Friday, July 29, 2011

Library Day in the Life Project - Round 7

Bobbie Newman has been diligently convincing library bloggers to participate in the Library Day in the Life Project, semi-annually, where we each talk about what it is really like to be a working librarian. This is Round 7. Over 200 librarians are participating this time! What a resource.

This is my second time participating. Last time there were two posts. The first covered Monday, and then there was a summary post for the rest of the week.

Post-ALA, it has rained a fair amount. The weekend was quite rainy. Monday was, well Monday. One of the reference staff is out for some surgery this week, and that went well for her. That also means that the remaining three of us are spending more time than usual, staffing the two public service desks. One nice aspect of Monday was that, since my wife was off of work, she drove to Baton Rouge, and we got to have lunch together! Doesn't happen very often any more. Much of the rest of the day was either on the desk, or dealing with email.

Tuesday, I was motivated to get moving (for some reason), and it was "gas day" for me. [Since I drive 80 miles, each way, every day, I get gasoline in the car every other work day, or about every 320 miles or so. What a racket.] In addition to being on the desk, today's activities included my first meeting as the Volunteer Coordinator for the book festival held at the end of October. I learned even more about what is expected, and have now started with a number of new tasks. The afternoon was pretty quiet, with a fair amount of desk time.

Wednesday dawned. This was the first of three days in a row (two of them open to the public), when there are only two of us in to staff the two desks. That means that except for lunch and the occasional "comfort break," we are both on the desk all the time we are at work. It was pretty slow for me in the morning, and I was able to catch up on assorted professional reading. The highlight of the day was an interesting reference question. The patron was looking for information on “nazzorites.” One of the things we started doing a while ago was keeping a wiki with a number of things including interesting reference questions. [More on this below.] I look at it as a way to provide the library administration with some concrete, real-life examples of the service we provide. Thank goodness, the drive home was very uneventful, and I had a chance to chat with my eldest son on his birthday.

Thursday was day 2 of the long reference days. Had a quick hour on the desk, then a database/discovery tool demo which ran more than 30 minutes longer then I expected. More desk time, lunch, desk, then a meeting with other staff here. Whew! In the mail were several "prisoner letters." These are reference questions which we receive by mail from the inmates of several prisons of the state. We try to answer them as best we can, knowing that they do not have any internet access. The questions about Louisiana, we can send to that section of the library, and the legal questions we forward to the state's Supreme Court Law Library. We do track the "prisoner letters" on the internal Wiki. I started doing that just to get an idea of where the questions were coming from. I'll also note that we have some "regular" correspondents who make frequent requests.

Since July 1, the library building is not open to the public on Fridays. Staff still reports to work, and for my department, it means that we can actually have a departmental meeting (which we did last week, this week there are only two of us here.) It is also officially a casual dress day. My day started with a blood draw (just routine stuff). Then, it seems that no matter how hard I try, the day gets chopped up. Some of my accomplishments today include:
  • Getting a second Center for the Book staff member set up on Facebook for tagging photos (so we can publish the work site page)
  • Creating an email reminder on entering statistics, and getting the language approved
  • Typing up notes from Thursday's meeting for my staff and a fellow department head the latter of whom was called away
  • Reading many, many emails
  • Working on an (e)mail merge for libraries who are missing data
  • Sent that email (with only one strange error)
  • Entered data from the 5 libraries which responded immediately
  • Spent time in the stacks with our gun books to answer questions from two different parish libraries
  • Almost cleared off my desk
  • Sent an overdue email to participants in the Library Support Staff Certification class from this spring.
Whew! What a day. I am glad that the week is over!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reflections on living in New Orleans

Ed note: I started writing this right after ALA, but was interrupted. This was followed by a week in Panama (vacation) and some time when I was not well. But such is life.

For most of the past week, I have been with my professional colleagues who came to New Orleans for the American Library Association Annual Conference. Five years ago, in 2006, I completed my service as a member of the ALA Executive Board, here in New Orleans. That included participating in the discussions which led to our decision to hold the conference here, less than a year after Katrina. Little did I dream that I would ever live here.

I am also currently reading Deliriously New Orleans, which is sort of a coffee table book about the city and its history and architecture. Among the quotes which have struck me is this one:
Many born-and-bred locals and adopted transplants openly admit to an irrational attachment to the place...This is the common ground that attracts returning native and visitors alike, because for all its flaws, its distinctive culture remains its most alluring and enduring contribution to America.
New Orleans, like many older North American cities, is a city of neighborhoods. The first immigrants were in the older neighborhoods, and subsequent waves of immigration established their own enclaves. While there are some differences, there are more unifying architectural features than not.

I recommend a look at the book which highlights some of the vernacular architecture which many "serious" architecture works will over look. He also includes information about the changes wrought by that seminal 21st century event -- Katrina.

The final chapter is about St. Frances Cabrini Church. In that chapter the author has a definite axe to grind. I have no way of judging the accuracy/truth in what he presents.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vacation in Panama #4 - wrap up

The rest of the vacation was not as adventure filled.

We spent some afternoons at the pool, when the rains did not begin too early. We had dinner most nights at Rancho de Caldera. The food was excellent, if sometimes a little sophisticated for our daily diet.

Wednesday morning, we went off to the hot springs. These are the naturally occurring hot springs which give the settlement (town is a too organized idea of what is there) its name. The springs are pictured in the Boquete area activities part of the Rancho's page. They are very hot 102 - 106 degrees, but you can cool down in the nearby rive. We walked from the bridge (about 500 meters), but it was a muddy rutted road. The folks who own the property have some "changing rooms" (i.e. sheds), and charge $2 per person.

