First week

Phew! My first week is over and I’m merely hours away from my second week. Here are a serious of impressions/vignettes from my first week:

-The library is a bit labyrinthine in the staff areas. I keep imagining that I will either 1) see David Bowie somewhere or 2) materialize a la Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife in a terrifying sounding place called “The Dungeon” where apparently they keep the old magazines.
-I have my own office and an ID badge that gets me into the building. I have always wanted a name tag/badge because I think it would help me look more grownup. Patrons often mistake me for a high school/college worker and ask me if this is my “summer job.” Blerg.
-The staff is big and very friendly. They have made me feel really welcome and had a welcome breakfast one day. So nice!
-My first afternoon I hadn’t quite learned how to extend time on the computers – Andover uses a different computer system than Methuen* – and the kids were getting anxious. One teen was grumbling about my ineptitude and another teen said, “Geez! It’s her first day – give her a break!!” He is my new favorite.
-I helped a patron at the reference desk via the telephone look up some medical information. Because a “train was going by” I had to shout something about pus on the phone. I even had to spell it. Clare, my fellow YA librarian, kept giggling.

We also made buttons with our button maker - a LITERAL dream come true to work in a library with a button maker - with grumpy cat on them. YES!

We also made buttons with our button maker – a LITERAL dream come true to work in a library with a button maker – with grumpy cat on them. YES!

There’s more but that’s a brief update. I’m really excited about the challenges and opportunities that working at Memorial Hall will offer me. It’s so great so far and hopefully will continue to be so.

*Hey Nevins friends! I miss you!

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New job – Eek!

Hi all. Another long time in between posts, I know. But now I can finally say that there has been a reason for the long cold nights in between writing: I got a new job! The process has taken a few months from application, to interviews, to visits, to giving notice and finally, to yesterday, my first day.

While I am very sad to leave my job at the Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen – and I love all of you wonderful Nevins people and will see you soon* – I am very excited to be in my position as Teen/Reference Librarian at Memorial Hall Library in Andover. It’s another step for me in my career and I am the most excited about working with a team of YA librarians. I am one of two full-time YA librarians and there are also two-part time staffers who work in the teen room! Wow! Being a department of one at Nevins really taught me a lot about how I work – sometimes very last-minute, not the best at planning, but very motivated and liking to stay busy with projects and building my own support system, especially cross departmentally – but I am so excited to be able to work with other YA people. Just to have more people knowing what’s going on day-to-day in teen services and being able to work with others’ strengths is a huge bonus for me.

Yesterday went well other than a brief panicky moment when all the teens on the computers needed more time and I realized I didn’t actually know how to do that. One teen got impatient but another one said, “Give her a break. It’s her FIRST day!” Instant favorite teen right there. I was really nervous about messing up in general and I know that I will in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I’m sure I’ll accidentally hang up on someone or mess up a computer or local history question. Or any number of things, and being okay with that is something I’m going to have to work on. Everyone seems really nice and helpful and I’m hoping it’s going to be a great fit.

I’ll keep you updated on my goals and events, but I anticipate the next month or so I may be infrequently posting while I get my feet under me. Thanks to everyone who supported me through this process and thanks to everyone at the Nevins for helping me so much professionally.

A final note: if you had told me my first year in grad school when I was working a handful of jobs trying to add up to full-time and eating the grad school diet of peanut M&Ms from the vending machine that I’d be working at Andover and that I’d make myself a kale smoothie for lunch (just on the line between good and disgusting, just how I like it…), I’d probably have laughed in your face. It’s nice to know classes and work are paying off.

*Probably very soon. I left my Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library mug in the break room and need it back. It’s my work library mug. My home library mug is a mug from the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. I will freely admit I have too many mugs. (I ranked my top four favorite mugs the other day and that’s perhaps a quarter of the mugs we have: 1. Star Trek mug 2. Royal Wedding mug 3. Phillips Library mug and 4. Vintage Steak n’ Shake mug. I could rank drinking glasses and bowls, too, but I won’t. I’ll save your sanity if not my own.)

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Seriously, my eyes are up here

They are on my face – and yes, looking at people’s eyes or at least trying to make some semblance of looking at someone’s face is our culture’s way of showing you are listening – and not in the middle of my chest. That’s where my boobs live. Don’t look at my boobs for the entire time I’m trying to explain our library’s DVD policy to you. Don’t creepily look at my boobs at all. Plus, being a just over five feet tall person makes it really easy for me to notice when an over six feet tall person is looking at my boobs. Seriously, you’re going to break your neck from all the craning down to ogle.

Words to live by, thanks CTA. (Good for you, Chicago!)

Words to live by, thanks CTA. (Good for you, Chicago!)

