Saturday, April 25, 2009

When She Fails the TAKS Test.... will be once again "a failure of our education system".

This story has dominated the local news for the past week: (drunken driver drove his car into a flooded bayou while talking on his cell phone. 5 children drowned, the father, another adult and 1 child survived. None of the children were wearing seat belts or in car seats. Father, who had a long criminal record is currently in jail charged with 5 counts of manslaughter).

One of the follow-ups reported that the one child who lived - a 10 year old girl is in foster care. She'd been living with her father (the drunken ex-con) for about a month. Her mother checked her out of the hospital but CPS took custody since Mom has a serious substance abuse issue.

1 month with Dad = 1 school, Foster care = a 2nd school. Number of schools attended between August and move in with Dad = unknown but even if it's just 1 (highly unlikely) that's still 3 schools within the space of 1 school year.

At age 10 she's either in the 4th or 5th grade (we hope). This upcoming week is TAKS test week - 4th graders take the reading and math test and 5th grade a science test.

This child, who just survived an horrific accident, who lost her siblings and half siblings and who is a poster child for "dysfunctional home life" is expected to sit at a desk for 8 hours and take a test and give it her personal best. The chances of her passing the TAKS test are slim to none. Her score will impact whatever school she attended on "snapshot" day which is in October.
The school will get the "ding" and the blame.

Nowhere in "No Child Left Behind" is there any accountability for home life and personal circumstances. NCLB assumes educating children is no different than factory farming chickens.
You apply the latest and greatest and hey presto, perfectly educated children and record egg production.

Only difference is, the factory farms can cull the hens who don't measure up to the standard, the schools can't.

Take My Money - Please!

I did my utmost to counter the recession and spend some money today but the stores did their best to foil my efforts. I now understand why some retail establishments are folding. I hope that the two I attempted to patronize today join the ranks of the bankrupt - and quickly.

Experience #1
Location : Target
Product : A rolling office chair.

Thanks to knee surgery My Beloved is on crutches for the next 6 weeks and we thought a rolling chair might make it easier to maneuver around the house.
Target had just what I wanted, but but I couldn't find any , other than the sample (mounted on a display board).

"No problem" I told the clerk, "I'll take that one"
"I can't sell it to you" she responded.
"Why" I asked in utter astonishment.
"We're not allowed" she answered.
"Why" I asked again "I don't care if it's a bit dusty".
"No, you can't have it" she said, turning to leave.

I pushed my cart (I'd picked up some other things en route to the furniture department) in her general direction.
"Then I don't want what's in this cart either. I'm not about to to stand in line to pay for this merchandise and then go somewhere else to buy a chair and stand in line again.".

Target just lost about $200 in sales + hell will freeze over before I shop there again.

Experience # 2
Dry Creek Cafe
Product : A hamburger & french fries

My Beloved desired a hamburger so I stopped at Dry Creek, which makes very good burgers.

Me :"I'd like a hamburger and fries to go please"
Order taker: You can't order a hamburger.
Me "Why, have you changed your menu"?
Order taker: "No, you can't order hamburgers till 12 noon.
Me "It's 11am, isn't that normally considered lunch time"
Order taker: "We're serving breakfast, you can't have a hamburger".
Me "All you need to do is put the burger on the grill that's already hot since you're cooking eggs.
Order taker : No hamburgers till 12 noon.

If it's this hard to spend money during a recession I shudder at what it is going to be like once the economy improves.

Thank goodness for Amazon Prime. They are always happy to accept my money.
To bad they don't sell hamburgers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What If They Gave a Friends of the Library Sale....

And nobody came?

The Houston Public Library FOL book sale was this weekend, with Friday being the members night. I was on the fence about going since I knew HPL sells to Better World Books and since I bought a grand total of 1 book last year.

To go or not to go…that was the question.

I got an unexpected donation of $100 to buy books for my school library – the FOL sale advertised that their “I Can Read” books would be only $1 each and I knew from past purchases that many would be like new. So that cinched it. Nasty weather was in the forecast and I had no desire after a long day at work to stand in line in the rain or deal with the opening bell mosh pit so I planned to arrive when the doors opened. It was sprinkling so I splurge on the underground parking. The Heavens opened shortly after my 4:15 arrival for a sale that started at 4:30.

There was NO LINE!

There could not have been more than 50 – 75 people (the sale is at the convention center) standing around waiting for the gates to open. Everyone was really laid back and in a good mood. The starting gun went off and there was no reenactment of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Only a couple of people ran, nobody pushed or shoved or tripped anyone. No hording, no sweep the tables, no grabbing. I had the art books all to myself. The prices were much lower than last year – still very spendy for a library sale but bearable. The bulk of the non fiction is individually priced - $2 -$10.

