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. 


     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.

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!


"She gathered books like clouds and words poured down like rain."

     Working on January displays a little late, and my awesome volunteer Mom went online and found the slogan "It Starts Raining, I Start Reading." So we were working with that, and then I found this great reading- and rain-related quote from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and did some cut and paste to create this display on one of the stack ends.
     But wait, there's more cleverness...
     In the close-up, look what I used for the streaks of "rain."

BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Women's History Month 2015

     Waaaay back in March, I did some displays for Women's History Month. Why didn't I post this back then? I dunno.
     I drew that fancy lady. She was originally for a NaNoWriMo display, but I realized she'd also be great for Women's History. But now I can't use her for NaNoWriMo. Because that would be cheating. Creatively speaking.

Mr. Kovac's favorite feminist: Kathleen Hanna


(NOTE: I originally wrote this about a month ago, and there's a happier, less bitter update at the end of this.)

     My favorite show on TV is It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. One of my favorite episodes is "The Gang Broke Dee," in which, after years of constant put-downs and denigration, Dee finally just gives up and sinks into despair. The episode begins with a black screen, and the sound of Dee sort of moaning and chewing. Then we see her shoveling "trash cake" into her mouth, her hair dirty and messed up, food all over her face. She just doesn't give a shit anymore. Doesn't have the energy to defend herself. The rest of the gang is staring at her in perplexity and disgust, even though THEY are responsible for her sorry state.
     Well, that's how I feel about my job as a library tech right now.
     When I first interviewed for my current position, the Principal at the time specifically wanted someone to come in and revamp and revitalize their sorry little library. It was the smallest in the entire school district. It was originally a shop room they stuck some low shelves in. She wanted a dynamo to bring it alive and make the students want to use it. I worked my ASS off for 8 years doing exactly that, and I feel like I have done a really good job.
     One of my first challenges here was getting the English department's old textbooks and English novels OUT of the library's storage room, so we'd have room for actual LIBRARY STUFF here in these cramped quarters. There was no real work-space, so I re-configured things, even made trips to other schools who were surplusing furniture, and picked up a large work desk, and some other pieces to give the library what it needed as far as workable space and storage. And the Principal at the time was very supportive, and appreciative of my efforts.
     When I started here there were about 5,000 books in the library, which is WAAAY below the district average. 
To put some perspective on it, the recommended state standards are 20-25 books per student, and we only had 4 books per student.
     Now there are over 10,000 books in the collection, which means I have helped to DOUBLE this library's collection of books. Almost all of that has been done through labor-intensive donation drives, fund-raisers, and writing funding requests to parent organizations. We are still far below the state recommendations, but we were moving in the right direction.
     And students really use this little library! When I started there were about 8 "regulars," and aside from that it was a ghost town.
     Now it is routinely PACKED with students, especially in the mornings when over 80 students are crowded into this small facility that only has seating for 44. Circulation has more than tripled.
     But over the last few years I've been getting less and less support for the library's needs. The district eliminated all but ONE of our credentialed Librarians, which puts a lot more pressure and responsibility on the library techs, like me. But I've worked hard to convince my fellow techs that we need to step up our game and be willing to take on extra tasks, and do some of the "credentialed Librarian" duties, for the sake of the students. Because if we DON'T get proactive, the district might eliminate US, too. A lot of ignorant people seem to think anybody can run a library, that it's just checking books out and sticking books back on shelves.
     In the vacuum left by the eliminated Librarians, some of the library techs (especially the newer ones) were really struggling, 
so I've been working with another experienced (and awesome) library tech to create a new "professional development community" for library technicians. The two of us are coaches for this program, and we've organized two very successful professional development days for our fellow techs so far. We're all working hard as a group to learn more and share ideas, and make our libraries dynamic and exciting and user-friendly for the students.
     I just want us all to band together and make everyone else in the school district aware of what an important and enriching resource the school library can be.
     But like I said, the past few years have been rough. The library gets forgotten a lot, and given a patronizing pat on the head and a distracted, "That's nice, dear."
     I've been lobbying for more space, and a better facility for years. Recently, they said they were going to have a bunch of new shelving built in the library's storage room, and the library work room. I was a little confused at first, telling them that we don't need extra shelving in those back rooms, the set-up back there right now is good for library storage and library work space. I said I was concerned that adding extra shelving back there would actually decrease my already small amount of work space. The Principal (new one, not the same one who hired me to revamp and revitalize the library) kept saying, "Trust me, you'll love it! It'll be great! We're gonna get you all set up."
     At one point I said,
  "Hey, you're not gonna take that space away from ME, and give it to somebody ELSE, are you? Because the library is short enough on room as it is!"
     "What?! Huh? Not that I know of!"
     And being naturally trusting and STUPID, I believed him. And I was given one day to "temporarily" move all of my library stuff out of the areas they were putting the new shelving in. But they kept assuring me the new shelving would be GREAT.
     So I currently have extra carts, boxes, and stacks of stuff all around the circ desk, and even blocking a door and a walkway. "Temporarily." Except today I overheard the guy in charge of the shelving construction say something that indicated it was for TEXTBOOK storage, and that this had been the plan all along.
     I confronted the Principal again, and he stammered a little, but finally admitted that yes, they "may" have to use all that new shelving for textbook storage for other departments.
     Now I realize how stupid I was, that it was ALWAYS the plan to dump a bunch of textbooks back in here. In the little bit of space I had for library storage and library work space. They just didn't want to have to tell me, because they knew I would not be happy about it. I just wish they'd been honest about it from the beginning.
     So... now I don't know what to do with all this stuff I suddenly have no space for. My bulletin board and display supplies, my book processing materials and equipment. I literally have no idea what to do with all of it. Dump it in the trash?
     To add insult to injury, they are also considering giving my office to a "Community Liaison" or the "RTI Specialist." But when they first brought that up, they were referring to it as, "That room." I was like, "Um... 'that ROOM' is MY OFFICE."
     Our current Principal is someone I get along with personally, but unfortunately he is not a reader, not a book guy, does not see the importance of a library.
"Everything's online now, the newest technologically advanced schools don't even HAVE libraries," 
is something he is rumored to have said to several people. I don't find it hard to believe, because I've heard him say things like this in the past, and I think we've all known people like this.
     In my experience, it seems like there is a lot of weird & short-sighted ignorance in the generation somewhere between mine and my parents'. People who are so gobsmacked by technology that they think any new digital format will REPLACE standard time-proven formats, rather than exist happily alongside it. 
The kids and teens I work with definitely want access to both print AND digital format books. And when I ask them, their preference is always overwhelmingly for the actual printed page. 
The library of the future will still look like a library, it will just have extra tech included in it. And human beings will always need and want the physical communal space in a library (public and school) to explore ideas, work together, escape the world, concentrate, etc.
     I work with teenagers every day, and they're just as likely to play old-fashioned card games with a real deck of cards as they are to playing games with their digital devices. They shift effortlessly between the ancient and the cutting edge. It's no big deal to them.
     I can see that the Principal feels a little bad about pushing the library into an ever smaller and smaller corner, but that doesn't make it any better. He does not deny it when I suggest that he may ultimately be trying to eliminate the library altogether. It is nowhere on his list of priorities. Library services are taking a giant step backward here. After everything I worked so hard on for the past 8 years.
     I give up. Tired of all the advocating, preaching, educating, and overachieving.
     I get it. Libraries are boring and dumb. People who work in libraries just sit around reading magazines all day, and anybody, even a volunteer or student or nimble monkey can check books out.
     Besides, everything is online now.
Books are dead. Libraries are a thing of the past.
(I must just be imagining all the kids that swarm in here every day, using every inch of this facility for a million different things, asking for reading suggestions, printing homework, doing research, learning, etc.)

