The Magician’s Land

My last post was two weeks ago? Yikes! Clearly the week after summer reading ending I needed to sleep!

This was me last week, you know, if I was a bunny.

This was me last week, you know, if I was a bunny.

I can say that we had a great summer at MHL. Between the two of us, Clare and I put on around 34 programs in the month of July and around 15 in August. I can’t remember the exact number for attendance but it was in the 200s for July and around 130 for August!* That’s why I was so tired and busy! We did a lot.

I’m really proud of the way the summer turned out but we are hoping to make some changes for next year, like streamlining our VolunTeen program. This year it was just crazy: three different sessions doing three different activities, two of them involving little kids from the Children’s Room. At one point, Coke and Nerds candy was exploding all over 20 little kids and 10 VolunTeens in a pretty small activity room. It was a bit chaotic.19103097

But the Magician’s Land: If we’ve talked about books before, we’ve probably talked about this series. The Magician’s Land is the third and final book and I loved how it ended. It was very satisfying for me. It wrapped up just enough for me to not be wanting too more. Sometimes a series ends and you’d kill for more from that world. I felt that I would always appreciate more from Quentin and Fillory, but I was happy with what I got.

Here are some brief highlights of what I liked with some spoilery bits, so be tread carefully:

-Asmodeus’ brief cameo was so badass, and yet I wish I could had heard more of her story!

-Niffin-Alice following Quentin around his unsettling mirror house was so creepy – not quite to the levels of giving me nightmares about the Beast and Reynard the Fox – but creepy enough that as I was reading it alone in my apartment I thought, “Maybe I should save this for morning.” There’s something about mirrors that is so unsettling – I blame whoever in elementary school told me about Bloody Mary.

-I love how Quentin helped Alice to remember her humanity with bacon, champagne, and sex. This makes sense to me.

-I appreciated how Grossman gave us more insight into Eliot and Janet. Janet especially was a character who I had a hard time liking and figuring out in the first two books so it was nice to see her more fleshed out and human. And Eliot is always delightful, but I thought it was great how Grossman showed his earnest, serious side.

-The Drowned Garden of feeling and emotions Julia shows Quentin at the end was probably my favorite part. I love what she says to Quentin after showing him a little plant:

“This is a feeling that you had, Quentin [. . . ] This is how you felt when you were eight years old, and you opened one of the Fillory books for the first time, and you felt awe and joy and hope and longing all at once. You felt them very strongly, Quentin. You dreamed of Fillory then, with a power and an innocence that not many people ever experience. That’s where all this began for you. You wanted the world to be better than it was.

“Years later you went to Fillory, and the Fillory you found was a much more difficult, complicated place than you expected. The Fillory you dreamed of as a little boy wasn’t real, but in some ways it was better and purer than the real one. That hopeful little boy you once were was a tremendous dreamer.” (Page 388)

This is what these books are about: they are a love song, a paean to stories and how they shape you. How they make you believe in the impossible – that Fillory or Narnia or Middle Earth might actually be real**, or that your father is a secret amazing magician, or that there is something more – and sometimes the impossible is possible and sometimes it’s not. Fillory was real and so was magic, but it didn’t automatically make Quentin happy. He so desperately wanted his father to have some deep secret – like James Potter or heck, even Darth Vader – that would make Quentin the “chosen one” but he was just a regular man. I think this broke Quentin more than his father’s death.

But I think the hopes, and the breaking and changing of hopes in the sometimes harsh and sometimes wonderful light of reality, is part of what makes us human. We believe and our beliefs are shattered and challenged, but we still dream for that taste of magic, or love, or power, or recognition, or whatever it is we want. Sometimes it happens; the rest of the time life’s experiences are shaping, molding, and refining us into the people we become.

I cried when I read about that little plant of an emotion that I understood: the magic and longing and wanting of reading a book. That’s one of the reasons why I love this series so much. Grossman just gets what it’s like to lose yourself in a story and allow it to consume you for a while. Even when you feel like you’ve “outgrown” it, that feeling is still there.

