Dealing with teens at the public library can range anywhere from rewarding to entertaining to frustrating.  A few recent examples …

I

The artist leading our drawing workshop is talking about incorporating different clothing and hair styles into character drawings.  Talking to one of the girls in the group, he says, “For example, you have big curly hair, kind of like Lucille Ball.”  The girl looks at him and replies, “Who’s Lucille Ball?”  I’m standing at the back of the room taking pictures of the program, and the artist and I look at each other over the kids’ heads and start laughing (this often occurs when he brings up “grown up” topics).  The girl says, “Never mind.  I’ll google Lucille Ball on my phone” and proceeds to do just that so she can compare hair styles.

II

A high school class is visiting my library, and after my presentation is over the students browse our collection while I walk around asking if anyone needs help finding anything.  Most of their questions are general, looking for things like sports books and “scary books, especially about ghosts.”  But then in the midst of these questions a girl comes up to me and says, “Do you have any books about rape?”  I take a moment to absorb this, and ask her some careful follow-up questions.  Is she looking for fiction books on the subject of rape?  Is it okay if the book turns out to be about that subject but it isn’t immediately obvious because it’s revealed later?  After I get a yes to those two questions I ask if she’d read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and she had.  I think about it for another minute and say we should look for All the Rage, which I read recently.  She asks me if the main character is the one who gets raped, and I say yes.  The problem is that I can’t remember who wrote it, so we have to walk all the way across the building so I can look it up in the catalog.  I see that we do have a copy, so we then we walk all the way back so we can find it on the shelf, and then back to the desk to check it out.  She tells me that she’s looking for more books on the same subject, but by this time we’re back at the service desk and I’m surrounded on all sides by other staff members.  I don’t know how forthcoming she wants to be about asking this question of other people, and I’m not about to say SO HERE’S HOW YOU CAN FIND BOOKS ABOUT RAPE in front of my colleagues.  So I take the copy of All the Rage that I’m holding, flip open to the copyright page to look for the subject headings, and see that it has “rape — fiction” listed.  I point this out to her, and tell her that when she has time she should go to our catalog and do a keyword search for those terms.  I’m pointing at the words, but out loud I’m saying, “so you type in that word, and then fiction,” because again, I don’t want to broadcast her question.  I walk back to help the other kids look for sports books, scary books, etc., and by the time I return to the service desk she’s decided that she doesn’t want the book after all and she wants to return it.  There’s this weird vibe going on, though, because apparently she’d had some kind of a conversation with D. while I was away from the desk, and HE’S the one telling me that she doesn’t want the book.  I don’t know what she does or doesn’t feel comfortable saying in front of him, so I take the book to check it back it, and I say, “Just remember what I told you.  Go to our catalog and type in those keywords, okay?  Because there are a lot of books around on that subject, and that’s how you’re going to find them.”  She leaves, and I ask D. about the conversation that I’d missed.  He says that she told him that she didn’t want that book, and when he asked if he could help her find another book, she mysteriously replied that she was interested in books on “that subject” but she wouldn’t tell him what the subject was, and THAT was the weird vibe I felt when I returned to the desk.

Brief tangent:

After over 20 years as a librarian, I’ve had plenty of experience with patrons preferring to ask their questions of one staff member rather than another.  You’re busy dealing with something, your colleague who’s a few feet away says, “Can I help the next person on line?” and the patron doesn’t accept the offer but just keeps looking at you instead.  Then you finish what you’re doing and take their question.  Sometimes you have absolutely no idea why they chose to wait for you.  Do they dislike your colleague?  Do they have a secret crush on you?  Do they feel that you’re better at answering information questions?  Was it racially motivated?  Is the patron hard of hearing and didn’t realize they were being called over?  But sometimes the nature of the question gives me a clue.  Like, they tell my male colleague that they’d rather wait and talk to me, and then when they ask me their question it’s about menopause or sex positions or something else of an explicit / embarrassing nature and I’m like Ohhhhhh, THAT explains it!

