This was not really a “fun” comic to do, because it was done in anger and frustration in response to this year at work being just all-around shitty. The district is dicking us library technicians around like crazy, our own UNION is dicking us around like crazy, and my principal has started making it his goal to make my job as difficult and unpleasant as possible.
This comic is a broad simplification of issues that have been going on for many years, at all three schools I’ve worked at in this district. The “boss” represents several different people, and an unfortunate but prevailing attitude toward classified library staff.
HALF MAGIC was originally published in 1954, the first of seven books by Edward Eager in his “Tales of Magic” series. It’s classic children’s fantasy, with great illustrations by N.M. Bodecker.
My first real job straight out of high school in 1989 was in a children’s bookstore in Tustin, California, called Half Magic, named after the book because it was the owner’s favorite. I worked there for about 2 years, until it went out of business. It was a great place to work, and I cannot think of a better introduction to children’s lit. I met lifelong friends there, too.
Now I work in a high school library, and one of my new “regulars” came in yesterday, to return a book. She’s tiny, petite, a fierce bibliophile, and very quiet. She was frustrated, because it was not the book she’d been looking for. She was trying to find a book she had read and loved in elementary school. She could not remember the title or author, though. Just a few key details. There was a family of children, and they find a magic stone that grants wishes, and at some point a girl’s wish results in a fire.
After searching both our online catalog and Google, I couldn’t find anything that matched, but told her I’d keep looking. It’s my favorite kind of challenge, and I never give up until I solve the mystery.
The next morning she came in again, having remembered a few more details. A character named Jane, and the fact that the children’s father had passed away, but their mother was still part of the story.
While my tiny patron went over to chat quietly with her friends, I searched again using these new details and instantly found the book was HALF MAGIC. I kind of gasped, thinking, What are the chances? I skibbled over to the shelf and grabbed our copy, then took it over to the girl and just showed it to her, silently, with one eyebrow raised. She took it reverently, and studied the cover. Her eyes grew wide. She turned it over and read the synopsis on the back. Her eyes grew wider still, and she gasped, “This is it! This is the book!”
She must have stood there for several minutes straight, looking surprised and delighted, like she’d been reunited with an old friend, and that’s one of the very best things about working with people & books. She kept showing it to her friends, repeating, “This is it! This is the book I’ve been looking for!” It was the most effusive show of emotion I’ve seen from her about anything.
When she brought it to the circ desk to check it out, I told her that my very first real job was in a children’s bookstore called HALF MAGIC, named after that very book. I also told her that it’s part of a series, and we have the rest of the books available.
That afternoon I kept thinking fondly of my very formative years working in the children’s bookstore. Just this past year, we discovered that the owners were actually neighbors with my aunt, who lives in a neighboring city. The man had passed away, but his wife still lives there. I wrote her a letter, sharing the little HALF MAGIC incident with her, and telling her what fond memories I have of working with her and her husband. I’ll give the letter to my aunt tomorrow, and ask her to drop it off at their house. For a part-time job that only lasted two years before I even turned 20, that cozy little store and the book-loving people who worked there has had a significant impact on my life in all sorts of ways, and echoes of it still appear now and then.
Respect your roots, fellow book bitches!
That could probably be (MOST) instead of (SOME). But I was sort of trying to be generous.
I feel I have to share a conversation I just overheard here at the high school where I am the library technician. In the teacher mailroom, two of the male teachers (ones I don't recognize, so I'm guessing PE or sports or something like that) were using the copiers. They were talking loudly about the all-staff meeting we just had about lockdown procedures, presented by the Anaheim Police Department. These guys were scoffing about all the "stupid questions" other teachers kept asking about what to do in different emergency lockdown situations.
One of them, filled with contempt for his fellow teachers, said, "THESE are the people you want to give guns to? Even if they HAD a gun in their classroom, they'd still call the police and be all, 'Oh, gosh, officer, what should I do now?'" (He effected an exaggeratedly wimpy voice for this, of course.)
