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It’s an unexpectedly sunny day, after a foggy morning, I got my extra hour of sleep, went to church, had brunch with friends, got a new pair of shiny shiny patent leather clogs, and now a quiet hour before dinner with my family and an evening of dancing.  Yes, my mom is turning the whole family (except my dad) into ballroom dancers, one Sunday night dance at a time.  I’ve been taking ballet lessons, too, and discovering unexpected muscle memory from my ten years of ballet – even though it’s been over 10 years since I did it regularly.  I still adore it.  And if nothing else, perhaps I will recover my posture and my ability to do double pirouettes.

Ramona recently asked how I’m liking my library job, and the short answer is that I love it.  I’m settling into more of a routine – my weekly and monthly tasks, putting together book orders, etc.  I’m actually (gasp) having fun putting together very simple crafts for my toddler storytime, and I’m trying to learn the names of the regular kids.  I started taking notes.  I did a Saturday craft, and my first storytime at Head Start, and I’ve done two book group meetings.  Next month we’re reading Larklight by Philip Reeve, which I hope is a success.  I ought to find a spider-themed snack for that meeting.

The reference desk no longer makes me nervous, and I’m getting used to the patrons who get outraged at various things that are beyond our control.  No, you cannot save anything to the computers.  No, I cannot change the reservation system because you think it’s unfair.  Etc.

But!  I did have a very fun question the other day that started off with, “you know the movie Desk Set?”  Oh boy, do I.  “And how the librarians keep getting phone calls asking for the names of Santa’s reindeer?”  At this point, I panicked, thinking that the patron was conducting some sort of reference librarian test which I would FAIL because unlike Katherine Hepburn and coworkers, I cannot recite the names of Santa’s reindeer.  Fortunately, the patron’s question was about whether it’s Donner or Donder, and I got to have a fun visit to to find the answer.  Who knew!  I want Desk Set questions every day.  I should’ve dressed up as Bunny Watson for Halloween, instead of Dorie the Little Witch.  Oh well, next year.

The hardest part about my job is getting up when it’s dark out – although perhaps going off Daylight Savings will help.  Now, it will be dark when I get home!  Otherwise it’s great.  The staff is great, I’m given room to have ideas and be creative but there’s plenty of structure, I work reasonable hours, we crack up researching random questions, and somehow I ended up volunteering to redo the entire website.  Hmm, good thing I took that web design class.


100 Scope Notes has a post up about Things Librarians Fancy, taking inspiration from that other site.  And yeah, it’s true.  These are things that librarians fancy, and I think the list could certainly be expanded.

I have to plead guilty to most of the list – who doesn’t like book carts?  And it’s a rare day (summer or winter) that I’m not wearing a cardigan at work.  In fact, I believe the library is required to keep the air conditioning on high enough that librarians are forced to wear cardigans during the summer.  While I’m not sure whether or not I wear mine with irony (I did start working in libraries in 2003, which is apparently the year in which the ironic/irony free librarian schism occurred), but I do wear my oddly-shaped glasses with an irony that hopefully extends to my cardigans.  Oh, and I prefer to carry my sensible lunch to work in my tote bag rather than a brown paper bag (the environment!)

I can think of a few more things (hand puppets, goggly eyes, cunning crafts, etc.) but I think they’re more specific to children’s librarians.  Any other ideas?

On a completely different topic, we were all forced to listen to a presentation on flu prevention after church today, including an amusing video about coughing and sneezing into the nearest available textile instead of your hands, and that made me think of the latest Elephant and Piggie book, entitled Pigs Make Me Sneeze! in which Gerald does not practice proper sneezing technique.  No wonder Piggie gets sick, too!  The book arrived at the library this week, and as I took it out of the box, the entire staff of the children’s library gathered around me to read over my shoulders.  Such is the Elephant and Piggie love.  I guess I should add Mo Willems to the list, eh?

Remember how I’m taking over my library’s bookgroup?  And how they decided to read Eragon?  And how I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it?  The group meets tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve still got 300 pages to go, but at least it’s making me laugh.

Gosh, where to start?  There was that awesome first sentence: “Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”  That left me speechless.  Okay, not really – did the scent really change the world?  Or the person/thing that gave off the scent (and honestly, I’m not really sure what the scent is supposed to be – the elves?  This is one rare example of Paolini not overdescribing something.)

Then there was that awful description of a massacred town that had me snorting with laughter.  It takes real skill to make a massacre – and a dead baby – the funniest scene in a book.

