Thursday, April 26, 2007

My First Book Club Meeting

I mentioned this morning that I'd read one of the books for our book clubs, and ten minutes later, I was slated to lead a group of 5th graders through a conversation about "A Girl Named Disaster." How cool is that?

I hung out for the tail end of the 4th grade book club meeting, just to see how they go. Five nine year olds debating whether or not it's strictly necessary to read the author's note or the prologue of a book. Then they discussed movie adaptations of books they'd read recently. These kids have stuff to say. And they are amped on Teddy Grahams snacks that we handed out.

I was scheduled to have three kids for the 5th grade book club, but only one boy showed up. Technically, he's a fourth grader, but well, you know how it goes. You're all nerdy too. He'd also only read a third of the book, but man, was he ready to discuss. He had some complex analysis of this story, it was awesome. In case you're aren't familiar with "A Girl Named Disaster," it's the story of a 12 year old girl living in Mozambique who runs away to avoid marrying the evil guy her family has set her up with. Well, that's the one sentence version of the story. It also, as the fifth grader just reminded me, has a very rich mythological side to it. He compared and contrasted the acceptance of witches in this book and in "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," (Better to be a witch, or possessed by a witch, in Mozambique than in colonial America. You don't get burned or hung, only married off to the evil guy. For your reference.) He commented on how having native words in a story adds to the depth. He speculated on what would happen in the parts he hadn't read. And when I handed him the book that the group is reading next month, he said, I kid you not, "Cool! I like to read books with virtual reality in them." Hm, it occurs to me now that most books do, but the book in question has, you know, actual virtual reality in it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Terrible horrible no good very bad reference desk shift

Even in Australia.

I've been on the adult ref desk for three hours now, and usually, at this desk, boredom is my biggest foe. Tonight, that was not to be the case. As soon as I sat down our "red alert" patron came in, the one who's made us get the Police Department on speed-dial. He was no trouble. In fact, the first two hours were cake. In the last hour, I've been swamped by very kind patrons with really absurdly difficult requests. One lady came in and handed me a copy of her credit card bill. Or rather "Father's" credit card bill. Father stumbled in behind her, an ancient priest. "Father," who, I came to learn, has no trouble putting together a TV set, but perhaps was best not left alone with the Internets, had $850 on his card to a travel agency in Michigan. Could I find all the travel agencies in this particular town in Michigan? Sure. Well, at first glance, there are 451 of them. I tried to explain to the nice woman who wanted to help a very old priest that perhaps trying to phone each of the 451 travel agencies might not be a good strategy. I tried to explain that if he'd made a reservation online, it would be hard to pinpoint the the right person to call. I really, really tried to get her to work with the credit card company. "Father" kept trying to help, wondering where the city was.

Meanwhile, another patron was wondering how best to search back issues of tabloids for articles about Bigfoot. No, really, I'm serious. She seemed an adept web searcher, was familiar with searching the archives of other periodicals, but couldn't seem to grasp why the National Enquirer might not keep meticulous, easily searchable records. Then I dropped a huge book on my toe, and you know, I couldn't do any of the yelling that is normally required to dull the pain of injured toes.

And, just for giggles, I just helped a very sweet older gentleman track down the address and phone number of a super-Christian Pro-Life organization. Since chanting to myself "Libraries disseminate information!" didn't make me feel less guilty, I'm trying to convince myself that maybe he's going to write them a well reasoned letter about why women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their bodies. The sweet older gentlemen didn't have quite the right name for the organization he was looking for, but gosh darnit, I was still able to find them. "You're like a detective!" he said, shaking my hand. "That's what librarians are," I said grimly. "I'm going to put you on my list of good people," he said. It doesn't feel like I'm on that list.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

REAL Hobbits

I'm checking in magazines again, and in the midst of fishing out one of those cards Jim mentions below (in passing, they kind of remind me of the streamers Riverside uses to sort their Tricor, useless, ever-present, and wasteful) and the following headline catches my eye. Oh, I should mention, I'm checking in the issue of "Science" which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Here's the title of the article:

"Hobbit's Status as a New Species Get a Hand Up." (here's a link, if you happen to have access to Science online.)

Apparently, something about the wrist bones of a being that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores 18,000 years ago indicate that he is a whole new species. Well, paleoanthropologists are debating that. But you know, you throw the word "hobbit" in, and I'm on board. The pro-hobbit contingent says H. floresiensis is definitely different than H. antecessor or H. habilis, and not just one of those others with a small head. They've included an illustration which would look a little out of place at the Green Dragon, but still. Very cool.

Friday, April 6, 2007


One of my regular responsibilities here at the library is checking in the new periodicals. So, it's Friday afternoon, I'm finishing the stack before the weekend. I pick up "Vanity Fair" and notice it's their 2nd Annual Green Issue.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

"This American Life" on TV

Have you guys seen it yet? I caught my first episode last week. I'd recommend it. It's everything you love about TAL, but with pictures. It's almost exactly what you expect....slow and a little funky, with imagery that holds up to the storytelling. Check it out.

I just walked around to all the computers people use to look at the catalog, and refilled the boxes with little golf sized pencils for jotting down call numbers. I think that has to be the most librarianish thing I've ever done.