The view from my front porch


IMG_2025.JPGToday is a beautiful, sunny, summer-like Sunday, with just a touch of fall in the air. Finding myself with a block of time between activities, I wondered how best to fill it. So, I plopped down in a chair on our porch, turned on my laptop and turned my attention to this long-neglected blog, which I pay a fee for every year. It’s been almost a year since my last post. I am definitely not getting my money’s worth.

The last time I posted was the day after the 2016 presidential election. I was angry, sad, disappointed and completely stunned, although not surprised. In re-reading my post almost a year later, I find that there is nothing I would take back, but there is something I failed to do-

I’ve always believed in, “Respect the office if not the man”. (And it is still a man.) So out of respect for the office, when Trump is our President, I will say little about the man. Because he has a very long way to go to earn my respect. But I wish him no harm. I don’t believe in grudges or revenge, which do nothing but fill one’s heart with hatred. I guess that’s why in yesterday’s election hate trumped love. Revenge breeds a reckless disregard for common sense.”

And this comment exchange that followed-

“Thank you! I second everything you said, except I’m not sure that I can stick to just discussing his policies for the next four years. This is a man who is morally and ethically bankrupt. This is a man who declared himself a racist in my book several years ago when he challenged President Obama’s citizenship with no hint of evidence. He showed his character then, and he reinforced it with everything he has said and done since. Romney I could respect, and even George W. is starting to look good by comparison. But the acceptance of Trump by so-called Christians is unbelievable. If they would just say, hey, I know Trump is a despicable person but I voted for him because of his position on abortion and gun control, then I think it would be easier. But their unwillingness to condemn the countless deplorable things he has said and done, well it makes them deplorable too.”

I agree that it will be difficult to stick to just policies. I may break my own promise.

: ) Thanks for your comments–I agree completely!

I most definitely broke my promise. In fact, not only have I not stuck to policies, I have said more about the man personally than about his policies. But that is because it is the man who seeks, always, to put the focus entirely on himself rather than on his governance or the people he supposedly governs.

It would be interesting to know how many of his supporters follow him on Twitter. I know many who do not, which is too bad. While his tweets are annoying, degrading, unnecessary and ill-advised, they are also revealing. They reveal a need for validation. They reveal weakness. They reveal insecurity. They reveal a lack of empathy. They are hyperbole for the most part. They are sad.

But I don’t really want to write about Trump today. I don’t have anything good to say. And that’s not something I say lightly. It would be okay for “Trump to be Trump” if he were not the president. But he is. And he should be more. But he’s not. That’s pretty much what it comes down to for me. I’m not opposed to Trump the man; I’m opposed to Trump the man as POTUS. I still wish him no harm. And I can’t pretend to know what’s in his heart other than what he reveals.

Instead I want to write about this beautiful Sunday and how there is more good in the world than bad. I want to write about how lucky I feel to have the life I have and to be surrounded by the love of family and friends. I want to write about how my kids turned out to be great people and about the great man who I married. I want to write about the warmth of the sun and the freshness in the air. I want to savor all the goodness because I know hard times will come. They are inevitable. Bad things happen in this good world. But today is a good day for me and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.

And just as I know that today is a good day for me, I  know that today is a very bad–maybe the worst–day for someone else. We can’t live each day agonizing over misery that is not our own, but we can live each day acknowledging that we all have different experiences in life. Those experiences shape our worldview. Expecting someone else to react or respond the way we would to a situation or event or idea or even words is unrealistic and shows a lack of understanding and empathy.

Maybe I’m finally getting at what I really want to write about–privilege. I believe it’s a very real thing. I’m starting to think that acknowledging privilege is the single most important step we can take as a society. Privilege isn’t about how hard you work or how many bad days you’ve had or how many obstacles you’ve had to overcome. Privilege is about never having to consider one’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc., as a factor. Privilege is about being part of the default–being part of the “norm”.

And this brings me back to Trump. Was Trump elected as a way to keep privilege intact? Of course, I don’t mean that this was intentional because many don’t believe privilege is real. But the mere fact that he was elected may support a different theory. As part of the default, as part of the norm, I feel privileged to even write about this because I know that many of his policies and planned policies will not affect me directly, although that may very well change. I can live in Trump’s America without much fear for myself or my family. But that’s not good enough. That’s not a privilege that I want.

The view from my front porch is crystal clear today, but this post is meandering and muddled. Or is it? Oh well. At least I got my money’s worth.



A World Gone Mad




What is happening? I’m not talking about the outcome of the election, which has already happened. I know that one candidate wins; one candidate loses–that’s the way the system is structured. I’m not a very competitive person, and I’ve never cared much about winning or losing at anything, although I am extremely distraught about the outcome and saddened that half of our country’s voting population used this election to exact a sort of revenge on what they perceive as the decline of the United States by electing a woefully inadequate, dangerous, bigoted, misogynistic and volatile candidate just because he’s not Hillary Clinton and just because he claims to be pro-life.