Okay, tangent over …

So D. asks me if I’ll tell him what the question was about, and I say that I’ll tell him after the class leaves.  After they leave and I’m walking through the office he asks me again, and I tell him.  His first reaction is, “So, do I need to take care of someone for her?” and it takes me a moment to realize he’s asking about beating up the hypothetical guy who hypothetically raped this girl.  And, while I definitely appreciate both the sentiment and the “guy” reaction of “what’s the problem and how can I fix it?” … well, it’s not exactly our place to issue vigilante justice.  But this led to a follow-up discussion about dealing with reference questions of an explicitly or potentially personal nature.  I said that as a librarian, my job is to answer the patron’s question, and that I should be as helpful as possible but I shouldn’t be prying into someone’s personal life.  Now, believe me, there are PLENTY of times that patrons tell me WAY TOO MUCH personal information, which can make me feel depressed / disgusted / nauseated or worse.  I also know that just because someone asks for books that are depressing it doesn’t mean that they’re going to jump off of a bridge (I used to write lots of sad poetry when I was a teenager, and I will never forget the teacher who treated me like I was suicidal because of a poem in my journal).  And I ALSO know that if this girl is going to be reading fiction books about rape, that some if not all of them are going to include resources for rape victims … so IF she does need those resources, she will find them.  I also mentioned a reference transaction I once overheard between Captain Bringdown and a teenager.  The teen asked for information about STDs, and Captain Bringdown asked if he needed it to write a paper or if he needed it for personal use.  I almost threw him out of a goddamned window.

III

I spent an afternoon sharing social media stuff with my teens.  It was cool watching their reactions to the stuff that entertained them the most, including awesome quotes by Oscar Wilde, fake library events, an old Sesame Street video, John Green’s review of the Kendall and Kylie Jenner iPhone game, a shout-out to Narnia, and the 2016 Best Picture Nominees, But With Puppies.

On my free days I’ve been getting in a lot of walking outdoors, and I’ve got the sunburn and the sore muscles to prove it.  Over the last few weeks my boyfriend and I went to the Storm King Art Center in upstate NY (highly recommended for fresh air and culture!), and I went on several extended walks by myself.  One of them started in South Ferry and then continued up into Battery Park City and Hudson River Park, and the other one was through Inwood Hill Park and Fort Washington Park.

I don’t get to do as much walking when I’m at work (or I start to, but then my pesky patrons ask me questions which bring me back to the computer at the service desk).  So in order to make my step goals I’ve been lengthening my commute home at the end of the day by choosing to use train stations that are one or two stops away from my intended destination.  The fact that the train station that’s ten blocks away from my home just HAPPENS to be near a place that sells great burgers and shakes probably shouldn’t be held against me …

I’m getting ready to go to BookCon this weekend, so I’m firing up the librarian part of my brain.  And, you know, getting ready to pick up lots of book-themed free samples.  BTW, when I was visiting their website today to see what kinds of stuff I’ll find at the event, I came across one of the strangest weapons policies I’d ever imagined:

The following items are forbidden at BookCon:

  • Functional firearms (including air soft guns, BB guns, cap guns, paintball guns and pellet guns)
  • Realistic replica firearms (including reproduction, fake or toy guns that can be confused for functional firearms)
  • Functional projectile weapons (including blow guns, crossbows, long bows, silly string, slingshots, water balloons and water guns)
  • Sharpened metal-bladed weapons (including axes, daggers, hatches, knives, kunai, shuriken, swords, sword canes and switch blades)
  • Explosives (including firecrackers and fireworks)
  • Chemical weapons (including mace and pepper spray)
  • Blunt weapons (including brass knuckles, clubs and nunchaku)
  • Hard prop weapons (including props made of metal, fiberglass and glass)
  • Instruments that cause excessive noise levels like vuvuzelas, grenade whistles and grenade horns
  • Whips
  • Aerosol mustard

What the hell?  Vuvuzelas?  Aerosol mustard?  I’ll admit, these are all things I didn’t imagine could turn up at a book-themed convention.  Then again, if the con is being marketed as “where storytelling and pop culture collide,” I suppose that these loud / painful / unusual weapons could fall under the “pop culture” umbrella.

