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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Kid Notes

One of the great things about being a children's librarian is that the kids sometimes do crazy/adorable/thoughtful things out of nowhere that negate any of the potentially thanklessness moments of being a public librarian. (Yes, "thanklessness" is a word. It's not? Well, it is NOW, dammit.)

One of the library kids recently came up to the desk and, apropos of nothing, handed me this very sweet note. I would just like to point out that this girl, who is 20 years younger than I am and who thinks Justin Beiber is an older man, called me "young." I suspect that this is directly related to the fact that I constantly call myself "old" in front of the kids, but nevertheless: IT'S RIGHT THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE AND NO ONE CAN TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME.

Ahem. Anyway. Here's the note:

"Cheerful"! I have them all fooled!

Makes a gal feel all warm and fuzzy. AND a few minutes after getting the first note, I received a second note from another kid (because when one kid does something at my branch, ALL the kids apparently have to do that same thing). This girl took the acrostic route:

"Reader"! Yes! My job here is done.

Adorable, right? Yes, absolutely. BUT, don't get out your Kleenex just yet. Things soon took a dark turn.  That same girl turned her acrostic anger out on one of our college-age part-timers, Dominick (who is, in reality, a nice guy). The note below portrays poor Dominick in a not-so-flattering light. However, I think this is because the girl secretly (or not-so-secretly) has a crush on him. Naturally, if you're 10 years old and you like someone, you're going to say bad things about him/her even as you say good things (incidentally, some people never grow out of this - but that's another blog post):

Yes, she spelled his name incorrectly, but it's the thought that counts.

Her choice of adjectives fascinates me: Delicate, Overreacts, Mean (sometimes), Obedient, Noticeable, Intelligent, Careless, Keen. This kid is funny. I mean, what 10-year-old uses the word "keen" out of nowhere to describe someone? And the use of the subtly emasculating term "delicate" is a somewhat hilarious (albeit inaccurate) touch. In any event, Dominick took the whole thing in stride. And even though he didn't want to admit it, I think he was happy to receive a note in the first place. (I know I was.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sad Graffiti

My wonderful librarian friend recently took a picture of this graffiti she saw in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and gave me permission to post it. If mild profanity doesn't bother you, take a look:

(Photo by Chrissy Triskett)
At first, I laughed at the image. I mean, how ridiculous is that? Why would someone take the time and spend money on spray paint to vandalize about librarians, of all things? (I sort of hoped that it was a quote from some obscure hipster/emo song, but my quick Google search yielded no results in that vein.)

Then I began to feel concerned. Is this how people TRULY view librarians? Are we getting a bad rap? Without any context or background information, I don't know what sparked this gloomy graffiti. I don't even know WHEN this occurred - it could be old news. But it got me thinking about peoples' perceptions of librarians. At this point, we can only assume that it was written by an actual hipster who had a negative interaction with a librarian at some point and was SO upset that he or she had to share it with all of Brooklyn. This is worrisome to me.

Listen, we all have our moments. Branches are short-staffed. Patron demand is rising. Librarians are often stressed, strained, and overworked. But quite frankly, in the face of even MORE impending budget cuts, libraries need all the good publicity they can get. And the truth is, the majority of us love our jobs. We are there because we WANT to help people. I know that there are always a few bad apples, but most of the librarians I know are patient, caring, and enthusiastic. I sincerely hope that this vandal has a good interaction with a librarian someday and changes his or her mind. (Or at least runs out of spray paint.)

To end on a positive note, a friend of mine modified the picture to make it more palatable to librarians. I'm optimistic that this is representative of MOST peoples' library experiences: 

That's better. (Modification by Michael Bialaszweski)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking for Love on All the Wrong Pages

If you work with tween and teenage girls (or if you ever WERE a tween/teenage girl), you might know that they can't get enough of those ubiquitous advice books written specifically for their age group. And why shouldn't they enjoy reading them? The books are entertaining and helpful. We could all use a little guidance in our lives, right?  (I certainly could, and probably more so now than when I was a teen.)

