Showing posts with label librarians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label librarians. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It's A Librarian's Wonderful Life Redux

[Here is my own version of "It's a Wonderful Life," that was first published a couple of years ago.  I think it is particularly relevant now, so I updated it a bit and share it with you again as my holiday gift to you!]

OK, now be honest. 

How many times have you already watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” this holiday season? 

Cmon, be honest.

Most of us know the story –

Clarence, an angel who needs to earn his wings, comes down to earth to help a despondent George Bailey, who is contemplating suicide, to show George what life would have been like if he never existed.

It’s a fairy tale, but we watch this uplifting tale over and over because we all need reminding that we matter…that the world wouldn’t quite be the same if we were not in it.

Remember this?

(George has discovered his brother Harry’s tombstone)

Clarence: (explaining) Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.
George Bailey:  That’s a lie!  Harry Bailey went to war – he got the Congressional Medal of Honor, he saved the lives of every man on that transport.

Clarence:  Every man on that transport died!  Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry (when he broke through the ice).

Clarence goes on to tell George, “You’ve been given a great gift, George.  A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”

So this got me to thinking.

What would the world be like without libraries?

(sound of me thinking) Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do


CLARA’S VOICE (that’s me – I’m Clara the Angel)

You sent for me sir?

FRANKLIN’S VOICE (He’s the Head of the Angels)

Yes, Clara, People on earth need our help.


Splendid!  Are they sick?


No, worse.  They are not appreciating their libraries.


Oh, dear, dear!  Their libraries!  Then I’ve only got an hour to dress.  What are they wearing now?  (I must be fashionable! – wink)


You will go to earth and show the people what the world would be like without libraries.


Sir…If I should accomplish this mission – I mean—might I perhaps be able to secure library funding in perpetuity?  I’ve been waiting for over two hundred years now, sir…


Clara, you do a good job showing the people how valuable their libraries are and you will get that funding.


Oh, thank you, sir.  Thank you.

The stars fade out from the screen, and a light, an indistinguishable blur is seen. The blur on the screen slowly begins to take form.  We see a group of young boys on top of a snow-covered hill. 


A group of boys is preparing to slide down the hill on large shovels.  One of them makes the slide and shoots out onto the ice of a frozen river at the bottom of the hill.

BOY: (as he slides down and reaches the bottom)

Yippee!  I can’t wait to get to the library and get the last book in the Raven Cycle series.  All the kids are reading that right now.

OTHER BOY: (shaking his head)

You idiot.  Don’t you read the papers?  All the libraries have closed.  Everyone took them for granted and they disappeared.

BOY: (crying) Oh, no.  My dad lost his job and said there is no money for anything extra.  How will I get that book?


Boy’s home


BOY’S DAD: (talking to his wife)

Sorry, honey.  I have been looking for a job for six months now and there just isn’t anything.  I had to cancel our Netflix, newspaper, Book of the Month, magazine and investments subscriptions.  And we can’t afford our Internet access anymore either.  But we can always go to the library for free DVDs and books and can read the magazines and newspapers there.  We can use their computers and I know they have investment materials too.

BOY’S MOTHER: (gently)

Oh, George, haven’t you heard?  There are no libraries anymore.

BOY’S DAD (let’s call him George.  I’m tired of typing “Boy’s Dad):

Oh, no.  I was taking their free computer classes to improve my computer skills to help me get that job. 

And the librarians were so helpful when I needed assistance filling out the online job application forms.  What am I going to do?

MILDRED: (the wife)

Well, at least we can go to Starbucks for internet access, can’t we?

GEORGE: (shaking his head)

I had to sell the laptop.


Remember the last time we were asked to vote to support the library and we thought it was too much?  Now that we have to buy our books, DVDS, subscriptions, Internet access, investment newsletters, and all of the other services the library provided, what will it cost us?

GEORGE: (looking miserable)

I can’t even contemplate it.


When I put it all together, what we would have to pay to get everything we were able to get at the library – all in one place – it was really a bargain.

I guess I will have to give up my genealogy research too.  I was using Ancestry and HeritageQuest at the library. They provided those databases for free.  Even if we had a computer and Internet access, we wouldn’t be able to afford our own subscription.  What will I do?  I had just found my ancestor from the Revolutionary War, Ezekiel Tufnell.




