When Life Gives You A Podcast

Across the PondcastSome of you might know that I am one-half of an awesomely nerdy podcast. While podcasts are an audio medium, she is both the beauty and the brains of the operation, I’m merely around for comic relief and the ever so random episode idea. We cover the gamut of topics from history, culture, words, fashion, and travel. It’s basically a cornucopia of awesome nerdy stuff.

Our idea for a podcast virtually came out of seemingly nowhere except that we both worked in a library and as one must do if you work in such an institution have a very many unique and random interests. Even as the better half of the podcast up and left for life in the United Kingdom before we even recorded an episode, the show is going on over 2 years strong! And yes, a dear friend gave us the name for our show which is a clever homage to geographical locations in relation to one another.

I’m not sure why I waited until now to write a blog post to formally introduce this endeavor to anyone who might stumble upon this blog but I feel like better late than never. It doesn’t hurt that I think we’ve finally hit our stride with the show and have quite a rhythm with our episodes.

I know there are so many amazing podcasts out there already and there’s only so much time to listen to them in your day but I think the randomness and fantastic fun facts you’ll learn from our show is a definite reason to give us a listen. We have a Facebook where you can keep up to date and communicate with us It’s Across the Pondcast. You can also email us as well at itsacrossthepondcast@gmail.com. Truthfully, it gets awfully lonely in our inbox so we’d love to get some feedback.

Did I mention, you can listen to use on basically any podcast listening service that exists just search for us as “It’s Across the Pondcast” and you’ll find us. Just as a quick shortcut here are the links to our show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  If you give us a listen and adore us, please make sure to give a rating and review because those kinds of things matter to the internet so it does its job to get our musings into the ears of more people.

Lastly, we love to do shoutouts on the show so if you reach out to us there’s a very real possibility you’ll hear your name on the show and that’s pretty cool, right?

PS: How awesome is our logo? I know it doesn’t really have anything to do with the content of our show, though we have done a dinosaur episode (Hint Hint). It was just a random design I created and thought it was the perfect representation for our show so we hope you enjoy it too!

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A Quest for Lent

I was born and raised Catholic so from the age I was old enough to understand what Lent was I was told to begin the practice of sacrificing something I enjoyed for Lent. For the longest time, I did just that. The list is quite long. I tried chocolate, peanut butter, beer, shaving, meat, pop, snacks, and even sex (if you’re a child of the 90s you may remember this is the premise fo the Josh Harnett movie 40 Days and 40 Nights). Of course, there is the no meat on Fridays rule as well, which I still practice. Over the years though, I never did quite understand why we practiced this sacrifice of something we enjoyed for the Lenten season. I understand the symbolic part of it for the faith but personally, I didn’t feel like it enhanced my experience with Lent in any way. It just felt like something for me to experience and that just doesn’t quite seem to match with the tone of the season.

A few years ago, I heard a priest give a sermon about doing something every day rather than giving something up. This instantly resonated with me because while it’s a simple idea it makes so much more sense as a better way to observe Lent. From this, I created the idea for my yearly Lenten Haiku Fundraiser. Thanks to Facebook’s fundraiser capability every year for Lent I choose a charity to have people donate in my name and in the process I write a haiku for every day of Lent. Perhaps, I may change the form of writing because truthfully my haiku writing is ghastly but I love the idea so far.

If you find yourself interested in donating something, even as little as dollar please do consider it. This year is for Feed America, a non-profit that supports food banks in the United States. Last year, I put it towards the Aplastic Anemia Foundation because my brother is a survivor of the disease. I know there are so many more worthy causes to work for and I look forward to doing many more of these. Here is the link to the latest fundraiser A Haiku A Day for Lent Fundraiser. I may not have incredible fundraising success but whatever amount I manage to raise feels like a far better way to observe Lent than giving something up.

If you have any suggestions for a new writing style I can team up with the fundraiser next year, please leave a comment!

