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.
|This was my idea, with books on the Ferris Wheel, and books as roller coaster train. I just found a good simple carnival silhouette online, and replicated it with banner paper, prefab "books," copy paper, and a big black pen.|
|This was my idea, too. Isn't it nice? Doesn't it tie the "fair" theme in nicely?|
|Countdown: "11 more days 'til the book fair!" (I update the number each morning)|
We got a cheap little round blackboard for less than $2 at Michael's for the countdown.
|Various little bunny figurines and eggs donated by the previous Librarian who is still my friend, and by my mom. Who is also still my friend.|
|Tough to find rabbit or bunny books in a junior high/high school library. So we have the emotionally scarring Watership Down lurking at the bottom of the display, beneath cheerier titles like Peter Rabbit and Bunnicula.|
|Egg wheel from my mom. That ties Easter in with the fair theme! It's all cohesive. And before you say, "No, it's not! What about that Birding book?" let me interject that birds fit the spring part of our theme. COHESIVE.|
|Week 1: The Silver Peep|
|Week 2: The Blue Peep|
The penultimate Peep was discovered after about 7 minutes.
The final Peep, though, I inadvertently hid VERY well, apparently. It was sitting on a very bottom shelf in the corner, atop a book on Egypt. This was the black Peep, so it was harder to spot in its shadowed location.
|Week 3: The Black Peep|
|"Read, Know, Grow," plus a sneak peek at the upcoming book fair|
I just printed the letters out using the "Curlz" font on green paper.
I also printed out some sneak preview pages from the Mrs. Nelson's Book Fair website. We're hosting one of their fairs the last week this month, right before we all go on spring break.
By the way, the background on this bulletin board is striped because I didn't have enough of any one of these colors. Time to hit the school supply store, again.
After spring break the only things I'll have to change right away are the Easter Eggs and book fair preview pages. That'll buy me some time.
Our district is planning to lay off all the credentialed Teacher Librarians again this year. They threatened that last year, but this year the general consensus is that it will really happen. By law the district has to keep ONE Teacher Librarian, but how effective is that going to be, for 18 school sites? Please. Anyway, this will mean all of us Library technicians will have almost no support at all, and have to establish new parameters as far as what we're willing to do, and what we're NOT. Some services will have to go by the wayside. One person can only do so much.
Anyway, that's one of the reasons I'm thinking bulletin board decorations may be low on the priorities list when we get back. There's already lots of angst and drama and resentments brewing. Easter Bunny better bring me some f*cking Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs.
"Ofrendas are an essential part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. The word "ofrenda" means offering in Spanish. They are also called altares or altars, but they are not for worshiping.
Ofrendas are set up to remember and honor the memory of ancestors."
|"Lenore" painted on the mysteriously squished side of his skull|
|I love the colorful tissue-paper flower garland|
(I don't know why it is that we school employees tend to flaunt safety so much. I don't even HAVE a ladder in the library, so I end up balancing precariously on book carts, or even stacking a little rolling library stool on top of a chair on top of a table to reach the higher bulletin boards. We received a flyer by email a few weeks ago with the slogan, "A chair is not a ladder!" showing how to use a stepladder correctly to reach things, and reminding us to be very careful. I tacked it to the wall in the back room and ignore it every day.)
|Skulls, pictures of the deceased, offerings of food, candy, and drinking water, even flowers and ravens!|
Mr. Poe is dressed in my own clothes, and it felt weird shoving his stiff, awkward limbs into my shirt and pants. It felt sort of like dressing a child or an old person. He was so uncooperative I had to pop his hands off and re-attach them after I got the sleeves on. (I don't think you're allowed to do that with kids or old people.)
|The main bulletin board|
|Banned Books Week SIMPLIFIED|
In case you can't read the dialogue, it goes like this:
BOY: I don' get it-- Are we banning books?! Is that a good thing?!
GIRL: No! Banned Books Week is about exercising our FREEDOM to read.
GIRL (continued): It's about CELEBRATING all the wonderful books that some people are trying to keep us from reading, just because they don't like the IDEAS expressed in them.
GIRL (won't shut up about it!): Libraries believe in protecting INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM!
BOOK: I'm just a lil' book with some BIG IDEAS! Don't ban me just 'cause you don't agree with me!
GIRL: Save the books!
BOY: Read an "endangered" book today!
|"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself"|
The first sign reads, "Some people are trying to keep you from reading these books... These books have been challenged and/or banned from school and public libraries across the nation."
The cabinet is unlocked, and I encourage students to check out any books they find interesting.
|The Library Key!|
|"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone from here,|
either write things worth reading,
or do things worth writing about."
The quote I borrowed is from one of our morning bulletins last year. I usually just roll my eyes at the "quote of the day," but I really liked this one.
I'm gearing up for Banned Books Week next week, so all the other displays are about that. We just did 7th grade library orientations, and I braced myself for the onslaught of questions. Sure enough:
"What is Banned Books Week?"
"What does 'censorship' mean?"
"Are we banning these books in OUR school?!"
"Why do we celebrate Banned Books Week?"
(More later on that...)
Our Back To School night is tonight, and just yesterday my principal emailed me to say, “The library will be open for Back To School Night, right?”
