Year: 2014

Going up?

Right now, our new library building exists in that ideal theoretical dimension in which all things are possible and nobody’s dreamed-of architectural vision clashes with anyone else’s (or with functionality, for that matter).  Once the project takes shape in more concrete ways, decisions will be informed by studies and observations of customer usage in the current facility and, of course, the additional needs and wants our patrons have mentioned.

Personally, I’d love to see a single-story plan.

With only one floor, we’d have no stairs or stairwells. Staffers are acclimated to the long flight of steps, navigating them multiple times daily, but customers tend to remark about the experience–after they catch their breath.  And cell phone users must not have noticed how sound funnels upward all around the stairwell, amplifying very personal conversations for the benefit of second floor. Especially at the Reference Desk, we are treated to information best left un-broadcast.

Come to think of it, if I took notes, I’d never run short of material for National Novel Writing Month.

But comments from below can be delightful.  Take last Wednesday morning: a first-floor mom, hoping to expedite the morning’s agenda, focused her child’s attention on selecting children’s books to take home.   But apparently the son or daughter had spied those stairs and inquired about possibilities overhead.

“Oh, it’s just boring stuff up there”, Mom explained, “Grownup stuff.”

Mom anticipated the child’s point of view; she doesn’t really believe that a floor stocked with dozens of computers, live-person customer service, and thousands of books and magazines is boring.  But if you’re among those parents who lovingly devote their entire library visit to the kids’ section, how would you even know?

The grownup floor is quieter (well, usually) but hardly a snooze-fest.  Adults ask fewer questions, but those run the gamut of challenges faced by this demographic:  writing research papers for distance learning courses, questioning which credit reporting sites to trust, crafting and updating resumes, and so forth.  (Speaking of grownup issues, did you know that with the library’s Law Depot online resource you can compose and print a basic will in about 15 minutes?  Three of us here at RRPL have successfully done this recently.  FYI: my bank’s notary wasn’t allowed to certify wills, but the UPS Store provides this service at a low cost.)

We’ve even heard adults clapping their hands and otherwise expressing childlike glee when they hear about upcoming releases of books by favorite authors.  These titles are some I predict will be particularly well-received–as soon as we can get our hands on them:

Colleen McCullough’s Bittersweet (“epic romance”: remember The Thorn Birds? 8/19)

Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage (8/12)

Debut author Jessie Burton’s historical fiction (17th century Amsterdam) The Miniaturist (8/26)

Quirk Books’ latest: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (9/23)

Quirk Books products have circulated well at RRPL, and Library Journal gave Horrorstor a good review, but I admit that this one had me at the cover.

July is Smart Irrigation Month, pt. 1

SmartIrrMonthJuly has been deemed “Smart Irrigation Month” by the Irrigation Association since 2005, because that’s typically when the hottest temperatures occur.  With high and hot temperatures come higher water use, it’s just a given.  We still want our landscapes to look as good as they have the rest of the year, so we crank up the water.

This year, I’d like to challenge you to do something different.  It’s been a slightly different year already: we didn’t have a 100-degree day until this last week!  We’ve had regular rainfall all throughout May and June.  We really haven’t needed to use the irrigation system until this month.  So, in honor of Smart Irrigation Month, I’m going to write a short series on automatic irrigation systems, in which I’ll (1) encourage you, and explain how, to maintain your irrigation system, (2) upgrade it where necessary, and (3) schedule it efficiently and effectively based on your plants, light, and sprinkler head type.

Performing a check of the irrigation system, (aka an Irrigation Evaluation, or Irrigation Audit) is the cornerstone for maintaining the system.  If you are a direct water customer of Round Rock, Water Conservation staff will schedule and do this for you; however, it’s simple enough that you could do it yourself-and it’s highly recommended to check you system monthly!  I recently found a broken head on my own system that I hadn’t noticed or even realized was there.   So, how do we check it?

1. First you need to go to the controller and turn the dial to “test” or “system test” if that option is there (Rainbird controllers have this). If you have this option, great! The number you see in the display are minutes that, once started, will run each station for x minutes and then turn off. A good default number is 2 minutes. After selecting 2 minutes, push the manual start button on the controller to begin the system test.

