Pottering by Anna McGovern

Do you feel twinges of guilt when you take a lazy day? Do you spend hours on your phone or computer and come away feeling dissatisfied with how you’ve spent your time? Did you use to have hobbies or household chores you enjoyed, but you’ve fallen out of the habit? Do you love British culture, especially cozy British voices? If your answer is yes to any of these, you may want to pick up Pottering: A Cure For Modern Life by Anna McGovern.

This slim volume, published in 2020, is a treatise and how-to guide on “pottering” (what we in the U.S. would probably call “puttering”). It’s the ultimate restful activity: moving around your home or community in a leisurely way, doing little tasks as they occur to you, savoring the process and not rushing or trying very hard at all. In the gentle chapters, McGovern describes the various aspects of pottering, including “Make Do With What You’ve Got”, “Don’t Try Very Hard”, “Movement”, “Keep It Local”, and so on, with lots of recommendations on how to make pottering work for you, both in terms of practical actions and mindset. It’s about being content and going with the flow, savoring the experience of taking your time and doing things you enjoy or are interested in, if not for long stretches at a time necessarily. Moreover, she’s very specific that phone scrolling and other digital activities are NOT pottering, as they take your attention away from the present time and place and keep you sitting still instead of moving around. As a whole, it brings to mind words like “self-care” and “mindfulness”, but is very grounded in everyday life and the physical reality of the home. It’s taking a rest and being kind to yourself — two things I think we could all do more of in life.

It reads with a hint of irony, of course, coming out of a year of pandemic, quarantine, and isolation in the home, but I think it puts a positive light on it, considering the long road left ahead before restrictions are fully lifted. As quarantine and isolation and being at home get extra stale, it doesn’t hurt to remember that being at home and taking our time can be a restful, enjoyable experience, a break from rushing and worrying and being over-scheduled. Even in small bursts, taking a step back to potter around the house can help reorder your thoughts, get a few little chores done, and just generally let you take a breather. I think one way I’d alter the definition of “pottering” to encompass our pandemic lives is to emphasize the “keep it local” and “movement” chapters, where she talked about the power of getting outside for a little walk. And, of course, never underestimate the value of taking a little while to sit and stare into space or out a window, maybe with a cup of something (which McGovern also recommends, occasionally). Pausing to be present and to reset helps to go into whatever’s next with a fresh perspective, and to process whatever emotion is going on – and crises both personal and global bring up a lot of emotions.

Whether pottering works for you in a moment of pandemic or not, the spirit of pottering is always good to remember: unplug from the digital sometimes and be kind to yourself, not obsessing and stressing over how productive you’re being, but trying to go with the flow and enjoy the moment you’re in.

What Should I Read Next? BONUS: Library LibGuides

To conclude our series of posts highlighting different resources the library offers to help you discover your next read, I’d like to tell you about what we call our LibGuides. These are detailed resource lists created by our librarians. To view them, go to our website and click on LibGuides under the Research Tools tab (Fig. 1). This will take you to a full list of all the guides our librarians have created (Fig. 2). Clicking on a guide shows you a robust and annotated list of resources, often in different formats including books, webpages, and archival materials.

The benefits of LibGuides are that you know these titles have been selected by a librarian, they’re meticulously organized into categories like format and age groups, and the guide’s homepage (Fig. 3) gives you background on the topic or person it focuses on. Some will even provide links to the catalog so you can place items on hold directly — but not all guides do this.

Our more than 30 LibGuides include guides to writers’ resources, soft skills, comics for all ages, ebooks, genealogy resources, historical figures like Annie Wittenmyer, Fifty Shades of Grey readalikes, and much more! Don’t miss out on such a treasure trove of resources.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2


Fig. 3

What Should I Read Next? Resources From Your Library (Part 2)

Continuing the theme of ways you can discover your next read, today I’m highlighting two databases the library offers — free to use with your library card.

NOVELIST

NoveList is a popular book discovery platform used by many libraries. To access it, go to our website, then under Research Tools, click on Online Resources (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

This will bring you to an alphabetized list of all our library databases. Scroll down to the “N”s, and you’ll find NoveList (Fig. 2). It may ask you to sign in with your library card.

Fig. 2

This tool is powerful because it not only lets you search titles, authors, and genres, but it also provides lists of recommended titles and an “appeal mixer” search tool that lets you look for books based on attributes like writing style, pace, storyline, characters, and more (Fig. 3). The downside of NoveList is that its lists of books aren’t always comprehensive and the appeal mixer doesn’t work with all combinations. Also, you will have to take any book title you get from NoveList and put it into the catalog to find it or put it on hold. I recommend trying NoveList as a way to discover books you might like and explore what makes books appealing.

