Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

Even though the subtitle of this book by Margareta Magnusson is How to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter, I would not call it a guide book to de-cluttering.

It is really a 117 page essay on one woman's experiences, thoughts and reflections on cleaning out the home of someone who has recently died. It is very personal and somewhat self-indulgent, but then, so is this blog.

Ms Magnusson who describes herself as someone "aged between eighty and one hundred" was responsible for cleaning out the home of her deceased mother-in-law. After her husband died, she was faced with the same situation. Now, she is in the process of what might be called "pre-death cleaning" so that her children are not burdened with the task. She does specify that "death cleaning" also happens in anticipation as well as after the fact.

I guess I would describe this book as a pleasant pep talk for shedding unnecessary belongings and living a simpler life, not only for oneself, but for those who follow.

An update on work: For the last few days I've been eliminating duplicates of books that begin with the word "little". There are Lots of Littles. I originally thought of using that phrase as this title of the post, and there were other variations (e.g. A Little Can Be A Lot).

Finally, after 5 1/2 years of merging duplicates, I'm beginning to see the results of my searching methods. Since I usually pull up many records with a general search and hunt for anything that may need fixing, I've already merged some records in the last half of the alphabet.

While there are lots of books beginning with the word "little" I'm going through the list pretty quickly. Who knows? I may actually finish the list - all the way to the letter Z - before I die! Then I'll have more time to death clean at home.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Last Time I Saw B.

Everyone knew B. He was a celebrity during the time I worked at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). He was one of the highest grossing sales reps, though he was rather unorthodox and nontraditional as sales reps go.

We began hanging together at one of the national sales meetings and kept in touch via phone and mail. In 1982, I wanted to make a road trip to visit friends who had moved away from Massachusetts. I outlined my route, then contacted B and asked if he wanted to do any part of it with me.

After I spent a couple of days in New Jersey and a couple of days in Indiana, B and I met in Denver. We visited my friend, visited some of his friends, camped out near Aspen, and generally had a great time touring around Colorado. Then I headed for Missouri followed by Buffalo, NY.

A couple of years later, I got tired of being a publisher's sales rep and went back to being a librarian. In 1986, I attended the American Library Association conference in NYC. I had told B when I'd be there and, sure enough, he showed up. We met with some of the H&R editors for drinks, went out to dinner and took in some of the sights.

The following year, the ALA conference was in San Francisco. I stayed on several more days to visit my younger sister, Wendy, who was living in Berkeley. B joined us for a short time and then headed off on other adventures.

The next summer, I was at the ALA conference in New Orleans. I had told B I'd be there. I expected to run into him on Bourbon Street, but I never saw him. For whatever reason, after that we lost touch. Those couple of days in Berkeley was the last time I saw B.

I've been thinking a lot about Wendy and remembering our time together in Berkeley; the only extended time she and I ever spent together as adults. Though it wasn't a long time, I got to know a lot about her. And having someone else there for part of that time, someone from outside the family, gave additional dimensions to my picture of her.

Thinking about Wendy and those days in Berkeley, I can't help but also remember it was the last time I saw B. I wondered what ever happened to him. Lo and behold, he's on Facebook and is now one of my Friends. He remembered Wendy and our time in Berkeley.

Wendy died last week. I'm very sad. Communicating with B, having him remember her, is a link to Wendy that I find comforting.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Life and Light

In my quest for eliminating all duplicate and inadequate records from the MassCat catalog, I am still slogging through the letter L. I just finished viewing possible duplicates of titles beginning with the word Life (and there are a lot of them) and have been working on titles beginning with the word Light (and there are a lot of THEM).

Usually, as I have said before, I do a keyword search on one or two words, sort by title and then begin looking at each record as I scroll down the list, 20 records to a page.

When I was working at the beginning of the list, I found lots of problems: duplicates, misspellings, weird characters that should be accent marks, records too skimpy to identify the specific edition. Now that I'm nearly half way through (L being the 12th letter of 26), most of the pages are error free, though I still find things that have snuck in (or maybe I missed).

And there are records being added constantly to the catalog, sometimes in error (there's already one there) or the record is CIP (Cataloging In Publication) and is missing some details such as page numbers.

As I continue through the alphabetical list of each search, though, the last half of the alphabet is in far worse shape. It's a good reminder how much is still left to do to clean up this catalog.

