Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things Librarians Hate

Well, maybe that's a bit strong. 

My mother always told me never to use the word "hate," so perhaps I should amend that a bit and say "things that librarians really, really don't like. "

I was inspired by a recent Facebook posting by my librarian friend, Steve - "30 Things Librarians Love."  It's very humorous and right on.

But isn't it funny that the first thing I thought while reading it was that there sure were things librarians didn't love and in fact, hated...oh, sorry, Mom, really, really didn't like. 

After 40 years as a librarian, 30+ in public libraries, if you have been reading this blog, you know that I recently retired.  I have to say I have enjoyed being a librarian in a public library setting and feel it was a meaningful and rewarding profession. I have encountered many wonderful people over the years and have some wonderful memories. Most library customers value their libraries and librarians and the work they do.  But when you work in a public environment for over 30 years, things happen, some humorous, some not. 

I don't pretend to speak for every librarian or every public library. 
This is a personal list that only applies to a certain number of people.
But I think there are things on my list many librarians will relate to and library customers can learn from.

So here goes...everything I am recounting really happened (mostly).

Things Librarians Really, Really Don't Like:

1.  When you say Liberry or "Are you the 
     This makes librarians feel bad. It's as if you don't value them or the library
     enough to have good diction and learn how to pronounce LibR-ary.

2.  Booze breath at 10am.
     And I am not talking about the librarians. 
     When library customers walk in reeking of alcohol in the morning, library  
     staff are not sure if you are Monday morning coming down or Monday
     morning getting up.  Sometimes the stench would be so powerful I would
     gag on my way past the computers from the circulation desk to my office.
     So if you like to tipple in the morning or drink so much that it's coming out
     your pores, please don't be offended if you see library staff putting a dab of
     hand sanitizer on their upper lips.  It helps them not to get a contact high
     from you.

3.  Calling librarians "Sweetie," "Honey,"
    "Sweetheart," "Blondie" or "Toots."
     I am fairly certain this only applies to the female librarians.  I don't think the
     male librarians have to endure this disrespect, but maybe they get called
    "Sonny" from time to time. Even that is not as disrespectful.  
     When this happens, female librarians realize that some customers do not   
     respect them as professionals.  Please see item number 1 in the list of "30
     Things Librarians Love" I referenced above, which says librarians love
     "pointing out that you have to have a master's degree to be a REAL
      librarian."  That's right, folks.  Librarians are "edicated" and do not
      appreciate your demeaning them in that way.  They are PROFESSIONALS. 
      Would you call your doctor or lawyer "Toots?"

4.  Screaming children

     I was always amazed at the tolerance some parents have for screaming,
     crying children.  I have a fairly high threshold for noise, but when the
     shrieking gets to the point of eardrum rupture (150db), library staff has to
     say something.  And what happens?   The parents get mad at staff for being
     so insensitive to their little tykes' rights to express themselves.

5. Babysitting your children

    In the same vein, a constant problem in public libraries is parents dropping 
    off their kids at the library and leaving them there for hours. There seems to 
    be this misperception that children are safe running around
    the library, because librarians want nothing more than to find crafts for
    them, read them a story and give them appropriate lessons on how to act in
    the library (as in Shhhh).  NOT! 

    As I mentioned earlier, librarians are working professionals.  It might look
    like they have cushy jobs reading the dirty books they keep behind the
    desk (library myth), but it's not true.  They have to answer really difficult or
    crazy questions (though they don't judge) that require research, they have
    to plan for those story times and other programs, they have to conduct
    interviews, supervise volunteers and staff and sometimes even plunge the
    toilet in the restroom (and I will get to that later), so you can see they do not
    have time to keep an eye on your child. 

    I don't know how emphatically I need to impress people with the fact that it's
    called a PUBLIC library for a reason. Things happen in public places.

    Would you drop your child off at a public park and leave him or her
    there for hours?  The same goes for the library.  It is a public place where all
    kinds of people congregate. Mostly nice people, I might add, but no one is
    checking ID at the door or looking people up on the Internet to see if they
    meet certain standards to be around your child.  No one is checking the
    restrooms on a regular basis and no one notices if your child walks out the

    So please take your child to the library and spend time with him or her
    there.  That's part of the library experience, happy memories and setting
    your child on the right road to reading readiness and success in school.

6.  Calling your pet boa constrictor a service animal


     Libraries welcome service animals when they are needed but please...


7. Going overboard with your right to bring food into the library

     Many librarians don't mind if you eat or drink in the library as long as you
     are tidy and not disruptive.  But when you order a pizza to be delivered or
     bring a complete hamper of food with tablecloth, silverware, candles and a
     bottle of wine, librarians really, really don't like that.

8.  Asking for office supplies
     Library staff want to make your library experience a good one, they really
     do. And they don't mind a rubber band here, a paper clip there, even some
     sheets of paper. But when you start asking for 25 paperclips, a ream of
     paper, free stamps or file folders, they want to say, "What do you think this
     is, Office Depot?" They don't because they are trained professionals, as I
     said earlier, but they think it.

9.  You call the reference desk from home for a recipe or an address and you have no pen or pencil anywhere near you.

Let me share some examples from person experience.

Ring, ring.

"I need the address for our local Social Security Office." 

"Yes, Mrs. So and So. Here it is.  Ready?"

"Oh, sorry.  I don't have a pen.  Let me go find one."


"Here I am.  I'm back...oh, wait, this one doesn't work.  Just a sec."


"OK, shoot."

By this time, I wish I did have a gun.

And here is another favorite.

Ring, Ring.

"Hello, could you give me the recipe for Paula Deen's chocolate covered deep fat fried sticks of butter," please?"

"Sure, are you ready?  Here it is."

(And let me just interrupt myself here.  Some librarians will read such things over the phone and some won't.  I would, but I truly understand why they would not want to).

"OK, 4 sticks of butter."

"Wait, wait, wait...fourrrrrr......stickssssss......offffff....... what was that?  Wait, wait, wait...butterrrrrrrrrr.....How do you spell butter?


Oh geez.....

10.  Dealing with the restrooms
       I will never forget my first complaint about the toilet in the restroom being
       stopped up.  It was early in my career and I was dressed in my usual "I am
       a professional but a very stylish one" outfit, including three-inch heels.  I
       went to check out the problem in the restroom and found the toilet had run
       over onto the floor.  It being a small staff, I didn't have the heart to assign
       this to anyone else, so I tip-toed through the dirty water, trying not to
       splash anything on my Jimmy Choo's (alright, they weren't Jimmy
       Choo's, librarians don't make enough for those but they were nice shoes)
       and proceeded to plunge the toilet.  Water flew everywhere, all over my
       stylish "Dress for Success" suit (it was the 80's). 
       The point here is...even though my boss later told me plunging toilets is
       that part in the job description that says, "Other duties as assigned,"
       librarians really, really dislike plunging toilets, crawling on the floor to get
       into the toilet stall your little darling locked from inside or having to lock
       up the restrooms, thus fielding multiple complaints about not being able to
       use the toilet, because someone did something unmentionable in there
       with their unmentionables (use your imagination).

OK, finally, I need to address the elephant in the room.

11.  Porn

Though many librarians probably really, really dislike library customers viewing sexually explicit images on the library computers, that is not why this is on my list. 

The reason it's on my list is because librarians really, really dislike people complaining about it.  They don't like unpleasant exchanges with their library customers, especially when all they are trying to do is serve the community.

And, don't get me wrong.  I am not talking about illegal activity or someone being disruptive. 

If someone is viewing something that is illegal, such as child pornography, librarians want you to tell them and they will do the same thing they would do when other illegal activities such as theft or assault take place in the library. They will call 911.

But I am not talking about illegal or disruptive activity here. 

I am talking about adults quietly looking at other consenting adults engaging in sexual activity or some other sexual image or something you might disapprove of. This may make you feel uncomfortable, but it is not illegal. 

Libraries uphold the freedoms of our country and a basic tenet of library service is to provide free access to information covering many points of view, and that makes some people uncomfortable.

These days computers provide access to information along with books, DVDs, and other formats and when you try to provide information on many points of view that can include material that some people will disapprove of. 

And if you have ever seen the list of books that have been "banned," you can see that what people disapprove of runs the gamut from Huck Finn to "Where's Waldo?" 

What is "pornographic" depends on who is answering the question. Everyone has a bias as to what is acceptable and what is not.  I find sites that preach hate much more objectionable than consenting adults engaging in sex.  Where does one draw the line?  Who gets to decide?

Libraries are not in the business of censorship.

