An Evening with the History Nerds

Civil War BooksFriends of the Glenview Library hosted a program last night with John Alexander, a Civil War scholar who runs a used bookstore downstate with his lovely wife.  I found him particularly charming because he said several times that his interest was not necessarily in the military, so when he was doing the Q&A and someone asked about the action he would say something like, “Well, my military friends would tell you that the West had the A team in the field.”

He argued that Senator Douglas has been made to look like a villain because “every hero needs a villain”.  But in fact, Douglas totally had Lincoln’s back after the election was over and he made sure to bring the unionist democrats with him.  Mr. Alexander maintained that the election of 1860 killed Douglas and I rather believe it.

Another intriguing line of thought was that it has been popular to argue that Grant was the worst president ever, but he thinks the tide is going to turn and History will declare that he wasn’t so bad after all.  He didn’t have time to elaborate  – he literally had to talk over the “library is closing” announcements.

So.  Next time you are downstate, please look up Books on the Square in Virden, IL.  It’s for history nerds.

Culling the Library

I have often said that my To Be Read book pile is an overflowing seven shelf book case.  So overflowing that I can’t actually see all of the books that are on it and once or twice a year, I buy a book that I already have.  Thursday night, at the library Used Books Store, I thought I might have done that.

Around that time, my friend Holly forwarded an email that she received regarding the Evanston Library having a used book sale.   I’ve been avoiding these since starting the “stop buying fiction” experiment.  But this one advertised that it had leftover stock from Bookman’s Alley, a fantastic used book store that closed last year.  So we went.

I had two rules:

  1. Only as many books as you can carry in your arms all at once (I use this in every bookstore and book sale) and;
  2. Do not buy anything that is likely to show up in my own library’s Used Book Store any time soon.

I bought one book for a friend of my mother’s who is ill and five books for me:

Evanston Library Book Sale Take


Over lunch after the sale, Holly and I were lamenting how much stuff we have and our terribly inefficient use of space and I knew that I was going to have to suck it up and cull more books.  I have culled books before.  Generally, they have been books I didn’t like.  A year or so ago I gained nearly a whole shelf just by pulling old biographies of Kennedys.  When I got home, I took a hard look and targeted three things:

  1. Mass market paperbacks.  Seriously, if the book is so great, I should have found a better copy by now.  (In some cases, I had.)
  2. Popular fiction.
  3. Biographies and memoirs.

That last one was hard.  I love a good memoir and it always seems to me that any non-fiction has some value under the heading of For Future Reference.  But really, reference?  That’s what Google is for.  And it isn’t like one is likely to read a memoir twice.  In about an hour, I had compiled this:


Most of my Anne Rice, which were hardcovers.  The Hannibal Lecter books.  Most of the V books.  And all but one of the old V.C. Andrews books. (My Sweet Audrina had to stay, though I couldn’t tell you why.)  I did not touch my history shelves or any classics – except for Sister Carrie which I am. never. going to read – and I barely pulled anything from what might be called “literary fiction”.

I took these eight bags and one box straight to the library Used Book Store where my friend Sarah was already overwhelmed with the books of other people that had been Spring cleaning and making donations.  So I said that I would put in an hour with her and see if we could get through them – at least pricing and perhaps shelving.  And so we did.

When I came home and shuffled things around I found that I had a tiny bit more space on several shelves, and I had this:


Three Shelves


Three empty shelves!  Which I promptly filled with the random, overflow, To Be Read piles:


Three Shelves Nearly Full Again


All that work and you can hardly tell that I did anything.

I’m going to go read now.

2012 Year in Review

In the past year, I read lots of books, did lots of volunteering, adopted two pets and joined a  gym.  I also had a really good year at work.  Outside of the office, here is how I want to step it up:


I have passed 60 books two years in a row, so I think I will make that the new benchmark.  60 Book Challenge!  But the real goal is one I discussed with my friend Nyla last night.  My TBR pile is out of control.  I am not going to try to make myself read certain types of books or read only things that I already have.  But I am going to make a concerted effort to buy fewer books.  A serious thing since I still volunteer at a used book store.  But I have made some progress in the last couple of months by recognizing that the popular mysteries are not likely re-reads, so I checked them out from the library.    Also, Christmas netted me an ipad mini and the library app is already more appealing to me that paying $10 from a retailer for a download.


Doing pro bono work through Taproot has been a fabulous experience, but it takes an awful lot of time.  While my employer has been very supportive in allowing me work-time to pursue it, I just don’t think I can fit it in to my schedule.

I continue to volunteer with a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue, through weekly work onsite (feeding, cleaning, interacting with the birds) as well as maintaining the Facebook page.  I expect to be helping out with the main website next year, also.

I have also picked up responsibility for the Facebook page of my chapter of Project Linus.  The Facebook audience isn’t very big compared to the number of active participants in the chapter, but it is slowly growing and I am working on sharing more stuff from other groups to differentiate a bit from the main website.  Also, I attended most of the Saturday events, most of the Starbucks gatherings and made 91 blankets this year.  I expect to keep it up.

With the library, also, I am maintaining my once a week onsite work.  We have settled into a much more consistent routine in the past year and our sales have improved tremendously in the new building.  Online sales are still troublesome, but I don’t know what the answer is there.  I continue to hope for better communication between volunteers.

Finally, Fiona and I had a great time at the five charity dog walks that we did.  I expect to attend at least as many next year.

Health and Wellness

I joined my local YMCA a couple of months ago and have tried out different classes.  Oh, how awesome it would be if I didn’t have to work during the day.  But I am pursuing yoga and a couple of other things during the week.  The goal, which will start after I return from our annual meeting in Nashville, is to complete the Marython.  It is a 26-week program developed by one of the leaders at Project Linus designed to help people get moving.  Her name is Mary.  A full Marython is 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week for 26 of the 52 weeks in 2013.  I imagine that for 26 weeks out of the year, (particularly with the flexibility of the rules) I can manage that, but because I am lazy about tracking things, I will primarily be counting things I do at the actual gym and will commit to the Half Marython.  Three days a week for at least 26 weeks out of the year.

The Pets

We adopted Sigmund the Grey in February and Fiona the Border Collie in March.   In 100 ways Fiona is a great dog, but her herding instincts are unbelievable and we are not able to have her on the same floor of my house when the birds are out of their cages.  I expect to be contacting the trainer sometime soon.  Also, the tummy troubles continue for both dogs.  On Boxing Day, I took a stool sample to the vet out of sheer frustration and found that Gibbs has parasites again (or still).  So both dogs are on the serious meds (again).  And basically, all of the data I had about different diets we had tried is totally invalid.  I must get this under control because it is making me insane.

That ought to do it.  Happy New Year!

One More Thing to Love about My Library

Reprinted from my blog on the Glenview Patch:

I love to read.  My average is at least one book per week, and has been for many years.  But when I started making blankets with our local chapter of Project Linus, it really cut into my reading time.   So I went to the Glenview Public Library and took a look in the audio section.  There were plenty of books from my “to be read” pile (OK, it is a bookcase.  An overflowing bookcase.  With piles in other rooms.) to be found.  I began checking them out and was back “on pace” in no time.

In an attempt to control the size of the “to be read” pile (“TBR” to the bookworms), I generally borrow audio books from the library that I already have in some other form at home.

Eventually, I started to run out of audio books to borrow from Glenview.  Which is not to criticize the size of the collection, I really am trying to clear out the TBR pile and sticking to that list of books.  So I started checking them out from Northbrook’s library.  It felt like cheating on Glenview, but you gotta love the reciprocity.  The Glenview Library’s website even has the online record of audio books I have checked out from Northbrook, so I receive the same reminder e-mail when they are due.

One day, when I went online to renew a book, I saw a link that says, “Suggest an item for the Library to purchase.”

Whoa.  I can ask the Library to buy a book just so I can borrow it?!  Sign me up.

I blindly looked at my bookcase and submitted some titles, requesting audio format.  Within a couple of days, I received an e-mail from a librarian saying that none of my requests were available in CD audio, but a neighboring library had one of them in cassette form.  She asked if she could reserve it for me.  I wasn’t interested, but really happy that the response was so quick and thorough.

I tried again, this time checking to see if a CD audio version existed before putting in the request.  (Note:  I realize that is not the all-knowing resource, but it is easy and helped me to refine my request list a bit.)   This time, it took a bit longer for a response.  But when it came:

Three of the four books I named are being ordered!

The website is careful to remind us that not every request can be honored.  As in my case, sometimes things just aren’t available.  And of course, we know there is a limited budget.  But this just made my day.

I hit “Reply” and told the librarian so.

Day 5

I mentioned that I had five volunteer gigs over five days.  Here is how it went:

Day 1 – The Refuge

I arrived after work for my regular night feeding, cleaning and medicating (if necessary) the resident parrots.  I found that the daily work was already finished, and our directors were introducing a previous adopter to another bird.  It was an African Grey parrot named Sasha.  She is relatively new (it looks like her profile isn’t even on the website yet), but pretty well socialized.  However, she plucks her feathers to the point of mutilation and needs to wear a collar.

It looked like it was going well  The bonus: this is the family that had adopted Vito, brother of my recently addition, Sigmund.  They brought him for a visit.  It is funny with birds coming from the same home – sometimes they sound exactly alike and sometimes they really do their own thing.

After chatting awhile about the birds, I headed home to give some “out time” to my own before heading over to Starbucks.

