Talking About the Library

There are some very common refrains when I meet people and, in the course of conversation, tell them I work in a library. Generally, they express their love for my workplace and its most well known contents; occasionally they express concern for its future. After my most recent experience with this scenario, I silently wondered how many people, upon meeting a plumber at a social gathering, gush (pun intended) about that line of work.

“You’re a plumber? Oh I just love my kitchen sink! It’s so easy to get a drink of water.”

“You drink a lot of water?”

“Oh, yes. I always have a bottle of Poland Spring in my hand!”

The library is as integral to your community as the plumbing is to your house. Yet so many people are unaware of all a public library has to offer, and how easy it is to support.

Like a book written in a foreign language, there could be countless translations of the above conversation from plumbing to librarianship.

“You’re a librarian? Oh I just love the library! There are so many great books.”

“You read a lot?”

“Oh, yes. I order from Amazon all the time!”

I don’t know enough about plumbing to carry this analogy much farther, but I do know that plumbing isn’t simply about one type of pipe, in one location. Similarly, public libraries are far more than just books on shelves.

On an average day at the library where I work, an adult can study for their GED. A recent immigrant can enroll in English lessons, and find help applying for citizenship. Life long learners can watch a film together, and have a discussion about its relation to current events. While parents ask questions about navigating the public school choices, their children may participate in multicultural events. A social worker has a place to bring children for supervised visits with their parents. Anyone can print, scan, or fax a document. Computers and the internet are available for (almost) anything you may need to use them for. Your card will also provide you with access to an array of databases and downloadable material, much of which may be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection.

You can support this sort of activity at your library just by maintaining your library card. Libraries with active users (as determined by the number of card holders) will get more funding from existing pools of money. These days we all seem to be in the shallow end, but if your library can prove usage, the finances have a better chance of flowing their way. So to make a splash for your library, walk in every couple of years and renew your card. That’s it; it won’t take a single extra penny out of your wallet.

If you want to take it to the next step, come in and borrow material more frequently. Circulation numbers reflect how well we are choosing material, and in turn, promoting literacy in the community. Little Free Libraries have sprung up because so many people have books they read once, and no longer want in their homes. The “big free library” buys the books (CDs, DVDs, garden tools, etc.) so you don’t have to. We acquire and shelve them, and you may take them out as frequently as you like (ok, there are some restrictions). Our checkout and renewal numbers, and your available shelving space, both rise; and everyone is still reading. It’s a winning formula (and if that money you are not spending at Amazon is burning a hole in your pocket, I can make some recommendations as to where to direct your funds).

I admit that until I entered this field, I was unaware how much is available. These days, when I relate the offerings to someone, their next comment is, “libraries have changed so much.” Yes, gone are the days of the shushing librarian, physical card catalogs, and paper copies of the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. At their core, though, public libraries have not changed. They are still providing resources and services to improve people’s lives. In Hartford we are still doing the same work Caroline Hewins did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (these diaries are my favorite examples of this work).

While I do expect libraries (and plumbing) to continue meeting the needs of the public and evolving, I am under no delusion this post will change the course of cocktail party banter or coffee talk. I also realize that libraries, being run by human beings, are not perfect. Hopefully, though, you will at least be moved to make sure your library card is up to date.

Oh, and at my library, you can get a cookie.

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Goal accomplished!

I did what I set out to do. And the resulting cheer is that of one hand clapping.
Here are all thirteen books:

In the Shadow of the Moon

Mad Richard

Vulgar Tongues

Composting Basics

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Gardens of the High Line

By Any Name

Homegoing

The Witchfinder’s Sister

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Vanishing New York

Before We Were Yours

Wild Things

From now on I will stick to blogging about bike rides, archives, historic structures, and other topics that lend themselves to blogging with pretty pictures.

Halfway Through

I am now a little over halfway through (or exactly halfway through, if you count the intro post) my summer project, thirteen book reviews. It isn’t all I wanted it to be, but it is keeping my nose (and ears, I’m currently working on an audio book) in a book.

On the off chance they are more impressive when posted all in one place, here are the seven reviews I have done so far:

In the Shadow of the Moon : The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses
Vulgar Tongues : An Alternative History of English Slang

 

I have three more in progress, and the final three are yet to be selected. Stay tuned!

Summer fun

Lately I have felt like writing, but haven’t had a topic I felt like sharing with the entire internet. So I came up with a project for the summer, thirteen book reviews. It’s going to be on a separate page because, well, I feel like doing it that way.

Over the past few months I have taken on new responsibilities at work, including purchasing all the non-fiction for Downtown. I am also paying far more attention to the new fiction entering the building (in part because the new books cart rests against my cubicle wall). Together, these factors have me reading more than I have for some time.

So, follow along if you like! I am also open to suggestions (it’s fine to leave comments here or on the other site). Whether your goal is to read, to bike, or to do anything else, I hope you enjoy the warmth and daylight this season!

An Appreciation

“You?!”

“Yes, me.”

I have had this conversation more than once over the past year. I am slender, eat a healthy diet, and (as most people reading this know) don’t shy away from exercise. So my diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes has been a shock to many people, especially those who are more familiar with Type 2 and expect a diabetic to resemble Jabba the Hutt more than Princess Leia.

