Monday, May 31, 2004

Library Squirrel's 9 Rules to Dating

A little light-hearted musing, to follow that penultimate big heavy.

Nine sure-fire rules to dating success, based on true, squirrel-tested examples.

1. Never continue to date a man unless he is truly liked by at least 50% of your friends. Most women have better taste in friends than they have in men. When you dump a bastard, for example, your friends will usually say "I never really thought he was the man for you." Don't let it get to this stage.
2. Tell the man straight up that he must pass muster with at least 50% of your friends. This will weed out the faint-of-heart.
3. Always date a man who can cook really well.
4. Never date a man named Dave. There is always something fishy about a man named Dave, only to be discovered later. An exception to this rule is the rare and elusive David. For example, my friend Del is married to a David, who is a kind and interesting person, and who can also cook (see rule #3).
5. Never date a man who says he liked "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". This is a very bad sign.
6. Never, ever date a man who says he's "in love with the OED" (these men usually have goatees, coincidentally). This man is still an embryo, and may one day become a grown-up - but not in your lifetime.
7. Find out if your date is keeping a secret list of sacrifices that he has made for you, as reasons why you must stay with him forever. If such a list exists, run. Run screaming.
8. Look very hard at a man who, after you've been dating for two months, says "I dreamed last night that we had a baby, and he was very cute." This relationship may be going a bit too fast for you.
9. Do not dismiss outright the 40-year-old smoker who currently happens to live with his mother, and who has a grown child. It's a risk, I agree, but this may turn out to be the perfect match for you (esp. if #1 and #3 are true).

Ancillary List, for Parents

1. Always teach your son to cook. If he knows how to cook well, he can have any girl (or boy) he wants.
2. Never name your son Dave. This will curse him at birth to a life of peregrine loneliness.

What I love about this blog thing is that I get to be my own editor, and so I can be heavy, then silly, then didactic, then mysterious. It's too much fun. It very much fits the squirrel temperment.

Primal is a Librarian Word

A young man - let's call him Steevo - used to live next door, who spent all day every day working on his car in front of the house. A few weeks after I had my baby, Steevo asked "So, how was it?" After a pause to think, I said, "Primal."

"Oh, that's one of those librarian words," said Steevo, obviously not understanding...

I am continually surprised at myself. My child is now 15 months old, and I still spend a lot of time pondering the birth. What an astounding thing it is to give birth. (Yes, it's a cliche thing to say, but I am going to say it anyway.) My husband calls giving birth 'the mundane miracle'.

I always theoretically wanted to have kids, but we were not planning to have a child when the Sprout showed up. I am such a spoiled brat, and like to have control over my own life, and so I was in such denial over the whole thing. When I was seven months pregnant (and I was BIG), I woke up one morning, rubbed my belly, and said to myself, "Boy, I'm bloated this morning." Now that's denial, boy howdy.

A tiny part of my brain (isn't the brain amazing) still doesn't believe it happened. When Sprout came out, I asked the nurse to put him right on my stomach, and she said, "Oh no, he's all dirty, I'll wipe him off first." I was so relieved that it was over that I didn't argue, but I actually really regret that. I think my brain needed to see him covered in blood and stuff, with the cord attached.

If I was doubting Thomas faced with the Christ, I probably would have had to stick my finger in the open wound, wiggle it around, and ask, "Umm, does that hurt?"

Anyway, am still fascinated by the primal nature of the whole birth process. I wouldn't call myself a hippie, but with the emotional support of Jimbo and our doula, I was able to have an unmedicated birth, which means a lot of grunting, squatting, bellydancing, and howling in the shower. Sounds shocking doesn't it, but it was actually very satisfying. It's astounding to learn that your body knows how to do things that you don't consciously know about.

And I now understand what women mean when they say you don't remember it afterwards. It's true. Your brain gives you drugs that make it all very fuzzy. Of course, I think I would be fuzzy at any rate if I stayed awake dancing for 26 hours for any reason, drugs or no drugs.