 

Tacos Are True Love

I’m here to tell you that True Love is real. I’m not sure everybody gets to experience it in the traditional sense of finding their soulmate but we all experience in some aspect of our lives. Let me explain this further. I think true love can be experienced with things too, not just people.

I’ve heard the math out there that statistically there are at least a few people who could be your potential true love and therefore your soulmate but something about that to me feels wrong. If my soul has a match, it has to only be one person, right? I’ve always thought there’s only one me so logically there should be only one soulmate. In retrospect, trying to find that one soul in this large world we live in is a very tall order though plenty of people seem to do it. So, maybe there’s still hope for me?

I digress from that one aspect of true love to the point of this blog that there are multiple aspects of true love. There are certain songs, for instance, that when you hear them the lyrics hit you right in the feels. While I’m sure many songs become your favorite because they slap or a catchy beat there are those songs you never forget because the lyrics connect with you viscerally.

I think the same holds true with movies, artwork, places, books, even food if I’m being honest. There has to be something more to why so many people love pizza or tacos beyond just because they taste good, right?

That same warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I hear a song that truly resonates with me is the same feeling I can when watching a few movies and TV shows. There are a few places where that same feeling returns and a few pieces of art too. As for food, my relationship with hamburgers and fries definitely comes from that same feeling as the previous things I mentioned.

With the above observation, I’m convinced that these connections to certain things are just as much true love as it is when you meet your soulmate, albeit the odds are a lot easier of finding these other true loves. In short, it is my belief we all experience some form true love whether we find our soulmate or not. Though, believe me, I hope everybody gets to find their soulmate. To my soulmate, I’d like to add, if you’re reading this please let me know you’re out there!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your true loves!

Please Don’t Ask Me For Career Advice

Lately, I’ve developed this sense of self as a successful failure. Let me explain what I mean by this because by all accounts the two words contradict each other. I am overall, at least to myself, a success. I graduated college multiple times. I hold down a job that I am good at. I’m a positive contributing member of society. In addition to these successes though, I don’t seem to succeed at much else.

I try a lot of different things, sure, and not everything can be expected to succeed but I have a close to zero percent success rate with my ideas. I’m not really sure what to achieve by writing this out for you to read. I think it just feels good to write these feelings out and if I’m writing it out I figure I might as well share it with the world in case it resonates with someone else.

I think this thought process stems from the fact that I tend to sway toward being humble. I don’t like to brag because I feel like my achievements are not anything extraordinary. Sure, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but I don’t feel exceptional in any way. Lots of people graduate college, lots of people are good at their jobs, and lots of people are good people. Perhaps it’s this same tendency that has led me down the path to be an introvert as well? If you’re someone who knows the Meyers-Briggs personality type well, I’d love hear where you think I fit.

Let’s briefly go through some of my grand ideas for myself and see where we end up so far. From my earliest days, I wanted to be a paleontologist but I wasn’t all that great at science. Afterward, I wanted to be a history professor but Ph.D. programs turned me down. Then there was an archaeologist but I think what stopped me there was I was led there by my dreams of paleontology and chances are much better I discover a human bone before a dinosaur one on a dig. Soon after, I took a jaunt to become an English professor but for someone who has a very unique approach to the writing process teaching English to college students may not have been the best fit. I even tried journalism for a while and actually spent a few years there but making a living off my writing just wasn’t the best fit for me in the end either.

That brings us to present day and me as a librarian. I once had a faculty member make the off-hand comment that librarians are what people do who couldn’t achieve their dreams. I’m not sure if condescending is the right word to define that but it’s definitely an untrue statement because I have met some fabulous librarians and they achieve some incredible things. However, I never dreamt about being a librarian like I did about the above professions. Being a librarian was the field that was my saving grace, however, when I felt lost as a journalist. A librarian is a welcoming field to anyone who considers themselves the wearer of many hats or rather someone who has a multitude of interests.

I like to think that one of the major reasons why all those previous dreams didn’t come true is because deep down I wanted to make a big difference to most people. That’s not to say those positions don’t make a difference because I know they do but working at a library you have the opportunity to touch the lives of so many people from all walks of life. I think that drive to do as much good for many is what led me to work in librarianship.

