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Loving the Product August 31, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Librarians, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Many years ago I read In Search of Excellence, the landmark leadership book by Tom Peters.  He writes compellingly about the elements that make businesses successful, and one of the points which has stuck with me is the importance of “loving the product,” whether you are a CEO or an employee on the production line. 

I’m happy to say that our Library staff is full of people who “love the product.”  Lunch and break time conversations often focus on whatever wonderful book we are reading or remember with particular fondness.  Our Staff Picks section on the First Floor is full of an amazingly wide range of handpicked titles. 

And you love books, too.  When you enter the Library, you feel at home.  You have to choose carefully between the many books you want to check out, because you can’t carry all of them.  You join in the conversation by recommending books to us.  Then, to continue the business analogy, you help us “increase our sales” by checking out books.  Please – keep up the good work! 

We’re very grateful to all our customers.  You are the reason for the Library, and we thank you for helping us get our new home off to a great start! 

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess

(This essay originally appeared in the September/October issue of Library Currents, which also includes information on Library and Friends activities for all ages.  You can find it at our homepage:  http://www.mycitylibrary.org/.)

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Doing without Dewey June 9, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Floor, Books, Just Browsing, Librarians, Public libraries, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The Rangeview Library District near Denver has decided to discontinue use of the Dewey Decimal system for its shelving arrangements.  They will use an organizational scheme similar to a bookstore.  I do not know all the details of how this will work, but since the Rangeview Director, Pam Sandlian Smith, is my former boss, friend, and generally greatly admired person, I am quite interested in seeing how it turns out.  And let’s just say that most of Pam’s ideas turn out to be very good ones.  (Keep in mind that she dubbed me the “Book Goddess.”) 

We actually considered this approach for our Book Floor at the West Palm Beach Public Library, but eventually chose to use bookstore categories AND keep the Dewey Decimal system.  So – we do have a separate cookbook section, and a history section, and even some more unusual sections like Guys Read and Go Green, but within those sections the books are arranged by Dewey. 

I was a bookseller for eight years before I went to library school, and I like to think that I can see the strong and weak points of each system.  At our library, I believe we have the best of both.  You can walk in the door and go right to the section of your choice (there are about 50) and enjoy browsing as you might at a bookstore.  You can also use the computer catalog or the assistance of a friendly library employee to find the exact book that you want.  

There were a number of considerations that went into our decision making, but I think that we arrived at the best arrangement for our library.  If you visit the Denver Post site, you can see the article and comments about the Adams County Public Library.  I’m happy to see that people care so much about their local library. 

Happy Reading,

 

The Book Goddess

Farewell to 100 Clematis Street March 5, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Librarians, Public libraries, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Two weeks from today, the West Palm Beach Public Library building at 100 Clematis Street will close for the last time.  Sometime in April, a wonderful new West Palm Beach Public Library building will open at 411 Clematis Street.  

We are looking forward to having more space, more computers, and more resources with which to serve our citizens.  We are working long hours to ensure that the new library will be the best ever.  I cannot say enough good things about the inspired leadership of our Director, Chris Murray, and our Assistant Director, Lisa Webb, and I am sure you will be wonderfully impressed when we open. 

But before we turn off the lights and lock the door, let’s say a few kind words about the library building where I have spent most of my working life (and my entire professional career). 

Cast your mind back to 1962.  When the new building at 100 Clematis Street opened, it was a wonderful modern facility with an abstract frieze in luscious colors surrounding the top of the building.  Fountains flanked the entrance.  It was featured in several library publications and was a proud accomplishment for architect Norman Robson. 

At 100 Clematis Street, books were checked out by the thousands and eventually the hundreds of thousands.  Generations of children attended countless story times.  The reference librarians answered more questions than you can imagine on every conceivable topic. 

Sometime in the 1980’s, we began to use computers.  In the 1990’s, along came the Internet and it was not just a fad.  The library building was changing, too.  The frieze was removed as it was thought to be a safety issue during hurricanes.  The fountains were removed and a new façade was placed on the building.  

Ten years ago, under the visionary leadership of then Library Director Pam Sandlian Smith, we had a brilliant interior makeover by designer Peter Robinson.  It was one of those transitions that change everything.  We approached our work with a new energy.  Customers were delighted.  The library bloomed! 

We bloomed so much that the walls of this building could hardly contain us, and that ultimately led to the wonderful new facility at 411 Clematis.    

It will be a great day when we open, but I will certainly not leave the old building without a backward glance.  I know that the City of West Palm Beach is a finer community because of our Library.   I am a better human being for the years I have spent there, for the work I have done, for the staff and public I have encountered.  Many, many thanks to all of you! 

