Saturday, January 26, 2013

Teens Only | I Had That Awful Dream Again...

Cartoon courtesy of
And I'm sure I'm not alone. I'm sure most of you have had this same dream. Either you dream you're running way late for school -- and it's the day of a big test. Or you dream that it's the day of a final for a class you forgot to attend all semester! I truly despise these dreams. And I can't figure out, for the life of me, while I'm still having these torturous dreams years (ok, many, many years) after graduating from high school and college.

I remember one time I had the "running way late for school" dream, and I actually woke up, took a shower, got dressed and was almost out the front door with my backpack in hand when I realized it was barely 5 am! There went 2 hours of precious sleep I'll never get back!

So if any of you, dear readers, are plagued by these same nightmares, let me share something with you that you might not know. And while this information won't stop those awful nightmares, being really prepared for school might help you rest a little easier.

The Library has a ton of databases on its website ( that are FREE and totally helpful for homework assignments. Just go to the website, click on Research, then click on Databases. Some of them might require a library card, but hey, those are free too! Well, your first library card is free at least.

If you've got an assignment for your English class on a famous author, a famous work of literature, need to check out Literary Reference Center. There are plot summaries, literary criticisms, and biographies of famous authors. You still need to read that assigned book, but this database will give you a lot of helpful information when you go to write that paper.

Under the Careers and Employment link, there's a new one called JobScout. Not only can you learn the basic Internet skills needed to learn a job, but there are also job listings! It's a user-friendly database that is perfect for new and experienced Internet folks! 

Now if you find yourself having to write a paper on a current (perhaps controversial) topic, you simply must check out the Points of View Reference Center. You'll find this little gem under the Articles & News tab. This covers issues from animal experimentation to gun control to athletes and drugs to tea party activism. And within the articles for each issue are long lists of sources cited, so you can dig even deeper into your issue. It's a great place to start when you're handed this kind of assignment. 

Your public library is your friend! And your public library's website can be a life-saver! So check out these databases! 

And here's to many nights of restless sleep! No school nightmares, please.

Books On Film | The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is a fairy tale published by Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. It tells the story a young mermaid who falls in love from afar and tries to leave the sea behind.

The most well known adaptation of the fairytale is the Disney animated musical The Little Mermaid (1989). The plot of the movie follows the fairy tale closely (minus the singing sea creatures), but like all Disney fairy tales the ending was dramatically changed. In the animated film the mermaid marries the prince, but there is no happy marriage for the original Little Mermaid. Her fate is much sadder in the original tale. Take a look at the original to find out how the real story ends.

Covers courtesy of LibraryThing

Friday, January 25, 2013

Guest Blogger | What Are You Reading?

“What are you reading?” conversations between library users and staff often evolve to include whether or not the author’s latest book is up to his/her usual standards.   If a book has been or is being made into a movie, how do we feel about the actors selected to portray our favorite characters? 

As well as giving suggestions for new authors when a customer’s favorites well has run dry, I also receive tips about authors who might interest me.   You know, “If you like…., then you will love….”.

If you enjoy Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, some great recommendations from our customers include:

The Bricklayer
by Noah Boyd
The Innocent
by David Baldacci

Click on the titles below the book covers to see if your local library carries a copy. Remember, titles can be requested to be sent to your home branch.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wanderlust Librarian | An Adventure of Epic Proportions

Gift giving comes from the heart. It comes from a good place where opportunity and thoughtfulness meet with a warm embrace. Giving the gift should touch your heart and the heart of the receiver. One of the best gifts I ever gave didn't cost me a lot, but the emotional payoff for the receiver was more than I could have ever imagined.

I met 17 year old, Don (name changed for privacy) when I was working a smaller library. He was a good kid. He met friends at the library so they could use their laptops, volunteered to help with the Teen Programs, got decent grades and was just an all around good kid. About 4 years ago, I was planning my trip to London with my best friend, Lizzie. We had the opportunity to go to Paris for a couple of days and (after speaking with my daughter, Scout) had made the decision to go.

Like a good researcher, I checked out guide books from the library about Paris to make a list of things I wanted to see. I was really excited about my trip to Europe. My library was a small, neighborhood library, so most of the patrons and all of the staff knew about it. One of the big decisions I had to make was going up the elevator in the Eiffel Tower. I am ridiculously afraid of heights and didn't know if I wanted to spend money on something that scared the tar out of me.

Don came up to me one day and said "You have to go to the Eiffel Tower. It's really cool. I know you said you were afraid of heights, but you really need to go." With a few quick steps, he had left my desk and was soon at a table with his friends. 

I was intrigued. It wasn't WHAT he said, but the WAY he said it. He sounded so sure and confident. He also sounded like he knew what he was talking about. It caught me off guard and I wanted to talk to him a little bit more.

