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Thursday, April 26, 2012

This is How I Feel About Poetry

"So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the
educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read at school because
it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are
said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the
people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life
needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what
literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is. 

It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place. "

- from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? p. 40

Jeanette Winterson, Grove Press, 2011

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Why I Need a Dog"

Once upon a time (almost seven years ago), in a land far, far away (Long Island), I worked as a high school English teacher. That particular time in my life was a rather dark one for reasons I won't discuss now, but, long story short, teaching was not the career for me. I found my ultimate bliss in librarianship and everything worked out, but I do sometimes miss the "editorial" aspects of English education. I liked the process of proofreading, correcting, and, to whatever extent I was able, improving a work of writing. I think it’s 90% that I love words, and 10% that I’m a control freak. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Anyway, when kids at the library ask me to proofread something for them, I am happy to do so. Although it’s technically not part of my job, I enjoy talking to them about their assignments and what they can maybe change/add/delete to make their essays and reports a bit more polished. It's a satisfying task, because what could be more important than furthering a kid’s education and maybe even helping them to get a higher grade?

I’ll tell you what’s more important: helping a kid get a DOG.

"Puppy Bull Terrier Birth from Egg" is the sort of thing youget when you search for "free dog pictures."
I can't explain it either.

A 12-year-old girl, one of our scrappy, funny library regulars, came up to the reference 
desk the other day with a “persuasive letter” that she had written to her parents and 
grandparents, outlining very logical and coherent reasons for them to allow her to get a 
dog. She asked me to look over the letter and judge its potential effectiveness. (She didn't have time for corrections, and she probably wouldn't have cared anyway.)

Before she took the letter back, I snapped a quick picture of it. It's a little blurry thanks to 
my useless cell phone camera, and some of the text got cut off, but I think you can see 
just how much pure, desperate emotion was put into it, along with the facts:

Please note her use of "fur fill" instead of "fulfill." Intentional or not, it's PURE GENIUS.

I really just love everything about this, and I told the girl so. Sure, there's some awkward sentence structure and a few spelling errors, but, hey, I'm not an English teacher anymore. As far as I'm concerned, she completed her task.

A+, kid. I hope you get your dog. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Proof Librarians Can Never Shut Up (Even When They Want To)

In case you couldn't figure it out for yourself, this is a photo of me wearing my beloved "read" necklace. I frequently wear it at the library in order to send a subliminal message to the kids that READING IS COOL, SEE? I'm not sure if it works, and people young and old get confused sometimes - "Is that your name?" - but overall it gets positive, supportive comments. Yay for reading! 

I wore the necklace today, and after I left work at 8pm, I stopped by a drugstore to pick up some practical items, which included dish soap, paper towels, and milk. (Okay, I admit, I looked longingly at the fridge filled with beer, but kept on walking. I mean, I didn't NEED it, right?) 

To be completely honest, when I finish a particularly busy day of work, I often just don't feel like physically talking. To anyone. It's nothing personal, merely a side effect of having to talk all day long. I think my vocal chords actually get tired or something. However, as annoying as it can be at times, I realize that making inane chit-chat is usually inevitable if you want to be a decent member of a civil society. Life is hard, right? 

Anyway, the drugstore clerk - a perfectly nice, friendly kid who appeared to be in his early 20s - noticed my necklace as he rang up my banal, beer-less purchases. I was in one of those "don't want to talk" kind of moods, but the customer service provider in me apparently doesn't know how or when to cut a conversation short. 

Here's a rough transcription. My thoughts are in italics.

Him: "I'm going to assume the word on your necklace is not your name." 

Me: "Yes, you are correct." 

(Please don't ask me my name, please don't ask me my name.) 

Me: "But my name IS Rita, so it's kind of a funny coincidence."

(What? He didn't even ask what your name was. Stop talking.)

Him: "So you're just a big fan of reading?"

(Just nod. Do not engage any more. There's a line forming behind you.)

Me: "Yes. I'm a librarian, so it's sort of work-related." 

(Crap. Rookie mistake. Please don't say anything about me being a librarian, please don't say anything about me being a librarian.)

Him *laughing*: "YOU'RE a librarian?" 

(Aaaaaand here we go. Okay, Rita. You have the power to prevent this 
conversation from going any further. You have dishes to do at home, after all.

