Friday, October 26, 2007

Harry Potter Party

We are finally joining the trend and hosting a Harry Potter party this weekend, as a sort of early Halloween celebration. D and I have had a grand time shopping for decorations and favors and figuring out just how much junk food thirty 'tweens can consume in four hours. We have cauldrons full of candy and glow-in-the-dark necklaces and temporary tattoos and plastic Harry glasses, and games and puzzles and plans for a costume contest...

Of course, the amount of fun we're having planning this makes me worry. (Because it wouldn't be me if I didn't.) If we're enjoying this, are the kids going to? Or are we going to have thirty sulky twelve-year-olds stuck in a dark room looking at a movie they're all seen twenty times, and wondering why these stupid adults won't just let them stuff their faces with pizza and then go home. And possibly making obnoxious comments from the corners and throwing popcorn at each other.

Since this is the first event we've ever done for kids in this age group, I suppose I should expect that we're going to make mistakes. But on the other hand I'm afraid that if we screw this one up we won't get another chance, because the word will go out that we're a bunch of boring old ladies without a clue. And there is so little for kids to do around here. There isn't even cow tipping, despite the vast quantity of cows, since getting to the cows requires transportation, and twelve-year-olds in the country don't have that. I want to give them a chance to have some fun, and to escape their parents the way we did when we were that age by meeting friends at the mall or the movies, and also remind them that occasionally the library can be a pretty cool place.

Which is a heck of a lot to have riding on a party involving kids in funny glasses and grown ups in really big pointy hats.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Librarian's Workout

D and I have decided to write an exercise book. We're going to call it the Librarian's Workout. Among other things, it will include:

  • Hauling boxes of books from one end of a building to another.
  • When that gets boring, hauling piles of books without the boxes. Preferable large and awkward piles.
  • Moving shelf-loads of books from the bottom of an eight-foot shelf to the very top, and then moving the books from a top shelf to the very bottom.
  • Running up and down aisles with an armload of books, looking for the spot they belong while trying not to be away from the desk for more than thirty seconds.
  • Escorting demanding patrons from one section to another, and then another, and another...
  • Nodding and smiling at the demanding patrons while escorting them (this move for advanced librarians only).
  • Beating one's head against the wall. Hard.
I realize that this job isn't as physically demanding as, say, construction work. But anyone who thinks that librarians just sit around and read all day is sadly deluded. By the time we were done setting up for the book sale last Friday, every one of us had aching muscles and assorted bruises and bumps. Weeding can give me sore legs and shoulders for days. And I burn more calories nodding and smiling at idiots than I would if I went out and bought a treadmill.

Which is probably a good thing, since some days the only way we can get through it without screaming is by the judicious application of chocolate. Sometimes in alarmingly large quantities.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Goodbye, Baby

I did it. I sold the Packard. So I am now packard-less girl, I suppose.

It's off to a good home with one of my several sets of adopted grandparents from the Packard Club, and J is about as excited as a kid with a new puppy at Christmas. Which is good to see, and I am glad someone is going to do the work it needs and keep it cared for.

But that didn't make it any easier to watch it rocket off down the road with someone else behind the wheel.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Why is it that the slowest driver on the road, the one who has fifteen cars stuck behind him going twenty miles an hour under the speed limit, always has at least three NASCAR decals on his rear window?

Just another baffling aspect of life in the south, I guess.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Things I have done recently that are not in my job description

  • wash lettuce
  • choose upholstery fabric that no one can object to
  • move chairs and tables
  • repair chairs and tables
  • find a stuffed rat
  • escort a Big Red Dog to story time
  • tell a member of the prison work crew how to get a library card
  • debate the merits of various heads for a scarecrow
  • act like a jumping bean
  • care for a (deeply perturbed) box turtle for seven days
  • arrange for the removal of a petrified lizard (no, I was not going to do it myself)
  • carry a dragon through three states in twenty-four hours
  • bake more cakes than you can shake a stick at
  • make friends with local clergy, unreconstructed rednecks, fourteen-year-olds, and convicted felons
  • bully someone into cutting an access door to a crawl space, supporting a library policy, and finishing electrical work that should have been done twenty years ago
  • learn about manga, wikis, yeast-free recipes, teen psychology, the Fourth Circuit Court, feral cats, storytelling techniques, county government, and how to spend $2500 on DVDs in forty-five minutes

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Teen Trax

Patrick Jones is speaking this morning at "Teen Trax," which is the SC State Library's latest entry in their series of yearly mega-workshops. It is fabulous to be in a room full of people who are (at least mostly) as enthusiastic about teen services as I am, and I've gotten some fabulous ideas about what the library can do to build relationships with teenagers.