2. If you DO NOT have the “test” option on your controller, you can simply program one in. Just choose a program that you are not using for your normal watering cycle-probably the C program. You don’t need to enter in start times or water days, only watering times; so for each of your stations, enter a runtime of 2 minutes. Then start the program manually.

3. Once the system is running, you are looking for problems, issues like sprinkler heads turned the wrong way and spraying the street, rather than the grass. Or heads that do not pop-up over the grass (that’s why there’s that dry spot!), or heads that are clogged, and no water is coming out of them. You could also look for leaking heads, broken nozzles, and other leaks. For an idea of what some of this looks like, see my blog “What is Water Waste?” from last month.


a. The simplest, and most worthwhile, thing to fix is misdirected heads; most of them can simply be turned to face the appropriate direction by using your oversprayhand to grab the head (essentially the neck) and physically turn it. This prevents water waste, poor coverage, and ensures the water is used, rather than running off the property; all of which are positives for you and your property.

A big clue that you have misaligned heads and overspray is if you can tell your sprinklers ran–meaning you can see the water on the street, on the driveway, on the sidewalks, on the patios, etc., like this picture to the right!!

b. Nozzles that are clogged are easily be cleaned out (when the system is turned off!). Unscrew the nozzle, rinse it and the filter off, and screw it back on. You may use an old toothbrush or toothpick to clean out the emitter where the water sprays out of the nozzle, it’s pretty small. Once screwed back on, turn the system on to make sure you have put it on facing the correct direction and it’s watering what it needs to be.


c. Low heads or heads that do not pop-up over the grass is due to either too tall grass, which is really not a bad thing, usually, or more likely, the heads have settled over time and just sunk into the ground. They need to be replaced with taller heads in order to have better coverage-to get the water out far enough to water what’s it’s supposed to. You can replace this head yourself with a taller head (they are sold by height in inches, so if you have a 4″ head currently, you may increase to a 6″), or depending on the amount of low heads, you may hire a licensed irrigator to do this, as there is a degree of professionalism needed. You don’t want the heads sticking up over the grass and become a hazard when the grass is mowed.


So that’s the basics of performing a system check!  Do it monthly to physically see how the system is working, that what is supposed to be watered is actually being watered, AND, most importantly, make repairs and adjustments to the system to keep it running efficiently!

All I want is more

Remember when “binge” was a word we didn’t take lightly? 

Formerly, it applied to individuals straying into saloons or meeting with bad company and succumbing to more beverages than originally intended.  Despite advice from embroidered samplers or wise elders, Moderation In All Things proved impossible just then.  Such incidents were also called “sprees” (crime sprees were likewise deplorable–unlike shopping sprees, which are somehow cute.  But I digress.)

While admitting the dangers of bingeing with drink or food, we recognize how perfectly that word encapsulates excess.  So we borrow it for blithely self-confessed (thus excusable) overindulgences of all sorts.   At Book Expo America this year, “binge-reading potential” was applied as a compliment for any author whose latest book keeps readers turning the pages well into the night or whose series tempt fans to consume one book after the other, like bon-bons. 

The phrase would be music to authors’ ears; for readers, it places us in good company.  At my house, the sampler would read “Moderation Except Books, Chocolate, and Guacamole.”  But I don’t embroider–I read.  And lately my husband and I have also binge-watched House of Cards, thanks to the library’s Season One DVD collection.  The only reason we haven’t zoomed through Season Two in a shockingly brief time span is that we’re too frugal to buy the set and are waiting to borrow the library’s copy. Oliver Twist asking for more gruel

Happily, delayed gratification isn’t an issue with two forthcoming novels:  Jane Smiley’s Some Luck and Deborah Harkness’ trilogy-concluding The Book of Life.  Both copies accompanied me home from Book Expo. 

Those of us fortunate to receive Harkness’ book were asked not to comment on the story until July 15, so I won’t (just know that you will not be disappointed.)

But here is the irresistible premise of Some Luck:  First of The Last Hundred Years  trilogy, the story spans 1920 to 1953, each chapter depicting one year in the life of the Langdons, an Iowa farm family.  The trilogy will end with 2020: 100 years, 100 chapters.  Incisively viewing social history as the Langdon’s five children experience it, the story also brilliantly conveys family dynamics: parental preferences and expectations, implications of birth order, etc.  Smiley’s gift for interweaving both telling private moments and large-scale events produces an immersive reading experience.

