Computers, I Know

A patron had been seated at a public computer for several minutes when I saw him get up and reach around to fiddle with the cables at the back.

Me: “Excuse me, is there a problem with this computer?”

Patron: “Oh, yeah, but I know computers. I fixed it.”

Me: “Okay. In the future, please get one of us if there’s a problem with the cables.”

Patron: “It’s fine. I know computers. I took care of it. See, this website said there was a problem with a plugin, so I fixed the plugs.”

heysmithers said:

Hi Smart Girls! I just wanted to let you know that in my college English course we're instructed to write an informative essay on any topic of our choosing and I am going to write mine about programs/groups/organizations that encourage young girls to achieve their personal, professional, and creative goals. I obviously think that's so very important, and I will be focusing on Smart Girls at the Party because I love it so much (and wish it were around when I was younger)!

That sounds like a great paper!

Be sure to talk to your librarian if you need help finding sources, or citing, or with anything else :)

We’re excited for your final product!!

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Star Wars? Fake!

A young boy approached the front desk. He comes into the library regularly and is ahead of his age in maturity. He wanted to know where he could find Star Wars books. We have quite a few fiction but also non-fiction Star Wars books. The non-fiction can be about the history and making of Star Wars.

Me: “Are you interested in fiction or non-fiction?”

Boy [long pause, with serious expression]: ”You do realize that Star Wars is fake right?”

I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.

The biggest issue with equating the library with a Netflix for books is that it sends a false message that libraries are worth little more than $8 or $12 or $20 a month. That the services offered in libraries are little more than options to which people can subscribe, rather than actual services anyone can utilize at any time.

When the library is made to be seen as a business, rather than the heart of a community or a fundamental service made possible through citizen-approved tax dollars, it makes the library expendable. That expendability then moves down the chain: staff salaries get cut, then staff withers, then more programs and projects that benefit the community — books and movies and CDs and magazines and newspapers and wifi and computer access and database subscriptions and programs for all shapes, colors, and sizes of people — disappear, too. It detracts from the unique aspects that make a library what it is: a place for all, rather than a place for some.

Libraries reach out where Netflix reaches in.

Up, Listen

This morning I was sitting at the public service desk and I recognized an older gentleman as an occasional patron.

Man [friendly]: “Good Morning!”

Me: “Hello!  How can I help you today?”  

Instantly his eyes welled with tears.

Man: “You can’t help me. No one can. I’ve just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. I just need someone to talk to.”  

So I listened. We talked about his life, the diagnosis, and the power of a positive attitude, and then we switched the topic to Harlan Coben vs. Vince Flynn. After he left, I cried.

I hope I helped him.

What I learned about job hunting after it became imperative that I find a new job.

Some of you might know that I moved to San Francisco recently. Two days ago, really. My lease in Chicago was ending at the end of August so in early July I had to decide whether good stuff in my personal life warranted big professional risk, i.e. unemployment. I decided it did, and submitted my resignation without my next job lined up. I had about 7-8 applications out at the time and I was in early interview stages for a few. By the  time I accepted the position I’ll be starting September 8 (more details on that forthcoming!), I had heard back and interviewed with all but one of the positions I applied for—I also received two offers. As tempted as I was to chalk up this job hunting success to “omg this totally means I was supposed to move to SF and cohabitate and be wildly happy 4evr and evr” (I DO feel this way, too), it was also very clearly the result of much job search practice and a few key maneuvers I’ll detail here. 

1) Do you want a (new) job in 2-3 years? Start applying and interviewing now. Practice, practice, practice. Practice writing letters, updating your resume, fussing around with your references, puzzling over job requirements. I’ve been applying to jobs here and there for almost the past two years. There was never a sense of urgency, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to push through this process without all that practice behind me. Most important of all, practice interviewing. Especially the damned phone interview. I firmly believe I couldn’t competently pass an initial phone interview until my 5th try. It’s hard. Bring three solid stories (a time you led a project/change, a time you failed, a time you worked with a team) and three solid questions to every interview. Know your shit—about them and about yourself. 

2) I DON’T CARE HOW TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT IT YOU ARE, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE COVER LETTER. UNLESS YOUR PARENT OR GUARDIAN OR OTHER PAL PRONE TO NEPOTISM RUNS THE LIBRARY YOU’RE APPLYING TO YOU BETTER HAVE THE BEST DAMN COVER LETTER EVER FOR EVERY. SINGLE. JOB YOU APPLY TO. FLATTER THEM. TELL THEM WHAT YOU’LL DO FOR THEM. DON’T TELL THEM WHAT YOUR RESUME ALREADY TELLS THEM YOU DID ONCE AT SOME OTHER JOB. TELL THEM WHY YOU’RE THE BEST PERSON TO WORK FOR THEM. FIND A FRIEND WHO WILL TEAR THAT SHIT UP AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND WTF A COVER LETTER IS ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. NO TYPOS. NO WHINING. WRITE THE BEST COVER LETTER EVER, EVERY TIME. YES THESE ALL CAPS INDICATE MY SHRILL HARPY TONE ON THE SUBJECT. 

3. Stalk down some one, anyone who can pass your materials along. This is no guarantee, but it’s better than a stick in the eye. Once again, tumblr got me a job. Through a URL/Tumblr friend, I was able to connect with a wonderful woman who works for my future employer. Every person I interviewed with (all 4 of them) noted the fact that my resume had been passed along by this woman. This woman who I have NEVER met. But, as we have a mutual friend thanks to the Internet, good human nature and trust prevailed, and I had an edge on other candidates. Connections matter, from URL to IRL. If you’re in the hunt, remember this at all time. Yes, LinkedIn DOES come in handy. It’s a way to share/see connections and keep control of your professional profile. Don’t neglect or delete it—you could be one connection away from a dream job. 

4) If you find yourself needing advice, or trying to decide between more than one offer, seek counsel from someone who could be your boss in your NEXT next job. Yes, I was lucky enough to have two offers in my lap. And I was badly torn between the two. They were wildly different in almost every aspect, but both appealed to different areas of my strengths and potential (there’s a lot to be said for taking the job that will develop your potential, btw). I asked everyone I trusted, personally and professionally, for advice. I was up at night worrying. One person I asked, which gave me a really unique perspective on my ‘problem,’ was a librarian in a leadership position in a library I would love to work for one day. I asked of the two jobs, which would set me up in the best position to transition into the NEXT job I think I would like to have. I got the answer I suspected, but it was reassuring to get the opinion nonetheless. In the end, the answer came to me after some more self-examination and salary negotiation—but the advice stuck with me throughout the process. Oh and by the way we can repeat this all day and it still should be said again: humans are nice and helpful and you CAN reach out to them whether or not you’ve met in real life. Own your career and your path and ask questions. Someone is likely to help. 

If you have any more questions for me on the process, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help, too. I’m so excited to begin my next professional adventure and I can’t wait to bring you all along.Your support has been immeasurable. Tumblr comes through again and again. All my thanks. 

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