Then there’s the fact that Eragon doesn’t have much of a personality.  I suppose if you’re reading for plot and fantasy elements, the hero’s personality isn’t too much of an issue.  He gets snappy over things, like you would expect from a teen boy, resenting advice adults.  He likes to wander in the forest by himself, hunting.  He lives at subsistance level on a farm in the mountains, but it’s not until he sets off on his adventures that he gets muscles (seriously?)  “The long days and strenuous work stripped Eragon’s body of excess fat.  His arms became corded, and his tanned skin rippled with lean muscles.  Everything about me is turning hard, he thought dryly” (170-171).

I have many predictions about where the plot will go, who Eragon’s father will turn out to be, etc. etc.  But who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised.  I’m curious to see if the characters develop much, because right now I feel ambivalent about them.  I’d be curious to see how the Knopf edition differs from the original, self-published version.  It is a remarkable effort from a teenager, and kids do respond well to it.  Witness the bookgroup member whose mother, when I called with a reminder about the meeting, told me that he’d put off starting it, but once he picked it up was totally hooked.

Paolini obviously grew up on a diet of Tolkien, which is making me think about the ways Tolkien manages to make things work, while Paolini doesn’t always succeed.  I think there was more humor in Tolkien, and a better sense of tragedy, too.  And characters that felt living and breathing.  They do have those blasted elven poems in common, though.  Skim, skim, skim.

I’m inheriting two programs as the new children’s librarian – a weekly toddler storytime, and a monthly bookgroup for ages ten and up.  I had a sort of trial run for storytime this week, filling in for someone on vacation.  It was actually one of the preschool storytimes, but still – it warmed up my muscles.  I did a fish theme and read Fish is Fish, Clara and Asha, and Fish Eyes, along with a flannelboard version of The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile.  It all went over swimmingly (haha) and I was delightfully surprised to see how entranced the kids were by Clara and Asha, which I’d worried was better suited to a cozier setting and fewer children.  But they lapped it up – and according to one of the other librarians, they even squealed at a few points.  I read Fish is Fish first, since it was longest and I was worried about attention spans.  Fish Eyes was great towards the end, because I didn’t have to worry about losing the threads of a story as they interrupted and crowded around to point out their favorite fish.  Have I mentioned that I love reading aloud? I’ll have my regular storytime starting in October, when our next cycle starts up.

The book group is a more challenging crowd.  They don’t squeal.  I’m taking over starting in September, so I sat in on this month’s discussion.  There were five kids, and I’m terrible at guessing ages but they looked like a range from ten to fourteen or so.  It had been free choice month, so they each talked about some of the best things they read over the summer – everything from Harriet the Spy to Specials.  I loved hearing their reactions to things.  For September, the librarian currently running the show booktalked three titles and then opened the floor for nominations, and then they voted for their top three choices. 

Eragon won out by one point over Shakespeare’s Secret, so it looks like I’ll finally have to tackle that dreaded title.  The boy who nominated it was super excited, since he’s been trying to get the group to read it for ages but is always outvoted.  Me?  I tried to listen to the audio version a few years ago and didn’t even make it through a whole cassette.  The way I figure it is that I’ll either give up partway and run next month’s discussion blind, or it will be so terribly bad that I’ll get a good laugh and make it through.  The one-star reviews on Goodreads are making me think it could go either way.  How much am I willing to suffer for the bookgroup?  Stay tuned – I’ve got until the 15th.

Thursday nights are my reference desk nights – I’m the one sitting in the main area of the library, answering questions and helping people with the internet stations.  I’m getting to know the regulars – the guy who wants you to google something very specific and then print out the results page.  Not the actual webpages, just the list of results from google.  Um, okay.  Easy enough.  There are always questions about making computer reservations, and about how the new computer system works, and can I put such-and-such book on hold.  Is this movie in on DVD, and where are your audiobooks, and is there a travel guide for Spokane.

Then there are the fun ones, like the phone call I got tonight.  He wanted the lyrics to an ACDC song, and he knew the title.  Fantastic.  (The other day I had a similar request, only she didn’t know the name of the song or who sang it – only that it had been in a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis movie.  Which movie?  Who knows.  To my surprise, I found the song.  Sweet victory.)  So I search for the song and find the lyrics, and in the meantime the guy on the phone is talking about what he thinks one of the lines is.  Okay, I think, he wants me to clarify that he’s hearing it correctly.  I find the line and read it to him.  Twice.  Three times.  He repeats it back and messes it up.  A fourth time.

“What do you think that means?” he asks. When I say I have no idea, he proceeds to tell me how he think the line applies to his relationship with his girlfriend.  “She just takes and takes and takes.”  Um.  Fortunately, he didn’t drag it out once I repeated that I didn’t have an interpretation handy, just the lyrics.

I guess people think we really do know everything.  Including the meaning of song lyrics.

I’m going to watch Desk Set now – I bet no one asked Katherine Hepburn for ACDC lyrics.

