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Monday, June 27, 2011

I Say A Little Prayer For...Books

This was found in the summer reading sign-up bin. I know it's the work of a library prankster, but I'm trying to be more optimistic these days, so I'm going to look at it as a sign of encouragement. Everyone has summer reading goals!

Does anyone know what the star sign is for "infinity"?
I only wish I had been around when the big guy made his appearance at the library. I would have tried to ingratiate myself a bit more. You know, a little atonement, a little groveling, a little gnashing of the teeth. Then maybe libraries wouldn't have been reduced to five-day service thanks to the new NYC budget agreement.

In short: blergghhhhh. We don't know any of the exact numbers yet or what it all means in terms of operating hours or layoffs for the library, but we should be hearing soon. We might need a Hail Mary pass on this one. Pray for us.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rally-Ho

I love a good rally. I especially love a good library-related rally. In fact, I attended a good library-related rally on the steps of City Hall in NYC this past Friday. The purpose? To rail against library budget cuts, of course. It was a hot, sunny morning, and there was a pretty good turnout (with the help of dedicated DC-37 union workers). The rally was sponsored by a few politician-y types, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz made speeches defending libraries. The heads of all three library systems also spoke out against library budget cuts, as well as an elderly patron from Queens, who eloquently described how libraries benefit people of all ages.

My favorite speaker of the morning, however, was the dynamic Malachy McCourt (author of A Monk Swimming and brother of the late Frank McCourt, who wrote Angela's Ashes). Malachy gave a rousing, profanity-riddled-yet-inspiring speech, injecting energy into the crowd and a bit of optimism into my cold, pessimistic heart. (I wish I had transcribed the speech - I can't remember everything he said, but at one point the words "bastards" and "arseholes" were thrown about in reference to people who want to cut library and education budgets in New York.)

Me and Malachy McCourt
(Note: I look weird because he made me laugh by saying "Shit's the word!" right before the picture was taken.)

After the rally, I approached Mr. McCourt, who was exceedingly friendly, told him I was a librarian, and thanked him for his spirited and poignant speech. In return, he thanked ME for the work I did as a librarian (which I found very touching) and told me about how important libraries were to him growing up in Brooklyn as a child of impoverished Irish immigrants. We marveled at the fact that there might be a young Brooklyn writer sitting in a library right this minute, reading and learning and waiting to be discovered someday. It was a wonderful conversation.


Me, Malachy McCourt, and Eileen Muller (President, Union Local 1482)
(And he said "Shit's the word" again!)
 
So, that's my story of going all Irish-writer-fan-girl on Malachy McCourt. He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me remember the power that libraries can have and what is potentially at stake if they are cut further. I'm not sure if the entirety of his colorful rally speech made the news, but if so, I sincerely hope the "arseholes" were listening.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Postcards from the Edge (of The Reference Desk)

As the final NYC budget decision draws near, Councilman Van Bramer's postcard campaign is wrapping up and today at 2pm on the steps of City Hall, there will be a postcard presentation ceremony (try to attend if you can!) Librarians and library supporters all across the city worked very hard to promote and collect these postcards. We did our part at my branch too...with some amusing results.  

The postcards below are the handiwork of a precocious, sarcastic, quirky 10-ish-year-old girl who comes into my branch almost daily. (I'll call her Tara, although that is not her real name.)


I explained to Tara the basics of the campaign. She loves the library and doesn't want it to close, so she filled out this postcard:




I told Tara that I liked her enthusiasm, but maybe she should focus on what she liked about libraries rather than issuing vague threats to Mayor Bloomberg. Since she and I have a good relationship (she realized I was not criticizing her and she has a sense of humor beyond her years), she was agreeable to my suggestion, although she did tell me "I don't take any BS." Okay then! 

Tara filled out another postcard:



Well, I thought the idea of a school protest was wonderful, so I was completely in Tara's corner until the "six feet under" comment. (Which was followed by maniacal laughter on Tara's part, by the way.) Since she had escalated her message from a vague threat to more of a thinly-veiled threat, Tara scrapped that postcard and filled out yet another one.

