Daily Thoughts 169: Hanging Out in the Library

I headed out to one of our libraries today. The sunny hot days of the weekend have given way to gray clouds hanging in a featureless layer overhead.  A few raindrops pattered down on my way to work but it has been mostly a dry day.

Book cover artLately, I’ve been listening to Mira Grant’s Parasitology series and I’ve started listening to the third book in the series today. I’m enjoying the series. I read the first book quite a while ago and hadn’t had a chance to get back to the series. I didn’t really try that hard, putting it off because the first book annoyed me. I enjoyed the concept of the story more than the story itself on my initial reading. Even so, it stuck with me. Then I decided to give the second book a shot as an audiobook and reengaged with the characters. I think it would have been better if the first and second books were published together. Or if I hadn’t delayed starting the next. Regardless, I’m really enjoying the series!


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Daily Thoughts 69: All Work and No Play

Author's selfie I try to find a balance between work, school, family, and play. Play includes writing, drawing or painting, games, reading, exercise, movies, TV, and all the rest. Some days it feels like juggling too many balls. I’m mostly comfortable juggling three balls. Give me more than that and it becomes more difficult.

All Work

With school and work both focused on libraries it sometimes feels like I live libraries 24/7. I get up and before long I am focused on libraries, either what I’m doing or studying. It continues all day. After work it picks back up after dinner until I’m getting ready for bed.

I love libraries and have high hopes for the future of libraries, but it is nice when I can take a break.

No Play

To counter all of this library focus, I try to find some time for other activities. I walk first thing in the morning with Zombies, Run! and an audiobook to keep me company. I usually listen to audiobooks when driving too, and most of the time they aren’t library-focused. Right now I’m listening to Allegiant by Veronica Roth and English Grammar Boot Camp by Professor Anne Curzan (I find it entertaining).

I took a few minutes this evening to play a challenge my son wanted me to play on Plants vs. Zombies.

I also meditate each day. And I try to read a short story before going to sleep.

It’s important to find some time during the day for breaks.

This Book is Haunted

Librarian Scott Taylor enjoys the quiet at the end of the day. Picking up the books, straightening up, spending a few minutes to get the library ready for the next day.

Books have a way of capturing memories and feelings. And tonight Scott discovers that a connection to a book lasts.

💀

Librarian Scott Taylor paused at the door to give the library one last look before he stepped outside into the October rain. Lights off, night service on, overdue money locked away in the safe, it all looked good except just then he saw someone slip between the stacks back by the mysteries.

“Hello?” Scott let the door close as he stepped back into the building. “Hello there, the library is closed?”

The Pearce Public Library lacked hiding places. From the circulation desk Scott had a clear line of sight down the fiction aisles to the mysteries along the back wall. To his right, the bathroom and the storage room, but the person he’d seen had been going the other way. And they were small. Like it’d been a kid.

Scott frowned. It wouldn’t be the first time a kid ended up at the library at closing without a ride. But they usually didn’t hide in the library. Most of the time he ended up calling their parents and waiting for someone to come pick them up. How any parent could leave a child alone at the library and not be there before it closed he didn’t understand. Especially not these days.

“Hello? Come on out. I need to close up the building. Can I call someone?”

No answer came from the nonfiction stacks. With only five aisles they didn’t have much of a chance of eluding him. Scott listened carefully but he didn’t hear any noises. After closing the library always was so much quieter. During the day, between the computers, the buzzing fluorescent lights, kids that lacked quiet voices and people on cell phones, he could hardly think sometimes.

Scott reached over past the doors and flicked the light switches up. One. Two. Three. Four. The ceiling tubes came on and lit up the library. He walked around the desk and started walking along the aisles. The kid didn’t have anywhere to go now that he couldn’t see. No one in the aisle with the travel books and poetry. No one in the arts or self-help sections. Cookbooks, dogs and sciences all empty. Scott got all the way up to the first aisle, to UFOs and Microsoft Office books without finding anyone.

He frowned. The only place that left was the kid’s section, but the shelves there were low enough that any kid as tall as the one he’d seen would be visible. Unless he crouched down.

“Come on, now. No more hide-and-seek. I need to close up.”

No shame-faced kid came out of hiding. Scott walked away from the nonfiction sections, past the reading and browsing area by the new books and into the kid’s section. He walked quickly along the aisles of juvenile fiction, looking past the rows of chapter books to the picture books along the back wall. He found nothing.

Impossible. No way the kid got away. Scott walked along the start of the picture books to the back of the juvenile section and made a circuit around the entire chapter book area. No one hiding at the ends of the aisles. But now that he thought of it, maybe that’s what the kid had done in the nonfiction section.

It only took moments to walk up the back aisle. Nothing. He went into the computer section along the front wall and looked beneath the long counter in case the kid somehow got there and hid beneath, behind the chairs. Nothing.

Scott stopped by the display case at the entrance and scratched his short beard. There couldn’t be a kid in the library. But he saw a kid. He was sure of it. He looked over at the restroom and storage room. It didn’t seem possible, but maybe the kid hid at the end of one of the nonfiction aisles, then went the other way after he passed by the first time.

The restroom was empty, except for the faint smell of urine tainting the air.

No one in the storage room either. For good measure, Scott checked his office. No one. The library was empty. Either he imagined seeing a kid, or the kid got out somehow. Scott turned off the lights one-by-one, plunging the library into darkness again. He unlocked the door and pushed it open.

He looked back one last time.

He didn’t see anything. Scott stepped out and shut the door. He got in his car and backed out. He drove around the block to the pharmacy, parked and walked back to the library.

Walking back he shivered in the chilly rain that seeped down his collar. He couldn’t shake the certainty that he had seen a kid in the library and he couldn’t leave without being absolutely sure that the library was, in fact empty.

At the back of the library, he picked his way around the puddles in the parking lot to the front of the building where the windows were low and large. He rounded the corner and peeked into the window.

