Showing posts with label Public Libraries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Public Libraries. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

5 Things I Know For Sure

In November, I reviewed Oprah's book, "What I Know For Sure," where she recounts, well, stuff she is sure of.  Because, hey, she is Oprah.

And there is a lot of it.  She weighs in on "Joy," "Resilience," "Connection," "Gratitude," "Possibility," "Awe," "Clarity" and "Power."

Here are some of Oprah's things she knows for sure:

"It's up to each of us to get very still and say, 'This is who I am.' No one else defines your life.  Only you do."

"Failure is just a way for our lives to show us we're moving in the wrong direction, that we should try something different."

"If you make a choice that doesn't please your mate, friends, or whoever, the world will not fall apart."

"This is the body you've been given -- love what you've got."

"The same questions follow every woman through girlhood and adolescence: Can I really do this?  Will I get it right?  Am I okay?"

And, like I said, she has a lot more of these -- 228 pages worth to be exact.

I, on the other hand, not being Oprah, only have five things I know for sure, but it's a start -- and here they are.


1. Meditation can remove the "bitch factor" from your life.

Meditation has many benefits (and I wrote about them in a post called "A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator"), but the one that is most powerful is the capacity meditation has to shut down any tendency you might have to be a bitch (and that goes for you guys out there too). 

When you are still with yourself, you connect to the source of love within you, your soul, that silent witness within that is always there sending you messages of love, joy and inspiration.  When you listen you feel the love that is your true nature.  Buddha said, "You can search the entire universe and will not find another person more worthy of love than you."  When you realize that, when you love yourself first, you become conscious of your existence and the existence of others and can love them too. You realize that at the soul level we are all inextricably connected. And that's called compassion. And it's really difficult to be a bitch when you have all of that compassion and love shining through.  But I know, it takes practice. 

I know that for sure.


2. Libraries change lives.

I know I talk about libraries all of the time, but I think that's what it takes for people to understand the true power of libraries.  I also think it takes just one meaningful encounter for you to understand it. 

Here is an example:

When I was a librarian in a public library, I was teaching a very basic computer class on how to set up a personal Yahoo email account.  The class consisted of about six people who had few computer or typing skills, a few seniors and a couple of people where English was not their first language.  One of the latter was a lady from Korea.  After the class, I gave them all a bit of homework:  sometime during the week send me an email so I can see that you can do that. A few days later, I received an email from the lady from Korea.  In it she thanked me for the class and said that she had just sent an email to her son in Korea who she hadn't seen or spoken to in over a year. So that one encounter, that one class, brought together two people separated by space and time.  Not to mention the lump in my throat.

That is just one such life changing encounter I can relate.

Libraries are not just about books, though books are certainly worthwhile and life changing on their own.  Libraries protect our right to information, provide training and classes to better ourselves, teach our children skills to make them successful in school and provide a place for the community to gather.

If you have a need, have you gone to your local library or checked out your local library's webpage lately?  I think you will be amazed at what you will find.
Trust me. 

And I am going to keep talking about libraries until you do! 

I know that for sure.


3. Television is not evil.

It is no secret that I like to watch television.  My flirtation with it goes way back and I have poked fun about myself and TV in other posts.  And I have no problem with people who don't watch.  What I DO have a problem with is people giving television more power than it really has and ranting about how it is destroying civilization.  I can think of a lot more things that have destroyed civilization than an episode of  "Modern Family."  (Now if you are talking about Fox News, you might have a point, but that's a whole different post). 

I had a husband once who wouldn't have a TV in the house because he believed if he had one, he would somehow be forced to watch it.  Not sure how that works (the evil little TV fairy attacks him and makes his finger press the "on" button?), but needless to say the marriage didn't last.

Likewise, there is what I call the "snooty factor." When I am enthusiastically talking about the latest episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," and someone says to me something snooty like, "I don't watch TV, which in a conversational setting is a conversation stopper if ever there was on, I think I will not let that stop the conversation and say, "No need to apologize" as in "Bless your heart, you poor thing (I can be snooty too)." Because it's one thing to not watch, which is fine.  What am I, the TV police? But it's another thing to feel you need to say that to someone who obviously does and somehow imply you are better than. 

