I had a visit from a US Census worker this week. She was exploring ways the library and U.S. Census could partner -- hosting trainings, getting information out to people, serving as a site for hiring fairs and so forth. And she and I both remarked almost at the same time, "And 2020 is right around the corner!"
First of all, how can it almost be 2020? It seems like just yesterday we were all worried about Y2K and what would happen in the 2000s -- even how we would say the year. Two thousand-twenty? Twenty-twenty? Or even just '20?
And on a much more critical scale, if it's almost 2020, that means Christmas and Thanksgiving are now just weeks away. How is that possible? I'm simply not ready! Yet no matter how much I rail against it, time continues to proceed unperturbed.
In my position as director of the Madison County Public Library, I find my work is frequently preoccupied with the tracking and management of numbers, whether it is numbers related to time and scheduling, numbers related to dollars and budget, or even numbers related to building stats and usage.
I am not by nature a numbers person. They just don't make sense to me in the same way that words do.
But my life is consumed by numbers. The library world is consumed by numbers in general. First of all, we count and measure EVERYTHING. I can tell you how many people entered any of our meeting rooms in the new Richmond addition at any hour of the day or night, for example.
I can tell you how much data was transferred via our wifi last month (7.68 terabytes, if you are interested) and also the average number of users per day (626). I know how many computer sessions we logged, how many magazines people checked out, and how many people came to library programs. I even know how many times kids played with the dollhouse in the children's area because I know how many times the dollhouse furniture was checked out (which would 105 times).
It seems measuring and counting and grouping and tracking are part and parcel of the human condition. Even for those of us not numerically inclined, numbers help us make sense of the world around us for some reason.
As you might imagine, numbers are a popular subject in books you can check out from the Madison County Public Library. In the mystery/thriller area, for example, several popular authors have series based on numbers -- James Patterson's "Women's Murder Club series that starts with First to Die and most recently includes The 19th Christmas, for instance. Or Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series -- One for the Money through Twisted Twenty-Six.
British novelist Rachel Ward has the "Numbers" thriller trilogy that includes Numbers (2009), The Chaos (2010), and Infinity (2011).
There is also Joshua Cohen's 2015 metafiction novel, Book of Numbers, that follows a writer named Joshua Cohen who is contracted to ghostwrite the autobiography of a tech billionaire. Metafiction is a style of writing that constantly emphasizes to the reader that they are reading a work of fiction. In a totally post-modern self-conscious way, of course.
And in the non-fiction arena, there is The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World's Most Astounding Number, by Mario Livio. Suggested by many psychologists to be the most aesthetically pleasing proportion, phi appears "in the most astonishing variety of places, from mollusk shells, sunflower florets, and rose petals to the shape of the galaxy."
All of these titles are available for checkout with your Madison County Public Library card.
In wrapping up, I want to remind you of another numbers-related activity currently underway at MCPL. It's the Friends of the Library's annual Little Quilt Show and Auction. Check out the library's website -- www.madisonlibrary.org -- to view the quilts and bid. You can also see the quilts in person on display in the two library locations. These little gems make a beautiful and unusual holiday gift, as each one comes with a copy of the book that inspired it.
I hope you get a chance to stop by the Madison County Public Library soon. There is always something interesting going on or something interesting read, listen to, or watch. I'll see you here soon!
Ruthie Maslin is the director of the Madison County Public Library.