I was able to pull him aside to tell him that I was curious about what he had said a few days before. In low, hushed tones, he told me a tale that was jaw dropping. A couple years prior, his parents had left him in the care of his older cousin (25 years old) while they went to visit some family in Mexico for a month. The older cousin had thrown the idea out of going to Paris for a week. Don had a passport from his family visits to and from Mexico and some money saved from chores and a part time job...he made the snap decision to go. Within a couple of weeks, he and a handful of cousins flew to Paris. Don told me that they stayed in a hostel and just spent their days wandering the streets, eating pastries and visiting famous sights. His eyes lit up when he talked about the Louvre. He recounted how he and his cousins knew no French, but managed to get around town. He talked about climbing the stairs in the Arc de Triomphe, getting to the top and watching the circle of cars whirl around and around the base. His whirlwind trip was a success; with his parents having never known that he went. Don didn't buy any souvenirs for fear that his trip would be found out. The only thing he had was a picture of him and his cousins in front of the Eiffel Tower that he thoroughly hid. He brought it in to show me the next day.

In relation to my own trip planning, I thought of Don in Paris and how a journey so epic had to remain mum. I found it amazing that the other cousins hadn't let the secret slip. Don said the cousins left his name out of any storytelling and he did a lot of the picture taking so he wouldn't be found out.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris, I went to one of the gift shops to look around. There was a little metal Eiffel Tower / Arc de Triomphe statue that just called to me. It beckoned me to take it back to Don. I purchased it immediately.

When I returned to work, Don came to ask me how my trip went. I regaled him with stories of my travels. I told him that I had something for him. I wanted him to know that this gift for him could be a physical representation of his trip. He would be free to  display the little statues without fear of being found out and honestly tell his parents he received it as a gift. But...that really, both he and I knew that it was a symbol of a great trip.

I reminded him that he went to Paris first and that I was grateful that his moment of honesty and excitement helped me to (one time) conquer my fear and embrace the experience. When I finally made it to Paris (saving this for another entry), I DID go to the Eiffel Tower and I went up the elevator. It was scary.

As I had mentioned before, Don came into the library a lot. When I was told I'd be transferred to a new library, I welcomed the new challenge...but I was also sad. I would miss my co-workers and the patrons that I had grown to know. 

It's been a while since I've seen Don. Once in a while one of his friends will come to the library to say hello and I'll inquire about him. As far as I know, he's going to college in the area. 

If I ever see him again, I'll ask him these questions: 

Did he ever let his parents know about his adventure abroad?
Has he gone since?
Does he still have the statues?

The one question I will never need to ask: 

Do you regret going to Paris? 

....I will never need to ask that question, because I already know the answer. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Short Attention Span Challenge | The Oil Changer

Some of my most vivid memories of childhood involve old cars.  I remember my parents always bought houses with a shop, to work on cars.  The first time I got carsick was on the way up to Yuba City in a Yellow 1965 Ford Mustang.  My mom used to drive me around Stockton in a Black 1969 Volkswagen Beetle with vinyl seats and no air conditioning.  We had a red ‘37 Ford Truck and a black ‘36 Ford Phaeton that we cruised for Graffiti Nights in Modesto.   

My first car was a 1979 Volvo.  It was cream colored, with red interior, no air conditioning and a manual transmission.  This was the 90's, and I remember the pride I took in having an older car.  It didn’t have the bells and whistles that many of my friends’ cars had (air conditioning, electric windows, or an alert when the keys were left in the ignition…guess how many times I wish I’d had that), but it had a whole bunch of character.  When I grew up, I married a diesel mechanic.   He’s a Chevy man.  That’s about as rebellious as it gets when you come from a Ford family.

I love cars.  The way they drive, the way they look, the history that goes along with them, but I have always regretted that I never asked to learn about how they really work.  How could I have grown up surrounded by so many cars and never learned how to even change the oil?  Even now, each time the oil light comes on my Toyota Camry, I tell my husband it’s time for an oil change and wait for him to do it.  But, why can’t I do it?  I have daughters and I want them to be independent and self-sufficient, even when it comes to their cars. 

The Challenge

So, it’s time for me to set a good example for my kids, and change the oil in my car.   Why is changing the oil important, you might ask?  Simply put, oil is one of the most important parts to keeping an engine running smoothly.  Literally!  It keeps your engine lubricated while working at extremely high temperatures.  After time, the oil gets old and doesn’t work as well.  What happens if you don’t change your oil regularly?  I suppose your engine will blow up.  Also, literally.

The Process

As I said in my first post, this blog has rules.  It would have been easy to say to my husband, “Hey can you teach me to change my oil?” but I would have been cheating.  So I checked out some books about car maintenance and set off to my task.

As silly as it sounds, what to wear while changing the oil in the car is actually quite important.  Car maintenance is a messy beast. 
Oil change wardrobe=something you don’t care to ruin.

