Saturday, January 31, 2015

What They Don't Teach You in Library School: Tax Forms

As anyone who has gone through a master's program in library (and information) science knows, the degree focuses a lot on theory rather than practicum.  Don't get me wrong, an MLS or MLIS is highly valuable, especially if you're in cataloging/technical services.  Or, if you're unfamiliar with services and reading materials for a particular age group, I definitely recommend taking a course for that age.  The syllabus for a class on children's or young adult literature will be a treasure trove of modern and classic books.

For everything else, there are real-life experiences.

You'll never have a class on how the IRS provides the general public with free tax forms at libraries, for example.  Or all the problems that come with it.

Every year, starting in January (and somewhat in December, for the over-zealous taxpayers), you'll get questions about where the tax forms are, and why aren't they in yet.  This will be in person and over the phone.  And you'll just have to be sympathetic with vague answers for a while, because the IRS will never keep you informed as to when they're sending out the forms you requested back in July.

If it's like last year, you might hear eventually, either from the IRS or on a library list-serv, that tax forms are delayed because of massive changes to the tax laws.  And then you'll be waiting into February, with patrons and non-patrons alike breathing down the back of your neck on a daily basis, wondering if they'll get tax forms in time to file.

Or you could have a disaster like this year.  The Internal Revenue Service's budget got cut.  So what did the IRS cut out of its budget?  Nearly all those tax forms people are waiting for.  Brilliant.

You'll get the 1040, the 1040A, and the 1040EZ, as well as Publication 17 (the tax guide) and the reproducible package, if you ordered it.

You won't get any of the instruction booklets for the 1040 forms.  You won't get any of the supplemental forms, not even the 8965, for Health Care Exemptions.

You are going to either have to help people find the forms they want online and print them off, or help them make copies once the reproducible sheets arrive.  And that, of course, will cost them money, because most libraries do charge for printing.  No one is going to be happy about the idea of printing off the more than 100-page document for 1040 (regular) instructions.

Prepare for complaints, as you've never had before.

Which brings me to my anecdote on the subject.  (Swearing ahead.)

Last week, none of the tax forms were in yet, though we had heard that the Michigan forms would be on their way be February 6, and the 1040A and 1040EZ should be shipping soon.  I was considering putting up a sign stating this.

A man I hadn't seen before came in.  (You get a lot of unfamiliar faces at tax time.)  He asked for tax forms, grumbling about needing the form for the stupid Obamacare stuff.

I explained that the forms weren't in yet.  A bit of conversation occurred, about when they would be in.

And I made the mistake of saying that many of the forms wouldn't be sent this year, and that people would have to print them off.  I was about to suggest that he contact his legislators, when he reacted.

He didn't just get angry.

"FUCK OBAMA!" he roared, and tore out the door, attempting to slam it behind him.  Thankfully, a wide-eyed young man was right behind him, and he caught the door and eased it shut.  I think the windows above the door might have shattered otherwise.

My coworker in the billing office stared at the man as he stormed out the doors of the city hall building, then looked back at me.  I shrugged helplessly.

The janitor also raced up, mop in hand.  Bless his heart, I think he would have walloped the guy if he'd given me any additional grief about the tax forms.

"So, uh, do you have any tax forms?" the young man asked, after he'd quietly closed the door.

"Ask him," I said with a little laugh, pointing out the door.

I quickly put together a sign about how tax forms were coming soon, and complaints could be directed to our Congressman and Senators (with their phone numbers).

I also wrote to them via their web sites myself, urging them to get the IRS to send libraries before one of us poor librarians gets hurt.  Because seriously, if someone in my nice little town can get that worked up over tax forms, what's going to happen in a big city?

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I may have gotten distracted this holiday season.

Say hello to the newest member of the family, Kalikimaka.  Her name means "Christmas" in Hawaiian.  She also goes by Kallie, for short.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What has the Moonlit Librarian been up to?

The other night, I went to a Chinese buffet with some friends.  The fortune cookie I received at the end of the meal read, "Give yourself a day off - at least give yourself a relaxing evening."

Even the fortune cookies know that I need a vacation.

I do tend to drop off the blogging map around November anyway, because of National Novel Writing Month.  I participated again this year, and made it to 50,000 words again.  Maybe I'll do something with my writing this time.  It needs to be finished and edited (possibly entirely rewritten, as it may do better in first-person narrative instead of third-person limited), but I'm keeping my hands off it for now because I'm not feeling much love for it at the moment.