In my quest to understand this whole phenomenon which I am obviously not settled with yet, I have just read Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf (that didn't do it for me), and am now moving on to Spiritual Midwifery. I must say that I don't think I ever see myself giving birth in the back of a bus on a commune, but perhaps there's something in the stories from this book that I can take away anyway.

Friday, May 28, 2004

My Aunt Frieda - God

There are just so many things to write about, but let's focus on my Aunt Frieda for a minute.

My Aunt Frieda is very Catholic. Catholic in the smug, God-talks-to-me, let me tell you about what you're doing wrong in your life, sort of way. Here's a funny story. I have a cousin, Darren, who is mentally challenged. A number of years ago, Aunt Frieda arrived at his house. Darren stepped outside, took one look at her, and announced to the world, "God's here!"

That's Aunt Frieda.

Squirrels in Pop Culture

I used to be so hip. I was this groovy, vintage-clothing wearing, music-listening, theatre-going, bellydancing long-haired librarian-to-be. And now I'm so NOT hip. If I manage to comb my hair and clothe myself in the morning, I am doing great. My husband kindly assures me that I'm still fabulous (thanks Jimbo), but I surely haven't heard of the White Stripes.

My good friend T (I suspect she's a squirrel) has sent along this bit of pop culture...

In case you need some squirrel material for your blog:

The White Stripes - Little Acorns

Take all your problems And rip 'em apart oh oh uh uh oh Carry them off In a shopping cart oh oh uh uh oh Another thing You should've known from the start oh uh uh uh uh oh The problems in hand Are lighter than at heart oh uh uh uh oh oh Be like the squirrel, girl Be like the squirrel oh oh uh uh oh Give it a whirl, girl Be like the squirrel oh oh uh uh oh And another thing You have to know in this world oh oh uh uh oh Cut up your hair Straighten your curls Well, your problems Hide in your curls Oh oh uh uh oh Oh oh oh oh

What can it all mean. It is true that mundane problems are so much easier to deal with (where to get the next acorn) than problems of the heart (why do squirrels exist? what is the meaning of life in the tree?). "Give it a whirl". Hmm. Squirreling dervish?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Blog Shopping

Okay, so there are a LOT of blogs out there. My homework for my blog/RSS course is to get an account with a blog reader, and subscribe to 15 blogs/RSS feeds. I was browsing through a massive list of blogs last night, and it's like shopping in a magazine store where most of the magazines are odd or dull. Who knew that there were hundreds of personal librarian weblogs?? I don't watch TV, but it must be like the '500 channels and nothing on' phenomenon.

Although it is mildly fascinating to think about knowing what so many librarians are thinking all at once.

Brings to mind that lovely library scene in Wings of Desire where the presence of all the angels in the library creates a celestial sort of musical hum. Hopefully so many librarians thinking all at once would be melodic. Who can say.

"There's a kind of shush, all over the world tonight, all over the la la"

Have been wondering if stories about small-town Saskatchewan stray too far from the 'library squirrel' oeuvre. Have decided that to understand the squirrel you must understand the social context of the squirrel and the history of the squirrel.

A seminal personality in the history of this squirrel is my Aunt Frieda.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Back to the City

Okay, getting a little risque, a little too rustic, out there in rural Saskatcheewin. I may come back to commentaries on rural life later on, but will return to the urban oak tree that is my usual existence. The only thing more I will say about riding bitch is that it really shakes up the communal sense of self if the woman drives the truck and the man rides bitch. No one knows what to do with that.

Anyway, back to the city. Back to the oak tree. Back to the little world that is mine. What I love about Jane Austen novels is that the whole world is right there. You don't really need to venture further than the scope of the novel to encounter all sorts of fascinating people.

I often feel like working at a public library is just like this. A mini-monde. There are so many fascinating people who work at the library or whom I encounter on a daily basis.

And if you work in reference, there is no end to the wild and wacky questions you can hear from people. Here's a fabulous question I once took over the phone:

"Do Eskimos see the moon?"