Speaking of books, I’ve been part way through several books for some time now, including (but not limited to) Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, and The Living by Matt De La Pena.  Last night (well, technically this morning) I finally managed to FINISH a book, which was The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith.  It took me a little while to wrap my head around it and unravel the storylines, but by 1:00am I’d finished the book and understood its awesomeness.

Pictures to come, and more comprehensive book reviews to come.  I mean, eventually, when I have some time to process and unwind for a little while.  Oh, and on a related note, I do have a week off in June, so that might be a good time to catch up with … you know … everything …

I know I haven’t posted any teen book reviews recently, but now that my committee work is done for a little while I had some time to catch up on reading for fun!

Nil by Lynne Matson Nil cover

I’d heard about this book from another librarian who told me it was one of her favorite teen books of 2014, and now I can definitely see why she loved it.  It’s the story of a girl who disappears one afternoon from a Target parking lot and finds herself transported to a very unusual place.  The island of Nil is populated by a variety of warm-blooded creatures, including cats, dogs, warthogs, hippos … and humans.  We see this amazing and dangerous place through the eyes of Charley, who just arrived, and Thad, who arrived 267 days ago.  This is a great page-turner filled with action, suspense, and romance, and it would be an excellent choice to recommend to fans of The Maze Runner.

Moon Knight: From the Dead by Warren EllisMoon Knight cover

This is a gripping and imaginative story about a masked vigilante with a black-and-white sense of justice.  The book is broken up into a series of stories in which we learn about Moon Knight and we see him use his detective skills, his fighting skills, and his mystical abilities to fight all different kinds of criminals.  He reminds me a lot of Rorschach from Watchmen, which probably explains why I found his character so dangerous and so appealing.  The artwork by Declan Shalvey is especially impressive, featuring black-and-white and color images that can capture the quality of a fever dream.  This is a Marvel graphic novel set in the Marvel universe, but you can enjoy it even if you don’t follow their other titles.

The Fourth Lion by Jeff Ayers and Kevin Lauderdale The Fourth Lion cover

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from co-author Kevin Lauderdale, but I warned him that if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t review it.  So you see, if I didn’t like it we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  Okay?  Okay.

This is the story of a group of high school students who find themselves tangled in an international scandal … but they don’t realize that at first.  All Jake and his sister Kayla know is that Jake’s best friend Amar has gone missing, and that there are several confusing aspects to his disappearance.  The first is that Amar lent Jake a very unusual laptop shortly before he disappeared, and the second is that Amar’s father (the Indian ambassador) doesn’t seem to be overly concerned that his son is missing.  As the story unfolds, the cast of characters slowly expands and we see the teens using their collective brainpower to try to unlock the laptop’s contents and to figure out what happened to Amar.  The story is both exciting and smart, and the teenage characters talk and act like actual teenagers.  By which I mean they spend part of their time using the problem-solving parts of their brains and part of their time getting pleasantly distracted by their romantic interests.  Readers will enjoy watching the teen protagonists use everything from modern high-tech skills to Sherlock Holmes stories in order to solve the mystery.

It’s one thing to come home from work and feel like taking a shower.  It’s another thing to come home from work and HAVE to take a shower, because the balmy 70-degree temperature outdoors translates to over 87 degrees inside my library.  Because, you know, it’s October and the air conditioning has been turned off for the year and nothing you can say will get it turned back on.  We’ve got all of our fans on, but they’re just barely keeping us conscious.  Anyway, we’ve been spending our days feeling gross and cranky.  And Lord knows, it’s not fun to be around us when we’re gross and cranky.

