The Secret Life of Librarians, Part 1: The Unorganized Library


So we’re thinking of moving soon, and one thought (among many) on my mind is how will we arrange our vast collection of books once we get our new place.  New places can be new opportunities, right?  It’s true we have the Dewey decimal system, and that works. But what else is there beside Dewey? What was there before he came up with his decimal classification system for books it was very hard to find the book anyone was looking for.  Does this really mean that all librarians are organized all the time?


As a librarian I can say that it is a bend that most of us have.  My own personal bookshelves at home are organized by subject, as are the clothes in my closet (winter, summer, autumn/spring, and also subgroups such as t-shirts, Aloha shirts, golf shirts, etc).  Even my children’s names are in alphabetical order (first and middle).


Then a question popped into my mind: Do libraries have to be organized by the Dewey Decimal?  What other ways are there to organize a library?  How did the library look before Dewey used math to group it?  Most likely by subject, but how else could Dewey have decided to arrange them?


Here are some of the possible ways libraries could’ve been organized if Dewey decided to skip the math concept.  These may also work in your home library as well.


(1)   Organize them by color:  This is the most popular method organization other than by subject.  It can be very visually appealing.


(2)  Organize them by what you are most likely to read.  This one can be done on more than one bookshelf.  Take up the prime real estate with your favorites.  The one’s you read less, but still like or just can’t part with can be in a less likely space somewhere else in your house.


(3)  Another popular way to arrange your bookshelves is by emotional response.  How does the book make you feel?  If you have friends that ask to borrow books that might be funny, sad, thrilling, etc., you may want to arrange your books this way.


(4) Last, but not least, a little movement known as Spine Poetry.  This is where you arrange the books on your shelves to communicate a sentence, phrase, or idea.  It’s fun to do, fun to read, and makes for a great conversation piece.


How would you arrange your library? 





The Forest for the Trees


Do you know that saying: “He can’t see the forest for the trees?”  This one used to really confuse me when I was a kid.  It wasn’t just the phrasing, but the meaning was confusing as well.  “Who couldn’t see a forest because the trees were in the way?” I’d ask incredulously. 

Okay, maybe I didn’t know words like incredulously (I even had to check my spelling when I typed it in the last sentence), and truth is I didn’t often ask questions about things I didn’t understand (a very dumb thing for me to do), but it’s a confusing colloquialism anyway.

Then I went to college.  While I was getting my B.A. in History I realized from listening to all those college professors and their protégés what that saying really means!

History professors and history students say really “intelligent” things like this: “It’s so great being a historian in this modern age!  We can understand so much more about the past then people did centuries ago.”

Now, I have to admit, that I didn’t see anything wrong with this the first couple times I heard this.  Then it started to dawn on me that what they were saying, and the saying about the forest and the trees were connected.  It hit me one day while I was listening to a professor talk about medieval farming practices, or something of that sort.

Modern historians believe that they understand the past better than the people who lived in the past.  I suddenly couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  That’s the equivalent of someone standing right in front of a billboard being told that you can see it better than them from a mile away!  OR: It’s like being from Florida your whole life and telling others what it’s like to live in Alaska!

Why should others opinions and experience be made less because we think we have a greater perspective, especially when we’re further from the actual event or truth than they are?  Doesn’t it make sense that people who’ve lived through something and experienced it first-hand would know better than people who are merely reading what others said happened?  Since when is second- and third-hand information more accurate?

When we strive to learn something, to better ourselves in business, our relationships, and in life in general it pays to listen to experts: people who’ve worked with others to accomplish, or have already accomplished what you want to accomplish.

This is called the pursuit of “best practices”.  No one would hire a personal trainer who’s 400 lbs., but knows all the theories of physical fitness.  Why, then, do we listen to people with no experience in what we are dealing with?

What do you think?  Is there any reason to take advice from the inexperienced?  How much can mere education be accepted without practical application and experience?

Taking the kids to the drive-in

I found myself thinking about the first time I went to a drive-in (E.T., 1982) and after a quick Google search I found this gem of a post. America: take your kids to a drive-in!

Todd Pack

Saturday night, we took the kids to the drive-in. They’d never been, and my wife and I hadn’t gone since ’96, when we saw Twister at the Buccaneer in Richmond, Kentucky. (I Googled. It’s closed.)

The closest drive-in to our house is the Hi-Way 50 Drive-In, 45 minutes away in Lewisburg, Tennessee. The movie was Shrek Forever After.

We weren’t big on seeing it, because the last Shrek was so bad, but, really, we weren’t sure the kids would like seeing any movie at a drive-in.

We warned them the picture would be darker and muddier than the movies we watch at home. It wouldn’t be 3-D, like Shrek at the theater in the town where we live. Insects and cars passing by were the closest we’d get to surround sound.

We got there around 7:30. My wife worried that we’d have trouble finding a place to park…

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Don’t Trim the Pot Roast: finding your own legacy


Don’t Take your Pot Roast at Face Value

I remember a lot of stories my Dad told me about his childhood: one that’s always stuck with me has to do with his mom’s pot roast. 

For years my Grandma made pot roast this way: she’d cook it in the normal fashion, except for one thing.  She cut off the last quarter and set aside it to cook it differently, then place the 3/4 pot roast in the oven.  This went on for years.  It’s the way pot roast was made in my Grandma’s house and no one thought to question it…until my dad when he was about 12.

“Mom,” I can hear him saying, “how come you cut off the end of the pot roast like that?”

“What do you mean?” Grandma asks back politely.

“Why do you have to cut off the end of the pot roast?”

“Well…so it cooks faster.”  Twelve-year-old Dad, looking a bit confused, asks,

“Couldn’t you leave it together so and cook it for a bit longer.”

It’s at this point Grandma starts wondering herself why she’s always done this.  Which brings me to my first point:

(1) Know why!  Why do I do this?  Why do I hold the values I hold?  Why do I believe what I believe?  Whether you are a follower of Christ or not the advice He gives to “give an answer for the hope within you” is sound.  Know why you act, think, believe, the way you do. It makes you stronger to know why instead of just following blindly.  Faith is not following blind, but following despite the pressure to stop because you know that following is what’s right.

Make the Call

So Grandma got to thinking about this question my 12-year-old Dad had asked.  She called the expert, her mom, because the only reason for cutting off the end of the roast is because she watched her mom do it for years.

“Mom,” she asks, “how come you always cut off the end of the pot roast when you made one?”  This, of course, is the kind of question we all should ask when we don’t understand something we do, or think, or say, or feel.  Why am I doing this?  What’s my reasoning? If there isn’t one we need to take stock and analyze our life, job situation, etc.

I’ll never forget my Great-Grandma’s answer!  Honestly, it’s the only thing I know she said from her whole life.  It’s both simple and profound at the same time.  “Evie,” she said, “because we never had a pan big enough to fit the whole thing.”

So what’s my G-G-ma trying to tell us?  Know why!  Don’t just blindly do something because it’s something your parents did.  If it’s a job, like the situation I am currently in (and getting out of) don’t do the job because “it’s what your family does”.  God might have something different in store for you than what He asked your parents to do.  If it’s your faith, if your “ticket to Heaven” begins with a sentence like “My (random family member) went to church all the time so I’m good!” let me offer you this: “God has children, not grandchildren.” He wants you to be a child of God all on your own.

Make your own plan happen.  You were not made to live another person’s life.