Light from the streetlight behind him made it hard to see anything except the reflections of the rain-slicked street and the houses across the road. Hopefully, Mrs. Stanfield in the green ranch house across the way wouldn’t notice him and call the police thinking he was trying to break in. He could explain what had happened, but it would be embarrassing.

He cupped his hands around his face and leaned against the glass.

Now he could make out the new books area and the kid’s areas. The only light in the library came from the security lighting up above the circulation desk and those two small lights did little to illuminate the building. It looked empty.

Scott felt relieved. He didn’t know why a kid would hide in the library after it closed, but he didn’t want to take the chance. Now he could go home without a worry.

“What’re you doin’ there?”

Scott jerked and turned around to face the speaker, his heart racing. Mrs. Stanfield stood behind him in a bright red raincoat with a broad yellow umbrella clutched in one liver-spotted hand.

“Oh, Mrs. Stanfield, you startled me.”

“Mr. Taylor? What’re you doin’? Locked out?”

“No, no. Just making sure everything was okay.”

Mrs. Taylor’s perpetually downturned mouth opened, then closed again. She shook her head. “You’d best get out of this rain. Catch your death, you will.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Scott watched her walk off across the street, her blue rubber boots squeaking. Quite the colorful lady.

As he turned to go he saw a blue light flicker in the library, between the juvenile shelves. A lighter? He looked back at Mrs. Stanfield but she was still making her way across the street. He leaned against the window again.

There was a light. He could only see it through the books, not directly, but it flickered and danced like fire. Arson! Scott ran around towards the front of the building, his hand going into his pocket for his keys.

At the door, he fumbled them out, unlocked the door and yanked it open. He ran towards the juvenile section. The light still flickered, dimly but there, on the aisle that started with Beverly Clearly and ended with C.S. Lewis. Scott reached the end of the aisle and saw the girl.

She looked small with long hair that tumbled down her back in waves over her dress. She sat on the floor with her back to him and the flickering light he’d seen came from her. It looked like a blue flame, like burning alcohol. Except it didn’t just sit above her, it seemed to come from within her. Scott shivered and felt cold air flowing away from the girl past him.

He didn’t know what to say, or what to do. He stared at her.

A faint whispery sound and the movement of her arm told him she had a book in her lap. She was sitting and reading a book. A girl that looked like she was made of blue fire.

A ghost. What else could she be?

“Hello?”

She stiffened but otherwise didn’t move. Then slowly she turned her head slightly to the left.

“I’m the librarian.” Scott took a breath, sure she could hear his heart pounding. “Do you need help?”

She twisted around then and looked up at him with deep black eyes. In her lap, she held a copy of The BFG by Roald Dahl.

“I can’t read it,” she said and her voice sounded like leaves blowing down the sidewalk. “It’s my favorite.”

Scott swallowed. He tried not to shake too much as he crouched down in the aisle and extended his hand. “Do you want me to read it to you?”

“Yes, please,” she lisped.

She twisted around to face him and handed him the book. Scott felt tears stinging his eyes as he faced her, recognized her, and took the book. “What happened to you, Noelle?”

In whispers like rain, she told him about the bad man that had come for her after she left the library. His chest felt both heavy and light. He couldn’t have prevented what happened. The police said as much when he had talked to them. Tears dripped from his eyes. He brushed them away and turned to the first page and started reading by Noelle’s light.

The further he got into Sophie’s story tendrils drifted away from Noelle to the book, touching it lightly before sinking into the words on the page. She got fainter and fainter the more he read but the happier she looked. She streamed into the book page by page until he couldn’t see any more.

Scott stood up, ignoring stiff legs and carried the book up to the desk where the emergency lights glowed. He sat down in his chair there and continued reading the story. As he read he felt a joy spreading through his limbs from his hands and through his head from his eyes. It was Noelle’s joy in the story, coursing through his veins. He finished and didn’t resist the urge to hug the book close to his chest. His very favorite book.

💀

The next morning when he opened the library he displayed the book right on the desk. Who should come in first but Mrs. Stanfield herself?

“You ought not be out in the rain,” she admonished.

“I know, ma’am.”

She reached out and fingered the cover of The BFG. “What a sweet book.”

“You can check it out,” he said.

Her eyes widened. “It’s a children’s book!”

Scott smiled. “Maybe, but there’s a child in all of us. Take it, I think you’ll like it.”

“Okay,” she said.

Scott pulled up her record and scanned the book. He felt a twinge of regret when he let it go but she needed the book more than he did right now. Noelle would see to it that she enjoyed the book. Her and anyone else that checked it out. He almost considered a sticker in the cover reading, “This book is haunted.” Except that wouldn’t make sense. Besides, he didn’t support labeling books based on content.

He waved to Mrs. Stanfield as she left then turned his attention to processing the returns from the book drop. The day looked to be a good one.

💀

1,410 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 85th short story release, written in October 2009.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Next up is my story, Bone Magic.

Daily Thoughts 45: Dr. King, Librarians, Library Bill of Rights

Author's SelfieI spent some time this morning reading various Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and articles. In particular, the article in The Intercept “What the ‘Santa Clausification’ of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out” by Zaid Jilani (2017).

Jilani points out that “King was not just a fighter for racial justice, he also fought for economic justice and against war.”

I wasn’t born until years after the assassination of Dr. King. One of the things that struck me when I started to learn about this period of our history was how recent it was—in that horrified realization that those who spoke and acted against equality and peace were still around. Today that realization is more powerful than ever as we approach the inauguration of a divisive President-Elect.