But that’s that. What I don’t understand is a lot of what I’ve been reading since then. Fundamentalist, evangelical Christians delighted that “God has given American another chance!” Another chance to do what? To discriminate against women by taking away their right to choose what happens to their bodies? By repealing legalized same-sex marriage? By deporting people and breaking up families. Is Donald Trump really the poster child for another chance? I know Christians who won’t see PG-13 movies for fear of hearing bad language or seeing sexual images. Who won’t expose their children to certain books for fear of inappropriate relationships or characters. I know Christians who condemn arrogance, opulence and greed. And these same Christians want to hold President Donald Trump up to their kids as a shining example of what they can grow up to be? And who in America gets another chance? Just Christians? Muslims? The LGBT community? Government is not based upon religion. We are not a theocracy. That was never the point.

And then there are the conservatives who are asking for everyone to stop the negativity and focus on the positive. They want to see all of us unite because America is the greatest country in the world! These same people just spent two years chanting, “Make America Great again!” as well as the last eight years spewing hateful, divisive, inflammatory rhetoric about President Obama. Not to mention a Congress that fought our President every step of the way. But now they want us to just give Trump a chance?

President-elect Trump spent weeks touting a rigged election. I haven’t heard a word about a rigged election since he won. President Obama and Secretary Clinton were both gracious in their concession speeches. Trump said proudly, before any votes were cast, that he would contest the election if it was too close. Would Trump have been as gracious in conceding to Clinton?

So when I say the world has gone mad, I’m not talking about the final ballot count. I’m talking about long held conservative values being bent and twisted to support a candidate that would not be considered suitable company for Sunday dinner in most Christian homes. Why? And, yes. I also vote for a platform, not just a person. But Trump has no record to even suggest that he supports the platform he ran on.

I do have an open mind, and I will give Trump a chance to lead because I want our country to succeed, not fail. But I won’t pretend that I think it’s okay that he was voted into office in the first place. It’s not okay.

I’ve always believed in, “Respect the office if not the man”. (And it is still a man.) So out of respect for the office, when Trump is our President, I will say little about the man. Because he has a very long way to go to earn my respect. But I wish him no harm. I don’t believe in grudges or revenge, which do nothing but fill one’s heart with hatred. I guess that’s why in yesterday’s election hate trumped love. Revenge breeds a reckless disregard for common sense.

I know not everyone who voted for Trump is a Christian. I’m sure there are people who voted for Trump with little concern for his personality, demeanor or standards. They voted with their wallets and for a safer world and for someone who promised to get their country back for them. I’m not sure who had it in the first place. And I’m sure many of those voters are nice people, you know, just like some of those Mexicans that Trump knows so much about. But they screwed up. And they screwed up badly.

The world may have gone mad, but I’m not mad. I’m just sad. I’ll get over it and get on with it. But I’ll never forget this election or the hypocrisy. Some will say that voting for Crooked Hillary is hypocritical. But I do not subscribe to a religion that always claims the moral high ground. You can’t choose the exception when you’re someone who claims to always follow the rules.






If a blog called bringyournoise falls silent for a year, can it still make a sound?



My second blog post ever, now over five years old, was entitled, “Finding your voice“. Having not posted here in more than a year, I find I am back at square one, once again trying to find my voice and feeling very much as I did when I began writing but for different reasons.

When I started bringyournoise, I was a newly minted librarian working in a paraprofessional (for lack of a better word–I happen to believe that being a professional is not dependent upon having a degree) position and struggling to give voice to all the brilliant (!) ideas I had and wanted to share with others, both at work and online. I used to write several times each week, but gradually over time as with many things, I lost interest, lost steam and learned so much along the way that I began to realize that what I said or wrote was far less important that what I did. I also realized that I couldn’t share much of what I learned because when one begins to supervise others there is a lot that can’t be shared.

During the past 13 years of my library career, I have made several transitions. I’ve held four different positions in three different settings. I’ve gone from being a cataloging assistant to cataloger to district consultant to Content Services Librarian. Along the way, I have supervised 9 different people. I’ve worked in a public library systems office that was not a library at all; I’ve worked in the administrative section of a public library building where I had little contact with patrons. And now I work in an academic library, where I regularly interact with library users. I’ve worked in different capacities in different environments but there is always one constant–culture.

Workplace culture matters and it is something that has always mattered to me. It is a topic that has dominated the content of this blog. I firmly believe that any employer’s, manager’s supervisor’s, etc., primary responsibility is to empower and advocate for the people for whom they are responsible. I firmly believe that trust is the foundation of any healthy workplace. I firmly believe that openness and transparency are vital to establishing that trust. And I firmly believe that honest and direct communication is key.

