The exterminator came yesterday, which means I had to take Kitty to the vet yesterday, which means I had to leave work early yesterday to pick him up, and OF COURSE that’s just when it started raining.  We’re still in the process of moving some but not all of the furniture back, because the guy is coming back in two weeks.  Which means we’re going to have to figure out what to do with the cat in two weeks.  Anyway, my boyfriend spent a lot of time with the guy, helping to move furniture and our many plastic bags full of stuff as he worked.  And while they worked, they talked.  The exterminator gave my boyfriend specific advice about our apartment — he pointed out a few more places that we could try sealing and caulking, but otherwise said that what we’ve been doing so far — steaming, vacuuming, and using the PackTite — was exactly right.  The guy’s not the biggest fan of diatomaceous earth, though, because it doesn’t work fast enough for him.  He also talked about some of the bedbug problems our neighbors have been having.  They still haven’t been able to figure out why they can’t get rid of the bugs in the apartment below us (that’s the one where the lady moved out after five treatments without success), and they HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO GET INTO the apartment below that, which we suspect might be a major root of this problem.  Oh, and the exterminator was amazed that we’d seen bedbugs multiple times in the bathroom, since that’s not usually a place where they hang out.  So hopefully, our sharp eyes might help the exterminators tackle this problem through our whole line of apartments.  Except, of course, for the ones they can’t get into.  *SIGH*

On a related note, having all of these bags and boxes of stuff piled up on top of and in front of our stove (bedbug exterminators don’t treat inside the kitchen, so we’re using that area for extra storage space) means that cooking is a very difficult prospect right now.  So a present that I bought for my boyfriend several months ago has been seeing a LOT of action:

Behold the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler!

We’ve come a long way from bachelors with hot plates!  Anyway, between this handy device and our Crock Pot, we’re able to do a lot of cooking on the kitchen counter now.  And then we go out to eat at one of our local restaurants or order in pizza or Chinese food a few times a week, so we’re still eating a good variety of food.

On the work front, I went back to the Old Branch to re-weed my collection yesterday based on all the stuff we’ve unpacked and put on the shelves of our New Branch.  Walking around pulling books off the shelves saying, “I won’t need THIS and I won’t need THIS and I won’t need THIS …” was on the one hand very cathartic, but on the other hand it made me feel like I was killing my own children.

The tech guys were in the old building taking out the old computers while listening to some Queen anthems that they had cranked up to 11, since I guess that’s how they operate in otherwise empty buildings (I called it “the IT Dance Party”).  Oh, and several of those tech guys ignored the “elevator is out of order” signs, so I had to rescue them by pulling the master switch when they got stuck between floors.  So THAT was exciting.

For the rest of the week, I’ll be doing more shelving in the new building.  And by “shelving” I mean “walking, looking, carrying, shelving, re-shelving, shifting, carrying, walking, shifting, shifting, shifting, shifting” etc.  I was actually delighted when our supervisor asked me to create a YA overflow section in our office, because a) we really don’t need THAT many copies of each of these books on our rapidly crowding shelves and b) processing those books meant that I could just SIT DOWN and work for a while without straining my lower back any further.

I only have half of the time that the rest of my colleagues do to get this place ready to go, because I’m on vacation next week.  But luckily, I have the smallest section to work with.

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Okay, maybe I was a little hard on the hatchet team.

Because these were the very people who ordered material for our new building, and who stood up for us when certain administrators told us that we wouldn’t be allowed to put ANY of our old books on our new shelves.  They were sympathetic to our struggles with the ever-changing rules, and supportive of our efforts to spirit our favorite books away to other branches.  They also told me that they were going to entrust me with the weeding of my own section.

Oh … crap.

Well, on the one hand it’s nice to know that people think you’re responsible enough to do something.  On the other hand, weeding my section made my final day in the building about twice as busy as I’d expected.  And, you know, it also gave me that whole “Sophie’s Choice” vibe.  The silver lining behind that cloud was that as I weeded I got to “rescue” more books, some of which will be making their way to a shelf near you.  I reassigned a bunch of poetry books (Walter Dean Myers, E.E. Cummings, Billy Collins, Cynthia Rylant, Pablo Neruda), reading list titles (When I Was Puerto Rican, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self), and some of my favorite booktalk titles (Bat Boy Lives!, Mommy Knows Worst, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets).

Anyway, so now we’re officially out of the old branch, except we’re really not.  We’re going to be going back and forth taking the last of our files, cleaning out our desks, and saying our goodbyes to the old homestead.  I walked around at the end of the day taking pictures with my iPod for my virtual scrapbook:

The hatchet team came to my library today.

I don’t know what they’re officially called, but they were coming from some central location to whittle our collection down. And yes, we’re still open to the public. We’ve had people come to weed our collections before, but I usually give them a more charitable nickname, like “weeding elves”. But this group is tasked with getting rid of everything that is not PRISTINE, which would leave us with hardly anything on our shelves.  Hence the “hatchet team” moniker.

It wasn’t clear how much they were going to get rid of each day, what criteria they were going to use, or what would be the fate of the books they pulled from the shelves. This is what was in the back of my mind every time I looked at my collection (I know, silly me, I still think of it as “my collection”).

Finally I decided that I needed to save some of my excellent books that were in less-than-excellent condition. To that end, I picked almost twenty books that were some of my personal favorites which I thought might be on the chopping block and reassigned them to other branches yesterday.

Maybe they’ll be deleted/lost/stolen from their new locations. Maybe they’ll find their way back to my shelves in a few weeks or a few months. Or maybe they will find new readers who will love them just as much as I did. All I could do was send them on their way and hope for the best.

Here are some of the titles I sent on their way.  Some were beaten-up copies of books that have several copies left in our system.  And some were the only copies left in our system.  Some are out of print, which is why I’ve been keeping these older copies.  In any case, they didn’t deserve to be deleted just because they had the misfortune of sitting on our shelves.  Oh, and if you’re one of my Dear Readers and I know where you work, keep an eye out because some of these books will be making their way to YOUR shelves.

Barkley, Brad & Heather Hepler – Jars of Glass

Baskin, Nora Raleigh – All We Know of Love

Giles, Gail – What Happened to Cass McBride?

Klause, Annette Curtis – Blood and Chocolate

Leavitt, Martine – Keturah and Lord Death

Lyga, Barry – The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

McNamee, Graham – Hate You

Quarles, Heather – A Door Near Here

Sleator, William – House of Stairs

Supplee, Suzanne – Artichoke’s Heart

Yolen, Jane – Here There Be Ghosts

Yolen, Jane – Here There Be Witches

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.

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 …