Fig. 3

 

GALE BOOKS AND AUTHORS

Gale Books and Authors is another database you have access to with your library card, and it’s listed in the same place as NoveList  (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

In my opinion, this is a slightly more powerful and useful tool for searching for books. It provides an advanced search function, the ability to browse by genres, authors, or by book lists (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

It includes both fiction and nonfiction in several genres, and provides for a very useful set of subgenres as well. The only problem I had with the genre browsing was that it didn’t seem to provide for literary or general fiction, sticking very strongly to genres. You can’t search by subgenres either, until you’ve picked a genre from their limited list (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

In this way the advanced search function can be a useful workaround, because it lets you search for books featuring certain subjects or certain types of characters – under which is a very impressive list of many ages, occupations, and relationships (Fig. 4). However, you still can’t put items on hold directly, and the lists of books aren’t necessarily comprehensive either. I recommend this resource for a more detailed search for authors or titles you may be interested in.


Fig. 4

Hidden Database Gems: Chilton Auto Repair

Once upon a time, there were big fat books in the library with CHILTON written on the side. You could come into the library and use these books to find any information you might need about repairing or maintaining your vehicle. Sadly, due to changes in publishing and library budgets, not many of these books are still on library shelves. But never fear, that information is not gone, it’s just moved online!

Your library card gets you free access to the Chilton Auto Repair database where all that repair and maintenance information is recorded and easily accessible. Here’s how it works: first, from our website, look under Research Tools and click on Online Resources.

Scroll down this list to the “C”s, and click on Chilton Auto Repair. You may be asked to enter your library card number. Once you’ve logged in, the homepage will look like this:

Select your vehicle by year, make, and model and click Select. Then choose what category of information you’re looking for: Repair, Maintenance, Labor Estimating, or Bulletins/Recalls. From here, you can continue to narrow down the categories until you find the information you’re looking for.

This database is very useful because it includes not only downloadable and printable diagrams but also step-by-step repair procedures, a labor estimating tool, and ASE test prep quizzes for popular certification exams. If you’re looking for robust vehicle repair and maintenance information, I definitely recommend you check out this database!

What Should I Read Next? Resources From Your Library (Part 1)

Chances are, at one point or another you’ve found yourself at a loss for what to read next. With browsing time still limited at our branches, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of the various ways the library provides for you to explore what your next read should be. I’ve tested all of them and want to share with you the features and effectiveness of each of them.  First up, I’m going to go over the benefits and hidden magics of the catalog. You may not know some of the very powerful ways to narrow down your search on this page, or to find similar things. If you’re interested in a detailed description, see below.

The benefits of the catalog search is that it lets you easily find titles similar to ones you already like, as well as what’s new, and it lets you narrow your search based on many different filters and criteria, including whether we own it at our Davenport Library locations. And, of course, you can put items on hold directly from the catalog interface, which saves you a step as you’ll see in future posts about other resources. I recommend the catalog for semi-directed browsing or for looking for very specific materials..

To get to our catalog: go to our website and type a search term in the box on the top right-hand side of the page (Fig. 1). You can enter any search term you like and you’ll be redirected to our catalog website (Fig. 2) to narrow it down and browse your results.

Fig. 1

First,  check out the filters in the left-hand column. Here, you can narrow your search by subject, author, format, the target audience, which libraries own it, and more. If you search a general term (“romance”, “murder”) these filters can help you create a narrow list of possible titles you’d be interested in.

Fig. 2

Another way you can find books you’d like is to search a book you know you like, and when it comes up in the catalog, click “details” on the right-hand side. From this page (Fig. 3), you should see a list of blue subject headings. If you click on one of these you can see other titles that are labeled with the same subject.

Fig. 3

You can also scroll down the “details” page of a book you like to a section that says “Suggestions and More” (Fig. 4). This links to the website Goodreads and will show you similar books you might like.

Fig. 4

If you’d just like to see what’s new, click on the library logo (top of the page) at any time to be taken to our catalog’s main webpage. Here, our on-order and new materials are highlighted for you to browse.

Hidden Database Gems: Reference Solutions

If you don’t spend much time scrolling through the research tools on our library website, you might not know about all the amazing online databases you have access to with your library card. The list includes encyclopedias, newspaper archives, genealogy resources, children’s encyclopedias, and much more! One specific hidden gem you might not know about is Data Axle Reference Solutions (previously known as ReferenceUSA).

Reference Solutions acts primarily as a business database, allowing you to look up established and new businesses by name, executives, location, or phone number. However, it also includes searches for individuals, health care providers, and job postings. It’s a very useful database for finding contact info or addresses, especially for people or businesses.

To try out Reference Solutions, go to our website, then under Research Tools, click on Online Resources. Scroll to the “D”s and you’ll find Data Axle: Reference Solutions.

You’ll probably be asked to log in with your library card. The front page when you log in looks like this:

Here you can choose to search for an individual, a business, a job, or a health care provider. When you hover over a category, words appear underneath saying “Search” or “More Information”. If you click on “Search”, it takes you to the default search page, which includes an Advanced Search on a second tab (circled).

You can put in as much information as you want, narrowing down by location and a name, and then click Search.  The search results will look like this:

For such a useful database, it’s pretty easy to use and gets you some fast information. One caveat: not every person or business is recorded in this database, so results aren’t guaranteed. Also, in the case of corporations, you may get several phone numbers or separate entries for regional offices. You can see where a business falls in the corporation by clicking on “Corp Tree” in the far right column.