Okay, so if you already read this post and this post, that means you’re up-to-date with the nonsense (so far) about how various higher-ups are telling us what we can and cannot have when we move into our new building.  And by “can and cannot” I mostly mean “cannot.”  Well, the latest decree update that I heard was that we WILL be allowed to bring books from our old building into our new building …

… wait for it …

only if they are in NEW and PRISTINE condition.

*sigh*

Okay, so let’s say that I get all the copies of the books that are on our shelves which are also on our local schools’ summer reading lists.  A few of them could be considered new and pristine, but most of them aren’t because they were checked out multiple times last year and maybe even the year before that.  So I take these less-than-pristine books, which are technically still in GOOD condition, and I reassign them to other branches in our system.  Well, I COULD delete them altogether, but I would only do that if every last one of my brain cells had burned away.  And to be fair, I still have a few left that are in working order.

But I digress.

Okay, so let’s say that I reassign these perfectly good books to other libraries in our system.  Then our schools give out their summer reading lists to their students.  And then, I imagine, the chain of events would go something like this …

  • Students leave their schools with their reading lists in hand to walk into our library and discover that we don’t have copies of most of the books on their list BECAUSE WE GAVE THEM AWAY.
  • These students will need to reserve copies of these books from other branches, and wait for these books to show up.
  • After some delay, the books arrive, the students pick them up, read them …
  • … and when they’re done with these books, they’ll return them to our branch.

Now, in the days before our floating collections policy began, each branch could know that the collection they purchased was their own, and that it wouldn’t fluctuate too much from month to month or year to year.  But since we switched to a system where any items that are returned to your branch stay at your branch?  We’re constantly in flux!  I understand that when our new building opens, we’ll be exempt from having our collections float for a few months.  But after that, all bets are off.

My point is, before our library system moved to a floating collections policy, it was possible for a library to open with a pristine collection and have it stay that way for a while.  But now that our pristine collections can float away and other libraries’ less-than-pristine books can settle on our shores, within a few weeks or a few months it’s going to be a mix of new and old stuff anyway.

You know … it’s almost like our higher-ups are being so short-sighted that they’re ONLY thinking about us looking shiny and new on our opening day, and not about our actual function as a library that is supposed to serve the needs of its community.

Many thanks to my colleagues in other branches who have offered to keep our books “in hiding” for us temporarily (kind of like our forbidden clocks are going to spend some time in storage before making their debut AFTER our opening).  I don’t know if that will be necessary or not, but I appreciate the sentiment.  Anyway, the higher-ups in question might change their minds a dozen more times between now and opening day, so for now I’m just going to step back and watch this tug-of-war continue.

My new colleague told me that she’d had a strange afternoon on the information desk the day before. She said, “…and then there was someone in a bear costume!” and I got to see the look on her face when I replied, “It was a white bear costume, right?” Because yes, that bear had been in our library before. My advantage was that I had previously seen the kid in the costume when he’d taken the head off during his earlier visit to our library.

The “no using cell phones in the library” rule got downgraded to “no LOUD cell phone conversations in the library” for reasons that defy logic. Oh wait, I mean, probably because we want to be more accomodating to our patrons. What this means is that I’m constantly biting my tongue when I see a patron using a cell phone, and then waiting for the volume to rise so that I can say something. It also means I hear even more of my patrons’ conversations than before. Today I heard a woman trying to get a refill of her Prozac prescription over the phone. A few minutes I had to ask her two small children to stop yelling and to stop standing on the benches in the picture book section. Because they had been doing that and she hadn’t said a damn thing to them.

Universal property labels are becoming the bane of my existence. As we continue our weeding drive, which is being exacerbated by our eventual move to our new building, I send more and more of the godforsaken “floating collection” items back to their original branches. But if the books have universal property labels on them, then I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO SEND THEM.

This was a ridiculous day in more ways than one.  But to be fair, it was also a ridiculous week.