There are still other things beyond career choices like my ideas for this very blog, podcasts, book projects, brewing beer, crafting ideas, and growing plants have all started and sputtered in some way or another. It’s disheartening when I put forward the effort to create something but can’t seem to get any traction for it. Perhaps my tendency to be an introvert is part of my trouble but I’ll keep trying and someday my creativity may find a niche.

As you can see, I think I did my best to describe my life this far as a successful failure. I’m hoping moving forward to gain more successes than failures and maybe someday I finally get that book published. What I will shoot for the most though is the opportunity to create library ideas that make a great many positive differences with as many people as possible. If that’s the only success I can achieve, however, I think it would make me a successful failure that I could be proud of.

 

My Library Year

New Year’s Eve has always been a Jekyll-Hyde sort of day. On one hand, you look back at the highs and lows of the year about to end while on the other you dream about what could be in the coming year. As such, you’re torn between nostalgia and excitement it’s a precarious precipice to find oneself on sure to leave to lots of emotions.

For my part, I want to use the last few hours of 2018 to recount my year in the library. It was my second full year as a librarian and like with most things I’ve only gotten better with experience. Beyond that though, this year taught just why I entered into a career in librarianship. I’ve started to formulate changes I want to make to the library landscape and I’ve started to see my ideas germinate take shape in the last year.

Granted I am only two years into what will be a multiple-decade career so my ideas have a way to go and I have a ways to go career-wise to get to the point where I will be in the position to institute some of these ideas. From where I stand for two years and some change into my library career I am happy with the output so far. What I can say for certain is now more than ever I am sure I am in the right place.

Now to the point of this post, I’d love to share some of my highlights from my librarian year.

Highlights of 2018:

  • I succeeded in making dinosaurs emerge as the library’s mascot
  • Completed the building of the library archives
  • Created a digital photo archive of over 400 images and still growing
  • Figured out how to use social media to advance our library’s mission
  • Developed an interactive push-pin travel map that saw patrons visit all seven continents
  • Lots of genealogy research

It’s not a long list of highlights and some of them may seem somewhat simple but I think its the momentum they build upon that most excite me. As I continue to learn and grow in the field and find myself with a position to be a mover and shaker in libraries I know these yearly highlights will grow.

These are my personal achievements though and while each of them affects our patrons they are ultimately my achievements and I am a librarian to help the people achieve. To that end, my ultimate highlight of the year from the library service side of things was seeing several patrons excitement when they learned how easy and FREE library cards are. They expected some kind of obstacle but there was none and it turned them into a kid on Christmas.

Another highlight that I think on as to why libraries are so great is the few occasions where a patron checked out a book to give reading for fun a try for the first time. They seem apprehensive at first but hopeful and when they return to bring back the book you can tell they’ve caught the reading bug.

As a librarian, I have to be able to become anything a patron needs me to be or rather, at least offer them some information and direction on whatever service they may be needing. While I have learned things I probably never thought I’d want to know, I relish the challenge and all the random information I learned. Truly, a librarian is the profession for me.

 

Is Library Jail A Real Place?

Dinosaur LibrariansA library’s greatest marketing tool is the fact that we offer so many amazing services including access to thousands of media materials and all for free. It’s a fun fact I love to point out to patrons when they ask how much a library card costs. There was the extremely enjoyable experience recently when I gave a little girl her first library card and explained she could take anything out for free. Her eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store and that is truly the embodiment of why I became a librarian.
 
While our services are mostly free there are the occasional charges for printing and other miscellaneous services the library offers. From a business model these nominal fees make sense especially considering how fragile library budgets are these days. There is, of course, one other way libraries can cost you money, library fines.
 
I like to refer to having fines as having to go to library jail because in essence if you reach your fine limit you’re in jail because you can’t use any of our services. I have a love-hate relationship with fines because, on one hand, I see some libraries abolishing their policy of library fines and I have to wonder how do they hold their patrons accountable and get material back in a reasonably timely manner. On the other hand, I’ve seen people experience life and as a result get suckered with library fines they can’t pay and have to say goodbye to the library.
 
