the library & COVID-19

Wow. Wowowow. Things are really…a lot right now. When I went on hiatus, I was really doubting myself and my blogging and writing abilities, and then, suddenly, talk about the coronavirus, or COVID-19, was everywhere, and now it seems we are living in a YA plague novel, only my boyfriend doesn’t smell like sandalwood. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I have struggled with mental health issues in the past, and this has definitely been an anxiety producing time for me and I can feel the panic building throughout the day as more and more news comes out about the coronavirus, even though I know in my head I’m not high risk and would be fine if I got it.

I have been throwing around a few ideas of posts about COVID-19 and reading for the past few days and wondering if it would be insensitive to write about it, but I realized that writing really helps me process things, so you may be seeing a few COVID-19-related posts soon from me.

The first of these is this post, where I’m going to tell you how my library system where I work is dealing with the coronavirus and my thoughts on that.

So without further ado, here is what has been going down at the library recently in regards to the pandemic situation:

  • All programs are cancelled until March 31. The governor of my state has banned large gatherings and events, and thus, the CEO of the library decided to suspend all public programming, which has the potential to draw large crowds.
  • Kids are out of school until March 27. All schools in the state have also shut down. This is a major concern for public libraries because there may be large numbers of kids coming in, which can create health and behavior concerns. It may get challenging to monitor so many kids. Kids may turn to the library because they may have parents who can’t work from home and don’t allow them to stay home when they’re not there. My biggest worry is what we’ll do about unattended children, which we define as children under 8 who come in without a parent or guardian who is at least 13.
  • We’ve put away all toys and community items like coloring supplies. This makes me feel a little better because at least I don’t have to touch lots of legos that people are touching. However, not having things for kids to do while their parents work on a computer or for older kids who come in may lead to more behavior problems because they don’t have enough to occupy their time while they’re in the library.
  • Half our computers are disabled. This is to comply with social distancing standards. I’m hoping patrons won’t complain, and that if they do, we will close or have reduced hours.
  • We’ve been sent lots of cleaning supplies. We should have this many cleaning supplies available all the time, in my opinion. As one of my coworkers stated, the coronavirus situation is definitely making people realize how nasty they are. But it’s also a good reminder that we need to be doing things like wiping down our phones and computer keyboards regularly, not just during a health crisis.
  • Non-public facing staff are being encouraged to work from home. Oh, how I wish I was non-public facing so I didn’t have to expose myself to the public. Being a public librarian is one of those jobs that you really can’t do from home no matter what, because our job is helping THE PUBLIC. I really feel for all the other people working in customer service right now who don’t have the option of staying home.

 

Those are all the things the library has done so far to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There are 12 cases in my state so far, but hopefully that number will stay low if we overreact now instead of later when things get worse. I’m really not sure what my days are going to look like now without programming and fewer computers, and honestly it freaks me out a bit. However, I’m hopeful that there will be some chill days ahead and that if things escalate, the library will make the right choice and close to the public so as not to put the staff at risk.

 

How are your jobs handling the coronavirus? How is everyone holding up? Tell me in the comments.

books i’ve rec’ed to real live teens lately

On today’s episode of Occasional Librarian-Related Posts, I present to you a list of some books that I’ve talked about with my teens lately. Reader’s advisory is probably my favorite thing about my job, since it’s basically just recommending books to teens based on their interests, etc. Wanting to talk to teens about books and throwing books at them (not literally) is pretty much why I became a librarian, and I’ve gotten to do it a lot lately, so I’ve been very happy at work as of late. Here are some of the books I’ve gotten teens to leave with recently:

One girl I haven’t seen before came in and asked for mystery series. I could not think of a ton of mysteries that were also series, but one that immediately came to mind was Brittany Cavallaro’s Sherlock Holmes retelling, A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE. I also recommended TRULY, DEVIOUS, which I also haven’t read, but have been really interested in reading for a while because BOARDING SCHOOL. I also recommended WE WERE LIARS even though I hated it because I thought it might be appealing to a teen, as well as SADIE, which I’ve heard is really good, and she seemed to think the podcast aspect was cool.

