Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hallowe'en in the Library

My student employees come prepared. Hallowe'en fell on a work day, so they came with costumes that could easily be stuck on for running around the library on their break scaring their friends. I had not thought about the fact that I was wearing a highly-appropriate black sweater--the sleeves are narrow but bell out a la Morticia--but the students did and thoughtfully suggested I borrow the white wig and witch's hat for my own transformation. Which lasted just long enough to take the picture.

You gotta love a workplace where the Associate University Librarian carves a pumpkin for the office. I was impressed by the Christmas lights he strung through it--they blinked and thus made a good imitation of a candle, but respect safety rules about open flames. I don't know who brought in the TimBits, but I managed to down quite a few of them while making photocopies, so thanks!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Meet Penelope, Hermione's Little Sister

"Little" in the sense of "younger," that is.

You remember Hermione, of course. Hermione is actively involved in the maintenance of this blog, though she prefers to keep a low profile. Well, we are proud to inform you that this afternoon, Hermione acquired a sister.

It went like this. I was insomniac last night, and in order to keep from waking Winnifred, I propped myself up in the armchair in the living room (where we also have the office). I was trying to read but found myself disturbed by a quite insistent noise coming out of Winnifred's computer. This morning, when Winnifred emerged, pink and well-rested, from the bedroom, I mentioned the strange noise to her. She investigated. It turned out that noise was the death-rattle. Her computer was beyond help.

I caught a quick nap while Winnifred performed last rites over the dead computer. When I got up, we went out to look at computers available for adoption. We pretty quickly settled on Penelope. I mean, she was just so perfectly proportioned. Now we have a full weekend ahead of us while Win loads her up; and after that we can expect several weeks of tinkering before it all dies down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

So Nice, I'm Blogging It Twice

I just posted this picture to my class blog, but I had to share it with everyone, absolutely everyone, who might even care a little about libraries. This evening Mitch Freedman came to speak at VPL--not, as originally planned, to the VPL Board, which cancelled its meeting, but to a crowd of local library workers. Because VPL has just settled the first strike in its history, after almost 13 weeks, with a less-than-satisfactory solution for the mainly-female workforce, the union brought in Mitch to talk about why pay equity matters.

Mitch has been a tireless advocate for better wages for library workers. As a man in management that is, let's just say, unusual. And he believes that eventually we will be valued for what we do, and that made us all feel a lot better. That's me, Mitch, and my students Andrea and Jon in the picture. LIBR 576 rocks.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

SPUD is Ruining My Life

There was a time when I thought certain fruits and vegetables really should be eaten locally-grown and organic, when possible. Tomatoes, I thought, were a very different animal when vine-ripened, and a very fresh peach had no relationship to one shipped in from across the continent out of season. Other things, in this theory, were not so important to buy organic. Who can tell the difference in a potato or lettuce?

Now I know better. With SPUD, everything is organic, and most things are local. Today, while cooking a soup, I cut up an onion, an eye-watering but sweet, tender onion. Then I added some of the gingeriest ginger: the entire kitchen smelled of ginger. I put in some lime zest and felt my nose fill up with a subtle citrus completely unlike your standard lime. Finally, the roasted acorn squash and garlic. It was hard to put them in the soup instead of my mouth. Good lord, I realized, everything is better organic. I have never in my life liked celery, until I tried the organic, local celery from SPUD. They are ruining me for regular food.

I saw an incredible vegetable in Chinatown. I couldn't tell if it was lettuce or cabbage; and the tiny, feathery fins on the leaves made me think of arranging it on a platter under fish. I didn't buy it. It's not organic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Jones Apophthegm

I feel the need to claim credit for the development of a new axiom that will come in handy for librarians and others who work in social services and non-profit agencies. I was writing my lecture for last week's class, using as a basis many of the students' observations of library governance. (They had all been to board meetings a few weeks earlier). Their descriptions of the various issues facing those brave citizens who sit on library boards swirled around in my mind for a few days, till finally I was able to sum up the situation this way:
On the day someone offers you $2.2 million to construct a building, what you will actually be in need of is $2.2 million in operating funds.

You see, a local library was made a gift of a very large amount of money to refurbish some space. But they are not allowed to use the money for running the space one it's built. I always wonder how people who make these kinds of bequests think the library is supposed to operate without operating funds. Apparently, people with money to donate to libraries have a list in their heads of things they like to underwrite, which in order of preference are:
  • Buildings
  • Collections
  • Computers
  • Classes
  • Operations
(Digital initiatives, I should point out, are probably the very easiest to fund, but for such ridiculously short periods of time that it hardly counts.)

I have no data for this list, by the way. Let's call it "observation." But it seems to me donors prefer things they can put their names on, whether a brass plaque or a bookplate. And one of my students pointed out that things that are material and lasting seem to rise to the top of the list too, whereas library work is by its nature ephemeral. What's a library to do? It's hard to turn down that much cash. But when someone offers you $2.2. million, do try to convince them that, having built the building, it would be good if it had heat, lights, staff, and were kept in reasonable nick. This is one of those situations where a library board member's life can't be easy.

The whole issue reminds me of the time some years ago when I had six student employees working for me--I believe they were all in that liminal summer between high school and college--and I came in one day looking, I suppose, rather downcast. One young man asked me if everything was okay.

"Yes," I said, "just take my advice and never sit on a Board."

He looked concerned. "Did you get a splinter?" he asked.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide

That's what the sign on the building in the foreground says. That's BC Hydro looming over it in the next block. In the years we've been gone, there has been a fair bit of unlimited growth, all right, and its ugly stepchild, unlimited demolition. Note that the building in the foreground is surrounded by ... well, empty lots.

I took this picture on a long walk from Strathcona to the Vancouver Community Net offices on Dunsmuir, so I walked past this scene on my way to this scene on the next block:

the tranquil oasis that's the public space in front of that same BC Hydro building. "Unlimited growth increases the divide" is actually art-speak for "the contraditions are sharpening & deepening."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fast Acting Essence of Kangaroo

My mind is reeling from trying to figure out what "essence of kangaroo" might be (some sort of hormonal derivative?) and also imagining the situation in which it entered traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for sexual problems. There are no kangaroos in China. Of course it also made me think of my sister down under, who reports having eaten kangaroo on occasion.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Over the weekend I joined Facebook. I had actually been resisting this because I spend so much of my personal time blogging, maintaining a web site, another web site, and another web site, in addition to the work time I spend populating online content and contributing to my class blog; so I thought, give this one a miss, Faith. Be sensible.

It's all Juliet's fault, really. Her and the Littwomen. The social pressure was unbearable. I caved. And what did I discover? That I have 32 "friends." That I can have a virtual garden that requires no care at all because my friends do all the gardening. That people I haven't seen in ten years are happy to send me messages via Facebook when I'm quite sure an email wouldn't raise much of a response. (Is it the picture in my profile? Does it remind them that they like me?)

And then today on my igoogle home page, the feed from wikihow was "How to Quit Facebook." I felt strangely attacked. But I just joined! I can't quit yet! Not until I've given myself carpal tunnel and spent god-knows-how-many hours during the meat of the semester avoiding marking!

We'll see how this all works out. I'll keep you posted. Juliet will be called to account if my right arm falls off.

Unrelated picture, above, by you know who. Hens and chicks courtesy Shirley and Lachlan, who are also on Facebook. Damn it, did everyone jump on this bandwagon before me?