Things People Have Said to Me About the New Library That Turned Out to Be Untrue

  1. Henrietta will never build a new library. Someone said this to me seven years ago, on my third day on the job. At the time I hadn’t given the idea of a new library even a tiny thought as I was preoccupied with learning everyone’s name. We’ll open our new building in July.
  2. Henrietta will never bond for anything. We’ve bonded for a touch over $8 million.
  3. Voters will never pass a project that costs over $9 million. I also heard $5, $6, $7, and $8 million cited at the highest amounts voters would tolerate. 62% of voters approved our $12.5 million dollar project when we went out to referendum in November 2017.
  4. They will try to cut _________. Many people have said this to me, and the blank has been many things, including square feet, shelving, the children’s room, the book drop, air conditioning, and the elevator. The implication of “they” also changed depending on who was speaking. What actually happened is that the building team used data and input from the community to build a rational and sensible building plan focused on the library’s mission and the community’s goals. The library we’re building is the library we need.
  5. Everyone will try to take advantage of you. This is a wearying position to put yourself in. Everyone I’ve dealt with has been fair and open, and there is nothing wrong with honest negotiation processes and businesses trying to turn a profit. Making a profit is the point of building a business, and it should concern you if you are dealing with a businessperson who doesn’t care about the financial health of their company. From your end as someone purchasing goods and services, there are laws, regulations, policies, and best practices to follow to make sure everyone gets a fair deal.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. If you’re looking to do a big project of any type, people will get uncomfortable–even, maybe especially, if they support your idea–and they’ll say things to you out of that discomfort that may be based more on feelings than facts. Your job as a leader is to know and remember what is true. That’s a strength and skill that you can build, nurture, and support.

Maybe I’ll do another entry on coping mechanisms.

Transformations, Exterior

Let’s talk about how an empty field physically transforms into a library through some of the eighty kabillion photos I have taken through this process.

I wish I had thought to take a photo of the bare field, but the first photo I have is of the town’s DPW crew preparing the site for foundation work.

This is the first time I sat in my new office, over a year ago. It was drafty.

This is our library mascot, TR Henri, on the day of our ceremonial groundbreaking. It was 20 degrees on that day in March 2018, and I was deeply concerned someone would get hypothermia, but so many people came to help us celebrate and that day has settled into a happy blur of a memory in my mind.

I called this the Two Towers stage. What you’re seeing are the emergency stairwells and elevator tower.

I photographed this arch many times because I couldn’t get over how beautiful bare steel could be.

The architects and construction manager surprised me with this dinosaur-themed construction sign that was very on-brand for HPL and sparked such excitement in the community about the new library on the way when it was placed. I remain delighted by it.

Another shot of that graceful steel and also the geothermal wells for our HVAC being drilled. That drilling was intense–very loud–and I mostly avoided the site for the couple weeks it was happening.

Weather barriers are a thing.

Technically an interior shot, but this was some of our staff visiting the library after the second floor was poured. It was magical to be able to step onto the second floor of something that had recently been see-through. Notice the colors in the leaves? The seasons are changing.

And now it begins to look like a building, and my construction site wear is on point.

Here we have windows, sunshine, and more tidied-up exterior finishes.

This is a photo I took last week. The date stone, the HPL sign, and the main entrance being built are recent highlights on the site.

It’s been a touch over a year from the first foundation blocks to today. I see it all the time, but I’m still astonished by it.

“The Shadows Will Be Behind You If You Walk Into the Light”

The walls of our new library are intricate. I know this because I read the contracts and looked at the drawings and week by week by week over the last year have watched the steel, the insulation, the water barrier, the concrete blocks, the bricks, and the web of cables, wires, and ducts come together to be capped by drywall and paint. Each square foot of our library involved the work and thought of more people than I can count or name. And they’re still working, adding cabinets, shelves, wallpaper, tile–defining spaces, creating functionality and beauty.

All buildings come together this way, but until now I’ve spent my life existing in them with so little awareness. When I look around our new library as it approaches the end of construction, I see people in the things. Tim’s the sidewalk in front of the entrance; Jen’s the logo out front; Erin’s the display case; Sharon’s the fireplace. I see the day I walked in and the tiler excitedly showed me the floor tile that had just arrived. I see the day the construction manager gave me a brick I lugged back to my office and displayed like a trophy. The people, the moments, are everywhere I look.

