Friday, May 31, 2013

How I Read

There is still maybe a tiny triumph for me in finishing a book. Perhaps it is a holdover from my early years of reading. Back then I had some culturally communicated sense that all those pages were an accomplishment and a virtue. I think the shift away from that started with The Lord of the Rings, read at age 13, when all of a sudden I was involved with a book so long that they had to split it into three books, and yet all its page numbers were forced to resolve into something puny under the enthrallment I felt for the narrative. Indeed, it was the first time I encountered the horror of page numbers passing by, like vacation days or bites of ice cream or blog post sentences. So since then I have been growing ever further from the idea of reading as virtuous. I don't think I need it to be virtuous. I just like it, or I'm addicted to it, or I need it to breathe or to escape. Actually it turns out there are a lot of open questions regarding motivation here.

But becoming friends with a particularly voracious reader who gives me a constant flow of recommendations, and also writing so much about books (and getting a growing list of recommendations here) has made me think more about what kind of a reader I am. I have been enjoying the term omnivorous, but many other descriptions, some perhaps more accurate, come to mind. There's gluttonous, indiscriminate, mercenary, and mercurial. I am delighted to try and strip all valuable content from a book through a use of book flaps, the epigraph, a page and a half at the start and then a couple random paragraphs. I'm more comfortable than I ever have been with reading 27 pages and thinking it's really good and never picking it up again. Of course the library is a treasure box and mostly I've adapted well to all these books promising the world. I open them up and if it becomes clear it's all lies I am equally delighted to despise the book. I can be very open minded, but sometimes a little hate is good for the heart. Wise people will tell you differently. Who knows, they could be right. You might want to test both. I love finding bits of knowledge I can pack into the shelves under the stairs in my brain. I can usually find it if you need it, but it will invariably be spindled. I enjoy reading thousands and thousands of books every year, but clerking and blogging can be time consuming so a lot of the time I stick to just reading the back cover, or the about the author, or a series of reviews on amazon. I especially enjoy it when someone tells me about a book and I can say "I won't read that." and they offer to synopsize it for me. It takes a minute and is almost as good, though usually it's much easier to get this kind of run down with movies or TV shows. But I also fall hard for books and read them over and over through the years. I love second reads because all that tension about whether I'm going to love it is replaced with a more languorous joy and anticipation of things I only vaguely remember but know I'm going to love. 

And that's about it. Mostly I was thinking if someone's going to be raving to you about The Eyre Affair or Birthday of the World and Other Stories a little context for it all can be nice. Knowing when you can disregard someone's book suggestions can be as helpful as getting a really likely recommendation. Of course, it's always a good idea to check out the back cover anyway, and the glowing quotes, and the author photo, and the first paragraph, and the epigraph, just, if you can.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

All Miracles and Nonsense

In a recent post I mentioned coming across a book whose title I shall herein paraphrase as A lot of famous authors, many of whom I have managed to never hear of, write about old books they either think too few people admire and read, or that made some weird huge impression on them that they understand probably wouldn't mean much to anyone else. I half read, half skimmed the whole book. Cumulatively the authors gave off a very strong objective sense about what literature is. I was rather overwhelmed by all this objective seriousness and their deep valuing of books that sounded strangely uninteresting and often bleak. Overcome by their lucid understanding and forceful objectivism I had to hide whimpering under a lot of pillows for many hours. As tempting as it is to rail against the lot of them I cannot. For, alas, I am as awfully prone to bombastic, earnest, objective appraisal as the worst of them! "This is the greatest this" and "This was the foundation of all this" stuff, statements I feverishly believe, but have also, frankly, made up. It's not science here. Everyone is making this stuff up. Some people are magnificently knowledgeable and clever and sound like God, but it doesn't change the making it up part. And so I resolve to try and keep in mind that this is art we are talking about. And while art is easily in the top two most magnificent things humans engage in, it is also the silliest. So says the dark squiggles that transmute into a voice in your head.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

If I Were King of the Library, the fourth decree

Libraries within libraries within libraries. Our public libraries are already very much set up this way. We have a Children's Library and a Teen Library, and those are just the ones in their own discrete, specific rooms. We also have, for example, a wing of Non-Fiction and one of Fiction. And then within Fiction we have regular Fiction and Genre Fiction. And let's not stop there. In Genre Fiction we have Mysteries, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, and the rest (the Professor and Mary Ann in this case being Westerns and Large Type. Large Type isn't much of a genre I know, but there it is). Being an extremely omnivorous reader in addition to working here I visit all these libraries within the library, but a person could easily visit our library seven days a week (and they do!) yet never set foot in Kids, or Westerns, or whatever. It's a lot of libraries. Is it too many libraries? Eh, I think no. I think let's just throw open the gates.

But now that the gates are thrown open let's think about what to add. What public libraries don't already have Kids and Mysteries and Non Fiction? We've taken care of that basic, automatic stuff. Now is the time to spread our wings. Libraries are for flying! (Well, at least once in awhile, maybe like the Spruce Goose.) My third decree got us going on one of these extra libraries, the staff curated one, where vulnerable books are protected and the collection is driven by personal staff love. Now, by Kingly decree, I open another library within a library. The Local Library.

The Local Library will be a special collection made of books and media created or produced by people of the State within which the library lies. Strong priority and preference will be given based on how close to the library the author/creator lives and/or works. No preference whatsoever, though, is to be given to professionally produced, conventionally published material over entirely unreleased and homemade material so long as the homemade material meets minimum construction and reuseability standards. I'll move to the copious fine print and details for the rest.

1. All submissions are chosen by a jury based on their subjective opinions of quality combined with the localness of the submission.

2. The jury is to be made up of six people meeting monthly. Staff and local community members are both eligible to serve on the committee. Members are chosen by lot from those volunteers and serve for one year. Jury members must recuse themselves from judging items produced by people they know.

3. Submissions are open to anyone in the state and must come in a set of five that are reasonable facsimiles of each other. They must meet minimum standards of size and durability for circulation. Selected materials will be purchased by the library in their sets of five at a price standardized by type (book, DVD, CD, etc.).

4. Each chosen item will be assigned a supporting juror who will be responsible for writing an erring on the side of honesty frontispiece note explaining why the item was chosen and just how local it is.

So it decreed, this day etc. etc.

The King

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Lake Effect

I feel... interested in everything. One might say that this makes it difficult to become very knowledgeable about or good at any particular things. And I think it is very true that to deep down excel at something, to thrive at something, we must give ourselves over to it, accept it and ourselves in it. For most of my life I have believed "should" is some major part of this equation, but the more I believe there is no necessary virtue to excelling other than joy or satisfaction or fulfillment, the more "should" drains out of it. We cannot choose what to do in this sense, only discover it and let ourselves take to it in our natural deep down way. This seems all very easy, I think, when applied to other people, but not so much when applied to ourselves. When I follow any of the thousands of seductive threads of who I might be and what I might accomplish and do I don't really have to let go of any of those myriad possibilities because I pursue that one through choice and will and effort. I have a control and so at any time I am free to start any other choice, any other thread. I am free to write my journey. But, to inhabit myself, to follow the light that leads into the deep woods, that makes me a creature of the wind,  the follower of a never before walked path. It makes me me, just one thing, no threads, no varied futures, just one thing, for all time, a thing I can know nothing about ahead of time and that I cannot finish.

And so what can I excel at if I am going to be so omnivorously interested? I have given over the chase. And yet giving it over I lately find that everything I get interested in I put carefully in a glass jar. And I bring them back here. I line them up in their dozens and dozens in the sun. And I start to wonder that this, this, is it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

If you take the time there are lovely things to find

Sometimes, shelving, I read a bit. But fairly speaking I can't read too much. I have to shelve. So I take the fascinating little book I find (and they are especially fascinating when I can't content myself with reading them!) and set it in some quiet corner of my cart. Then, when I am finished with my shelving, I look over my little pile and admit that I'll never have time or inclination enough to actually read them, and I put them back. But sometimes I can't bear to put them back and have to take them with me, check them out, and sometimes even take them home. Sometimes I read more of them, sometimes I don't, but rarely are they so compelling as they are fresh found on the shelves, with every sentence read of them done on borrowed time.

Here are three books to be taken home from my last sweep of shelving:

 Lost Classics: Writers on Books Loved and Lost, Overlooked, Under-read, Unavailable, Stolen, Extinct, or Otherwise Out of Commission edited by a bunch of people. I guess the subtitle tells all. This book is at first glance so exactly what I am thinking about and it's so fascinating out of the gate that I think I better read some of it. My two fears here are that this book is going to go totally high brow (the list of authors suggests that to me along with my random page openings), and that I'm going to end up searching out, requesting from far afield, and reading a paltry two paragraphs of 24 different books. Actually, that doesn't sound so bad.

A Place in the Woods by Helen Hoover. This interests me because it's a book about jumping off to live in the wilds. I like where it jumps off from, both the era of the 50s and 60s, and the Lake Superior north woods where it all seems to take place. The book is maybe from 45 years ago, has nice drawings and, at first glance, pleasantly undated prose. When I went to stay on Lake Superior I was wishing I brought this book with.

Listening Point by Sigurd Olson. This is another north woods book. If you're not familiar with Sigurd Olson let's call him the John Muir of the north woods, instrumental in making Boundary Waters a National Park and, curiously, in making Point Reyes a National Seashore, or something like that, I don't know the story behind it. Anyway, my interest here is similar to the previous book. I'm reading a lot of nature/adventure writing and liking it. But the big appeal for this book is that it's rather special as a book. Fairly old for our library, it's a special Centenary of the State of Minnesota edition (so published in 1958), signed by Sigurd Olson and Francis Lee Jaques (the illustrator). Something about that physical brush with a different time, history, men dead for decades now, makes me want to give it at least a little bit of a go. Autographs make me go all woozy.

I've been meaning to write about the curated collection, but find myself taking care of that by continually nibbling at the edges of it. Here are three accidental finds of mine. I don't really know how good they are yet, but I do know they are mostly older and not so famous and popular that they couldn't be shipped off to the pound. We got some new program here that can make you up a list of things that haven't circulated for a year (or whatever). I don't entirely hate the program. I'm sure it's useful too, but I don't trust all the librarians with it. I find I am more interested everyday in chestnuts, hold overs, and lost treasures, and I think the balance is thrown off with this stuff already. But even in a suburban library only 60 or so years old there's a little old magic out there. And it's a joy to find.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another from the North Shore

How proudly I titled my other North Shore post with "Where I did not go to any libraries." Ha! Here I am in this lovely house made by Frank Lloyd Wright's draftsman (the story in my head is that he made it to retire to or something, but I'm starting to think that is a figment of my imagination). A fire is burning and the sound of it mixes with the waves of Lake Superior breaking on the stone shore in the deep dusk. I wander one more time around the house. Art books here, El Greco, a bunch of unpromising looking ones on drawing (Frank Lloyd Wright's draftsman owned Idiots Guide To Drawing?). I go visit that complete set of Anthony Trollope to make a rough guess as to number of pages (14,000). I'm seeing other Trollope books around too, biographies and an autobiography duplicate so I figure that the owner must really have been a fan. One bedroom downstairs has a big and very miscellaneous collection. Harry Potter is there in a complete set along with an attendant group of turn of the century pop (Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler etc.). The upstairs bedroom has what looks to be maybe a small standard Young Adult collection circa 1923. I've never heard of a single one of these books, tried to read one, and quickly stalled out. In the hall is a small Shakespeare set, a 150 year old (or more) Bible, an encyclopedia set from the 40s or 50s (bought for $35 as a used bookstore chain). Out here by the fire there are more sets, this of great short stories or The Classics (I'm too comfortable to get up and find out which, but both are around here somewhere). There are several stacks of Frank Lloyd Wright books, picture books, biographies, studies, none too scholarly and none too new, but all appropriate because the house is about as close as it gets to a Frank Lloyd Wright house without being one. Also on these shelves are a couple of smaller varied classics mixed with older books I have no clue on. This is where there's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that looks like it could be a first edition. But I know just enough about book collecting and editions to know that that's super unlikely, likewise with a Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm. I read some of Kipling's American Notes standing here and it was entertaining for five or ten minutes (he came here because he was mad about the Americans' chronic copyright violations!). And there's really so much more I could catalog here, but really, what I'm trying to say with all this is that in addition to all the beautiful house, incredible lake and I'm-on-vacation stuff, I am also in a library. Not a public library, but a library all the same. A lot of times when I see books in someones house it's mostly just books that have collected instead of been collected, and there's some of that here, and there's misguided choices and stuff that just had to be for show, but neat stuff as well, and relevant and useful. And it's nice to see, too, even if it means it's also one more busman's holiday for me.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Notes from a North Shore trip where I did not go to any libraries

1. Has anyone looked into the possibility that the tops of pine trees are actually little communication towers that allow the trees to chat back and forth amongst themselves? You could scoff "What could pine trees possibly have to say to one another." but I don't think anyone reading my blog would say anything like that. Nevertheless I answer our fictional scoffer with this: On an average day at my library I spend at least an hour (cumulatively) discussing the weather with people and yet none of us are even outside! We hardly even go outside! Pine trees are outside all the time. It stands to reason that they discuss the weather. They do it with the little towers they grow at their tops, and they would love to discuss other things too, but they simply do not have the time. There is too much weather to discuss!

2. Driving, I crossed what seemed to be at least two exits for the "Soo Moose Trail". It led me to this aphorism: You can soo moose, but they never show up in court.

