Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Today I had a shift at the library, off-desk. I spent three hours preparing crafts for an upcoming storytime where we will need to fill some time. I almost felt guilty about being paid to do the work, it was so much fun. It was like being in kindergarten all over again. I got to cut and paste, colour and cut. I even got paid for shopping at dollar stores yesterday when I gathered my supplies!

A couple of the crafts have tie-ins to some books that we will be doing, and my supervisors were pleased with what I had done. Woo hoo! I'll be sitting in on a short planning meeting early next week, then I'll get to be the "Craft Lady" at this special storytime next Thursday. It reminds me of helping in the classroom when my kids were in preschool, which is probably why I'm excited and looking forward to it, rather than being nervous.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Interview and Kevin's Hobbies

Another library course for me today, this one on The Customer Interview. Our public library prides itself in providing dazzling customer service and takes these things very seriously. In a nutshell: we at the information desk need to learn how to ask the right questions to draw out information from the customer in order to locate the right materials.

Here's an example. A customer comes to the desk and asks for books about flying. Taken at face value, one might assume the customer desires information regarding aircraft and take him to this area of the non-fiction section. After asking some open-ended questions to gain more insight, you might find out this customer is actually in need of medical books about jet lag and how to cope with it.

There are many instances where library staff are entrusted with the burden of providing sensitive information in a confidential manner. I'm surprised at how often someone will approach the information desk, look around to make sure no one else is within earshot, then drop their eyes and whisper "I need information about divorce/disease/sexuality/another delicate subject". Sometimes you feel more like a personal counselor than a library employee. Maintaining objectivity is imperative or you may find yourself surreptitiously wiping away tears as you show a customer the array of books about how to cope with a loved one's terminal cancer.

There were some funny (true!) examples in the class about how the customer's initial request can be light years away from their actual desire. "I'd like to know more about how to write cookbooks" was actually a request for Hutterite cookbooks. "What can I find out about castings" might lead you in the direction of medicine (casts for broken bones) or plays (casting calls) but it was really a desire to learn about sand-casted sculptures. "I'm looking for laser marbles" was from someone who wanted to read Les Miserables (that one cracked me up).

During this portion of the class, I had my own example to give. Last night at work, a young boy approached the information desk and asked me if we had anything on Kevin's Hobbies.

"Are you looking for music, a movie or a book?" I questioned the child.

He said it was a number of books. Being relatively new to this job, I initially thought this must be a series of children's books with a main character named Kevin and each book was an adventure based on one of Kevin's many hobbies. As I was turning to the computer to do a keyword search, something made me pause. I turned back to the boy and asked what kind of books Kevin's Hobbies are, and what they were about.

"Cartoons," replied the young lad.

I'm sure a light bulb actually flickered above my head for a moment. "Are these books about a six-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger?" I inquired. The boy nodded. "Hmmm, I think I know what you're looking for." I led the wee fellow to our collection of Calvin and Hobbes books by Bill Watterson and was gratified to see the grin spread across his face.

Weather update: As I was driving across the city to attend class this morning, the temperature was -31 C and with the wind chill felt like -45 C. Brrrrr!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Warm Fuzzies

A polite young man came into the library on this brutally cold evening to look for a few obscure items. I helped him search for a DVD. The library owns copies of this particular film, but our branch's copies were checked out and therefore unavailable. Since he needed it for tomorrow, requesting a copy from another branch (to be shipped to us, a two or three day prospect) wasn't an option. Next we tried to track down a couple of books, but either the library doesn't own these items or we had the titles or authors' names incorrect. I felt badly that I was unable to do much for him.

I showed this young man how to use other websites such as Google or Amazon to enhance his search, how to better use our online search on our library website (which he can do from home) and how to use resources such as NoveList on our E-Library. Finally, I showed him ways he can suggest book titles to our acquisitions department.

As he was leaving, the young man thanked me for my help and told me that every staff member he has ever dealt with in our branch has always been friendly and helpful. He said he'd like to commend us to our manager, but he couldn't give just one name: each and every one of us always goes that extra mile to assist him.

Wow. That gave me the warm fuzzies. Someone else might have complained because we didn't actually find a single book or DVD that was wanted. This fellow went away empty-handed but happy because he felt that we did our best to help, even though we weren't successful.

Add another tick to the "nice customer" column.


