After dealing with a couple of things messing up this week (including a class visit that was cancelled but I didn’t learn about it until I arrived at the school), I spoke at a staff training this morning and got some very nice feedback on my presentation.  My portion of the training was to talk about readers advisory for teens, to share examples of using social media to find and share reading recommendations, and to explain the concept of booktalking and give examples of booktalks to the group.

I received several compliments, including one that seems like the adult variation of the teen comment, “you sound like you could be on TV!”  Only this time it was a grownup telling me that I had “a good voice for NPR.”  Which made me laugh.  And several of the participants asked questions both during and after the presentation that told me that they’re interested in writing blog posts, and class visits, and booktalking.  So that was also positive because it was good to know that I was talking to a receptive audience.

Tomorrow morning I’m leading another training, although this time it will be about the transition to our new catalog system.  I suspect that this will not be quite as intellectually or spiritually fulfilling, nor will I receive any compliments about my NPR voice.  Ah, well.  Onward and sideways, I suppose …

I visited my mother this morning, and dealt with the usual stuff — picking up and dropping off books, dropping off food and picking up empty containers — but then there was a new twist.  That was the part where she asked me if I believed in an afterlife, and we talked about her seeing her family again when she dies.  My mother has always been a very unsentimental person, so this was an unusual and awkward conversation for us to have.  My boyfriend drove me there, and then afterwards we went out to brunch and went shopping at the H Mart to try to reset my brain and cheer up.

I’ve been spending the last hour emailing back and forth between several teachers from a local high school who all apparently decided last week that they needed to bring all of their classes to visit my library THIS week.  I’m assuming this was based on a directive by their higher ups, but since they have visited me before (usually in April), I wonder what the rush is all about.  I mean, I work here all year round, and they could have contacted me MONTHS ago.  Why do they all need to come NOW?  Anyway, what that means is that I’m trying to wrangle all of their 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes into the available spaces when our community room isn’t being used for something else.  Oh, and did I mention that they’ll be bringing about 45 students per visit?  And did I also mention that I have less than a week to start cramming high school booktalks into my head?

Ugh.  I mean, hooray for my productivity and statistics, but ugh for my head!

Plus, these days are going to be extra hectic because I have a bunch of branch managers who want their staff to observe class visits in a library setting, so I’m probably going to be observed by a bunch of staff members from other branches while I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So, you know, no pressure …

Now I’m finishing listening to an episode of the Nerdist podcast, then I’m going to do some reading, then I need to start cramming those booktalks in my head, then … well, then it will be time for dinner and the season premiere of Game of Thrones!

Earlier this week, the fourth person in the course of a month told me that I look like I’m losing weight.  I’m starting to think that it’s true, and it would certainly explain why my clothes have been feeling looser lately.  Since I’m not officially on a diet, I’m assuming it’s tied into this perimenopause thing.  But I can’t figure out if I’m losing weight because my appetite has changed, because my restless energy has been driving me to walk more, or because my body has decided that since I’m not going to have children I won’t need as much cushioning fat as I did before.  In any case, I’m going to need to get some new clothes soon.

I spoke at a young adult training session that actually had some practical applications, including having the audience participate in creating booklists:

Creating Booklists

In addition, one of the best things about getting out of the branch and going to meetings is getting to go shopping on the way back — I got cupcakes for my coworkers from Crumbs and lunch for myself from Hale and Hearty Soup.  Plus, I got to see exotic things I don’t get to see every day …

Spongebob Mailbox

Saturday was my day off, but since I needed someone from Verizon to come check my phone lines and since they give you such an enormous window of time when they’re going to show up, Saturday became “Wait For the Verizon Guy to Show Up” day.  Which meant that it also became “Make a Brisket” day, so that all that time sitting around the house twiddling my thumbs wouldn’t go to waste.  I tried out a new recipe this time, which was an Atlanta Brisket including ketchup, Coca-Cola, and … instant tapioca!

Working On the Atlanta Brisket Recipe

So it was an unusual recipe, but it came out well in the end.  We really enjoyed it, and I’ve already started sharing the leftovers.

Oh, and while I was spending my free day waiting for the Verizon guy and making that brisket, my branch was going to hell in a handbasket.  Because two people called out sick, which meant that HALF THE STAFF was gone.  So Betsy had a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day at work, and we’re going to be spending a lot of Monday playing catch-up for all the Saturday stuff that didn’t get done.

