Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Slog Blog: Week 5

My Speciality: Fine Whines
Monday, Dec 22: The end of the slog is in site: my boss is scheduled to be back on December 26. That means I have to start clearing away all the accumulated stuff on the reference desk -- every bit of silver has a cloudy center.

Friday we received in the mail an envelope from the main branch, stamped confidential, but with no staffer's name. Today, we received another one, without the confidential stamp, but still no name. At least that one I could open with a fear of breaching confidentiality. On Friday I sent a letter to the entire library system asking whoever sent the confidential letter to get in touch -- and that person did, and apologized for not adding a staffer's name.

Wednesday, Dec 24: Today at work we have bagels and shmears; butterscotch fudge; chocolate-covered raisins; a box of See's candy; and pumpkin bread. All these provide noshes for four employees and three volunteers. Hope we have enough. Later: the last volunteer in brought cookies and cheese, salami, and crackers. Maybe we will have enough.

Friday, Dec 26: Hurrah hurrah, my boss is back! And we have even more stuff to eat, thanks to one of our part-time staffers, who brought in panetonne! (And, later, gave me a tin of cookies that I will share.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

An educational holiday newsletter

'Tis the season for holiday newsletters. I rather like the few I get, probably because I don't know anyone with wonder-kids and/or a million dollars they spent in the previous year, so the news in the letters isn't annoying. (However, I find annoying the signature on one composed by a cousin's husband, as it is signed with his name, followed by "and wife [name] and sons [two names.]" If he wants to write cast lists for plays he should do that, rather than sign family correspondence.)

One newsletter this year, from a college friend who lives in Virginia, included a mention of a trip she and her husband had taken around Virginia (maybe a staycation?) and produced this amazing factoid: Sherwood Forest Plantation, the estate near Charles City originally owned by John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States (1841-1845,) is currently owned by the (living) grandson of that president.

What? That's one family with an unusually short family tree. Turning to the ever-helpful World Book Encyclopedia, I found out that after the death of his first wife, (22 months after -- no Romeo POTUS he,) Tyler married, in 1844, a 24-year old woman with whom he had seven children before he died in 1862. Turning then to the Sherwood Forest Plantation website, I noticed it has a genealogy. It shows more than one grandchild still living, all from the second wife, but not all with Tyler's seventh child ( a daughter) as the parent.

I don't know if the current owner is tall or not -- his genes are long, but his jeans might not be.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burning Love -- or is that the BBQ?

Leah Garchik's column in the December 17, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle ( had this item:

"For $3.99 a bottle, Burger King is out with a new men's body spray, Flame, that "features the scent of seduction with the hint of flame-broiled meat." Unfortunately, they don't have perfume counters at Burger Kings. You have to go online, to, to purchase this product."

I think Burger King is missing a bet here. Why not have a perfume counter, at least during this December. Where better to shop at the last minute? Nothing like buying a nifty gift and getting a nosh at the same time. Then if you're hard-pressed for wrapping, you can put it in the Burger King box or paper your nosh came in -- add a little ketchup to the paper for a seasonal red tone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Slog Blog, Week 4

My Speciality: Fine Whines

Monday, Dec 15: Last week I couldn't get the Slog Blog to space correctly -- that's why it looks so terrible.

I may have over-anticipated stress (well, that's what being a pessimist is all about, no?) as the past three weeks have been notable mostly for boredom, with few patrons, few questions, and some inability to get things done because I can't do everything on the ref desk computer that I can at my desk. So I've added boredom as a label, just to show that I can move with the times.

Despair was never so funny

I just discovered, thanks to --- I looked at the power point presentation, and came across this quote, under a picture of pencils and the heading "Planning," from : "Much work remains to be done before we can announce total failure to make any progress."

