Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Library custodians are bar coded

BPL Custodians
Originally uploaded by Michael Golrick.
Years ago, on the PUBLIB list there was a discussion about barcoding and patrons with out their cards. Someone (Karen?) suggested that we bar code our patrons.

The other day one of the custodians came into my office, and I saw the tag with the bar code and joked that we are now bar coding our custodians so that we can track them. Brought back memories of that PUBLIB discussion, which I haven't the time or energy to find.

As a reality check, the bar codes are on the uniforms and are part of the uniform service's tracking system so that we get the right items back. The uniforms look good, and I am glad that we are finally there!

A REALLY, REALLY, bad day in the life

Well, yesterday was one of those days. It started with the phone call from my Library Maintenance Manager that the rainstorm of the night before (over 4 inches) had resulted in water leaks in the Main library building. One photo is here. There is a set on Flickr with more. And I'll mention more later.

That was 7:15 am. At about 8:30, I got into my car to drive to Westport Library for my morning meeting which was a session on some personnel principles. Of course, my son had driven it last, and the gas light came on. So...off to the gas station in the drizzle. Then to the highway. The first route I was going to take was still flooded from the rain the night before. Detour. I'm getting to be late, and then I hit I-95. It was gridlock. Bumper to bumper all the way down. It took a whole CD to get the less than 15 miles from my house to the Westport Library. The presenter was even later than I was! I did get some good shots of their donor wall: River of Names.

Many phone calls were made on the break. After all, we had a program scheduled that evening which had been moved downtown from the North Branch because the North HVAC system was blown out during a storm this summer, and still has not been repaired. Photos from that are linked later.... I dashed back for a very productive meeting with the City's new head of ITS. They do not manage our systems, but we may be partnering for some acquisitions.

It is now after three pm, and I have barely checked my email, or anything else. I did that for about an hour, and decided I needed some down time. The pool at the Bridgeport and Stratford YMCAs are both closed for maintenance, so I drove to Milford. What a gorgeous pool. I swam about a half mile, and came back. Ate a little, and then the program.

We were hosting a program which featured three of the Ron Brown Scholars. One of those who came to speak was Carmelle Norice who is pictured on the cover of the book. The turnout was modest, but the program was a success. The local daily covered it, and I expect to see an article with photos over the weekend. (The article is being written by one of my favorite free-lancers.) Photos from the event are here.

Then it was check email, and stuff....I was at my desk until almost midnight. A long day. Bad and good. On to tomorrow....

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Firestorm over Forbes' Sexist Comments

Okay....so I've been behind on reading blogs. I am nearly caught up on email after almost 10 days away, and a week back. The blog reading suffered. So, on a rainy, wet, Saturday morning when the stupid paper delivery did not double bag, and left the local rag in the puddle at the bottom of my steps, I started to read my Bloglines list (with now, over 1,000 unread posts).

What catches my eye? A topic near and dear to my heart. So....the draft post will wait. The E-Rate post will wait. We'll do Forbes Magazine incredible insensitivity post. I got to Solvitur Ambulando from my friend Michelle Boulle (Wandering Eyre) with whom I have a date in Seattle for a single malt, my treat. My fellow Nutmegger (or at least she is a student at a Connecticut School) had some words on the topic. Then my attention was dragged further by the inimitable Walt Crawford (who has my utmost respect) in his post on the topic. One of the last comments on Jennifer's blog was particularly pointed.

Here is my semi-personal experience. I am not a woman, but I am married to one. She also happens to be a librarian. We moved about 23 years ago so that I could take a position which was a promotion, and allowed us to expand our family. When we moved, we had an almost three-year old. My wife's career had been good, she was tenured in her academic institution, and, may I add, vested in her pension plan. After we moved, we made a family decision and she CHOSE to stay home. We had two children in the next three years, and three years after that, she CHOSE to take an opportunity to go back into the work force. She recently complete 15 years of work as a part-time staff member at a local institution. While she is less than full time, for many of those years, her salary was reasonably close to mine. It is still not inconsiderable. If she were to work at the same pay full-time, she would be close to my salary as the head of the largest public, municipal library in the state. We have put two children through college, and one half-way through. (Junior year looms large!) It has been a struggle, but the editor of Forbes has it all wrong.

