Year: 2015

Bottled vs. Tap

bottled waterSo I just rummaged around my office’s recycle bin to find any type of water bottle for this blog, and surfaced with three different brands of water.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t too surprised, but have to wonder:  Why would my colleagues be drinking bottled water, when Round Rock has excellent tap water?

Probably for the same reason many people do…

  • It’s easy to buy
  • It’s seems cleaner
  • It’s convenient to carry around a closable bottle
  • It’s healthy
  • It doesn’t taste or smell funny
  • … just guessing here, but I’m sure there are more reasons!

I really just want to address one part of this long-time debate between bottled water versus tap water today, and that’s related to the cost of both of these products.   The more I got into this topic, I think this will turn into a multi-part series on the bottle vs. tap debate!

So looking at purely the purchase price, the cost, what are you getting for the $1.09 that you spend to buy the bottled water?  All three of the bottled waters in my recycle bin are 500mL, which is the same as 16.9 fluid ounces, or approximately 13% of one gallon of water…plus a plastic bottle.  That’s a little pricey for 13% of 1-gallon and a plastic bottle.

When the City (or your water provider) delivers water underground through water mains, directly to your house and out all of your faucets, you are paying $2.42 for 1,000 gallons of water!!!!  That’s $0.002 per gallon of clean water delivered to your property, every day.  Cheap!!dollar_sign_water_bottle

Let’s compare this to other things:

  • $2.05 for 1 gallon of gasoline (maybe not for long!)
  • $16.99 for the cheapest ink cartridge for my printer
  • $14.99 for a 12-pack of Shiner, which is about a gallon of beer
  • $62.00 for 1.7 oz of Calvin Klein Eternity perfume, which is way less than a gallon!

So you can see where I’m going here.  Tap water is an immense valve, priced by the thousands of gallons!  We haven’t even talked about the safety of it and the fact that it doesn’t create the solid waste challenge that the bottled drink industry has.

I encourage you to drink tap water, carry your own bottles, mugs, cups, and refill them!  To find out more about the  bottled vs. tap debate, go to drinktap.org, which is an educational website run by the American Water Works Association, the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource.

Better living through Friends

Why I’m not a morning person:  the tendency to awaken with sudden realization of yesterday’s missteps.

The first conscious thought the day after our Book Buzz event:  Robert–our Penguin Random House rep and speaker–hadn’t been supplied with a bottle of water and probably hadn’t been urged to partake of the appetizers and cheesecake we served.   This is no way to treat someone who drove miles to get here, provided book bags and galley copies for a crowd, and did a great job talking up forthcoming books.  But our unusual task completely preoccupied us.

When Robert arrived, the four of us were decanting platters of gourmet appetizers just delivered by the caterer.  Beholding the elegance of the hors d’ oeuvres, we joked about the rarity of the experience (and indeed of an occasion to say “hors d’ oeuvres”).  For us, fancy catering resides squarely in the Not Part of My Life category.  We devised serving patterns, juggled trays, and dispensed goodies while Robert shared publishing back stories and plot hooks with the mocktail-sipping audience.

Ultimately, the food and presentation got rave reviews–and we avoided lobbing pesto-coated mozzarella skewers onto anyone’s favorite jacket or shoes.  Knowing the hazards of food service, we invited guests to pick up their own beverages.

The advantage of using reference librarians for wait staff is that, should spillage occur, we’d know where to find the best stain removal tips.  But without Friends of the Round Rock Public Library we’d have had no such worries.  We’d also have had no refreshments.

As one library patron commented, “Children’s programs are very important–I get that.  But we grownups like to have our share of the attention, too.”  With this in mind, and given attendee swag from Penguin Random House, we shared our vision of a memorable adult event with the Friends group.  They furnished the money for the rare catering treat.

In recent years, Friends of RRPL has funded summer reading program prizes (really good ones), a staff appreciation event, hired presenters for children’s programs, extra shelving, eBooks, movie licensing fees, the popular Book Page handouts, and many other enhancements that benefit youth, tweens, teens, and adults.  Thanks to FOL, these are made available to taxpayers without additional taxpayer expense.

