I added a few more books I've read to the sidebar, including Clay Shirky's excellent "Here Comes Everybody," a primer on how the Internet has enabled people to meet, interact, and organize collective action in ways we never before could, not just through sites like Meet Up but through mass e-mails, social networking sites, message boards, Twitter, IRC, and more. He opens with a story about a girl who lost her cell phone, and the person who found it refused to return it. In the "old" days, nothing could really be done. But her friend started a website and people forwarded it around and a whole community emerged -- police officers who knew how to navigate the system and get the police to take action when they otherwise wouldn't, people who knew the girl who refused to give back the phone, etc. And they got the phone back. It's a cool read. And the Jennifer 8. Lee book, "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles," is also an excellent read -- it's a history of American Chinese food, sort of -- stories about the start of the fortune cookie, about how no one in China would recognize General Tso's Chicken as Chinese food at all, about the American invention of Chop Suey, and a lot more. Lee went to my high school, but was a couple of years ahead of me and I didn't know her. I like her articles for the Times. Her book is worth checking out.
I just went to the library to give the books back and pick up the book I have on hold that just came in. Most of the people who work at my local library here seem perfectly nice, but there's one woman who just kind of confuses me with her tone. I imagine she means nothing by it, and thinks she's being friendly, but she makes me wish I knew what her hours were, so I could try and avoid her. She makes me feel bad about using the library, and I don't know why. I admit, I'm a heavy library user. I use the reserve system to its fullest extent -- you're allowed to place holds on up to 30 books, and they come in for pickup when you're next in line. Because there are often 40 or 50 people with holds on a book, and there might only be 6 or 7 copies in the system, it can take a few months to get some books. And so sometimes I'll return books and there'll be one or two books waiting for pickup, and occasionally I'll have 6 or 7. Last time this woman was there and I picked up books, I think there were 6 books waiting for me, and she made a comment about how they had to put them on the side because they were taking up so much shelf space. Which is fine, but the way she said it made me feel like she was somehow accusing me of doing something wrong. I'm not. I'm using their library system. She should be happy about that, since if no one did, she'd probably be out of job. But somehow her tone made me feel bad about reading. Congratulations. So today there was only one book waiting for me. I told her I think I have one book on reserve. "Only one book? For you? That can't be possible," she said. And she checked the system. "Amazing! One book. Two more on the way. (beat) And twenty-seven more still in the system." With a really snarky tone, like I'm a criminal, trying to steal books. I didn't invent the system. I'm merely using it. I'm writing about this not because I'm actually annoyed, but I'm confused -- what am I doing to make her annoyed? Why does she work for the library if she hates people who use it?