Wednesday, December 29, 2010


          SLG finally confirmed that we'll be attending ALA Midwinter (booth #1903), so I'm totally excited.  Nerdily, bookishly excited.  I get to be a "creator" on Saturday January 8th, and sign my books for anyone interested.  I also volunteered to just work the booth, as a staff member, at least one more day.  Dan (my publisher) told me he'd be going alone to this, and would appreciate any help he could get.
          The side benefits for me are that I get in for free through SLG, which means I get to go around the exhibitor hall grabbing any free books I can for the school library.  And when I went to ALA before, they gave out LOTS of free books.  Which is great because we seldom have an actual book budget. 
          Having said that, we did just receive about $1600 total through two different sources, but that was unexpected and certainly not something we get on a regular basis.  And anyone who buys for a library, public or school, knows that doesn't go as far as it sounds.
          Now I get to check out the ALA website and find out if there are any exciting authors scheduled to be there, in case I want to be a fanboy and get signed books or something.
          This will be the first time SLG has shown at ALA, so Dan asked me if I had "thoughts" about it.  I responded immediately with a bossy list of suggestions.  How to display, what to display, etc.  I also suggested he come up with a flyer highlighting some key books, with all the order info.  And I said I thought neon lights and small fireworks would be a nice way to draw attention to MY books.  But I was just kidding.  Maybe we could just put my books on some sort of platform that rotates slowly.  Under a spotlight.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MOTHER GOOSE : racist bitch?

          While working in the junior high library about a decade ago, I happened to discover this tarnished gem called Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, published in London in 1924, by Adam and Charles Black.  (I'll refrain from making an obvious joke about the publishers' last name, but you may do so if you wish)  I idly flipped through a few pages and luckily found the following illustration:
(Click to enlarge and read the charming caption)
          I think I probably said, "Oh, SHIT!" to myself, and took it straight to the Librarian.  But not before showing it to all of my teacher friends.  I think most people of my generation and older ones are familiar with the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme, which seems offensive enough by today's standards, but this may have been the precursor.  I wonder if it was changed from this version to the Indians version, to make it seem less offensive?  Or maybe there are various versions of this rhyme, one to offend everyone.  "Ten Little Homos" anyone?
It's just vile, right?  I mean, seriously.  WTF?
          Of course we immediately pulled it from the library's collection, and I do NOT feel bad about that.  Maybe I would have thought harder about whether or not to remove the book if it were found in a high school library, because older students would hopefully be mature enough to understand it in a historical context, and might even be able to use it in some kind of report on changing social perspectives or whatever.  But in the junior high library I think it would have the potential of hitting some poor kid like a punch to the gut.  Either that, or they'd read it and then punch ME in the gut, thinking I endorse that kind of thing.

          Apparently even way back in 1924 the Brits who published this book realized some of the content might be a little... edgy.  From the very last paragraph of L. Edna Walter's introduction:

                    If one or two of the rhymes strike a modern ear as
                    being somewhat crude, it must be remembered that they
                    are old, and it was felt that they ought not to be omitted
                    from so comprehensive an edition.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


          One of my favorite students recently got to take an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi, because she applied to NYU's campus there, and made it through the first level of screening.  (
          She brought me back this lovely postcard, with a sentiment written on it that totally made my week.
A postcard from the student's trip to Dubai, although she was staying in Abu Dhabi

          The sentiment reads:
          "Dear Mr. Kovac- Thank you for being a fellow bibliophile, sharing your theories on bibliotherapy, and being a good friend.  And once again, thank you for the beautiful cover art!"

          The cover art she's referring to is an illustration I did for the cover of the school paper's December issue.  She's the Editor-in-Chief, and had asked me to be a "guest cover artist."  :)
          And if you don't know what "bibliotherapy" is, defines it as:

A form of supportive psychotherapy in which carefully selected reading materials are used to assist a subject in solving personal problems or for other therapeutic purposes.