FOL inspects, sorts, and carts thousands of donations up to the Book Nook, an enterprise furnishing new homes for books, fabulous bargains for savvy shoppers, and proceeds to improve the user experience at the library.  How they accomplish so much so quietly is beyond me.  While their profile is understated, their impact is anything but.

Actually, that’s a great premise for the next National Novel Writing Month—imagine a super-high-profile Friends organization emanating the glamour and power of a secret society (think Da Vinci Code) or covert operation.  They’d be whispered about, even feared!  Everyone would hope to infiltrate, or—better yet–join them!  I’ve read (and certainly written) worse.

In the meantime, RRPL’s nonfictional and thankfully mild-mannered Friends group is planning some very entertaining fundraisers for next month…

Strange encounter at the library

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When you think horror, think Round Rock Public Library!

Wait–that didn’t come out right.  But we do want fans of terrifying tales to know that we purchase books for them; those chillers are shelved among other fiction, which explains the absence of a “Horror” sign.  Search the library catalog with the subject “horror fiction“, and you’ll see.

Or–just ask us.  The Reference Desk can supply lots of reasons for you to become totally creeped out.  (That didn’t come out right, either.)

Recent library acquisitions in the genre include The Vines by Christopher Rice; The Deep by Nick Cutter; The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith; River of Souls by Robert R. McCammon, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero, and The Vanishing by Wendy Webb.

And consider Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library, which terrifies me far more than the average reader because I’m a librarian.  This little tale (with wonderfully quirky alternating page illustrations) vividly portrays the sort of user experience that libraries strive every day not to achieve.

The first page evokes trepidation: a boy approaches the circulation desk–guiltily, because his shoes squeak.  There he encounters a surly librarian who, affronted by this distraction from her book, slams the volume down upon the counter.  (If you see one of us engrossed in pages while working a service desk, it’s because we’re reading reviews for book selection; we know that you’re more important.  But I digress.)

The not-ready-for-customer-service-award staffer proves just the leading edge of the young customer’s ordeal.  Throughout everything, the boy charmingly retains his sense of properly-brought-up reason: he questions that the vast, labyrinthine basement to which he is directed could logically exist beneath a public library, given that “public libraries like this one were always short of money”.

Perhaps we should capitalize and promote ourselves as “basement-free!”, “staffed by non-terrifying people!” and “guaranteed not to imprison our customers!”– selling points sure to resonate with readers of Murakami’s whimsically nightmarish scenario.

Frankly, we’re always on the hunt for any point to demonstrate our relevance.  We despair over folks who haven’t visited a library in many years (maybe their shoes are squeaky) and sustain the old stereotype of book warehouses that “nobody needs anymore”.  If these folks dropped by, they’d encounter computers, youth programs brimming with children and parents, volunteer tax assistance, an art gallery, helpful live assistance to find and use resources, study rooms and carrels in use—many more options beyond print.

They wouldn’t see the free Wi-Fi that so many customers depend upon.  And actually a significant portion of the service we now provide is invisible to those just surveying the premises.  Consider thousands of customers who tap into our digital resources—available 24/7 from home or wherever–and don’t forget mobile device users who download eBooks, music, articles, etc. and communicate with us online.

And we’re part of the problem, continually marketing our convenient digital resources, reminding customers that—as much as we love to see them in person—they can access our information remotely.

…Which means that you, too, could be part of the Vast Unseen Horde of Library Users. (Perhaps that will be Murakami’s next title).  Mwahahahaha!

A 3rd Grader Got It!

So I spent a morning recently helping judge science fair projescience fair for blogcts at Double File Elementary School, which I love to do, and noticed a particularity relevant project.  As an aside, it’s always really interesting to me to see all the different experiments and how many have to do with popcorn, nail polish, or cokes!  (Too many!)  Anyway, one of the 3rd grade experiments was absolutely amazing!  It was titled “Growing Grass in Drought Conditions.”  I read on, my eagerly wanting to see what the conclusion of the experiment was.

