Quiz

I did a talk at a convention in Detroit a few weeks ago in which I encouraged people to become librarians. I started out with this quiz. Now it’s your turn.

Am I Geeky enough to be a Librarian?

Yes No
1. I enjoy acronyms.
2. I own a cat.
3. When confronted with a pile of books I think “Hmm…first I would sort by author, then by title?
4. I am obsessive enough to appreciate the difference between 345.065 and 345.605.
5. I possess a useless undergraduate degree.
6. Being surrounded by books makes me lather with delight.
7. The idea of someone preventing me from reading Orwell because they don’t like it strikes me as Orwellian.
8. I am comfortable with the Internets.
9. If my house caught on fire, one of the things I would grab is my favorite book.
10. I possess a useless graduate degree.
11. I can daisy-chain a herd of Ubuntu boxes faster than you can say FreeBSD.
12. These kids today. I swear. If they would just read a damn book once in awhile, they wouldn’t be blowing each other up so much.
13. I could find out the middle name of your high school boyfriend with just ten minutes on the Internet.
14. I could find out the first line of A Tale of Two Cities with just ten seconds on the Internet.
15. I know the first line of A Tale of Two Cities.
16. I am a disenfranchised intellectual.
17. The idea of arming the public with knowledge appeals to me more than, say, arming them with pitchforks and torches.
18. I would rather do something cool than get rich.
19. I possess a useless doctoral degree.
20. I can say “Colon classification” without laughing.
Scoring
Under 5 = I think the “We hate libraries” meeting is down the hall.5-10 = You are geeky, but can you HANDLE the acronyms?10-15 = I’ve got some library school applications under my desk you big dork

15-20 = Quit your job immediately! Grab the nearest child and teach him to read! Oh, and start stocking up on acid-free paper.

Rock Rock Rock n’ Roll Librarian

Hey avenging librarians… A few weeks ago, Bill Harmer wrote a letter asking for our help. You may remember Bill as the founder of the Rock n Roll library tour that was featured on This American Life. I wrote about the show here.

Bill wants to take the Rock n Roll library tour nationwide. Last summer the Michigan tour was a big success, and he wants to get at least one library to sign up in each of the 50 states. This is a killer after-school program that serves the dual purpose of getting reluctant readers in the library, and busting through some myths about how the library is boring. You know? Those myths? Now you can do something about them.

After some initial hoo-ha-ing, the ALA got its act together and is sort of helping out. You can now register your very own ever-loving library for the tour. You’ll be booking library rock n’ roll veterans The High Strung for an all-ages show and a question and answer session afterward.

Just read the press release, then write to Bill and he’ll make it happen.

I hope they come here. Ithaca is desperate for decent music. There’s a large Contra Dance movement here that MUST BE STOPPED. Also, if anybody has suggestions or offers of help, I think Bill would be glad to hear them.

Maysan Haydar is Cool

My friend Maysan Haydar has always been cool. She introduced me to Bratmobile and Swing dancing back when such things were hip. She got a tongue ring before everyone else. She was the first person I knew to dye her hair purple.

She escaped from Flint, majored in Linguistics and moved to NYC to write for The Nation. Now she’s a social worker. Oh. And she wears the hijab. Here’s an excerpt from an article she wrote for the book Body Outlaws about why she wears the veil, and what it’s been like.

Cat and Girl on Vertical Files

I like Dorothy’s Donation Derby almost as much as I like her comic Cat and Girl. If you send her money, she does a small drawing to show how she spent it. The result is an autobiographical comic blog with snippets of funny dialogue and moments from her life. Today there was a library mention that will be funny to anyone who still maintains vertical files. Don’t we have computers for that? I spent a good chunk of my life cutting out newspapers for the wonderfully eclectic American Radicalism & Popular Culture vertical files when I was an undergrad at Michigan State University. If you ever happen to be in East Lansing researching representations of Grant Wood’s American Gothic in advertising, MSU’s got yer back. We never got into any screaming matches either.

Oxford


shannon Says:
October 18th, 2005 at 1:47 pm e
Awesome! If you make it to Oxford (hours train ride from London) you can go to the Bodleian Library and visit the various haunts of people like Lewis Carroll, Tolkien and all sorts of famous literarys (as in pubs).

Believe it or nay, fair reader Shannon,  I have BEEN to the Bodleian library in Oxford. I was studying abroad in Dublin. I had two days in the UK. Where did I go? Oh yeah. The only library in the world that makes its patrons vow not to set the books on fire.

