Why Do People Work at the Library?

“Reference Librarians are the library’s eyes and ears.” Charles W. Bailey, “The Role of Reference Librarians in Institutional Repositories”

A coworker gave me that quote last week.

“Mom, why do people work here?” The 8-year old girl asked as she was walking out of youth services and past the reference desk. The musings of a child, how precious. And curious, like me, but she didn’t ask me.

Mom said, “They need someone to shelve the books and stuff.” What did she say? Hufflepuff, Pufnstuf, Fluff? Here’s some of the “stuff” from just a busy few minutes yesterday morning.

So I had just walked an 89-year-old woman through getting ebooks downloaded to her Overdrive App. In between that I was helping a patron put a hold on Saving Sophie, and simultaneously telling another person how to log in to one of our computers with their library card to surf the web, and then I had a group of eight Latter Day Saints Mission women sign up to use our computer lab. Many of the young women were visiting from their neighboring mission locations, including Atmore and Mobile. I felt like the Fairhope ambassador, which I love doing. While all this was going on, I had a patron patiently waiting to hand me something for helping him in the past. I shortchanged my attention to him, because I had too many other things going on. He wondered off, but I found this later.

When The Girl with the Pearl Question walked by, I was in the middle of creating a sign for the Frances Durham Poetry collection, and noted her role in founding The Pensters, a local writing group that began at the Fairhope Public Library in 1965. While in the midst of that I helped a man in a wheelchair using a computer to print for the first time using our printing station.

Later on, I found the books below.

As it turns out, I’m not just the eyes and ears of the library. As usual, mom was right. I do shelve books and stuff.

 

How Do You Move Your Books?

My friend took these bookmobile pictures when she attended a “summer fete” in Vaour, France. You don’t see many book vans in America. They are usually modified buses or trucks. This van ranks right up there with The A-Team, Charlie Varrick, Chris Farley’s ‘van down by the river’ and The Mystery Machine.

My Books

We sold our house on Friday. Our new house is being built in Fairhope by Benchmark Homes and should be finished in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my books, along with most everything we own, is being temporarilly stored in a climate controlled storage facility. PODS (Portable On Demand Storage) picked up our packed POD the same day. Below are pictures of the PodZilla picking up our “stuff.”

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What I’m Reading

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This is the only book from my home library that I didn’t pack. I’m reading it while we (and the stuff that didn’t fit in the POD) stay at Sue’s mom and dad’s until our new house is finished.

New Home for Books

We are super excited about moving in! Here are some pictures from last week. If you want to view more pictures of our progress and see future new house posts, visit Home Building.

 

 

 

Would You Save Your Amputated Leg?

Here’s a few stump related media moments and materials. Thanks for reading and Happy Independence Day.

finders keepers

I finally got around to watching Finders Keepers, a documentary that my friend and fellow Fairhoper Jack Daily recommended to me a few months back. Jack knows about my fascination with all things amputee or library related. If you are not sure about this one, Here’s a link to Internet Movie Database and the trailer.

Somehow this true story and I never crossed paths, but it is a funny, sad, and strange tale that takes place in North Carolina. It made headlines around the world, The Telegraph, CNN, and hundreds of others news outlets back in 2007. Finders Keepers is about John Wood, an amputee, and Shannon Whisnant, the man who finds Wood’s partially embalmed leg in, of all things, a barbecue grill.

The movie is a battle over the possession of John’s amputated leg, which he left in a grill inside his self storage unit. At some point he stopped paying his bill.

Shannon purchased the contents of the unit at an auction, including the remains. In a move that would make P. T. Barnum proud, Shannon wanted to sell tickets so people can see the remains of John’s leg on display, supposedly in the grill that he found them in.

John somehow gets possession of the leg back, and tells everyone it’s his leg and he wants to keep it. Shannon wants it back and in true “Finders Keepers” fashion, he goes to court to get it back. Not just any court though. The case is heard by Judge Mathis. By that point we have learned much, good and bad, about the personal struggles of these two good old boys and their bizarre family histories.

Thanks for the “win win winning” recommendation Jack. It’s available for streaming on Netflix, or check your local library. I highly recommend it, especially for Ripley’s Believe It Not fans, amputees, or anyone interested in a strange story.

Rock Legs

Chili

I don’t know what compelled me to watch this link that appeared in my social media feed, but I’m glad I did. I’m not a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, but I love this Carpool Karaoke bit. While it was funny, and entertaining in parts (it’s a bit long), the big payoff for amputees came around the 8.30 minute. The Late Late Show host James Corden asks the band members about their best rock moment. Chad Smith, (AKA Will Ferrell) tells a fantastic story about what he saw during a live performance many years ago. You can watch the whole thing, but here’s Chad’s rock moment.