I didn’t expect my reading habits to change when I became a children’s librarian – and maybe it’s too early to tell for sure, but I think they have.  For starters, more of my attention is going to chapter books for 4th-8th grade, instead of my beloved YA.  Oh, the YA still calls to me, especially when I’m covering lunch breaks at the reference desk and I can see the new YA shelf out of the corner of my eye.  Shiny!  New!  But I resist, mostly, because I know that when I return to my proper place in the children’s library, there are five million books begging to be read.

These fit into three categories, and they all demand my attention.  And I’ve brought way too many of them home.

It started when I placed my first order – a mere 20 books, but so help me I wanted to read every one of them.  That will never happen.  I will never be able to keep up with a fraction of the books I order.  I can only sit back and watch them circ.  And flip through the occasional graphic novel (Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians) or read the first page or so (Dessert First).   There are also the series that I want to get a feel for, so I know more options when I’m recommending books (which is why I listened to the first 39 Clues book – The Maze of Bones – on audio).But then there are things that I plan on really reading, like Richard Peck’s latest, A Season of Gifts.  Two words: Grandma Dowdel.

More on Richard Peck in a moment.  The second category is Books that I Missed as a Kid.  Here’s the great thing about my library – it’s full of books that I read as a kid.  Literally, I mean – the same copies of the same books.  That All of a Kind Family, that The Blue Sword, that Anastasia Krupnik.  The same copies that I propped up against my cereal bowl or curled up on the couch with.  It’s an awesome feeling to work with them, old friends twice over.  But the library is also full of books that I missed – the ones that weren’t my cup of tea back then, or that were published after I stopped frequenting the children’s department.

As promised, speaking of Richard Peck, I ran across an autographed copy of his 1979 book, Secrets of the Shopping Mall.  I’d never even heard of Peck until I read A Long Way From Chicago a few years ago, and I probably wouldn’t have picked up Secrets because I didn’t really read contemporary fiction as a child – mostly classics, historical fiction, and fantasy.  It was fun to think about how Peck’s writing career has grown since then, with his Newbery medal and his Newbery honor and all.  And I longed to check out Secrets, terrible dated cover and all.  The only thing that stopped me was that it needs a new plastic cover over the dust jacket.  Along the same lines, I also read my very first John Bellairs and I dipped into Philip Reeve’s idea of science fiction with Larklight.

Then, then!  Then there are the books whose names I had forgotten but whose covers are immediately familiar to me when I go through the shelves.  I’d forgotten about Eleanor Cameron and Lucy Boston and Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo series.  It’s been ages since I read The Hero and the Crown or The Arm of the Starfish. Do they hold up?  I want to know!

I could live off of rereading books.  But then the new books, oh the new books!  Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and the new Shannon Hale, and the third book in the Gideon series!

It’s exhausting being a children’s librarian.*  I need to take a break and read.

*Actually, not really.  Not yet, at least.


I had Monday off work and went to the coast for the day with my mom and brother.


My sunburn is just now starting to fade and peel and not cause people to exclaim over it.  It turns out that when you sit at the reference desk at the library, patrons like to tell you that you got some sun.  And tell you how much it must hurt.  And make sure that you’re “putting something on it.”  Really?  Oh, the joys of public service.  At any rate, the beach was fantastic.


We started out in Seaside, where it was sunny and overcast and foggy all at once.   Then we drove south to Hug Point (my favorite spot), which is a bit more classic Oregon Coast, but where I left my camera in the car.  We stopped for dinner in Cannon Beach, at a place that I’ve been to twice before and never had a satisfactory experience – why can’t I remember that from one year to the next?  But not bad enough to be truly disappointing.  But what is a pub at the beach without fish and chips, I ask you?


In other news, I’ve been in my new job for a week and a half.  I’ve already placed one order of children’s fiction, and my next list is even bigger.  My to-read list is also enormous and it pains me to think of ordering all these books that I’ll never have time to read.  I’m also spending more time working with other people, and less time alone, which is a pleasant change since I like the people I work with.  And there are always entertaining questions/problems, like the patron who put his library card into the floppy drive at an internet station, and then asked why it hadn’t let him onto the computer.  Hmm.  Maybe because you were supposed to type in your card number?

Last night was my first shift at the adult reference desk, and it was pretty much a breeze since I was being “trained” by one of the reference librarians, and we talked about cookbooks and baking and outdated horrors and crazy patrons and library school in between occasional bouts of “oh, did you know about this resource?”  Can I just say again that I LOVE being “trained” someplace where I already know the collection, the layout, and the staff?  Starting at a whole new library would be so much more intimidating.  Not that it won’t be more intimidating when I’m alone at the desk, but you know what I mean.

