Librarian Avengers on Pinterest

cool looking header image

As a middle-aged mom, I’m contractually obligated to spend 10% of my week repinning things on Pinterest. Librarian Avengers has benefited, since there are plenty of librarians running around posting cool stuff that I can point at. It’s certainly simpler than actually creating original content.

Therefore, in support of the gender-disproportionate ladynerds at Pinterest’s main headquarters up the road, enjoy my Librarian Avengers board:

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City

I am from Flint, Michigan.

I was born and raised in a crappy little city perched on the edge of a dying industry. The ominous creaking sounds coming from below sounded like a pretty clear warning, so I got the hell out. I graduated from a halfway-decent suburban high school in a district that my parents fought like hell to keep me in, renting claptrap houses on the edge of the boundary line. I left with a few AP credits, a 1986 Chevy Nova, and a seriously fucked up attitude. Being from Flint was important to me. I thought it conveyed important information to the outside world, information about my work ethic, my disappointments, my belief in the higher power of Buick Automotive.

Flint had helped win the War. My grandpa dropped out of school to help design the M18 Hellcat Tank for Buick, trading in a career as an architect for the promise of a pension and a world free of Nazis.

Flint had started the labor movement. My dad was a proud union representative, joining generations of men and women inspired by the Great Sitdown Strike to restore the power balance between owner and worker. He would sing Woody Guthrie’s song down the echoing hallway during tense negotiations. Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union. I’m sticking to the union, till the day I die.

My family stayed. Flint crumbled. Everyone who could afford to moved away. My suburban school district installed metal detectors. I went to graduate school and met people who had never heard of a carbureted engine. I’d come back home for holidays, dragging bemused boyfriends and waving around my new words, new ideas, big opinions. I’d come home to re-hear the stories that had defined me. Funny stories of disasters too big not to laugh at. People doomed by their own stupidity. Companies collapsing from their own greed. Fights at basketball games. People shooting out the lights on cop cars. Things falling off of trucks. Apocalyptic decisions made by people entrusted with our public good. Flint stories.

Recently, one of my neighbors wrote a book filled with his own Flint stories. Gordon Young lives a few blocks away in my new hometown of San Francisco. Oddly, we have never met. He went to the other suburban school district – those southside swine that were always beating us at quiz bowl – and left about ten years before I did. He’s been writing a blog called Flint Expatriates, and a few years ago he did this weird thing. He tried to go home.

The book is called Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City. Gordon writes about life in Flint and San Francisco, often through a lens of real estate. He has gone through the process of trying to buy houses in both cities, a testament to his tenacity and possibly some kind of undiagnosed brain injury. Anyway, you should read it because it’s awesome and it says many of the things that should be said about Flint. The ending is really strong, and I found myself saying “hell yes” out loud a few times. Leaving Flint seems to have given him the perspective he needed to make some peace with the goddamned place.

You may have noticed, I’m still searching.

South Detroit

The 70’s band Journey is kind of a big deal out here. Apparently they are from the Bay area, and there is a San Francisco civic statute requiring all radio stations to play Journey songs every three hours. Or, so I gather.

While doing a deep textual analysis of the song Don’t Stop Believin’ (sic) this morning, I noticed the phrase “Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit.”

As a Michigan native and Flint Expat (good blog, btw) my librarian senses began tingling. South…Detroit?
South Detroit.
Huh.

Let’s just check the map.

Detroit mapDetroit…
Yep, there it is. Suspicion confirmed! South Detroit is Windsor. Also known to Geographers as Canada.

I guess that Midnight Train going Anywhere was the Via Rail, huh?

(cue guitar solo)

Library Tourism: The San Francisco Main Branch

Air freshener

I’ve escaped my parental bonds for a moment, thanks to my husband, so I have a few minutes to tell you about my recent trip to the SF Public library. The big one downtown. The one I visited a long time ago and left, convinced that public librarianship in a large city belonged to the realm of the nostril-less.

San Francisco has a Big Beautiful Library, located in the Civic Center across the street from City Hall. The building is full of glass and marble and echo-y ceilings, in the grandest tradition of main library excess. As a young library tourist, I had visited this landmark eager to see Library Done Right, and learn what can be made when budget constraints are erased and the architects are released from their fetters. Unfortunately, I had failed to consult with a resident when planning the walk there, and found myself entangled in The Tenderloin, SF’s most unpleasant neighborhood. I dodged madmen in wheelchairs and puddles of vomit for a few blocks, and arrived safe but shaken. Which is not to say that the special Tenderloin atmosphere ended when I went inside.

Due to its location, the SF Library Main branch has struggled with strange bedfellows. City Hall, the Opera, the Symphony, and a few lesser monuments surround the building, but the clientele and the smell remind you that the Tenderloin ends only a block away. Nine years ago, this meant the entire bottom two floors were permeated with Eau Du Armpit, and the best reading chairs were occupied by scruffy men with newspapers over their heads. This may have influenced my decision, upon moving to the city, to avoid the downtown branch entirely.

However! When Adorable Daughter and I visited the library two weeks ago (after some discreet nursing in the car) we encountered a cleaned-up building, with a less lived-in look. We visited the small soulless cafe downstairs, wrestled with the wireless (mommy has an iphone MMORPG problem), and found a nice browsing collection staffed by two friendly and incredibly overqualified librarians. The homeless problem seems to have abated somewhat, and I noticed security guards everywhere.