And that’s the problem-at least for me.  Deeply engaged with the characters in Some Luck, I devoured it, staying up late one night and (thank goodness for weekends) resuming reading the next day, finishing before lunch.  I wasn’t prepared to part with the Langdons yet, but I couldn’t restrain myself from following their fortunes as far as I could as soon as I could.

And now, the interval before the second book will be even longer because this was an advance reading copy. 

What do we learn from my example?  Probably nothing: I defy you to pace yourself sedately when you get your hands on Some Luck (which may happen for you sooner than the October publication; we’ll be offering the autographed ARC as a drawing prize on Facebook sometime in the next couple of weeks).

Just wait ’til you hear

We understand why library customers ask us The Question (how we
feel about “libraries going away now that we have ebooks and the

Earlier this week, one such inquirer stacked her pile of library books
on the Reference desk while she entered the drawing for this week’s Reader’s
tote bag prize–these actions at least partially demonstrating why
ebooks don’t signal our demise.

This lady reads ebooks, too (thank you, Overdrive at RRPL!)
and probably enjoys the amazing convenience of the internet, as do library
staffers and many patrons.  But the internet doesn’t answer all your
questions—the reason this valued customer came to the Reference desk.  
And let’s not forget that library resources save their users a significant
amount of money.

Digital books and the internet aren’t library replacements—they
represent additional avenues of access for libraries to facilitate—along with
print, still preferred by an impressive percentage of readers.   As
publishing options diversify and technology advances, everyone is
guessing how market shares and format preferences will evolve.   The
only sure bet—my opinion–is that consumers aren’t thinking “instead of”; they
want “also”.

Librarians are not just OK with publishing upheaval, we tend to be
energized by it, perhaps more comfortable with the changes than our customers
are.  When one works at a desk where anyone can approach at any time with
all sorts of questions, one learns to respond with “Hmmmm, let’s see…” rather
than “Oh, no!”

Other reasons for optimism:

The audio age:  Audiobooks are
burgeoning in popularity.  Library Journal reports a
confluence of factors– longer commuting times, expanding variety, diversity in
audio formats, convenience of mobile devices—driving the current audio boom. 
Audio Publishers Association observes that, “while other areas of the
publishing industry are shrinking, audiobooks are its fastest growing segment”
with, according to APA president Michelle Cobb, “an astonishing 83 percent
increase in audiobook titles produced just from 2011 to 2012”.  Yesterday,
a customer who’s an audio enthusiast and I were dropping names of career audiobook
readers, some of whose reputations rival those of film stars.   And you’d
be surprised how many celebrity actors (e.g., Bryan Cranston) also work as
audiobook narrators.

Giveaway alert (especially if a road trip is in your future):  The
library’s adult services department will offer a dozen unabridged CD audiobooks
as Facebook drawings and in-house “pop-up prizes” in the coming week.
Clamor for HP books

The “buzz” factor:  Physical books retain their
power to incite passion, acquisitiveness, and delight.   Stephen
Colbert’s advocacy for Edan Lepucki’s forthcoming
California will do
wonders for a debut author’s career—but Colbert also has a point to prove about
vendor responsibility toward customers.

At trade conferences like ALA and BEA, limited quantities of
pre-publication giveaway copies are scouted, coveted, and grabbed with alacrity
when the stacks materialize on the floor, signaling availability.  Last month at Book Expo, I thought I’d missed
getting the ARC of Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, third in her
trilogy.  Assuming this to be my due for
having once claimed I didn’t read vampire novels, I had resigned myself when a
colleague alerted me to the still-open autograph line and the last few copies,
after which I gleefully hugged the longed-for volume to my chest.

I hope no one saw that.

Which came first: the fried chicken or…?



“What was
the weather like?” That’s the first question co-workers asked about New
York last week (I attended Book Expo America).  Answer: “I wore my coat
every day!”



the forecast for weeklong 70s, I packed light outerwear that made brisk walking
in that unexpectedly cool, windy spell a pleasure–not that I was merely
traipsing from Point A to Point B.  Most of the time I hauled armloads of
books back to the hotel to stash in my luggage. 
treasures and a 45-pound box of publisher giveaways and advance reader copies
shipped from BEA will furnish prizes for
grownup library customers during the “Mad About Reading” summer reading campaign.    Check our Facebook
page and library homepage for details next week.



summer, when we held weekly drawings for literary goodies and hosted spontaneous
“Pop-Up Prize” giveaways at the reference desk, we relished seeing customers’
expressions change from puzzled to thrilled as we confirmed: “Take it–it’s yours!”