Friday, December 17, 2010


          In my post about holiday decorations in the 'brary I forgot to include the two hamster mini-erasers on top of my computer monitor, and their hand-crafted Christmas tree.
They had a mini-eraser pumpkin for October/November, but I didn't have a mini-eraser Christmas tree, and had to use construction paper and the magic of Baby Jesus

Thursday, December 16, 2010


          I'm careful to only put displays up that mention "Winter Break" or "the Holidays," so I don't make anyone feel excluded regarding whatever their religious or non-religious deal is.  But I know that personally I'm not religious, and Santa and his reindeer were NOT present at the supposed birth of Baby Jesus, so I think it's okay to have those elements on display.  Anyway, here's what I put up this month:
The big central bulletin board, with Krampus and Narnia
          The Krampus is a real German Christmas legend/tradition that I incorporate every year because it's so freaky and fun.
I drew this Krampus depiction a few years ago, to terrify all the little children
It was way too fun for me to draw this frightened, crying little elf
The glass display cabinet with our tree and our Secret Santa gifts packed inside
          The last couple years we've started this cool tradition with the class that meets in the library 4 days a week.  (It's kind of like a homeroom class)  We do a Secret Santa gift exchange, and as soon as the kids start bringing their gifts in, we put them under the tree in the locking cabinet.  So the cabinet starts out kind of empty-looking, but fills up by the last day before Winter Break, when we have our gift exchange.
Well, they DO
Every library should have a glowing deer to preside over the graphic novels & comics
It's a little lackluster in execution, but I like the idea
I'm big on promoting the idea of "leisure reading"
Christmas lights strung behind the circ desk
This is my end-of-the-day, running low on holiday steam, WTF decoration.  Are they candy canes?  I think so.
          And of course I had to decorate myself a little, since I was wearing a green tie and needed something red.  Plus I just like any excuse to use my old-school Dymo label maker with interchangeable colors.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


A certain friend of mine who works at a certain public library not far from here sent this email to me, and I just had to share:

          "Someone took a SHIT last night in the library.  Way back in the 001s.  Probably while we had the High Madrigals in the lobby singing holiday tunes.  Pooping takes time... they had to yank down their pants, do the deed... wipe?... pull pants up.  Then of course a skinny, clueless Page stepped in it without realizing and tracked poop all the way to the Circ desk.  Gah.  We've had patrons leave poop on the floor of the men's room, of course, but not back in the stacks."

P.S.- this makes the title of my blog very relevant.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


          About a decade ago when I was working in the junior high library, I had a student library aide whom I will call "Jack."  He was a lot of fun to have around, but not very serious about professionalism in his capacity as a library worker.
          A few days ago I was going through some old files and discovered this far right-hand slice of a photograph, featuring the very sassy "Jack" in rare form.  I wish I could remember the circumstances of the photograph, but all I remember is that it was taken with my camera, and the Librarian and I were too focused on whatever was in the foreground to notice Jack's peripheral contribution until later.  
          There was a post-it attached to the slice, a note to the Librarian.  I had written an assurance that I DID speak to Jack sternly about his shameful shenanigans, and gave him a detention, but could I please keep this sliver of the photograph?  Because it's pretty funny.
Young man, you should be ashamed!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


A Librarian in our school district (I have changed her name below to "Priscilla" for privacy) sent this really bitchy email to one of my fellow Library technicians (whom I have dubbed "Ernestine," also for privacy).  I happen to be friends with "Priscilla," and worked with her for years, and somehow never saw this scary, intense side of her.  That's why I think this is so funny.  (And by the way, I made up the names "Reginald" and "St. Didacticus," too.  But wouldn't that be great if there really was a school called St. Didacticus?)

It is VERY important to teach the students how to shelf read and the proper order the books should be in. 
Do not assume they know, you must go to the shelves and SHOW them. 
I checked Reginald's shelves and he was not instructed on the order.  For example he had 745.6 before 745.44 or 745.59 since he thought the number 6 is smaller than 44 or 59. 

It is 745.01 before 745.10   It is digit by digit
745. 02
745.03 etc. 

I will bring the instruction manual from St. Didacticus for you to go through and then you can teach the TAs.  This is very important and we can't assume they know what to do simply by saying "go put the books in order". 
This is the only section I got to.  I don't know how the others are doing. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  
Don't.  Do it.  WRONG.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I found this on a scrap of paper by one of the student computers after school: 

Let me walk you through my interpretation of this:  The figure on the right appears to be mildly annoyed at first, and tosses something (sushi? a bento box?) at the figure on the left.  Although the figure on the right is now delighted by his own antics, the figure on the left becomes large and freaky with anger.  Suddenly, the figure on the right is tiny, dwarfed by the fiery wrath of the figure on the left.  It is wordless, yet profound.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


          This post is dedicated to Julie, who understands personal filth, and also likes peanuts.

