February 19, 2012

Taking Inventory

You probably thought that title was some pun, but it is not. I am actually going to talk about doing inventory.

Libraries, like retail stores, do inventory. When I first started at my current job, one of my first projects was doing inventory on the 400s. (400s is the language section for non librarians). And while it didn't push me intellectually or anything, it definitely helped me become familiar with my collection. I think this is the greatest benefit of inventory, besides making sure that the books are still there. (Although you'd be surprised how many books in the 400s were mysteriously missing. Almost all of them were "Intro to Spanish" books and were clearly stolen.)

So at the start of a new year, due to staffing changes in our department, we all got new collection areas. I kept my 400s and 800s and added the 000s, 100s, and 200s. A few weeks ago I started taking inventory of my new sections. They were all weeded recently, so I will likely not be weeding at all this year. (Well, maybe the 800s...but yikes. I can't even think about doing that yet.) So far I'm learning a lot about the collection: what sections are really robust, which ones are kind of thin, and which sections are highly used. And, quite literally, I'm getting a feel for the books. I get such pleasure out of handling the books and seeing them as individual creatures just waiting to be checked out. Each one is so full of information; it is kind of like a little mystery ready to be discovered. Now, this isn't some elegy for the printed book. But there is something pretty magical about seeing so many books, so much human thought contained in one little area, and realizing that these things are all here, for us, to explore as we will. That kind of spontaneous browsing is important to our creativity and curious minds.

There is also value, I think, in looking at each collection because you see how clearly there are little pockets of interest. Here's the Wiccan stuff, here's the books on speaking to ghosts, here is the large and ambitious section about happiness. I can't help but wondering about who checked out the missing books. Is the person with one of the Sylvia Browne books trying to tell her old dog how much she loved him? Did someone take out the book on anger management in a fit or was it for someone that hurt them? Did the person taking out the old Hegel know what they were getting into?

Inventory gives me time to actually meet the collection, to interact with it more slowly and deeply than I normally do. I'm grateful for this chance to immerse myself in the quieter side of public librarianship. Plus books, even the old ones, smell a lot better than most patrons.

February 11, 2012


I guess I'm an adult now.
I owed federal taxes for the first time.

Thank you tax software, for both sucking my money away but also reducing the amount of stress that doing taxes could be.

January 31, 2012

heat makes people crazy

It hit the 50s today in Wisconsin. This is apparently enough to drive people a little nuts, because the library was out of control today. You know how they say that the first really hot weekend of the summer murder rates go up? Well, apparently a nice day in January makes the public get demanding, cranky, and plain old strange. (And yes, I mean more demanding, cranky, and strange than some of them normally are!)

It was a long day at work today. All of us were having a rough day. And yet even at the end of this day from hell, I honestly can say I would not have wanted to be working anywhere else. I got to make some book displays, I talked to a lot of different people, and I managed to talk one older lady through downloading and using an app on her iPad over the phone. The sound of accomplishment in her voice when it worked properly was worth every second. I put several people on the waiting list for computer classes; while it is a bummer that they are full already, at least we know we're filling a real need. (I teach intro to computer classes to the public.) Plus I got to give people books! What could be better?

Public libraries = the best.

January 28, 2012

To be continued...

I just finished reading The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is an acclaimed author in his own right, but this book is special because it is an authorized continuation of the Sherlock Holmes series. I suppose this means that, technically, the stories, actions, and events of House of Silk are now canon.

As all Sherlock Holmes stories are, this one is narrated by Watson and appears as a manuscript published long after both of our Baker Street friends are dead. (For those who are uninitiated in the Sherlock Holmes stories, I highly recommend you read them pronto. They are best discovered, I believe, between the ages of 12-16, but you won't suffer reading them now. Then, go watch the BBC series Sherlock. Stay away from the Robert Downey Jr movies. Far, far away. Just watch Sherlock and marvel at Benedict Cumberbatch and squeal over the sweet relationship between Cumberbatch's Sherlock and Martin Freeman's John.) The language and tone of the book felt very much like a real Conan Doyle story to me. However, I haven't read an actual Holmes story for awhile; I did read Study in Scarlet last fall but the actual tone and pacing of the story aren't fresh in my mind. It would be interesting to immerse myself in the original stories and then read this to see how it matches up.

I can't go into much detail about the plot without spoiling, but I will say that at two distinct times I felt like there was too much misdirection. At one point I was like, oh, they'll say [x] happened but really it will have been [y] because [x] is too obvious. At another I had a thought about how a certain situation wasn't necessarily what it seemed, and a few sentences later Watson has the same thought. That was kind of irritating.