Today I visited my mother in the morning, and then my boyfriend and I went out to brunch and walked around the Muscota Marsh for a while …

Muscota Marsh Dock

Muscota Marsh Panorama

Tonight was spent winding down at home with the cat, who has been making himself at home sleeping on my desk lately, so I have to work around him:

Kitty on the Desk

I got some reading done (The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle), caught up with some episodes of The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, we watched the latest episode of Cosmos and now we’re watching the 1939 film Jesse James (starring Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, and a YOUNG John Carradine!) on Turner Classic Movies.  Tonight I have to do some Tumblr updating, and then I’m going to bed.

I’ll be thinking good thoughts for tomorrow’s schedule, which I hopefully won’t have to redo from scratch …

I went to meetings yesterday and today leading up to some presentations we’ll be doing for the higher-ups in a couple of weeks.  Most of my presentation time will be devoted to booktalking.  Surprise!!!  Anyway, I have to do some follow-up work online, but most of the framework is done.  I’ll be glad when the BIG meeting is over, both because then I won’t have to stress out anymore and because all the pre-meeting meetings will stop screwing with my schedule.  I’m looking over the next few weeks and it’s very tricky trying to fit in school visits and basically impossible to fit in my chiropractor’s appointments.  So basically I’m going to be tense and … um … TENSE.

Anyway, now on to the fun stuff.

This weekend I went to the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park, where I took a lot of pictures.

Then this afternoon I went to the Discovering Columbus exhibit, in which you go to the center of Columbus Circle, climb a lot of stairs, and enter the living room that has been constructed around the Christopher Columbus statue (which you’d usually need a zoom lens to see up close).  Honestly, the exhibit is both very cool and very surreal.  They do give you time to relax and hang out if you want — your timed ticket allows you to hang out there for half an hour, where you can find a comfy place to sit and relax / read a book / watch TV if you like.  But basically it’s worth about ten minutes of your time to look at the statue, look at the people looking at the statue, and marvel at the novelty of the fact that YOU’RE IN A FRIGGING LIVING ROOM ABOVE COLUMBUS CIRCLE!  I took lots of pictures there, too.

Then this coming weekend I’m going to be participating in a bunch of Open House New York activities.  I booked two tours on Saturday, and on Sunday we’ll be visiting a couple of sites in Brooklyn if we have access to a car, or in Manhattan if we don’t.  I’m excited that we’re going on a tour of The Intrepid on Saturday morning, and super-duper excited that we’re going on a tour of the next section of the High Line on Saturday afternoon.  And by “the next section” I mean “the section that isn’t open to the public yet.”  Man, I am sooooooo happy about that.  And I am sooooooo going to be wearing comfortable, sturdy, and closed-toed shoes for that tour.  Yay!  And yes, many more photos will be taken there.  I’m also going to enter the photography contest like I have for the last several years.  Let’s see how I do this time around …

Then on Thursday the 11th I’ll be going to New York Comic Con, since they have officially certified me as a professional.  Woo-Hoo!  Needless to say, I will be taking pictures there, as well.

Anyway, I’ve started adding pictures of my travels to Flickr, and I will be putting up pictures here very soon, as well.  Stay tuned!!!

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 …

Earlier this week we dealt with some busy schedules, crappy weather, programs that ran long for all the right reasons, and some irritated and irrational patrons.  Then today …

I had a focus group meeting this morning about class visits — planning, training, and support.  When the meeting let out half an hour late, I was trying to find a restroom before I left to go back to my branch.  As I was walking through the hallway looking for a restroom, I ran into a higher-up who suggested that I come along to ANOTHER meeting (this one shorter and less formal) about the summer reading website.  So instead I detoured to that meeting, which actually turned out to be very helpful regarding some questions about creating and awarding badges for my teen readers.

For future reference, if you want to create badges for a particular age group, you (representing your branch) have to log in to the summer reading website checking off that age group DURING THE LOGIN PROCESS.  So apparently I spent an hour earlier this week creating a bunch of new badges … for adults instead of teens.  And if you want to create a badge that can be awarded to any age group, you need to create that badge THREE TIMES — once signed in checking off the “children” category, once signed in as a “teen,” and once signed in as an “adult.”  Who knew???

