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.



Summer Reading aka the most magical time of the year

Ok, so when I say “magical” I really mean SUPER BUSY. It’s great because I swear all of our books get checked out over the summer, I see so many more teens reading and so many more just in the library in general, and it’s . . . summer. Winter isn’t crushing our souls and in New England, we’ve got to take advantage of the warmth while we can. We get like 4 months. Then misery.

But summer reading this year is extra busy because my coworker Rebecca is leaving to take an assistant director job (sad!) and because I got engaged (happy!). Between solo teen room-ing and potential wedding planning, my professional and personal life just got a bit more crazy. It’s ok! I will make it!

If you want to see what my library is doing for summer reading this year, take a look! We’re not going with the sports theme but doing “magic” instead as per teens’ requests and we’re doing a BINGO board for prizes instead of a more traditional prize program. Teens get a prize for every row and entry to the grand prize drawing – some Kindle Fires – if they complete the whole thing!

Magic Summer-2

We’re also doing really fun programs like more D&D – spoiler alert: the kids love it and middle school boys are murderous monsters – craft programs, using our BreakoutEDU box to create a Harry Potter adventure* and more!

What else is happening? Lots of new staff, Doug and I visited Montreal for a few days, Pokemon Go has taken over the library, and I’m still writing at WWAC. Here’s some recent articles about learning to try new things aka gaming and how much I hate summer reading lists.

This summer is going to be crazy what with being short staffed and planning a wedding so I’m not even going to try to lie and say I’ll be better about posting. There’s a lot happening. So I guess I’ll just see you when I see you?

Don’t walk into traffic trying to catch any Pokemon, friends. It’s a dangerous world.

*I should really start writing that….

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Why I’m Excited about Dungeons & Dragons at the Library

Well, mostly because I’m excited about Dungeons & Dragons in the rest of my life. I am playing in two games right now, I’m planning a game for teens at the library, and I even just finished reading a book about the game’s history, Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. I wanted to like it a bit more, but the guy is just so stereotypically nerd bro-y that he either cannot imagine a woman liking the game, or is AMAZED the once or twice that he meets a woman who plays. OMG CRAZY. Cue giant eye roll.

My feelings exactly, General.

My feelings exactly, General.

The book just made me want to read the more meticulously researched and well-received Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People, and Fantastic Adventure from Chess to Role-Playing.

But I digress. Let me tell about why I’m excited to try D&D at the library. Emphasis on the trying since my program doesn’t start for a week. It could be a giant disaster and everyone will hate it! WHEEEE! But hopefully not.

I’ll definitely tell you if it fails so you can learn from my mistakes and not just never mention it again and deny it happened when you bring it up.

Anyway here’s why I hope D&D @ MHL will be fun:

It’s collaborative, creative storytelling. Telling a story with a group of people is not something we get the chance to do all that often. We get to read other people’s stories or make our own, but this is telling your story along with someone else’s and seeing how it turns out for both of you.

It makes you get to know yourself better . . . and then stretch yourself. I wouldn’t say that I’m the first person to jump in when there is a problem or heck even respond to a question in a discussion. I like to listen and wait, then maybe listen some more and talk about it later. This means I am not good at making decisions. But that’s ok because when I’m playing a character I can make them like me – a decision avoider – or I can try to be a decision maker. I know that’s what I’m like in real life but I can certainly try out different personas – someone who decides immediately! or isn’t afraid of spiders! – in D&D.

It allows you to be outrageous in a way that your real life doesn’t allow you. Wait, Anna, you’re not a half-demon sailor whose whaling ship got stolen by your ex and now you’re out for revenge? Surprisingly, I’m not. I’m not a dwarf on the run from the mob family either. But I can be those people in D&D! Tell a story about a ghost whale or plan an elaborate trap that involves kicking at shrunken down wooden door at a group of hellhounds, and have it work out well? Yeah, it’s ridiculous but that’s sort of the point. I can’t do those things in my actual life because . . . reasons.

It teaches you how to get along with different types of people. Or they will really annoy you and you’ll figure out how to deal with it!

It’s just really fun. I mean, did I mention that you get to go on adventures where you are the main character or one of them?! It’s basically like 10-year-old Anna’s life goal. I wanted a Star Trek holodeck not for any weird reason – looking at you Riker and your weird sex holodecks – but because I wanted to be in The Lord of the Rings. If I had known that that’s basically what D&D was? Well, my adolescence would have been a lot different . . . and a lot nerdier. Which is saying a lot. 

