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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One more river to cross* : Slugging it out till 10/17

It's going to be a little dull around here for a few weeks. I'm about half-way through a new order for DVDs, and as usual for non-awards season, I have to dig hard to fill that $8200 order every other month.

I did have an interesting end to last Wednesday. Three reference questions in rapid succession.
(phone) What was the first circus to play the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1967?
(desk) Where do I get a referral for "Eyes for the Needy"?
(desk, ninety seconds to close) Can I get a copy of the life and casualty insurance exam textbook right now?

Never a dull moment.


*Daniel Moore, One More River to Cross, Canned Heat, 1973.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hurray for Hollywood*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, part xi

So I'm working on weeding the DVD collection, and I must say, it's a well-circulated, well-used collection. Very few items have a last circulation longer than three months, and most, especially in the feature film category, circulate at least monthly. One of the least popular is Lolita. I guess modern sensibilities look askance at stories like that. Do I discard? I did discard it.

I'm also making sure that each item is in its proper area. Again, thanks to our Library Assistants, most everything is, so I'm glad to move whatever isn't in the right place.  Tedious, repetitive work, but necessary to keep patrons happy.

Finally, I'd like to welcome readers from Cambodia (country #66 heard from), or should I say,


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

End Of The Line*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, part x

Just finished the Chinese collection.  More of the usual titles--50 Shades, Harry Potter, Grisham, Danielle Steele, and a lot of non-descript books with what seems to be the same pretty, young woman on the cover. Always straight, jet-black hair, high cheekbones, a positive, smiling face.

Final total 217 out, 552 in, 8 dropped out of system and need to be put back in. About a 39% rate for discard--not as bad as Italian, but not as good as Russian.

Two more cases of Vietnamese lit and I am DONE with weeding the World Language collection. I have a feeling that that last group is going to shrink, rapidly. Stay tuned.

Not to say that the collection doesn't need maintenance--a lot of the Chinese titles were classified as hardback when they were clearly trade paperback.  It would have bogged me down to have to change all those while weeding.

After I finish weeding I can check and discharge our new Arabic titles and make room for new Chinese titles coming our way.


*--The Traveling Wilburys, 1987.

UPDATE: Finished the last Vietnamese item at about 2:30.  Made the suggestion to my supervisor that we should find a new home for the roughly 300 V-language items, 78% of which hadn't circulated in over five years.  She concurred and is looking for a new home for them.

Ditto for the Chinese items we weeded.  The Chinese titles circulate far better than Vietnamese, but there's so many of them, including some listed in SIRSI (Integrated Library System) as "Chinese book". SMH.

Final totals for weeding World Language:
French 348 314 47.4
German 188 125 39.9
Italian 109 146 57.2
Spanish 636 412 39.3
Russian  512 87 14.5
Chinese 552 217 28.2
Japanese 1 0 n/a*
Vietnamese 64 223 77.7
Grand totals 2410 1524 38.7
*stray Japanese title, had fallen out of system.

EPILOGUE: There's still some maintenance to do in this area. Way too many of the titles (especially Chinese) used the default AHARDBACK (adult hardback) classification when they're clearly Trade Paperbacks.  Estimate that there are hundreds of titles like this. 

Onward again...till next time.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Na Gorushke, Na Gore*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, pt. ix

So I started weeding the Russian collection this week.

(Oh, the horror!)

I tapped a few colleagues for help and acquired a nice list of Cyrillic to English alphabets, as well as common library terms. Also found several links to the LOC website.
Plodding forward.

UPDATE: I guess popular literature can be found in any language. In addition to the Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitzyn, I'm finding Russian-language copies of titles by John Grisham and James Patterson, as well as Forrest Gump, and--wait for it--Fifty Shades of Grey!

Also doing some re-organizing.  People see 891.7 and think it can go right next to 891.73 just because the author is the same. NOT. The nice thing is that some of our multi-volume collections are looking a bit more whole again. Doing my bit for the FLP.


*--Traditional Russian folk song

UPDATE: Just weeded the Russian translation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  That will be sacrilege to some, but it was in poor condition, and had only circulated seven times in 21 years (and not since 2005)
UPDATE II: Just finished the Russian collection. 14.6% weeded out (82 out of 590 titles), mostly condition issues. Asian next, then adding the new Arabic titles.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ahab the Arab*: Weeding in the world-language collection, part viii

First and foremost, welcome to our readers from the United Arab Emirates! Feel free to argue, bloviate, spout off, or otherwise engage me and my readers in spirited conversation.

