Saturday, September 20, 2008

New directions for libraries

Apparently, these days, students believe that our library is a one stop shop. Yes, they still want books and we get many questions about campus unrelated to the library, but those are all part of our everyday routine.

I've had two interesting requests lately, and the students who asked fully expected us to provided them, no questions asked.

The first request was for ear plugs. This is not so unusual because students get a little crazy around exam time and ear plugs could be something we would have on hand. As it happens, we don't and never will. The funny part was, the student was totally shocked that we couldn't fill his request and stomped off with a very mean face. Again, students go insane during exams and cannot be responsible for their actions.

The second request was from "valley girl" type student (my university is particularly known for this, we call them Western Girls). She approached the desk and asked, "Could I buy a hair elastic?"

I replied that we don't sell hair elastics at the desk, we just have rubber bands. Well, this did not end the matter.

"Well," she says, "do you know where I can buy one?" (insert valley girl accent here)

I recommended the pharmacy and she seemed very pleased with this suggestion and she trotted off to buy some genuine hair elastics from the drug store.

I think the lesson I learned here is to be gentle with the students during exams. They really do lose their minds.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Is Not a Book Review

Because I have yet to read all of it, I am not reviewing this book here. Athough when I finish I will likely do so on NoBS.

I was zooming through the store the other day and this cover caught my eye. I grabbed it off of the display in one fell swoop causing my customer to exclaim,"You must do that alot! You didn't even miss a step!" So true, but it's from 13years of picking up stray books that are laid about the store.

Anyway, back to this book. The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes is a compilation of entries from McSweeney's Internet Tendency website and is at least worth a scan through.

Chapters include: "Postcards from James Joyce to His Brother Stan", "Winnie-the-Pooh Is My Coworker" and a quiz, "Ikea Product or Lord of the Rings Character?"

I, myself went directly to "The Five Most Dangerous Children's Books Ever Written, According to Sean Hannity". Number one on that list...Clifford the Big Red Dog! Still one of my all time favorites. But did you know that Clifford is simply a metaphor for Communism! Oh dear!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Son, The Non-Reader

I woke up this morning at about 8:00. I turned over, looked at the clock - nothing. Like every other morning, I tried CNN - nothing. Eventually, my sleepy mind realized that the power was off. Of course, this was the perfect opportunity to read - the house was quiet, my son was still asleep. Heaven!

When my 15 year-old son finally woke up, he instantly noticed the lack of electricity. Stunned, he walked into my room...

Son: What am I supposed to do, nothing works.

Mom: Go outside.

Son: It's too hot.

Mom: Listen to your iPod.

Son: It's not charged.

Mom: Clean your room. (Well, it was worth a try!)

Son: I can't, there's no T.V.

Mom: What?

Son: I have to watch T.V. when I clean my room.

Mom: Well, read a book.

Son (laughing hysterically): You've got be kidding!

Someday, I can only hope that my son experiences the joy that I have - immersed in books.

I have been able to capture his attention with a few graphic novels. But, as for other books, he would rather cut the grass with nail clippers. I will not admit defeat yet - I still have a few years to work on him!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kids Say the Darndest Things

As a teacher, I have heard some wild comments from students. And, I am always amazed how perceptive kids can be.

After enjoying my summer off, I had lunch with a colleague last week. She spent the summer working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

One morning in the library, she was stopped by Diana, who was soon to be in second grade. “My grandmother used to be a teacher,” Diana proudly informed her. “That’s why she died.”

Wow! I’ve been back in school for five days – I get it!

The Old Man and the Books

It's been a tough week at the bookstore.

General Manager on vacation, one supervisor in the hospital and some sort of bug causing sick days galore.

Stress? You bet.

Added to that, I forgot today was Saturday and I have to head off to work in 15minutes. I just remembered I have a blog to post. I have to do it now because I won't be home from work until after midnight. Yikes!


What helped to relieve my stress this week?

Silly old man.

I was working the register during a very busy time of the day. Up came an old man buying three books. I asked him, as is required, if he would like to get one of a rewards cards.