Also, just an FYI, if you have long hair, put it up and out of the way.  Why am I mentioning this?  It hurts when your ponytail gets rolled under the dolly.  Trust me, I know.

The next step is laying out all the tools you will need.  My book contained pictures (thank you!). They are:

  • ·        Socket wrench (to remove the drain plug)

  • ·        Oil filter wrench (to remove the used oil filter)

  • ·        Drain pan (Not to be confused with the oil pan, which is ON the car)

  • ·        Funnel (to put oil in)

  • ·        Latex gloves

  • ·        Jacks, jack stands or ramps

  • ·        5 quarts of oil (What type will be indicated in your owner’s manual.)

  • ·        A new oil filter (Purchased at an automotive store.  Just go up to the  counter and tell them the make, model and year of car)

  • ·        A dolly and/or large piece of cardboard

First, get the car jacked up.  I did not have a car jack stand (as my book suggested) but instead used ramps.  I carefully lined the ramps up under the wheels and slid them very snugly in front of the wheel. I was careful to make sure the ramps, my wheels, and my steering wheel were straight.  For safety reasons, I had my husband direct me as I slowly pulled onto the ramps.  One important thing I will note is that you should not gun your car up the ramp.  Pull up slowly and push on the throttle constantly and with equal pressure.  If you let go of the gas, you will slide right back down.  Once on top of the ramps, I pushed in the emergency brake to keep from sliding back down.  Putting the car on the ramps was the tensest moment of the entire oil change.  I was scared I would pull too far forward and fall off.


The next step is to open the hood of the vehicle, then unscrew and remove the oil cap.  My book suggested this step because the air aids the oil in flowing out, and having the cap off reminds you to put more oil in after you have removed the dirty oil.

 This is where things start getting dirty.  I slid under the car on the dolly (pulling my ponytail…ouch) and located the oil pan plug.  The oil pan is directly under where you put oil in, near the front of your car.  I found it easily enough, but I don’t really understand why car parts can’t have labels.  It sure would make things easier (and be more organized, just saying).  Under the oil plug, I placed the drain pan.  This is where all the nasty used oil will goes when the plug comes off.  I used the socket wrench to remove the oil drain plug.  This was hard.  Part of my issue was my confusion of clockwise vs. counterclockwise while turned upside down under a howevermany thousand pound car.  The other problem I had was that every time I pushed the wrench the dolly moved along with it (and pulled my ponytail, AGAIN!).  I believe my neighbors (who all know my husband is a mechanic) think I am crazy now, after watching me screaming and rolling around under my car.  Finally, I got off the dolly, twisted the ponytail into a bun, and then gave the wrench a couple good whacks, loosening the bolt enough to turn it with my fingers. And yuck, a bunch of nasty oil came flowing out of the car and into the drain pan.  It flowed for about 5 to 10 minutes.  While it was doing that, I moved on to the filter


The filter on my car sort of looked like a plastic cup, upside down.  In order to remove it, my book suggested using an oil filter wrench that looked like a ring.  Supposedly, you put the ring around the filter, pull down to make the ring tighten, and turn counterclockwise to loosen the filter.  I was unable to do this, so instead, I used a pair of pliers I found in our toolbox.  I squeezed the pliers around the top of the filter and twisted and pulled as hard as I could until the filter started to budge and I could do the rest with my fingers.  Nasty dirty oil came out of the place where I pulled out the filter as well, and into the drain pan.  Warning: This didn’t happen to me (I swear!), but it would be very easy to not have the drain pan in the right place and spill out the oil on the driveway.

After removing the filter and waiting for all the oil to come out, I took out the new filter, rubbed a little clean oil around the ring and screwed it back into where I took out the old filter.   I screwed it in as hard as I could with my fingers.

Then, I put the drain plug back in.  I was very, very proud of myself.

So, with my empty oil tank and my clean filter ready to go, I started to pour in my new, clean oil.  Although really, to me, all oil is dirty and gross, but that is neither here nor there.

I poured in all 5 quarts, a little at a time, careful not to spill.  I will confess that my funnel was a big plastic one, and didn’t fit so I just poured it without a funnel.  This was pure laziness on my part.  I could have used a paper funnel but I didn’t want to move to get one.

I screwed the oil cap back on and VOILA…I was done!

Don't forget to dispose of your used oil responsibly!

The Result

Even though I have vowed to do all challenges on my own, my husband insisted that he check my work in this case.  A mistake would have been too expensive.  I will admit, even though I thought I did all the steps perfectly, I apparently did not tighten the new oil filter quite enough and the oil was dripping out a little bit under my car.  He tightened it a little more for me.

