I’ve been a bad, bad blogger OR Updates from Procrastionationville

Yeah. I got kinda burned out on the whole blogging thing. Tumblr crashes my computer, making me lose posts/making me lose my mind. Advocating for jobs and libraries was exhausting. But I’m back. 

Here’s what’s been going down.

 Libraries are open! Library workers are employed! At least in NYC. We wrote postcards, read for 24 hours, hugged libraries, and worked our literary-loving butts off.

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This is me, looking generally unenthused at Urban Librarian Unite's Pink Slip Burning Party. Jobs were saved, which is something I am more than grateful for, but I have been through this budget dance several times now. I'm still my system's last hired librarian and it's been three years since I got this job. I'm tired. We're all tired. I can't speak for everyone, but I just want to go back to being a librarian, not a librarian who spends every spare moment begging for pennies from the city. My sign says “I have my job for at least 6 more months. Oh boi.” At the time, we were told that we had our jobs for the moment, but that everything would be revisited in November. However, six months have come and gone, and my job seems to be secure for the moment. It makes it easier to smile at patrons and sing Laurie Berkner songs to babies. I promise to start smiling more in pictures. Cheers and thanks to all the hard working advocates, library workers, and any one who helped in any manner. 

 I tried to become America’s Most Glamorous Librarian! And came in second place. Ah well. It’s an honor just to be nominated. 

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The lovely folks at Dressed Her Days Vintage were nice enough to give me the honorary title of Style Savvy Librarian. I had a lot of fun with this contest. I am a huge lover of vintage clothes. Dressing like Liza Minnelli’s secret librarian love child gives me a lot of joy. I like to dress with a sense of humor and I think my patrons appreciate that. Or think I’m crazy. Congrats to Sujei Lugo, who won first place. Well played, my bibliomaniacal friend. 

 I visited the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street. Yes, there’s a functioning library there!

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I answered reference questions, did a little Readers Advisory. It was pretty inspiring to see. I don’t want to go on and on about OWS, but if you’re in NYC or there’s an Occupy situation going on in your neck of the woods (they’re everywhere now!), grab a friend and observe what’s going on. There are SO many misconceptions about OWS. I think you need to see it for yourself.

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 I am one of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders of 2012! I am excited and scared and delighted and honored.

Have any advice about switching from Tumblr to another platform? Do you have any library advocacy stories from your area? Are you a stylish librarian? Are you a past or current ALA Emerging Leader? Please, drop me a line or a comment! 

Literary Comfort Food/Mashed Potatoes for Your Mind/What to Read When You Feel Like Crap (Part 1)

Deep breath. Deep. Breath. No layoffs. At least not for now. This will all be up in the air again in November, but, Librarian Gods willing, New York City library workers are safe for now.

I’ve been a public librarian in NYC for two and a half years and, fairly consistently, the threat of layoffs have been dangling over my head every six months or so. This is no way to live your life. It makes me feel very insecure about my place in the world. My plan of attack includes lots of advocacy and doing what I can to feel as safe as possible. This means lots of cuddling with cats (are there librarians who don’t have cats? Does not compute), quality time with my gentleman friend, episodes of Buffy and Project Runway, and trips to Foodswings in Brooklyn for vegan comfort food like Mac N Cheese, mashed potatoes, and other delicious things that make my butt bigger and biggerer.

Books, though, have always been my biggest source of comfort. They’re a good friend, a much-needed vacation, a squishy cat, an endless bag of chocolate-covered pretzels, and a couple of Klonopin, all wrapped up in a super-sized, soft blanket. Books are the best place to hide until you feel all ready to face that big, old mean world. Here’s Part 1 of my list of my favorite sources of literary comfort food. Librarians love lists, so here they are, in no particular order:

1. Weetzie Bat/Necklace of Kisses: Sick of me talking about Francesca Lia Block, yet? I love her. I should have read her when I was younger, since I probably needed Weetzie Bat when I was 17 more than I need her now, but I kind of skipped reading YA fiction as a teen. I had professors in library school that sang the praises of Weetzie Bat, but I somehow avoided reading it until I saw Gala Darling talking about it (Gala is kind of the walking, living, breathing version of Weetzie). Now I wonder how I managed without her for so long. Weetzie makes you believe that anything is possible, and everything can be full of magic and wonder if you just want it to be. She manages to do this without being cheesy or saccharine. Weetzie’s world is one I always wanted to run away to, if only for a little while: "Fifi’s house was a Hollywood cottage with one of those fairy-tale roofs that look like someone has spilled silly sand. There were roses and lemon trees in the garden and two bedrooms inside the house—one painted rose and the other aqua. The house was filled with plaster Jesus statues, glass butterfly ashtrays, paintings of clowns, and many kinds of coasters." I mean, I don’t even LIKE clowns and I want to be there. Weetzie says things like how she wishes she could sprinkle everybody with blue glitter to keep them sparkly and safe. Weetzie is the muse we all want in our lives. Necklace of Kisses contains Weetzie’s adventures as adult, because I bet Francesca Lia Block knows that even though we’re older, we haven’t outgrown her. We still need some Weetzie in our lives.

2. Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo: It begins, “Where there is a woman, there is magic.” I think people probably best know Ntzoke Shange for her play For Colored Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, but I was introduced to her through this novel. In high school, I was told to do a book report on a novel with an African American author, and I blindly chose this book without even cracking the spine. It was kind of serendipitous, because Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo has been one of my main literacy security blankets ever since. Shange’s writing is all-enveloping: overripe and fecund. When I first read it, I most identified with Indigo, the youngest of the three sisters. Indigo’s section of the book is fraught with fiddle-playing that speaks to the ancestors, recipes, and magic conjuring spells. When I reread the book in college, Cypress, the middle sister, was my go-to girl. Cypress’s choices took her down so many exciting and bizarre paths. I could really relate to her as a kind-of-lost 20-something. I’m definitely due for a reread now that I’m in my 30s. I’d love to see what Sassafrass, the oldest daughter, and I have in common.

3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Did every little blonde girl think she was Alice? I know I did. I have distinct memories of being in my Grandma’s living room, pretending to shrink down to a thimble, only to jump up, stand on my tippy-toes, and try to stretch my head into the clouds. I’m glad I kept reading Alice as I grew older, because I discover new things every time I read it, which is pretty often. I go to Alice whenever I feel a little lost or directionless. Alice is also a great mentor when you feel like everyone in a position of authority is a total idiot. The chapter that always speaks to me is “Pig and Pepper”, which was sadly left out of the Disney movie, which I also love. In this chapter, Alice is faced with the Cook and the Duchess, who are acting like terrifying little lunatics, screaming and throwing pots and pans and flinging pepper everywhere. In the midst of it all, there’s a baby Alice just has to rescue. Alice rallies her courage and saves the baby, but kind of all for naught. Once outside the cottage, the baby morphs into a pig and runs on off into the woods. Talk about rude. Talk about ungrateful! How many times do I feel just the same way, like all the hard work I do amounts to nothing? Lots. But does Alice cry or throw a tantrum or give up? Not our girl. She keeps on keeping on. Oh, to be as strong and brave as Alice.

4. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series: Though I read Archie comics as a kiddo, I lost my way as an adult and stopped reading comics all together. The Sandman Series got me back where I belong. These graphic novels require a well-versed reader. Gaiman is always cleverly referencing Shakespeare or folklore or the comic universe as a whole. There are so many multi-faceted characters in this series, most of which revolve around Dream, one of the seven Endless. The Endless are kind of like Gods, but not. Just read it. You’ll understand. While Death is the most charming and Desire is the most glamorous, my favorite has always been Delirium. Delirium looks a little like Cyndi Lauper, a little like Tori Amos. She used to be known as Delight, but the fates shifted and she became Delirium. She’s joyous, but always with that underlying sadness hinting at what was taken from her. Delirium is the ultimate little girl lost character. Don’t underestimate her though, because she’s powerful as hell. I been known to eat one of her go-to meals, which is raspberry-filled chocolate with mango juice (of course, her chocolate is people-shaped and prone to making out with each other). I want to be her. I want to take care of her. I try not to own too many books as I get buried pretty fast. The Sandman comics are a must-own, though. Beautiful, dark, tortured and magical.