          When it's finally time for my lunch break, I put the closed sign out, turn the main lights off, and retreat into the narrow little storage/workroom at the back of the library, locking the door behind me.  That way I don't hear the phone, or the walkie-talkie, and even if someone brazenly demands that a custodian unlock the library to track me (or something I'm in charge of) down, they will be foiled.  There is no sign of me.  Short of a family emergency or a terrorist attack, I AM NOT TO BE BOTHERED.
          In my secret Library Cave it's just me, whatever book I'm currently reading, my snacks, and a cup of coffee.  Perfect.  The book is the most important element.  That, and the silence.
          The problem is that I'm not good at covering my tracks.  I usually don't put much thought into what to eat at work, so it ends up being whatever unhealthy, messy thing I happen to grab on the way out the door.          
          And I have two speeds: "On," and "Off."  Which means when I'm "Off" (during my lunch break), I am REALLY off.  Meaning I toss food wrappers on the floor because it would be too much effort to throw them away.  And if crumbs and globs tumble to the floor I just ignore it.
          And then there are the frequent ant invasions.  I don't blame the ants, they're naturally attracted to sticky crumbly food messes, and I leave plenty of those.
          Here's where the peanuts come in:
          Anthony's birthday was circus-themed, so we had lots of unshelled peanuts to snack on, so much that I ended up with several bags of them after the event.  I took some to work with me and stashed them in the back storage/workroom.  When I'm reading during my lunch hour I don't want to have to put my book down, so I ended up clumsily breaking into the shells with one hand, gobbling the peanuts, and making a mess of the shells all over the floor around me.  There's no trash can back there, because I don't want it to look like I actually eat lunch there.  It's supposed to be my secret hideout.
          But I spent several days in a peanut-eating frenzy, scattering crushed bits of peanut shells all over the floor, and just kind of never cleaning it up.  I don't know why.  I guess I was just way more focused on the book I was reading.  It looked like rats had gotten into the storage room.  What human being would make such a splintery, shredded mess all over the floor?
          When my lunch break was over, I'd get up, look down, and think, "Gross!  Somebody should clean that up..."
          One day I showed my Student Library Aide the workroom, because he had to help me get some boxes from back there.  He stopped, noticing the organic mess around the small table and chair.
          "Wow...  Somebody made a real mess back here!  What are all these peanut shells...?!" he asked innocently, perplexed and seemingly affronted.
          My face flushed red, and I felt like a teenage boy whose mother had discovered his hidden stash of (gay) porn.
          I confessed quickly that it was actually ME who made that mess, and immediately got down to business moving the boxes, trying to distract the lad from thinking too much about how disgusting and trashy Mr. Kovac is.
          Later I went back into the workroom alone, staring at my filth and wondering why I'm like that.  My mom is very tidy, my dad is very tidy, and they certainly tried their best with me.  My husband was very tidy when we first moved in together, but slowly my tide of clutter and careless filth overwhelmed and defeated him.  (He's still alive, but not as tidy.)
          It didn't occur to me until the next day that even though I was embarrassed at having my mess discovered, I STILL hadn't cleaned it up.  The only reason I even thought about it was because miraculously, overnight, the mess had been totally cleaned up by someone else!  The carpet was vacuumed, no trace of peanuts or shells remaining.  I realized the custodians must have discovered my terrible secret at last, and added that back workroom to their nightly cleaning route.
          The shame hit me like a punch to the chest.
          Every day now, whatever mess I make back there is cleaned up by morning.  Did they tell anybody?  Do they even care?  This is an exceptionally clean school, so I'm afraid my trashiness MUST stand out.  I should change my behavior, become cleaner and pick up after myself.  Eat less weird candy and snacks.
          But here is what my secret hidden workroom desk looks like right now:
Bag of Peanut M&Ms and Cracker Jacks (Halloween leftovers), and a truly disgusting mug of mostly-eaten potato soup, with trash stuffed in it.  When I finally cleaned it out, I discovered MOLD growing in it.  Yay!

