Posts Tagged ‘work’


Posted: 15 July 2011 in the fantastic
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Today I taught a class of six Saudi women on a short exchange program to the university.  I had a glimpse of my old life, the one that remembers how to pronounce Riyadh, and though I missed it, I was delighted to be right where I was watching them peel back the edges of research.

We slipped into the stacks searching for a book on Princess Nora and when they found it their faces lit up.  They didn’t have the casual “that’s cool, whatever” attitude my regular groups of 18 years old have, which was a teensy reward in itself.  As I stood there, watching them search for books on the fly with shiny new ipads, I was struck at how far I was from every other place I’ve ever been.  From the six year old who swore she’d be an ambassador, from the college student who never used the library once in 4 years, from the foreign service officer who swore she’d never look back, from the grad student who was baffled that all of this information was online and yes, from the librarian who just wanted to spend the afternoon finishing her staff evaluations.

Today, I used an ipad to find a book on Princess Nora, watched a short video about her, found a biography and searched for a review about the book while I stood in the stacks, took a picture of a book I wanted to read later and cleared the holds from my account so I could check it out before I went upstairs.  My daughter has been born into a world of awesome.





Posted: 3 January 2010 in observations
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It’s clear that the holidays are over.  We’re both anxious to get back into a work routine and plow forward to spring.  We don’t want to do any work, but that’s a side effect of going to work and getting paid for being there.  And really, it’s not bad at all, just rollover laziness from the winter break.

Now we start the slow slide into the next semester and we’ll accelerate through til June.  In the meantime, we have a lot of cleaning up to do.


Posted: 29 December 2009 in observations
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Last night I dreamed I was applying to rejoin the Foreign Service.  I took a multiple choice exam and wrote an essay (in longhand, no less) and Dana Carvey graded it on the spot.  He had several comments on my essay, including several word changes.  These are common in the Foreign Service, changing things like glad to happy and back again, sometimes simply to show your mark.  Dana Carvey handed back first my essay (on which I got the ambiguous 4) and I wasn’t sure if I’d passed or not.  Then he handed back the multiple choice test and I passed with flying colors.  In my dream, I was thrilled at the chance to try for the Foreign Service again, and fairly certain I would pass the next phases of interviews.  When I woke up, I was alarmed that I would even think such a thing, asleep or not.

Since I haven’t ever thought about returning, I let my mind run over the scenario in the shower.  There have been changes, perhaps my partner and child wouldn’t be shut out of so many things.  But also, there’s my irrational fear of the language testers.  The mistreatment of officers doing management work.  The overall poor supervisory skills and the age-old customs that make this a continuing problem.  I pictured myself greeting another Head of State and the glamorous bits and pieces of traveling the world, showing my child and wife new and fantastic things, and having a salary that defies logic (for me).  I wondered if the program continued that would let me back in at my former status.  I wondered if I would care if it didn’t.

And then I got soap in my eye.  At least, something made my eyes water.

I’ve made a choice – an excellent one – and I don’t regret it one bit.  But I’d never let my mind wander like that before, to consider the very possible what-ifs.  And as much as I’ll miss the chance to give my family the world, I’m so so happy to be able to give them me.  And they wouldn’t have gotten that otherwise.

Dear coworkers,

I know you’re going stir crazy.  I know you haven’t been to the grocery store since last weekend because you didn’t go with the frenzied masses on Friday evening.  You must be hungry, too.  I’m sure you ran out of toilet paper, milk and bread two hours after the first flake fell.  But that’s not important.  What matters here is that you are trapped in your house and you couldn’t get out if you wanted to.

At first, I was deeply sympathetic.  You mean they didn’t plow your road?  Wow!  I’m sure you can’t take your sedan out – two feet is a lot!  Then, I was a little skeptical.  You mean they didn’t plow your road yet?  Wow…that must be difficult.  And your driveway is all blocked in?  Well, I guess we’ll see you tomorrow.  But now, three days after the snow stopped, I’m afraid my patience has run out.

Look people, my road is slick too.  There is slush and the snow is heavy.  I spent a lot of time shoveling a path for the car, a path for the dog and a path for the mailman.  But the key word is shoveling.  You actually have to do it.  You can’t wait for some miracle of weather conditions to magically melt your obscured walks and drives.  I’m sorry you have only a garden spade.  Use it.  My neighbors did.

The point is, you can’t play on people’s sympathy if “the guy” didn’t come by to plow you out.  He’s busy.  He can’t even get the main thoroughfares plowed.  He’s not coming to your house.  You still have to work, shop, leave your house, and there isn’t any excuse not to put on some boots, come outside and do your civic duty.  I’m sure the post office, ups, paper delivery and holiday solicitors would appreciate it.  Most have us have managed to shovel.  As each day goes by, you are losing goodwill.  I’m much less likely to be understanding when I’m working alone, again, because you are too lazy to pick up a shovel.

Look, it’s not melting.  Get to it.  Love, me.

