Organizational change or extinction – a choice

Just pondering tonight how online access and social networking has changed the world. I know that’s not exactly big news. Organizational change is reality – most of us are still struggling to understand the full impact. I’ve been watching the effects of the BringMeTheNews big announcement tonight that Jerrid Sebesta (who recently left KARE11 for those not familiar with the MSP market) has joined their power news team of former station stars. While we used to stay up to watch the 10:00 TV news, it just doesn’t matter. The media industry is moving at a rapid pace to acclimate — so are most organizations. In our industry, we can’t do anything but do likewise. . . . and survive.

Eating out no treat

Pardon this rather long commentary/rant on the restaurant industry. Just got home from eating out (yeah, I know I do that way too much). Ate at an order-at-the-counter-type-chain. And once again, the experience was less than ideal. In this case, the entrée itself was good, but . . . the drink machine had a sign on it “sorry, no ice.” It’s 88 degrees today, and the soda was less than cold. The lady at the next table wasn’t so lucky. She got the wrong item, and the replacement didn’t get to her until her table-mates were done eating. And by the way, the WC had no TP. What’s up with that?

This week began with a breakfast delivered to me that was totally inedible. It wasn’t just me, 4 of the other 6 diners at the table found at least part of their meal unsatisfactory. Bad restaurant experiences have increased at an alarming rate lately. First I thought it was just to me, but I’ve observed them happening to others. And then, the ultimate authority – the workplace breakroom – confirmed my fears that the only way to be totally satisfied may be to eat at home. Someone reported that half of their dining party never received their order. Last evening, at my customary tgif observance (not the restaurant, but thank g . . . . well, you know), as we left the order-at-the-counter-person, a previous diner came up to tell the order-taker not to bother bringing out the fries and other to-follow items, since they were done eating and leaving.  Earlier in the week, I had a nicely crisped chicken sandwich that was raw in the middle and burned French fries (how do you burn french fries?) I did have a very good chicken salad sandwich at favorite-bar-and-grill, but while we were eating there was a huge crash when a stack of plates near us hit the floor. (I hope it was no one’s meal). My husband told me his regular fast-food-breakfast-after-golf wasn’t what he ordered, but then he almost never gets what he orders. Sheesh!

Two shining experiences in the last week encourage me to keep trying, however. A shout-out to Tokyo Restaurant for an amazing dining experience, like always, and another to Chick-a-dee, whose atmosphere hasn’t changed in 20 years (or more?), but the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time – piping hot, light pancakes and sizzling bacon done to perfection.

Resolutions for 2013

This post is from The Lutheran e-newsletter by Karen L. Wiseman, a United Methodist Church pastor, who is an associate professor of homiletics at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

After a year of mass shootings, economic hijinks in Congress, hateful political rhetoric, absurd celebrity incidents and failed attempts at being a better people, I’m tempted to be cynical about 2013. But somewhere deep inside I’m still that kid who gathered with family on New Year’s Day to eat black-eyed peas for good luck and share our resolutions.

I haven’t made any resolutions in the last few years because I typically fail at keeping them within the first few months. But this year I want to try something new: I want to make some for our society. And yes, we may fail too, but I pray we will try to make them come true.

First, let’s resolve to end our society’s culture of obscene violence. Let’s end the sale of assault and assault-style weapons outside of the police and military. Let’s end the production of and sale of high volume ammunition clips. Let’s set an example as a culture that has been intimately damaged by the slaughter of the innocents and chooses to do and be better as a result. Let’s be a society that values life more than the Second Amendment. Our society will be better for it.

Second, let’s resolve to be more loving. Let’s take care of those around us who are weak, mentally and physically impaired, destitute, sick and/or living in poverty. Let’s resolve to do the right thing for our neighbors so they feel love in their lives in profound and personal ways. Let’s be willing to show mercy and not require some means-test for those in need to be considered worthy of help. Let’s be our best selves and help others to be their best selves. Our society will be better for it.