I will spoil this for you, so skip down if you don't want to know:

Moriarty. All I can hear now is "Westwood!"

Anyways, while I recommend the House of Silk for Holmes fans, it reminded me of how complicated the legacy of authors who wrote successful serials can be. Growing up I loved Nancy Drew books, but the "new' Nancy Drews (not written by Carolyn Keene) just didn't feel the same. It's really important for an estate to pick an author who can bring the same storytelling power and tone to a series while still infusing new energy. The Conan Doyle estate has been very careful and protective of Sherlock Holmes (rightfully so) and overall, I think they did a good job finding a writer with enough skill and appreciation for the originals to bring our heroes back to life.

January 20, 2012

Reflections on Kindle So Far

I recently finished my first full book on the Kindle Fire I got for Christmas. It wasn't as different from reading a paper book as I'd expected, but there were several parts of the experience that were odd enough worth mentioning.

1) The book I read was "Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman" by Robert Massie. It was excellent, as all the reviews suggested. It was also loooooooooong. I toted that puppy with me everywhere and it wasn't a bother. Toting a thick hardcover from the library would have been significantly more cumbersome and honestly would have discouraged me from reading in certain situations, like when I went to get an oil change.

2) Reading for more than an hour or so did hurt my eyes. I suspect this is because the Fire, unlike other Kindle models, is backlit. Do those of you with an E-ink screen find that your eyes hurt after an hour or so? Or is it comparable to print? I often read for stretches of two plus hours at a time and with print it has never been a problem.

3) I did not have a problem being immersed in the book for the most part. Flipping pages is easy (yay touch screen. I would feel very differently if I had to use buttons to navigate.) and mimicked "real" reading to the point that it grew to feel very natural to swipe. The smaller page size did mean I was flicking pages a lot more often, but it was a small price to pay for having a much much lighter version of the book. However, I did find that small things that you do unconsciously while reading a print book were impossible. For example, I apparently rub the page that I am about to turn. This was pointed out to me by my friend and roommate Emily in college. It is something I never noticed until she pointed it out--and then I realized I do it EVERY TIME. With ebooks, I soon realized I was drumming my fingers on the back of the device. Most likely far annoying for anyone around me than simple page rubbing. (Sorry everyone in the library staff lounge.) In addition, not knowing how far I was in the book was super annoying. Yes, you just tap the bottom of the page and a little bar comes up showing your progression and percentage of the book read. Guess what, I have to choose to do this! When reading in print, I can feel the heft in my hands and see, without even consciously thinking to check, how much of the book is left. No, I won't know an exact percentage, but a rough idea is all I need. This may have been the single most annoying thing.

4) I dropped it! AH! PANIC. Seriously, when you live with a small, fast animal and are kind of a slob/klutz, you're gonna drop things. Dropping an expensive piece of electronics is scary.

Okay, the number one thing I love about the Kindle Fire:

INSTANT ACCESS!!! Last weekend I was really really bored and having a bad day. I was lonely and whatnot, and sick of all the books I had to read. So what did I do? I went online, even though the library was closed, and got new books! This is by far my most favorite thing about it. I just loaded my Fire up with two new ones in anticipation of a few train rides this weekend. (The other result of my boredom/loneliness/panic attacks was a lingering idea of a day trip, which resulted in a last minute, very fast trip being planned for tomorrow. Yikes!)

I still feel odd about buying books on my Fire; I don't feel like I actually own them. I mean, technically I really don't own them and the evil Amazon empire can snatch them away (like it did with "1984" a few years ago...really? You had to magically erase copies of a book, and you chose to do it with "1984"??? Amazon, you asked for it with that one.) But as for borrowing books from Overdrive-- I'm into it!

January 12, 2012

New Year. New Meagan. Old blog.


Sorry I abandoned you little ole blog. I'm sure no one is reading you, but I kind of forgot about you after I finished writing up my 24th year of reading posts. I've been plugging away at it in my 25th year and will have lots of cool books to share. I'm not sure if I've yet had a reading experience as deeply emotional as "The Book Thief", for example, or as motivating as "Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from Consumer Culture." (Just checked and it looks like I read both last March. March 2012 has a lot to live up to!)

In glancing back now at what I was reading a year ago, I have to laugh. My interests align! I'm reading the new biography of Catherine the Great and last January I was also read historical fiction based in Russia! I was reading a novel about Sherlock Holmes fans and I just checked out the newest authorized Sherlock Holmes book, "The House of Silk."

