Kindness in the library

Patron service is the main focus in my work-life library. Everyone on the team–including student assistants and the technology guru–really work at helping our patrons. This attitude comes from the top; our head librarian is service-focused and supports and encourages our efforts to go the extra mile.

Many times I have walked a lost student to their class. The end of the semester means I am sitting panicking students, polishing citations and formatting final papers. I greet students as they come in, and everyone is treated in a welcoming, respectful way in my library. Many students are suprised at this.

I see my role NOT as the lion at the gate, but as the facilitator, the connector. I share, not just distribute information. Questions are not an interruption in my work, they are the reason I am working.

I smile. Its part of the job.

This attitude has recently been codified by the Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians (found on Kathryn Greenhill’s Librarians Matter.) I hope that this will become the defining statement for the next generations of libraries and librarians.

I know it is mine.



knucklehead2 I sometimes need to know that my own kids are not the only crazy people on the planet. Jon Scieszka and his brothers were crazy too–maybe even crazier!  Setting fire to the basement, playing MURDERBALL, the six Scieszka did it all.

Scieszka has been campaigning/advocating for boys as readers for years. He encourages reluctant readers with boy centered stories, humor and and comics. His Guys Read website is helpful for boys–and their parents–to find good stuff to read. Simple writing does not have to be simplistic writing. Knucklehead is very well written, with simple and very funny prose. The chapters are short–about 2-3 pages–and every chapter has a picture. This book would be perfect for reading out loud to a class or the boys in your life.

I laughed out loud in almost ever chapter and I read the entire book in about 30 minutes. What a blast! A brilliant addition to my own Guys Read list.

Outliers: The Story of Success

outliers-coverI read voraciously and often without regard for quality (vague interest or a decent recommendation is often all I need to check out a book.) This has taken me down some rocky paths (like the Twilight series–I just don’t get it) and some illuminating ones. You could say I’m like Mikey–I’ll try anything! I use the Nancy Pearl formula–I read about 50-60 pages and if I am not interested or hooked, I drop the book. Some nights I’ll tear through 3 or 4 of my bedside bookstack before I find an interesting one.

Outliers surprised me–I read the entire text in one night!

The book takes a storytelling approach to the mystery of success, describing the life paths of everyone from Bill Gates to The Beatles to Robert Oppenheimer. Malcom Gladwell takes the thesis that hard work, background and opportunity are more important than talent. He also has an engaging style which makes the journey a real pleasure.

On another level, Outliers is enjoyable just for its nuggets of trivia–and what that trivia means. I found out in what month most pro Hockey players are born, and why (I had never thought about hockey before.) Gladwell argues that having immigrant garment worker parents is the key to becoming a successful lawyer in New York City. A pilot born in Australia or Ireland is less likely to cause an airline crash than a pilot born in Columbia (its because of the general disrespect for authority, but being married to an Irish fellow I am glad that a bad attitude has a positive side…!)

I found that this book really stayed with me, and I kept examining and turning over the ideas in my mind (like a rubik’s cube, trying to figure it all out.) The conclusions unfolded so surprisingly; I keep looking at my own expereince for clues for what is coming next.

Check out Outliers–truly worth a read.

Corduroy Mansions: read it for FREE!

corduroy-mansionsWhen it comes to novels I am all character and no plot (some for movies too, come to think of it.) I like lots of development of a few characters and only a bit of action (think The Full Monty rather than Batman.) And of course, I love to laugh.

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series fits the bill perfectly. Gentle, funny novels that rely on interesting characters and a turn of phrase to entertain.

The author of the series, Alexander McCall Smith, has serialized his latest novel through the Telegraph online; he publishes one chapter a day until the book is done. Readers can subscribe to the RSS feed, have the chapters emailed to them, read it online, or even LISTEN to it online. McCall Smith is also inviting comments from readers which he may incorporate into the final hard-published book.

I have read two chapters already; this book has the same gentle humor and drama that I have loved in his other books.

Begin reading HERE.

I <3 flowers

In December I helped a student with his bibliography on a final paper. He was a mature student returning to school after a long absence, and like most mature students CONFIDENCE was an issue. All of the internet tricks, the typing, the databases…everything was new to him and he was overwhelmed!

I had helped him in the library through the semester with small things, a bit of coaching here and there. But at the end of the semester he was completely frustrated and even emotional–I caught him at a desperate moment.

So one Wednesday I sat with him for maybe 45 minutes, going over the basics of MLA style and showing him some of the online resources/tricks that make the bibliography easier. We did the OWL pages, looked at the MLA book, and I showed him the citation tools in EBSCO. We did a sample ciation in his Works Cited page. All normal stuff I do with students every day.

But this was a huge gift to the student! Just having me coach him through the basics was a huge help to him. He was completely relieved and near tears with thanks!

The next day he brought me a pointsettia to thank me. I was (and still am) completely touched.  What a wonderful gesture!

Of course, this is not the only time I have been given flowers at work…I must be doing soemthing right!

I won a DIFFERENT grant!

On Monday nights one professor always drops in on the library before his class. He is a Economics/Business professor and teaches at multiple community colleges. For the last two years we have discussed various topics, from basic Interlibrary Loan requests to Nobel Peace Prizes.

When it came in to the library I read Banker to the Poor about Mohammed Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank. I was so struck by the entire idea–and the business model. Grameen does not lend to one man….it lends only to GROUPS of WOMEN who then pay the money back in installments. Microlending and peer pressure all in one. This has been very effective business model–the bank has a nearly 100% payback rate. Plus, it helps people immensely.

During the grantwriting season Mr. Professor asked me to help him with a grant, to come up with a list of books and DVDs to add to the library’s collection on Microlending and Social Entrepreneurship (he does a section on this topic in his classes.) I prepared a long list, found sources and prices, and discussed with the professor.

He submitted and (WOW) we won!

The size of the grant is not huge but I am still thrilled to win. The professor wanted me to be sure to get some credit for doing the work and I am thrilled to be included.

I wrote a grant!

During the recent Founder’s Day celebration, I attended a workshop on grant writing.

The library at Tyler is quite bare. We have one donated painting and one donated wall hanging. A coworker and I both brought in some plants, and I change the book displays regularly. Thankfully the space is filled with student which make everything LIVELY!

The John Tyler Foundation sponsors an art contest every year, and the winning piece is reproduced in poster form and use for promotion throughout the year. The library needs art–what better art to inspire students than student art?

I wrote a small grant to have the past five posters framed and placed in the library. I am hoping not only to get this grant, but also to have this be an ongoing program for the library. I would like the Foundation to donate the framed art every year.

My coworkers were pretty enthusiastic, and each helped me proofread the grant. I will not lose my chance becasue of a typo or spelling mistake! This also allows everyone to get behind the project, by being involved in the grant-preparing process.

I should hear the result in November.