The architect of our library loves light. I don’t know if Pete has always loved libraries, but I can see he loves them now. I see Pete in the windows and skylights and LED fixtures that say we see you, you are welcome, square your shoulders, look up.

This is what I love about libraries. Every book on our shelves contains multitudes–writers, editors, publishers, printers, readers. These people bring their hearts and minds together to create something more powerful than any of them could accomplish on their own, something with the power to make a life better. And a life that becomes better makes another life better. And another. And another. No one can say where that ends.

In a few months, we’ll be opening our beautiful new space. The public will arrive, and our library will live and breathe and evolve along with the rest of us, the way all libraries are meant to, and we’ll add more stories to those walls.

On the Bright Side, I Think I Can Add “Wildlife Removal” to My Resume

Around 2:00 this morning, something woke me up. Middle-of-the-night logic decided my sleep had been disturbed by an animal on the fire escape, and so I got up and closed the window. None of this made sense, of course. What I’d heard was a whisper of sound–I’m a comically light sleeper–and even a chipmunk on the fire escape makes a holy racket you can hear two streets over. Also, why did I think I needed to shut the window? To protect myself from a squirrel? It’s true that every once in a while I see a raccoon out there, and I wouldn’t put it past a raccoon to tear out the window screen so it could come in and murder me, but raccoons make WAY more noise because they’re huge and don’t care about anything, so I also knew it wasn’t a raccoon.

Still, like an idiot, I closed the window and got back in bed, which is when I noticed the bat flying around.

I get a bat in my apartment about once a year, and I already had my one bat of the year a couple months ago, which my cat Benny quite helpfully killed and then deposited on my bed for my inspection while I was trying to sleep, so this second bat really seemed unfair, a feeling I expressed by throwing the covers over my head to hide from everything that was happening.

I honestly thought about going back to sleep all covered up like that–I was so tired–hoping that somehow reality would become different by morning, but, no, I realized I needed to get up and deal with the bat. So I arranged my comforter over my head grim reaper style, opened the window, opened the screen, went into the hall, closed my bedroom door, and laid down on the floor since I figured I should probably wait 20 minutes or so before going back in to see if the bat had found its way out the window.

And there was Benny in the hall, curled up right outside my door, looking at me all irritated like I was just really out of line with my intrusion into the hallway. I don’t know why this is, but sometimes when bats get in the apartment, Benny’s like a puma, and other times, he acts like nothing odd is happening at all. This was one of his nothing’s-going-on-leave-me-alone times.

So I petted him, which he seemed to think was okay. I don’t really want him killing bats. I don’t want the bats killed at all–I don’t want them in the apartment, but I also think they’re adorable. I always feel badly about the ones that don’t make it out alive.

It’s possible I fell asleep on the floor in the hall for a while.

When I got up, the bat seemed to be gone, but I always feel worried it’s only hiding out when I haven’t seen it fly out the window myself. That happened one time, too. All you can do is wait, though, so I closed the window, went back to bed, jumped about a foot every time I heard even a slight creak–which is constant in a house that has existed for over 100 years–and finally fell back asleep about fifteen minutes before my alarm went off. 4am logic, which is slightly better than 2am logic, decided to skip the gym and sleep a couple extra hours.

If another bat comes this year, it’s Benny’s turn again.

Quotable Wednesday

“Most grown-up behavior, when you come right down to it, is decidedly second-class. People don’t drive their cars as well, or wash their ears as well, or eat as well, or even play the harmonica as well as they would if they had sense. This is not to say people are terrible and should be replaced by machines; people are excellent and admirable creatures; efficiency isn’t everything.”
-John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

I believe what John’s really trying to say there is that my notebook and desk situations are fine.

In Which I Try Digital To Do Lists and Bullet Journaling, but Eventually Go Back to My Trusted and Familiar Multiple Random Notebook System

I was looking at old posts trying to figure out what I was up to here before I abandoned my blog, and check out this post where I was all cute thinking I was going to change my life using digital to do lists and reminders. Oh, the naïveté. I can’t remember exactly what made me abandon Wunderlist, but probably what happened is that I kept writing in my notebooks and eventually forgot the app existed. This basically also describes my relationship with Twitter, although, to be fair, I remember Twitter every few months or so when I feel like I have to promote something or get some crazy idea like that I’m going to teach people better writing practices in 140 character bursts.

