / Young Adult / Adult / Reference librarian.  Some of my commenters discussed how frustrated they were by the level of training you would have to complete in order to be “officially” approved to work in a particular area.  Now it’s five years later, and there’s very little specialty training left anymore.  Now information assistants and clerks are being asked to do stuff that librarians who didn’t take the right kind of training would have been considered “unqualified” to do just a few years ago.  The pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it’s simply mind-blowing.

We have lost, and we continue to lose, some of the best specialists that have ever worked in our library system.

It’s times like this that I start to feel like a frigging dinosaur.  Or more specifically, a dinosaur staring in bewilderment at the still-smoking crater that signals the end of my species.  Except my walnut-sized brain is too small to process these far-reaching implications, so instead I’m spending my remaining days foraging for food and wondering why it feels so warm lately.

*SIGH*

Okay, before we all start getting too depressed (Hey, settle down in the peanut gallery!  It’s NOT too late!)  I’d like to add that I’ve been part of an ongoing committee / focus group that has been working on designing new training manuals for programming and outreach for children and teens.  Now, while we’ve been making suggestions all along for how we think our library should change its hiring practices and how and why our system needs to train, support, and reward its staff, there is no guarantee that our suggestions will be turned into reality.  Because turning those suggestions into reality would cost money, after all.

But at the very least, the manuals we’re developing should provide valuable support to library staff members who work with children and teens.  They should give them guidance whether they are dedicated specialists, or information assistants, or even clerks who are told that they HAVE TO work with kids and teens.  At least, that’s what we’re hoping.

Good thoughts, good thoughts …

We’re still busy giving our possessions the PackTite treatment. To say that this process is ongoing makes me want to redefine the word “ongoing.” I feel like I’ve already spent half of my life doing this. Every day we heat up more stuff we want to keep, and throw out more stuff we thought we really needed but which can and will be replaced. We’re going to have to go to the storage facility soon to get boxes for packing up all of my books and videos. I have so much STUFF that it’s not even funny.

My boyfriend and I spent the afternoon with friends, eating and playing games and watching DVDs and just talking. Between the various parts of my personal life that have fallen to pieces lately (nothing life-threatening but still crappy), it was nice to just hang out and have a good time and de-stress for a while. Well, it was almost perfect. I was wearing one of my more presentable pairs of shoes. The soles of which are held on by glue. Which, as it turns out, does not hold up very well after a treatment in the PackTite machine. So today I had to walk very slowly and cautiously, and tomorrow we’re going to get some Crazy Glue and see if we can salvage my poor shoes.

I finished writing a blog post for my library’s website today. Actually, I’ve been working on a blog post about Sherlock Holmes for several weeks, which I’m planning to submit later this month. But a few days ago I had an idea for a blog post connected to poetry month, so I whipped that one up as soon as I could and sent it in today, which means that it should be up on the website very soon. I ended up sharing a personal anecdote connected to a childhood experience with poetry that might make you laugh, or smile, or at least gain a better understanding of why my psyche is so damned fragile. Oh, and I talk about a particular teacher who I had in the 6th grade. I don’t mention it in the library post, but I can tell you here: That teacher’s name was Mrs. Sexton. And I can also tell you, Dear Readers, that when we were in the 6th grade we thought that was HILARIOUS. Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for that blog post. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll smirk in the knowledge that you know that teacher’s name.  Oh, and be sure to check out the Sherlock Holmes post, too.  After those two posts are up, my well of brilliance (*cough*) might be running dry for a little while.  Honestly, I have zero ideas for my next blog topic for that site.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Words With Friends game with Mr. Atoz lately. I used to think that winning at Scrabble (or, in this case, a Scrabble derivative) had more to do with brainpower and vocabulary than luck. But now I’m starting to think that luck holds much more power in this game. Because while my brainpower and vocabulary skills remain fairly constant, more often than not I have great letters or lousy letters. Sometimes we’re playing two games at once, and in one game I’m 80 points ahead while in the other game I’m 50 points behind. What’s up with that??? BTW, if you’d like to play the game with me, just drop me a line and I’ll send you my username.  I always like to keep my brain active during slow moments throughout the day.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to be meeting with someone who is travelling a great distance to see me because I’ve been recommended as one of the best experts on the topic of graphic novels in our library system. So … um … no pressure! I’m hoping to come up with some profound stuff to say, but come on, how likely is THAT? I’m also going to have to dip into my memory reserves for some of the advice, because a lot of what I would recommend doing in terms of ordering graphic novels, for example, is stuff that we USED to do but don’t anymore.  Not at the branch level, anyway.  Well, I hope that he has some specific questions, because otherwise it’s just going to be me babbling without any focus for an hour. Hmmm. I’ll make sure I get in early and have some coffee to get my synapses firing correctly.  If I can’t promise coherence, at the very least I can guarantee consciousness.