5. Waiting for Godot: I was a theatre major in my undergrad, and, for a while, my only non-school assigned reading was plays. Stacks and stacks of them. I trolled used book stores for old musty copies of just any old play. I’ve gotten rid of most of what I acquired during that time of my life, but I’ll never get rid of Waiting for Godot, because it’s perfect reading material for when I’m feeling like my mental wheels are stuck in the mud. Estragon and Vladimir are, get this, waiting for a character named Godot. During the wait, they talk of suicide and repentance. It’s kind of a strange play to go to for comfort, but I’ve always been struck by Estragon and Vladimir’s refusal to leave each other. It’s not out of love, necessarily, probably more of an unhealthy co-dependence and/or the fear of change and the unknown. The play is absurd and tragic, and ends with the two main characters insisting they’re about to leave, but they never do. They’re stuck, fully aware of a situation that will only end in misery, but with an irrational need to stay. Samuel Beckett always intended the play to be performed by two men, but in my mind, I’ve been in a few romantic relationships that have felt just like this.

So ends Part 1 of Books to Read When You Feel Like Crap. I’ll write the second half when I’m good and ready. What is your literary security blanket?

Gay Marriage is Totally a Thing in New York! or A Good Library is Gay-Friendly

This post is extra late, but I really wanted to share these pictures. June 26 was the first New York Gay Pride Parade after the Marriage Equality announcement. I’ve seen the Pride parade in Jackson Heights, Queens (which is great), but never the one city. Crowds scare me. But I heard Que(e)ry was marching and I knew I that this would be the best and most fun way to see the parade in Manhattan. Que(e)ry is a group of (mostly) librarians and archivists who bring attention to “queer collections”. Their parties are so fun and you’re always drinking for a good cause when you’re with them.

Having marriage equality in New York is a complete dream come true. I look at the kids that I work with and all I really want for them is to have a good, fighting chance to accomplish whatever it is they want in their lives. Whether they recognize themselves as Queer/Gay individuals or not, I just want others to treat them with dignity and respect. I realize that, as Americans, we are a long way away from bringing this to fruition, but this is a tremendous start. Back in the 90s, when I was a teen, I had a good friend who was tormented and harassed in the most vile way. He was treated so poorly because of his sexual orientation. Eventually, he left the school he had been attending and had to opt for home-schooling. Now, as a librarian, I have seen another teen go through the same experience. It makes me sick. We all need to find ways to do right by the children in our communities. There will always be hate and prejudice. We just need to find ways to fight it.

I try to make sure this attitude is reflected in my collection, making sure the YA collection is stocked with plenty of  David Levithan and Francesca Lia Block and the like. I also speak up when I hear the kids calling each other Gay as an insult, explaining to them why that is not OK. If the tweens are calling each other Fags (I hate even typing that), even in jest, I call them out on it. It’s just not acceptable. I fully realize that a copy of Weetzie Bat and a supportive librarian are little comfort when your community treats you without understanding or respect. Sometimes, though, a good book is the only friend you’ve got.

Read More Books, or Getting to Use the Glass Display Case is Serious Business

I only get to use the fancy-schmancy glass display case at the entrance to the library every other month. When I’m not using it, the Adult Services librarian gets her chance. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little competitive about this. I always feel the need to have the better display, especially since it’s only been recently that I’ve been allowed to use it.

The inspiration for this display comes from some graffiti someone once told me about. I realize that’s kind of vague, but I only remember how rad I thought it was that there was pro-literacy graffiti. I’ve never seen it in person, because apparently it’s in Gowanus, which is a part of Brooklyn I never happen to visit. Anywho, the message is "Read More Books", a pretty good motto to live by. Because, honestly, I don’t care what the kids read. I just want them to read a lot. Bunches and bunches and piles of books.

The perfect die-cut letters come from Etsy, which used to have a function called Alchemy. Alchemy is no more (apparently it’s being revamped), but you used to be able to ask for a product you’d like to have and how much you’d be willing to pay for it. I didn’t pay much for these letters. Trying to cut out straight, uniform letters would have given me a nervous breakdown, so it was definitely worth the money.

I let the kids decorate the letters however they liked. One letter says “I Like Mrs. Ded” (no idea who that is). Another says “Read Every Day” (Amen, munchkin!). Others are covered in miscellaneous yet fun stuff that was hanging around in the craft cabinet. I love the overall effect. It’s so festive and cheerful and so uniquely “them”.

I also displayed the canvas paintings the kids made during another craft session. They were very happy to see them up in the branch and I catch them pointing out the paintings to their friends and families.

Summer Reading is a promise to read this summer. It’s serious business. Sign up now: http://summerreading.org/

Summer Reading, Had Me a Blast. Summer Reading, Happened so Fast.

"Have you signed up for Summer Reading?" "Have you signed up for Summer Reading?" "Hey, I forget. Did you sign up for Summer Reading?" "Hey, you guys, before you go, you should realllllly sign up for Summer Reading!"