Current temperature: -33 C. With wind chill: -48 C

Expected high today: -29 C

When I go to work later today, I may use my coffee break to go start Moby the van and run it for 10 minutes. There aren't any plug-ins at our outdoor parking lot so I can't plug in the block heater. I drove the kids to school today. We live close to the school (less than ten minutes' walk), but skin freezes in under two minutes at this temperature.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weather Update

The sound you hear is me, whimpering in the corner. The sound I hear is the wind howling around my house. A forecast update:

Today: Becoming cloudy. Periods of light snow and local blowing snow beginning late this morning. Wind southwest 20 km/h becoming north 30 gusting to 50 this morning. Temperature falling to minus 21 by evening. Wind chill minus 33.

Tonight: Light snow. Amount 2 cm. Wind north 30 km/h. Low minus 29. Extreme wind chill minus 41.

Monday: Cloudy with sunny periods and 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light in the evening. High minus 27. Extreme wind chill minus 42.

Tuesday: Sunny. Low minus 34. High minus 25.

Wednesday: A mix of sun and cloud with 40 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 29. High minus 21.

Thursday: A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 19. High minus 7.

January 27th Sunday evening update: the forecast is getting worse, not better. I want to hunker down and hibernate for the next few days, but I can't. Life must go on. The kids have school, I have work. Thank goodness this kind of deep freeze only happens a couple of times every winter, and it never lasts very long.

Yet Another Silly Quiz

This is funny. Red is my favourite colour, but I'm no conqueror of worlds! I found this at Addicted to MedBlogs.

Your Lucky Underwear Is Red

You're confident and bold, and your lucky red underwear will only make you more sure of yourself.

You have a great zest for life, and you tend to take on impossible goals - and succeed.

When it comes to love, it's hard for you to take the time to open up. You're too busy conquering the world.

So if you're looking for a little more romance, put on your red underpants. And see where their passion takes you!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Break out the Long Johns and Pass Me My Toque*

Take a look below at the five day forecast for this area. Now take another look, comparing today's high with Monday's forecast high temperature. Brrrrrrr! The funniest part: this is actually an improvement over yesterday's forecast, when the predicted low temperature for Monday night was -45 C (without considering the windchill)!


High 3°C
Low -7°C

26 January
Day: Cloudy with sunny periods. Wind west 40 km/h gusting to 60 becoming southwest 20 this afternoon. High plus 3.
Night: A few clouds. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low minus 7.

High -3°C
Low -17°C

27 January
Cloudy with sunny periods. Light snow beginning late in the day. Amount 2 cm. Wind southwest 20 km/h becoming north 30 gusting to 50 in the afternoon. High minus 3 with temperature falling to minus 17 in the evening. Wind chill minus 27.

High -25°C
Low -27°C

28 January
A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 27. High minus 25.

High -24°C
Low -30°C

29 January
A mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 30. High minus 24.

High -23°C
Low -28°C

*: Toque: noun, pronounced "took" with the "oo" sounding like "moon", NOT "book". A warm knit cap or hat worn on the head in cold weather, tugged down over one's ears in an attempt to prevent loss of body heat. A distinctly Canadian term.

Library Fine Amnesty

Today is "Read Away Your Fines" day at our library. What a zoo! The concept is that on this one weekend, you can register to read away your library card fines: $2.00 for every 15 minutes you read at the library, up to a maximum of $16.00/two hours. Some of the more amusing questions I was asked:

I don't have any overdue fines but I have charges for lost books. Can I read those away?

If I owe $2.50, can I read for 19 minutes instead of 30?

If I read for longer than I need to, will you credit my account and waive future fines?

If I read for longer than I need to, will you give me the extra money?

Can I register for the program and go read at home, then come back?

If my brother/mother/friend reads with me, can we read away $32 from my card?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Back off, Mama Bear!

A mum and daughter approached the information desk at the library. Mum asked for books on assertiveness for her daughter, just into her teens. I looked at the daughter and asked her a few questions, to try and get a better idea of exactly what she wanted. After each question, as the girl looked at me and started to reply, Mum jumped in and answered the question, cutting off her daughter entirely. This happened several times. I don't think it's the daughter that has the problem ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Star Trek: the Librarian Scene

Woeful over at @ the Library posted this YouTube video. Thanks, Woeful - you put the smile back on my face.


Today has not been a good day. This blog is supposed to be about things that make me smile, but it was hard to smile today.