Librarians and the Library Bill of Rights

Librarians stand for equality and equal access for everyone. The Library Bill of Rights defines these values.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

Many people (including librarians at times) struggle with the notion of including materials for all people of the community. Sometimes a subtle filtering takes place that excludes materials because someone believes that they don’t have those people in their community, e.g., not including books that show other cultures because of mistaken belief that the community lacks members of those cultures, or that members of the community won’t be interested in those materials. The library is the place where the confirmation bias bubble pops. If the librarians do their jobs well, that is.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

If there’s one issue I have with this, it’s the use of “Libraries” instead of “Librarians.” The language is used throughout the Library Bill of Rights. On its own, the institution doesn’t do anything. It takes librarians to provide materials and information—even when those materials represent views the librarian may personally disagree with.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Once again we see the use of “Libraries” in this section. If I was rewriting the Library Bill of Rights I would also make the language active rather than passive, e.g., Librarians challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Likewise, the previous section would read Librarians provide materials and information… The extensive use of “should” throughout the Library Bill of Rights makes it sound weak.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

What does cooperate mean in this case? ALA also provides a number of interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights. It also provides the Freedom to Read Statement which addresses these issues. I particularly like the end of that statement, “We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

People struggle with this one. Age becomes a frequent barrier for people under the age of 18, with obstacles placed on obtaining a library card. For all that librarians strive to do, they often struggle with this particular barrier. Another issue, tied to background, are perceptions of people due to their economic status, health, or other factors such as mental health. Policies are passed that exclude people based on traits that make some people uncomfortable. People may be profiled even at the library.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit space and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

People have the right to peaceful assembly, yet often lack spaces in which to associate. Time, place, and manner restrictions, along with requirements for permits, makes it difficult for people to assemble. The lack of free meeting space also creates challenges. Many city-owned community centers requirement payment to use the space. The library is often one of the few places which may have a freely available meeting space in the community.

I believe there is room for improvement in the Library Bill of Rights, yet it remains an important document, along with other statements produced by the American Library Association. It’s also worth looking at the work done by the Progressive Librarians Guild to see additional views on the librarian’s role in the community and the ongoing conflict between librarians advocating for neutrality and those arguing for social justice. Librarians haven’t always challenged inequality and discrimination, though it remains a key part of a librarian’s role. The fact that librarians advocate for unrestricted access is not a neutral view.

Librarians need to reevaluate some of the assumptions around the profession. As information scientists, as advocates for justice and equality, they stand poised to take on a significant role in the information age—or risk being supplanted by commerical interests with different motivations and values.

Daily Thoughts 34

Author's selfie Out in the Elma Timberland Library today. It’s been a cold, sunny day. I read an article about the branch supervisor recently fired from a library for the creation of a false patron record, using it to keep items in the collection that hadn’t circulated. I don’t know the details of the case. What interests me is the question at the base of the discussion—whether or not items should be kept that don’t circulate.

Libraries Are Finite

Libraries, like the TARDIS, are bigger on the inside. They contain universes, worlds, and uncounted people—both physical and those contained in the pages of books. What people forget is that information, whatever its form, takes space. A book is one way to encode information. It’s analog and physical on a macro scale that we understand. We can pick it up and weigh it in our hands. A file is another way, digital and measured in microns, but nonetheless still physical. For all we talk about the cloud, it exists on massive collections of servers taking up physical space. The devices used to access the cloud also take space. Regardless of format, it takes space to store information.

Given this essential fact of reality, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your neighborhood library will not contain all information that exists. It will contain more than it used to hold, thanks to the Internet and digital collections. Librarians still need to balance spaces for physical people who want to use the library, and spaces to hold the books on the shelves. They take up more space than the e-books but use less electricity.

Here’s the hard question: once the shelves are at capacity, how do you add more items?

Say that your local library has room on its shelves for about 7,000 items. (The collection is more like 8,000 items, with around 13% checked out at any given time). According to Bowker, about 300,000 traditional titles are published each year! Your local library doesn’t have room (or the budget) to buy more than a fraction of those titles. Let’s say that your library budgets $20,000 for new purchases, and is able to manage around 1,000 new titles each year.

The collection can’t exceed 8,000 items—you don’t have space for more items and a larger library isn’t in the cards. What do you do? The math ends up being pretty simple. If you buy a book, another book must go to make room for the new book.

You can offset some of this by buying replacement copies for books lost or worn out. People will also want the latest book by [insert popular author], so that’ll take another chunk of books. Let’s suppose that the first 200 books are easy decisions.

You’ve also received a bunch of requests for other titles, and because you receive publisher catalogs, review copies, and read industry reviews, you learn about titles you know people will want before they’re even aware the book is coming out. You can save some more space by shifting part of your budget to e-books. That makes some (not all) people happy even though you’re basically building a second collection that often overlaps your collection in the library.

With all of that, you still end up with 500 new books to fit on the shelves. On average you fit about 25 books on a shelf, meaning you need to free up 20 shelves of space! With 5 shelves in each section, that’s equal to a whole aisle of space in the library (of course the books aren’t all in one section).

The only way to make them fit is to pull essentially 500 books from the shelves after you’ve already dealt with the easy ones. Now you have to do further evaluation. How about replacing outdated titles like that Windows XP book? That gets a few more. What about books that no one wants to read? You might love the book, think it is great, but when you try to interest people in it, they pass and pick something else. Maybe it was an over-hyped title that no one finished reading two years ago. Or it sounded like something that people would enjoy, only they didn’t. It could also be a classic that no one ever asks to read—not even your dedicated book club.

As painful as you might find it, you have to make room for those 500 newer books. You’ll try to rehome the discard titles. Maybe the Friends of the Library can sell them to raise money for the library. Or you could try one of those outfits that sells library discards online, giving the library a cut.

This process never ends. It goes on each day as new titles arrive and other titles have to make room for the incoming books.

According to reports, the false account was used to check out items in order to register a ‘circulation’ of the titles so that they wouldn’t show on a report and get pulled to make room for other books. Supposedly the titles needed to be kept on the off chance that someone might request the book in the future, and then the library would have to purchase a copy. Apparently, they never heard of interlibrary loan.

See, your library may only have room for 8,000 items in the collection. Another library system might have a million items! They have the same process, but more room means more titles. There are also libraries with a different focus than a public library. So when someone requests a book that your library doesn’t have, you ask other libraries to lend it to you. And often they do because they’ll ask the same favor later.

