Nashville is for (Book) Lovers

This is another phone-it-in post, but to get back in the habit, you do whatcha gotta do, ya know?  The following is once again a thing I wrote as a sample for Book Riot.  Since composing it, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Parnassus, and OMG IT IS AWESOME.

Due to lack of funds, hectic work schedules, and other Dumb Adult Things, my husband and I aren’t taking any grand international vacations this year.  Thanks to a friend’s impending nuptials, we will be making a trip to Nashville this year.  Nashvegas (as the locals call it) is dear to our hearts for a number of reasons: we met and spent a number of years together there, and still have a number of friends in the area who we look forward to seeing.  Believe it or not, the Tennessee capital isn’t a bad place to be a bibliophile, either:

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Nashville has some bangin’ bookstores.  Of course, any bookworm worth her salt has heard of Anne Patchett’s Parnassus Books (which, alas, opened right around the time we moved away).  College kids and Hillsboro Village hipsters are familiar with the oddly named BookManBookWoman, which is wedged between the Vanderbilt and Belmont University campuses.  Rhino Booksellers has a couple of locations, stocked with lightly used books and charm galore.  Then you’ve got the warehouse that is McKay’s, where I spent many an hour paging through random German-language novels and pawing through used sheet music.  Newer on the scene but wisely allied with iconic record shop Grimey’s, Howlin’ Books has a small but well-curated collection worth investigating.

Check-ch-check-check-check-ch-Check It Out

Everyone talks about the libraries of New York and Seattle, and for good reason – they’re awesome!  However, Nashville’s libraries are nothing to sneeze at, and were a favorite hangout during my college years.  The main branch downtown is absolutely gorgeous, features rotating exhibits, and frequently hosts concerts from the refined (ex. classical guitar) to the rockin’ (I saw Harry and the Potters in NPL’s courtyard several summers ago, which was a blast).  If you venture into the ‘burbs, the satellite branches are quite lovely as well; I have fond memories of visiting the Green Hills location in particular.

Crack a Bottle

After all that literary tourism, you’ll probably be in the mood for an evening of relaxation in a bookish bar.  Fortunately, Nashville’s got your back.  You might walk right past the Patterson House your first visit (I know I did), but it’s worth seeking out.  The inconspicuous exterior perfectly meshes with its speakeasy-themed interior, complete with bookshelves galore.  Plus, at the end of the night, your check will be served in a classic tome.  If you find yourself on the east side come sundown, hit up No. 308, which with its “Writer’s Block Shots” has a similar literary vibe.

Literary Lyrics

I confess, this is a bit of a phone-it-in post: the majority of what follows is a writing sample I put together for Book Riot (which obviously didn’t make their cut, since I’m posting it here and not there – womp womp).  I was reminded of this piece upon hearing some other bookish music on the radio this morning — namely, The Decemberists’ “The Engine Driver,” which features lyrics like:

I am a writer, writer of fictions / I am the heart that you call home / And I’ve written pages upon pages / Trying to rid you from my bones

WXPN’s morning show host also mentioned The Jayhawks’ forthcoming album, with the equally literature-inspired title, Paging Mr. Proust.

Onto the recycled bit:


It’s hard to say which came first: my love of books or my love of music.  I started to both read and play piano around age four, but enjoyed having books read to me and music played to me long before that.  So, it’s a bit of a “chicken and egg” conundrum.

But lucky for me, I’ve never had to pick one love over the other, and neither have these equally bookish bands:

  • The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way.  This classic is one giant ode to Lolita, culminating in the unambiguous lyric, “Just like the old man in / That book by Nabakov.”

  • Bright Eyes, “Four Winds”

This is the song that started it all (“it” being the idea for this post).  I was driving the other day when it came on the radio, and the line “slouching towards Bethlehem” (which can be seen as a reference both to Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” and Joan Didion’s same-named essay collection) jumped out at me.  The references don’t stop there: midway through the song, Oberst mentions the three Big Books of christianity (the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an) in quick succession. And the Bible makes another appearance via “the whore of Babylon,” who debuted back in the day in the Book of Revelation.

  • Death Cab for Cutie, “You Are a Tourist”

This one is more of a general bookish reference, describing that feeling of not quite fitting in that we’ve all experienced at one time or another: “when you find yourself the villain in the story you have written…”

  • The Both, “Bedtime Stories”

When you form a supergroup of two talented songwriters and card-carrying nerds like Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, you’re bound to encounter some bookish goodness somewhere on the album.  Track ten of The Both’s debut hits the mark right out of the gate: “Bedtime stories just got the hook / Allegories that stay in the book.”  The theme continues throughout the whole some, alluding to story arcs along with “poetry and prose.”

  • The Lonely Island, “Lazy Sunday”

Okay, so this is technically about a theatrical adaptation of a classic children’s series, but close enough.  Who doesn’t remember when Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell debuted this little ditty as a digital short on SNL?  Along with its plethora of fantastic historical and cultural references, it doesn’t get much more gangsta than getting “taken to a dream world of magic.”

What literary lyrics would make your list?

A Day in the Life

One of the reasons I finally took the plunge and started this thing: I’m tired of the general public not understanding what it is that we librarians do on a day-to-day basis.  Some of that’s admittedly on us – up until the last few years (or maybe the last decade, if we’re being generous), our profession has been pretty insular, and overall I think librarians had been perfectly content to simply roll their eyes at those age-old stereotypes (long hair in a bun, cat-loving spinsters, spend half the “work day” reading a book, and so on) without doing anything to attempt to open folks’ eyes to the realities of librarianship.  However, as strong economies have fizzled – and, in turn, library budgets and positions as well – it seems that my peers have finally realized that our institutions do not exist in isolated, untouchable bubbles, and that maybe we should open up about what it is that we actually do, so that the beneficiaries of our services can recognize our hard work, and maybe even advocate on our behalf.

