How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Wonderful World of Sorting

Today I'm featuring our first guest post ever on Kelsey's Notebook! Please warmly welcome (with comments and Google+s!) Rachel H., a lovely young lady I'm pleased to call friend both in person and online.  She has an enviable job ... read on to find out what it is!*

I feel a silence. Or maybe I could call it “apprehensive stillness.” No matter the name, it continually teases my ears with faint whispers and receding echoes as I swipe my badge to clock in, stride across the empty hallway, and bound up the yellow stairwell to Level S1. A familiar scent of coffee and fresh popcorn wafts through the air, and when I open the door to S1, the comforting clang of books-on-metal reaches my ears. It’s the only noticeable sound around me. Black carts line the hallway—a few loaded with books or DVDs and ready to shelve, but most empty and waiting to be filled. Through the sorting room’s open door, I can see today’s conveyor person quickly skim through a book before placing it on a metal grey shelf. For ten or fifteen minutes, this semi-silent atmosphere pervades, and I savor it. Books and dust, metal and coffee, the occasional high-pitched beep—all these sounds and scents embrace me as I mentally prepare for the day ahead. This is my world. This is my home away from home…and as the clock strikes nine, I shift into action. My friends, welcome to the Fayetteville Public Library.

My official occupation is Library Page II. My job includes shelving all library materials, such as books and DVDs; assisting patrons in finding those materials; shelf-reading (or, making sure books are shelved in the right order); and helping the conveyor person and librarians with miscellaneous tasks. From time to time, I can also function as “the conveyor person,” which I’ll talk about later. In a nutshell, Pages are the groundhogs of the library, but we’re absolutely essential—especially in a two-story library that processes thousands of materials a day.

Although we work in almost every part of the library, the sorting room is our home base. Its walls are lined with shelves from top to bottom, and the conveyor belt, surrounded by 3½-foot-tall bins, juts out into the middle of the room. Like many other libraries, we have an automated conveyor belt system that carries materials from book-drops (one inside and one outside the library) down into our sorting room, where they’re electronically checked in using RFID technology. The conveyor then sorts each item into a separate bin—either adult fiction, adult non-fiction, children’s, adult audio-visual, children’s audio-visual, teen and misc., overflow, holds, and rejects. Holds are items that patrons reserve to check out for themselves, while rejects are mostly items with dysfunctional RFID tags, items that belong to another library, or personal items.

After the items have been sorted and loaded onto carts, it’s my job to re-shelve them in the library. Shelving is pretty simple. I look at the item’s spine label, which tells me where it belongs. For example, adult fiction books only have the last name of the author on it, while adult non-fiction has a Dewey Decimal number above the first three letters of the author’s last name. All children’s books have a “J” on the top of the label. Anyhow, shelving itself isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is something I call “the paging experience.”

The paging experience includes a number of things: tired feet, aching back, squeaky carts, the slowest elevator on Planet Earth, creepy patron questions, homeless male stalkers, unattended pet dogs, forgotten children, stolen DVDs, tipped carts, crammed bookshelves, sticky picture books, and so much more.

First things first: I believe that all pages should be offered premium chiropractic insurance. We’re always standing, bending, and going up and down the stairs, and sometimes it seems that every book goes on either the top or bottom shelves. (Just for the record, my arms, my toes, and my head have all been hit by falling books.) Even in comfortable shoes, feet still get weary . . . Moreover, carts can get heavy. Heavy enough for skinny girls like me to look silly trying to wrangle them across carpeted areas.

But to continue, I have gotten over the squeaky cart thing. If I pick a rebellious cart that gets to whining, I just laugh it off and keep on truckin’. Everyone just feels sorry for me anyway.
However, I am both proud and embarrassed to state that I have tipped 2 carts in my life (if you don’t count the oversized art books that fell off my cart right in front of the reference desk). The first time wasn’t bad, but the second happened as I exited the elevator, creating a massive book pile right in front of the elevator door. That. Was. Mortifying.

As for those “creepy patron questions, homeless male stalkers, unattended pet dogs, forgotten children, stolen DVDs,” they occur alot more than you’d expect. We actually call the police at least once every two months. Don’t get the wrong idea about our area, though. Talk to any page from a good-sized public library, and you’ll hear the exact same thing. It’s all a part of the experience.

On the flip side, when assigned a conveyor shift, my job is to make sure materials come in smoothly on the conveyor (i.e., not on top of each other), monitor the conveyor belt for book jams, deal with rejected items, unload bins as they fill up, load materials onto carts for shelving, and answer the telephone. It takes good management skills to keep track of everything, but depending on the season, conveyor shifts can be hectically busy or mind-numbingly slow. Summers filled with children’s reading programs can run me like a madman, as each mommy dumps 50 picture books down the book-drop and teenagers return 20 DVDs at one time. On the other hand, winters can see the sorting room empty and the conveyor person twiddling their thumbs for four hours straight. What’s more, because of our library policy about machinery, conveyor people aren’t allowed to leave the sorting room unless another trained page can watch the conveyor. So during those winters, running the conveyor is like babysitting a rock.