If you’re a public librarian, you probably say that stuff in your sleep. That’s because Summer Reading is serious business. So serious you need to capitalize the S and the R. I’m not going to blabber on about the importance of Summer Reading and how scary the Summer Slide is (it’s not a dance you do at weddings and Sweet Sixteens). I’m going to talk more about the art project we did for our Summer Reading Kickoff, because that’s what I’m better at.

I inherited a butt-load of fabric scraps, sequins, and fancy trimmings from my cousin Jane, who creates masks and other wonderfullness for theaters and protests, too. I had a lot of odds and ends laying around my craft closet, as well. I decided to do a sort of smorgasbord of this and that, and let the kids decide what they wanted to make.

I was inspired by the book Young at Art, which is kind of the bible for process-oriented art. It’s kind of fitting that the author’s name is Striker, because I was pretty sure she was going to Strikeme. She’s really abrasive, but don’t let her scare you. She’s absolutely right. The notion that children need to make the SAME kind of art project as the teacher or their classmates will stunt their creativity and their development. It’s better to give them some supplies and let their imaginations decide what they’re going to make then sit them down and say, “We’re all going to make squirrels today”. I don’t know if Susan Striker would approve of my project and I’m too scared to ask. 

I put out tons of sparkley doodads, fabric scraps, and whatever else was clogging up the craft closet. I wanted the kids to dig through all the supplies and discover pieces that they really enjoyed and wanted to use. 

There’s a tiny Rubix cube in there! And dice. And buttons. And broken earrings. And sequins, sequins, sequins.

Martha Stewart Glitter Glue, because Brooklyn kids are fancy.

Fabric scraps and a spool of beaded trim I got from the Salvation Army.

Cardboard tubes that I hoped could be turned into bracelets, plastic dinosaurs, spools of cord from Materials for the Arts.

Beads, rhinestones, I think that’s a Pog.

And now, the results:

This was amazing. You’re supposed to look into the mirror to see your own face on a dollar bill.

I liked the layered fabric scraps on this collage.

Then, we had several sun-visors (I had some foam visors from Oriental Trading):  

A couple of pins/brooches, made from wooden discs and pin-backs:

I also let them decorate some blank canvases:

This kid made a Father’s Day present, which was very exciting:

Have any thoughts about process-oriented art? What kind of projects do you have in store for your library’s Summer Reading Extravaganza? Let me know!

And while you’re at it, sign up for Summer Reading! Feel free to add Greenpoint Library as your branch. Hey, I could use the numbers.

24 Hour Read-In at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza.

June 11-June 12.

I’m still tired.

Many thanks to the tireless and lovely people who showed up to support libraries.

Did you take any pictures or have any experiences to share? Hit me up!

Find more pictures here, many of them in focus, unlike mine.

Tomorrow is the Big Day! 24 hour Read-In!

This was originally posted here.

Break out that six pack of Red Bull, because starting at 4 PM on June 11th, we’ll be up for 24 hours straight. Why? New York City libraries are in some serious danger, people! When libraries are in danger, so are communities.
The Read-In will be held at Brooklyn Public Library’s beautiful Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. Did you know that in the Brooklyn system alone, the Mayor’s budget could result in 16 library closures, 850 hours of lost service, the loss of 10,000 events for kids, and 10,000 cancelled classes and workshops for adults?
That’s way harsh.
New York City libraries, library workers, and communities NEED YOU! Without your help, we have no chance at all.
Please come visit us.
And now, the details:

24 Hour Read-In
Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza
June 11, 4 PM-June 12, 4 PM

If you’re tweeting the event, our hashtag is #nycreadin, because we’re librarians, and we’re totally up on social networking and technology.

Over-Caffeinated Librarians Read to Save Jobs, Libraries, Communities….the World?

This was originally posted on savenyclibraries.org, which is the best place to find Urban Librarians Unite, the most kick ass library advocacy organization I know.

Last year, fearless librarians and the people who love them gathered together at Brooklyn Public Library’s Grand Army Plaza location to do something totally radical: We read. Yes. For 24 hours straight. There were no introductions, no pontificating, no “I’m Councilman Blenderferg! Vote for me!”, no “Here’s my new YA novel about bisexual changeling vampires living in a post-apocalyptic Steampunk America, coming out this Fall. Buy 20 copies!”. None of that. Just a bunch of concerned book-loving citizens reading in 15 minute or so blocks of time. Budget cuts were out to devastate a great institution and the 24 Hour Read-In was our way of saying that we weren’t going to stand for it.

We read Gossip Girl and kid’s books and socialist manifestos and anything else that struck our fancy. This was our big old statement to let Mayor Bloomberg know that, yes, New Yorkers still read and that they desperately need their local libraries.

It was our first 24 Hour Read-In, so we had no idea what to expect. Here are some things we spotted in front of the library:

1. Pink Slip Buttons. Lots of them. Many of the people participating in the Read-In were NY librarians who had been given notice that they would soon be losing their jobs. Many of those pink slips were rescinded, though over 40 librarians lost their jobs last year. This year? It seems we’re in the same boat.


2. Dogs. Lots of them. Who knew canines were so passionate about literacy and freedom of information? If you like dressing up your dog in socially relevant outfits, the Read-In is right for you!

3. Surly looking librarians. Lots of them. Take away their funding, and no smiles for you. Do you really want these ruffians to be unemployed and roaming the streets?

4. Cots and tents. Because it’s 24 hours and even librarians need a nap.

5. Press! Lots of it! Some of it was published in languages we don’t even know how to read. We hope they said nice things.

Who knows what we’re gonna see this year? Anything can happen when librarians are sleep deprived and fighting to keep libraries open. All we know is, you’ve GOTTA be there. If you haven’t seen Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch, now is the time.

We’ll be starting at Saturday, June 11th at 4 PM and we won’t stop until 4 PM the next day.
We’d love for you to read with us, and there’s still time to sign up. If reading aloud in front of strangers isn’t your bag, you also have to option to volunteer for us in other ways. Yes, we need people to hand out petitions and postcards and maybe get us some more coffee. Or, just show up and watch a truly unique and weird event. Don’t you need a little advocacy in your weekend?

Hey! Mayor! Leave Them Librarians Alone!: Postcards to Save NYC Libraries

You may (or may not) have seen my posts of kids’ postcards to Mayor Bloomberg. If you haven’t you can see them here, here, here, here, and here. Why the postcards? Libraries in New York City are currently under attack. Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget could result in hundreds of layoffs (this article refers to the Queens system, but Brooklyn and New York Public are in danger, too), reduced library hours, closed branches, cancelled programs, and fewer newer materials. City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is collecting postcards to present to our Mayor. The message on them is clear: New York City needs its libraries. They are not a luxury. Libraries are a necessity, especially when this economy is creating a whole new population of have-nots.

The hope is to super-saturate the Mayor’s office with roughly a bagillion postcards. Some have hoped that the end result will look something like that scene in “Miracle on 34th St.” when the judge is presented with thousands of letters to Santa Claus. Well, I hate to get all children’s librarian on this, but I imagined it more like when all those owls dropped Harry’s Hogwarts acceptance letters all over 4 Privet Dr. and Mr. Dursley has a full-on panic attack. Sure, Uncle Vernon could ignore one or two letters. But not hundreds upon hundreds delivered by owls. Mayor Bloomberg is our Mr. Dursley! We are the librarians, kept in that crappy cupboard underneath the stairs. You, you my friends, are the owls. We need you.

Won’t you be my owl? You don’t need to be a librarian to send one. You don’t need to be a New Yorker either. All you have to do is pick up a postcard, let Mayor Bloomberg know what’s what, and send it on over to our good friend Jimmy Van Bramer, 47-01 Queens Boulevard, Suite 205, Sunnyside, New York 11104.

Need some inspiration (other than the brilliant ones pictured above)? Here are some of my favorite postcards so far:

  ♥ Postcard from kid: “Please don’t close the library. They got the best workers”

  ♥ Dear Mayor Mike Bloomberg, NY-ers count on libraries as a resource for education and employment

  ♥ ‎Dear Mayor Buttface, Please don’t close the library and defenity do not fier Ingrid Abrams. Thank you. (I did not pay this child to write this).

  ♥ Dear Mayor, Do the right thing and take care of our kids. Libraries are Communities so HANDS OFF! There are just a few of you, but billions of WE THE PEOPLE!

  ♥ Dear Mayor, Please don’t close the library. It would do a disservice to the community and especially to the children with devastating effects.

  ♥ Save our libraries, our sanctuaries of knowledge for the poor and forgotten. Save people’s services.

Hey, if you write a postcard, let me know! We need all the help we can get. Thanks for being our owls.