Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Read recently: famous people doing bad things, people off (various) rails, housewives, Edith Wharton homages, and reincarnation

I've been on a good run recently for books, except for poor Helen Humphrey's Nocture, which just came in for me when reading it would be scratching a raw wound (another time, another place....)

So, here are some goodies I digested of late:
  • A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee: an unintentionally funny choice of literature during the Rob Ford debacle. Corporate lawyer husband Ben betrays wife Helen with a front-page scandal involving an intern in his office and a car accident. Forced to make her own way with her husband in jail, Helen finds that she has a talent for a certain type of PR work: crisis management. An interesting look into the privileged class in America, one troubled but redeemable marriage, and the modern rite of the public apology. As Helen tells a client, “People are quick to judge, they are quick to condemn, but that’s mostly because their ultimate desire is to forgive.” 
  • The Age of Hope by David Bergen: Canada Reads, and all that. I loved this book because I loved Hope, with her tender ambitions and her introspective emotions. People are always bothered about books with a female voice (in this case, almost exclusively a female perspective) by a male author. Read this because it's amazing, you'll wish you knew Hope, then realise that you probably do, and not because of the author or the CBC news.
  • The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout: Her Olive Kitteridge blew me away at Christmas 2008, when I read it sitting on a chair in my mother's office at church in between services (feeling like I was 12 again). The Burgess Boys, although very different in theme, also delves deeply into human emotions and motivations, family secrets, and small-town life. Strout distinguishes herself here in deftly moving between very distinct, and unknowable to each other, viewpoints.
  • The Innocents by Francesca Segal: OK, I read to the end because I was compelled to, and this was an interesting book, but ultimately I am going to have to say that the premise was really the best part (and that may reduce this to a footnote in literary terms)... And you know I read my way through the Women's Prize list every year. The Guardian described this book as having "transport[ed] Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence to NW11." A modern Jewish family plans a wedding, and things go awry.
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: Something about the runaway mother made me think of Veronica Mars, here, and the wry humour and us vs. them mentality didn't help! An oddly charming novel about a traumatised architect, her gifted daughter and successful husband, annoying neighbours who aren't always what they seem, some renegade shrubbery and an Antarctic voyage.
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: Oh, those characters, you know the ones, who you feel are friends and you can't bear to close the book and leave their tight circle. This was one of those books, full of those characters. On my bad days, I am jealous like Jules. On my good days, I am on fire like Figman. What inspired me about this novel was the way the characters invent and re-invent themselves, staying the same and yet changing. A lesson for us all, and we're lucky if we have people like these with us on the journey.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: I'm clearly veering off into crazy now, but I wanted to gobble this novel up. My favourite country and time period, a main character with my grandmother's name, a great fox metaphor and a Hitler assassination attempt? Heck, yes. Someone at the Guardian made a great link from this book to Rushdie's Midnight's Children, in that "to understand just one life, you have to swallow the world." Or, as blogger and reviewer Kerry Clare wrote, "Think Sliding Doors and The Post-Birthday World, though not with parallel lives exactly but an array of them instead, strung together like a garland of paper chain dolls." So, yes, this is a novel about reincarnation, and Ursula, our main character, has a particularly difficult time getting through both the Spanish influenza and World War II (but then, who didn't?). You have to love the characters, the relationships, the familiar walk-ons in variations of themselves, and the "and then what did [he/she] do?" aspect of the plot threads, to not get frustrated as Ursula dies again and again (in what begins to resemble an Edward Gorey-esque efficiency), and I did.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Some things I've been working on recently...

 Ottawa Canal locks, sunset

It's only been a little over two months since I last ruminated on and updated you about work projects, so here we go.

I'm really enjoying my time with OPL's Diversity & Accessibility Services. It's hard to capture how I feel in a few words; people keep asking me how things are going. I have developed a standard line that it's 80% "Amazing! I know what I'm doing! Look, let's implement this!" and 20% "OHMYGOD WHO LEFT ME IN CHARGE? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING!" That's sort of true, but of course it's not the whole story. Some days are about untangling knots, some are about heads-down time to work on reports, some are just lost in a sea of email, meetings and conversations.

Here's an attempt at a recap:
  • I brokez the Bookmobiles. Just kidding, I swear. But we were 0 for 2 for awhile last week, and it was ever-so-conveniently also during a gap after our outgoing supervisor left and before our Acting supervisor started (thanks, universe!) The team pulled together admirably well with just me for company (I recall one memorable conversation as I crossed Elgin St. to go to an event), and we actually tried something new. We rented a smaller van for holds pickup and Express checkout from the City's Fleet Services, and, while there were some wrinkles to iron out for when we do it again, it was a great success! When we returned to our regular stop with the Bookmobile this past Friday, several of our new patrons who had discovered us through the rental were there. How cool!
  • Yesterday, with a healthy bus with new, rush-order mirrors, we were at the Carnival of Cultures - pic here (check out my new bike, by the way! Her name is Magdalena)
  • Our Homebound team forged new territory, providing information sessions at two retirement homes interested in our monthly mini-library visits, and one e-reader workshop.
  • Our fantastic outreach librarian visited 8 groups to talk about library services for newcomers.
  • Our amazing Accessibility Librarian consulted on accessibility requirements for the Library of the Future website (6 more days! Share your idea!). 
  • We're close (I feel like this project is asymptotic right now, but I swear we are almost there...) to rolling out OPL's involvement in the city-wide volunteer database.
  • We found a new spot to park in the Riverside South community. The location of the much-beloved (and super-high performing) St. Jerome stop moved as the fire lane at St. Jerome School became official and created some safety hazards for us and our customers. We're now at the Rideauview Community Centre, where we have had a warm welcome from staff, made new friends, and kept our old ones! I'll spare you the gory details, but finding a new spot is no small feat when you weigh 14 tonnes.
  • We have two new team members, and will be getting two more soon (not soon enough!): Supervising Librarian, Bookmobile and Volunteer Services / Bibliothécaire superviseur(e), Bibliobus et services des bénévoles, and Librarian, Newcomer Services / Bibliothécaire, Nouveaux arrivants (I'm driving you to The Partnership website only because we're having issues with the link).
  • We're working on synergies with other teams: for instance, our Newcomer services team and the System-wide programming team, 
  • We negotiated our new funding agreement with CIC and are ironing out new terms of reference for our partnership with local agencies serving newcomers to Canada. We're all in a big transition period, with lots of tremendously rich opportunities, but clearing the path is a bit exhausting right now.
  • We had 10 fantastic Celebrating Cultures in Our Community events in April, May and June celebrating diversity at the library with everything from musical and dance performances to henna art and tea tastings!
  • Five OPL employees, including one from my team, participated in the CCI Community Cup Chase, and two of us were on the 2nd place winning team! There are some great photos on their Facebook page.
  • My ever-helpful and thoughtful colleagues assisted me with guest editorial duties for the June 2013 issue of Feliciter (out now!) with the theme of “Changing demographics.” 
  • Three of my team accompanied me to a really moving citizenship ceremony; we each hosted a round-table for new Canadians at the event, which was organised by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. The citizenship judge was Suzanne Pinel, and she was outstanding. Our pic with her is here.
  • I starred in an internal staff training video. You'll have to bribe me to see it.
  • When holed up in my office, I am working on a few service reviews so we can get a better idea of what happens in our teams, and how we can capitalise on strengths and build in flexibility for the future of library services to diverse clients in the city.
All this, and a half-marathon. Oooh, and my Book Bank-ish project is getting more solid. Expect big news before the end of 2013!

No wonder I'm tired!