As I was about to go to sleep last night, I had the following thoughts:

Wait.  I’m going to see those high school classes THIS Monday?  Not NEXT Monday?

Hang on.  My branch manager never replied to the email I sent her last week about the visits.

But the school librarian never wrote back to confirm the visits, either.

I still have to memorize my booktalks!

I still have to finish packing my suitcase with books and handouts!

Oh, crap.

So, yeah.  Tomorrow is going to be a hell of a day.  Unless, of course, it isn’t.  So if y’all will excuse me, I’m spending whatever time I’m not watching the Emmys trying to cram a bunch of booktalks into my head.

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Yesterday I went back to work where the day was pretty much normal, except for once or twice when I talked for too long of a stretch at a time and then started having a coughing fit.  At which point I had to run into the office to drink some Vitamin Water and take a lozenge.  [Note to library patrons – I’m sorry that my 30-second answer to your question was insufficient.  But does rehashing the same question over and over again until I’ve stretched that 30 seconds of talking into 5 minutes of talking really help ANYONE, in the long run?]

Today was a much busier day.  First, I spent the morning doing opening procedures at the branch while regaling my colleagues with some of those “annoying patron” stories from the day before.

Then I went to my local middle school where I’d scheduled visits with several 7th grade classes.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the teacher of my 11:00 class said that I shouldn’t come because they were giving a test that period.  Well, maybe I won’t say “surprise” as much as “dismay and disappointment.”  Unfortunately, in the many years that I’ve been visiting classes in schools, this kind of thing happens a lot.  For whatever reason — last-minute schedule change, administrative decision, or bad behavior on the part of the students — I’ve been told multiple times that I’m not going to see the class that I scheduled time away from my library to visit.  Part of the problem was that I’d already met several kids from this particular class at my library, and I’d promised them that I was going to see them this week to talk to them about books and help them get their fines cleared.

After a few minutes of tense negotiation between the school librarian, the assistant principal, and the teacher, I was allowed to speak to the class for 15 minutes instead of my usual 45.  Which means that I only got to fulfill half of my promise; I got to talk to them about the fine-clearing program, but had no time to talk about my suitcase full of books.  *SIGH*

Oh, and as an aside, it seems that the test the students were taking today (and which their substitute teacher only learned about this morning, for reasons that defy logic), was the newly-instituted “measure of student learning” test.  The way my boyfriend explained it to me is that this is a pre-test that will be compared to a second test that will be given at the end of the year, and that a big piece of the teacher evaluation will ride on the improvement between these two scores.  So … isn’t it in the teachers’ best interest to have students do as badly as possible on this first test, so that they’ll show remarkable signs of improvement the second time around?  Just wondering.  Anyway, I guess I don’t feel so bad that the students had less time to take the test today.  Perhaps it’s part of a larger plan, or the greater good.

Anyway, after my shortened session I had some time to kill, which I spent in the school library trying to be inconspicuous (even though some of the kids recognized me).  Then I went to speak to my second class, which started off a little loud and rowdy but I soon discovered was full of constructive energy rather than destructive energy.  They were attentive and enthusiastic enough that I had time to talk about 8 out of the 10 books I brought with me, and after they swarmed over my books and my handouts at the end of the class, I was filled with a very warm feeling that I had actually done some good and inspired an enthusiasm for reading.  Then I left the classroom and rejoined the school librarian, who asked me how the presentation had gone, and I told her that they were my favorite class I’d visited.  She said, “Really?  That’s our WORST class!” which I guess is why it’s sometimes better that I don’t go in with high or low expectations and just try to evaluate each class for what it is at that moment.

Anyway, then it was time for lunch, then desk time, then a teen program where I had to raise my (barely-repaired) voice a few too many times because the kids were getting a little boisterous.  I dunno … does trying to get your friends in a headlock count as “boisterous”?  So the program ran long and I got out late, but then I came home and my boyfriend and I went out to dinner.  Where I regaled him with wacky stories about my day.