In big news:
--I bought a new paper calendar. Woo real objects, not digital ones! This year my home wall calendar is art deco train advertisements. My work desk calendar is "Wisdom" themed. And the biggest news...I've returned to having a little planner that I can carry around! I found one that I LOVE. It mimics the best planner I ever had, which was one my dad got free at work and gave me in 2007. So I'm pretty psyched about that puppy and find myself just flipping through the months randomly at work. I love being able to see my entire month on one page.

--G got me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. This means I've crossed over to the dark side of e-readers! AH! I am not sure yet how I feel about it, but damn. It is convenient. I'm currently reading Catherine the Great on it. I'll let you know when I'm done how the experience ranks.

Happy reading. I hope 2012 is a good one for us all!

August 9, 2011

Reflections: I don't know what happened to me.


So, after looking back at what I read: I'm really embarrassed.

Romance novel book club was AMAZING. IS Amazing. But damn. I read a lot of trashy romance novels. Part of this, not going to lie, is that all my coworkers read them and are totally into talking about what they are reading. (I work at a library, this is our version of "water cooler" chit chat. We're that nerdy.)

After looking at reading patterns, I think what happened was pretty simple. I have been struggling in my personal life and escapism via book has become incredibly important to me. I spent a lot of my life feeling like all the reading I needed to do should be "enriching" and "important." I moved away from that this year. I'd like to explain why.

In my first semester of library school, I was assigned to a group that was supposed to explore the theme of education vs. entertainment in libraries. It was such an awful project, but it really forced me to defend recreational reading. As in, people in my group seemed to think that reading anything not deemed "literary" was not as important as pure entertainment and escapism. I've thought long and hard about why that bothered me so deeply. That idea of some reading being better than others not only goes against my own experience of reading, but also creates and enforces ideas of cultural superiority. The literature that is considered "good" by many people in the publishing world, the review world, the "culture creators" and, yes, by librarians, is often written by fairly financially comfortable, highly educated white people. And you know what? I refuse to support a belief that because something is written for young people, ethnic minorities, urban youth, women, or "housewives" that it isn't as worthy of our attention. All reading has value to the person doing the reading. If that means that for a few hours you forget that your kids are pulling you in a million directions, that your life has not turned out the way you wanted it to be, that your job is mindless, that the socioeconomic system in which you are trapped hates you and systematically oppresses you--go for it. Read it.

Secondly, to be a good librarian, I need to not only know that certain genres exist and are popular, but I need to actually understand what is appealing about those genres. So while I read a lot of "trashy" romance novels, I 100% understand why they are popular. They are total escapism. As someone who has been very lonely for a long time, the idea that there is someone out there who would do anything to be with you, who loves you above all else, is pretty damn appealing. So I get it. I don't think romance readers believe that real life is like those books--I mean, that is the whole point of it. You read something that is so far removed from reality to forget your reality. I get it. I appreciate it. And frankly, I can enjoy it while still acknowledging the problems that exist in romance.

I've recently gotten into thrillers. These are also often derided by people who only read "literary fiction." But I've got to say, some of these books explore some interesting themes. I just read Michael Koryta's "The Ridge." It explores various themes of morality, death, religion, local superstition, etc. And while it does so on a surface level, any reader who wishes to can explore this further. And you know what? It was FUN to read.

Reading has always been a big part of my life. The books that I truly love are a part of my identity. The books I read this year included some truly amazing books, which I plan to highlight in the next few weeks. I spent too long reading books that I thought would make me a better person. But you know what? I'm a reader. I'll read anything. As long as a book makes me feel something deeply, that is a valuable reading experience.

So what did I take away from this practice of recording what I read? Mostly, that it is super exciting to be able to look back and say definitively, "Yes! I did read that!" It motivated me to finish books that I may have otherwise lagged on. The project also has helped me overcome some shame at reading things that aren't literary. I have some very dear friends that I know sneer at some of the books I read. And that is okay; to each his own. But I won't stop reading books that entertain me and make me a happier person because I'm worried about what someone else thinks of an author.

My goal for my 25th year is to read even more books and explore more genres. I hope to try to read more current books--I often don't read a book til months after it comes out, if not years later! It would also be nice to read more history. I love history and always enjoyed learning about different countries through history and literature. I would like to explore Norwegian and English history in more depth. I have read a lot about the Tudor period of English history, but not others. Finally, as I grow as a librarian, I want to read more YA literature. YA literature contains some of the most amazing books being published right now. It is an exciting field that is growing and changing. It isn't all vampires! Plus, I would like to extend my service area to teens and work more closely with them. I admire their energy, passion, and potential. They really inspire me, so I want to make sure I can relate to their reading habits.

So, that was being 24, in books. So far 25 has been great. Check back soon for highlights of my favorite books of 24! Thanks for listening. <3