OTHER BOY (let’s call him Bill so I don’t have to type OTHER BOY all of the time) is sitting at the table with his mother, Mary, and his little 3-year-old sister, ZAZA. 


Mama, Mama, can’t wait to go to library to see Miss Susan and hear stowy.


Oh, Zaza, Mama is so sorry.  There is no library anymore and Miss Susan is gone.  She had to move away because people didn’t realize how important her story times were and how many children she was helping with the skills they needed to be successful in kindergarten.

Last I heard she was working in a diner in town.

ZAZA:  (crying) 

No stowy?


Mom, I need you to help me with my algebra tonight.

MARY:  (sighing)

Oh, Bill, you know I’m not good at math.  Can’t you use the Homework Help at the Lib…Oh, no….No more free Homework Help either.


And where will I go tomorrow after school when you are at work?  You know I always go there to get my homework done and use the computer. The teen librarian has some great programs on Wednesdays for teens too.


I’m sorry, Bill.  I, I, I just don’t know.  Let me think…


Oh why did I take my library for granted?



Several adults of all ages are sitting around a table.

ADULT #1: 

I am glad we can meet here for our book club now that the library is closed. 

I hear Maury and Angela won’t be joining us anymore because they can’t afford to buy the books.  I don’t think people realized what an asset the library was for people like us.  I’m a senior on a fixed income and going to the free programs at the library enriched my life immensely.  It also got me out of the house to meet my friends and other seniors.  I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

ADULT #2: 

I know. 

My cousin has his green card and was taking citizenship classes at the library.  Who knew? Those were the only free classes available.  Not sure what he will do if he has to pay someone.  He was also getting help with his English at one of their English as a Second Language classes.


I was going to the library to get help researching my book.  The librarians were really helpful with the computer and making sure I was getting accurate information.  I don’t know what I am going to do now.  And without libraries, I am sure book sales will suffer.  Libraries buy a lot of books!

ADULT #4: 

I didn’t really think about the library.  I just thought it would always be there.



An indistinguishable blur is seen. The blur fades to a starlit sky.


Strange, isn’t it?  Each library touches so many lives. 

When they aren’t around it leaves an awful hole, doesn’t it? 


I think you made your point, Clara.


CLOSE SHOT - Back to the presentZaza and her mother and father hearing a bell ringing on their Christmas tree.

ZAZA:  (pointing)

Look Mama.  Miss Susan, the children's librarian, says, every time a bell rings a library gets funding.


That’s right, that’s right.


I said it was a fairy tale. 

But it's not a fairy tale that...

Libraries change lives.

Change yours and have a wonderful life by using your library card and supporting your library this holiday season and into the
New Year! 

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends

See you here Friday for the Week in Reviews!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Key to a Happy Retirement: Yes, I Have Found the Key!

Yes, that's right.  I have found the key to a happy retirement, and I am going to share it with you.

You know how all of the books on retirement warn you that the most difficult thing about retirement won't be a financial one, but an emotional and mental one?  Where once your job was your identity and gave you a sense of purpose, in retirement it is now important to find another sense of purpose so you won't go out on the golf course and drop dead because you have no sense of self worth anymore?  All those years that you worked, you had a purpose.  Your job defined you to a certain extent so if you wanted to make the transition to a happy retirement, you needed to find purpose.

When I retired, that really scared me.

When I first retired, I felt guilty leaving a job I could have kept doing, but I was 65 and I wanted to leave on a high point.  As Barbara Walters said when she retired from "The View," she wanted to leave when people would say, "Why are you leaving?" rather than wait for them to say, "Why don't you leave?"  That's how I felt too.  I had done what I meant to do, felt good about my career and the people who had crossed my path over the years, but it was time to go.  But I worried about this purpose thing I had heard about.  I had worked since I was 14 and when I married and had children, I worked and then came home to be with my family.  I didn't really have hobbies other than happy hour and going out to eat once in awhile.

So what was I going to do with all of that free time I was going to have when I retired?  How was I going to find purpose in my life?

So like the good little librarian that I was, I started to do some research.

Here are some books I read:

"The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, the Unemployed and the Overworked" by Ernie Zelinski (2003)

He recommended creating a "Get-a-Life Tree," a sort of chart where you list all of the things that you ever wanted to do.  "Get-a-Life" Tree right away signaled that maybe I didn't have a life, which was kind of depressing.  Anyway, I think he was trying to get me to realize I had more interests than I thought, but by the time I listed winning an Oscar and losing 50 pounds, it depressed me even more because it all seemed like so much work. Wasn't I retiring so I didn't have to work anymore?

"How to Enjoy Your Retirement: Activities from A-Z" by Tricia Wagner and Barbara Day (2006)

I know they were trying to be helpful, but their list of activities I might enjoy, such as learning to use an abacus or getting a face lift didn't seem like that would give me a sense of purpose.

"Retire with a Mission: Planning and Purpose for the Second Half of Life" by Richard G. Wendel (2008)

I was really hopeful with this book, because the people on the cover looked so happy and young!  But when the author said, "A negative countenance and chronic complaining have always been and will always be the pathway to isolation," I could see that I was going to have to become a completely different person to find purpose and enjoy my retirement, and I didn't see how that was going to happen.  Not this late in the game, anyway.

"How to Retire without Retreating: Getting Your Ducks in a Row for a Meaningful Retirement" by Johnnie Godwin (2004)

"As your formal career winds down, be sure to plan for the ten, twenty, or more years of retirement that await you."  Too late.  I'm already retired.  Plus, she wanted me to go to church.

So though some of the ideas in those books were helpful, they didn't really spark me to make that many changes or to embark on a new way of life.  In fact, they just made me feel pressured to fill my days with meaningful activities which reminded me of having a job again.

And then I had an epiphany that changed everything.

Yes, my job gave me purpose.  As a librarian in a public library, I was able to help many people find information that helped them make sense of the world they lived in.  I taught computer classes to help people find jobs, and I arranged for citizenship and ESL classes to be held at the library to help newcomers to the United States.  All of that made me feel purposeful. 
But I also realized that when I was working, every day I had to do a lot of things I didn't want to do.

Even if you loved your job, think of all of the things you really didn't want to do.

Think about it.

Every day you were confronted with activities and responsibilities you probably didn't enjoy very much and didn't really want to do.

  • In my case, I not only had to show up at work, I had to show up on time, and you know I am not a morning person.
  • I was only allowed a certain number of days off and sometimes when I wanted time off, it was denied.
  • I had no maternity leave (I went back to work when my babies were only six weeks old), and if I had to leave to take care of a sick child, it could be a problem.
  • I was a manager so I often had to address employee issues that I really didn't want to address.
  • Library customers could be demanding and I had to listen to their complaints.
  • I had to attend meetings that could be boring.
  • I had to deal with traffic getting to and from work.
I could go on, but I think I've made my point, and I am sure you could make your own list of things you don't really like to do at work.

So as I have been wrestling with this whole issue of finding purpose in my retirement, here is what I have discovered.
Are you ready for it? 

Do you need to find new purpose to enjoy your retirement?


Screw purpose.

And that's the key to a happy retirement.

You don't have to find purpose, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do any more.  You are free of all of that.

The freedom of retirement is in and of itself your purpose: to be free of the constraints of a job and the realization that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do any more is purpose enough.

If you feel pressure to find a new purpose, that's like looking for a job.  And when you find your new purpose, that's like HAVING a new job, which could lead to a whole new set of things you don't really want to do.
Hell, your existence is purpose enough.
Now does that mean I sit around all day watching TV?  Sometimes, if that's what I want to do.  But, no, I don't.  I have gotten involved in a few things such as volunteering as a senior peer counselor, which I really enjoy because I still have that "I like to help people gene" in me.  I exercise regularly and write this blog, and I have tried some new things like meditation and playing with tarot cards.  But I don't have to keep doing any of those things.  I can stop doing them whenever I want to.  I don't have a boss telling me I have to do something.  I am now my own boss.

I have also tried some things that I didn't like, such as Zumba and bird watching (just kidding about the bird watching - inside joke).  The main problem with Zumba was that it was at 10am and I don't like to have to be anywhere that early if I don't have to be and since I am retired I don't have to be. 