Wrappers from the Mexican peanut candy I stole from the Edgar Allan Poe "Dia de los Muertos" ofrenda.  Also Peanut M&M wrapper, dirty napkins, stray paperclip and some kind of dark yarn.
           At least there's nothing on the floor, though.  Well, maybe a few broken shards of pretzel crackers.  If questioned, I will suggest that rats must be living in the Library's air-conditioning ducts.

(Follow-up topic: PEANUTS.  Is it simple coincidence, or fate that leads me to eat so many peanut-related foods?  First peanuts in natural form, then Peanut M&Ms, then Mexican peanut candy...  Why is this a theme in my life lately?)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


-from the Malleus Librarium, by Tater Lumpkin

          Monday during our busiest stretch of the morning, when we have about 50 kids all packed into this little library, I gave a detention to a 7th grade boy.  He cried, and I offered the barest of reassurances, staring down at him stonily.  Welcome to the harsh realities of life, kid.
          Here is how the absurd events played out:
The common stapler, a seemingly benign office tool
          We have ONE stapler on the circ desk that is for student use.  They are supposed to use it AT the desk.  The Offender (name withheld) made his first mistake by carrying the stapler to the back of the room with him.  When another student asked for the stapler and I found it missing from the counter, I yelled,
          “Whoever took the stapler from the desk needs to bring it back up here NOW!”
          No response from the Offender, but then some kids started muttering that someone had the stapler at the back of the room, and they were still using it.  I have no patience for this kind of thing, especially when I’m busy and there are 50 kids to supervise.
          “Whoever has the stapler needs to bring it to the desk right NOW, because there are other students who need to USE it!!!”
          Finally a helpful girl went over to the Offender, who I finally noticed.  He was trying to hide behind some other kids at the back while he finished his work.  He finished stapling, head down, and the girl took the stapler and brought it up to me. 
          I marched over to the Offender and demanded to know why he had ignored me, and why another student had to bring the stapler up to me, when HE was the one hoarding it.  He offered some lame, whining excuses, which I had no patience for.
          “Well, you get a detention.  Come up to the desk now.”
          He was horrified, eyes instantly red and welling.  I realized he was a 7th grader, a little guy I recognized from a class that meets in the Library 4 days a week.  Tears spilled down his cheeks, and his voice wobbled as he asked, “Will this go on my permanent record?!”
          I sighed, and assured him that it would not.  He asked if I would have to notify his parents, and I answered, “Not unless you fail to serve the detention.”  As I filled out the scary white/yellow/pink triplicate detention slip, he tearfully asked where to serve the detention, and when.  He’d never had one before, and had no idea what to do or where to go.
          I took a small amount of pity on him and assured him that it was really no big deal, he just needed to serve it and get it over with, and everything would be fine.  As long as he did NOT ignore/defy me again. 
          I’ve only made kids cry a few times in my years as a Library technician, so I thought it was worth mentioning.  Okay, well maybe more than just “a few” times, but probably no more than 10.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DAY OF THE DEAD : "Ofrenda" for Poe

     My friend Christine, the Art teacher, did all sorts of Day of the Dead decorating all over campus, and was kind enough to give us all the makings for an ofrenda for Edgar Allan Poe, complete with (plastic) skeletal remains.  She and her students are responsible for making all the cool stuff.  I assembled it on top of our graphic novels section.
Mr. Poe

      "Ofrendas are an essential part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. The word "ofrenda" means offering in Spanish. They are also called altares or altars, but they are not for worshiping.                
      Ofrendas are set up to remember and honor the memory of ancestors."
"Lenore" painted on the mysteriously squished side of his skull

I love the colorful tissue-paper flower garland
     When she was putting up all the decorations late Friday evening, she was on a ladder outside one of the classrooms and the ladder collapsed.  She felt into the wall and then dropped to the ground.  Her ankle is pretty f***ed up, she's sore all over, but at least we don't have to make an altar dedicated to HER memory.
     (I don't know why it is that we school employees tend to flaunt safety so much.  I don't even HAVE a ladder in the library, so I end up balancing precariously on book carts, or even stacking a little rolling library stool on top of a chair on top of a table to reach the higher bulletin boards.  We received a flyer by email a few weeks ago with the slogan, "A chair is not a ladder!" showing how to use a stepladder correctly to reach things, and reminding us to be very careful.  I tacked it to the wall in the back room and ignore it every day.)

