Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thanks So Much for Donating that Errand

"Do you accept these?"
Proferred several plastic shopping bags of CDs. As a rule, they don't make it into the collection becasue they've been played into the dirt already, but the Friends of The Library can probably sell them. So, gratefully accepted.

After she leaves, I can't resist. I pull open the first bag. A standard 90s mix, Miseducation of Lauren Hill, Macy Grey. Those should fetch a few bucks each at the next sale, so score. Or GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL, as you soccer fans bray tiresomely (sorry, still recovering from people's temporary interest in the World Cup).

Out of curiosity, I opened Lauren Hill to see how gently it had been treated. The case was empty. I looked in Macy. Empty. Babyface? Empty. Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind? Well, the insert was in perfect condition, but the disc was gone. I began opening them one after another. Empty empty empty. I gave up after about 8 in one bag and 5 in the other, since the results were the same. So now we don't even have something for the upcoming sale. How could it be? She didn't leave her name, of course, so I can't ask her if maybe she has a separate collection of just the discs someplace that she forgot about.

Great, just what the world needs, more landfill. I don't want to just toss them in the dumpster, though. So should I take out the paper sleeves first and at least recycle those? Does anybody want a stack of scuffy jewel cases? Probably the second they get carted away by the trash guys, the patron will be back with a big oops and all the discs.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rubyfruit Jungle

Most readers know Rita Mae Brown as the writer of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries. So I forgive the selector who assigned the paperback reissue of her 1973 saphic bildungsroman The Rubyfruit Jungle to our Mysteries section, next to Puss'n Cahoots and The Purrfect Murder. I considered leaving it there so granny could broaden her horizons some day. Or maybe get her trifocals melted. But I moved it regular fiction instead.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This Might Be a Little Hard to Believe

But if you tell me a few plot points about a book (like it's about a kid with psychic powers who gets kidnapped, or it's about dragons that can only fly at night), and it doesn't ring a bell and you persist on dredging up irrelevant bit after irrelevant bit (like one of the characters was named Ken or was it Carl? or the girl's friend limped) the larding on of such details isn't going to help.

But you know what would help? Brushing your teeth. Flossing. No, it won't get your book found, but it will keep a certain deskslave from calculating the number of minutes until the day is over.

No, Not THAT Kind of Hummer

The lady browsing over at the new books who has been humming tunelessly for the last 10 minutes. Would throwing a stapler be mean?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Welcome to the Beaver Trap

The trap was sprung cleverly. "Is there a Jesse James Museum in Saint Jo, Missouri?" the older woman asked. I thought it was one of those ready reference questions that is the bread and butter of deskslavedom, so I pounced. As I typed away, tracking it down,* the iron jaws of the trap snapped and I was a goner. She knew there was. She just wanted to talk. You see, her great grandmother lived RIGHT BEHIND the Jesse James house at the time he was shot by the coward Robert Ford. I know! Can you believe it? The bullet practically hit her! I learned this and many other fascinating things in the following eternity, including Mr. James' many acts of kindness and benefactions to the portions of the populace who weren't bankers or customers of banks or soldiers on the Federal payroll. She told me of the wizened widow who let Jesse, whom she thought was a simple traveler and not a wanted desperado, water his horse at her farm. In this story, he was alone and not with the other members of his gang-- you know: the ones who had a penchant for shooting bystanders during the course of their robberies. She gave me a great deal of extraneous detail about this widow and her farm, and the clean-cut young man who needed to care for his steed. I guess this adds to the truthiness of the fable. The young man listens to the widow's sad tale of not having enough money to make her payment on the farm, and how far behind she is and that the bank is going to take it all from her. The young man is moved and pulls a fat wad of cash out of the saddlebag. He gives it to the widow (of course she was a widow). And it's not just one or two payments, maybe enough to get current with the man. It's enough money, in fact, to pay off the entire note. As tradition dictates, the horrible bank man was coming to foreclose on her that very day. The young man told her several times to make sure she got a receipt that said Paid in Full on it. He rides off. The bank guy, whom I imagine looks like a cross between Snidely Whiplash and the moneybags guy in Monopoly, comes and demands payment or else the poor widow (husband killed in the Civil War) will be disposessed. She pulls out the aforesaid fat wad, hands it to Snidely and demands her receipt that says Paid in Full. Well, sir, wouldn't you know it, but as the nasty bank dude rides back to town (in a buggy pulled by a fine team of horses) he is stopped by a well-dressed young man who robs him.

My mind fogged over as I saw the punchline slowly making its way toward me. Wouldn't the old lady get suspicious about somebody who resembles the guy on all the wanted posters--you know, the one who has a big bounty on his head--having a ton of cash on him? Wouldn't the law have come by to ask the widow a few questions after she suddenly has a lot of money after not having any and the money gets stolen by a guy who fits the description of the guy they're hunting for? Her mouth moved and moved, and I thought of the beaver in the trap. True, I was not suffering any actual physical pain, but the impulse to gnaw off something so that I could escape was very strong.