The main point is I have tried some things, didn't like them so I stopped doing them, because I can.  I don't have to get myself into anything I can't get myself out of anymore... 

So if you are getting ready to retire or have retired and are at loose ends about what you should do with yourself, just remember this:

You don't need to spend your retirement looking for your purpose or make elaborate plans before you retire. YOU are your purpose.  Your existence is purpose enough. You are now free to do whatever you want and you are also free to NOT do anything you don't want to do any more.  You are free!

When you free yourself of the "shoulds" in your life, your mind is free to discover what you really enjoy, and if that's solving the problems of the world, fine.  But if it's sitting in a chair every day with a good book or watching "The View," that's also fine.

And for those of you out there whose identity is so tied to your job or career that you are worried about what you will say when someone asks you what you do (and this seems to be more of an issue for men), just say:

"I am enjoying my life and my freedom."

Now go out there and enjoy your life and your freedom.
I'm going to go watch "The View."

Thanks for reading!
See you Friday

for my review of

"The Fundamentals of Caring"
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before  
 I Die Project."

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Interview With a Librarian

Recently an eighth grade girl asked to interview me about my career as a librarian.

She was working in her school library and in order to get credit she needed to write a report about the profession.

She asked me 13 questions that ranged from what kind of education a librarian needs (a master's degree) to what pay you can expect (not much) to skills that would be helpful (just about everything) to what is the work environment like (it depends).

I had to explain to her that my responses mostly related to working in public libraries.  Though I had worked in a college library and a medical library, most of my 40 years were spent working with the public out on the front lines and as a manager in a public library environment.

I expanded on those answers, but the question that really had me thinking was:

What have you learned from being a librarian?

I can't really remember how I answered that question for the young girl, but it struck me as a question I hadn't really thought about.  "What had I learned from being a librarian?" I have been thinking about that question ever since and wanted to sort that out, so here I am.

I have written quite a bit about libraries and librarians, sometimes in a humorous way, sometimes in a serious way, but I haven't really addressed that particular question.  So after much thought and late night glasses of wine, this is what I have come up with.

What have I learned from being a librarian?

I have learned that

  • being a librarian involves many skills and tasks that we never learned in library school, such as plunging the public toilets several times per week. 

I know, ha, ha.  But for some reason, putting whole rolls of toilet paper into the toilet is a fun activity for some people. Not fun for me, though, when I am wearing a cute outfit with fancy shoes and the toilet stall is amok with water.  And again, ha ha.  Yes, librarians wear cute outfits and fancy shoes.  

Another skill that I did not learn in library school - oh, right, it's not called library school anymore.  It's Information School because for some reason LIBRARY is a dirty word.  OK, sorry, I am ranting. 

So another skill not learned in library, er, Information School, is "reuniting "lost children" with their parents who are obliviously using the public computers."  And then there is the fielding complaints thing from the smell in the lobby to "why is that man in the corner staring at me?" I was not warned about any of that in Information School. "Putting out fires" should be in the curriculum as well as on the job description because a librarian's typical day consists of what anyone would have to do when managing staff and working with the public in a public space. 
      (I wrote a blog post called "What Do Librarian's Really Do" back in 2014
       that illustrates that).

  • managing and working in a library requires the same skills as any business: good customer service skills, the ability to lead, initiative, creativity. 

For some reason, people think that all we are doing in the library is what you see happening out in the public areas, which sometimes, I confess, can look chaotic. Several years ago when I was managing a branch library, a woman came in who wanted to volunteer.  Library staff welcome volunteers from the community.  They add value by doing tasks that library staff often don't have time to do.  The woman informed me that she wanted to volunteer because she felt she needed to whip us into shape.  She didn't think we were doing what we were supposed to be doing.  We signed her up and, let's just say, it wasn't long before she realized what really went into running a library.  I think I saw her hair turn white over the course of five weeks. She came to me and said, "I had no idea what you all go through to keep this place going!" 

  • having a sense of humor when I tell people I am a librarian is important because they will most likely put their finger to their lips and go "SHHHH," or say "I bet you read a lot of books," implying that's what I do on the job, or "You don't look like a librarian." 

