Friday, September 29, 2006

A two book day

Knowing that I would finish reading, Things Hoped For, by Andrew Clements, I also took Dear Max, by Sally Grindley, to lunch this afternoon. Though part way through the Clements title, I started with Dear Max figuring I could read through the book pretty quickly. I was right. This does not mean the book is without substance, far from it, but the age level (3rd or 4th grade), larger print, and clever pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the book facilitated a quick read.

Dear Max is a compilation of letters written between a young boy, Max, and his favorite author, D.J. Lucas. We learn Max is small for his age, has recently lost his father, and possesses a vivid imagination. Nine-year-old Max is wonderful and his life complicated with everyday issues at school including a bully, a best friend, and his "odd" teacher. D.J. becomes friend, mentor, and confidant to Max during a rough year at school. Through their letters, we learn about both Max and D.J. as they share happenings in their daily lives. As the pen pal relationship progresses between the two, Grindley deftly weaves writing tips for budding authors into D.J.'s correspondences and we realize Max's letters contain more than a young boy's yearning to write. Dear Max ends with a clever twist leaving readers to wonder how much of the book is part of, well, the book.

Things Hoped For begins as a daily narrative from Gwen, a talented violinist who has moved to New York City to live with her grandfather and study music, her passion. Their relationship is both simple and complex:

"Grandpa and I don't talk much, but over the past year and a half we've gotten used to each other. he has his routines, and I have mine. I know he likes having me around. he doesn't say things out loud, but he's been so kind, mostly little things, but some big ones too." - Clements, Things Hoped For, P. 13-14

It is obvious they have a deep affection and respect for each other, a fact aptly illustrated when Grandpa disappears one afternoon leaving only a cryptic phone message with instructions for Gwen to carry on like nothing is wrong. Though afraid, Gwen chooses to honor her Grandpa's wishes and proceed with her practice and lessons.

During the next few days Gwen meets Robert, a trumpet player with like ambitions, and they strike up a friendship. What is subsequently revealed about Robert is a portion of the book I found somewhat unnecessary. Robert, it seems, was at one time rendered invisible and now is able to see other shadows who suffer the same malady. Gwen trusts his story, aptly noting that it does not matter if she believes it has happened, Robert believes it is the truth regardless of her feelings, and the story continues. The writing is clean and concise when discussing Gwen's music obsession; she is focused, but not selfishly obsessed. We learn what precipitated Grandpa's choice, and the feelings evoked when Uncle Hank, Gwen's Dad, Gwen, and Robert all must deal with when truths are revealed.

All of this could have been accomplished without the invisible sub-plot for Robert and another intruder who wants to learn how Robert became visible again. All in all, Things will undoubtedly strike a chord with teenagers who have yearned to have the opportunity to fulfill a dream.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

My attitude? Funny you should ask

This arrived with my other bloglines feeds today and after reading the title, it was fate. From Blogthings ..... How's Your Attitude?

Your Attitude is Better than 70% of the Population

You have a good attitude. While a realist, you do see the positive side of most things. People love to be around you.

Update: 9/29/06
Actually, my attitude would have been significantly better if, when publishing yesterday, this particular post had not appeared three times on the blog and twice as a draft. Evidentally the blogger gods were angry yesterday afternoon.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday evening shift, one down

It's nearing the end of my first Tuesday evening reference shift. Once we got past several wacky circulation issues, duplicate entries, invalid ID's, non-existent borrowers, and bizarre government documents, all that was left to deal with were rambunctious football players (they were studying .... really) and a water fountain that would not quit running. With slightly over a half an hour left, and my personal snarkiness not withstanding, it has been determined we will indeed survive.

As my father is often tells me, today my attitude sucks. Therefore, I'm once again choosing children's poetry as my post. Tonight's entry is another favorite, Jack Prelutsky:

Awful Ogre Goes to Bed

My awful day is ending,
I've ranted, roared, and raved.
At best, I've been unpleasant,
And greatly misbehaved.
But now I'm growing weary,
It's time to rest my head
Upon the stony pillow
A top my rocky bed.

Good night to silent vipers
That slither in the mud
Good night to tiny parasites
Whoose touch can curdle blood.
Good night to furtive spiders
That lurk in murky wells.
Good night to loathsome vermin
With nauseating smells.

Good night to lowly rodents
That gnaw on rotting waste.
Good night to nasty maggots
Good night to savage raptors
And beasts that claw and bite.
Good night to Awful Ogre -
Good night, good night, good night

Awful Ogre's Awful Day, p.36
by Jack Prelutsky

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Monday, September 25, 2006

No blog kind of day

Instead of blathering endlessly about my crummy day, lately everyone wants a piece of me and I have been far from gracious in response, I am going to do something different.
Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day
By Judith Viorst

Beginning ...... "I went to bed with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day"

To end ...."It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

If I Were In Charge of the World
By Judith Viorst

If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel oatmeal,
Monday mornings,
Allergy shots, and also Sara Steinberg.

If I were in charge of the world
There'd be brighter nights lights,
Healthier hamsters, and
Basketball baskets forty eight inches lower.

If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have lonely.
You wouldn't have clean.
You wouldn't have bedtimes.
Or "Don't punch your sister."
You wouldn't even have sisters.

If I were in charge of the world
A chocolate sundae with whipped cream
and nuts would be a vegetable
All 007 movies would be G,
And a person who sometimes forgot to brush,
And sometimes forgot to flush,
Would still be allowed to be
In charge of the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Unfinished book guilt

This topic has been discussed on various blogs, definitely on Running With Quills though I currently lack the patience to look back and find the post. Can you put down a book if you don't like it? Or are you compelled to stick it out and finish? It took me a long time to give myself permission, if you like, to not finish a book; especially hard when it's a book I have plunked down good money to purchase. But there comes a time when you have to realize there are a lot of books waiting to be read and my time is important. Just because I am not enjoying a particular title does not mean someone else won't find it the best book they've read all year. Right? So, put it down and move on.