I don’t know if workplace culture matters to others, and I don’t know if it should matter so much to me. Perhaps the key is to adapt to whatever culture you find yourself in rather than trying to change it. Culture change is only possible if one can first define the culture that exists and if there is desire to make it different.

I’d really like to know if other librarians out there think about workplace culture. Does it matter? If anyone out there is still listening to bringyournoise and you hear this small sound coming from a long-silent blog, please let me know what you think. It could be that I am barking up the wrong tree.




I have maintained this blog for four years as of May 20, 2015. Recently, I have been receiving notices from WordPress alerting me to the fact that my upgraded account, which includes my domain, will expire on June 30. June 30 also happens to be my last day at my current job.

On July 1, I walk the bridge from public libraries to academia.

About 12 years ago, I began my library career in Shadek-Fackenthal Library at Franklin & Marshall College. It was my second job upon returning to work after 13 years of being a stay-at-home parent. I worked part time as a cataloging assistant for three years before moving on to a fulltime job as a cataloger at the Library System of Lancaster County, where I worked for seven years. I have been in my current position as the Capital Area Library District Consultant with Dauphin County Library System for almost 1 year and 8 months. Last month, it was announced that I will be leaving my current position to return to F&M as the Content Services Librarian, working with the team I first joined 12 years ago. With this move, I will be returning to my roots–returning to where I started; returning to what I learned first; and returning to work in the county in which I live–coming full circle, so to speak.

I have learned so much along the way. First and foremost, I have learned that there is always more to learn! There are always new ways in which to grow. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether one works for a public or academic library. What matters is that one works toward the goals and the mission each library has in place and that one works to improve the community, whether that community is an office, a library system or district, a neighborhood or a college campus. I’ve learned that each library job experience contributes to the skills and knowledge one can carry over to the next job. I’ve learned that there’s no “us” versus “them”–all libraries are in this together and all skills are transferable in one way or another.

I have met great people who I will never forget, and I have met not-so-great people that I will always remember. I’ve probably learned even more from the latter than the former. I have acquired skills that I had hoped to never use again that will now inform my decisions moving forward. I have been both happy and unhappy in jobs and now I know that it does matter where one works and who one works with. There are differences that make a difference. Find your niche and make the most of it.

That said, your niche may change from time to time, and that’s okay. The measurement for growth is not whether one works for the same organization for 12 years or for 4 different organizations in twelve years, but rather how one has changed during those 12 years. Because if one hasn’t changed, then one isn’t growing. Maybe there are some people out there who were perfect from the start–good for them. Not me. I have grown by feet not inches, and I still don’t measure up.

So, I find myself at a crossroads wondering whether coming full circle professionally means that my blog has come full circle, too. I used to feel such an urgency to write and capture all that I thought about and hoped to change–all my grand ideas and observations. Now I’m more interested in enacting real change rather than writing about it. However, I do believe there’s value in both.

Time will tell, I guess, the fate of this blog. I have certainly been out of the blogging loop for some time, writing only very occasional posts during the past two years. Sometimes I miss writing; sometimes I wonder what I thought I had to say in the first place.

At a crossroads after coming full circle–not a bad place to be. And working in libraries, no matter which communities they serve–a great place to be.

“Invent time to think”



The title of this post is a quote from Christopher Miller’s presentation on Tuesday, March 24 at the first of three in-person sessions for ILEAD USA. ILEAD is an initiative started by the Illinois State Library and supported by grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (currently under threat of elimination). The initiative has been adopted by 9 additional states, including Pennsylvania, which launched its first immersive experience this year. There are many ways to discover more about ILEAD: On Twitter, follow #ILEADUSA; ILEAD USA on Facebook; The ILEAD USA blog; R. David Lankes blog and more. While ILEAD is the genesis of this post, and I encourage you to follow us in our journey, that’s not really why I’m writing today.

I’m writing because ILEAD has reminded me about the “Why.” In his presentation last Thursday during ILEAD, David Bendekovic said to always start with the “Why.” Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you do what you do? There is often very little time to think about these questions much less answer them. We are so busy with the day-to-day that the high altitude questions and answers sometimes get neglected.

What initiatives like ILEAD really do is give participants time to think. Time to step outside of our collective boxes and really think about what we do and why we do it and consider those thoughts through a new lens, with fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.

We are all familiar with training. Training is very important and essential to teach us the skills we need to do our jobs. However, the importance of initiatives like ILEAD, which cannot be easily defined or classified, cannot be underrated. Conferences and wokshops are important, too, for professional development and networking. BUt ILEAD is different. There are so many concepts, ideas, assignments and revelations thrown at participants in rapid fire sequence–concepts, ideas, assignments and revelations that may seem random or unrelated to each other (at least at first)–and so little time to digest all of the information that it feels at first overwhelming and a bit intimidating. Until one takes time to think about it.