It sounded impossible to answer, but with a little squirrel detective work and a little of what we call the reference interview, it became this: "If you live in the land of the midnight sun where it is light out for so many hours a day, is the moon ever visible?" And thus it becomes simply an astronomy query. I love my job some days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Small-Town Saskatchewan

I am from a small town in Saskatchewan called 'Leader'. When I say where I'm from, I have to be careful to enunciate succinctly because I am in metric Canada and sometimes people think I'm from 'Litre'. That's so hilarious. Litre, Saskatchewan. And what are people from Litre called - millilitres?

Anyway, small-town Saskatchewan is fascinating. My husband is a city-squirrel and he thinks I'm very refined and urbane too. Occasionally he hears something come out of my mouth, though, and says "My god, where did you ever learn to say something as filthy as that??" For this reason, Leader has attained a sort of mystical quality for him, as a place where people say appalling things. But it's not Leader, it's small-town Saskatchewan. Or maybe it's small-town anywhere.

Here's a sample of small-town Saskatchewan speak. Not for the faint-of-heart, mind you. And often with a tinge of mysogyny. But, even the distasteful must be discussed somewhere, don't you think, in a world where we strive for minimal censorship.

Riding bitch.

"Riding bitch" is when a woman sits right next to the man driving a truck (usually a truck), even though there's a whole lot of room in the cab to sit spaciously. Have you ever done this? I usually couldn't get a boyfriend in high school, but when I did, I must admit, I rode bitch. I rode bitch before I knew that it had a name.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


My husband, who has a very high tolerance for silly, says that I am pushing the silly envelope with my last two posts. And now for something less silly and more sentimental.

In honour of 'Sprout', my son, turning 15 months old today, we have counted up all the words we have heard him say so far.

mummy daddy milk house uncle auntie truck car Pius(cat next door) bus schoolbus book sleep bed nap my pen key keys keyhole shoes socks foot bellybutton bum poop pee penis diaper bathtub duckie monkey bottle funnel car-ride home supper breakfast zucchini strawberry pear banana rice apple applesauce potato chicken meat block spoon surprise moon sun stars bird Gus(dog next door) hi bye-bye no mine doctor cream shampoo pants cheese sandwich salmon vegetables peas please coat shirt nose tongue feet grinder Cheerios up down push pull kiwi pig cat kitty puppy dog doggie moo quack baa tuna noodles water juice back muffin boo-hoo this that look music uh-huh mm-hmm walk ride want open cracker cookie Allison(sister) Jeremy(brother-in-law) Isabel(daycare friend) Zoe(ditto) table hide find outside sleepy sky tree boobie one two four five six doorbell dix(10 in French) hand Jack(family cat) Gary(works at the library) library bad clock rock owie hat box ball balloon pillow sit pineapple yucky go stop funny circle bunny card fish door yellow purple wagon bee plant flower letter uh-oh yam toast bread yoghurt frog box Grandma phone tattoo hot on off light park bubbles bike movie messy plug drain faucet tap teeth laundry wow kleenex

Happy Birthday, Sprout. It's been a wild ride.

Friday, May 21, 2004


Gosh, sorry about that last blog. My Squirrel-English translator must not be working.

Chip churrrrr

Chip chip cheeeee. Chip churrrrr. Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeee. Chip. Cheee chee. Nip nip nip. Hhhccchhheeee. Chip chip churr churr chip.

Churrreeeeechipchipchip! Cheee cheee chip chip.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch chip chee chee. Nip nip nip neeee! Chip churrrrr.

People I Want to Meet Someday

I am thinking of creating regular features in my blog, such as 'People I Want to Meet Someday' - topics or themes that come up again and again.

Can a blog have regular features? Am I thinking of it in an old-fashioned way, like a newspaper? I am discovering that I write in a linear fashion - if you read the oldest postings first and go forward, it makes more sense and has more context than if you read the newest postings first and go backward. Is this an old-fashioned way of thinking? In a virtual world, does the past matter?

When I was painting the other day, I was listening to a radio interview with an elderly but famous urban planner who had just written a book...[research, research] Dark Age Ahead, by Jane Jacobs. She is predicting that we will slip into a dark age (as in Dark Ages) if we don't preserve our urban culture. Doom and destruction. Squirrel smells danger.