Ah, sexual harassment! I don’t think that I have had a job where I have not been sexually harassed: I have had a lawyer (!) ask me in the office – while I’m wearing a knee-length skirt and knee-high boots, though it wouldn’t matter what I was wearing – if my legs go “all the way up”; I’ve had a coworker at a coffee shop text me the things he’d like to “do” to me if he could get me alone and when I told him that was really inappropriate and unwelcome follow me into the basement where we were alone to try to “explain” himself (my ex-boyfriend  kindly offered to beat him up, and while it was a nice offer, I definitely wanted to do it myself); I’ve had patrons follow me around the stacks while I’m shelving asking doggedly about my relationship status; continuously trying to get my number or ask me out even after repeated refusals; or tell me about three times in a row how much he really, really likes my haircut, leering the whole time. And more that I probably can’t remember because it makes me so angry that I can rattle off a list of the times I’ve felt the sexual harassment range of emotions that goes from uncomfortable to creeped out to unsafe.

It’s frustrating to me, too, that it took me working in libraries to realize that I needed to tell coworkers and supervisors about this. Sexual harassment does this weird thing where it makes you – the one being harassed, not the one harassing, feel weird or shameful about it. You don’t really want to tell anyone at work for a number of reasons: fear of retribution; fear that no one will believe you; fear that you will be blamed for doing x which means you were asking for it; and the list goes on. It was actually a wonderful and caring bartender – the amazing Faith from the now sadly closed Harry’s 240 – who made me tell people at work about it. It’s not okay when it happens and bosses and supervisors need to know about it. You need to tell people for your own safety and so others can help you. Once I did tell people other librarians at my old job would call over to the Reference desk when a patron appeared to be bothering me to make sure I was ok and other measures. It was nice to know they had my back, and we were all able to watch out for each other.

A few people sent me this “15 reasons to date a librarian” post recently and I get it: librarians are cool and some people have a thing for that hot librarian stereotype/fetish.* That’s great and good for you, but it doesn’t mean you get to try to play out your fantasies while I’m work doing my job. My job which is to help you find whatever information you need or want, not to be your sexual fantasy. This shouldn’t be that hard for people to understand. It’s fine if you like all the things most librarians are about: communities, intelligence, freedom to read, civil liberties, books, cats, tattoos, whatever the prevailing stereotype is, but remember that we’re still people who deserve the same modicum of respect as anyone else. It doesn’t help in a lot of ways that our profession is predominantly made up of women – this adds another whole dimension to the issues of librarians, harassment, and librarian fantasies that I may touch upon at another time.
Additionally, it’s a strange situation when this sexual harassment is coming from a patron, from the population that I’m trying to help. Definitely you should report it just as you should report harassment from coworkers, but it’s a some how different. You can’t fire a patron. You can write them up if you have a “bad patron log” or something like that. Obviously, if it gets really bad – and you are feeling unsafe – your library may removal policies in place to deal with patrons like this but we are often asked to walk a fine line. In some ways, we have to put up with a bit of everyday sexual harassment because of the nature of our job – being an institution that is open to everyone. Directors and trustees have to make decisions, too, about policies to deal with it. If a patron is being threatening and a staff person feels unsafe, that is one thing, but sometimes I feel there’s not a lot to do when a patron giving off low levels of creep. The haircut guy? Doesn’t make me feel unsafe, I just hate waiting on him because he’s creepy. Is this an ideal situation? No, but I’m not sure how else to deal with it.
Any library administrators, supervisors, or other library staff out there have ideas on how to deal with this? I’d love to hear some of your policies, or need for policies.

*I know some librarians and friends who have a really problem with this fetish/stereotype and I understand that. It doesn’t bother me as long as you are normal about it, and preferably, keep it to yourself. If I say I’m a librarian and you go, “Oh wow. You must be a secret nymphomaniac! HOT!” Then yeah, you crossed the line into weird. Don’t do that, please.
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Fortnight

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted. I’m having a bit of trouble at the beginning of this year keeping up with my twice a week posting schedule. Life and work has been busy and that’s ok.

One of the bigger and more stressful events of the last few weeks was Leslea Newman’s visit to our library. It wasn’t stressful because of her; she is lovely and amazing. Nevertheless, trying to coordinate with Methuen’s GSA, our library and staff, and stupid Mother Nature who was threatening to snow last Thursday made for a couple of sleepless nights. I don’t usually get myself so worked up about a program that I will lose sleep over it, but this one has two nights where I either stayed up later than usual thinking about it, or had to send myself an email at 1am because I had awoken with an item to remember to do.

But once the day came, all went smoothly. Leslea Newman read from her book October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard and talked about his life. Her presentation is really moving – I had seen it at NELA last year – and it still made me cry. At one point she talks about young people who have killed themselves because of anti-gay bullying. The handful of lives she talks about range from 18-year-old Tyler Clementi to 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover who hung himself in 2009 after kids bullied him daily calling him “gay” and “girlie.”