If you can barely muster even a tepid interest in motivational posters, take a look at Despair, which specialized in demotivational posters that more or less gently spoof the motivators. Wonderful stuff, with full color graphics, just like the motivators -- but without the exclamation points.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Demanding Beggars

No, the title doesn't refer to panhandlers. It refers to an out-of-state public university library that sent an interlibrary-loan request with this borrowing note in the section regarding shipping:

Loans by 1st class or express. Copies by e-mail, express mail.

Well lah-de-dah. We lack the facilities to scan material for email transmission, plus they want an entire small book which we wouldn't scan if we did have the facilities. We mail using library or media rate, whatever it's called these days. We have twice in the past year run out of money for postage. We have no budget for using anything but the US Post Office.

Politeness keeps me from responding that we can't meet their picky requirements; fortunately, the item is non-circulating so that's all we have to say.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Slog Blog, Week 3

My Speciality: Fine Whines
Tuesday, Dec 8: I rode past my stop on Muni this morning -- in fact, I rode three stops beyond my stop. Fortunately, I noticed we were at Civic Center San Francisco, not Civic Center Oakland, and got off. I wasn't even reading an interesting book: I was reading the newspaper, and not even anything particularly interesting (ho hum, California is about to collapse financially; ho hum, most of the bailout money approved by the feds is already spent; ho hum, some large percentage of people who had their mortgages adjusted towards the beginning of the year are again behind in payments.) I have no idea what missing my stop means, other than the fact that not many people got off at my regular stop -- usually most of the car gets off there.
Friday, Dec 12: Both BART and Muni were slow this morning, so I was already stressed by the time I arrived. I figured it didn't bode well for the day, and that proved true, a bit. The patron who talked a mile-a-minute on the phone yesterday, making any reply on my part difficult, did show up, and was surprisingly pleasant to deal with: maybe she only talks that fast on the phone? I had pulled all the material I thought she could use, so that helped.
Then there was today's example of the type of patron who wants to argue with every statement or suggestion I make. I don't mind someone who says "I've seen that" for every source I suggest (I just tell someone like that that they are doing a great job of research), but someone who just says "what I want won't be in that title" drives me up a wall, primarily because I've never had a patron who explained why that title might not work. I don't ask why it wouldn't, I just plow on trying to find something the patron would deign to look at. What I would love to do is to say "look, I've been advising people on this topic for ten years, and, trust me, this IS a possible source of information." The closest I come is to say "I'll include it in the list of possible titles in case you decide to see what it has."
My favorite patron inquiry was a few years back: a patron wanted to look up person in a specific type of source. (There -- that should be cryptic enough.) We have exactly the type of source the patron needed. When I asked the name of the person she was searching for, so I could include in the call number the volume she would need, the patron said she didn't know the name! I managed to say, with commendable fortitude, that without the name, it was going to be difficult to search this title. (And no, this was not a famous person that I might be able to narrow down through twenty questions.) I'm still intrigued as to how the patron was planning on recognizing the person she wanted if she did look at the source.
I shouldn't be too crabby -- at least I had some reference work. It's been extremely slow all week, again. This leaves me feeling more tired most days than on days with a lot of questions.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

San Francisco's last blacksmith, 2008

A blog I follow had this post yesterday: Try that post's suggested process -- it was fun for me, with a surprise trip down memory lane. Who knows what you can come up with.

You can see my response just below that post: a quote about Edwin Klockars Blacksmithing, the last blacksmithing business in San Francisco, from The San Francisco Labor Landmarks Guide Book: A Register of Sites and Walking Tours, edited by Susan P. Sherwood and Catherine Powell, (San Francisco: Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University, 2008.)

What I didn't put in my response is that Klockars Blacksmith Shop doesn't produce horseshoes or decorative wrought iron: it makes "one-of-a-kind tools for ship-builders and industrial supply companies." (p.57)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Treasures, but no Shoppers Rushing Home

The Friday after Thanksgiving I took my car in to be serviced at the dealership in the town near me. Through some miscommunication I thought the work would be done in 4 hours (it was done in 7, "just as I thought," said the staffer who took the order.) Based on the four-hour misunderstanding, I decided I would wander the town's shopping area.