I wonder if high school honors English plays a part in the determination to finish a book regardless of reader enjoyment? Being forced (oops, required) to read classics and then dissect all of the fun out of them. Probably why I am not a big literature classics reader to this day. As usual, I digress.

My first of two weekend reference duty shifts occurred following the Labor Day holiday. I mentioned I grabbed several books from our recreational shelves; The Day Trade by Stephen Frey, It Might Have Been what He Said, by Eden Collinsworth, Ricochet by Sandra Brown, and You've Got to Read this Book, by various authors. I didn't care for any of them and they have been subsequently returned to the library. Yes, I am glad I did not buy them, but I am still disappointed, especially with the Sandra Brown title.

Don't get me wrong, Ricochet was the best of the bunch and Sandra Brown crafts a great story. I have several titles of hers in my personal library including The Switch, Envy, Hello, Darkness, and The Crush. But after reading the first three chapters of Ricochet I realized I had already read the book, at least metaphorically. There was an honest, dedicated, and slightly burnt out police detective (cute in a grungy way), his understanding and supportive partner (this time a woman), a corrupt judge (married to the beautiful heroine), a bad guy in cahoots with the judge (a slime), and a married woman (ethereally beautiful and misunderstood) destined to be with the hero. I knew how it would end before finishing the prologue. While at times that is a comfort, there are instances where it is just old. I read the last chapter and put down the book.

Yes residual unfinished book guilt remains. I consol myself with the growing pile of "to be read" titles currently languishing on my nightstand, living room endtable, kitchen counter, and at work. This afternoon is FOOTBALL, but as I finish laundry tonight somebody is getting lucky.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Troll Bridge: A Rock 'N Roll Fairy Tale

I recently finished reading Jane Yolen (see her online journal) and Adam Stemple's novel Troll bridge: A Rock 'N Roll Fairy Tale. I am not usually a fan of collaborative novels, especially one that features an author I have read, because I often spend an inordinate amount of time trying to determine who wrote what. It takes away from the magic of reading. So I approached this book with some trepidation. I need not have worried.

In this modernized fairy tale we meet Moira, a music prodigy and somewhat of a music snob. She is one of the twelve Dairy Princesses in the small town of Vanderby, Minnesota. There is a longstanding tradition of creating butter sculptures of each princess, placing them on Trollholm Bridge after the fair. This year a new major has eliminated the practice. Moira is on her way to a Dairy Princess photoshoot at the bridge and is running late. Arriving at sunset, she witnesses Anemarr, the troll, carry away the other princesses to Trollholm where they are fated to become troll brides. Moira is befriended by Fossegrim; an enchanted fox with his own agenda.

Next we meet the Griffsons, a popular boy band taking a much-needed vacation from their touring schedule. Jakob, Eric, and Galen are captured by Anemarr at the bridge,destined to become troll dinner. Foss explains, "Trolls, crave meat. Fresh meat. And human meat most of all." The townspeople had made a pact with the trolls, each year the dairy princess butter sculptures were given to the trolls and in return the trolls did not eat the townspeople. The new mayor's edict against the tradition has resulted in the pact being broken. Jakob escapes from Anemarr, and together with Moira and Foss work to save his brothers, rescue the princesses, and retrieve Foss's magic fiddle (being held by Anemarr).

Cleverly juxtaposed throughout the book are local radio news bulletins detailing the events in the non-magical realm as they unfold. Working together, Moira and Jakob make life-changing decisions that effect the fates of all involved. What follows is an updated fairy tale including quests, magic, tricksters, music, and the ultimate question of happily ever after.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Technology & Libraries, plus PrintShop

Thursday morning is prime time to accomplish anything that will take time, make a mess, or involve technology. This morning was no different, I was able to get rid of a dead scanner, give it a proper burial (all the while scheming to keep it's cords), move in another scanner to take it's place, and test out the restore shortcut on the computers. Generally speaking, nothing that would take me more than an hour to finish. Really.

Unfortunately, I did not take the Thursday morning technology weirdness factor into consideration. As I was testing the new restore capability I notice someone had absconded with a mouse; it happens though not very frequently. An hour later I had finished all sixteen computers, restricted network login's mean I work on five at a time, and went back to the two Dell's. The mouse was back .... but the network cable was gone. Just fabulous. I have just about every type of cord a computer would need, but no network cable. Luckily, my boss saved the day giving me cable from his office cache.

PrintShop 20 is loaded on a dozen computers, a purchase courtesy of the technology grant noted yesterday. Additional disks are locked in the resource center and students request them as needed. After lunch a student needed the CD's for a project, only problem was the computer no longer had PrintShop. Yet another innocent byproduct of the computer reimaging project; all of the network programs, even adobe professional remained, and PhotoShop was MIA. Luckily, the technician who originally installed the software left me the install CD's (he shouldn't have - I'm grateful) and we were able to install PrintShop on the computers. Naturally as soon as we restore the computers again it will vanish.

All's well that ends well. At least until I get back to work on Monday, utilize the online help ticket option, and ruin someone's day.

Tomorrow? A day away from the library and a meeting in Columbus. Still library related, but different people, different libraries, different technology issues, and lunch with a healthy sprinkling of gossip.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Technology & Libraries

This week, though only three days old, has been one inundated with technology. I do not mean library technology such as databases, the Internet, or even an OPAC (a relatively dead acronym, but one I like to toss out every now and again just to prove I remember what it means). I do mean the sixteen computers and their peripherals I am responsible for maintaining, trouble-shooting, and turning in help tickets for when the blue-screen-of-death appears.

The IT department uses partitions and ghost images to help preserve system integrity. For several years, restoring computers meant using a re-imaging disk. With grant money, I was able to purchase computers for the center two summers ago, so the equipment is relatively new. Feeling very protective towards these lovely Gateways, increased usage begat the practice being added to my daily routine. Removing unnecessary downloads and restoring the original desktop, fabulous! It was a bit cumbersome since I could only do two computers at a time, but the process significantly lowered the number of help tickets, computer complaints, and out of order signs in the resource center. In July, the technician assigned to my computers added a restore shortcut to the desktop. No more disk and since I have over five network logins to my name the procedure was quicker, at least until I used the shortcut on Monday morning.