BEA called
to mind another rewarding variety of takeaway—candid gems from authors whose
work we cherish.



The Library
-sponsored Day of Dialog in the McGraw-Hill building (50th
floor, nice view of the Empire State Building) featured practical discussions:
collection development, formats in transition, etc.  But DoD is most known
for stellar assemblages of authors and publishers, all passionate about their
upcoming releases, their enthusiasm contagious. 
presentations–editors’ picks, cookbook trends, women fiction writers, key
contemporary authors—noted panelists offered up choice commentary:



’s zingers broke up the room at frequent intervals.  She
shared a favorite compliment, bestowed by a gentleman who claimed that he never
bought books authored by women:  “You write like a man”.



who loves to visit libraries and has done so countless times, confessed, “I’m a
library slut.”



food writer/restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, asked what inspired her 1000
Things to Eat Before You Die
smiled, “Well, what motivated me was making a
great deal of money.”



Lee Brian
Schrager, author of Fried and True (an entire cookbook about fried
chicken) corrected the notion that this delicacy is of American, specifically Southern,
origin.  The true birthplace of FC:  Scotland.



the panel’s observation that “women’s fiction” is a label while “men’s fiction”
is not, Sophie Littlefield suggested this alternative:  “Fiction
You Will Like”.



author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, recounted
anecdotes from his university teaching experience and admitted to a fascination
with the 1970s: “I just wanted to put my characters in polyester.”



, her injured leg cushioned and propped atop a chair, garnered a roomful of
guffaws by announcing the title of her new thriller:  One Kick.



which women authors deserved bigger audiences, the “Women Writing Fiction”
panel recommended these up-and-coming talents:

S.J. Bolton
Lidia Yuknavitch
Linda Castillo
Karen Witemeyer
Sarah Gran
Beth Durst
and Stephanie Perkins.  The library has books by everyone on this list.



a memorable revelation not from Day of Dialog but overheard at Javits Center in the massive queue
awaiting an autograph and a moment with Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame:  “I missed a friend’s
wedding for this!”

Toilet Rebate Program Returns!

watersense toiletI wrote a blog back in November 2013 about the toilet rebate program ending and why it was ending.  In case you missed it, it was due to the State Plumbing Code changes that as of January 1, 2014, mandated that all toilets sold in the State of Texas must use 1.28 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less.  That’s down from the previous requirement of 1.6 gpf, so it’s a small savings of water per flush, which can add up significantly depending on the number of people in the house or how many hours per day the house is occupied and the toilets are being used.

The happy news is that I get to announce now, that the efficient toilet rebate program been updated and funded, so it is now available again; you can participate as soon as you’re reading this!  The changes are pretty minimal–only the age of the house has changed.  With the new program, the house (or any property) .  The reason the date was changed to 2006 is because during the late 1990s and early 2000s the 1.6 gpf toilet was the most efficient toilet on the market, thanks to the previously mentioned laws.  Starting around 2004, 1.28 gpf toilets started making an appearance and have since grown to nearly take over the market.  Homes that were built in the time period of the late 90s – early 2000s can now get a little more efficient with their indoor water use.  That’s good!

Other program details are the same:   Logo-WaterSense

    • Property must be a DIRECT water customer of the City of Round Rock (sorry, no MUD customers);
    • New toilet(s) must be from the EPA’s WaterSense list, which are simple to locate in stores or on product packaging by looking for the WaterSense emblem (shown at right);
    • There is no limit on the number of toilets at a residence, simply one for one replacement.
      Maximum rebate is $100 per toilet.
    • House or Property must be built prior to January 1, 2006.

Find the full details on the City’s Water Conservation Rebate page.

The “catch”, if there has to be one, is that if you’ve already replaced a toilet (or more) in the previous toilet rebate program, you aren’t eligible to replace that same toilet again under this program.  Now let’s start replacing those old toilets!

Sooo…What is Water Waste?

