F*ck the Books

Now that I have your attention with my intentionally confrontational, click-baity post title…

Last month (May 2020), my library reopened our book returns in preparation for limited reintroduction of material circulation in our community. The course of the pandemic in our service area was on a trend that indicated it would be safe to do so. The best data we have suggests we need to let returned materials sit for 72 hours before processing them back into the collection, onto the shelves, and into patrons’ hands.

Which is why a few of our branches have giant piles of books dumped on the floor:

Pile of books on a library floor

(From this news item: “Johnson County libraries busy after restarting dropoffs, holds and pickups,” Carey Wickersham. Fox 4, Nexstar Media Group, Inc. https://fox4kc.com/tracking-coronavirus/johnson-county-libraries-busy-after-restarting-dropoffs-holds-and-pickups/. Accessed June 18, 2020.)

Images like this one were presented in the media as my library reopened our book returns. It caused a minor furor online: people were offended we would treat books so callously. There were outraged comments on Twitter. Even the article this image is taken from can’t seem to avoid a slightly judgmental tone:

Continue reading “F*ck the Books”

On Furloughing Staff: A Story of Changing My Mind

The opinions and positions expressed on this blog are always my own and should never be assumed to express the opinions or positions of my employer nor any other party other than myself.

I want to talk about something that happened where I work and how it changed my perspective. I want to talk about some lessons learned.

My employer, the Johnson County Library in Johnson County, Kansas, has furloughed 58% of our staff. We did this as part of a wider furlough strategy undertaken by the Johnson County Government.

I support this course of action. I think this was the right decision both for our staff and for the library as an organization. No one has lost their jobs. Everyone remains employed and retains their health insurance and other benefits. All furloughed staff are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Many of you read and responded positively to a tweet thread I posted last month near the beginning of this pandemic, in which I very strongly expressed my opposition to any form of unpaid leave or layoffs for staff. The fact that I now support furloughing JCL staff probably screams of hypocrisy.

I want to explain why I changed my mind. For all my grandstanding on principle and my moral certainty, this is a complex situation which makes practical action messier than I want to admit. I’m a big fan of lessons learned and I learned some difficult ones through this.

Continue reading “On Furloughing Staff: A Story of Changing My Mind”

Reader Burnout

I want to talk about reader burnout. I think this is something a lot of readers deal with but I find that being a librarian makes it worse.

I’m a voracious reader. I always have been. It’s a core pillar of my self-identity.

But there are times when I just don’t want to read, sometimes for few days and sometimes for couple weeks or more. I feel guilty about this. Readers read, right? Reading is a good thing and we should all do more of it, right?

I didn’t used to feel this way. I used to read as much as I wanted, when I wanted. And that was that. It was all good.

Some of this sense of guilt started when I became a librarian. As a librarian, I feel a professional obligation to read as widely as I can. It’s part of my job to understand the reading landscape so I can help guide patrons through it.

A lot of this pressure to read more started when I began tracking my annual reading a few years ago. Tracking reading is something a lot of librarians do. I hadn’t ever thought to do it until I saw how popular it is on library Twitter and the librarian blogosphere. For many people, it’s a useful thing.

For me, it turned reading into a focus on quantity rather than quality. Continue reading “Reader Burnout”

On Work and Taking Time Off

I recently added the following statement to the “Experience” section on my About Me page:

In 2006-7, I took seven months off and didn’t work. It’s the second best thing I ever did for myself.

And this to the “Work History” section on my Experience page, sandwiched between two other jobs:

I took time off from October 2006 through April 2007.

It might seem weird to brag about not working for seven months when talking about my work history and experience, but I put a great deal of thought and planning into it. It was very good for me personally and for my career. It’s an important part of my history.

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On Food and Headaches

I started getting headaches in my mid-20s. I threw out my back at work one day and never did anything to fix it—I relied on my standard “ignore it and it’ll go away” strategy. This caused entrenched muscle imbalances, which led to steadily mounting tension along the length of my spine, which eventually came to rest in my neck and shoulders.

I started getting tension headaches at the back of my head, where my spine connects to my skull. These headaches are a dull throb on one side or the other, sometimes nothing much, sometimes bad enough to make me sweaty and nauseous and shaky. I always knew when one was coming on because it would be preceded by a few hours of mounting tension in my back and shoulders. I always knew when one would be really bad because my neck would start cracking every time I moved my head.

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The Pernicious Appeal of Wanting to Quit

This post is part of my effort to tell the story of my recent health journey.

In the interest of full disclosure, getting myself back to health wasn’t as straightforward or as easy as my last posts make it sound. I faced crises on the path—several, actually, at several points in the process. Maybe it would help to share one of those crises here.

The following is something I wrote two-and-half years ago, about a month after I’d started going to the gym on a regular basis. I’d spent the previous few years slowly reversing my inertia of inactivity and had finally reached a point that going to the gym for more serious exercise was something I genuinely wanted to do.

Even then, even with all my new motivation to get healthy, I still found myself close to giving up…

Continue reading “The Pernicious Appeal of Wanting to Quit”

Your Weight Isn’t Your Health

This post is part of my effort to tell the story of my recent health journey.

But what if nothing much changes in your life to make you care about improving your health?

You could just keep on as you are—which means that, eventually, you could end up with some kind of health scare. Better if it never gets that far.

I think there’s a way to build up to caring about your health without a scare and without major life changes—much like how I took many small steps to slowly change my inertia of inactivity, you can generate a momentum of caring. It starts with a necessary first step:

Stop making weight the goal.

Continue reading “Your Weight Isn’t Your Health”

It’s Not Just About the Obstacles

This post is part of my effort to tell the story of my recent health journey.

Getting rid of some of the obstacles that built up and stopped me from committing to exercise was an essential part of my path to better health, but it wasn’t the only factor. I need to talk about the elephant in the room:

Back in my late 20s and early 30s, when I was overweight and sedentary, my health simply didn’t matter all that much to me. I didn’t care about it.

It wasn’t just the cascade of obstacles that stopped me, it was the fact that getting healthier wasn’t important enough to me to bother overcoming them.

Continue reading “It’s Not Just About the Obstacles”

It Really Is the Little Things that Matter

This post is part of my effort to tell the story of my recent health journey.

I was heading up the stairs of the parking garage as I left work the other day. I prefer to take the stairs rather than ride the elevator, and I usually take the stairs two-at-a-time, not running up them but pretty fast. A coworker saw me and asked why I take the stairs that way. I responded that it’s an easy way for me to get a little bit of extra exercise into my day. They looked somewhat skeptical of this justification.

They’re right to be skeptical of that reasoning. In the grand scheme of things, assessed in terms of exercise, a couple flights of stairs taken two-at-a-time at a good clip doesn’t really accomplish much of anything. It doesn’t elevate my heart rate for more than a minute or so, it doesn’t burn that many extra calories, etc.

And yet, I’m convinced that taking stairs this way—and eschewing elevators and escalators when possible—makes all the difference in the world when it comes to my health and well-being.

Continue reading “It Really Is the Little Things that Matter”

How Libraries & Librarians Can Promote Community Health

This is the first post in my effort to tell the story of my recent health journey.

April Roy is the branch manager at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. April is a 2015 winner of the “I Love My Librarian Award” from the American Library Association in recognition for her work at Bluford.

You can read an article about her work here:

KC librarian honored for transforming branch, community
by Donna Pitman (KMBC, January 20, 2016)

April and her staff are amazing librarians and they’ve done incredible things for their neighborhood. I’m exceedingly proud to be a part of the same library system.

Continue reading “How Libraries & Librarians Can Promote Community Health”