For statistical purposes, I'll note that I have seven siblings. Two of my three brothers are married to women who have professional credentials. The one who is divorced was married to someone who graduated from high school. Of my four sisters, all graduated from college. My one divorced sister was divorced long before she earned any of her advanced degrees (she has one and is almost done with her Ed.D.). Forbes got it wrong!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Terrace Bar

The Terrace Bar
Originally uploaded by carolinamoom.
The E-Rate Task Force met earlier this week. I put some photos on my Flickr account, but needless to say, I don't appear in many of the pictures I took. This is a nice one from Caroline LeBlanc, who made me a Flickr friend! More on the meeting in a separate post.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Editorial note first: For those who read this and are not familiar with the ALA process, here's the deal. The President Elect (Loriene Roy this year), posts a call for volunteers. The forms are collected by the ALA Office into the fall. There are two types of "big ALA" Committees. One has people appointed by the Committee on Committees (four Council members, elected by Council, Chaired by the ALA President Elect) and the other the Committe on Appoinitments (the President-Elect from each Division, again chaired by the ALA President-Elect).

Now, if you submit today, it will be about 7 or 8 months before you hear anything at all. Here's what is happening based on my experience of serving on the Committee on Committees when Mitch Freedman was President-Elect (2001-2002).

At Midwinter, the Committee met with a spreadsheet which included the composition, charges, and vacancies on each of "our" committees. There was a notebook with the volunteer form of each person who had sent one in. (Of course, in those days there was lots of paper, too.) The Committee met (once or twice, I don't remember which), and worked our way through the list. Some committees have lots of volunteers (Intellectual Freedom, International Relations) and there are tough choices. Others historically have few (Committee on Organization, Resolutions), and are fairly easy to get appointed to.

Many committees have interns, and that is a great way to start. When an intern's term ends (2 years) one of the things we asked the staff liaison and the outgoing chair was for a report on their work. We also asked if that person should be given a full term on the committee. Many were appointed that way. Also, there are electronic members, but much of that was worked out after my tenure on COC.

Here is the official announcement, with the links imbedded. Go for it folks!


ALA President-elect Loriene Roy is seeking applications and nominations for appointments to 2007-2008 ALA and Council committees.

She will fill slots on the following committees: Accreditation; American Libraries Advisory; Awards; Budget Analysis and Review; Chapter Relations; Conference; Constitution and Bylaws; Council Orientation; Diversity; Education; Election; Human Resource Development and Recruitment Advisory; Information Technology Policy Advisory; Intellectual Freedom; International Relations; Legislation; Literacy; Literacy and Outreach Services Advisory; Membership; Membership Meetings; Nominating; Organization; Orientation, Training, and Leadership Development; Policy Monitoring (current Council members only); Professional Ethics; Public and Cultural Programs Advisory; Public Awareness; Publishing; Research and Statistics; Resolutions; Rural, Native and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds; Scholarships and Study
Grants; Status of Women in Librarianship; Website Advisory; ALA-Children's Book Council (Joint); ALA-Association of American Publishers {Joint) and ALA-Society of American Archivists-American Association of Museums(Joint). Committee charges can be found in the ALA Handbook of Organization.

All applicants must complete and submit the electronic 2007-2008 ALA Committee Volunteer Form.

The deadline for submission is December 4, 2006.

Geographical location, type of library, gender, ethnicity, previous committee work (not necessarily with ALA), ALA and related experience, and other factors are considered when the committee slates are compiled in order to ensure broad representation and diversity on all committees.

