The ins and outs of a young library media specialist's life. Rock, rock on.

Monday, October 31, 2005

School Libraries Are A Funny Place

"I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Today I just wanted to comment on the differences between how people perceive school librarians (or any librarians, for that matter), and how we really live. Although I cannot say in all honesty that the librarians I know, myself included, are "normal", we are more normal than you'd think. We do have lives outside of the library that do not involve cataloging or the Dewey decimal system.

So take a minute and think about the librarians you might know. And despite their appearance, try to imagine hanging out with them. From what I hear, they're actually a pretty wild bunch.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween: The New Christmas

Christmas is the worst holiday of the year. That's right, I said it. Everything goes downhill from Thanksgiving until January 2, with Christmas Day as the lowest point in the year. It's expensive, guilt-ridden, and commercially depressing. I mean, even being in the holiday dumps is cliche now. Christmas is so over.

So Halloween has been declared the new Christmas. Now, I know Christmas has some catchy tunes, and eggnog is delicious, and it's probably a better holiday for money-makers... but I see it as our duty as adult Americans to ensure that Christmas is ousted as the biggest holiday of the year. Come on, you don't even get to dress up on Christmas.*

I read an article that said adult costume sales are up 6% from last year and that most people spend $50-60 on their costume. (Don't these people know the wonder of thrift stores?) You can even dress up your pets, if you're that kind of person. And you get bags full of candy from strangers, what other day is that socially acceptable? We need to take full advantage. I'm even thinking about having kids, just so I can dress them up and eat their candy.

Let me sum up: Christian holidays- out, pagan holidays- in.

*Unless you have season-themed sweaters. In that case, refer to my post from 10/26.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oh, hello again. It's me.

If you ask me what I have come to do in this world... I will tell you I am here to live my life out loud.
-Emile Zola

Come November, I will be 27 years old. For me, that is a scary thought. For you, maybe not so much. But in any case I have decided that this is the year to start living my life out loud. And not just in my writing. Socially, personally, and at school too.

I watch these kids every day and I think about how it seems so close to me, like I was just here myself. How did this happen? I'm sure every one of you reading this has felt something similar at some point, some kind of quarter-life crisis. Of course, no one ever tells you how they deal with it, and in fact, I am not going to either because... well, frankly, it would bore you. And that's not what I'm here to do.

Suffice it to say that I will be making some changes and reinforcing some of the better aspects of year 26. Maybe you'll notice, maybe you won't... but it's all about growth, right? Or something like that.

Look at me, with all this adult talk... Damn you, adultdom!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Get Your Geek On

If you have ever wondered what it's like to go to a two-day librarian conference, I can tell you from first-hand experience: it's total geekdom.

Now, usually I'm all about nerdiness and geeks in general. I like techies. I enjoy a nice pair of glasses. But I feel the need to set some guidelines, to clarify (and maybe justify) exactly what my love of nerds entails.

Some Geeky Things I Do NOT Love:

1. Those chains that hold your glasses around your neck. If you don't need your glasses all the time and simply cannot keep track of them, just take them off and put them in a case, fools.
2. Any floor-length dress that has a lace collar/flower print combo.
3. Dandruff.
4. Frizzy hair. I'm not talking about the "it's a little rainy out and my hair got frizzy" frizz. I'm talking about the person's hair in front of me during a lecture going down my throat when I breathe in because it's so large and has apparently never been brushed kind of frizz.
5. Jumpers and/or overalls. This should speak for itself.
6. People who feel it unnecessary to wear deoderant. Simple hygiene goes a long way.
7. Orthopedic shoes- these shouldn't even count as geeky, just old, but I saw so many at the conference I felt they were worth including.

These are a few major offenders. The types of things that give us nerds a bad name. It's not the pocket protectors- those are just protection, man. It's not our love of sitting in badly lit library stacks with ancient monographs- that's just cool. No, it's the people that insist on season-themed sweaters that drag us down.