Third, let’s be more tolerant and accepting of those with whom we disagree or have profound theological, political or cultural differences. Let’s look for our similarities instead of always first focusing on the differences. Let’s be kinder to one another in our real lives and in the digital world. Let’s have civil conversations and listen to the opinions of others in our lives. Let’s show this to our children as the way to honor each other’s uniqueness. Our society will be better for it.

Fourth, let’s be a people who honor the faith of others while still being true to our own beliefs. Let’s be people of faith who welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned, help the sick and bring the wounded stranger from the side of the road into a place of care. Let’s make a difference in the lives of others by being true to the God who loves us all. Our society will be better for it.

Last, let’s be open to affirming the rights of others. Let’s see people of color and work to right the injustices inflicted upon them. Let’s listen to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community’s stories of injustice and honor them with acceptance and greater moves toward full inclusion. Let’s hear the desperation of kids in failing school systems and work to make things more just. Let’s cherish the elderly and young children in ways that protect their safety and care for their needs. And let’s make the effort to connect with each other — not just on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, but in real life. Our society will be better for it.

In the blink of an eye

Lucky Apr 11 2011A golden heart stopped beating on Saturday, and I am very sad. Losing a furry family member leaves a big hole, and I remind myself that it is so much better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So, I’m painfully aware of how blessed I am to have had Lucky, a not-so-small retriever-lab-? mixed breed yeller dog.

She was an accidental family member. One afternoon in the fall of 1998 a young cop found a young pup wandering around. We later learned that someone had dumped her near the police station in western South Dakota, and I think that somewhere deep in their miserable soul, they thought that leaving her there would assuage their guilt of abandoning her. Standard procedure for the cop was to take her to the humane society shelter. He recognized that taking her there at that particular time would be a sure death sentence, because the shelter was fighting an epidemic of parvovirus. So, alerting local animal rescue agencies of her foster home, he brought her to his parents’ house, where there was a big fenced yard, a playmate, and dog-loving people (alias suckers). He was sure that a hunter had lost his dog, and would soon reunite with her.

So, the mom said she could sleep in the garage (she never did) and she could stay for a short time (13+ years) until her owners found her (and they did, in a matter of speaking). The cop’s wife named her “Lucky” for her good fortune at landing with these people. After 2 weeks with no one claiming her, the family sought out a new home for her. When a prospective family came to inspect her, the dad saved Lucky from the torment of the family’s rambunctious kids and pronounced that she was staying. Huh?

Lucky bonded immediately with her new family’s springer Jack, and the cop’s pup Emma. Jack feared Emma, Emma feared Lucky (only a little), and they all 3 feared the 15 pound Maine coon cat (with claws) Suzi Q.  Lucky didn’t play favorites, but she always had a preference for the cop who found her and his brother, and would do whatever they bid her to do. She very quickly learned that this new family did not like her habit of walking over the chain link fence, and she gave it up except when there was something she really, really wanted to do. After her escapes she always showed up at the front door, looking very penitent. She wasn’t fond of rabbits that got into the fenced yard, and put a quick end to two of them, although after bringing them down, she left Jack to stand guard until the people took care of disposal.

Over the next years Lucky’s family moved to 2 places in Minnesota. Lucky loved going for walks. When she went with her mom, who discussed work problems with her, Lucky always gave good advice. The family expanded to include grandkids, and Lucky loved them too. When one of the grandkids got very very sick, Lucky was his loyal companion through the first scary months of his treatment, and listened to him read his homework to her.

As the years passed, first Suzi Q, then Jack, then Emma crossed the Rainbow Bridge where all animals go to await their owners. Lucky’s mom and dad adopted an annoying little creature that looked more like a gerbil, and after Lucky set the pug dog straight she  decided she was a worthy companion. Lucky got slower, but never lost her happy countenance. When the family came and filled the empty bedrooms, Lucky went from one to another basking in their love.