In other news, I’ve been keeping busy with class visits (I presented my booktalks to an ESL class today through a translator, which was a very weird experience!)  I still need to go through my photos from Open House New York, and that will take some time.  And speaking of pictures, my boyfriend booked us on a fall foliage cruise this weekend, so I’ll have many MORE pictures to sort through soon.  And I’m reading YA books for one committee, and then more for another committee, and the idea of reading grownup books ever again is going WAY down on my triage list.  This also means that I’ve been spending my time reading lots of awesome YA books, most recently including Girls Like Us by Gail Giles, which kept me wide awake (and crying) until 1:00 am.  Oof.

And speaking of which … time for more reading!

My vacation time so far has been spent doing a bunch of different things:

I read Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Roz Chast Memoir

I picked up this book with a mixture of interest and trepidation.  Interest because I’ve been a fan of Chast’s cartoons for years, but trepidation because I wasn’t sure how soon after my own mother’s death I’d be able to emotionally handle the story of her parents dying.  It was an emotional story, and while I did cry a couple of times I actually found the story more funny than sad.  FWIW, it actually reminded me more of my grandparents’ old age and deaths (in their 80’s in nursing homes) than my mother’s (in her 70’s at home).  There were a number of times that Chast’s stories hit very close to home for me, but I think I could handle reading it in part because I already DID handle this situation in my own life and I know that it’s over.

I read Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

Welcome to the Dark House

It’s a new YA novel that started off with an intriguing premise and an exciting story about nightmares, an essay contest, and an abandoned amusement park.  But then as the story wore on, it got progressively more frustrating.  I don’t know if the author plans to explain what the hell was going on in the sequel, but I’m not going to stick around to find out.

I started another YA novel: Hungry by H.A. Swain.  I can’t tell you much about it yet, but I can share an example of my awesome visual humor skills:

Hungry

[This picture features several things that make me happy — a “Kronie” from Jolie’s Sweet Creations and sandwiches from Num Pang]

Other than that, I’ve spent most of my time moving into my new (old) apartment.  I’ve been spending a lot of time dealing with the kitchen, since we have lots of cabinet space there so I can start putting stuff away:

Lined Kitchen Drawers

[lined kitchen drawers]

Filling Up the Kitchen Cabinets

[filling up the kitchen cabinets]

Washing the Rocks Glasses in My New Kitchen

[washing my mother’s “rocks glasses” in my new kitchen]

We also did a LOT of shopping — at local hardware stores for window screens, at Bed Bath and Beyond for lots of things we NEEDED, at The Container Store for … well, you can probably figure that part out.  We also went to Bob’s Discount Furniture to get a bedroom set, which was a very entertaining experience not just for the novelty of lying down and testing mattresses in front of a stranger (aka a friendly salesperson) but for the packaging on the bedcovers that came with that mattress:

Dust Mite Protection Barrier

[AAAAAH!  Look at the dust mite!  He’s shaking his little fist in frustration!]

Another positive aspect of moving is finding stuff that I knew was in the apartment SOMEWHERE:

Night Vale Bumper Stickers

[These Welcome to Night Vale bumper stickers were originally supposed to be part of a Christmas present.  Now they’re going to be Summer Reading Club prizes, instead!]

Overall, it’s been a positive and cathartic experience, albeit a tiring one.  I’m still off work for the next several days, so my boyfriend and I will get some more moving done this weekend and then I’ll have a couple of days to do some more setting up at the new place.

We’ve had a few derailments over the last few days, the worst of which is that our cat got sick to his stomach on Saturday night, and didn’t stop throwing up (etc.) until Sunday morning.  So my boyfriend and I both had a bad night’s sleep, what with getting up many times to check up on and clean up after the cat.  Sunday afternoon we spent at the vet’s office, where the doctor took some blood for testing and dealt with his dehydration.  The cat is mostly better now, as evidenced by his increased appetite and the strength with which he clamps down his jaws when we try to administer his antibiotics twice a day.