Fondly,

The Book Goddess

It’s Okay to Ask the Librarian – Really! November 13, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Librarians, Public libraries, readers, Reading.
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I have discovered to my distress that many people think it’s inappropriate to ask a librarian for help.  Apparently, someone drummed it into their heads that they’re supposed to be able to find things on their own in the library.  Or perhaps they had an unfortunate experience with the mythical mean librarian who asked sternly, “Have you looked in the card catalog?” 

Do not be intimidated!  We are here to connect you with the book or DVD or CD or information that you want.  They pay us to do it, and fortunately most of us really like to do it. 

Also – here is something to consider.  The contemporary public library is probably a lot different from your school library.  So even if you were a library whiz back in the day, and no matter how intelligent and informed you are, there are a lot of new developments.  We work here every day, and we have advanced degrees in library science.  Did I mention that we are here to help you? 

I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that a particular item was not to be found in the library, when in fact it was there all along.  I’m really worried about the ones who don’t ask and miss out entirely. 

If you can find what you need in the library on your own, that is fine.  But I have to tell you that I often ask for assistance when I go to another library.  A good librarian can help you find things you didn’t even realize were available.  For example, when I was doing research in the Law Library at FSU, I told the reference librarian about my topic.  He came up with the actual transcript of a pivotal trial, which I hadn’t even thought to ask for. 

It doesn’t matter whether you want a great mystery novel, need help researching a medical condition, or want to look up a stock price.  Always ask!  It is true that there may be some questions that are too far out of our expertise or beyond our resources, but we will at least try to set you on the right path. 

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

A Day (Off) in the Life of the Book Goddess (and more reasons to love your book club) October 30, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Librarians, library programs, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Monday was a day off for me, so after I had done some laundry, I set off for the campaign headquarters of the presidential candidate of my choice.  I had arranged to meet up there with one of my wonderful book club friends, Kathleen.  We were making calls to likely voters, and one lady said she wanted applications for absentee ballots.  Kathleen said we would take them over to her house – so we set off to make our delivery. 

When we got there, the voter and her mother were sitting in the shade of their peaceful front yard.  We had a nice visit while they filled out the forms.  

After we took care of delivering the forms, we decided to call Sylvia, another book club member who lives nearby and see if we could drop in.  She was happy to hear from us, and set out wine, cheese, crackers and fruit on her patio.  What a gracious hostess!  Kathleen started teaching us how to play Hawaiian gin rummy.  Then Sylvia got another call from yet another book club member, Faith, who was also in the neighborhood.  We were delighted that she could join our party. 

Eventually we had to leave for our various commitments, but what a wonderful day it was!  I felt that I did something useful, and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world.  I can’t guarantee that you will find friends in your book club as fabulous as mine, but I think there’s a good chance. 

Oh – and after that, I went to my bellydance class.  I had met the teacher at the West Palm Beach Public Library where she gave an introductory lesson.  When I went home, I read Exit Music by Ian Rankin, which is pretty terrific – a library book, of course. 

Those of us in the library profession are fond of saying that libraries change lives.  There is no doubt that they have changed mine. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

What Are We Reading at the Library? March 28, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Librarians, Mysteries, Public libraries, readers, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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At our weekly meeting today, I asked the Library staff for the titles of any great books they’ve read recently.  Steve found Tim Dorsey’s Big Bamboo wonderfully funny.  If you are in the mood for a crime novel that provides outlandish entertainment and a great deal of interesting information about Florida, Tim Dorsey is the author for you.  I do think you would be well advised to begin with his first, Florida Roadkill.

Jennifer is reading Cotton by Christopher Wilson.  The protagonist starts out as a mixed race child growing up in the segregated South.  Though this novel deals with serious issues, it has some truly unusual plot twists and one critic described it as “antic entertainment.”

Lena checked out No!  I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside on my recommendation.  She’s halfway through and agrees that it is fabulous.  She also recently viewed the classic film Twelve Angry Men and it became an instant all-time favorite.

Fawn is enjoying People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  A book conservator travels to Bosnia to restore a Hebrew manuscript that was saved by a Muslim librarian.  Fawn says that Brooks brings history alive for the reader.

I’m just finishing the second mystery novel featuring Quirke, the Dublin pathologist, by Benjamin Black, better known as Booker Prize winner John Banville.  The Silver Swan has terrific characterization, a great plot, and the wonderful writing that you would expect of this award-winning author.

Now, keep in mind – we work at the library where there is a very wide choice of reading materials, and these are the items that we picked.  So my feeling is that these are really good choices that you might want to consider.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Guest Speaking Online at FSU School of Information Studies October 30, 2007

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This evening I’ll be a guest “speaker” at the online class in Collection Development at the School of Information Studies at Florida State University – where I also got my M.S. in Library and Information Studies.

(Collection development is my major job responsibility – selecting books and media for the Library.)

In preparation for the class, the students have asked me some great questions about my career and my views on various aspects of librarianship.  We communicate via online discussion boards.

I’ve enjoyed answering their questions.  It’s good to be reminded about how fortunate I have been to have a vocation, not just a job, and to feel that I do something of genuine value to society.

