Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

But do, in fact, judge the book. I just saw on Twitter that the Friends of the St. Paul Library is looking for judges for the MN Book Awards. As a librarian, each spring I look for the list of the new books and check out some new award winners, it’s a fun time. This year, I thought, “hm, what if I were able to impact those awards?”

I mean, judging books? Yes please!

I think I’d be a good candidate, I read a lot, I think about books a lot, I think I am well versed in what is a good book versus an excellent book versus a less-than-stellar book.

And I think this is also a good move for me, professionally. It’s a different area than I have previously been focused, but it is still heavily related, so it’s a step, a line on the resume.

All good things, yes, but mostly, I just think it would be fun. An adventure. Something new to try. So I applied. Applications run until September 9, and they’ll choose by the 16th. I may not get chosen, but I hope that I do, I’d really enjoy trying something like this .

Cross your fingers for me and I’ll keep you posted.

Autumn’s Bounty

This weekend I worked my second job, and did an art program for kids. It was only okay, this program, but the part I loved was where we took digital cameras outside and photographed the colors of fall. The point was to get close up and capture texture, but I just sort of went camera-happy and clicked away. At one point, I bumped a button on my camera and it changed some setting and starting taking all these arty photos, I tried to fix it, ended up taking more, and eventually just shut the whole thing off and turned it back on, that worked. I need to figure out all this camera does….eventually. But, as it turned out, I liked several of the arty pictures.

So, enjoy, this is nothing but photos of the gorgeous colors of fall.

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Now here’s where the weird arty pictures started occurring. At first I didn’t notice….
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But then I did….
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I mean, they are cool pictures, but they do not look that way in real life, so I fixed it and then, here is that last picture without the weird editing.

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And this photo was taken after work as I drove down my parent’s street, on my way to visit.

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It was a really fun way to kill a Saturday afternoon (and get paid!) and aside from the arty ones, none of these photos are edited in any way, they are all just that gorgeous. Usually when I take pictures, I try to take in the whole scene, but learning to get close up and see things by texture, that was a cool new experience.

Want to talk about texture? You can practically feel it in this final picture, my favorite of the day.

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Drop by the comments and tell me which was your favorite. Happy fall!

Banning Books

This week is the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week (BBW). Libraries all over the county are celebrating by putting out these banned books and telling the world to triumph over the closed minded and READ THESE books. These long-suffering, sorely abused books.

If you’ve been to a library this week, you’ve probably seen evidence of this.

I am a book lover, a reader, a librarian, a teacher, a writer, and more. I love books. I do not believe in censorship. But I also do not believe in BBW. The thing of it is, none of these books have been, well, banned. Sure, for many of them, small minded parents in a school district complained to the board of education and got them removed from the school, the reading lists, the library.

But is that banning? Not in my view. Those kids could still go to the local library and get them. Or maybe they couldn’t because they were banned at the public library as well. But is that banning? Again, I say no. Maybe in that area, in that town, you couldn’t get the book, but other towns still had it, other schools, other libraries. The book was and still is available. Never in my lifetime have I been unable to read any of the books on ALA’s list of banned books. And don’t kid yourselves. Look at the list. Many of them were written and banned in my lifetime.

It happens year after year, any time a book is published that people don’t like for any reason. Do I agree with this? I do not. I don’t think any person has the right to decide what others read, unless you are a parent of a child. But that only gives the right to decide for YOUR child, not to complain to the school and get it banned for all the children. You don’t get to decide what MY child reads. So, yeah, I support anti-censorship.

But, my issue is this. We live in a world with serious problems. We have 10% of our population who cannot read. Illiteracy is a serious problem. Not liking the sorcery in Harry Potter is not a serious problem. Thinking 50 Shades of Grey is smut, is not a serious problem. Worrying about the overuse of the word fuck in Eleanor and Park is not a serious problem.