 

The same girl also asked me where A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS WAS, and, when I told her it was downstairs in the children’s section, asked if there were any books similar to it in the teen section. I can understand that some teens wouldn’t want to go to children’s to get a book, but it does interest me that the location of a book can matter in whether a kid will go get it in the library. I recommended MISS PEREGRINE, which she’d already read, because it had that same kind of creepy vibe. I honestly couldn’t think of anything similar to it in YA, so I went out on a bit of a limb and strayed into paranormal territory to recommend THE NAME OF THE STAR, since that’s also dark and eerie, and she ended up checking it out.

 

One of my boys who loves to read really loved CINDER by Marissa Meyer, and picked up ARCHENEMIES recently. I told him it was part of a series, which he was super psyched by, so I gave him RENEGADES and he was halfway through it within a couple of days. His sister picked up FOUR DEAD QUEENS when I told her it was a fantasy because she loves paranormal and fantasy novels (please, YA writers, give this girl more vampires!!) and she’s already returned it completed within a week.

 

stronger than you think: my librarianniversary!

Friends, February 12 was a momentous occasion: It was the one-year anniversary of my first full-time library job! I have actually been celebrating a lot of anniversaries this month, including having been living on my own for a full year and having my kitties for a year. The thing I am most proud of though and feels most significant is my one-year anniversary of being a librarian! I have done library work before but this was my first year with a Librarian title and with my degree 🙂

It has definitely been A Year. I’ve had a ton of ups and downs as a librarian (okay, it feels like mostly downs, but I’m still learning I guess) and learned a TON. Today, I want to reflect and share some of the things I’ve learned in my first full year as a librarian:

  • Forging relationships with teens can be hard. It’s definitely worth it, but some teens just don’t want or care about having a relationship with their librarian and I’ve had to just accept that that’s okay. This does make all the relationships I have made with teens that much more significant, and each connection I’ve made with a teen really does feel like a huge win and accomplishment, especially in the rough area I work in.
  • Urban libraries are REALLY different than rural. This probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but the transition from mostly rural libraries to urban was HUGE. I really feel like there should be more professional trainings on this. The urban population is definitely different and has a different set of values and experiences than a rural population as a whole, and it has been A Task to get used to that.
  • A lot of library programming websites cater to suburban white kids. Or at least, I feel like the ones I’ve been mostly reading do. My work partner and I agree that a lot of the well-known library sites tend to cater toward a certain kind of kid and those interests. We’ve had to do a lot of improvising and experimenting to figure out what our kids like and what will bring them to library programs.
  • Don’t take it personally. I’ve been cussed at a few times and people (mostly adults) who come into the library tend to be super rude and aggressive, but I feel like for the most part I’m improving at not taking it so personally, even though I don’t think I’ll ever not be sensitive to people cussing at me. However, I do think I’ve gotten better at realizing that lots of people who come into the library have their own issues that keep them from interacting like normal and polite people, and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with me or what I say.
  • I am better at being patient and kind. For some reason, I’ve always had this fear that I’m not actually a nice person. I don’t know why, but it’s been a pervasive thought for me since I was a kid. Recently though, people have often commented at the library on how patient I am with the teens or how nice I am, and it’s made me think that maybe I am actually a kind and caring person, even though sometimes I have to fake it on bad days.
  • I’m stronger than I think. I think this is the biggest lesson I have learned, and it largely has to do with the boss I really hated and was terrified of at first because she pushed me so hard to push myself, and it was really scary at the time because my anxiety and depression were horrible and I didn’t think I could do pretty much anything, even come to or stay at work sometimes. But, I’ve now done a bunch of things that I am very proud of that I couldn’t have done a year or two years ago when I first entered the library field, or in my life in general, and I largely have that boss to thank for that because whenever I try to talk myself out of doing something hard or scary, I hear her voice in my head telling me I’m stronger than I think. I think my confidence is growing, even though it feels like it’s happening very slowly at times, and that’s a lot to be happy about.

This year has been a ride but at least according to this post, I’ve learned quite a lot from my time as a librarian. I don’t know what the future will hold or if I want to continue working in this field even, but it has been a learning experience at the very least. I am very proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish this year and all the scary things I’ve pushed myself to do, and I hope that continues in the next years.

what’s going down at the library

As you all are probably aware by now, I am a librarian at a big, urban library in the US. I’ve been in this job for about 8 months, and have been learning a lot throughout my days here. One of the reasons I started this blog was to have an outlet for myself to write about my experiences in librarianship, but that has not been much of a focus on this blog in reality. Still, I like to post the occasional library update, so here’s another one!

  • Fewer problems with teens. For a couple months at the end of summer, we started having a couple groups of teens come in who were a huge problem, and often got kicked out for cussing constantly and generally being disrespectful of us and the teen space in the library. Kicking teens out of the library is my least favorite part of my job. I don’t like feeling like a bad guy, and I’d way rather the kids be in the library than out in the neighborhood, because we are in a very rough area of the city. However, it was getting to the point where we were having conflicts with teens basically every day. It escalated to the point where one day, they dropped one of our huge chairs and I got super pissed and yelled at them (though I can’t really yell so my version is just being extremely stern), and since then they have either not come back or been slightly better.
  • Working on Ceasefire programs. The city does an event called Ceasefire, which is essentially encouraging people not to commit any murders for a 48-hour period. The library is hosting a variety of events to encourage it throughout the city. The one I am most excited about happened last Friday, and was a live jazz event featuring one of my best friends from college, who very generously (although to be fair he was paid) agreed to come play at the library! I was very excited to hear him play again and people seemed to enjoy it.
  • Planning November displays. Displays are one of my favorite things to do at my job because it involves collection development, which is my main library passion, to some extent. I am doing a display about National Novel Writing Month.
  • People really like to grab things off the desk. That are ours and not for patron use. Without asking us. People are getting way too cozy and acting like the library is their house. And staying here all day every day. Probably because they are unemployed, which is not great, but if you stay here all day every day then you will get annoyed by things we do and we will get annoyed by things you do because you’re here all the freaking time. End rant.
  • All teens want to do is play the same game. Survive IO, I think? Every. Single. Day. For hours. And it’s nearly impossible to get them to get off the computers to do something else.

 

That is basically it. Overall things are going better, and I am getting less sensitive when people are assholes to me and yell at me or cuss at me or are generally rude, which happens more often some weeks than others. But that is about it for library happenings since my last update.

recent library happenings

I am out of post ideas for the week and I don’t write about the library nearly enough even though librarianship is in my blog tagline, so here is a wee post about stuff that’s been going on at my library job lately.

  • School has started!! Honestly, I was way too excited about school starting again this year. The children who were coming into the library seriously needed some structure in their lives so they didn’t spend all day at the library being rude to us. Plus, lots of these kids don’t have that much to do in the summer anyway because we are in kind of a dangerous urban area, so the library is really a better place to be than somewhere else might be. I was counting down days on my bullet journal calendar and I am so relieved that we are back on a normal routine with the children.
  • We got new interns. Every year we partner with a private high school for an internship program, and this year, one of our interns actually wants to be a librarian when she grows up! I am already very impressed with her; she has lots of ideas and clearly really cares about her position here. The other one apparently did not make such a good impression when he came in, but we have a plan to deal with any issues and hope to nip them in the bud since we’ll be consistent with them this year, unlike last year when we came in to having interns that hadn’t had any supervision for months.
  • Ceasefire program planning. We have a ceasefire event where the basic idea is that no murders will take place for a 48-hour period. I don’t know any stats on how helpful it’s been in the past, but we’re doing a bunch of programming around it at the library. The teen section is doing a post-it wall like what people did in the NYC subways after Commander Marmalade was elected. We’re also promoting the book DEAR MARTIN for a partner organization, which is exciting since it’s YA! Woohoo!
  • Planning for our big comic con event in June. This month, my coworker and I are starting to plan the big ComicCon-esque event that we’ve been doing for the past few years that will take place in June. This year’s theme is a Universe of Stories, so that should be a fun theme to plan around. We have to form a committee, get volunteers, get vendors and performers, do outreach and advertising, and a bunch of other stuff between now and June, and we are the ones in charge of it so wish me luck!
  • I have other work friends! The library where I work is the “training” branch, where all employees of the library system go to be trained before being sent to their permanent branches, so we meet a lot of people, and have trained two people so far. My coworker and I are still good friends with one of them, and it’s nice to go to meetings and other things and have other people to talk to. Plus, librarians from other branches are starting to recognize us, so hopefully we’ll make even more friends.

librarian pet peeves

I really like being a librarian. I get to be around books all day, often have time to read while I’m on desk, and helping people in the library with computers and finding resources is easy and satisfying. Coming up with programming and displays is creative and fun. However, there are things that happen at the library that get on my nerves a bit. So here is a short list of pet peeves I have as a librarian.

  • When there are signs on the computers that say the computers are down and people STILL come up to me and ask if the computers are down. Like…they’re all turned off with paper over them. The answer is pretty obvious.
  • When people eat in the library. We have rules about not eating in the library, and at my branch, there are signs literally everywhere saying NO EATING ALLOWED IN THE LIBRARY. It is not unreasonable to have a no eating rule, yet people insist on breaking it.
  • When people try to get my attention by waving at me from a computer. I obviously try to be alert to people’s needs, but sometimes I’m doing something else and I won’t see you waving at me. I also don’t like it when people just call for me from across the room. Like, you can’t get up and walk to the desk? It’s just rude.
  • When people leave the door to the quiet study rooms open when they have a group with them. We have three rooms we use as quiet spaces for studying, but sometimes, for some reason, study groups leave the door open so people in the teen area can hear them talking, and then get annoyed when I ask them to close the door. The purpose of the quiet rooms is the QUIET. So…close the doors.
  • When adults swear a lot while talking in the library. I get it when teens do it, because they are young and learning what’s appropriate in a public space. But adults should know better. It always irks me when I have to tell adults to watch their language in the teen section.
  • When men comment on how I look in any way. I had one guy say “stay pretty and god bless” to me about five times in one hour once. It also becomes obvious when someone wants your help because they find you attractive in other ways also, even if they don’t say or do anything. I am not here to be pretty for you, I’m here to help you learn how to use library resources.

 

Though I have my days where some people get on my nerves, overall I like my job so far. The branch I work in is in a very urban area, so we get a lot of…interesting people and I feel like I actually make an impact on people’s lives. Things happen that are annoying, like the stuff listed above, but in general the library is a good place to work, and definitely fits my personality very well.

 

how my perceptions of librarianship have changed

So, in case you don’t know this about me, I am currently a YA librarian in an urban library that’s part of a very prestigious library system *pats self on back* and graduated from library school this past December. When I first started library school, I also worked a couple of other part-time library jobs and internships, mostly in rural areas. I’ve always loved libraries (I mean, obviously any place with booksbooksbooks is a Mel place), but even I had stereotypes and preconceived notions about libraries before working in them and going to school to become a certified librarian. Today, I feel like sharing some of the ways my perceptions of libraries and librarians have changed over the past couple of years of being in the library profession.

  • Libraries don’t have to be quiet. Most people still think of being shushed by a librarian in a cardigan with a graying bun when they think of libraries, but that’s really not what libraries are anymore, especially when working with children and teens. My section in the library where I work always has a higher level of noise than other parts of the library might, and that’s because the goal of youth librarians is largely to make the library a place where kids can be kids, and that includes being loud.
  • Not all librarians have the same view of libraries. In library school, pretty much all the other students were way older than me, but we all tended to have the same views about what libraries could be and how they can support the communities they are a part of. I think this made me think other librarians I worked with in the real world would think this way as well, but after an…unfortunate outreach experience with a school librarian recently, I learned that not all librarians think the same way, which now seems silly that I thought that in the first place. Some librarians still have that old-fashioned view of libraries only being quiet places for academic purposes, but in reality, libraries have grown so much more from that.
  • You can’t be introverted and be a librarian. I very wrongly believed when I first started that a library would be a haven for me as an introvert. It’s true that libraries are quieter and more relaxed than most places that have people working with the public, but being a librarian requires a fairly high level of extroversion when it comes to providing good customer service, doing outreach with local schools and institutions to promote library resources and programming, and interacting with the public on a day-to-day basis. Still, a lot of librarians definitely still are introverts, so it can be comforting to talk to other introverts about how they deal with the anxiety of having to be extroverted all the time.