Two friends received bad news today. One was told he has a cancerous lump in a lymph node (I received the information third-hand so no details) and another found a lump in her breast via a mammogram. (The happy news here: it's small, stage one, and prognosis is good.) Then, this evening I decide to check the news headlines before going to bed and I find out that Heath Ledger is dead.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Movie Night

Last night I watched Letters From Iwo Jima, an amazing movie directed by Clint Eastwood. It is a companion film to Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers, also a gripping flick. I have to say that I'm not normally a war movie kind of gal, but these two shows are incredible.

I saw Flags of our Fathers a few weeks ago and it helped to have that movie fresh in my mind while watching Letters From Iwo Jima. The subject of both films is the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The first is told from the American perspective of the men who planted the American flag on Suribachi, and the second is from the Japanese perspective, in Japanese with English subtitles. The Japanese fought for their country knowing there were no supplies, no reinforcements, and death was virtually guaranteed. The futility of their situation is intense, particularly since the flashbacks for various soldiers into their pre-war lives creates such viewer sympathy.

I'd definitely recommend both these films. Watch Flags of our Fathers first. Then when you see where certain scenes also occur (but from the Japanese viewpoint) in Letters from Iwo Jima, you'll understand how they fit together.

Now I'm going to have to read the book - of course!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Can't Please Everyone

When told that their request cannot be accommodated, people seem to fall into two distinct categories. In category one are the people who accept it (some with good grace and some with copious amounts of disgruntled grumbling or outright complaining, but they still accept it) and in category two are the people who think the rules shouldn't apply to them.

The people in category two can drive you bonkers if you let them. It doesn't matter to them if it's a business guideline or a government law or anything in between. They want what they want and won't accept "no".

We had two people at the library today that fell in category two. In both instances, they thought they'd get a different answer if they approached a different staff member. Thankfully all staff involved held firm and gave them the same answers for the same reasons.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Power of Mothers

The phone rang this evening at the library information desk. The lady calling had a rather odd request. Her daughter was coming to the library to meet a friend for a study session. Daughter had borrowed Mum's car (yes, she was of driving age) and Mum needed to pass a message to her girl. Nothing earth-shattering, just a message about an item left in the vehicle. I was given a name and description of both the woman's daughter and the friend said daughter was meeting, with a request to please track the girl down and relay the message.

Sure enough, I found the two girls tucked in a corner, studying. Approaching the one who matched the woman's description of her daughter, I said "Excuse me, Sally*?"

Sally looked up at me with a mixture of confusion, fear and horror. "Um, yes?" I could imagine the thoughts thundering through her head in quick succession: Who is this stranger and how does she know my name? She looks like she works here, am I in trouble for something? Oh, no, has something terrible happened to someone I know?

I quickly placated her by saying "It's nothing bad! I just have a message from your mum." I gave her the message and watched the tension drain away, leaving just the confusion.

"Uh, OK, thanks," responded Sally, "but how did you know how to find me?"

I laughed as I walked away, saying "Sally, we mothers know EVERYTHING!"

*: Not her real name, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Review #2

A few days ago I finished a book: The Bone Vault, a murder mystery by Linda Fairstein. I've never read any of her work before and picked up this book on a whim as I was passing the mystery novels at the library. It's not high-brow literature in the class of Nabokov, but it's a darned entertaining read.

Ms. Fairstein is a lawyer and worked for 25 years as a prosecutor of crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence. The main character in the book, Alexandra Cooper, has a similar job. The medical, forensic and police aspects of the book are well-researched and well-written, obviously because the author has an intimate knowledge of these subjects.

In the book, a body is discovered in a sarcophagus being shipped overseas from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Much of the book takes place in the Met or the American Museum of Natural History, both in New York City. This book encompasses a range of my interests: medical/forensic, art/museums, and a good murder mystery. The descriptions of the museums and their contents are fascinating, leaving me with a great desire to travel to New York and explore them for myself. The ending, while it neatly solves the murder and ties up the loose ends, didn't leave me feeling disappointed the way some murder mysteries do. (The Deus ex Machina-style endings wear thin after awhile, with the murderer voluntarily confessing and revealing details that weren't included earlier in the book.)