Overall, though, what we see are small areas affected by the actions of a smaller-still section of the population. It sucks, it surely does, for those affected by it. But in this day and age, go online and buy the book at Amazon. Or download it to your smartphone from the public library. Heck, go ahead and read that classic for free at Project Gutenberg. Books are more prevalent than ever in our society and our access to them is nearly unlimited. Sure, some people will disagree with the content and not want you to read it, but at the end of the day, even if those people are your parents, what you read is up to you. It is your choice. No one can take that from you. If your school or your public library or the bookstore in your town will not carry the book, that makes it tougher to get your hands on a copy, no doubt. But it does not make it impossible.

Our government is not standing up and recalling all the books it doesn’t agree with and holding nationwide censorship bonfires, because we don’t live in a society like that. We have freedom to write what we want and think what we want and read what we want. And no one gets to stop us. Some people will try, people will always try. Those people, they will always exist and always fight. Same as there will always be people who will give in, who will cave to the pressure, who will fold to the fanaticism of their every opponent, but this does not mean your world is limited.

Your world, my world, the world, is exactly what we each choose to make of it. I don’t agree with a celebration of Banned Books. I don’t believe in the cause. Instead, I choose to be a reader and a lover of books. I read what I want and don’t worry about what anyone else says.

That is how I celebrate. That is my contribution. It is how I make my corner of the world a better place to be. I just keep on reading.

It’s Not Funny

At least, not to me.

Once upon a time, I wrote a post on YouTube videos, explaining my reaction to anything people mention as “funny” or “hilarious”. I’ve never, not once, seen one of these videos and found them even mildly amusing, much less actually funny or hilarious. The thing is, it isn’t limited to YouTube. It’s basically any crap on the internet. Point of fact, though, if people weren’t so lazy and wasteful with their words, and simply said, “this video is slightly entertaining if you are looking to waste one minute of your life” then I’d probably be a lot more forgiving. But if you describe something as hilarious, then I am actually audacious enough to expect hilarity. And therein lies the problem.

I simply do not find it funny.

That is not to say that I don’t have a sense of humor or that I don’t find things funny, I do, all the time, just not typically the things that you find funny. For instance, I was reading a book the other night. I was laughing out loud (literally) when Elena called. I was actually gasping with laughter when I answered the phone. When she came over about 20 minutes later, I was still reading that book and laughing at different parts.

Now, I could probably print, word for word what I read in the book, and I bet 99.5% of you wouldn’t so much as smile. And that’s okay.

Actually, let me repeat that.

That’s okay.

I’m fine with the fact that I find it funny and you don’t. The problem is that you aren’t fine with the reverse. You get offended when I don’t think your thing is funny. You try harder if I don’t think your thing is funny. You SEND ME MORE STUFF if I don’t think your thing is funny. I don’t get it. Why do you care? Do you get paid by the convert? The chuckle? The snicker or guffaw? Or is it only outright belly laughs? No, that’s not how the internet works. You get paid if I like it enough and am idiotic enough to forward it to every person in my address book, amiright? (And no, the irony of me mocking internet memes and then posting one to my blog is not lost on me. But I find irony funny.)

Not everyone thinks or feels or reacts the same way. That’s actually pretty awesome. Isn’t it? I sure think so, but for some reason people are flabbergasted when others don’t agree with their personal brand of humor.

Wanna know a secret? I don’t think Seinfeld is funny either. (Drives the men in my family crazy, that one….)

So, on to the point. A student that I like came in to visit me. Just to say hi. He’s a bit of a negative Nelly. But he’s a nice guy and I call him out on his crap. He was complaining about not getting taught well enough in a class. I just shrugged and said that he looks at it wrong, it’s not up to the teacher to teach him, it’s up to HIM to LEARN. The thing about this kid, the reason I like him is because A) he’s very sarcastic and I do find just a titch humorous and B) when I say stuff like that to him, he seems to think about it.

Scrambling to change the subject after I called him out, he said “do you watch Maddox?” I don’t know who that is. And I admitted it. He got all excited telling me about this amazingly funny guy….on the internet.

I cut him off and said, right up front, “I’m not going to find this funny. I’m warning you, I have never found anything funny on the internet.” (Okay that may be a slight exaggeration, but the essence is valid). He replied, as so many do, “No, you don’t understand, everything is crap, but THIS, THIS is the funniest thing you will ever read.”

I tried to explain to him that people always say that, no matter what it is, but I know myself and I know my own mind and I simply have never found comedic internet sensations funny. Never. Not once. He insisted, until I gave in, offering to look, but cautioning, very plainly, “don’t get your feelings hurt if I don’t find this funny.”

Here is the link to the thing he wanted me to read. Just because, somewhere out there must be the actual people who find things like this funny.

I read it. Every word. Twice. I didn’t even smile. I wasn’t even amused. It simply is not funny to me. It’s a bit whiny. Very annoying. Incredibly stupid and actually offensive in parts.

To his credit, after watching me struggle to diplomatically tell him I thought it was stupid, this kid looked at me and said in a very dry tone, “whatever, you’re clearly choking back laughter.” And I smiled.

Then replied, “actually, after you leave I plan to spew laughter from my very pores, probably until I pass out. Come back and check on me in 5, ‘kay?”

And he laughed. Then he said, “I hate your mockery out loud.”

And I laughed. Because that was funny.

But then, I didn’t read it on the internet. You did.

Games, Oh – Ee – Oh – Oh – Oh, Games, Games, Games

Somebody said somebody wouldn’t last too long, somebody’s still going strong.

Okay, lyrics to a long-forgotten song (anyone? Kelly?) are not the point of this. The point is this:

Today is game day in the library. Game day. I have games spread out on every table and am encouraging people to play. It’s working. Lot’s of gaming going on in here. I was surprised, actually, by the number of people willing to show up and play games. Generally speaking, activities are not über popular.

But, Jenga has been a huge hit. I kicked off game day by setting it up on the table right inside the door and getting it started. People were walking by, just randomly moving one piece. Like an ongoing, group Jenga match. Very cool. Later, a class came in and the whole class played Jenga. They did an awesome job, too (29 stories, even I was impressed).

Then, an instructor comes in. He’s a normal-ish guy, grew up locally, and is probably in his 50s. He sees Jenga on the table, walks over, looks at it and says, “what’s this, some sort of Rubik’s cube?”

Huh?

I honestly didn’t think it was possible to know what a Rubik’s cube is and NOT know what Jenga is. Who doesn’t know what Jenga is? Maybe he’s Amish. Except, Jenga is made out of natural wood, probably even the Amish play Jenga by candlelight.

I say, “it’s Jenga.”

“Never heard of it,” he shrugged.

W.T.F.

I quickly explain the game and then demonstrate a move.

“Go on, try it” I encourage. I am all about learning in the library.

“No thanks,” says he, “doesn’t really seem like fun.”

And he leaves. He literally made me show him how to play and then refused to try it. I’ve dropkicked children for behavior like that. (That was a joke, obviously. I don’t dropkick children. Too much effort.)

We are getting paid to play games in the library for student engagement. You’re right, that’s no fun at all. Know what else is no fun? Jenga haters. And child dropkickers.

I was tempted to call him back for a game of Battleship, but I was afraid I’d end up dropkicking HIM.

You sank my Battleship! And I told the students playing that awesome game that they had to say that phrase loudly and dramatically, if it actually happened. Hasn’t happened yet.

Lastly, a student mentioned to another student that he played an awesome card game this weekend and then proceeded to tell him all about it in one of those “had to be there” type of stories, but the worst kind where the teller doesn’t realize it’s a “had to be there” and they tell it in great detail, expecting the tellee to be laughing as hysterically as they are and, not getting the desired response, simply put more emphasis and more detail into the story, which somehow makes everything worse, in a spiraling, vicious circle of irresponsible storytelling. It’s painful to watch. More painful to participate in, but surprisingly painful to observe.

Then, when his tale grinds to a glacial halt, he turns to me and says “Why don’t we have Cards Against Humanity in here for game day?”

Why indeed?

The Lost Library Book

Here’s a story for you. Once upon a library book….

Back in January, Kelly had me come in to her class to do a book talk for her students as the official kickoff to “I Love to Read” month (which is February). I’ve done this for years for her. I bring in a ton of books from different genres and talk to the kids about what the genres mean and what types of books they can read. It’s a ton of fun, the kids love it and learn a lot.

