Reader's Exchange

April 2011 - Posts

Poetic license--or learner's permit?

Advance apologies go out to William Shakespeare (whose birthday it is this week) and all other real poets.  In celebration of National Poetry Month, I borrowed some poetic forms to convey a few thoughts.

 Haiku:  April Weather    Mexican pottery sun

Verdant but brown-edged
Summer larks behind Spring's mask              
We're not fooled--or pleased

Shakespearean Sonnet
:  A Cautionary Note about Playaways

Yon Playaway in orange plastic shell
Creates within me resolutions true.
With earphones it comports itself so well
That often I'm compelled it to renew.
The fault lies not within this small device,
But rather with the chores that I envision.
Completing tasks while listening is so nice
The possibilities defy decision.
I think: Three miles of walking!  Shirts I'll press!
The rug I'll vacuum!  Weed and trim the border!
And soon my to-do list runs to excess
When chapters do unfold in such sweet order.

Devotion to these audios won't flag,
Though time behind ambition tends to lag.

  Why Reference Librarians Love Their Jobs

In seeking the answers to questions
Which patrons might label as "dumb",
We gain new impressions
And diverting digressions.
Thus, to boredom we'll never succumb!

Should the library get real?

You may consider yourself a major borrower, but you won't top library staffers.  We don't confine ourselves to the New Fiction shelf or even the entire contents of the library.

We appropriate ideas from other libraries, government agencies, for-profit business, actually any venture whose success merits emulation.  Just as business owners observe the competition to learn about customer preferences and marketing strategies, we audition concepts we think will translate into enhanced service. 

That brings us to reality TV.   After proclaiming for years that I don't watch that kind of television (well, not American Idol or Survivor) I admit to a semi-addiction for HGTV and TLC home improvement fare.  For me, they're fitness programs;  I can only watch them on the television that sits directly opposite my elliptical machine.  When I exercise, I'm allowed to view Holmes on Homes, Curb Appeal, Designed to Sell, etc.

Should you frequent these televised transformations, you'll notice some trends:  (1) Individual hosts are morphing into teams, mostly attractive twenty-somethings with occasional token Baby Boomers; each Team Specialist (TS) possesses a specific and useful expertise.  (2)  If the area in question contains a big-screen TV, that appliance will be downsized, attached to the wall, or banished altogether.

The library already employs concepts from the for-profit world:  face-out book displays, social networking, customer service training.  What if we answered reference questions in reality TV style?

  • Library Patron: I hope you can recommend a really great novel--something that's on the literary radar screen. The New York Times bestsellers are all checked out.
  • TS: First, I need some information. What effect were you trying for when you selected the novel that I saw you check in? Surely you agree that it's time for a style update...
  • TS #2: I hope you're comfortable with giving us a free hand with this process. We'll call you when it's time for the "reveal".
  • TS #3: Please look carefully at the objects in this display of colors. Which hue best represents the mood that you hope to achieve?
  • TS#4: You don't own a big-screen TV, do you?

Perhaps our way is better, after all.  When I had this question a couple of days ago, I shared the printouts of staff picks we keep at the reference desk and directed the patron to Book Movement.

TV before and after

NLW fever: catch it!

Sounds like a sports event, right?  I hoped to suggest a more stupendous thrill ride than National Library WeekRoller coaster

On the other hand, what's more electrifying than self-discovery and hundreds of products for pennies per day? Libraries collect and arrange thousands of resources for your convenience.   As handy as it is to find them all in one spot, learning that some of the niftiest ones (think databases and downloadable content) can be accessed from home is pretty amazing.

As for the self-discovery component, the library figures into the "Experience Economy" that you've heard so much about.

Sunday night's after-dinner conversation illustrates that trend.  One friend divulged that for years he's maintained a three-category list: what he'd like to be, what he hopes to do, and what he aspires to have.  Here's what has occurred over time: his options for "being" have clarified themselves; the list of "want to haves" has diminished (since he's gotten along fine without them so far!).  However, the catalog of "want to do" is steadily increasing.

In the Experience Economy, creating memories, discovering the means to transform yourself, or merely sensing that your needs truly matter to the employee who assists you are basic expectations.  You can find impressive price breaks for restaurants, theme parks, concerts, travel, and classes, but the library still offers the best deal around.   A co-worker recently divided 365 into the $25 nonresident fee charged to folks who live outside the city.  The daily cost of utiilizing thousands of print and online resources: less than 7 cents per day.

To celebrate NLW, you could catch a Youtube video, print inspiring Crayola projects for the young ones, or enter a Twaiku (Twitter haiku) contest.  Better yet, visit the library--in person or online--for some cheap thrills.

Skeleton crew

Scanning today’s fiction reviews, I still observe zombies, vampires, and all sorts of urban paranormal characters clamoring for your attention.  If you find a shape-shifting, blood-seeking, or undead protagonist who strikes your fancy, chances are that you can expect multiple installments starring your creature of choice.

But no series can last forever, and ultimately the skeletons will just wait them out and claim your interest.  Your family skeletons, I mean:  every clan has some lurking in the closet.

Family trees harbor fascinating characters—adventurers, entrepreneurs, pirates, and so forth.  Genealogy research can match the appeal of just about any flavor of popular reading.  For example, there’s romance: great-great-grandparents who grew up on adjoining farms or grandparents who met in night school learning English.  For a mystery, try figuring out why your great-uncle is listed under three different surnames in three different census rolls.Pirates' treasure map

Science fans will be intrigued by some of the quaint maladies that afflicted their forebears.  What is apoplexy?  consumption?  dropsy?    Those who appreciate spine-tingling plots should try searching for an ancestor at  Discovering a photo of the actual headstone definitely elicits chills.

As for fantasy, that would be the expectation that an average individual can go into the library and receive a ready-made portfolio of his/her family tree, assembled for free by a team of experts.  However, you can experience that thrill vicariously by watching Who Do You Think You Are?.

For those of us who aren’t Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tim McGraw, or similarly well-known, Round Rock Public Library does provide a great option:  Genealogy Advisor.   Jacquie Wilson is offering her considerable experience (including the National Archives) to aid family history researchers.  Jacquie as Genealogy Advisor will be on hand at several convenient times this month. 

At the library, we think you’re special, even if your family is a bit unusual….