Thursday, July 30, 2009

Library Fines Redux

I get sob stories. Yesterday I had two that bothered me. The first: "I have $80 in fines and I am a single mom with no income can you take care of my fines." I worked with this customer and reduced the fines because with a change of policy. Previously children's items checked out on adult fines had lower fines but when we changed our system over, the card rather than the item dictated the rate of fines. So I adjusted her fines on the children item as I do with most people that come to me with these fines. This left her fine well over the $10 threshold that allows you to use the library but manageable. Still it was clear that she thought that based on her being a single mom with no job and on assistance I should take care of the rest of her fine. But here is what rubs me, if I am on a limited income, I take care of what I am doing. The library is free as long as you are responsible. If you don't have the luxury of paying the fines for irresponsibility then BE RESPONSIBLE!
Second: I get a call from a man who tells me up front that he has contacted the Board of Supervisor's office and they sent him to the library. Then he explains that how he just lost his job and how this year his wife has been sick. Apparently, now he needs to use the library. I look at his account and he has some fines. And they are relatively manageable, so it is an easy fix to get him to work with him to get him under the $10 threshold. But at the same time I am thinking. These fees are from 18 months ago before your wife got sick and you lost your job. Only now are you thinking, I might want to use the library and you are asking me to forgive your irresponsibility. As one of the Assistance often says, "I would like to go to the electric company and say, you know I kept my house very nice and cool on hot days and now my bill is bigger than I want to pay, please reduce it."
I do understand circumstances and I do understand people being caught unaware of library fines--especially when there has been a change in policy like we have had.
I had one guy come into my office that was in his early 20's and explained that he had just gotten married when he got the notice saying he owed the library hundreds of dollars from 4 years ago. He explained that he was young, stupid and didn't know how to use the library. He wanted to know if there was any way I could work with him to get his bill paid. As it turned out the bulk of the fines were lost items that would be much cheaper to replace. He contacted me several times via phone to let me know that he was working on getting the items replaced was having a hard time with one thing. I gave him some alternatives--the item was a book on tape and we no longer collect them, so I asked him to find me an unabridged book on CD. He turned everything in. I worked with him some on the actual over due fines because it was clear that he was taking responsibility for being young and stupid. These are the people that I am inclined to work with.
I want to treat everyone one the same, if I can ethically and fairly reduce someone's fine then I will, e.g. doing an adjustment on an adult's card for children's books. But I feel that it is unethical for me to reduce fines just because someone comes to be with a sob story and does not want to pay library fine. If I give someone a reduced fine just because they come to me with their story, why don't I reduce everyone's fine?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Concept: Books that are Overdue Incur Fines

You would think that this is a no brainer, right? I grew up in society with libraries. One of the basic rules is that there is a due date and when you don't renew the book before the due date or bring it back to the library, you get charged a fee for each item each day that you didn't bring it back. Seriously, I learned this lesson when I was 5 and my mom would gather books up to take to the post office to send back to the Choctaw Nation Library's books by mail program.
So I am always astounded by the pronouncement: "I owe money? But I returned everything!" Well, yes you did, 9 months late so now you have a $10 fee for each thing! "Can't you take care of that? I returned everything." "No, I am sorry I can't, while you had those books other people couldn't check them out and it is important for us to know where our items are." "But you have to do something, I can't pay $35--I returned them." And around and around we go. Repeated daily sometimes multiple times a day.
So how is that so many people do not understand the concept of fines at the library? It is such a basic part of our society that library fines are discussed in books, TV and numerous other interactions. It is such a basic concept that I have to wonder do these people come from a different planet? Seriously, I'd like to know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hosting a Chocolate Tasting

All I can say is Thank God for the Internet! For some reason, I got the bright idea to plan a chocolate tasting this summer as an adult program. I have done two Chocolate Extravaganza programs for teens that featured a chocolate fountain (which is sitting on my balcony at the moment). The kids enjoyed trying all kinds of things in the chocolate including the surprisingly tasty chocolate & broccoli combination. But all that oil really puts me off chocolate and I hate cleaning up the mess the fountain makes. Also enticing a group of adults to try veggies with their chocolate didn't strike the right chord of what I wanted to do with them. So I decided a chocolate tasting would be fun. I had two months to figure out what I needed to do. And then...Louise happened and we had record breaking days at the library with a short staff and one drama queen.
Saturday, before the program on Tuesday, I started searching the internet. I found this life saving site: Savor Chocolate which included a handy tasting placemat and tasting guide. All I had to do was read up, prepare some chocolate trivia games and purchase the chocolate which I picked up a good selection on Monday during lunch at Target--success!!
I had 26 people come to my tasting which is a good attendance for an adult program. Everyone expressed their happiness. I actually had two chocolate connoisseurs at the tasting. I am glad I didn't know about them beforehand because I would have been quite nervous, but they said they had a good time and pointed me to a chocolate shop that has real chocolate tasting.
Now the site also has instructions on hosting a choctail party which as soon as Louise and what ever else is going on with me is sorted out, I plan to host. Today, I have to figure out how to decoupage bowls for Tuesday. I haven't decoupaged anything since I was 7 years old and my mom showed us how to do magazine collages.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm Concerned

The African American Dr. Henry Gates story of being arrested by a white cop for disturbing the peace after his white neighbor phoned police to report a possible break-in is getting bigger by the minute. Our president has even weighed in on this. I am concerned, riots begin over things like this with lines being drawn in the sand. Apologies demanded, apologies refused. I recently listed to an iReport commentary on CNN that made me think that maybe there are some sane people in the world that view this incident the same way as I do--RIDICULOUS!!
I have no doubt racism exists in America, I know it does. I am from a small Southeastern Oklahoma town known as Little Dixie. A race riot shut the town down for 3 days in the late 70's over something ridiculous because the people living on the other side of the tracks--black--were frustrated. And things have not changed much in the intervening years.
But this incident should not have happened. Dr. Gates from the start made this a racist interaction by questioning the police officer who asked to see his ID with "Why, because I'm Black?" Now, I have been a minority for many many years as a Gaijin and as a Houli. I know without a doubt when I was pulled over by a Japanese police officer, if I had started out with "Why? because I am Gaijin?" the interaction would have gone south immediately. And this in a country that generally but not always likes foreigners of the white variety. Provocation will get arrested no matter what color you are. I will give Dr. Gates the benefit of the doubt, he was tired, jet-lagged and had years of frustration built into that moment. He reacted badly, maybe the police officer could have been more diplomatic and tried to de-escalate the situation that he had been thrust into but in this case he didn't.
The fact that our president weighted in on the side of Dr. Gates automatically concerns me. I am disappointed.
I realize that I don't truly understand the plight of minorities in the US. But wait maybe I do, I am a woman that has to work an additional 2 months into the following year to make the same as a man. But I don't truly understand the plight of African Americans with the history that clothes them. But I do know about being a minority--I lived years as a Gaijin and while in Hiroshima, I made sure that I avoided streets that costumed groups of wannabe mafia/right-wingers were marching. There were restaurants and bars that I was told that I wasn't welcome in. There were times when Gaijin was said maliciously. And in Hawaii, I walked into a job interview with a panel of local Asians knowing that my chances of getting the job was very very slim. I didn't they hired another local. Perhaps she was equally or more qualified than I was, perhaps not. Maybe the interview panel was being racist, maybe they weren't. No matter, I will always have my lingering suspicious that it was and that in the end is what is important. I realize that enough of these events happen then you start getting a knee-jerk reaction to them no matter what. I think that this is what happened in the Dr. Gates incident. But here is the crux of the matter, enough knee-jerk reactions back will cause equally knee-jerk actions on the other side. And in the end, we have not made any progress. As a foreigner and a minority, I often realized that I represented all foreigners to the people I had interactions with. It was a burden and it is a burden for all African Americans but this is also the reality of being a minority.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Female Sleuth

We all have a story and memories regarding the most famous teenage female sleuth. You know who she is, either you love her or hate her but chances are you have read at least one of her stories. And your mother, and perhaps even your grandmother and if you have one, your daughter. Since the 1930s, timeless Nancy Drew has been thrilling young readers. Women of consequence like Sotomayor, read them as a child and is apparently re-reading them as we speak.
Nancy Drew's Granddaughters was sent to me at work. It's an article from the New York Times, that discusses the influence that Nancy Drew had/has on so many girls lives.
Many felt that in the constricted, protected & traditional environments Nancy gave them the strength to test boundaries. That there was another world out there and that they could have it.
Whenever I pass by the the row of bright yellow covers in the library, memories stir inside me. My first exposure to Nancy Drew was in maybe the 2nd grade. We were allowed to check out one book at school from a very small library and I latched onto a Nancy Drew book. I chose the Secret of the Wooden Lady, I took it home and much to my disappointment my mom pronounced it too difficult for a six year old to read. I declared right back that it wasn't and set about doggedly reading the book. I quickly realized it was indeed too difficult but I was exerting my rights to disagree with a parent so I persevered.
In the 4th grade, my family moved into town. Joy of joys the library was just down the street. With my fresh new library card, I would bee line to long yellow row of perfectly bound books. I love the way that they have substance and are so uniform. Spellbound, I would browse the titles in search of ones that I hadn't read. From the 4th to the 7th grade, I found comfort as I was growing and my world was changing, my place in the library did not shift. Beacons, the yellow covers called me and I yearned to own my own row of mystery. I felt an undying envy for Karen Wessels who owned the entire set when the most I possessed was 4 that I received as birthday and/or Christmas gifts.
Perhaps Nancy and her cohorts did illuminate my way out of Idabel and into the wide world, I am not sure. But my thirst for adventure was definitely stoked if not born with Nancy. By the 7th grade, I had exhausted the library's choices, there were still two mysteries that I hadn't read but they were unavailable. For months, I would comb the collection hoping that they would miraculously appear. With a degree of sadness, I moved from Carolyn Keene's Nancy to Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne and his other Cold War intrigues. Nancy will always be a friend and have a warm place in my heart.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend of Magic

