Friday, February 25, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT FIRES ALL LIBRARIANS: Libraries get totally RIF'd

          "RIF" stands for "Reduction In Force."  If you get "RIF'd" it means your school principal hands you a letter from the district saying that your position is likely to be cut the following school year.  There are plenty of times when RIF'd employees end up keeping their jobs because of improvements in a district's budget, but it's a serious warning.  The worse the economic situation is, the more likely it is that you really will be laid off.
          Today ALL 8 credentialed Librarians in our school district got RIF letters.  Our principal told the Librarian that if a certain tax initiative passes in June, then nobody gets laid off and it's back to status quo.  But if the initiative does NOT pass, then our district will ditch every single credentialed Librarian, leaving us Library technicians to run the libraries on our own.  Which will mean cutting a lot of the programs we do through the library because we just won't have the staffing for it.  No more book fairs, no more book clubs, no more library orientations, and less open hours overall.
          The Librarians get paid a lot (a LOT) more than Library techs, so why should I suddenly bust my ass even more than I already do for the same clerical pay, trying to do the work of two people?  If this cut really does come to pass, the district needs to feel the hurt of undervaluing its library staff.  If we Library techs are left without any support, why should we try to make it a seamless and painless transition?  If we do that, then the next thing you know they'll be cutting OUR hours, maybe cutting Library tech positions and making each remaining tech travel between multiple schools.
          I do not find it flattering when coworkers assure me that I'm capable of doing anything the Librarian is.  They say that because they WANT something from me.  If I'm that capable and appreciated, then whenever I do the job of the Librarian, I ought to get PAID the same as the Librarian.  But we're all (Librarians and Library techs) so busy desperately trying to prove our worth and justify our positions that we keep bending over backwards to show how awesome we are and how much we can do for everyone.  At some point our backs are going to break, man.  And nobody's going to thank us.  They're just going to be pissed off when they can't send their kids to the library.
          I think instead of waiting and hoping that tax initiative passes, we need to spread the word in our district that if they cut all our Librarians it will mean a very noticeable reduction in library services.  They cannot expect the CLERICAL library staff to continue doing our jobs AND pick up the slack of the credentialed Librarians for FREE.
        

Thursday, February 24, 2011

READ YOURSELF RAAW : "Read Across America Week"

Read Across America Day is Wednesday March 2nd
Read Across America Week is Sunday 2/27 - Saturday 3/5 (I guess)