Me *with a weak smile*: "Yup."

(Good. A one-word answer. That's better. Keep it up.

Him: "It's just that when I think of a librarian, I think of someone...older."

(Don't take the bait. Don't take the bait. Don't take the bait.)

Me: "Well, actually, a lot of librarians are young like me. Not that I'm young, really. I just mean not oldAlthough, I am kind of old. I mean, relatively speaking." 

(God, JUST SHUT UP.)   

Him: "C'mon. You look about the same age as me." 

(Don't ask him how old he is, don't ask him how old he is.)

Me: "How old are you?" 


Him *deadpan*: "I'm 83. Don't I look good for my age?" 

(Okay, this just got kinda weird. Swipe your debit card and get the hell out out of there.) 

Me: *politely laughing while fumbling with the debit card*

(Don't wait for the receipt, don't wait for the receipt.)

Him: "Here's your receipt." 

What just happened? Was I insulted? Complimented? Did I help smash tired 
librarian stereotypes while simultaneously promoting a love of reading? I really have no idea.

What I do know for sure is that I learned three things tonight: 

1) From now on, when I leave the library, the "read" necklace comes off.

2) I am not required to engage in conversation. It's okay to NOT be 
a librarian when you're not actually being a librarian. 

3) Always, always, always get beer. (Really, who was I kidding??)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Banned on the Run

I got to talk a little bit about banned books on the Atlantic Wire! An excerpt:

"Meade sagely recommends that instead of 'shoving these books under the proverbial rug, parents should let kids read what they want and talk honestly and openly to them about any "controversial" issues that may arise.' She adds that a book being added to a censored list simply means she'll only fight harder to get it into the hands of kids because it means the book has an important message along with being just entertaining. 'Overall, I see it as my job to make sure that kids have access to the books they want to read, even if I don't necessarily agree with the content,' she said. 'We as librarians want to encourage literacy, not discourage it.' And that means letting kids read the books that matter to them, regardless of the activity of censors." - (Article written by Jen Doll.

Read the entire thing here! I say more stuff!

And just for fun, here's a picture of the banned books display I made for my library during Banned Books Week this past September. (Before you ask, NO, I never had any kind of formal art training):

In short, censorship = BAD!
Reading controversial books = GOOD!
Fight the power, kids.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just Another Manic Saturday

I worked on Saturday, and as most public librarians know, Saturday are always dependably chaotic at the library. This past weekend was no exception. By the time the final fun-filled hour of my shift rolled around, I imagine that my brain had started to resemble the proverbial dish of Jello. (And not even, like, delicious red Jello with whipped cream. We're talking that green Jello mold thing with the unidentifiable fruit suspended in it.)

Seriously, has anyone enjoyed this anywhere ever?
Needless to say, I was not at my best on Saturday afternoon. At one point, I even had my own personal Who's On First? moment with some poor kid who was just trying to be understood: 

Kid: "Do you have any short books?"

Me: "Sure. How short?"

Kid: "What?"

Me: "How short do you want them?"

Kid: "....What?"

My brain pulsated. I tried again. 

Me: "How short do you want the books to be?"

Kid: *blank stare*

My brain ached. I walked the kid over to the easy reader section.

Me: "These books are pretty short. Do these look okay?"

Kid: "No. I want LONG books."

My brain screamed. I pressed my fingers into my temples.

Me: "You want long books?"

Kid: "Yes. About sharks."

The Jello surrounding my brain briefly parted and a fruit slice-shaped nugget of understanding crept through. 

Me: "Ooooh. SHARK books! I'm sorry, I thought you said you wanted SHORT books."

Kid: *blank stare*


I got back to the desk to find that one of the young library regulars had very deftly assisted with finding books for another patron while I was helping Shark Boy. I guess this should have made me worried about professionalism or job security, but at that point, I was too tired to care that an 11-year-old had successfully handled a reference transaction with no help from me at all. Quite frankly, I was grateful for the help. 

Me: "Hey, good work! You're going to be a librarian when you grow up."

Girl (with an eyeroll): "No way. I'm going to be a horseback rider."

Now THERE'S an idea: 

Hmm. I better stick to my day job. Hang in there, Saturday Librarians! 

Horse image borrowed from: http://www.dailyclipart.net/