The beauty of ILEAD is twofold. First, it provides a broad spectrum of information and ideas so that teams can work together to incorporate that knowledge into their projects. The presentations (some are live and some are live streamed) foster individual thinking that can translate into group collaboration.

Second, and I would argue even more important, is that it reminds participants that creative thinking is crucial to successful libraries and librarians. Investing in time to think is a wise investment. Sometimes an experience (like ILEAD) is not directly related to one’s current position. Sometimes there is no immediate gain or learning. Sometimes one cannot draw a definitive link between the “training” and a grand idea. But chances are the grand idea was a result of cultivating the time and ability to step back and think.

Setting aside time to think is not a waste of time. There are many organizations that ask staff to “justify” their need to attend training or development opportunities. Sometimes that requirement exists in order to make the most of limited funds available for staff training and development. Sometimes that requirement exists due to a lack of higher level thinking on the part of administrators–thinking that would allow for the possibility that ideas come from lots of different places at different times and for different reasons and inspire different people in different ways. While sending a cataloger to only cataloging workshops may seem like the right thing to do, it may not be the best thing to do. It’s impossible to determine who may see possibility in any given idea and bring that possibility back to their organization to act upon. Whether the idea relates to a particular position or service is irrelevant as long as it will benefit the organization as a whole.

I am grateful to the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, the Illinois State Library and IMLS for giving me the opportunity to participate in ILEAD as a mentor. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a terrific team and to help them see their project through to fruition. I am grateful to my organization and my administrator for permitting my involvement.

But mostly, I am grateful for the opportunity to take time to think about why I do what I do and why libraries and librarians exist in the first place. There is no one answer to the second question and not everyone agrees; however, by taking the time to think, our own answers may surprise us.

As David Lankes said during his presentation last Tuesday, “Most conversations are with ourselves.” Give yourself time to ask yourself the hard questions. And take time to listen to your answers. But don’t keep your answers to yourself. Share them with others and ask others the “Why” questions, too.

Create a space where someone can invent the time to think.

Libraries are about people…on both sides of the desk



I recently had a bad experience at a library that reminded me why I started this blog in the first place. My bad experience did not occur in any of the counties in which I currently live or work.

I walked into the library and asked a simple question at the front desk. I was given a simple answer from a person who did not even bother to look in my direction: NO. It doesn’t matter what the question was or who the staff person was or who I was (or wasn’t) to that person. All that mattered was that one word answer, the tone of voice, and the lack of interest expressed.

At that point I certainly didn’t care what was contained in the library’s physical collection. I didn’t care whether they had ebooks. I didn’t care whether they had wifi or public computers. I didn’t care if they served coffee or had a 3-D printer. I didn’t care what programs they were offering or if I could find a nice, comfortable chair in which to sit. I walked out the door without knowing anything about what the library had to offer.

There was a time when librarians didn’t have to worry about customer service. A time when they were the only game in town for books and access to research materials and resources. That is no longer the case. Although public libraries do offer many unique services and are, of course, not just about books, people can choose other means to get their information. We are certainly not the only information game in town anymore.

We offer services for people. We serve people. People are our business, not books or technology. Librarians who don’t like people shouldn’t work in libraries. And it doesn’t matter whether that person is a credentialed librarian or staff. Anyone who works in a library is a librarian to most people. Surly attitudes, abruptness, annoyance, and condescension on the part of staff don’t belong in a library anymore than a machine gun.

Librarians can be the best or worst thing about a library. As David Lee King recently pointed out in his blog response to the now famous Forbes opinion piece

So – you mentioned that you have a local library. Instead of someone providing a plane ticket for you [he suggested in the comments that someone buy him a plane ticket so he could visit their library], why don’t you simply get in your car and visit your own local library for starters, and see what they do?

Yes. Visiting a library might be the best way to see what they do. But if you want people to care about what your library does once they get there, your staff had better be nice at a minimum. Your services might bring people in the door. But your people might be the reason they don’t come back.

Summer chili, happened so fast


chili peppers

That title is my clever attempt at a reference to Grease (Summer Nights? John & Olivia?). But in honor of these first days of summer, last night I made what I refer to as my “summer chili”–it’s lighter, brighter, and makes great use of zucchini and corn, although you can make this chili all year. And it’s fast and easy to make after some chopping and dicing and opening of cans. Yes, despite all the fresh ingredients available this time of year (or soon to be available), this chili still makes use of stuff that comes in cans. Even if homegrown tomatoes were available locally, I think the can (or box) variety works better in chili. And since the corn stalks around here are woefully short right now, I used sweet yellow corn from the can instead of fresh. Fresh corn is always better than canned as long as it’s fresh from a local farm. While this recipe uses ground turkey, I bet it would stand alone as a vegan/vegetarian chili with some improvisation. That said, this entire recipe is an improvisation–my favorite kind. I can give you an idea of amounts and measurements, but the beauty of chili is that you can create the perfect blend of flavors and heat just by using your own judgment. Enjoy!