          When I was first introduced to "Read Across America Week," it seemed okay that they chose Dr. Seuss's birthday (March 2nd) as the official RAA Day.  Whatever, you know?  And in 2004 it was the 100th anniversary of Geisel's birthday so I understood why all libraries were overflowing with Dr. Seuss imagery and read-alouds at the time.
          But now when we library folk celebrate RAAW, could we maybe give Dr. Seuss a rest?  The idea is to support reading in every community across the U.S. during whatever week March 2nd happens to fall in.  I don't think the National Education Association's goal was really to make us all relentless publicists for Dr. Seuss, exclusively.  I don't think he needs the help.
          Also, and this is my BIG peeve-- not merely a pet but a roaring lion of a peeve-- when working with junior high and high school age kids, pushing Dr. Seuss is RETARDED.  They're a little BEYOND that, people.  Sure, it's fun and silly, and we can all enjoy a good picture book at any age, but I happen to think Maurice Sendak is better than Seuss any day.  Especially for grownups.  Seuss is twee and lazy.  Anybody can rhyme words they just MAKE UP.  Some of his stuff is okay, but Seuss does not deserve an entire week of worship every year.
          I try to make a point in the libraries I've worked in to highlight DIFFERENT authors and books during RAAW.  It's hard, though, because all of the official posters and crap are plastered over with Seuss's Cat In the Hat imagery.  They've become inextricable.
          My annoyance reached all-time highs when I was working at the junior high and a new and incompetent principal decided to make RAAW her "thing."  She went all out for it every year, dressing up like the Cat In the Hat, making her assistant principal dress as Sam I Am, and her counselors wear "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" costumes with big fright wigs.  She invaded our library and had a big "Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss" cake brought in, and served all the kids cake in the library while she read from one or two stupid Dr. Seuss books.
          I would like to remind you that this was at a JUNIOR HIGH, so of course most of the kids thought she was weird and lame, and only came in for the cake.  She made sure to get lots of pictures of herself in costume reading to the kids, though, and smugly thought herself a real hoot.          
          I would also like to mention that this same principal was directly responsible for removing a series of biographies about gays and lesbians from our library, and refusing to give them back.  This resulted in the ACLU filing a case against the school district.  I bring this up to make the point that she was a bitch who CENSORED library books that could have been really helpful and empowering to our kids.  She was NOT a real library supporter.  After the censorship battle it was even harder to grit my teeth and watch her parading around as the C__ In the Hat.   
          But back to the RAAW Seuss love-fest.  I was so against the dumbing down of it that I had a super pissy attitude during the "birthday party" in the library, and when the principal asked me to help serve cake to the kids I staunchly refused.  I had the biggest stick up my butt.  More like a totem pole with about ten snarling, cussing faces.
          The fact was that we had our own ideas in the library about how to celebrate RAAW and special AGE APPROPRIATE activities already in place, but that stupid principal just jacked the whole thing and took over.  And it's not like I don't know how to have fun!  I'm REAL f*ckin' fun.  But on my OWN TERMS.
          I'm at a different school now, with grades 7 through 12, and nobody foists Dr. Seuss and the Cat In the Hat on any of us.  They understand that NO means NO.  The principal will not be wearing a giant cat suit on March 2nd, and we won't be reading picture books to the kids or letting them grind cake into the library carpeting.
          I'll put a few Dr. Seuss books out (yes we have them), along with OTHER selections that are exciting to teenagers.  I'll use a few images of the striped top hat in my displays, as a nod to the Cat In the Hat, but I will also use OTHER imagery and ideas.
          This tirade came about because I was searching the internet for RAAW graphics to use on a bookmark we're making that will feature the favorite books of teachers and other staff members.  Of course I couldn't find ANYTHING that didn't feature Dr. Seuss crap, and look like it's for 3rd graders.  I did, however, find a treasure trove of online imagery of adults showing us exactly how WRONG things can go when enthusiasm meets bad ideas.
          Please enjoy a few pictures of adults who don't know the difference between "wacky" and "scary."  It's okay to laugh at these people because their photos were right there on the internet and they should have known better.
When I was a kid this would have scared the pee out of me.  Even just the crotch-hugging red pants, not to mention the rest of it.
         
Grim times in the library. Girlfriend had to make do with a fake PAPER hat. She does not look happy about it, and apparently didn't even bother to get dressed that morning?
The Crypt Keeper and a white-faced ghoul.  This is far more Nightmare Before Christmas than it is Dr. Seuss.

Friday, February 11, 2011

R.I.P. BRIAN JACQUES

          On Monday one of my Library assistants told me that Brian Jacques had died (on February 5th), and asked if we were going to do a display of his books.  I was like, "Oh, wow.  I'm glad I thought of that!"
          Brian Jacques is of course popular for the "Redwall" series, which is a multi-volume medieval epic about talking/fighting bunnies, squirrels, mice, and other cute animals.
The article I printed out is from School Library Journal
          In case you didn't know, Jacques is pronounced "Jakes."  Be cooler than the other kids and say it correctly.
          On the back side of the display I put out books by other authors who write in the "animal fantasy" genre.
Examples from our library:

The "Deptford Mice" series by Robin Jarvis
The "Dragonback" series by Timothy Zahn
Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies (deer)
The "Firebringer Trilogy" by Meredith Ann Pierce (unicorns and griffins)
The "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series by Kathryn Lasky (owls, recently made into a movie)
The "Land of Elyon" series by Patrick Carman (hyper talking squirrel and other animal friends)
The "Mistmantle Chronicles" by M.I. McAllister (squirrel)
Raven Quest by Sharon Stewart
The Sight by David Clement-Davies (wolves)
The "Silverwing" series by Kenneth Oppel (bats)
The "Swordbird" series by Nancy Yi Fan
The "Warriors" series by Erin Hunter (cats)