Library space is finite. You can’t keep every item on the off chance that maybe, someday, someone might want that item. That doesn’t mean that another library won’t have it.

And if you find that you’re creating false records, complete with false identification, you may want to stop and think carefully about what you’re doing. After all, you can’t force people to read what you want, just because you think it’s something they should like. Working in a library, we should carry items people want—they’re the ones paying for the items!

Horror Franchises

People want remakes, sequels, prequels, reboots, and retellings of familiar stories. We want universes and crossovers. The reason? Because all of these forms promise a similar experience. Sure, we want them to be good (a matter of personal taste). This is why series—and flavors of ice cream—remain popular. We’re looking for that experience. If I still ate dairy, I’d love to have more Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. If they came out with a similar flavor, maybe something dark chocolate with dried apricots or cherries, and almonds, I’d be very interested. I’d also be interested if they came out with a soy/coconut/other nut milk frozen dessert version of New York Super Fudge Chunk because I’d be looking for a similar experience.

Which is all to the point of a couple new trailers posted today. Enjoy.

Creepy Ring kid is back in Rings, updated off of VHS to email attachments you shouldn’t open. Much like any attachment promising your favorite celebrity in the nude.

Chucky returns in a teaser of shots from previous films, with an overlay of text promising the terrorthrills, etc., of previous films. In other words, the experience. The quality of the franchise has varied a bit, though I found the last installment Curse of Chucky to be one of my favorites. It does mean that folks who bought the Chucky: The Complete Collection won’t have a complete collection any longer. Brad Dourif remains a high point of the series created by Don Mancini. Of course, the latest also starred Fiona Dourif.

Daily Thoughts 33

Author's selfieI worked out in the Hoquiam Timberland Library today. It’s an old, remodeled 1911 Carnegie building. I mostly focused on tasks that I needed to work on, including wrapping up the work on the report on top circulating titles in different areas. Here’s the fiction list:

TOP 10 FICTION

1. The Last Mile by David Baldacci
2. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
3. Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
4. 15th Affair by James Patterson
5. The Crossing by Michael Connelly
6. The Guilty by David Baldacci
7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
8. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
9. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
10. Make Me by Lee Child

(TRL, 2016)

Minecraft

My son loves Minecraft (so do I), and has been building a world for the challenges that he devises. I spent some time tonight playing with him in his world—after figuring out that the firewall on the other computer was preventing us from connecting.

Minecraft screenshotIt’s fun. He recorded a video with his cube+, so we’ll have that to look at as well.

Exercise

I got up promptly at 4:30 am today, walked and did yoga and meditation when I got back. I find that I’m running out of time. I think I’ll have to adjust a bit because I also need to have time to study. I might have to reduce the amount of time spent walking in order to make time to do yoga as well.

Daily Thoughts 26

Author's selfie Back in the office again today. The Library Board of Trustees meeting is tonight, so I’m working later than normal. This meeting marks the end of the year and the approval of the 2017 budget.

I finished listening to Bill Nye’s Unstoppable today on the way to work. It’s a good book. Positive, engineering-focused, it covers the challenges and some possible approaches. Largely, it is a call to action. I don’t agree with everything proposed, but in the broad strokes, I think there is a lot of promise in developing renewable energy sources. I’d like to see solar and wind power improve and expand, along with a distributed smart grid. For one thing, a robust distributed grid makes us less vulnerable to disasters of any sort. Less dependence on oil is a good thing in my book.

Writing and Art Progress

No progress to report today. I didn’t get to it before work, and then with a long day at work, I didn’t have a chance this evening. That happens sometimes. Nothing to worry about. I’ll pick it up again tomorrow.

 

Daily Thoughts

The Conjuring

I took a break from data analysis this evening to watch The Conjuring again. I enjoy this sort of spooky film. When it comes to horror, I usually prefer spooky, ghosts, hauntings, etc., to non-supernatural horror.

Shaking Up Data

Graph of earthquakes

I spent a good part of the day working on a final project for my Big Data Analytics class. I’m looking at the last 10 years of earthquake data. This visualization shows quakes with a magnitude of 3.0+ in 2006. The larger circles represent the correspondingly greater energy release in larger quakes. I also like how mapping the data traces the plate boundaries. It makes it really clear just how active our world is, and how many earthquakes happen in a single year.

I still need to finish my report and a demonstration of the project. In addition to the data, I’m also looking at media responses, and data gathered which shows the reactions to—or lack of reactions to—earthquakes. Why is it that so many of us are unprepared for a major incident?

Using Trello in Getting a Master’s Degree

Finish Line In Sight

Tuesday was a big day—no, not because of the election which felt like a surprise twist on Scandal. Tuesday was a big day for me personally because I registered for my final classes at San Jose State University. The Spring 2017 semester isn’t my last semester; I’ll still need to complete my e-portfolio project to complete the MLIS program, but it is the final semester when I’ll be taking classes.
Spring 2017 Trello Board

Trello Board

I’ve used Trello each semester to organize my classes and assignments. To celebrate registering for my final classes I went ahead and set up a new board for Spring 2017. I don’t have much on it right now, just a single card for each of my four classes:

Board Organization

I organize the Trello Board into a list for each class followed by three lists: Next Up, Doing, and Done. For visual interest, and ease of quickly identifying the board, I’ve set a background image.

Each class list starts with a general syllabus card (with an attached cover image representing the class). This card is also where I attached faculty information, and the syllabus once it is available for the class. If the professor has previously taught the course, I may attach the last syllabus.

Trello card example

If necessary, I may attach other documents, and once I know what the major assignments are, create a checklist for those assignments. Trello’s checklists are very useful (and you can have multiple checklists within a single card). Individual items on the checklist may also be converted into cards.

Labels and Due Dates

On each class list, I create cards for Lectures, Readings, Assignments, and Discussions. Sometimes I may also have a couple of other labels, such as Activities, or Resources, but usually, I stick with the four primary labels as well as a label for each course. The example above shows the INFO282-11 label.