And speaking of consciousness, I don’t have too much left right now.  Talk to you soon, Dear Readers!

I spent this morning at a meeting / “unconference” for library staff about blogging.  I was interested enough in attending this meeting that I went even though it was on my free day — every other day this week I needed to work because of staffing issues or because I was going to be conducting class visits at another local school.  On the whole this was a good meeting — it was practical in parts and generally well-intentioned, but there were a couple of pitfalls along the way.

First off, I counted 40 people at this meeting.  Now if it’s just a case of people sitting and listening to a lecture that’s one thing, but if it’s supposed to be an interactive meeting where people are making different presentations, asking questions, and participating in the always time-consuming and not-really-necessary “breaking up into small groups” activity … well, then 40 people can be a little unwieldly.  And not to be an elitist or anything, but I also think that it would have been a good idea to have limited the invitations to people who actually WERE blogging, instead of opening it up to everyone who thought that blogging was a nice idea.  Okay, maybe that did sound kind of elitist.  But during that small group discussion, I was the ONLY person in my group who actually worked in a branch library.  The rest of my group consisted of people who worked in the research libraries, people who worked in central offices, and (I swear) a lady who wasn’t even supposed to be at the meeting but just wandered in when she discovered that we were there.  And several of them had never actually blogged before, and were not familiar with what blogs currently existed on the library’s website.  Which means that we were coming from very different perspectives on the subject of what kinds of blogs the general public would actually like to read.

Anyway, the group discussion pretty much derailed the meeting from its loosely outlined schedule, and the break and the Drupal discussion fell by the wayside.  We gained focus again in the last half hour, with presentations from the library’s fundraising and marketing people.  Which says something about the library’s desperate financial state, if the fundraising and marketing people were coming to talk to a bunch of bloggers about ways that we could help pull our library system out of the financial pit of despair.

And speaking of finances, on the plus side I learned after the meeting that there is money set aside for materials for our new branch (which MIGHT be completed within a year), and that I’m going to get a call tomorrow morning about what kinds of YA materials I’d like to get for the new collection.  So that will be a nice virtual shopping spree, the last one I’ll probably get to experience for a while.  On the minus side … did I mention before that we were going to get some new pages to replace one or more of the ones who quit?  Well, we’re not.  By which I mean, the positions were advertised, interviews were conducted, and THEN we were told that there wasn’t any money left to spend on these minimum-wage positions.

Pffffffft.

Anyway, the blogging meeting was nice and helpful in several ways.  At the top of the list for me was the fact that I got to see and talk to some of my fellow bloggers in person, including several who used to read and comment on my staff blog (and who might be lurking here for all I know).  It was nice being in the same room as Shelly and several more of my Dear Readers, just because it happens so rarely.  It was also helpful to be able to share our ideas / complaints / constructive criticism with like-minded people.  It was good to know that our blog posts are liked and followed and tweeted … and it was also good to know that our posts are being VIEWED, even though we have to peek over somebody else’s shoulder to know what those numbers are.  And it was also nice to have a meeting in a lovely location with lovely refreshments that made us feel, ya know, civilized and all.

And then, since I didn’t have to head back to my branch afterwards, I got to do some early Christmas shopping and then swing by the Shake Shack before heading home.  Where the cat stared at me with big eyes until he got samples of my bird dog and double cheeseburger.  He let me keep the french fries for myself.