     I'm just gonna go bury my face in a delicious box of trash cake and moan for a while.

UPDATE: It's a week later than when I first started this post, and I have since accepted a lateral move to a high school that is three times the size of this school, and has a giant old library with really neat 1930s art deco styling. I hope whoever follows me here in this tiny little make-shift library brings a love of reading and literary culture and a lot of energy to fight the good fight. These kids deserve so much more. Now that I'm further away from it, I don't take it personally, and I know everybody has different priorities and different focus, but it is a real shame.

FAN SERVICE: not just for manga anymore

          The first time I noticed the term "fan service," it was on the back of a manga volume in the junior high library, in context like, "rated T for teen because of violence and mild fan service," or something to that effect. I had to ask a Japanese teacher friend to explain it to me. Not just because she's Japanese, she really was the biggest manga fan I knew at the time.
          She explained it in terms of Japanese boy bands, saying that it's when the boys pretend to be "romantic" with each other on stage, even though they're not really gay, or not really involved with each other. They just do it because their fans are mostly teenage girls who WANT to see them kissing or whatever. They just do it for show, to please the fans.
          It also applies to comics, like when they show female characters flashing their panties for no apparent reason. It certainly doesn't further the plot. It's just "fan service."
          Just now I was leafing through the new August 2011 VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates), and noticed a review that stated of a certain book, "gratuitous sexual crudity, female objectification, and fanservice may make this book a hard sell to parents and librarians." There was that damn phrase again! This time boldly smushed into one single word. And it was not even a comic book, it was a teen novel.
          I don't know how long they've been trotting this catchy term out in book reviews intended to help us library folk with collection development. Seems a little pretentious, doesn't it? They drop that term like we're all supposed to know what it means. Drop it like it's hot. Even though I DO happen to know what it means, I can guarantee you that plenty of other library people do NOT.
          In case you're wondering, the book tagged with "fanservice" in the new VOYA is The Robot by Paul E. Watson. It's about teenage boys who encounter a "super-realistic, sex-bomb of a robot, with no underpants..." I'm not even kidding.
Can you believe they did NOT put the robot chic with no panties on the cover? 