On Friday night after work, I headed up to Lancaster to spend the evening with the sisters. They serve the BEST green chili chicken enchiladas ever! If ever asked the official questions of New Mexico--Red or Green? (Chili that is)My answer will almost always be green. M also came over. The sangria flowed and the conversation was good. After the week I had this was what I needed.
Saturday morning, I slept in for a while and woke up to sister J asking me if I wanted green chili scrambled eggs and the rest of the enchiladas for breakfast. No brainer on that one. Later I went up the street--only went the wrong way once--for Starbucks.
We relaxed a bit longer before heading down to the new Cinemark multiplex in Lancaster to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
This is the much awaited release that was supposed to happen last Fall but Warner Brothers decided to postpone the release date because they were not cash strapped after The Dark Knight and could. Also, putting out HP last fall would have coincided with the release of Twilight. Tween pockets are only so deep, so it made sense to release the movie later. Although the vendors who were cash strapped sitting on a load of HP products that they wouldn't be able to move for 9 more months was a heavy burden. But alas the 9 months have passed, a million new future fans for Harry have been born in the interim.
The movie was as good as anticipated. It is darker, but so is the book. The wizards have discovered sex, as teens are wont to do. The tension was handled very well. Harry gets one kiss and Ron is pretty much snogging throughout the film.
I am impressed at how well the cast has evolved and grown into their roles. The kids have matured as actors, which is good because the story demands more and more as they have to pack up their childhood and meet the demands of a world in crises. In this sense, I feel there are direct parallels between the wizard world on the screen and the real world that our teens have been left. These are uncertain times for our youth.
Personally, I loved Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. His actions and words are terse but entirely effective. He has honed his craft into an art with this character.
Even if you aren't into the the series, this movie is good on its own. Hope you enjoy it.
I spent most of Sunday on my sofa, trying to accommodate Louise and her demands. As a house guest she keeps me worn out. I was able to finish The Dragon Heir by by Cinda Williams Chima. This teen book is the recent addition to The Wizard Heir and The Warrior Heir. There are wizards, warriors, enchanters, and others belonging to the 5 magical guilds walking among us but they are mostly in Trinity, Ohio. The weir (wizard) have for centuries controlled the other guilds. But their abuses have gone to far. Can the young heirs reverse the tide or will they plunge not only their world but also that of the anawier (non-magical you and me)into chaos and destruction. Magic, love, action, betrayal and coming of age make this series a good read.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Doctor Tells Me..

I have a mass and that I need to play the wait and see game for another 3 weeks before we can form a plan. The ultrasound I had earlier this month showed the mass. It is 5 cm. Apparently if a mass is between 5 & 8 cm then there is some wiggle room. Greater than 8 spells immediate surgery. The mass, I will call it Louise,well, Louise doesn't seem to be complex, that is a good thing. However, Louise does seem a little more solid than a simple cyst that might go away on her own. So right now my abdomen has a house guest, the test did not indicate exactly where Louise is staying but she isn't hanging out in my uterus. So a wild party she might have thrown last month is not responsible for the bleeding. Something else is, I need to wait for the biopsy results and the next ultrasound results for us to formulate a plan to evict Louise and any other unexpected guests, if any. I hope Louise is the only guest I am hosting right now.
The Biopsy. This morning at about 6:00, I inserted a little pill that was suppose to help me through the procedure today. From 9:50 to 10:10 I was alone in my little room, I took the time to meditate and calm myself. Something worked because the doctor punched through the cervix on the first try and didn't have to break out his armory of barbs and hooks that were waiting in line. The pain was intense, the most surreal intense pain I have ever felt, but it was short lived. He had to go back for a better sample but the second time was only mildly uncomfortable compared to the first punch.
I have been evaluating my feelings all day today. I feel introspective and a bit subdued but I haven't had a melt down. I am hopeful that this is nothing, a good chance it is. I may have to have surgery to remove the mass and they may or may not be able to save my one surviving ovary. My left one was removed on my 21st birthday. Whoohoo was that ever a memorable birthday.
But at this point there is no need for me to worry, either it is something or it isn't. If it is then I will have to deal with it, if it isn't then I need to count my blessing. There isn't much more to think about it, really. So I won't!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just One of My Many Pet Peeves