Like adding comic books to the collection. Which I would love to do. There are so many great reasons for it, not least is that teens (especially teen boys) love them. They're cheap, they're bright and attractive, and, as Patrick pointed out, they weed themselves. Which, after our current experience with weeding all five libraries, is a major point in their favor. But those pesky adults get in the way. The board would question the decision to include them in the collection, the acquisitions librarian would mutter about them, and every staff member and adult in the library would think it was evidence of my poor management skills. Encouraging teenagers to come and be teenagers in the library is not something the rest of the staff want. We don't even have a teen area in any of the branches, with the possible exception of Jefferson, which has a teen corner of the porch. In the spare space we can carve out of the children's area, of course.

Adults seem to get in the way of teen services all the time. Some of it deliberately - let's not spend money on them, let's shush them when the get rowdy, let's limit what they can borrow and what they can look at and when they can do it. And some of it is unintentional, but no less damaging. How do so many people forget completely what it was like to be a teenager? Was it such a horrible experience that they have blocked it out? Or so awful that they don't want to be reminded of it by interacting with anyone in their teenage years ever again? I hated being a teenager. It was a gdawful few years. Which is all the more reason to try and make the experience slightly less horrific for the poor kids who are going through it now.

Patrick has some great points, and some of the resources like the 40 Developmental Assets and Frontline's study of the teenage brain are fascinating. If you have the chance to hear him, I highly recommend it. (Or you could just go read his book.) But should it alarm me that I got these insights from a man whose life-defining experience was being bled on by Rick Flair in 1992?


I’ve been spending my spare moments recently musing on the incredible variety of debates the presidential candidates are trotting through with their dog-and-pony acts. I was just starting to develop some opinions on the new theme of special interest groups hosting debates to discuss “their” issues – the MTV-affiliated homosexual debate, the Latino debate by Univision, and most recently the debate on African-American issues.

Then on NPR this weekend I heard a social scientist discussing his latest findings, which indicate that – completely unconsciously – white teachers tend to punish black students more harshly for behavior they see as rowdy or disruptive. And I started thinking. This expert was talking about the fact that, despite the supposed gains in race relations over the past fifty-odd years, there are still prejudices buried in the American psyche, except now they are subtle and so deep down that even the people who have them don’t always realize it, and that causes things like the unequal treatment of students according to their race. So I wonder. How much of the gains in civil rights and equality for all are counteracted by this trend of separating everyone according to what group they’re a part of? We may not have debates for women’s issues and men’s issues, but at the rate we’re going they can’t be far behind.

Yes, of course, these groups have their own concerns that don’t necessarily affect the rest of the population. But they also have a heck of a lot more concerns that are exactly the same as everyone else’s. We all wonder about social security, and child care, and health insurance, and probably have strong opinions on abortion and the environment and the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. But instead of having a series of general debates, where the candidates field questions from anyone and everyone about every kind of issue, we have to split it up. So we focus on our differences. And on top of that, we make it seem as though the issue of gay rights or illegal immigration or equality doesn’t affect anyone except the small percentage of the population that identifies itself as gay, or Latino, or African American. Why?

Now, I know that my fifty-something African American neighbor has some unique concerns about the way this country is going. And so does the family of recent immigrants from Mexico who live next door, not least the evangelical Christian pastor who is the head of that household. But as a young Jewish woman, I also have concerns that are different from those of my neighbors. What are we going to do, break it down so that every possible permutation of a special interest group has its own debate for the candidates? No wonder the campaigning is starting so early. At this rate, the candidates are going to have to travel door to door in packs, until they talk to every single individual man, woman, and possibly child in the United States.

There is also the minor detail that just because I am not part of one of these groups in no way means that I am not concerned about their rights or the issues they want to raise. Some of my best friends are gay, as is a cousin, and I know that I will never be able to attend their weddings. I will never have the joy of watching them unite themselves with the person they love. Why can’t I go to a debate where I am able to hear the answers the candidates give them when they ask why that is? And when my friends who are treated as second class citizens (or worse) because they speak with an accent, or because of the color of their skin, ask what the candidates are going to do about the issues that matter to them, why can I not be a part of that audience to express my anger and my shame that my country treats human beings this way? Is it not supposed to matter to me, because I’m not gay or Latino or black?

We spend so much time lamenting the lack of true equality, and then we throw any chance of it right out the window when we rush to separate ourselves from our fellow citizens as much as possible. I am sure that the various groups hosting these debates for the candidates mean well, and I know they want to hear the answers to the questions affecting their constituency. But I know that some of those questions are of interest to me as well, even if I am not the same race or age or sexual orientation. And I also know that I would not have even thought of attending the debate hosted by Tavis Smiley, no matter how interested I might be in the opinions expressed, because the effect of a debate that so carefully limits its audience is to make anyone who is not expressly invited to be part of that audience feel unwelcome. I would have felt deeply uncomfortable walking in the door, just because of the color of my skin. And isn’t that precisely what the men and women who fought for civil rights were trying to stop?