Even still, I am proud of myself for completing this task.  I don’t know why it has always intimidated me and why I was so scared to undertake this.   Other than the need for brute strength in a few instances, changing the oil in a car is not very hard.  Would I do it again?  Sure! Why not?  It makes me feel empowered to know that not only could I do this myself, but I could teach my daughters to do it as well.

Learning | Noodleheads


There is a folklore tradition of noodlehead, or noodle, characters. These are generally people who lack common sense in one way or another.  Things can go terribly wrong, and the results can be quite comical.  Think about Jack in the Beanstalk, trading a cow for some magical beans.

Why do we like these stories so much?  All of us can relate to making mistakes, and dealing with the consequences.  Maybe these stories help us to think about how to approach problem solving, or how to follow directions, or maybe how to ask somebody for help in a way that they understand.  But mostly, I think it's that we like the silliness of the consequences.

The Man Who Kept House is a traditional folk tale.  The man tells his wife she is not working hard enough in the house while he is out working in the field.  So she suggests switching places the next day.  He thinks he will do things more efficiently than her, but he ends up making a mess of it, as you can see from this illustration from the version by P. C. Asbjørnsen, J. E. Moe and Svend Otto S.

SSJCPL has a variety  of noodle stories, including All of Our Noses Are Here, and Other Noodle Tales, and There is a Carrot in My Ear, and Other Noodle Tales, both by Alvin Schwartz.  

Minnie and Moo are a popular pair of noodlehead characters in a series of books for beginning readers. 

Also in the easy reader section, Amelia Bedelia is a very popular noodlehead. She takes her job as a housekeeper very seriously, but she takes orders too literally. 

Do you have any favorite noodleheads that were left out of this post?  

A Louisiana Noodlehead Character

I went home to Louisiana over the holidays.  While I was there, I visited City Park in New Orleans.  There's a section of the park that is especially made for children; it's called Storyland.  Like Stockton's own Pixie Woods, Storyland has representations of various characters from children's stories and fairy tales.  

Much of Storyland is just like I remember it from my childhood.  But there were some new additions I had not seen before: a castle designed for reading stories to groups of children, and a memorial bench with a fiberglass sculpture of beloved storyteller Coleen Salley.

Coleen Salley was a children's librarian, professor, author, and literacy advocate. She loved folklore, especially Louisiana folklore. 

Author William Joyce dedicated The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore to Coleen Salley. She appears as a cameo character in a polka dot dress in the Academy Award-Winning short film of the book.

 She served as a consultant for Disney's animated feature, The Princess and the Frog. In fact, the Mama Odie character in the movie incorporates Coleen's mannerisms and speech patterns--not to mention a line straight out of her Epossumondas book.   

Photo by Sharren Harrison Burns
I just couldn't resist posing for a picture with this whimsical sculpture of Coleen Salley as the noodlehead Epossumundas' Mama.  Of course, Mama is holding her "sweet little patootie," Epossumondas. Epossumondas has a tendency to take instructions literally, without applying common sense.  I wouldn't want to send him to the store to buy anything important, but I love reading about his antics.

Monday, January 21, 2013

LIFE& STYLE | It takes a city full of volunteers to ....

Improve a city.

I just had a party at my house last Sunday. 

It took half a village to make that party a success.

My mom and I made delicious foods. My husband cleaned the carpets. My dad cleaned the yard. My aunts brought homemade pastry and salads. My good friend Vida made Brownie bites

My friend Zari helped me serve more than 50 cups of tea. My friend Roya helped me clean up the table. It was a good party thanks to everyone who pitched in to help.

This brings me to the issue of VOLUNTEERING.

Have you ever considered volunteering at Chavez Library?

Our Chavez volunteers have been helping the library by giving the library the gift of their time. 

Our volunteers' dedication has enabled the library to run smoothly despite all the staff shortages due to budget cuts, hiring freezes and retirements

  • We have literacy volunteers who teach adult learners to read and write.
  • We have volunteers who shelve books or process returned items.
  • We have volunteers who help out kids with their homeworks on Wednesdays.

I think our library is blessed to have these volunteers.
But Chavez Library needs more of these wonderful volunteers.

If you have a few hours a week to spare, consider volunteering at Chavez Library.

Just pickup an application from the customer service or reference desk. To be a volunteer you should be at least 14 years old.

Let me tell you something.

Since I work full-time, I can only volunteer one hour/week at my child's school. I grade papers and update her class bulletin board. Sometimes the students just read me books.

By volunteering an hour a week, I am giving my child's teacher an hour of free time. This benefits all the kids in that classroom. There are other working parents in that classroom who volunteer as well. All these efforts add up and I am certain that it would have an impact on these kids futures.

Most of us in this economy might not have money to donate to good causes, but we can all volunteer our time for worthy causes.

It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So if you can spare a few hours a week, please consider volunteering at Chavez Library. 

Let's give our wonderful library a helping hand. 

Let's remember President Kennedy's words of wisdom :
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha