Tag Archives: libraries

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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I still like D&D at my library

…in case you were wondering.

But seriously, I thought I would update my library Dungeons & Dragons life for you all so you know how it’s going. Also, I got a message from someone on Goodreads – hello new friend! – who asked me about my experiences. She was just asking for some general tips for running D&D campaigns for tweens/teens. I’m not an expert by any means and I get stuff wrong sometimes, but this is also something that anyone can do. It obviously helps if you’ve played D&D or some other roleplaying system before, are moderately organized, and like having fun, but those aren’t requirements.

Well, you should like fun. D&D is very fun.


We usually have anywhere from 8-10 players and 10 is just A LOT of kids. As far as adventures I’ve used mostly pre-made – with lots of tweaks and changes – from the Dungeon Masters Guild via Wizards of the Coast. You can buy adventures for cheap and they are pretty good! I tweak them a bit by adding in more combat and simplifying the story. My teens like killing stuff, what can I say?

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous thoughts about DMing (Dungeon Mastering aka running the game):

-Be sure to know your story really well and be ready to either improvise or fall back on prepared side stories when your players do something completely unexpected. They will, because that’s the fun of D&D. I also like to have the teens summarize the last session but also try to take notes.

-Make sure you have a few copies of the Players Handbook around for kids/you to look stuff up. Your players will ask lots of questions. I don’t think that you need to know everything off the top of your head, but they want to know quickly. Try and review the classes and mechanic beforehand. I also like to put tabs in the Player’s Handbook for frequent sections like races, classes, weapons, spells, and leveling up. I also just discovered the D&D 5e Compendium from Roll 20 which is great for quick reference. Its so helpful!

-Always make sure to have plenty of dice, scrap paper, blank character sheets, and pencils around. I often have new players drop in right before we start so I have some pre-made characters as well. Also snacks. Snacks are key.

-My friend and DM for one of my current campaigns told me about DM David’s imitative tents. They are great – I love them! He has some for creatures/monsters too.

-The Dungeon Masters Guild has a lot of stuff on the website: pre-made characters, cheap adventures, and help. I’m sure there are people on there who know way more about this than I do.

-I definitely fudge the rules a little bit to make it more fun and because rules isn’t really what my group is playing for. They are into the story and the adventure. (And the murder of monsters and sometimes innocent NPCs. Did I mention the murder?) I tell them that if they want to be super picky about tracking how much food they have, they can, but that I’m not especially interested in that level of minutiae. I promise to not let them starve.

-My kids are also super concerned about things being really fair – as are many kids – so I try to be really aware of that when it comes to any rule bending or treasures giving out or inspiration. If you fudge the rules for one player, make sure to give the other players similar opportunities to get a second chance. Also, if they start complaining that no one is attacking them, I will have the creature attack them next. That’s what you get! Don’t complain!

-Finally, the biggest challenge for me is making sure that the kids aren’t talking . . . ok SHOUTING . . over each other and making sure everyone is getting a chance to talk/share ideas. One way I need to try out is to have a party leader. Basically one player will tell the DM what they want to do as a group in a roleplaying situation or if they are setting up a trap or something. Then you don’t have 8 kids talking to you at once! Or you could do to “talking stick/dice/ruler” whatever and only the person who has that can talk. Either one could work though I admit I haven’t really tried for various reasons.

So that’s how D&D has been going. We have the best time! How do you game at your library?

(Wait you don’t game at your library? Get with it.)

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I ate a bug and other adventures in library services for teens

If I wrote a book about being a teen librarian the above would probably be the title. Librarianship makes for great titles. If I were to be writing about the reference desk I could title books things like No, You Can’t Have That Loose Cat in the Library or I Can’t Tell if You’re Joking When You Ask if the Library has a Sushi Counter So I’m Going to Treat it as a Serious Reference Question. They would be instant bestsellers I’m sure.

But I did eat a bug for a teen program. The program was . . . to basically just get edible insects on the internet and then eat them. It was a smashing success! The teens loved it and apparently, insects are a very sustainable source of protein and we should probably eat more of them. It wasn’t my favorite – it might have been buffalo flavored? WHY?! – but I did eat one.

And then I made a GIF of me eating a bug:


This file is named “Anna Ate a Bug” which you can sing to the tune of “Janie’s Got a Gun” and have a grand ol’ time.

In other news, the library is going well! We’re doing our Teen Poetry Contest, a phone film festival, and I’m planning on DM-ing (Dungeon Mastering for the cool people out there; it means “running”) a game of Dungeons & Dragons for teens that I’m super excited about. Basically, I’m spent the last few years morphing into a Super Nerd and so now I like things like tabletop role-playing games! And other tabletop games! Video games! Comics and more! I thought I had achieved Peak Nerd with my love of “Battlestar Galactica” and the greatest show of all time AKA “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but there’s so much more to be incredibly dorky about. I’m happy about it. I’ll just be a big nerd who loves comics and space and games and sewing and running and baking. And it will be glorious.

Since it’s been a while – you thought I wouldn’t mention that, you say? – here are some things I’ve been enjoying that you’d probably enjoy too:

Neko Atsume – it’s a phone game where you collect cats. That’s it. It’s amazing!

Mission: Red Planet – It’s a tabletop game where you send steampunk astronauts to Mars. It makes sense in the game, trust me. I wrote about it in my monthly game column at WWAC. (Does this make me a board games columnist? I don’t know!)

Steven Universe – Yes, this is a cartoon, ostensibly for children, but it’s beautiful, heartwarming, and hilarious. Plus the storytelling and progressive attitudes are serious pluses.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – You think I’d let you leave without some book recommendations? Of course not! If you like opera or the Franco-Prussian War (apparently that was a thing), you should read it. It’s a bit long but very engaging and beautifully written.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan – Listen to the audiobook, it’s perfect. This also is about music and the audiobook includes a lot of musical excerpts which make it a wonderful listen.

A still from The Verge's Neko Atsume game.

A still from The Verge’s Neko Atsume game.

What have you been up to lately? Eat any good bugs?!




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May was crazy

I’m back and hopefully for good! My plan is to get back to a regular blogging schedule – perhaps not to the lofty heights of twice a week to which I once aspired and perhaps achieved a handful of times – but to a once a week goal. May has been a really busy and transitional month for me: I moved to a new apartment, had to buy a new car (somewhat unexpectedly as my old car Hester, may she rest in pieces, decided to stop driving in the rain), and it was the second month at my new job.

There is something about the second month of a new job. It’s like the second day after a hard workout: the first day after you feel ok and wake up thinking, “Oh this isn’t so bad, I can do this all the time!” And the second day you wake and you think, “Sweet lords of Kobol, my body is trying to murder me from the inside out!”

It’s not the the second month of my new job was painful because I’m really enjoying the teens, the staff, and the environment, but the honeymoon phase of wonderment starts to fade a bit. I am feeling more aware of what my responsibilities are, navigating the new personalities of patrons and staff, and just generally digging in more deeply to the job. I actually prefer getting to this stage because then I can feel less like I have no idea what I’m doing. Being the noobie is generally no fun. But now that I’m two months in, I’m feeling more comfortable and while I definitely don’t know everything, I’m getting better everyday. Thank goodness for my YA colleague, Clare* because between the two of us, we generally seem to keep the department functioning.

One thing I did try to do during May (other than move, buy a car**, and work) was read. After a bit of an April reading slump, I read some great books in May. E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars is at the top of that May list. It’s got a rich New England family, a private island, and lots of SECRETS. I read it in about a day and a half. It’s definitely one of those you can’t put down until you get to the big reveal at the end.

I also listened to Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska FrontierThis is an intriguing, and ultimately sickening, story of a family who based their way of life almost solely on the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This, along with some megalomania led to clashes with the National Park Service and a tough story for a family to endure. Very interesting and infuriating, but a good read.

I really wanted to like Rose Under Fire more, but it just wasn’t Code Name Verity. CNV is one of the best books about female friendship I’ve ever read and it will break your heart. And a great historical fiction novel about WWII, that covers a part of the war I didn’t really know existed: women pilots and operatives in Britain and France. Rose Under Fire is sort of related to Code Name Verity as it has a few of the same characters, but it’s just not the same.

There are a few more I may talk about in the next few weeks, right now I’m reading Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson and enjoying it. Now off to work to finish up summer reading plans and get ready for our Fault in Our Stars movie release party this Friday. Are you going to see the movie on Friday? I may go later on in the weekend/week. Going the night it opens might be too much like Friday afternoons in the Teen Room….


*That’s right, we have TWO Young Adult librarians! It’s insanely awesome!

**It’s super fancy to me (2012 Honda Civic) so I keep calling it the Spaceship/Spaceship/sometimes the Heart of Gold, even though it does not look like a running shoe.

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Libraries are oppressive?

I was browsing my Feedly feed Tuesday – while simultaneously blowing my nose about a million times and realizing I should have stayed home with this killer cold – when this headline from BeerBrarian popped up, “Yes, Libraries are Oppressive. So what now?” , I had one of those record scratching, pumping the brakes, “Whaaa??!?!” moments, and then settled in to read the article.

This is what stuck out to me the most when reading this post. BeerBrarian says:

“The library is an institution, which has policies to define who is and is not a member, channels to resolve disputes, as well as feedback mechanisms. These structures intentionally legitimate some behaviors, and just as purposefully discriminate against others.”

Oh yikes. This is true, and I don’t think I’ve really ever thought too deeply about this. Yes, in grad school I did take a class – one of my most memorable and influential – entitled “Literacy and Library Services to Underserved Populations” with Shelley Quezada and we did discuss this. But I don’t think since then I have seen this problem presented so succinctly and almost, shockingly.

Maybe it also stopped me so suddenly in my merry little librarian-who-saves-the-world tracks  because I am pretty idealistic about libraries. If you encounter me on the street and ask me about my job, there’s a good chance I’ll ramble on about the power of the literature, the wonderful free-ness of the library, how it’s a community center like no other, and a safe space for teens and other underserved and potentially marginalized populations. Thinking about libraries and how cool they are can often bring me to tears.

But this is not always true, as BeerBrarian has reminded me. Libraries are exclusive: So many library policies (including my library) require you to have a picture ID and proof of your permanent residence in order to get a library card. This can make it very hard for homeless or transient people to get a card. Libraries assume a certain amount of base level knowledge that you need to use them. And if you don’t have that knowledge – literacy, like how to use the catalog computer, heck! how to use a computer, often unspoken rules of conduct, etc – you have to feel safe enough and brave enough to ask for help. That’s incredibly hard and makes you feel vulnerable and stupid. I hated asking for help at the Simmons library and I was there studying how to help people find things in libraries, and a lifelong library user!

The Working Together Project in Canada,  a group of city libraries used a community based approach to learn to be more inclusive of all community members, reiterates the exclusion of libraries:

“The reality is that to the majority of socially-excluded people, we are a club and they do not feel welcome. Our atmosphere is oppressive, our rules and codes are alienating, and, often, we ourselves are unapproachable and/or intimidating. We require identification and proof of address for membership; we charge fines for overdue materials; we have policies about smelly patrons and behaviour that we as staff find challenging to manage; we implement policies and architecture to “protect” staff from patrons; and we use complex jargon to discuss our services.”

This is very, to borrow a term from Christian college, convicting to me. I am guilty of this all the time. I try to  be super-inclusive, but I have had conversations with other staff members about the paranoid conspiracy theorists who use the library, or the people who don’t seem to understand why you might need an address to check out books. People, we scoff. What’s their deal?! It is hard when you run up against your own prejudice and confront your failings. It has the potential to be transformative as well, which is why I wanted to share this with you all. One of the reasons I became a librarian, is because I care about people, and I think I am fairly compassionate. But I really needed this reminder that there is always room for more compassion, more understanding, and more work to do on making the library, and other community spaces, truly equal for all.

What do you think? Are libraries oppressive and what more can we do to make them truly inclusive for everyone?

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