Anyway, in the virtual age, where new postings are what is most important, and where archiving is a serious matter, should I bother to write a blog in a way that refers back to past postings? Will the audience get it? Perhaps, of course, to minimize hubris, I should be first asking myself if there is an audience. Not to get too important in this tiny void of cybersquirreldom.

Ahem, people I would like to meet someday:

A librarian who actually loved library school. Someone for whom library school was not a soul-destroying, 'teeth gnashing in the outer darkness' sort of experience. Are they out there? Who are they? Were they on medication at the time?

Thursday, May 20, 2004


The morning of my second-year Latin final exam, I had been cramming for days, and I was in a tizz. I remember that, with a heavy brain and much tension, I got in the shower - the same shower I had been getting into daily for months - and at one point I became aware that the drain in the floor had 'Fiat' engraved in it. I had never noticed it before. In Latin, 'fiat' means 'let it be', as in 'Fiat lux', 'Let there be light.'

Fiat. I stared at it for a moment, and then started to giggle all by myself there in that shower. It was like a sign from God to calm right down. Let it be. It's only an exam.

As the Beatles would have sung, had they been writing for "Sesame Street":

Letter b, letter b,
Letter b, letter b,
Second in the alphabet, letter b!

Basketball and bongos, brains, brawn, briarpatch and bakery,
These all start with b, letter b.

Letter b, letter b,
Letter b, letter b,
Don't you love the alphabet, letter b-eeee!

Come on librarians, sing with me now.

Blogging Pals

I am taking an online course on blogs, and my classmates and I are looking at each other's blogs quite regularly and commenting on them. Have just been thinking about chatting with people I've never met online. Is very strange experience. I am liking it (the people I'm meeting seem really great), but if I were a squirrel, I would say that I am shy of you because I don't know how you smell. Friend or foe? Is danger in the wind?

I suppose that this is all old hat for people who have been chatting online for years, but I never really got into it. I have two librarian friends who both met their spouses online. How odd but great. One said that for her it was truly a meeting of the minds first. Very cool.

I just remembered a good story about studying Latin that I'll tell you later (whoever 'you' are).

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

For This I Went to University for 9 Years

The duties of a reference librarian are broad and far-reaching. I spent 20 minutes today picking jammed paper out of the bowels of the microfilm reader with a tweezers. They never tell you about these things in library school.

In honour of my 9 years of university, let's dust off our Latin, shall we?

squirrel: sciurus, -i, m. Isn't that great?!? Sounds like 'scurry'. Go ahead, smartypants, now do the declension.

Nominative sciurus
Genitive sciuri
[oh! the pain!]
Accusative sciurum
Dative sciuri
Ablative sciure
Ack. Can't do it. Can't even tell if I'm right or wrong. Brain has leaked out my ear. Very sad. Now the only Latin I can remember is the silly stuff that jokes are made of.

Pulla delenda est. /The chicken must be destroyed./
Romani plus possent quam Galli. /The Romans are stronger than the Gauls./ (why remember this??)
Veni vidi visa. /I came, I saw, I shopped./ (just kidding)

Gentle AND Smart

My child [let's call him Sprout to protect his tiny identity] is cute and very smart, but he is in the pinching phase. We keep asking him to "be gentle" instead of pinching. The other day, I said "Sprout, it is as important to be gentle as it is to be smart." And then I thought, yes, this is exactly it.

In my family, smart is very important, and by extension, "stupid" is a very ugly word indeed. Sometimes, in my high-speed quest for smart, I overlook the gentle and the tender. I think motherhood has been good for me. Perhaps it will make me a gentler librarian.

Not that smart is a bad thing. Am very proud of tiny Sprout who can now say "zucchini", "laundry", and "strawberry". As long as he doesn't pinch me while he's being so clever.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Bridget Jones's Weblog

I used to be a good writer, until I read Bridget Jones's Diary. Then became abbreviated text goddess. Sentence fragments, v. bad. Must become v. serious professional librarian forthwith, as textual sluttiness v. bad for resume.

Sentences That Only Make Sense in Context

Some sentences only make sense in context, such as the following one. My husband is a squirrel.

