Friday, November 30, 2018

Timberland Regional Library: The Plot Thickens ...

Last month, I composed, delivered, and posted here, a letter regarding something called The Capital Facilities Proposal that recommended the closure, and / or consolidation of 1/3 of the libraries across 5 counties in Southwestern Washington to each member of the Timberland Regional Library Board of Trustees in a hasty attempt to persuade the board to table the matter until further research, and discussion could be had in order to develop a better plan for all of the communities involved.  Turns out, I wasn't the only one ... Not even close.  In the face of an ever changing schedule, and new sessions frantically added, inboxes were flooded with outcry, board and city council meetings alike were reduced to standing room only as community members showed up to support their local libraries, and plead with board members, and city leaders to allow these crucial gathering places, and services to remain open, and operational in their static locations. 

One thing that sent folks scrambling to make sure their voices were heard was the surprise addition of the October 10, 2018 board meeting, which left people unsure if the end of the month meeting would even take place, or if something severe would be decided at this new date that would make efforts to organize, and appear at the October 24th meeting pointless.  

With that said, there are a few things to clear up before we move on to le scandale ... oh yes, my friends, it turns out libraries can have seedy underbellies!  With many of us on a mad dash to assemble our thoughts, and respect the notion of brevity, a few things were lost in translation as made clear by the use of one of my first lines in the recording of the October 10th meeting.  I believe its use was meant to put people at ease over the redistribution of funds, and to assure the listening audience that this was not, in fact, a case of the Haves versus the Have Nots.

When I wrote:
Primarily, I am deeply disturbed by the recommendation that public libraries in small, isolated, and economically depressed communities be shuttered in order to allocate funds toward expansion programs for facilities located near, and around our State’s Capital; an area with the population to support innovative fundraising techniques.
It was in the context of, and in direct relation to the proposal in its entirety.  The other people who echoed similar sentiments, and I were not speaking of a literal, straight across trade -- X location closes so Y can take all of X's allotted funding, and expand.  I don't think anyone who joined the discussion was confused by the proposal to that degree.  However, when it's necessary to reduce an entire near-90-page document into talking points in order to compose a response, the reader must take into consideration, and keep intact, the overall frame of reference the conversation is held in.  When that is done, it is obvious what is implied within the body of text.  Taking one line out of a 5-page letter, and drilling down on it as if it is a stand alone point while disregarding the document it's countering in order to lay a new interpretation on it comes across disingenuous, and exposes a willingness to seemingly purposely misunderstand public outcry, which of course, makes it incredibly easy to pacify some, whilst silencing others. 
To put it more simply, when you frame a thing as something it's not, it's quite easy to say, "Oh no, that's not what this is; that's not what we're doing here," and wash your hands of the topic, and walk away with a clear conscience. 
I should have taken the time to spell it all the way out, and perhaps I would have if I'd been given a full year to draft a line-by-line rebuttal, which is the same amount of time that was allotted to whomever drafted The Capital Facilities Plan in secrecy.  Apparently the line needs to read, "Primarily, I am deeply disturbed by the recommendation that public libraries in small, isolated, and economically depressed communities be shuttered in order to allocate funds toward expansion programs including, but not limited to facilities located near, and around our State’s Capital; an area with the population to support innovative fundraising techniques," since there were ideas of expansion being floated for several locations, as well as the rolling-out of new additional services to certain areas within the entire region.

The fact remains, however, that it had been recommended that small towns, cut off from other services, and opportunities where local schools do not have their own in-house libraries lose their city library facilities, if not completely, they were to be replaced with locker systems, or bookmobiles.  Let me say this again, because I can't quite believe it myself.
Municipalities that can not even provide libraries on school grounds for their children's education were slated to lose their local city libraries. 
Excuse me, but how does that even work?  How does homework get done?  How can anyone research, or find reference materials for papers, and class projects?  This might come as a surprise to some of my readers, but not every home in America has (1) a computer, (2) an Internet connection, or (3) a printer, and that is the case for a lot of families in these rural communities, so if they can't get their hands on the proper materials, they can't even Google it at home.  How are children supposed to function in any sort of academic way, let alone graduate when they've been stripped of all of their resources?  Thievery of this nature sets residents up for a whole slough of social problems that can last generations.