3. I am sitting in a beautiful, wide, and wedge shaped room that points out at  Lake Superior. Twenty-two large windows comprise the whole of this wedge and I sit up near the prow with a view of a scattering of pines (who are chatting about the weather) and of so much wild, fresh water that my brain keeps having to struggle to believe it. It turns out I really like this feeling of my brain struggling to believe something because it is too obviously and too greatly true. And all I need to do is look at the lake, and there it is.

4. As I walked in and toured through what surely must be the most beautiful house I have ever stayed in what I mostly noticed were the books. "Oooh!" I thought to myself "He (referring to some former, hypothetical, deceased (?) owner) had a whole set of Trollope!" I have never read a single line of Trollope, but in my mind's eye I was settling down to read, over the course of the next two nights, all 14,000 pages of Trollope. That's no doubt what I'd be doing now too if I hadn't been suddenly seized with the terrible need to tell you about it, and the moose, and the pine trees, and all that water, which cannot be, but is.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On the way to shelving

It is so rare that I see something interesting on all the internet computers people are living at in the library. And while it would be super nice to see someone reading my blog, or manipulating massively complicated screens of pure code, what I reliably see is people playing addictive and simple games involving colored balls, email accounts full of spam, TV shows, bureaucratic looking forms, and shopping, shopping and shopping. So it was with great pleasure that I walked by the upstairs internet computers just now and saw a screen full of strange, multicolored, whirring spheres.  It wasn't a game. It was too good for that. It was maybe astrophysics? Biology? Something surely in the sciences, but maybe the mad sciences? I can't entirely discount that it was some sort of alien communicating device. All the aliens I imagine are big library users, or employees, or whatever.  But it could have been some homeless person working something out that will win them a Nobel Prize in 3 years. I don't know. I didn't ask. It's a library. I just mind my own business.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fulfilling My Part in the Third Decree

A couple of days ago I posted my third decree of  "If I were King of the Library" which you can read here, or just scroll your way down. Briefly it decreed that each library worker gets to pick five items for all time, copies of which are kept in circulation forever in a special library within a library. There is more detail if you'll venture to that post, but I bring it up here only to say that I have picked my five choices. I may refine it a bit before it's all finalized and locked in, but this is my list. It's numbered because I really like numbering things, but it's not in any order or anything. And remember, it won't be a list of my most recommended items, rather one of slightly more obscured or downright vulnerable recommended items. And yes, I love them all.

King of the Schnorrers by Israel Zangwill
I practically created this whole decree so I could choose this book about a master beggar. I consider it foundational to all of modern comedy. Super entertaining too. And it is on the edge of disappearing.

On the Beach (a CD) by Neil Young
It's a little odd to me because Neil Young is not remotely in danger of being forgotten. But this album strangely seems to fall so far into the lower ranks of his canon that it feels half lost. It is my absolute favorite of all his albums. I'm not sure there is any guitar playing I have liked better anywhere and it is all fantastically depressing, ferocious, and lovely.

Fishwhistle by Daniel Pinkwater
I strongly considered here his The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, but my feeling is that Fishwhistle was gravely under appreciated from the start, and is more particular and more on the cultural precipice. These are some of my very favorite short, comic memoir essays ever.

Summerhill, A Radical Approach to Child Rearing by A. S. Neill
Here is everything I needed to know about freedom. Summerhill is still the only kind of school I really believe in and the philosophy of my Library Kingship owes much to Summerhill. Is it disappearing? We don't have it, and I would throw every single book in our whole system related to education under the bus for three copies of Summerhill. I might even like doing it.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I struggled mightily with my fifth choice, but now that I have chosen I feel even more solid about it than many of the other choices. For one, I really needed a woman author. Really. Seriously. Two, I needed a romance because romance saved my life, plus, awww, love. And three, I just so unreservedly and uncomplicatedly love it. It's just purely a joy to me to read.

What would you choose? Now is the time to comment. C'mon, at least just give me one. We have a library to fill!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blog housekeeping and real live entertainment!

HI. No highfalutin library philosophy today. Today is just notes on my sidebars over there (yes, yes, off to the right, huddling against my printer for comfort. You can't see my printer? Well then, what's to the right of your screen?). And then we whisk you off to literature (no, you don't have to go). So it's either a slow day on the blog or a heavy one, depending on how you look at it.

First, our inaugural feature of 'What's the free food in the break room' has either been eliminated or put on sabbatical. This may be because no one brings in any interesting free food anymore. I'm hoping that has nothing to do with my occasionally inadvertently referring to it as poison. I meant it affectionately. You may also notice my increased use of the space right to help organize my copious blog posts. These things multiply like tribbles! Some of them I don't even write, they just spawn! Anyway, the people willing to actually talk about my blog with me seem pretty comprehensive oriented and use the phrase "need to get caught up" or "am all caught up". But in my unceasing optimism I see millions of new readers, and I am thinking maybe some links to thematic groupings of posts will be of use to them. Finally, I have posted up the second Wiki story, which one can probably fathom without reading the first, though the first is up there too. It can all be found through the 'Short detective stories' link at my entertainment hub over there on the right, next to the...oh, just, to the right.  Anyway, to help you along with this I am putting the start of the story here. Just try it. You don't have to click the continue link at the end of it. It'll be good for you! There is a special kind of high fiber in this story, and omega nine, which is three times as powerful as omega three.

Wiki and the Dog that Barked

Wiki Magenta was a detective, but detectives need cases and cases can be very hard to come by. Solving, so effectively, the case of her own being robbed was impressive enough to Phoebe and I, but not the sort of thing with a lot of future to it. Wiki allowed herself to be carefully introduced to kids around the neighborhood and even had a couple of my friends over. She inspired more awe and respect than outright affection, and when the information was quietly made available that she worked, at a small, sliding fee, as a detective, it did not inspire the derision and skepticism nearly anyone else would have engendered. Nevertheless, it did not either get her clients. Few people, and perhaps even more so kids, think in terms of detectives as useful tools in life, and an extraordinary resource such as Wiki was outside of the normal conception. She had to be learned.

My and Phoebe's summer was coming out way better than I had any hope. On the one hand there was the perfectly enjoyable standard stuff I had every reason to expect. I had a long little league season with a team that had its act together and a shot at state glory, and the aimless adventures of the neighborhood kids and the long bike rides with longtime buddies James and Keith. My dad, head chef at one of the best restaurants in the city, liked to whisk Phoebs and I off on strange culinary experiments around town for the education of our palates (Phoebe went at this with more gusto than me, but I loved the different cultures and strange people we got to meet more than the things people managed to do with the fat of geese). My mother, an avant garde composer (meaning no disrespect, but this means she made music you likely wouldn't recognize as, well, music), saw to our arts entertainments when she had a chance (this was interesting, but something closer to hard work than to the experience of seeing the latest Star Trek movie). But whereas in past summers there was a large chunk of leftover time spent spacing out in front of screens or asking people what they wanted to do in a desperate and futile hope that they will say, first, anything possible, and second, something actually appealing, this summer, instead, nearly obliterating that chunk, was Wiki. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If I were King of the Library, the third decree

While I am not very qualified to speak to library collection issues I have found that qualification is not a harbinger of quality. If I rattle this around in my jar of passions for a bit I can usually find for myself enough license to talk about anything. I'm not sure that passion is any more a harbinger of quality than qualification, but if you can mix in a dram or two each of application and love, you are there, and your quality chances positively soar. So it is in this vein that I hope here to weigh in, and since I'm King, how I hope to rule too.