So if you haven’t read this series, I recommend it! It may give you nightmares but it will stay with you for a while. And maybe we can all find Fillory together someday.

On a final note, I just want to say that this month was my last month Skyping with one of the coolest librarians I’ve ever met: Valerie my YALSA mentor. She’s amazing, hilarious, and so encouraging. I’ve learned so much from her and I’m so sad that we won’t be talking as often as we have been for the last year. I highly recommend the YALSA Virtual Mentor program to all YA/Teen librarians. It’s so great! I hope that someday I will reach Valerie’s level of awesomeness and get to mentor a new Teen librarian! Thank you a million times, Valerie! May you have endless buckets of glitter! See you in Austin in November!

*I looked up the stats: July had 34 programs with 277 in attendance; August had 16 programs with 130 in attendance. So in six weeks, Clare and I did 50 programs and had 407 in attendance. And all but four of those programs were ones we designed and put on ourselves! Holy moly!

**There’s a small, not so secret part of me that still thinks these places might be real. And I’m disappointed and relieved everyday when I convince myself that they are imaginary.

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The last week of summer reading

Summer reading is almost over! It’s the final countdown!

This is how excited I am!

This is how excited I am!

Don’t get me wrong – I like summer reading programs. Well, at least I like the library programming aspect of it, I’m not always too keen on required reading lists. I think students should be allowed and encouraged to read whatever they want instead of choosing from a predetermined list. In a perfect world where everyone loves to read and they can easily find and have access to the types of books they want to read, this works. I know that we don’t always live in that whole, but I can dream, right?

I digress. Summer reading is almost done and I’m excited because we do a LOT over the summer at my library. Most days we have a program a day, and often two programs a day. We have a once a week movie, craft programs, book/media-related parties (Doctor Who party today! 3pm! See you there?), a sci-fi tween book club, and our Volunteen program. All of these have varying degrees of preparation that must go into them. Even between my YA colleague and I, it’s a lot of work. And that doesn’t even take in account our regular book ordering duties – between the two of us Clare and I order YA, and big portions of mystery, science fiction, large print, and book club books – and time on the reference and teen desks. It’s a little crazy around here! In many ways, I don’t mind. I like being busy and I’ve only really felt frazzled a few times. We do a decent job of planning – Clare is better than I am – so that helps us keep on top of it all.

If you want to see some more of what we did this summer, check out our newly launched Instagram! Some of the pictures are from our Volunteen program that worked okay this year but we are hoping to simplify next year. We had three different groups of teens doing three different things: demonstrating science to younger kids; reading with younger kids; and helping out around the library. It was so much work to plan programs and then corral both teens and younger kids. Another program I really liked was the Star War thumb art craft. We used this book as a guide and it turned out so cute!

Also, I was so excited last week to see Lev Grossman at the Brookline Booksmith and finish his Magicians trilogy with The Magician’s Land! I’ve lent out both my library copy (shhh! don’t tell!) and my personal copies to friends to read, so I’m going to wait to do a better write up of it, but it’s great. I loved the way the trilogy ended and there were even two parts that made me cry! I allowed myself to stretch out the reading a bit because I really didn’t want it to end! It might be the best of the three, but there are some parts at the end I want to re-read before deciding that.

The New York Times has a great review and Edan Lepucki says, “The same thorny consciousness that can make us miserable also enables us to forgive, to connect, to change. “The Magician’s Land” casts human identity as a ritual of storytelling. We struggle against prescribed narratives, and too often stories don’t properly portray life as it’s truly lived. But stories also enable us to celebrate and comprehend the human experience. It’s in stories that we find ourselves. It makes sense, then, that as a boy, Quentin Coldwater read a series of books that led him into a life of magic. He fell in love with those books.”

Go read it and the series if you haven’t already. Grossman has great thoughts about the nature of books and how we relate to them.