          This post is dedicated to Julie, who understands personal filth, and also likes peanuts.

          When it's finally time for my lunch break, I put the closed sign out, turn the main lights off, and retreat into the narrow little storage/workroom at the back of the library, locking the door behind me.  That way I don't hear the phone, or the walkie-talkie, and even if someone brazenly demands that a custodian unlock the library to track me (or something I'm in charge of) down, they will be foiled.  There is no sign of me.  Short of a family emergency or a terrorist attack, I AM NOT TO BE BOTHERED.
          In my secret Library Cave it's just me, whatever book I'm currently reading, my snacks, and a cup of coffee.  Perfect.  The book is the most important element.  That, and the silence.
          The problem is that I'm not good at covering my tracks.  I usually don't put much thought into what to eat at work, so it ends up being whatever unhealthy, messy thing I happen to grab on the way out the door.          
          And I have two speeds: "On," and "Off."  Which means when I'm "Off" (during my lunch break), I am REALLY off.  Meaning I toss food wrappers on the floor because it would be too much effort to throw them away.  And if crumbs and globs tumble to the floor I just ignore it.
          And then there are the frequent ant invasions.  I don't blame the ants, they're naturally attracted to sticky crumbly food messes, and I leave plenty of those.
          Here's where the peanuts come in:
          Anthony's birthday was circus-themed, so we had lots of unshelled peanuts to snack on, so much that I ended up with several bags of them after the event.  I took some to work with me and stashed them in the back storage/workroom.  When I'm reading during my lunch hour I don't want to have to put my book down, so I ended up clumsily breaking into the shells with one hand, gobbling the peanuts, and making a mess of the shells all over the floor around me.  There's no trash can back there, because I don't want it to look like I actually eat lunch there.  It's supposed to be my secret hideout.
          But I spent several days in a peanut-eating frenzy, scattering crushed bits of peanut shells all over the floor, and just kind of never cleaning it up.  I don't know why.  I guess I was just way more focused on the book I was reading.  It looked like rats had gotten into the storage room.  What human being would make such a splintery, shredded mess all over the floor?
          When my lunch break was over, I'd get up, look down, and think, "Gross!  Somebody should clean that up..."
          One day I showed my Student Library Aide the workroom, because he had to help me get some boxes from back there.  He stopped, noticing the organic mess around the small table and chair.
          "Wow...  Somebody made a real mess back here!  What are all these peanut shells...?!" he asked innocently, perplexed and seemingly affronted.
          My face flushed red, and I felt like a teenage boy whose mother had discovered his hidden stash of (gay) porn.
          I confessed quickly that it was actually ME who made that mess, and immediately got down to business moving the boxes, trying to distract the lad from thinking too much about how disgusting and trashy Mr. Kovac is.
          Later I went back into the workroom alone, staring at my filth and wondering why I'm like that.  My mom is very tidy, my dad is very tidy, and they certainly tried their best with me.  My husband was very tidy when we first moved in together, but slowly my tide of clutter and careless filth overwhelmed and defeated him.  (He's still alive, but not as tidy.)
          It didn't occur to me until the next day that even though I was embarrassed at having my mess discovered, I STILL hadn't cleaned it up.  The only reason I even thought about it was because miraculously, overnight, the mess had been totally cleaned up by someone else!  The carpet was vacuumed, no trace of peanuts or shells remaining.  I realized the custodians must have discovered my terrible secret at last, and added that back workroom to their nightly cleaning route.
          The shame hit me like a punch to the chest.
          Every day now, whatever mess I make back there is cleaned up by morning.  Did they tell anybody?  Do they even care?  This is an exceptionally clean school, so I'm afraid my trashiness MUST stand out.  I should change my behavior, become cleaner and pick up after myself.  Eat less weird candy and snacks.
          But here is what my secret hidden workroom desk looks like right now:
Bag of Peanut M&Ms and Cracker Jacks (Halloween leftovers), and a truly disgusting mug of mostly-eaten potato soup, with trash stuffed in it.  When I finally cleaned it out, I discovered MOLD growing in it.  Yay!