Tomorrow should be a pretty normal day, with just one program in the afternoon.  Then starting next week … more class visits!  Where I can inspire audiences with my booktalks!  Be a celebrity!  And get some frigging job satisfaction!

So after a rather frustrating visit to the chiropractor’s — my back and shoulders were all tensed up, go figure — I headed downtown for the booktalking presentation.  I was one of three presenters, and we all got to the venue about fifteen minutes early.  Added to the chaos of the planning of this event (first we were told 11am, then we were told 1pm, then we weren’t told how many booktalks we were each expected to present), there was no one to introduce us at 1:00.  So one of our higher-ups who presumably had just come to sit in the audience ended up introducing us.

All of the booktalks went well.  I presented one, my colleague who had asked me how many we were supposed to prepare did one, and my other colleague presented three.  Like I said, some prior coordination would have helped us all get on the same page.  Anyway, we had extra time left when we were done with the booktalks, so we turned the rest of the time into a Q&A session with the audience.  That also turned out surprisingly well, because the school librarians in the audience had lots of questions about the books we presented and about booktalking in general.  So we shared some booktalking ideas with the audience, and then after we were done several of them came up to us and asked us for more booktalking tips and reading suggestions (nonfiction books, especially memoirs, were a big topic with this group).

So then we were all done.  Which meant it was time for me to purchase and consume large quantities of food.

I went to a place that I’d been dying to try — Shorty’s Authentic Philly Steaks and Sandwiches.  It’s on 9th Avenue just south of 42nd Street.  If I was there on a regular day I might have just tried one of their lunch specials (i.e. a beer and a cheesesteak), but this wasn’t a regular day at all.  This was a booktalking day, which means that after living on the barest sustenance of a tiny granola bar for half the day, my desire for food was not unlike that of a stoner in a Twinkie factory.   Which means that I went to Shorty’s and bought …

  • A traditional cheesesteak with (God help me) Cheez Whiz and onions
  • A chicken cheesesteak with provolone and mushrooms
  • A “roast pork special” sandwich (roast pork, broccoli rabe, provolone, and au jus)
  • Italian fries
  • Yuengling rings

Now, before you try to make a citizen’s arrest on behalf of the obesity police, I should add that some of this was for lunch, some of this was for dinner, some of this was for my boyfriend, and … uhm … some of this was for my cat?  Yeah, still, it WAS way too much food.  I came home, scarfed down the chicken sandwich with some fries and some rings, and then took a nap shortly afterwards.  Now I’m up again, but even though I ate that sandwich hours ago I couldn’t even THINK about having anything else for dinner.  So I’ll have to hold off on the Cheez Whiz experience until later in the week.

Okay, now it’s time for coffee and American Idol.  Tomorrow it’s back to my normal work schedule, back to my patrons, and back to the public service desk.  Hmmm.  Is this what Clark Kent felt like when he put his glasses back on?

First, I’ve got my chiropractor’s appointment, in which there will be buzzing, and cracking, and a discussion of how much my spine is still out of alignment.  Last week she said that I used to be about half an inch off, and that now I’m about a quarter of an inch off.  She also said, “You know, you walk straight when you leave here” which I chose to interpret as an implied criticism that she thinks that as soon as I leave her office I spend the rest of the day jumping around on trampolines.

After the chiropractor’s appointment, I’m heading off to present my newly-written booktalk of Anya’s Ghost to a DOE meeting of (I think) school librarians and administrators at our central (and very fancy) library.  On the panic-inducing checklist, we have the fact that I just wrote this booktalk last week (so my brain is still making last-minute changes while I’m trying to memorize it), I’ve never presented this booktalk to ANY audience before, my presentation will be to a group of adults (which is WAY more challenging than booktalking to teens), and they changed our presentation time from the morning to the afternoon (which means I’ll have to break my usual “no eating before booktalking” rule or else risk keeling over during my presentation).