En route, I was lectured by an unamused train conductor on the correct pronunciation of Oxford. According to the man in the hat, it is not pronounced (imagine a thick midwestern accent) AAHHXFERD, as we kids insist, but rather (imagine a thick plank lodged irretrievably netherward) UHXFERD. This remains my only real memory of Oxford, so perhaps I should return.

Anybody want to hook a sister up with Bodleian backstage passes? In return, I promise to tell you the (two-drink minimum, not work-safe) story about my deadly encounter with the MSU library masturbator.  

Library School angst

Where O where should this nice person go to library school?
I got this letter the other day:

I was thinking about applying to the Library and Information Science program at Wayne State University here in Detroit and was wondering if you had an opinion on their program? I’d love to go to U of M but I don’t think I’d get in nor do I have the money to go there. Just wondered if you knew or heard about Wayne State’s program.

Please keep in mind that I am not a career counselor, and am in fact a big web designer hypocrite who hasn’t spoken to a patron in years. If that doesn’t bother you, read on.

First of all: Nobody has the money to go to Big Expensive Schools like the University of Michigan. I certainly didn’t. My friends didn’t. Except maybe that one woman who wore expensive suits. The rest of us did three things: Took out Loans, Got Scholarships, and Worked Our Butts Off. Look, see? No butt.

Don’t worry about funding yet. Worrying about funding comes later and will represent one of the many delightful themes of graduate school. Worry about getting in first. Both schools are reputable and, I assume, have some sort of decent admission standards. Still, buck up little appleblossom. This ain’t rocket science. Write a decent essay, take the GRE a couple of times if you need to and cross your fingers. I’d apply to both schools just to cover your bases.

I suspect from the “here in Detroit” bit, that Wayne is geographically closer to you? This is nothing to sniff at, since driving to a distant city to attend class quickly becomes wearisome. If you are in a position to uproot and go to Ann Arbor, however, U of M is a great school. I have no complaints about my THREE years there (don’t ask). The library students I met were smart, funny, geeky and motivated. The interdisciplinary stuff was good for everyone, and you end up with all sorts of cutting-edge library and life skillz.

I don’t know much about Wayne because

1) it is a library school and I never wanted to be a librarian. Not a traditional librarian anyway, with the patrons, and the books and the reference.

2) it is in Detroit and

3) it isn’t as prestigious as U of M. I know this sounds mercenary, but hey, race you to the upper middle class.

If anyone out there can advise this promising young librarian about the Joys of Wayne State or any stuff I missed, please do.

Librarians Rock on This American Life…sort of

Slobberingly-addictive radio program This American Life featured Michigan Libraries this weekend. I was painting the downstairs closet (braincell-killing homeowner goodness!) when I heard Ira Glass talking about librarians. I emitted a squee of pleasure, and cranked up the radio, leaving a bright white thumbprint on the volume knob.

Bill Harmer, the Teen Librarian of the Baldwin Public Library had the amazingly fucking brilliant idea to book a really good band, The High Strung (I went to college with vocalist Josh Malerman!) in libraries across Michigan in an effort to reverse the reputation of libraries as uptight, fussy places where No Fun Can Be Had.

Sadly, the segment showed how far we have to go on that front. Though Ira Glass lovingly described the concerts, many librarians and library workers came off sounding…well…like frumpy librarians. I winced when a woman addressed a group of 9-14 year olds with the globally-annoying “Hellooo boys and girls” and spoke to them in a sing-songy voice. I cringed when circulation workers plugged their ears at the icky rock music.

You could HEAR the sweater sets. Are we really that bad?

Still, it was a great idea, and it sounds like it was wildly successful. You should write to Bill Harmer and thank him for not being beaten down by the truncheon of public service and having such magnificent ideas.

For future reference, I’m thinking of putting together a handy conversion chart for librarians on How Not to Sound Uptight. Contributions are welcome. Here’s a start:

Instead of saying: “Hellooo boys and girls”
Say: “Hi you guys”
Lesson:
Pointing out the diminutive age of your audience is rude. Singsong voices reveal your own insecurity.

Instead of saying: “Teens”
Say: Teenagers. People. High school kids. Yutes. Jailbait. Anything but “Teens”.
Lesson: Saying “Teens” makes you sound like a nitwit. You might as well grip a pipe and denounce Communism. I’m just sayin’.

Cartography Tricks

Maps are fun. Especially obedient maps. This blog catalogs some of the nifty things people have done with the Google Maps API. (from boing boing)

Here’s a trick. A couple of years ago, I moved to Ithaca, NY. It’s a good place to live.
Here’s Google’s map listing the Sushi restaurants in Ithaca:
For contrast, here’s a map showing the sushi restaurants in my hometown of Flint, Michigan:
{crickets chirp}
Now look what happens when you search in Flint for “Guns”:
Thanks everybody, next show’s at nine. I’ll be here all week.