On a sad note, my youngest sister, Wendy, 55 years old, a life-long smoker and single mother of beautiful 18-year-old twin girls, was diagnosed in November of 2016 with lung cancer. She's been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and is now in a Hospice facility near her home in New Hampshire. I visited with her on Monday. Two of my other sisters and one brother were there and I got to spend time with them, also.

I barely know Wendy. She was only 3 when I left home to go to college, so we never really lived together. In 1987, she was living in Berkeley, California with her (now) ex-husband. I went to the ALA conference in San Francisco and stayed several extra days so that I could visit with her. It's the only extended time we ever spent together as adults and I very much enjoyed her company.

Life and Light. When Wendy is gone, she will take with her a Life and a Light.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Aches and Pains

As the years pass, I find my body is less agile and supple than it used to be. When I do injure myself, it takes longer for things to heal. Little (and not-so-little) aches and pains appear with more frequency.

Not so long ago, my knees decided they just didn't want to work very well. They stiffen up easily, and if I squat deeply, I just plain can't get up. So much for lifting and using my legs rather than my back. At one point, I was having trouble walking down stairs. I began to wonder if I needed new knees. Fortunately, my knees are feeling much better, though not as well as they did 10 years ago.

Now it's my shoulders that are making themselves known.

A few months ago, I slipped on a puddle of water on the floor and wrenched my left shoulder. I also bruised my tailbone. I went down so fast I don't even remember exactly what happened. My tailbone healed, but my shoulder still hurts when I move it in certain directions. About 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my right shoulder. It stiffens up quickly and I have to be careful how much stress I put on it. Because of the arthritis, I use a left-handed mouse.

Actually, there are many advantages to using a left-handed mouse. Since my dominant hand is my right hand, using my left hand helps to stimulate the right side of my brain. Everyone's brains need more stimulation. And I also find I can work faster on the keyboard: I can highlight a phrase with my left-handed mouse and delete it with my right hand. Or keep track of my statistics with the pencil in my right hand.

However, using the mouse was irritating my sore left shoulder, so I switched to a right-handed mouse. Now my right shoulder is irritated, too. I'm having trouble sleeping because I sleep on my side. Either side hurts a sore shoulder.

I'm doing two things that I think will alleviate the sore shoulder situation:
1. I've asked for a computer keyboard tray to lower my keyboard at work. I noticed that I need to hold my arms up to use the keyboard and mouse. The tray is supposed to arrive and be installed this week.
2. I've already installed the software program Stretchware. This is a program I used when I worked at CMRLS and loved. Other people do too. You can set it for every 30, 60, or 90 minutes (or anything in between) and when the bell (or harp tone or something else) sounds, a box with between 4 and 6 exercises appears. Each takes 8-15 seconds to do, a total of perhaps 2 minutes. Then you close the box and go back to work till you hear the sound again. Just that brief break, stretching my wrists or arms or shoulders makes a big difference.

If only I could get something like Stretchware for the rest of the challenges in my life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The (In)Accurate Catalog

I've been working on the MassCat catalog for about 5 years now. First 10 hours/week, then 15, and now 18. Admittedly, I don't spend all of those hours on clean-up. I import vendor-provided records, search for and import records from OCLC, and create new records. I so very much want this catalog to correctly reflect the holdings of the MassCat libraries.

Yesterday, I had a very discouraging day. I'm still on the letter "L" in my alphabetical list of possible duplicates, specifically the word "Library". For some reason, I found record after record of the electronic version of a book and the corresponding holdings appeared to be for a print version. I know from past experience that many of these libraries do not have e-books.

Most of the time, just to be sure, I send an email to the director and explain the situation. I than ask exactly what the library owns and, if necessary (which it usually is) I find the bib record for the print book and overlay the e-book record.

Yesterday, I found over 30 e-book records that I suspected were really print books. I stopped emailing after the first 10. I figure I'll find the others again. Or maybe the books will have been weeded (dream on!) and I can just delete the record.

Nothing makes me happier than finding some skimpy or weird record with no holdings. ZAP! It's gone! Never to sully my catalog again.

Other things I encountered recently: a book by Edgar Allen Poe, now correctly by Edgar Allan Poe and another by Willliam somebody. He now has only two els in his first name.