The problem that I find myself repeatedly slamming into around my cities various public library collections is twofold. One, I find a distinct lack of guiding passion. Loved items surely circulate thickly in the collection, but they remain unemphasized, unprotected, and undifferentiated. Two, librarians are fine when it comes to buying "New" items because every device of popularity and capitalism is geared to it. Stocking the classics is handled almost as well, especially if they are old enough and classic enough. But there is a middle ground here that I consider the soul of a library collection. It consists of half classics, lost classics, and the truly great books that 25 years or 40 years or 100 years on have been buried under the constant shower of new books. Ever so steadily, from age, wear, abandonment, and the ceaseless occlusion of new things, these simply erode out of our library systems and our cultural consciousness.

The King is here to save the soul of the library, and here is the decree to do it.

Every person who works for the library gets to choose five items of any currently circulating type, and a minimum of three copies of each of these will be kept and maintained in the collection for all time. These items will constitute a special collection all housed together, a library within the library.

There is loads of fine print and details that go with this.

1. Items are vested only among employees who have worked more than five years. If someone leaves before five years their choices are not protected and can be weeded or allowed to fade away.

2. Staff is not required to fill their quota of choices, but choices are non transferable.

3. Staff are entitled to remove their choice at any time, but not to replace it.

4. After the fifth year of employment staff is allowed one new pick at each new full year of employment.

5. All choices must be accompanied by an explanation of why the item was chosen. This will be prominently featured along with the staff member's name and the origin date of the choice.

6. Staff are urged to consider things that aren't already very safe on the regular shelves, but if they want to spend a choice on Pride and Prejudice that's up to them.

7. Staff has to formally attest to loving each item they have chosen. This will be done by signing their name to a front piece in the book that says "I affirm that I have chosen and love this book (or cd or whatever). 

So it is decreed, this day, etc. etc.

The King

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review Expedition: The St. Anthony Library, the final phase of the review expedition

Mercilessly long review of the St. Anthony Library in Minneapolis Minnesota

Phase 3 of the Review Expedition

All categories get a score! They are out of 100, with usual school grading applying wherein 75 is a straight up "C" and everything under 50 is just there to express various levels of pique.

Preamble and Arrival
Dave and I stumbled out of the Ecuadorian Restaurant Chimborazo and drove through the Minneapolis neighborhood of St. Anthony. I was so drunk I remember none of it. Actually, ha, I wasn't drunk at all. I had coffee at Chimborazo so I was keenly alert! But being drunk would have added an interesting twist. It's kind of a nice neighborhood back there in St. Anthony, and someone was having a yard sale of CDs. Dave and I asked each other simultaneously "Should we go?" and we answered simultaneously "No."  The era of the CD has passed, plus we work at a library anyway, where you can check them out for free. Our street ended without our finding Pentagon Dr. NE, but Dave's trusty and irascible jeep's GPS alerted us to the street really being something closer to an alley, leading us into a large strip mall. I've been in that strip mall, but hadn't really noticed the library. A library in a strip mall is an interesting idea, I guess, though also faintly repulsive.

 (Note on the picture above : I went out surfing the web for a picture of the St. Anthony Library and could find practically nothing, which is weird. Okay, no, it isn't weird, I mean, look at it, but I found this picture of St. Anthony Library, and I followed it back to its source website and found it to be by someone I know! And she is doing a blogging project of visiting loads of libraries and writing about what she finds, but nicely, not evisceratingly. Funny, but that's very nice. Anyway, the photo credit then goes to Ellen McEvoy and her very nice blog is here if you want to check it out. Anyway, thanks Ellen.)

For first impressions and all that:
68 out of 100

 Building and Public Art
Inside they had reasonably good signage, some nice display pieces, and a slightly cluttered but useable layout. They didn't seem to take much advantage of the displays to get focused or put interesting things on them, and so it all seemed a bit random. They appeared to have 3 staff members in the small space, one shelving, one librarianing (it is too a word!), and one clerking. But it was Dave who went out to help some lady bring in a couple boxes of donations. There was a little for-the-public office work station set up which was interesting to us because we have a for-the-public office work station at our library too. It's called the front desk. Their station was very forthright about how it was provided by the Friends of the Library, which seemed pretty small time, but, okay.

They seemed to have bailed on the public art thing here for the most part, but they really didn't have much space to work with. The had a Blacklock print of Quetico (canoe country) that I think was actually a signed series print and a Jasper Johns American Flag art poster. This fit in with their, oh, whatever, vibe which is similar to their something is better than nothing vibe.

69 out of 100

Random Generic Library Measure

Number of Agatha Christie books on shelf: 4. Well, it's something, and they're quite a small branch.
73 out of 100 

Bathroom Check

 I had to get a key to review, er, use the bathroom. I would have maybe somewhat understood if at "The Security Guard Northeast Library" I had to get a key to use the bathroom, but here? It just seemed a little paranoid. The bathroom itself was good. Single occupancy, thinnest towels in the known universe, clean. Marks down almost entirely for the key thing. I don't like sharing bathrooms and I don't like talking to people about having to go to the bathroom. I may be too delicate to review bathrooms.
77 out of 100

 Can I hang my flier for my blog with a sticky note on it saying "this library to be reviewed soon!"?

 I didn't ask as they just had a tiny board for library things. Oddly this actually puts them ahead of their other branches in this category
70 out of 100

Coffee Shop?

I don't know of any agreeable coffee in the area, but across the parking lot is the very good Tea Source, one of the best places for Tea in the twin cities and since I, a fierce coffee drinker, am willing to make that shift, I think anyone should.
90 out of 100

Librarian one: The Collection Question

Do they have The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4 by Sue Townsend? I had to fully give the info here for her to type into the computer as the Librarian was not familiar with it. They did not have it, but with my help we were able to ascertain that there were copies in the system of The Adrian Mole Diaries, which is a single volume of the first two books. It wasn't checked in at St. Anthony. There wasn't much more than that I was offered, like fun, sympathy, or a reading from memory.

Score for library collection (I did not have a strong expectation this book would be on the shelf in this small branch. Adrian Mole Diaries is a just barely acceptable substitution and 8 copies in the system, half checked out, is a maybe ever so barely acceptable number):
73 out of 100

Score for Librarian
73 out of 100

 Librarian two: The Reference Question

Who is St. Anthony? "Wasn't he the patron saint of lost things?" This answer was followed by that " I better make sure" reconsideration thing. I can't remember if she looked anything up, asked another person, or just confirmed herself with renewed confidence. Her answer wasn't wrong, just lackluster and thin and offhand. If she merely showed me this picture by El Greco


I would have scored her dozens of points higher.
66 out of 100

Librarian three: The Free Form Question

What's the best nearby restaurant. She said, after a bit of hmmming, and saying there wasn't much around, that she guessed it was The Village Pub. This felt to me like it was the first restaurant she could think of. And for a couple days after this I thought it was a terrible answer, but now I feel a little bit less hard on it. The online reviews are mixed, but generally not hateful. And while I can't imagine wanting to eat there under virtually any circumstances, I'm not actually aware of any place in the neighborhood I really would have wanted to eat. Still, she should have asked for more information instead of just throwing off that answer, unless I misread her and she was passionate about the Village Pub and their world famous Poutine, which is handcut fries and fried cheese curds topped with their homemade turkey gravy. Ask a question based on personal taste and don't expect to get an answer based on yours.
79 out of 100

I stepped up and took one for the team here. I went to the circ person to get a new library card. My hennepin card had faded into history and I was ready. Thus began the strangest portion of my review odyssey.  I had all the things I needed and she did get me a card, but it was all... quite odd. There was something gravely slow and earnest about her. She looked at my license like she had never seen one before in her life. She silently entered my information. I could hear the keystrokes. It took a long time, but actually I found I didn't mind that. I sometimes wonder how people can stand it when some of my deathly slow colleagues help them, but I can see how easy it is to go into a very peaceful zone when someone is processing on your behalf. It's the people waiting in line behind who suffer. There was no line. In fact, there was, I believe, only one or two other patrons in the whole library at that time besides Dave and I. When my card was ready she handed it to me slowly and proceeded to give me a very long and earnest lecture entirely about what to do if I lost my card. She enumerated the grave perils of it, the way I wouldn't know that some thief had checked out things on my card until I started getting late notices. She told me how to call in to report it lost. "Do not wait." She admonished. She spoke slowly as if this was complicated and profound information. She said I could call any Hennepin branch, not just St. Anthony to report it lost. It was fascinating. There was nothing about any features or privileges of my card other than this, the five minute lecture about the perils and responsibilities of losing my card. As an interesting addendum to this I will say that in many, many years of constant circulation work at an intensely busy library I have never personally run into an even remotely verifiable instance of someone stealing or using a stolen card to check out materials. Never. Not once. 

One last thing that was not a circ issue, but had to do with what I had to look at on the counter while I waited for my card. They had a small rack on the desk there that offered free "Take one only" bookmarks that were actually bookmark ads for a movie called Jack the Giant Slayer that came out months ago. The bookmarks came with a sign that said they were provided by the friends of the library. I worry about the Hennepin County Friends of the Library. They seem pathologically desperate for recognition. The clerk? Well, I actually work with someone sort of like her.

68 out of 100

Random Personal Search for Item

I searched for the DVD Moonrise Kingdom. At first glance this search seemed silly as it looked like they had about 3 DVDs checked in, the newest of which was the delightful What's Up Doc? with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'neal. So, no, they didn't have it. But in checking their catalog I for the first time saw the sheer breadth and power of such a massive and mildly rich (comparatively) library system, something that didn't show up well with my more idiosyncratic searches. There were 65 copies of Moonrise Kingdom! And there were even 2 that belonged to St. Anthony, albeit both checked out.
88 out of 100

 Summary and Final Score   
The St. Anthony Library in Minneapolis is a strange solution to a neighborhood library. Perched anonymously with other shops in a seriously unbeautiful strip mall it certainly could come into its own with a creative staff, some clever ideas and energy, and a tightly curated collection. It didn't come into its own. Unfortunately the branch mostly struggles to get by on the power of its system and the simple fact that it is, well, a library. The staff seemed to be more of the sadly sleeping kind we'd been seeing all day, but also ventured out into even more strange territories of the often tragic human landscape. Strange hints of paranoia and an emotionally questionable "Friends" group rounded out the picture of this odd and uninspiring library. But, in the end, it is a library. So...
70 out of 100

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Outrage! Live stories of life and death from the stacks.

I am speed shelving along in order to maybe get a few moments to write. This kind of intense, high energy work always makes me a bit high strung. Add to that the fact that our chronic temperature control problem has the genre stacks at a humid 81 degrees (I like to think of it at this point as a chronic Property Manager problem, but it could be a building design problem. I'd just like to know who i can safely blame!). And add to that the fact that my cart, with its "In order" magnet on it, is only sort of in order (again, who's to say that the person who put this cart in order didn't look feverishly for a magnet that said "Sort of in order" only to be rushed to the hospital with heat exhaustion before they could find one?). My ire is raised further by a forced delay to fix someones confusion over the fact that "Andersen" and "Anderson" are merely homophones, the important part here about homophones being that they are spelled differently. When I finish untangling these I grab the next book and my ire crests. This book does not belong in romance, it belongs all the way back at the start of the mystery section. The author is Arnaldur so it's way back. Normally this would be a less terrible journey, but in this crushing heat I could easily collapse, and, separated from my life sustaining cart, perish amongst the dry and barren Hillermans. As I fume at this costly error of sorting I notice the book title. It is Outrage

I so love it when the book titles talk to me, tease, echo, cajole, suggest. Instantly I calm down. Outrage indeed. I peacefully shelve out the rest of my cart. The books can be so charming sometimes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Clerk Code (1.1)

A code. What fun! Clerks should definitely have a code to guide them, to keep them pure of heart and noble, wise and true, righteous and strong. I thought it would be a great thing to put on my blog so I looked around for someone to write this code. I was thinking it could be done by a really good writer, maybe, but also one with some clerking experience. Of course, naturally, Melville came to mind. Shyness and the vagaries of blogging delayed me, but eventually I wrote him a short, but very polite letter that I'd like to think was quite convincing. Unfortunately when I sought his address I stumbled upon information indicating he had passed on. What a loss! A mere 122 years ago now and I'm kicking myself for being such a procrastinator!

So fine. Fine. I'll give it a spin. All by myself, or, maybe with your help if you have any ideas that you're willing to share. The code doesn't feel like the sort of thing to pop out of one lone blogger all perfect all at once. It's too big and important for that. I am thinking of it being just a tiny bit more Talmudic in nature, or like a Wikipedia article. I'm thinking actually this is more how the ten commandments should have been done.  Maybe I could start here with a rough feel for it, and then just sort of update, add to, and refine it according to inspiration, comment, suggestions, and celestial visions. A work in progress if you will, and then, after a few hundred years of this, when we feel it's all lined up and as ringing true as we can imagine, we'll lock it down. Don't feel like you can't use the clerk code in your workplace right away, just recognize that the code is in more of a beta state, and as you are guided by it, think of yourself more as a field tester than an acolyte, an agent more than an adherent.

The Clerk Code
version 1.1

1. Look down not up.
With the paltry organizational and societal powers of the clerk, we tend to look up the ladder of power and compensation in two detrimental ways. We covet and glorify what those above us have, and we dwell on, understand and ascribe importance to those above us. Our attention fills out these people, makes them more complex and makes their actions have more meaning. We make them more human. Meanwhile those hierarchically below us, offering less danger and less glamour and less possibility of personal advancement, recede from our vision and become clerical things to be dealt with, more like shelving, or emptying a bin. But the only true way to defeat the ignominy of clerkdom is to look down. Struggle to dwell on how you think the way you respond to the shy volunteer will make them feel, rather than, for instance, what your bosses strange greeting to you meant. Think less of the Board's absurd new policy and their reasoning behind it and more of how you can safely transcend and subvert that policy to bring justice and happiness to lowly patrons. I am not saying those above us in power and compensation are less human than those below us, only that the relentless default and encouragement of our society and our problematic nature leads us overwhelmingly to seeing them as more human. Looking down not up is the corrective.

2. Do the job that needs to be done, not the job you are supposed to do, unless you might get in trouble for that.
Being the puppet agent of either an institution or a superior leads only to being a monster. You must fight to remain conscious that your actions and choices are always yours, and even a compromised action should be understood as such and suffered.

3. Find and expand the delightful parts of your job.
Even if the delightful parts of your job are out on the edge of your job, do them. If you love to discuss Vivaldi with a compatible co-worker discuss Vivaldi with them. Prioritize it and do it as safely as possible. Don't treat it as an accident or goofing off just because a boss would be inclined to think it is.

4. A full time work week is 20 hours a week.
This is a guess, but anything more is a lie we are told and tell ourselves. We do not (yet) have the power to enforce this directly, but it remains true nonetheless. Therefore you should try to do a really good job half the time. Go for it. See how good a job you can do. Pick good spots, especially ones that will effect your co-workers and the public. The other 20 hours are an extremely complicated free time. Keep it honest.

5. See yourself in your co-workers.
That deadbeat that takes an extra ten minutes for break, that stands there chatting to someone for 15 minutes while you're racing around, that got a cushy assignment for the hour and is, apparently, enjoying it, that leaves you mysteriously alone at the front desk for five minutes with a crowd, that hardly got any shelving or transit processing done because they were running around doing their own things. That person is you too. No, seriously, that person is you too.

6. Be grateful but not too grateful.
Co-worker Carol used to sometimes say fervently "We are lucky to have these jobs." And she really meant it. And she was right. But she didn't also mean that they were lucky to have us and that we deserved those jobs, which we did. Contrary to what you've heard, the world does owe you a living, because you are you, and you are beautiful.

Okay, that's our start. I know many of my readers are not big commentators, but this is the place, what with it being for the ages and all, so chime in. I'll re-post this periodically whenever we do changes and updates. And don't feel like you have to be a "Clerk" clerk. I've been reading the definition of 'clerk'. Everyone is a clerk sometimes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Expedition Luncheon at Chimborazo, an interlude

 Dave and I stumbled out of our second Minneapolis Library, bloated with knowledge and materials (actually, no, we didn't check anything out, and though I suppose our knowledge did increase I'm pretty sure we weren't staggering on the sidewalk with the weight of it, but then it does seem like a memory lapse is just the sort of thing that might go along with a sudden, massive surge in knowledge). I managed to get in the jeep, despite a small unlocking-my-door fiasco, before any aggressive young toughs approached us and said insulting things about our ability to understand Faulkner. I don't know whether to attribute this to our speedy getaway or to the scrupulous presence of the Northeast Library's security guard. I think he was 6' 10" in his stocking feet and looked as if he would brook none of the Faulknerian shenanigans that so plague our public library parking lots.

It was lunch time. Oh how happy we were. Though Dave and I are now deep students of libraries we are even deeper students of Lunch! Chosen for lunch, from actually a few possible good choices, was Ecuadorian food up the street at the well regarded Chimborazo. Dave at one point looked out the window of the Northeast Library and laughed and said "There's our restaurant."  Yes, across the street from the library was an Ecuadorian Restaurant. But not our Ecuadorian Restaurant. Who knew that Northeast Minneapolis is home to several thousand Ecuadorian Restaurants? And did you know that the National dish of Ecuador is not Guinea Pig, it is Ceviche? Guinea Pig is just something they eat in the mountainous regions. I am thinking maybe their National dish should be llapingachos (a kind of potato pancake). Let Peru have the Ceviche.

Right, so, the restaurant. We sighted it and parked successfully. (I can't believe I just said that about sighting and parking successfully. Of course we did! I will totally edit that out as soon as I am not so busy blogging). The restaurant was nice and quiet inside. I didn't take notes as I thought I was on break from reviewing, but my impression is clean and nice divey casual. Does that make sense? Can something be a dive and clean and nice? I don't know. But I liked it in there.

The waitress was nice and enthusiastic about the food. As Dave and I were still uncontrollably in interview mode we asked both her and the guy seated on the other side of the restaurant, eating alone, many questions. Dave's questions were mainly about food, but I was, early on, wildly convinced by their Ecuatoriano Vegitariano and had no questions there. I did have questions about soda. I ended up getting an Inca Cola. I really liked the heavy bottle. I don't believe the man misled me when he compared the flavor to Fruity Pebbles, though I would say that it is more simply a bubble gum flavored soda. I do not regret my purchase though I did not manage to drink much of it. It was purchased in the spirit of novelty. I also got coffee which was good and served (when Dave asked for it) with cream in a little pitcher rather than some insane little plastic containers of sort of cream.

Okay, all that taken care of I will cut to the food. Dave got the Ecuatoriano Vegitariano as well. It consisted of:

Stewed Beans, so surprisingly good that I got beans the next time I went shopping

Rice, fine, properly cooked, white, just... rice. Dave did not finish his.

Llapingachos, loved this, a flavorful sort of fried pancake of mashed up potatoes with cheese in the middle. The potatoes were orange which made Dave think maybe they were sweet potatoes, but I did not think so as they tasted, well, very potatoey. The potatoes, it turns out, were orange because of the ground Achiote seeds in them.

Muchin de yuca, this was not too interesting, and, actually, as I am really keen on Yuca fries, it was kind of dissappointing too, just a sort of round fried thing with some cheese in the middle, certainly not bad, but not notable in any way.

Sweet Plantain, not much of it, just a single, thicker diagonal slice, but really tasty, had some strange soft crunch in it I couldn't figure out, something with the ripeness of the plantain? That part was good but curious too.

Curtido, I think that this is the salad, and, again, it's the little things that make a restaurant like this. Romaine lettuce, very lightly dressed, with two lovely slices of avocado on top.

Dave loved very much the small cup of cilantro based sauce it all came with. I liked it without enthusiasm. Since, let's face it, I am giving a review here, let's say 90 out of 100 for Chimborazo, a nice place, nice staff, very good food, not just recommended, but worth a trip since you probably don't have a lot of opportunities to go to Ecuadorian Restaurants (apologĂ­as a mis lectores en Quito).

And so I leave our interlude here, and next we'll be on our way to the St. Anthony Library in Minneapolis, where I will again review like crazy.

Signing off from the field.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My monthly allowance of peevishness at librarians

Today I wanted a copy of The Fellowship of the Rings. They were all checked out. I flew into a rage, but all quiet like, inside, and plotted my revenge on my blog. Then I rubbed my hands together and chuckled maniacally. I have always wanted the librarians to pay for these sorts of things, but I never, until now, had such sweeping blog powers! And now I'm drunk on it. And now our Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy collection buyer shall rue the day she took her eyes off the Tolkien collection!

On second thought, I think maybe all those "If I were King of the Library" posts may have gone to my head. Perhaps I can instead speak of this civilly. Almost civilly? Only just a wee, tiny touch deranged? And if I'm a bit too tough on the librarians maybe we can chalk it up to a series of years, now almost long past, where I toiled in my library's wildly understaffed circ pit, while the librarians mainly got to surf the internet and do occasionally mildly interesting things. As a dear, but now moved on colleague of that era used to like to say, "Good times."

The main thing wrong here with the absence of The Fellowship of the Rings is one that I find librarians get wrong often. I call it "The Series Problem", which I just invented now to sound professorial. It is based on idle observation and surmise, which is way less tiring than the semi-related "Scientific" approach. It says that in any multiple book narrative series that is popular (and not primarily new), the first book will always get checked out more, way, way more. So much more that most librarians can't process it and so under buy it. Everyone who wants to try the series starts with the first book and many go no further. Most deep fans will go back to the first book to reread, but may not go on in round 2 or 7 of their rereads. And with all the heavy reads the problem is compounded as more of the first book is lost or read into pieces. On top of all this there is a good reason to actually overstock the first of a series. People tend to stumble upon the desire or recommendation for the series and so want that starting point right away, whereas if they find it engaging, they have time to plan out and wait for further books in the series, as they are still reading the first. All of this applies a little less strongly to mystery series which can have a tolerance for jumping in, and more thoroughly for the strong sequential narratives that tend to appear in fantasy. This is why we end up with zero The Fellowship of the Rings on our shelves, but six Return of the Kings. I went and did a random test of this and, I'm a little embarrassed to say, but not too embarrassed to say, it made me feel very clever. I sampled the Harry Potter series. My branch is hanging by a thread with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. There are 11 copies checked out and just one on the shelf. And of book seven in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? There are 15 checked in, and just four checked out. I don't shelve in the kids room so only go to those stacks if Juvenile fiction is what I'm reading or helping someone with, but my god, those later books get thick. There must be a wall of Harry Potters in there right now!

There is a curious corollary between "The Series Problem" and the chronic library problem concerning musical artists in regards to their early career recordings vs. their late career recordings. But perhaps I'll save that for another time. There is also the issue of what I call "Popular Classics" or "New Classics" of which I suspect Fellowship of the Rings is a slight victim. This has a lot to do with different kinds of popularity, but perhaps that too is a discussion for another day. The last problem is that I never seem to hear librarians talking about these problems, fussing, obsessing, asking. And so it raises my ire not just from the disappointment, but from the sense that it is less an accident and more an inevitable result of disengagement. I saw plenty of signs of that disengagement on my tour of Minneapolis Libraries, but it's another thing to see it in my own dear genre stacks. Luckily I had saved four whole weeks of my peevishness allowance for such an occasion as this. And now it's spent.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

If I Were King of the Library, The Second Decree

Now that the King (me) has solved the shelving issue (see the first "If I were King"), what about the fun? 

Fun goes to the passionate! Every quarter (that's 4 times a year!) we fund pet projects. Who can apply? Anyone who works there! Hell, longtime volunteers can apply too, and my blog readers! What do we fund it with? Time and money and space. Oh, then hmph, grumble, and how do we pay for this?

Aha. The king puts his money where his mouth is. All the other functions of the library are hereby stripped to the bare bones. Acquisitions are greatly reduced. Classes are reduced. Programming is reduced. The library is simplified and reduced to its basics, and everything that it loses there is filled back in by these pet projects. How do we choose these pet projects? We vote, everyone votes. Everyone has to read every proposal and everyone votes on every project. So, um, can we see an example? Yes. We will pick something simple and basic lest you think the whole thing will be too much of a carnival.

Sylvia is a kids librarian and she likes being a kids librarian, but she loves jazz. She can't stop thinking about jazz. She listens to it for hours and hours every night with her cat Thelonious. She wants a jazz corner at the library. As befits a library she believes it should be materials oriented. There will be a deep, deep master collection of CDs, the best of DVDs, books and even some long forgotten record albums. There will be a detailed and heavily stocked "Suggested" section as well. She wants a largish chunk of money and the equivalent of 2 hours a day to work on it. She also wants the maximum time for it. 2 years. After 2 years she would have to apply for some kind of renewal.

Okay, there's your example. Let's say there are not a lot of super great projects that quarter (or, heck, there are other great projects, but this one is still very popular and people trust Sylvia) and Sylvia gets fully funded. What really does the library end up with?

Instead of a mediocre CD collection (like nearly every public library I have ever been to), we get, well, a little bit more mediocre CD collection, and one, ferociously beautiful, destination Jazz collection. The kind that inspires people to explore Jazz by its own radiating conviction. We get a happy employee contributing their masterful knowledge and deep energy, and we get personality and depth. And oh yes, we wake up! I just went to three Minneapolis libraries. They were varying degrees of okay to a little bit lousy but not totally terrible. But they were mostly so absolutely asleep! The staff was asleep! The collection was asleep! The libraries were asleep. Just, wake up! Libraries can be beautiful. They can be adventures! They can be quiet and studious and calm and keenly awake. Yes, yes, they can be partly responsive to simple popularity, they should be, responsive to their statistical measures and the pull, and even the wonders of Big Media, but they can also be personally curated. Museums of art. Places of personal conviction and insider knowledge, of mercurial and fierce fandom!, where items are part of the collection because someone in the system unreservedly believes in it. Places where the forgotten that should not be forgotten is held on to, and places where the luminous depths of our culture can emerge out of the flotsam and resolve itself into the amazed and enlightened hands of its constituents. We need only be awake, and free, and care.

I can think of 20 more examples beyond Sylvia's Jazz without effort. And though tempted to run on endlessly with my visions I believe, reluctantly, especially reluctantly if I get to be King, in Democracy. So I think you should think of some of your own simple or mad ideas. I think you could, if you let yourself. Leave them here with me. When I am King we'll see about getting them funded. I think your project will win the votes necessary to get you going on your mad or simple dream, and our library will be magic.

So it is decreed, this day, etc. etc.