Wrappers from the Mexican peanut candy I stole from the Edgar Allan Poe "Dia de los Muertos" ofrenda.  Also Peanut M&M wrapper, dirty napkins, stray paperclip and some kind of dark yarn.
           At least there's nothing on the floor, though.  Well, maybe a few broken shards of pretzel crackers.  If questioned, I will suggest that rats must be living in the Library's air-conditioning ducts.

(Follow-up topic: PEANUTS.  Is it simple coincidence, or fate that leads me to eat so many peanut-related foods?  First peanuts in natural form, then Peanut M&Ms, then Mexican peanut candy...  Why is this a theme in my life lately?)


"Apply critical thinking, students will!"

          Every day in the school bulletin there's an "ESLR," which stands for something like, "Expected... Student... Learning?  Rutabaga?"  I don't know, some public educational doubletalk like that.  ANYWAY, the ESLR of the day is always worded in this awkward way that makes it seem like Yoda is saying it.  Bugs the crap outta me.  For example, the latest one:

(Yoda's version)  "ESLR of the Day: Apply Critical Thinking and Communication Skills Students will: ready, write, listen and speak with comprehension and clarity"

          If I were to correct it with my red pen, I might put a semi-colon before "students will," and eliminate the colon AFTER "students will.  Plus I would change "ready" to "read," because that's obviously a typo.  Then it would read:

(My corrected version)  "ESLR of the Day:  Apply Critical Thinking and Communication Skills; students will read, write, listen, and speak with comprehension and clarity."

          That's better, right?  Not that I have anything against Yoda.  Really, he's a sweetheart.


Gotta keep things fresh in the 'brary.
          When I started working here I thought it was weird that we had this big Whiteboard right behind the circulation desk.  Then eventually we found cool ways to use it.
          The "Coming Soon" wall is very popular with our students.  We highlight the series they're most frantic for.  They check the Coming Soon wall all the time, and let me tell you, we'd better have these books the DAY they're released.
          The most annoying part of maintaining it is figuring out the series #.  For some reason a LOT of teen and YA series don't want to make it CLEAR what # each book is.  I'm assuming it's a marketing tactic, so readers don't get put off by a book clearly marked "#9" or whatever, if they haven't read the 8 ones previous.  Anyway, sometimes I have to check Amazon and even the author's website before I find the #.
          Our students very specifically want to read series in order, starting from #1.  When I was a kid, I didn't mind reading #3, then backing up and reading the first two.  I thought it was kind of cool, almost like turning them into prequels.


          Because of our lack of any book budget I try to get my coworkers to donate their books to our library.  A teacher friend of mine just brought in two giant bags full of science fiction, all hardback.  Some of it was totally awesome vintage stuff, which I immediately covered with those nice mylar book jackets. 
          My favorite is Science Fiction of the 30's, compiled by Damon Knight, copyright 1975 Bobbs-Merrill. 

          It collects stories and illustrations originally published in the 1930's.  A lot of the illos are lame and/or too dark, but I found one that's a keeper.  It's from a story called "The Mad Moon," by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  Here 'tis:
The captions read: (L) "Get Out! Beat it! Scram!" he shouted at the giggling, gibbering creatures--
(R) The great, idiotic heads, the silly grins, and giggles--those giggles would drive him crazy.

          I'm keeping that one for myself.  It's too fragile and cool.


          I'm so excited.  While processing new* books so they're ready on Monday for the first day of school, I discovered that in Alexandria's "Items" window, if you click on the Categories tab you can put a bibliography heading/title in the "Bibliography" field.  This changes EVERYTHING, man.
          I love creating and maintaining bibliographies, and I make bookmarks with them, small enough to print 3 per sheet on regular-size paper.  But that means I can only fit so many titles per list.  I have a few "expanded" lists (sci-fi, and horror), which I do a tri-fold thing for.  But that takes up a whole sheet per list.
          I really like doing unusual subject lists, like, "Recommended if you like Tim Burton," or "Read the Movie," or "Frequently Challenged and/or Banned Books," but those subjects aren't going to already be in the MARC records.
          This is why the "Bibliography" field I discovered is exciting.  For example, I was processing a copy of David Brin's The Postman, so I put "Read the Movie" in the Bibliography field.  That's a new list I'm working on, and I can tag as many books as I WANT with that heading!  And at any time I can call up a complete bibliography just by typing "Read the Movie" in a keyword search.
          Trust me, this is RAD.

*Most of them aren't really new, they're donated.  Because we have exactly $0 for a book budget.  But at least they're new to us.  And I clean them and put protective film over the covers.