And there is a certain hypocrisy attached to that.  OK, you don't watch TV but are you playing video games and reading comic books instead?

Another idea is to recommend meditation to this person because clearly the "Bitch factor" is an issue (see above).

If we are talking about evil, let's talk about war, racism, mass murder, child abuse, those things are evil.  Television isn't even close.

I know that for sure.


4. Retirement isn't for sissies.

For those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning, you know that I shared my retirement fears and woes since I started this blog.  It's been a year and a half since I retired and like Bette Davis said about aging, "Old age ain't no place for sissies," retirement ain't no place for them either.

No matter how much you have looked forward to not having to get up early and go to work at a job you might not like for a boss you hate, the adjustment to not having that job anymore is HUGE.  What do you say when someone asks you, "What do you do?"  Then you realize just how much you have defined yourself by your job. 

I never liked getting up early, but I had a job I liked and never hated my bosses, which made it even more difficult to say sayonara.  Suddenly you have all of that time you always wished you had.  What are you going to do with it? Where you once derived meaning by merely going to work, now you must find it somewhere else. You need to start redefining yourself, your life, your dreams, what's left of the your future... You are staring your mortality in the face.  What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

So just as starting out in life is a scary adventure, so too is the endgame.  Sissies need not apply.

I know that for sure.


5. Skinny jeans don't make you look skinny.

I thought since this blog is not just about retirement, books and libraries, it's also about movies, fashion and fun, that I should add something about fashion, so here it is.

"Skinny jeans don't make you look skinny."

But who cares?  I'm going to wear them anyway!


I know that for sure.

What do YOU know for sure?

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday 

for my review of the new movie

"American Sniper,"


The Week in Reviews,
as well as my progress on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Librarian Fashion

The title of this blog post may seem like an oxymoron because the librarian stereotype seems to belie what we think of when we think of fashion.  The stereotype is a woman, hair in a bun with a pencil in it, glasses on her face or dangling from a chain around her neck and double tread floor gripper shoes. High fashion and librarians don't seem to mix.

But then I saw this piece in Elle Magazine.

I kept it in my office as a reminder that no matter how times have changed, no matter how eclectic librarians really are as they toil in libraries, librarians do have a perceived stereotype, even when perceived from the echelons of high fashion in a seemingly flattering light.

Yes, the above "seems" flattering, but at second glance...

The Stereotype:

"Bookish accessories"...check

"Proper polka dots"...check

"Smart cover-ups"...check



Flat, sensible shoes...check.

Name tag that says "Librarian."  Maybe, check.

Yep, it's all there...and then...

Dress with thigh high slit?...Yikes! 

Despite that one little thing, which I will get to in a minute, even now, even when the article is actually trying to be flattering, this stereotype surrounds librarians.

When I started out in the profession, I can't tell you how many times someone would say, "But you don't look like a librarian."  And that's because I was young, I dressed in the current styles and was outgoing, something that belies that old librarian stereotype.

That really bothered me.  Why?

Because a stereotype, even when it involves fashion, somehow belittles and diminishes.  It detracts from the important work that librarians do. 

I wanted to look like a librarian because I WAS a librarian.  But I didn't want to perpetuate that stereotype of the homely, anti-social librarian, so I worked to change that stereotype through how I looked and how I performed my job.

People who become librarians are as diverse as any other profession.  The stereotype of the quiet, bookish woman librarian persists mostly from people who haven't set foot in a library in years. Because if they had, they would know that libraries are so much more than books, and librarians don't have time to be "bookish," because they are too busy dealing with the issues that come up in any public place and putting out the fires that are part of a busy job.

Proper?  Not sure what that means.  I know male librarians who wear kilts and play in rock bands and women librarians who are tattooed from head to toe and dance in strip clubs at night.  Well, not really, the strip club thing, but they could.

Smart.  Well, yeah.  I will go along with that one.

Glasses.  I haven't worn glasses in public for over 40 years.  Most of us have heard of contacts, OK?  We are smart people.  But what if we WANT to wear glasses, huh?  What do you think about that?  What if we think really cool glasses are fashion statements?  What about that?  Huh?

Cardigan?  Ok, but with a classy belt.