The King.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review Expedition: The Northeast Library

The original header here said this was a less exhaustive review than my last one, of Pierre Bottineau, which went on rather for awhile. But, as it turns out, this one rather goes on and on as well. So here is an exhaustive (but still idiosyncratic)... 

Review of the Northeast Library in Minneapolis Minnesota

Phase 2 of the Review Expedition

All categories get a score! They are out of 100, with usual school grading applying wherein 75 is a straight up "C" and everything under 50 is just there to express various levels of pique.

Preamble and Arrival
Dave and I drove back the way we came and headed north on Central. This is a very interesting street, not so much architecturally, as it's just big and retail, but it's super multi-ethnic and diverse and all that. There are quite a few Central American, and Middle Eastern restaurants, but also a very good Co-op. I had a wrong address for the library, but as the jeep gripped fanatically to the road surface Dave was easily able to adapt to our sighting of the library (earlier than expected, on the left) and get us into a parking lot in the back. The library was newish, with a pleasing enough contemporary industrial design. Dave commented positively on it inside which made me look more favorably upon it and all its metal beams and wood and skylights. I liked how the library just fronted right up on the sidewalk and I was aware how rare it is that I find a really urban library that fits well in a commercial district without setting back more from it. I guess I'll go swipe a picture. I'd credit the photographer but I couldn't figure out who it is.

For first impressions and all that:
81 out of 100

 Building and Public Art
That whole arrival thing covers a lot of the building. I'll add more about inside. The library was a very open plan, and there was something a bit static about its layout design, but this is something I feel a little ill-equipped to judge. I know there's that balance of needing to keep things very public and visible so that people are less able to get up to trouble, but the nooks and diverse spaces are what can make libraries so appealing and interesting. This library had a massive, not very friendly security guard roaming the space and a desk set up that really seemed designed for keeping an eye on things. So, while I was not keen on it, I also don't know what kind of chronic problems they've experienced there. The desks looked onto the entrance and the banks of computers that dominated the center of the library and caused me to coin the phrase "Computeraries" which my computer does not yet recognize as a word. I know internet access is huge for today's libraries but I'd love to see those growing banks of terminals integrated into the design better, perhaps more discreetly.

As to public art I didn't see anything of any note, which seems especially sad considering its culturally rich neighborhood. This had a surprising impact to me because it really made the building feel uninvolved in the community.

72 out of 100

Random Generic Library Measure

Number of Agatha Christie books on shelf: 36, really quite good for a smaller to medium branch.
88 out of 100 

Bathroom Check

 One wanders into the only thing that could slightly be called a "wing", sort of in the back right of the library, to easily find the bathrooms. From the security guard and the feel of the library I'd think they'd be combating junkies shooting up in there and that the bathrooms would thus be pretty rough, but no! These were individual use bathrooms in super nice condition. I was inspired to even use the bathroom! My only small complaint is that the Hennepin Library System apparently uses the cheapest, most flimsy paper towels ever made and their dispenser jammed after some strange partial piece of towel dissolved on my wet fingers. Ah well, it is more ecologically friendly to dry my hands on my pants anyway.
92 out of 100

 Can I hang my flier for my blog with a sticky note on it saying "this library to be reviewed soon!"?

 I got the exact same answer here as at the Pierre Bottineau branch, leave it with them and they'll check with, I don't know, their executive director of sign posting, who tours the branches to determine what signs can go up. I'd be happy to bump the score up a little if someone comments that they found this blog from the posting that was hung up at the Northeast Library, but for now
62 out of 100

Coffee Shop?

5 blocks south is a place called Diamonds which I am actually curious to try, but have not yet had the opportunity. For now this seems good enough. You can probably get fairly good coffee at the nearish co-op too.
83 out of 100

Librarian one: The Collection Question

Do they have The King of the Schnorrers by Israel Zangwill. First, I should say the librarian desk person was oddly at the side of said desk, like the desks were something to be avoided. She was working on a small laptop perched on a partition. To help me she moved back to the computer on the desk. I had to spell "Schnorrers", though I recognize this is not unreasonable. They didn't have it. I was offered no further options. Interest, Interlibrary loan options, and or commiseration all would have done much to improve the score here.

Score for library collection (and I realize this is a small fit of pique as the book has horrifically fallen into obscurity, but as we'll see they have over a million books!):
35 out of 100

Score for Librarian
60 out of 100

 Librarian two: The Reference Question

How many books are there in the entire collection? She sort of laughed and said "No." (I can't remember, was my question "Do you know how many..."?). Then, in that 'oh yeah, I'm supposed to be a librarian' way that was starting to become familiar, she added "There's over a million in Central."  So, a lot, but not King of the Schnorrers.
62 out of 100

Librarian three: The Free Form Question

What does she think of the Pierre Bottineau Library? She did pretty well here. She said it was quiet and quaint. We chatted briefly about its circulation, which was low. She had an opinion and shared it. I didn't get any inside scoops though.
84 out of 100


Sadly Dave did not try again for a card and I didn't do anything at Circ either, so I am cautious about judging too hard. What I took to be the Circ Man was standing a fair bit back and sideways to the desk, in conversation with someone for what seemed to be the whole time we were there. Oddly the staff struck me as treating the desks, which seemed nice enough and well enough situated, as faintly contaminated. Circ may have been great if we engaged him, who knows. So keep in mind we go on very little here.
73 out of 100

Random Personal Search for Item

Okay, once again I'm going to get way too emotional here. I looked for Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. This is arguably the greatest album by, again, arguably, but it's a good argument,  the single most important artist of any kind of his generation, who, it is important to note, actually recorded this album in Minneapolis, with local musicians. In Minneapolis! And they have like 3 or 4 copies total in the collection. Of course they are all checked out! Yes I am giving into a fit of pique once more, but geez, it's like if the Stratford upon Avon Library system didn't have Hamlet. "Yeah, but it's in a book of his collected plays, we've got a couple of those. But, hmm, looks like they're checked out." Actually, I wrote this, then went to the Stratford upon Avon website and checked, and I'm really not sure this isn't sort of the case. I can't quite tell, but if it is they get the same score here as below!
11 out of 100

 Summary and Final Score   
The Northeast Library in Minneapolis is a new, modern, clean building in an interesting and diverse urban area of Northeast Minneapolis. Its static and  prepared for the worst qualities are a little hard to judge without knowing just what issues they contend with. But the building did feel safe and clean if a little bland, which could conceivably be because of all their preparation. The library is a place you could hang out in, but with few extra incentives to do so. Casually, and possibly a little unfairly, the staff seemed at least somewhat disengaged, and fairly speaking this time, that was actually borne out in what interactions we did have. To my mind the library is haunted by collection issues that make me wonder exactly what librarians are up to. I find it hard, with all its moderate plusses and minuses here to venture anywhere away from a dead average score. But I am suspecting that is a bit high and reflects on my standard getting slowly crushed down, alas.
75 out of 100