The ALA Committee on Committees and Committee on Appointments will assist Dr. Roy in making appointments. Committee appointees will receive appointment letters after the 2007 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. Appointees will begin their committee service after the 2007 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Questions concerning appointments can be directed to Dr. Roy at Loriene@ischool.utexas.edu or Lois Ann Gregory-Wood, Council Secretariat, at lgregory@ala.org.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Michael Golrick Diet Plan

On Wednesday morning I walked into a meeting to be greeted by the Mayor. He complimented me on how well I looked and how much weight I lost. [I think he was also confused by my lack of beard.] He, and subsequently other City staff, have asked about my secret. And while I have posted previously, I have done some thinking, and here is my explanation.

To start, let me note that in February I weighed almost 270 pounds. Today (Saturday), I am down to 211 (before breakfast, always the lightest of the day). For the record, my height is 6 feet 2 inches (on a good day), and the official BMI charts say that the top of the Normal range for me is 194 pounds.

Part of this is specifically targeted for the Mayor, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and has said that he needs to loose some weight. I'll be emailing this to the Mayor's secretary as well as printing it out for him.

  • First: Eat at home. I typically eat out only one meal a week, the Rotary meeting at lunch on Tuesday. Restaurant servings are over-large (and over priced). At home, you can control the portion size. I have a small pastry for breakfast, along with tomato juice and a glass of iced tea. [I also take the fist full of pills--prescription and vitamins.] By the time of the ALA Conference in New Orleans, I found that I could not eat all the food presented at the banquets which I attended.
  • Second: Smaller portions. At dinner, if we are having chicken breasts, Jill and I split a one chicken breast. If I have cooked two, then the other one is sliced for sandwiches. I bring my own lunch (which, to give Jill credit, she makes). That is a sandwich, a piece of fruit and something salty (usually a small bag of chips of some sort).
  • Third: No seconds. A great deal of this is about reducing calorie intake. You don't really need seconds. Eventually, you get used to it. Am I hungry? Most of the time.
  • Fourth: No snacks. No visits across the hall to the vending machine. No eating at meetings. When I was at Wednesday morning's meeting, I did not visit the coffee table, I did not take any of the little breakfast snacks offered.
  • Fifth: No fast food. I love French Fries. But there is no surer way to add calories, than to eat regularly at fast food restaurants. Last week, I needed to get breakfast away from home, and chose a simple croissant rather than a donut or other sugar filled food.
  • Sixth: Drink water. I have a Nalgene bottle which I fill with ice and water each morning. This bottle is a souvenir which has been on adventures with me including traveling down the Allagash River in Maine during the summer of 2004, and the Boy Scouts National Jamboree last summer. It holds a liter of water. I try to finish it before lunch. Many days I drink a second one in the afternoon. Does that mean more visits to the rest room? You bet! But most Americans are at least slightly de-hydrated. Drinking water when I feel hunger fills the stomach, with zero calories. Way back in my youth, the librarians in my hometown library adopted the Stillman Water Diet which included drinking six to eight 8 oz. glasses of water during the day. Did it work? As long as you kept it up, it worked. Drinking water before a meal means that you are less tempted to over eat since your stomach is partly full already.
  • Seventh: Restrict alcohol intake. I used to have one or two drinks every night, and more on weekends. Those are empty calories. I now have a drink or two on a weekend, and not during the week. I believe that was critical to the loss of the first 40-50 pounds.
  • Eighth: Exercise. I only started this in early July. I dug out my bicycle. It is a trusty 30 year old street bike. A ten speed. In an hour I can now ride from my house (in Bridgeport) to Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford (almost on the river). The direct route there is about 6 miles, one way. I try to stay off the busy streets, so my route (which varies) is not direct. My trip is probably 15 - 18 miles round trip. I also have been swimming. In an hour (lunch) I can go to the YMCA, and get into my bathing suit, swim a half-mile (in about 20 minutes), get pulled back together, and return to the office. That means I take about 10 minutes to eat my lunch while reading the email which arrived while I was out. I feel better as a result. I also take the stairs instead of the elevator at work (other than when I am bringing my laptop in or out -- at the beginning or end of the day). There are six flights to my office from the ground floor. That helps. I also take the stairs when I go around the building to meetings and to see people. I take the steps up to the second floor of City Hall Annex. I walk to City Hall, not drive. (With the price of gasoline, there is an additional saving.) Walking is good!
Has it been easy? Yes and no. It was certainly easier in the beginning. Do the math. The first 25 pounds was 9.25% of my starting body weight. To go from my late July weight of 220 to my goal of 195 (also 25 pounds) is 11.1% of my new starting body weight (220). Over all, My goal is to lose 38.5% of what I weighed in February. Right now I have lost 21.85%. That is a lot, but I know that the last bit is going to be harder than what I have done so far.

