Hello again, Dear Readers. I’m here.

In fact, I’ve been here all along.  I just haven’t been HERE.  You know what I mean.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a series of triages.  I look at the teetering pile of TBR books on my desk, and the size of the pile intimidates me.  So I think … which should I read first, and which ones can wait?  If it’s something I’m reviewing for a magazine deadline, that shoots to the top of the pile.  If it’s something I think I can read quickly (like a graphic novel or a children’s book), that moves it up a couple of spaces.  But meanwhile, some of the lower books on the pile just sit there for months, until I can’t renew them anymore and I just end up returning them so someone else can read them.

It’s kind of the same with anything I create that I think is worth sharing.  I took these pictures / came up with these concepts / thought of a weird or funny or smart idea.  How should I share it?  I used to share things here on this blog, post photos on Flickr, produce podcast episodes, and create blog posts and other social media for my library.  Lately I’ve been less productive, so while I’m still creating content it’s all been going through my library channels instead of those other places.  Which sucks for you, Dear Readers, and I apologize.

There are a few things that I would only share here, though, and those tend to be the more honest things I share.  Some of those are library-related, which ties into the reason I created this blog in the first place.  So today, let’s talk about some library honesty. (more…)

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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.

Lord, it’s been busy.  I haven’t even finished uploading my vacation pictures yet, because there are just SO MANY of them to go through.  Plus, that task got pushed to the back burner because when I got back to New York I had to deal with so many other things …

I had to get my new glasses and sunglasses, which set me back over $2000.  Yes, my frames are stylish, and yes, I discovered that when you get frames from Tiffany’s they come with so much robins-egg-blue STUFF that you can show the whole world just how fancy you are:

Tiffany Stuff

But even though my frames are fancy, it’s the lenses themselves that really set me back.  This explains why I can’t afford to get new glasses as often as I probably should.  But damn, I’ll look good on my way to the poorhouse!

My website problems that were plaguing me for over six months are now finally RESOLVED.  The latest (and clearly the greatest) tech guy finally found the last of the malicious code that had been screwing up my website.  The poisonous stuff that had been hiding in my files was written in Arabic, so between that and the mysterious traffic that had been coming my way from Russian websites, it seems that I was taken out by an international conspiracy.  So the good news is that my website is back up and running again!  The bad news is that I now have to jump-start myself and get back into the habit of creating new content every week.  Oof.  I feel like I need an oil can for my brain, because damn, I feel rusty!

Work has been work, and over the last two weeks since I’ve been back I’ve had to deal with most of our heavy hitters in the problem patron department.  The cat lady has been in with her cats that she’s not supposed to bring into the library, and Crazy Ms. H. with her endless DVD holds, and the Evil Weatherman has been ESPECIALLY evil, and on and on.  It’s like the bus from Crazytown was circling the block and waiting for me to get back from vacation so it could drop everybody off at our doorstep.  Then again, I also believe that ice cream trucks lie in wait for me just so that they can play their annoying jingles when I walk by.  So you might want to take my paranoid theories with a grain of salt.

We’re working on a library-related project that set me going back through my 2014 and 2015 photo archives to track down pictures.  That led to an evening of deep melancholy as I sat at my computer scrolling through pictures of Logan (my late great cat), my mother’s memorial service, and all the weird stuff I found in my mother’s apartment.

I’m also getting ready for class visit season, because outreach is great!  And we need to strengthen our alliances!  And boost our stats!  Woo-Hoo!  Well, most of the time as a young adult librarian, my outreach consists of picking 10 books that I can booktalk backwards and forwards, packing those in my rolling suitcase along with a boatload of handouts, and telling all my classes about those ten books over the course of several days or several weeks.  Well, because of an emergency situation at my biggest local school, I just learned that their library is being used as emergency classrooms so I can’t conduct my class visits there.  Instead they want to bring their classes to visit my library.  That will be great for my circulation statistics, but it’s much more labor-intensive for me and for my staff, and it also means ordering multiple copies of books in advance and cramming WAY more booktalks into my head since I have to be prepared to talk about new books with every class.  So this is gonna be exhausting.  I mean, the good kind of exhausting, but STILL …

Okay, there’s other stuff going on, too, but that’s the stuff that’s sticking out of my brain right now.  I promise that I’ll share more updates when I have time, more photos when I have time, and more thoughts when I have time.

