Monthly Archives: September 2013

It’s beginning to look a lot like (fill in the holiday)

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Okay, okay, not to get onto the holiday bandwagon (except that’s exactly what I’m about to do, since Hanukkah is at Thanksgiving and yours truly needs to start shopping), but a blog that’s helped me immeasurably throughout my job-searching journey is INALJ – “I Need a Library Job.” Yes, they have state-by-state job links, but also really helpful blog entries.

Each year, the lovely folks at INALJ compile an Etsy list of crafty librarians and the creative stuff they make just in time for the holidays: For Librarians, Buy Librarians. Check it out, support librarians, support INALJ and the work they do, and find some nifty original stuff for your loved ones this holiday season.

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The Value of Understanding Parents

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So here’s a story.

When I was in sixth or seventh grade, the biggest excitement of the year, easily, without a doubt was Judy Blume’s Forever.  

You know. THE SEX BOOK.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it. You have. Don’t try that with me. You know what it is. You read it, secretly, right around the time you read Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) and Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret, and of course Flowers in the Attic.

My friends and I passed around Forever that year. It went from person to person pretty quickly, because we each probably read it in one night, under the covers, eager to see what THE SEX BOOK was all about. (At least I did. No shame here.)

I wasn’t about to go home and wave it around, and be like, “Hey! Mom! Look what I got! Judy Blume’s sex book!”

Now, normally, I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. My parents were pretty tolerant. At least, my mom always was. She let me take books out and never gave me the third degree. My dad was probably like, “Oh, Annabelle’s got her nose in a book again. Shocker.” They all looked the same to him.

But the one day – joy of joys, o happy day – when it was finally my turn to bring home Forever, you know, THE SEX BOOK, my mom suddenly took an interest in what I was reading.

I mean, let’s be frank here. What kind of mother is going to see her twelve-year-old – her rather naive twelve-year-old at an all-girls’ school – reading THE SEX BOOK and not have alarm bells go off in her head?

So my mom picked up the book, read the front, read the back, flipped through it (I’m sure it opened up right to page 85… you know, where we and Katherine meet Ralph) and opened it to the first page. The first line in Forever is:

Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.

I’m pretty sure there was a raised eyebrow – my mom was, and still is, the master of the raised eyebrow to convey all sorts of emotions – and she asked me if I knew what that meant.

If I remember correctly, I replied along the lines of “Um, it means she had sex?” (Definitely with the question mark at the end. I had no idea, honestly). And that, I figured, would be the sum total of my experience with THE SEX BOOK, and everyone else would have read it, and they would all be worldly and knowledgeable, and I would still be picking up The Baby-Sitters Club, trapped forever in a world where boys were mysterious and babysitting was the height of awesomeness. (I’m 34, and both are still true. But I digress.)

But then my mom did something really awesome.

She just sort of closed her eyes for a second, in a Lord-give-me-strength-why-is-my-little-baby-reading-smut kind of way, and handed the book back to me, and told me that if I had any questions that I should come to her and she would answer them for me.

Not gonna lie: I was completely floored. As I said, she’d never censored me before, and she had always been clear that I could talk to her about all “the girl stuff” (which I hadn’t, because,  come on, I had friends to ask about that), but we were in uncharted waters here. This was a book with pretty explicit sexual content. I hadn’t even read the book yet, but based on what I heard, there was all kinds of scary/great stuff to learn about. Sex! Teenagers! The Pill! Wow! Take that, Ann M. Martin!

I read the book, and didn’t understand a lot of it, and, as it turned out, didn’t ask my mom any questions, but I felt a little older. A little more mature. I had learned an important fact. Penises had names. That would, I have no doubt, be valuable knowledge as I navigated the wild world of men.

The reason I’m recounting this story is to ask all of you out there about not only your first experience with more grownup books, but how your relevant adults reacted. I have a friend who has taken a complete hands-off approach to what her 14-year-old reads. I have a friend who pre-reads books before she lets her tween daughter read them. And I have yet another friend who has put her foot down and refuses to let her tween daughter read anything even remotely PG-rated.

