Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Kansas Day!

Today is the 150th Birthday of Kansas. I've fully embraced being an Alaskan, but I'll always be a Kansas girl at heart. At school we always celebrated Kansas Day with an assembly and Kansas Cake (cake baked in the shape of Kansas, very easy - bake a rectangular cake and cut the upper right corner off). You know it is a real holiday because there's a dedicated dessert.

On January 29, 1861, Kansas joined the union after a long and bloody struggle that would eventually spill over into the rest of the country and the Civil War. 150 years later, it’s still an amazing place.

So here are a few fantastic Kansas facts for you:

  • State song: Home on the Range
  • State flower: Sunflower
  • State Motto: Ad Astra Per Aspra (to the stars through difficulties)
  • State animal: Great Plains Bison (buffalo)
  • Some Famous Kansans: Amelia Earhart, Dwight Eisenhower, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Buster Keaton and Charlie Parker
  • Kansas is home to the geographic center of the contiguous United States.
  • The very first female mayor in the United States was elected in 1887 in Argonia, Kansas.
  • Pizza Hut was founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1958.
  • And Kansas has the largest ball of twine in the world in Cawker City, Kansas with a circumference of over 40 feet and still growing!
  • Kansas has been scientifically proven to be flatter than a pancake.

To celebrate Kansas Day, I made (and am still making) Kansas dishcloths. These are going to lucky fellow Kansans as gifts (though some may not get them for a few weeks). I love knitting dishcloths and often in the lure of "sexier" knitting and crocheting projects, I forget about the simple joy that is creating a dishcloth.

Kansas Dishcloth:

Original pattern: Knitted Kansas Cloth; Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream in Yellow

I made a few modifications to make the picture look more like the map of Kansas (and I might do some more modifications to fix the "S", if I do, I'll post the changes). I don't think the original looked much like Kansas - just changed a few rows. Every other row I knit according to pattern instructions. Also I lightly steam blocked this (by hovering my iron and pushing the steam button but not actually putting the iron to the dishcloth) so it would look better for photography and gift giving.

Dishcloth modifications:
Row 29: k3, p3, k25, p3, k3 (basically just starting the repeat for the "body" of Kansas a row earlier)

Row 47: k3, p3, k24, p4, k3
Row 49: k3, p3, k23, p5, k3
Row 51: k3, p4, k24, p4, k3

Friday, January 28, 2011

Five Things on a Friday

I really do write more than just five things entries. They're all half written draft posts. Coming soon I hope! In the meantime, here's five random things.

  1. For my Friday Reads, I'm tweeting about You'll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man by Carol Tyler. It's a fantastic graphic novel memoir done in scrapbook style. The author, Carol Tyler, explores her father's past in WWII and how that affected him which in turn affected her and her relationships with men, particularly as she goes through a separation from her husband. It goes back and forth from present day Tyler dealing with the separation to her WWII era parents and through the times in her family history that shapes them all. Great read and I have to put a hold on volume two, really enjoying it.

  2. I haven't been able to stop reading the articles about Egypt and the riots/protests/revolution that is happening. I saw an initial (twitter) report that Egyptians linked arms to form a chain to protect the Egyptian museum against looting. I'm also seeing news reports that the museum was secured by the army. Either way, it's a good day to be a news junkie and I'm hoping it's one of those days that helps rebuild our world a little bit better.

  3. We have a large lobby in the center of our building with one side off the lobby being the library and the other side off the lobby is the community room. The lobby has two doors, one on the parking lot side and one on the street side. A lot of kids after school cut through the lobby as they walk home. They don't walk by a sensor though (sensor is in the entrance off the lobby into the library side) and so they don't count in my statistics.

  4. I was given a plant by a very well meaning person who does not know my history with house plants. I brought it into work because this library needs some plants (my director recently called it stark but we've only just begun) and the library gets much better sunlight than does my house. Unfortunately I brought the plant into the library on a -5 (Fahrenheit, -21 Celsius) day and that froze many of it's buds and leaves. It has some new growth but isn't looking good. Turns out I feel more guilty when a plant at the library starts dying than I do for one at home.

  5. I promised myself for my New Year's resolution that I would stop reading the comments on the stories on the local newspaper's website. That didn't last. Reading an article about a development in our neighborhood and some of the comments were about this library. I found my blood pressure rising again. Must remember that four angry people with too much free time who seem to do nothing but comment incessantly on the newspaper's site should not affect me so much.