The dealership is in the town with the major shopping area for my part of the county: no enclosed malls, just blocks and blocks of downtown stores. The closest store to the dealership is a big-box store beloved of suburbanites, who generally pronounce its name with a French accent. I got there around 9:00 -- it had opened that day around 6. What I found: plenty of parking spaces in the small front lot (most parking is underground,) and not many people inside. The only place in the store with a crowd --- really, a crowdette --- was the electronics area. The toy area had few people, and was easy to navigate, particularly as I didn't have a cart, having no car to lug any purchased treasures to. There were no lines at the checkout counters, which were fully staffed.

I then walked down the closest street, with shops on both sides. All stores were open (by now it was about 10, as I had stopped first for a scone at a small bakery) but there were very few cars parked. The only store I went into in the first couple of blocks was the Heart Association's somewhat upscale thrift store. It was crowded with a group of three or four women interested in the clothes. I overheard one saying "I'll never shop [upmarket department store two blocks away] again -- the clothes here are great."

Wandering on, I got closer to the street anchored by two chain department stores, one upmarket and one upper-mid range. Now there were lots of people around, but not enough to block the sidewalks. I went into a chain bookstore, and it was pretty empty, except for the cafe. All cash registers for book, etc., purchases were fully staffed: there was one person ahead of me in line. By now it was about 11:30.

I wandered around the street with the anchor tenants and lots of small shops: not many people there either. Certainly no congestion on the sidewalks. I then headed back to a restaurant near the car dealer for lunch, which didn't have much in the way of customers. (And then I got stuck reading old magazines at the dealer for a couple of hours -- the library nearby is being rebuilt, so I couldn't go there.)

I was surprised the next day to read in the SF Chronicle a report that there had been big crowds in that same area I had been in. Maybe at 6am, maybe after lunch, but not between 9am and noon.

Thanks to absent-mindedness, I had to go back the next day to retrieve the jacket I had left in the bakery (just to be polite I had a chocolate chip scone ....) Now having a car, I went back to the big-box store with the French pronunciation to actually make some purchases. I arrived around 9:30: again, plenty of parking outside and few people inside the store. One toy on special that I assumed would be sold out was still available. There were no lines at the cash registers. A number of staffers were wandering around, apparently with maps of where some specials were located, but there weren't any people to give them to.

The one interesting thing about that store is that it had racks and racks and racks of 50% off clothing -- none of the current stuff, and a few items weren't even for fall/winter. The clothing was all very jammed together on the racks -- the whole effect was very different from the store's usual displays. The message the racks sent was that this store isn't doing well -- certainly the lack of shoppers both days seemed to confirm that.

Holiday Slog Blog, Week 2

My speciality: Fine Whines

Monday, Dec 1: An email has arrived announcing the date of the holiday party at the main library. Our party will be sometime in January, as the head of our branch wants to be present for it. She's the one who is on vacation until December 26, then on further vacation for the rest of December. Fa la la la la, la la, la la.

Wednesday, Dec 3: So far, it's been fairly stress-free while my boss has been gone. We've had a trickle of patrons each day, with very little reference work. Instead of stress, I'm feeling worried that I will fall asleep in my chair and fall onto the floor .... I'm impressing myself: very little stress eating, despite a plethora of chocolate candies, and, today, two types of cookies. Since I don't really need any stress to pig out on whatever sweets are available, I'm now hoping that maybe I can keep this up permanently, becoming slender and bee-yuo-tea-full. Let's hope so. With no one to share the reference desk with me, it's starting to look just like my desk in the office, with piles of books and papers all over. Just a little touch of office home away from office home.

Saturday, Dec 6: Fortunately, the powers that be gave me yesterday off for working today, even though that left the library without a librarian. We're only open one Saturday a month, and today it's fairly peppy, which I like.