His answer, "I don't have time for that. I'm 80 years old. I have to get home and read these books before I kick off!"

That made me think. I hope I don't die in the middle of a book that I'm really enjoying!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Men ARE From Mars

Quite simply put, this all happened in one, eight hour period this week.

A call came about a man in the "Ladies Room". He simply walked through the wrong door.

A man wearing leather chaps was standing in line to purchase his book. This caused calls back and forth throughout the store with uproarious laughter in the background. Because, not only was he wearing chaps but he was wearing loose fitting jeans which caused his pants to poof out at the rear over the chaps giving the illusion of a diaper.

A young man walks into the store and straight to the restrooms. He comes out wearing a neon orange gorilla suit. Why? He was immediately escorted from the store. It's just not a good idea to conceal your identity in a retail store.

Wacky Wednesday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

At least one conscientious library user

Most of the time, books from my library are returned in worse shape than they went out. The most common scenarios include, writing all over the margins or copiously highlighted text; although, a book once came in covered in kiwi too so, there's no limit to the destruction we see. As a one time student, I found this terrible, and apparently widespread, habit very VERY annoying. As a librarian, I find it completely disrespectful - and even more widespread than I previously thought!

Because of the vast number of highlighted and scribbled on books that come through the library, I thought I was alone in my frustration. I began to believe that students think writing in library books is the trendy thing to do or think that their marginalia are ideas of great genius meant to be shared. Well, I was wrong. There is at least one conscientious student out there who feels my pain.

The other day, as I was checking in books, I opened the front cover of a fairly new book to find an interesting post-it-note. The note summed up my feelings exactly; I could have written it myself. The post-it read:

"Please don't write in this book. You will ruin it for us all. It is really very annoying!"

Ah, finally a kindred spirit! I would like to find this mystery person and shake their hand. If there is one conscientious student out there maybe there's more and, maybe one day, all books in the library will be free from grafitti.

Hmm, fat chance of that. But at least I know there's one person on my side, fighting for good and not evil.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Born Free to Read

I grew up in a small town. I was able to ride my bike to the library downtown, which I did about once a week. We had one high school and we had one bookstore, which was really more of a news stand that had some books. My mother is a great reader and collector of books (auctions and garage sales were her bookstores) so we never had to buy a book for English class. We simply stepped into the stair well and got whatever classic was assigned in class. We were allowed to read anything in the house, no restrictions. This is why I attempted I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in the sixth grade. I don't think I finished it. I did love the little red hardcover biographies available in the school library. I think I read the whole series, I wish I could remember who the publisher was now. I hate history unless it's in biography form.

Imagine my excitement when I entered Jr. High School in 1974 and discovered The Scholastic BookClub! Do they still have that? Once a month, or so, we would get a four to six page hand-out of books we could order! Current books! I went crazy! It was a rare book that would escape by check mark. So while other kids were getting two, maybe three books from each circular, I was getting a dozen at a time! Never once did my parents question what I was getting or how much money it was costing them.

I read everything! Go Ask Alice, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, The Pigman, The Outsiders...books that are still read by school kids today. They were brand spanking new then. And then there was the book that got me in trouble in this small town school. It was the fault of an ancient study hall teacher and the cover:

I was sent directly to the vice principals office to be reported to my parents.

When the principal called my mother her response was simply that as long as I was in study hall I could read whatever I wanted. When he described the book cover to her and said I shouldn't read it in school Mom said, "She got it from your school, she can read it in your school." So there you go. And, because I don't like being told I can't do something without valid reason, even at that age, I went on to do an oral report in English class to the horror of yet another small town Jr High School teacher in 1974.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Library of Love

Lately, I've encountered a myriad of stories revolving around love in the library. Take Laura Scott for example. Writing for the SUN, Laura explores the best places for those singles on the hunt to look for love. In this installment, she travels to Wales where she takes part in a singles night at, you guessed it, the local library. This isn't the only story of this nature I've come across. Apparently, several other library programs in the UK and North America are encouraging singles to come and meet their potential soulmate at the library.