I don’t know. This is just the kind of thing I do sometimes.

Over the last couple years, I’ve been taking a stab at becoming someone who keeps organized notebooks and doesn’t just write in whichever of my dozen or so active notebooks happens to be handy, but that’s not been working, either. I so admire someone like David Sedaris, who has a meticulous and organized way of keeping his notes and diaries and who actually saves his notebooks instead of periodically shredding or burning them when they don’t seem useful anymore or contain something horrifying. I’ve also been listening to the Tim Ferriss Show (I was skeptical when one of my coworkers told me to add this to my podcast queue, but I enjoy it), and half the people he interviews describe how they have shelves of the same size and color bespoke notebooks, which they’ve been using to archive the details of every conversation and experience they’ve had since birth. Of course, a lot of these people also do things like run ultramarathons or ride the 1928 Tour de France route on a bike without gears, so they do a lot of things I don’t do.

I did dabble in bullet journaling somewhat successfully during my Notebook Organization Period, but that’s broken down over the last few months as well. I think the beginning of the end was when I got a peek at the bullet journal the librarian at The Strong National Museum of Play keeps, which is illustrated so beautifully that it should be published as a coffee table book, while mine looks more like it was put together by a deranged person on an acid trip.

Lately I’ve gone back to my multiple-notebook home, where I am clearly happiest. I have a few Field Notes assigned to specific subjects, which Field Notes are good for, although they’re equally good for random notes. Something I often do with notebooks is start them thinking they’re going to be devoted to one particular topic, but then they evolve into lists, overheard conversations, ideas, and doodles. Just last week, I started a new notebook that I decided was going to be devoted to my daily to do list at home, and that’s where I wound up starting this and a few other entries I intend to post here, which was on none of my to do lists.

A lot of other writers do this, too, I know–they just don’t talk about it much, as it isn’t a system that seems recommendable. Marc Maron talks about cryptic notes on found bits of paper being part of his process, and the way Meg Cabot has Mia including class notes and grocery lists in her notebooks in The Princess Diaries series (which I’ve been relistening to over the last few months–I love those books so much) makes me think Cabot does this as well. I think my problem has been not trusting that the methods that have helped me generate all my best ideas and write a book are good enough for being the administrator of a sizable organization, which, when I write it, seems silly. Maybe other people should be wondering why they don’t have a pile of raggedy notebooks on their kitchen table and a few more in their work bag. Maybe I have something figured out and should stop worrying about it. Organization and efficiency are a priority in some endeavors, but not most of them.

Like my ongoing love-hate relationship with caffeine, I imagine this is not the end of this story.

Quotable Friday

“Consulting a dozen or so recently published punctuation guides, I can report that they contain minor disagreements on virtually all aspects of the above and that their only genuine consistency is in using Keats’s poems as the prime example. Strange, but true. They just can’t leave Keats alone. ‘It is Keats’ poems (NOT Keats’s),’ they thunder. Or alternatively: ‘It is Keats’s poems (NOT Keats’).’ Well, poor old Keats, you can’t help thinking. No wonder he developed that cough.”
-Lynne Truss in Eats, Shoots and Leaves 

Personally, I always use Jesus as an example when I try to teach about this, because it’s apt and also because once you bring Jesus into the equation–even when he probably wouldn’t have had an opinion on the matter–it lends the lesson a little more authority.

Also everyone knows it’s Jesus’s and Keats’s. Come on.

Renewal: Part 2 in a Potentially Ongoing Series

Now I’ve updated my bio, schedule, and speaking topics, since those were all crazy out-of-date. I also finally figured out how to update my social media sidebar, which I’ve been trying to do for two days, except it still won’t let me add Instagram. Instagram is the American Express of social media platforms–it doesn’t feel like it has to play nicely with third party software, but people keep using it anyway because there are things you can do with it that you just can’t do with the other platforms.

Maybe tomorrow or the next day, I’ll write about something interesting, by which I mean my new obsession with making frozen custard.


I just updated my domain and the software here and deleted spam comments for the first time in I don’t know how long. I can’t remember passwords for accounts I made two days ago, but somehow I manage to remember this one. WATAT will be celebrating 13 years of existence at the end of the year–maybe it’s time to rethink what I’m doing (or not doing) in this space.

It strikes me that my first-ever post (“Hi world! I don’t know what I’m doing!”) remains valid.