CSLA LOGO

     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. 

BAD SMELLS & STICKY MOLDY TEXTBOOKS

     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 DON'T LIKE THE DRUGS BUT THE DRUGS LIKE 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!

DR. SEUSS GRAFFITI FAIL : Showing the kids how it's done

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:

LIBRARY DISPLAY of OZ-RELATED BOOKS, ETC (Tommy's private collection)

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.

BERTINA, THE BITTER LIBRARY WORKER

     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.

DISCARDED LIBRARY BOOK : "Deputy at Wild Card"

"Oh, go roast a marshmallow, Clelland."
(out of context quote)

"Deputy at Wild Card" by Margaret Scariano
     All he ever wanted to be was a librarian, but suddenly, through a series of unexpected events, Lance is forced to serve as deputy to the town of Wild Card. A dangerous prisoner escapes, and Lance is determined to "bring him back alive," using his wits instead of weapons. Eccentric Aunt Charlotte and Jamie, the town blacksmith, add to the color and action of the story.
(from the back cover)


     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."

NO GOOD DEED... (this library needs an enema)

     In the middle of the lunchtime rush today, one of the students said, “Mr. Kovac, I want to get you an enema as an end of the school-year gift.”
     I was like, “Whaaaaat???”
     The student seemed perplexed at my response, and said, “It’s a little figurine, called The Protector of Books. You know, an enema.”
     I could barely control myself, snorting and doubled-over. “Um… I don’t think you mean ‘enema.’ That’s something else, entirely!”
     “Crap. Oh my god. Well, it’s a word that sounds kind of like enema.”
     I told him he needed to go look up the word “enema.”
     Now thoroughly embarrassed, but not sure why, he said, “Don’t tell anybody I said that! I don’t know what it means, but don’t tell anybody!”
     I was still laughing pretty hard, like a Mean Girl, and taunting him. “I’m going to tell EVERYBODY.”
     “No, just forget I said that!”
     I began to finally take pity on him, and said, “Thank you, though, that sounds awesome. I like that, ‘Protector of Books.’ But really, you need to look up the word ‘enema,’ it’s pretty funny…”
     “No! I don’t want to know what I said!”
*
    So, to sum up this little episode: A student told me he was thinking of buying me a very thoughtful gift for the end of the school year, and I mocked him mercilessly. I will work on being less of a dick.
*

CASUAL LUNCH

     So, we have a district meeting today for all library staff. There are about 18 of us, 19 counting the District Librarian. We try to get together for lunch before our afternoon meetings, because that’s nice, or whatever. Last time it was Ruby’s, and everyone was fine with that.
     This time, however, things are not so simple. Oh, no, my friend.
     I will convey the gist of things below. And believe it or not, this is almost verbatim.

LIBRARY TECH 1 (via email to group): Hey, are we doing lunch together before the meeting?

LIBRARY TECH 2: Sure! Where should we meet?

LIBRARY TECH 1: I don’t know that area very well. Suggestions?

LIBRARY TECH 3: Tommy, how about that Mexican place you usually go to? Or how about this Country Café Place? (includes link)

LIBRARY TECH 4: I don’t like that place, it’s not very good.

LIBRARY TECH 3: I think there’s a Spires nearby…

TOMMY: Yes, there is a Spires right across from where our meeting is being held. I vote Spires.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Yes, but there’s also a Chipotle, and plenty of other eateries in that same area.

LIBRARY TECH 5 (privately to just Tommy): That’s where Library Tech 6 and I usually go before meetings! (Presumably referring to Spires)

TOMMY (privately to Library Tech 5): Great! Let’s go there, then. Should we make reservations?

LIBRARY TECH 5: Well, let’s find out where everyone else is going, first. Library Tech 6 and I haven’t figured out where we’re going, yet.

LIBRARY TECH 1 (to entire group): I’m totally down for Spires!

TOMMY (to group): Okay, how many of you are good with Spires, other than me and Library Tech 1?

LIBRARY TECH 7: I have errands to run first, but I’ll be there.

LIBRARY TECH 4: I’ll be there.

LIBRARY TECH 8: Have you eaten at the Sandwich Place across the street from Spires? It’s really good! We might want to try that.

LIBRARY TECH 9: I vote for Chipotle, because it’s better and healthier. Library Tech 4 is going there, too.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Well, actually it doesn’t matter to me! Either place is fine.