Commercial Break

Posted: 17 December 2009 in observations
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Being a librarian wasn’t supposed to leave me wanting to come home and completely collapse. But this week has been absolutely exhausting.  All week I’ve been wondering is it Friday yet?  Because in this job, unlike my old one, a weekend nearly always repairs the week’s damage.  But it still isn’t Friday and it’s supposed to snow this weekend.  Which is beautiful and welcome.  On the other had, it will probably mean that my week goes straight through til Sunday since apparently everyone else in the world is incapable of working in slightly damp weather.

Wow.  Went on a bit, didn’t I?  Back to your regular programming tomorrow.


Posted: 5 November 2009 in observations
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You know, while we’re on the topic of libraries (we were, you know) let’s talk about smells.

Some of you may be book fans, love that paper smell that wafts up when pages are ruffled.  Or maybe you love the dusty smell of still air tucked between the stacks.  I admit, with no shame whatsoever, that I can tell some publishers from others just by the smell of the book.  I also admit that I have a finely tuned sense of smell.

By this I mean, I can smell you through the computer.  What are you eating?!

I can also smell the library patrons from several feet away.  In some cases, several rooms away.  I know I’ve got it pretty good as far as public facilities go.  For someone who loses her lunch at strong smells good or bad, I think I’m lucky to be working in a place where most patrons smell like mostly clean t-shirts, jeans and school books.  Every so often we’ll get someone who lets their clothes sit too long in the washer or, on early Sunday mornings, the waft of stale beer and joints will come drifting across the counter.  It kills me though when I can smell seventeen layers of odor coming from one person.

I don’t ever want to still be able to smell you after I blow my nose.  I’m blowing my nose because my sinuses have just collapsed.  They’ve done so because I’ve been gagging.  I’m doing that because of whatever is living on your skin and eating your soul.

I don’t ever want to have to change clothes because you walked past and shed some awful perfumist’s idea of a rose garden onto my shirt.  And you huggers, I’m looking at you.  Should my skin so much as retain a hint of your scent until I shower again, you are so off my buddy list.

I don’t want to pick up the newspaper you just handed me and get hit with a face full of decay.  I don’t want to know you’re coming before I even turn around to see you.

It doesn’t matter to me what steps you take to remedy the condition, I’ll be delighted no matter how it happens.  I know some librarians attribute this to working with the great unwashed public but really, it’s just a symptom of leaving my house.  Thinking about it though, given the dog’s recent puke olympics, I’m really not safe anywhere.

I remember my mother complaining about this very thing when I was growing up (smells, not the puke olympics) and ignoring her constant gagging.  She recently visited me and had no idea she was cooking slightly spoiled meat until I said something.  So here’s hoping that 30 years from now I’ll be living in a world where the odor of humanity goes unnoticed.

points for being delicately scented.


Step Back

Posted: 4 November 2009 in observations
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Personal space fascinates me.  Although my default preference is just a bit less than an arm’s width away, I don’t experience enormous discomfort if you stand too closely to me when talking.  (As an overview, Wikipedia captures the concepts of personal and social distance nicely.)  As if personal preference wasn’t enough of a problem with regard to space, the stereotypes about specific cultures and space requirements are vast.  We group proxemics right up there with judgements about personal warmth, extraversion and formality.  Close-talkers are loud, friendly and from warm places.  Greater personal space indicates standoffishness, professionalism and a cool personality.

We also take space personally.  Is there something wrong to make her stand so far away?  Is it my breath?  Or more commonly in the U.S.: Why is he standing so close?  What does he want?  Is he dangerous?  Sloppy social skills?  It’s an affront to my delicate sensibilities!  Doesn’t he know he’s so close?  Some folks drop their eyes, back up across rooms, and physically place objects in between a conversation in order to preserve space.  We want what feels comfortable to us, even at the expense of someone else’s comfort.

Generally, civility outranks preference.  Think of it this way, there are two people and two types of ice cream, creamy vanilla and fresh strawberry.  One person is mildly allergic to strawberry.  He can eat it, but it makes his tongue tingle uncomfortably.  Nothing else happens.  The second person loves vanilla ice cream but thinks strawberry is just okay.  Knowing about the first person’s allergy, I think the second person will pick the strawberry dish every time.  In the case of space, preference often outranks civility.

Maybe a change is afoot, many it’s generational or need driven, but in the library, students often crowd up against the desk without regard to space.  It’s not a problem keeping a queue.  They know exactly who is next and respect each person’s right to a turn but rather than form a physical line (which they never have) or stand the appropriate social distance away (more typical) they often huddle up against one another at the front.

The first time I saw it, I wondered if the two people were friends or classmates.  When it was obvious they didn’t know one another, I was surprised that neither looked particularly uncomfortable.  Since then, I’ve watched it happen again and again.  Whether the current student is checking out a book or defending a fine, folks will crowd up and around offering no privacy at all.  Typically, I think it bothers me more than it bothers them and I’ve got a solid 2 feet of oak between us.  I wonder at what point the commonly understood 12-18 inches of space between the person in front of you (line or no line) evaporated.

Where do you stand while waiting for service?  I’m willing to bet it isn’t at the elbow of the stranger being helped.