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Meet a Reader | Librarian E., from Texas

1. Tell us a little about yourself

Hi, everyone. My name is Elizabeth, and I live in North Texas (*waves to Texas Rachel*) with my husband of 22 years and our two children, aged 12 and 7.

I’m a librarian and my husband is a programmer, though since our son was born he’s chosen to work limited contract hours to be the stay-at-home parent/household engineer.

We tend to be protective of our family’s personal information (see: librarian and programmer), so we rarely name our kids or share their photos online, but we will sometimes post pictures like these:

A children's book.

#raisingthemright – our son reading the short story collection by my favorite author

A little girl in a straw hat.

#mommydaughterdate – our daughter admiring the sort of tea shop decor she’ll never see in our house

I’ve worked at my library for 18 years in a variety of roles. Currently I manage the collection.

In conversation with me, you’ll want to avoid soap-box topics like the pitfalls of licensing (as compared to owning) content, publishers who include sticker sheets in books, and why some books are classified as “young adult” when similar books are marketed for an “adult” audience.

Reading and baking are my two main hobbies, so if I had an Instagram account (which I don’t), I’d call it MostlyBooks&Food and it would feature pictures like these:

tartlets.

Brinna’s Sandy Apricot Tartlets, a recipe inspired by Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief series

gingerbread.

Gingerbread perfectly accompanies the Moosepath League titles set during autumn and winter

I love finding the right readers for my favorite books and authors.

(This is another way of saying that I’m not a very good readers’ advisory librarian; if I was, it would be the other way around.)

Given the courtesy and graciousness of the community here, the series I would recommend to everyone is Van Reid’s Moosepath League, which starts with Cordelia Underwood, or the marvelous beginning of the Moosepath League.

Set in 1890s Maine, the books feature the most delightful characters, P.G. Wodehouse-esque humor, Dickensian names, and rambling storytelling in the tradition of News from Lake Wobegon.

“This continued affinity of mind encouraged them. It bode well for the human race if they, despite their separate political affiliations and religious backgrounds, could think so alike.” (Mollie Peer, or the underground adventure of the Moosepath League)

For Kristen’s medical reading I suggest everything by surgeon Atul Gawande. Complications and Better are probably most career-relevant, so you might start with those.

Being Mortal: on medicine and what matters in the end may be the one book I’d make mandatory reading for all American adults.

I started with The Checklist Manifesto because my other professional / personal interest is in the area of continuous process improvement / Lean / the Toyota Production System.

But that’s probably another topic best avoided before this post attains novel length.

A librarian action figure.

Librarian Nancy Pearl action figure hard at work on my office desk

Finally, I should confess that Kristen and I have vastly different opinions on pie. Thanksgiving Day Pie Lunch and Pi Day are among our important food-centric family celebrations.

A woman with three pies.

French apple is my specialty, lemon chess is a family favorite, and I also make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. In addition to my pie t-shirt, I have a fair-sized wardrobe of book-related clothing.

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

Several years, but I couldn’t begin to pin it down more than that. What I do remember, though, is that my sister-in-law recommended this blog to me the same week a co-worker recommended the Non-Consumer Advocate by Kristen’s friend, Katy. I still read them both.

We live in a small house (just shy of 1300 sq ft) and I find a cluttered environment stressful, so Katy’s emphasis on experience gifts is one idea I’ve tried to implement more (and encourage extended family members to give).

While I rarely read comments, much less write any myself, I (as many others have said) enjoy the friendly, cheerful atmosphere here. And I love knowing that when I do read the comments they’ll be warm and gracious, too. (Even when they’re about politics!)

Since I dislike shopping, I particularly appreciate Kristen’s product reviews. (We use Ting and I have a black wool pea coat.)

Finally, since the city I live in is highly affluent and consumption-centric, I like being reminded that there are others who share my “happy with less” lifestyle.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

Mostly I think it’s because I never saw anything else modeled.

We weren’t truly poor growing up, but money was tight and my sister and I saw our parents manage that – from direct withdrawals from paychecks for the Christmas fund to envelopes for different types of spending, to making lists of needed home improvements and then prioritizing them.

4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?

It turns out that we really, really dislike being in debt. The fact that we were both working, but living on only one of the incomes, for 8 of the 10 years before our son came along means we were able to bank a lot early.

I also prefer having money in the bank to having stuff. Money is fungible – you can turn money into just about anything else when you need to. That’s not always true of stuff (and I don’t want to spend my time selling stuff).

My father was a high school teacher and when his students complained about how broke they were, he’d ask how many pairs of jeans they owned and how much, on average, a pair cost. Then he’d have them do the math. They weren’t broke – they had turned their money into more clothes than they could wear. I guess I absorbed that lesson.

