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!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Serious Reading

In a few weeks I'll be giving a workshop at the Connecticut State Library (Middletown Service Center) on Public Speaking for Librarians.

One may think that Catalogers (who famously sit in a back room and do not interact with The Public) don't need to spend time developing such a skill. In my opinion, ALL librarians - in fact, ALL people - need good public speaking skills. It's a requirement for a professional image and librarians always need a boost in that area.

Public Speaking has been a vital part of my career and I want to encourage any librarian (or anyone else) to become more comfortable giving presentations to groups of people.

Here's what good Public Speaking skills can do for you:
1. Develop self-confidence
2. Project a professional image
3. Help communicate more clearly
4. Build a reputation
5. Show you care about an issue

The books I've been reading (and re-reading) in preparation are

Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie. This is a classic and one I always recommend. Fortunately it's been revised (the previous title was Public Speaking: a Practical Course for Business Men).

The Elements of Speechwriting and Public Speaking by Jeff Scott Cook. I really like the way this book is structured. It spends a lot of time talking about preparation before moving on to presentation and I've structured my workshop similarly.

TED Talks: the Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson. This is a new book for me and I have mixed feelings about it. It began rather slowly and I considered not continuing with it. Nevertheless, I persisted and it did get better, more interesting and I found some useful information that was not included in the other books. Then, it began to bog down; I thought there were too many examples and not much difference among them. Again, I considered not continuing with it. But the last couple of chapters were the best and were really worth reading.

Recommended in the book is a talk by Julian Treasure called "How to Speak so That People Want to Listen". It is really worth viewing and I'm considering showing it to the workshop participants.

While the average librarian my not ever make it to a TED conference, anyone can attend a Toastmasters meeting. I was a member for several years and Toastmasters definitely helped me improve my Public Speaking skills even though I was pretty well experienced by then. I think the best thing about Toastmasters (like TED) is that there are people with lots of different backgrounds, not just librarians.

The "Public Speaking" I usually do involves presentations of technical information to catalogers. Toastmasters provided me with an opportunity to broaden my skills by giving speeches on a variety of topics and in a variety of styles.

I began attending meetings when I was "between jobs" hoping to make contacts and perhaps launch a somewhat different career. That didn't quite happen, but it did give me another workshop to add to my repertoire.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

July 1 and the word is SMOOTH

It feels (as it does every year) that summer is whizzing by. There are so many things M. and I want to do while the weather is warm; and there are other things I want to do while the weather is warm.

There is great theater around here during the summer. We're planning to see The Foreigner at New Century Theater; Hamlet and then Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at Hampshire Shakespeare Company; and Midsummer Night's Dream and Cymbeline at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox.

We want to invite some friends for dinner and also to have a big party, or maybe two. We have a beautiful yard with a pond and patios and decks that we love to share. It's a great place to mingle or just sit peacefully. The pond has about 19 fish (it's hard to count them, they don't stay still for long) and I saw a turtle a couple of days ago. There are lots of frogs, too.

I want to take a trip to the Berkshires (in addition to Lenox) to the Clark Art Institute and MassMoCA. I have a gift certificate to the latter.

During June, I took a Spanish class at the International Language Institute. Even though I've taken Spanish before, I signed up for the beginner's class. My Spanish is very rusty and I didn't want to feel overwhelmed in a more advanced class. The other people in my class (there were 4 others) also had some Spanish, so we were pretty much even. The teacher was great. She may be one of the best teachers I have ever had EVER. She was very young, but experienced and, obviously, very talented.

As someone who has taught a variety of subjects (including cataloging and exercise), I know that the first few times can be rough, no matter how well you are prepared. Smooth is the best way to describe her. She transitioned smoothly from one topic to another. She introduced new topics smoothly. On the rare occasion she did not know a word, she smoothly looked it up on her laptop. She was fun and friendly and the class was fun and friendly. We talked a lot (the whole point of learning a new language) and she was very fun and friendly  - and yes smooth - as she corrected our pronunciation or verb endings.

Because of so many other things going on during July and August, I am not going to register for Spanish, but I am looking forward to another class in the fall. While I'm looking forward to taking Spanish again, I hope fall does not come soon.

Friday, June 16, 2017

It's June again!

Finally! Until last week, the weather was mostly cold and rainy, but then there was the heat wave and the last couple of days have been clear, dry, and refreshing.

Well, this is New England - noted for its variety of weather. Isn't that why we live here? So we won't be bored with beautiful sunny weather day after day?

June is the month of anniversaries: M and I were married 6 years ago, began living together 26 years ago, had our first date 28 years ago. It's been an adventure living with M. and sometimes I wonder how I got myself into this situation. But then I remember it's because I wanted some variety in my life and I need help with that. If it were up to me, I'd have nothing but smooth routines - a little like that perpetually sunny weather described above.

June is the month of my birthday. This is a big one - another decade. Fortunately, I'm not nearly as upset about turning 70 as I was when I turned 60. I have lots of positive role models much older than I: most of the people in my exercise class and also M. I think he keeps me young.

And June is when I was laid off from my job in 2010. Shortly after that, I began this blog as I was looking for another job and, as it says in the tag line, maybe another career. I've found both.

Fortunately (wow, that's the second time I've used that word in this post), I'm old enough to collect Social Security and can afford to work only part-time. After many, many different part-time jobs during these 7 years, I've settled into being the MassCat Cataloger - probably the most perfect job for me I could imagine. The work can be tedious, but it's only part-time. I might go crazy if I had to do it 40 hours each week; I can manage 18 hours.

And then there's my exercise class. True, I don't get paid to lead it, but if I were the entrepreneurial type (which I'm not), I could develop those skills into something to produce income. I do get several free meals each year from the appreciative organizations for whom I volunteer.

Sounds as if things are pretty sunny after all.