Category Archives: Rants

Save IMLS because libraries are essential

If you didn’t hear that Trump is planning on cutting funds to SO MANY ESSENTIAL programs, then here you go. Also, some of these essential programs include the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an important source of funding for libraries and museums in the U.S. I want to talk a little bit about IMLS today because a lot of people don’t know what it does. IMLS gives grants to libraries and museums to provide essential education and access services to patrons. This can be you the public, students at universities, museum patrons, and more.

In Massachusetts, IMLS grants help MA libraries to put on Summer Reading, perhaps the one of the most important programs many public libraries have to help combat the summer slide, and our Commonwealth Catalog, which is an easy way to request and receive books from other consortia to your home library. Looking for a book but you live in Western MA but only a library in Boston has it? The Commonwealth catalog allows you to see that book, request it, and for librarians to get it for you in about a week.

Here are some grants that IMLS has awarded to libraries and museums that I especially like:

This grant supports the Chicago Public Library’s Maker Lab which helps to educate patrons of all ages about art, engineering while giving them practical, hands-on skills.

This grant to the St. Louis Science Center – one of the best places ever! – helps support school readiness programs for kids aged 0-4.

This grant to the Boston Public Library helps to preserve the incredible John Singer Sargent murals located in their historic Copley Square Branch.

This grant to the Southern New Hampshire University helps to provide access to research about business and economic development.

IMLS gives many grants to American Indian tribes and nations in Arizona and elsewhere.

This grant gives Orange County, FL the ability to offer classes economic development class in Haitian Creole.

This grant to Clemson University helps to establish an online database of National Park information.

This grant to the Columbus Public Library helps prepare students for school as well as social, reading, and languages skills in the city’s poorest areas.

This grant allows the Houston Public Library to create mobile library “pop-ups” to combat the loss of skills over the summer.

Friends, there are hundreds of grants. Take a look and see the essential services that IMLS helps to provide. What can you find in your state and community?

So, does the thought of these programs going away because Trump and others of his ilk don’t think they are important or necessary make you full of rage? First of all, welcome to my world, and secondly, what can you do? You can all your representative and ask them to support IMLS in general and to specifically sign these “Dear Appropriator” letters which support funding to LSTA grants. If you don’t know your representative – maybe you don’t have them all in your phone like I do?! – find them here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Also you can use your public library and your museums. Tell them that you appreciate what they do. Join the Friends group at your library or buy some books from their book sale. (My local library’s book sale is this weekend and you can also donate to their teen room renovation project.)

Here’s another great article about how IMLS helps libraries, museums, and you. Yes, you personally. Do you live in MA and your kid did summer reading at the library? IMLS helped you. Fill in the blank with hundreds of other examples of that sentence. Now help IMLS and fight the Trump budget’s campaign against essential job training and education services.

And don’t even get me started on the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

 

 

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What to say?

Hello friends,

I know I haven’t been writing. The summer was busy and then Doug and I got married. It was amazing – we have the best friends and family who helped us in so many ways. Other things are good: My new coworker is incredible and I’m so grateful she’s at my library. I’ve been nominated for the 2019 Printz committee which is a professional dream of mine. Things are good. We are happy.

I really thought Hillary Clinton would win. I cried when I voted for a woman president. I thought that as a people we would come together to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigration fears, etc. I was naive in thinking that our hundreds of years of those things could be overcome or at least knocked down a peg. We let ourselves be isolated in our communities: liberals not listening to conservatives, city folks mocking the rural. It’s easy to do even as someone who grew up in the rural Midwest.

So it’s been really hard to stay positive about the good things in my life over the last few days.

A lot of the kids in the Teen Room are scared: Will they be deported? Will they have to go to conversion therapy? Will they be able to get birth control when they need it? What about the economy, will it be ok? I admit I’m scared, too. And I don’t know what to tell them. I try to tell them we are there for them; that their friends and family are there for them. Also, that there are a lot of us who realize we could have and should have done more to listen and talk to those who are different than us. To try to understand. And that we’re going to be better.

White women who voted for someone who stands for male entitlement and sexual assault, who thinks all black people live in hell, who rejects the refugee? What the hell, my sisters? The sisterhood – yes I know it’s cheesy but I don’t care – includes women of color, immigrant women, queer women. The sisterhood is maybe for them. Yes, “lift as you climb,” but maybe those of us already benefitting from life at the top should spend time pulling others, our LGBTQ, POC, poor, immigrant sisters and brothers, up first. We played a part in failing that. The idea of the sisterhood is probably something that makes us white ladies feel better; that has allowed us to make the advances we have at the expense of women of color. Let’s change that. I will not forget the past but I’m committed to volunteering my time and money to fighting racism, sexism, and fear for the future.

So I’m talking and texting with teens who are terrified the won’t be able to get married someday because they are gay. Or are afraid that they racism they’ve already experienced – yes in our liberal enclave of Massachusetts – will get worse. They can’t sleep at night and I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to be defeatist and I don’t want to be scared. I want to be hopeful without excusing people who are pushing these harmful agendas. I go back and forth between these two states a million times a day. I try to tell them when I can that I too am scared. But that I’m also ready to work, to advocate, to let highlight marginalized voices. The people who have more to fear than white, straight, cisgendered me.

As many authors and writers have said, books and stories are important. Read all that you can, as widely as you can. Don’t know what life is like in rural parts? Find a story. Don’t know what it’s like to be a Muslim American? Find a story. Sometimes, oftentimes, those stories are in books and articles. Other times, you may have to get out there and talk to people in person. Hear their stories in real life. It’s ok, we’re all just people. We have so much more in common than what is different. We all want love, safety, personal fulfillment, career success, the freedom to be ourselves.

I will do it. I will find those who are different and I will start doing the work that I can.

 

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Stray observations

I’ve had a few things kicking around in my head that I’ve wanted to write about but have been extremely lazy. I haven’t really been able to form them into coherent longer thoughts. So. I’ll make semi-coherent short thoughts.

Here’s what I’ve been pondering:

-First to all you YA/Teen librarians out there, do you feel an obligation to provide volunteer programs for your teens during the year or summer? My library has for the last few years, but last year’s was a struggle. They are so many kids who need volunteer time and it’s a beast to plan and supervise. My coworker feels she’s done everything under the sun and we’re dreading coming up with ideas? We’ve floated around the idea of not doing anything, but I feel somewhat strongly that we, as the town library, should provide an program. Any thoughts? Are we just being really lazy (this is entirely possible)?

-There was a bit of a kerfluffle in the YA world about some comments Andrew Smith, whose books I do generally really like made about girls. Here is the comment made to Vice:

“[VICE]: On the flip side, it sometimes seems like there isn’t much of a way into your books for female readers. Where are all the women in your work?
[SMITH]: I was raised in a family with four boys, and I absolutely did not know anything about girls at all. I have a daughter now; she’s 17. When she was born, that was the first girl I ever had in my life. I consider myself completely ignorant to all things woman and female. I’m trying to be better though.”

When I saw the comments, I thought, “Huh. So he didn’t try to investigate the lives of girls until he had a daughter? Not even his wife?” It reminded me a bit of when people try to get a man to care about women’s issues by saying, “Imagine this happening to your mother or wife or daughter?” As if men can’t possibly care about a woman that isn’t related or known to him. That men can’t care about women as greater members of humanity first, and then humans they know second.

Fellow YA author Tessa Gratton wrote a response to the comments and ends saying, “I’m not asking for boycotts or apologies, I’m asking that we keep talking about this, keep pointing it out, keep making it shameful and at least annoying to say things like this. I was nearly scared out of writing this up simply because it’s hard to listen to haters and stalkers and trolls, and I’m pretty damn busy writing my feminist novels. But shouldn’t it be harder for someone to willingly participate in a culture of sexism than it is for us to talk about it out loud, and publicly?” I agree with her completely, and because this is the life we lead, she was harassed and threatened on Twitter. You know, by grown-ass people.

The whole thing just made me sad and tired because I’m not sure Smith was trying to be sexist, it’s just that its so easy for many of us to get caught up in that culture, and say things that reflect it without knowing. Chuck Wendig writes about this a bit, in a post that is very thought-provoking. Maybe that’s why I started the Alex Crow and didn’t get far. I just couldn’t get into it. And maybe it was because of this backstory. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that is books feature mostly boy characters. There can be books about boys and everyone can read them. But I will admit, if I’m looking for a book that has great girl characters, I’m probably not going to read an Andrew Smith book. I guess, I just don’t know if that’s ok. It’s still something to think about.

-Finally, this piece in the Harvard Crimson (yesssss, so fancy! Ted, make me another martini!) is really lovely and piercing:

“There were books you didn’t write because you are sensitive, because of course you are sensitive, because the half-sleights and the full-sleights wear you down and all the books in you start rioting and say: Hey! I am a book! Let me out, let me out of here! […]

Let’s tally up all the days it was difficult to get out of bed.

Let’s tally up all the time we spent turning to the side, and then to the other side, so we could see our bellies in the mirror every morning before showering: grabbing our thighs, grabbing our other thighs, doing it again. Five minutes a day for 10 years. […]”

I feel that way sometimes about writing or about trying new things or doing the hobbies I enjoy. Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I could get out of my way and not let others hold me back.

Deep thoughts this morning, folks. Luckily, I’m actually ok. The sun is shining and the snow has melted from in front of my house. Go forth into the world and be great, friends!

 

 

 

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Trivia night success and snowmageddon 2015

Coming to you live from the Blizzard of 2015! There were least two feet of drifts outside my door this morning, so needless to say my library is closed. As you can see in the picture I had to dig myself a pathway out, and that door across the way? The one that is basically clear? That’s how everyone in the big house gets in and out. Ugh. Upper class snobs. Truly my carriage house is servants’ quarters.