In other books, the last book in the Last Policeman trilogy – where a Concord, NH detective soldiers on in his work despite the fact that a world-ending asteroid is headed straight for Earth – is out and I’m looking forward to reading that. I’m also currently reading Starglass by Phoebe North, which is reminding me of Salvage, which I also read recently. Both feature oppressive, male-dominated societies on spaceships leaving or orbiting around a dying Earth, with awesome, feminist, female main characters. I hope it’s a trend in YA literature!

And last but not least, because I have a delightful boyfriend who leaves presents at my door, I’ve been really into comics. Right now I’m reading Rat Queens Vol. 1 and looking forward to Sex Criminals Vol. 1 (not about creepy sexual offenders but rather about two people who can stop time when they have sex, so they decide to rob banks. Obviously).

Historical re-enactment of boyfriend adorable-ness. (Note: this bag does not contain Dragonball-Z comcis. Just, no.)

Historical re-enactment of boyfriend adorable-ness. (Note: this bag does not contain Dragonball-Z comcis. Just, no.)

 

Tell me about your summers! Read anything good? Been anywhere amazing?

 

 

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Saga, Internet-ing teens, bingo, and more

You know those blogs posts or articles where it’s the end of the week and they give you a bunch of links to fun and interesting things and then you spend your afternoon working your way through them? Those are fun, right? This is going to be a bit like that, except it’s Tuesday and I don’t have that much to say. Some are library-related and some are not. Here we go!

Library things:

First off, I made a bingo board for a program (sadly attended by no one…) with this website that lets you put images into boards and then makes multiple different copies for you! Awesome! Here’s my fandom-themed one:

I forgot to save the file, so I took a picture of printed out. Old school!

I forgot to save the file, so I took a picture of printed out. Old school!

Also, I wanted to just chat a bit more about Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens. Again, if you work with teens or really encounter a teen ever, you should read this book. The basic idea that keep coming back to is this: Teens don’t spend a lot of time online to cause trouble or be lazy but rather to socialize. We don’t allow them to go anywhere else to socialize so they go online. Either they have strange, very-scheduled lives, or we’ve told them that all of the public places that are available to them are unsafe or unwelcome to teens. You like hanging out with your friends, right? You get together, go have a drink or coffee, or go to the movies together, or go their house and have a grand old time. Yes? Teens like doing similar things but they rarely have the ways or means for transportation and activities, and oh yeah, there are those parental rules that may restrict their mobility and opportunities to socialize.

So if you like being with your friends, remember what it was like when you couldn’t because you had a curfew or no car or no money. Teens are just trying to be friends and navigate their social lives. We adults do that too, so maybe we should freak out less about teens and the Interwebz.

Finally, here’s my post for YALSA’s The Hub blog this month. It’s all about vacation reading: what and where you are reading. Some lovely bloggers went on vacation. I went to the town beach that’s five minutes from me on a cloudy day. It’s not ideal, but did I mention I live five minutes from the ocean?

Look at your life; look at your choices! Go see this stuff now!

If you like Star Trek: TNG – and why wouldn’t you – go read the Rikergoogling twitter feed now.

If you like space, fantasy, adorable children, scary monsters, beautiful art, characters of diverse races and body types (including robot), mercenaries, sexy times, cats, medics who are mice, or any combination of those things, and can tolerate a bit of strangeness, go read Saga. I don’t know what I was doing with my life before reading it. Just wasting it on other things, I suppose. Seriously, even if you’re not that into graphic novels read it for the art alone. It’s gorgeous.

saga

I believe that is all. Oh, and The Magician’s Land is coming out next week and Lev Grossman will be at the Brookline Booksmith. I’ll be there!

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A scavenger hunt

After two weeks of craziness regarding my alma mater (whose letter Obama ignored and signed an nondiscrimination executive order anyway! YAY!), a trip for a funeral to Kansas*, being sick, getting in a mini-car accident** where some jerk hit my two-month-old car, and a ton of library programming, I’m back into the blog. I want to write a little bit about one thing I did over the last two weeks that was library-related!