Labels enable filtering—so I can filter the view to show only cards for a particular class, or all readings, etc. The color-coding also helps me identify what is going on at a glance.

Likewise, due dates are critical. Most classes have lectures, readings, assignments, and sometimes discussions due every week. By setting due dates on each card, I see what is coming up. Trello also color-codes the due dates on the card as they approach (or pass) the due date.

strongly prefer professors who post all of the course material on day one. Comments such as, ‘you would panic’ if the materials were posted are insulting. Professors don’t need to accept assignments early, and notions of keeping everyone on the ‘same page’ are ridiculous.

Canvas isn’t used effectively by many professors, and it lacks the features and personalization of something like Trello. I prefer to organize the materials on my board so that I can see at a glance what I need to focus on in the days and weeks ahead. I work full time. I have a family. And I’m a full-time student. Not to mention other interests, and basic needs like sleep and exercise, that take up my time. Withholding information only serves to make it more difficult for me to plan and organize my time.

Yes, I had to get that off my chest. I will continue to make that point on the SOTES (Student Opinion of Teaching Effectiveness). Keep it in mind if you decide to go back to school.

Card Movement

Once I stack the deck on each list with the individual cards for each week, I can see right across all my classes what is coming up. Then I make a choice on what I want to work on next and drag those cards to the Next Up list.

I limit how many cards I put on Next Up to three (most of the time). That helps me focus my attention on what I’m doing next. These could be cards from different classes, or all from a single class, depending on time, energy and resources available to tackle the work described by the cards.

From Next Up, I move one to the Doing list. In the beginning, I’ll usually move one more card over to Next Up from the class lists so that I still have three on Next Up.

Then I focus on the single card on the Doing list. When completed, I move it to the Done list and select a new card from the Next Up list. At some point, as the Next Up list is depleted, I decide what’s next and pull more cards from the class lists. In this way, cards move from the classes lists to Next Up, Doing, and Done.

Now and then I’ll have a card on the Doing list that takes more time, and can only be done at a certain time/place, e.g., I may need to use the code editor on my computer, but I’m at work. In that case, I may pull another card over to Doing that I can tackle on a break, such as reading assignments on my Chromebook.

Attachments and Markup

I attach everything to cards. Sample files, reading material, lectures, and instructions. I access Trello on a variety of devices from my computer to my phone and my Chromebook. Attaching everything I need makes it easy to access whatever I need to refer to or read. Typically I compose first drafts in Google Docs and then finish up later in Word.

Trello supports Markup notation in descriptions and checklists, making it easy to embed material and links directly within cards.

Teams

Trello offers extensive support for team collaboration—only I haven’t found any teams at the iSchool comfortable with learning to use Trello in order to take advantage of the features! It’s too bad because Trello would be ideal for groups collaborating on complex projects. Cards may be assigned to team members. It supports commenting and subscription features. With Power-Ups, Trello offers more features and integrations with many other services.

Still Learning

Since starting the program at the iSchool, I have learned new ways to use Trello. I continue to tweak and modify what I am doing. I don’t often use the Trello sticker function, those others may like it. I’ve tried using the custom field power-up to mark a card ‘done’ on the front, but it doesn’t quite do what I’d like. I think I’ll use a label instead.

Though I’m nearing the end of my studies at the iSchool, I intend to continue using Trello in my writing/illustration/publishing efforts. Along with Evernote, Trello remains one of my most used applications.

Discards

Aspen Winters loves the library. The books. How organized everything was on the shelves. That it wasn’t her father’s pharmacy.

Her first step to independence. A real job and a chance to get away from her father. Soon she’d get her own apartment.

Plus Tony worked at the library. Two years older, with the cutest dimple, she couldn’t wait to work side-by-side with him.

One day she’d run the library and everything would be perfect. Just perfect.

💀

This was one of those perfect blue sky days that came along too rarely in Grays Harbor, even in June. Today the sunshine brought out the bright reds and pinks and yellows of the roses along the front of the Parker library. The green metal roof sparkled with droplets from the brief rain last night. The rain had stripped the mill-stink out of the air, leaving everything fresh and smelling clean.

A perfect day to start a new job. Aspen Winters rose up on her toes, feet in her white pumps, the ones that she normally only wore on special days. Her heels dropped back down to the sidewalk with a click. If she took that step, if she walked into the library, it’d be real. Today she wouldn’t be going in like it was any other day. Today she’d be going in as someone who worked in the library. Like Ms. Rachel, the librarian, or Tony Hill who was two years older and had the cutest dimple on his cheek. She wouldn’t be a librarian, no, not yet. Not until after she finished high school, college and then got a master’s degree, which was all going to take forever. But it was sort of like being a librarian.

It was her chance for everything. To save enough money to get away from her parents for good. Her own money, not the small allowance that Daddy paid when she worked down at his pharmacy. Eventually even her own apartment.

Aspen ran her hands down her blue dress. Not the robin’s egg blue of the sky, but a rich blueberry blue, almost a purple like the blueberries that Mom used when they made jam. It was one of her favorite dresses and came with a wide orange belt. Mom had complained of course, like always, saying she was too pale for such dark colors. Aspen liked bold, bright colors. She had won on the dress, giving in to Mom on her lipstick, going with a light pink instead of the deeper ruby that she had wanted.

She wasn’t about to let that spoil her first day on the job.

Aspen took a deep breath, there was just a faint hint of saltiness to the air, and took that first step. She walked right up to the staff entrance and knocked sharply on the glass with her knuckles.

The door swung out and Aspen stepped back. Tony Hill leaned out, hanging on the door frame with one muscled arm. A tattoo peeked out of the sleeve of his black t-shirt. Aspen had to look up to see his eyes, deep hazel and gold, and his bright white smile.

“Hey there, Aspen! You’re on time, good move!” He winked. “Got to get on the Dragon Lady’s good side on your first day.”

