A Year of Librarianship.

My job at the public library is fun, and sometimes hard, just like any job.  This March, I started a new position as my library’s Adult Programs Librarian, which has been rewarding, satisfying, challenging.  Sometimes I lose track of what’s up, exactly, and just how much we’ve all accomplished.  As my library school advisor would say, it’s because I’m working in “The Swamp” (does he think that’s supposed to make it better?).

But, here and now, on December 30, this is my chance to step back from the murky stuff right in front of my face, and look back to see just how far we’ve come.  We really have been up to some pretty neat stuff.

one

Authors Candice Millard, Charles Shields, Bill James, Stanley Lombardo, Tessa Gratton and Nancy Pearl all stopped by to speak at my library.  Maybe you met them.  They’re all amazing.

two

I threw a big library party with Cathy Hamilton (desserts!  European cruises!  tour guides!), and learned about the Manic Mouth Congress.

three

I wore my banana suit to a block party. Hearts of Darkness played hip hop, and babies danced with Yogi Bear.

four

I tried to help Lawrence win a $100,000 energy efficiency grant, and was taken down by Manhattan (KS)’s EcoKat.  I did win a $25,000 grant for my library from the Kansas Health Foundation.

five

I collaborated with Lawrence Magazine and Jason Barr to create a giant version of their John Brown Paper Doll and Disguise Kit.  We installed it in the front lobby of my library, and our community played giant paper dolls. Continue reading

Merry Creature

Today I offer a personal post ( … with a library tie-in, of course!).

Last month, Aaron and I decided to teach ourselves how to crochet and checked out Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots, and More! from our public library.  A few days later, we were chaining, single crocheting, double crocheting, half-double crocheting, treble crocheting, and more.  We have YouTube Donna to thank for showing us how.

Together, we crocheted 31 tiny devils, ninjas, aliens, vampires, robots, knights, clerics, grim reapers, Amazon warriors, skeletons, and Cthulhus between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Affectionately, we have called these our “Creatures,” and we hope you like them as much as we do.

Ever since our felted piggy incident two Christmases ago, we’re addicted to giving DIY gifts.  We like that it makes gift-giving a little more personal, and we get to have fun spending extra time together in the weeks leading up to the holidays, too.

I think I’m partial to the tiny Cthulhus, maybe just because I really like their wiggly eyes.  I’m also fond of the devils’ curly tails.  To see photos of all the creatures we made, plus close ups, click here to head over to the Flickr album.  Merry Creature!

Being a Librarian in a Book Club

Readers, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret.  Today’s librarians cringe a little when you talk to us about books and reading.  Come on, guys: it’s the Information Age, and all of your librarians went to “Library and Information Schools.”  Maybe even just an “Information School.”  Many of us came into librarianship because we liked to read, but left “professionalized” with all these fancy ideas about how our core calling is to bring Information to the people.  That’s what happened to me.

These days, I am what I’m beginning to think of as a rehabilitated reader.  Sure, my heart still palpitates over social media, government docs, and information literacy.  But there’s one thing you just can’t shake when people find out you’re a librarian.  They really wanna talk about books.

A few months ago, my buddy Nog and I formed a little book club on a lark.  If you want to witness the saltier side of your friendly neighborhood Librarian in a Banana Suit, head on over to our PBR Book Club blog.  It’s a group for bookish hipsters, and we are actually mostly boys.  That’s what happens when you combine books with beer.  At our inaugural meeting there were only five of us, and we were discussing David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.  We started by shotgunning a few PBRs to ease any tension, and then Nog — who teaches college English courses — cleared his throat.  “Umm, I don’t really know how to do a book group.”  And then he turned expectantly to me.

“Oh my god,” I realized, “they expect me to know what I’m doing because I’m the librarian.”

Continue reading

PBR Book Club

It might not look live I’ve been blogging very much this month… but actually I’ve been blogging more than usual!  Bookish hipsters all over Lawrence are rejoicing in the launch of the PBR Book Club, an intimate group devoted to beers and pretentious postmodern lit.

We’ve started with David Mitchell’s bawdy and labyrinthine Cloud Atlas, which we’ll be discussing at the Replay later this month, but in the meantime we’re using social tools like twitter (#pbrbookclub) and blogspot (pbrbookclub.blogspot.com) to mull over the experience as it unfolds in real time.

The blog is coauthored by several Lawrence nerds, including myself, @larryvillelife, @courtbelle, and hopefully soon (wink) @mentalplex and @indieabby88.  It’s a little, um, saltier than what you might be used to seeing from me here.  So be forewarned, have fun checking it out, and join in!

My New Job

Goldie Hawn in Foul Play

Today I officially started my new job as the Adult Programs Librarian at Lawrence Public Library!

I’ve gotten my feet wet these past few months by planning our Read Across Lawrence initiative and meeting with community partners for Civil War on the Western Frontier, as well as moderating a book talk or two, but today is the first day I’ve really been empowered to think about the future of programs at our library.  I’m excited to develop a long-term strategy and push the envelope of what public library programs can be.

This is a milestone for me in more ways than one — I’ve had my share of professional supervisory positions in another life, but this is my first full-fledged “librarian” job.  I’m feeling an odd swell of kinship with fake movie librarians like Goldie Hawn, Parker Posey, and Bat Girl.  Onward, librarians!

Eating Animals, With a Side of Transliteracy

Eating AnimalsI know many of you have been gripping the edges of your seats in suspense, white-knuckled, wondering what has become of my quest to avoid meat!  Well, I’ve taken your suggestions and browsed lots of excellent vegetarian cookbooks:  World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.  I’ve also gone against your explicit advice not to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Eating Animals.  I’d really enjoyed Everything is Illuminated after hearing Foer read from it at a tiny bookstore in St. Paul in 2003.  I associate his writing style with lush, almost giddy romanticism, and thought, “well, that plus vegetarianism, sounds warm and fuzzy.”  Readers: Eating Animals is not warm and fuzzy.

What it is is two things mostly: a philosophical exercise, and an exposé on factory farming.  I really loved it, and recommend it to anyone who’s morbidly curious about the gruesome underbelly of industrial-scale farming.  Foer really crystallized my desire to stop eating meat, and freaked me out about eggs and dairy while he was at it! But I’m not here to proselytize, so I just want to briefly critique two aspects of the book as a whole — one thing that I didn’t like very much, and another that I absolutely loved. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolution: Read More Pulp

Pulp

Well, somehow it’s become the “book” channel over here lately!  Hi guys, don’t mind me, just the book lady…  But I wanted to chime in briefly tonight to tell you about a New Year’s Resolution I’ve made: I’m going to read more pulp.

Being a librarian, I often get asked about my reading preferences.  As I’ve talked about here, and also here, this often makes for an awkward scenario.  I was that girl who wanted to check off every single title of the Modern Library’s list of the Best 100 Novels when she was sixteen years old.  I have an undergraduate degree in English Literature.  I love Joyce, Woolf, and Faulkner.  Believe it or not, this is kind of embarrassing when you work in a public library.

All this being said, I pride myself on having non-elitist tastes when it comes to lots of media!  Since my awkward teenage years, I’ve gotten over most of my hang-ups with pop music, blockbusters, and reality TV; these days I prefer Jaws to Citizen Kane, Project Runway to The West Wing, and Wu-Tang to Puccini.  What’s become most important to me is really, thoroughly enjoying the story — experiencing it without bias, and deciding from there whether I like it or not.  Plain and simple.  Academia has too much cultural baggage to decide these things on its own.

So why can’t I do that with books, too?

To be fair, I have branched out a little in my reading tastes.  In the last couple years I’ve started dabbling in young adult fiction, graphic novels, and manga.  I even read Twilight!  Maybe the fact that these are niche genres helps; I see them as “other” enough not to encroach upon my beloved literature…

But all that’s going to change in 2011!  This is the year of pulp, of thrillers and bestsellers, of Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks.  I will no longer shy away when library chit-chat turns to the latest mystery.  And you never know — I might even like it.  Wish me luck!  What should I try first?

Cookbooks I Have Loved

Better Homes and Gardens New CookbookWhen I was a little girl, we cooked from two places: the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, and my mom’s recipe box.  With five little kids in the family, we weren’t the most sophisticated diners, although we did eat together at the dinner table every single night.  We’d help Mom peruse The Cookbook, begging her to try new recipes like One-Pot Spaghetti, Cheesy Potato Bread, and Cowboy Caviar.  But usually she’d cook something from her recipe box: German Meatballs, Creamy Broccoli Chicken, Homemade Macaroni and Cheese.  My Norwegian grandmother lived in our basement, and occasionally she would whip up an exotic feast to nourish the whole family: Lefse, Potato Balls, Flötegröt.  She died nearly 20 years ago, but I still cherish her handwritten recipe cards, tucked away in my own tiny collection of recipes.  And on Saturday mornings, it was my dad’s turn to cook.  He made truly bizarre Wholewheat Pineapple Pancakes, but I loved them, although my favorite Saturday morning breakfasts were (and still are) Popovers, and Poached Eggs.

As I’ve matured, so has my palate, and throughout this past decade I’ve accrued a small collection of cookbooks to buttress my tastes.  When my oldest brother Dan returned home for Thanksgiving after he’d grown up and moved away to Vermont, he brought home The Joy of Cooking and set out to brine a turkey.  I made a Cranberry Conserve: “This is a luxurious form of cranberry sauce, with uncommon beauty, texture, and flavor,” writes the authoress, Irma Rombauer.  It was a revelation.

Cooking adventures ensued!  I lived in Rome one Spring, and became obsessed with The Silver Spoon and Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  That was the Spring I made hand-made ravioli with friends for the first time, and my roommate Alexis showed me how to sear and then slowcook a rump roast with nothing but salt & pepper, oil, and red wine. Continue reading

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Kindle

Kindle

When I first bought my Kindle about 18 months ago, it was kind of a pain in the neck to use.  Amazon offered a pretty limited selection of titles for purchase that didn’t quite suit my nerdy tastes, and I couldn’t buy titles from anyone else because they wouldn’t be compatible with my Kindle.  Which was actually OK by me, because they didn’t have anything I wanted to read either.

Eventually I ended up settling for a copy of War & Peace, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, for three reasons: a) it was available, b) I actually wanted to read it, and c) it seemed like a pretty awesome alternative to carrying around 4 pounds of book (no joke!).  I also experimented with converting several of Project Gutenberg‘s public domain .epub titles to Amazon’s proprietary .azw filetype using some free software that I downloaded from the Internet, but the outcome was fairly hideous.  So really I had spent $375 for War & Peace.

But soon things started to get interesting.  Continue reading