Are you are aware of by now, the City has been in Stage 1 of our Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) since October 2013.  We’re still in them, still Stage 1.  At the beginning of the month, we started increasing enforcement of the restrictions and water waste by putting some signage around town, leaving door-hangers on homes where we’ve seen non-compliance, and sending postcards out to others regarding problems with water waste, watering on the wrong day, and other things.  So, it’s easy to understand what day you can water your yard on, and it’s very easy to figure out not to water during the heat of the dayleaking head…but what is water waste?

To put it simply, water waste is just that–wasted water.  Water that isn’t used for any purpose, it just flows or leaves a property without any benefit to that property.  There are several things we look for specifically when talking about water waste: broken or leaking heads or valves, runoff, water ponding in a gutter or parking area or street, overspray, and misting.  Let’s look at each of them up close.

    • Broken or Leaking heads or valves–this really could be more generalized to include anything broken or leaking water that can be fixed.  Broken sprinkler heads are what people typically think of as huge water wasters, but it’s really not the case.  Sure, they do use a little more water each minute the system is running with the broken head, it’s really the leaks that are leaking constantly that add up to trunoffhousands of gallons of water overtime.  This could also include the leaky faucet on the outside of the house.  The picture at the top right shows a broken head–it’s spraying water straight up into the air rather than low, like the other heads.  There’s also high pressure here, a broken head may not always spray up that high.  In the second picture, there’s a leaking head that has been leaking for so long there’s algae growing on the sidewalk!  Not good.  This leak is running 24/7 so is wasting a lot more water than the broken head.
    • Water running off propertythe same leak as mentioned above can be used again.  Runoff is just like it sounds, it’s water running off the property.  The water from that leaking sprinkler head is running (flowing) down the street for at least 50 feet into the intersection of the next street.  Really, if you’re watering your yard, you want the water to stay on your yard, right?  If water is running off, it means you’re watering too long and the soil can’t absorb all the water so you need to reduce how long the sprinkler is running; if you have a sloped yard and the angle is causing the water to run off, same thing, reduce the runtimes and water it multiple times (i.e. run it for 5 minutes once an hour at 3am, 4am, 5am so it would water for a total of 15 min.). If a sprinkler head is turned the wrong way and spraying more onto a hard surface (driveway, sidewalk, street) rather than the yard, that causes runoff too.  The head just needs to be adjusted to spray the grass.  All can be easily fixed.
    • Water ponding–This is wasteful, water just sitting in a parking lot or street gutter, or sidewalk that is just going to oversprayevaporate.  It’s caused by the same things that cause the runoff, above, and can also be a hazard due to the algae growth of standing water–people could slip and fall on it, bikes going across it could also slip or become unsteady. The standing water can also erode the pavement and break down the streets quicker than with normal wear and tear, causing added costs to the City to repair or replace them.
    • Overspray–this is an easy one.  It’s simply water that is over spraying the grass and landing in the street, or other impervious surface.  The nozzle can be adjusted to reduce how far the water sprays out by turning the little screw on the top of the sprinkler head clockwise.  The water that is landing in the street or sidewalk leads to runoff and ponding.  In the picture below, the overspray is evident by the wet pavement.  The sprinkler heads are behind the shrubs and spraying way out onto the sidewalk.  misting
  • Misting–this is caused by too high water pressure.  It’s a waste of water because most of the water is simply floating off into the atmosphere, rather than going down onto your yard.  The water droplets are so small, due to the force (the water pressure) pushing them out of the sprinkler nozzle, that the wind then carries them off.  The water droplets need to be larger, heavy, to fall down onto your yard.  Ideally, the sprinkler psi should be between 30-50psi.  If you have high pressure and misting, it can be reduced by installing new sprinkler nozzles with built in pressure regulation or installing a pressure reducing device on the entire system.  The City’s efficient irrigation rebate covers both of these ways to control high pressure.  In the picture below, the misting is the cloud-like appearance of the water spraying out of the sprinkler head.  It shouldn’t be like that, when the sprinkler is running, you should be able to see the individual water drops.

So you can see that a lot of these problems are related and often times caused by each other.  It’s easy to fix them with some simple adjusting of sprinkler heads or runtimes (minutes) in most cases. I ask you to make those changes and help save some water and some money!