I’m still figuring out what I’m going to wear that will be loose and comfortable enough for the chiropractor’s visit, presentable enough for my booktalking presentation at that DOE meeting, and appropriate for both warm and rainy weather.  Oh, and it has to be an outfit that goes with sneakers.  Which, in turn, have to be presentable enough for me to wear at that fancy library without being tossed out of the building for looking like a slob.  Urgh.

I also need to figure out what I’m going to eat this morning that will prevent my stomach from growling during my presentation, that will fuel my brain enough that I won’t faint during my presentation, AND won’t upset my stomach.

Yeah, this bodes well.

Anyway, after my part of the presentation is over I need to wait for a good point to make a graceful exit from the meeting, which is always awkward.  Then I’m taking the rest of the day off, because that felt like a more rational decision than using an hour of lunch time and an hour of travel time, and getting back to the branch at a ridiculously late hour.

Good, calming thoughts are always appreciated …

I’m winding down from the natural high of class visit season.  There’s all the energy spent on memorizing booktalks, rushing back and forth from classroom to classroom (I couldn’t do my visits in the school libraries this year, unfortunately), packing and unpacking my suitcase, standing, walking, and talking-talking-talking-gulping down some VitaminWater so I don’t lose my voice again-TALKING-TALKING-TALKING.  Then there’s the post-class visit exhaustion.  Then there’s the “Hey!  You came to my school!  Do you have a copy of that book you talked about?” period of instant celebrity.

FWIW, that recognition and appreciation is one of the main reasons I haven’t quit this job yet.  I don’t get it all the time, but when I DO get it, it’s like food for my soul.

The other night I spoke to a group from the local community board (education / libraries / cultural affairs committees) on the topic of promoting literacy in relation to computers.  So there was already a bit of tension in the premise — they thought that computers and electronic devices were the bane of literacy, and I was going to discuss ways in which computers and electronic devices could be used to promote literacy.  But first and foremost, it was a literacy discussion, so my master plan was to open with a booktalk.  According to the feedback I’ve received, my audience was “positively spellbound” by my presentation.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF BOOKTALKS, DEAR READERS???

As usual when booktalking in front of grownups, the time leading up to that presentation was spent feeling like I was going to hyperventilate and/or throw up.  But the end result was that the presentation went very well, and that’s what really matters in the end.  Well, that and being spellbinding 🙂

Anyway, I guess as a result of the cumulative effect of running around like a chicken with my head cut off for two weeks, I pulled something in my lower back yesterday afternoon while I was at work.  So I spent yesterday afternoon and all of today staggering around like someone had driven several railroad spikes into my lower back.  If we were back in olden times when we were actually fully-staffed, I would have called out sick today.  But because I represented 50% of our librarian population today and because my most popular program (XBox Kinect games) was taking place this afternoon, I dragged myself in to work this morning.  Although I did miss my bus because it took me so long to get dressed.  You never realize just how much you use your lower back muscles to put your socks on until you’ve got railroad spikes sticking into you like a pincushion.  Anyway, I’ve just got to get through the rest of today and tomorrow (heating pad and ibuprophen at home, portable heating pad and ibuprophen at work), and then I’ll have most of the weekend to recuperate.

Other developments:

I entered four pictures (one for each category of interiors, exteriors, details, & people) into the Open House New York Focus on Architecture photography competition.  Looking at the work of my fellow entrants, I am both intimidated and impressed.  I don’t expect to win, but it’s still cool just to compete.

Operation Anime is no longer sending out DVDs — the “temporarily down for maintenance” message has been up on their website for so long that the temporary seems indefinite.  Which means that in order to continue my library’s anime program, I now have to scour the library catalog looking for Funimation titles, hope I can get DVDs in time for each showing, and then send an email to ask for permission to show each one.  Major.  Frigging.  Hassle.

My copy of the DVD of the film Hanna that I’d ordered finally came in.  It was exciting, with lots of super-cool action scenes, fighting scenes, and scenes featuring Eric Bana in various stages of undress.  Yowza-yowza!

I had a weird conversation with a patron today that could have gone terribly wrong, but it didn’t.  A woman came in and said she wanted to give someone else permission to use her library card — the guy she brought to the library with her.  I looked up her record and saw that the guy was someone who had been barred from the library system, and the note made specific reference to the fact that he wasn’t even supposed to be in the building and mentioned the special investigator who was assigned to his case.  I recognized the name of the patron from a staff email that said he’d tried to use this woman’s card several days ago, and the fact that he was barred from our system.  I explained the situation to both of them, and reminded him that he was barred from all branches in our library system.  He said, “Okay.”  Then there was an awkward pause, and I added, “… including this one.”  At which point he said okay again, told the woman that he would wait for her outside, and left peacefully.  The whole situation was really weird, especially since I didn’t know WHY he had been barred from the library in the first place (i.e. – “Barred from the library for leaping across the desk and attempting to strangle a staff member who told him that he needed to leave the building”).  Anyway, I only learned the reason why he was barred from the library hours after my encounter with him.  Let’s just say his girlfriend might be VERY interested in knowing the reason that he was barred in the first place.

Okay, I’m just about ready to drop.  Time for bed, and a heating pad to help ease the pain of those railroad spikes.  More updates soon, Dear Readers!

I have several classes coming in from a local high school today, tomorrow, and Friday.  Which, according to the weather report I just saw on TV, will be filled with Spotty Showers, Muggy Showers, and Autumn Showers.  Bleah.

Most of the time I visit the schools instead of them visiting me, presumably because of the hassle of getting permission slips together or some such thing.  But now that we’re in our lovely new building, I’ve been getting a lot of interest from schools who want to bring their students to our library.  On the one hand this is great — less travel for me, and hopefully a boost for my circulation statistics.  But it also means that I have to do a lot more prep work in terms of booktalking.  If I’m visiting a school, it doesn’t matter how many classes I’m visiting over how many days, I have a set number of books in my rolling suitcase and I can just keep booktalking those same books over and over again because I’m holding onto them for the duration of the visits.  But when a class is visiting me in my library, I’m assuming that the books might be checked out at the end of the period, which means I have to have more books ready for the next class.  Which means I currently have three stacks of books in my office, and I’m in the process of trying to cram all of those booktalks into my head.

The first booktalks of the year always fill me with the most agita.

Oh, and these are going to be afternoon visits instead of the morning visits that I prefer, which means that I won’t be able to follow my usual “no eating before booktalking” policy because otherwise I might keel over from hunger in the middle of my presentation.  So right now I’m having a granola bar and a cup of coffee.  Let’s see how long they stay in my system.

Okay, back to memorizing …

Okay, maybe I was a little hard on the hatchet team.

Because these were the very people who ordered material for our new building, and who stood up for us when certain administrators told us that we wouldn’t be allowed to put ANY of our old books on our new shelves.  They were sympathetic to our struggles with the ever-changing rules, and supportive of our efforts to spirit our favorite books away to other branches.  They also told me that they were going to entrust me with the weeding of my own section.

Oh … crap.

Well, on the one hand it’s nice to know that people think you’re responsible enough to do something.  On the other hand, weeding my section made my final day in the building about twice as busy as I’d expected.  And, you know, it also gave me that whole “Sophie’s Choice” vibe.  The silver lining behind that cloud was that as I weeded I got to “rescue” more books, some of which will be making their way to a shelf near you.  I reassigned a bunch of poetry books (Walter Dean Myers, E.E. Cummings, Billy Collins, Cynthia Rylant, Pablo Neruda), reading list titles (When I Was Puerto Rican, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self), and some of my favorite booktalk titles (Bat Boy Lives!, Mommy Knows Worst, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets).

Anyway, so now we’re officially out of the old branch, except we’re really not.  We’re going to be going back and forth taking the last of our files, cleaning out our desks, and saying our goodbyes to the old homestead.  I walked around at the end of the day taking pictures with my iPod for my virtual scrapbook: