What this librarian wants you to know

Before you think I’ve lost my sense of humor, I haven’t. However, I don’t think you have to make jokes at the expense of others, particularly if those people are the ones we, as librarians, want to help. The snark was strong in a recent column and I felt like a rebuttal with some compassion and kindness was in order.

As National Library Week ends, there are a few things I’d like my library users to know.

I will always try to greet you with a smile. Smiles are a lot like yawns. It’s hard not to smile back when you see someone else smile.

Forgot your library card? We may be able to work with you so you can check out the materials you need. 

We understand life gets in the way sometimes. We can renew your items over the phone or show you how to renew yourself online.  If you get a fine and paying might be a problem, talk to us. 

Feel free to bring a snack or drink with you. We also have vending machines. There are garbage cans and recycling bins located conveniently around the building where you can dispose of your trash.

Phone calls are fine. All we ask is you are considerate of others. Keep them short, speak quietly, and keep your ringer at a low level. We do ask that you don’t take calls in our silent zone or in the computer lab.

That physical card catalog you remember from years ago is gone. We’re happy to show you how to use the online catalog. There are some great features, like book reviews and suggestions for related titles, that we’d be willing to show you.

Please do come and see me when you have a question. I may not realize a snap, whistle, hand wave or other signal is meant for me. 

We enjoy seeing children in the library. We know it can be boring for them. We do have coloring books and crayons and a great collection of children’s literature.

Damaged books happen. We won’t yell at you. But we are going to ask you to pay for a replacement.  

We will always try to treat you with respect. Please do the same. We want to hear what you have to say, but talking is better than yelling.

We announce our closing time ten minutes before the service desks shut down. We are very appreciative when people take those announcements to heart and pack up. 

There are carts at the end of the shelves where you can put books and other materials when you are done using them. Don’t worry about putting things back on the shelves. We keep track of what is being used and you’re helping us out by using those carts.

We will not judge you based on your clothes, what questions you ask, how clean your fingernails are, etc. We want to help you with your information needs no matter what they may be.

We don’t require gifts. Most of us won’t eat the cake. If you are able and you want to support the library, we’ll let you know how you can donate money to our Friends organization. Better yet, become a Friend.

Most library users are good people. I don’t think it serves us well to point out the failings of the few. I hope my list is a good counterbalance to those librarians who would rather focus, rather humorously or otherwise, on the few bad apples.

 

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Leading, following, and being a turtle

Last week I attended our state library conference. It was a good conference, by which I mean I learned a lot, was inspired at times, made a few good connections, picked up some new ideas to try, and connected with old and new colleagues. It was an enjoyable three days and I can’t think of a moment where I felt disconnected. Perhaps it had something to do with being on the planning committee. But I think it was more than that. This was one of those conferences that had a good energy. People were generally engaged, in positive moods, and seemed to be having fun.

The general theme was “Check Out & Renew.”

Brenda Viola spoke during the opening session and explained the concept of the “turtle” in caring for ourselves and others relating to situational leadership. We’ve all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. She gave us a new spin on it. The hare carries the turtle until they come to a river. The tortoise carries the hare on its back as it swims across the river. The hare carries the tortoise again until they cross the finish line. Together, they both win.

But, the “turtle” is also an acronym for how we can be better leaders. Part of good teamwork is allowing the person with the right skills take the lead. That might not always be the “boss.” Depends on the situation. How many “leaders” are willing to step back and allow someone else to step forward? I know some that are very good at this. I know some that aren’t.

Brenda also talked about unity, rest, transparency, encouragement, and heart as being important parts of caring for yourself as a leader. Don’t forget. Anyone can be a leader. It’s not just those sitting in the boss’s chair.

 

Mawwiage

Today is my 19th anniversary. Fortunately, I did find true love and have lived relatively happily after all.

Out of curiosity, I did some research on the state of marriage in the United States these days. Turns out, according to Pew Research, over 1/2 of Americans still get married, with college graduates being even more likely to put a ring on it. These stats are staying fairly stable.

For some reason, divorce rates among older Americans have increased. But those 50 and older are more likely to co-habitat with a partner.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can break things down even more along age, race, educational, class, etc. lines. Still, regardless of these factors, education level still seems to play a role in how likely someone is to get married. I’m fascinated. The divorce rates also seem to be lower.

Now for the fuzzy part of this post.

A few things I’ve learned in my almost two decades as a married person:

  • Treat the word “love” as a verb. Show your partner your love each day. Live it.
  • Recommit yourself to your marriage every day and especially on the hardest days.
  • Have your own interests and do your own thing sometimes.
  • Admit when you make a mistake. Apologize and mean it.
  • Be kind.
  • If you don’t like something, change yourself. Don’t try to change your partner. It doesn’t work.
  • You don’t have to be perfect.