After everyone left New Years Day, she seemed to get more tired. She enjoyed her meals and begged for all the treats she could get. She would take longer to go up and down the stairs in the multi-level house, but always stayed near her mom and dad wherever they were. Finally, on January 28th she got her mom up even though it was Saturday (she always did that) and went out with the pug dog to do her business. When she came back to the house she stopped on the patio outside the door, fell, and her soul floated off. The pug dog barked at her and nosed at her, but Lucky was no longer there. She had crossed the Rainbow Bridge and even now is playing with Suzi Q, Jack, and Emma.
Lucky, Lucy, Noah

Reliving my history

Moammar Gadhafi was killed today. All day long I’ve been reliving the fear he brought to me and my family 25 years ago. And I’m sure that’s small compared to terrors he’s wrought upon people in his own country.

25 years ago, I was a military wife with young children. We lived in Berlin, at that time an occupied territory as it had been since the end of WWII. Berlin was a city where many people came for political asylum, and there were many Libyans in the city, especially on the east side of the Wall.

April 6th is carved in my memory, as the day of the bombing at La Belle discotheque. I’ve never been there, but lots of our soldiers and airmen went there. The bomb was hidden under a table, and when it blew up, U.S. Sergeant Kenneth T. Ford and a Turkish civilian woman were killed instantly. A second American, Sergeant James E. Goins, died from his injuries two months later. 230 people were injured.

37 military members were awarded the purple heart in a ceremony on Memorial Day that year, in accordance with an Executive Order made in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan authorizing the Purple Heart for military members injured as a result of terrorist actions. I was a Cub Scout leader, and we took the pack to the ceremony at Clay Headquarters. It was a sobering event, and one I hope the kids still remember. The online archived Berlin Observer takes me back to that day like it was yesterday. The Observer lists the names of the Purple Heart recipients on page 12.

On April 15th of 1986, I woke to AFN (Armed Forces Network) radio reports that President Reagan had ordered a bombing of Libya in retaliation. What followed was a period of highest security, to protect against potential further Libyan action. Berlin American High School, where I taught, was surrounded by tanks. One of our biggest problems as teachers was keeping the girls from going out and flirting with the 40th Armored tank soldiers.

Each of the school buses that carried the American kids across the city was assigned 2 armored jeeps (front and back). Lining up all those buses and their jeeps (who would NOT leave their bus) was a real challenge.

The elementary school had infantry soldiers guarding all the doors. They inspected every backpack and lunch box that entered – and critiqued the kids’ lunches (to their delight).

It was quite a time. Vehicles were inspected for potential car bombs driving in and out of military installations and housing. And yes, there were a number of bombs. One day I saw one explode in a parking lot.  Whenever we found an unattended parcel anywhere, we called the military police, and they dispatched weapons experts. I still experience paralyzing fear when I find backpacks in the library – and yes, I do take precautions. It’s funny how we become the sum total of all our experiences.

Memorial Plaque
Memorial plaque reading, "In this house on the 5th of April, 1986, young people were murdered by a criminal bomb attack"


Thinking about a booksale

Garage sales, tag sales, thrift sales . . . sales of used items have a lot of names. Whatever you call them, they’re lots of work, and often even fun. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and while the seller rejoices in cleaning house, the buyer enjoys a new find – often at a bargain price.

Our library just finished another booksale today – a garage sale of books. Or in our case, a basement sale, since the sale took place in the basement of a library. We haven’t had one in quite some time, and we found out the public really missed the sale. The first day we sold the items at a unit price. The second day was a bag sale. Tonight, there are very few books remaining that will be donated.

Throughout the sale, I watched people pouring over the tables of books, so weighted down I’m surprised they didn’t bend even a little. Almost everyone bought something, and most left with their arms full and smiles on their faces. What they were purchasing has been in the libraries, sometimes for years. They could have checked it out over and over. But there’s something special about taking books home when they’re yours. There’s something magical about owning books, and it appears for lots of folks, the more books the better. Tonight I’m imagining those people, emptying their bags and lining up their books.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about book format and ownership in the last few months. A marketing explosion by E-book vendors has pushed us into a world for which I’m not ready — and our library budget isn’t fully prepared. But here we are, staring E-book service in the face. Buying E-books is at the expense of our print budget. The media and sellers of E-books tell me “don’t worry, all the public wants is E-books anyway.” But as I watched those people, delighted with their purchases, I have to wonder. Is there such a thrill in ownership of E-books? Can I line them up? Can I admire them? Can I feel smarter just by being in their presence? Can I impress my guests by my walls of recorded knowledge? Or even more importantly for me and my family and friends, can I walk to the shelf in my home and pull down a tome and offer it to another person, thereby sharing the joy I found in reading it?

I haven’t settled my mind about the whole E-book phenomenon. It’s probably the first time in the technology revolution that I’ve found myself in the hanging back crowd. I do have an E-reader (of sorts). I have Kindle installed on my Droid cell phone. And I must admit that I’ve enjoyed having a book at hand on my Droid, especially when I was waiting – for a pizza, or a train to pass, or to be called into the doctor’s office. I even liked the backlit screen I could easily read while driving at night (actually, I was the passenger). But all my serious reading thus far has been print.

I’m still pondering all of this. I think the book to be written about E-books is only in its early draft stage. As a library leader, I embrace the challenge of providing what the public wants (today) and marvel at the capabilities of the devices. As a person, I worry over the possible sociological impact of the loss of the sharing of a physical object.

As for me at the book sale? Nope, I didn’t buy any. But, my husband and I made a side trip to our wonderful independent local book-seller. I bought a new book and he bought a used book. Sigh. Need to think about expanding our bookshelves.

Dinosaur and Dewey

I was looking at an AquaBrowser installation of one of the regional library systems, using their administrative headquarters as my searching location. I entered the term “dinosaur”  (I always use “dinosaur” when I do test searches). I was presented with a list of results, with a word cloud on the left of what AquaBrowser calls “related terms.” I selected from the word cloud the term “encyclopedia.” In the resulting list was the title Dewey decimal classification and relative index. . . . And I started with dinosaur . . . .

Happy Birthday, Blog

3 years ago, I wrote this blog birthday post (abridged) . . .

2 years ago today, I got brave enough to make my blog public. This is the 193rd post since then. My Blogger profile says I’ve been on Blogger since November 2003, which is when I came back from Internet Librarian, inspired to blog. There were lots of posts back then, but one day I (foolishly) deleted them, thinking I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Lots of studies have been done on why people blog. Just today, the venerable Michael Stevens of Tame the Web wrote about the ideology of blogging. I identify with the comment in his post: “It amazed me how ingrained in my life the act of blogging had become.” I am often aware of how what a great blog post a certain experience would make. Now, if only I had time to act on all those inspirations.

I recently said to a colleague that blogging was so “yesterday.” I guess what I really meant was that blogging has become so mainstream that it’s hardly a phenomenon any more. We just accept and expect that the voices of our culture are heard through the blogosphere.


I ended the post with “Wonder what this blog will have to say in another 2 years.”  Well, it’s now 3 years later. I’ve definitely become less prolific; at times the blog has been downright dormant. It could have something to do with a career move. Or maybe I just ran out of things to say. Posts have been less frequent at times. But I see that I did expound on lots of things happening in my life. There were other things happening that as a Director, I didn’t want to talk on in a public venue. Whatever . . .

I also note my statement “blogging is so yesterday.”  Nothing has particularly replaced it. We all moved to Facebook, where we post much shorter thoughts. Then we got worried about privacy and limited our thoughts to only our Friends. But then we moved to Twitter – so much for privacy. I tweeted a couple of tweets, then became a Twitter-quitter. I see in my twitter-quitter post that I preserved my name, but I’ve forgotten it. Oh well.