I will admit whole-heartedly that I am a big nerd. But I saw a lot of these offenses going on at the conference and I am going to say right here and now that we librarians needs to band together to show everyone the cool side of geekdom. Get your geek on! (But in a cool way, please.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Never a dull moment here in library land.

This morning before school, the fun and games of library social time were rudely interrupted by a gas leak in the school kitchen. Can you believe it? The nerve of those lunch ladies smelling gas! I had to actually evacuate the library, kids were busy throwing their Pop-Tarts onto the library shelves, sneaking iPod headphones on when I wasn't looking, and frantically trying to finish their last game of Zombie Survival on the computer, seemingly unperturbed that the entire school might at any moment blow up. I, on the other hand, in my anxiety over their safety*, yelled at them to get moving and herded them like sheep to the auditorium. Where we proceeded to sit for an hour- them, happy and excited to miss first period, me, semi-bored, semi-uneasy about the halls being filled with flammable gas.

Anyway, then I started wondering- what would I do if there really was an emergency, like Columbine-style? Or an explosion? Or anything, really? Was there some kind of evacuation plan? Well apparently there is- we get the kids out and meet at Old Town Hall- but according to other teachers, there wouldn't be enough room for us all there and we wouldn't have any record of which kids were in the building and which kids we had managed to get out.

Good to know we're prepared.

*actually, more my safety than theirs.

Monday, October 24, 2005


If you are any kind of Tom and Jerry fan you’ll remember the episode where Jerry’s backwoods Uncle keeps stealing Tom’s whiskers to use as guitar strings so he can play Cr-Cr-Crambone. That’s what I feel like in the guitar class I am taking. Sans mustache, of course. Of course, learning to play the 6-string guitar at age 27 is no easy feat... I just really hate to admit I might do poorly at anything. I’m not used to things being difficult. Thus, my fingers have permanent deep grooves in them from practicing the four chords we have learned in class and I’ve managed to (sloppily) strum a very basic Stand By Me and Happy Birthday. Thrilling, yes?

I realized (while sweating with exertion over getting my fingers wrapped around the correct frets) that learning to play an instrument is a lot like writing. You play and play and play until something resembling a song comes out. I’d imagine it’s the same for most creative arts. Only unlike writing, the guitar does not come naturally to me. I don’t feel any pressing need to play. I just thought it’d be a fun hobby. Now it’s sheer stubbornness that will not allow me to fail at it. I’ll learn to play that damn thing at least as well as Jerry’s Uncle.

I’m making a promise to all of you: if I can’t produce an acceptable Stairway to Heaven by the end of December I will wear a mustache and sing Crambone in my library. During class. While being observed by the Principal.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Crabs Are Dead! Long Live The Crabs!

Friends, friends of friends, random countrymen:

It has happened. The last of the spider crabs has passed on to a better place. I would have held a mini-burial for him, but A) I am not reaching into the bottom of that slimy-ass tank and touching him, and B) most of his furry horrific body was already consumed by the puffer fish, so would it really be worth it?

My flags will be at half-mast today. As should yours.

Da Liberry's Back in da Hiz-ooouse!

Ok, I didn't post yesterday. So sue me. Who else can you honestly say posts every day? Actually, I didn't get one sad email from anyone wondering where the librarian was on the Thursday in question... no one concerned that perhaps I was taken out by the super-powered crabs, my body sliced into shreds by their razor-sharp pincher claws. No one the teensiest bit worried at my possible assassination by anti-library conspiracy theorists or my likely abduction by aliens. Come on people, where's the love?

I think maybe having a blog has caused my already inflated ego to reach epic proportions. But I'm working on three hours sleep here, give me some cred.

But now the librarian is back in the hizzy, ready to get down and dirty with the cataloging of audio books and the eradication of mold from the hallowed pages of my beloved texts.*

*Oh, and also, my new theory is that it is the super strain of mold I've discovered in here that is causing my brain to run in overdrive, in turn causing me to stay up all night doing squat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's it like, you ask?