Thursday we took a horse ride around the property. It was loads of fun with fantastic views. Our guide spoke very little English, but with my very little Spanish, we were able to communicate effectively. (I'll note that he had to put a different saddle on to start, because my big, fat feet would not fit in the original stirrup.)

Stay tuned for photos, on Flickr.

Friday, we drove to David (for the first time since we left). It was an interesting trip to do in the daylight and see the scenery. We visited one casino (small by Vegas standards, or even New Orleans standards) but with mostly penny slots - right up our alley!

Saturday was the early rising to begin the long trek home: five airports, four airplanes, and a taxi ride, plus the drive to the airport and finally home.

Vacation in Panama #3 I gave up blogging while there...

Tuesday morning we had a tour of a coffee plantation: Finca Dos Jefes. I booked the tour, at Gina's recommendation [Gina is the owner of Rancho de Caldera], from the web form at the site above.

We were the only two people on the tour, which lasted the full three hours. Rich (the owner) picked us up on the main street in Boquete, and drove us up to the farm. Because it was "green season" (i.e. rainy season) we scheduled our tour in the morning. We got to see the beans growing on the trees of various ages. This is an organic farm, so they don't use pesticides. They also pay the prevailing wage to their itinerant workers, and provide decent housing for both the permanent and temporary workers. We did get to see the beans in various stages of post-drying, as they age and dry further. At the end of the tour, and after tasting some of the coffee roasted there, I got to roast some coffee. Four [4] pounds of dried, green beans (about 10.5% moisture content) will roast to 3 pounds of coffee. We also got to take some coffee home.

We ate lunch several days in different restaurants in Boquete. We had local Panamanian food, we ate in a bar, and in a Peruvian restaurant. We also ate at a very nice, upscale restaurant The Rock, overlooking the river.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Vacation in Panama #2

This is a wonderful part of the world, incredible mountains and lush jungles.

Today we went zip-lining in the top of the jungle vegetation outside Boquete. We drove to the city, and were met for the drive up to the resort (3 cabins that I could see) where we started. To say that the roads were narrow and steep would be an understatement. We eventually left the paved road for a gravel one lane road (more at the end). We finally got to the starting point. There was only one other couple doing the trek with us, but there still was, what the guides called, our paparazzi - one of the staff who took photos of everything. We then drove up a track so steep that it had a pair of paved wheel tracks to the real end of the road, right at the border of La Amistad National Park. A short trek later we were beginning our descent down 3,000 feet over 12 zip lines.

The guides were great. Two of them were named Mohammed and Israel! And their command of English was amazing.

It was an exhilarating thrill to traverse the river, see waterfalls, and be on tree stands which are over 400 years old. If you ever find yourself in Boquete, I recommend Boquete Tree Trek.

It was a 4 hour adventure, and driving back down the mountain we met about 5 vehicles coming up the other way. Since the pavement was very narrow, and there were deep drainage ditches on both sides, it was an adventure to get past each one.

I am blogging tonight because we have some down time before dinner, and the afternoon rains have hit - hard. Tomorrow morning we are going on a coffee plantantion tour, then we will go another day to the hot springs, and one of the days after that for a horseback ride. We hope the weather is good enough to hike Baru, the volcano from whose top you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Vacation in Panama #1

So, we decided to do something different this year. After the ALA Conference as a "home game" (i.e., in New Orleans), we have gone away, and not to the beach.

Saturday, July 2, saw us on 4 planes in 5 airports. Our first flight left NOLA t 5:30. It was a short hop to Houston. After a fairly short lay-over there, we were headed to Panama City (Panama). One interesting thing was that our flight left late because of a TSA/ICE search of departing passengers. There were groups of 20 or so passengers who were asked to place their bags on one side of the jetway, and step to the other. Then a dog sniffed all the items left. Why? I have no idea. After we had boarded, we were further delayed because a few people did not make the flight, and their luggage needed to be removed.

We got to Panama City in good time. We landed at the international airport (Tocumen) and then needed to get to the domestic airport (Alport). We arranged for a driver, Mr. Kelley, who was great! He got us to Aloport in good time. Alport is very much a developing nation kind of airport -- 2 airlines, each with an A and B gate. Security was, well, lets just say interesting. Watch Flickr for photos. We were on a plane big enough for flight attendants, and the flight, which left an hour late, was about the same length as from MSY to IAH. When we got there, we did not understand that we needed to pick up our luggage out on the tarmac. But we got it figured out, and after renting a car from a different company than our reservation, oh well. It is the way here.

Our hotel is wonderful. We are outside Boquete, in the volcanic mountains, up near a national park. Facebook friends have seen the view from our bed...of the mountains and the valleys is incredible. The room is great, I am sitting on a porch which has a roof, but no screens...and there are no bugs. With the breezes we have turned off the A/C. (But the ceiling fan inside is on...) The Rancho Caldera is "off the grid." All the electric is provided by solar panels and/or a generator. The water is from a well on-site and multi-purified. The pool has an infinity edge corner. The food is cooked by great chef. Lunch is a la carte, dinner is prix-fixe menu decided by the chef each night. It is wonderful

Today has been recovery. Tomorrow we zip-line through the tree canopy, Tuesday is a coffee plantantion tour, Wednesday we hope to hike Baru. From the top, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans! Thursday we will go to the natural hot springs, and Friday we will ride the horses here on the property. Unfortunately, our adventure will end on Saturday with a reverse trip with a drive to David, flight to Panama City, transfer between airports, and then travel home. Who knows what else we will sneak in?