One of the things that prompted me to give it another try was an excellent article in the Chronicle announcing “the country’s first full-time psychiatric social worker stationed in a public library”. A quick google search reveals this to be a much-press-released, and apparently effective tactic on the part of SFPL to combat the library’s struggle with homeless patrons.  It might have been a coincidence, I’m just a single data point, but there did seem to be an improvement since my last visit.

If you want a reason to be grateful for your current job (assuming you aren’t an SF Public librarian), you might enjoy reading the many Yelp reviewers who have shared their encounters with some of the library’s pants-eschewing patrons. If you want to save thirty bucks on a newly-released hardback, you might enjoy the Main Branch’s science fiction collection.

The San Francisco Library Main Branch: Four stars. Would visit again.

Out in the daylight with a stroller

By Mo Kaiwen 莫楷文

I’m sitting at a cafe with my infant daughter. I feel like a monster of productivity, having successfully left the house twice in one day, eaten actual meals, and avoided being covered in poo (for the time being).

Elizabeth is the daughter, three months old. She sleeps in the stroller I thought I would never use. As a non-parent, I had overlooked its function as a laptop/sweater/blanket/grocery/diaperbag-carrier, and had no understanding of the speed at which it knocks out a fussy baby.

The last three months have been a time of great change. I am clocking in at about one life lesson every three hours.

Recently I’ve learned:

  • To type fast and not muck about with formatting while the baby’s napping. Editing is not for parents.
  • If you can afford it, fresh fruit is always a worthwhile purchase.
  • That you can’t go for a walk in my neighborhood without tripping over a stroller or a border collie.
  • Sweden makes awesome baby equipment (Jané: the 4×4 truck of strollers)
  • If you join a clan and are online regularly at 3am, you can make lots of friends in Finland, and Norway.
  • Other Scandinavians mock Swedes out of some obscure national rivalry. The punchline of every joke is inevitably “Svensk”. If you understand this, please let me know.

Right, that’s it for now. Elizabear is waking up and we’ve got some major walking to do.

Alliterative morning

Today I Skimmed Schmaltz, and was Rawked at by a Raven.

Raven with Sausages by quinet

The schmaltz came from a mess of chicken soup I made. A thick layer of chicken fat rose to the top overnight and was skimmed off and used to season the cat’s breakfast.

Chicken soup for the soul by tsheko

The raven is a Common Raven, who was hanging out in one of the San Francisco parks that I walk through on my way to work. Common Ravens are more common out here than they are back east.

They are about the size of a small dog, and live shoulder to shoulder with their smaller corvid friends the Crow and the Western Scrub Jay. All three species enjoy Rawking, poking at things with their substantial bills, and Making Trouble.

What alliterative things happened to YOU today?

Stupid girls, stupid pepper spray, stupid racist cab driver

A listing of grievances:

  • Two stupid girls have a hair-tearing fight on the bus
  • Liquid and curly fries fly everywhere
  • The guy in front of me puts up his arm, so I do too
  • The fighting high school girls roll out the door as it stops
  • I continue listening to my podcast, because, meh, stupid girls
  • People start coughing and opening windows
  • PEPPER SPRAY! Hooray!

Interlude

  • The guy in front of me has pepper spray in his eye
  • I have some on my face
  • The fighting girls are long long gone
  • We all have to get off the bus
  • We are coughing
  • We are annoyed
  • The 24 bus comes roughly every three years
  • Why can’t they fight on a busier route?

Interlude

  • My cheek hurts and I want to go home
  • I get a cab
  • I tell the driver what happened
  • He immediately asks “What race were they?”
  • I ask him what that has to do with anything
  • He tells me he is interested in “Sociology”
  • I say anyone who knows a damn thing about sociology knows better than to draw from a single data point
  • I tell him that we aren’t going to talk any more
  • He tells me he isn’t racist because he campaigned for Obama

Interlude

  • I stiff him on the tip and go inside to take a shower
  • Stupid girls
  • Stupid pepper spray
  • Stupid racist cab driver

A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

West Coast Phrases To Know

My mother, the real librarian (not a digital muckety muck thingamajig like me), will be visiting me here in San Francisco next week. Since she will be hanging around with non-Midwesterners, I thought it would be good to provide her with an introduction to west coast language. I know, right?

  • I know, right?

    Rumored origin: L.A.
    Literal meaning: “Can you believe this thing we are talking about? It goes without saying, and yet we are saying it.”
    Connotation: “We are all in agreement here. Also, I have never read Beowulf.”

  • Hella

    Rumored origin: NoCal.
    Literal meaning: Intensifier. “Their pie is hella good.”
    Connotation: “I am twelve.”

  • Yeah yeah yeah

    Rumored origin: Coffee-fueled Berkeley undergraduates
    Literal meaning: “I agree so strongly that it can be quickly dismissed with a rapid exclamation.”
    Connotation: “We are getting things DONE in this conversation.”

  • Chill

    Rumored origin: The 1960s.
    Literal meaning: “Good. Calm. Without trouble. Easy.”
    Connotation:”I have had lots of therapy and/or drugs.”

Got more? Send ’em in!