I was showing someone how simple it was to restore the computer and demonstrated using the GA system. It restored with ease, but restored to the previous image. Three new network software applications disappeared and the shortcut itself was gone. Sure that it was a fluke, I hastened over to a second computer to see if I had done something wrong. Unfortunately not, the same thing happened again. I left a note telling everyone not to use the re-imaging shortcut, akin to closing the door after the cows get out, but stopping the carnage at two computers was imperative. The computers were still usable, just missing a few software choices. I submitted a help ticket around 9:00 am and after lunch my technician was in the center and fixing the problem. Point of fact, she spent most of Monday and Tuesday fixing every computer and as of this morning all systems were go. She is indeed a Godsend, not only repairing the problem but also keeping me apprised of the status.

All but three of the sixteen computers have scanners and this morning the first thing on my to-do list was checking each of them and culling out the unsalvageable units. One was causing fits Tuesday afternoon, the power cord lifeless. I have a bad/good habit of keeping bits and pieces of cords and other stuff from units that die. In this case it was a good habit since I was able to use one such power cord and save a scanner. Eternal optimist, I determined it might take me an hour to login and check each scanner. Unbeknownst to me, the update included new software for scanners. Why, you might ask, is that an issue? Each scanner has accompanying instructions that were no longer usable and I have two different scanner models.

Translated that means:

  • Two updated sets of user directions were needed.
  • Screen shots for two sets of directions were needed.
  • The employee handbook had to be updated with new directions.
  • The bulleting board with old scanner directions was now moot.
  • Student workers have to be trained to use the new software.

What should have taken an hour from my early morning schedule took three hours to compile and three hours to create. When I left the handbook had six new additions concerning the new scanners and every system, with the exception of a very dead scanner (students keep messing with the USB cables and it is damaged beyond repair), everything worked and had color corresponding tutorials. Not to shabby for someone who had exactly one technology class during her grad work and none of this was covered.

I'm relieved, proud, thankful, and a bit smug. Isn't technology fun? If today was talk like a pirate day I'd be able to lower the Jolly Roger in victory.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Yes, today is annual Talk Like a Pirate Day. I had almost forgotten, but this morning on the way to work every other sentence from the radio dj's ended in "arrrrrgh" or "aarrrrr matey." It seems as if this holiday got it's start witih a Dave Barry article in the Miami Herald in 2002; Miami Herald - Arrrr! Talk Like a Pirate or Prepare to be Boarded.

While I won't be participating (much), here are a few links I dug up (snicker, get it?) this morning:

Don't forget to find out What is your Pirate Name! Today, I am Iron Sweet Waters.

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Clip art:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Clouds? More like dense fog

A quick ZoomCloud update: I decided to delete the cloud at work today, using the campus network instead of dial up (yes, I'm still using dinosaur dial-up & a modem). I've been creating posters in publisher and minimized the page, letting it run. From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm today the same "we are removing all tags, wait a sec" screen displayed; four hours is more than what I would consider a "sec. The non-existant cloud continues to count clicks on the blog, in fact the missing cloud has better stats than the existing cloud. Go figure.

I just now changed from IE to Mozilla and am trying to delete again. I'll let it run until quitting time and maybe have to admit defeat. I have contacted ZoomCloud via email before with questions to no avail.

Creating the cloud is easy. Placing the cloud widget code into the blog sidebar is simple. Having a working cloud is fun. Deleting an old cloud or getting answers regarding a missing cloud is more trouble than they are worth.

Update: Later that same evening ... before the football game (Go Steelers)

After two hours, the message had not changed. It looks like the cloud will remain despite my best efforts to have it removed. Just fabulous.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cloud-y issues

Reader alert: Today's post contains backstory for the stats geek before covering ZoomCloud issues. Some of it may be hauntingly familiar .....

In previous episodes I have mentioned being a bit of a stats geek. Web sites, web pages, pages, blogs, or handouts, I want to see usage to help judge validity or redundancy. When I first started with the library web page, stats were unavailable from the university and I used a free counter. About a year later it went from free to pay and I convinced the director to fund it for a year. I won't get into the havoc said free counter code reeked on the pages, but suffice to say we no longer use the counter in question.

Currently, the university has a web stats service and it's fabulous. I am able to see how the library site ranks within the entire university site (often second only to sports) and also verify what pages within the library site are most used. This is extremely interesting as I draw closer to having to update the site. Knowing what patrons are actually using, instead of what we think they are using, is valuable. Granted it is only one aspect in the grand scheme of things, we also have LibQual stats as part of the mix, but user stats are important. Libraries are patron service oriented, if they can't use the site, why bother?

A few weeks ago I was deciding when to look at library stats again a stray thought nagged. I began wondering if there was more available than Blogger profile views and the Technorati "blogs link here" (cool thing to know, not applicable for this little blog project) rating for fun/basic stats. Bloggers profile view "thing" is pretty random; the number sticks for weeks and then viola, one day it has thirty additional hits. I don't think so. I liked the author cloud available in LibraryThing and wanted my own cloud. A quick recap on my widget affair, I decided to go with ZoomClouds to add interest to the page and see how they compared to the Tecnorati help tags people who stumbled on this blog were using, if at all. I've gone on about ZoomClouds before and while still very enamored, I have issues with the cloud, or should I say clouds, on this blog.

One afternoon after posting I noticed my Hypothetical Cloud had disappeared, eerily similar to the previously mentioned LibraryThing widget issue. At first I thought it was a ZoomCloud software or website issue, sometimes their servers go down and service is interrupted. I checked back several hours later and while ZoomCloud was up and running, my cloud was still missing. I checked clouds I had placed on other blogs, no problem. I looked at my blog template, no problem. So I reconfigured the cloud, reinserted the code in the blog, published and viewed the blog . . . zilch, nothing, nada.

I let it go for a day.

