Monday, March 31, 2014

And so it is just us

I was shelving once again. I had my cart and me in my roughly four foot wide space between the bookshelves. A woman was coming through and I needed to make some space for her. And I was off onto the subject of this post.

My initial thought on the right of way in the fiction stacks is that I, who am working, have primacy. I am moving through. I am benefiting the community as a whole with my shelving. I can be worked around. My tireless labor must be respected. But when I think about this again I understand that naturally I want to see it this way. It is more convenient to me. I am shelving. I have my rhythm and my goals. I have my bubble, and I want everyone to stay out of my way. 

But the truth is, I am being paid. And paid, as I am, my time is less valuable because it is rewarded by default. If I defer to a patron in the "F's", and have to stand around for a minute, maybe writing some amusing observations down on my pad of post it notes (oh how you will laugh when I tell you!), I will be receiving roughly 35 cents in the process. If a patron stands around for a minute to let me work my way through, they start out not with spare change, but rather by losing a minute of their precious life. They're on their own for any rewards to pull from the situation beyond that. Both of us may or may not make some extra use of our waiting minute, but only I get a quarter and a dime no matter what.

So with all this in my mind, as the lady passed through, in my row where I was shelving like a madman, I stopped shelving and pulled my cart all the way over. Way over. I reduced my space consumption a bare third of the aisle space available, all at the cost of my time and workflow, so that she could proceed without much slowing or delay in her time, which was precious. The space was open. We nodded politely as she passed through, and then she crashed into my cart.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

And the gates shut

Here are golden tickets. Here are ancient and complicated keys, and some arcane passwords to let you in here. Here is a map. Yes, that's you on the map! See, if you turn your head the little stick figure on the map turns its head too! Here are mysterious instructions with little puzzles, you have to press the bricks in the right order. Notice how the bricks look like letters if you look at them right. B-R-R-A-I-Y-L. Here is a portal stone, activate it anywhere. Walk through and it comes out right here.

There is a "Follow by Email" window on the right side of this blog. You sign up and here blooms into your den or office or workstation like a magical clockwork, a pop-up book. Here is an enchanted guidebook. You open it once and it shows you a secret path through the ivy, open it again, a transporting spell that's easily concocted out of a few bird feathers and a bit of coffee grounds, open it again and it simply tells you to type "clerkmanifesto" into any search engine. The guide book has but one page, but it's different every time you open it, and, of course, it always tells you a way to get here. This steaming vial, all glowing green, has a potion that when swallowed allows you to pass through the stone walls surrounding this place like they are mere illusions, which they very well may be. The vial refills on its own in time.

So take whatever you want. Take keys and potions and enchanted guides. Yes, I have another of the guides, here you are. The golden tickets? Just brandish one at any gate or door and instantly I will be there letting you in. Sure, take as many as you like. Take all five golden tickets.

Okay, is everyone all set? Does everyone have what they want? Good, now I will tell you what's up.

Picture this blog as a castle, a grand Kyotoesque amusement park, a library of dreams. No, wait, picture this blog as an elaborate half-mad Chocolate Factory. Or picture it how you like, but let it be a place. Part of me lives in this place, and everyday I make something new here to see and do. I love this. So I keep doing it and will continue to keep doing it, maybe forever. Who knows. And everyday people come, you, you come, with your ancient keys and enchanted guidebooks and your email subscriptions, through secret passages and prior knowledge. You may not even know that there is a grand entrance to this place, so accustomed as you are with your own route and way, that there is a grand entrance with whimsical carvings of imaginary animals and famed bookpeople, velvet banners and exotic flowers, great walls of stone and glorious golden and iron gates flung wide open in a 24 hour welcome. You may never use these gates, or ever enter that way, but it is our subject today. It is our subject because after today, after this post, I am shutting and locking those public gates. Mosses and molds will bloom on the statuary. The great path leading to the gates will sprout weeds. The delicate, exotic flowers lining the Promenade will die, and then they will stand in skeletal dominion over nothing. The golden brick path will crack, and no one will ever enter again through the main gates. And, perhaps even more importantly, no one will leave again by the main gates. Not even me.

Yes, everyday I make something new here. And I love it. But most days, not all days, but many, many days I venture out of my great gates and seek visitors. I walk out the beautifully kept, quiet grand avenue that leads to my gates, and out into the bustling Internet. Out there I ask people to come visit my blog. "Hey Mister." I say. "Hey Lady." I say. I post notices where I can. The denizens of the Internet sometimes tear them down faster than I can put them up. Mostly I am treated as a nuisance while things that appall me seem respected. Most people seem unkind, or disinterested, or think I am doing something I am not. Mostly I feel ignored, even when people walk down my elaborate avenue, through my glorious gates, and into my blog. "Meh." They mostly say. And they walk out without looking at anything but the first thing they see. Hundreds of them, maybe even thousands of them now. Every once in awhile someone is kind to me. "Sure, I'll go to your blog." They say. And they go and look around. It makes me feel happy. They say "It's very nice. I'll come back." And sometimes they do. This all is called marketing. I am not good at it. I don't think I like it. It draws me like a moth, or an alcoholic. I know I don't like it.

I go out in the Internet and I post my notices on Google Plus pages of all kinds, on Facebook, on Reddit, on a Bob Dylan site, whatever seems appropriate for the moment, for the day's event on the blog. And people come, sometimes. They come for their one visit. Through my gates and out. Maybe they even get caught by my sign a second time and come again, hardly remembering their first time. "Huh." they say. And they go.

I hate them.

I really don't want to hate them, but I hate them all, fiercely. I hate everyone who has come here once and just once. I hate Facebook and Expecting Rain the Bob Dylan Website and Google Plus and all its myriad pages I have added to, the library page and the wisdom page, and the humor page. And I also hate everyone who has never come here. I hate Stumbleupon and implacable search rankings and spam comments, and Reddit, god how I hate Reddit, and I hate everywhere I have every posted. I despise and loathe them all. I wish a plague on them, terrible things. And I don't want to. I really don't want to. But I do.

I am not unalterably, unremittingly opposed to hatred and bitterness, but I know their dangers and how rarely they can be employed for profit. And I know that most of my unusable hatred and bitterness in all this is stirred by my leaving myself, and by leaving here.

So I am closing the gates. I will not venture out again. Ever. For any reason. And I will not invite anyone in. They must find the way on their own. The main entrance is shut. It is locked. And it is done. I will not market seriously or in jest. I will not market hopelessly or dreaming great things. I will not market at all. The gate, ponderous, swings and clicks locked. I wrap it in thick chains and lock those. I toss the key into a nearby sewer grate.