And the hints just keep on coming

In the run-up to Book Expo America next week, I’m doing my exhibitor homework:  assessing which autographed publications and advance reader copies would most interest Round Rock readers.

Paula Daly, I note, has Keep Your Friends Close due out in September.  Her suspenseful fiction debut, Just  What Kind of Mother are You?  has checked out briskly since we acquired it last fall.

That ARC created an awkward scenario, now comical in retrospect.   The co-worker whom I elected Reader #2–after me– was away at an outreach appearance.   Rather than wait until our schedules coincided to hand off the copy in person, I propped it on the door frame, visible to anyone passing by.

Now imagine that you arrive at your workstation to spot an offering prominently emblazoned Just What Kind of Mother…?

Fortunately, this colleague (a) has a generous sense of humor and (b) is patently not a candidate for any degree of parenting criticism. 

Not only do Daly’s titles demand our attention, they also mimic popular nonfiction themes.  We tend to deflect acquaintances’ uninvited advice, but hints and tips packaged in snazzy covers by people unknown to us are practically irresistible. 

Michael Korda’s Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 (recommended by the RRNN/Barnes & Noble book group) documents both fiction and nonfiction, but Americans’ affinity for life-improvement strategies is clear.  And purchasing trends in nonfiction mirror evolving society: 

Choices scholarly by comparison to today: lots of memoir, history, poetry, biography.  Yet Better Meals for Less Money and How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day reflect modern sensibilities.

Notables include The Art of Thinking; Etiquette by Emily Post; Economic Consequences of the Peace by John M. Keynes. 

More of what we now term “self-help” emerging:  Live Alone and Like It and Orchids on Your Budget by Marjorie Hillis; You Must Relax by Edmund Jacobson; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. 

Post-war, it’s no surprise that How to Stop Worrying and Start Living resonated in 1948; in 1949, two of ten bestsellers were about canasta.  Fresh green juice

 The desire for high-quality everyday living inspires several from Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens; Look Younger, Live Longer by Gayelord Hauer; How to Live 365 Days a Year by John A. Schindler.

1960s and 1970s:
Cookbooks now focus specifically:  dessert, salad, casseroles, bread, chicken.  And then: Sex and the Single Girl, The Joy of Sex, The Hite Report, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask.  Erma Bombeck (The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank) scores multiple chart toppers.

1980s and 1990s: 
These speak for themselves:  Richard Simmons; Beverly Hills Diet; Bill Cosby; Robert Fulghum; “Your Inner Child”; Rush Limbaugh, “Juicing”, Men Are From Mars, Who Moved My Cheese.  

Finally, a few recent titles I’ve spotted that might, if left at your door, prompt examination of your co-workers’ motives:
 If I Were You
Now Look What You’ve Done
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices
Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You, and
Wear No Evil.

At the Car Wash

That song always makes me smile—and think of that fish movie with one of the characters working at a car wash, Will Smith is the voice but I’m blanking out on the movie name.  Anyway, on to topic!  Car washing is one thing I get calls about a lot while in water restrictions.  In the City’s Drought Ordinance, there is a section on vehicle washing–what day it’s permitted on, what kinds of vehicles are permitted to be washed, charity car washes…maybe you’re wondering, what’s the big deal with washing a car?  Most people don’t let the water run the entire time the car is being washed, so it’s not completely a water use issue.charity_carwash  It’s also a water quality issue.

The majority of the answer really lies with WHERE the car wash is taking place.  Some places are definitely better then others in terms of protecting our water.  A commercial car washing facility, whether that’s the drive-thru bays that you wash it yourself with the spray gun, or the full-service wash facilities are the best places to wash your car.  Why? you ask.

Well, let’s start with washing a car at home.  It’s typically just soaped up, washed, and rinsed off in the driveway.  Where does all the water (and soap and dirt) go that’s rinsed off the vehicle?  Down the driveway, down the street, down the gutter and into the storm drain.  But…where does the water (or other things) go when it goes down that hole in the side of the street?  If you’ve read my blog on leaves, then you know the answer!  It goes out to our creeks and water ways, NOT to the waste water treatment facility.  Not to any other place that cleans that water before it hits nature.  So, all the suds, dirt, grease, oil, or cleaning chemicals are going to our creeks.  This can be harmful to plants and animals that live in these areas, but it’s also a pollutant to our water.