Now, despite my attempt at humorous complaining, I absolutely adore my job. I’ve been a page for over three years now and, for the time being, I can’t see myself doing anything else. When shelving, I get to hang among the books, keep up-to-date on the latest bestsellers, and inconspicuously people-watch. And nothing can beat the radiant smiles from a little third-grader who I helped to find a book about feeding pet rabbits. I also love my conveyor shifts. I get complete control over the sorting room radio, and if there’s a jam on the conveyor belt, then I get to use the walk-talkie!! If things are slow, then I can sit down (what a luxury!) and lose myself in a book.

For me, going to work is almost like coming home. Even when I’m shoving the heaviest cart or politely feuding with a confused patron, I feel like the library is where I belong, where I’m supposed to be. When I clock out after a long shift, I’m tired but satisfied because I’ve worked, not only with my hands and my feet, but with my heart. And, honestly, it’s a really good feeling.

Rachel H.: “I am a confirmed physics nerd, avid dancer, obsessive Anglophile, buoyant optimist, and very slow driver. I live snugly in the present, appreciate the lessons of the past, and await the future with smiles. Life is so very beautiful..."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to Business

I had a wonderful two weeks away from home. My last post was about the giveaway winner thirteen days ago, so that was a long break from blogging for me! I hope you’ve all been doing well.

To be honest, I am still a little out of it. I’m trying to get back to my daily routine of working, teaching martial arts, and meeting with friends; Bible study, exercise, writing, and all the other things. Writing is proving the most troublesome, but I am anxious and eager to get back to it. I’m in the position where so much “needs” to be done (which also includes planning for England and working on garments) that I can’t get myself to relax enough to work creatively on my stories. It’s like being unable to fall asleep because your thoughts jerk you back to wakefulness every time your body lets you go. I’m not discouraged yet because there is time for creativity, and I just have to settle back into it. Anyway, my next big literary goal is publishing the second Six Cousins book, England Adventure, and that has to wait until after I get back from England, so there’s no hurry right now. For so long I’ve felt the urgency of writing that right now I need to tell myself it’s okay to let myself slide a little; or else I’ll be depressed because I’m not story-writing. Thank goodness for the word projects that other people are depending on … and for the Emily of New Moon series which is making my heart for writing pump (Emily is a passionate writer). You see, my balance is temporarily out of whack; I’m dizzy after two magnificent weeks of God’s blessings that gave me new experiences and a much needed break from routine.

The occasional break is necessary, I think you’ll all agree. Especially one that lands you in the Black Hills of South Dakota, surrounded by the inspiring land of the West, or that puts you in one of your best friends’ houses where you enjoy endless like-minded fellowship, or that gives you one of the best weeks of your life at a Bible camp where your spirit is refreshed, you meet dozens of fascinating people, and you have the chance to minister to others and strengthen your walk with God. Such was my break … and with a break like that, who could be discouraged if everything else isn’t going quite according to my desires? The Lord is good. My life is ahead of me, and it is full, thanks to Him. I am so blessed.

What do you do when you feel like you can’t write, either because you’re too busy or uncreative, when simply plodding on isn’t an option? Do you feel abysmally discouraged or do you take it in stride and look for other worthwhile things to do until you get the spark back?

To round out this post, how about some pictures? (I didn't get too many of Camp Yeshua, personally, and I ran out of time to look for others!)

My "tribe," Gad
My friend Laura and I

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Giveaway Winner

The giveaway for Alicia A. Willis's new book, From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome ended last night, and we now have a winner! And so, the winner is ...

Micaiah Keough

For further news, I didn't post yesterday because I am currently enjoying a visit out-of-state with a friend. I won't be posting next week because I am going to a youth Bible camp to be a junior counselor ... so, I hope you have a blessed couple of weeks and you'll hear from me soon!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Interview with Alicia A. Willis!

I'm excited today because I'm hosting the historical fiction author Alicia A. Willis for an interview about her newest book, From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome. (This is the first time I've been the host of an interview, and it's just as much fun to be on that end as it is on the interviewee's end.) Alicia A. Willis is a skillful, dedicated, and inspirational author who's a joy to follow online, as her books are a joy to read. She devotes her writing to the Lord! Her books are amazingly well-researched, yet exciting, dynamic, and emotional. I can't wait to see what her newest book is like!

Alicia Willis is a homeschool graduate and avid historian. When not writing or doing endless historical research, she enjoys being a church pianist, teaching music, singing, and playing volleyball. Her other passions include working in her church and spreading the love of Jesus Christ.


Decadent Rome, 61 Anno Domini. The masters of the universe have crushed the Iceni rebellion with an iron hand, slaughtering and enslaving her people.

For Philip, his existence as a captive means living to hatred. He despises his rich, young master, resenting his life of servitude and the wrestling feats Marcus forces him to perform. Bitterness engulfs his soul until he only lives for the day when he will crush the might of Rome.

Then Christianity enters the picture. Taught by a Jewish breadmaker to know the man called Christus, Philip begins the struggle to forgive and honor his master. But forgiveness is not easy towards one who lives for himself.

Marcus Virginius knows nothing but power and pleasure. Destined to a successful career serving Nero in the Praetorian Guard, he wants no part of Christianity. And he is determined to crush Philip’s newfound faith – no matter what it takes.

Join Philip and Marcus in their journey of redemption, faith, and forgiveness. Is love enough to conquer hate? And will the light of the gospel ever surmount the darkness of Rome?

Persecution abounds – will the two young men survive its terrors and live to experience the bright hope of a new dawn?

Expected publication date: July 18, 2014 

And now for the interview!

KB: I think almost every writer has gotten their start by admiring other authors' work. Who are the authors that inspire you the most?

AW: Florence Kingsley, G. A. Henty, and Louisa May Alcott were my biggest influences. I have also learned some things from Anne Mateer, Tricia Goyer, and Erynn Mangum. 

KB: What is your favorite aspect of history, the parts you're most excited to learn: the sweeping events that show God's hand at work; the details of daily life that make historical people real to us; the interesting things that make the past different, like costumes and weapons; or the whole ambiance of a different country and era? Something else? 
AW: I just love all of history! I love learning about the little details of daily life, of how the events in question affected us today, the outfits, and - okay, I love food - the eating habits! History isn't black-and-white; it's full-blown color, with sweeping events and real living, breathing people like you and me. I love watching it come alive.

KB: The Middle Ages is your favorite historical time period, correct? What attracts you to that era and, by contrast, what attracted you to the setting of ancient Rome?  

AW: Well, I would have to say that few gals have a hard time resisting chivalrous knights, castles, and dashing squires. Those aspects are a few of the things I enjoy about the Middle Ages. Contrasting the gentlemanly knights with the brutal ones, examining the mentoring process between knights and squires, studying weaponry and castle architecture... All of the Middle Ages is a fascinating field of study.

I think what most attracted me to ancient Rome is its many similarities to America today. History repeats itself, and I feel we as Americans are very, very similar to the Romans - if not worse. Additionally, Rome's brilliant military expeditions and powerful culture are very fascinating to me.

KB: What were your main, or favorite, sources for researching From the Dark to the Dawn?

AW: Books, trusted internet sites, PBS, speaking with actual historians and professors, Google Translate for Latin, documentaries, my FBI [Faith Bible Institute] classes, and the Bible. 

KB: Do you have a favorite character in From the Dark to the Dawn? Tell us about him (or her)!

AW: That's like asking me to choose a favorite child. :) As close as I am to Marcus, Philip, and Moriah, I would have to say that there is something special about Philip. Captured after the Battle of Watling Street and taken to Rome as a slave, he battles anger, bitterness, and his loss. And, even after Christianity enters the picture, forgiving his harsh young master, Marcus Virginius, isn't easy. His struggles to accept God's will and forgive are very real to me.

KB: What do you hope readers will take out of From the Dark to the Dawn?

AW: I hope readers will be drawn closer to the heart of God. I hope they will realize how blessed we are by our religious freedoms and wholeheartedly set their hearts to praying for our country. And I hope that the persecution and Christian testimonies revealed in From the Dark to the Dawn will inspire them to do more for Jesus themselves.

KB: Are you going to write any more books set in ancient Rome? 

AW: The Lord has not laid any particular story set in Rome on my heart at this time. But who knows?

KB: Now this is a question about technique. One thing I am impressed by is your ability to complete quality projects quickly. You have a busy life outside your writing, so how do you make time to write and do historical research? Do you have any tips for maximizing the time writers have for creativity?  

AW: I do my research and writing simultaneously. While I am scheming on the plot in my brain, I am doing historical research. When I have enough research completed, I begin writing, but I continue researching the entire time to ensure accuracy. I multi-task like crazy. I always have two WIPs, one being written, one being edited/published/etc. At the same time, I squeeze research time into it (reading in the car, recording research while I eat lunch, whatever). I do recommend multi-tasking! :)

Thanks for having me here today!

KB: You're welcome, and thank you. I really appreciated the fascinating interview, Alicia!

Alicia is giving away a free e-book copy of From the Dark to the Dawn. We're going to conduct the giveaway blog-comment style. One comment will give you one entry. So ...

1. Leave a comment saying you've liked Alicia's Facebook page
2. Leave a comment saying you've become a fan of hers on Goodreads.
3. Leave a comment saying you've added From the Dark to the Dawn to your to-read list on Goodreads. 
4. Leave a comment saying you've followed Alicia's blog
5. Leave a comment saying which book of hers you like the most (if you've ready any of them) or you think you would like the most. (This entry requires some research, but it may give you an edge!) 

The giveaway ends one week from today, Tuesday evening, July 8.