And finally, I’d rather give money to a good cause than spend it on myself. That’s another thing my husband and I both saw growing up – making sacrifices to have more to give towards the needs of others.

This applies not just to money, but also to time. We both lived in Peru as children because our parents did short-term missions work with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

5. What’s your best frugal win?

Probably marrying my husband. We wed a month after graduating from college. His father was a professor at the college we attended, so my husband attended tuition-free and graduated debt-free.

After our wedding, he emptied a fund his grandparents had set up for him and paid off my student debt. (That fund lost half its value about a month later in the dot-com crash, so we really lucked out.)

A newly-married couple.

We had a small, inexpensive, outdoor wedding. The goal was to be married at the end of the day. Seems to have worked out.

6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?

I wish we had started college savings accounts for our kids earlier. They won’t have the benefit of going tuition-free.

7. What’s one thing you splurge on?

How about two?

1. Personally autographed books

I borrow many, many more books than I buy, but I have started supporting my favorite authors by buying their new books, particularly if I can purchase from their independent, local bookstore and get an autographed copy.

A collection of autographed books.

Autographed copies of books by some of my favorite authors: Megan Whalen Turner, Richard Peck, Van Reid, and Emily B. Martin

2. French pastries

I love to bake, but nothing too finicky, so occasionally I treat myself to something(s) at the local French patisserie.

A french pastry with a coffee beside it.

Cinnamon-sugar pull-apart made with croissant dough, hot chocolate, and the final book in the series by my favorite author, Megan Whalen Turner

8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Anything to do with a high-maintenance lifestyle. I score a 0 on those “how high maintenance are you?” quizzes.

9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?

I’d love to say that I’d put it towards a trip to one of the four places on my travel wish list but, undoubtedly we’d do the same thing we do with all unexpected income:

Give extra to one or more of the organizations we support and bank the rest. Maybe splurge on an extra night of takeout.

10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers

The obvious one is: use your local public library!

I’m generally reading at least 3 books at a time (fiction, nonfiction, and eAudio), so I can’t afford my book habit, much less my family’s. We often have 50+ books checked out at a time.

library books on a hutch.
The books we currently have checked out for the 7yo. The 12yo has more than 20 just from our last trip to the library.

For things we already own I try to follow the Non-Consumer Advocate motto: use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.

When I finally decide to buy something, I try to make sure to get something high-quality with all the features I want.

When I’m comparison shopping, I think through function first, then form: does it do everything I need it to; how hard is it to clean; how much work is it going to take to maintain; will it hold up over time? And then I think about form.

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I try not to buy anything that’s not useful and beautiful.

Since all of that sets an exceptionally high standard and I really, really dislike shopping, I mostly end up making do or doing without, which is pretty frugal.

11. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

This has been the hardest question to answer. Frugal living is certainly not what our area is known for.

As a city employee, however, I know that we have a fiscally conservative City government, so city services are run as efficiently as possible, with a goal of continuous improvement.

Whether that’s unique or not, I don’t have the experience to say. But libraries, parks, and other city services are definitely worth looking into if you’re not already using them.

________________

Elizabeth, I have to tell you that I love Atul Gawande. And yes, Being Mortal is such an important read; most of us will face aging and illness at some point, and I think it’s so much better to think about it and discuss it ahead of time rather than ignore it!

I have Better in my library stack right now, and I also read The Checklist Manifesto. Did you like When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi? That’s my favorite medical memoir ever! Such beautiful writing. 

One question: are books with stickers just annoying for a library because then the stickers are only good for one patron?

Readers, leave your questions and comments for Elizabeth! 

P.S. If you want to see the list of medical memoirs I’ve read, here’s a whole list of them, with a couple of new ones since I first published the post. 

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Hadilly

Saturday 26th of February 2022

I love Megan Whalen Turner. She is one of the few authors whose books I will buy anymore.

I will try the Moosepath books.

Do you like Diana Wynne Jones? She is one of the all time greats in my opinion. Hard to find, so I have been buying her books on alibris. My children love her too. We are currently reading Deep Secret after dinner every night as a family.

Hadilly

Monday 7th of March 2022

@Elizabeth, I hope you are able to do that one day!

It was lovely to meet you through this blog!

Elizabeth

Friday 4th of March 2022

@Hadilly, No worries. It's been a busy week for me, too. I'm just glad I thought to check back to see if there were any last comments!

The DLoD looks hilarious! I've added it and AToTC to my to-read list. I'm sure the others will make their way on eventually. Someday I want to spend a year just reading all the books MWT has mentioned or listed as ones she recommends.

Hadilly

Friday 4th of March 2022

@Elizabeth, sorry for the delay in replying! It has been a busy week.