Flintstyle

Friends, we need to have a little talk. Judging from some of your emails, many of you are Woefully Ignorant of one of the most important debates going on the world today. I refer to the fight between Flint-style coneys and Detroit-style coneys. Apparently there is a place claiming to be “Angelo’s” located in shiny Ann Arbor (a yuppie Detroit suburb with delusions of grandeur) selling some vile mockery of a coney dog. I’m here to tell you that this is WRONG. Coneys belong to Flint. Flint invented coneys. Specifically, coneys belong to a little place called Angelo’s.

CUE NOSTALGIC MUSIC

From the 1970’s on, Flint’s Angelo’s Coney Island restaurant was a meeting-place of cultures. On a given night you could see rich old women in furs, bikers, prostitutes, gang members, suburb punk rockers (the quasi-urban angst!), and the mayor eating side-by side in its red vinyl benches. The waitresses coughed a lot and if you were really nice, you might get a tobacco-stained smile. They were open 24 hours, every day except Christmas, until the health department made them close for an hour every night to clean. There were fights in the parking lot. You could get fries with gravy. The signs, menu and prices hadn’t changed for 30 years.

What was the attraction? The unchanging ambiance and the coneys. Ah, the coneys. A coney dog, dear reader who wasn’t fortunate enough to be born in Flint, is a Koegel’s hot dog (made with real innards!) with a dry spicy meat sauce, finely chopped raw onions, and mustard. Eat it. It’s good. Get two, you might as well.

There are two genres of Coney dogs: Flint-style and Detroit-style. Detroit-style is all runny and nasty, just a dog with chili on top. Flint-style on the other hand, is coney perfection. These days, the original ones can be found at Tom Z’s coney island downtown. Accept no substitutes.

When GM has a strike, Flint women cook up sauce in a crock pot, chop up onions, and deliver coneys to the picket line. Flint kids go to Angelo’s before prom, carefully lifting their ballgowns off the floor.

A few years ago, Angelo’s was sold. The new owners fired the coughing waitresses, dressed up the new ones in “Angelo’s” t-shirts, took down the old yellow menus, raised prices, franchised the place, changed the food, and generally fucked everything up.

Fortunately, the Angelo’s-shaped hole in the universe has ushered in a new era. During my last visit, I saw dozens of new coney places that had opened up. Flint coneys are everywhere now. I remain hopeful.

Thus endeth the tale of the Vastly Superior Flintstyle coney. Anybody has anything different to say about the quality of the Flinttown dog, then come on up here and say it. I’ll fight ya. Come on. You. Right now. Flint!

Escape from Flint

Last night I drove back to Ithaca from my hometown of Flint, MI. I had Great Expectations on tape, and Dickens’ verbosity helped get me through the nine-hour drive without plowing into someone out of sheer boredom. Flint was unexpectedly fun. I got to see my favorite old gang, and their cute new kids. Downtown’s been sexed up a bit, with some lighted arches and a cobblestone overhaul. The best thing downtown is Flint City T-Shirts, my friend Matt’s new shop. I got an “I heart MI” shirt, and Erin got one that says “Flint: Baddest town around since 1855.”

Things I missed while I was in Flint (Good)

  • Snoop Dogg asking Cornellians “Can U Control Yo Hoe?” (more on misogyny in hip hop)
  • Slope day snowfences
  • Cat barfing

Things I missed while I was in Flint (Bad)

  • Beezoo and Lexie delivering brownies at work
  • Tulips blooming in spite of the damn deer (curse you deer!)
  • International dance festival (opa!)

Things I did while in Flint

  • Ate assloads of coneys. Pretty much literally.
  • Went to Wal-mart twice with parents. Bought nothing. Washed off corporate slime afterward.
  • Gave driving tour of expensive public works projects that were going to “save Flint”
  • Tamale night at Erin’s grandma’s
  • Mourned the death of Angelo’s. The walls are bare. They have wheat toast. The waitress called my friend “sir.” It’s over.
  • Three-hour gossip session with everyone’s favorite Joel
  • Got asked out by skeevy Australian waiter while at Olive garden with mom.
  • Introduced parents to veggi burger. Ate chicken in exchange.

In other news, Wendy at Poundy describes the Seattle Public Library most aptly.
Store Wars should tip you over your monthly bandwidth quota nicely. Headphones required. Organic and work-safe.