*On the grounds of the Patee House Museum at 1202 Penn Street, Saint Joseph, MO 64503.
Summer hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm
Sun: 1pm-5pm
$3.00 for adults, $2.00 for senior citizens, and $1.50 for students. Kids 5 and under are admitted for free

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cringe-making turn of phrase in the New York Times

I was reading the review of Gary Shteyngart's new novel Super Sad True Love Story in today's NYT. (The title reminded me of The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian and other run-on sentence titles of late.) In it, Michiko Kakutani wrote the following:

This novel avoids the pretensions and grandiosity of Mr. Shteyngart’s last book, “Absurdistan,” even as it demonstrates a new emotional bandwidth and ratifies his emergence as one of his generation’s most original and exhilarating writers.

It was good news, in that Absurdistan, which was pretty likeable, was kind of a mess. But what really struck me was the phrase "emotional bandwidth." It's kind of clever-sounding, but really doesn't mean a thing, or at least means something other than what the author wanted it to mean. I think she means that Mr. Sheyngart's work has achieved an emotional depth not reached in his earlier work. With the phrase "emotional bandwidth," though, she is suggesting that Mr. Shteyngart can now receive his emotions quicker. Perhaps she should have said that Mr. Shteyngart had undergone an emotional processor upgrade. "With his new quad-core Xeon processor, Shteyngart can now deal with a greater number of emotions and process them faster. He also has a larger amount of L3 Liminal cache, cranking up his dissection of complex social interactions by at least a factor of 40." Or something. Way better, if you ask me.

Or how about Shteyngart's new hot-swappable 10 TB RAID level 6 emotion drive? It's striped, mirrored and multiply redundant. No degradation of his emotions there, no matter how many times they're accessed or transferred.

Emotional bio-RAM? Shteyngart has that in spades! His new Double Data Rate synchronous dynamic random access emotional memory can hold thousands of iterations of love and hate simultaneously!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Something I Learned Today

This one lady bought this pair of earrings. They were very beautiful and she could not wait to get them home and accessorize with them. But the strangest thing happened: they did not go with ANYTHING in her wardrobe. Nothing. No matter how simple or fancy, this would-be dynamite piece of jewelry failed. Then an even stranger thing happened. She bought this bracelet. This very one currently be-bangling her wrist. And you know what? Now, with the bracelet, the earrings WORK WITH EVERYTHING. I know! Amazing, right?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Invisible Demons are Watching, Listening

As you are all well aware, there are invisible demons lurking everywhere. They listen to our conversations and even our private thoughts. They are, of course, listening for expressions of hope or confidence. When they hear such expressions, they spring into action and crank up the adversity generator. You are not permitted to mention to your neighbor your hope for nice weather tomorrow so that your 9-year-old's birthday picnic in the park will be fun and pleasant, since the demons will see to it that a rougue storm cloud will hover over the park and send a minature and very localized monsoon down just as the candles are lit. Here at deskslave central, observations like "boy, it sure is quiet here today" are frowned upon, since that will provoke the demons to send a busload of needy people to the reference desk at the same moment.

I know better, then, than to think about a patron I will call Albert. Albert likes the TV shows from his youth. Star Trek, Green Hornet, Batman, etc. Albert loves him his music, too. Billy Joel, Sir Elton and the G himself, Kenny. Albert also likes to talk on the phone to librarians. Every day. Many, man times a day. He likes to check on his many holds. He likes to update us on when he thinks he might come in to pick up those many holds. He likes to ask us when his many items will be due. He's probably very lonely, but so am I and I don't call you, do I?

This morning, I had just had the thought that Albert hadn't called in a while and you know what happened. Seriously, the neurons in my brain had not even cooled off after transmitting the thought from point a to point b and the demons were on it like a hawk hitting a field mouse. Phone rings, it's Albert demanding to know when his copy of Elton John's Live in Australia will arrive. Lesson learned, demons.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Can't Tell You How Disappointed I am in You

You really need to get up off your butt and get busy. Time's a-wastin', as my Danish grandmother never said. You think you're busy, you say you have work to do. I understand. To give you a little incentive to get on track and start writing our instant bestseller (working title: S.E.A.L.ed With a Kiss), I worked on a potential cover design. Once we agree on a title, I'll put the swoopy gold type in.

The ball is in your court. Don't let me down.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ridiculously Nerdy of Me, But

I saw this recent cover of Boy's Life as I walked through the juve area yesterday. It's very dorky of me, but I noticed something offputting about the two ships in the background. They are probably part of the fleet that's bombarding Fort McHenry off to the right. They both have a lot of sail up, so they are probably in motion and about to crash. I'd probably be interested in that, too, if I was old Francis Scott Key up there in the rigging. That and the fact that the wind, according to the sails, is coming from more than one direction.