Day 1 – Project Linus

I was running early, but wasn’t even the first one there.  I brought my current project, some new fleece (to exchange for prepared fleece) and seven completed blankets.  These nights at Starbucks started as a “stitch and bitch” but with the growth of the group, and the fleece exchange, and the tagging and bagging we have made these nights really productive.

I was sitting with Judi, one of the chapter coordinators and the topic was fleece blankets.  She said that about 75% of the blankets donated these days are fleece.  The other 25% are knitted, fully-crocheted or quilted.  “Of course they are,” I said.  “I can complete one crocheted fleece blanket during one average basketball game.”  Then Karen said, “And it takes an entire season to complete a fully crocheted blanket.”  So we determined that we are feeling more accomplished and reaching more children this way.

Note:  I have completed two fleece blankets since Wednesday.

Day 2 – Library

Thursday was my regular night at the Library.  Turns out there was a board meeting that night, so I had several visitors on top of being rather busy with regular patrons.

One lady was looking around for an hour and a half.  Very unusual.  She was in several different aisles and sat down at the back table to peruse them more than once.  When she came to purchase a few, she explained that she had seen one of the 9/11 conspiracy documentaries the week before and it made her crazy.  She was reading everything she could get her hands on to determine the truth for herself, and she seemed incredibly agitated.

I remember seeing a piece where the scientists were saying there is no physical way the towers could have fallen the way they had purely from the planes hitting at those particular times and places.  The suggestion was that the buildings were rigged with some other explosive or accelerant.  I remember thinking that I should read more about it, too.  Then decided that if I did, I would make myself crazy.

I am not proud of this.

Day 3 – Nothing Scheduled

But I started and finished a Project Linus fleece blanket.

Day 4 – Library

We had a meeting of the Used Book Store’s steering committee.  We meet two or three times a year to review numbers, recall incidents and plan for the next few months. Yesterday, we reviewed numbers like: we earned something like $10,000 each year in the old building.  In the new building, with our new room, we earned something like $30,000 in 2011.

Then we started some good debating over use of time and space and resources (financial and volunteer).  I played my “I feel strongly about this” card on getting rid of all the VHS tapes.  They are taking up too much space that we need for actual books.  I think we agreed to pare it way down.

Day 5 – Library

Today I am heading back over to staff the store for the afternoon.  The lady that had been working Sundays is in declining health and wanting to retire, but didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch.  I said that I would take one every once in awhile, as long as it wasn’t football season.  Back in the old building, Sundays were generally quiet and today, I would really like to read!  Our director noted that if every volunteer took one, we would each work one Sunday every year and a half.

Somehow, I doubt that is going to happen.

I have had several discussions recently over the different reasons why people volunteer and what they (hope to) get out of it.  Some actively want to make a difference.  Some have social reasons.  Some are passionate about a particular cause.  Some just want to get out of the house.   The moral of the story is there are opportunities out there for everyone to be involved.  Please go out and find one.

Back to Juggling

I’ve been thinking lately about revamping the blog.  It was created, you might remember, early in my graduate program as a class assignment.  I was rather worried about how I was going to get it all done and still manage to be an active volunteer.

Then I finished school, folded in the 50 Book Challenge stuff I’d been doing on LiveJournal and talked a lot about traveling for work and getting my finances together.

Not the theme of the blog.  Last night, though, I had a moment.

Sigmund, my Foster Grey, has spent a few days with another volunteer (more on that later).  It didn’t go very well and she and I agreed that she would bring him back to my house in the morning.  After we hung up, Kay said:

“Why don’t you just go get him now.  It’s still early.”

My answer was:

“Because I tomorrow night, I am going to the Refuge to pick up Joker.  Wednesday, I am going to the Refuge for my regular night.  Thursday, I am going to the close down the Refuge and go to the Library.  I have two meetings on Saturday and am leaving town on Sunday.  I would like to just sit here. “

And make a Project Linus blanket, but whatever.

But that is when it hit me – I have a lot of balls in the air right now.   And I am managing them.  But seriously, there is nothing like a puppy to make you look at everything and feel tired.

Online Ordering at the Library

My favorite thing about my library’s website is the notification e-mails when something is due. The e-mail has a link that I can click to renew it right away. This has rescued me several times when I was in the middle of an audio book, and several more times when I was on the road.

I love the Internet.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about online ordering at the Chicago Public Library. Apparently, it has grown so popular that the waiting lists have gone crazy:

“”It was an expected shock,” said Lednicer of the surge in hold requests with the advent of online ordering. She notes that 40,000 holds were placed online in the first month of the new system three years ago. These days, as many as 120,000 items are placed on hold each month, 95 percent of which are done via computer.”

The Trib calls CPL a victim of its own success.

Personally, I don’t use online ordering for library books. I like to wander the stacks. But I am glad to see other patrons embracing the technology. And borrowing books!