A week from now we’ll be headed south, on our way to Charleston and Savannah to enjoy some relaxation, history, she-crab soup, and mint juleps.  But in the meantime, here’s what’s been going on …

Work has been the usual mix of mind-numbingly boring transactions mixed with a sprinkling of unstable and eccentric patrons:

The Spanish Civil War Guy still comes in periodically, but he usually chooses not to deal with me and goes to one of my colleagues instead.  Ever since he told me that our staff were “fucking incompetent” several years ago I haven’t been willing to do him any favors.

Mr. Mensa will ask me questions, half of which will have solved themselves by the time I walk over to his terminal (hint: if you keep creating documents that are hundreds of pages long, then yes, they will take longer than usual to open).  The other half are things that leave me bewildered, saying things like, “What do you MEAN, your email won’t let you log out?”

The Cat Lady still comes in, sometimes alone and sometimes with covered carriers which might or might not contain cats.  She then calls us over to help with one thing (like a print job), but once you walk over to help you get sucked in by her gravitational pull and suddenly she’s telling you her views on Hillary Clinton, or showing you the personal documents that have been emailed to her, or showing you a picture of a guy who claims that he’s her brother but couldn’t possibly be because of the shape of his eyes.

The Creepy Old Flirt is at it again.  Last week he said to Betsy, “You’re so efficient.  No, first you are pretty, THEN you are efficient!”  And that’s the kind of thing we dream of hearing … right, ladies?

We checked in on my brother yesterday, and when I was walking through the kitchen I peeked in his freezer.  By which I mean ONE of his freezers, because let’s not forget the standing freezer in the living room which my mother had us buy because there wasn’t room for both of their food anymore.  Anyway, he had FIVE QUARTS of ice cream and THIRTY Italian ices.  I should probably mention that my brother lives alone and is not in the habit of hosting ice cream socials.  Oh, and I also noticed a pile of newspapers he’d put on the floor of my mother’s room and spoke to him about recycling them.  I know that my brother has great hoarding potential, but dammit, it’s not gonna happen if I can help it.  Of course, “if I can help it” is an intangible thing.  Because if I had any say in things, there wouldn’t have been even more packages of newly-purchased DVDs in his room.  *SIGH*

In happier news, because of my boyfriend’s summer school schedule we’ve been able to spend more of our weekends together.  That means we’ve been able to eat out at exotic locales: Raceway Diner sign Then today we went out to Hawk’s place for a Meatapalooza experience!  We tried out our new Waze app to get there (D. recommended we get it for our drive down south, and this was our first big test run).  The app was very helpful in getting us to faster routes and showing us real-time traffic hazards, and I earned us some points by reporting a few hazards myself!  After you’ve used the app for at least 100 miles you can customize your avatar, which is how we ended up on the road with fellow Wazers that looked like zombies, ninjas, cats, etc.: Waze Then we arrived, and it was time for meat, meat, and more meat: Meatapalooza (Hidden under the hamburger bun: even more meat!)

We also played a rousing game of Exploding Kittens.  I backed them on Kickstarter, and this week my package arrived! Exploding Kittens Well, technically I got one regular deck because I thought I would play it with my teens this year, and I also got one NSFW deck in case I was going to play with grownups.  And clearly, this was a grownup game … Playing Exploding Kittens Anyway, we had lots of fun and the game was a hoot!

The rest of the week I’ll be tying up some more loose ends, running programs, catching up with a doctor’s appointment, dealing with website issues, and having a book committee meeting.  But after all that is done, it’s mint julep city for me!

I had several meetings in midtown this week, which led to some professional brain-stretching and made for some good food shopping opportunities afterwards.  In one meeting we acted out a “Readers Advisory” skit I’d written for a future YA training.  It went very well, in part because some of the volunteers who played small but entertaining parts (the Overly-Friendly Old Lady and the Rowdy Teen in particular) really got into their roles.

A few recent wacky patron interactions from the service desk:

A middle-aged woman standing in front of me answers her cell phone that keeps ringing.  She yells into the phone, “CAN YOU PLEASE PICK UP YOUR PANTS?  YOUR PANTS KEEP CALLING ME!”