ANONYMOUS (sent via private text to Tommy): Library Tech 9 wants me to go to Chipotle with her. I know you committed to Spires, but I vote you come to Chipotle with us!

TOMMY (after discovering no cell coverage anywhere in library, and wandering out to quad in the sun, holding phone at various angles and directions until weak signal finally appears): Who is this?

LIBRARY TECH 3: It’s Library Tech 3.

TOMMY (hot, frustrated, getting crabby): Oh! My cell is fucked up, not showing me who’s texting. Already told Library Tech 1 and Library Tech 7 I’d go to Spires with them. ALL THESE BITCHES NEED TO MAKE UP THEIR DAMN MINDS!

-Tommy has to get some work done, and goes to counseling office to scan some documents. While there in the copy room, he mentions the frustration of the library techs not being able to figure out where to meet for lunch.

OFFICE ASSISTANT: Oh! You should go to this really great place on Euclid—

TOMMY: No way, I don’t even want to CONSIDER adding another option at this point! That’s the last thing we need!

OFFICE ASSISTANT 1: --and Broadway, it’s a gourmet hamburger place, the chef is amazing, and—

TOMMY: Thanks, but no.

OFFICE ASSISTANT: --it’s cheaper than that other place we went last time, remember, Office Assistant 2?

OFFICE ASSISTANT 2: Oh, yeah, Fancy Burger! It was good, but they were, like, $15 burgers!

TOMMY: Hm. I HAVE been wanting to try that Fancy Burger place! No, wait! That’s not helping! I’m not suggesting another place!

-Tommy runs back to his office.

TOMMY (via email to Library Tech 1, Library Tech 4, and Library Tech 7): So, apparently lunch is a big issue and requires much heated debate. Are you guys switching to Camp Chipotle, or staying with Camp Spires?

LIBRARY TECH 1: Well, I’m not really in the mood for disease with my rice and beans. Remember that contamination issue with Chipotle? But this is a community thing, so I don’t know. Where are you going?

TOMMY: I don’t know. My brain is dead and I am now incapable of making a decision. I say we let Library Tech 4 or Library Tech 7 decide.

LIBRARY TECH 4: Who knew lunch would divide us? I’ll go to Chipotle. But there is a Northgate Market there, too, and they have a HUGE food court!


THE END???

T-SHIRT : Cheshire Cat With Dewey Decimal Hat

     Did you know you can buy a t-shirt with my version of the Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland on it? Only with Library Dewey Decimal Number 636.8 on the hat? Well, you CAN! It's amazing, right? Click the image below to see the product page on Amazon. It's available in sizes for Men, Women, and Youth, just lick on which one you want. (I mean "click.") Also color options.
     Shirts run a little small, so order a size or two larger than you think you'll need. 

Imagine this with "In This Style 10/6" replaced with "636.8" Because that's the Dewey Decimal classification for cats, you know!

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Ladies & Bunnies

     This is what I did in March, between our Read Across America Alice In Wonderland extravaganza, and April's Poetry Month stuff.


     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!"



READ ACROSS AMERICA WEEK 2016


     I'm just going to dump these pictures here, and assume they're mostly self-explanatory. Basically, I'm so over Dr. Seuss as a theme for Read Across America Week, so I'm doing Alice In Wonderland, and using the Cheshire Cat wearing the Mad Hatter's Hat as a "different cat in a different hat."

(All artwork by yours truly)





     The Nonfiction section is now the Tulgey Wood...


     And look what's lurking at the back...


     The Jabberwock! (The lighting in this photo makes it a little hard to see, but in person the drawing is more visible)


     On Friday our Alumni Association is hosting an Author Forum of Alumni Authors, and we're inviting everyone back to the library afterward for a Mad Tea Party Reception. Hence, the paper lanterns.


     All week long we have daily activities and/or contests. I'll post more pictures and details later. I even have prizes to give out. :)


     This easel is positioned just outside the library door, with these fancy "ultra-shape" balloons that cost $6.00 each and are supposed to last all week but dammit if some turd didn't steal one, poke a hole in another, and leave only the blue one intact. And this is just the FIRST DAY.
     But it's a learning experience. Next year I will fill the balloons with napalm.

