Tales from the Reference Desk

Hey gang,

I was funemployed for several weeks and rapidly began losing my mind. I could use some perspective.

The new crop of students must be coming into the library to do last-minute midterm research around now. Remind me what I’m missing by skipping out on my library career to make software?

I declare this an open thread. Gimme some funny library stories!

Face front, true believers!

Face front, true believers!

I love the way Stan Lee addressed his readers with such an intimate and glorifying phrase. True believers! Sure, you were just reading a Spiderman comic book, but he implied that this act joined you with a like-minded group, and certified your character as loyal and faithful.

I poked around looking for an appropriate “Face front” image, and found this poster in the Soviet Museum‘s digital collections. If you have a bit of time, check out the collection of pro-Lenin fairy tales.  I also found an associated grumpy thread on Metafilter, comparing the ubiquity of this style of propaganda art in Soviet Russia to something like garish ads for fast food and grocery store mailers.

Face front, true believers! Today is beautiful, and we will face it with the resolution to do good.

 

Tube Food

My young daughter is eating solid food. She has two lower teeth, which she uses to great effect, scraping away like a reverse-squirrel. This is an exciting time for my husband and I, since we get to share some of our favorite foods with her. We also get to see these favorite foods converted into sneeze-splatter and spread across the front of our work shirts. Know this: Bibs are not just for infants.

After a few weeks of experimenting with toddler-cuisine, I’ve changed the way I shop for groceries. Instead of perusing the shelves of my local organic butcher, thinking “hmm would this hanger steak would be good pan-seared with truffle salt?”, I now think things like: “I wonder what other tube-shaped food this Safeway carries?” and, “Oh wow, you could really get a grip on those cheese sticks.”

As a freshly-minted Bay Area foodie, Elizabeth is more pencil sharpener than connoisseur.

As a freshly-minted Bay Area foodie, Elizabeth is more pencil sharpener than connoisseur. We hand her a Morningstar Farms veggie sausage when she wakes up, and listen for the high pitched buzzing sound as she fragments it into a light rain of sausage-shavings which patter to the floor. We then lift our soy-sawdust covered child out of the highchair, shake her up and down, and deposit her back in the living room where she carries out her daily experiments.

Bagels are her favorite. Despite its mammoth size, a cinnamon-raisin bagel is easy to grip in both hands and wave around. After a few minutes eating the proportional equivalent of a telephone pole, she holds the bagel over her head and shrieks in delight, praising her sky-gods for the gift of carbohydrates.

she holds the bagel over her head and shrieks in delight, praising her sky-gods

At the end of a long day’s eating, it has been my distinct pleasure to discover bagel parts at the bottom of my bra, where they have been covertly deposited by Elizabeth during one of her periods of arm-waving and violent twisting. I believe she has come to view my cleavage as some sort of pantry for the deposit and withdrawal of delicious food items. Rather than admitting defeat and covering my lingerie with contact paper, I’ve decided to try and interest her in vegetables, which I hope will be gentler and more refreshing in the knockers-region.

Things that now qualify as “me time”

Breastpumping
My commute to work
Taking a shower
The three block walk to return my library books
Sleeping
Leaning on my similarly exhausted husband and staring vacantly at something on a screen

20110411-043153.jpg

**UPDATE** I just finished Tina Fey’s new book Bossypants and was put to shame by her fantastic list of “Me Time” activities. I totally forgot to mention “Say you’re going to look for the diaper crème, then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says, ‘What are you doing?’”

Go buy her book.

A Parent’s Life as a Video Game

Header Texture

I work in the video game industry, so I tend to think of life in these terms. For example, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized that pregnancy is essentially a really immersive resource-conservation RPG. I was always asking myself questions like: “Do I pick up this stuff on the floor, or do I save my Bending Over points for later?”