I will be healthier. That I know. But to stay at that weight, I will have to change from what I had been doing before February. Before I started this, I would just eat and drink as much as I wanted. I am now paying attention to not what I eat, but how much I eat. Yes, I have cut down on bread, but I'm one of those people who could go all day, not eat bread, and not miss it. For me the downfall was sweets and especially desserts.

This is a lifestyle change. I have often said about technology and libraries: Change or die. Well, the same applies to diet, I have found.

Those are my secrets. They aren't really secret. If one other person gets healthier, that would be a bonus for me.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Beautiful Wall Hanging

Office at BPL 009
Originally uploaded by Michael Golrick.
This is the wonderful gift from the ALA Executive Board which I received in New Orleans. It was created by Nann Blaine Hilyard and embellished by Janet Swan Hill. There are fabrics representing all of the places where conferences were held. There are books with titles like "ALA Handbook," "Sturges" (for the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure), with money (representing my service on the Finance and Audit Committee of the Board), and others with personal meaning. The martini glass representing my often first drink when the Board had dinner events, the baseball for the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series (Go Bosox!), and even a bookmark made from one of the silk ties I gave to Nann. I just love this! If you follow the Flickr link, you will see it hanging along with the framed citation which is the "official" recognition for retiring board members.

Flickr Rules!

I am having way too much fun with Flickr. For those who read with an aggregator, I have added the Flickr "profile" to the top of the blog.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


In case you did not notice, I have spent part of the evening cleaning out my backlog of half composed posts. Enjoy!

Library as Center of the Community

I originally picked this up from Aaron Schmidt's Walking Paper. I don't know Aaron personally, but his blog was one of the first to be placed in my aggregator. He talked about gaming in libraries as an old idea. (Stay tuned for a post on my own library's Dance Dance Revolution program from this summer. I plan to go see it in person tomorrow.)

He pointed to a wonderful address/paper by the wonderfully named Miss Gratia Alta Countryman who, back in 1905 gave the opening address at the Minnesota Library Association called The Library as Social Centre.

It brought me back to the days when I was first a public library director of a library in a town of about 15,000. [That made it about the same size as the town I grew up in -- at the time I grew up.] I really identified with what was happening there, and the Library certainly was the social center of the town. That became even more clear to me in the late 1980s with the corporate downsizing in Fairfield (CT) and Westchester (NY) Counties, and many formerly high level executives set up consulting operations in the spare bedroom, or room over the garage. For many of these folks, their only human contact during the day was at the market, or coming to the Library.

Since then, that library has further solidified it role as the community center for the town, and the current library director does a spectacular job. They recently expanded the facility, and have huge levels of support in the community.

Millenials and working habits

Earlier this week I read an Associated Press wire story which got my attention. It was called Email losing its clout. In many ways it puts fear and trembling into the hearts of many librarians and library administrators, but those who have children of a certain age (i.e. in college recently or now...and that sure includes me), know that sometimes the only way to get a direct answer from a child away from home is to use IM. They ignore the emails!

