Friday, May 30, 2014

Libraries as Lakes of Mental Energy

Germaine Greer
Image via

"Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed." 
~ Germaine Greer

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nose Studs OK for Library Interviews

I got my nose pierced when I was 20 or 21 years old. In this piercing, I have on occasion worn a nose ring, but I've mostly worn a nose stud. The stud itself is tiny, silver, and so unobtrusive. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I don't even think about it. I'm only aware of it when I have a cold...and when I have an interview.
Like hers, my nose stud is small, silver...and OK for interviews.
Image via

When going on interviews, I would always wonder if I should remove my nose stud beforehand. Back when I interviewed for my current full-time job, I wore it and got hired anyway. For an interview earlier this month for a summer internship, I kept it in and was brought on anyway. I'm thinking it would be the same story if I was trying out for a library job: wearing a nose stud to the interview wouldn't hurt my chances of getting the position. A hiring manager for an academic library, who was recently interviewed for the website Hiring Librarians, would agree.

Emily at Hiring Librarians asked the hiring manager, who remained anonymous: Which jewelry may candidates wear to an interview? The hiring manager said:
  • A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
  • Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
  • Eyebrow ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing, or other face piercing
  • Earrings
  • Multiple ear piercings
  • Other: Nose stud, not ring

I think it's interesting that the hiring manager said nose studs are acceptable for an interview but nose rings aren't. I can only guess it's because nose studs are generally more discreet than nose rings, and that's why they're considered okay. But eyebrow rings, Monroe piercings, and septum piercings are much more obvious than nose rings in my opinion, so perhaps this hiring manager works at a small liberal arts college in a comparatively progressive part of the country. At any rate, my rule of thumb when dressing for interviews is, "Less is more": minimal jewelry, smell clean but no detectable fragrance, simple hairstyle, and an outfit that leans toward the conservative side. But the nose stud stays in.

For more interview attire tips from this hiring manager, you can read the Hiring Librarians article at THIS LINK. And if you happen to be an "alternative-looking" library job seeker, take heart in knowing that if the interviewer shrivels his or her nose at your piercings, tattoos, or blue hair, then that probably isn't a place where you would want to work anyway.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Was a Volunteer at a Public Library

Last winter, a branch of the public library reached out to my library school, asking for volunteers. I eagerly answered the call, as I was interested in gaining current library experience. Ultimately, I gained more than experience; I also gained a peek into human lives and what life is like working at a public library today.
Beginning another bright day as a volunteer at the public library.
Image via NYPL on Facebook

After I contacted the public library, expressing my interest in volunteering there, the volunteer coordinator at the branch requested that I come in to fill out an application and take a test, which measured my understanding of alphabetical and numeric order and the Dewey Decimal system. Having passed the test, I was given a quick but detailed tour of the library and asked when could I start. I began volunteering at the library two weekends later.

Typically, I arrived for my volunteer shift at the library between 10:30 and 11 o'clock on Saturday mornings. Even at that early hour, the library would be filled with people: adults in the reading room or at computers, parents with young children in tow, and elderly patrons browsing the audiobooks and DVDs. Already, there would be a growing line at the circulation desk, people anxious to check out their books or other items (often DVDs) so that they could get on with their day.

I would come in, jot down my arrival time in a binder, pick up a name-tag sticker on which I'd write "Volunteer," put it on, put my things away in the employee break room, and then get to work. Sometimes I would pull expired items that patrons requested but never picked up from the hold shelves, or I'd take DVDs that were returned, lock the cases, and re-shelve them in the DVD section. Most of the time, however, I worked in the children's section of the library.

Spending time in the children's section was a fun and eye-opening experience. I was always amazed at just how many parents (or nannies) would be there with their children so early in the morning, and they would often be reading to their children, using different voices for different characters in the book without an ounce of self-consciousness. Seeing parents read to their children always made me feel good; I guess it was just seeing that connection between parent and child, knowing that the parent could've been anywhere on a Saturday morning but chose to spend that time at the library with their child, and witnessing a love of books (and a love of reading) being passed on to the next generation.
Parents reading to their children was a common sight at the public library.
Image via

Another thing that astounded me as I worked in the children's section was seeing very small children being so comfortable using the library's computers. A common sight was four- of five-year-olds sitting at the computers, their little feet not even touching the floor, busy clicking away as they played computer games with an extreme focus. One Saturday, I even saw a little boy who couldn't have been no more than three years old bounce around his mother, saying, "Computer, mommy! I want to go computer, mommy!" I thought that was pretty wild.

Not all parents who brought their children to the library were so attentive to their children. One father had checked out one of the library's laptops, and he was totally zeroed in on it, despite his young child - who was less than a year old - crying loudly in a nearby stroller. It was only when I walked near the father that he looked away from the laptop and began to shush and cradle the child. (Later, this same father snapped his fingers at me, letting me know that he was done with the laptop. If he wasn't balancing the child in one arm and steering the stroller with the other, I would've told him where to put that laptop.)

Most of the parents who brought their children to the library were not like this father, fortunately. They were completely engaged with their children, some overly so. As I was shelving books in the young-adult section, I overhead one mother say to her child, who was reading aloud a book for school, "Read slower! Is that how you pronounce that word? Read louder, I can't hear you! Is that how you read in school?" The child's older sibling got in on the act: "No! That's not how you say it! No, read it like this! No! Like this!" I genuinely felt sorry for that kid and was afraid that his mother and older sibling were giving him a complex.

Shelving books in the children's section (which is mostly what I did, partly because so many of the books that were being checked in were children's books), I got to see what was popular reading for little kids these days. There is a series called Captain Underpants (I kid you not) that the library's youngest patrons seem to really love. Pokémon graphic novels were also favored reading, as were anything featuring the characters from the Disney animated movie Frozen. Speaking of Frozen, princess books are a thing; there's an entire section of children's books whose protagonists are princesses. And fairies (yes, fairy books are definitely a thing, too). Among the easy reader books, Marvel superheroes, Disney and LEGO characters, and Dr. Seuss' and Berenstain Bears books continue to be popular.
Dr. Seuss' books are still popular with young library patrons.
Image via

In the process of shelving, I would occasionally come across books that I had as a kid, such as those by Richard Scarry. Scarry's books were among my favorites as a child because the way they were illustrated, there was always so much going on. And I think a part of me was greatly amused at the sight of animals wearing people clothes (overalls, dresses, caps, etc.) and doing human things (driving cars, steering boats, laying bricks, etc.). As I was flipping through one Richard Scarry book in particular - his Please and Thank You Book - an older woman, who was always tutoring in the children's section at that hour, walked past me and said, "You're reading that book so intently!" I held it up and said, "I had it as a kid. It's Richard Scarry." She smiled and replied, "Oh, he's great!" I agree.

My Saturdays volunteering at the public library came to an early end with the library being closed for the Memorial Day weekend and with my beginning an archives internship soon after that. Although it will be nice sleeping in again on Saturdays, I will miss my Saturday mornings at the library. It was great being around the little kids (my favorite moment was when a small child, who looked to be not quite three years old, mimicked my actions as I put away books: when I knelt to put a book away on a lower shelf, she knelt to put a book away on the adjacent lower shelf, and so on). It was also a great pleasure to work alongside other enthusiastic volunteers and with upbeat and witty library staff who were clearly happy with their career path. Volunteering at the library was an all-too-brief experience, but an experience I am extremely grateful to have had.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chipotle Covers Its Paper Cups, Bags with Prose

Chipotle Mexican Grill, otherwise known as just "Chipotle," is the only fast-food restaurant that I still go to these days. No longer owned by McDonald's, which divested itself of the chain in 2006, Chipotle consistently serves tasty tacos and burritos that are made with fresh, organic ingredients and prepared in-house.

Eating in at Chipotle, I'm usually munching on a black bean taco as pretty damn decent music plays in the background. (On more than one occasion, I've held up my smartphone to identify a song that I later downloaded.) I have yet to try the tofu-filled tacos and burritos, which were rolled out nationwide last year with much fanfare. But judging by the publicity photos, they look delicious.

Chipotle's newest initiative involves its food containers: paper cups and carryout bags are now covered with literature written by well-known authors. Called the "Cultivating Thought" author series, the initiative was spearheaded by Jonathan Safran Foer, the successful novelist behind Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. His nonfiction work Eating Animals, which smartly argues the case for vegetarianism using the author's personal transition to this dietary change to propel the narrative, is among my favorite books.

According to an interview in Vanity Fair, Foer "was sitting at a Chipotle one day, when he realized that he had nothing to do while noshing on his burrito. He had neglected to bring a book or magazine, and he didn't yet own a smartphone. Suddenly, the Eating Animals author (and vegetarian) had an idea: What if there was something truly good to read on this Chipotle cup? Or the bag?" He contacted the CEO of Chipotle, Steve Ells, sharing his idea. Ells was open to it.

Making their debut last week, the new Chipotle cups (and bags) feature prose by Foer, Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Hader, Judd Apatow, Michael Lewis, Sarah Silverman, George Saunders, and other big names in the worlds of literature and entertainment. Each piece of prose was written to be read in two minutes or less. Speaking about the initiative on the Cultivating Thought website, Foer said, "We live in a world of fewer bookstores, and fewer libraries, and more and more junk asking for our attention. I couldn't be happier to be a part of a program that brings thoughtful texts, for free, to people with a few minutes to sit and think."

I think it's an inspired approach. If it gets more people to read, and introduces people to new authors, then all the better.

To read more about this newest initiative from Chipotle, go HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Words Invented by William Shakespeare

Longtime readers of this blog know I'm not the biggest fan of the Bard. But it's inarguable that William Shakespeare had a knack for clever turns of phrase.
Image of Williams Shakespeare from

In writing his now classic works of literature, Shakespeare also created words that would eventually become part of everyday language. For instance, if you've ever uttered the words "generous" and "majestic," or have even said the word "lonely," then you've used words that were originally made up by Shakespeare.