They both cackled over this, then the other one busted out with this winner:
"Tell you what I'd do, I'd go LOOKIN' for the guy. I wouldn't wait around hiding in my room, I'd take off to FIND the shooter, whether I had a gun or not! That's just how I'm WIRED. I'd go find him, and take him DOWN."
The other guy responded, "Me, too, man! I'm the SAME WAY. I'd go hunt the guy DOWN."
"Yeah, man! I'm THAT guy!"
They went back and forth, repeating variations of the same thing, trying to convince themselves or each other how macho they are, apparently. Let me reiterate, these are ADULT males. Ones with jobs "teaching" our nation's youth.
It was the most nauseating conversation I've heard in a long time. It was all I could do not to interrupt and say, "Excuse me, can I get your names down? I want to know for future reference, so I can see what you both REALLY do if, god forbid, something like that happened here. Because I am 100% certain the truth would be more like you both peeing your pants and crying in a corner."
Stupid straight men.
My friend Heather Gruenthal is the president of CSLA (California School Library Association) for this year, and she asked me to do the logo for the conference. It was her idea to have it be an homage to Hamilton, which I think is very clever.
I did isolated versions of the male and female silhouettes, to make it easier to use them as incidental images here and there and everywhere. I'll probably use them in my high school library somehow.
It's Monday morning, and I'm groggy and having a hard time getting myself in gear for the week. And almost first thing this morning I had to deal with gross stuff.
First off, one of my library regulars came in, a boy who likes to hang out at the circ desk right by me, like Norm or Cliff from Cheers. With me being Sam the bartender, nodding and listening patiently. Unfortunately, this kid is from a family that doesn't value hygiene or cleanliness, and the poor kid even TOLD me that they finally did laundry just yesterday, and that before that, all last week he wore the same clothes every day. This kid has the potential to be an interesting, good guy, but he has some cognitive issues, plus a family that doesn't make sure he's clean.
He may have been wearing recently-washed clothes this morning, but HE still smells like he did last week. And it's not good. Sort of a biting urine smell, with a soupçon of sweat and must. I think I may have to talk to the health clerk, and see if she talks to kids with hygiene issues. I definitely don't want him to feel bad or embarrassed, so it needs to be handled delicately.
I also had a load of about 12 textbooks stuffed into the return slot at the very end of the day last Friday, right before I left. The drop slot clearly says, "DO NOT RETURN TEXTBOOKS HERE," but maybe whoever left the books didn't notice the giant bold red letters. Anyway, this morning I saw them sitting there, and while the kid with the hygiene problem was talking to me, I started quickly going through them and slapping post-its with the department teachers' names to return them to.
I also had other kids printing and checking books out, so it took me a few minutes, being distracted by multi-tasking, before my internal YUCK sensor started blaring. My hands were becoming coated in some kind of sticky film of grossness. I finally looked carefully at the lost-and-found textbooks, and realized they were all coated in the sticky film. It was sort of a dirty sludge, completely covering the front and back covers of ALL the textbooks that had been so kindly dropped into the library's return slot.
I don't know if it was mold, or if something spilled all over them. For some reason, I picture the books sitting in a forgotten corner of the boys' locker room, slowly acquiring a layer of moist germs. I think this is most likely.
I spent several frantic minutes digging in drawers for a bag large enough to hold all of them, then finally settled on a cardboard box, which I taped up very securely and labeled in bold black marker, "MOLDY TEXTBOOKS - TRASH" I don't want these books finding their way BACK to me, ever again.
Then I washed my hands thoroughly, washed them AGAIN, and then used some hand sanitizer. But I still feel contaminated.
NOTE: The textbooks were all old enough that none of them had the tracking barcodes we've been using for almost 3 years. One of them was from another school in the district, and yet another was from a completely different school district. So who knows how long they've been sitting... wherever. I'd love to offer a hearty FUCK YOU to the person who dumped them on ME.