Have a good weekend people! And if you're like me and you work at your library on Saturdays, may all your patrons be smiling.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Five Things on a Friday

As always, a random collection of my thoughts.

  1. No food is allowed in the library, no drinks, bottled water is fine. I tell the same group of kids this every single day. I don't care that Ramen noodles barely qualify as food, you still can't eat it in my library with the brand new carpeting.

  2. I'm torn on gum, hard candy, and vitamin water. Vitamin water is kinda like bottled water but it has added flavoring and color so it could stain the carpet. Even though it says "water" on the bottle, I usually ask them to take it out. It just seems petty to ban gum and hard candy, but I find those stupid little wrappers everywhere. If none of these people ever throw something in a trash can, what do their houses look like?

  3. When the library was opened, they ordered one chair for each computer station. This is a lovely fallacy. People use computers in pairs and groups. Not just the teens (though that is one of their defining features) but also the adults. A ratio of 3 chairs for every 2 computers is more appropriate or at least more reflective of how the public actually uses the computers.

  4. We've noticed an unusual phenomenon in this library. If we put up a display on an empty shelving unit with the books in the easels and no sign of explanation, the books will be checked out at a fairly good clip. If I put a sign up with the book display, then no one checks out the books. So what appeared to be a random collection of books, checked out. As soon as I added the "seen the movie? read the book!" sign, they stayed put. Only one person has taken a book in the last week and she timidly asked if it was okay. Don't know if it is the culture, the neighborhood, or what. Totally baffling.

  5. I'm sharing my Friday reads with you. (It's a twitter phenomenon wherein everyone posts what they're reading on Friday.) I just (over my lunch break) finished up my first ebook on my Nook. (I'll post about the Nook experience as well.) It was a free ebook checked out from the library. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Excellent read. He's a bit too liberal for my taste, but he did a really good job of approaching the subject with an open mind. Coming from a family of hunters, I found the hunting section particularly humorous. It has definitely made me rethink what I eat and where it comes from. Unfortunately eating locally is not a valid option 10.5 months of the year in Alaska (except for seafood and I eat a lot of halibut and salmon caught by my friends). My parents are in a CSA in the lower 48 and I garden, but I do wish there was more I could do to eat off the industrial food chain. This is the best things in non-fiction, it makes you think, it provokes good conversations, and it was an engaging read. Totally recommended.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Things on a Friday

Five signs that your work life is becoming all consuming, creeping into other aspects of your life, and generally making you one of those people who aren't invited anywhere because you can't talk about anything except libraries.

  1. As you walk into the church building, you pull your work ID/lanyard over your head. You've begun to feel a bit naked without it.
  2. You answer your personal phone with, "Hello blahblahblah library, this is blahblah."
  3. You can't get into your house and it takes you far too long to realize that the library key won't open your front door. (We have about 4 keys for the library, I peered at the key to make sure it was the right one that opens my office door and tried about three more times to open my home door.)
  4. You tell random children in Target to "walk please" and they listen to you.
  5. You answer a reference question at a hockey game and find yourselves doing readers advisory in the stacks at Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Camping Out At The Library

Opening a new library is crazy. Crazy fun, crazy busy, crazy weird, just crazy. And I crazy love it. Rather than tell you another woeful tale about current problems, I'm going to tell you fun stories about opening up the new library.

I was hired rather late into the project, actually just over a month before the library opened. Overseeing it before then were the library's development director, the associate librarian (para-professional) for this branch (and we'd had multiple staff members cycle through that position), the project manager for the city (for the facility stuff), branch manager of a neighboring branch, contractors and building types, and other assorted library personnel. It was explained to me that if anything seemed inconsistent or missing it probably was, this project had been in a lot of different people's hands. (Or as the development director said, we've lost a lot of soldiers in this fight.)

When I took over, the associate librarian had been bouncing around branches and only spending part of her time at Mountain View. She and I started working full time at the library (still closed) to get it ready. We were the first official occupants and the building wasn't quite ready for us. Have you ever spent time (serious 40+ hours a week time) in a not quite finished building? It can be fun if you approach it with the right attitude. Like camping there are some inconveniences (in camping lack of running water and a pillow top mattress top my lists) but some great benefits (unlimited time with those you love, great scenery, fresh clean air, s'mores) that make it worth it.

Some of my favorite little things that popped up and made me feel like we were camping out at the library.

Incomplete Furniture
The first few weeks we were here, we didn't have all of our furniture. In particular, we lacked office chairs. I was sitting at my desk in a very ergonomically unfriendly chair bought for the patron floor. Between that and hauling boxes, my back ached every night. It really made me appreciate my office chair when it finally came.

No Janitorial Service
Why pay for janitorial when you have only a few people in the building? We followed camp rules and "packed out what you pack in". That meant that every day I took my trash from lunch (or even any used kleenex) home with me and threw it away there. Considering my recent woes, I'm might be doing that again.

No Office Supplies
We didn't have any of the basics. Every trip to the main library, I'd pop my head into a different department's supply cabinet and "requisition" a few basics. And by a few basics, I mean I took literally 3 ink pens from one department, 2 pads of post-it notes from another. Let me tell you how fun that first trip to the office supply was store - a stapler of my very own! With plentiful staples! But no matter how good and thorough your list is, something will be missed or not bought in a plentiful enough of a quantity. Plan on a second trip about two weeks later.

No Bathroom Supplies
Our janitorial contractor provides the bathroom supplies so before they started, we were bringing in our own toilet paper and paper towels.

No One Knows Where You Are
We weren't a brand new library, just a library in a place that hadn't been a library in 20 years, so out of most people's working memory. And our building didn't have a library sign. (Still doesn't, that's a different story.) Every conversation or delivery required a detailed description of the building even though we're on a well known corner. I like to say that with no sign, I'm operating a stealth library, a ninja library if you will.

Wildlife sightings
Much like the woods really belong to the moose and bears and we're just visitors who must play by their rules, a new but not yet finished building really belongs to the contractors. The guys in hardhats need to cut power halfway through my epic masterpiece of an email? That's their prerogative. I'm sad whenever civilization runs off wildlife, but rather happy when completion runs off contractors. Of course my library has been open 5 months and they're still showing up trying to fix things and make them work right. (Today they came to play with the heat settings and repair a blown hydraulic door hinge.) Perhaps we're not totally out of the woods yet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Christmas Knitting

Time to brag about what I did for Christmas knitting this year. (And yes I know that this is supposed to be a librarian blog, but I've decided it shall be a librarian blog with occasional forays into craftiness.)

Baby Blankets!
I made these great star shaped baby blankets and matching elephant amigurumis for two babies that were born in December. I did two sets in different shades of blue. All were crocheted and a lot of fun, though by the end I was really really bored with endless rounds of double crochets on the stars. Technically these and the elephants were crocheted not knitted.

Little elephant:

Yarn: Lion Brand Baby Soft - trying to break the acrylic habit; Pattern: Lion Brand's Amigurumi Elephant; also used some small safety eyes

Star blanket:

Yarn, see above; Pattern: Baby Starghan

Wrapped up with some board books and ready to go to their new homes:

Patriotic Rag Rug
Using the same star blanket pattern with a few modifications, a p crochet hook and inch wide strips of flannel fabric, I made a rag rug for my military roommate who really liked it. Matches the red, white, and blue, stars and stripes decor really well.

(Yes, it isn't finished in that picture. I gave it to her unfinished because I wanted to know how much bigger she wanted it before I bought more red flannel. What you're looking at is the point at which I ran out of fabric.)

Flowered Headband for a Friend
I made this fun flowered headband for a friend who kindly welcomed us into her house and her family on Christmas Day. It's perfect for keeping your ears warm without smooshing your hair.

Yarn: Stitch Nation - Bamboo Ewe (found this at JoAnn's but it's a great yarn with natural fibers); Pattern: Flowered Ear Warmer

And then I made one for me:

Same Pattern, Yarn: Rowan Lima

Another Headband/Earwarmer
Continuing on the headband earwarmer trend (which makes sense when you live in Alaska), I made a ribbed one for another friend/former roommate.

Pattern: Calorimetry, Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed Aran in this lovely blue/gray/tweed that I didn't photograph well

And that concludes what I knitted people for Christmas.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Five Things on a Friday

I feel the need to be random today, or maybe today has forced randomness upon me. Plus I really like lists with five things on them.

  1. The garbage was not picked up today. The recycling was which proves that the carts were in the correct place and accessible. I almost cried when I saw the full bin. Fortunately a quick call to solid waste services (during which I was polite, professional and persistent) fixed the problem within minutes.