In fact, my husband is a library squirrel. Yes, shocking news, my husband works for the same organization as I do. And yes, still more shocking, we met on the reference desk. Library squirrels immediately recognize each other. I think I've mentioned that library squirrels are very curious creatures. The other side of that truth is that they are also very fond of telling stories. This is how I knew J was a squirrel.

I don't know if a lot of libraries are like this, but there are at least four couples where both partners work in my library system. What is that about? It is obvious to me that fabulous chicks work in libraries, but don't we fabulous chicks get out enough into the world to meet our fellers in places other than the library? Or are we happiest among like-minded intelligentsia?

Actually, I first assumed that J was a gay library squirrel. A lot of male library squirrels are gay - clever, interesting, attractive, and good storytellers. What attracts the gay squirrel to librarianship? I await a comment on this topic.

As a side topic, how's that for a classification sub-set, 'gay library squirrel'. (I'd love to see what subject headings LC would make out of that concept).

Library squirrels. (assume female? does LC ever assume female?)
Library squirrels, male.
Library squirrels, gay.
Library squirrels - Effect of working together on.
Library squirrels - Personal narratives.

Chip chip chrrrrrrr.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

It's a Family Affair

My sister and her husband (not squirrels, but charming folk all the same) are vacationing in Thailand, and I convinced her to set up her own blog about the trip. She is possibly - all sibling rivalry aside - even funnier than me. You might want to check out her story on "Chalon Stone".

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Grooming Squirrel

Have just been thinking that as a librarian with a techie sort of title (Virtual Reference Librarian), I am really swinging towards the non-techie/human relationships/touchy-feely side of librarianship.

Motherhood will do that for you. I recently read a great book called The Tending Instinct by Shelley Taylor. Taylor talks about nurturing as a powerful instinctual force, and backs up all her theories with biological studies, mostly ones done with animals - did you know that a rat with a genetic tendency toward having hypertension can overcome that tendency if its mother licks and grooms it a lot in the early developmental stages? Now that's powerful. Came away from reading this book with the determination to be a licking, grooming rat. Or squirrel, as the case may be.

I also recently went to a workshop on effective teams, where the facilitator recommended a book called Fierce Conversations. I haven't read it yet, but she said it posits that every relationship succeeds or fails one conversation at a time. This has a lot to say if you apply it to customer service in libraries. We win or lose our patrons one conversation at a time, whether it be an argument over fines, a discussion over computer bookings, or a chat about a great book.

Weather Report

It's a beautiful crisp (can you believe it's still 'crisp' in mid-May??) day in Saskatoon, and the Farmers' Market is once again set up in front of the Library for the summer. And I'm on the Reference Desk. Sigh.

Am finding this blogging thing to be TOO MUCH FUN, and so am limiting myself to one or two posts a day. Don't want to become narcissistic geek squirrel. Also don't want to be found passed out under my keyboard with a death-grip on the hot mouse.

Ick. Hot mouse. Officially referred to in the parlance of my peers as 'hot mouse syndrome' - e.g. when you go out to the public Internet computers to help someone, and the mouse is hot because it's been squeezed by a series of people non-stop for 6 hours.

I suppose hot mouse is preferable to cold mouse, if one considers the Library as a destination place? Don't I sound like Pollyanna in Hell ("What a great place to hike!" "No more down jackets ever!")(Don't you love Roz Chast).

Friday, May 14, 2004

People I Want to Meet Someday

I want to meet the person who makes up the names for paint colours. Sand fossil. Winter Wheat. Golden Cricket. Flamingo.

No wait, I want someone to pay me to make up paint colour names. Highlighter yellow. Burnished squirrel tail.

I also want to meet the engineers who design breast pumps. Don't get me wrong. I am very attached to my breast pump (pardon the pun)and it does an important job. But, can you imagine the social furor that sort of job description might cause at engineering cocktail parties? "What do you do?" "I design breast pumps." Would it garner the social value that bridge building might?

And let's not forget the women who beta test breast pumps. Now that's brave.