I mean, this is supposed to a library blog after all. I should write about libraries.

It was a scavenger hunt! I really like scavenger hunts or at least I like the idea of them when I put them on the schedule. Somehow I always manage to forget how much work it is to put together a scavenger hunt. This is my process:

  • write the clues
  • then makes sure they are solvable
  • then type them
  • find cute pictures – because it’s Random Fandom Summer Reading themed –  for the clues
  • decide which picture of David Tennant to use for the Doctor Who clue
  • learn about bronies
  • realize you probably have all these pictures saved somewhere but can’t find them….
  • print them out
  • cut them into little strips
  • get envelopes to put the clues in
  • put matching pictures from clues on envelopes because it’s fun and it makes it a bit easier
  • tell the staff you’re doing a scavenger hunt and warn them
  • send the staff the clues so they can help
  • let the director know I am NOT sending kids up the top quiet study floor where her office is
  • pat myself on the back for thinking of that in time…
  • put the clues into a few different groups so you can send the kids in different directions
  • put markers on each of the clues for each group (I used different colored stars)
  • put the right clues from the right groups into the right envelopes
  • make sure they all end where you want them to
  • put the envelopes in their clue places
  • run back and write notes on all the envelopes saying, “For a library program! Please do not remove!”
  • wait for the teens to arrive
  • tell them the rules
  • give them their clues and groups
  • send them off
  • help with clues
  • give really easy hints that they sometimes don’t get
  • wait
  • help more
  • wait more
  • finally they bring all of the clues back to you . . . or most of the clues
  • Give them candy!

Overall, I would say it took me maybe 4 -5 hours in setting up the program. That’s kind of a lot! That includes all of the writing of the clues, organizing – it takes a lot longer than you think to sort them into different groups and make sure the kids aren’t just following each other around the library, and set up. That’s a lot more time than I usually spend on a program. I always have a good time helping the teens with the clues when I’m done but in the middle of the implementation stage it’s hard not to feel really overwhelmed.

Sorting the clues into their correct envelopes in the right group order is a challenge!

Sorting the clues into their correct envelopes in the right group order is a challenge!

Have you ever thought of doing a scavenger hunt. It’s a bit of work, but really fun and worth it. Give it a try sometime!

*I think I became a a bit more of a New Englander in Kansas. It’s so open . . . I don’t like it. Where are all the buildings? Or the ocean?

**I’m totally fine. My new spacecar needs bumper work:

Sad U.S.S. Spaceship (that’s what I call my car sometimes….H.M.S. Spaceship if I’m pretending I’m from Britain)

HAHAHAHA. I destroyed you!

HAHAHAHA. I destroyed you, Other Car’s Bumper!

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Letter to Gordon College President Lindsay

I realize that this is not about libraries but this is important. Last week I read an article during a break at work shared by a friend on Facebook saying that Gordon College, my alma mater, had affixed its name to a document that urges the White House to  include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

I was so angry I found it hard to concentrate. My school – the school that I loved, that gave me a great education, that gave me most of my current friends, that taught me to write a good paper thesis, that allowed me to study the works of Chopin, Bach, and more, that instilled in me a love of discussion and critical thinking, that taught about me about the human condition through literature classes – was asking for permission to discriminate against LGBTQ employees? Did I mention that some of those friends Gordon gave me are gay?

I knew that this would get picked up in the local press. And it did.  I am glad because so it is awful and hateful, and because some former Gordon students got to share their thoughts on the matter. Paul Miller, one of the alumni quoted in the article, is a close friend of mine. He’s gay and I love him. End of story. I have other gay friends from Gordon – some continue in their faith and some do not. They are still my friends.

