“Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Oh my.  It wasn’t just a library joke.  People really did say this and mean it.  And then expect you to find the book for them.  As in, possibly right then.  At that moment.  Pronto~! 

Their faces fall if you can’t.  It’s a little bit heart-breaking, and one is left with a keen sense of failure in having been the Depository of all Literary Knowledge, and let an enthusiastic reader down.

The first time someone said this line to me, I thought they were taking the mickey and laughed.

Oops, no: serious.  Quickly back paddle.

You know, we should forget about classifying the books by the Dewey or Library of Congress systems.  Because this is how patrons really want us to shelve them:

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

I thought I would share some of the resources I use when searching for Forgotten Books

Because without doubt, they are a thing.  They are usually children’s or young adult books, as this comes about when people begin to suffer from Nostalgia Sickness. 

It is usually only a quick dose of this illness, but like a nagging bacterial infection, needs a specialised antibiotic to make it go away.

And that antibiotic is a particular book.  And it is up to you to make a diagnosis and find that book.

So, here are a few of the resources I use:

·         Goodreads Group – What’s The Name Of That Book???

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/185-what-s-the-name-of-that-book

·         Stump the Bookseller (N.B. Small fee applies but archives free to browse)

http://www.loganberrybooks.com/stumpthebookseller/

·         Search (e.g. Google) keywords (any details of plot, names, etc. also ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘young adult’, ‘historical’, ‘thriller’, etc.)

·         Literature Reference Guides, e.g.

          Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, edited by Jenny Stringer

–          Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Claire Buck

–          Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature, edited by Gerard Curruthers, Liam McIlvanney

·         AbeBooks.com BookSleuth®

http://forums.abebooks.com/discussions/AbeBookscom_BookSleuthreg/abeSleuthCom

·         Also the image searching option for search engines can be helpful.  For example, typing in “purple book cover” yields:

Purple Cover

On a related matter: people, after finding out I work in a library, will either…

a) say I don’t look like a librarian

b) ask me to recommend them a book

“Uh, ok.  What kind of stories or characters interest you?  Fiction or non-fiction?  What have you enjoyed watching or readi-“

“No, no,” my dentist says cheerfully.  “just off the top of your head.”

Gravity’s Rainbow,” I shoot back as he reaches for the drill.

These are some of the resources or strategies I use to help recommend a book (or suggest to people that they use):

·         The Ultimate Teen Book Guide, by Daniel Hahn (Editor), Susan Reuben, Leonie Flynn

·         The internet.  Just search the internet.  Blogs, forums, LibraryThing, Goodreads (especially good for reading quotes from books and getting a ‘feel’ for them)

·         Suggest they read the book of the film they loved.  Yes, there is often a book it was based on – and the book is seldom less amazing!

·         What Should I Read Next? http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/

Does anyone else have some ideas or resources they would like to share for making book recommendations or of use in finding Forgotten Books?

“There are typical librarians, but not all librarians are typical”

“There are typical librarians, but not all librarians are typical.”  ~  Excerpt From: Peters, Elizabeth. “The Seventh Sinner”

Jacqueline (or ‘Jake’ as she is often known by) isn’t the librarian one usually encounters in fiction.  Throughout her book series, she tries her hand at other professions – amateur detective (she already has the enquiring mind), sometimes historian (posing as a Richard III enthusiast), and romance writer (because she knows all the tropes and how to write them).

She’s also smart and independent.  Sometimes she dresses as librarians are imagined to dress, but she wears it almost like a disguise or a who-do-I-want-to-be-today? outfit.

I wonder how many other librarians get the same response when confessing their profession?  This is how a conversation at a social gathering usually progresses:

So what do you do?
I’m a librarian.
Whoa, no way!  That’s cool.  You don’t look like a typical librarian.
What does a typical librarian look like?
You know – twinset…bun…glasses (gestures)
Oh I only dress like that if they force me to be in a promotional photo. 
Ah, do they like you to dress librarian…ish?
They like it about as much as I like being in photoshoots. 
 
If you should come across a photo of a librarian looking like Wednesday Addams with her hair in a bun and cat eye glasses, it is probably me.

Wednesday
Yeeeaaah… much like that.

I read the Jacqueline Kirby series before I became a librarian.  The books sided with me on my counter-assumption that librarianship was more interesting and librarians less typical than most portrayals allowed them to be.

I have since come across many different librarians in fiction that begin to traverse from what was once the norm.  Not all of them are brilliant or remarkable, but it’s nevertheless a step outside what has been a fairly rigid square.

John Simm as “Frank” in Miranda

The sarcastic teen librarian that Lisa Simpson has a crush on in Bart’s Girlfriend
Simpson

The Orang-utan librarian in the Discworld
Discworld

I could do more of a list, but the thing I begin to notice is that many of the librarians who get to step outside of the norm are male, whereas female librarians are often still constricted to being the “Scary Librarian” or “Hot Librarian” (you will find both of these as tropes on the infamous TV Tropes website.

I trust I am mistaken in this – and that there are plenty more unique, female, fictional librarians out there too.  But this is perhaps why I hold Jacqueline Kirby up as the quintessential example of a well-characterised fictional librarian.

Moreover, as fascinating as it is to find librarians in pop-culture, what I find most entertaining and ground-breaking are the other librarians I meet in my line of work.

It makes me think you could never easily pick in real life who a librarian might be.  Sadly, in fictionalised media, it is often almost too easy.

“Quanto in aeternum”
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NZ Sign Language & Libraries

I find when I am enjoying the gentle warm rain of the shower at night, the steaminess enveloping me in a foggy cloud from the world, my mind drifts back to random episodes out of the past.

For whatever reason, my train of thought wandered back to the day I was on desk and helping a woman who was Deaf.  She was able to communicate what she needed me to do, but I remember feeling my own failure in not being able to make the exchange easier for her; expressly, my lack of knowledge in NZ Sign Language.

Once I was nicely warm in my pyjamas, I set to researching courses in NZ Sign Language on the internet.  In particular, I wanted to ascertain if there were courses tailored for libraries and the kinds of conversations one is likely to have with patrons.

It takes time to become proficient in any new language – but what if there was a course that would teach library staff the signs to say such things as:

·         Kia ora, how are you?

·         Would you like help finding something?

·         Would you like me to renew this book?

·         We need to update your address details

…And so forth.

I remember at the public library we did have a lady come in and teach us how to sign a few simple phrases, but what I had in mind was a slightly more intensive course – perhaps six sessions – which would be of specific and practical use.

 Are there such courses available?  Is this a feasible idea?  I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts and comments on this.

 At the moment I am trying to self-learn a little from this website: http://nzsl.vuw.ac.nz/

Becoming a Manager……

So let me tell you about my experience of being promoted to a management position.

Just to be clear I have been manager to a small number of staff for over a year and still don’t feel confident in my abilities to inspire or lead.

The particular position I am in was created after a restructure, I won’t discuss the merits or disappointments of the restructure as that deserves a separate blog!

I had no previous management experience and was super excited to be given the opportunity to develop new skills and learn from experienced managers.  How wrong I was to be excited.  The only training or development I have had has been received from my direct manager who has what I would call an interesting management style.  I hoped for mentoring to develop my own style however I quickly learned what all middle level managers know to be true – you are there solely as a buffer between the plebs and the patricians.

Going into this I had a genuine desire to be a competent and respected manager.  Now all I require of my staff is that they don’t do anything to get noticed by the higher ups.  Being noticed is a very bad thing.

I’m not really sure what I’m actually allowed to do (and I have asked, believe me!) and every suggestion I’ve ever made for improvements or trying something new has been met with swift and brutal denial.

leslie-knope-no

And the one lesson I have learned from this experience; upper level managers don’t want you to question the status quo.

So far this is just a reflection of the day to day reality of my job, the special hatred of my management position is the dreaded performance review period.  Which I am so lucky to have three times a year plus monthly meetings with each of my staff.  How can I help my staff to achieve their goals if I struggle to understand what is expected of me?

I want to be able to say yes absolutely you can do that instead of oh let me just check with my manager and get back to you, maybe in about a month if you’re lucky.

I hope that there are people working in Libraries out there that have had a fantastic promotion experience with support and mentoring that meant they were able to grow into the type of manager that the Library industry desperately needs. Managers who are creative and forward thinking who want to encourage and inspire those who are interested in Libraries as a career.

My first blog post

How do I begin to explain to people what my job is like?

I’m whimsical at times and tend to have my head in the clouds (but not the same goddamn cloud that our goddamn email server is now in).

I’d like to work in an old, dusty library with high shelves and weathered books; a place full of shadows.

11329569_10152738169310044_1118311398_n

Ummmm.  Well, yes.  Like in Doctor Who.  But without the deadly shadows.

Not all libraries are how one imagines them to be.  They are much more diverse, much more ridiculous, and much less efficient or quiet than I’d supposed.

I often wish some TV crew would come here and make a fly-on-the-wall doco.  It would be ratings gold, I promise.

Just the other day I had a “do you remember when I first started work here and it was stupid?” moment with a colleague.  Haha, oh yes, he remembered.  And did he remember how they forgot to train me?  Or give me access to any of the things I needed access to?

This colleague had to print off overdue reminder notices for me to put in envelopes so I’d have something to do.  On a good day, I managed to stretch that task out for half an hour.

“Do you have access to the shared inbox’s?  The library-issues inbox?”  He asked me.

“Library-issues inbox?” I rolled the words off my tongue like it was a wondrous foreign expression.

That’s how we know people haven’t been trained.  You glance across the room and see them looking confused, otherwise blank-faced, and not doing anything but repeating wtf wtf wtf over and over in their minds.

I spent weeks staring at my computer.  I was bemused.  I’d moved to a city where I knew no-one.  My workplace more or less ignored me.  I didn’t exist anymore.  I had become a part of the ennui that I can only assume office work is made of.

I explored the website.  I read all of the (out of date) manuals.  I got given one desk shift each day, and wished for more.  I seldom saw my managers.  They were in perpetual meetings or on courses.

Perhaps I was trapped in a dream.  The sort of dream that refuses to make up facts or gaps in your knowledge, blocking you from entering certain places or doing things.

I don’t do anything all day, I wrote to my parents, but I’m not afraid of being fired because I don’t think they know I exist.

At least they’d put me on the payroll.  If this was going to be a dreamworld with logical rules, then I’d still need money to get by.

And why didn’t I be more proactive and ask what my role was?  If this ever happened to  me again, I would.  But I was more shy back then, very much thrown by the place, and I seldom saw the people who managed me.

It was dull and strange, but it didn’t matter.  I began to feel less and less real.  Sunday shifts were beautiful and purposefully empty.  I didn’t have to do anything but exist.  I didn’t know it then, but I was supposed to be paid time and a half.  When my colleagues and I did accidentally uncover this and took it to the Human Resources department, it was over a grand worth of back pay.

So I experienced a personal tragedy five months later.  The pain of this flung me out of the sepia world and I was suddenly visible to everyone in violent, garish Technicolor.  Something in me snapped and I didn’t even hear it snap.

I’m not ‘good’ anymore.  I narrate sardonically from the wings as a farcical play carries on around me.

My blog posts will mostly be vistas of library life.  Little snapshots and anecdotes that I hope will help bring to life this place for you – as though you worked here yourself.

So, without further ado…

company