If something is allowed under the law, the library should not be the censor. Nor should individuals decide what others should and shouldn't read or view.

But that doesn't mean libraries are not sensitive to the issue.

Libraries go to great lengths to protect library customers from seeing things they don't want to see, especially children. 

Libraries provide privacy screens, filtering and some libraries don't allow children in the adult areas.  Most libraries have highly filtered computers in the children's area and library cards for children under 18 are not able to access adult sites.  And libraries often offer adults the option to choose filtered viewing.

But filters are not perfect.  There are a couple of ways they work:  either by blocking actual sites or specific words.  But it's possible that some sites can fall through the cracks or something can be blocked that does not fall under the "objectionable" category.  When words are blocked, for example, and "breast" would surely be one, what about the woman who wants to research breast cancer?  On a filtered computer, she would not be able to find that information.

So if you are concerned about this issue, here are some things to keep in mind while in the library.

  • Stay with your children while in the library. 
          Don't sit them at a computer and leave them there or let them run
          around in the adult section. 
          If you really care what your children are looking at, you should be
          monitoring that. That is your responsibility as a parent.  Not the
  • If you see someone looking at something you find objectionable, don't look.
          It actually takes some effort to peer over someone's shoulder to see
          what they are looking at, especially if your library uses privacy screens.
          Why upset yourself?

  • As I said earlier, a library is a public place.  Act accordingly.
          You are not at home where you can control what happens around you. 
          People have the right to exercise their freedom to view what they want
          without you or the library telling them they can't. Tolerance is key.

When this issue appears in the paper or on the news, which it does from time to time and everyone gets all upset about it, my hackles go up because the news media paints libraries as bastions of pornography, when in fact libraries are bastions of service to the community. 

Most people come to the library to use them to find a job, connect with far-flung family members via email, learn a new skill, do research, etc.  Those using the computers to view "objectionable" material are in the minority, but it makes headlines to sensationalize and exaggerate it.

Libraries are your tax dollars put to good useWhat other government entities provide friendly people who really want to help you... citizenship and computer classes, help with your English, reading programs for your children, librarians to answer your questions on any subjects, free DVDs, music CDs and talking books, free downloading of content for free to your mobile devices...I could go on and on.  Does the media report on that?  No.

Libraries are providing computers for people who need them. 

Believe it or not, there are many people who cannot afford computers. They do not have the luxury of surfing the web in the privacy of their own homes as many of us do.

So when you complain to librarians about what people are looking at on the library computers and harangue them as if pornography is one of the services they happily provide and approve of, they really, really don't like such unpleasant encounters when all they are trying to do is be of service to the community.

Remember that with our freedoms comes diversity in how those freedoms are used.  And it's not up to you to decide. 

For all you know, they might be doing research!

If you need to blame something, blame free speech, not libraries.


See you Friday for News and Reviews!

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Reading a Film and the Week in Reviews

[I review the movies "12 Years a Slave," "The Attack," "Barbara," "Lore" and "White House Down."]

But first

***Reading a Film***

From my sometimes smart-alecky film reviews, you may think that I am just speaking off of the top of my head and trying to show off.  Well, I kind of am, but I want to assure you that my reviews are based on real knowledge of films, believe it or not.

Someone once said, "You can learn a lot by reading (maybe it was me, not sure)," but there is a way of looking at films that will help you understand them better and, thus, enhance your enjoyment.

My Dad was born in 1908 and grew up as an only child. 

His mother was a high school music teacher and gave private vocal lessons.  A woman working in those days was unusual. His Dad was the family failure. 

My Dad spent much of his youth alone and at the movies. 

My Dad was a kind of "Walter Mitty," possibly as a result of some harsh discipline on the family farm which was mitigated by hours at the movies. I can just imagine him following the western serials starring Tom Mix and how that might have spurred his desire to be a cowboy. As for the discipline, my mother told me that when he was a boy on the farm, if he brought the cows home late, discipline was a lashing with a bullwhip on the back of his legs. 

In this picture, you can see that my Dad's boots are dusty from playing on the way to the photographer.  He got in trouble for that too.  He was nine.

My mother always blamed his Dad's harsh discipline for my Dad's retiring nature. 

His escape was the movies.

So as I grew up, my Dad and I bonded over watching movies together and that started my life-long love of films. 