ORIGINAL LIBRARY ART : The Cheshire Cat (in the hat)

The Cheshire Cat for Read Across America Week

     This year I am eschewing Dr. Seuss and the Cat In the Hat for Read Across America Week. I work in a high school library, and Dr. Seuss is for BABIES. Yes, I said it. For BABIES. It's fine up until you're 5 or whatever, but to me Seuss does not have the lasting quality that Sendak, or some other classic children's writer/authors do. Anybody can just make up shit to fit a rhyme. I appreciate Seuss's art a lot more than I do his "writing."
     I'm fully aware that Read Across America Week was created to coincide with Seuss's birthday on March 2nd, and that's nice. It's fine to give a nod to Seuss. But it's short-sighted and simplistic to think EVERYTHING about Read Across America Week has to be ALL SEUSS, ALL THE TIME, EVERY YEAR. Unless you're just not familiar with the great wealth of children's, teen, and young adult lit we have to draw on.
     Especially for junior high and high school.
     So I came up with the idea to decorate the library like Wonderland for the week of February 29th through March 4th, and my flyers and promotional stuff will all feature my version of the Cheshire Cat, wearing the Mad Hatter's Hat, and the tagline,
"Uh-oh! A different cat in a different hat is taking over Read Across America this year in the library!"
     This will give me a chance to highlight Lewis Carroll's original works, plus related works like Beddor's Looking Glass Wars, Gaiman's Coraline, books on mathematics, chess, poetry, dream interpretation, Victorian England, etc. (And yes, even my own Wonderland graphic novel that I wrote and Sonny Liew illustrated for Disney Press/SLG)
     My campus is doing a week-long celebration in cooperation with our Alumni Association for RAAW 2016, and I'm on the planning committee, along with our admin. The Alumni are spotlighting alumni authors, and published works that are influenced somehow by our school. We have a bunch of local authors scheduled to do author forums in the auditorium on Monday and Friday of that week, and there will be a display in the library of books by alumni, and books about our school.
     Throughout the week I have planned Wonderland-themed contests, and will give out prizes. There will be a Cheshire Cat scavenger hunt, a house-of-cards building contest, and a Queen of Hearts "guess how many candy hearts are in the jar" contest. Plus the library will serve as a hospitality room for any guests during the week, so I need to make sure it all looks really nice.
     The culminating event of the week will be the author forum on Friday, and immediately following that will be a Mad Tea Party Reception in the library, which I'm currently planning with my awesome Volunteer Mom. Petit fours, multi-colored macarons, cucumber sandwiches, and a selection of teas will be offered.
     I suggested that maybe for that week the Main Office could be Seuss's "Whoville," to appease Seuss-enthusiasts, and maybe the English building could be Hogwarts or something like that. I think all it would take would just be a little effort to decorate, and put some signs up. They could even have students do that part of it.
     We have SSR at my school, although sadly many teachers don't observe it. For RAAW, we plan to reinforce SSR by having a different staff member on the video announcements for "Staff Book Breaks," in which they can share a favorite book, and maybe read a passage from it.
     I've ordered paper lanterns that we're going to string across the library, and we're creating a Read Across America-themed backdrop for the presentations that will take place during the reception and also serve as a photo op. There is a very long, old, heavy wood table in the library that we're going to place in the center of the room and decorate as the Mad Tea Party table. One of the strange things we found in the library's back room when I started working there was a full silver tea service, so of course we'll use that! Plus the Nonfiction section will be transformed into the Tulgey Wood. I'm making myself insane with all of this, but I think there's enough time to get it in order by February 29th.
     Incidentally, I recently finished reading Gregory Maguire's After Alice, and really enjoyed it. LOTS of food for thought. A very smart, multi-layered little book. Probably above the heads of most teens, though. It was almost over MY head.
   

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Rainy Day Reading


     My mom (Library Volunteer Extraordinaire) found the slogan, "It Starts Raining, I Start Reading," so we created this bulletin board in the hallway just outside the library. We had to work fast, because soon we'll have to focus on preparing for Read Across America Week, and some big plans for that.
     It was overcast when I took the above photo, and it made the color look super weird.
   

     Above is a nice little alcove the students pass on their way out the door of the library, so it seemed like a good place to remind them to keep their books dry. Those purple things are supposed to be storm clouds. Do they read as storm clouds? I was in a hurry.