Honestly, when you think about it, what better place could there be to meet a fellow book lover? Imagine catching that special someone's eye over the fiction and literature shelves. Or browsing the scifi/fantasy section and reaching for the same book at the same time as your potential partner. A match made in heaven!

Love is definitely not absent from the libraries at my university. Facebook even even boasts a group titled: Books turn me on ... lets get laid in Weldon. (Try not to read the comments, they're a little racy!) Okay. I agree, this might not have anything to do with love in particular but hey, it's kinda funny.

At my own library, love is indeed in the air. While adventuring into the stacks one day, I happened upon a young couple in a full lip-lock. They jumped apart as they heard me approach and gave me guilty looking smiles as I passed. I just giggled to myself and kept on going, glad this quiet nook in the engineering section was at least sought after by these young lovers.

So, if you're looking for love in all the wrong places, or just trying to rekindle and old romance, try the local library to get that flame ignited.

I would like to leave you with some inspiring words from Jimmy Buffet. He's got the right idea, and even wrote a song about it.

Love in the library
By: jimmy buffett, mac mcanally 1994

On the corner of government and bay avenue
The old doomsday fanatic wore a crown of kudzu
Sirens were wailing in the gulf coastal heat
And it seemed like the whole world was in forced retreat
Paid no attention, revolved through the door
Past the newspaper racks on the worn marble floor
Near civil war history my heart skipped a beat
She was standing in fiction stretched high on bare feet

Love in the library
Quiet and cool
Love in the library
There are no rules
Surrounded by stories
Surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library
Once upon a time

I was the pirate, she was the queen
Sir francis and elizabeth, the best theres ever been
Then she strolled past my table and stopped at the stairs
Then sent me a smile as she reached for flaubert

Love in the library
Quiet and cool
Love in the library
There are no rules
Surrounded by stories
Surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library
Once upon a time

She gathered her books, walked while she read
Words never spoken, but so much was said
You can read all you want into this rendezvous
But its safer than most things that lovers can do
Well stories have endings, fantasies fade
And the guard by the door starts drawing the shade
So write your own ending and hope it comes true
For the lovers and strangers on bay avenue

Love in the library
Quiet and cool
Love in the library
There are no rules
Surrounded by stories
Surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library
Once upon a time
Surrounded by stories
Surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library
Once upon a time

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Bookstore of Questions

I have worked in my current bookstore since before we had books on the shelves. It will be 13 years this October. Yet I am still thrown to the mat by customers asking me questions and then insisting my answer is wrong.

Customer 1: How do you get to the first floor?
Me: This is the first floor.
Customer 1: No, you used to have 3 floors.
Me: No, it's always been 2.
Customer 1: Then what did you do with all the books that were on the first floor?
Me: They're upstairs.

Customer 2: I can't believe you got rid of your upstairs restrooms!
Me: We've never had restrooms upstairs.
Customer 2: Yes you did.
Me: Maybe your thinking of the store across town
Customer 2: I know what store I'm in and you had restrooms upstairs.
Me: I'm sorry. We only have restrooms downstairs now. Would you like a token?

Customer 3: You don't have any science books in this whole store!?
Me: Sure, their upstairs.
Customer 3: How am I supposed to get upstairs?
Me: We can take either the stairs or the elevator.
Customer 3: Well, where are they.
Me: Right this way sir. (My head: The giant monstrosity in the middle of the room that looks just like stairs)

Customer 4: When did you start closing early on Sundays?
Me: We've always closed early on Sundays.
Customer 4: I've been here after 10 on Sundays.
Me: Oh! Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we stay open until midnight.
Customer 4: No, like a month ago.
Me: Hm. Well, we close at 10 now.