Did he mean Ms. Rachel? She always seemed so sweet. Aspen tried to think of something, anything to say, but her tongue had curled up and died like a salted slug in her mouth. Her gut clenched.

Tony moved to the side, holding the door and gestured. “I’m kidding, of course. Come on in. I’m supposed to give you the grand tour. Ms. Rachel should get here soon.”

Somehow, Aspen managed to walk past him. She kept her hands clasped together. In all the years that she had been coming to the library she hadn’t been back in the staff areas before. The room was bigger than she imagined. With a couple computers, doors that went to other rooms, and then the short hallway that went out behind the front desk. The door clanged shut behind her.

Tony appeared beside her. “Well, this is the workroom. It’s where we hang out and make fun of the people coming into the library.”

He laughed and bumped his arm into hers. “Don’t look so shocked, Aspen. I’m just kidding. Mostly.”

Aspen forced a small smile on her face, hoping that she wasn’t blushing. God, she probably was. Mostly when she came into the library she didn’t say anything to Tony. She was always tongue-tied around him. He was a senior at Parker High, on the swim team and the cross country team. He didn’t hang out with any one group at school, but seemed to know everyone. He was like totally her opposite. Tall where she was short. He had dark wavy, beautiful hair and her hair was so blond it was almost white. He was tanned and she was a pale fish. Plus he was popular with everyone, and no one hardly knew that she existed.

It was so strange that she was going to be working with him now.

Tony didn’t seem to notice that she was at a loss for words. He pointed at a computer sitting up on a computer desk in the middle of the room.

“That’s the processing station. We check in stuff there. All the courier boxes that come from the other libraries, plus whatever people dump in the book drops. You have to watch the book drops. Sometimes people put all kinds of crap in there. We’ve had needles, used condoms, and actual crap, like dog shit bags and stuff.”

“Really?” Aspen blurted the question, horrified at the idea. Who would put that stuff in the book drop?

Tony shrugged. “Sure. Not all the time, of course, but yeah, it happens. One time we had a guy that put mason jars full of honey in the drops at several of the libraries. No lids, but it was actually pretty smart. The jars rolled into the drop and then the honey just oozed out all over everything in the drop. That was a bitch to clean!”

“That’s awful!”

Tony laughed. “Yeah, it was. Lucky for me, I wasn’t working that day, so I didn’t get stuck cleaning it up.”

He turned and pointed to her left. The corner of the room was taken up with something, she didn’t know what it was. There were handles with three grips that looked like they turned, on tall panels of whatever it was. Some sort of track ran along the bottom.

“That’s the compact shelving,” Tony said. “It’s where we store supplies, weeds, and all that stuff.”

“Weeds?”

Shelving? It didn’t look much like shelving. Tony stepped forward and grabbed the handle on one of the middle sections. He spun it with one hand. The units parted and then Aspen understood. Each section was a bookshelf, but they were on tracks the tracks. As Tony spun the handles, the four units on the right rolled away from the other four and opened up an aisle in the middle. And there were shelves, full of all sorts of books on both sides. The shelving was taller than Tony, rising up almost to the ceiling and it was three sections of shelving deep.

The shelves stopped and shiny red pegs popped out of the side with a loud clunk. “What’s that?”

“Safety lock.” Tony pulled on the handle to move the shelf. It wouldn’t budge. He slammed his hand against one of the pegs, pushing it in. Now spinning the handle moved the shelving unit. He reversed the direction on the handle until the peg popped out again. “See?”

Without waiting for an answer he moved into the aisle and pulled a book down from the shelves, flipping through the pages. He sniffed at it and wrinkled his nose before putting it back on the shelf.

“Smells like cat piss. We get that a lot. Too bad, good book otherwise. Sometimes you get some good stuff that’s being weeded.”

He’d said that before. Aspen took a breath. “Weeded? You mean the books?”

“Yeah. We discard them. They get weeded out when they’re damaged, or if it’s just been sitting around too long and no one wants to read it.” Tony grinned. “Sometimes you get pretty good stuff. Even if you don’t want it, things will sell online.”

Maybe she looked shocked or something because Tony stepped out of the aisle saying, “They’re going to just throw them away. It’s not a big deal.”

Tony hit the safety peg and spun the handle the other way until the shelves came together with a loud clang that made her jump. Tony saw and laughed.

“Hey, don’t worry. I won’t close it with you in there!”

Maybe not, but if she had to go into the compact shelving she was going to make sure to lock it so that no one could turn the handles. Just in case.

“Come on,” Tony said. “There’s a lot more I’m supposed to show you.”

💀

Twenty minutes later Tony was showing her the shelving carts when Ms. Rachel finally showed up. Ms. Rachel didn’t seem all that old, only in her twenties. She was short and fat, with long black hair and was always smiling. She waggled her fingers at the two of them, rings flashing on every finger.

“Are you two getting along okay?”

Tony beamed. “Oh yeah, she’s sharp. She already knows how to put things in order and where all the sections are.”

Ms. Rachel pulled off her jacket, a bright yellow slicker with white polka-dots. “I told you. Aspen has been coming in since she could hardly see over the front desk. I was thrilled that you applied for the job when Jon, well…”

Aspen nodded, saving Ms. Rachel from the awkwardness of saying anything. She knew all about Jon. He had been very old and forgetful. Probably the only reason that he had lived alone in that moldy old trailer was because he didn’t have anyone that cared enough to put him in a home. She didn’t think anyone was much surprised that he had left a burner on. More than once she’d been in the library when he was shelving books and had seen him put the books in the wrong place. Ms. Rachel was probably too nice to comment on it, but it did make things harder on everyone else when they couldn’t find what they were looking for on the shelves. For some reason, people would put up with that from somebody as old as Jon. Not for her. If she messed up that badly, even Ms. Rachel with all her smiles would let her go.