As she wrote, she said: "I'm spelling a lot of stuff wrong. But it will look messy if I cross it out. If he's a good mayor, he'll be able to read it."

Ha.

It's certainly true that librarians will not be able to purchase new books if the budget is cut. And we will probably want to scream. However, I paused when I got to the "bloody head on a platter" line and gave Tara the old crooked eyebrow. She laughed again and grabbed a final postcard and said: "FINE, I'll write a persuasive letter." 



Well. How can you argue with that? The Mayor would HAVE to feel sympathy for a child crying about a lack of library books. (Not to mention for all of the librarians who would be crying as well.)

C'mon, Mayor Bloomberg. Do the right thing and fully restore library funding so that kids like Tara will always have a place to be quirky and creative and funny. (I'll do my best to keep the vague threats to a minimum.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Read-In Roundup

I am always proud of my librarian advocacy comrades, but I've never been as proud of them as I was this past weekend at Urban Librarians Unite's 24-Hour Read-In. The event was a huge undertaking and required every ounce of energy, passion, and patience that a librarian has. My hats off to everyone involved.

I didn't get to take many pictures during the hours I attended, but here's one of Councilman Vincent Gentile (who is a huge library advocate on the NY City Council), reading Neil Gaiman's wonderful The Graveyard Book from my Nook Color on Sunday.



And here is a dark picture of a waterlogged me reading The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. It was kind of the perfect story for my time slot, 12:45am, because it was raining and windy and the story was spooky and the tired-but-dedicated audience was punchy and engaged. (If you haven't yet read the book, you should check it out. It's the ultimate macabre testament to librarians.)

  
All the people who read, whether it was in the rain or the sunshine, were wonderful and amazing. And I'm grateful for the people who sat in the audience and signed our petitions and bought coffee and pizza and donuts and who were just THERE at any point during the 24 hours. My faith in humanity has been (slightly) restored.

So, we're coming down to the wire now. The New York City Council votes on the budget in 17 days. If you're an NYC resident and haven't yet signed a library petition in your borough, please click on the appropriate link below and add your name. Every little bit helps.

Brooklyn

Queens

Mahattan, Staten Island, Bronx

And don't forget about the postcard campaign! This one is actually fun because you can be creative. (Just try not to curse out the mayor on your postcard. We don't want him cranky when he makes his final decision.)

Thank you all. We're almost there.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Readin', Had Me a Blast

Our annual Summer Reading kickoff was yesterday. It was a day of promoting literacy, a day of getting kids excited about reading and books, a day of mirth and joy at the library (read: it was a madhouse).

It was a fun day, but a crazy one (a bit crazier than usual, anyway). One girl, who is normally a very calm and quiet 10-year-old, was acting a bit nutty in the way that kids do when school is out and the weather is hot and they've had too much sugar and there is a change in their routine. She's a great kid, but she knew that she was starting to frazzle me and my co-worker when we started saying things to her like "You need to calm down and BREATHE."

At one point, the girl skipped off to the computers, cheerfully threatening us with her imminent return. "You can't keep me out of your faces!" she cried. A little while later, she ran up to the summer reading sign-up table and gave us this note she had typed up:

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like if you are actually fine, you don't need to carry around a piece of paper that says you're fine (and I don't know what that many exclamation marks indicates, but it's definitely not fineness).  

It was a long day.

Also, late in the afternoon, I noticed something strange about the "Superstar" tattoos we had been giving out to the kids as prizes:

"Don't You Know That You Are a Superslar?"

Literacy loses again. Brace yourselves, librarians. It's going to be a long summer.*



*On a more positive note, I heard a toddler say, as his mother was pushing him in his stroller toward the elevator, "This is the best library ever!" Then he said to an older kid standing by the elevator "Are you a big boy like I am?" Heart-melting (even for those of us like me who are dead inside). The cute stuff always counterbalances the "bad" stuff. Always.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Advocatin' Ain't Easy

The Hug the Library event on Saturday was a success! We had over 200 people come out and support NYC libraries. Even the Lego lions at the Schwarzman building got in on the advocacy action by sporting a "Stand Up for My Library" button: 

This lion knows what's up. (Photo taken by my lovely sister.)