SNOW.

SNOW. (Also if the dude who is parked right there moves all that snow into my walkway, I’m going to be pissed.)

So anyway, I’m holed up here with books, records, coffee, and Netflix. Not a bad way to spend the day.

My only complaint is that my cat is upstairs sleeping on my bed, not downstairs sleeping on me to keep me warm. Jerk.

My only complaint is that my cat is upstairs sleeping on my bed, not downstairs sleeping on me to keep me warm. Jerk.

But, let’s talk about trivia last week! Ladies and dudes: it went so well! We had about 25 people there and while three of the 8 teams were somehow friends of the library staff or library staff themselves, I thought it was amazing! My questions were a bit on the easy side, but no one seemed to mind! Patrons asked if we were going to do it again and I think that we brought in a lot of business for the hosting restaurant. It was a Tuesday night – not a historically big night for drinking – and so I bet us being there was good for their bottom line. And it was so good for the library to be seen as something that is engaged in the community and is more than just a repository for books. (Unlike this douchecanoe – sorry for the insult perhaps he is really a nice guy but honestly, the he seems like a whole canoe-full of doucheness – from the “Cooperative Library of Boxford” which seeks to not support a tax increase for the very wealthy MA town to get a new library building to replace their current falling down, mold-ridden building that has had to be closed because it is dangerous.)* [Edit on 3/15/15: Thinking back on this post, name-calling is not really the way to go here and probably unprofessional, but honestly, I was frustrated. I was and am frustrated for the people in Boxford who have taken library service for granted and for those who don’t understand all the work that libraries do.]

So anyway: trivia was a success and fun was had by all. I was the MC and my colleague Curtis set up all the AV equipment and kept score. We are hopefully going to do it again in the spring, most likely April or May. I’d love to be able to do it every month but we’d have to probably buy questions from a trivia place to do that. It’s just too hard to write 20 questions every month. It’s a lot of work!

I’m so happy that we took a risk and it worked out. I’m really proud of us for trying something new. Yay MHL! Thanks to those friends of mine who came out to play – you are amazing!

What new library things have you tried? Do you want to rant with me about this dumb Boxford guy? Meet me in the comments!

*I might add that if the people don’t support new taxes to build a new library the Boxford library will continue it’s process of being de-certified and will not be able to participate in our consortium of libraries. Not only does this mean that the people of Boxford will not be able to have their own library, they will not be able to use a Massachusetts library anywhere! Currently, if you have a library card in your home town you can use an Massachusetts library. But you have to have a card where you live. If not, NO LENDING LIBRARY SERVICES AT ALL. Some town libraries may not even really want Boxford residents at their programs. It some ways it makes sense; if you don’t support library services in your own town, it doesn’t seem fair for you to take your kid to story time in Topsfield….but that is a discussion for another day. And don’t even get me started on this guys’ “plan” to circulate old, crappy e-readers with free e-books on them. HAHAHA DRM will come for you and your family!

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Thinking about Ferguson

In so many ways, I feel really unqualified to talk about the events in Ferguson, MO. I’m not from there – I do have some family in the predominantly white South County suburbs of St. Louis and was born in that area, but I don’t really know it. I can’t really say that I’ve experienced damaging discrimination: I’m white, middle-class, straight, cisgendered. I’m a woman which does come with discrimination and fear, in many ways, but not because of my race. I grew up in mostly rural areas of the Midwest. The schools that I attended didn’t have a large black population. My high school had a minority of Chippewa Indians but I was still in that majority group.

I just want to start off acknowledging all of that. I grew up thinking that the police were generally helpful and trustworthy. I don’t know if I’m still there; I have a hard time reconciling the fact that police are supposed to be helpful and yet the accounts of rape survivors who are disbelieved, harassed, and bullied by police make that very difficult. So I don’t know what it’s like to experience the fear and distrust of the police. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation.

But I care about what is happening in Ferguson (and in Staten Island and Cleveland and everywhere else) because we are all humans. We all share in our common humanity – the good parts and the bad parts. I know that the stories of black Americans are different than mine and I know it’s important to me to listen to those stories. Why? Because they are our fellow people, our fellow citizens, our library patrons, our friends, and our neighbors. And because it is right.

I’m not sure where to start in my sadness and anger, other than listening and learning. Listening and acknowledging that doing nothing can be complicity. I don’t always know what to do, but I am going to try to listen and respond. I try to read books by all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. I think it’s incredibly important. My white, straight, rural upbringing is only interesting to a point. I want to know about all kinds of lives and I believe this creates empathy and love. I will treat people of all races and backgrounds with care and compassion, or at least strive to. I know I’ll probably mess up at times but I hope to acknowledge my mistakes along the way.

Let’s let everyone tell their story, and I need to listen. Then I need to think about a way to take that listening and use it in action. I’m not sure how that will look, but I will do what I can. I challenge you to do the same.

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