11 years old. I can’t even begin to say how ill this makes me, how thinking about how despite this poor boy felt makes me cry.

Leslea also has a point in her presentation where she asks us all to close our eyes and imagine a perfect world where we can do all the things we are afraid to do in our current world. It could be anything, either being with the person you love openly, or walking down the street, or whatever. This also gets me because I realize that one of my dreams of perfection is to go running at night without fear. It’s so silly in a way and I feel almost embarrassed of how easy my life is compared to others’ lives: I don’t have to worry about being assaulted, harassed, or worse for being gay, trans, a minority, in prison, living in poverty, physically or mentally disabled, or any other identity or situation that comes with a lot of danger. I’m a white, straight, middle class, cisgendered lady who wants to go running at night. Really? It’s a really good and striking reminder that I have it pretty easy in a lot of way. This makes me grateful and sad.

On a separate note, I am also grateful that I am not a woman (poor, black, or royal – this book has all three points of view) in medieval Scandinavia. Why? Well, I just finished The Kingdom of Little Wounds, a Printz honor book for this year. It was good, I think? I did like it, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The author’s afterward calls the book a “fairytale about syphilis” and that’s pretty accurate. There are lots of political machinations, sad realities of women’s lives, sexual assault, the madness that comes from syphilis, and one especially memorable body modification that brings particular meaning to the euphemism of a man’s “crown jewels.” (Once you get there, you’ll know…)

All the makings for a great YA book, right? I do think some teens will read it, but it is definitely for the older set. I did enjoy it and can recommend it at least for the very reason that you will continue to think about it for days after you finish it.

What about you? Are your weeks busy and full of lovely art and books?

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What about books for girls, Dumdum?

This is post in which I’m going to contradict and take myself to task. Apparently, I’ve been learning to play the Devil’s Advocate so well I’ll even do it to myself. I actually this is an important part of the critical thinking process – being able to argue with yourself and challenge your own viewpoints – but I realize it can be annoying.

How do people figure out what you actually believe, you say. What’s with your doublespeak/hypocrisy, Anna?

Deal with it: I contain multitudes, jerks.

Anyway. After I wrote my Books for Boys that aren’t “Books for Boys” post over at the Hub last week, I’ve been thinking about books for girls. The post did get a good response* with a few people tweeting the link out. Plus, Malinda Lo thanked me which is just spectacular. She’s so awesome: her work on diversity in YA and her books are just amazing.

Whenever an author interacts with me on Twitter or retweets something I react like a tiny excited child. If I ever meet a movie star or something, I’ll be the one ridiculously fangirling over people. It’s almost embarrassing. I have to remind myself they are just people like me.

Squeeeeeeeee!

Squeeeeeeeee!

Back to girls and reading. As I was thinking about my post this week, I was wondering why I didn’t write about books for girls and why “books for boys” is such a thing. I realized its because I think we expect girls to read, and especially to read YA. I touched on this a little bit earlier when I wrote about A.S. King, Karen Healey, and Malinda Lo (she’s everywhere!) at their Lexington book event – that people look down upon YA books because they are perceived to be the sole province of teenaged girls. And teen girls are not very respected in our culture.

We expect girls to read because we expect girls to be good and reading is good.  It’s quiet and controlled. And we expect them to read books for pleasure; that they will read nice romances and think nice thoughts. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes girls don’t like to read, or they don’t like to read the nice books. Little do we know girls are just as susceptible to the revolutionary act of reading  as anyone else. Just as boys can read books about romance or from a girl’s POV or written by a woman, girls can read books with sex, violence, drugs, horror, anarchy, humor, and the rest. We assume they won’t read those because we don’t like to think about girls having sexual thoughts or being intrigued by action and violence.

Yes, there are differences between boys and girls, but they are still human beings; in a lot of ways they are the same. They read or don’t read for similar reasons. Some like character-driven novels, others want nonstop action, and yet more maybe enjoy a good romance – even if they won’t admit it.

Readers are readers. If we could just take off the gendered lenses entirely, I think we could serve our readers better. Let’s focus on writing, reading, and recommending stories that are true (in the manner of Truth, not necessarily a nonfiction story), that matter, that touch the soul, that are real, that show the varieties of human emotion and experience, that are maybe even an inspiration. Let’s do that instead of focusing on the gender we think might like the book the best.

Books for girls are books for boys, and books for boys are books for girls. It’s all just stories. I think that I was trying to say that in my “Books for Boys” post, but I didn’t want to leave out my ladies.

Stores for all! Goodnight, folks!

*It also cracked the top five most viewed posts on the Hub for February! First time I’ve done that!

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