What the project determined was that when watered daily for 4-weeks, grass (started from seed), didn’t grow as tall or as well as grass only watered once per week.  The conclusion, verbatim, was “I discovered that the grass watered once per week grew taller than the grass watered daily.  Based on my experiment, the local watering restrictions of once a week are an ideal amount for the growth of the grass.”

While I was very happy and impressed reading that, I wasn’t surprised.  Watering less frequently, IS much, much better for the lawn than watering daily, or every other day, or every 3 days… The soil needs to dry out between watering events, otherwise the amount of oxygen is greatly reduced in the soil, and in fact, the grass (or other plant) can simply be drown!  Most plants die of too much water, rather than not enough.  Also, if grass, or any other landscape material, is watered daily, or even every other day, it becomes highly dependent on that regular watering and doesn’t bother to grow deep or strong roots.  What’s the point, when water is delivered to it on a regular schedule?  The problem with that is, then, when, restrictions are imposed, the grass or plant gets immediately stressed out because it is now NOT getting that daily water, and of course, it looks horrible and probably dies.  It’s needs to go through routine stress to get those roots to grow, in order to have a strong, drought tolerant plant and can easily survive infrequent watering.

So, when you start watering your lawn again in the spring, I encourage you to just water once per week, if that’s even needed, and wait, watch, and see how your yard responds, before just watering it just because it’s your watering day.  A 3rd grader figured out that was enough water, I bet you will too!

The buzz stops here

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Have you heard about Book Buzz yet?  On February 17, our Penguin Random House library rep will be on hand to share the insider publisher scoop from New York City, forecasting popular titles for the months ahead.  PRH is sending enough “Keep Calm and Read” tote bags, advanced reading copies of forthcoming titles, and catalogs for everyone (which is why we must limit registration to 75; you can register here.)  The ARC you take home could be the next Gone Girl or Gray Mountain.

AND staff will be circulating among attendees with trays of goodies and “mocktails”.  Those nonalcoholic treats were a hit when we served them before.  It’s fun to sip colorful beverages and pretend they’re upscale concoctions at a fancy New York venue.

As long as we’re imagining– just think what diverting library programs we could expect if our favorite fictional characters were presenters.  What if one of these protagonists from recent popular fiction were the speaker for a future library event?

Matt Biggs from Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon:  The first thing you’d notice would be our guest lecturer’s disheveled appearance. However distracted, incoherent, and sleep-deprived he might appear, he’s better off than most of the population; they’re unable to sleep at all and currently shambling about in red-eyed derangement (also seeking to destroy anyone suspected of not sharing their fate).  Hmmm, before we share further insights about Mr. Biggs, I’ll just step over and check the lock on that exterior door…

Claire Frasier from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (most recent, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood):  Claire’s 20th-century medical know-how impresses–and rescues– characters in earlier centuries; her encyclopedic knowledge of herbal remedies and contributions to the Revolutionary War and other landmark events would dazzle audiences here.  One caveat:  should the persuasive Claire need to intervene in some distant era, she’ll depart for the nearest stone circle on another time-traveling mission before she’s finished her presentation–and some audience members will have acquiesced to the “loan” of their engagement rings.

Tsukuru (from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage):  However much the audience may long to engage Tsukuru in an empathetic de-briefing of his so-called friends’ wrongful accusation and shunning, let’s not.  Instead, we should bolster his self-esteem by rapt attention to his lecture on the intricacies of train station architecture.

Sarah, the housemaid from Jo Baker’s Longbourn:   This servant’s unvarnished below-stairs reportage of the Bennet family (of Pride and Prejudice fame) will keep attendees riveted–and we will not invite the poor girl to serve the refreshments.   Gossip generated by a houseful of marriageable daughters, inheritance worries, the handsome new footman (and let’s not forget family secrets) will tide us over until the next Season Five episode of you-know-what on PBS.

Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy (most recent, The Book of Life):   Vampire Matthew could enlighten us on numerous topics:  many centuries’ worth of eye witnessing historic events; his close personal relationship with Christopher Marlowe; wine; stonemasonry.  But aren’t we primarily interested in just getting a good look at him?