People often ask me what it was like to go to graduate school for Library and Information Science. I blather on about “good background information” and “useful course work”, when really I should just illustrate what it was like with this anecdote:

Towards the end of my last semester, I was frantically working on a stressful Cataloging assignment in the school’s computer lab, poring over the Library of Congress Authority Control database, when a guy my age sat down next to me. I recognized him, he was also in the dreaded Cataloging course, and nodded briefly at him.

“Hello, whatever your name is,” he said to me.

I looked up again, momentarily taken aback. “Hi.”

“I’m Patrick. I sat next to you because every other girl in here has a restraining order against me.”

Patrick proceeded to pull out his copy of the AACR2 and start typing his assignment. I proceeded to pack up my stuff and left to buy myself a laptop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Secret Mission: Corporate America

Here is my secret mission (well, as secret as a blog can be): I want to buy a Wal*Mart store. Buy it outright. Then I’ll have a free-for-all getting rid of all the stuff inside so I can use that giant, 10,000 square foot area as my very own personal office space. The entire store will be pitch black, except in the very center where I will keep my desk. There, a giant spotlight will shine down on me doing my very non-important work like unsticking Post-Its from each other. If someone needs to schedule an appointment with me, they will have to face walking all the way to my desk with a smaller spotlight following them as they approach.

Screw education, I'm going corporate.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Universal Control

A wise man once told me that the people that are attracted to the library profession are the ones to watch out for because they are the people who crave universal bibliographic and informational control.

Basically, we want to rule everything. And we do. Quietly.

But I've been thinking lately that although I do enjoy having that kind of power, being in a school library where everything is in a shambles works out great for me. I'm pretty sure it's because all my effort and time goes into making this library usable, engaging, and fun, despite the horrible shape it's in. I enjoy the interaction with the kids and working with the teachers on their projects.

So although my library is a monarchy with an industrious slave* trade, and although I get to be the Queen/Czarina/Empress/Goddess with everyone else conducting the menial tasks of shelving and checking out books, I'm happy that I don't have universal control. 'Cuz then I'd have to keep it.

*Read: volunteer

PS- For those of you wondering, the picture in the "What I Am Thankful For" post is the real Nancy Pearl, not the wannabe.
PPS- Two of the spider crabs were dead this morning, belly up in the tank. They looked even more sinister in their death than alive. I was a little surprised they didn't have little cement blocks on their many legs.
3rd PS- I'd just like to add that the Franz Ferdinand concert Saturday night rocked me like a hurricane. Woo!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Plan A

At the beginning of the school year I was moving a small filing cabinet into my office in the library. One of the teachers asked what I would be using the filing cabinet for, and I informed her that the top drawer would be my "Plan A" drawer, where I'd keep all my lesson plans and ideas for the year.

"What'll be in the second drawer, then?", she asked.

I replied, "Oh, that's Plan B."

"What's Plan B?"

"A can of gasoline and a box of matches."

She didn't ask anymore questions after that. And still... two months into the school year, I don't think they've quite caught on to my sense of humor. I'm patient though. It will come.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What I Am Thankful For (Version 10.13.05)

Today I am thankful for the Jews and their many holidays. I feel like I'm right back at Brandeis.

You see, I don't believe that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that's been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians.
— Monty Python

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mike O.

This is for all you T-lane fans out there.

My high school had an exceptionally large special ed program. Basically, this meant that we shared gym class and health class with the “special people”.

Picture, if you will, a young me: loads of school spirit, good grades, community volunteer, club joiner, all-around general suck-up. For four years I had smiled blithely as the special people bounced basketballs off my head in gym class. As they stuck their feet in the Thousand Island dressing at the salad bar. As they drooled on the cafeteria table the lunch period before mine so that I found a sizeable puddle when I took my seat.