Rodentia Intelligentsia

What do squirrels talk about, seated at tiny tables on sunny piazzas, clothed in the tiniest of berets, drinking strong espressos from acorn cups? Library politics, of course.

Learned today that the head librarian of a regional library system in my province, Saskatchewan, has been charged with defrauding the library system over the last 10 years. With all the money being leeched from - don't say it - the book budget. Squirrel rage. Obviously this man is not a library squirrel. Perhaps a badger. Or a dreaded library chipmunk, which as we all know is the worst of animals: a faux squirrel.

There is some sort of metaphor in the human collective unconscious that librarians tie into - people are especially appalled when a librarian goes bad. Librarians are too nice and good to commit fraud. What is at the base of that thinking? It would be interesting if we could figure it out.

Intelligent rodents also discuss the state of the world, from the colossal to the mundane. This squirrel painted the living room trim today. Sand fossil. I'll leave it up to you to establish what that colour could possibly be.

Which brings me to the topic for another blog posting.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Squirrels at Home

Squirrels at home are very busy, with little time to chat. Especially squirrels with baby squirrels. More later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Squirrel on the Reference Desk

Blogging could be a fun thing to do on the reference desk. Squirrels like to keep busy.

Ours is a busy reference desk some moments, and dull at others. It seems to ebb and flow minute by minute. Will take this opportunity to put forth, ahem, a theory.

Common features of librarians and squirrels:

* Squirrels live on branches. Many librarians work in branches.
* Both squirrels and librarians tend to be gourmands. No one has proved that squirrels, as a species, love cheesecake, but who knows what they do late at night, really.
* Only librarians are more curious than squirrels.
* Squirrels and librarians like to store things (see the first posting in this blog).
* When squirrels and librarians get run down and sick, their eyes get glassy and their fur gets dull and matted.
* Librarians and squirrels are always busy. Even when they're sitting quietly, they are thinking big thoughts. Okay, or stupid, little thoughts, such as commonalities between species. Thoughts nonetheless.
* Librarians, as a species, tend to have a cat fixation. What is that cat thing?? Perhaps they remind us of ourselves. Small, furry, wily.
* Squirrels leap from tree to tree; librarians leap from research topic to research topic. Both, of course, travelling gracefully and with purpose.
* Easy access to resources is key for both librarians and squirrels.

Okay, okay, enough of that.

Questions about Blogs

It's day two in the Oak Tree, and as a new Blogger, many questions are running through my mind about blogs.

Why do people blog? I was just talking yesterday to someone who has been writing a blog for over a year, and she said it is very therapeutic. What need does it fulfill?

Blogging is so personal, and yet we put it out there for anyone to look at. Why? Does this replace daily prayer in this secular century?

Ack! Am having trouble writing such lofty thoughts for anyone to see. When I was a child, I quickly learned that my mother would read any diary that she could track down, no matter how private. Have trained myself not to write in journals, for fear of being found out. Perhaps blogging will reclaim that activity for me. Perhaps not.

Why do librarians blog? Why do librarians buzz about blogs? We are so interested in sifting through Internet sites, looking for ones published by authorities, and yet anyone with Internet access can blog on any topic. Where is the authority there?

I suppose any person is an authority on their own life. Must ruminate on that one. Oh yeah, cows ruminate. Squirrels do not. Ahem. Must scurry about on that one.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Library Squirrel Hits the Ground Running

Library Squirrel hits the ground running - okay, scurrying. Why call my blog Library Squirrel? People often remind me of animals, and I think if I were an animal, I would probably be a squirrel. Quick, perky, gregarious, with the occasional chattering rage episode.

I also like the library-squirrel tie-in, since many librarians have that secret desire to lock the doors to the building and keep all the good acorns [books] to themselves. Note to self: do not hide all the good acorns.

I am taking an online course on RSS and weblogs, and lo and behold, after one session here I am! Online squirrel. Rodentia intelligentsia. Who knew it was possible.

Had some difficulties setting up my blog (not that it was hard - I just clicked carelessly a few times), and so the address is 'librarysquirrelz' not 'librarysquirrel', in case anyone cares.