At what point do we censor or not? Or ask lots of questions? Or prohibit? Or declare ourselves neutral (and open or closed) parties?

(P.S.: Thanks for being so understanding, Mom.)

I’m tired

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The week of orientation is over, and my brain is full to bursting. But I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a Monday morning more (in fact, I should say Monday midday, since my shift starts at 12:30 on Monday). We had training in storytimes today, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Speaking of, I’ve recently found a terrific blog that details some equally terrific storytimes – but it’s also quite intimidating to know that there are librarians this dedicated and capable out there. Katie Fitzgerald is a Washington, D.C.-area librarian, and her blog, Story Time Secrets, has given me some fabulous ideas. She even plays the ukelele! Who plays the ukelele these days? She’s my hero.

A huge relief

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We still have a day left of orientation, but today was the day when all of us new hires went to our branches, to meet with our managers, to learn the ropes, and, in my case, be put to work.

It was wonderful.

I shelved. I planned a display. I met with my boss. I worked with the teens.

I loved it.

And it confirmed that I’d had no reason to worry. I’ll admit, I’d been thinking to myself since I got the job – maybe I would think that I’d want to be a librarian, and then I’d get there, and go, Oh, shit. This is awful. This is not what I thought it would be. I’ve made a terrible mistake. To know that the first day was solid, and tiring, and exhilarating – I’ve been able to let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

I’m going to take a shower, but I leave you with some Banned Books humor, courtesy of another favorite blog, Better Book Titles.

Blurred Lines

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(No, not the annoyingly catchy Robin Thicke song…)

While there are a lot of cut-and-dried library policies, there are ones that aren’t so obvious.

  • If a teen signs up for a library card without a parental signature (permissible after age 12), and his/her parent wants to see what the teen is checking out, do we release the child’s checkout records? What about all those warnings about patron confidentiality?
  • If a teen is checking out a lot of books on suicide or drugs, do we inform the parents?
  • What if we think a child is being abused, but we don’t see it firsthand? We’re not mandatory reporters as teachers or doctors are, but shouldn’t we get involved by informing someone?
  • Porn isn’t illegal to stream/look at on our computers. (Child porn and anything along those lines, yes, absolutely, but regular porn – don’t email me! – is okay.) Do we tell patrons that they can’t look at porn if someone else complains, even though porn is freedom of expression? Do we move the porn-watcher? Do we move the complainer?
  • What about disruptive, delinquent, violent patrons? While we’re supposed to implement warnings and bans “at our discretion,” one staffer’s discretion may say that a patron should be warned, another banned for a few days, whereas another would say a week. Who makes the decision? And what if the patron has mental or substance abuse issues? Do they get a pass for those? Where does discretion end and spite begin?

I have good sense, and I think I’m quite good at using it. My conscience/gut/little voice in my head usually doesn’t steer me wrong. And I don’t disagree with most of the policies I’ve learned about, because I agree that rules should be made in the spirit of safety and education for all. Common sense should rule the day, as should a clear head and knowledge of the rules.

I’ve been very good at following rules. But there are some that I’m not sure I can and should follow.

A story: Back in my school administrator days, I once had a middle schooler come to me suffering an asthma attack. She couldn’t find her inhaler, but another student had an inhaler with the same medicine she used. However, the rules said that students couldn’t take another student’s medicine under any circumstances. I was supposed to sit by and say, “Sorry, I can’t give you any medicine,” which would have been easy to do had she not been gasping for air right in front of me.

After a few minutes of panicky thought – or so it felt at the time – I administered the medicine to her anyway, and she immediately began to get better. I’d done something that was wrong, according to the rules. But I couldn’t just sit there and watch her not breathe.

At what point does one cross those blurred lines?