I can remember many occasions when he and I would go to a movie at night without my Mom.  She wasn't that interested.  My Dad loved John Wayne and romantic comedies so it was war movies, westerns and lots of Debbie Reynolds.  That was fine with me.  I just wanted to hang with my Dad.

At home my Dad and I also shared being "night owls." 

Many a night we would stay up to watch the old movie that would start at 11:30.  It's difficult to believe there was a time when there were only three TV stations, and only movies from the 30's and 40's played on television and those were only a couple of times per day - the afternoon movie that started at 1pm (a real treat when I was home sick from school) and the late night movies.

My Dad was the first to teach me to "read a film."

My Dad taught me to watch the credits for names of famous actors in minor roles or before they changed their names to "star names."  Before Tony Curtis was Tony Curtis he was Bernard Schwartz.  Cary Grant was Archibald Leach.  My Dad loved spotting those things. 

He also taught me to watch for certain credits like Cedric Gibbons and Douglas Shearer (his sister was the actress Norma Shearer), the MGM set designer and sound designer respectively.  He said when you saw those names in the credits of an MGM film, it was a high quality film. 

He also would point out some film "devices," such as flowing water symbolizing the passing of time (though he never shared what water crashing on the rocks meant after a kissing scene.  I'm sure you can figure that out).

He was also a real softie.  If there was a sad scene or a really happy scene such as the separated lovers finding each other again and running into each other's arms as the music swelled, he would chuckle softly while wiping the tears from his eyes with his ever present handkerchief, pretending he was wiping his forehead.

So my Dad was a sort of armchair quarterback when it came to films. 

I expanded on that for myself by taking classes, majoring in drama and film, and eventually teaching a class on classic films at a local junior college.

As moviegoers, we tend to watch films uncritically. 

But I feel that if you spend some mental energy looking at a film more critically, it will enhance your overall enjoyment.

So here are some things I look for when "reading a film," which helps me in writing my reviews and enjoying the experience of watching a film.
  • First, I watch the opening credits. 
       You can tell a lot by who is starring, directing, etc.  Also there is a reason 
       why certain images are used over the credits and the music chosen to
       accompany them.  Those set the mood.

  • Acting
       This is a given, but as someone who took acting very seriously at one time,
       I enjoy moments of subtle, nuanced acting. Tom Hanks at the end of
       Captain Phillips is an example of that (read my review in my October 18
       Week in Reviews blog).  It looks easy but it's an exercise in restraint. The
       doctor has no idea what he went through and he has no strength to  
       explain. You feel it, though, without him having to say a word. That's
       brilliant acting. 

  • Camera angles, long and short shots and effective scene composition
      It's the same as reading a book or a poem and admiring the use of
      language. In this case, the "language" is the picture the director creates. 
      The camera angles used in Citizen Kane were milestones - using the    
      camera to shoot from below, using strange angles, montagesThe
      beautiful images you see are all orchestrated.

        Also Before Midnight, the latest in the "Before" series, is an example of
        extremely long "walking and talking" takes, which is unusual but visually
        absorbing.  The usual case is to shoot short scenes and edit them

  • What kind of narration is used? 
       Voice overs?  Talking directly to the audience?  Flashbacks? How does that
       help the film move forward?  Does it work?  I am not fond of a lot of
       exposition.  That's fine for a book, but a film should show all of that via
       pictures or dialog.

  • How does music work in the film?
       Help or hinder?

  • I note the pace of the film.
       One thing the casual moviegoer might not be aware of is editingIn some
       cases, it is the editor who makes or breaks a film, not the director.  That's
       why so many directors edit their own films or are very involved in that
       process.  Editing is the process that puts all of the shots together from
       scene to scene and how that is done can greatly affect how fast or slow   
       the film moves.

  • What is the overall mood?
       Lighting, colors, costumes, all of those elements affect the "feel" of the

  • Symbolism
       Remember those waves crashing on rocks I mentioned earlier?  The
       symbolism in films these days is much more sophisticated, but the
       symbols act the same...as visual poetry.  Is there a motif throughout the
       film that hints at or foreshadows something?

  • Theme
       The plot is usually obvious.  But what was the underlying message the film
       was trying to convey?

  • Production Values
       I try to notice the special effects, the set design, the cinematography...all
       of those things the director had to coordinate to make the film whole.