Flat, sensible shoes?  I was never good about the sensible part.

Name tag...OK, I'll give you that one.

Dress with thigh high slit?  Well, no.  But I don't think you could get away with that in a law office or bank either. Though I like the idea of Elle Magazine adding that little twist and some sex appeal to librarians, I have a feeling it's harking back to that other librarian stereotype...the pent-up sexually frustrated librarian-type who keeps all of the dirty books behind the desk and who is just waiting for a hunky guy to come along so she can doff the glasses, pull her hair out of the bun and let him ravage her on the desk.  It's a guy thing.

I don't like that stereotype either.

The truth is, libraries are dynamic places that are helping people find jobs, helping children prepare for school, helping students with their homework, providing tax assistance and English as Second Language programs...I could go on and on.

And the library staff providing those services are dynamic people who may or may not be fashionistas, but that bun-wearing old lady shushing everyone who dares breathe too heavily are few and far between.

But despite that, the stereotype persists, so I have some advice for librarians who want to smash that stereotype while maintaining a professional attitude.

If you want to be taken seriously, dress seriously.
People go to librarians for assistance and they want to know that the people who are helping them know what they are doing.  So it's probably not a good idea to wear a T-Shirt that says something like "Librarian by day, Zombie Slayer by night" or "I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie."  Likewise, political statements or rude sayings, such as "I'd tell you to go to hell but I work there and then I would have to see you every day" probably won't inspire confidence.  That also might get you fired.

If you want to be treated like the professional person you are, dress like a professional person.
You don't need to "Dress for Success," like we did in the 70's, but jeans, a t-shirt and sandals are too casual if you want to be treated like a professional person, especially if you are a library manager.

Keep up with trends.
If you dress with some indication you know what's in fashion, it will also indicate you are aware of what's going on in the world.  Even women of a certain age can wear a trend of some kind.  I think it's a psychological thing.  People associate looking current with being current, that you know what's going on.  And looking like you know what's going on is a must for a librarian.

As for "Looking like a librarian?"

Here's what a librarian looks like.


 (what can I say?  It was the 80's)




I am now retired after 40 years as a librarian.  I have weathered (and tried) every fashion trend.  Even in retirement, I still try to stay current with and write about fashion, (here's my post about "Retirement Chic,"), though more and more I seem to wear my jammies until late in the day if I don't have to go out.  But that's one of the perks of retirement.

I still keep that Elle Magazine article in my office to remind myself that even in retirement, I look like a librarian.


Because I AM a librarian and this is what she looks like!

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday 
for my review of the new movie

"Big Eyes,"

The Week in Reviews,
as well as my progress on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Holiday Carol, An Update (With Apologies to Charles Dickens)

Ebenezer Scrooge was in a bad mood as he headed to his office. He was always in a bad mood.

He encountered his nephew Fred.

Fred: Happy Holidays, Uncle! I’m off to the library!

Scrooge: Bah, Humbug! What right do you have to be happy? You’re poor enough. And what do you want with the library? What good is it to you?

Fred (laughing): And what right have you to be dismal, Uncle? You’re rich enough.

Scrooge: (grumbling) What else can I be, when I live in such a world of fools as this? Happy Holidays. What are the holidays but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer?

Fred: All the more reason to go to the library, Uncle. When times are hard, the library is a good place to go. I am getting some DVDs, which I can borrow for not a pence and I can use their computers to print out my holiday greetings. I am going out of town, so I am also going to check out some audio books to listen to on the plane. But join us for our holiday dinner. We are going to watch the Dr. Who Holiday Special. 
 Good day, Uncle!

As Scrooge enters his business premises, two other people follow him in. They are portly gentlemen and stand with their hats off in Scrooge’s office.

Gentleman #1: Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge or Mr. Marley?

Scrooge: Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years. He died seven years ago this very night.

Gentleman #2: We are from the Friends of the Library and are asking for donations to fund our classes and programs. At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should have events and activities to benefit those in our community who are finding these economic times difficult and, who suffer greatly at the present time due to the bad economy. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries, hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts. Coming to the library is of great comfort to many.

Scrooge: Are there no prisons? And the workhouses? Are they still in operation?

