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Librarian Blog

A shrinking demand

I've been circulation librarian for five years now, and in all that time I have had exactly one inquiry about our genealogy collection.
For most of that time we had several shelves set aside for genealogical research. The materials were never checked out and never looked at, at least while I was here.
So, a few months ago we went through the collection with local genealogists and pared the items down to bare necessities.
I'm not sure what that involved, but still no one asks for anything about genealogy.
That's with one exception: Ancestry.com. Some time ago we added a library version of Ancestry to our database offerings, which are free to patrons. The library version is not as robust as the one that you can subscribe to for several hundred dollars a year, but, again, our version is free of charge. Several people have asked about access to Ancestry through the library website.
Just a sign of changing times, I think.

We win!

As it happens all of us ordinary folks who make even the most extraordinary of mistakes were inadvertent winners in last night's Oscars presentation ceremony.
By now you've heard about how Price Waterhouse screwed up the handling of envelopes with the names of the Oscar winners for Best Movie. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway first announced that "La La Land" was winner. Then after those folks had taken the stage, whooping it up and making speeches, the Price Waterhouse people came out and said, Uh-Oh, we goofed! The real winner was "Moonlight."
Today, they're calling it be biggest flub in Academy Awards history.
I call it vindication for the rest of us poor mortals who try our best every day not to screw up and still do.

Whence optimism?

I'm wondering why The Wall Street Journal would feel it interesting to have six writers expound on Optimism in the latest magazine.
We hear from Jeff Nichols, a film producer, for example, who, quite naturally, ties his observations about optimism into a promotion for his new movie. We hear from five others who actually and admirably stifled the urge to be similarly self-serving.
Each of them, from Lois Lowry to Dan Barber to Joan Juliet Buck to Dan Savage to Camille Paglia, takes the default position that it is best to be optimistic.
Perhaps not.
I think maybe they all view optimism through the rose-colored glasses of the blessed.
Hear what Ambrose Bierce had to say about optimism:

“optimism, n. The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with disproof - an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.”


Our library Movie Maven (the person who orders all of our DVDs) has made her predictions about this year's Oscar winners.
And the envelope please ...
Best Picture: La La Land
Best Director: Damien Chazel
Best Actor: Casey Affleck
Best Actress: Emma Stone
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
She says Moonlight migh win over La La Land.
Watch the show Sunday!

Learning to be alone

In the past couple of weeks I have seen several articles in mainstream media about how people can pay more attention to what's going on around them and less attention to social media -- or their cell devices.
"Just put it up," doesn't seem to be a good answer for some reason.
Nor is, "Learn to limit your exposure."
"Grow up," surely won't work.
It's true that people seem to be constantly online, even in important business meetings. They kind of hide their phones down by their hips and glance over there as if no one could notice.
Geoffrey A. Fowler, writing about the problem in the Wall Street Journal, has a load of strategies for readers to try to keep from being complete slaves to their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds.
I guess they all sound good.
It seems to me, though, that the issue is broader and fatter than mere addiction to information. I wonder if children are ever left alone to discover themselves. I don't mean put out on the highway and abandoned. I mean just left alone in their own rooms or out in the den without the benefit of streaming television or videos on tablets or handhelds. Do they ever have time just to stop and think?
I'm asking because I don't know. If they aren't allowed to learn to be alone with their own thoughts, though, I would say we have troubles as a society that transcend mere inattention.
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