I had to deal with a problem patron today, specifically an inebriated problem patron.  Since this is the second drunk patron I’ve dealt with before noon this week, I have to wonder … is morning drunkenness a reflection on our society as a whole, or does it just say something about our neighborhood?  Both times I got to see the “happy” side of public drunkenness.  The first guy said he was going to bring me a free movie for helping him (I said that I couldn’t accept it, but I don’t know if he could hear me at that point).  The second guy responded to my helping him log on to his appointment by saying, “Thanks, Hon.  You’re so SEXY!”  Which, as I’m sure you could imagine, is just what I wanted to hear from a drunken loudmouth at 10:05 in the morning.  And both times I also got to see the ugly side of drunkenness, like increased volume and hostility.  Which led to me filling out my first incident report of 2011 on April Fool’s Day.

The little ducklings still can’t get it through their thick heads that if I say that they’re on their LAST WARNING, and that if they keep making noise / hitting each other / etc. I’m going to cancel their computer appointments, that I REALLY MEAN IT.  I ended two boys’ appointments today, and one of them gave up shortly afterwards.  The other one, a little boy who is getting WAY too much mileage out of his cuteness, tried every trick in the book to make me give him another appointment.  The other boy was the one who started it.  He was playing that online game FOR HOMEWORK.  He would be good from now on.  I shot down each of his arguments and explained, calmly and logically, that I had given him several warnings and that because he had continued talking to and fighting with the other boy he had lost his appointment.  He stared up at me with big puppy dog eyes.  I would not be moved.  He pointed at my shoulder and said, “What’s that?” and when I looked down he moved his finger up to my face and exclaimed, “April Fools!”  I smiled, looked deeply into those big brown eyes, and said, “That was very cute.  You’re still not getting another appointment.”  That’s when he finally gave up.

April first is the ironic anniversary of the floating collections policy.  Last year I wrote about it here.  My thoughts haven’t changed much.  It still irritates me, a LOT.  I’m trying to think of something new to say about the policy, but I’m coming up empty.  Go read that first post, or check out the other posts with the floating collections tag.  You’ll get the idea.

Right now I’m getting ready for the exterminators who are coming on Tuesday.  That means we’ve got the PackTite running constantly, heating all of our possessions up to a bedbug-lethal 120 degrees one batch at a time.  Right now I’ve got coats and shoes in there.  Yesterday I did several batches of books.  We should buy stock in plastic bag companies; we’ve bought so many boxes of bags lately.  Just imagine heating every piece of fabric in your home, from socks to coats to curtains.  Add to that all of your books, papers, shoes, etc.  After you heat everything, you have to put everything in plastic bags.  Then you have to find a place to put all of the plastic bags.  Imagine all of your life in plastic bags.  If nothing else, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who’s had this problem.  On the plus side, this is giving me a very good motivation to weed through my closets.

I’m listening to a conversation between a guard and a custodian in the children’s room.  I’m not eavesdropping, exactly, but because I have excellent hearing and because the room is otherwise empty and quiet, I can hear most of what they’re saying from a distance.  As I look up items on the holds list on the terminal at the information desk, I hear them talking in hushed tones about how many books we’ve pulled off of our shelves, and where the books went after they were removed.  I’m surprised to hear them talking in such animated tones about this subject, but then it occurs to me that they’re in a unique position of being insiders and outsiders at the same time.  And it’s a subject that both library staff and patrons are spending a lot of time thinking about.

I can’t believe so many books are gone!  They got rid of so many!

I know, right?  They’re sending them back to other branches.

No, they’re not.

They’re not?  What do you mean?

[Their voices drop even lower, and suddenly I’m straining to hear what they’re saying.  A few words and phrases rise up to the surface]

— NO!  Really? —

— throwing them out —

— but I thought —

— no, they’re not —

— that’s a SHAME — such a WASTE — what a SHAME —

I’m biting the inside of my cheek to stop myself from jumping into the conversation. Because if I do, I’ll have to admit that I was eavesdropping.  Er … I mean, listening.  Plus, it would be rather awkward to chime in with, “Oh yeah?  Well, I’ll have you know that you’re only PARTIALLY right!”