I would recommend this book, and I've also borrowed another of Ms. Fairstein's novels from the library. Any author that entices me to read more of his/her work deserves a recommendation in my opinion.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Name that Serial Killer

Considering that all the serial killers were American (and I'm not!), I think I did rather well. A sad commentary on my interest in the morbid... - Name That Serial Killer

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I made it to the gym both yesterday and today. Yesterday I had a one-hour workout while my son was in his karate class, and today I popped over for a 90 minute session after taking another son to a friend's house to play. On both days I split my time between the elliptical trainer, weights, core exercises (flatten that tummy!) and stretching.

I didn't get to the gym at all over the Christmas holidays, and I must admit that I have a problem with motivation. Once I actually haul my carcass over there (the gruelling five-minute drive that it is, and yes, I could walk/run, but the sidewalks are icy in places and it's bloody cold outside!) I really enjoy the workout. My issue is with getting myself out the door.

I have to say a word of thanks to FatMammyCat for providing the external motivation for me this week. This amazing person went from being a non-runner to recently completing a marathon. She encourages us, her "interwebby chumlies", to get fit but is not at all preachy. Thanks, FMC!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Help Wanted

A dad came to the library with his two young children to take out some books. His preschooler walked beside him as he held his toddler on one hip and brought his books to the circulation desk. After checking out his handful of books and putting them in his tote bag, he asked a staff member if he could have some help.

"With what, sir?" she asked.

"Help out to my car," he responded.

The staff member apologized and explained that we were currently short-staffed and there wasn't anyone available to assist him. After he left, she burst into laughter. "He only had two kids, the books were in a shoulder bag - what's the problem?"

I answered, "He suffers from disabilities, both mental and physical. It started about four years ago and has become significantly worse in the last two years." My colleague immediately stopped laughing and a stricken look came over her face.

"You know him? Oh, I'm so sorry! What's wrong with him?" she enquired.

"No, I don't know him," I responded, "I just know that he is afflicted with UFS."

"UFS?" she pondered.

"Useless Father Syndrome," I replied.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Good Mechanics

No, that title isn't an oxymoron - at least, not for this post. Yes, I actually had a pleasant experience taking my van for service. The van (a.k.a. "Moby Dick", as it's a big white whale) is getting on in years and needs the occasional bit of tender loving care. Unfortunately, said care can get expensive at times.

Moby was due for an oil change and tire rotation, which I booked for first thing Thursday morning. I got the kiddies off to school, then hopped in Moby and headed for the shop. When I arrived, there was NO lineup at the front desk. The lady at the counter had my reservation on the computer and told me they'd take my van in immediately - they were not running late, and the service bay was empty and waiting for me. Wow! I dropped off the key and gave my (new!) cell phone number to them, then left to walk to the nearby coffee shop.

I had a lovely big cup of hot coffee, tucked in a little corner table with my (of course!) library book (The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein, review to be done within the week if all goes well), then toddled back to the mechanics despite not getting a cell phone call. Honestly, I expected the phone to ring with the news: "Mrs. CG, it seems you have extensive wear on your brakes/transmission/insert expensive vehicle part here and it really should be replaced." Nope, not this time.

I arrived back at the mechanics to be greeted with "Hello Mrs. CG," - yes, she remembered my name! - "They're just bringing your van down off the hoist. If you'd like to take care of the bill now, your van will be ready for you by the time we're done."
One oil change: usual reasonable charge
Tire rotation: no charge, as the tires were purchased from them in years past.
Extra nasty surprises: NONE!

Holy 10W-40, Batman, you've got to be kidding!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm a Little Teapot

I recently went on an internal course to learn how to present storytime programs at our library. Imagine a room full of adults singing "I'm a Little Teapot" and doing the actions together - tres amusant, n'est pas?

I've been to classes that are dull, but this one certainly didn't fall in that category. The instructors actually apologized for having to go over the mandatory boring guidelines part, before zipping through them in order to spend more time on getting us comfortable with reading out loud and presenting rhymes and songs.

I must confess, I had a distinct advantage over all the other students: I was the only parent in the class (other than the two instructors). Having kids of my own, I've had years of practise reading children's stories out loud in different funny voices and keeping the kids' attention by asking questions. (What kind of animal is that? You're right, that's a pig! What sound does a pig make? Let's all make a pig noise. Oink, oink, grunt, snort!) One person in the class admitted that she doesn't really like kids and is terrified of running a storytime program. I'm sure she'll be fine once she gets going, but she has a big mental hurdle to overcome first.