Looking back at my blog (and a few others) from 5 years ago, I do see some changes. For a while, I wrote for a collaborative library blog where we devoted a fair amount of posts proclaiming — look who just started a blog. Many blogs were kind of amateurish. We went through the spelling-doesn’t-count phase. Who’re you kidding? Of course it does! Do I want a prospective employer reading whatever I dashed off with no proof-reading? The blogs that hung around have gotten more polished (oops, gotta work on that one). Lots of blogs, I suspect, are written by someone other than the name at the top. That wouldn’t apply to librarians, of course ;^)

So here I am, blogging into my 6th year. I like the idea of writing for the world, as much as I want. Facebook is for a limited number of Friends (a whole lot of cousins). Twitter — well, I quit that, remember? Wikis? Never got into that, except for a few mission-specific.

So, this ends post #245. Happy birthday, Blog! Where’s the cake?


3 years ago today was my first day in this position. A month earlier, 2 significant events had occurred within days of each other. The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was a catastrophic day in history, and will forever remain one of those days when you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

The second horrific event occurred in what was to become my new work home – in fact, I had already been offered the position of Director. The library automation system, that managed operations for this 14 branch library system, crashed, losing all the data for items in the system and all the data relating to items’ status (checked out, on hold, etc.). What made the crisis unimaginable was that there were no current usable data backups. The most recent usable backup was 6 months old. It was uploaded into new software by the vendor and we carried on. What made the crisis bearable (we kept telling ourselves) was that it was only data, and could be mostly restored, not like the lives lost on the I-35W bridge that would never be again.

As we forged on, we couldn’t check anything in until we determined if there was even a viable record, and if there wasn’t – well, you know what we had to do. So everything returned was stacked and stored, on shelves, tables, in bags and even laundry tubs, until we could get to it — item by item. Here’s what the meeting room looked like for several months.
Books and media

Well, I could tell you all about the next months as we recovered, and the next year as the lost catalog records were identified and restored. But that conversation is better had now over coffee or wine or beer (good for sob stories). The important thing is that I quickly learned what a wonderfully committed staff I had. We dug in, and did it and capstoned the process with a full system inventory – the first one ever done in this system. What a positive affirmation it was to find out how few items had been lost.

The last 3 years have been a growth period for me. I’ve been told my experience is common, but it proves that you never know what you don’t know until you don’t know. The important thing is, that not knowing something is the beginning of learning.

So, here’s to another year. It’s been a quiet anniversary day of small challenges. Nothing like those days 3 years ago. We’re a better organization, with a more secure system (we hope). Like every other library, never have so many (public) expected so much of so few (staff), who are working with ever-shrinking financial resources.

The war is over

So the President spoke from the Oval Office tonight and told us the war is over. Just like that, troops are coming home because the President says the war is over. I work hard at being apolitical and this post isn’t intended to make a statement on the war. I find the whole history of the Iraqui wars (how many?) very curious and confusing. I guess I’m not the only one, since someone posted a page on Wikipedia titled “Iraq war (disambiguation)“.

Having lived most of my adult life as part of military community, I have personal memories entwined with many of the happenings in the Middle East . . . a family member who lost all her savings in a bank in Kuwait while she was home on break from her teaching job in Kuwait; January 16, 1991 lying on my bed watching bombs fly in Kuwait on TV, assuring a small boy that his daddy was in Alaska (secretly praying that he was still there);  meeting streams of returning military with desert sand still clinging to their boots as they first landed on American soil at Bangor International Airport; five years later thankful that the boy’s graduation kept his dad behind his squadron long enough that he missed being in a car-bombed dormitory in Saudi Arabia.

In recent history, there was the First Gulf War (which was only the Gulf War until the 2nd iteration), the Second Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqui Freedom, and a few other named conflicts. Some of these are different names for the same thing, or overlapped until I didn’t know when one ended and another began.

But now it’s proclaimed — the war is over (or is it a conflict? I can’t ever remember.) Troops are coming home. I so hope he’s right. It’s long overdue. But somehow, I just know that there will be more entries on that Iraq War disambiguation page.