I wish there was more than just one of me here in the library. This is a busy high school, with over 3,000 students, and this library is often full of kids using computers, printing, looking for books, and searching for various other kinds of support and/or guidance.
Take this morning, for example. Before first period started, I was busy at the circ desk checking books out, renewing books, taking cash and making change for printing. Everybody’s in a hurry during this rush period, trying to get what they need before class starts.
One of the library regulars, a girl we’ll call Jocelyn, appeared by my side at the end of the counter, wanting to chat with me while I multitasked. Jocelyn is one of those kids who struggles in school, and needs extra help. Her thoughts seem jumbled a lot of the time, and she has a hard time expressing in words what’s going on in her head. She’s very sweet, and certainly not stupid. But it’s like some God of Mischief stuck a finger in her head and just swirled it around a bit, scrambling her brain and making it a constant challenge for her to form coherent thoughts and words.
Fuck you, Loki, or Whomever.
So this morning, while I’m taking cash and doling out change, grabbing printed sheets from the printer on the circ desk, running to the back room to grab color print jobs, helping kids find books, checking books in, checking books out, and renewing… Jocelyn says, “My parents made me take this medicine, but the medicine makes me feel weird and sleepy…”
I made a sympathetic sound, but my attention was on the line of kids at the counter. Fahrenheit 451? Yes, we have that! Right over here.
Jocelyn quietly but insistently continued, “I can hardly stay awake and my stomach hurts. But it’s because I had a psychiatrist appointment, and I kept crying and crying…”
Meanwhile, one of Jocelyn’s classmates, also from the class of kids who need extra help, had come up beside Jocelyn, so that both of them were sort of crowding my left side, while I dealt with the line of kids on my right. We’ll call this classmate Jacob. Jacob put his big disheveled 3-ring binder on the counter near my left elbow, and proceeded to pull sheets out of it, trying to show me his current writing project.
“Mr. Kovac, I need your help writing paragraph three of chapter two. Cuz I can think of everything, but I can’t think of it, and I’m already done with it but it needs to be, like, scrapped and started all over again. Mr. Kovac?”
The phone at my desk began trilling. I aimed a very patient, “Hang on just a minute, guys,” toward Jocelyn and Jacob both, and dashed around them and over to my desk to just barely nab the phone in time. It was the attendance clerk, looking for a bunch of kids from Mr. Rumbolt’s “zero period class,” because Rumbolt was out sick and the sub hadn’t shown up yet, and the attendance clerk had told all the kids to go to the library.
I put my hand over the phone’s mouthpiece and yelled, “Is there anyone in the library right now from Mr. Rumbolt’s zero period class?”
The answer was no, which I relayed to the attendance clerk. And no, I had no idea where they might be.
By the time I put the phone down, there were more kids waiting at the circ desk. I renewed a copy of Stephen King’s It, took payment for a late fine, and added paper to the empty tray in the black & white printer.
Behind my back and to the side, I could hear Jocelyn continuing, “--and it’s not like me to just cry and cry like that, but I’m just so sad lately, and then my parents and my psychiatrist give me this medication that--”
I turned quickly to Jocelyn, realizing that somebody needed to acknowledge her pain. But the line at the circ desk was growing again, and I needed to go grab some printouts from the color printer in the back room. I made a sympathetic boo-boo face and clucked, “Oh, no, that’s terrible!” and dashed into the back room, leaving Jocelyn standing there at the side of the circ desk, still chattering about how she can’t stop crying and she’s so groggy from the medication.
Did I just give that poor kid an insincere boo-boo face and walk away from her? I asked myself, horrified. When I dashed back out to the circ desk, I handed the color prints to the kid who needed them, and while I was taking that kid’s dollar and making change, asked Jocelyn, “So… your parents made you take some medication that makes you sleepy? Do you think you’ll be able to--”
“Mr. Kovac, I need to check out this book!” Jacob interrupted, having grabbed an audiobook in its case from a nearby shelf. “But why is it in a box?”