The next day I decided I would delete the existing cloud and create a new one. Not a reconfigure of the existing, but a brand spanking new cloud. I picked a name, chose all of the particulars, and posted my new cloud. Woo-hoo. At first I resisted deleting the old cloud from my account. Mostly because of the doom and gloom predicted by ZoomClouds for taking this step, but also because I determined that if the old cloud was gone, so were the accompanying statistics and it would not matter. Sometimes I am too technologically simple for my own good.

For the last two weeks I have compared the clicks on both clouds. Even though only one cloud exists, both are racking up clicks on a daily basis. And, here's the good part, the non-existent cloud gets more hits than the current one. Sure, there is a chance that the old cloud is still out in cyberspace somewhere, cached. Maybe in some parallel universe (yes, I watched Stargate Atlantis last week with the parallel universe Rodney) both are still available on the web, it's not all that far fetched. I decided it was time to ignore the predictions and delete the old cloud.

Last evening I pulled up the old cloud, printed off the stats for old times sake, and hit delete. I ignored the caution that it would be gone forever and clicked "yes." Sometime later the cloud was still being deleted. The exact words: "We're removing all tags and excerpts from this cloud. Just a sec...." An hour later the same comment on the page. Today, the old cloud again has additional clicks/stats and I decided to try deleting once more. For the last hour, it has been telling me to be patient. I'm just not that patient.

It can have until laundry is finished tonight. I'll delete from work on Monday, maybe the better internet connection will make a difference.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Later that same day ....

Another thing I enjoyed in the early chapters of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was his description of a book. Working in an academic library there is always discussion concerning keeping hard copies of journals when electronic databases are available. In conjunction with that conversation are comments regarding electronic books and the constant shadow of books becoming obsolete (insert sarcastic puh-lease here). I particulary liked this passage:
"A book doesn't require fuel, food, or service: it isn't very messy and rarely makes noise. A book can be read over and over, then passed on to friends, or resold at a garage sale. A book will not crash or freeze and will still work when filled with sand." - The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, p.8
Exactly, I am not going to curl up on the sofa this evening with my computer while I finish re-reading Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard. I have had it for years, its spine is creased, the pages yellow with age, and I know how it ends. But the story is still within and I can enjoy turning the pages curled up with a blanket on this cool September evening.

Lunchtime read: The Yellow-lighted Bookshop

I am not so patiently waiting for Dreamweaver to clean up XHTML and HTML font tags from the "links" page on the resource center web site. This particular page has been trouble for the last year or so; active links disappearing, font size changing, and updates not posting are just some of the issues. The problems may stem from using two different web editors, Namo and Dreamweaver, when updating a page originally created with HTML (I had temporarily lost my mind), the two are not particularly compatible but I continue to try and fix it rather than dump the whole page and begin again as this particular page has over 1,500 education topic links. As soon as I get a better handle on using Dreamweaver the page is undergoing massive redesign and reconstruction, but until that point I am practicing with the software by using it for updates and additions. On Saturday it took a half an hour for the clean up to get rid of 1,672 redundant tags and 5,790 unnecessary font tags! Guess that was the best place to start after all.

Today at lunch I chose The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, by Lewis Buzbee, as my lunchtime companion. I haven't finished yet, but already two things have struck a chord with me. Buzbee talks about linking his fascination with new books (opening the cartons) back to his school days and watching his teacher open Scholastic Weekly Reader book boxes and distributing them to the class. After reading those comments I vividly remembered doing the same and getting my own personal paperback copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, one of my first "adult books." I did not know it was a Newbery title until I was in grad school or even that it had been written before I was born, I just loved the story.

"The books of our childhood offer a vivid door to our own pasts, and not necessarily for the stories we read there, but for the memories of where we were and who we were when reading them; to remember a book is to remember the child who read that book." - The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, p. 36-37

I can not say I honestly remember the first book I read. I do remember going hand in hand with my older sister to our public library on a regular basis (it was a treat to go without supervision) and be allowed to check out books to bring home. We also had books of our own to read over and over and over again. Either way, I don't remember a time when I did not read or have stories read to me.

It is time to go home. Dreamweaver just now finished, fifteen minutes later, and has removed 7,557 font tags! How is that possible? Even with 2,000 links, that would mean a font tag for every line. What a mess. I will finish this post this evening.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Organization, it's a sickness

Hello, my name is Lynn and I'm a dymo label maker addict.

On Thursday mornings I have the first four hours of the work day to myself. No student workers, no graduate assistants, and generally no library patrons either. It's a prime time to move things around and reorganize areas that need, well, reorganizing.

Today? A new set of Ellison dies are on order; two alphabets, one upper case and one lower case, and a few kid friendly dies should arrive any day now along with my brand new Ellison Machine. A new order means finding additional counter space for the machine and dies. Luckily, I ordered an extra die organizer last year so I have room for sixty additional pieces. The new machine, a wonderful thing, requires space.

Making a long post shorter, I moved things around, created lovely additional space for the new machine and existing paper cutters, and as a result was able to pull out my trusty label maker and re-label counters, drawers, and the binding machine. Woo-hoo. Naturally when finished I looked around hoping to find other things to label. It's a sickness, but I love using the machine. It raises the chances that things will be returned to their proper home AND makes it easy to find things when we need them. I think the video shelves are next. A place for everything and everything in it's place.

I probably shouldn't take the machine home. It would be bad.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Free printing, handle with care

Forget the old tune Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is? For me these last two weeks have been more of challenge knowing what day it is! Last week was Labor Day and technically a four-day workweek. I had my first weekend shift of the semester last weekend and worked through Monday, thus making it a six-day week (not Eight Days a Week or even Six Days on the Road). So even though today is Wednesday, it feels pretty Tuesday-ish to me. Enough so that when my 8 am student worker arrived at work this morning I asked her what she was doing here. She patiently explained, "Working my shift, it's Wednesday."

At least she appeared to answer patiently. It was early and I'm well known for not being a morning person.