Finished the Spanish collection yesterday, will begin to take on the Russian collection later this week. I've been falling behind on DVD weeding and ordering and have deadlines to keep, so the things that have the most urgency will come first--namely DVD ordering from Midwest Tape, then the Bibz list, then DVD and Russian weeding. The fun never ends...

*-Ray Stevens, 1,837 Seconds of Humor, 1962.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Concert for Bangladesh*: weeding in el Jardin secreto, part vii

Welcome to Bangladeshi readers! Country #64 heard from!

Feel free to argue with me, agree with me, state something new and outrageous.

Continuing with weeding the Spanish language collection.

Conclusion 1: Stephen King is not popular among our Spanish-language patrons.  Someone ordered the complete translated set three years ago and all but four or five titles have not moved.  "Carrie" is the leader, but only 4 borrows in three years--hardly a ringing endorsement.

June 19, 2017:

Finished the Spanish language collection this morning with a flurry of items that dropped out of the system.  Among the interesting titles in Spanish translation:

The Color Purple
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Android Karenina (no, really)
The Portrait of Dorian Gray

and a fairly recent Nobel prize winner whose name escapes me right now.

Mopping up the paperwork for the systemless books, then on to Russian tomorrow.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Japanese Dances*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, part vi

Slogging through Spanish-title weeding.

Interesting finds:

Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
50 Shades of Grey

That's it for today--just three shelves :-). Discard rate for Spanish language titles running about 40% at this point (thru H's). I think the lower rate as opposed to Italian is reflected in the increase in Spanish speaking population here in the city.

Amusing note: The door to the breakroom from where I'm working is at the end of a short corridor, next to the Asian language collection. I opened the door from the breakroom to find a young, pretty, Asian girl sitting on the floor reading one of our books. She was a little embarrassed but I assured her it was okay. Besides, the stack of books she was checking out meant my job might be a little easier when I get to the Asian collection.  But--I have to finish Spanish and Russian first.


*Composition for orchestra by Bernard Rogers, 1933.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Spanish Eyes*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, iv

Continuing with the world language weeding:

  • Interesting titles in Spanish: Jane Eyre, Fahrenheit 451,

  • Had to discard two old copies of Cervantes' Don Quixote--I hesitated but one was missing pages and the other's spine was crumbling.  I sent it out with someone who was leaving work early (Man of La Mancha reference).

  • Most interesting find so far: a two volume compilation of interviews of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Allen Ginsberg, Lou Harrison, Ned Rorem and others entitled "Consules de Sodoma". Musicians know Harrison and Rorem as prominent 20th century composers;   I'll have to seek out the English translation some day.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

1999*: Weeding in the Secret Garden, part iii

Finished the Italian collection today. Discarded 63% of the collection for poor circulation and condition issues.  Many, many items not circulated since before 1999. A few more in the 1/1/1980 category, and numerous books the record of which fell out of the system.

My supervisor alluded to what may be replacing everything that I'm removing, but nothing firm as of yet. She did say Arabic titles may be coming in, so we'll see what happens there.

Onward to the Spanish collection next week.


*--Prince, 1999, 1999. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Language of Love* : Weeding in the Secret Garden, part ii

Some highlights of my time weeding our foreign language collection:
  • Samuel Beckett in French
  • Tom Sawyer, Old Man and the Sea, , and Dashiell Hammett in Italian
  • LOTS of extra work to put titles back in the system--and they'll probably be weeded when no one checks them out for another year.
  • French Collection--discarded 47% of titles
  • German Collection--discarded 43% of titles
  • Italian Collection--well over 50% so far
  • longest period between last checkout and today--37 years, 5 months (January 1980)
  • many items with 20+ years since last checkout
No, an item's lack of circulation isn't the only criterion for weeding. 
*--Dan Fogelberg, Windows and Walls, 1984.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

And so it goes*: weird days in the library world

Nothing profound to say today.  I'm edging toward the door to leave for the day, and suffice it to say that my patrons have tested my patience and made me realize that I should dust off my mindreading skills (I'm a parent too, don'tcha know) and I'd make a lot more money.

Patron 1: Can you look up a book for me? it's called Trust. I don't know the author.
Patron 2: I saw this African-American author on the Internet.  I don't remember her name or the title of the book.
Patron 3: Do you have the movie "Raw"? It just came out last month...and if you don't have it can I get it through Interlibrary Loan?