If all goes as planned, I'll be doing my own storytimes by the end of February. What fun!

January 11th update: It's official! I have a preschool storytime six-week program of my very own, starting at the end of February, and another immediately following in April. I have some work to do!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Great Customers

So many library blogs contain rants against horrible customers (also called patrons) and justifiably so. Some of these creatures seem barely human. I haven't come across any truly horrible customers in my work at the library (yet!) but I have met some lovely people.

Every week there is a delightful elderly couple that comes to the library. They are always smartly attired (he is decked out in a blazer, dress shirt and tie with neatly pressed dress trousers; and she looks like she just came from a luncheon at a fancy restaurant) and both have great senses of humour. Every time I speak with them, they are exceedingly polite and he makes a joke or two, bringing smiles to all the staff. Any day they come to the library is a good day in my books.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

It's that time of year again: annual statistics gathering. Our public library is government-funded and as such, we must justify our drain on the public coffers by compiling statistics. Not enough numbers and we may face a budget cut. Lots of numbers and we can use them as a prop when campaigning for a bigger slice of the pie.

What it boils down to is each and every library worker will be marginally less efficient this week, as we stop to make ticks in boxes on sheets of paper affixed to various surfaces throughout the library. I think I may have read too many Terry Pratchett books (never! sacrilege!) but I have a mental image of a god of statistics laughing maniacally, growing in size and power with each scratch of the pen on those tally sheets.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Inner Beauty

I believe that a person's inner beauty affects other people's perception of their physical attributes. Here's an example. A friend of mine is amazing: considerate, thoughtful, caring, always going out of her way to do nice things for other people with never a thought of payback in mind. If I were to describe her appearance I would say she is stunning - truly beautiful. Someone who doesn't know her and is merely looking at a photograph would call her pretty, but might disagree with me about my use of superlatives. Obviously, my perception is influenced by my knowledge of her inner beauty. In this respect, I would say that all my friends are beautiful.

The reverse can also be true. We probably can all point to an example of a beautiful woman (or man!) who is a real head turner but uses people and is completely egocentric. I went to school with someone like this. I wouldn't call her beautiful when describing her to someone else because in my mind, she isn't. There's a song about this: "She Ain't Pretty (She Just Looks That Way)" by the Northern Pikes. Fun song, good Canadian band. Go here for the lyrics, or here if you want to watch the video (it starts off slowly, but is funny in a late '80s kinda way).

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Book Review #1

I recently finished reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Wow. I understood the reference to this work in the song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by The Police, but it has taken me this long to get around to reading the book. It's a difficult subject matter, pedophilia, but an amazingly written book. Nabokov was a very talented writer and his love of language is quite apparent. I think I may have to read more of his work.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New TV

Well, we did it. We bought a new television last week after more than seven weeks without. The post-Christmas sales weren't as good as we were hoping but hubby had decided it was time so he bought one. Then he sent me back to the store to buy a stand for it. His reasoning: it was furniture and he wanted me to pick out something I liked. OK, whatever. It's a done deal now and we're back to staring, slack-jawed, at the idiot box for a couple of hours every evening. The upside: we've been able to watch the DVDs I bought hubby as a Christmas present way back before Hallowe'en when we still had the old TV. I had forgotten that Johnny Depp (a very young Johnny Depp) was in Platoon.

This also explains my previous post about the junior hockey. Obviously we have a TV now, or I wouldn't have been able to watch the game. (Well, I could have been at a sports bar, viewing it on a big screen with a pint of beer in hand and surrounded by screaming drunk young men, right? Wait a minute, why the hell wasn't I?)

Hockey Champs

The Canadians just won the World Junior Hockey Championship against the Swedes over in the Czech Republic. Well done, boys! I feel badly for Sweden - they played very well - particularly their goalie. He is the reason they were in the medal rounds at all.

Four gold medals in a row for Canada, and next year's game will be held here. It was a great game. Too bad Sweden had to lose, but I'm a proud little Canadian right about now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


At the library information desk today, a colleague was approached by a customer who wanted us to check and see if a relative had registered for a class. When my coworker explained that this would violate government privacy laws, the customer became incensed and stomped off. My question: why not ask your relative directly if she enrolled in the class?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Temporarily Employed?

About an hour after my last post about not having any work shifts lately, I received a phone call from work asking me to fill in a couple of shifts this week. Ask and you shall receive.