Gentleman #1: (cautiously) Both very busy, sir.

Scrooge: Good. I was afraid from what you said that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

Gentleman #2. But people would rather die than go there.

Scrooge: Then they should do it and decrease the surplus population.

Gentleman #1: (thinking Scrooge is joking): We choose this time of year because it is a time when Want is keenly felt. What shall we put you down for?”

Scrooge: Nothing.

Gentleman #2: (hopefully) You wish to remain anonymous?

Scrooge: I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry during the holidays and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there. Who cares about libraries? Now leave my premises.

That evening, Scrooge takes his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern and reads all the newspapers, and beguiles the rest of the evening with his banker’s book and then goes home to bed. He lives in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner, Jacob Marley. They are a gloomy suite of rooms that suit Scrooge’s personality.
As the candles flicker, Scrooge nods off to sleep --- only to be awakened by a clanking noise, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain. The door flies open and he beholds an apparition.

Scrooge: Who are you? What do you want with me?

Ghost: I am Marley’s ghost.

Scrooge: What? You’re not Jacob Marley.

Ghost: Jacob Marley? I thought they said Bob Marley.

Scrooge: Well my partner’s name was Jacob Marley.

Ghost: Whatever, mon. The message will be the same and here it is.

(reciting) It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen and travel far and wide and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. I wear the chain I forged in life. I never walked beyond our counting-house in life and never believed in the power of libraries. Seven years dead and travelling all the time. The whole time. No rest, no peace, incessant torture of remorse, because I spent all of that money on Netflix when I could have had DVDs for free or that I never learned how to use a computer because I didn’t know the library had free classes.

Scrooge: Huh?

Ghost: (shaking his head) Basically, mon, Marley didn’t live a very nice life, never helped anyone, lived only for himself and didn’t get it that libraries are life-changers and would have saved him all of that precious money he cared so much about. But you have a chance to change that. 

(getting back into character)

Scrooge, you will be haunted by Three Spirits. Without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.

And the spirit disappears. Scrooge feels a draft, shivers and closes the window. He examines the door by which the ghost had entered. It is double-locked and the bolts undisturbed.

Scrooge: Hum…

He stops after the first syllable, goes straight to bed and falls asleep upon the instant.
Suddenly, the curtains of his bed are drawn aside and Scrooge finds himself face to face with another ghost.

Scrooge: Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?

I am.

Scrooge: What and who are you?

Ghost: I am the Ghost of Years Past.

Scrooge: Long Past?

Ghost: Your past. Rise and walk with me.

All of a sudden in the blink of an eye, Scrooge and the spirit are standing outside looking up at a large brick building.

Scrooge: This was my boyhood library!

Ghost: You recollect the way?

Scrooge: Remember it, I could walk it blindfold.

They walk around the library, Scrooge recognizing his favorite childhood books.

Scrooge: The library is deserted.

Ghost: The library is not quite deserted. A solitary child, neglected by his family, is left there still.

(The Spirit touches Scrooge on the arm and points to his younger self intent upon his reading.)

Suddenly they are surrounded by storybook characters: Curious George and The Wild Things from “Where the Wild Things Are."

Scrooge: I had forgotten what a lonely boy I was and how the library was a place I went to escape that loneliness and the misery of my family. All of those lovely books. Without the library, I would have been miserable indeed. The library saved me.

A beautiful and glamorous librarian appears.

Librarian: Happy Holidays, Young Scrooge. Here is the last book in the Divergent series. I saved it for you.

Scrooge: (his face lighting up) She was always so welcoming and wonderful to me. She smashed the librarian stereotype. She never wore a bun or practical shoes and never shushed me. And she had tattoos! All of the library staff were welcoming and friendly people. And the place was so alive, full of people using the computers, attending the classes and events, gathering with their neighbors…

Ghost: A small matter, to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.

Scrooge: Small?

Ghost: (Looking at Scrooge sincerely) People spend but a few pounds of mortal money for library service. Is that so much that they deserve this praise?

Scrooge: It isn’t that…The happiness and help they give is quite as great as if it cost a fortune. Books and the teen programs at the library helped me through some sad and lonely times. And where else can you go to find information on all sides of a subject and not be judged? The library protects our rights to information and is the backbone of what makes this country great.
But somehow I lost my way.
Spirit…show me no more. Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?
The spirit disappears under the door in a burst of light. Scrooge is overcome by drowsiness and barely has time to reel to bed before he sinks into a heavy sleep. Scrooge jolts awake from a prodigious snore. A strange voice calls him by name. A light shines from an adjoining room. A woman who bids him enter. 


I am the Ghost of the Present.

She is clothed in a green robe and jewels, but her nametag clearly indicates she is a librarian.

Ghost: You have never seen the like of me before.

Scrooge: No, actually I recognized you as a librarian right away. I am used to glamorous librarians.

Ghost: Touch my robe.

As Scrooge does so the room disappears and they stand in the threshold of Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Bob Cratchit is Scrooge’s employee. Mrs. Cratchit is there dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown but brave in ribbons

She is laying the table with her daughter and two smaller Cratchits are also there. Bob Cratchit appears with Little Tiny Tarquin on his shoulder. Bob is sad and Little Tiny Tarquin is crying.

Scrooge: Spirit, tell me what is wrong with Little Tiny Tarquin?

Ghost: You cut Bob Crachit’s hours and he was no longer able to keep up his car payments. They no longer have a car to get to the library and they can’t afford bus fare either because of the meager wages Bob receives. Little Tiny Tarquin worries that he will not do well in school if he doesn’t get to attend the Ready Reader story times at the library. He doesn’t want to start kindergarten without the same skills that other children will have. I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will not succeed in kindergarten or in life.

Scrooge: No, no. Oh, no, Spirit, say he will be spared.

Ghost: Let him go to the prisons and the workhouses and decrease the surplus population.

Scrooge hangs his head when hearing his own words quoted by the Spirit.
Suddenly the bells toll and as the last stroke ceases to vibrate, Scrooge remembers the prediction of Bob Marley and lifting up his eyes, beholds a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him. It is shrouded in a dark garment, which conceals its head, its form and leaves nothing of it visible save its nose and one outstretched paw…er, hand.

Scrooge: Am I in the presence of the Ghost of What is Yet To Come? You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us. Is that so, Spirit? Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any specter I have seen. Will you not speak to me?

The Ghost remains silent and leads Scrooge through the darkened town. The Spirit stops beside one little knot of business men.

Man: No, I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know all of the libraries have been closed.

Man 2: When did they close? What happened? I thought they would be there forever.

Man: So did I. But no one supported them and they disappeared.

The spirit leads Scrooge to a dark building. The Phantom’s claw points to a sign.

Scrooge: Before I draw nearer to that sign to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that WILL be or are they shadows of things that MAY be?

Scrooge creeps towards the sign, trembling as he goes; and following the pointing claw reads upon the sign


Scrooge: Oh, no, Spirit, no. Spirit, hear me. I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope? I will honor libraries in my heart and support them all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on that sign.

Holding up his hands, Scrooge sees an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrinks, collapses and dwindles down into his bedpost.

Scrooge: They are not closed. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been may be dispelled. They will be, I know they will.

Scrooge dresses and sets out to town. He has not gone far when coming on towards him he beholds the portly gentlemen from the Friends of the Library who had walked into his counting house the day before.

Scrooge: My dear sirs. How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. If you please, accept this donation to the Friends of the Library. And I would love to support my library in any way possible.

Gentleman: I don’t know what to say about such munificence.

Scrooge: Don’t say anything please. Come and see me. I would like to be active in your group.

Scrooge then heads to his nephew, Fred's, home.

Scrooge: (knocking on Fred's door) Fred, Fred, let me in. I've come to watch the Dr. Who Holiday Special with you!

The next day, Scrooge is early to his office. If he could only be here first and catch Bob Cratchit coming late. That was the thing he had set his heart upon. And Bob was late.

Scrooge: (growling but hiding a grin) What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

Bob: I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time. It’s only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.

Scrooge: Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer…and therefore I am about to raise your salary! I will raise your salary and endeavor to assist your struggling family. I want to take Little Tiny Tarquin to the library. They have family story times that would be fun for all of us to go to. And we can take him to the Ready Reader story times so he can get ready for kindergarten. We want him to succeed, don’t we, Bob. And I want you to improve your computer skills. They have free classes.

