Mountlake Terrace Library Blog

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Librarian's Perfect Day

I wake up and the sun is streaming into my bedroom. There is not a cloud in the sky and it is already 75 degrees outside.

I weigh myself and I have lost 10 pounds since yesterday. Excellent!

I get dressed, eat breakfast and skip happily out to my car with my nonfat, sugar free caramel latte (with no whip), excited to head for work.

I arrive at the library early to teach a computer class. The class is full and everyone has just the level of skills needed to get the most out of the class. We are teaching a new Computer Basics class that includes how to post resumes to websites, how to send email attachments, cut and paste, etc., all of the skills we get asked about during the course of our work day. At the end of class, one student says, “I’ve learned more today in 15 minutes than a full-day’s class that I took somewhere else.”

When I am finished with my computer class, all staff members scheduled for the day have arrived, ready for work. No one calls in sick; no one has to leave early.

Staff is all getting ready to welcome our customers. We love books, but we love people more.

At 10am, we open the doors and 50 people are waiting to come in, all smiling. Even the guy who does his back exercises in the restroom is coherent today.

I am at the reference desk when a staff member tells me I am needed in the lobby. A customer wants to tell me something about the restroom. That’s OK, because I am even wearing my toilet-plunging shoes today. But no worries. The customer wants to tell me how beautiful the library is, how clean the restrooms are and how much she loves the display we have in our lobby display case – a collectibles display from a community member. (We make our display case available to community members as well as staff).

I look around the library, and I see a mother sitting in our rocking chair with her toddler on her lap. She is reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to her little girl and they both are laughing.

There are several other small children in the children’s area. Their parents are all with them and none of the children are crying or screaming.

The teen room is filling up with teens who are talking quietly and using the computers. An occasional bit of laughter wafts over from the room. The adults at the computers nearby smile indulgently.

A senior asks for help with the large print books. I find just the right book for her and she thanks me, calling me “young lady.”

Several people come up to thank me for the change in the number of free copies available on the computers now – 70 per week instead of 10 per day. They tell me this has been a lifesaver for them since they are job hunting.

A gentleman approaches and says he has a question he knows I won’t be able to answer, but he thought he would try anyway. When I pull up the answer in a matter of minutes, he smiles, shakes my hand, and walks away saying, “This library is the best thing since sliced bread. I am going to tell all of my friends.”

After lunch, I go out for a walk through our new Farmer’s Market which is in front of the library every Thursday. Everyone I encounter knows my name. I am invited to speak at the Businessman’s Association lunch and the PTA. I am glad because I have some new videos promoting our small business and homework databases put together by our Community Relations Department that I want to show them. A Lions Club member stops me. His group has heard about some of our programs and wants to talk about some partnership opportunities and to donate some money to our Friends of the Library. I am glad that I have been keeping in touch.

I return to the reference desk and answer several more questions during the afternoon, amazing all who ask.

As the day draws to a close, I look up from the desk and there is Tom Cruise.
He asks me where the pencil sharpener is. I show him and he tells me about the movie he wants to make in Mountlake Terrace. He has heard about the library and all of the interesting programs we have, such as our citizenship classes, our Russian and Spanish Family story times, our Foodie Book Group, our Book Buddies program, our "Family Night at the Library" and our "Saturdays at the Library" programs series, and he wants to do a movie about the library as a community gathering place.

He asks if I would like to go to dinner with him to discuss the possibilities.

I say yes. He had me at “Where’s the pencil sharpener.”

This has been a librarian’s perfect day.

"The persons, incidents and situations portrayed in this account are almost all true.”

I will let you figure out what isn’t...

Here’s a hint: The sun doesn’t shine here much.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Program for Reluctant Readers

We still have room in our wonderful Book Buddies program for 2nd and 3rd grade reluctant readers.

If your 2nd or 3rd grader needs some reading encouragement Book Buddies is a fun way for them to practice their skills this summer. This program is a fun, confidence-building opportunity for your child to practice reading with a specially trained teen volunteer.

Book Buddies group sessions will be Monday afternoons from 3 to 4:30 pm, July 12 to August 23, 2010. August 30th we will celebrate our reader's achievements with a pool party the Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion from 4-5:30 pm.

