Reader's Exchange

August 2010 - Posts

Do you hear what I hear?

Like other large structures, the library represents a unique climate, with a couple of zones occasionally defying thermostatic control.   When the admin. reception area develops tropical tendencies, Dora sets up a nostalgic corrective measure.  The gently whirring blades of her fan restore a pleasant feel, while the drone of the motor recalls those low-tech, high-temperature days not many decades back when Texas homes were not so likely to be air-conditioned.Vintage fan

Other library sounds remind us that back-to-school season has not changed as drastically as our standards for summertime comfort.  With older children in class, thus not accompanying Mom or Dad and the toddlers sleeping in their strollers, parents may note the squeak of a wobbly wheel or even--what is that strange sensation?--quiet.   Family routine locks into academic mode, and stacks of books for summertime pleasure reading get hauled back to the library.  A repetitive thunk! as they hit the book drop becomes the circulation crew's theme song.

Today, managers and selectors riffle pages and clack keyboards in their efforts to fine-tune spending before the fiscal year ends.  With patrons exploiting their expertise on shelf-checks, that weird Darth Vader-ish sound generated when we open the units to add receipt paper enhances the auditory landscape. 

Something I didn't expect to hear:  after David Mitchell's interview on NPR, my husband wished he'd requested the author's new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  I placed a hold on the checked-out copy, thinking, "Don't hold your breath," and was startled to learn that Jacob came back in the very next day.

I suppose other potential readers were temporarily distracted by student-nurturing duties, and they'll log in their requests before long.  The lesson here is that--much like the New Year--fall is a season of great opportunity for library users.  Some examples to contemplate:

  • The adult New Fiction shelf offers lots of newly arrived items.  I snagged Karen Essex's Dracula in Love.
  • For students and everyone else, our databases can be lifesavers. Cardholders may access most of them from home.
  • October is Family History Month, featuring two popular programs co-sponsored by the library and Williamson County Genealogical Society,  Genealogy from Scratch on the 16th and Genealogy After Hours on the 22nd.
Better than comfort food: comfort information

We knew the risks when we picked up that puppy from the Scottie rescue place four years ago.   She'd been found wandering the streets of Fort Worth with no collar or tag.  On the ride home, she licked all the sunscreen off my face, ran several figure-eight laps inside the car, and claimed our hearts--as she would any dog toy ever brought into our house (and she wasn't an only dog).   For a few years of charm and companionship delivered in a wonderfully photogenic short-legged package, we're now paying the price of heartache after her sudden death from a rare blood condition.

And we'd do it again, but our house is dismal just now.   Friends and co-workers who've similarly loved and lost offer sympathy, appreciated almost as much as distraction.  Last night, our TV's screening of Moonstruck lightened the gloom.

FDR and Fala We answer all sorts of questions at the reference desk, and here's a difficult one:  Having once experienced bereavement of a cherished animal, why do people voluntarily adopt another pet?

As usual, the library offers multiple-choice answers to what only seems like a rhetorical question.  Books like Animal Rescuers: A Chapter Book and Where the Trail Grows Faint: A Year in the Life of a Therapy Dog Team document dogs' capacity for enhancing human lives in very practical ways.  Jon Katz, author of The Dogs of Bedlam Farm and other popular titles, offers ample evidence of meaningful dog-human interaction.'s Lodging Guide for Travelers with Dogs and Pads for Pets: Fabulous Projects for Your Furry, Feathered, and ‘Phibious Friends, along with internet resources like denote another factor--our need to reward companion animals by promoting their quality of life.

Thankfully, some books even capture the sheer glee that canine characters inspire.  James Thurber, New Yorker founder and columnist (and associate of multiple Scottish Terriers) frequently wrote about the dogs in his life.  I've just checked out The Dog Department: James Thurber on Hounds, Scotties, and Talking Poodles.  Thurber's hilarious anecdotes and cartoons will cheer our household.  Dog Department even features tiny sketches on the page corners that you can flip to produce an animated cartoon.  As much as I recommend all dog lovers borrowing this book someday, I really need it now--and hope you don't.

Love that book? Keep it to yourself!