I recently found a page of one of these advice books on the floor of the library. Presumably, it was ripped out to be hung up on some girl's bulletin board next to a picture of Justin Bieber. (That's who the kids like these days, right? God, I'm old.) As you can see from the photo below, this particular section of the book was designed to help girls find their best love match by telling them specific places to "troll" for dates based on their interests. 

Wait, really? Helping young girls understand and explore their new and potentially confusing feelings is one thing, but do we really want to encourage them to go trolling for dates? Shouldn't they be studying, hanging out with their friends,  and doing anything possible to NOT get pregnant?

Yes, of course. But you know what? This is a library-related blog. I won't pontificate on the possibly sexist and outdated subtext that I see in telling teenage girls to go looking for love in the first place. Instead, let's take a quick look at the "advice" being given:

Whoever read this last apparently wants to date a "sexy slacker." Good luck with that.

Back in the stone age when I first started to really like boys and actually TALK to them, I had a tendency to gravitate toward the funny/nerdy/band-geek type of guy. Subsequently, I can't speak to the effectiveness of trolling for teenage "strapping hunks" or "dashing daredevils" or "six pack sultans." Frankly, I feel weird just typing out these phrases, so I'm going to move on. (But I do sincerely hope that geek-boys were properly represented at some point in the book.)

I can tell you one thing: if you are trolling for love at the library, you may find an intellectual. And you will most definitely find a loner. But you are not going to find a dateable "intellectual loner" hiding somewhere in the stacks, just waiting for you to discover him and his horn-rimmed glasses and his overdue fine-free library card and his masculine sensitivity. (He's not there. I've checked. Perhaps try Starbucks.)

Want to know my honest, idealistic, and toooootally square advice for tween & teenage girls? Put the advice books down for a while. Go read some Lois Lowry or Judy Blume or Paula Danziger. Have crushes. Cultivate your interests. Be silly. Stay naive for just a little bit longer. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to meet slackers and loners and hunks and sweethearts when you're older and jaded...I mean, wiser. *cough*

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Forgotten Bookmarks

I am very honored to have a guest post up today on a website that I have grown to love over the past several months. Forgotten Bookmarks is run by a very nice gentleman who works at and purchases for a used & rare book store. His site presents the strange and wonderful things that he finds inside the books. 

Librarians often find strange and wonderful things inside books as well, like the handmade bookmark I posted below that was found in a children's novel at my library. This bookmark is the focus of my guest post, which you can view here on Forgotten Bookmarks. Check it out! (And be sure to take a look at the rest of the site. It's wonderful.)

Redding is my favorite.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Different Kind of Book Vandal

Some lucky people are blessed with artistic skills. I admire these people. I envy these people. I am not one of these people. I can squeak by during a kid's arts & crafts program (although my crafts tend to fit in "glue things to construction paper" category). So when my coworker recently found this picture in a library book, I was struck with a few different feelings: 

I'm not sure, but I THINK the signature says "Picasso."
1) Frustration: this is the practical librarian in me talking. When will kids learn to not write/draw in books? Don't they know it means we will probably have to weed it from the collection? (Rhetorical questions, obviously.)

2) Nostalgia: this looks just like the kind of art I used to make when I was a kid, right down to the V-shaped birds in the sky. Do they teach that skill in school?

3) Awe/Confusion: I can't help but wonder why this child decided to make his/her artistic debut in a library book. The picture is not just a bit of flippant vandalism - it obviously took some time, consideration, and care. And while it's perfectly lovely (like I said, I know nothing about art), the picture is unrelated to the content of the novel in which it's drawn. Why HERE? Why NOW? I suppose we'll never know. 

In conclusion: if you're reading a library book and you're suddenly filled with artistic spirit and you just HAVE to draw something or you'll burst, ask the librarain for some blank paper and crayons and color your little heart out. I'll bet the librarian will even hang your masterpiece on the wall when you're finished. (Just don't forget to sign it. )