So thank you, Dr. Chavez-Hernandez, for inviting me to participate, and thank you, students, for your excellent questions – I wish you all the best in your new adventures!

Fondly,

The Book Goddess

The Perfect Gift October 11, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Just Browsing, Librarians, Public libraries.
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I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended wandering the library stacks in this blog, and if I haven’t, I want to do so now. I know it seems like a time waster to some people. But the Book Goddess is a great believer in serendipity, and who knows what treasures await you if you enter those cool and inviting rows of books with an open mind and open eyes. At least once in a while.

For instance, I was finding a book for a telephone patron the other day – yes, we do this, we’re happy to do it, we want you to have the book (or DVD or CD) you want, don’t hesitate to call…. Anyway, I stumbled upon a cool little book called Gifted: 1000 Gift Ideas for Everyone in Your Life by Sarah Weidman.

After I had taken care of the patron, I thumbed through it. It’s divided up into chapters designating the type of gift recipient – everything from “The Newborn Babe” to “The Restless Retiree”. (Not to mention “The Know-it-All”, “The Quirky Pal”, and “The Laid Up and Lonely”.)

Some people, I have heard, don’t like gifts. The Book Goddess finds this hard to understand, and thinks it is probably because they have not been receiving the right gifts. This book could help.

Some of the suggestions, such as a museum membership, may make you wonder, Why didn’t I think of that? Others may simply surprise and delight you. I like the idea of a bilingual doll that says a number of phrases in English and another language (for “The Curious Kid”). And for “The Housewarmee”, how about the Hurricane Survival Kit, complete with flashlight, radio, and refreshments?

All of these items are available online, so your location is no problem. And let’s come right out and admit that the Book Goddess found some really cute wall decals that may soon be adorning her bathroom.

So – Happy Shopping and Happy Reading!

Fondly,

The Book Goddess

Help! I Need a Book! How I Used the Library in a Time of Crisis (and you can, too!) September 28, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Librarians, Mysteries, Public libraries, Reading.
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I would assume that most people do not think of the public library first when they find themselves in a crisis situation, but maybe they should consider it.  Please do not misunderstand me – there are certainly occasions when you need a friend, a police officer, a doctor, or other emergency help rather than a book. 

But assuming that your need for personal or professional assistance has been met, I’d like to suggest that the library may be very helpful.  For instance, I was once in a situation where I was simultaneously involved in a romantic breakup and a move to a new state.  One of the healthiest and most productive things I did was take advantage of my wonderful public libraries.

For one thing, I needed something to take my mind off things, and mystery novels were my distraction of choice.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing to enter another world?

I had also found that creating something helped me immensely.  I was a beginning quilter at that time, and the library provided a rich assortment of books to inspire me.

And I just enjoyed going to the library and being uplifted by the whole treasure trove of possibilities stored on its shelves, and available to me.

On paper, these may seem like minor things, but I can assure you that the library was one of the things that kept me going at a very bad time.  Getting in touch with my creativity truly did change my life.  And I’m quite sure that those positive experiences at the public library have much to do with my vocation as a librarian.

I know now that there are other ways I could have used the library.  I could have attended programs and met new people.  I might have chosen to read up on divorce and starting over.  I like to believe that there is something at the library for everyone.

And please do not hesitate to ask the librarian for help.  They know about resources that may not be immediately obvious -and they are there to help!

At one time, the slogan of the American Library Association was “Libraries Change Lives.”  They certainly changed mine.

Tina Maura Albee

The Book Goddess

Why I Love Book Clubs July 23, 2007

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Librarians, library programs, readers, Reading.
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Have you ever been involved in a book club?  I believe that at one time or another, I have been involved in six.  In fact, a few years ago, I was a member of four at one time, and was the leader of two of them.  Okay, maybe that was excessive!  But if you are a book lover, I really think you should consider a book club.

Let me tell you about my very favorite book club, the Second Saturday Book Club which meets here at the West Palm Beach Public Library.

Sometime around December 1998, the program librarian asked me if I would consider organizing a book club.  I wanted to be helpful, so I said okay and we sent out announcements, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.  Some nice people showed up and we picked out our first book.  And we kept meeting, and reading more books, and getting to know each other, and then started going out to lunch.

Well, this simply turned out to be one of the very best things that ever happened to me!  First of all, I read things I wouldn’t have ordinarily read – yes, even librarians get in a reading rut.  And I became a much better reader.  But the best thing that happened was that I made some of the most fabulous friends that one could find anywhere!  And more new and wonderful people kept arriving over the years.  (I hope all of you all know how special you are to me.)

I’m a real book lover, and sharing books with other people has really enriched my life.  I can’t guarantee that your book club will be successful, but I can assure you that it’s worth a try.

 Let me know what you think!

Fondly,

 The Book Goddess