I know I'm making progress because I keep statistics. Every month I merge hundreds of duplicate records, replace hundreds of skimpy records, and edit hundreds of other records. That third category consists of filling in pages on CIP records, correcting funky characters that should be accent marks, and correcting spellings.

If only I could get library staff to actually LOOK at the record before they import it and make sure it actually matches what they have in hand, I'd be a VERY HAPPY CATALOGER.

The one positive of this situation is that I have lots of war stories to tell when I'm teaching cataloging workshops.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Where did the Summer go?

It's happened again. Summer has sped by in a matter of what seems like minutes.There were so many things I had hoped to do. Actually, I did many of them, but not all.

During June, I took a Spanish class. It met every Tuesday and Thursday evening for 1 1/2 hours. I would have like to continue during July and August, but M. and I had plans to go away and I would have missed 2 classes (1/4 of the course) each month.

In July, we had a mini-vacation in Lenox. We stayed at the Cornell Inn. It was lovely and the service was great as well as the complimentary breakfasts. Many of the rooms are named after First Ladies and we were in Grace (as in Coolidge). We saw A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by Shakespeare & Co. outdoors at The Mount. Outdoors is an ideal setting for this play as the performers run in and out of the trees.

The next day, we toured Chesterwood, the summer home of sculptor Daniel Chester French. Then headed back to see Cymbeline, Shakespeare's (probably) last play. While the story was confusing (so much going on) it was spectacularly performed.

August meant another mini-vacation, this time in NYC. August is a great time to go to the city since so many residents go away. Hotels have special (cheaper) rates and things are not nearly as crowded as they usually are. We saw Michael Moore's Broadway show The Terms of My Surrender. It was very much like watching a Michael Moore movie, but it was only him talking and a few simple sets that slid on and off the stage as needed.

Basically, it was a series of anecdotes, things he (and a few other people) has done throughout his life that have actually made a big difference. Like when at age 17 he entered an essay contest sponsored by the Elks. He was upset that the application form said "Caucasians only". This was 1971 and the Elks did not allow Blacks to join their fraternal organization. His essay pointed out the error of that policy and ultimately the Elks were integrated. Of course, when he told the story, it was a lot funnier.

The whole point of the show was that if a schmuck like him can make a difference by getting involved, anyone can. Throughout the 2 hours he periodically encouraged people to get involved, run for office, SPEAK UP.

Tomorrow is September 1. In a couple of weeks, M. and I are heading for Chicago to Expo Chicago at the Navy Pier. This is an international show of art and design and one of M.'s galleries will have a booth with pieces of his furniture. He has to be there to install a large cabinet and then we'll have a few days of "free play" before spending time at the show. It's been many years since I've been to Chicago and that was for a conference. I didn't really get to explore on my own.

I guess I can't complain about not doing things during the summer. But I do wish it were MUCH longer.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Continuing Education Conundrum

A few times during the year, I give continuing education workshops through the Massachusetts Library System or the Connecticut State Library. They are generally on cataloging topics such as RDA (the new cataloging standard), MARC (the encoding scheme used in libraries), the Dewey Decimal System (do I really need to explain it?), or similar topics about which practicing library staff need to know.

But I have mixed feelings about them.

The cons:
They are a lot of work. If the topic is new or has changed a lot since I last presented, it takes a lot of time and research to put together or revise a 3 hour program.

Presenting requires a lot of energy. If I'm giving 2 workshops on the same day or one that lasts all day, and especially if I have to drive any distance, I'm wiped out for the next couple of days.

The pros:
They pay well.

There is a lot of ego gratification.

During the workshop I'm energized and feel great. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.

For the last few years, I've been thinking that this will be my last year of Continuing Education; I'll take in my shingle and spend more time relaxing (or cleaning house). And then I get a call or an email asking if I can give a workshop on Copy Cataloging or another topic.

But something has changed.

Next week I'm scheduled to present a program on Public Speaking for Librarians and I'm REALLY PSYCHED! I'm actually enjoying reading (or re-reading) books on public speaking. And watching TED talks. And reviewing my notes. And making revisions. And thinking about examples. Maybe it's the topic.

All I know is that I'm really happy to be doing this. No mixed feelings whatsoever. And the euphoria is spilling into other aspects of my life. While I always like leading the senior exercise class, this morning I could hardly wait to get to the Town Hall and begin. I felt great! I'm still feeling great.

Watch out world. HERE I COME!