“I cry all the time, but--” Jocelyn said, talking quietly as the first bell blatted.
“It’s an audiobook,” I explained to Jacob, popping open the case and showing him the little palm-sized audio player, how to turn it on, where to plug in the earbuds. “You wanna check it out?”
On my left side, Jacob and Jocelyn proceeded to talk over each other in relentless monotones, as I checked out and renewed more books to kids on my right side at the circ desk.
JOCELYN: ...so sad all the time and I don’t even know why…
JACOB: ...I definitely want to check out that audiobook cuz I need it…
JOCELYN: ...parents don’t know if they can afford to keep paying for my therapy, and…
JACOB: ...definitely can’t trust myself cuz I might lose it…
JOCELYN: ...just feel like crying…
JACOB: ...some Halloween candy…
JOCELYN: ...watching this anime about a kid who murders her parents…
“The bell rang!” I announced in my big authority voice. “Everybody needs to get to class!”
As the room quickly emptied, I watched Jocelyn melt into the crowd.
Sorry about your existential crisis, don't murder your parents, okay bye!
I picked up a weird comic (from 1972) at an antique show, and discovered this page where some space dude finds a public library on an alien planet.
Here's the cover image, copyright 1972 Rick Shubb, Robert Inwood, and George Metzger:
I recently found a copy of THE CAT IN THE HAT lying on a table, with the "C" in cat turned into a "B." The Bat In the Hat? This lame graffiti was also duplicated on the title page inside. I was perplexed that some kid had even bothered to deface it in such an uninspired way. The only slightly redeeming bit of defacement was a page where they had scrawled dialogue for the cat and the fish. The fish in his bowl saying, "FUCK YOU," and the cat replying, "OKAY."
But not a penis in sight. So, figuring that the book was already ruined, I thought I'd take a crack at showing how to deface a children's book with a little more style:
Everything in this glass display case belongs to my "private collection." And yes, that makes me, like, super, SUPER gay. What I'm bummed about is that I can't seem to find my original 14 books by Baum! I had the entire series in paperback editions from the '80s, with really cool covers. I know they're in the garage somewhere, but for now, this is definitely enough Oz stuff to fill the display. Most people don't even know there were more stories beyond just The Wizard of Oz. They're totally missing out on things like the Patchwork Girl, and Santa Claus making an appearance, and a town of bunnies and a town of pastries, and so many other really bizarre and fun creations.
Look, it's Bertina! your favorite library demon from SMELLS LIKE LIBRARY (the comic)!
You can get this delightful image on a coffee mug HERE,
-or as a quality art print HERE!
This is one of Bertina's darker moods. She actually loves her job, and feels passionate about books and reading. But she's also an overachiever, and sometimes that can wear you down, especially at a time when libraries are under-funded and under-appreciated.
Other products available in my Society6 store HERE.
|"Deputy at Wild Card" by Margaret Scariano|
According to the title page, this is a "PERSPECTIVES BOOK," published by Academic Therapy Publications in Novato, California. So... that sounds... fun?
Table of Contents:
1) First Look at Wild Card
2) Deputy or Cook?
3) Wanted: a Library in Wild Card
4) Clelland Tries Again
5) The Coffee Break
6) The Plan
7) Tricked, Trapped, and Wised-Up
8) Aunt Charlotte's Trick
I think there should be a band named "Aunt Charlotte's Trick," and their first album could be called, "Tricked, Trapped, and Wised-Up."
You can see the list HERE.
|"Fantasy" biblio bookmark illustration|
|The original scan version (not cleaned up in Photoshop)|
|Imagine this with "In This Style 10/6" replaced with "636.8" Because that's the Dewey Decimal classification for cats, you know!|
The quote and illustrations above are from the Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward and Marjorie Hack. I thought it perfectly represented Easter/Spring AND Women's History Month because that is one sassy, forward-thinking little bunny.
"Wait and see!"