The sense of humor is important because what I really want to do is bop them. 

Stereotypes still remain when it comes to libraries and librarians, despite the fact that libraries are not dusty institutions run by ugly old bats. Well, mostly not.

  • people like the idea of having a public library even though they never go there.  

A library is a part of the fabric of the community.  They know it's something good to have and they want to have it.  Don't try to take a little branch library away from a community.

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."  But then, after I get over my initial impulse to bop, I realize that people don't really care about public libraries that much.  They just don't think about them.  Why should they? As a librarian, libraries were always on my mind because I lived and breathed them but that just isn't the case for most of the public. They take them for granted as part of what is expected in the community, but they don't necessarily see them as a part of a successful life.  And if we librarians don't make the case for how important they are, why should they?

  • libraries have not done a very good job of promoting themselves and their services

When I was younger I used to think that if people knew all of the services and materials that were available for free at the library, they would be beating the door down.  It was just a matter of good PR and we would be beating people off with a stick.  I thought that 40 years ago and still think it's true, but for those 40 years, little has changed. I have come to realize that the library is not the first place people think of when they have a question or problem and no amount of talking about it will change that until they have a personal issue that takes them to the library and they find out for themselves.  Then they are converts!  But until then, the stereotypes remain.

I call that the "ME FACTOR," (and I wrote about that back in 2014). 

  • if public libraries want to be community gathering places, and many do, then the "rules" need to be relaxed.

Food and drink should be available, there should be areas for noise and vitality and areas for quiet study and staff should be welcoming, professional and knowledgeable and be able to deal with members of the public who want the library to be a quiet, old-fashioned place (and yes, there are still some of those).  Some libraries do that very well; others still have restrictive rules.

And by knowledgeable and professional, I mean that a librarian should know as much about "Dancing with the Stars" and Kim Kardashian as she does about Dostoyevsky and Beatrix Potter and treat questions about them as equally important. No one should feel demeaned by their questions or interests.

Those are the things that I have learned about being a librarian that have also frustrated me over the years.

I didn't share any of that with the young girl. 

I didn't want to discourage her because the truth is, despite some of the issues, ask any librarian.  Nine times out of ten, when asked how he or she likes being a librarian, that librarian will respond positively. 

Despite my feelings about what libraries could do better, what I have learned from being a librarian is that Librarianship is a noble profession that provides a life of service to our communities. 

Librarians help people every day and librarians and libraries protect Americans' rights to access to information, their right to read what they want without censorship and libraries provide a place to share that information. People need a place they can go to where they can get information on all sides of a question and ask questions without judgment.

We will always need libraries and librarians. 

The Internet has not taken that need away. 

One of the mottos of the American Library Association used to be "The right book for the right person at the right time."  I think that's still true, but we only need to change a couple of words to make it say that much more about libraries: 

"The right information and services for the right person at the right time." 

That's what librarians do every day.  They provide vetted information in a timely manner for people who need it that helps them live a better life and make sense of the world they live in.

As I wrote back in April of 2014 in a post called "Why We Need Librarians," I talked about how often a library customer would come to me looking for help, telling me not to bother looking on the Internet because he or she had already looked there and didn't find the answer to his or her question.  I would quickly do a search and find the information and the customer would say, "How did you do that?" I wanted to say, "This is what I do. I am a Librarian." But I didn't.

If you have been reading my blog, it's no secret that I once wanted to be an actress and trained as one.  I actually was in a play directed by Karl Malden.
I dreamed of one day winning a Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) Award or, dare I say it? - an Oscar.

When I watch the SAG Awards, I always enjoy the opening where actors introduce the show and themselves. 

The camera goes from one actor to another and each does a little intro like this...

and they all end their statements by saying proudly, "I am an actor."

So what have I learned being a librarian?

"I dreamed of being an actor.
But when I didn't become an actor, what could I do?
I became a librarian
And for 40 years I have been helping people make sense of the world they live in (in a most theatrical way)!
I am Rosy the Reviewer
And I am (proud to be) a Librarian!"


Thanks for Reading!


See you Friday


for my review of the new movie

"Hail, Caesar!"


The Week in Reviews

 (What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."
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