Then, in the last semester of my senior year, I was sitting in the last row in the second to last seat of my Health class. And Mike O. was sitting behind me.

Mike O. seemed ok. He didn’t try to run over the back of your heels with his wheelchair. He didn’t eat oatmeal at lunch and spit it at people. He could hold his own head up. Until he got it into head to call me “Old Lady”. It was all downhill from there.

Every 30 seconds I’d feel a tap on my shoulder. “I know what I’m gonna do, Old Lady!” he’d whisper gleefully. Hard as he was to ignore, I was intent on learning about barbiturates and methamphetamines and refused to turn around. For months this went on. Old Lady, Old Lady. Finally, on the very last day of classes, I couldn’t resist. I turned around. “What’cha gonna do, Mike?” I whispered.

Mike’s eyes got huge and round. He had the Old Lady’s attention. Without further ado, he ripped off his shoes and socks and shoved his big toe directly into a ragged metal hole in the filing cabinet nearest to us and then pulled it out in bloody shreds, howling with pain. Everyone turned to glare at me as if I had committed a murder.

Was this his plan all along, or was it a sudden impulse? Is there a lesson to this story? I surely don’t know. But if you do meet Mike O. and he calls you Old Lady, remember this cautionary tale. This is a warning to you all: years of hard work can go right down the tube when people think you’re mean to the special people.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thought for the Day

Librarian is a service occupation. Gas station attendant of the mind. In The Gold Bug Variations p.35, 1991.
Richard Powers

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ancient Chinese Secrets

There is a random Chinese family that lives in my library. I’ve tried making a few discreet inquiries as to where they come from and what they are doing sitting in the corner near the windows, but so far the only responses I’ve received are puzzled looks and shrugged shoulders. And one woman cryptically answered, “They’ve always been there”, as she ducked her head and kept walking.

There are two old men, a younger man, and an old woman. They all seem very nice, big smiles, nodding emphatically whenever I attempt a half-hearted wave in their direction. That is, except for the old woman, who scowls and stomps about in her stilettos, looking like some kind of Chinese manga character straight out of a graphic novel. I’ve noticed some of the students glancing furtively at her when they think she’s not looking, but she sees them all right.

So what are they actually doing all day? Occasionally I’ll hear a random word in English issued from their talking Chinese/English translator. Mysteriously, the chairs are always pushed in. Sometimes I see them checking what I can only assume is the Chinese news on the computers. Once, out of the corner of my eye, I even caught one of the old men sleeping, a little bit of drool spilling out onto the wood-grain table. But since they don’t speak any English, and since I’m only mildly curious, I will probably never find out what they’re really up to. They fade nicely into the background like Asian ornaments.

I’m holding out hope that one day I’ll come in and find a little Chinese teahouse constructed in the corner, or maybe some of those pretty silk screens. At the very least, I think I should get some delicious pork fried rice out of the deal.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Rubric For Life

Rubrics are a way of evaluating and assessing tasks. Teachers use them all the time, especially in middle schools where the kids need definite guidelines and goals. Here's my thinking: wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of general life rubric? Specific things that need to be done by certain times? You could even break it down- an education rubric, a dating rubric, a circle of friends rubric, a career rubric.

Of course, someone else would have to do the layout of these plans for you. So I'd also propose that everyone be assigned a sort of life mentor, or coach, who can set you up with goals. Then, eventually, you'd have to write goals for someone else. For example:

Career Rubric for S.C., Age 27
Year Goals include:
*Becoming friends with as many other teachers as possible.
*Avoid the Gossip Queens/people who smell like moth balls.
*Clean out ungodly AV room of 60's memorabilia.
*Fix book barcodes so they actually scan.
*Do not get eaten by sea life.

And so on. Your coach would also provide evaluation and feedback, once completed. Maybe they could even grade you, like an A for effort, D- for results.

The grade-grubbing, organized librarian part of me really likes this idea.