I have read Rosemary Sutcliff, but have had trouble getting into it. I can see where she influenced MWT for sure.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is SO funny. If you enjoyed that, then I would urge you to read The Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel The Year of the Griffin, where she takes those tropes from TTGTF and runs with them in delightful ways. A Tale of Time City is one of my favorites. The Dalemark Quartet, the Chrestomanci book, so much good reading ahead for you!

Elizabeth

Sunday 27th of February 2022

@Hadilly, Yay - *another* MWT fan! I usually buy her books from Mac's Backs (https://www.macsbacks.com/megan-whalen-turner-signed-books) so I can get personally autographed copies to give as gifts (and for myself).

I haven't read a ton of DWJ and mostly started because I know MWT loves her work and considers both Diana and her work influential in her own. In Sounis (the LiveJournal QT fan community) we just did a book club reading of the Howl's Moving Castle trilogy. My favorite title to date is one I've never heard anyone else talk about: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. MWT often mentions Dogsbody. I'll add Deep Secret to my to-read list.

Have you read Rosemary Sutcliff? Her work is also a big influence in MWT's.

Sophie

Thursday 24th of February 2022

E, I absolutely loved your interview! I am also a librarian (well, an aspiring librarian, I worked in a library in the past and am currently studying Information Science as a Master's) and adore reading. I am also aspire to be a writer and hope to get published someday, although I don't know how realistic that is! I do love working in libraries though so there's that. I live in Europe so it's interesting to compare the differences and similarities to the US. I am trying to be more frugal as I live somewhere expensive but have more hits and misses than you, I think!

Thanks for the great interview!

Elizabeth

Sunday 27th of February 2022

@Sophie, Best wishes on your career goals! I'd love to know more about librarianship in Europe if you have any thoughts to share. We do use software from a company based in Scotland and when we had calls with them some of my coworkers liked to sit in just to hear the wonderful accents.

Librarianship and writing are definitely compatible careers. The most recent author bio blurb I read that mentioned librarianship before authorship was for Hilari Bell. Also, Claire Legrand worked as a reference librarian at my library before moving to NY to become full-time writer.

Val C.

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Fellow power reader here...being a Librarian is my dream job. And I love that you love MWT. I really liked the Thief series. Thank you for sharing your story!

Elizabeth

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

@Val C., Any fan of MWT is a friend of mine! Have you read Diana Wynne Jones or Rosemary Sutcliff? Megan frequently cites them as inspirational to her own writing.(I'm reading The Eagle of the Ninth to my son these days.) And Emily B. Martin is a newer author inspired by MWT. I really like her work, too.

Erika JS

Monday 21st of February 2022

Elizabeth, thank you for your comprehensive and insightful answers. I’m not surprised; librarians in my life are heroes as well as being well-spoken.

Our library also quickly pivoted in the pandemic to get books into the hands of readers. They went above and beyond. The public library has saved us thousands of dollars, probably annually. We live in a small town that is situated in a large county with a great system and I’ve rarely asked for a book that they can’t get. For free!

We give back by volunteering for library programs and events. One of my favorites is a weekly program where small children read to dogs that are brought in for the purpose. So sweet and encourages the littles to want to learn to read.

Elizabeth

Friday 4th of March 2022

@Erika JS, Monetay donations are a great way to support your library! It lets the library do exactly what it needs at the time.

Erika JS

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

@Elizabeth, To be clear, we also support the Library through our annual membership and donations. It’s only fair! And we participate in programs to honor the staff regularly.

In this, I feel that I am following in the footsteps of James A. Michener, who was born and lived in this town and who left a bequest to our Library for enriching his childhood. He was raised in utter poverty but his mother borrowed books from the Library and read to her kids. Michener died in Texas, of course, having lived there for many years but maintained his home here until a few years before his death.

Until I’ve read about some difficulties with their libraries in Kristen's blog, I thought that all library systems are similar to mine. I mean, I live in a small town with a very average-sized library but they will get me almost any book I request on Hold. Such a disappointment!

Elizabeth

Monday 21st of February 2022

@Erika JS, Thank you. Being an introvert, I generally feel more comfortable expressing myself through the written word.

Having a county system is really an amazing benefit for library users! It so expands the size of the collection available locally. Unfortunately, that's not the standard in Texas and people who move here from areas where it is common have a bit of culture shock sometimes. But I'm glad you have the benefit of it.

We have popular a "Read to Rover" program at our library, too.

Thank you for volunteering at your library! Volunteers are a huge help at our library and I'm certain your library appreciates you.

Beth B.

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hi Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing about your life! I love hearing from a librarian and getting book recommendations! I am always looking for authors to add to my list. Your pies look heavenly!

Elizabeth

Monday 21st of February 2022

@Beth B., I'm always looking for readers for my favorite authors, so I think we're a good match. :-) Maybe someday I can offer you a slice of pie.

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