It’s actually not Satanic. If you didn’t know: it’s all pretend. It’s like Harry Potter aka made upMagic isn’t actually real so no one is sacrificing anyone to get power or worshipping the devil! Get your 1980s Satanic Panic outta here! (You should really listen to the SYSK podcast. It’s fascinating and super terrifying.)

If you were wondering – and I assume you were – we’ll be using 5th edition because that’s what I know.

There are a lot of other reasons that I’m sure I’m leaving out. I hope the teens enjoy it. I’ll be using some pre-written characters and adventures from the D&D Adventurer’s League and Dungeon Master’s Guild. Anyone currently running role-playing games at their library or just want to be ULTIMATE NERDS and talk about D&D with me? I’m here!

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PLA Highlights

I’m back from Denver with a miserable head cold – yippee! Apparently, cold + mountain altitude + flying at . . . plane altitude = Head Cold of Death with Fluid in Ears as Bonus. So while I’m not feeling the greatest right now, I really did have a wonderful time at PLA. I was able to attend some really helpful sessions and see and reconnect with some librarians.

Here are some quick and dirty (hehe) highlights of the conference:

-Downers’ Grove, Illinois’ documentary film class series for teens was really inspiring and I’d love to recreate it at MHL but they spent a LOT of money on filmmaking equipment. Maybe that’s something to think about for the future.

-One program was entitled something like, “How Two Libraries Quit Summer Reading, and You Can Too!” and it was awesome. They didn’t really quit – you just can’t really quit summer reading – but they did change their programs drastically. One library, Park City, UT, went to a more creative and self-directed program and the Nashville Public Library created one program with a point system for kids, teens, and adults that included activities and goals. Both were really interesting approaches and I’d love to incorporate elements of both at my library. One signup and program for all ages?! Yes please! And I love how Park City had patrons create their own reading goals. My coworker Rebecca and I are thinking of moving to a summer reading bingo board with prize suggestions from the teens. They want the “swaggiest” bookmarks*, candy, and Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. We can do that!

-Another awesome idea I’d love to incorporate at my library is to convince the school system to either  give out library card applications to new students as part of their school registration or just share the school records with us and let us give library cards to everyone at school. Another great idea is to have students’ I.D. cards be their public library cards. It would be so amazing and make it a lot easier for kids to access books from the public library. Right now they are supposed to show I.D. to get books and get a card, and they have to physically come into the library to get that card. Some libraries, like Haverhill in our consortium, have an online sign up for a card. I’d love that. It can be really hard for kids and parents to physically come to the library but if they already had cards or we just mailed them to them after applying online, they could still access a ton of our resources without leaving their house!

-Ok, so by far my favorite session was the very last one I attended called “Dragons in the Library: Tabletop Gaming and the Public Library” and it was so great. Obviously, it was totally right up my alley but it was fascinating. The Fresno library system created a tabletop gaming convention at the library and ran D&D games, hosted game premiers, and had a ton of people. Over 300 people over two days! It was just really fun to hear about how this library and others were using gaming in their programs. I asked a question about D&D one shot adventures – I’m going to be hosting a game for teens next month and they are super excited – and got lots of suggestions and helpful ideas. Basically, librarians who game – whether tabletop, video, roleplaying or whatever – are my new favorite people.

Denver was a cool city as well. I have been to the Rockies but hadn’t spent much time in downtown Denver and it was nice! Though, there are a lot of oversized things which make you feel like you’re in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! See giant blue bear:


And giant dustpan:


I wonder what it all means….

While I was traveling and out there I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab which I really enjoyed. I’m sort of on a fantasy kick right now – wait, am I ever NOT reading a ton of fantasy? – and am also reading N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I’m also listening to The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey but honestly, I liked the book better when it was by Laini Taylor! SICK LIBRARIAN BURN. kanye

That’s all for now. I’m going to take some Sudafed.

*Is “swaggiest” a word? Unknown. What does it mean? Cool . . . I think? I’m not sure. I’m getting old.

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Greetings from Denver!

Hey all! I’m in Denver at the Public Library Association conference. So far I’ve seen Anderson Cooper and some weird ass classical/pop string musicians that made my ears bleed.

Also, library stuff.

I’ll be tweeting and instgramming @lcarslibrarian (duh) for updates!

I’ll fill you in with posts once I get back!

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