  2. We've had a bicycle in our lost and found (well in the security guard's office which is really a converted storage room) since the first week of October. I wanted to walk it across the street to the salvation army thrift store, but the library has a policy about bicycles in lost and found. So we'll be contacting APD today.

  3. When I called Solid Waste Services and introduced myself, "Hello this is Elizabeth manager of the Mountain View Branch Library," the very nice man on the phone said he'd seen me on TV talking about the library and I was doing a wonderful job. He also had a fantastic Irish accent. It completely made my day. (Well that and the tempura I had for lunch - broccoli is still healthy after it's been deep fried, right? All Japanese foods are automatically healthy, right?)

  4. So many of the kids and teens come into my library wearing very weather inappropriate clothing. I'm bundled up like the little brother from A Christmas Story everytime I go outside; it's Alaska, it's cold. I don't know if these kids aren't wearing appropriate clothing because their parents can't afford it or because they're middle schoolers. Both are equally likely in this neighborhood. All I know is I keep getting sympathetically cold just looking at them.

  5. A few days ago a very nice elderly lady asked if it was okay if she took some books from the "Men's" cart. I thought she meant one of the men who works here who was shelving so I nodded. Except that no one was actually shelving at the time. Then I noticed that this sign had flipped upside down. (Correct first, flipped second.)

    So take heed. The brand new books that come in and get tossed on a cart for everyone to peruse - they're now gender specific.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

More Ranting on Garbage

Another week, another 32 emails and phone messages about garbage. We've had our issues in the past with garbage not being taken out on holidays that fall on Thursday (for Friday pickup) such as Veteran's Day or Thanksgiving. We got that worked out, mostly. And this is important because we have those silly little rolly bins. If they're full, they're full. We can't throw away more than fits in those cans. So missing a week can be a problem.

Now I know this, and I'm just a librarian. One would think that if you owned a janitorial company and were successful enough to have received the city's contract, you would definitely realize the importance of timely garbage removal, doubly so if you were in the habit of leaving notes for me complaining about the building's rodent problem. (Working on it, almost solved, haven't seen any evidence of him in weeks but I don't want to get over confident.) And yet it is not a consistent process.

For the last two weeks our garbage has not been picked up. The solid waste department has these super fancy trucks that can grab the rolling bins and dump them making the whole process more efficient. It only works if the bin is on the curb with three feet of clearance on every side. If it isn't, they leave you a little green tag explaining the problem. (I think there was one week in my neighborhood when only one person's garbage got picked up, but we learned from our mistakes.)

The week before Christmas I woke up from a dead sleep at 2am worrying about who would bring the garbage in (this is when I realized how bad the crazy was). We're closed on the "Eves" (Christmas and New Years) which fell on Friday (bring in garbage day) this year. Fortunately we have staff in the building (since our holiday pay was only good for the actual holiday, you had to take leave to get the Eves off), and they brought in the trash. Unfortunately when I checked my email from home on Christmas the staff member sent me a message letting me know we had lots of garbage and a friendly (and holiday appropriate) green tag of warning. No three feet of clearance.

I left a note for janitorial reminding them about that issue (though they'd been in the same meeting I was where the rules were explained). On New Year's Eve when I brought in the garbage, it was still full. No tag this time though. A quick call to Solid Waste (to give you a clue, I have the number of our representative on a post-it note right beside my desk) revealed the problem. The janitors were pushing the garbage can all the way back into the dumpster enclosure* and the trucks couldn't get to it.

The head of janitorial (who works for the city and oversees the contractors) showed up all on his own today. We talked through it, he called the contractor and all should be well for this week's pick up. Because the only reason we're not drowning in garbage is we had two shorts weeks due to holidays. I'll let you know how it goes on Friday if anyone is reading still by then.

*One of the reasons we didn't initially order a dumpster is we were concerned about building an enclosure around it as required by city law. We do have a dumpster pad though. One fine day I heard hammering, but I'm opening a new library and used to that. I looked outside and saw men building me a dumpster enclosure around the dumpster pad. I called the project manager and head of facilities. They were both surprised, but I have a general rule against arguing with men with power tools and so let them build away. So our library has a dumpster pad, dumpster enclosure, and no dumpster. We do however have a great place to "hide" the rolling trash bins so they never get picked up.