Resolutions for 2013

This post is from The Lutheran e-newsletter by Karen L. Wiseman, a United Methodist Church pastor, who is an associate professor of homiletics at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

After a year of mass shootings, economic hijinks in Congress, hateful political rhetoric, absurd celebrity incidents and failed attempts at being a better people, I’m tempted to be cynical about 2013. But somewhere deep inside I’m still that kid who gathered with family on New Year’s Day to eat black-eyed peas for good luck and share our resolutions.

I haven’t made any resolutions in the last few years because I typically fail at keeping them within the first few months. But this year I want to try something new: I want to make some for our society. And yes, we may fail too, but I pray we will try to make them come true.

First, let’s resolve to end our society’s culture of obscene violence. Let’s end the sale of assault and assault-style weapons outside of the police and military. Let’s end the production of and sale of high volume ammunition clips. Let’s set an example as a culture that has been intimately damaged by the slaughter of the innocents and chooses to do and be better as a result. Let’s be a society that values life more than the Second Amendment. Our society will be better for it.

Second, let’s resolve to be more loving. Let’s take care of those around us who are weak, mentally and physically impaired, destitute, sick and/or living in poverty. Let’s resolve to do the right thing for our neighbors so they feel love in their lives in profound and personal ways. Let’s be willing to show mercy and not require some means-test for those in need to be considered worthy of help. Let’s be our best selves and help others to be their best selves. Our society will be better for it.

Third, let’s be more tolerant and accepting of those with whom we disagree or have profound theological, political or cultural differences. Let’s look for our similarities instead of always first focusing on the differences. Let’s be kinder to one another in our real lives and in the digital world. Let’s have civil conversations and listen to the opinions of others in our lives. Let’s show this to our children as the way to honor each other’s uniqueness. Our society will be better for it.

Fourth, let’s be a people who honor the faith of others while still being true to our own beliefs. Let’s be people of faith who welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned, help the sick and bring the wounded stranger from the side of the road into a place of care. Let’s make a difference in the lives of others by being true to the God who loves us all. Our society will be better for it.

Last, let’s be open to affirming the rights of others. Let’s see people of color and work to right the injustices inflicted upon them. Let’s listen to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community’s stories of injustice and honor them with acceptance and greater moves toward full inclusion. Let’s hear the desperation of kids in failing school systems and work to make things more just. Let’s cherish the elderly and young children in ways that protect their safety and care for their needs. And let’s make the effort to connect with each other — not just on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, but in real life. Our society will be better for it.

Thinking about a booksale

Garage sales, tag sales, thrift sales . . . sales of used items have a lot of names. Whatever you call them, they’re lots of work, and often even fun. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and while the seller rejoices in cleaning house, the buyer enjoys a new find – often at a bargain price.

Our library just finished another booksale today – a garage sale of books. Or in our case, a basement sale, since the sale took place in the basement of a library. We haven’t had one in quite some time, and we found out the public really missed the sale. The first day we sold the items at a unit price. The second day was a bag sale. Tonight, there are very few books remaining that will be donated.

Throughout the sale, I watched people pouring over the tables of books, so weighted down I’m surprised they didn’t bend even a little. Almost everyone bought something, and most left with their arms full and smiles on their faces. What they were purchasing has been in the libraries, sometimes for years. They could have checked it out over and over. But there’s something special about taking books home when they’re yours. There’s something magical about owning books, and it appears for lots of folks, the more books the better. Tonight I’m imagining those people, emptying their bags and lining up their books.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about book format and ownership in the last few months. A marketing explosion by E-book vendors has pushed us into a world for which I’m not ready — and our library budget isn’t fully prepared. But here we are, staring E-book service in the face. Buying E-books is at the expense of our print budget. The media and sellers of E-books tell me “don’t worry, all the public wants is E-books anyway.” But as I watched those people, delighted with their purchases, I have to wonder. Is there such a thrill in ownership of E-books? Can I line them up? Can I admire them? Can I feel smarter just by being in their presence? Can I impress my guests by my walls of recorded knowledge? Or even more importantly for me and my family and friends, can I walk to the shelf in my home and pull down a tome and offer it to another person, thereby sharing the joy I found in reading it?

I haven’t settled my mind about the whole E-book phenomenon. It’s probably the first time in the technology revolution that I’ve found myself in the hanging back crowd. I do have an E-reader (of sorts). I have Kindle installed on my Droid cell phone. And I must admit that I’ve enjoyed having a book at hand on my Droid, especially when I was waiting – for a pizza, or a train to pass, or to be called into the doctor’s office. I even liked the backlit screen I could easily read while driving at night (actually, I was the passenger). But all my serious reading thus far has been print.

I’m still pondering all of this. I think the book to be written about E-books is only in its early draft stage. As a library leader, I embrace the challenge of providing what the public wants (today) and marvel at the capabilities of the devices. As a person, I worry over the possible sociological impact of the loss of the sharing of a physical object.

As for me at the book sale? Nope, I didn’t buy any. But, my husband and I made a side trip to our wonderful independent local book-seller. I bought a new book and he bought a used book. Sigh. Need to think about expanding our bookshelves.

Happy Birthday, Blog

3 years ago, I wrote this blog birthday post (abridged) . . .

2 years ago today, I got brave enough to make my blog public. This is the 193rd post since then. My Blogger profile says I’ve been on Blogger since November 2003, which is when I came back from Internet Librarian, inspired to blog. There were lots of posts back then, but one day I (foolishly) deleted them, thinking I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

Lots of studies have been done on why people blog. Just today, the venerable Michael Stevens of Tame the Web wrote about the ideology of blogging. I identify with the comment in his post: “It amazed me how ingrained in my life the act of blogging had become.” I am often aware of how what a great blog post a certain experience would make. Now, if only I had time to act on all those inspirations.

I recently said to a colleague that blogging was so “yesterday.” I guess what I really meant was that blogging has become so mainstream that it’s hardly a phenomenon any more. We just accept and expect that the voices of our culture are heard through the blogosphere.


I ended the post with “Wonder what this blog will have to say in another 2 years.”  Well, it’s now 3 years later. I’ve definitely become less prolific; at times the blog has been downright dormant. It could have something to do with a career move. Or maybe I just ran out of things to say. Posts have been less frequent at times. But I see that I did expound on lots of things happening in my life. There were other things happening that as a Director, I didn’t want to talk on in a public venue. Whatever . . .

I also note my statement “blogging is so yesterday.”  Nothing has particularly replaced it. We all moved to Facebook, where we post much shorter thoughts. Then we got worried about privacy and limited our thoughts to only our Friends. But then we moved to Twitter – so much for privacy. I tweeted a couple of tweets, then became a Twitter-quitter. I see in my twitter-quitter post that I preserved my name, but I’ve forgotten it. Oh well.

Looking back at my blog (and a few others) from 5 years ago, I do see some changes. For a while, I wrote for a collaborative library blog where we devoted a fair amount of posts proclaiming — look who just started a blog. Many blogs were kind of amateurish. We went through the spelling-doesn’t-count phase. Who’re you kidding? Of course it does! Do I want a prospective employer reading whatever I dashed off with no proof-reading? The blogs that hung around have gotten more polished (oops, gotta work on that one). Lots of blogs, I suspect, are written by someone other than the name at the top. That wouldn’t apply to librarians, of course ;^)

So here I am, blogging into my 6th year. I like the idea of writing for the world, as much as I want. Facebook is for a limited number of Friends (a whole lot of cousins). Twitter — well, I quit that, remember? Wikis? Never got into that, except for a few mission-specific.

So, this ends post #245. Happy birthday, Blog! Where’s the cake?


3 years ago today was my first day in this position. A month earlier, 2 significant events had occurred within days of each other. The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was a catastrophic day in history, and will forever remain one of those days when you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

The second horrific event occurred in what was to become my new work home – in fact, I had already been offered the position of Director. The library automation system, that managed operations for this 14 branch library system, crashed, losing all the data for items in the system and all the data relating to items’ status (checked out, on hold, etc.). What made the crisis unimaginable was that there were no current usable data backups. The most recent usable backup was 6 months old. It was uploaded into new software by the vendor and we carried on. What made the crisis bearable (we kept telling ourselves) was that it was only data, and could be mostly restored, not like the lives lost on the I-35W bridge that would never be again.

As we forged on, we couldn’t check anything in until we determined if there was even a viable record, and if there wasn’t – well, you know what we had to do. So everything returned was stacked and stored, on shelves, tables, in bags and even laundry tubs, until we could get to it — item by item. Here’s what the meeting room looked like for several months.
Books and media

Well, I could tell you all about the next months as we recovered, and the next year as the lost catalog records were identified and restored. But that conversation is better had now over coffee or wine or beer (good for sob stories). The important thing is that I quickly learned what a wonderfully committed staff I had. We dug in, and did it and capstoned the process with a full system inventory – the first one ever done in this system. What a positive affirmation it was to find out how few items had been lost.

The last 3 years have been a growth period for me. I’ve been told my experience is common, but it proves that you never know what you don’t know until you don’t know. The important thing is, that not knowing something is the beginning of learning.

So, here’s to another year. It’s been a quiet anniversary day of small challenges. Nothing like those days 3 years ago. We’re a better organization, with a more secure system (we hope). Like every other library, never have so many (public) expected so much of so few (staff), who are working with ever-shrinking financial resources.

Heaven’s new little angel

The story of this tiny short life puts things in perspective. It is told on Establish the Work of Our Hands, by Mary Beth Oyebade, a missionary in Jos, Nigeria who along with her husband Bayo oversees the Mashiah Foundation, a ministry to people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

On August 14th, Mary Beth introduced Moses, an 8 month old whose mother had died of Aids in June. Relatives who had cared for him had waited for him to die and had even quit feeding him, but he refused to die. Esther, the matron at Bezer Home had picked him up at the hospital and named him Moses. Mary Beth closed the post this way: Does the baby have HIV? We don’t know. Does it matter? No. Every child needs to be loved no matter what their circumstances.

On September 4th, Mary Beth gave an update on Baby Moses (great photo), He’s keeping his food down, and responding very well to all the love and attention he’s getting. Whenever I hold him, I notice that he loves to make eye contact, and he also likes to be reaching out and touching people.  Please pray for this little guy’s future.

On September 21st, Mary Beth had bad news that Baby Moses had been injured: This morning, as his bath water was being prepared, little baby Moses suddenly squirmed out of his caregiver’s hands, and fell into very hot (near boiling) bath water. He was instantly plucked out, but the damage was already done. We ran around this morning getting medical attention for him. He is now on admission at the hospital. Although he has improved greatly in his time at Bezer Home, he is still frightfully small—about the size of a normal 2 month old, when he’s actually about 9 months old. We do know that he is a survivor, and we believe that this little guy will fight for his survival this time too. Volunteers are taking turns with his round-the-clock care at the hospital.

On September 23rd, Mary Beth reported that Moses’s burn was not too severe and that his appetite was good. Despite his frail health and small body, she was hopeful.

Last night, the posting read: Baby Moses is in the arms of the Lord. We all thought he was recovering and would be discharged from the hospital soon, but he simply slipped away this evening.