 

What are some of your stereotypes about libraries and librarians? Have I challenged any of them?

some of the weird things that have happened to me at the library so far

Weird things happen in libraries all the time. It’s a side effect of working with the public that can range from amusing to scary depending on the situation, but it makes every day at the library different. My “weird” interactions up until this new job have been somewhat limited since I mostly worked in rural settings, but since working in a library in an urban center, my exposure to weird interactions has for sure been on the rise. We also happen to be down the street from a hospital, which explains at least one of the weird things in this post.

  1. Artsy death guy. This, like many interactions, started out like a perfectly normal conversation. This guy came up to me at the desk and said he loved my style and I looked very artsy, so we talked about being musicians and introduced ourselves. I figured that was the end of the conversation since I was letting him into a study room, but then he goes, “nice to meet you. I just got out of the hospital. I almost died.” And that was the end of that. He still comes in sometimes and says how “artsy” I seem, which is starting to get vaguely annoying, but not as annoying as the next guy…
  2. Prayer guy. So, last week, a man came up to the desk and said “stay pretty and God bless you.” Okay, not my favorite, because a) strange man telling me I’m attractive and b) I’m an atheist. Guy comes to ask for a pencil. Guy says a prayer, ends it by saying “stay pretty and God bless you” again. Me: this is not great. I go down to children’s to get craft stuff and pass by his chair. He says it AGAIN. I mention it to the security guard while I’m downstairs, but unfortunately she can’t really do anything because she wasn’t there when it happened and he didn’t do anything weird. Unfortunately again, he comes to give me the pencil back and says it for a FOURTH TIME. Me: am now officially creeped out, have a lunch break.
  3. Hillary Clinton guy. Technically this happened outside the library. I was going to a book club thing that a work pal runs, and as I was walking back to the library, a guy shouts “hey, I like your hair.” I turn around to say thanks, since I’m used to getting comments about my hair now that it’s pink and vibrant and very noticeable. Obviously this is a mistake I shouldn’t have made, especially because then he starts ranting and shouting, “It reminds me of Hillary Clinton. You didn’t like her, did you? Do you have a pillow of her face in your purse?” finally I make it back into the library. *end scene*
  4. Obamacare guy. Apparently this guy is a known nut by everyone. As a rule, we have to help people access information even if we don’t agree with it, because access and equity is a major library value. However, we do not have to listen to people’s rants about their political views. So, this guy comes up to my partner and I at the desk and starts saying oh hey, you guys are new, which seems like a normal conversation, but then he busts out with, “Obamacare is death by guillotine.” Me: WTF face. He then goes, “I just like to make new faces aware of this,” and shows us this paper of citations with parts highlighted and asks us if we’d like to read the sources. We definitely declined.

These conversations with patrons are by no means the weirdest things that have ever happened to a librarian, and are also definitely not the last weird things that will ever happen to me as a librarian. On the one hand, being shouted at and subjected to people’s idiotic political views is not great, but on the other, it certainly does make every day at the library a unique adventure. I don’t think I will ever know how to respond to someone commenting on my physical appearance, which  I think is extremely inappropriate, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it, but I know working with the public can be challenging at times and I’m up for it.

Cats as Library Patrons: Pros and Cons

Cats as library patrons

Since this is a Very Serious Book Blog and I am a Very Serious Librarian obviously, this is intended to be a Very Serious reflection on the pros and cons of having cats as library patrons instead of humans. Humans, as any librarian will tell you, come with their own set of problems that can range from vaguely annoying to downright scary. This librarian thinks there is definitely some merit to the idea of replacing human library patrons with cats, and hopefully the pros will outweigh the cons on this list and show you why…

Pros

  • Very cute
  • Quiet for the most part
  • Won’t ask if computers are down when signs saying computers are down are taped over the computers
  • Won’t yell at you about fines
  • So soft
  • Provide good company when library is understaffed
  • Will provide headbutts if you’re upset about another cat
  • Won’t get annoyed if you can’t give them more than five free printed pages
  • Snuggly

 

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Cons

  • Litter box maintenance
  • No eating in the library
  • Will probably knock over books at some point
  • Might chew book corners
  • Could perhaps pee on books