          Another obvious "Read If You Like..." title would be Watership Down by Richard Adams, but we don't have that in our library.  We should probably get it.
          I remember when I was a kid I read Felix Salten's (author of "Bambi") wrenching novel, Fifteen Rabbits.  Those poor rabbits' lives were so fraught with terror and death, and he wrote very convincingly from a rabbit's perspective about how huge and scary humans are, with our big mangling hands and loud voices.  My heart bled for those bunnies and I never wanted to imprison a bunny, guinea pig, or hamster as a "pet" again.
          I did not go on to Watership Down, or Animal Farm.  The "Redwall" books seem less likely to scar me emotionally, so I may eventually read one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FEBRUARY GETS UGLY

This is my favorite part of the main bulletin board.
          When it comes to bulletin boards and displays, there's too damn much going on in February, and the color schemes are not complementary.  There's Valentine's Day (which is lame in real life, yet easy and fun to make displays for), Presidents' Day (February 21st), Chinese New Year (February 3rd), and it's also Black History Month.  Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day share the color RED as a common scheme, but the rest of all that crap ends up being an uneasy smear of browns and oranges if you're not careful.
          George and Abraham certainly were not fashionistas.  But I've done what I can.
           Don't ask me why David Sedaris is thrown in with the rest of these things.  I think one of our Library assistants suggested it, using the logic that Sedaris has that new book about squirrels and chipmunks, and Squirrel Day was on January 21st.  But then I just left him up there and stuck him with the bunnies for Year of the Rabbit.  I don't think he'd mind.
The main bulletin board in all its February hideousness.
          Behind the circ desk I created a little nod to Valentine's Day, complete with a romance genre poster.  Whatever.  That's one of those genres I cannot, nor will I ever, be able to tolerate.
           Having had a very recent conversation with a student about gay issues, in particular how tough dating/romance can be for gay teens, I thought it would be nice to make sure the Library was INCLUSIVE in its representation of Valentine's Day.  I spotlighted 2 books from our collection for each orientation: 

BOY + BOY:
The God Box by Alex Sanchez
Icarus In Flight by Hayden Thorne

GIRL + BOY:
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Forever by Judy Blume

GIRL + GIRL:
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

          Many of the kids have definitely noticed the display, especially the "Boy + boy" part.  Most reactions have been very positive, but the first day I put the display up one of the boys made a point to recoil and act freaked out, saying, "Boy plus boy?  Girl plus girl?  Wow, that's WEIRD..."
          I said, "What's 'weird' about it?" and looked him right in the eye, waiting to see what he'd say.  Another student standing nearby piped up, "Yeah, what's WEIRD about it?" which I thought was cool.  The boy stammered, "Nothing!  Nothing's weird about it.  Nevermind..."
          I thought to myself, That's right, bitch.

(Please ignore the unsightly stack of papers to be recycled at the bottom right)
           We needed to update our "Coming Soon" board, and like usual, even BEFORE I was done lettering everything the kids were eagerly asking about the titles.  The last Alex Rider (Anthony Horowitz) book is coming out in March, and I think 9 books in a series is quite enough.  Ranger's Apprentice (John Flanagan) is finishing with book #10 in April, and I think that's TOO many books.  But that whole series is wildly, relentlessly popular in our library.
          I don't think I could make it through a 10-book series now.  I've read some fantasy/sci-fi series as an adult that stretched to 5 books, and that seems like an accomplishment.  But these are smaller, teen-level books, so I guess it's different.  When I was still in elementary school I'd read all the Narnia books, all the Prydain Chronicles, and all 14 original Oz books by L. Frank Baum.
          So anyway, there's February.  The end.