Canola oil
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 small/medium red onion, chopped
1 small/medium yellow or white onion, chopped
1/2 medium zucchini, chopped
3 very small peppers (the mini variety)–red, yellow, and orange–chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
As much garlic as you like, chopped (I used 3 cloves)
Kosher salt and pepper (freshly ground or fine ground)
About 3 Tbs. taco seasoning
About 3 Tbs. chili powder, regular
About 1-2 Tbs. ancho, chipotle, or hot chili powder
About 1 Tbs. cumin
Dash of crushed red pepper
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 cans navy beans, drained
1 1/2-2 cups corn, fresh from the cob or from the can, drained
1 1/2 c. water
Basil, cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese for serving

Heat a swirl of canola oil (or other oil) in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the turkey, onions, zucchini, peppers, and garlic and stir and cook until the turkey is no longer pink and the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper, taco seasoning, chili powder, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine. Add canned tomato products, beans, and corn. Add water to achieve the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes for best flavor. To serve, top with fresh chopped basil and/or cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheese. A twist of lime might be nice, too.



Five things I’ve learned in five months


teachaFive months ago tomorrow, I left one library job for another. I went from being a cataloger at the Library System of Lancaster County to being the District Consultant for the Capital Area Library District based at Dauphin County Library System’s McCormick Riverfront Library in Harrisburg as the District Center for Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry counties. Part of a district consultant’s job is to help others learn; however, as is more often than not the case, I have certainly learned more than I’ve taught during these first several months on the job. I’ve learned lots of specifics–new processes, new procedures, new skills–everything new. But I have also been reminded of some universal truths that apply to all library jobs, jobs in general, and life overall. They are simple, common sense abilities but so fundamental to success. I’m not saying I’ve achieved success in my new job–the verdict is still out on that and will be for some time. But here are five things I’ve learned in five months that have kept me moving forward-

1)  Never make assumptions. Do not assume that something is known, has been tried before or said before. Don’t assume that an idea is not original but also don’t assume that it is. Don’t assume that you are lacking the knowledge, information, or experience that would make your input more valuable. Don’t assume that others know your background or what you have to offer. Assume nothing. Assumptions always create an immediate, invisible barrier that can’t easily be broken through because no one knows it’s there. There’s just a lingering sense that something may be in the way.

2)  Don’t pretend. Do not pretend to know something that you don’t know even if you can find out after the fact to avoid revealing your lack of knowledge or inexperience to someone in the moment. It may feel uncomfortable to admit ignorance, but acknowledging a lack of understanding allows for an immediate infusion of information and answers and prevents the other person from assuming that you know something that you don’t. It also creates trust.

3)  Communicate. Just put it out there. Tell everyone what they need to know. Share information. Don’t assume they know and don’t pretend that you don’t know. Don’t assume that they don’t want to know. If they don’t want to know, then they don’t have to listen (see below). Communication is a two-way street; however, you are only in the driver’s seat of one vehicle. You can’t control the other side but you can make sure there are no roadblocks in your lane.

4)  Be transparent. Hidden agendas are not good. Selective communication is not good. Having secrets is not good. Be an open book as much as possible. The same information should be shared as widely as possible without editing on a case-by-case basis. If you’re editing your communication on a regular basis depending upon your audience it could be that you are trying to keep everyone happy or telling everyone what they want to hear rather than simply stating the facts and the truth in a very clear and direct way. Not always easy and not always possible. But it’s a great goal to strive towards.

5)  Hear. I first typed the word “listen” but really the operative word is “hear.” People listen all the time without hearing. Hear what someone tells you and consciously use that information or consciously disregard it. But hear it first. Don’t waste someone’s time by “listening” to them without hearing them. And if you’ve listened to and heard what someone has to say but you know you’re not going to act on it, then be transparent enough to say so.

I plan to learn much more in the months to come. And it’s not that I didn’t know these five things before. But I’ve come to understand how important it is to remember them and put them into action whenever and as often as possible. I know I will fail and fail often–we all do. The best we can hope for is to be mindful of the ways in which we can circumvent potential pitfalls along the way. Sometimes it’s tempting to assume, pretend, remain silent, hidden, and deaf. There’s a certain safety in doing your job and doing it well while flying under the radar.

But doing great work while existing within a vacuum prevents others from learning from you. Everyone has something to teach; everyone has something to learn.

Pure love


Girl silhouette

Today is my youngest’s–my son’s–18th birthday. Between looking at old pictures, writing a sentiment in his card, and generally thinking about the last 24 1/2 years of having and raising three children, I have worked myself into a state of high emotion–a mix of joy, happiness, pride, and a hint of wistfulness for days gone by.

The days go by so fast. Everybody says that because it’s true. Each day in and of itself may not always go fast, but in the aggregate, the last 9000 days or so have simply vanished into what is now the past. I’m not sure how we got from there to here without noticing that time wasn’t stopping and what was would not be forever.