The Creepy Old Flirt is trying to sweet-talk one of our clerks who’s sitting at the service desk a few feet away from me with this awkward one-sided conversation: “HI, SWEETIE PIE!  ARE YOU MY SWEETIE PIE?  THE ANSWER IS NO, BECAUSE I DON’T CUT THE MUSTARD, RIGHT?”

Our library has been retaining heat in the worst possible way.  I think it was getting up towards 70 degrees outside today, but it was over 83 degrees inside.  An old guy who came to our movie screening today (which was in our program room, which is even more airless than the rest of the building) started yelling at me as soon as he walked in about how it was “hotter than Hades in here,” and could I turn on the air conditioning … you know, like I didn’t think of that.  I explained that we had no control over the AC, but that it was run through a thermostat.  I didn’t share the explanation that I heard the other day, which was that the cooling system would only be triggered if the temperature OUTSIDE got hot enough.  Which … is … ridiculous if it’s true.  It also begs the question of why we have several thermostats indoors if they’re just going to be ignored.  But you know, whatever.  Far be it from me to question such things.  The library staff will just have to switch to beach party attire for the foreseeable future, or at least until the AC kicks in.

Tomorrow a Big Thing is going to be happening, so I thought I’d try to clear through some more recent events first before I report on the Big Thing …

Weird library patron quote of the day: an older man was checking out a stack of DVDs, and he said, “It’s raining out.  Nothing better than to have some scotch and watch a movie.”  I’m not sure what the correct response was supposed to be — was I supposed to say “I agree with you completely”?  Or “I hope you’re not planning on drinking in the library”?

I finished writing that article and sent it in.  Deadlines are my friend, which means that if I have a deadline hanging over my head I will get tasks done.

That being said, sitting down and making phone calls to try to figure out what’s wrong with my new-and-improved security settings on my hacked website is proceeding at MY pace … which means I keep putting it off.  Of course, to get this done, I need to be at home in front of my computer.  Whereas too often I’m at work, getting ready for work, unwinding from work, or spending the energy I have on the stuff that’s under deadline.  And so it goes.

I’ve been working with my Teen Advisory Group on several future blog posts, one tying into that article I just finished (so all of that work could be channeled into several different uses) and one tying into the topic of a meeting I attended this week.  Content, content, content …

I’d checked out a film noir called Ace in the Hole recently because I’d heard great things about it, and it really was amazing.  Billy Wilder made this after Sunset Boulevard (which I also love), but this one was not well-received when it first came out.  I’m not an enormous Kirk Douglas fan, but he was very well-suited to the part of a newspaperman who will do anything to claw his way back to the top of his profession.

Ace in the Hole

The dialogue was AWESOME, and I laughed out loud at a lot of phrases that were antiquated, over the top, SUPER-manly, or all of the above.  Lines like:

I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.

I met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you – you’re twenty minutes.

When they bleached your hair, they must have bleached your brain, too.

I also learned some memorable trivia on IMDB about several of the actors in this film.  On Jan Sterling:

On a never-aired game show pilot called “Talking Pictures”, Jan revealed that when her dramatic studies ended in London, she traded her ticket for her flight home for passage on a steamship, in order to use the difference to purchase some lingerie. The original ticket was for The Hindenburg. Thus, she claimed that fancy lingerie saved her life.

And on Iron Eyes Cody, who played the uncredited role of Indian Copy Boy:

He was the man who played the Indian that sheds a single tear for a blighted American environment in “Keep America Beautiful” ads that ran from 1971 into the 1980s.

which is especially important in conjunction with …

Iron Eyes Cody was born Espera or “Oscar” DeCorti, the son of two first-generation immigrants from Italy. In 1924 he moved to California, changed his name from “DeCorti” to “Corti” to Cody, and started working as an actor, presenting himself as a Native American.

That sound you hear is my head exploding.

Oh, and this movie also included one of the strangest “goofs” I’ve ever seen listed on IMDB:

Rattlesnakes will not eat bubble gum, in or out of the wrapper.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Photo updates soon.  News about the Big Thing also soon.

I had a very positive experience and a very negative experience while working at the library yesterday, both while working in the children’s room.  Of course the positive one was brief and fleeting while the negative one went on for a while … (more…)