We have been freakishly busy for the first two weeks of school. I don't know if there has been a change in the amount of work being assigned, or if it is simply a case of students utilizing the library and taking their work seriously. Either way, the result is excessive use of toner, paper, staplers, and paper clips. These things are part of a work station near the printer(s) that includes three staplers, a new one that is heavy duty, two three hole punches, assorted and paperclips for the masses. And yes, there is plenty of paper at the ready to feed the monster.

Trust me, the monster has been hungry. Why? The university offers free printing. Yes, free. While they do have to pay for printing in color, regular prints are free of charge. Did I mention printing is free? This is a good news, bad news sort of situation. It's a great opportunity for students to print out handouts for class, make hard copies of assignments as needed, and even print out the all-important ODE standards. It also means a real lack of concern if they print something not really wanted or needed. The purveying print attitude is quite cavalier. But worse than the willful destruction of recycled trees, it means many print jobs are left. What people choose to print (for free!) and leave sitting in the pick up bin for God and everyone to see is amazing. Similar to people feeling free to share their innermost secrets over their cell phones in the grocery store line, I have tossed many a charming print job in the recycle bin. Keep in mind really we try not to look at what is left, but when tossing at the end of a shift some things are hard to miss.

Just in the last month I have seen the scary:

  • Letters to a parole board office
  • Detailed medical conditions of family members
  • Letter to an advisor discussing a prison sentence as reason for missing class

And the usual, not so scary:

  • Email to professors
  • Complaints to professors
  • Requests for finances

It can be quite the conundrum. We do not want to see what is being printed, but we do want to toss things that may embarrass someone should it be left in the pick up bin at the end of the evening. I wish I could remind people to think before printing. There are fifteen computers in a lab type setting using the same printer. Others are going to riffle through your stuff to find their stuff. Hello!

On the bright side, we haven't lost a stapler, hole punch, tape dispenser, or pencil sharpener in three years. Why? Library's who use a security system have a wonderful invention at their disposal, tattle tags. I've tagged all of the above. If they leave the library in a back pack, the "alarm" rings.

Hey, don't laugh. It works.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rain, Fairs & Cherry Cobbler

Forget Rainy Days and Mondays, it has definitely been Rain, Rain, Go Away Tuesday. As I watched the steady downpour of precipitation throughout the day, accompanied by the damp students parade through the library, I began to have doubts concerning my scheduled evening entertainment. Close to 5:00 pm, the rain stoppped. And while the skies did not clear, there was no rumbling of thunder in the distance. I had time to get home, find a pair of shoes that would survive a tromp through the mud, and head out to the fair.

One of the nice things about living in Ohio is the veritable plethora of county fairs during the summer months that take place within an hours driving distance. Most of these fairs not only have the requisite fair food (re: anything and everything you could want deep fried on a stick and apple dumplings), but also affordable country music entertainmant. Tonight it was Blake Shelton. I'd seen Blake before when he toured with Toby Keith a few years ago and was looking forward to the show. What a bargain, for under ten dollars we had a rollicking hour of Blake's hits including my favorite Playboys of the Southwestern World ("after all, it was your idea genius") and Some Beach.

To round out the evening ... warm cherry cobbler with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Very tasty indeed.

Back tomorrow with regular posts of library stuff.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

Like many people, I remember where I was and what I was doing the morning of September 11, 2001. I was working the morning shift, 8 am - 10 am, at the reference desk. A student walked by and asked if I had heard a "small plane" hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. I was helping someone use the catalog and shook my head. At my negative reply, he headed off to see what he could find and said he would let me know.

A few minutes later one of the reference staff came out to the desk and asked me the same question. I said no, but mentioned a student had just asked that very question. We decided to check for any information. It was still early, before 9 am, but CNN had a picture of one tower with damage and was trying to confirm what had happened. Word began to trickle in from patrons listening to the radio and watching television. Horror began to build as the depth and breadth of the tragedy grew. We persisted with, but their server was quickly overwhelmed. There was a television in the resource center, but without cable there was nothing but "snow." Students continued to arrive in the library and resource center with question, comments, concerns, and bits and pieces of information. We tried local TV affiliate web sites with a bit more luck and a lot more trepidation.

It was early in the term and the beginning of term convocation was scheduled at 11 am in the campus chapel. Several library staff members decided to attend and afterwards, a clearer picture began to emerge. Returning from the service, I stopped in the technical services office and was asked how close Shanksville, PA was to the Pittsburgh area, they had heard reports it was near the airport. I remember saying, no, not the airport, more east of the city towards the Laurel Mountains and Johnstown. We checked for it's location and were shocked by the plane going down in the field. I went back upstairs and tried to answer more questions from students and faculty in the library.

By lunch time we were getting as much, if not more, information from people coming into the library than we could find online. The six degrees of separation were well into play at this time as people related they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone else dealing with the attacks. And by now, we were sure they were attacks. My someone was a friend and former co-worker who had a daughter, an "old" high school classmate of mine, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. I emailed that library hoping for good news (I found out later she was fine).

I saw the picture on this post on Great some time ago. The American flag and the Towers standing tall, much as they did that morning, spoke to me. I had actually planned to use only the picture on this post as a tribute. But after watching services and listening to other remembrances on the news this morning, the day once again became a picture in my mind and I was compelled to share. I have vcr tapes of coverage that day that have never been viewed. I feel a duty, almost honor bound, to keep them as a testimony.

I can honestly say little or no library work was done on September 11, 2001. But a sense of community took over as we all talked and cried together, trying to understand. As the weeks turned into months, and the months now years, we are still trying to understand.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Squirrel Mother Stories

I have been purchasing graphic novels for the juvenile and regular circulating collection for the last three years. It is a challenge to find graphic novels that should be shelved juvenile since the genre is often not "simple" enough for a young reader. Graphic novels are more than comic books, they deal with reality in a graphic format, making them more YA and adult novel collection material. Since the old "you can't judge a book by it's cover" mantra could have been written with graphic novels in mind. I will often find post-it notes asking "where?" attached to YA titles and graphic novels. Today's post-it note book was The Squirrel Mother Stories by Megan Kelso. I started with the usual suspects.