For me, and for my husband too, everything we do is diminished when viewed within the shadow of parenthood.  The money we make, the things we buy, the places we’ve been, the people we’ve known, the lives we’ve lived are small in comparison to the privilege of being parents. There is nothing else that I have ever done or will ever do that will be more fulfilling than being a mom. I feel so lucky and so grateful that my world includes three wonderful people who are no longer children but will always be my kids.

Despite the worry and fear that goes along with parenting, the love always wins. It’s a pure love that never changes except to grow. It’s risky to love so much. But very few things that really matter are without risk. Joy trumps risk when it comes to a parent’s love for a child.

I can’t wait to see what comes next. I may have given birth to my children, but they have given me life.

On Valentine’s Day, ten things I hate about Excel


HeartI have a hate-hate relationship with Excel. I recognize that it’s an amazing tool. I also recognize that much like a winch, it’s a tool that I have a limited ability to use. Why do I hate it? Let me count the ways-

1.  Sheets are divided into cells. Enough said.

2.  There are formulas that seem to take on lives of their own.

3.  I can’t figure out how to get it to do what I want.

4.  I don’t even know what I want it to do.

5.  I like paragraphs.

6.  As soon as I get a row, column, or cell formatted correctly, I touch something that screws up everything else.

7.  I keep hitting “undo” and I get nowhere fast.

8.  Numbers.

9.  Projects are called “workbooks.” Brings back bad memories of math in elementary school.

10. It makes me feel dumb.

I swear on a stack of spreadsheets that I am going to master this evil devil if it kills me. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day to all–except Excel. I’ve got no love for you.

Name that Library System–please!


blank card

As a former employee of the Library System of Lancaster County, I have been following with interest and dismay the recent turmoil involving the public libraries of Lancaster County, county officials, and the System. I’m not here to take a side. There are no bad guys. There are only good people trying to do the right thing. The problem is that no one can agree on what that “right thing” is.

When I worked at the System, I did not believe it was appropriate to write about the turmoil (which has been ongoing in one form or another for decades) using inside information. Now that I no longer work there, I do not believe it is appropriate to write without having inside information. I don’t know all the facts. I only know what I read in the newspaper and blogs. If you want to know more, go to LancasterOnline and search “public libraries” to find articles of interest.

I do know that having worked as a consultant these past three months for a district in which there is one federated system (individual libraries each with their own boards along with a central office that provides support services to all the libraries, also with its own board), one consolidated system (one board, one administrative office, and library “branches”), and several independent libraries (individual libraries, individual boards, no central administrative office) there is no perfect model. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and I don’t think that the model affects the function as much as some people think. I think the function (or dysfunction) depends on a lot of factors. Seeing three separate models in action has given me perspective but has certainly not made me an expert nor given me license to weigh in on the Lancaster County situation. I would not attempt to offer advice on how things can be changed. Except for one thing-

No matter what happens–whether the System stays as it is now or morphs into something else or whether it goes away–please take care of one thing. One very simple thing–low-hanging fruit as we like to say–Change the name. Now.

It makes no sense to call The Library System of Lancaster County by that name. Nobody–and I mean nobody–except Lancaster County library insiders understands that The Library System of Lancaster County is one, independent organization, one building, one office with 20ish employees. Any reasonable person, upon reading the name, The Library System of Lancaster County, would think the writer is referring to the system of public libraries in Lancaster County–all of them. It is confusing and why add confusion to an already muddled situation? I have no idea why it was named that in the first place.

The name is the least of its problems, you say? It’s true that it’s just a name, but it’s a name that does not even describe the organization’s purpose. The System provides support services to the public libraries in the county. Based on the definition of “system” as “a group of related parts that move or work together,” using the name The Library System of Lancaster County would make sense if it referred to the entire group of Lancaster County libraries. But it doesn’t. So it doesn’t make sense. No sense at all. Not one shred.

And maybe it’s not such a little thing. There should be no identity confusion at a time when libraries need support. People are hesitant to support structures they don’t understand or that seem unnecessarily complex. Changing the name is a simple way to clarify the identity of an organization that is getting a lot of press and to differentiate that organization from the public libraries that directly serve the community. All the pieces are important. But they are not all the same.

LSLC is referred to as “The System” in articles, and that seems to me to have a negative connotation. It sounds ominous. “The libraries vs. The System” sounds a lot like the little guy fighting the Man, the establishment, and that isn’t really true. In this case, the “Man” is more than an administrative bureaucracy. It is a group of talented, dedicated, committed people providing essential support services to the libraries–libraries that do brilliant work in their communities.

Why worry about changing the name if the future of the System is in question? There are good reasons. If the System remains in place and continues to support the libraries, then it should have a name that reflects its function. If the System goes away, then please act now to prevent headlines like, “The Library System of Lancaster County closes its doors” that will cause many to believe that all of the public libraries in Lancaster County are closing!