Then I leave the entire pile of books with Kelly for the kids to use and explore and play with. Now, I would not do this for just anyone. The books are checked out to me, so I’m responsible for them, but Kelly loves the library as much as I do, and she’s very responsible with the books. YEARS we’ve done this and never had a problem.

Of course, this year, there was a problem.

She kept the books and the due date slip and returned them all by the date. As she returned, she checked them off the list to make sure she had them all. She didn’t. There was one missing. She looked for it. And looked for it and looked for it. The kids cleaned their desks, scoured the room, looked at home, this book is missing.

Kelly had told me all of this from the minute she couldn’t find it, so I knew. I fully believed that she would find the book. I figured one of these little kids had it tucked away somewhere and it would turn up. But, it’s been 2.5 months now and it still hasn’t turned up. Kelly offered to pay for the cost of the book, because it is in fact lost.

I’ve been renewing the book this whole time, hoping it would just turn up. But, it’s been so long now, Kelly is sure it won’t. Last night, I went to the library with the intent of paying for the book. There are no more renewals, so I just wanted to deal with it.

I explained this story to the woman working there. She said, “did you get a bill?” Um, no. I didn’t even know they did that. Honestly, I’ve never lost a library book in my life, so I have no idea how this process works. I only know it from the librarian end, how to handle payment for a lost book. And I only know that procedure for Anoka. She said that after a period of time, she thought 30 days, but wasn’t sure, the system would send me a bill for the lost item. At that point, she said, I can come in and pay for it.

Now, I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I asked “why do I have to wait?” I explained that the book is 100% lost and we’ve been looking for it for months already and I’d like it taken care of. At this point, she is staring at me like I’ve grown another head while talking to her. She explained that until the system registers the book as lost, she can’t accept payment because there is nothing to pay. I’d really like to know who comes up with these things. That’s not true. She should have the ability to mark the item as lost, forcing the system to add the charges to my account. Thus, allowing me to pay for it. But, whatever, it’s not a huge deal and I wasn’t there to make trouble. So I just said fine, that I would wait until I get the bill.

Then she asked if she could call me with additional information, she said she wanted to talk to her boss today. She would find out the details of the this procedure. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know them, but I agreed and gave her my cell phone number.

She kind of hesitated and then she looked at me and said, “thank you for being such a conscientious library user.” I asked what she meant, because it is kind of an unusual compliment.

She said that it is extremely rare to have people step up and take responsibility for something like this, usually it is a fight that the library loses. Now, having worked in a public library myself, I can understand that, people don’t usually take responsibility. They claim they returned it or they accuse us of making a mistake or whatever. But this situation has nothing to do with being a librarian. I told her, “well, the book belongs to you, you trusted me to take care of it and I didn’t do that, so I am responsible for what happens next.”

She nodded and said, “that’s what I mean, very conscientious, so I just wanted to say thank you.”

And that made my day. And they still won’t let me pay for the book yet. When I get the bill, I’ll take care of it, because I am a conscientious library user. And it was nice to be recognized, but nicer still was the fact that I know I somehow made HER day just by doing the right thing.

23 Mobile Things – Thing 1

Minnesota libraries have launched a new program called 23 Mobile Things. Participation is voluntary but open to all librarians. Essentially, this program is designed to further my knowledge of mobile tech by giving me access to 23 new apps that support education and libraries.

I get to play with these apps, spend time learning about them, and then blog about each one, to complete the program. I think this is a great way to integrate technology and learn new apps for libraries. I’m excited to participate. I think I’m pretty good at exploring on my own and enhancing my own knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss things. I’m hoping that I’ll find at least 10 new things (out of 23) that are usable and something I will come back to time and again.

I will be blogging as I complete each of the 23 Things, so feel free to follow along. This, writing an introductory blog, is Thing 1. Not that new or exciting for someone blogging for more than five years, but it’s a start. And hey, I was going to write this post anyway, so you would all know why I suddenly started writing about library apps!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to hit me in the comments. Stay tuned for Thing 2!