I’ve rationalized with myself that there has to be a happy medium ground to be found here. On a financial level, library fines make up only a minute part of a library’s budget so in that respect they are not a big line item there but I do think they are an important motivator to our borrowers to return items regularly for other patrons to enjoy and that allows the library to operate at its best level for all its patrons. For some concrete numbers, library fines make up an urban library with a service area of 30,000 people with a $2 million budget collected $25,000 from library fines. That’s roughly 1 percent so while not an insignificant sum to a library it’s also not a major line item on the budget. At the same time, an immovable stance on library fines doesn’t do the patrons any service either as in some cases it banishes patrons from the library for long periods of time for a short lapse in responsibility.
 
My idea looks a lot like this. Since libraries are important centers of the community, why not use the library fines as a way to better support the community. Offer patrons a way to pay off their library fines that don’t necessarily mean paying in money. Perhaps offer avenues for them to work off their fines performing community service or schedule food drives where bringing in so many items can reduce your fines. If you question what would this do for accountability, I think you’ll find the patrons who are generally conscientious about their library fines would be the only ones to participate in this fine forgiveness whereas your repeat offenders will probably stay in library jail.
 
It’s just some food for thought but I think libraries stand to gain so much more for their community by using some sort of program like this rather than sticking to one side or the other of the library fine issue. But for those of you who have always wondered, yes library jail exists.

Librarian of Many Hats

I don’t know about you but growing up I experienced a host of careers I wanted to achieve when I grew up. From professional baseball player to paleontologist, the sky was the limit for what I could be. My parents of course, encouraged each one of these dreams, as parents do, so I really could have become anything I wanted to be. As glamorous as it would have been to be a baseball player or Jurassic Park-like it would have been to be a paleontologist, I, in the end, chose to  be a librarian.

Here’s the best kept secret of librarians that not many people know about when they ask us what we do all day…we do everything. In my time as a librarian, I have been asked to wear all sorts of hats to help patrons out. From lawyer, accountant, stockbroker, counselor, to my personal favorite a veterinarian to proffer advice on how to help a cat going into labor. Essentially, I learn new jobs every day!

Library school did not prepare me for the amalgamation of job titles I would achieve when I became a librarian. It of course, prepared me to handle reference questions but I never imagined these questions would lead me to where they have. Of course, I always offer the caveat to these patrons that I am by no means qualified to offer said advice in these fields but they often times just want my unofficial opinion in hand for when they do deal with the real professional.

It’s a comforting feeling to me that people trust their librarians even if when they don’t seem to know exactly what we do. People really will ask you anything if you work at a library. I was even asked to help someone decide who to vote for on their absentee ballot, I very politely declined on offering any advice on that one. My all-time favorite was a patron who told me she received a thank you card with a pineapple on and the word “merci” written underneath and she wanted to know what the pineapple meant.

I’ve learned a lot of things as a result of the random reference I’ve had to provide so perhaps after not too much longer I can consider myself a Renaissance Man! Most importantly though, I get to go to work everyday and who knows what kind of career I’ll pick up next. The randomness is challenging but fun.

I often joke I should write a book about all my library adventures. In fact, I have adopted the hashtag #LibraryTales to regale my stories on social media, so feel free to check those out. Have you ever had to ask your librarian for an off-the-wall reference question or are a librarian yourself with a funny reference story to tell? I’d love to hear from you if you do!

 

Dear Data

CaptureblogI’ve always loved the idea of penpals, especially since I grew up in the digital age and letter writing went by the wayside. There was a time when I was 5th grade and a few times intermittently where I’ve corresponded with someone via letters but not on a regular long-term basis.

Luckily for me, a friend of mine some time ago posted a picture of this book Dear Datathat she had received as a surprise gift. The title caught my interest so I looked into and the premise sounded fantastic. These two people living on different continents decided to correspond with a postcard every week for an entire year. Each week they chose a theme in their life and communicated that theme through a hand-drawn graphic that represented the data that portrayed that theme in their life.