Call it Public Library Support Services Center (PLSSC). Call it Lancaster County Public Library Support Services (LCPLSS). Call it System Headquarters. Call it Henry James Beauregard, V! Call it whatever you want except don’t call it The Library System of Lancaster County.

That way, when the time comes–and I know it will–that instead of reading about dysfunction, we will be reading about the great things that the public libraries in Lancaster County, together with a center for support services, have accomplished, we can refer to that group as The Library System of Lancaster County and everyone will know what that means assuming that the libraries would like to be known as a cohesive group of independent libraries serving the public’s needs with the help of an organization dedicated to its success–a “system” in every sense of the word.

Empower or destroy?



Last month I read this post from Sarah Houghton, and this passage struck me-

I’m not writing as often, not by a long shot.  My average was 61 posts per month in 2004 and in 2013 my average is 2 posts per month. Part of the reason is that I can’t write about much of what I do in my daily work now due to confidentiality, good taste, prudence, and respect.  I would love to write about progressive discipline, coaching employees, facilities emergencies, presenting to City Council, dealing with other city departments, being “politic” without bullshitting anyone, banning patrons, and a host of other things that fill my days.  But I can’t.

That’s a big problem for a blogger. In fact, I would say that in many cases, the more experiences you have, the more you learn, the more you know, the less you have to write about. There is simply too much that is off limits within the parameters of one’s own job.

A blogger can choose to write about the broader issues that stretch across the profession and are not tied directly to one’s job. The problem there is that if one chooses to challenge a popular viewpoint or directly address a controversial issue, one can probably expect to be attacked, demeaned, and generally dismissed by those who disagree with them. You can view a comprehensive list of related posts here in case you’re wondering what I mean.

So what’s left to write about? Technology news, the philosophy behind the purpose of libraries, library trends and developments, the latest and greatest achievements–all good stuff worthy of a blog post. Also stuff that probably won’t generate a lot of intense discussion. There may be a lot of kudos and high fives and thoughtful discourse, but nothing that will get to the heart of deeply rooted interpersonal relationships and differing perspectives that are often a source of contention and obstruction in any profession.

If we can’t write about the issues closest to us, and we can’t disagree on the broader issues without dissolving into contemptuous debate, there is very little of substance left to say. Maybe substance isn’t the right word because educational, philosophical, and instructional blog posts and articles do have substance. But they don’t have much to do with relationships between and among people, which is really where the heart of the matter usually resides.

I believe that the mission of librarians is to connect people to one another, and as Roy Tennant recently said, to empower. I believe we do a good job of that in our communities. I believe we could sometimes do a better job of that among ourselves.

Do you believe librarians empower each other to speak our minds even if what we say crosses an invisible cultural line? Or do we empower only those we agree with and verbally destroy the rest?

Sometimes the little picture is the big picture


file2781242214133One of my biggest complaints about being a cataloger was that because I am a “big picture” person I was not well suited to the detail-oriented nature of cataloging. While that’s partially true, it’s also partly a load of crap.

It is impossible to focus solely on the big picture of anything because if you do, then dozens of little-picture details will fall through the cracks. Even the biggest, big-picture person has to tie up loose ends every day. Without thoughtful attention to bolstering productivity through tying up those loose ends and making sure the little stuff gets done then the big picture will probably fall off the wall and hit you on the head.

A big picture is made up of thousands of pixels. When a digital image is pixelated, it is not easily recognizable. It would certainly be fun to sit back, prop one’s feet up on the desk, and dream of what may be or could be or should be. But nothing will happen to realize that vision without first putting all of the pixels together. Each pixel must be put into place in order to bring the whole image into focus.

If I had never been a cataloger, I’m not certain that I would notice the details quite so much or appreciate their importance. It almost drove me insane to focus on details such as copyright dates versus publication dates; periods versus brackets; capital letters versus lower case and all of the other minutia that goes into creating an acceptable catalog record. But having done that has given me a healthy perspective on the importance of the little picture. I always say that the devil is not in the details; details are the devil. But I’m glad I had a job that taught me how to concentrate on what’s in front of me because now I have a job where what’s in front of me differs from hour to hour and day to day. If I focus only on the big picture then nothing will get accomplished.

Some people are task-oriented and prefer to focus only on what’s in front of them. Employees like that are valuable and necessary to any organization. Others, like me, prefer to look through a wider lens that allows them to make connections and find commonalities that can bring people or organizations together for the greater good. Employees like that are necessary, too. However, that second group of people can’t rely solely on the first group to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. The dreamers have to show up and contribute in a tangible way. For me, it’s always been the intangibles that make life interesting. But it’s the nitty gritty that makes things happen.