With note in hand I utilized Academic Search Premier to find the book review resource I may have used when determining to make this purchase. Within the database, there were two sources available; Booklist and Publisher's Weekly. Neither resource has an age recommendation, usually a good indication it should not be juvenile, and it was a starred review in both (see reviews, Amazon).

I then checked WorldCat First Search (library) and WorldCat Beta to see what other libraries had this title and where it was placed in their collections. It is a popular holding for public libraries with graphic novel collections. Only two academic libraries had it and both of them, Harvard and University of California, Berkeley, were still processing the book (as are we). With no divine inspiration from either resource it was obviously time to read the book. And yes, I do realize with the time taken to research I could have easily read the book in that same time frame.

I am not as familiar with this format, as such I rely heavily on the reviews. But after reading The Squirrel Mother Stories I determined it should not be placed in the juvenile collection. If we had a YA collection (our YA books are juvenile, regular, and recreational), it would live happily there. Lacking that classification, the regular collection is best suited for this entry. Kelso's illustrations are misleadingly simplistic at first glance. After reading the book, there are definite nuances in story and illustration suited for an adult reader. The short stories range from smart to historical and accompanying illustrations are rendered in black and white, sepia tones, and muted colors. In each instance, the story and color are paired for maximum impact.

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Library, Saturday, Cranky

Today is my first of two weekends working at the reference desk and for some reason I am really quite the crank. Saturday is not busy early in the term and I am prepared for the duration with three journals to read, Library Journal (Aug), Campus Technology (Sept), and School Library Journal (Sept), as well as various other tasks will be able to complete outside of the resource center. Since I have a my laptop, as opposed to the reference computer, I'm able to easily facilitate my generous "to do" list. Point of fact, I have already posted to my collaborative blog project and the resource center blog that details new purchases. Plus, I have been able to assist a nursing student locating titles on her course list.

Some of it is that old fashioned, and somewhat outdated, library as a place thing. I am not, and have never been, a proponent of absolute silence in a library. I'm just not a quiet person and from teaching first grade I can surely make my voice heard. I like to tell myself I don't have a big mouth, my voice just carries. But I digress. Back to the library, there need to be quiet areas, but in my opinion to keep libraries vibrant, facilitating group use and a sense of welcome, noise is a given. In the resource center, we often warn students it is not a quiet area (I don't say shhh) and recommend study rooms for those who desire the space. But today, it's the other working folks making me nuts. A student worker has spent a good portion of the morning yakking on her cell phone. The circ person is listening to espn radio at the desk and its loud enough I can hear the play-by-play. If I can hear it across the room, it's too loud. I'm a bit of persona non grata for asking it be turned down. In fairness, I have the radio playing on my computer, but when I walk away from my area it can not be heard.

Guess I'll live with being a crank. I just checked out several new recreational novel, and a new book(s) to read always makes me happy. I found, The Day Trade by Stephen Frey, It Might Have Been what He Said, by Eden Collinsworth, Ricochet by Sandra Brown, and You've Got to Read this Book, by various authors. It will be time for lunch soon and I'm thinking chicken salad.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Started A Blog that Nobody Read

I'm not a big fan of repeating information I find on other blogs (myb bloglines list is growing), but yesterday I added Monkey Bites to my account and today there was a podcast link:

"Novelty songs about a subculture are always much better when they cut to the bone. Here's the song, "I Started a Blog Nobody Read" by the band The Sprites, via Odeo. It's obvious that they understand the essence of blogging, including the importance of lists." - Monkey Bites, 9/6/06

The bane of every new blogger, what if nobody reads your efforts? Check it out for a quick Thursday morning smile.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Pittsburgh Steelers - Official Site

Pittsburgh Steelers - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Blog 'n Gold

Super Bowl champions begin their quest for more glory

Steelers honor Bettis with a special permanent locker

Steelers - Dolphins match-up

The terrible towel

2005 Season in Review

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mock Caldecott Panel

Five years ago the principal resource center/job challenges facing me were that of publicity or lack there of, building confidence within the College of Education concerning the facility and curriculum materials offered within, and as the Education liaison, creating partnerships with professors within the department. Each of these challenges was addressed quickly as the new hire honeymoon period would be brief. For publicity, I created a resource center web site and attended monthly College of Education meetings. To build confidence in the facility and materials I added a plethora of juvenile titles, doubled the curriculum textbooks and materials, and added items not initially in the collection. Along with extended hours and helpful, personable, well trained student workers, business picked up steadily. Creating partnerships with education professors was a more time consuming process. The children’s literature collection is one of the most important parts of the resource collection, therefore approaching professors teaching this genre was priority.

The Randolph Caldecott medal, awarded each year by the American Library Association, is presented to the “artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published during the preceding year.” I have facilitated a Mock Caldecott panel with one of the children’s literature classes during the first week of classes for the last four years. Time is an issue, so I do prep work concentrating on selecting fifteen to twenty children’s books that would be Caldecott eligible for the upcoming awards date. The panel held today focused upon fifteen books eligible for the 2006 awards which will be selected and announced in January 2007 at the ALA Midwinter Meetings in Seattle, Washington. Three groups of students considered the following titles:

  • One green apple
    Eve Bunting / Illustrator Ted Lewin
  • Best best friends
    Margaret Chodos-Irvine
  • Ten-gallon Bart
    Susan Stevens Crummel/ Illustrator Dorothy Donohue
  • Railroad John and the Red Rock run
    Tony Crunk / Illustrator Michael Austin
  • Summer is summer
    Phillis Gershator / Illustrator Sophie Blackall
  • Sky boys: How they built the Empire State Building
    Deborah Hopkinson/ Illustrator James E. Ransome
  • The frog princess: A Tlingit legend from Alaska
    Eric A. Kimmel / Illustrator Rosanne Litzinger
  • Art
    Patrick McDonnell
  • Big brown bear goes to town
    David McPhail
  • Hippo! No, rhino
    Jeff Newman
  • Move!
    Robin Page / Illustrator Steve Jenkins
  • The little red hen
    Jerry Pinkney
  • Peggony Po: A whale of a tale
    Andrea Davis Pinkney / Illlustrator Brian Pinkney
  • A is for Zebra
    Mark Shulman / Illustrator Tamara Petrosino
  • John, Paul, George & Ben
    Lane Smith