Chad: We played a festival in Holland many years ago and out in the crowd I saw two guys having a fight with their prosthetic legs…One had a shoe on and the other one didn’t.

Travel Legs

If you are passing through T. F. Green Airport in Providence RI make sure you check out the “display of legs.” My sister Laurie sent me this photo. I noticed they actually change out the prostheses in the case every year or so.

Armed with Fiction

This title showed up in the Baldwin County library catalog recently.

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From the Publisher (St. Martin’s)

After having his left arm amputated due to a car accident, Aaron is forced to return to his boyhood home to recuperate. Disappearing into a fog of pain killers, the only true joy in his life comes from the daily 90-second radio spots of science fun facts and the disembodied voice of Sunny Lee.

 

 

When Does Your Summer Begin?

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Here on the Gulf Coast students get out of school before Memorial Day. Temperatures have been in the 90s this week. For me, summer begins with the first meeting of my creative writing class at Fairhope Public Library.

I’m fortunate to offer the class on a quarterly basis, but I enjoy the summer sessions the most. Last June, the age range of my students was 18-86. This year is shaping up to be just as diverse with a full class of high school students and seniors. The range of ages also makes it a bit more challenging to prepare for, and I love the challenge. I think this is a product of not having lesson plans. No, actually it’s a product of constantly changing the readings, in-class discussions, and the writing exercises. Although I don’t have any students who have taken the course before, I like to keep it fresh by introducing new material. I always include something about amputees, writing forms, and some of my favorite writings. Where I switch things up is in the discussion topics and the writing exercises.

Rather than teaching someone how to upload a file, print a document, read books on the Overdrive App, or provide a refresher on the Dewey Decimal System, all things I love to do as a reference librarian, the writing class gives me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned about the art of creative writing.

Here’s to the start of summer.

Need Some April Reading?

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I’m hoping the March showers will bring April flowers here in Lower Alabama. In the meantime, here’s some links to an article on relationships, the great global nonfiction versus fiction debate, and links for amputees, poets, and librarians.

For Amputees

This month is Limb Loss Awareness Month. (#LLAM) The Amputee Coalition of America’s National Limb Loss Resource Center is a great place to find information for anyone with limb loss, from born amputees like me, to those recovering from amputation surgery.

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Relationships

My wife Susan and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last month. In a Facebook post, my cousin Gayle asked, “What’s the most important thing to share about your time together?”

“Friendship, empathy, forgiveness, funniness, and affection are a few important things,” I posted. About a week later, I read the article below. No matter the relationship, I think understanding one another is profoundly difficult and infinitely more challenging to sustain.

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For Readers and Writers

The next storm that crossed my path is the relationship readers and writers navigate between fiction and nonfiction. This global multilingual discussion will have you wondering about the origins of the word nonfiction and questioning the meaning of story.

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Student Librarians and Poets

Since it’s also National Poetry Month, I’ve included a link to an article that I netted for a library school assignment about Charles Bukowski. It’s not his poetry at the other side of the link below. A well-written (if a bit raunchy) profile from a 1976 Rolling Stone magazine interview has motivated me to go and read some Bukowski this April.

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Don’t forget, next week (April 10-16) is National Library Week, so visit your library, online (Fairhope Public Library) or in-person, to learn how Libraries Transform.

 

 

Do you know Annie Easley?

 

On Saturday, I had a high school student come up to the reference desk with her mom.

Her mom said, “Go ahead, ask him.”

“Good morning, can I help?”

“I’m looking for information on Annie Easley.”

Do you know Annie Easley? If you do, I’m impressed. I have never heard of her.

So we went to the OPAC, or Online Public Access Catalog and typed in the name.

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“I found some things on the internet, but I need a book source,” she told me.

So I asked the student, who I will call J, what she had already found out about her. Easley was a scientist, and a mathematician.

“Follow me,” I said, confident that I could find a reference book with her name in it.

I pulled some subject encyclopedias on science, and women in science. Nothing.

Bound and determined to find J. some print on paper, I conducted my reference interview, then grabbed some sources. J and I scanned and skimmed alphabetical entries and indexes. Still nothing.

I learned more about Easley along the way, interviewing J about how she learned about Easley. J was African American, and so was Easley, and it’s February (African American History month), but she was not on a teacher’s list of people to research. Easley was also born in Birmingham, Alabama.

Earlier in the day, I had messaged a fellow student about what librarians without a master’s degree are called.

“Feral Librarians,” Ginny remembered.

I was a feral librarian rabidly interested in finding a book source for this shy, yet curious young student.

“They called her the Human Calculator,” J said, and added that Easley worked for NASA.

Doesn’t she sound like a woman who should be in book about mathematicians and scientists?