You with your golden tickets and guidebooks and email subscriptions, with your clerkmanifesto Firefox bookmark and magic potions remain ever welcome. Your visit is treasured. You can bring anyone you want anyway you want, come and go as you please. There are no restrictions. I don't think anything will really change in this for you. As I said, most of you have never even seen the Gates. All the thousand secret entrances remain fiercely open. Clerkmanifesto will remain as it always was.

But for me I will watch the toy numbers of all my viewers drop, like a leaky balloon when the air stops being pumped into it. I will try not to look at numbers. Eventually I will make a tenuous peace with that. I will struggle over and over to keep to my vow, and I will never leave here again.

I will go into my tower, or my workshop, or to my post it notes in the fiction stacks. I will go to my computer in my icy basement, and I will make things. Everything I can think of. And the lights will go up. There will be fireworks and rare coffees and chocolate rivers and paragraphs about nothing and everything. It will be a wonderland and a fire and a close look at almost nothing, words and lies and everything Lao-Tzu dreamed a blog would be.

But never again will it be for a stranger of any kind.

Forever more it will only be for me, and this, and us.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How to make an Internet list

Sometimes, right here on clerkmanifesto, I make a list, an Internet list. Because I have now made rather a few of these lists people have begun to ask me "Hey, how do you make an Internet list?", or they would ask me if it ever came up. But sometimes things only come up when they want to come up, and then they really, really take their time about it and only finally come up when no one appropriate is around to be asked about it. So that is why I thought it would be a good idea if I set down, in a conveniently accessible spot, my guide to:

How to make an Internet list

1. Pick a number for your list. This is single most important element of your list and must go first. Ten is very popular, but a number like six can indicate seriousness and a commitment to the weightiness of each list item. I picked eight before I had the faintest whiff of an idea of this.

2. Pick a subject. You have to match this to your number. If you chose twenty, for instance, you don't want a subject like "Fundamental concepts of Lao-Tzu" as you will quickly get stretched way too thin. You would be better off here with "The twenty ways of spelling Lao-Tzu's name". But beyond this issue of matching, the subject itself is as inconsequential as a blank canvas.

3. Always begin with your most important point. Don't hold back for later. If your list is "Five things I love about the color green" you may start with  "1. My God! It's green! What else could anyone ask for?"  This throws down the gauntlet. Your readers are on the one hand dazzled, thinking "The whole list has already been justified and completed in the first point!" and tantalized "What could possibly be number two now?"

4. Throw in a short, curt one.

5. Somewhere around the middle of your list, open out your subject. This isn't just about green, or Lao-Tzu, it's about us spinning in all the vastness of space, doomed and magical. It's about how lists themselves are avenues to spiritual awakening even when they're about "My eight favorite pairs of shoes I ever had".

6. If you go too weighty it's a good idea to get a little bit self deprecatingly humorous  to break things up a bit, as in "16. Loua tsee, which is a spelling variation no one has used before, but I was so overwhelmed by my list I went and got drunk."

7. Make sure you haven't left anything out. You want to get that kind of thing in before the end. "4. Almost every plant in the world is green!" This adds a burst of urgency and life to your list.

8. Ending your list is more straightforward than with a piece of prose. In fact, you kind of don't want to draw too much attention to the ending. It's not a story or a conclusion, merely the last item. Pick something that might have worked well enough at any other location in your list.

And now you are fully prepared to make an Internet list of your own! I mean, should it come up. Which it could, I mean, it keeps doing so for me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Service improvements

In the days leading up to our very recent In Service Day we had lots of signs up about how we were going to be closed for "Service Improvements". Patrons asked me several times about these service improvements. Seeing my job as rather more oriented towards providing accurate information (with a small slice of optional entertainment and social commentary on the side), and less oriented towards obfuscating in order to make my library system look better, I always responded to these queries with "No. There are no service improvements coming. We're just closing for In Service Day. There must have been some sort of mix up with the signs."

I suppose, theoretically, a day of informational programming, like In Service Day, could improve something in my library. Maybe it even did. I didn't go to this one so I cannot say absolutely for sure. I also cannot say for sure that aliens didn't freeze everyone at the In Service Day for just a brief minute in order to take some harmless DNA samples before unfreezing everyone. And I won't say. I'm keeping mum on both of those.

I will say this though. I think the whole day would have been far more productive if the whole staff went out for coffee and pastry at Rustica (our town's best bakery), followed by hot air ballooning, followed by a champagne toast. And I think the sign on the door should have said "The library is closed because the whole staff is off hot air ballooning". As much as I think libraries should be open practically all the time, I think this would have been good for everyone involved, even the angry patrons turned away at our doors.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why my library is better than yours

In the great scheme of things, in the world as it should be, my library sucks. I could make a list of 1,000 things that suck about my library. I could start from the little (our fireplaces are gas, not wood burning), and ascend to the largest (each week we spend far more hours closed that we do open). My whole blog could be devoted to the things I would fix, in a fantasy world, about my library and the things that are wrong with my library (see all my links on the right to my series "If I were King of the library" if you want a start on that). But in this world, our cruel world whose misdeeds I need not catalog to anyone sensible, my library is great. It may not be better than yours because libraries are all just great from the start, merely for being what they are amid this mess, but in the majority of cases, enough for me to confidently title this piece after it, my library is better than yours. I mean, unless your library is my library. Then, tie.

Our administrators, the library world, those library magazines and National Librarian Conventions might like to sell you a lot of soap about why my library is better, things about dynamic programs and services and unique features and innovation, but that's all secondary stuff. That's all soap. It's the big stuff that makes my library better. Big, fat, unglamorous stuff. Hours, building, access. I have been to enough libraries to know where my library falls in the rankings of these absolute fundamentals. We are, objectively, pretty crappy, relatively, we are outstanding.

We are open 63 hours a week. Not many public libraries are open that many hours. Some small number are, and a small number inch past us as well, though even then, rarely by much. Nevertheless I doubt we are in anything less than the top 5 percent. Do you want to improve your library? The conversation starts here, more hours. Everything else, while by no means negligible, tends to be small time.

Our building is Leed certified Gold and has won many Architectural awards. Pfui. My library looks eerily similar to a Library in Berlin built more than 30 years earlier than mine, and by any sensible standard my library is a study in small frills, generic, modern, conventional library design. No big high marks there for us. But we are big without being overwhelming. There is a reasonable array of seating choices and environments, and our large, workmanlike collection of books and computers again puts us in the upper ranks. We still have books. A lot. And you can sit somewhere relatively quiet. And there is virtually always an internet computer available.

Finally, we will, if we can, get you access. First off, we are easy to get to and have much fully adequate free parking. We will get you on the internet without much fuss (though not absolutely no fuss). We have a fair variety of softer rules and we are pretty well motivated to get you cards, access, and items. Yes, a third of us will throw weird roadblocks in your way, be unhelpful, or make you go somewhere else in the library to get what you need, but that is the exception. It goes against our culture. There a many other libraries I have encountered where you would have to be wildly lucky to encounter the sane permissiveness and wide ranging help you can usually take for granted at my library. You don't have your card? For god's sake I can use your license. You're not a dog I'm training to carry a library card! I can type your name. Do you just want to get on the Internet? Here's a pass. No questions asked. The Internet is not the key to our vault!