Individual groups nominated one title to present to of the class; titles included Move, Peggony Po, and Summer is summer. After much discussion and voting, Move! was the ultimate winner and Peggony Po: A whale of a tale, an honor book designation. Generally speaking, students are unaware of previous Caldecott winners, both medal and honor, in the book stacks being considered. I enjoy listening to the discussion as students look at titles with a fresh eye and open perspective. For instance, one student in particular was taken with the illustrations for Summer is summer, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Blackall used watercolors to create the illustrations in Summer is summer. Though the students were not specifically enamored of the story presented, they felt it could be utilized in a preschool or kindergarten classroom as a read aloud. The student presenting this book as a potential class winner noted the illustrations used clever visual clues throughout the text as foreshadowing things to come. On the opening page spread a bumble bee is seen flying off of the second page; the bee is then the focal point of the next section. On the next set of pages, the bee flies by a tree and the subsequent scenes depict children resting under the same tree. This continues throughout the book, offering eagle eyed children a chance to guess what comes next. I read the book twice and did not notice this aspect of the illustrators work.

After the session, I create a web page for the resource center web site detailing the panel. Students are able to refer to this page in addition to the pathfinders distributed in class. The web page affords additional information since I am able to link authors and titles to the library catalog. If they enjoyed a particular illustrator, it is possible for them to locate other titles in the collection by the artist. This year with a smaller group, I made sure to publicize the new book shelf (always) and accompanying book review blog, highlighting the opportunity presented for them to comment on books reviewed. Many of the students stayed in the library to peruse new juvenile books for upcoming assignments; that in itself is a positive outcome for the day.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Remedial work needed

I have had my eyes opened regarding the verbal ability portion of the GRE practice tests available on Learning Express Library. This morning I logged in to take one of the two practice tests. I was dismayed, and maybe a bit relieved, when the authentication would not work. I persevered, trouble-shooting if you will, by attempting to authenticate utilizing different databases and directly through the library. It appeared there were problems on my library's end of the authentication process. I gleefully headed out to hit the Labor Day sales.

An hour ago, I turned on the computer to check email and read blogs. On a whim, I tried the site again and was able to authenticate. I read through the directions and selected practice test one for verbal ability. Of the offerings available, this would be my strength. Working through the 75 questions within the appointed time frame, I dutifully pondered, answered, and struggled with the test. I found it ironic one of the comprehension sections detailed a study concerning beta-blockers and test anxiety. I won't share my practice test score, but I will say the test was unfailingly polite, providing the score and mentioning I needed further practice on my verbal ability.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

GRE and test anxiety

I've been consistent with my waffling concerning taking the GRE to begin PhD work either in library science (not easy to do in Ohio) or Education. Ideally, I would like a combination of both and have spent years, yes years, researching and deciding if this is a step I want to take. It seems like a no-brainer, but I have serious test anxiety issues, especially with standardized tests such as the GRE.

The graduate school decision for my MLIS was not difficult. I needed the degree to move on and/or up in my career. At the time I was living outside of Pittsburgh and had two university's offering the MLIS, Clarion University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. No offense to Clarion, but since I already had a BS in Education (dual majors of Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education) it was an easy choice to decide on Pitt and take the school library route. Imagine my surprise and joy when the GRE was not needed for acceptance in either program. I did not get away scott free, I had to take the PRAXIS for School Librarians with the tract of study chosen.

Fast forward five years and I am at another crossroads; make strides in the position I currently have or take another road towards the PhD. After teaching as an adjunct the last couple of years I was reminded how much I enjoyed being in the classroom. If I have any hope of continuing the teaching aspect of my career, the PhD is necessary. I am also very lucky and have had encouragement for this path from different sources. My boss has always been supportive (I am very lucky) of my furthering my education. Last spring, the Associate Dean of the College of Education questioned me as to why I had not already started the work and offered support.

So, what's the hold up?

As mentioned in the first paragraph, I hate standardized tests. Ask me to write a paper, create a poster, or give a presentation ... just back away from the tests. I bought a GRE practice book a couple of years ago and have never opened it. My New Year's resolution is to take this test. It's now September, the applications for the program I would like to enter have a December deadline, and I need to fish or cut bait. Fate has stepped in to aid my quandry in the form of Learning Express Library and OhioLINK. On July 7th, the following post appeared on the OhioLINK What's New, Taking the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT? Open to all OhioLINK member libraries, it offers the following:

"Practice makes perfect! Take a GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT or many other practice
tests anytime, anywhere using LearningExpress Library. LearningExpress’ online, interactive practice tests offer instant scoring, detailed answer explanations, and a personalized analysis that identifies your strengths and weaknesses in each major content area so you’ll know how to prepare." - OhioLINK What's New 7-7-06

My goal for this Labor Day is to take one of the practice tests, in both areas offered, and see what the score may tell. Obviously, I have procrastinated yet again on this goal as it is closing in on 11 pm Sunday evening. I have all day tomorrow (after shopping, I have coupons) to complete this mission. I probably should not have spent two hours working on the new collaborative blog this afternoon while doing laundry. I added all sorts of cool widgets to the site as well as our newly minted email address for the blog.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Last of the striped pajamas

Late yesterday afternoon I checked my bloglines account to see what was new. Aside from missing Blog Day 2006, what filled me with some anticipation was seeing Read Roger had posted the September/October Horn Book issue was out. Because I snagged Booklist and School Library Journal as first to see, we get to tag journals as "first see" and get them before they hit the regular stacks, I am second in line to view Horn Book Magazine. I look forward to seeing the online samples of book reviews and am glad when Roger posts on his blog they are available. Two things were linked from the post that were of particular interest to me; an article titled Stars that explains the enigma of Horn Book Magazine starred reviews, and Roger's review of The boy in the striped pajamas (it's the second review, scroll down).