I mean ... The board could sit there, and try to put lipstick on a pig, but everyone paying attention could all still see (a marginally more attractive) pig wagging its squiggly little tail.  When poorer communities are deprived of their services, and resources in order to redistribute funding, and that funding ends up in part going to wealthier regions, in order to correct an overall deficit, it quite literally is taking from the Have Nots, and giving to the Haves no matter how it is sliced.  "Under performing" libraries in locations with sparser populations were chosen as potential closures because they exhibited dead hours, and lower library card usage, especially compared to more heavily populated areas.  Yeah, that's how that works.  When people have to work multiple jobs, or take overtime shifts in order to make ends meet (because in many of these towns, the cost of living is the same as larger cities, with a much lower median income) no one is going to the library at 10 am.  As it is now, many of the facilities are barely open much past a typical "quitting time" for the majority of the week.
It shouldn't be as complicated as making a Doctor's appointment, just to get into a local library.
In fact, many metropolitan museums are facing the same problems with their hours of operation, and are being encouraged to open their doors for evening patrons which will not only offer communities a richer experience, but also potentially curbs both problems of dead hours, and weekend over-crowding.  I think libraries should also take a hard look at their hours, especially in an age where most families are living in two-income households just to survive.  Who is going to be able to duck out of work early in order to make it to their rural library in time?  I think if the board of directors, and the administration at large are not willing to overhaul library business hours for our modern age, then they really aren't serious about increasing traffic, and supporting the Librarians' efforts to keep their communities engaged, and the locations that are currently struggling will always continue to struggle.  Sadly, it's not quite as simple as the get a library card, and use it sentiment that is floating around in the wake of this brouhaha.  I had a lot to say about this in my last letter, and how judging library usage by card swipes alone was a dishonest approach, a total misunderstanding of how local libraries, and their services can be and are used, and leads to figures that very likely paint an inaccurate picture of library traffic.  And at the end of the day, so what?

One thing that really bothered me about the recent Board of Trustees meetings is the message: If you love your libraries, prove it to us.  I'm trying to be objective, but I found this to be incredibly childish.  As I pointed out in my letter, many people can not possess library cards, and thus must read their selections in-house after browsing the stacks, and therefore leave no footprint behind of ever having been there.  Beyond that, this isn't how agencies, programs, and services that directly cater to our social needs work, anyway.  You don't tell people,
"Oh, you do like having a fire department in your town?  Prove it.  Burn your house down."
Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, and that is precisely how silly the former sentiment sounds to me.  "You say you enjoy that park, but unless we see you spreading a picnic blanket, and eating on the green 3 times a week during dry months, and twice in the winter, we're paving over it!" That is madness.  I absolutely believe there should be enthusiastic engagement in all of the wonderful things our cities and towns offer us, especially those provided through our tax dollars, but I also believe when we start putting arbitrary expectations on people to do things in a way that satisfies the "powers that be" (whomever They may be), when we should all be free to explore in our own ways, we're flirting with fascism.  I know, I know it sounds extreme, but when there's already been one bizarre power-grab within the library administration, does it really behoove anyone to set up more groups of people, or committees to power-trip? 
Sundays we visit the park (stay off the grass), Mondays we swipe the cards for the books, Wednesdays we wear pink, and Fridays we light our homes on fire to show the fire department how much we care.
The dystopian novel could almost write itself ... albeit highly derivative, especially if Mondays, and Fridays are condensed into one activity - the characters could end up existing in a Mean Girls / Fahrenheit 451 crossover!  "On October 3rd, he asked me where I hid my overdue books..."

Anyway, the point is, while an increase in engagement would be wonderful, it shouldn't be a requirement in order to keep crucial services, and facilities open to the public.  This kind of thinking ultimately blames the public for a problem the general population didn't even know about, and allows trustees, and administrators to assuage their own guilt for letting things snowball for so long before taking any discernible action.

Little did the townsfolk know, an avalanche was coming; carefully planned, and laughably executed it ended up burying the wrong (or the right) person(s) in its path.  Now, it's no secret that small towns never have a lack of unqualified people trying to make a name for themselves, but this library mishegoss takes the cake!  It begins with a looming budget deficit the public wasn't privy to, and ends ... Well, we'll find out on December 19th exactly what the beginning of the end will look like, but from here, for some, it's appears a little bleak.

Sometime in 2017 committees were formed, and the plan to draft a proposal to [fix] the Timberland Regional Library's budget deficit was requested, and / or okayed by someone -- it would be interesting to me to find out who that someone is in order to see if it's anyone attempting to play dumb now that it's all blowing up.  Moving on, the Capital Facilities Proposal was finally released to the public at the end of September 2018 after the plan to close several library locations was leaked by an anonymous employee.  One of the first to hear the news was a member of the clergy, who in turn followed their conscience and informed their flock of what was afoot in their community.  Let me tell you, whoever threatened library employees with firings, retaliation of any kind, and kept librarians under a gag order sorely underestimated the heart, conscience, and gossips of these towns!  When I first heard about how librarians had been pressured to keep mum on the topic, I threw my head back and laughed.