And the calendar year is the end of my fiscal year.

I feel like my previous director position had training wheels on it.  Despite serving a smaller population, it had a larger budget because it actually has a millage to support it.  It was also its own entity.  My current library is a city library (though it also serves a township), and falls under the city budget.  Most of my budget is decided by the whims of the city council, and also, my money doesn't roll over to the next fiscal year.  Spend it or lose it.

I found myself with more money than expected at the end of November.  Oops.  So I had to carefully figure out how to spend it, while knowing that it was probably too late to make an order with our main vendor.  We do most of our ordering through Baker & Taylor, but they have a tendency to take their sweet time sending books to libraries.  For example, Tom Clancy's Full Force and Effect was released December 2.  It came in the mail to the library a couple days ago.  So I didn't want to order from them, because the merchandise might not arrive until after the end of the year, and thus not be part of this fiscal year.

On the bright side, this meant ordering from some small vendors I like, and also buying some local authors' books at my favorite book store.

I've also been very busy with programming at both libraries.  First, I introduced a story time for all ages at the public library.  It's been well-attended, mostly by children between the ages of 2 and 6 years, and their moms.  However, my generic story time has apparently not been good enough for mothers with babies; they have started demanding a baby story time.  I initially tried pointing out that the larger libraries that are only five miles away to the east and west offer them.  "That's too far."  Seriously?

So, I have to create baby story times.  This has had me in a panic, and even given me honest-to-goodness nightmares.  I like to say that I enjoy children as long as they're potty-trained and literate.  But also, in doing research into baby programming and early literacy, I've discovered just how important not only reading to infants but also talking, singing, and playing is to their future literacy.  I feel like I need an early childhood development degree to do this!  No pressure or anything, to create quality programming.

Something that I can be proud of myself for, at least, is how I've stepped up my teaching at the school library.  There are a couple of classes that I've started focusing on, for two reasons.  One, they are at a good age to learn how to use a library and develop lifelong skills in navigating a library and performing research.  Two, these classes drive me insane and tend to leave the library looking as though a tornado struck.  If you teach them, you can direct them toward correct behavior.

I found a Dewey Decimal Bingo game online, and adapted it to an appropriate reading level.  Made it a bit more generic (590 for wild animals, rather than 599.774 for foxes, for example), and included pictures of books actually in the library.  I've been playing it with these classes for the past two weeks, and they love it.  I'm also seeing them check out books from the subject areas highlighted in the game.  It's awesome.

I do intend to use the next two, slower weeks to catch up on some reviews.  My partner will be out of town, and I do have the days of the actual holidays off.  Maybe I can actually heed the fortune cookie and relax.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Second annual U.P. Authors Day at the mall

The second annual U.P. Authors Day & Book Fair was held last weekend at the Westwood Mall in Marquette.  It was organized by members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA) in coordination with the Westwood Mall.  (For more information directly from the UPPAA, visit their web page.)

I had attended the one held last year, and had a great time.  The second annual event was greatly anticipated, especially when the UPPAA decided to hold it later in the year.  This time, as soon as I heard about it, I printed off flyers - one for the library, and one for myself to use as a shopping list.

Once again, my wallet and checkbook left the mall considerably lighter, and my boyfriend had a box-load of books to carry to the car.  Much thanks to all the authors who participated; it was good to see all of you.  Special thanks to Tyler Tichelaar for the box, the extra book for the school library, and all your hard work.  Also, special thanks to Mary T. Kremer for her book donation.

Many of the authors in attendance this time were not at last year's event.  Quite a few are self-published through Globe Printing in Ishpeming or are published through small presses.  As with last year, I will do my best to offer where these books can be obtained.