A way to prevent this–if you’re a die-hard car washer at home–is to pull the car up onto the grass in your yard to wash it.  I remember my mom doing this all this time growing up, and honestly don’t remember watering the grass much, if ever.  By washing the car on the grass you are watering your yard!  And the chemicals and soaps get filtered out of the water naturally by using the grass and soil; as the water and what’s in it, moves down through the soil, the dirty stuff get filtered out, while the water keeps moving down.  It’s a win-win for you, the water quality, and your yard.self service car wash


So what do commercial car wash facilities have that we don’t have at home?  They have big tanks under the ground (which our yard is a substitute for) that collects the water that was used while your vehicle is being washed.  That’s where the water goes when it goes down the holes in bay there (see the blue arrow at right).  The dirty water is collected and filtered and then either released into the City’s waste water system, so that it can go to the waste water treatment plant to be cleaned up.  Or in the cases of newer car washes, the water is captured, cleaned up, and reused again.

This is important–this is why commercial car washes are allowed to continue business during drought restrictions.  They are reusing water, and they are helping protect the waterways by sending water to the waste water plant, rather than the storm sewer.

They don’t actually use as much water as the perception is either.  An efficient automatic, drive-thru type of car wash facility uses around 30-50 gallons per vehicle.  That’s less than some clothes washers use!  Studies show that at home, we use around 100 gallons to wash one car.

So, please use the best judgment when it comes to keeping your car clean and protecting our water.



The art and (mad) science of summertime

On those first Tuesdays when the library opens an hour later for all-staff meeting, we’re almost never discussing what you’d think.

Literary chat would be fun, but other priorities rule the agenda.  Administering an information/access/community center–the modern library model–demands customer service updates, new resource training, community awareness presentations.

This week’s confab was special, marking our official transition into SRP Mode, best described as a state of high alert with moments of mild panic.

Michelle, our director, likens library summer reading programs to the retail world’s Christmas–a potentially game-changing season fraught with conventional expectations and opportunities to innovate.  New customers are attracted by SRPs, while current users anticipate another rewarding experience.

Hence, the flurry of questions:  Did we order enough reading rewards for children?  How will they know when they’ve qualified for one?  Will the online registration work?  What prizes will tempt grownups to complete a reading log?  Will they like this year’s mad scientist theme?

And this issue was tricky:  how can everyone enjoy summertime when some define the ideal library visit as calm and thoughtful while others express high spirits in loud tones, sometimes romping around beyond a parent’s field of vision?

Did we oversell the “second floor is the quiet floor” concept, and by directing phone calls, conversations, and general noisiness downstairs, foster the impression that first floor is “No Holds Barred” territory?

Our consensus:  it’s OK–considerate and responsible, in fact–to remind folks about library manners and the need for constant parental supervision in a highly public venue.

I work on the grownup floor and consequently admire the energy (and diplomacy!) required to manage the pleasant chaos resulting from large crowds drawn by summer performers.  Still, as part of the team coordinating the adults’ SRP, I envy the demographic perks of Youth Services’ customer base.

Just think:  children aren’t encumbered by work responsibilities; grownups devote 40 potential reading and library-visiting hours to their jobs.  Parents, mindful of the advantages of early literacy and summertime reinforcement, don’t merely encourage library visits–they deliver and accompany their offspring!

The Adult Services audience, meanwhile, gets sidetracked by pesky non-library activities like the aforementioned employment, volunteer responsibilities, home and lawn maintenance, child care, meal preparation, bringing their young to children’s programs…

Given our multitasking, responsible demographic, we appreciate each and every completed adult reading log and program attendee.

Not that grownups lack youthful tendencies.   We observe “kid in the candy store” moments when overwhelmed adults ask for reading suggestions–“just a few, please!”.  Like the youngster who much prefers the sturdy packing carton to the shiny gift, a mature reader may bypass the new hardcovers and digital resources that we’re most excited about, instead choosing a years-old paperback novel.

And grownups can put one in one’s place almost as deftly as kids do.  When a retired patron recently reported her 10-15 books per week average, I calculated my meager 1.5 for the past week (which included a book review deadline, work, houseguest).  Answering my regretful “I didn’t get through many this week”, the customer huffed, “Well, I happen to think that reading is important!”