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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Arts & Crafts' Saves the Day

I want to make this clear: I love my job. I do. However, this has been a particularly insane (a more appropriate word might be "helltrocious") week at the library so far - on top of the normal chaos, we're packed to the gills because the kids are off from school; last-minute reports and projects are due and parents are panicking for their children; people are demanding tax form help; etc.  It's just busy, busy, busy. 

Don't get me wrong, busy is good. (And if you think that libraries are no longer relevant, come visit my branch. I'll show you so much relevancy, your head will explode.) BUT since we're also more short-staffed than usual this week, it's been exhausting and sometimes frustrating. Comes with the territory. 

And yet, magically, the library regulars always seem to know when I am having a bit of a rough time. My wonderful interns did an arts & crafts program today, and after it was through, I received a surprise present from one of the kids: 

This would be even more perfect if my name were Bryan.

Call it overly-precious. Call it twee. I don't care. This pin turned my day around - especially because the kid was so proud of herself for making it. I will wear it with pride and use it as inspiration to be the best librarian I can be. Because who doesn't want to be #1?

(Full disclosure: my co-worker and equally awesome fellow children's librarian Ally received the same pin. We may need to have some kind of librarian cage match to determine the true victor.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Valentine's Day. It strikes fear into the hearts of some men, disappointment into the hearts of some women, and indifference into the hearts of most other people. I didn't give the holiday much thought this year other than a vague hope to come across some leftover chocolate in the library staff room.

However, Valentine's Day did affect me in a way that had nothing to do with a 4pm sugar coma: it sparked yet another conversation among a certain group of girls about the fact that I am not yet married. Even at 10 years of age, this absolutely horrifies them. (Please note that they never ask - and I don't tell - if I am dating or if I have a boyfriend or anything in between. It's all or nothing with these girls, which I guess is a smart way to play it.)

Even though I am in no way concerned about my own current marital lack-of-status, I have grown to appreciate the conversations with these kids. My mother is awesome and supportive, but I think she may have given up on the idea of me getting married and having kids. Subsequently, these girls are the closest thing I have to a concerned, pushy maternal force. It does make a librarian feel loved. Here's part of the conversation:

Girl: "You have to get a husband so that you can have a baby. I will baby-sit for free."

Now, it would probably be worth it to have a kid just for this alone. I mean, day care ain't cheap. As if that weren't generous enough, the girl followed up by offering to help me actually snag a spouse:

Girl: "I will get you a husband!"

Me: "Oh yeah? Where are you going to get one?"

Girl (after a pause): "I don't know."

Honey, that goes for you and every other female in New York City. 

A bit later in, I got serenaded at the reference desk by this same bunch of girls. The song? "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. Dance included. I love my job.
So, you all can keep your flowers and diamonds (although you can offer me chocolate, no strings attached). This librarian received a song, an offer she couldn't refuse, and a little bit of well-intentioned shaming. Feels like love to me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

For the Disbelievers

To anyone out there who might think that kids are no longer reading: take a look at this picture. The other day, I asked a few of the kids hanging around the reference desk, "What do you guys like to read?" They answered enthusiastically, with minimal arm-twisting or tooth-pulling on my part. One particularly energetic girl exclaimed, "I'll show you!" and ran off in the direction of the fiction section. When she returned, she looked like this:

She dropped the stack almost immediately after this picture was taken. I forgave her.
 So, yeah! Kids are still reading. Kids still like books. And some kids will even share them with you. All you have to do is ask.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sometimes Stuff Gets Real

There’s this incredibly precocious 10-year-old girl (I’ll call her Sarah in this post, although that’s not her real name) who visits the library several times a week with her equally precocious younger brother. They are both very charming and smart and funny. I love when they are in the library. However, the other day I had an interaction with Sarah that slightly broke my heart. I’ll try to transcribe our conversation as accurately as possible:

Sarah leaned her elbows on the reference desk and sighed. “I’m bored. I just want to talk.”

“Okay. Everything alright?” I asked.

“Yeah. It’s Chinese New Year.” She looked at me, pointedly.

“Oh, that's right!” I said, unsure of where this was headed.

“I don’t even get to do anything for Chinese New Year. I’m half Chinese. My mom’s the Chinese one.”

I nodded, waiting for her to go on.

“She’s gone. Not, like, dead. Not even divorced. Just gone. She left.”


“I’m sorry, sweetie.” 

Sarah shrugged. She pulled up a chair next to the reference desk.

“I’m going to sit here, okay?”

We chatted for a while about her mom and other things. At one point, Sarah told me that she was nervous about a monologue she had to give for a drama class at school. I asked her if she wanted to practice it, so she retrieved the piece of paper with the monologue written on it from her backpack and recited it, giggling through the whole thing. Afterward, she got serious again:

“I’m nervous about something else."

"What's that?"

"I don’t want to get my period.”


I have no kids of my own yet, so I’ve never had to talk with one about anything birds & bees-related. I didn't want to say the wrong thing and potentially scar Sarah for life. Plus, this isn’t exactly the best conversation to have at the reference desk with a kid you hardly know. But Sarah obviously just wanted to get some female advice. I chose my words carefully.

“Well, you know, it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a part of growing up,” I offered, pathetically.

“Yeah, I know.” Sarah dramatically threw her hands up. “I’m just not ready to become a woman!” I couldn’t help but laugh with her at that. This kid’s going to be in pictures, I tells ya.

We talked some more. Eventually, Sarah's brother came over and the conversation topic changed. Now, I don't pretend to have a huge influence in the lives of these kids. I know that when they go home, many of them have serious issues to deal with - absent parents, for example - and they aren't thinking about the library. But they will come back every day because they know on some level that it's a safe place. It seems that there aren't too many of those left in this city.

I hope my conversation with Sarah helped her in some way, even if it was just to give her someone to talk with who wasn't her brother or father. Interestingly, I feel like talking to her helped me in ways I can't really identify. Kids are pretty wise if you listen carefully enough. Sometimes I'm not so sure I'm ready to be a woman myself.