I even bought a book for myself.  Gasp.
Murder in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Sonny Longtine; available through The History Press Bookstore

This book was donated for my public library.
Atonement in Avalon by Mary T. Kremer; available from Aonian Press

Children's books for the school library
Chogan and the Gray Wolf, Chogan and the White Feather, and Chogan and the Sioux Warrior, all by Larry Buege (his web site with additional resources)

Other books for the school library

My Marquette, a nonfiction book, and Spirit of the North, a paranormal romance, by Tyler Tichelaar (his web site, where you can find his hefty collection of books)

Nonfiction for the public library
 Deer Hunting, 4th edition by Richard P. Smith; published by Stackpole Books
The Book: Why the First Books of the Bible Were Written and Who They Were Written For by Allen Wright, which is being picked up by a large publisher soon - congratulations!  (currently available through iUniverse)

A writing collection
The Bay Prospector: Writings from Superior's South Shore, edited by Dean Weiger.  This was printed by the "Copper Country Intermediate School District under the auspices of the L'Anse-Baraga Community Schools" in 1991.  I honestly don't know where you can find it, beyond events like this.  :(

Bad Policy and Cabin Fever by James M. Jackson (his web site)

Not to be confused with Nevada
Page One: Whiteout by Nancy Barr; available from Arbutus Press (web site does not offer sale options, but you can find Nancy's books on major distributor sites and book stores)

A thriller
The Point by G. Nykanen; available in at least ebook format through The Independent Author Network

Bookmarks are good marketing.
I already have 1914 by Charles B. Smith at the library, but it really started circulating when he brought in a poster and bookmarks.  I begged some more bookmarks off him at the event.  (His web site.)

And finally, some swag!
It's interesting what you can get at events like this for marketing.  There are bookmarks, business cards, the Drummond Island Digest, resources to go with Larry Buege's books, and a little caution sign about zombies on a necklace (for G. Nykanen's upcoming book).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The ignored Banned Books Week

Over the years, I've had a variety of experiences during and responses to Banned Books Week.  Last year went amazingly well and generated a lot of interest, mostly to the positive.  (Though a particularly colorful patron saw the note that Scarlett behaves immorally on the cover of Gone with the Wind, and gleefully announced to the library that "She's a slut!" before my staff ushered him out.)  Another year, I had a presentation backfire when I discussed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its challenges in history with a middle school class that was reading the book; they decided that it should be banned.  And then there was the time I made a display in the school library, and a few books, including 1984, walked off and were never seen again.  Hopefully the students that pilfered them enjoyed the reads?

Then there was this year.  The public library has a display case, which I filled with information and fiery images.

Prior to Banned Books Week, "It's Perfectly Normal" was kept in the staff room, available only upon request.
Side view of the first sign.
I shared plenty of data.
Side view of "It's Perfectly Normal" and information.
I also made a display of banned and challenged books in the YA and children's sections.
YA books
Children's books
How many people showed interest in these displays?

One staff member, my new clerk, who eagerly read through the material and found it all interesting (including how many have been made into movies).

Not one patron said anything or took note of the displays.  No one gave the case so much as a glance, despite its prominent position between the new releases and circulation desk.

Honestly, it's a little hard not to take it personally.  I love Banned Books Week a lot.  I put a lot of effort into research, planning, and implementation.  It's also difficult to not give in to grumbling about the sorts of people that don't care about censorship.  But really, this library serves a fairly older population, that just likes a quiet library to browse at and check out print books.  This sort of display attracts far more attention in a high poverty, rural, anti-government setting, like my previous library.  Different demographics want different things.

So, to put a positive spin on my ignored Banned Books Week, this was a learning experience.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banned Books Week: What My Mother Doesn't Know

It's that week I get most excited for, Banned Books Week!  I know, I'm such a library geek.  But I put the most planning into decorating for it, more than for any other "holiday."  I research it, and why books are banned, and what's trending in promoting the freedom to read.  And I do enjoy reading banned books.

As part of Banned Books Week, I always like to review a book that's stirred up particular controversy.  Here are my thoughts on What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones.  It impressively made the Top Ten Banned/Challenges Books List for four nonconsecutive years.

Checkouts: 10 checkouts from my public library (the one I run)
Typical reader: teen and tween girls
Source: My public library

Synopsis: Sophie is a boy-crazy high school freshman.  This is a free-verse account of a few of her romantic flings.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Banned/challenged for (in alphabetical order): nudity, offensive language, sexism, sexual content, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

This book has quite the curriculum vitae when it comes to controversy.  In 2004, it debuted on the Top Ten Banned/Challenged Books List at #6 for offensive language, being sexually explicit, and being unsuited to age group.  In 2005, it was at #7, for sexual content, and being unsuited to age group.  After a few years off, it came back in 2010 to regain #7, for sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.  In 2011, it was #8, for nudity, offensive language, and being sexually explicit.  Wow.

