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Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Something

I took this photo yesterday in Zuccotti Park. I don't know what's going to happen with Occupy Wall Street, but the sign gave me a feeling that sort of resembled hope. (Perish the thought!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Story Within a Story

These notes were found stuck inside a book at my branch. I don't know who wrote them, nor do I know their original purpose. They were handily numbered by their creator(s), who, if I HAD to guess, were teenage girls. Despite the fact that a few pages seem to be missing and they are out of context, I think the notes make for a pretty interesting narrative:

Introduction of conflict.

More conflict!

(Oh, she cares. We all know she cares.)

Awww. (Turning point 1.)

Things take a dark turn...

(Note: the library is not culpable for any "accidental" deaths.)

Yeah, girl! (Turning point 2.)

Optimistic climax.

Aaaaand resolultion.

So there's your lesson on narrative structure! Sadly, we'll never know the real story behind these notes. Maybe one day I'll fill in the blanks and win a Newbery award or something. But I think that last note contains pretty damn good advice on its own. Live on, everyone. Live on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

They Don't Need No Education

A kid recently asked me to help him print out some Google images of the following subjects:

- The Joker from The Dark Knight
- Tupac Shakur
- A poster for the movie "Scarface"
- An artist's rendering of the sinking Titanic 

The kid told me that he needed these pictures for an English project at school, and other than the fact that Tupac wrote a book of poetry,  I couldn't connect the dots. I casually asked the kid what exactly he needed to do with the pictures.

"These are for my writer's notebook. They're supposed to give you ideas."

He explained what the writer's notebook was (a place to write down thoughts while reading - to be used later for book reports and the like) and that he was going to paste these pictures on its cover for inspiration.   

This doesn't exactly scream "literary inspiration" to me,
but then again, I'm not a 10-year-old boy.
I contemplated the pictures. They had potential for sparking creative impulses, I guess, but they were also a little dark for the fifth grade. Although I didn't want to outwardly judge or give unsolicited advice, I still felt compelled to ask: "Do you think 'Scarface' is appropriate for school?"

The kid shrugged.

Me: "Why do you like it?"

Kid: "I dunno. It has a lot of action."

That's an understatement.

Me: "Yeah. It's pretty violent. Then again, so are things that the Joker does."

Kid: "Yeah. I want to be in his gang!"

Sigh. I guess it's good to have role models?

"Was THIS the grade on your your report card?"

I recently sent out a message on Twitter: "Helped a kid with homework. I had to inform her that Long Island is not a state and 'fivity' is not a number. Lord help us." I was being flippant, but this transaction really did bother me. This kid was definitely old enough to know the number 50. Did she really not learn this in school? Was it just a language barrier thing? Was the fact that she was asking ME for help after school, rather than a parent, a troubling sign of the times?

It's not really my intention to talk in depth about the state of education in America because A) Others have done it better B) I feel pessimistic about it for a variety of reasons C) thinking about it too hard makes my stomach hurt (primarily because I had a VERY brief and unsuccessful stint in teaching high school English, an experience that deserves its own blog post or possibly a tear-soaked memoir). But every day I see evidence that cutting funds for education and libraries is NOT in the best interest of this country. (Are you listening, politician people?) 

I took this few months ago outside a Manhattan B&N.
Kinda says it all, doesn't it?
The truth is, I worry I'm not doing enough as a librarian to guide these kids when they are in my care. I do storytimes, class visits, book displays, and endless reference work. How much responsibility do I have if a kid doesn't do well on a paper? How much guilt should I feel when I sometimes have to tell a kid "I'm sorry, I don't have time to sit down with you and help you with your homework"? Should I be running down children on the street to make sure they all have library cards?

It's a hopelessly complex topic, this education thing. (Another understatement.) There are no easy answers. Hell, even the questions aren't easy. But it's my hope that I am doing my own small part to help raise a generation of Homers instead of Homer Simpsons. Sadly, I'll never really know. Sometimes I wish I still got a report card too. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Dumb

A strange book cover found in the foreign language section by one of our part-timers:

Why so literary?
I have no idea what the title's translation is and I'm too lazy...I mean, busy to research it. I just hope Brad Pitt has some good legal representation.