  • Final credits
       There is a reason people are still sitting in their seats after the film ends. 
       They are reading the ending credits, perhaps to see who that actor was
       they didn't recognize or what those songs were or where the movie was
       filmed (at the very end the film "thanks" various people and places.  The
       places are the locations).  It's fun to see that they weren't really in
       Tuscany, they were in San Bernardino!

Final thoughts: 

Book vs. Film.

I hate it when people say, "It wasn't as good as the book." 

Books and films are two different art forms.  Though whatever the written word can convey, a film can tell in pictures, films operate in real time and are limited to around two hours, whereas a novel has the luxury of endless time to tell its story. And I give props to films that do not use long narrative explanations of the plot or exposition, but instead use images to progress the story.  As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."


Also I loved watching Siskel and Ebert, and I remember one of them talking about how to find films you will enjoy by choosing a critic you liked and following that person.  Read or listen to critics, see the films and then compare - if you liked the film, which critics also liked it?  If you didn't like it, what critics didn't?  Do some comparisons like that for awhile and then if you want to be sure to see films you will like, following that critic that most echoes your feelings about a film.

I hope it will be me!
So now I hope I have convinced you that my sometimes snarky comments on films are based on some knowledge and, of course, I must admit, my own biases.  There is always the objective and the subjective.

If you want to dig deeper, I recommend this link from the University of Washington How to Read a Film and James Monaco's scholarly book "How to Read a Film" first written in 1977 and now out in it's 4th edition.


How do you judge a film?

Now on with my reviews for this week.


***In Theatres Now***

12 Years a Slave (2013)

In 1841, a free black man is kidnapped into slavery.
This is a very disturbing film, but it needs to be because slavery was a huge stain on American history and an abomination. 
The Best Actor category for the Academy Award is going to be a difficult one to predict as the field is so strong this year (I am predicting that Robert Redford's turn in "All is Lost" is also going to earn him a nomination. Will report back when I see it.)  
Chiwetel Ejiofor will surely be nominated for this as will Michael Fassbender, but Fassbender possibly in the Best Supporting Actor category instead of Best Actor.  (To see Ejiofor's acting range, catch him in "Dancing on the Edge," where he plays a Duke Ellington-type band leader in 1930's England playing now on STARZ).
Rosy the Reviewer says...a MUST SEE!!!

Movies You Might Have Missed
And some you will be glad you did!
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
Note:  The themes this week seem to be German films and terrorist attacks.

The Attack (2012)

An Arab surgeon in Tel Aviv discovers his Christian wife is a suicide bomber and he sets out to discover why.

This film provoked controversy, because the Arab director shot the film partly in Israel and there was a sympathetic Jewish element in the film.  But it is a terrific, taut film.  You will be pulled in.  Ali Suliman is a study in confusion as he seeks to discover the truth about his wife and we all learn there are no easy answers to the continuing troubles in the Middle East. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a riveting mystery set amidst the turmoil of the Middle East.  Highly recommended.
(In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles)

Barbara (2012)

It's 1980's East Germany and yet another doctor is embroiled in political strife, this time the doctor is a she and she has been banished to the countryside for trying to defect.

This is a quiet film set against the backdrop of lush German countryside making the repression of Eastern Germany all the more frightening.  It's a tense and interesting plot as you try to figure out will she or won't she?  It's an acting tour de force for actress Nina Hoss.   

Rosy the Reviewer says...A good reminder of just how recently Europe was in the throes of Communist repression.  Highly recommended. 
(In German with English subtitles) 

Lore (2012)

As the allies sweep into Germany, a teenaged Lore and her siblings are abandoned by her Nazi parents and must make their way to freedom.

Here is a really interesting new idea gone wrong. 
What happened to Nazi families once the war was over? 
The performances, of mostly children, are outstanding.  However, just as "The Attack" and "Barbara" had stories well told, this movie missed the mark and wasted that interesting idea on a very dry and slow presentation.  Again subtitles.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some of the critics liked it.  I didn't, so view at your own peril.
(In German with English subtitles)

White House Down (2013)

The White House is once again under attack and we need a hunky guy to save the President.

If you like this kind of thing, Gerard Butler did it better in Olympus Has Fallen (reviewed in my October 25th Week in Reviews), but all I could think of while watching this film was where was "Dumb and Dumber" when you needed them?

Rosy the Reviewer says...like I said, dumb.  But I do enjoy Channing Tatum's chest.

That's it for this week.


See you next Tuesday
"What Librarians Hate!"

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