I volunteered to be "nominator" for the Barnes & Noble (RRNN) book group next week.  The job description:  bring in three promising books for consideration, after which one is voted in as the October selection.  No pressure, right?  Well, advising this gang on reading is rather like offering the Car Talk guys tips on tire rotation--they already know so much more.

And I can't depend on my favorite go-to resource to rescue me this time. 

On so many occasions, the library has saved me money and equipped me to decide wisely.  Before we remodeled our kitchen and bath a couple of years back, I lugged home armloads of books on tile, color, and cabinetry.  From all those ideas I compiled a scrapbook to show our contractor what we wanted, hoping he wouldn't find the notebook silly or intrusive.  His reaction?  "I wish everybody would do that."  All that decorating advice inspired me to put together an artsy granite and tile combination that I love but have secretly felt might be a little "out there"--until one of HGTV's Design Star teams came up with that exact look last week.  

Those of us who work at the library and benefit daily from its print and digital wisdom find it particularly gratifying to observe (and assist) others doing likewise:  

  • Is that snake you found in the yard one of the worrisome kind?  We don't just have snake identification guides--we have Texas snake identification guides. 
  • What exactly is that strange yet charming antique you just inherited?  Secretary, étagère, or something else entirely?  Miller's International Antiques Price Guide probably has a photo of something similar.
  • Have technical service bulletins or recalls been issued for your car?  You can access the library's subscription to Ebsco's Auto Repair Reference Center from home with your library card.Coral snake

You can also finally figure out what a "third cousin once removed" is.  (Sounds bad, doesn't it?)  Our resources can explain why the Mediterranean diet might be likely to work for you, what yarn you should try for your first knitting project, and how to avoid purchasing an unreliable refrigerator or SUV.

But I digress.  My point was that the library has proven, in this instance, not at all helpful.  I'm obliged to shorten my list to only three books, and everywhere I look, more possibilities suggest themselves.  I've finally had to avert my eyes from the shelves, carts, and book bags of our patrons, resolving to stick with my current three titles no matter what.  If you must tell me about something you've read before next Monday, please do me a favor and say you hated it!

When it's OK to cook the books

This week's insightful Online Recipe Finders post from Betsey reminded me that generations can be bridged by shared inadequacies.   Years of culinary advice directed my way have failed to cultivate a cookery style inspired by anything more than luck and necessity.

Oh, I can successfully replicate most recipes.  However, any grocery shopping experience still borders on overwhelming, and I dare not attempt anything spontaneous like flinging together a tasty omelet or pasta dish derived solely from random contents of my refrigerator and a lavishly priced bottle of olive oil.  My family will attest to the frequently monochromatic repasts I've offered them, the most notable being beige (fish, cauliflower, rolls, ...).   You don't even want to know what, in desperation, I've tried to pass off as a last-minute "garnish".

The one element of meal planning in which I demonstrate any real confidence is dessert (my Yummly login is "iheartpie").  Last weekend's book group discussion/dinner at our house proved to be the perfect showcase for my selective kitchen skills.  Who could a resist a menu consisting of pie and cake?

piesThis month's title, Diane Mott Davidson's Sweet Revenge, was chosen from her popular culinary mystery series.  The story's disappointing level of character development (group consensus) elevated the meal to Highlight of the Evening status before it was even served.  And, because the murder in question occurred in a library, I exploited the setting, picking the entrée recipe from Sweet Revenge and the salad and dessert recipes from library staff cookbooks.

Evidently, Davidson's "Unorthodox Shepherd's Pie" recipe was precisely what everyone felt like eating that day.  The two Scottish terriers roaming the living room finally gave up any expectation of remnants on guests' dishes.  And, after the salad and comfort food, the Chocolate Zucchini Cake from the Round Rock Public Library's Recipes to Check Out fueled us for an evening of conversation--though not, sadly, about Sweet Revenge.    

For witty and learned observations from an expert "foodie", I'd recommend the charming Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser.  She can explain why tapas are socially relevant and how personal relationships can evolve, one menu at a time.  My expertise is more practical: you know that dinner went well if nothing remains to scrape or rinse before the plates go into the dishwasher.