I didn’t see any of the regular dealers but it’s been a long time since I’ve attended an FOL sale. There were other scanners, many of which were , judging from what they picked up newbies or penny book sellers. I ran into the dealer who runs the Texas version of BetterWorldBooks and he said quite a few dealers (esp. the out of town ones) skipped the sale this year because it was so bad last year. He said he lost money at last years sale and so far he was doing well.

I’d planned to buy a stack of “I Can Read” books and leave – and instead I was there for 4 hours. I bought 3 boxes of books for $240 (told you it was pricy), the bulk of which are art books cause that’s where I went first. I was also dead – I was at work by 6:45 and I was on my feet for the bulk of the day. I dragged into the house at 9pm and collapsed.

The FOL Sale chairperson was doing crowd control (not that there was any) at checkout & I commented on how empty the place was. She agreed and said they didn’t expect as many people as last year because they had fewer books (true) but that she was very surprised at the low turnout. I told her the prices were way more reasonable this year and she said, yes they realized they had overpriced and that they made changes. She confirmed that many of the regular dealers were not in attendance.

Texas Better World was the one who told me HPL is cherry picking books to send to Better World and I believe him. I found good inventory but just about every book was a “punch in the number” rather than scan the number. The scannable books were for the most part, worthless for resale. Texas Better World agreed with my assessment.

The rain on Saturday was way worse than Friday and I doubt they had many shoppers. There should be some good pickings at bag day on Sunday
Maybe it’s time to re-think FOL sales.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My Strangest Garage Sale Buy Ever...

I spend almost every Saturday trolling the Heights garage sales for books to sell. Along the way I pick up other treasures, many of which find their way into my library. I’ve the only library in the district with 10 Lava Lamps and a complete zoo of puppets and stuffed animals.

Saturday I came across a Book Cart. A brand new, metal, retails for almost $400 Bretford Book Cart. How it arrived at a modest Heights rent house is beyond me but there it was.

“How much” I asked the seller, expecting a quote for $25 to $50.

“Ah, I guess $5” he said.


I think every librarian turned bookseller needs her personal book cart.

P.S. It was a day for a strange buys – another sale turned up the contents of a newly closed gourmet grocery store. $10 bought $50 worth of fancy salad dressings.

15 Perfect Gentleman

Thanks to a bizarre chain of events that fell into place without a hitch (Hey, there really is a Goddess who looks after librarians) I hosted my first “name” author last Friday. We’ve had many author visits over the years, but they are mostly the self published type. Pleasant enough folks, but it’s very apparent that the main source of their income and their book sales are their school visits.

Not so Justin Somper the author of The Vampirates series. He’s from London and his American book tour included a stop in Houston to hobnob with librarians during the Texas Library Convention. Conventions aren’t my thing which meant I was the only librarian in Houston who could cobble together a school visit on 2 weeks’ notice.

I tossed up a display and a created Flipchart. I prepped, book talked and handed out the tomes. It helped that the books have very, very enticing covers and subject matter and that Justin has an enjoyable and informative web site. The kids enjoyed the books and looked forward to the event.

All the work paid off. Justin’s visit was worth every bit of effort and more. His rapport with the kids was excellent and he had them mesmerized. We sold over 100 books and made some money Blue Willow Books, the local independent bookstore. Owning one of his books became the newest status symbol and having all 4 meant you were at the top of the heap.

I’ve a group of 5th grade books who are devoted fans of the Cirque du Freak books and since there are some similarities in the two series I invited them to eat lunch with the author. I’ve always catered a lunch for visiting authors (have Crockpot, will cook) and included students. One advantage to not having an active PTA is that I can do my author lunches just as I please. At other schools author lunches are the province of the PTA and consist of the PTA Moms and their own offspring.

The menu is always simple – pasta with meat sauce, good French bread, butter, a tossed salad and something chocolate for dessert Every time I do one of these I’m always amazed at what’s novel.

Once year it was the “real forks”. I hate to eat with plasticware so I always bring my stainless from home. Another year it was the homemade salad dressing and the “real” whipped cream. This time it was the crusty French bread and the unsalted butter. The boys ate their way through 4 loaves, each slice slathered with butter.

"This doesn't taste like the butter from the cafeteria Ms. Moore".

I provided table cloths and we helped ourselves to tables not yet picked up from the carnival and set up a large, square banquet table. 15 boys sat round it, ate massive amounts of food, asked respectful, thoughtful and polite questions and brought tears of joy to the eyes of their principal.
Not one descended into horseplay, acted silly or did anything goofy. There were perfect gentlemen and did themselves and their school proud.

It's days like this that I love really, really love my job.