There is still more advocating to be done! Next up is the 24-Hour Read-In. Can you think of a better way to spend (at least part of) your weekend than hanging out with a bunch of awesome urban librarians, hearing people read intersting things out loud (and perhaps doing a reading yourself), AND supporting libraries? I thought not!


The read-in starts at 4pm this Saturday (June 11th) at Brooklyn Public Library's Central Branch. You can find more information in this awesome Save NYC Libraries post (written by my dear friend Ingrid) and sign up to read and/or volunteer here!


You could be hanging out here! Lucky you!*


We need your help! It's crunch time, people! We can do this! Libraries 4-Eva! Additional library-related exclamatory statement! YEAH! (Can you tell I'm a children's librarian? Sigh.)




*Photo of Central by Drew Dies found at  Orange Crate Art.

Friday, June 3, 2011

If You Have Nothing Nice To Say, Come Sit By The Reference Desk

Last week was crazy-in-a-good-way for me. I did a presentation at BEA during the fabulous 7x20x21 panel, which was truly an exhilarating experience. Naturally, I talked about libraries: their current role in our communities, their future, their wackiness...I mean, importance. The next day, back at the reference desk, I was showing my coworker an old-school coloring sheet that I used in my presentation as a backdrop to talk about peoples' perceptions of librarians:


One of our teen regulars was also at the reference desk, and as we were talking, she told my coworker and me that some librarians at other branches were "mean." When she saw the coloring sheet, she said:

Teen: "See? THAT'S what librarians are like."

Me: "What??"

Teen: "They are old and mean. With missing teeth." (None of which is represented in the picture on the coloring sheet, but, you know, whatevs.) 


She then noticed that I was (lovingly) giving her the Librarian Glare of Death, so she hastily said, "No, no...not YOU. Other librarians." Sigh. Looks like we have some more work to do to improve the perception of librarians, folks. 


It's a start.
Speaking of those darndest things kids say, here are the Top 5 Things I heard/was asked today by youngsters at the library. They were especially punchy today for some reason, and I had many interesting conversations.


1) Teen: "What kind of phone do you have?" 
    Me: "Just a normal, boring phone." 
    Teen: "You need to get a stylish phone." 
    Me: "Do I look like I care about being stylish?" 
    Teen: (looks at me, considers): "...No." 
    (Ouch.)


2) Tween: "Are you Jewish?"
     Me: "Nope."
     Tween: "You look Jewish. It's the freckles."
    (Actually, this is not the first time I've been told this.)


3)  Teen: "This girl at school wore a shirt today that came down to here." *points to place that indicates an inappropriate neckline for a teenage girl*  
      Me: "Why would her mother let her go to school like that?" 
     Teen: "Her mother is a stripper." 
     (*headdesk*)


4) Tween: "My math teacher is MEAN."
     Me: "Why is she mean?"
     Tween: "She's mad because she's divorced and she has no one to spend her life with now."
    (So much world-weary wisdom for a 13-year-old.)


5) And my very favorite quote, spoken by a girl in the third grade: "I don't understand love."     
     (Girrrrrrrrl, who DOES? Side note: this wasn't in the context of romantic love, but I thought that it could apply to pretty much any love-related situation ever in the history of the world.)


Yup. Still love my job.


(Unicorn picture borrowed from  here. Disclaimer: not a picture of an actual unicorn.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hugs, Not Budget Cuts

Just a quick note to let you know about an upcoming advocacy event! If you're in NYC this Saturday, please join us to "Hug the Library." Our friends at Save NYC Libraries are organizing this as a sorta flash-mob type of thing, so we need as many people as possible to attend!




Where:


NYPL Stephen A Schwarzman Building
41st Street @ 5th Avenue
New York, NY

When: 

The hug is at 2pm sharp, so please try to arrive around 1:30 to get situated.

Why: 

To create some buzz about how much people in this city love their libraries! You know you do! 

Here's the Facebook invite for more information. See y'all there.