Between the repeat infamy and the title ("Ooo, it sounds scandalous!"), I was expecting something pretty salacious.

... It isn't.

Really, it's one of the sweetest books about teenage romance that I've read.  Granted, I don't read many.  (And when I do, they tend to be angst-filled coming-out GLBT novels with plenty of heartbreak.)  Sophie is boy-crazy and knows it.  But she's a romantic, a serial-monogamist, with some sense in her hormone-addled head, giving her the ability to move on when a relationship is ending and defy peer pressure in certain instances.  No spoilers, but the hints leading to, and the actual, third romance are pretty "aw"-inspiring.

What could be wrong with this book?  (Beware of sass.)

Nudity.  There's a scene where Sophie and her girlfriends go out for a bite to eat in trenchcoats and smiles.  No one sees that they're not wearing anything underneath.  It's their little secret.  A goofy bit of fun.  (And really, unless it's illustrated, how the heck does one criticize a book for having nudity?)

Offensive language.  Sophie is Jewish, and in one instance, a rude man refers to her and her mother using a derogatory word beginning with a K.  Certainly, that's something to get a reader upset over, because they'll otherwise never hear derogatory racial/ethnic slurs.

Sexism.  I don't know.  Maybe when Sophie gets groped by a random boy after a dance, and he comments to his friends that her breasts are real?  Speaking of that scene, Sophie handled it excellently, defending herself and chasing the boys away.

Sexual content.  Sophie discusses getting her period, and tries to buy feminine products.  It's as bad as Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.  Oh.  Right.  That's been banned and challenged over the years, too.  We certainly can't have girls reading about other girls dealing with menstruation.  They might have been as in-the-dark as Sophie was, without instruction from her mother, and they might learn something from a book like this or the one by Judy Blume.

Sexually explicit.  Certainly, there must have been some eye-widening scenes in this book, for it to be challenged so often for this offense.  But what I found was mostly kissing.  Oh, no, the horror.  How dare teens kiss.  They're supposed to wait until after their Sweet Sixteen.

In sum, this book with the eyebrow-raising title has gotten a lot of undue criticism, in my opinion.  It's a mostly harmless book about a boy-crazy high school girl.  This novel is just a lightning rod that attracts storms from people who are overly protective of girls, and don't want them knowing about anything that can and does impact their lives during puberty.  Get over it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yay for YA: Sisters' Fate by Jessica Spotswood

It's probably worth repeating something I said earlier this year in another YA review: I don't typically indulge in reading to completion.  So when I actually do finish a trilogy, you can bet that the author impressed me enough that I felt it worth my time to see it through to the end.

There was no way I was going to let Sisters' Fate, the third and final book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy by Jessica Spotswood, slip by me.  That twist at the end of the second book!  Oh, my word!  I actually squawked when I read what happened, and wanted to throw something at the perpetrating character.  So, I just had to know how things resolved in this book.

Not to mention, does the prophecy that one of the three sisters kills another come true?  Or can fate be changed?

(For my review of the first book, Born Wicked, click here.)

Checkouts: The book is new to the school library; the series surprisingly hasn't been checked out at all.  I need to talk it up more, apparently.
Typical reader: Teen girls looking for paranormal romance
Source: Snowbound Books

Synopsis: As a fever ravages the city of New London, Cate must deal with what happened at the end of Star Cursed, the prophecy and what it could mean, her little sister Tess's own prophecies, her middle sister Maura's conniving ways, and regaining Finn's trust.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

First, I must comment on the cover art.  It's an improvement over the first book's hardcover printing, where Cate (presumably) looks all come-hither and wonton.  The paperback edition of the first book, and the printings of the subsequent books, fit the stories much better.  The three girls on this cover look like they could be Maura, Cate, and Tess.

On to the book itself.  It was everything I wanted, and more.  The end of the trilogy answered questions, left a few tasty dangling threads, and overall satisfied me.  There's also a tremendous climax - multi-tiered, even - that is action-packed and far-reaching.

What I loved most about this book is that while there's romance, it surpasses what is the norm in teen literature.  Cate benefits from her beau, but does not rely on him.  He's a support, not a crutch.  She can love, without being codependent.  This is absolutely marvelous, and well-written.  We need more strong females in YA fiction like her!  Really, many of us could learn a bit from Cate.

I look forward to more of Ms. Spotswood's works in the future.  (Also, thank you for the bookmarks.)