Libraries

Now They Pay Me

Guess what, blogosphere? Guess what I get to do as part of the new job I started in January? I get to write blog entries on work time! For legit! I mean, I’m not just sneaking in personal blog entries on my employers’ time out of boredom and resentment, the way I did at my old job. I am on our library’s readers’ advisory team, and as part of that, I get to blog about books I’ve read! Yes! I’m getting paid to blog!

Of course, my library blogging is done under my real name. I don’t think I could sell them on my pseudonymous blogger identity. Not that I’d want to, anyway.

Because there, you know, I’m representing the library, and I have to be more careful about what I say and how I say it. I have to try for humor without too much snark. Not like here, where I can simply write whatever I want because nobody knows it’s me. My safe, safe world of pseudonymous blogging.

I’d just like to add that my grammar, usage, and punctuation are flawless in both kinds of blogging. Unless you don’t like the Oxford comma, in which case you will have an issue with this particular choice of mine. I care about perfection in both contexts. It’s just in the real world that I feel I have to watch my tone.

I just finished reading a book about Dorothy Parker. I’m not sure if it’s the best book there is about Dorothy Parker; in fact, I imagine that she, like me, would take issue with some of the English language usage chosen by this author. In any case, this author makes the point, at the end of the book, that Dorothy Parker gave American women a voice during the first half of the twentieth century. She became famous for saying all kinds of outrageous things, and for writing immoderately clever prose, and for turning out formally perfect and witty poetry.

I think the author was also admiring her bravery for saying all the outrageous things that she said, for not falling into the trap of being nice all the time. Sometimes I wish I had a little more of that. But then I remind myself that Dorothy Parker was also a profoundly unhappy person. Maybe if you’re that unhappy, that’s when you care less about the consequences of what you say. I have noticed, myself, that it is very difficult to be witty and kind at the same time. Wit often comes at the expense of other people’s weaknesses.

So it’s a new challenge for me, at work, to be amusing and bright while imagining the library director looking over my shoulder and judging whether or not what I’m saying is appropriate. Because at work they know me. And it’s a little scarier to put my writing out there.

I’m also enjoying the irony of having prepared myself for blogging at my current job by sneaking around blogging at my previous job. I do have some familiarity with WordPress, and I do have a certain tone I like to adopt while blogging, even if I feel the need to adapt that tone for public consumption.

And blogging for work has reminded me just how much I like it. So I’m back. I’m thinking of trying for twice a week, the way I did at the beginning, when I was all ambitious and disciplined. Twice a week. Yep. Because I’m the only one who is going to make myself do this.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Ring It In

Well, here it is, the very last day of the very first month of the new year, and I’m getting in a new blog post, just under the wire. Happy 2015 to everyone!

It’s about time to be writing something, anyway, especially as I may as well finally accept that I will not, in fact,  be sending out any holiday greeting cards to friends and family this year. I bought the cards, and I even asked my husband to stop and buy holiday stamps; but yet, I could not make myself send cards out this holiday season. Possibly because it’s been kind of a difficult year. We had a death in the family, and I was very unhappy at work. I guess my joy was at a low ebb, back there in December.

But! I got kind of a terrific Christmas present this year: a job offer two days before Christmas! Yes! I have had the undiluted pleasure of submitting a resignation letter for a job in a truly toxic workplace, the frustrating yet affirming experience of being treated like dirt during the period of my two weeks’ notice (affirming, you ask? Yes, every moment affirmed my decision to get the hell out of there), and the happiness *and* the stress of starting a lovely new job, where I am working alongside kind, helpful people in a nice, busy library.

Still, all that change is kind of distracting, you know? It makes me twitter-pated (name that Disney movie!) and a little less on top of it than usual. I’ve been late to two volunteer shifts, and I didn’t send out any Christmas cards.

Well. Deep breath. As of January 20, the two people in our household who work are fairly happy at work. As of this past September, the two people in our household who go to school are fairly happy at school. Could it be that 2015 might be a year when we can just coast along in the status quo without making any big, life-changing decisions? Knock on wood…

The only thing is, and I suppose there is no harm in admitting it now that I have received my final paycheck: I used to write this blog on work time. Oh, yes. I was so frustrated and unhappy at work that I was blogging on company time. I can’t do that now that I am happy and busy at work; also, I respect the people around me and my current library enough that I wouldn’t do that anymore. Unless I get to contribute to a blog on the library website or something. But that wouldn’t be with my super-secret pseudonymous identity, believe you me.

So now the proof is in the pudding: Do I have the self-discipline to keep going with this on my own time?

Time will tell.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Current Fiction

How many books in a brain?

That is, how many books have you read? How many books have you read that you remember well? Do you know a lot about books and authors you haven’t read?

I’ve been plunging into the topic of readers’ advisory in public libraries, in the hope of someday having a better library job than I have now. And let me tell you, this is a moment in which I am glad that this blog is pseudonymous (and if that isn’t a word, it should be. Oh, good. Merriam-Webster online says it is. Digression over.).

Because sometimes I’m not sure what I think about readers’ advisory practices in libraries. There is this emphasis on keeping current, on genre fiction, and most difficult of all, a dismissive attitude toward knowing about more classic works of literature.

I, for one, would hate to sit there at a reference desk, in a library chock full of books, and admit that I don’t know who wrote Middlemarch. Or that I don’t know which Dickens novel has Philip Pirrip as the protagonist. Or that I don’t know who is the author of the Hercule Poirot mystery stories. There’s a basic level of cultural literacy in the world of books, and knowing something about the classics seems to me to be a basic necessity for achieving that level.

To my mind, classic books have become classics because they have remained popular (okay, popular enough) for decades and centuries. So this designation of “popular fiction” really irritates me. It seems that a lot of public libraries emphasize current popular fiction, sadly at the expense of classic popular fiction. If you’ll allow me the term “classic popular fiction.” And you will, because this is my blog.

Why is thisCan one human brain have a competent knowledge of English literature AND memorize the names and genres of a whole bunch of New York Times bestsellers? How much about books do you really have to know? Do you have to know about books you hate? Well, yes, I suppose you do. But how much can a human brain hold?

Furthermore, lists of bestsellers change all the time. But it will always be true that Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express and that Sherlock Holmes meets John Watson for the first time in Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet.

The idea that providing readers’ advisory services means a constant process of learning and forgetting what’s popular during any given week sounds really exhausting to me.

Maybe I’m being an overachiever and taking all this way too seriously. I do have a tendency to do that.

What do you think? Should “classic popular fiction” be a thing?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy