reading and goals

“Reading” by Stefano Corso

I’ve had ┬álot more time on my hands over the past few days than I usually do. The University is closed, and I’ve been on a paid holiday since last week. I returned from visiting family on Saturday, and since then my time has pretty much been my own. This has involved mid-day naps, lounging in pajamas, and reading.

Normally, I don’t have much in the way of true leisure time, in part because I don’t allow it. On the occasions when I have found myself with “nothing to do,” I quickly get stir-crazy and regret not planning something in advance. I worried that might happen this week, but I had plenty of house projects if I felt inclined to tackle them, so I knew I’d be okay. What has surprised me, however, is how I was able to slip into a mode of relaxation I haven’t be in for a long time.

A big part of that has been trying desperately to at least get to half my 2013 reading goal before midnight last night. 2012 was a good year for me and books — I read 27 that year, starting at a goal of 25, so I figured I could make the goal of 30 this year. I didn’t anticipate eventually taking on music director responsibilities at WRIR in late spring, a job that consumes most of what remained of my downtime. As of last week, I had read only 11 books in 2013. The time off over the past few days coupled with a road trip (yay audiobooks!) helped me cover the ground and hit 15 in time. You can see what a motley crew they were on my GoodReads page.

I prefer to read my fiction cover to cover in one sitting, unless it takes more than four hours. I’m a pretty fast reader, doing about a hundred pages an hour of your typical mass market paperback, so four hours or more makes for a long book. I prefer to read my non-fiction in audiobook format, where stops and starts don’t interrupt the narrative too much, and having someone talk at me makes me pay better attention to the words. Given those conditions, and the types of nonfiction and fiction I prefer, it’s not always very easy for me to find something I’m interested in at the moment, and far too easy to choose a podcast or a project instead of reading. I’m not making excuses — I’m just working to understand myself better so I know how I can “trick” myself into making the time and space for books.

But why? What’s so important about reading? Funny thing for a librarian to ask, don’t you think?

Reading books was a huge part of my identity as a kid. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my bed, propped up on my elbows, mind far away in the story in front of me. Relations with my younger sister were tense after years of yelling at her to leave me alone when she would come in my room, looking for a playmate. Even then, I didn’t like to interrupt the story. We’re friends now, and ironically, she’s more of a reader than I these days (she read 80 in 2013, with an original goal of 75).

I distinctly remember when I stopped craving books and reading regularly. It was the year I went to graduate school for my MLIS. The coursework demanded so much reading, and I was taking four classes a semester instead of the usual three course full load, that after a while, I took more pleasure in not reading a book, using my time for other leisure activities. I recognized this shift a long time ago, but the new hobbies and interests didn’t go away, either, so I’ve struggled to make time for both.

I’ve winnowed down my book collection regularly over the years. I still acquire new ones, particularly hardcovers I plan to keep forever, but the discount books and mass market paperbacks I picked up over the years because they looked interesting have had to survive several severe weeding projects to remain on my shelves. And so many of them remain unread. At times it feels like a weight around my neck, dragging me down. At other times, it’s so overwhelming that I can’t choose what to read from among them, so I keep whittling it down, becoming more selective, and also having fewer to pack with each house move.

Books still remain important to me. Stories rattle around in my mind long after I have finished reading them. I don’t need their escape as much as I did as a kid, thankfully. But, I do appreciate the mind-expanding properties they offer.

So, I continue to set annual reading goals, striving to meet them, and struggling to not feel like I’ve failed when I don’t. The last thing I want to do is to turn this into a chore or assignment, which is what turned me off from reading all the time in the first place.

my love/hate relationship with reading books

ALA Read mini-poster
“ALA Read mini-poster” by me

This year I participated in the “set your own challenge” book reading thinger on Goodreads. Initially, I set mine at 25, as a little stretch goal from my average of 19 books per year over the past four years. But, I was doing so well in the early part of the year that I increased it to 30. The final total was 27, but I’m part-way through several books that I just didn’t have time to finish as the clocked ticked down to the end of the year.

What worked well for me this time: audiobooks. I read more of them than paper books this year, and it forced me to expand to a variety of topics and styles I would not have patience for in print.

What failed me this time: getting hung up on a book I felt obligated to finish, but did not excite me to continue on it, so I kept avoiding it. To be fair, part of what turned me off was on disc two, I accidentally set my car’s CD player to shuffle. This is great for adding some variety to music listening, but it made for confusing and abrupt transitions from one topic/focus to another.

I read a lot of non-fiction, because that works better in audio format for me, and I read more audio than printed (either in paper or electronic) books. For 2013, I’d like to read more fiction, which means reading more in print. Which means making time for my “must read the whole book cover to cover” method of reading fiction.

audiobook: 20
print book: 7
ebook: 0

fiction: 5
non-fiction: 22

books read in 2012



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#libday8 day 2 — mushy brain work

Arrived and was greeted with paper renewal notifications covering my keyboard. Set those aside, logged in, and began sorting through the new email that arrived overnight and earlier this morning. Updated my calendar with new meetings/events, as well as the time I’ve blocked out for various tasks for the day.

First thing I tackled was notifications to the subject liasions about upcoming eresource renewals. I’m using the modified annual review checklist and data thinger that I shared about last month, and I’ve received positive responses from the subject liaisons.

At 10, I started my on-call shift for the Main Service Desk. I don’t normally do this, but I’m covering for a reference librarian who has to teach a class this morning. Basically, it means I monitor the IM reference and email, and am available to help at the desk if they need me. It also means I can keep working on whatever I’m working on, unless I get interrupted.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is retrieving use statistics for calendar year 2011. But, it has been slow going, as I’ve been distracted with other pressing projects that normally would not interrupt this annual Jan/Feb activity. Part of what is taking me longer to prepare the annual review checklist & data for the upcoming renewal is that I have to retrieve the 2011 stats and clean them up, rather than just pulling from the files I have already.

I would like to take a moment here to say that I would almost prefer no use statistics to the ones where they only provide them for a month at a time. This requires running 12 different reports for a year, and 24 if searches and sessions are not in the same report. I say almost, because at least I get something, even if it is a royal pain in the ass to retrieve and exemplifies the short-sightedness of the publisher. I’m looking at trends, not miniscule pieces of data.

My on-call-ness and/or electronic resources librarian-ness kicked in midway through the shift when I was called out to help a student download a book in EBSCOhost. We figured out that he needed an account in EBSCOhost, and also to install Adobe Digital Editions on the lab PC. This worked for now, but I have put in a request that ADE be added to the image for all student lab computers.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideFinally wrapped up the renewal stuff plus the associated use statistics stuff in time for my on-call shift to end and my lunch hour to begin. I took the opportunity to enjoy the spring weather by heading off-campus to run some errands. As it happened, I finished listening to an audiobook just as I returned, so I left a short review on GoodReads. The book is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and it’s the One Book, One Campus selection at my university this year.

The next 20 min or so consisted of responding to email that had come in over lunch and checking Twitter. I didn’t want to get into much, since I was about to start my one hour shift at the Main Service Desk (actually staffing it this time around).

Desk was pretty slow. I had one question about where to find a book, and a few people looking for specific librarians. My co-consipirator at the desk and I spent some time kvetching about why it is that one of the highest ILL net lenders in the state (us) is still using clunky, out-dated software when even the most podunk libraries have ILLiad now. I looked at the stats from 2011, and ILLiad would have cost us less than a penny per transaction, and saved the user and the ILL staff so much time and lost productivity. My coworker thinks we’ll probably get it in the next year, but still… I can’t believe it’s taking so long!

Now back at my desk, I took a moment to follow up with EBSCOhost tech support regarding a problem we’ve encountered with the “Linked Full Text” in Academic Search Complete. I’d called it in last week and was waiting for a response. They still don’t know what’s broken, and it is still broken. Anyone else having problems with this?

Next I spent some time trying to sort out why in one month we received two invoices followed by two credit memos from the same publisher for the same resources. Turns out the invoices had errors and the credit memos were their way of zeroing out our balance. A simple explanation or note would have saved me a phone call. Ah, the joys of automated billing systems! While I was at it, I sent them a note with updated contact info, as one invoice/credit was addressed to a predecessor of more than six or seven years, and the other addressed to the collection development librarian who will be retiring this summer. Figured I’d get it taken care of now so we don’t miss something in the future.

To wrap up the day, I reviewed the responses to an RFI for discovery services that we sent out last month. We’ll be having demos of three different systems tomorrow, and I wanted to prep some follow-up questions in advance. So. Many. Words. I know I’m going to need a drink or two by the end of the day.

resolutions and all that

statue reading a book at Mozart Museum in Prague
statue at Mozart Museum in Prague

I’m terrible at making and keeping resolutions. The first week or two are great, and then it starts to slip. That’s partially why I’m hesitant to articulate them, much less share them with anyone else. That being said, I have made a few promises to myself regarding things I want to work on this year. I have hopes that enough practice will eventually turn the new behaviors into old habits.

One thing I really hope to do more of, and have been working on unsuccessfully for several years now, is to set aside time to read books. And if not physically read them, at least make use of the time I spend in my car or at the gym to listen to them. I used to consume several books a week on summer breaks from school, and even kept up the habit in the working years between college and graduate school. I think it was the combination of graduate school and home internet access that broke the habit.

Last year, I chose twelve books that I planned to read. I made it through six, finished one a day into 2012, and gave up on another. Here’s the list of books read, with links to my reviews on GoodReads:

When I made the original list, it was a mix of books I’ve wanted to read but didn’t own and books that I owned and hadn’t read yet. I thought maybe the list would make me more focused, and only 12 in one year seemed doable. In fact, I read 17 books total last year, just not all of the ones I told myself I would read. About four of the books I read were ones I found in audio format at my local public library, and they were my road trip companions for the Thanksgiving and Christmas pilgrimages to Ohio.

Ultimately, what it came down to, was a mix of feeling like the list of 12 were more like school assignments and less like something I would choose to read, even though I did choose to read them and no one but myself “assigned” them. It was an interesting experiment, but this year I’ve decided to just make the time to read, and leave the material selection up to whatever I’m feeling like or have recently discovered.

Maybe all this resolution making and breaking is a good thing in the long run. Maybe it teaches me more about how my brain works and how to trick myself into making better decisions. Or maybe I just need to turn off the computer and pick up a book.

books read in 2010

Once again I attempted the 50 book challenge, and unsurprisingly, once again I failed. Still, two books every three months or so isn’t bad given my schedule, and I have a few partially read books waiting in the wings.