"They really tried it, but they definitely don't know much about small towns!"

I cackled from my living room over the messiness of whatever person thought they were going to pull this off.  First of all, the proposal that was submitted had absolutely no math, and no analysis of what closures, consolidations, and expansions would save, or cost.  Wait, what?  It took an entire year to complete something that reads like a thirty minute Google search + a few charts, and a couple of photographs for good measure.  The document was drawn up by the Administrative Team, and Public Services Team of TRL ... Wise decision, folks, I wouldn't survive the humiliation of my personal name being attached to that disaster either.  In what other job, or office could you submit something like that and not be laughed right out of the front doors of the building?  So, to be clear, a proposal that would upend the entire Timberland Regional Library system in five counties, drafted by folks hiding behind a committee title, had absolutely no realistic looking scenarios for how any of the proposed changes would improve the overall Library's region?  This is either one of the laziest, or most cunning moves I've ever seen.  I'm betting it's a bit of both.  To me, no math says a couple of things: They didn't care enough to do it, or they didn't care period because they were going to close libraries no matter what.  I don't think this is much of a stretch when internal emails sent by Trisha Cronin, and obtained by The Daily Chronicle state, “I truly understand your feelings that it’s unfair to them [library patrons] not to tell the Randle community so that they can attempt to sway the decision. However, although we will make sure that they get to air their feelings, it would be a disservice to them to lead them to believe they can change the decision.” (emphasis my own) which led the in-the-know library employees to believe this was all a done deal.  Who am I to argue with anyone who had floor seats to this shi, erm, show?

Thankfully, people risked unemployment in order to speak out, not just about this topic, but also the overall tyrannical culture cultivated within the library administration, and the fear that many library employees operate under on a daily basis.  Without the few souls who spoke up, it's hard telling what would've been voted on, and passed behind the backs of the communities it would've impacted the most.  I'm thankful to each, and every one of them, as well as Alex Brown and his reporting for uncovering something whose surface was only being scratched by the whistle blowers.  A huge "thank you" also needs to go out to Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund for not dropping the topic, and ensuring that this continues to be looked into, and corrected long term.

However, beyond the drama of the slated closures, etc, there is still the matter of money mismanagement that should be thoroughly investigated. I'm with Larry "No Chill" Kearns (who is quickly becoming a contender to be my new spirit animal) on this point, how exactly did we get here?  We can't blame all of the TRL's money problems on restrictions, and regulations of the timber industry.  Environmental protections have been ramping up since the late 1980s and are hardly anything new, especially in timber communities.  Trustees, and administrators have had 30+ years to research new and innovative ways to wean TRL off of dwindling timber dollars, so to see people acting dumbfounded over it now, in 2018, is jarring.  Being a longshoreman's daughter, myself, I had a front row seat from a very young age of the shift industries had to make away from relying so heavily on timber (exports in our case) as a sustainable source of cash flow.  Even though my family seemed to slip through unscathed, for a while "spotted owl" was a dirty word in my household during my childhood, followed closely by "environmentalist" because the changes that were put in place, and continued to come were hard to stomach, and devastating to some families, and even entire communities in some cases. 
Obviously, I don't think the Earth should be scorched, and animals left homeless because the hoomans want the things, but I think like most things in life it all could've been handled better for everyone involved, feathered or otherwise.
The thing about these towns, though, is that you would've had to spend your entire life under a rock not to understand the impact the loss of timber dollars was having, and be able to look down the pike and understand where things were headed in the future.  So, for me, reading articles, and looking in on board meetings where people are shrugging, throwing their hands in the air, and shaking their heads it's just a little too rich ... I mean, call the Academy, because we've got some truly Oscar-worthy performances occurring.  You can only do so much hand wringing before you look totally inept, and make people wonder why exactly you're sitting on a board to begin with.  I can only hope that the people and organizations that the TRL Administrative Team, and Board of Trustees answer to do not drop the ball, and actually get to the bottom of what happened here, and get real answers for all of the communities they serve and represent.

As of now, the TRL Board of Trustees voted unanimously to "permanently and immediately dissolve the Capital Facilities Proposal".  Read the official news release here.