I’ll be hanging out by myself because my husband has one of those jobs that keeps him away during the week. But he is always in my heart and usually just a text message away. We’ll celebrate in a week or so when we’re both in the same state at the same time. I was an Army wife for many years and learned that celebrations are special because of what you’re celebrating, not because of the day you celebrate them.

Are you a helper?

We saw “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” today. I’m not a film critic, but in my opinion, this documentary was well done.

As I watched, a few key points came through. Fred Rogers was deeply influenced by his Christian faith and he was a life-long Republican. He lived those values. He felt all people had value. He knew how to really listen.

I’m disturbed by those who would like to lecture others about how we should follow Mr. Roger’s example when those same people say hateful things about groups of people they disagree with. (Hypocrites!) Or tell us to look for the helpers. (Why not actually BE a helper?)  Or talk about how terrible Christians are and silly people are for following any faith.

But, you know what? Most of that garbage plays out on social networks. People feel free to be as mean, hateful, and ugly as they want online because they don’t have to face the consequences of their words. I’m having a hard time in finding much value in social networks anymore…except in a very focused, narrow way.

It’s too easy to be drawn into the muck with all the negativity. I’d rather find other places to engage – in real life, in well-moderated discussion groups, and other places where thoughtfulness, kindness, free-thinking, common sense, and tolerance of different opinions are considered. (And yes, I do understand there are certain opinions that have no value and those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. People are misleading when they use that argument. It’s an excuse for being jerks to everyone who doesn’t agree with them or won’t go along with what they want.)

I’ll still be writing short book reviews and other random stuff here.

Not a ripple

“I could disappear from the face of the earth, and the world would go on moving without the slightest twinge. Things were tremendously complicated, to be sure, but one thing was clear: no one needed me.” ― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Occasionally I’ll read a story about someone who has died and their body was found several days or weeks or even years later. People wonder how something like that can happen not realizing how easy it can be to disappear from anyone’s notice. I’m not talking about going off the grid. That is much harder to do. But, if someone lives alone, doesn’t have a job or somewhere they regularly go where their absence might be noticed, it’s easy to become invisible. Maybe even more so these days when people seem more determined to be self-involved and self-absorbed.

I think about all the things that I have scheduled that don’t require much attention if I choose to ignore them. Like bill payments, lawn service, etc. I can even schedule blog posts here. I could disappear and the my dogs might be the only creatures that noticed right away. Of course, if I run away from home, I’m taking them with me!

What’s my point? Do I ever have one? Maybe my point is to put your phone down once in awhile. Look at someone when you pass them on the sidewalk and smile. Say hello to your next door neighbor. Take the time to see the people around you.

Flag Day

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I’ve always felt a certain pride when the National Anthem plays or when I say the Pledge of Allegiance. Call it corny. For me, it’s about saying to my fellow citizens “We’ve got this. We’re in it together.” Fortunately, for all the bad things people want to say and think, you don’t have to look very far for the good examples of people caring about each other, helping each other, and working to make things better for all. There is still a lot of humanity left, no matter what all the nay-sayers might have you believe. Of course, you have to get off your couch and step away from your computer once in awhile. (That’s a reminder to me, more than anything.)

On being

Underneath my outside faceThere's a face that none can see.A little less smiley,A little less sure,But a whole lot more like me.

For years, I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety and depression. I used to talk about it. Over the past year, I’ve mostly stopped except for an occasional throwaway comment here and there. There are good times where I feel okay. And there are those low times.

Yesterday was a low day. First, let me say, at no point was I going to do physical harm to myself. Although I may have almost no friends, I do have family members who I can turn to for support when I need it. And I know they would be hurt beyond repair if I ever did something to myself.

What I was yesterday, was angry. For many of us, when it comes to friends, we are so alone. I can count my friends on one hand… I mean the people who have stuck around, not betrayed me, or forgotten I even exist. In the past year, I’ve lost more “friends.” It’s amazing how people can decide you’re a different person overnight.

Which leaves me in what feels like a very lonely place. As one acquaintance put it, I can “feel alone in a crowd of people.” I feel unseen, unwanted. I feel unheard and because of that I often go silent. No one notices.

If no one notices when I don’t speak or when I’m not there, why should I believe anyone if anyone would notice or care if I cease to exist?

I got angry. And I am disillusioned by all the “reaching out” talk. Which is nice. But wouldn’t it better for use to keep track of people before they’re potentially in crisis? Wouldn’t it be better to make an effort to see people for who they are? Wouldn’t we do better to care for our friends when they’re well, too?

Where do I go from here? I don’t have all the answers to that question. I’ve tried making connections with people and that doesn’t go far, possibly because I lack something.  Reality is, things will go on as usual. I’ll go quiet for periods of time and people won’t notice. Most days I won’t feel lonely when I’m alone, but my loneliness will hit when I’m in a crowd. I’ll continue to see my therapist. I’ll go on because that’s what I do.

 

 

 

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