The good part (?) of being around the house more often than usual this weekend is that I got to catch up on some books and movies.  Over the last few days, I’ve finished reading several books, including Sick by Tom Leveen [a gruesome and exciting YA novel about zombies], I Can Barely Take Care of Myself by Jen Kirkman [a funny and frustrating autobiography by a comedian who is childless by choice], and Fractured by Teri Terry [the gripping sequel to Slated, one of my favorite teen dystopian novels].  I also had time to watch the DVD of the magic / crime heist movie Now You See Me, which held my interest most of the way but by the end was stretching my disbelief to the breaking point.

Today’s my day off, so in addition to bonding with the cat I’m catching up on household stuff like laundry while I’m making my favorite brisket recipe in the Crock Pot.  I also got some shopping done, and as soon as I’m finished listening to the latest episode of the Larry Miller podcast I’m going to get some more reading done.  The next items in my book pile are Asylum by Madeline Roux and Ghosts Know by Ramsey Campbell, both of which look spooky enough that I’m hoping that I’ll be able to booktalk them to classes or at least share them with my Teen Advisory Group.

The rest of the week should be pretty calm — I’m not going to visit that other school until NEXT week, at which point I’ll be busy again.  And then, coming soon — food pictures!  It turns out that I’ve been taking way too many pictures of food over the last month, and I might as well share them here 🙂

And speaking of food, the whole apartment smells DELICIOUS right now.  If nothing else will get the cat’s appetite back to normal, being surrounded by the smell of brisket for hours will definitely do it!

I know that I don’t post here as frequently as I should, but I keep coming up with ideas of stuff to write about, and then leaving posts in varying levels of completion.  I currently have four different blog posts saved in draft form, and this week I had an idea for a fifth topic I want to write about.  So you can all look forward to posts about Soviet sci-fi … or some of the more entertaining spam responses to my blog … or what it’s like to work with teenagers … or the future of library careers … or how I tested my love of bad movies by making myself watch a REALLY REALLY REALLY bad movie … or perhaps none of the above in case I get yet another idea that leapfrogs up to the front of the line.

Anyway, to get you caught up with some more stuff that’s been going on with me lately …

In addition to watching the bad movies that I love, I occasionally incorporate great movies into my viewing schedule, too.  Last night, my boyfriend and I watched Double Indemnity, which I haven’t seen in several years but which I love to pieces.  It’s so cool!  So dramatic!  So NOIR!  No, seriously, was this film sponsored by the venetian blinds council?  And I love the dialogue to pieces, even though the script is filled with lines that no one would ever say.

Double Indemnity

That’s a honey of an anklet you’re wearing, Mrs. Dietrichson.

I’ve also been catching up on a bunch of reading lately:

My Year of Flops: The A.V. Club Presents One Man’s Journey Deep Into the Heart of Cinematic Failure by Nathan Rabin (My list of bad movies I now need to see is growing by leaps and bounds.  This is a very dangerous thing.)

The New York Grimpendium: A Guide to Macabre and Ghastly Sites in New York State by J. W. Ocker (A curious and sometimes snarky guide to crime scenes, horror film locations, and more)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (After hearing lots of praise from all corners about this book, I decided that I had to check it out.  Well, I love mysteries, and I love unreliable narrators, so I love this book to pieces!  I think this is a great choice for reading, discussing, and dissecting.)

William and the Lost Spirit by Gwen de Bonneval & Matthieu Bonhomme (A teen graphic novel in which the title character goes on a magical adventure while trying to find his father.  This book is especially notable because the illustrations are lovely, because William learns a lot of hard lessons about how characters’ appearances are often deceptive, and …  because Prester John plays an important role in this story!)

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis (An illustrated book for older children in the spirit of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, written and illustrated by the creator of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip.  Yes, I ordered this book because I’m a big Pearls Before Swine fan, but the more I read this book the more I loved the sarcastic wit, the cute pictures, and the toughest librarian this side of the Pecos.

Flo the Librarian

Check out the Timmy Failure website to learn more!)