Because we are getting rid of a large portion of the books on our shelves, and we’re doing it in a variety of ways.  Some of the books are going back to their “original” branches (when they have property labels).  Some of the books are being deleted and then sold through local or online book sales to raise money for the library.  And yes, some of the books are being deleted and then discarded.

And yes, it is a shame.

On the one hand, we’re being given multiple criteria for weeding — anything that hasn’t circulated for over a year, anything that hasn’t circulated enough, anything with yellowing pages, etc.  At the same time, we’re also being told to weed in a less visible manner — to remove the “to be deleted/discarded/sold” signs from our book trucks.  But our patrons aren’t stupid.  They have eyes.  They know that our books are going SOMEWHERE.

It’s frustrating hearing the question “What happened to all the books?” on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

It’s frustrating that we are being pushed to get books off of our shelves when there are library systems that can’t even afford to buy books anymore.

It’s frustrating that we are being pushed to discard books that “look” old, so that those ugly books won’t be eyesores when they are part of our new collection.  Because … honestly, let’s think about this.  Even if we start with a 50% new / 50% old collection on the opening day of our new building, within a month’s time it’s going to start looking like crap anyway.  How much of our “new” collection is going to be stolen in our first month? How much of it will be checked out from our branch and returned to other branches?  How much of it will go out to fill reserves, never to return to our shelves again?  And how much old and yellowed material will come floating in from other branches to contaminate our shelves?

Like I said, it’s a shame.

Q: How many books are on my desk at work right now, waiting for me to read them?

A: This morning it was sixteen.  This afternoon it was fifteen.  And that’s not even counting all the books that I need to read at home.  Some of them are graphic novels and many of them are children’s and young adult books, but it’s still going to take me a while to get through them.  Yeesh!

Q: How many books with “foreign” property labels can a dozen Teen Advisory Group members find and pull from our shelves in half an hour?

A: Enough to fill SEVEN book trucks.  That’s in the neighborhood of around 600 books.  Did I mention that our massive weeding project is a much harder undertaking than it should be when we are getting a CONSTANT influx of materials from other branches clogging our shelves?  Thank you, floating collections policy!

Q: How do I know that people actually read this blog?  I mean yes, I can go to my WordPress dashboard and see the numbers on the bar graph to see how many views I get every day.  And yes, I can read the comments that my Dear Readers leave for me.  But how ELSE do I know?

A: I opened my inter-office mail today to discover an advance reader’s copy of Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler!  Woo-Hoo!!!  Hopefully I’ll enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Hunger, which I reviewed here a little while ago.  Many thanks to my benefactor for the gift!!!

Q: What do librarians wear under all their layers during the winter months?  What secret articles of clothing would surprise their patrons?  Get your minds out of the gutter; it’s not what you think …

A:

Much like looking at the cartoons over my desk or smelling the lovely shampoo or perfume I’m wearing, it’s a little something that picks my spirits up during the day.   When I’m tired and worn-out at work, I’ll take all the morale boosts that I can get!

Yesterday I had one of my floating holidays, and I got a lot of shopping done.  I went down to Union Square and spent the next several hours buying stuff for myself and stuff for Christmas presents.  I went to Duane Reade, LUSH, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Filene’s Basement, Whole Foods Market, and the Union Square Holiday Market.  I was planning to do some more shopping in different neighborhoods, but after a few hours I was carrying so many bags of STUFF that I just had to get on the subway and come home.

One side note to the staff of LUSH: Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely LOVE your products to pieces.  But if I want help, I’ll ask for it.  Really.  Please keep in mind that overly friendly/talkative/invasive/pushy/hands-on salespeople might turn off some of your patrons and make them want to run screaming out of the store.  Just sayin’.

So my boyfriend, who works as an assistant principal at a middle school, occasionally goes out to other schools for different outreach programs.  Since he was asked to do some reading aloud at a local elementary school, he asked me to help him find some good picture books.  Because he’s often unsure about which grade levels the classes will be, I tried to pick books that would be easy enough for younger readers, but interesting enough for older kids (and their teachers) to enjoy.  I started with one of my personal favorite “classics,” (Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst), found one of my favorite picture books from last year (Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty), and also included two of my favorite picture books from this year (Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner [which I reviewed in this blog a little while ago] and A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black).  Since I know that I have some children’s librarians and other picture book fans amongst my Dear Readers, can I ask if anyone has some more good suggestions of relatively new picture books that would be great for reading aloud?