The library is free, yes that is true but the library is not a free stationary store. Seriously. We provide golf pencils and slips of paper for people to write information down on. Why golf pencils? Because no one in the world wants a golf pencil. Why slips of paper? Because we try to cut down on waste and recycle as much as possible. All the time I used libraries before becoming a librarian, I never once asked to use anything. Well, maybe a stapler, maybe--but probably not.
Not a day goes by that someone doesn't ask to use a pen, lined paper, the stapler, a highlighter, whiteout, blank paper, etc. etc. etc. I have about 10-15 people ask to use the phone. Probably in the Fall when the Swine Flu returns with a vengeance, I will have to rethink handing the phone over to just anyone after dialing for them.
Yesterday, I had someone ask for a red pen, my teen librarian rooted around our tummy drawer until she came up for one for her. Then today, someone asked for a pen, when I showed her the cup of pens, she said no, she would prefer a marker. What? I explained that that ink pens are what we have for the public. The ink pens that disappear on a weekly basis. We probably go through a couple hundred dollars a year alone in ink pens that people borrow, promising to return but never do. These are probably the same people that checked out the GED books, the ASVAB books, and a Child Called It--the books I never seem to have on the shelf because people don't ever return them.
OK, I feel better now. But seriously...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Public Displays of Annoyance

When I first moved to Hawaii, I lived up in the back of Palolo Valley on some ag condo property. I rented a room in the main house with a fantastic view. A perky blonde Elementary School Teacher and her surf bum husband lived in the garage apartment upstairs. Their apartment and my bedroom shared a wall. About once a week, I would hear screeching littered with curses from their side of the wall. Always she was screaming on the phone wanting to know where the F*** he was and that he had better not come home f***ing drunk. It was somewhat disturbing. But what I found even more disturbing was that inevitable the morning after one of her screaming sessions, I would run into her going to work. As I settled my coffee into its cup holder, she would brightly beam goodness and sunshine at me. I could never figure out if she just pretended the way I did that her household was in good order or if she honestly did not know that the entire property had front row tickets to the best drama on the island.
Last Sunday in Vegas we went to the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay. It is pretty cool but by the time I got to the wreck with the sharks swimming around, I was not very subtly scooted out of the way so that 18 month old Mikey could see. Mom ran a narrative that everyone in the area could here. About 10 minutes later I was sitting on the benches waiting for our large party with J and his new girlfriend K. Mom still narrating was trying to get Mikey to smile for the photo. He was not cooperating and for a few seconds I thought she just might wallop him. I looked over at J and said "Somehow I think she is from Jersey or an outer borough." J agreed. I added, "boy I would hate to be over at their house for holiday gatherings." J appropriately shuddered. My very quiet niece was sitting across the way, I nodded at her, "I am the loud on in my family." J added "Your niece would be considered loud in my family." At that point, I cracked up at the on going monologue, J joined me.
At Universal today I was on the City Walk waiting for my niece and a friend's daughter to finish the theme park. I am a chicken so since I had two tickets, I thought it best to invite company along that would be happy to ride any ride. I was sitting outside Ben & Jerry's enjoying my shake when two women sat across from me. It seemed that they were from England or Oz, I can't always tell. One of the women was laying into the other one. For about 5 minutes, she harangued the Woman B about not being thankful for how thoughtful Woman A. She bought her an Obama T-shirt by god and she didn't even say a single thank you. She never registered appreciation for all that Woman A did for her. Clearly I my reading was interrupted by the much more interesting monologue going on in front of me. Sadly, I must have missed a bit while I was trying to to listen in because Woman A ended with "I should hang that bastard by the bollocks the next time I see him. That bastard." It seems that Woman B was not the only person on her LIST.
I am often surprised at our much dirty laundry people are willing to air in public. I was brought up far differently. I am a fairly emotional person, so I have been known to cry and pout in public but I don't remember ever truly acting out. My parents--read this my mother--also fondly known as the Dragon Queen--just would not have put up with it. Apparently I threw one temper tantrum in public and that was it--my mom had a tendency to deal with miss behavior swiftly. She reportedly immediately carried me out of the store, took me home and dealt with me there. Her actions have obviously held a lasting life long impression.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Overworked, Vegas, IQ, EQ and more...

Summer has sped by at a lightening pace. At work we are over worked and understaffed. I have 4 people--that is almost 25% of my staff--on limited duties. We have had record days of circulation. As a busy medium sized library we have a daily circ on our long days of about 1200 items. However, we had two days over 1900 in a row and almost every Monday and Tuesday this past month has been at more than 1500. So we are definitely doing more with less. And the sometimes short tempers show. So I spend most of my day trying to get items back on the shelf so that people can take them and we don't have to hunt around the library looking for them for them--the item that is for the patrons. Last night I had my niece go around the library picking up stray books off the tables and the floor because the one lonely page I had for the eight hours could not work below her knees or above her head or bend very much, or squat, or lift, ect, ect, ect. It could be worse and certainly may get worse with the economy. I only hope that I am a high enough librarian number to withstand the storm that we still haven't found the brunt of yet.
As you may have heard, California has yet to balance the budget and is issuing IOU's. One resource they have up their sleeves is to invoke a proposition passed in the 2004 that would allow the state to borrow money from the cities and counties for 3 years. The money has to be paid back but in the mean time the cities and counties are in trouble. Yes, we live in fear of invocation. The cities and counties are of course up in arms about this. I live in Santa Clarita which although has been hard hit has practiced budgetary restraint apparently since incorporation in the 80's so they are justifiably angry that big Pork fat Sacramento wants to take their hard earned dollars. The county is also angry. I have a big sign in my library urging people to call their legislators today. One patron did, and the legislators office told her that he didn't know why she was calling because the proposition had failed in the last election. This years Prop 1 failed, yes. But not 2004's. Very heartening that a reps office doesn't know what is going on. Yes, I am sure that that call was passed on.
This last weekend was Vegas, me and my $40 cups of coffee. The Starbucks that I usually like to go to outside the casino was closed. So that meant I had to get my morning fix with all the pretty tempting blinking flashy lights. The machines without exception ate my money in the morning. And I know better because I have determined that the machines never never pay out in the mornings. So why do I do it?
I think it is a little thing called Emotional Intelligence and delayed gratification.
Recently I have read--actually I am still reading two of them, ok three of them--books on Emotional Intelligence. It's an interesting concept and supposedly has more impact on your future success or lack there of than intelligence--of which I possess at least an average amount--according to the IQ quiz I took while waiting for the baby to wake up from his nap this weekend. Not my baby mind you. Nope, my genes are out of the pool. Back to EQ. Anyway, once upon a time there was a study that began with 4 year olds and followed them through to adulthood. The 4 year olds in a room with a researcher were given the option when the researcher was called away. "Here is a cookie for you, you can have it but if you wait to eat it until I come back then you can have two cookies." What a dirty trick to play on 4 year olds was my first thought. Well, it turns out that the 4 year olds that were able to delay their gratification for the bigger reward had more EQ and turned out to do much better overall in life than the greedy gobbly 4 year olds that snarfed the cookie as soon as the researcher left the room. As I sat feeding my slot machine early in the morning, I had no doubt which category I would have fallen into as a young child. But there is hope although IQ cannot be alter, EQ on the other hand can be. That I tell myself is why I only spent $15 on Monday on the slots and not because that was all the cash I had in my wallet. Well, I choose to call it an improvement!
And finally, yesterday I had my ultrasound. Much to my regret--I think--the most likely suspect, my thyroid is innocent of all charges. So it is something else. The ultrasound this week and the biopsy next week should sort things out. The entire procedure took about 30 minutes and the technician took a lot of photos. This made me nervous. I asked if she was going to do the vaginal one. Her response "I think so to give a better picture." Crap, I would have preferred--I think--"No, I don't see a need for that." So once I emptied my bladder from the tummy side view, I disrobed and came out to meet the vaginal insertion for the inside look around. All I have to say is not fun. This part of the procedure lasted at least 15 years and although she said she was only going to insert the device--that appeared to be condom covered and well lubricated--just about 3 inches, I think it was the entire 10. Once again a lot of photos. I tried my best to disengage my mind from the lower half of my body. When it was over and I had dressed, she said that the images would be sent to the dr by the end of the week. He's on vacation until next week when I go back for the oh so fun--this is really going to hurt bad, so stick this pill as far up you as you can 4 hours before you come and be sure to take a big dose of ibuprofen beforehand--biopsy. GREAT!!! All I can say is that I definitely did not use my quota of luck in Vegas so maybe I still have some left. I can only hope.