And then there’s this: Having spent the better part of the last seven weeks visiting about 20 different libraries and talking to many directors, managers, and staff it’s easy to see that the little picture for one library is the big picture for another. With the disparity that exists in resources, staffing, and facilities for libraries everywhere, there could be as many as ten people or as few as just one even looking at the picture at all whether that picture be big or small or somewhere in between. It’s hard to work on creating a makerspace in your library if you’re having trouble staffing the desk.

Just because someone knows where they’re going doesn’t mean they know how to get there. Most likely they will get there one detail at a time. If you need help sorting out the details, just ask the nearest cataloger for help. They’ll show you how to see the trees despite the forest.

You get the picture.

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus



Lately, I have been largely MIA in the greater library blogosphere. While starting a new job is often refreshing, it is also stressful, at least in the beginning. Therefore, I have been focused on learning the ropes and getting the lay of the land in order to be effective in my new position as quickly as possible. The result is that I have been off the grid and disconnected from what’s trending.

I haven’t stopped following the chatter altogether, though. In fact, just today I stumbled across four posts that made me stop and think. Two of them were serious posts that fed off a third, and all are worthy of consideration. However, it was the fourth post that jolted me into action in the form of a comment–something I haven’t done in quite some time.

My comment wasn’t pithy or insightful or deep. I simply acknowledged that the blogger (Will Manley) made me laugh, which is very much appreciated. Leave it to Will to cut through the muck and say something irreverent, curmudegon-like, and completely honest.

After all, ’tis the season to be jolly. What better time to step back and consider fully what really matters, what is just distraction, and what should be ignored whenever possible. Thank you Santa Claus, aka Will Unwound, for giving me the gift of levity.

I hope to return to blogging in the New Year. If and when I do, I hope I will focus on the heart of the matter. I have learned so much over the past six weeks. Visiting the 22 libraries in my district has been the best part of my new gig. For every bit of disparity that exists, there is a thread of common ground. My goal (and challenge) is to build upon that foundation in order to best serve the libraries in my district.

Maybe that is the key to our profession–to find common ground without rubber-stamping all libraries (or librarians) as if they have the same story.

Merry, merry. Happy, happy. And to all a good night.

Sand tarts


When I think of Christmas, I think of many things, including sand tarts. My grandmother and my mom made sand tarts every Christmas without fail up until a certain point. They would make them in early December, filling an empty tin of Hammond’s Pretzels with dozens and dozens of paper-thin, crunchy cookies cut in the shapes of angels, Christmas trees, stars, and bells, among others. They were topped with a combination of red and green colored sugar. According to my dad, the best ones were so thin and browned that they were almost burnt.

My grandmother is gone and my mom no longer makes them; however, I have taken up the mantle, but as a horse of a somewhat different color. I have never been able to duplicate the fragile dimension of those cookies that were rolled to a point where they were almost impossible to peel from the rolling surface in one piece. I tried, but I just didn’t have the patience, not even using my grandmother’s old marble slab and marble rolling pin. So my sand tarts are a bit thicker and chewy, not crisp. We have also added a nontraditional shape–a dog–and nontraditional colored sugar–blue, purple, yellow, and pink.

I say we because it is now our family tradition to make sand tarts on Christmas day (my kids and I make them; my husband eats them). Since we celebrate with our extended families during the days before and after Christmas, we have the big day to ourselves and making sand tarts has become part of the festivities. I make the dough the day before (as per explicit instructions from prior generations), chill it, and then let it soften just a bit before rolling and cutting. Using Wondra flour is also essential, according to the recipe (it provides a more “sandy” consistency to the dough).

They are mostly gone by the end of the day. We don’t make dozens and dozens, more like a few dozen. And I do save some for my mom and dad to enjoy, but I suspect they can tell the difference between our cookies and the ones from days gone by. But they never complain. (On occasion, I have tried to burn a few just for my dad. My dad likes his sweet potatoes cooked in an electric skillet and burned to a crisp, too.)

I’ve always thought of sand tarts as part of my Pennsylvania Dutch, Lancaster County heritage, but I’m fairly sure they originated elsewhere (even the librarian in me couldn’t bring myself to research the history of sand tarts for this blog post). I know there must be many recipes out there, too. (I have a friend who has veganized his family recipe.) But the best thing about making sand tarts is that it is an event–an undertaking worth some time and effort (just not the amount of time and effort required to produce the paper-thin, browned-to-a-crisp version).

I think this year we will return to the tradition of red and green sugar only (maybe eliminate the dog, too). We can’t duplicate the measure of the cookie itself, but we can create the best imitation possible. Which reminds me…

I never, ever appreciated sand tarts as a kid. I never appreciated the time and effort (and patience!) that went into making them the way that my mom and grandmother made them. I preferred the thick, chewy sugar cakes and the chocolate chip cookies they made closer to Christmas over those in the tin that lasted for weeks without ever getting stale.

Now I can’t imagine Christmas without them.