Post Script:
Moving forward I put it to the men of the board to consider how their actions, and comments appear, and come across during meetings.  In particular the discussion surrounding the murder of a woman near a library that impacted procedures for library staffing for the entire region.  People often quote that violent crime has been declining since the 1990s, but a rather "invisible statistic" is that violence against women has been on a steady increase since 2009, so to see male members of the board scoff at the necessity of a 2 person staffing solution is rather disturbing.  Yes, there are jobs where 1 person is on the schedule, and oftentimes the buildings these jobs are in are fully outfitted with surveillance equipment, loud buzzers / alarms on the doors, a panic button, and a shotgun behind the counter.  If board members would like to see Timberland Regional Libraries managed and staffed the same way that 24 hour gas stations are, then that's definitely something worth putting on the agenda for future meetings, but if they don't, reacting to current staffing requirements as if they are absurd is not doing much for optics, or to encourage trust from community members, and employees of the TRL system. 

I hope the librarians have a strong union that puts their physical safety at the top of their priorities.  I have been assured by a member of the board that the Board of Trustees takes the safety of the librarians very seriously, and I hope that is true.  I also hope that the few well-informed women of the board will no longer be put in positions to clean up the messes left by some of the more glib sounding members.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Perfect Ten!

Kicking off Giving Tuesday is Pat Rothfuss' Worldbuilders 2-week Winter charity event!  This year being the tenth anniversary of his philanthropic brainchild, we're going to see some big announcements, format changes, and wonderfully geek-themed goodies. 

Previously, the charity spanned an entire month, and was almost always extended a little bit at the end for last minute donors, but this year the six week merrymaking is being packed into just 14 days (Nov 27 - Dec 11) of money raising mayhem.

So what are we raising money for, anyway?  First of all, not all charities are created equal, and Charity Navigator is a great tool to figure out if what you're supporting is on the up & up.  If you can't find your charity there, look for the organization's personal website (it should have one), where if it's reputable, a disclosure for how much of the money raised goes where, should be displayed, and always remember big charities = big overhead, so very little of the money actually gets into the hands of the people who need it most.  With that said, all of the charities supported through Worldbuilders' fundraising efforts have at least a 3 star rating through Charity Navigator, and are forthright, and transparent about how they operate.  As always, this winter's collection of coin will be going to Heifer International, whose goal is ending hunger and poverty, globally.  What sets Heifer apart from other organizations is that it doesn't just do a food drop, or throw money at a problem, real solutions are sought and implemented in a way that not only eradicates the immediate problem, but has a real and lasting impact on entire communities through the allocation of resources, education, and infrastructure development.  You can read more about their mission here

In ten years Rothfuss has been able to rile his supporters into donating over 8 million dollars, and changing countless lives because of it.  So, if you'd like to join in, and make this the most mind-bending record breaking year to date you can go here, and donate immediately, and follow the accounts below to stay up to date on all of the coming pandemonium:

Pat's Twitch Channel
(you can find his Twitch Schedule at the bottom of this page)

 Also, if you're a little strapped for cash this year, but you still want to be involved, please do not underestimate the power of your voice.  Spread the word, share what you know, and educate others on the work that is being done.  You will end up creating a ripple effect all your own, and change lives forever.   

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Aftermath

If you're not doing this with your Thanksgiving leftovers, you're quite frankly living a life half lived!  Put down the mustard, and lettuce.

Here's what you need:
Sourdough bread
Cream cheese
Cranberry sauce (1 Tbsp per sandwich)

Here's what you do:
Coat each slice of bread on one side with a thin layer of cream cheese (not only is it delicious, but it keeps your bread from getting soggy).  Spread 1 Tbsp of cranberry sauce on top of the cream cheese on one piece of bread, and layer your turkey pieces on top of that.  Top with a dusting of salt & pepper, and finish it off with the other slice of bread.  Cut into your desired shape, and serve.  
Bon appétit!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Virgin Glögg

Here's what you need:
4 Cups water
6 Cardamom pods
6 Whole cloves
2 Cinnamon sticks
1" Knob fresh ginger (grated)

4 Cups POM juice
3-4 Tbsp pure organic maple syrup
1 Star anise
Pinch of Nutmeg
Pinch of Allspice

1/4 Cup almonds (blanched)
1/4 Cup walnuts
1/2 Cup raisins or craisins
1 Orange (sliced)

Here's what you do:
Day One-
Boil water, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and cloves for 15 minutes.  Store it in a glass container in the refrigerator overnight.

Day Two-
Combine decoction with fruit juice, star anise, nutmeg, and allspice, and boil for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, and add your chosen sweetener if desired.  Pour liquid through a strainer into a new container (large glass measuring cups are handy for this!) in order to clear out any large spice debris, and that's it!  Serve warm with any combination of the following: cinnamon sticks, chopped nuts, raisins, and orange pieces.

This beverage is basically just a warm punch, but I love to have it around during the cold winter months because, well, it's delicious, free of weird additives, and a good option for anyone needing to avoid refined white sugar.  It's also nice to have something festive to offer pregnant, sober, or underage guests so no one is left out of any Yuletide merrymaking.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

It's a Wrap!