First off, the postcards are gorgeous just from an aesthetic feel but secondly, I’ve also loved infographics and data so these were a treasure trove for me. I poured through the book quickly and I recommend it to anyone else who shares those interests listed above or just loves reading good books!

Here’s the thing though, more than just a good book I really want to try doing a Dear Data project on my own! Even if my drawing skills aren’t great I feel like I could make this work and I hope you might be interested too!

To get a better idea of this project give a visit to this link explaining how it works, http://www.dear-data.com/theproject/, but most importantly, if you’re interested in participating please reach out to me and let me know!

Libraries, Great and Small

Epiphanies are a funny thing, they often times teach you how you were going about something all wrong, which is the case here. Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to do something that made a difference, a palpable memorable difference. Fun fact, I’m a librarian and I do make a difference.

Growing up I always wanted to be a paleontologist or archaeologist that made some big discovery that they would teach about in books for decades to come. So far to my archaelogist name, I haven’t found all that much but I suppose there’s still time! As I got older and socially aware, I wanted to make a contribution to society that would change society and make lives better. It turns out I’m not one for the spotlight so to be the face of a movement would definitely push me out of my comfort zone but at least, when others spearhead important movements, I try my best to support them in the best way I can.

This brings me to my epiphany. My job at a small-town library may not be as exciting as friends of mine where they get to interact with artifacts handled by the Founding Fathers, or construct buildings, or build the electronics that NASA uses in their technology, but it does help people. I’ll probably never get nominated for Librarian of the Year because of some really unique program I created, though I am working on trying to come up with ideas that my library can do to more successfully impact our community!

I realized, rather selfishly, that my desire to make a positive impact was to have my name remembered and that’s definitely not what helping others is about. I’m truly happy just being “the librarian” at my local library that helps people out the best they can. When I stepped away for a bit, I realized how much patrons appreciate the things I help with even if it’s as simple as helping them print a boarding pass.

There are regulars who know my name, but honestly, they can call me “The librarian with a beard” and I’d appreciate that recognition just as much. It’s about perspective, I suppose, and when all things considered I can make a difference for our patrons which is why I went into this field in the first place.

All I have to say to my self-doubt is stuff it. I am making a difference even at a small library and wherever I go next I’m sure to make a difference there too. My name might never be remembered for anything in particular but there will be plenty of people who will speak of a positive library experience and that’s worth its weight in being memorable.

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

Last night I finally watched “The Fault in Our Stars” yes, I realize I’m several years behind on this, but the point being the movie brought me to tears. That’s the thing I’m a guy and I cry. When I tell people this it always seems to garner a laugh because the stereotypical man isn’t supposed to cry, I guess. I find crying cathartic, and frankly, it’s hard not to cry at a story that essentially tore me to pieces.

I must be an emotional person because I feel things pretty hard, which is probably another reason anxiety and depression seem to come in and out so quickly for me. I don’t know if crying helps me cope with any of those feelings, but I do feel in the midst of a good cry my soul does feel lighter and that must be some kind of healing power.

I’m learning to be okay with not being okay. I realize I’m by far not the only one battling this fight and I’m constantly appreciative of those of you who reach out and tell me things will get better. There’s a major part of me that is scared it won’t though. I was talking to a friend last night and I defined myself as a pessimistic hopeless romantic. That combination of hope and hopelessness is the perfect definition of how I feel most days.

You might be thinking considering my propensity for sadness why would I choose to watch a movie where I know very well that it’s going to affect me and probably bring me to tears. I have an answer for that. Sometimes I have trouble coming to terms with my own emotions and when I watch an impactful movie that makes me feel, even if it brings tears, it helps me grapple with my own feelings.

I know my blog has been kind of heavy lately but I’m hoping to bring back the fun posts you probably originally started reading for but if you’re still with me, I really appreciate it!