So there it is.  I say my library is better than yours. Make your best argument against it. But I don't want to hear about your 3D Printer classes, or your downloadable Automated Requesting Profiling Library Facebook App., or your dynamic community leadership. I want to know how many Nero Wolfe books are on the shelf now. Do you have a comfortable chair? Do you have a copy of Thomas King's Green Grass, Running Water and Kiki's Delivery Service in your system? Will my license suffice, and, and, AND, are you open? 

Oh? How late?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No fault in the stars

We'll start with our small, inconsequential story, fresh from the front desk, and see if it leads to any valuable life, or library, lessons.

An older woman, walking with the assistance of a cane, approaches me at the front desk. "Perhaps I should have asked about this upstairs" She begins "But there are supposed to be three copies of The Boleyn Inheritance on the shelf. There isn't even one up there!"

"That is odd." I say. I do not say that it is odd enough that I can safely put it at a more than 99 percent likelihood that this is due to her error. "I'll look it up." I add, and I search the catalog. There are indeed three copies of The Boleyn Inheritance that should be on the shelf. I tell her that so far I am finding what she has found. "I could go take a look and see if I can find you a copy." I say, eying her infirmities and fancying a medium length jog in our largish library to put the matter to rest.


I jog upstairs, pass the just ever so little bit slightly curious reference librarians, and go to "G" in fiction, as in "Gregory" as in "Gregory, Philippa" the author of The Boleyn Inheritance. On the bottom shelf, nestled happily together, as if for warmth, are three copies of the book in question. I pull the nicest of the three, and I dash back downstairs.

"They were there." I tell the lady. "But they were on the bottom shelf. It might have looked like the second to the last shelf was the end of the Gregorys. I just need your card and I can check it out to you."

"Oh, no." The woman says. "I'm leaving. I had just wanted to read it in the library."

She leaves.

Which suddenly reminds me of another very recent story. I am informed that one of the Men's Room stall toilets is horribly clogged up and overflowing. I seek out the people whose job it is to deal with this sort of thing. They are not enthusiastic. In the end I resolve that the simplest thing will be for me to personally assess and go from there. One toilet stall is fine. One toilet stall is maybe a little backed up. I try an exploratory flush. We are almost there. One more flush and the toilet is cleared. The job is done.

This reminded me not of another story, but of a fact to be noticed. More than half the time when people bring some issue to me at the desk, a story about a problem, or a flaw with our library, they are wrong. The fault is not in the stars, and we, the library, are the stars. They don't know how things work, why they work that way, or the kinds of mistakes that they themselves are prone to. But they are good at coming to all sorts of conclusions. It is stolen, or it is broken, or it is unjust.

Well, sometimes it is. But I suggest that you be thrice as thorough when you examine an unfamiliar error in a system you do not know well. And be humble about it when you bring it to the front desk. Should you skip being helpful and telling me about these things you might wrong about? No, no, it's all part of what I'm here for. I'm glad to see you, and I often enjoy a little jog.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ten reasons not to read this list of ten reasons not to read this list

1. The title sounds way too good to be for real and so is probably just more clickbait.

2. The whole thing looks like a bunch of convoluted negative circular repetitive negative convolutions!

3. Lists are for all the things you need to do, and there is nothing to do here. NOTHING!

4. Lists of ten are highly suspicious because it is too neat a number. Whoever wrote this list probably added two not very good reasons to this list, or maybe even edited an essential element out of this list just to get it to the standard, popular "ten" number.

5. No one in their right mind would make a list like this. If you're seeing it, you are probably hallucinating it as a result of spending too much time on the Internet. Get some fresh air and this list will probably disappear.

6. Internet lists always seem like fun reading, but ultimately leave you feeling empty and lonely and unappeasably hungry for more Internet lists.

7. The bitter taste one experiences when they realize they have been manipulated by reverse psychology lingers long in the mouth.

8. Without kittens, celebrities, self-help suggestions, pictures, recipes, or things to buy, this cannot be a for real Internet list, only a fake Internet list full of fake reasons!

9. Being of such an extremely contrary nature that you would read a list of reasons not to read this list will lead you to dark places in your life.

10. Reading this list that you shouldn't read will cause you to pass the secret test. You do not want to pass the secret test!

Monday, March 24, 2014


A slightly cynical person can easily see that there is an ulterior motive for everything, a secret self-serving reason for all our actions. I can very easily be that slightly cynical person, and yet I can also be quite the innocent, thinking that people are random and mercurial and sweet and full of heart. Sometimes a single event can flip me from one mode to the other. "Why is that young man taking that old ladies bag? Hey! HEY! what's... ah, he's helping her. I see. Wow, gosh, he sure is nice. And what lovely manners and facial tattoos." Or the other way "Wow, that sure is nice and thoughtful of my co-worker to take care of that before I replace her there! Oh, no, NO! She's just dumping it there. Ahhhhhh! She's just dumping it there to make it look like it wasn't her fault!"

But like many things there's a mostly complicated middle ground in play. Yesterday I was in the backroom with one of my colleagues. Someone from the front desk came back and asked if one of us could meet a patron at the back loading dock to help them in with multiple bags and boxes of donations. It was a volunteer situation with the caveat that one of us really had to do it. It's an infrequent sort of task, and though I'm not keen on it, I figured I was going to have to take care of it. To my surprise though my co-worker volunteered. I was particularly surprised because this was not one of my most giving, respected co-workers. Still, he has his qualities (though I generally find myself in the minority of those who will speak to them), and I was delighted to enjoy my release from this responsibility. I returned to the tasks at which I was engaged.

About ten or fifteen minutes later I had cause to wonder where my co-worker had gone, I think he was soon to replace me on the machine. I looked out the window. Whatever patron there was dropping off books was gone. My co-worker was smoking a cigarette and walking across the parking lot, apparently to his car. All the light bulbs in my head filled with electricity, and I could see. But here's the thing. It didn't matter. Sure, my co-worker likes helping with donations on the loading dock because it means a long cigarette break and the opportunity to hang out in the parking lot he so loves. But if someone needed help repairing the towel dispenser over by my espresso machine I could easily have had a similar response. All I know is that I didn't have to unload the patron's books and so am grateful for my colleague's efforts. There need be no cynical criticism, there need be nothing more than that simple truth.