In many ways, I am lucky. There are far worse diseases to face; this is not a “you only have six months to live” situation. Some people are diagnosed after becoming very ill. My diabetes was initially discovered when I had a routine blood test for a physical. My pancreas still produces some insulin, so I only need to inject it when I have high carb meals. The biggest unknown for me, right now, is if/when my pancreas will give up completely.

Given all of this, it seems apt tonight to give a shout out to Mary Tyler Moore. I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or actually find myself verklempt over her death. But the one thing I really knew about her – even before I started pricking my fingers multiple times a day – was that she, too, had T1D. Tonight I learned that we were both diagnosed while in our 30s. She managed to live close to another 50 years, and during that time was very active with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It’s definitely an organization I need to consider adding to my charitable donations list.

While it is great to know that reaching age 80 is still a strong possibility, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that following diabetes care is draining. In addition to the blood sugar level checks, there are a host of complications I have to watch out for. I schedule more doctors appointments in a year now than I had in the previous five years combined. Certainly I will remain grateful to Mary Tyler Moore for her work with the JDRF for many years to come. I’m sure it’s easier to live with T1D now than it was 50 years ago.

So to everyone who is working to find a cure for this disease, thank you. To everyone else living with it, fist bump.

A Good Year

For many people, 2016 was, to quote from social media, “a dumpster fire.” Between what feels like an incredibly large number of celebrity deaths, and the events of November 8, it certainly had its moments. For me, though, it has been one of the best years in quite a while.

The atmosphere at work changed from the very first day of the year. We started a new chapter (excuse the pun), which led to my getting a promotion. The job I have now is not anything I ever imagined I would do. However, I enjoy it. I’m good at it. And most importantly, my work is respected.

I dated. For many of you, this is no big deal. It was huge for me. Maybe I’m too particular (this did not involve any commercial web sites), maybe it’s social anxiety, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Whatever. For a few hours this summer, I was able to put that all aside and hang out with a guy.

My best friend from high school and I started our birthday celebrations a couple months early this year. We spent a weekend in New York, having splurged on tickets to Hamilton. The show was (as you’ve probably heard once or twice) amazing. Getting to spend hours walking around the city, on beautiful, sunny days, talking about everything and anything, was equally wonderful.

Later in the summer I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the Hartford Jewish Film Fest (March 16-26, 2017…see you there!). I’ve been on the committee for a few years now, but this is my first leadership role with the Hartford Jewish community. The film fest falls into the category of ‘lots of fun and lots of hard work,’ and I’m looking forward to being more involved than I have been.

img_4893The next step in my birthday celebration was a week in Wisconsin with my family. We
stayed at a lake where my grandparents used to have a house. I was able to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years, introduce my niece and nephew to some very dangerous (but incredibly beloved) playground equipment, and spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Swimming in the lake is one of my favorite activities, and I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I used to. Even the morning it was 48°, I was in for a dip before breakfast!

img_5152When my actual birthday arrived, I celebrated with a bike ride from West Hartford to Old Saybrook. It was another warm, sunny day, and perfect for the 54 mile trip. By mid-September, the water in Long Island Sound has reached a perfect temperature. It was incredibly refreshing after spending four hours on the bike. My mother met me at the beach, we had lunch, did some shopping, and then she drove me home. Later that day a friend and I went to Mozzicato’s, where I had just the right amount of cake.

Though I have branded myself as Cycling Archivist, over the past few years I have done increasingly more of the former and less of the latter. This fall I had the opportunity to process a collection for the Watkinson Library at Trinity College. It’s a small collection (less than three linear feet), but I welcomed the opportunity to get back in the game. Working full time at one job, and trying to fit in another four or five hours a week at a second job, is tough. There are some interesting pieces, though, and I’m glad I got to work with them (I wrote five blog entries between October 28 and December 14 about the collection. Search for ‘Wells’).

Cycling. It has continued to be a huge part of my life. On the last day of July I realized I was a mere 35 miles away from hitting 500 for the month on my road bike (I don’t keep track of distance on my hybrid). I couldn’t let that milestone slip by. My pace for the ride ended up being my fastest ever. Most Saturdays I have a friend to ride with, which is wonderful. One Sunday I went out with some racers. It was fast, and I couldn’t really keep up, but I gave myself points for going on a group ride (I’m a slow rider and generally avoid group rides because of the frustration they bring). My biggest cycling accomplishment of the year, though, is my new personal best record for biking to work. As of this writing, I haven’t missed a day commuting since February 23. That includes the day in April when it snowed, which I admit was a

img_5768
Commuting in December’s single degree temps.

mistake. Excluding weekends, holidays, and vacations, I have ridden to work 191 days in a row. For the year, I have 218 commutes. Yes, there have been days I’ve switched vehicles at lunch. But I still got in the bike ride. Who knows what Mother Nature has in store, but I am trying to get as close to February 23, 2017 as I can!

One of the best holiday gifts I got was the weather in Atlanta during my recent trip there. I was able to ride my sister’s bike each day, including Christmas Day, when it was 75°!

Don’t worry, the year wasn’t perfect. Amid all these high points, were certainly were some low ones. But the first time in a while, the highs were more numerous. A lot of this was luck, and things I won’t necessarily be able to replicate next year. Friends have had marriages end in 2016, and have lost family members and close friends. Certainly for them, this was not the best year. I hope everyone else, though, can look beyond the top headlines, and see that there were many good things that happened in 2016.