I'll be rolling out a new DIY project this December for anyone looking for something to do with youngsters over winter break, or hoping to make a dent in their leftover yarn stash!

Here's what you'll need:
Card stock, or snack / cereal boxes
Craft paint & brushes
Glue-stick, and tacky glue (or Aleene's Stop Fraying)
Bamboo skewers
Blunt yarn needle
Knitting needles 3.25mm (US: 3, UK: 10)
Confetti, sequins, beads, faux gems, ghungroo bells

Don't let the stampede pass you by!

Friday, November 16, 2018

It's Not Trolling When it's True

There's an adage that goes something like:

The fastest way to make money as a writer is to write, and sell books to other people about how to become a writer.

The same, I think, goes for a lot of other fields as well, particularly in the area of coaching ... Or coaching coaches, that is.  And so we see, as we certainly have in recent years, an uptick in self-proclaimed experts (whether they actually are, or not) guiding people who seek change in their lives, and financial circumstances through becoming, themselves, skilled (or skilled-looking) enough in their chosen enterprises to lead others.  What can become concerning in this sort of food-chain of "experts" engaging in a hefty amount of fake-it-'til-you-make-it hustling is how adept they become at marketing themselves (if they haven't devoured each other first), and their goods or services when one, the other, and sometimes all of the above are undeserving of such successful campaigns.  I am mostly bothered by the amount of flowery, and sometimes pseudo-spiritual language being learned, and applied in the creatrix-entrepreneur niche that is masking abusive, and manipulative people, and behavior. 

Through the year, I've written a little bit about being cautious of modern-day snake oil salesmen, and shared a few of my own experiences with people who were a little too eager to lead others, and were in a position to dupe followers, and toy with their emotional well-being, and even reviewed a program that I had bought into, and participated in where certain folks were mistreated, and "safe spaces" were a hotbed of hostility.  The most common thread between them all was the disturbing knack of shrugging off feedback as trolling. 

Trolling, by definition, is targeted, and oftentimes continued or persistent online harassment, sometimes including, but not limited to, highly personal attacks, typically centered on falsehoods, and designed to incite a negative reaction.  In extreme cases stalking, doxxing, and even SWATting can be involved.

Critique ≠ Trolling

Moreover, it's definitely not trolling when it's true, which all critiques, and reviews need to be, otherwise, we're dealing with a problem much larger than I'm qualified to unpack here on a blog.  I will say, however, it is my strongly held opinion that anyone willing to lie in a review deserves to run into their fair share of shills, and hucksters along the way, but I digress.

Part of my formal education included the process of articulating (on paper, and vocally) honest, impartial, well-informed, and constructive criticism.  The ability to effectively analyze a person's work without needlessly assailing them or what they've produced was considered paramount to the creative process.  Another integral part was cultivating the competence, and confidence to stand there, and not only take it, but be able to thoughtfully rebut the claims made against you, your motivation, or your creation, and enter into further discussion.  This practice left me with the skills required to defend my work from the ground up, and right back down again when necessary, and not make any excuses for it, or for another person's displeasure with it.  There was no fingers-in-ears-foot-stomping option available.   Now, when I see anyone resorting to that kind of behavior regarding their work or products, and reducing critique to trolling, I find it very telling.

A company needs to be able to do more than label its reviewers "trolls," and  trot out seemingly impressive sales figures, and apparent popularity to prove that a product or service is legitimately worthwhile.  Sexy ledgers may be enchanting to some, but we only have to look at the ShamWow, or the enduring novelty of Chia Pets, or really any fad at any point in time that has hit cult-like status and managed to turn a profit, to know that not all that glitters is ... well, anything worth spending money on.  Consumers also can not always trust the financial aspect as a good indicator for good business practices, or mistake it for a good person at the helm.  There will always be subpar products that sell well, and people with questionable motives, and methods who profit from them.

A lot of bad people make good money.

With a season of gift giving nearly upon us, and the time many of us roll out our New Year's resolutions just around the corner from that, there will be a lot of money spent on coaching services, retreats, organizational aids and tools, and any number of self-help accoutrements, and all any of us can do is heed the call, "buyer beware" and always be willing to do the necessary research to protect ourselves from literal, and energetic thieves.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Home Sweet Home
I've found some fresh digs for some old favorites, with a lot of room for some new releases.  You're invited to hop on over here:
and join the mailing list to stay up-to-date with all store related news, and get 10% off your first purchase!

Thursday, November 1, 2018


“I had seen birth and death,

 But had thought they were different.” 

-T.S. Eliot