Skulls, pictures of the deceased, offerings of food, candy, and drinking water, even flowers and ravens!
      She also did an altar dedicated to Frida Kahlo in the main office, and drew a unibrow on it.  Awesome, right?  And did you notice Mr. Poe has a mustache?  It's amazing it survived even after his skin and organs rotted away.  That is a seriously tough mustache.
      Mr. Poe is dressed in my own clothes, and it felt weird shoving his stiff, awkward limbs into my shirt and pants.  It felt sort of like dressing a child or an old person.  He was so uncooperative I had to pop his hands off and re-attach them after I got the sleeves on.  (I don't think you're allowed to do that with kids or old people.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010


          So before I take it all down, I thought I'd post pictures of my lovely Halloween displays.
The big bulletin board, with mostly hand-made stuff by me.  :)
          I wanted to highlight some favorite spooky authors, so we did shrines to Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.  I try to turn the older kids on to Lovecraft whenever I can, because he's one of the grandfathers of modern horror, even if most people aren't as familiar with his name as they are with Poe's.

The picture is a postcard from the Edgar Allan Poe museum, and the parchment
document is a reproduction of "The Raven" in Poe's own handwriting.  Both were
procured by the Librarian I work with, because she's cool like that.

I found the picture of Lovecraft online, and printed out information on his works,
and a little explanation of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Glass display case with my mom's feathery-fabulous witch hat,
an awesome rubber skeleton, some legit vintage orange Halloween decorations from
the Librarian, potion bottles, and of course horror stories

Close-up of my bug-eyed bony buddy

The long & skinny bulletin board with some clip-art creations, glitter leaves,
and prints from Chris Van Allsburg's "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick"
          Recommended:  "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury.  It's a fantastical journey through time and space to the origins (pagan and otherwise) of the season, complete with autumn winds and a haunted house.
One of my favorite children's Halloween books, with a
great cover illo by Leo & Diane Dillon
          And my favorite Halloween picture book is a tie between "A Woggle of Witches," and "A Halloween Happening," both by Adrienne Adams.  I could only find a good picture of the first, though.  It's a shame these books are so hard to come by now, they have really beautiful atmospheric paintings.  If I remember correctly, I think "A Halloween Happening" has the witches throwing a party up in the trees, with lanterns and cool stuff like that.
I totally wanna hang out with these witches

Friday, October 29, 2010


          My library has a booming donation program, which is sometimes a good thing, and sometimes a dusty, grimy, dead spidery thing wrapped in a clingy layer of dust.  We actually decided to keep this book about Joni, the quadriplegic.  We need more autobiographies since that's an annual assignment for the 7th grade English classes.
          Joni was just too earnestly '70s to pass up, with the Dorothy Hamill hairdo and that grin clamped around the ink pen.  The color scheme of the book makes me think of Holly Hobbie and bell-bottom corduroy trousers.

Oh, Joni...  We're laughing WITH you.
          Incidentally, I just happened to flip through the book to the beginning of chapter 8, which reads:

          When I returned from California, I stoically and glibly thanked God for whatever purpose He had in the fact that I wouldn't get the use of my hands back, that I couldn't ever marry Dick.

          Poor Joni, forever denied dick...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


          My Library T.A. brought me two blue Post-its he found in one of our library books while he was shelving.
          The first says:

"OK so the story so far is : a girl asked me out, the she broke up w/me, the she want me bak, then I broke up w/her.  She cried.  I said sorry but she wont accept.  The like 1 day later she said it was ok!"

          The second Post-it reads:

"Next part : another girl asked me out, then she wants to go on a date.  But I was busy and she was angry and she broke up w/me.  The End"

          Oh, the drama of teenage life...