All within five minutes of each other.


My wife says, "let's go to that restaurant that just re-opened".

Noisy ambience, and I really can't believe the kitchen had the stones to serve the chicken that time forgot (or at least forgot it was in the oven). Even in the relative dark, I could tell that the coating was burned, and one bite in told me it had that unintentional charcoal flavor on the bottom (burned worse than the top).  I will say that they were sincerely apologetic and didn't charge me for my new item or my second beer. Kudos for that.

*--Billy Joel, Storm Front, 1989.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Weeding the German Language Collection

So I had my broken ID badge replaced and finally returned to weeding the world language titles in our fiction collection, finishing the German collection and weeding the first shelf of the French titles.  Some statistics:

  • I started with 313 German-language titles, and ended with 188--just over 60% of what I started with.  
  • I didn't compile an average on the last circulation, but suffice it to say that 10-15 years would have not been too far off.  
  • The most distant circulation date was April of 1980.
  • There were only 6 titles that had circulated during the previous 12 months.  Not saying much about interest in German-language modern fiction here in Philadelphia.
Now, you may be asking yourself, how did this man with almost no knowledge of German fiction (or for that matter, the German language), know which books to save and which ones to toss?  Fair question.  Here's what I did.
  1. I checked for the author's presence in SIRSI, our catalog system.  Oftentimes I'd keep a title if it had an English translation (or vice versa).
  2. I looked at the title through the eyes of Google Translate.  If there was an "aha!" moment--where I recognized the title from the English translation--I kept it in the mix.
  3. I looked for the author's and the title's presence online.  I discovered several Nobel Prize winners (as well as winners of other prominent prizes), and members of prominent writers' groups or movements. 
  4. THEN I checked circulation data.  So many titles showed less than ten check-outs over the course of 15-20 years, with almost none during the 2010's.
  5. I gave some titles the benefit of the doubt.  If, for instance, the author had been famous in another field, been a WWII resistance worker, or had written for other media (films, tv, radio), etc., sometimes I gave the book a second chance.
  6. Titles that had circulated at least once during the previous twelve months (yes, there were only six) were saved regardless of author, genre, quality, etc.
After chatting with my supervisors, they gave me the impression that I was on the right track, so onward with French-language fiction tomorrow.



Friday, March 31, 2017

Day in the Life, opus 7*

753 am: Arrive at the FLP, Philbrick Hall.  My ID badge gave up the ghost yesterday, so I can't get into my office.  I worked the Hold Pickup list from the Ref desk, and then realized that the Ref desk printer is bolloxed up, so in a flash of brilliance I sent the job to the Circulation desk.  Short list today, only 7 pages (about 50 items), including one in Russian.  Let's see, the last time that circulated was 2007? Likely it isn't there...

It wasn't--as were a number of items on the list today.  Some days are like that.  I gathered the materials I could find, grabbed a small cart, and put it in its usual place outside my office.

830 am: The teen librarian arrived.  I gave her the choice of "upstairs" (fiction novels) or "downstairs" (romance, mystery, teen, large print--kind of the "mop-up" of the department.  She took downstairs, as she's a little under the weather.

9:00 am: finished my end of the pickup list--dvds, audiobooks, new items (referred to as "MacNaughtons") and waited on my first patrons, both of which needed interlibrary loan assistance.

Interlibrary loan has always been a source of fascination for me.  Where do the items come from? We're in the Northeast Corridor, but items come from as far away as Anchorage Alaska and as close as the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and the local colleges. In addition to books, we get requests for microfiche copies of genealogical records (most recently from the PA State Library), sheet music and recordings, and--in my first week there--engineering specifications for a Phillips screwdriver (those came from Penn State). Our patrons have a dizzying array of needs and interests, and Sandy, Steve, and the crew do their best to accommodate people

10:30 am: Finished my reference shift and returned to slogging through the DVD donations.

12:00 noon: Lunch from Cho Cho San--Shrimp lo mein, egg roll, wanton soup.  Tasty and relatively cheap (it's an expensive yuppie neighborhood, complete with Whole Foods)

1:00 pm: Our teen librarian went home ill so I'm back on the desk.  Phone call from one of our patrons who thinks we're all his personal librarians:

"I know you're new and all that...".
<<<Cringing inwardly...
"Can you renew my one movie (out of 10) for Monday?"

I explain to him our policy (he's well aware of it) about not renewing any items with holds, and that I'm not going to make an exception for him at any time.  He keeps one of our ILL staffers going constantly for obscure movies and tends to treat the rest of us like his minions.

2:00 pm: I head down to the ground floor security office to get my new ID. They print it off for me and I leave.  Works on the elevators and for the rest room--but--not for the offices and workrooms in my department. @#$@#%@#$!!! I went through this with my first ID

3:30 pm:  AF calls with a question on his Interlibrary loan--but starts by telling me that the direct line to ILL doesn't work any more (not true) and that he wants me to process his requests. He gave me his library card #, then I asked for his PIN.

"Never had one" (not true).
Found the PIN and continued where I found out that I couldn't process his request because he was at his limit (and I was getting close to the limit of my patience).  He hotly disputed it and proceeded to yell at me. He took it as a personal insult when I put him on hold or attempted to transfer him.  I finally contacted our ILL saint and she called him.

4:38 pm: Our boss (the patron for whom we're personal assistants) is here over my shoulder but not paying attention to me as I type, Thank God.  Going home in 20 minutes and not a moment too soon.

*--John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

O Danny Boy: Welcome Ireland!

Welcome to Ireland, country #63 on our countdown.

Continuing with DVD processing today. Cheers.

*--traditional Irish folk song

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Language of Love*: Weeding in the Secret Garden

Welcome to my readers in Estonia heard from this week! As always feel free to comment, agree, disagree, throw brownies, etc.

I was handed a new project today: Weeding world language titles! Happy Happy Joy Joy!!!

I made the mistake of telling my supervisor I wasn't busy enough, so now I have the task of going through the foreign language collection, title by title, and checking for condition, circulation numbers, and value to the collection at large.  Never mind my last French class was during the first term of the Reagan administration.  The collection also houses titles in Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

<<<Putting on "patience of Job" hat...

My supervisor says that it's something I can work on a shelf at a time, and that's good, because I'm imagining that this will not be a quick and easy process.  I'll keep you posted.


UPDATE: I've finished most of the German-language collection and of the ~200 books in that collection, only three have circulated in the past twelve months.  The others that passed muster for weeding were either by major authors (Hermann Hesse), Nobel prize winners, or whose authors were prolific or members of an important writer's group.  I'm guessing that I've weeded a little over 50% of the total titles. 3/27/2017

*--Dan Fogelberg, Windows and Walls, 1984.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

La Bonne Cuisine, part 2: My visit to the Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Welcome Latvia (#59) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (#60)! Don't be a stranger! Comment early and often!.

Large number of readers this week, especially from the United States, still no comments.  Makes me wonder about how my blog gets used or read or if it gets read at all.  Personally I think my blog is a gateway to another dimension, but that's just me.

Had a great time today  at the Culinary Literacy Center of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  Made a tasty Indian chickpea stew along with my classmates.  I chopped onions (weep, sniffle) and my hand (OUCH!).  Seriously, the cut didn't start bleeding till after I'd stopped chopping, so no blood in the masala, thank God.  I think all libraries should have a working kitchen like this one. I've seen rural and small town libraries that weren't as big as this kitchen. It's huuuuuuge, with commercial-grade ovens, grills, stoves, and stainless steel from floor to ceiling--and cleaner than any commercial kitchen I've seen.

So I'll end this post with what they started with today--what is culinary literacy?  It would appear that there's no industry standard yet, so perhaps the FLP is on the leading edge of programming for this concept in the U.S.  What do you think?

--*Leonard Bernstein, composer, 1947. Full title: "La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano".

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What's New*: Another sea change in Scouting?

I'm reading about and listening to the kerfuffle about Scouting USA allowing girls who "identify as boys" to join Cub Scouts.  I think they could solve the whole problem--or at least minimize the impact--by making Boy Scouts fully co-ed, from top to bottom.  There's no shortage of female leaders in Scouting already, why not add female Scouts as well?  Scouting in most of the rest of the world is fully co-ed, and it's time that Scouting USA follows suit.

I'm the father of an Eagle Scout, and proud of my son.  His accomplishments thus far in life, including achieving Eagle, would not be minimized by girls being allowed to do what he did.

Obstinate parents who insist on putting their son in an all-male group can join Trail Mix Life USA, although I think those who do miss one of the salient points of Scouting organizations--to learn about and work with and come together as one stronger body with those who are different than you. That's a challenge, and one that American Scouting is up to--I hope.

*Bob Haggart (music), 1938 (originally entitled I'm Free); Johnny Burke (lyrics), 1939