I caught up on watching a couple of classic films that I had seen before but I’d wanted to see again, The Maltese Falcon and Hell’s AngelsThe Maltese Falcon is stupendous because Humphrey Bogart is in it, and he is high on the list of Dead Guys Who I Think Are Really Hot (the list also includes Clark Gable, John Garfield, Richard Burton, and William Hopper, in case you were wondering).  But this film is also great because of the dialogue, which is so stunning that it will make your head spin.  And as for Hell’s Angels … I mean, yes, Howard Hughes might have turned into a mental case who was so germ-phobic that he was afraid to touch bathroom doors.  But my God, those air battles, with those planes and with that enormous zeppelin, were nothing short of astonishing.  Of course, the same could be said for Jean Harlow, as well!

Then today I had my Teen Advisory Group help me with our massive weeding project by assigning each kid to a different bookcase in my YA section and having them pull out every book they found that had a property label other than ours (weeding is hard enough on its own without the godforsaken floating collections adding to our misery).  Anyway, over the course of half an hour they pulled over 300 “foreign” books off of the shelves.  The books took up the better part of three book trucks, and tomorrow our clerical staff will be deleting some of them and sending the rest of them back to their original branches.  The afternoon was such a success that Mr. Atoz said that I could have them attack our adult New Books collection next week.

For what it’s worth, the most searched subject that led people to this blog used to be “bedbugs in libraries.”  But now the most popular subject search is “floating collections.”  Read into that what you will.

Then after work my boyfriend and I went out to dinner, and I enjoyed an angus burger and just a little too much wine.  I’d actually like to lie down for a while, but instead I’m getting ready to record a podcast tonight, and that usually takes a while.  While I could use a nap, I miss our podcasts (we’ve rescheduled this recording several times already), and that is its own form of unwinding.  Okay, now it’s time for me to get another cup of coffee and try my best to be coherent.  Luckily, even if we run late (which we probably will), I’m free tomorrow so I can sleep in for a while.

Talk to you soon, Dear Readers …

The Chocolate Show was lots of sugar-fueled fun, as usual.  I bought some delicious (and entertaining) truffles for my staff, and they didn’t last very long.  My boyfriend got some sweets to share with his staff, I bought some goodies for my teen advisory group (I’m guessing that the Swiss chocolate-covered potato chips will be an enormous hit), and oh yes, we got some stuff for ourselves as well.  After the Chocolate Show we went to Chelsea Market, because clearly we needed MORE food!

Anime Night went well.  Mushi-Shi was strange, creepy, and visually stunning, and my kids got a big kick out of it.  I actually ended up staying late because my kids not only wanted to watch all the episodes, but then they wanted to check out the extras on the disc, too.

My big triumph of the day?  Consolidating the three overflowing book trucks in my young adult section into one through a marathon session of weeding and shelving.  The continuous influx of floating collection materials that we DO NOT FRIGGING WANT, combined with our page funding being cut, means that the only way to keep our heads above water is with constant vigilance.  Every day we have staff members pulling unwanted duplicates off of the shelves, and preparing materials for discard or for transfer back to their original branches — all of which adds a lot to our workload, I might add.  Well, between last week when I was on vacation and the week before that when I was spending most of my mornings conducting school visits, my section has grown into an absolute MESS.  It’s gotten so bad that other staff members have had to help straighten out my little corner of the library, and I’m both depressed and embarassed by this development.  I’ve worked at my branch for over a decade, and I’ve NEVER had to have anyone else fix up my section.  EVER.  My corner of the library was always neat and well-maintained, but now it looks like a tornado hit it.

At least I got to weed my collection while I was enveloped in a lovely cloud of brandy and lemons.  That helped to keep my spirits up, which was definitely a plus.