Anyway, while we were having that conversation I used my iPod Touch to email my coworkers to let them know that I would be late getting back to the branch.  Then we finished talking, I found the restroom, I bought lunch, went home to share my lunch with the cat, went to work, and immediately started covering the public service desk.  Then it was time for my break, followed by my XBox Kinect program (my teenagers started acting like five-year-olds when I told them we wouldn’t be meeting next week because I was going to be on vacation), and then it was time to go home.  At which point I changed my clothes to go downtown, where my boyfriend and I had dinner and went to the Rifftrax Live show.

And there was much rejoicing 🙂

Then we went home, where I made coffee and started packing for our trip.  Man, it’s been a crazy day!

Anyway, I’ve been spending much of this week going through the piles of books and DVDs that have been taking up space on my home desk and my work desk for the last several months.  So, there’s been a lot of, “Okay, I won’t have time for this, or this, or this, or THIS …”  And I’ve just been checking lots of stuff in and either putting things back on our shelves or filling holds throughout my library system.  It’s kind of a cleansing feeling, actually.  Kind of like putting my life through a kind of triage.

Anyway, I might get to write another post tomorrow, but if not then I’ll probably be out of touch for a while.  Unless something truly fabulous happens, like I discover that my hotel has an especially superb bathtub, or something.  Then I might write a post or two from Chicago.  In any case, I’ll have lots of stories and pictures when I get back.

So, I’m taking any last-minute recommendations for stuff to do in Chicago.  We booked a river architecture tour cruise, a lunch cruise on Lake Michigan, and a pizza-and-cocktails tour.  We plan to try traditional Chicago hot dogs, and definitely visit the Field Museum.  So … what else should we do???

The weirdest things have been happening over the last few days.  And they all revolve around Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre.

Several days ago I was reading Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton.  I’d reserved a copy after I saw it on several “Best graphic novels of the year” lists, and I wanted to see if it was a book that I could use with my teens.  Well, after just a few pages I realized that it wasn’t a book that I could present to teens because of a) the frequent use of adult language and b) the frequent use of adult references.  But I kept reading the book because I was enjoying it. I appreciated Beaton’s use of literary and historical references, even though I didn’t understand all of them.

Okay, on the historical side I understood most of the American history humor but was pretty much baffled by the Canadian history humor.  And my understanding of the literary references depended on whether or not I ever read the books that she was referencing and whether or not I actually UNDERSTOOD them. Sherlock Holmes stories?  Reread many times over the years and loved to pieces.  Dracula?  Read and enjoyed the annotated version quite recently.  The Great Gatsby?  I’m a fan of that story and I’m fascinated by that green light, but I know that I need to read it again.  Where The Wild Things Are?  One of the very best picture books ever written.  The Yellow Wallpaper?  A superb and deeply chilling story.  Crime and Punishment?  Yes, I read it as a summer reading assignment in high school.  But if you asked me what I actually remember about the reading experience, all I can say is that I was generally confused about all of the Russian names that sounded like each other, and I was generally bewildered by the plot.  Jane Eyre?  I’d never read the book and never seen any of the film versions, but I had a general understanding of the “woman loves a mysterious man who locked up his mad wife” concept.

So as I’m reading this book of cartoons, the thought enters my head that maybe I should get around to reading Jane Eyre.  I was sitting at my desk at work when I had this thought, and a moment later I glanced at the teetering pile of books that is in danger of falling on my keyboard.  And just as quickly as the thought entered my head, I dismissed it.

Because I simply don’t have TIME to read Jane Eyre.

After a long day of answering questions of all shapes and sizes, I came home and started to relax.  At some point during my decompression, I was flipping through the channel guide to see what was going to be on TV.  I was planning to see the next episode of Alcatraz (Another evening of exciting supernatural adventures and the magnetic hotness of Sam Neil?  FANTASTIC!) but then I suddenly noticed that Turner Classic Movies was going to be showing … Jane Eyre!  Starring Orson Welles!  WOO-HOO!!!  So I set up my DVD recorder to record Alcatraz while I watched Jane Eyre.  The best of both worlds!

Anyway, the story was great (if just a tad overdrawn and melodramatic), and Orson Welles is so compelling to my ears and my eyes that I felt myself falling under his hypnotic spell.