This generation is hitting the workforce! My middle child (younger son), is an example since he started working recently as an engineer for a major defense contractor in my area. [Those of you from CT know who I mean. They build helicopters and are in the process of hiring 300 more engineers since my son started.]

Here are some key quotes from the article which struck home with me:

It means that many people often don't respond to e-mails unless they have to.

But when immediacy is a factor as it often is most young people much prefer the telephone or instant messaging for everything from casual to heart-to-heart conversations, according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

You might use text messaging during a meeting that requires quiet...

He prefers IM over e-mail. "It's a way to get a quicker answer," he says.
Libraries -- including mine -- need to deal with this method of communication, and use it to our advantage.

At the end of the article was what I would characterize as a "throw away section" with which I have issues. The article says:
"But companies really need to respond to the way people work and communicate."

The focus, she says, should be the outcome.

"Nine to 5 has been replaced with 'Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'" Kirah says of young people's work habits. "They're saying 'I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'"

I have heard a variety of opinions from the millenials I have talked with. Some have adopted the philosophy espoused above. I expect to see an article in an upcoming Library Worklife which will address this issue. At the same time, I remember vividly a conversation I had with a then 20 year old college junior as we sat by the rapids of the Allagash River in the wilds of Maine. She was talking about wanting a job which she could leave behind to do the things which she enjoyed doing (like hiking, canoeing, camping). She was looking for a job like school psychologist where she would get the intrinsic rewards of helping people at work, but still have the summers to do things like act as a guide in the Maine woods. That sure is different than the last line of the quote above. Which is the right characterization? I don't know. Maybe they are both too narrow, and just like with us Baby Boomers, it will vary widely from individual to individual.

Is the Customer Always Right?

This is an interesting question. I picked up on a post from C-Net (which I have added to my Bloglines) a link to the Chief Happiness Officer who lists business maxims that need to go. He starts by noting that "The worst of these old maxims are not only wrong, they're bad for people and bad for business. Businesses who use them are making their employees unhappy and are harming the bottom line." His list is in priority order (not David Letterman style) and #2 is "The Customer is always right." He wrote a longer post on this. He concludes his more recent list with a new maxim: Happy employees means happy customers.

That is almost heresy in this part of the country. A successful dairy business nearby has two rules carved in stone outside each of its stores. Rule #1: The Customer is always right. Rule #2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.

Now I have heard the founder speak, and I have heard his son (and current corporate president speak). They speak eloquently on this topic, and make a very strong case for their rules..at least in retail. Part of what they have been able to do is to create an incredible brand loyalty because they actually act on their two rules. They even reward and recognize employees who break other rules to observe the two engraved in stone.

We in Libraries are not in retail. We have two sometimes conflicting service imperatives: helping the public meet its needs and guarding the resources which have been entrusted to our care. A case in point, yesterday afternoon, I received a call from a member of the public. (When you sit where I do, that is usually a sign of a problem.) She had returned some overdue media items, and wanted to negotiate the fines. She wasn't happy with what the branch manager said. She did not even have a good reason why the items were late, and freely admitted that they were!

What am I to do? I think that it is lucky that I can tell the truth and say that I do not know how to waive fines in our automation system (which I do not, I have simply not learned, and do not have occasion to do it often enough). I listened a lot, and then talked to the branch manager. Now this particular manager is usually one of the more flexible when it comes to fines and such. And we all acknowledged that the items had been returned. I went with the decision of the branch manager, which was to offer to cut the fine in half as a one time occurrence. However, I also had the branch manager deliver the message. In a way, I really resented being called in as this patron tried to weasel out of a legitimate fine. By the way, she went to the branch today and paid that fine!

So, was I right or not? Fines are imposed as an incentive for the timely return of materials. They are not meant to be excessively punitive. When an item has been returned, my managers have a broad latitude and can use their discretion to waive and reduce fines (although that funding stays with the Library, and supplements the City budget).

I'm with Alexander Kjerulf. The customer is not always right. Happy employees are going to deliver better customer service in the long run. I try to act that way!