Right now I’m reading the absolutely delicious The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – a perfect summer reading book.  Temperatures in the high 80s feel cool when you read about Texas heat circa 1899 – as Calpurnia puts it in the opening sentence, “By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.”  The language of the whole book is deliciously rich, the characters entertainingly real, and Calpurnia’s adventures in naturalism are compelling even to me – someone who’s never particularly cared about learning about science or the natural world.  But for kids with an interest in those things, and a fairly strong vocabulary, this would be a dream.

And the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, with incidents like Calpurnia describing her rash (which results after some meddling in her oldest brother’s romantic life) as “the hives of hypocrisy.”  These delights more than overcome any doubts about the maturity of Calpurnia’s tone.  Oh, and it makes me want to go for a nice swim in a cold river, microscopic creatures or no.

Today was my first day as a librarian (a children’s librarian, specifically, is what we decided my cards would say, since I’ll spend most of my time in children’s and only have the occasional stint at the adult reference desk).  We joked around about how I may or may not show up to work tomorrow, having been overwhelmed by my first day.  In all seriousness, I thought it might be pretty tiring – but I’m tired in a good, happy way.

I got the benefits talk from HR first thing, then an overview of what I’ll be responsible for in the children’s department, and just how different my schedule will be each week, covering various days off and lunch breaks, and having my own days off, etc.  Believe me, I’m just glad I don’t have to organize the schedule.  We decided I’ll do a toddler storytime, probably on Wednesday mornings, starting in October – mark your calenders!   It looks like I’ll take over the monthly bookgroup for 10 & ups, too.

And – tada! – I’ll be ordering fabulous, delicious chapter books.  Regular fiction, fantasy/scifi, mystery and young teen.  I dove right into review reading while I sat at the desk.  Finally, all this reading (and blog reading) will come in handy.  I have a budget, I have a standing order, I am the decider.  It is awesome – and a little frightening.

Then I got off work – at 6 pm!  And went to the grocery store!  And came home to eat a celebratory librarian dinner of a nice salad and bread and cheese and wine – a very Laurel-ish dinner, to anyone who knows my college roommate.  She would approve.

I also count reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life as part of the meal.  It’s really the ideal book for reading during a meal, because she makes you hungry and it’s good to have food in front of you already.  Over a meal, it just sharpens the appetite instead of torturing you.   I had the book on hold for ages, and in the meantime I kind of forgot what the book was supposed to be about.  If I ever knew, I forgot that she was a blogger, and I also had this vague idea that the book was about homemade things in general, like sewing and canning and handicrafts, rather than just food.  But I’m quite pleased with what it is, and I also like her comments on blogging.  She talks about trying to create a blog that strikes a balance between the personal and the informative.  “I write about my life some, too, since it intersects with food roughly three times a day.  I don’t think many of us are terribly interested in recipes that have no stories or real-life context” (p. 195).  Which sums up my feelings about blogs exactly (substituting food for books much of the time) – I don’t want to read something 100% personal, but I don’t want book reviews or food detached from the person who wrote/created them.  At any rate, I recommend the book so far – the pacing is good, without having that meandery feeling that some memoir-ish books get (I’m thinking of On Rue Tatin, also about food and life). And it makes me want to try the recipes.

Oh, and I’ve got ice cream for dessert, and Sense and Sensibility on DVD.  It’s been a good day.

Oh wait, I AM.  As of yesterday, I will officially be the newest librarian at my library – the library I grew up at, the library where I volunteered for nearly ten years, the library where I’ve worked for the past five years.  I’ll be mostly a children’s librarian, but I’ll also work at the reference desk upstairs, covering breaks and days off and letting the regular reference librarians get some time away from the public.  I’ll have a storytime in the fall, when we expand our hours.  This is all thanks to the lovely people in the county who voted to increase taxes and provide stable funding for all the libraries.

I’m so flipping excited.  Sometimes I’m driving around and I make this sort of going-down-a-roller-coaster screaming noise, except quiet.  It hasn’t quite sunk in – and it probably won’t until I’m rolling out of bed and showing up for work at 8:30 or 9 am every day.  It will be lovely to have my evenings free, but I’ve been spoiled by having my mornings and most day times free.  I’ll only work 1 evening each week, and I’ll still have my one working weekend each month.  And I’ll only have one full-time job.  This will feel so weird.  In a good way.

I’m excited about in a professional sense – that I’ll finally be putting my degrees to use, and doing a job that I believe in, and having more of a career and less of a random collection of part-time jobs – but I’m also curious to see all the little ways that this will change my day-to-day life, like coming home at 6:30 and making dinner.  Or being able to have dinner plans with friends.  Or being able to go to all those evening church services that are so conveniently scheduled for people who work during the day, but are impossible to attend if you work evenings.  I can finally use that ballroom dance lesson gift certificate that my mom gave me for Christmas.  I can develop new habits – a good challenge.

And oh boy, now I have a really good reason to keep up with children’s books.

October 2022

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