J also called her a “programmer.”

I told J, her mom, and now her younger brother, who had joined our tour of reference, that I just learned about this new documentary called, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap.

This documentary shows the large gender and minority gap in the world of science, specifically, computer science. Sadly, our collection was helping prove their argument and this student had done her homework. She knew Easley’s middle initial, “J.” I learned later that Easley actually developed code for NASA.

Walking back to the catalog I asked J to check the general encyclopedias. She confirmed my initial doubt and there was no mention of her in Worldbook, or Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Who is this lady?” J’s little brother now wanted to know, as we grabbed two more books from the stacks. From then on, he joined us in our search.

J’s dad came by, and seeing the stack of books, suggested to his daughter that maybe she needed to find another person.

She was thumbing through a book, and looked over at him. I could tell she was ready to give up.

“No way,” I told the whole family, then looking at J I said, “You need to champion Easley.” I’d gone feral, and decided book sources be damned. “No book sources from the public library, well, use that in your paper,” I said. I smiled, she smiled. Not a Cheshire smile, but the kind of smile that said, “I’m not sure if this librarian is crazy or just more curious than a cat.”

 Some books without Annie Easley

“I’m sorry,” I said, frustrated and angry that I could not find a print source for her. This young woman had found a person, an African American like herself and a mathematician, programmer, and NASA employee and my resources failed. The whole family and I went back to the computer and found Easley’s Wikipedia page.

“You stumped the librarian today,” I told them, and was disappointed I did not have a book sources.

J knew about Alabama Virtual Library, but she hadn’t looked at Wikipedia’s sources.

Easley’s Wikipedia page linked to a 55 page PDF from NASA’s “Herstory” Oral history project. The document was the transcript of an interview with Easley about her life.

“That’s better than a book,” I said pointing at the screen, That’s a primary document. This is her own words.” J, and everyone in her family, thanked me. Her dad shook my hand. As they headed to circulation to check out some items, I realized that Wikipedia, libraries, and librarians do not compete. They compliment.

My name in a Textbook

It happened February 13, 2016 at 6:23 Eastern Standard Time. In my second semester of online library school at the University of Alabama.

I was reading Reference and Information Services: An Introduction by Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath (2013).

On Page 115 it states:

In the past, the stouthearted librarians of the New York Public Library

would prove this time and time again as they ventured into schools to

play the game, “Stump the Librarian.”

 

 

 

 

Is This Home?

On a recent blue-skied and windy day, I walked the Orange Avenue pier in Fairhope.

The sun was hanging low in the winter sky and a large pine tree shadowed me as I stepped on the boardwalk. Mobile Bay was choppy, frothy, and brown.

“This is not home,” I said to myself as I started walking down the pier toward the covered area. The place seemed unfamiliar, though I come here often.

Standing under the metal-roofed shelter, I looked down at the open deck below. Two boards had popped off their nails. The water had not risen high enough to float them away, but they rested perpendicular to the steadfast boards.

There was no one around so I sat on the railing above the built in seats and wrote down a few observations in my journal. It was a clear day, Mobile and Theodore were visible and in focus.

My eyes, sheltered by sunglasses, teared up as I stared into the west wind.

Not feeling inspired by anything in particular, I decided to leave.

The wind ceased about halfway up the pier. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Looking landward, I caught sight of a hawk-like bird just above the tree line. He dropped into the foliage of a live oak and I lost sight of it.

I kept looking. He landed in a pine, closer to the water. I watched him.

Osprey were plentiful around Waquoit Bay in East Falmouth, Massachusetts too. I find it fitting that I’ve lived close to two WBNERRs, the Waquoit Bay and Weeks Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserves.  I have admired the osprey’s strength, beauty, and fierceness in a northeasterly wind in Waquoit Bay, from the beaches of Nantucket Sound, while in a raft in the Gulf of Mexico as an extra in a Nic Cage movie, and now on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.

The osprey unfolded it’s wings and leapt into the wind.

It hung in the air to my right, searching the muddy brown bay for life. With a tip of his wing and a wave of his tail, he came closer and lower, flying 20 feet in front of me, my back to the bay. He hung there without effort, scanning the brackish bay for his late afternoon meal. He coasted above the shoreline in front of or just above the tree line of Magnolia Beach park.

As I watched him, he seemed still, motionless, only the unseen air moving around him. It was as if he were hanging from a fishing line, and not under any of the Earth’s gravitational, physical, or natural rules. Surreal.

I don’t know how long I had been watching when we sized each other up by making eye contact. I became lost in this experience, as if the only two things in the world were me and this osprey. A few seconds became suspended in the engagement of two living things.

Time does not stop for man or osprey, but the beats of my life rested in the mesmerizing feathers of that osprey.

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