First things first, since working on a children's book review blog for the library and resource center I have been doing research on the process of reviewing books. While in grad school we were required to write book reviews weekly, bless Dr. Kimmel, and I had forgotten how difficult the process can be. The journal articles I found were rather dated. This article will be joining the bibliography amassed for the blog. Secondly, one of the children's literature professors was thrilled to be able to get Horn Book Magazine's for his class to use when evaluating books for a specific assignment. He will be thrilled with this article as well and I'm sending along the link.

I was anxiously awaiting his book review and was not disappointed. In part it reads:

"For both its plot and emotional impact, the novel depends completely on readers’ acceptance of Bruno’s naiveté (often telegraphed by the phrase “his mouth made the shape of an O”) as well as their belief (or at least suspended disbelief) in a fictional world poised between fable and realism, each of which compromises the other. If Auschwitz is the metaphor, what’s the real story?" - Roger Sutton, Horn Book

The review ties in nicely with the discussion in his article Stars. Collection development of children's literature is a large part of my job. It is a task taken seriously since not only do the children's literature professors use titles for classroom instruction, but also because what I buy may find it's way into a classroom and read to students by students. While I rely on professional reviews to make individual purchases, nothing takes the place of reading a title myself and knowing if it fits in with the curriculum I am supporting. It's a conundrum. There is no feasible way for me to read every book before purchase, hence review resources. Not every professional review is one I agree with after reading the book.

My raving about the pajama book aside, it has definitely illustrated to me the necessity of remembering collection development is an art and not a science. There are going to be a few dud purchases, that is why we weed collections. There are going to be books I waffle about adding to the collection, that is why I am lucky to have access to databases containing professional journals with review resources. I have been reminded of the importance of reading reviews critically when choosing books for the juvenile collection.

Update: 9/10/06

I promised not to blog about this book again, so instead of a new entry I am adding an update. This afternoon I am doing collection development for the juvenile collection using School Library Journal as my review resource. Along with Booklist, Book Links, and Horn Book Magazine, SLJ is one of my primary journals for book reviews. With my list of ISBN's on the table, I had just moved into the grades 5 & up catagory and what to my surprise did I see but a starred review for the pajamas. A well written review that includes a professional opinion, I beg to disagree with her conclusion and am a bit horrified by the star it was given. In a quest to be fair and provide another viewpoint, here is an exerpt from the review:

"His combination of strong characterization and simple, honest narrative make this powerful and memorable tale a unique addition to Holocaust literature for those who already have some knowledge of Hitler's 'Final Solution.'" - S. Scheps, SLJ Reviews, p. 202, Sept. 2006

I now have three different professional reviews on this book; Booklist (wishy-washy), Horn Book Magazine (not positive), and School Library Journal (starred). Not surprisingly, I am most pleased with the one I agree with.

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The lone tuba

I have conquered the first week of classes and lived to blog about it, a positive sign for the semester. No matter how much preparation given to beginning school there is always something that slips my "to do" list, the schedule has to be redone because of drop/add ending early in September, my first class arrives for a tour and I have forgotten a necessary handout, and some critical piece of technology hiccups. This week was no exception to that rule.

One glaring omission from my "to do" list was updating the resource center employee handbook. Last summer I scrapped the original handbook from 2002, a sad little bound document, replacing it with a large three ring binder and clear sleeves for the sheets. My intention? Create something that would edit easily. The obvious problem? No updates were done over the summer. Last term a student mentioned it would be great if the divider pages had tabs making it easier to locate pertinent information. Since this was a great idea, one I was somewhat chagrined not to have done in the first place, last spring I purchased colorful Avery stick on tabs to do the job. After my first class tour left Friday morning, what began as a simple addition to the handbook evolved into a complete overhaul taking the entire day. Going through the binder, it was easy to locate, rearrange, and determine changes to be made. On the plus side, everything added to the handbook could be classified positive. Images had to be replaced throughout various descriptions of equipment and technology because new had been purchased. Instructions for facilitating a lab class were changed because a unit, one causing much angst among the staff, was eliminated. My list for Tuesday includes finishing the updates. I plan to be done before lunch!

The schedule had a few glitches, all of which resulted in better overall coverage for the resource center. One student needed to drop a horrifically complicated biology class and replace it with a more palatable course offering. Now, instead of her shift overlapping another student, she volunteered to begin work at 8:00 am creating full day coverage. And even though she knows there is no talking at work until I fully awake at 9:00 am, she's good with it having been through the shift before. Win-win. On the paperwork side, all but one student remembered their FWS sheets and I was able to take them to personnel on Friday afternoon along with time sheets. Having their first payday be next Friday is always a great motivator.

I conducted my first class tour at 8:45 am (sigh) Friday morning. It is a children's literature class and junior block taught by, arguably, my favorite professor. The handouts were complete and included pathfinders for literature indexes, author/ illustrator resources, tutorials for locating book reviews in library databases, and a catalog tutorial for using different searches (word and lc subject). Before they arrived, I realized the resource and price list were not in their packet and was able to print it off dodging the handout bullet. This was definitely a class of over achievers, before leaving several had already used A to Zoo and Best Books for Children to locate their subject and jot down a few titles they wanted to locate.

Knock wood, all of the technology is currently up and working. Even my own personal technology nemesis the color printer, worked flawlessly throughout the handbook update process. It probably has something to do with the installation of exorbitantly priced black& white and color photoconductor units the previous month, but I should not complain. The day ended on a positive note as we closed at 4:00 pm, same schedule as campus offices, and our Labor Day holiday weekend began with a bit of sunshine.

Leaving the library, sans computer following my new holiday rule, I saw a young man headed down the avenue with his tuba after band practice. His tuba was shining and he was smiling and swaggering, at least as much as can be done carrying a tuba, down the street.

It made me smile.

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