I thought, “Crap...” But I wrote back, “Does that mean you’d LIKE it to be open?”
So of course she wrote back, “Yes, I think that would be nice.”
I sarcastically referred to myself as “Your Humble Library Servant,” and she responded by signing off as my, “Grateful Master.”
The trade-off is that I get to leave early on Friday, which is a nice carrot to dangle before my scabby pink nose.
But today I will have spent THIRTEEN HOURS at work by the time I leave. Hello, Baby Jesus? Are you watching? I hope so.
So here I sit.
Back To School is when the parents have to go class-to-class, meeting all their kids’ teachers, so there’s not really free time left for the library. But having said that, I’ve already had about 20 kids in here (mostly 7th graders), and several parents, and it’s not even half over. I’ve even been checking books out. So... you know, whatever. I guess being here won’t KILL me.
I’m processing new books. A bunch of Kerouac one of the teachers donated. That was exciting because being a college prep school with some angsty philosophers, I’ve been asked for Kerouac before, and been empty-handed.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE:
Just had a chatty father in here. He’s a nice guy, and came to my last signing at a local comic shop (promoting issue #1 of The Royal Historian of Oz) with his daughter and son. His daughter is now my 3rd period Library Aide. He wanted to tell me he read my graphic novel, Skelebunnies, and thought it was really funny. That happens to be my filthiest work to date, and I WARNED him when his daughter came up to me at the signing with it, but he said it was okay. I signed it, “I’m terribly sorry for all the horrible things you’ll see in this book.” For example, my parody of Hello Kitty/My Little Pony, which is called “My Little Penis.”
And now that poor girl is my Library Aide. But she’s cool enough not to be scared. Or scarred.
Her father said she was excited to get to be my Library Aide. I had her doing non-fiction inventory today for a full hour, which is tedious, and she didn’t even complain. She gets bonus points for that.
45 minutes left of Back To School Night. Sigh...
One of my teacher friends is telling her new little 7th graders that I’m a writer/artist, so they’re coming in and asking me about it. Since I’m not in self-promotion mode when I’m at work, and I’ve been at work for ALMOST 13 HOURS STRAIGHT, I’m kind of slow to respond. I’m like, “Oh, well, yeah. I write and sometimes illustrate comics.”
The tiny 7th graders stare expectantly while I continue methodically putting clear contact paper covers on the new paperbacks. I finally catch on.
“Oh! Did you want to see some of them?”
So I show them Wonderland and Royal Historian, which are the only 2 school library appropriate things I’ve done. We do NOT have Skelebunnies in the school library.
I notice a kid reading my hand-made poster explaining the “spine label” and “call number” of a library book. Good. Every child should learn what a call number is.
Hey Tommy! I have to do a short presentation on the future of public libraries for one of my classes on Wednesday. I wanted to just ask you what you thought about the current library situation (for example: cutting back on days, not providing as many books, etc) and what direction they will be going. Also, your views on the same situation but for school libraries.
|The deformed narwal's inability to turn the book's pages, |
due to its lack of appendages, represents... um...
the library's inability to provide adequate service due to
lack of funding & staffing.
Julie and I were just talking about how neither of us (she's a public library Director) have an actual book budget, and have to depend on donations and grants, and any other "special funding" we can drum up to buy new books. Every year we have to get craftier and craftier. It's not like there aren't many new books being published! The Young Adult market is exploding all over the place. How are we supposed to keep up?
We almost had some Librarian positions cut this year, but an old dude retired, so the district just left that position open, and didn't lay anybody off. But that means the Librarian I work with will now have THREE schools to bounce back-and-forth between, instead of just two. I'm by myself two to three days a week as it is.
Oh, and even though they keep cutting library staffing and funding, they still expect the same level of service, and the same quality and quantity of materials. It's very frustrating.
I know we're a vital part of the school. There are even times every week when we have to put out the "library full" sign. The most we can handle at one time is 40 students. (We have the smallest library in the whole school district)
Tomorrow is Back To School night, and I've been asked to keep the library open for it. I guess I'll put a big box on the counter that says, "HELP! Please donate!" and beg for money all night. Maybe I should wear rags, and smear some coal on my face.
As far as what direction I think libraries are GOING...
I fear it will be more of the same over the next couple of years, if not worse.
Maybe the problem is that we library workers are too solitary and too meek. Especially solitary in the public school system, since we're literally by ourselves most of the time, and others have little or no idea how much we actually do. And many library workers tend to be quiet and uncomplaining. Do we need to complain more? Do we need to continually march up to the office and loudly gripe about how many kids were in the library that morning, and how the phone kept ringing, and all our "other related duties" (lost-and-found, lockers, computers, copier, etc)? Sometimes I get a little sick of hearing the 3 main office ladies bitch about how so-and-so doesn't want to help out on the phones, or so-and-so isn't good about taking her break on time, or whatever. There's THREE of them up there, and ONE of me in here.
It's like how the Republicans usually get their way because lots of them are louder and meaner than most Democrats.
I have allowed myself to go on a bit of a tirade here, I guess. I did not write all this in response to that former student's question, I swear!
My favorite is Science Fiction of the 30's, compiled by Damon Knight, copyright 1975 Bobbs-Merrill.
|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.