In an illuminating article, the Huffington Post has listed "13 Words You Probably Didn't Know Were Invented by Shakespeare." Besides "generous," "majestic," and "lonely," the Bard also came up with the following words:

Definition: Bad in a way that seems foolish or silly.
Origin: Derived from the verb "laugh."
Quote: "Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable." - The Merchant of Venice
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Definition: A quality of brightness and happiness that can be seen on a person's face.
Origin: Derived from the Latin radiantem, meaning "beaming."
Quote: "For by the sacred radiance of the sun." - King Lear

Definition: Careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to.
Origin: From the Latin frugi, meaning "useful, proper, worthy, honest."
Quote: "Chid I for that at frugal Nature's frame?" - Much Ado About Nothing

Definition: The activities that occur when people are developing a romantic relationship that could lead to marriage or the period of time when such activities occur.
Origin: "Court" was first used to mean "woo" in the 1570s; prior, it was used to mean "king's court, princely residence," derived from the French cort.
Quote: "To courtship and such far ostents of love." - The Merchant of Venice

Definition: Move or act with haste; rush.
Origin: Likely derived from the verb "harry."
Quote: "Lives, honors, lands, and all hurry to loss." - Henry VI Part I

It seems that Shakespeare originated 1,700 words in all! For just 13 of them, however, check out the Huffington Post article at THIS LINK.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Literary Mugs That Mom Would Love

This Sunday is Mother's Day. What are you getting your mom for the occasion? A card? A bouquet of flowers? Or a bouquet of fruit? (I heard those are yummy.) Knowing my mom, she'd like a nice mug. She already has a good collection going. And she also loves books. So a literary mug would be right up her alley.

OEDb, which is an online resource on "college rankings and free courses anywhere online," has listed "10 Great Literary Mugs for Librarians." I would say that these mugs would also be great for moms and for anyone who is a book lover. Among the literary mugs spotlighted is this great one featuring a quote from Sherlock Holmes on one side and an image of the fictional detective on the other:
The "Sherlock Holmes Eliminate the Impossible" mug is being sold on, available at the store of missbohemia. (On a side note, this quote was uttered by Holmes in one of my favorite episodes of the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The episode, "The Hounds of Baskerville," is what sucked me into watching Sherlock to begin with. It aired during season 2 and features some exceptional acting on the part of Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman (as Watson), and Russell Tovey, who played the emotionally and psychologically tortured Henry. But I digress.)

Another great mug is this one featuring the titles of twenty-two banned books, including Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

This Banned Book Mug can be purchased through the Unemployed Philosophers Guild website. It would be especially great to carry it around with you during Banned Books Week, an annual week-long event (taking place this year September 21 through 27) in which the freedom to read is celebrated and attempts to ban, challenge, or otherwise censor books are drawn attention to, often in creative ways depending on the library or other institution that participates in this event.

Other literary mugs featured in the OEDb article reference The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Henry V by Shakespeare, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Amid all of these mugs is a lone teacup with saucer that, appropriately enough, is a nod to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:

The white teacup with saucer has a hand-drawn/painted "Drink Me" sign on it and can be bought on Etsy from CoralBel. On the web page that shows the teacup and saucer, CoralBel says: "All mugs are right-handed, which means the design is facing outwards away from the drinker. Quote 'Left Handed' in the Note to the Seller box if you would like your mug to be left-handed." Very good to know for you left-handed fans of lovely teacups and Lewis Carroll.

To see all "10 Great Literary Mugs for Librarians" (and moms), go to the OEDb article at THIS LINK. Be sure to place your order today if you want one of these great mugs to arrive in time at mom's for Mother's Day.

PS. As they say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." I have quite a few mugs myself, but my favorite is this one from The Strand bookstore in New York:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Free Comic Book Day This Saturday

Are you a fan of comic books? Maybe your kids, significant other, or younger family members are. If so, then you probably already know that tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. Celebrated on the first Saturday of May, it's the day when comic book stores give away comic books to anyone who walks through the door.
A classic issue of Fantastic Four seen in 1997's The Ice Storm.
Image via

Free Comic Book Day is recognized far and wide. The popular event takes place across North America and even around the world. On Free Comic Book Day, fans of this fun genre often line up bright and early outside their favorite comic book shops, eagerly anticipating the free goods they'll soon get. So if you're taking part this year, it's a good idea to arrive at the comic book shops earlier, rather than later, to guarantee that you'll get your free comics.

For a list of comic book stores participating in Free Comic Book Day, go to THIS LINK. Some of these stores are hosting special events in addition to giving away comic books. And a number of stores will have policies in place regarding just how many comic books will be available for free. Call ahead before you go.

Here's hoping that you'll score a bundle of free comic books for your kids, nieces or nephews, or for yourself (hey, why not?) this Free Comic Book Day!