Space is limited...we have room for 11 more kids, so fill out an application at the library ASAP!

Once again, we thank the kind support of our wonderful Friends of the Mountlake Terrace Library, plus the Lynnwood Rotary Club, Half Price Books, and the Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Department.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Imagine That!

That is what my Dad would say in response to everything from a man landing on the moon to my barely passing geometry. Imagine that! He was full of wonderment, not just about good things, but about the foibles of human nature as well. "Someone cut me off on the highway and I almost had an accident. Imagine that!" "Echo (our collie) stole a pound of cheese off of the kitchen counter. Imagine that!"

But he was also the epitome of the lifelong learner. His curiosity was easily sparked and his interests were wide-ranging, vast and contradictory. When he had an idea or heard something interesting, he would want to find out more. And he loved to share his findings with others.

Drag Racing.
My Dad loved big American cars with big engines.

No British sports cars for him. He was definitely a Chrysler man. Mustangs were even too wimpy for him (and he hated Fords. It would irritate him when I would slam the car door. He would say, "It's not a Ford!").

The family car, a 1957 Chrysler New Yorker, was souped up, and my brother and he would take it drag racing at a local race track. When I learned to drive, I would go to McDonalds and all the guys would ooh and ah over the car (I wished they had been oohing and ahing over me) and ask what was under the hood. My brother made me memorize it's attributes, so I could do the car proud..."It has 325 horsepower, dual four barrels, it's bored and stroked and it can go 0-60 in 5 seconds." I didn't have the slightest idea what "bored and stroked" meant, but I said it like I knew. Of course the car also had huge fins and got about seven miles to the gallon. (Ah, the good old days when we didn't ever wonder where all of that gas was coming from).

It also had glass pack mufflers. The mufflers were not strictly street legal, if you know what I mean. They were loud. When I took the car out, my Dad would say, "If you get stopped by a policeman, tell him I have an appointment to get the mufflers fixed tomorrow." Of course he didn't.

My brother also drag raced the car around town. I am not condoning street drag racing, but that was a big pastime in the 1950's. His arch enemy was the "Wicked Ruby," a red Edsel. I did a bit of that myself, learning how to give the driver in the car next to me "the look," to indicate I was going to step on it when the light changed.

My Dad couldn't resist the urge, either. I can't tell you how many times I would hear my mother say, "Slow down, Frederic!" He was even in a drag race as we made our way to my first day at college, the car full of my suitcases and bedding, my Dad chuckling at giving that whippersnapper a run for his money. Later my Dad had a 1969 Dodge Charger 440 and one of the last street cars with a hemi engine, a Plymouth Barracuda. I can't tell you how impressed boyfriends were with those cars. More impressed with those cars than with me.

My Dad was a lifetime member of the NRA and had a huge gun and rifle collection, including a 44 Magnum ("Go ahead, punk, make my day.") I remember him going clay pigeon shooting and shooting at targets, but he didn't have the stomach for hunting. His love of guns was more about his really wanting to be a cowboy. He loved John Wayne and "Randolph Scott". He collected holsters and other cowboy accoutrements and even had a carved saddle in the basement where he hung out, though I never saw him ride a horse. Unfortunately, my Dad was also a very trusting person and sent his collection to a friendly gun collector for evaluation and the guy went bankrupt taking my Dad's gun collection with him. It was all a bit fishy. I don't think my Dad ever got over that.

My Dad also collected spoons.
(I told you his interests were wide-spread and contradictory).

Model trains were also a passion of his when I was growing up. Our whole basement was taken up by a model train table with tracks and little towns and little people. He had several "Lionel Steam Engines" that would probably be worth a lot today, but he ended up selling them when money was tight.

My Dad loved to watch television, mostly old movies. I would sit up late with him and watch movies from the 30's and 40's starring Fred and Ginger, "Ronald Coleman", "Maureen O'Hara", stars who are mostly forgotten today. He was a softy and would tear up during the sad parts, but to hide his tears, he would laugh and pretend he was wiping his brow. He didn't fool me. In the basement, he had two TVs going on at once, one on top of the other. He would have the sound off on one and the sound on the other. He didn't think that was strange at all. Just a way to see more. He was resourceful that way but it was difficult to explain to my friends.

My mother swears my Dad invented the first "sippy cup" to help my sister learn how to drink out of a cup. She would tell me of all the ideas he had that "if only he had done something with them we would be rich!" He really was inventive. He made my sister a laptop study desk out of plywood with a cut out so it would fit around her stomach as she sat in her chair. He was even building his own racing car. It sat out in the garage for years much to my mother's irritation. He bought them both a red, white & blue coat he thought would look great on them as they rode through town in that car. The car was never finished and my mother said, "I wouldn't be caught dead in that car or in that coat!"
(My Dad had a "Cord" when he was a young man and ended up selling it, because my mother thought it was too flashy and she was embarrassed to ride in it. I think of what that car would have been worth if he had kept it).

A favorite pasttime for my Mom and Dad was window shopping. They both loved nice furniture and lamps and my mother loved hats. All we had to do was take notice of something we really liked and more than not, he would remember that and surprise us with the item. He bought my mother some beautiful hats.

If I needed the car, he would often walk where he had to go so I could use the car. My parents were not rich but he was generous with his money and his time. He was thoughtful that way, and I hope that some of that rubbed off on me.

Music was also a passion. My Dad was very musical and could play the banjo, piano and other instruments. But his main passion was the trumpet. He played the trumpet in a dance band, and he also did all of the musical transcription for the band. He loved Big Band music and Dixieland and was a big fan of Louis Armstrong (though he hated it when he sang) and "Harry James". He would buy a new trumpet and say that perhaps this was the one that would help him hit the really high notes, like "Doc Severensen". I have one of those trumpets on a shelf in my family room where I can look at it every day. My Dad played at my Prom and at first I was mortified that he would be there. But when he stood up for his solo in "Wonderland By Night", I was secretly proud.

As was probably fairly common in my parents' generation, my Dad worked 8-5 and my mother stayed home to raise the children. He handed over his paycheck to my mother for household expenses, but because my Dad had so many interests - guns, spoons, cars, trains, TVs, hats, trumpets - he needed his own money to satisfy his desires. So for as long as I can remember, he worked part-time jobs, sometimes two other jobs in addition to his 8-5 job. He ran a bowling alley, worked at a men's clothing store and on a bakery assembly line in addition to his weekly gigs in a dance band. Those are the ones I remember. There were probably more.

My Dad grew up as an only child. His mother worked (which was unusual for those days - she was a high school music teacher), and I think many of his passions sprang from the loneliness of a little boy who went to a lot of movies and must have wondered what it would be like to be a cowboy or a racing driver or a train engineer. He pursued those dreams in a fashion. He played in the dance band and was interested in many things right up until he died at 82. And though I of course feel my Dad was a special man, he is probably not unlike many other fathers out there who have diverse and wide-ranging interests, who as boys dreamt of being something other than who they ended up being.

The mission of Sno-Isle Libraries is to "be a community doorway to reading, resources, and lifelong learning, and a center for people, ideas, and culture."

My Dad would be happy to see all of the "Auto Repair Databases" and materials about cars that are available, information on gun collecting and model trains, Big Band music CDs, DVDs of his favorite movies, how-to-do it information and ideas for part-time jobs.

In fact, the library offers opportunities for lifelong learners to pursue whatever their imagination conjures and wherever their needs, dreams and desires take them.

Imagine that!

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Share your Father anecdotes and how the library has helped you in pursuit of your lifelong learning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Good Old Days

I am sure many of you have received email spams from your friends, who forward various versions of email chain letters to you. Some are urban legends supposedly alerting you to carjacking schemes, perfume poisonings or computer viruses; others are more benign, extolling the power of friendship or sisterhood. But all of them tell you to pass the email on to 10 of your friends. Old chain letters would threaten you with bad luck if you didn't pass them on. Now you are just made to feel you don't really care for your friends if you don't. Either way, friends, I don't really like getting these...because I DO feel guilty if I don't send them on, and even worse, depressed when I can't think of 10 friends to send them to.

However, one I received lately made me reminisce. It was aimed at baby boomers-- about all of the things we and our parents used to do and that are now frowned upon. It brought back memories of the "good old days".

So those of you over 40, after you read this blog, sit back, close your eyes, and think of all of the politically, medically, and socially incorrect and non-technical things that used to be the norm when we were young. (If you are under 40,this might help you understand your parents better).

Remember defrosting meat on the counter?
Whoever heard of e.coli in the 50's?
(And I must confess I still do it).

Remember when you were little and it was OK to go off on your own?
I was given the "don't take candy from a stranger" speech, but my mother had no qualms about telling my 10-year-old self to ride my bike over a mile away to Keeler's, the butcher she preferred. There I would purchase a pound of ground beef for 49 cents. And I would stay out until 8pm playing with my friends until my mother would stand on the back porch and yell at the top of her lungs for me to come home (I think she tried ringing a bell for awhile but decided her voice had more power over me). It did.

Remember when we had to get up out of our chairs to change the TV channel and adjust the rabbit ears?
Did putting aluminum foil on the rabbit ears really help the reception?

Remember getting vaccinated at school?
Didn't mind the sugar cube. Hated the shot!

Remember when everyone smoked?
I was amazed when I went to college and there were ash trays in the class rooms. Naturally, I smoked. It was cool then. When I went to a Dylan concert, I even sported a cigarette holder and called everyone "Dah-ling." (I think I was in my Edie Sedgwick phase).
And a pack was only 25 cents.

Remember when you could actually buy something for a penny?
I would go to the local corner store and point to each piece of candy I wanted and walk out with a bag full of candy. If you had a quarter, you could choose 25 different pieces. "I would like that one, and that one, and that one...please." Can you imagine that multiplied by 20 or 30 kids? That must have driven the store clerk nuts! (And there weren't even signs limiting the number of children that could be in the store at a time as you sometimes see these days).

Remember when dogs ran free in the neighborhood and no one carried bags to pick up after them?
We had a collie that looked just like Lassie and was a friendly guy, well-known in the neighborhood and wandered all over the place. One dog I particularly remember was a little 3-legged miniature doberman named PeeWee, who was a nasty piece of work. He would charge anyone walking by his house. I had to go that way to get to my friend Chuckie's house and dreaded every moment, waiting for the snarling little weasel to come running out. I hated that dog.

Remember when libraries were old, musty buildings with disapproving librarians?
Now, I know I am generalizing here, but there must have been something to that for there to be the stereotype librarians have had to live with for so many years. I can remember feeling very scared of the disapproval of the library staff when checking out certain items, if you know what I mean. When I discovered the list of "100 Best Books Ever Written" (or something like that), and decided I wanted to read every one in alphabetical order, there were moments when the librarians would raise an eyebrow or two at my adolescent self. Not to mention when I tried to check out
"Peyton Place"

And I would break out into a sweat if I had an overdue book. We not only had to pay a fine but got a lecture as well.

Remember when libraries had closed sections and you had to fill out a form and then a library staff person would retrieve the item for you?
Never did figure out what the criteria was for those books kept locked up.

And what IS the deal with the librarian stereotype?
How did that happen? Did most librarians actually wear buns and dowdy clothes and keep the risque books under the counter (for their own use)? I can't tell you how many times I have fielded that question.

How things have changed. Were they really the "good old days?"

Today we worry about e.coli, watch our kids "like a hawk" (as my mother said to me when my children were born), pay way more than 49 cents for ground beef (unless we are vegan, at which point we wouldn't buy it at all), have hundreds of TV channels to choose from without getting up from our couch, we are vaccinated at birth for just about everything, few smoke, we could live without pennies, and dogs must always be on leashes and even often carry their own "you-know-what" bags.

And as for libraries...

Today public libraries are cool, hip places staffed by people who like people.

Their basic services provide a welcoming atmosphere, friendly, knowledgeable staff and volunteers, we check our your items without judgment, we happily assist you with your directional, informational and computer questions, we provide free programming for all ages including early learning opportunities for ages 0-5, our collection of library materials includes books, DVDs, CDs and other formats, we share our "best reads advice" with library customers, and we provide computers and free WiFi access.
The librarians are not stereotypes. They are smart, thoughtful, fun and care about what they do. And keep nothing hidden under the counter.

I could ask you to share this with ten of your friends, but instead, share your memories here of growing up and your past and present library experiences.

Better then? Or better now?