The fact that he was five minutes late to relieve me on the machine is another, unrelated issue entirely. That's just how he rolls.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bringing down the quality

Two days ago I passed the first anniversary of this blog. If I have had one goal or strongly articulated ambition it was to blog daily for a year. I have now accomplished this. This leaves me with precisely one open spot for a new goal. I thought it might be nice to make a list of possibilities here before I pick one. I just want to lay a few of them out and take a good look at them.

1. Bring the quality level of this blog down a notch. I am not sure the Internet can take another year of this intense quality of blogging without my breaking the Internet altogether. I have been noticing a great deal of straining in the Internet's seams. If you look to the far right of your screen you may see a little bulging or unevenness. Yes, that's wear and tear from this blog.

2. Make my blog super secret, like one of those speakeasy bars you can only get into if you know the password, which, by the way, is "Swordfish". I wonder if there is a way to make it so that if you try to go to my blog it won't let you in without a secret password.

3. Pick just one character from Winnie the Pooh and attempt to blog for the whole year from their perspective. (Note to self: Do not pick Rabbit or Owl because they suck. Even Alexander Beetle would be better than Rabbit or Owl!)

4. Develop an overwhelming and unrelenting conviction of my geniusness, or get super humble and wise. But pick just one of the above for the whole year. The careening back and forth between the two has left me nauseous for about 80 percent of this past year.

5. Tell one lie in every post as a kind of ritual sacrifice.

6. Don't do anything other than write, no sharing, no posting anywhere, just me and my imaginary world that lives scant inches away from the real one.

7. Secede from the Internet and start my own, much better, Internet. Don't think I won't.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

More advice and rainbows

To the best of my knowledge none of my array of managers are aware of this blog. This may be the greatest, and perhaps only, benefit of the fact that my blog readers (hi!) do not like to discuss my blog in any way, but prefer to hold it secretly to their hearts, like a terribly delicate magical treasure of inestimable value that can bear no light or noise.

"Oh, yes." I might say in conversation "I wrote about that just yesterday in my blog."

"Mmm." Says the person I'm talking to, almost inaudibly. Then they drop their voice even more "I read it." And then they excuse themselves immediately to go to a nice, quiet, darkish room where they can make sure everything is okay and illuminated and full of secret rainbows and all that.

Or so I picture it, but I'm pretty sure I'm right. Why, after all, would I load up my blog posts with so many secret rainbows if it weren't like this?  And when it comes to my bosses continuing to not read my blog this intense reticence is a very helpful quality. One can not pick up on the chatter in an environment of disciplined radio silence.

Nevertheless I would like to offer a small piece of advice to my managers who do not read this.

If you should happen to come up to the fiction section on some random errand and stumble upon me, theoretically shelving, but actually at that moment intently writing on small post it notes, you should recognize a delicate situation. When I look up, startled out of deepest reverie, you should say, with all the sincerity you can muster "I absolutely trust that everything you do here is ultimately of benefit to the library. Never ever worry, and please do carry on."

And I will say "Thank you."

And then you can say, very quietly so as not to frighten anyone "If you are by any chance writing a blog, I would love more than anything to read it. I would never say anything about it, but would keep it in private pleasure and illumination to myself."

And I will say "I think maybe you already read my blog?"

And then you can say so quietly that I cannot hear you "Mmm." And then "Thank you." And then hurry off to a nice, calm, darkish room where you can check to make sure all the secret rainbows are okay.

Which they are.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seven pleasures of Finnegans Wake

As you may know from my recent post I have stumbled upon the wordlery wonderlandabus known as Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce. I have no clear idea yet what really differentiates it from a long screed scribbled in pencil by a deranged homeless person, but to my surprise I am sort of reading it a little, if, that is, we can stretch the concept of what reading is to include occasionally looking a chunks of printed material in a confused and wondering manner. I think I might really even like it. And as a person who has now "read" parts of dozens upon dozens of sentences in Finnegans Wake I am eager to share with you:

The Seven Virtues of Finnegans Wake


Sevenus virtuetides rollinguponus lolly and backus all the tithes fruiting forward

1. My library copy, dating from the sixties, is aged, but strangely fresh, as if many people checked it out but no one has ever read it. Someone did self importantly make little pencil checks and brackets along side the text, but abandoned the project at page nine.

2. It curiously and simultaneously makes me feel like I'm in way over my head with genius and yet that I could easily write like this too. Like, if I were at a conference with the most advanced physicists in the world and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but also had this weird sense for it and felt it was natural to me. If I thus spoke flowingly about these super advanced physics all but about 200 people would think I was speaking very amazing advanced physics. The 200 people though who knew the deep truths about these advanced physics though would think I was being a complete fool, which would be fair enough.

3. I constantly muse on the idea of giving up any idea of audience on my blog, any sense of service to a public. Yes, I imagine continuing to write publicly, but entirely devoted to my own sphere of imagination, writing like I'm in an isolation tank, seeking visions evoked by pure sensory deprivation. Finneagans Wake seems to whisper to me "Come, join me in this endeavor." Well, except it says it more like "Unifluctuous, regard the follwarple fabulists, dallyland the lownely upon."

4. Forty-five minutes with Finnegans Wake will make carefully reading Faulkner seem like one is skimming an article in People Magazine.

5. I love bringing up that I am haplessly reading minute bits of Finnegans Wake to my co-workers. They surprise me by looking all mercurial and mysterious and knowing. They give me the strange feeling that they have all read this book, but found it a tad challenging, and so remember it in an aching bittersweetness.

6. I like that none of the pages are dogeared. This may sound like a repeat of virtue number one, but now that it has been established that all my co-workers have read and practically memorized Finnegans Wake I am through with the "No one reads Finnegans Wake" jokes and find all the pristineness to be a symptom of the mystical reverence each borrower of this book holds for it. I myself have smeared no homemade aioli on my copy, unlike all the other thousands of library books I check out.

7.  If one reads a paragraph of Finnegans Wake aloud the comprehension rate goes from two percent to eight percent. If you read that paragraph 10 times the comprehension rate goes from eight percent to 37 percent. I have not ventured beyond this point, but the deep woods look like they go just about forever from there.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The hottest book of the year

One of the pleasures of working at a library is that we are sometimes privy to information about, or sometimes even preview copies of, books that are about to sweep a reading nation off its feet. Having idiosyncratic tastes I am rarely so convinced of the merits of one of these books that I am willing to put it all on the line and tell you about it, but today, by grace of a librarian I am not even allowed to mention, I got to spend about ten minutes with an advance reading copy of a book that is so hot that the price on one of these "not for resale" copies, put up for sale illegally on eBay, was bid up to over $5,000 before lawyers and the like shut it down. Normally I would say "Yeah, yeah, yeah." I think I even did, but all that skepticism was completely forgotten after I spent two minutes with this stunning book. As eager as I was to read more of this book, I instead spent my last five minutes with the book transcribing the back cover. I present it to you here, just as it was:

Olivia Destiny loves her boring job as a billionaire pirate sorcerer who solves the complications of ancient and cute space-faring kittens. But being the heir and daughter of the Emperor of the Universe is a bait that a mysterious and painfully charming vampire from another dimension cannot resist, and she is hurtled into a reckoning with her notorious rock star past. Her love for a gorgeous, grey-eyed bloodsucking monster may be the only thing that can save the tiny, adorable, space kittens who taught her to love in the first place.