So!  That’s part of my intent with this blog: to share what it is that I do so that others can replace those tired stereotypes with more accurate understandings of librarianship.  If I can convince even one non-librarian reader that what we do is important and even invaluable, I’ll consider it a success.

Hey, it could happen!

In any case, here’s what an average day on the job looks like for me:

  • 9 AM[ish – punctuality and I sometimes have our differences]: Arrive at work, about an hour before we open to the public.  Clock in, maybe some brief “hey, how are ya?”s with coworkers, then a quick work email check before I’m off to the races.
  • 9:15 AM: Start the daily remote holds process.  My library is a member of a county system that uses daily van pick-ups and deliveries to transfer materials between locations for patrons’ convenience (so I can put a hold on Library X’s book, but have it delivered for me to pick up at my home library).  We’re one of the bigger and busier libraries in the system, so we typically have a good number of incoming holds to prep for patrons, along with a good number of outgoing holds to pull and get where they’re needed.  On an average weekday, we easily have 100+ outgoing hold requests that we need to look for, mark “in transit” in our ILS [library circulation software], and sort in preparation for the next van pick-up.  In terms of incoming items for our patrons, we usually have a good 5-7 bins’ worth of materials (about 60-100 individual items) to sort, check in, and add to our hold shelves.  However, depending on the time of year (especially if we’ve just come back from a long holiday weekend), we sometimes have much more than that to reckon with: I think my personal records are over 200 outgoing holds to pull in one day, and 12 bins’ worth of incoming holds.
  • Sometime around noon: Break for lunch.  I’m trying to get better about bringing my own lunch from home… but on days like yesterday when the Crazy starts promptly at 9:15, I escape to a local cheap chain restaurant to take a much-needed breather from patrons/coworkers.
  • c. 1 PM: Work on interlibrary loan (ILL) processes.  In addition to the intracounty remote holds processes, I also coordinate loaning items to libraries from outside our system, as well as our patrons’ requests to borrow items not owned by any library in our system.
    • The first part of that process involved logging into a resource-sharing database/website that libraries from all over my state use to request and lend items through ILL.  I check to see how many incoming ILL requests for our materials we have (usually 5-8).  Then I check to see if we actually have the items being requested.  There are a number of reasons why we might not be able to lend a given item: usually it’s because the item is already checked out to one of our patrons, but sometimes it might be because the item has been withdrawn [taken out of our system due to low circulation, poor condition, etc.], or because the item is simply missing (sometimes it’s misshelved; other times, it’s “grown legs,” if you know what I mean).  Out of those initial requests, I’m usually able to fulfill about half (2-4).  For those that we can lend, I pull them from the shelves, check them out to a dummy ILL account in our ILS, then check them out to the borrowing library in the aforementioned website.  Then, they are sent off to our system headquarters, where our system-wide ILL coordinator deals with them and all the other incoming/outgoing interlibrary for the entire county (Gott segne sie!).
    • The second part of the ILL rodeo: processing and prepping items from other libraries that have come in for our patrons.  This involves going back into that statewide website to mark the items as “received” (so their owning libraries don’t think they got lost in the mail), putting brightly colored paper ILL sleeves on the items (so that they don’t get mixed up with books and media actually owned by us or other libraries in our system), checking them out to the appropriate patrons, and notifying those patrons that their items are ready.
  • c. 3/3:30 PM: After I finish these essential daily tasks, then I have a couple hours to work on my long-term projects.  Usually, this time gets used for collection development [making purchasing and withdrawing decisions for sections of the library]: I’m currently in charge of our science fiction/fantasy, CD, DVD, adult foreign language, and mature graphic novel collections.  It’s a lot to keep up with, but I also really enjoy keeping appraised of what new and exciting releases are coming up for my collections.  (Plus, whenever there’s something I really want to read/watch/listen to that fits within the parameters of one of my collections, I can order it… [insert evil laugh])
  • And depending on the day of the week, 1-2 hours on the reference desk, thrown in there somewhere
  • c. 4:30/5 PM: Go home and collapse on the couch, if I’m lucky… if it’s not my lucky day, go home, scarf down some semblance of dinner, and run off to a 2-3 hour orchestra/band rehearsal.

That’s a typical work day in my life – no buns or leisure reading or spinsterhood in sight!  The one stereotype I do reinforce: my days do start and end with my cats. ❤

Fellow librarians: any of this sound familiar?  Feel free to post recaps of your normal day on the job!

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

Hallo, Schätzchens!  I’m a public librarian by day, classical percussionist by night.  Other interests include reading (duh), German language/culture, cooking, gardening, yoga, trivia, and my two super-spoiled cats.


Exhibit A: Super-Spoiled Cats.

I’m fully aware that starting a blog is so 2009 (or even 1999??)… so why am I belatedly jumping on the bandwagon?  For my mental health (read: purely selfish reasons): that is, to have an outlet to talk about what I want, when I want.  More than likely, what I talk about will mostly be library-related, whether about my work or more broadly about books/writing/the literary world.  However, don’t be surprised if some of my other interests (like German… or cooking… or music… or whatever I’m thinking about at a given moment) sneak in from time to time.

A couple of other ground rules to get out of the way:

  • I intend to be intentionally vague about my location/employers in order to feel a bit freer to speak my mind.  However, if I do eventually let slip hints as to my whereabouts/employment, suffice it to say that my opinions are 100% my own and do not reflect those of my employers.
  • I’m a big fan of parentheses and ellipses… so prepare thyself accordingly.

Think that about covers the basics; I look forward to using this electronic Pensieve to periodically clear out my mental clutter, and perhaps make a few new friends in the process!

Bis später, y’all!