Too much fun. I think I work in the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Falling Up

Many people believe working in a bookstore is a nice quiet job where you can do a lot of reading. Not true. By the way, if you do see this, ask for a manager.
But, as I was saying, there is a lot of work that goes on that customers never notice. Ever wonder how all those books got on the shelves in the first place? I'll tell you how. 3 weeks before a store opens, the entire staff plus staff members from other stores in the company are working six day weeks, 10-16 hrs a day putting all those books into place, training the new staff members and party-ing hard on Saturday night!!!
This is called a "sort" and is the foundation of each stores aura. Very deep. I have "a million" sort stories, but the following is my favorite. It happened in San Jose. (Insert mysterious music)
This store had posed a number of small problems throughout the sort process. We would loose hours of work at a time due to the fact that the shopping area was not yet fully constructed. Random fire alarms and gas leaks causing evacuations. Roads that existed yesterday, gone today. Time was a wasting!
This store was being built with an escalator, which was a first for all off us so we cautiously used the freight/handicap elevator to get hundreds of boxes of books to the second floor. Lo and behold a week and a half into the sort, the elevator went on strike! We'd already lost far too much time to delays and had already planned an 8hr day for the following Sunday to play catch-up. We had no choice. Hello Mr. Escalator.
Well things were actually going quite well. We would fill up a dollie with 4 boxes of books. Park the wheels on one step and then stand on the third step. But we were still loosing time, only getting about 20 boxes up the stairs in the time it would take the elevator to get twice that.
So we kicked it up a notch.
We put all the boxes that were to go upstairs at the entrance of the escalator. A team of people to fill the dollies. A team to take them up. And a team to unload at the top. SWEET!
We got so good at this that there was no waiting anywhere. Dollie, step, employee, dollie, step, employee, dollie, step, employee...There was no wasted space.
And then it happened. Someone tripped at the top.
Have you ever wondered how a domino feels when it sees certain demise in its wake?
I was just past the halfway mark heading up to the top. Helplessly watching as my co-workers at the top were pulling people off of one another to the left and pulling boxes to the right. Knowing eminent death was just moments away. I was trapped. It was time to accept my fate.
Just two more people to go! I'm going to die!!! And then...everything stopped.
It finally occurred to someone at the bottom of this circus to hit the off button.
Nothing more than minor abrasions and bruises to about a half dozen people. The books were evidently easier to save than the people, not the least bit of damage to any of them.
Let's open another store!!!

Books aren't just for reading anymore!

Did you know that books aren't just for reading anymore? While I do like to get some reading in from time to time (all the time!), I'm also guilty of using books in other, and in some eyes possibly blasphemous, ways. I've used books as coasters, risers and even door jams. But, did you ever imagine that books could be used to make furniture?

Boing Boing recently posted about his wonderful chair, created by artist David Karoff.

Mr. Karoff is not alone in his genius. I did some searching and discovered other innovative people making furniture with books. Artist Jim Rosenau has a whole website featuring his bookish furniture. He created this beautiful bookshelf and you can check out his other creations at This Into That. And, MIT student, Stephanie Hartman, even fashioned a whole bedroom suite using recycled books for a school project.

So, next time you're thinking about unloading your unwanted books, try using them to make a wonderful and unique book creation instead!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


First a little background information:
My father is a fan of the "Wizard..." anything fantasy series genre. My mother, political non-fiction. In my 17 years of growing up in their home, I never knew romance novels existed outside of the classic "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Height" variety.
I've lived away from my parents for almost 30 years now and don't see them terribly often due to geography and finances.
Now the story:
When I last visited the folks, now in their 60's, I happened to walk into "Dad's office" only to find a hardcover copy of Judith Krantz' Mistral's Daughter sitting on his desk with a bookmark in place.
After getting over the initial shock, I timidly approached my father.
"Dad? Are you reading a romance?"
"Yep. It's not bad."
OH NO!!!
And then all was put back into place when Mom chimed in with this explanation:
She was decorating the entry way of the house. So she and Dad headed to the discount bookstore in search of hardcover books with black spines and either gold or silver lettering after removing the dust jackets. When they got the books and were unpacking them Mom's keen I spotted the bright pink cover!
"I don't want people coming into my house thinking I'm reading that."
My dad's assigned punishment was to read that unwelcome tome.
Now it all makes sense. These are my parents!