Like I said, ridiculously nerdy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Here's Our Million Dollar Idea

Let's face it: we all want to be famous authors. "Some day," we all imagine in our heart of hearts, "I will be here at the library, shelving the books that I wrote." For most of us the foregoing is but a pipe dream. But you and me? We're different. We're smarter and more talented than that. And we understand our market. We know what sells, because we order it for our libraries. We take it out of the boxes, catalog the heck out of it, put the protective cover on it, carefully affix too many stickers and labels to it, check it in, shelve it and then check it out again. We have seen paranormal romances appear nearly out of nowhere to capture a big chunk of the fiction market.

And we want ours.

You may have been thinking to yourself, "sure, I'd like to write my own paranormal fiction book, but all the good angles have been taken!" You're not far from wrong. Vampires were an easy sell. Shape shifters were a shoo in. The rest are a bit dodgier. Werewolves? Are you joking? But even those are taken. You have racked your brain, you've consulted the reference material in the 398.2s, but it appears that all the good ones are lone gone. Pixies? Too little (or in the case of Black Francis, way too big). Leprechauns? The less we think about those boozy little cretins getting it on, the better. But I have a great one.

There is also the paranormal romance trend of guys who are paranormal creatures also having spiffy jobs. Like the one I pointed out months ago about the vampire bull rider. It seems that all the easy categories of job, like cowboy or English duke or Highland princeling have been used. Nobody wants a shape shifting insurance adjuster or a werewolf poultry inspector. But I have a good one of those, too.

I think you and I should start writing the book immediately before somebody else beats us to it. OK, our dreamy guy? He's a Navy S.E.A.L., BUT (and this is the million dollar part), he's also a selkie.

We're practically rich already. We make the perfect team. I'm really good at writing semi-funny, somewhat incomprehensible gibberish that goes on for about 150 words and then peters out completely, and you're good at everything else that isn't that. Let me know soon. I have started the agent query letter already.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not that we're 411

I really don’t mind looking up numbers for people over the phone. It happens at least once a day. It’s usually an older person who calls, and people are typically polite about it. It’s a semi-reference question, so it‘s good for the stats. I do mind, though, when I talk to people like the woman who called earlier.
She wanted the number of a computer store in our town. Only she had the business name wrong. And the wrong town. That all took a while, but I got it sorted out and started to give her the number. She stopped me.
“Can’t you just connect me?”
“Our phones don’t do that.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Nope.” I explained that we were not really directory assistance, so we didn’t have the same fancy gear.
Deep sigh, like I’d told her that we had no electricity for her dialysis machine, which she had dragged to the library by herself at night through the snow, a pack of hungry, possibly rabid wolves snapping at her heals the whole time.
“Hang on,” she carped, as though she was reluctantly doing me a favor. The phone was deposited on something hard while she went off, presumably, to find something to write with. Or maybe I was just being punished.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Chances

After unscientifically observing patron behavior for about five days, I have concluded that:

The chances of a patron saying "Book on Tape" and meaning "Book on CD": 100% (5 out of 5)

Sunday, July 4, 2010


found next to a recycling bin

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Where are the What?

It can be a bit confusing for people coming in to use the public Intarwebz computers for the first time. I'm used to the same questions that I do manage to answer in a way that I hope does not betray the fact that I have answered them a million times. But today I was asked where the Macs were. It took me a second. "The what?"
Raised eyebrows, tilted head, slightly singsong special-needs speed speech. "The Macs?"
But, reader, I was kind. I did not go with "probably at the fancy private college you went to," but rather with, "Uhhhh...these are all Windows."
The head tilted to a new axis and the eyebrows, still raised, were reconfigured. "You. Don't. Have. Macs."
Again, reader, I was good. I refrained from "That's right. And we don't have a margarita machine, either." I went with "That's right, we don't."
"Why. Don't. You. Have. Macs."
"I don't do the IT budget, but I imagine it has to do with cost and the ability to support them."
"But they're so much better."
"Maybe so, but..." I didn't want to argue. Or rather, I did want to argue, but knew it'd be pointless. I fished around in the desk looking for the business card of somebody up the chain who dealt with computers or the public. I found one that was close enough and tried to give it to the woman, but she had decided to leave in disgust instead.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Fourth of Fun

Friday afternoon, probably a long weekend for lots of people (not me, boo hoo). Lots of people leaving town. Lots of dashing up to the desk with hurried demands. Not many DVDs worth seeing left. Most audiobooks worth listening on that long car trip long gone. Trying not to get swept up in other people's panic over poor planning. My inner sadist relishes offering to place holds on items.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A New Game You Can Play at Your Library

I call it "Match the Two-Year-Old." Here's how you play. First, find some two year old wandering the stacks, randomly pulling stuff off the shelves. Then, scrutinize the two-year-old and, in a manner that won't make anybody think you're trying to make off with the little toddler, find the parent who should have, by law and by all standards of decency, been looking after the child. Points are awarded randomly based on how many guesses it takes. No points at all if the parent finds you first. Please: no racial profiling! Ready? Begin!