The normal side realizes that life is not about laying everything out in a one-page summary of definitive goals. A Life Rubric might even take some of the fun and surprise out of just doing what you want to do. Hell, if I followed a Life Rubric I'd probably be married and miserable. I probably wouldn't have sucked it up and went back to grad school. I probably wouldn't have met all these fantastic new people. I wouldn't be writing this blog. In fact, I probably wouldn't even be who I am today.

And I'm pretty happy with me right now. Weird.

*****Crab Update: They were feasting on brine shrimp when I left on Friday. God only knows what they'll be like come Tuesday morning. I only hope one of the kids walks by the tank before I do.

Friday, October 07, 2005

He had rosacea before it was cool.

I had completely forgotten how strange middle school boys are. Were the girls as weird? How did we ever grow up to be the normal, well-adjusted, gorgeous people we are today? Oh, wait...

In any case, as I was observing the courting rituals of one seventh grade boy and one seventh grade girl this morning I was caught off guard by the awkwardness of their encounter. Here is an excerpt of the conversation I caught as I walked by:

Girl: "Jenny and I called your house the other night. Your mom answered, so we hung up."
Boy: "Really? She didn't tell me someone called and hung up."
Girl: "Yeah, we were playing Truth or Dare and I dared Jenny to call and say she had a crush on you to see what you would say."
Boy: "Really?"
Girl: "Yeah."

A few nervous giggles ensued and then the bell rang for homeroom.

But right as the bell rang I had this major flashback to my first middle school "boyfriend". He had the obligatory braces. He was shorter than me. He wore Skidz and listened to Vanilla Ice. And he had rosacea before it was cool.

Wherever he is today, I hope he knows that nerds are in. Geeks are awesome. And I have high hopes for all these middle school boys and girls that are just testing out the waters. Hang in there, it really does get better. Honestly.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Day in the Life Of

As a librarian, you'd think my day would be filled with fun tasks such as cataloging books, arranging things according to the Dewey decimal system, and shushing people. Instead, I find myself in these outlandish situations. Take, for example, my latest trials and tribulations.

Let me set the scene for you: a middle school library straight out of the 70's. I'm talking orange rugs and pink walls. Zoom in on a large-ish salt water fish tank installed adjacent to the circulation computer. The fish tank is teeming with hideous marine life including 5 repulsive spider crabs, that will hereby be referred to by me as "nightmares of the sea". The water filter that keeps these underwater beasts alive is spraying salty ocean directly into my computer monitor. A half hour was spent yesterday attempting (and failing) to prevent my computer from becoming water-logged.

A quick check on the tank revealed that most of the furry crustaceans were scrabbling about at the bottom of the tank. There was, however, a small contingent of rebel crabs climbing the faux lighthouse. Mildly worrying. They seemed to be readying themselves for a coup.

Cut to today: the library is on Orange Alert with the crab watch. When I looked this morning, the crabs are twice as large as yesterday. Is there some radiation leak? Are they eating the other fish? Do they simply thrive on the positive learning environment I provide? I know not. But I do know this: they will soon be big enough to knock the cover right off the tank and take the school by force. I've brought in my bow. I'm prepared.

If this is my last post, know that I went down fighting.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

This is the beginning of the end...

The other night I heard an amazing suggestion from an amazing person. The suggestion was this: create a blog.

Doesn't sound very amazing, does it? But it is!

It's amazing because even though everyone and their mother has started a blog there are still infinite possiblities of what they can contain. They're like anonymous biographies of mostly insignificant people who are doing their thing all over the place. And really, what could be more interesting than the innermost thoughts of everyone and their mother?

The other reason this blog was an amazing suggestion was the sheer amount of garbage running through my head at any given moment. This gives me a chance to just dump it all out, maybe even recycle it into something usable.

So here it is, folks. Fresh from my brain to yours. My oeuvre. My piece de resistance. My blog.

P.S. That amazing person I was telling you about? That's one of his paintings up top. Check out his website:

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