A Day in the Life

I haven't done this in a while, and today was one of those perfect days....

First, it is day four or five of the heat wave along the shore of Connecticut (and day 9 inland where my daughter is working at camp). So, there are A/C problems all over the place. Only one branch has major problems (the two controllers fried in a storm before the heat wave, and had been causing trouble for a couple of years before that), but they have A/C in the library part, just not the meeting room. Of course, the Mayor had an open forum there on Monday night, but it may lead to getting the problem fixed faster....two City Council members are on the case.

Today started with the small group meeting for "Library Services" as part of the City's participation in the ICMA's Center for Performance Measurement statistical service. Of course I'm still pissed that I only heard on Tuesday afternoon about the mandatory meeting at 9 (flipping) am meeting on Wednesday which was a 2-hour waste of my time. Not only that, but the email about it was framed as a "reminder" about the "previously announced" meeting. I never heard about it, and if it weren't for the electronic reminder would not have been there! This morning was not a whole lot better, but at least was shorter. I still am skeptical that this additional data entry is going to result in anything for the library. After all, we get statistics more quickly from the state that we will from here, and they are pretty much the same statistics. Today's meeting should have included the Library Business Manager, but she was at a CLA Board Meeting (she is Treasurer), and that could not be re-arranged on less than 48 hours notice. The folks who called it were damned lucky that the key Library staff were not on vacation! I am further annoyed that the CAO for the City did not arrive until the END of the Library session, he was there for the Housing Code (and subsequent sessions). I did give him an earful about the stupid financial system the City currently uses....that could be a whole different rant!

After the meeting, my Assistant and I waited for about 15 minutes for the Assistant Director of Public Facilities to talk about ADA access issues for the building. He had promised me the day before that he would be available for a chat. He still has not had the courtesy of calling me. Yet another issue unresolved.

I came back to the office to deal with the usual emails and phone calls. One of the calls was from the folks who installed the fiber optic cable to the building which lets the main library connect to the Connecticut Education Network (for free) at very high speeds. To say the original installation was sloppy would be an understatement. However, after three emails (including photos - I love my digital camera!), the installation is acceptable.

The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. I headed out at noon to swim at the Y. I have been doing that for a couple of weeks now. I swam just over 1/2 mile in about 20-25 minutes, and did not feel winded. I then went to the bike shop. Last week I had an "incident" where the back wheel of my bike suddenly bent. It was bizarre. I ordered a new wheel, and the shop installed the old gearing. However, last night I could not get it to fit. Today, the shop owner said, "Well you just have to pull it out and make it fit." (Of course, that was easy for him to say. After the wheel incident, I was trying to be more careful with my 30 year old bike (see the discussion in: Downsizing - In a good way). I was only a couple of blocks from one of the branches, I decided to check and see what was happening. I let the office know, and walked in the door. By that time, the office had already called to let me know about a problem at another branch! I said a quick hello, looked at the crowds waiting to use the Internet, felt that while it was cooler than it was outside, it was definitely not chilly!

I then headed out the door to the other branch in the eastern part of the City. The police were there when I got there. The branch was hopping. This particular branch has huge issues with latch-key children in the summer time. The Library is one of the free, air conditioned places available. This branch serves a neighborhood which has huge economic issues. I chatted with the police...the incident merely happened at the Library and involves gang issues and some recent gang-related shootings and deaths in the City. At times it is really ugly.

I headed back to the office, where the A/C is not nearly as effective as it had been (probably a result of the continued high temperatures outside). I'm fighting issues of staff ignoring the City's "Personal Appearance Policy" including wearing flip-flops to work! Now I don't expect everyone else to wear a suit and tie every day (which is how I usually dress....although Monday was khakis and a polo shirt), but flip-flops are not work shoes!

I guess I am getting grumpy in my old age. And this has not been a particularly good week, either...in addition to incoming email notices interrupting my composition of this piece of deathless prose.