All right, maybe I wasn’t QUITE as hypnotized as that strangely fragile and yet strangely strong Jane Eyre as played by Joan Fontaine …

But anyway, the movie was over and it was time to go to sleep and gather my strength for another long day of answering questions of all shapes and sizes.  Little did I know that Jane Eyre and I were going to cross paths again.

So this afternoon I was working at the public service desk.  I’d like to say that I was working at the information desk, but the recent trend envisioned by our higher-ups to make us more “business-like” and “efficient” is to have a variety of staff members all working at the same desk with the understanding that each staff member is supposed to try to answer each patron’s questions to the best of their abilities.  If you’d like a longer discussion of how I feel about the fact that I earned a master’s degree in library science and spent years training both to be a librarian and to be a young adult specialist but now I spend the majority of my time checking out materials and processing library card applications … well, to be honest I don’t have the time or the energy for a long discussion right now.  I can briefly sum up the effects of this policy to say that when patrons ask staff members for help with something, the staff members might experience various levels of discomfort and bewilderment as they try to satisfy the patrons’ requests.  And when a patron approaches a staff member sitting at the public service desk, they have no idea if the person behind the desk has a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, or one or more master’s degrees.

Okay.  So much for my long discussion.  But this policy is at least tangentially related to the next stage of my story.

So I’m at the public service desk, and I overhear a conversation between a patron and a member of our clerical staff near the other end of the desk (about ten feet away).  Or more specifically, I overhear the end of the conversation, when the patron raises her voice to declare, “This is RIDICULOUS!” before storming out of the building.  I had no idea what the conversation was about, but I assumed that it was one of the usual topics that inspire anger in our patrons: library fines, limits on how many DVDs people can check out, people trying to use each other’s library cards, etc.  But, no, it was none of these things.  I later learned that what had happened was that the patron had asked if we had a copy of (you guessed it) Jane Eyre.  The clerk, who was not familiar with that title, didn’t know how to spell it.  So she asked the patron if she could spell it for her.  And the patron, rather than spelling the title, declared, “This is RIDICULOUS!” and stormed out of the building.  This whole exchange brings up several discussion points:

  • What used to happen was that if a patron asked a clerk to help find a book, the clerk would direct the patron to speak to a librarian, even though we worked on a different floor.  Now they’re supposed to answer information questions themselves instead of directing the patrons to talk to us, EVEN THOUGH WE’RE SITTING AT THE SAME DESK JUST A FEW FEET AWAY.
  • If you weren’t familiar with the title Jane Eyre, how would you possibly know how to spell it?
  • What is with these patrons and their goddamned anger management issues?  Why didn’t the woman just spell the title, already?  I mean, I HAVE a master’s degree, and I constantly have patrons explaining things to me and spelling things out for me like I’m a ten-year-old child who’s a below-average student.
  • Unless of course … Hang on … What if the PATRON didn’t know how to spell the title and she was embarassed?

Okay, so all of these Jane Eyre references were starting to get spooky.  But they weren’t over yet.  Later in the day I was covering the desk in the Children’s Room.  I was busy for a while exercising different areas of my brain than usual (Picture books for kids who love Mo Willems but already read all the Mo Willems books we have on the shelf?  Books and videos about potty training?  Songs about Martin Luther King Jr.?  Books about force and motion for third graders?  Books for a teenager who’s learning how to read in English?) but eventually things settled down and we started getting ready to close.  During the last few minutes of the day, I was perusing some library blogs to see if anything interesting had been posted recently.  And what do I find?  I discover THIS POST called “Bronte Mania” about some illustrated editions of Wuthering Heights and, yes, Jane Eyre!!!

Weird, huh?

Ah, but that was not the end of this strange Jane Eyre connection, I’m afraid.  Because when I got home and my boyfriend and I were having dinner, I asked him if he wanted to watch the Alcatraz episode that I’d recorded.  He said yes, I opened the DVD menu …

You already guessed it, didn’t you, Dear Readers?

That’s right, I’d accidentally recorded the wrong channel.  Instead of an hour’s worth of Sam Neil and his steely (hot) intensity, I’d recorded an hour of Jane-frigging-Eyre instead.

I’m telling you, this is getting WEIRD.

So … I guess I have to read this book now?  Because I’m feeling strangely … COMPELLED to read it …