I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

As a former librarian I found myself, quite often, laughing out loud at some of these stories, both because they brought back memories and because it made me realize I had sadly not had the ability to continue to work as a librarian and experience more stories.  The author, in true library fashion, orders the chapters in the Dewey Decimal System.  The chapter titles are: Computers, Reference Work, Reading Interests and Habits, Curiosities and Wonders, Listening In, Communication, Failures and Disruptions of, Bullying, Rare Birds, Human Anatomy, Telephones, Children's Humor, and Volumes of Gratitude.

In the first chapter, Computers, what is the reply to the question "I keep getting the blue screen of death"?  "Sir, that's the desktop".  Another man keeps coming up to the desk asking tons of questions, including: How do I make the computer like a typewriter?; There are red squiggly lines under everything I type.; Now I want to make a website.  Do I just get the framework up ...using the typewriter function?; Maybe you could help me make a website. I have about an hour.  Another man wants them to disable Google because they are "taking over the United States".  One librarian was helping a patron upload his resume for a job application from a flash drive.  When she asks him which job is applying for, he says, "all the jobs on the Internet". 

In the chapter "Reading Interests and Habits" here are some of the book titles patrons have requested: Fifty Shades of Grey's Anatomy, How to Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Aunt Frank, Lord of the Flies by Tolkien, The Hungry Games, and The Lively Bones.  A woman expresses her disinterest in e-books, claiming they will be the death of libraries.  When the librarian informs her the library has e-books, she replies, "aren't they invisible?".  In the chapter, Curiosities and Wonders, one person comes in looking for the margarita machine, which, honestly, would have been nice to have at my library. 

A conversation overheard between a young woman showing her mother how to search for items at the library: Mother: There are almost three thousand movies to choose from? Daughter: Well, movies and TV shows.  Mother: So are you saying that the library is now the video store? Daughter: Among other things. Mother: Who else knows about this?.  A seventy-year-old man tells his wife, "I think we really should do the Facebook.  Art and Frieda are doing it.  We don't want to be the only ones left."  A conversation between one parent and another in the children's room: Parent 1: Do you ever hide books you've read over and over again because you're so sick of them? Parent 2: Oh, definitely.  When they ask for them, I say the book fairy came to get it.  One time they saw one of the books at the library so now they think the librarians are the book fairies.  One of my personal favorite lines in this book from a patron who says "It's too cold in here.  What is wrong with you people?  Do you like frozen books?"  I wore a sweater jacket year round at the library.

But my absolute favorite is the one on a librarian putting up a display for Banned Books Week, which is something I did when I worked.  Librarian: I'm making a display about books that people complained about.  They wanted them removed from the library.  Girl: Why? Librarian: Because they didn't like what the books were about and didn't want anyone else to read them, either...Can you imagine what would happen if every person could choose one book to remove from the library forever? Girl: There wouldn't be any books left on the shelves.  Librarian:  That's right!  It wouldn't really look like a library anymore, would it? Girl:  We are learning about bullying at school.  It sounds like even libraries get bullied sometimes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Tidal Pool by Karen Harper


In this second in the Elizabeth I mystery series, twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth Tudor has just been made Queen and goes to visit her mother's grave on the eve of her procession down the streets of London and is greeted by Jane Seymour's nephew, Edward, whose father, once Lord Protector to the boy King Edward and eventually killed, was with Jack St. Maur, who is a relative of the Seymour's, and whose father, Thomas, died trying to get Elizabeth I on the throne and was once romantically entangled with her in an innocent, young way.  St. Maur grew up in the household of John and Bella Harrington, close family friends of Elizabeth's.  The Seymour family believe that Edward will be the natural heir to the throne.

During her procession, a high-born lady, Penelope Whyte, Bella Harrington's sister, and a known "light skirt" who died pregnantly is murdered, it is believed, accidentally in Elizabeth's stead.  Elizabeth's unusual band of helpers: Meg (the herbalist), Ned Topside (the actor), Kat (her maid), Jenks (her horseman), Lord Cecil (now her Lord Protector and advisor in all things) and her cousin Lord Harry are all here to help her solve the mystery as well as two new people: a former thief named Bett and her deaf son.

Meg runs into someone from her old life who remembers her as Sarah, and some of Meg's memories come back to her.  She knows she has a husband and that she does not want to go back to that life.  She wants to stay working for the Queen and with Ned, with whom she is in love.  So now she spends her time trying to avoid anyone who might recognize her.

There are many suspects, such as Robin, who is the Head of her Stables and a close friend, John Harrington, who confesses to the crime, but whom Elizabeth has a hard time believing did the deed, even Lord Harry, her cousin seems to be a suspect.  Elizabeth feels she can only trust her close circle of advisers who helped her solve the previous murderous plot.

When Bett gets caught looking for information at the Dowager Duchess's house for her diary, which she does not get a chance to look at, but is able to grab a letter with sensitive information in it, she is sent to prison, and because she is a former thief, she will hang.  Elizabeth has no knowledge of this and is looking for her.

Even though Elizabeth is a first a little frightened by the thought that someone near and dear is a traitor to her and to England, she gathers her strength and goes out to find the killer in the night and becomes captured herself.  This is really a good book, but perhaps I am just saying that because one of my favorite historical figures is Elizabeth I.  She had her father's red-headed temper, her mother's cunning in politics, and an intelligence all her own to not only lead an empire but to solve any complex murder that may fall upon her doorstep.

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