That was something that Aspen didn’t even want to think about. If she lost the job now, it’d make things that much worse at home. She’d never hear the end of it. They’d tell her that she’d have to just keep working in the pharmacy after all, like they’d warned her. At least through high school and probably community college. Maybe even after, if she went to Evergreen and they made her stay at home. The idea of spending the next four to eight years working in Winters Pharmacy, and being stuck at home, was about as appealing as going to prison. If Daddy had his way, she’d keep working for him for nothing except her allowance. Why would she get a paycheck when she got free room and board? They were family, Daddy said. Which obviously meant that he thought she would always work for free.

Not now. She was sixteen and had gotten the job on her own. So what if Daddy didn’t like it? The library was close to school, the schedule was flexible, and they actually paid her. Minimum wage, now, but it was a lot more than her allowance. Not even her mother’s guilt trips over leaving Daddy to work in the pharmacy alone were going to change her mind.

“Just give me a few minutes to get settled, and check my email and then I’ll be out,” Ms. Rachel said.

“No worries,” Tony answered. “I’ll watch the desk. Aspen can start working on her first cart.”

“Great!” Ms. Rachel said.

Then she was gone, disappearing through the door in the workroom that led to her office. It shut soundly behind her.

Aspen looked over at Tony. He tapped the shelving cart. “Almost time to open up. You can go ahead and start putting these away. When you’re done I’ll give you a pull list.”

“Pull list?”

“It’s just a list of stuff that people want at the other libraries. We pull it off and send it to them.”

Of course. She’d gotten holds in before, many times. “Oh, the holds!”

Tony laughed. “That’s right. Go on then, better get those shelved!”

Aspen pushed the cart. It wasn’t hard. The cart was gray, sort of like a small bookcase with three shelves. There was a different one for each of the three sections of the library, and the first she’d picked was the nonfiction section. It also had the teen books on it, labeled with a “YA” sticker. As she walked away from the desk she had the feeling that Tony was watching her. She resisted the urge to look until she reached the shelves and turned down the first aisle. Then she did glance back at the desk and Tony was watching her. She ducked her head and pulled the first book off the cart.

She really enjoyed putting the books away. She knew all about the Dewey Decimal system and everything. It left her mind free to wander. Was Tony watching her because she was new, or because he was noticing her? She hoped it was because he was noticing her, even if the thought made her all shivery inside. She’d noticed him, of course, at school but there was no reason to ever think that he had noticed her at all. More than once, as she  moved through the aisles, she glanced back up at the desk and found him looking her way. She just didn’t know why he was watching.

There was that, and it also bothered her what he had said about the weeded books. Just taking them didn’t sound right. Maybe he was telling the truth, that the books were going to be thrown away. In that case, you could look at it that he was rescuing the books, but it still sounded weird. Why would the library just throw away perfectly good books? Not the ones that stank of cat piss or whatever, but books that you could sell online? That really bothered her. If anyone was going to sell them online, shouldn’t it be the library, and the library getting the money from the books?

Aspen got to the end of shelving the first cart of books without figuring out an answer. It was her first day, after all. Maybe after she’d been working at the library for a while, she’d know more about it.

💀

Three weeks later, on a Tuesday when she was scheduled to work until eight, Aspen showed up at 3:30 and discovered that it was just her and Tony working the closing shift. They were in the workroom when he gave her the news.

“Ms. Rachel had an all-day sort of meeting at the admin building,” Tony said, leaning on the workstation in the back. “Sara’s off at five.”

Sara was an older woman, plump with curly gray hair who spent most of her time with her wide bottom planted in a chair at the desk. She tended to wear baggy shirts and stretch pants to work. And she had one of those mouths that turned down at the corners, which made her look perpetually unhappy. It would have helped if she smiled, but in all the years that Aspen had been coming to the library she hadn’t ever seen Sara smile. Even now, that’s where she was, parked on the chair at the front desk looking at some website on the computer.

Probably Facebook. Aspen had no idea what friends Sara had on there, but usually that was the site she had open.

Working in the library wasn’t exactly the way she had imagined it. Her job was mostly putting away the books, movies and making sure everything was straight and in order. Sometimes she pulled off materials that people wanted. She impressed Tony when she lifted the courier boxes, which were much lighter than the shipping crates used at the pharmacy. Even after only three weeks, Ms. Rachel had noticed how much better the library looked than when Jon was working there and had said as much.

Okay, she hadn’t put it quite that way. But Ms. Rachel did go on about how great everything looked, at how neat all the shelves were, and how much better it looked with books displayed on each shelf. Aspen had done that on her own, because she liked to see the beautiful covers, and figured other people would like it too.

It took work to keep it that way. She hadn’t found any needles in the book drop, but people did make a mess of her shelves. She’d go through a section, like the new book shelves making everything neat and then some old woman would come in and turn it into a disaster area. Books pulled out, falling over, shoved back behind the others.

How hard was it to put things back the way you found them? She wanted  to say that and didn’t. Instead, she smiled and put the section back the way it should look.

By the time Sara left at five, without saying anything, she was just gone from her perch, Aspen had shelved five carts of books. And she had fixed the mess someone had made of the cookbook section and pulled a holds list. Today she was wearing a cream-colored dress and she ran her hands down it, checking for any dust smears. When she had started working at the library the shelves hadn’t looked like anyone had ever dusted them. Dusting all of the shelves was one of the first projects she had tackled. Her dress was fine, including the strawberry-red belt that matched her new red pumps, her nails, and lipstick. She had treated herself with her first paycheck.

The library was empty. Even the bank of computer stations along the wall were empty. Usually there were patrons hunched over the stations, but it was late. Other than Tony, she was alone in the library.

She went back up to the desk where Tony was scanning a stack of DVDs into the computer to see if there was anything else she could do.

He scanned the last movie, Psycho, and then moved the whole stack into a recycled plastic grocery store bag. He smiled at her.

“Hey, Aspen. How’s it going?” His eyes moved as his gaze traveled from her face down to her chest. He did that a lot but still hadn’t asked her out.

Why did he have the movies in a bag? “Do you need me to shelve those?”