Recently several of my coworkers became parents, so in celebration of my fecund and nerdy cohort, here’s a description of my last week written entirely in video game terms:

Select character

  •   Warrior (Battle baroque parental leave laws)
    .
  •  Wizard sprite Wizard (Create nutritious meals for baby using own body)
    .
  • Rogue sprite Rogue (Sneak around to accomplish things while the baby sleeps)
    .
  •   Paladin (The power of the Coffee God will protect your party)
    .

New player tutorial

Read Kid Wrangling by Kaz Cooke, SuperBaby by Jenn Berman, and The Cat in the Hat over and over and over and over.

Challenge

Find outfits for upcoming family photo. Avoid decade-indicating fashion or hairstyles.

Parental achievement unlocked!

Raffi song stuck in head for more than four days.

Bonus

How long can you deflect drool from your work clothes? GO!

Level up!

Child can now turn pages of a book. Good work!

Save game

Improve your long-term memory by adding minutes of sleep during train commute

Cheat

Enter “Up up down down left right start” in the deductions section of your tax form

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.

Parenthood by Percentages

image courtesy of Thorne Enterprises

In case anyone is interested in the relative effects of a New Baby, I ran a few numbers this morning.

-65% Cussing
-50% Cups of Coffee Consumed
-98% Cups of Coffee Consumed While Still Warm
-98% Alcohol Consumed Before Childbirth
+98% Alcohol Consumed After Childbirth
+50% Loads of Laundry/Week
+100% Loads of Laundry Involving Poo
+350% Smiles from Strangers
+60% Visitors
+300% Visits to Library
+10% Upper Body Strength (12 pound weight)
+75% Breast Size
+30% Body Size
-5% Brain Size
-50% Sleep
-100% Uninterrupted Sleep
+200% Jokes About Sleep
+200% Jokes About Poo
+50% Actual Poo
+10% Unsolicited Advice
-10% Need For Unsolicited Advice per Weekly Age of Infant
+3000% Life/Injury Insurance
+25% Ominous Feeling That Adulthood Has Arrived
+100% Heart-stopping Baby Smiles

Books for busy mums and other humans

Reading has been a challenge lately, due to new baby and the delirium that accompanies around-the-clock breastfeeding. On the other hand, it has taken me three months to be able to comfortably leave the house, so I’ve had quite a bit of downtime.

My favorite book that I’ve read lately is, appropriately, about raising happy infants. Superbaby, by Dr. Jenn Berman was a gift from my mom the librarian, and has been a great help. It is a compendium of research and useful information from a variety of sources. So rather than an exhaustive study of, say, the positive effects of using ASL as baby sign, it dedicates a nicely summarized chapter and moves along. For the attention deprived among us, it is a quick way to wade through a pile of information.

When I was pregnant, I read about 500 Terry Pratchett books. I was emotionally wrung-out, and they provided just the right balance of humor and comfortingly happy endings to keep me going. If you haven’t read any of the Discworld novels, I often recommend Small Gods, or Guards, Guards!, but you can start anywhere. If it were possible, I and almost everyone I know would like to give Terry Pratchett a hug for being such a nifty writer.

Connie Willis. I’ve been working my way through everything she has ever written, novels, short stories, novellas, introductions and interviews. I don’t usually obsess this much over reading an author’s full catalog, but Connie Willis shares many of the same qualities that make me enjoy Terry Pratchett, in addition to a fantastic grasp of European history and a charming tendency to always turn the Most Frustrating character into the means of Everything Working Out in the End.

If you haven’t read any Connie Willis, I suggest starting with the short story Firewatch, then her novel Doomsday Book. Next, skip over and read the classic Jerome K. Jerome story Three Men in a Boat: to Say Nothing of the Dog. Once you’ve done this, grab Willis’ To Say Nothing of The Dog, a wonderful homage to both Jerome and Dorothy Sayers.

Oops. Happy Daughter is waking up. That’s all for now. Website improvements will continue at their current plodding pace. Thanks for reading!

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.