Monday, October 18, 2010


          I just returned from a very cool trip up to SF for APE.  Got to sign comics for fans at my publisher's booth, and hang out with cool people, spoke on a "Queers In Comics" panel discussion on Saturday, and was interviewed by my publisher Dan Vado at the "Spotlight on Tommy Kovac" panel on Sunday.  There is so much amazing artwork to be seen at APE, so much DIY coolness, I just love it.  Tons of stuff you'll never see anywhere else, and you certainly wouldn't find in a chain bookstore, or even most comic book stores.
          Dan says he might have an SLG booth at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference, which is in San Diego in January.  He's never exhibited at a library con before, so this would be sort of experimental.  He wants me to come down and sign for a day.  I'm so excited I can't stand it.  I'm nerding out.  I totally love ALA and it would be awesome to have an excuse to go, and especially to get in for free, which I'm assuming would be the case if I'm appearing as a creator.  Anyway, I certainly hope that happens.
          I know there would be lots of interest in a very hip publisher like SLG, since most libraries and library workers have now realized the importance and validity of graphic novels as literature.  Lots of librarians are just looking for help in building their graphic novel collections.  And I told Dan that those librarians buy SHITLOADS of library- and book-related T-shirts, totes, and any other library-related stuff they can wear, carry, or otherwise affix to their persons.

Friday, October 1, 2010


          The first week of school we had some horrible Back To School rally, the kind of thing I hated when I was an ill-tempered teen with no school spirit.  I still have no school spirit, so this kind of thing seems just as obnoxious to me now as it did then.
          Our ASB coordinator sent out the following message, which did not make me want to participate, although I did appreciate its strangely grim tone:

Dear Staff,
We would like staff members to participate in a game in the back to school rally this Thursday.
the game follows by putting a large rubberband around the face, above
the upper lip and under the ears. one must move the rubber band down
to their neck by using facial gestures only.
Please contact me if you are willing to participate.
Hope you're having a wonderful first week.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


            In case you don’t know, I work in the library at a college prep academy, grades 7 through 12.  I’m the ONLY library technician in our school district that also has to be in charge of lockers.  It sucks, but I try to take it like a man because overall this is the best school in the district, the kids are super-smart and respectful, and I would die if I had to go back to working at some ghetto-ass gangbanger school. 
            But dealing with locker issues and complaints really sucks.  Primarily because I am a total book person, my head is 100% in the library, and I don’t give a monkey’s left nut about anybody’s stupid locker. 
            I don’t care if a 4-foot tall 7th grader can’t reach the top locker they were assigned, I don’t care if someone’s locker is infested with fire ants, I don’t care if some rogue student put their lock on someone else’s locker, etc. 
            I.  Do.  Not.  Care.
            Just to give you a little idea of what it’s like, I’ll cite a few recent examples of locker issues:

Example 1)  Numerological Complaint
            A concerned and visibly nervous mother came in shortly after 7th grade registration was over.  She asked if she could exchange her daughter’s combination lock for a different one.  I asked her why, and she said the combination “wasn’t good.”
            I was a little perplexed, but since I mostly don’t care I just handed her a new lock and took the original one back.  She proceeded to take the new lock out of its box and check the little card with the combo.  She frowned.
            “Um...  This one seems bad, too.  I’m so sorry, but may I have a different one?”
            Warily, catching a whiff of neurosis in the air, I handed her a different lock.
            “What... exactly... is wrong with the numbers?” I asked tentatively.  “Is it that you think they won’t be easy for your daughter to remember?  You want simpler numbers?”
            “Oh, no—it’s not that.  It’s just... well, these numbers just seem bad.  I’m so sorry!  I know it sounds crazy!” she apologized, handing me back the newest lock, which was obviously very bad, perhaps even worse than the first couple, judging by her  discomfort.
            At that point I got it.  Realizing the particular type of freak this woman was, I hefted the whole box of almost 100 combination locks onto the counter, and told her to have at it.
            “Here, you can go through as many of these as you’d like, and find one that feels right to you,” I said, as nicely as I could manage, watching her in fascination.  I was very aware of the fact that I had already been at work for almost 8 hours, my feet hurt, and I’d spent about 4 hours straight doing registration, which is grueling. 
            She rifled through the box, opening locks and checking the numbers, frowning, moving on to the next.  If I could have handed her a lock with the combination “6-6-6,” I totally would have, just to observe her reaction.
            Finally she succumbed to my clock-checking finger-tapping hints, and just settled on a lock with a combination that apparently wasn’t completely Satanic.  As soon as she walked out I looked up her daughter’s name in my library checkout system, and tried to memorize the girl’s face.  I thought, “I’d better look out for that poor girl.  If she isn’t totally F’ed up, it’ll be a miracle.”

Example 2)  Permanent Brain Damage
            One afternoon shortly after school began in September, a 7th grade girl and her very intense mother (it’s always those 7th grade parents...) came bursting in the library door, arguing.
            GIRL:  Mom, stop it!  It’s no big deal!
            MOM:  Yes it is, and I’m sure he will understand how important this is!
            GIRL:  Mom, I don’t wanna—
            MOM:  TELL HIM!  Tell him about getting hit in the head!
            MOM (stabbing me with her scary Helicopter Mom eyes):  Are you the one we come to with locker problems?
            ME:  (Pause, looking around for some excuse, anything, maybe a tidal wave)  Actually, I’m the LIBRARY TECHNICIAN, but...  Yeah.  (Sigh)  Yeah, I do lockers.
            The embarrassed girl explained that she has a bottom locker, and since she happens to be tall for her age, sometimes the boy with the locker above hers accidentally hits her head with the door of his locker.
            The mother jumped in, insisting that of course I must know how much DAMAGE that could do, and that I need to give her daughter a top locker instead.  I explained that there are no extra lockers, in fact we have a SHORTAGE of lockers, so I can’t just give her a top locker.  They’re all taken.  I suggested she find some shrimpy kid with a top locker to trade with.
            The mother then launched into a tirade that was baffling and convoluted and seemed to center around her working in the medical profession in India, before she moved to this country, so she’s an expert on medical matters and has seen many things.  I believe that was the gist of it, but she was sort of babbling in an agitated endless loop, and all I could do was stare and try to figure out if she was mad at ME, or what.
            When she finally wore herself out, she thanked me (for what?) and started to hustle her daughter out of the library. 
            The daughter broke free of her, and surged toward my desk.
            GIRL:  I won’t really have brain damage will I? 
            ME:  What?  You mean from getting hit in the head with the locker door?
            GIRL:  Yes!  Because my mother said I could have PERMANENT BRAIN DAMAGE from it, and I told her that’s stupid, but she keeps insisting!
             ME (glaring at the mother):  Did you really tell her that?!  Why are you telling your daughter that?!
            ME (turning back to the poor kid):  NO, you will NOT have permanent brain damage from getting hit in the head with the locker door a few times.  But I’ll try to find a top locker you can use as soon as possible.
            GIRL:  Thank you!
            Why do these things always happen at the ass-end of a long day?  After they left I locked the door, shut off the lights, and got the hell outta there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


          BANNED BOOKS WEEK is September 26th - October 2nd.  I have a lot of cool stuff to display for it.  Last year it occurred to me that since I'm (unfortunately) in charge of lockers and combination locks, I might as well use some of the wayward locks in my displays, with an "Unlock Your Mind" theme.  I went a little nuts with it this year, and used copies of pictures of locks, blown up big, to form all the letters.  (The metal hook part was what I used for the letters.)  And I used a picture of a brain on pink paper to dot the "i" in "mind."  Isn't that adorable?
I was quite proud of this idea
          The bulletin board also included the dates (at first I put the 6 upside-down, but don't look at that!), a nice quote from Ben Franklin, and a bitchin' "Censorship causes blindness: READ!" poster.
The main bulletin board

Banned Books Week SIMPLIFIED
          I made this Banned Books Week comic strip when I was working at a junior high school with "less intellectual" students who needed a LOT more explaining before they began to grasp the concepts involved.  It was frequently painful (for us), but we just kept on trying, because it's important.
          In case you can't read the dialogue, it goes like this:

BOY:  I don' get it-- Are we banning books?!  Is that a good thing?!

GIRL:  No!  Banned Books Week is about exercising our FREEDOM to read.

GIRL (continued):  It's about CELEBRATING all the wonderful books that some people are trying to keep us from reading, just because they don't like the IDEAS expressed in them.

GIRL (won't shut up about it!):  Libraries believe in protecting INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM!

BOOK:  I'm just a lil' book with some BIG IDEAS!  Don't ban me just 'cause you don't agree with me!

GIRL:  Save the books!

BOY:  Read an "endangered" book today!

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself"
          In the circular glass display cabinet we displayed books from an American Library Association list of the most frequently challenged and/or banned books.  I scattered some opened padlocks on the shelves, and there are two signs on the back side, explaining the display.
          The first sign reads, "Some people are trying to keep you from reading these books...  These books have been challenged and/or banned from school and public libraries across the nation."
          And the second one says, "Celebrate your freedom to read!"
          The cabinet is unlocked, and I encourage students to check out any books they find interesting.