After letting this all stew in my head all weekend and having a number of rants about it to let off some steam, I wrote a letter this morning. I’m going to send it to the president of the college tomorrow. If this cruel desire to discriminate, to have hatred allowed and encouraged infuriates you, write him a letter:

D. Michael Lindsay
Gordon College
255 Grapevine Road
Wenham, MA 01984
Here’s a link to his contact information and the contact information for his staff. I will probably also email a copy of my letter.

If you’re an alum of Gordon, even better. Your words matter. This is our college and it shouldn’t matter if you are gay or straight.

Here’s what I say:

Dear President Lindsay,

I am an alumni of Gordon College and have been proud to say so for the last six years. Not so in the last week. I was horrified and hurt to read your name prominently displayed on a letter for the Obama Administration seeking a religious exemption to discriminate against LGBTQ employees.

Not that it matters, but I am straight. I always have been and have always known that I am. My sexual orientation is a fundamental part of my being and something that I haven’t had to defend because it is the cultural norm. I know that my gay and lesbian friends have always known that they were gay. This is also a fundamental part of their being. Being gay or straight has nothing to do with whether or not you can be a Christian and accept God’s love. So why therefore is Gordon College, an institution where I received an exemplary education, and a love and desire to serve others in my current job as a public librarian, saying that this is so? And why are you making what is a clear political statement – despite what you write in the letter – that these two matters cannot work together. Why are you saying, in fact, they cannot work together to the point that Gordon should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people in hiring practices.

Have you thought for a moment about the fact that you are desiring to discriminate? At a place that holds the foundational belief that grace, truth, and salvation come through faith in Jesus? Where is the grace and truth in a desire to discriminate? That does not sound like my Jesus.

I am not here to debate theological matters with you; I’m confident that you would know more than I. I would rather not get into a discussion of whether or not homosexuality is a sin: I don’t believe it is and I don’t believe the Bible is clear on this. I am here to say that I am disappointed and I know hundreds, maybe even thousands of alumni are disappointed as well. The Jesus in whom I believe loves all. The word of God is pretty clear on that point: Jesus loves and accepts everyone whether sinner, righteous, rich, or poor if they believe and confess their faith in him.

I urge you to reconsider your stance on this. When I was at Gordon I thought the student body was getting to a point where the intersection between homosexuality and Christianity was becoming a more acceptable topic of conversation. A student publication, “If I Told You” told the brave and challenging stories of LBGTQ students and their struggles with faith, acceptance, feeling physically safe, and extremely damaging anti-gay therapy. SoulForce, a nonprofit group of often Christian LBGTQ community members who travel to colleges to speak about LGBTQ issues and faith, visited Gordon during my time as a student. I was proud that we were having dialogues and showing Christ’s love to a community that other colleges and religious institutions have been hateful and violent toward.

But now I am not so proud. I believe this to be a large step backward in the journey of Gordon College toward compassionate, understanding, and accepting LGBTQ support. I also believe this letter to which you signed your name will be a turning point for Gordon. There is still time to change it for the better. I hope that you choose the right side of history and the right side of Christ’s love: the side that accepts all of God’s children, no matter who they are and who they love.

In closing, I’d like my close friend Paul who spoke to the Boston Globe in Evan Allen’s article from July 4, “Gordon College leader joins request for exemption to hiring rule,” to have the last word. If this heartbreaking sentence doesn’t make you pause and reconsider your actions, then I am afraid nothing will. What is more important for a college that has been a wonderful place for so many people: to make overt hateful and political statements for the sake of ultra conservative donors or to support people of faith no matter their sexual orientation? I would like to hope you will reconsider your actions. Please listen to Paul:

“I wonder, if Gordon had been affirming of LGBT people, if I’d still be a person of faith,” said Miller. “And the reason I’m not is the place that provided the most compassionate and intellectually robust and civic-minded Christianity that I’d ever encountered told me that I couldn’t be part of their community.”

Sincerely,

Anna Tschetter

Class of 2008

 

 

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