Written in the inimitable style of Finnegans Wake, but with more Yiddish, and with the pleasing pacing of Remembrance of Things Past, this is the first novel to receive an eight figure advance, which it was given on the basis of a rough sketch of the first paragraph.

  • 114 city worldwide author tour with The White Stripes opening for each appearance.
  • Ten million first printing copies already pre-sold out. 
  • Releases June 1 in English, with a new language in translation releasing each day following to mid July to a total of 46 languages.

"Yeasty, astonishing, Faulknerian, and then some."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"I thought we were coming towards the end of story, but I see now that one of us has just touched the beginning."
-Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy (said simultaneously, after which they looked at each other in surprise, and said "Weird!" also simultaneously, which caused them to laugh nervously).

"A dense and impossibly difficult easy summer read. Prepare to be up all night working your way through the first sentence. (Warning! Cuter than cute kittens alert!)"
 -New York Times Book Review

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

James Joyce

It was St. Patrick's day at the library, but I swear I wasn't thinking of that at all. I was upstairs shelving in fiction where it gets very heavy at the ends of the "J's" and the start of the "K's", literarily heavy, all James Joyce and Franz Kafka. As I do, compulsively, frequently, and appropriately, I pulled a book off the shelf to take a look. Something about Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, called to me. I think it was the nice old edition we have.

Oh my. This book is splendid! Out amidst the stacks and stacks of books all screaming about their own wonderfulness, but all roughly enough the same with their stories and characters and normal English and all that, I finally open a lauded book and it is MADNESS. I cannot even begin to dare to formulate any real opinion about this thing by looking at the first page. Do you know how rare that is?

You may have read every word James Joyce ever wrote and this is nothing to you. Surely I have opened Ulysses several dozen times and thought how wonderful I might be if I would read such a thing. But today I am here without agenda. There is no way I will read Finnegans Wake. If I didn't decide to tell you about it I doubt I would have fully worked my way through a whole sentence. A whole sentence... here, let me share a random one with you from the first page of this book:

"Rot a peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface."

You can't see my Google spell check light up like a four alarm fire here, but it has. In fact, I think that sentence just broke my spell check, and more power to it. That spell check and I have never gotten along. And if you're thinking I only chose that sentence because it was especially fulsome, you are mistaken. I chose it because it did not contain the word 


which is a word that I seriously did not want to have to type. The jokes on me though. I typed it anyway.

It wasn't so bad.

I took Finnegans Wake downstairs with me to admire on my dinner break, or, as it turns out, to blog about, but certainly not to read. But who needs to read it when I've already extracted such joy from it?

So, I wish to you, a late happy St Patrick's day from "out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy."

Well, I may read it just a little...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seven in one blow

The library was busy,
The pace was not slow,
But never did I imagine,
I'd do seven in one blow.

I  was working the desk,
With my co-worker Jo
It was the luck of the draw,
That I'd do seven in one blow.

Two parents approached me,
Their five children in tow.
They spoke fateful words,
That led to seven in one blow.

"We'd all of us like cards,
And believe us we know,
There are quite a lot of us,
Can you do seven in one blow?"

There are always ways out,
But you reap what you sow,
For the honor of clerkdom, "Yes,
I'll do seven in one blow."

We took up our pens, our forms,
All IDs did they show,
We typed and we wrote,
And did seven in one blow.

The family departed,
I started to crow,
"I've broken all records,
And done seven in one blow!"

My co-workers were startled,
And some nicely said "Whoa!"
For they'd done quite a few,
But never seven in one blow.

I had too my detractors,
But they had to say "No."
When I asked if they'd ever,
Done seven in one blow.

So if there are eight of you,
The clerk to whom you should go,
Is me, our record holder,
Who did seven in one blow.

My colleagues are fine with this,
It makes them quite glow,
For who in their right mind wants,
To do eight in one blow.


Monday, March 17, 2014


I woke up this morning and didn't shave. I put on rags for clothes, had coffee with my wife (which is the best part of the day), and headed off to work. My clothes are full of holes, one layer of rust shining out from under a layer of brown, like stars, but with considerably less magnificence. My hair is sticking up in a wild, strange way. I think I have an ink smudge on my cheek. If I can find my fake cigarette in my work drawer I'll dangle it from my lower lip, ever so occasionally giving it a outward puff that blows a small cloud of white dust that looks surprisingly like smoke.

What am I up to? Well, for Halloween, when I was about five, I went dressed as a hobo. I have had a soft spot for this look ever since. But I think my real mission has something to do with a surge of disaffection for professionalism, that glossy, clean, tech, glamour that the whole world, including libraries, seems to strive for, that successful, positive, professional, corporate, virtuous, perfect, magazine wonderfulness of image that has eaten us all whole. Our success, our beauty, our positive goodness, our achievement, our love are all only the cheap tools to get others to be jealous of us, admiring, validating. I'm not up for it today. So I dressed as a hobo.

It's a busy day. I am very good at the front desk. I will be content If just one person goes home in a daze and says "There was like, this street person at the library today. I thought he would smell but he didn't. Then it turned out he worked there. He was incredibly helpful. Look at all these great Columbo DVDs I got!" 

If just one person says that it is enough for me.

Please don't be jealous.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


On my accustomed day off I read books, watched movies, played games, cooked, and went for a walk with my wife. This is instead of what I sometimes do on my accustomed day off, which is to write a blog post or two and then wander around the Internet and ask people to read my blog post.

"Hey, Mister, will you read my blog post? No? Okay."
"Hey, Lady, will you read my blog post? I just wrote it myself. No? Okay."
"Hey, Mister, will you read my blog post? Part of it is sort of funny. No? Okay."
"Oh, hi. Excuse me. Will you read my blog post? No, it doesn't have any bunnies. I could go write a new one with bunnies? No? Oh, okay."

But even though I was just watching movies and reading and stuff, I did not forget my blog. I set aside my two favorite quotes from my entertainments on this day. The first was from the movie Catching Fire. Someone, maybe Finnick, says "When you're in the arena remember who the real enemy is." I thought that was terrific and got pretty worked up about it. I fancied I'd make a very righteous post about it and about how when you work with a terrible co-worker and they're driving you crazy, it's your manager and your manager's manager you should get mad at.

Then, later, I was reading The Red Box by Rex Stout. Archie says this: "...but now that it was over there was an inclination inside of me to feel righteous, and that made me glum and in a worse temper than before. I hate to feel righteous, because it makes me uncomfortable and I want to kick something."