“No, that’s okay, I was just going to check them out.”

Aspen moved to the side enough so that she could see the screen. She hadn’t been trained on all the computer stuff yet, but she knew enough to know that Tony wasn’t checking out the DVDs. He hit the ESC key to clear the screen and laughed.

“Thing is, somebody beat me to it. Cleaned out all the discs and just left the cases. I had to withdraw them from the system.”

He was lying. His neck was flushed. His smile couldn’t cover it up.

Aspen’s heart pounded. She still hadn’t brought up what he said about weeds with Ms. Rachel. Usually Ms. Rachel seemed so busy, and Aspen had told herself that she must have misunderstood what Tony was saying. Or at worse, he was saving books from the landfill.

Now, she wasn’t so sure. She had shelved those movies recently and they weren’t empty when she shelved them, she was sure of that.

She found her voice. “Do we call the police or something?”

“No.” Tony laughed. “Like they’d care! It’s a few DVDs. Stuff goes missing from here all the time. Nobody cares. I’m just going to take the cases to recycle them.”

It was true that the library didn’t recycle anything. Ms. Rachel said that was because the city was responsible for that sort of thing, and they didn’t want to pay for recycling.

But she didn’t believe that Tony was taking the DVD cases to recycle them, any more than she believed that the discs weren’t in the cases. She leaned on the counter.

“Is there anything else you need me to do?”

He shook his head quickly. “No, that’s fine. I’ll just put these in the back. Holler if you need help out here.”

Tony hurried to the back.

Aspen walked around the counter, trailing her fingers along the smooth surface. No dust. She saw to it that things were kept clean. The library needed someone like her. Even Ms. Rachel didn’t care about the little things like dusting, but they were important. It made an impression.

This thing with Tony, that was a problem. A serious problem. If she went to Ms. Rachel with accusations would she believe that Tony was stealing things from the library? He could deny it. What proof was there?

Aspen ran her fingers along the keyboard. She knew that the system would show the movies as withdrawn, but that didn’t prove he hadn’t found the cases empty, just like he said. And the books he took off the weed shelf? Maybe if she knew where he sold them online, she could show that to Ms. Rachel. Even if she did, would anyone care? Why would the police care about someone taking books that the library was throwing away anyway?

Except no one was going to throw those DVDs out. Tony was just taking them. It wasn’t right.

Accusing Tony, though, that could go wrong. He could deny it. Or claim that she had taken them! What was there to stop him?

Nothing. Aspen sighed and leaned her elbows on the counter. She stretched her right leg back and rested her pump on the shelving cart.

When she saw movement in the corner of her eye she turned her head and beamed at Tony standing in the doorway staring at her.

“Do you have any plans after work?” Aspen asked.

Tony shook his head. “No, not really.”

Aspen arched her back a bit more. “No one’s going to notice if you don’t go right home?”

“No.” Tony laughed. “My dad’s usually good and passed out by the time I get home. I have a six-pack in my car, you want to go have some fun?”

Aspen straightened up. “That sounds perfect.”

She walked toward Tony, keeping her eyes on his. He took a step back into the workroom.

“I just remembered,” Aspen said. “I was looking at the books back here, but I couldn’t reach one on the top shelf. Could you help me get it?”

“Sure. Yeah, no problem.”

Tony turned and went to the compact shelving. He spun the handle to open the discards aisle enough for him to slip inside. “Which is it?”

Aspen reached the shelves and ran her hand along the long metal handles. “All the way back, on the left. On the top shelf. It’s the one with the blue cover.”

She leaned to peek down the dim aisle. The shelves were tall. Tony was stretching his right arm up, finger running along the base of the books.

Aspen kicked off her shoes and slapped her hand against the safety peg.

Tony turned and grinned. “Funny.”

She winked at him. He shook his head and went back to reaching up to the top shelf. She grabbed the handle on the shelving. She spun it to close the shelving. Tony yelped, still almost laughing, then there was a woof of expelled air as it got hard to turn the handles. With her feet planted, she used every bit of leverage she could squeeze from the handles. Every quarter inch she gained was hard.

Something snapped, like a stick breaking.

A gassy, farting smell leaked out of the aisle.

At one point there was a thrashing sound like a trapped animal trying to escape. Then a thudding, flapping sound as books fell.

A final wheezing, gulping noise.

Then nothing.

Aspen held on until her arms shook. When she finally let go blood rushed into her hands and she had tingles like they’d gone to sleep.

According to the clock, it was already past time to close the library.

💀

On Monday afternoon, when Aspen came into the library, Ms. Rachel was in the work room. She looked pale and washed out. Her fat hands wrung together.

“Oh dear, I have the most terrible news!”

Aspen clutched her small green purse in her hands. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s horrible. The police called. It seems that they found Tony’s Mustang at the bottom of the cliff off quarry road. It was all burnt up.”

“Tony wasn’t in it, was he?” Aspen asked in a breathless voice.

Ms. Rachel nodded. Tears welled up in her eyes. “He was such a beautiful boy. I know you two kids hit it off right away. I’m so sorry. They say he must have been drinking and smoking up there and lost control of the car.”

Aspen hung her head.

“If you need to take the day off, I completely understand. I’ve called admin. They’re going to send over help. Sara was so broken up, she had to go home.”

Aspen sniffled, then shook her head. “No. Thank you. Tony loved the library. I’d rather remember him by keeping it the way it should be kept.”

“Oh, you’re a sweet girl,” Ms. Rachel said. “I feel so lucky to have you here. I expect you’ll be running this place eventually.”

Aspen shook her head slowly. “Oh no, you’ll be around for a long time. Won’t you?”

💀

4,200 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 73rd weekly short story release, written in June 2013. Eventually, I’ll do a new standalone e-book and print release when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the stories. In the meantime, I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new  e-book and print versions and at that point, I’ll take the story down.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. I’m a bit behind on posting stories but check back next Monday for another story. Hopefully I’ll have it up. Next up is my story Forgotten Opportunity.