The Library Key!
          This is a close-up of my favorite part of the display, the "Library Key" which I made from clip-art and blue and chartreuse paper.  Isn't it fancy?!  It's symbolism, get it?  Because the LIBRARY is the KEY which unlocks your MIND.  Duuuude...

          I have one more (very wordy) hand-made poster about BBW, which I direct students to if I don't have time to explain it myself, or if I'm too frazzled and tongue-tied to be coherent about it.  I put it on red, white, and blue paper to make sure kids get the message that there's nothing un-American about intellectual freedom.  Here's the text of it, which I got mostly from the American Library Association, and paraphrased:


          Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.


          A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove materials from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

          The positive message of Banned Books Week:  Free People Read Freely is that due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.


"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone from here,
either write things worth reading,
or do things worth writing about."
-Benjamin Franklin
          I drew this angsty teenager last year, and I rather like him.  You can't see it in the hazy cell phone pic, but the book he's holding is titled "This And That," and the title visible in his backpack is "Crazy Stuff."  He's sort of based on Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" character as far as the hair, but the rest of him is pure slouchy rail-thin teenager.  I see lots of those.
          The quote I borrowed is from one of our morning bulletins last year.  I usually just roll my eyes at the "quote of the day," but I really liked this one.
          I'm gearing up for Banned Books Week next week, so all the other displays are about that.  We just did 7th grade library orientations, and I braced myself for the onslaught of questions.  Sure enough:
          "What is Banned Books Week?"
          "What does 'censorship' mean?"
          "Are we banning these books in OUR school?!"
          "Why do we celebrate Banned Books Week?"

          (More later on that...)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


          Here are some of the displays I put up in September, with new 7th graders in mind.
          I really hope nobody thinks this first one says "FAG" at first glance.  If so, I'm hoping the happy squirrel will offset it.  Because that squirrel is DEFINITELY queer.
          The conversation is thus, in case you cannot read it:
SQUIRREL:  How many books may I check out?
LIBRARY:  You may have 3 books on loan from the library at one time.
SQUIRREL:  How long may I keep them?
LIBRARY:  Books are always due 2 weeks from when they are borrowed.
                    You may renew your books if you need more time.
SQUIRREL:  'Kay, thanks!
FAQ Squirrel
           For the circular display case I was kind of in a hurry, so the yellow construction paper and blue wrapping paper is supposed to look like sand and sky, like you're at the beach or something.  Hence the sunglasses from the Lost-And-Found.
          Oh, and I like promoting the idea of reading JUST FOR FUN, since there's so much assigned reading heaped on these poor kids.  Especially in a college prep academy.  I don't want them to forget that reading can be a leisure activity!
"What I read just for fun over summer break"
          This year our Library Book Club was granted "official" club status, although they DENIED it as a curriculum-based club.  Which is totally retarded, and I still don't understand.  For one thing because the Library is an actual department, and this club supports OUR curriculum.  For another thing, how does READING not address any other curriculum on campus?!  Lame.
          Not being a curriculum-based club means we can't raise money.  Way to go, district, for making sure the Library has as few sources of funding as possible!
Book club meeting dates
           This next one is right behind the circulation desk.  I'm quite proud of all the themed reading lists we've created, using only books from our collection.  Mystery, Romance, Humor, Define Normal (gay and other atypical families), Dystopian Fiction, etc.  I update them with new titles whenever we acquire new books that fit one of our lists.
"Need a reading suggestion???"
          I left my Summer display on the big bulletin board, just because I thought it was pretty and it wasn't quite time for Banned Books Week, yet.
"Summer... reflect, rejuvenate, & have fun!"
          We didn't have a student search station before, so I redesignated two of our student computers.  Our current circ system, "Alexandria," is web-based or something like that, so there's an actual URL for our library catalog search.  It's pretty cool, man.  I'm hoping all the huge lettering and red borders around the screen will make them notice that these computers are ONLY FOR LIBRARY CATALOG SEARCH.  Should I add, "No games, no porn?"
          Oh, and yeah those are Dewey Decimal posters on the windows.  One in English, one in Spanish.
New Student Search Station!