I liked this one even better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The perfect and the real

Sometimes there are library anecdotes that are so picturesque, so elemental, and of such simple construction that, while they are irresistible to a blogger such as myself, they are actually difficult to use. On the one hand their streamlined perfection makes them textureless and hard to hold. They seem too immaculate and precise to be part of the real world. They feel made up. And on the other hand, without complication and the touch of the real, the anecdote does not feel funny or striking, rather, it feels like something you already heard somewhere else, probably on some lousy sitcom, or a cartoon, or something. On top of all this, it is such a very short anecdote, with nothing extra swirling around it to give it life, nothing to build up to, no crescendo, no investment that makes you feel like you've earned it.

So I wrote this really long introduction to try and help. And I will tell you the anecdote very soon. It will not, as I have already made clear, blow you away. But if you are willing to believe me that this very thing did happen, to me, at the front desk of the library, this very evening, exactly as I describe it, I think you will find it worthwhile. Yes, it is too perfect, but I swear to you it really happened. And in reality, believed, the perfection of it, as is, is part of what's enjoyable about it.

The anecdote:

A group of rocket scientists had our large meeting room scheduled for this evening. They came up to me at the front desk. They could not figure out how to turn the room lights on.

Yes, that's it. 

I did warn you. I think if you sit with it for a bit, if you really try, there is a small ray of light to be found there. Perhaps even enough to read by.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Our perfect system

When you drive up to our billion dollar automated return machine, its automated voice issues forth with only one instruction. This is because the machine, which, again, cost a billion dollars, is so advanced that it has only one limitation. Just one limitation, as long as you don't count the following, which we are totally not counting:

1. It is terrible at processing skinny books of any kind, which is not a problem because only children's books are skinny, and practically no one checks out children's books, especially not huge stacks of them.

2. The rollers eat and jam on any book not in pristine condition, which is also not a problem since, as a library, we are so awash in money that we replace all our materials after just two or three uses.

3. Eleven or twelve other little things that are too technical to describe here, and, if I'm not going to describe them, I am hardly justified in counting them.

Which leaves us with the machine's one limitation and one instruction:

"Please return your books one at a time." Says the machine's basso profundo voice. I think it's the same voice that does the ketchup advisory board commercials on Prairie Home Companion. Labor as the machine might, it cannot handle items in stacks. Oh, it tries. It sends them up a little hill in a valiant attempt to fan them out, but they still tend to glom together, and, without an opposable thumb, our poor machine is helpless to separate them. Unseparated they are impossible for the machine to check in or to sort properly.

Fortunately, all our patrons heed the machine's one instruction, as long as you don't count the following exceptions, which we are totally not counting:

1. The deaf, who can hardly be faulted for our refusal to have braille announcements.

2. People who are too busy yelling at each other in their car to hear the instruction, who totally get a pass due to our thanks to them for not actually coming into the library.

3. People seeking revenge on us due to various fine grievances, who we dare not count on the list of malfeasance, lest they use their momentous powers of vengeance on this blog.

4. People simply not paying attention, who it would be pointless to count since they will undoubtedly be dead soon in a horrible traffic accident.

And what does that leave us with? 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Careful where you work

Once, many years ago, my wife and I were spending several days in the strange, lovely confection know as Disney World. We were at a souvenir kiosk in the Wilderness Lodge Hotel buying things related to Winnie the Pooh. The kiosk operator, friendly enough in our dealings, groaned and said something roughly like "Only 45 more minutes and I can go home."

It was like being stabbed in my very tender, disneyfied heart, which cried out deep inside of me "But, but, this is supposed to be the happiest place on earth!"

I count myself fortunate that I do not work at a place that goes by aphorisms of happiness such as that. I am capable of feeling happiness only occasionally, and only when under no compulsion. I work at a library and deal in information, not happiness. I can be informative practically around the clock. "No," I can say "You do not mean Harold Pinter, you mean Thomas Pynchon. Wineland is actually Vineland, and we do have a copy on the shelf." Unlike happiness, this sort of thing comes naturally to me. We also deal in finding things at the library, which I find sort of fun, and in putting things places where they can be found in the future, which is boring, but at least you don't have to be happy while you do it, and you can do it at a very, very, very thoughtful pace.

Of course, a library, like Disney World, is also a place of entertainment. We are also putting on a show here, and playing parts, and creating a world of our own. We are Main Street and Adventure Land and Tomorrow Land too. But even in that guise I like to think of our show as less Disney, and more as a Wes Anderson movie.

"This is my first time here."  The patron says.

"Really?" I reply. "I've lived here for years! I sleep downstairs in the bowling alley."

"You have a bowling alley?"

"Absolutely. Most libraries do. The librarians have to blow off steam somehow."

"Is this the truth?"

"No." I say. "All lies." 

We deal in lies too. And if disillusioning to our patrons, well, we're big here on providing disillusionment as well. A library, after all, is all about illusion in careful moderation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing this

Sometimes, here, I will write a sentence, look it over, and decide it is not fit for publication. Maybe, I muse, it is unnecessary to make fun of people who are under the impression that Thursday is two days after Wednesday. Isn't the journey of life steep enough as it is for these people? So unless my sentence is funny enough to make up for the cruelty of it all, out it goes. But it is just a small taste of things I may delete in the course of writing one of these essays. I might get rid of words, punctuation, clauses, and parenthetical remarks (though this one's a keeper!). Whole paragraphs, labored over for an hour, deep in the library stacks, may be shown the door. Bits may be deleted, re-added, and then deleted again. This is all part of the writing process. Like, there, did you see that? I got rid of three "uh's", two "very's", and five "like's". I left one "like" though, at the start of a sentence, to give you a taste of what you're missing. Good, huh? Oh yeah, it's excellent. But only in moderation.

This is the life of a writer. It is how a writer writes, and we quite like it this way. Where else can one perfect language at one's leisure? Certainly not in talking. Talking leaves a trail of chaos, saved only by our chronic forgetfulness and inability to listen properly. No, writing is the place. Everything is erasable, cookable, tasteable, and everlastingly adjustable. All is under the composer's dominion, limited only by the boundaries of the writer's talents, boundaries which barely exist when one is gripped in the fever of creation.

When the fever breaks, however, sometimes things are not so pretty. Sometimes the writer is compelled to delete a whole essay, forced by the illuminations of reconsideration to write it off as nonredeemable. It is a bitter and hard and cold work then. All dreams lie shattered at one's feet, and a blogger is left late in the night with no post for tomorrow morning. What can he do?

He can write this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Endeavoring to appreciate

My library is big enough that the particular contributions of us individual laborers can easily be lost in the shuffle. This can be disappointing when one wants to be acknowledged for one's mastery and industry, but, and I know this sounds a bit wise, but, after all these years I've mostly come to feel that all that doing a good job stuff is its own reward, that doing my job well is primarily a private satisfaction. Perhaps this is merely a response to the ignominious reality of Clerkdom, as is my complicated array of takebacks and rewards for my good work, which, since I'm left in charge of them, are manifold and given at every possible opportunity. But what this comes down to is that I am thus well situated to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of all this lost-in-the-shuffle work.

Aside from the self managing autonomy spoken of above, the principle advantage of this collectivism is in the possibility of enjoying all the work of my co-workers. This is not necessarily an easy task. I have had no great struggle enjoying the colorful and erratic skills of my good co-workers, and they can be nice to talk to as well, but after years of much teeth gnashing about my more challenged co-workers, I must admit that it is a more ongoing struggle to suss out their beneficial nature. Fortunately I encountered another learning opportunity today. I had been doing a good deal of other things during my shelving hour, some of them even job related, when I decided to pitch in and try and get a full cart of genre fiction shelved in the 20 minutes I had before I needed to report to the front desk. There, up in the fiction stack, was a co-worker. She had the same assignment as me but had gone upstairs with a cart long before I showed up on the scene. She was plodding along without much success, and though she'd been working on it for at least 15 minutes, she had only gotten about a quarter of the cart done. I passed by, noticing, and proceeded to apply myself, shelving my whole cart, straightening up as I went, and then racing down to the front desk as per arrangement. Passing by, on my way, I noted the same co-worker with the same cart. She was slowly working her way to the three quarter done mark. She hadn't made it yet.

I could be mad at her failure to sufficiently contribute her fair share. I could be bitter that I thanklessly shoulder a heavier load. I could cringe at the extra pressure of unshelved books that will lie around the library due to her lackluster performance. But I don't have to do any of that.

I can enjoy her measured pace, which sets the par for shelving comfortably low. I can take her lesson that everyone doing their tiny bit adds up to enough, and, most of all, I can let her shining example indicate that, later in the afternoon, when I have another hour of shelving scheduled, I can start it out with a 45 minute coffee break.

Monday, March 10, 2014


People, man, they're just unbelievable! I'm out working at the front desk of the library and this guy comes up and wants to get a library card. Yeah. Just like that he wants a library card, like it's nothing.

"I need a picture ID with your current address." I say. And he, like, takes out his wallet and gives me his drivers license. Okay. So I start entering it all in to the computer to give him a card and everything. I type in the address and all that. I ask him for a four digit pin number. I say it very carefully, emphasizing the word "digit" to forestall him from saying any letters. 

He thinks for a second and then says "5421"

Right, so that's odd enough, but it's fine. I finish putting in all the information. I hand him the card with a pen. I say "You need to sign the card." So, get this, the guy, who wanted the library card, I guess to check out books or whatever, he signs the card. It's a nice big signature. Great. So, I decide, what the hell, and I give him a brochure.

"This has all our policies and hours." I say as I hand it to him. "You can check out whatever you want." I say in a cheery, concluding sort of way.

And the guy says, get this, he says "Thanks."  Yeah, just like that, he says "Thanks." and then he walks away.

The whole thing was just, I don't know, bizarre. I guess there's a lot of characters out there. But sometimes it gets pretty strange.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blog temple

I suppose that one day this blog will achieve its dream of humility. When that happens I will stop my small, strange forays to solicit readers. I will cease to hunger for small fame here.  And so then I will cease to discuss it all as one of my themes. I believe this will come in time. These words you are reading are a small few of all the footprints that take us in that direction.

My troubled pursuit of glory comes from a repeated misunderstanding of my blog and myself. I sometimes think this is a place of discussion and tumult. I think it is a finger on the pulse of our culture. I think it's an argument for something, a way to be heard. I believe I am holding court, and that this is my fiefdom. I believe I am Don Quixote on a fool's attempt to remake the world. I am fixing libraries, fixing Bob Dylan, fixing the Internet, fixing politics, fixing art and mostly, fixing us all.

It is not any of this.

This blog is a temple to all our mad gods. I love our mad gods. And I can scream at the top of my lungs about how this is a temple unlike any of all those famous, absurd, Religion's temples, but in the end it is just a temple. I have no greater powers than that. And a temple is a temple whether anyone sits in it, or not.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Less smart

I'll try to be gentle. You might already know this. But, as I would with an unpropitious, possibly embarrassing rip in your clothing, I thought I'd just, you know, tell you, just let you know. And if you say "I don't care. I am willing to bear whatever ignominy may or may not come with it." I accept your position on the matter. I mean no disrespect, that is, I bear you no disrespect outside of that which is inherent in the truth of the thing.

Clearly, you can see that I am doing a bit of careful dancing around this. I could end it all with one simple sentence, and just tell you. But I have played that telling sentence in my head and it sounds pretty bad. So I am trying to find a different way in.

Perhaps we could work up to it with alternate examples. What if, for instance, you were a heavy smoker. And let us say it is not common knowledge that smoking kills you. That second part is important. It would be mere annoyance if it were common knowledge. We must presume I am a Doctor, a student of the matter, seeing constant heart disease and cancers and so on before all this is widely known. "Uh," I say quietly "I know smoking, is, er, very compelling, but most of the time it stops allowing you to breathe air. And then I have to gas you up and cut chunks of your innards out of you."

"Hmmm. Thanks for letting me know Doc." You can think it all over now. You are now informed.

What say we move in just a wee bit closer.

"Hey, you know how occasionally you slug strangers, crash cars, throw up a lot, and wake up in jail? I'm just saying, um, I have sort of noticed a correlation between those things and the times where you think it would be fun to have six gin and tonics."



"Thanks for noticing. I'll think about it."

So, do you think that with all that everyone is ready? I want you to know this isn't directed at anyone in particular. It's not about you, exactly. It's more of a universal thing, like with the cigarettes, and it applies to anyone. Okay?


Er, so, there are these times where you drop books off in passing at the front desk of the library even though it is not where they go. I can't stop you. You're not really paying attention to things. If you do engage with me you hear me but don't process half of what I'm saying. You get vague and your response time slows.  You misunderstand what I say, or take longer to grasp it.  You grow sort of clumsy, everything takes you a little longer than normal, and you lose your sense of humor. And all these things, this behavior, correlates to when your smart phone is in play. I'll sum it up with that direct statement I have been avoiding:  

When you are using your cell phone in any way, you become more stupid.  

Just, in case you didn't know. I thought you might want to know.

Do with it what you will.

Friday, March 7, 2014

We're here

Sunday night I was hard at work on the Internet, launching a campaign to help an impoverished Bob Dylan and save him from degrading advertising work. I'm not sure it went so well. A lot of people seemed to think he was doing it on purpose. Shudder, brrrr, a chilling thought. That does not sound plausible! Anyway, there I was on the Internet, and the Internet started yelling at me about the Academy Awards.

I have no interest in the Academy Awards or in any other competitive sporting event so completely untethered from any objective measurements. But, in a matter of moments, having seen not a single movie involved, I formed deep opinions, complicated favorites, and a fierce partisan interest. I developed an analysis of how everything will go according to an inevitable trajectory that I abhor. I monitored, in dread, as my horrible expectations were fulfilled, and then, just as I was about to whip into a feverish lather of rage about the whole thing, that tiny voice, like unto the one from Horton's dust speck, came back to me. What was it again? Oh, right, I don't care about the Academy Awards. I am not interested in the Academy Awards. The Academy Awards mean nothing to me.

Helpful little voice, that. A voice that saves the world, no matter how small, and I seize on the voice to pull myself out.

This is a good trick. I like this trick. I would like to do this trick a lot more!

Here is the thing. I can form a ferocious opinion on any subject in scant seconds. Even when formed off of the mere fumes of actual information, my opinion will be fierce, sharp, clever, thorough, unusual, and idiosyncratic. Full of confidence, occasional humor, and commitment, this opinion will burst forth like time lapse photography of a blooming flower.

And then, in that same magical speed, it will rot back into the mud, forgotten.

And what will I have gotten for my dexterous burst of fanatic tumult?

Righteousness. Mastery. Superiority. Energy. Disillusionment. Despair. 

Usually in that order.

Can I get by without these?

I am thinking it would be good to try, to follow the small voices in the clouds, the ones that are actually my own, and to see what other worlds there might be.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Not boring live blogging from library!

It has been ages since I live blogged from the library. Perhaps I bowed out because nothing interesting happens during live blogging. Well, that's just wrong! I am committed to a warts and all vision of modern life in America, with a major emphasis on life in a library. If nothing happens during live blogging, not only is it telling, but it is the result of a risk we must take! If you are afraid of being bored here you have come to the wrong place! We taunt boredom here! We bait boredom. We dare boredom to rear its bland, banal face at clerkmanifesto! Oh, sure, it may get the best of us. And, sure, sometimes we might look like we're pinned, but when the chips are down we may just twist out of boredom's tepid snare, fall back on the ropes, and, as boredom fastens its laconic, unmotivated eyes upon us, we might launch ourselves out, crying our special "Book caught in the automated checkin machine" wail, grab boredom in our fearsome "Pull books out of the rollers of the checkin machine" grip, and hurl boredom to the ground in our legendary "Toss a crumpled slip of paper into the garbage but miss" slam. Whether we manage to pin boredom from there or whether we don't is something you'll just have to risk by continuing to read as we

Live blog from the fiction stacks at the library!

3:54:  Is it really 3:54 already? I have got to tighten up my introductions because it is now just about my dinner break time. But fear not, live blogging isn't over until it's over, and there's still time for at the very least one more entry from my upcoming trip down the elevator.

3:58:  Hmm, surprisingly little happening here in the elevator. Sometimes I like to explore the interesting acoustics of the elevator by making percussive noises on my empty cart, but not today because I am

Live blogging from the elevator!

(Still) 3:58:  Elevator doors open. Hallway looks clear.

3:59:  No longer in the elevator. I am now

Live blogging from the hallway downstairs!

3:59:30:  Not much happening in hallway. I am tempted to linger in hopes that something of note happens, but I decide to "keep it real" and walk at a normal pace through the hallway.

4:00:  Emerge from hallway. Dinner time commences.

4:01:  We reflect on our live blogging session. We're think it's one of our best live bloggin sessions yet. Don't you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Library information

I work at a library. I think you will grant that it is an institution that has much to do with information and the conveyance of knowledge. But let me clarify for you: this only has to do with its broader, public mission. As far as how the library runs or finding what's going on institutionally, as an employee, it is the same tattered, falling apart grab bag you will find in any institution anywhere. I am likely to receive an exhaustive email about a slight policy change that affects nothing that ever actually happens on the same day that no one bothers to inform me that our elevators are broken. 

Of course, the patrons can always let me know.

"You said I can take the elevator upstairs, but I've been pushing the UP button for 20 minutes and nothing happens!"

"I'll go take a look." I respond heartily. The patron indeed is correct. The elevator is non functioning. I return with patron in tow to the front desk and inquire of my co-worker "Did you know the elevator is not working?"

"Oh, yes," she replies. "It's been broken since yesterday morning! There's been quite a fuss!"

"Perhaps I should make a sign?" I suggest, leaving off that yesterday I did not work.

"I thought there was one." She says quizzically. The three of us walk back over to the elevator. During our inspection I spot a trampled piece of paper on the floor. I pick it up. It says "Out of Order."

"Ah, there it is!" My co-worker exclaims. I reattach it and reinforce it with several kinds of glues, tapes, solders, and metal screws. I know how long it can take for things to get fixed around here.

"So how am I supposed to get upstairs?" The patron asks.

I need to control my tone to prevent it from going into a withering, sarcastic mode. "I'm afraid you'll have to take the stairs, if you can." I say gently.

"What if I were in a wheelchair?" The patron asks confrontingly.

Once again I must check my tone. "Um, perhaps we would carry you?"

This apparently passes the test because the patron now willingly climbs the stairs, knowing we are willing to lift him in an emergency.

What this goes to show is that being informed as a library employee takes a good deal of craft. You have to eavesdrop, talk to a lot of people, and stay curious. My co-workers who socially isolate themselves are forced to constantly misinform people. Well, I suppose everyone has their method. I can't keep tabs on those people all the time, but since I do a lot of eavesdropping I can sometimes correct their most egregious errors.

"Oh. Yes." I gently interrupt. "We actually do have bathrooms; out in the lobby, in the kids' room, and upstairs, though we may have to carry you to those."

"OH! Bathrooms!" My co-worker exclaims, seeking cover for her error. "I thought you said Ferris Wheels! Ha ha ha. We don't have Ferris Wheels, but of course we have bathrooms, uh," She turns to me "Where were they again?"

Among my most useful co-workers in this tumult, and in the constant expectation that we absorb all vital library information by osmosis, are the people who enjoy collecting and sharing information. A couple of my colleagues are quite good at this, in different ways. One, especially good at dealing in higher level institutional information, has, like the rest of us, become so inured to the erratic and mostly useless relaying of information from above, that I think she feels a faint sense of guilt as she shares information. The word gossip rears its head. But we are virtually never talking here about salacious stories of our co-workers' shocking personal lives. We're talking about what's going on in our library system. The fact is that I work at the LIBRARY. I need to know this stuff, because sometimes it helps me do my job, sometimes it helps me understand my job, and because there is very little our public is not entitled to know. And I like to tell them. 

Just as I like to tell you.