Scrooge couldn’t stop talking about the library and he was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.

He became a library champion!

He shared his enthusiasm with everyone he encountered. And he became a donor to the Library Foundation which supports library programs and services. 

And to Little Tiny Tarquin he was a second father. He enjoyed attending the Ready Reader story times with him. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them: for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

Scrooge had no further visits from Spirits but lived upon the principle that libraries mattered ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep the holidays well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. 

And so, as Little Tiny Tarquin observed,

Arf, Arf, Arf, Arf, Arf Arf!”

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Why not make a New Year's Resolution to support your local libraries?

Thanks for  reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I Love My Library: The ME Factor

You knew I couldn't go too long without talking about libraries. 

I can't help it. As you all know, I spent 40 years of my life as a librarian, over 30 of those years in California, so it's practically in my blood at this point.

So that said, I am continually struck by the fact that not everyone knows what a great job public libraries are doing and all of the great FREE services and programs they provide.

And it is important to me that people know what they are missing by not taking advantage of what public libraries have to offer. 

But let me digress a bit.

My first library job was in a small Carnegie Library in a very rural area of Northern California.  How rural was it?  It was so rural it didn't even have a McDonald's!


Things were looking up with my career until 1978, when the Jarvis-Gann tax initiative (also known as Proposition 13) took hold of California and things were never the same again.  Property taxes were rolled back to their 1975 values and annual increases were restricted to less than 2%.  And a 2/3 vote was required for any tax increases, making it extremely difficult for public entities to raise taxes.

This was good news for property owners, especially older ones who were increasingly being taxed out of their homes (one of the major reasons this "tax revolt" occurred), but it was the death knell for County and City services, especially libraries, that relied on property tax revenue to operate.

I had not been a librarian long enough to become entrenched in big budgets, but every year I saw more and more cuts to the library budgets, fewer books, fewer services, fewer programs.

But despite a lack of money, we librarians did what we always did: provided the information and service people needed to help them make sense of their world.  So all hail to my ex-colleagues at the Monterey County Free Libraries and to all library staff who strive to provide excellent customer service despite setbacks.

Fast forward to when I moved to the Seattle area.

It was a revelation and a delight to continue my career in Washington, a state that is not only known for it's coffee drinkers, but for being one of the most literate states in the country and its residents huge library supporters. 


I was able to spend the last ten years of my library career working in a library with enough money to provide the services its communities needed and wanted.

But even in an area where the residents support library services, I was continually running into a number of people who were not aware of the programs and services that are available for free from their local public library, despite libraries working very hard to advertise and market these programs and services.  And this has been something that has not changed much over the last 40 years. 

People like the idea of having a public library.  It's a part of the fabric of the community.  They know it's something good to have and they want to have it.  But ask the regular person on the street or in a bar or at a party if he or she goes to the library and you will inevitably hear, "I haven't been in a library since I was a little kid," or "I buy my books" or worse yet, "I haven't read a book in years." 

This is all assuming, of course, that libraries are only about books, which these days is certainly not the case.

Why, despite pointed efforts to promote library services, do so many people carry misconceptions about libraries and are not aware of the plethora of programs and services available?

I have come to the following conclusion:

People are not interested in GOOD NEWS.

We were talking about this issue when I was in library school 40 years ago.  How do we get people to think of the library when they need information, to continue their education or to gather with other community members? 

And 40 years later, we are still asking the same question.  And with information so readily available on the Internet, it is an even bigger question.

One of my professors in library school said the best thing that could happen to libraries would be for a librarian to be splashed across headlines in the tabloids as part of a scandalous love nest or (this was the Watergate years) to be found to be a Watergate conspirator.

The point being, bad news sells and gets the word out. 

Good news doesn't.

I always felt that if people knew about all of the programs and services offered by their local library FOR FREE they would be beating down the doors.

As I said, most people would say that libraries are good and a community should have a library.  It's part of the quality of life for a community and is part of the "greater good." But that doesn't mean they use the library.  And that doesn't mean that when it comes time to raise taxes to support libraries, that people will support "the greater good."

That leads me to conclusion number two: 

To have their value appreciated, libraries need to connect directly one on one with someone's specific need.  Then the light bulb goes off, or as Oprah would say, that "A-Ha Moment" happens.

Because, in the end, it's all about ME.

Here is an example:  I meet someone at a party.  He is telling me about how he enjoys listening to talking books in his car on the way to work.  I ask him if he knew he could download talking books for free from the library's website?  Light bulb goes off.  "I did not know that," he says.  "I am going to check that out."  

"The Me Factor?"  I like talking books and I like to save money.

Or the person who comes to the library as a last resort because a friend had heard the library had free computer classes.  She is looking for a job, needs to fill out an online application and knows nothing about computers.  The librarian helps her on the spot.  Light bulb goes off. 

"The Me Factor?  I need a job and I need help filling out an online application.

Or when people find out they can check out 10 current DVDS for free...another light bulb.

"The Me Factor?" I like to watch DVDs but I don't like paying Netflix $25.00 per month.

So it seems that when someone has a need and the library can go beyond that person's expectation to fulfill that need, their own PERSONAL NEED, that's when the realization hits: 

The library has what I need.  The library can answer MY question.  The library can fulfill MY needs.  I need the library.  I will be back.

Personally, in the last week alone, here is how my local library helped ME:

1.  I used to get some information for my blog post about my Swedish heritage, which you can read here, if you are so inclined. is a genealogy database that costs a fortune to use if you subscribe on your own, but it's free at the library.  I type in the name of my ancestor and voila!  Census records, immigration lists, etc.  If you have watched the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" or "Finding Our Roots (PBS)," they use Ancestry all of the time.

2.  If you have been reading my Friday blog posts, you know I am embroiled in a project to see all 1001 movies listed in the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," (and you can keep up with my progress every Friday), a book I heard about and found at my local library and which has given me a project that will keep me busy until...well, until I die.

I painstakingly went through and marked the ones I had seen and made a list of those I had not seen - 312.  Then I checked Netflix and Amazon and my library's catalog, and though the library did not have all 312, the library had many of them AND some that neither Netflix nor Amazon had.  One movie alone would have cost me $150 to buy through Amazon, but at the library, it was free.

3.  I am getting ready to visit my grandchildren in California.  Whenever I fly, I want to have content on my IPad so I load it up with the magazines from Zinio, another service that is quite expensive if you were to subscribe to an online magazine on your own.  This service is available free on my library's website, and it includes a wealth of full-text magazines for free in all of their full color glossiness.  Why spend $10 loading up on the gossip mags at the airport (and you know you do!) when you already have them for free on your device?  And nobody can judge you for your choice of reading material!

(I have to confess I read them at home via Zinio too, along with the Food Network Magazine and other cooking magazines, Oprah's "O Magazine," and tons of fashion magazines.  Why pay for magazine subscriptions when you don't have to? And there is something for everyone - from "The Advocate"  to "Golf Tips" to "National Geographic Traveler").

So that is how my library has helped ME, in just the last week.

  • But if I still had toddlers at home, I would take them to the free story times that would help them get ready to go to school.

  • If I needed help with my English, I would attend the free ESL classes.

  • If I wanted to become a U.S citizen, I would attend the free classes that would help me pass the test.

  • If I needed to repair my car, I would use the free car repair databases.

  • If I wanted to learn a new language, I would use the free Mango service on the website.

  • If I had school children, I would set them up with the free homework help available online.

I could go on and on. 

It just depends on what your specific need is right now - your "Me Factor." 

So whatever it is, next time you have a question, a need, check out the library first.  Your specific need might just be filled right there for free.

And, on the library side, I don't think marketing the library by directing the librarians to get involved in a scandal so as to make the news is a good option.  However, working on marketing the "Me Factor" might work.

The American Library Association has long had a motto:  "The right book for the right person at the right time."

In this day and age, it should be "The specific need fulfilled for the specific person (ME) at the specific (and perfect) time."

Because in the end, it's all about ME.

Oh, and my local library that has given me so much? 


But I think if you check out YOUR local library's website or better yet, pay the library a visit, you will find many of the same great services.

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
where I will judge the new movie
"The Judge" 
along with my other reviews.

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