Friday, October 28, 2011

FUN WITH CAPTIONS: Mother Teresa, the Vampire

A horrible screech blasts from her withered mouth, bathing the infant in flecks of grave dirt and foul blood-scented breath. Mother Teresa's claw fastens greedily around the baby's skull. Her fangs lengthen with hunger, her eyes solid black with longing...

     (Actually, I discovered this image on the cover of a book that was recently donated to the library. Mother Teresa's Reaching Out In Love: Stories. But seriously, look at her! She's totally gonna eat that baby, and I can practically hear the pterodactyl-esque screech coming from her open mouth.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


     A friend of mine from a public library shared this email with me, which they had received from a co-worker:
Two parole officers came to children’s desk looking for an Hispanic man, in a wheelchair, with missing teeth.  I had not seen such a person since I came on children’s desk at 12:15.  They said they would go out to their car and return with a photo of him and a card with their number so we could call if we saw this man.  They never returned.  They said this man should not be in the children’s section. 

     No shit, right? I love the description of this dire individual. This is normal for the public library.

Friday, October 14, 2011

eBOOKS and eREADERS - Shut up about it already!!!

          Dude, I don't even know where to BEGIN. I am not afraid of new technology, but I AM afraid of people who want to jump on the latest digital trend before the kinks are worked out.
          A few months ago one of our parent-run funding committees started asking about getting eBooks and eReaders into our school library.


          We have NO YEARLY BOOK BUDGET, and exist purely through special funding like parent organizations, donations, and book fair profits. We are still FAR below the district average for actual print material. We have less books than any other library in this school district. It seems like we need to at least fix THAT, before we start on something that seems like an "extra" to me.
          Plus, eReader technology is changing as we speak, and so are the DRM (digital rights management) that govern eBook usage. Nobody can agree which device or format is going to triumph. Will it be Amazon with their Kindles that read kindle-formatted eBooks? Or will it be Barnes & Noble with their Nooks, which read ePub format? Will it be iPads, which read ePub or pdf formats? Technically, iPads could read Kindle, too, since you can download Kindle for PC for free. It's all confusing and in flux.
          Oh- and you can get either Kindle or Nook for PC, as free downloads.

New and rapidly-changing technology

          So, with all this new and rapidly-changing technology, THIS is a good time to spend a ton of money on one of the options, right? Before we can tell which one is best? Especially for a school with no real funding? It reminds me of the early days of videotape technology, when my family chose "Beta" over "VHS," and bought the machine and a bunch of tapes before VHS obliterated Beta.
          I was asked by this particular funding group to do some "research" into the whole eBook/eReader thing, which I gladly agreed to do. But once I returned with many articles and reasons to support NOT jumping on that trend right now, they didn't want to hear it. Even when I bring up the fact that unless they're willing to purchase an eReader for EVERY student at our school, then it's not an equitable practice, they STILL are not discouraged from it. We're a PUBLIC school library, don't we have to provide equal access to whatever we provide for our students?

Don't we have to provide equal access?

          They're talking about buying maybe 10 Nooks for the library, or something like that. In a school with 1,200 students, how exactly do you decide which 10 students get to play with the Nooks? And what about actual eBOOKS? Those cost money, too. On average they cost as much as print books do, and the Librarian and I both would rather have actual print books that every student could read, whether they are one of the select few to get their hands on an eReader or not.

Wouldn't take long at all for them to be
damaged, stolen, or lost

          Can you imagine the waiting list nightmare that would be created by having just a handful of brand new eReaders? And if you work in a library, you know it wouldn't take long at all for one or two of them to be damaged, stolen, or lost.

"Overdrive," costs $4,000 yearly

          A big reason I object to this whole idea is that technically, an eReader is "equipment," which we library techs are not supposed to have to manage.  The eBook files are the "books," so I could see us eventually having an online database of eBooks for download in multiple formats (for whatever the student happens to have access to), but the current standard for this is "Overdrive," which costs $4,000 yearly. We just don't have that. We're lucky if we manage to scrounge up $2,000 for new books in any one year.          

          Just last week we had a meeting of all Library technicians. I had asked that "eBooks & eReaders in our public school libraries" be put on the agenda. At first our coordinator seemed confused by this wording, specifically that I made a point to indicate PUBLIC school libraries. We all know we're a public institution, of course, but I think this is a good time to remind everyone what that means, as far as accessibility.
          eBooks would not be accessible to more than an extremely SMALL portion of our student body, even if we purchased a handful of eReaders. But we didn't even have to go into the "equitable practice" angle of the issue.
          Our coordinator quickly assessed the situation after I explained it, and said that any purchase of technology at this point would be premature, because there has not been a district standard set, yet. There is a committee that reviews new tech stuff, no matter what the funding source is, and eReaders would have to be proposed to them, and go through a review process.
          As soon as we explained this to our admin, the ongoing (and seemingly neverending) discussion seemed to come to a grinding halt. Which is exactly what I was hoping. For now, at least.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Halloween's ON, witches!
           Banned Books Week is over, so I spent yesterday re-decorating the library for Halloween. Yay! The first thing I pulled out of the back room was my mom's awesome feathery witch hat, which I stuff over an artificial fern in a black urn, and set on top of an upturned black plastic witch's cauldron. Then I set that in the center of an artificial black wreath. (Well, it really is a wreath, but you know what I mean) 
          The color scheme is chartreuse green and purple. I recently discovered that CM School Supply, which has a nearby location, has these handy-dandy giant rolls of colored paper. Plus they have the wavy border stuff I love, in a panoply of fashionable colors.  ;)

"Dare To Be Scared" poster, and "Halloween in Wonderland" scrapbooking papers, plus vintage ghostie and pumpkins, and a simple hand-crafted black construction paper bat with White-Out eyes

          When I first put that "Dare To Be Scared" poster up (it's new this year), one of our library regulars told me it really freaks him out, and he'll be glad when Halloween's over and that creepy guy won't be staring at him anymore.
          I said, "Yeah, he IS pretty creepy. Can you imagine if you were walking home alone one day, and you turned around and HE WAS FOLLOWING YOU?!"
          The kid said, "I get a ride to school, Mr. Kovac."
          I said, "Well, what if you're sitting in class one day, and you turn around and HE'S SITTING IN THE DESK RIGHT BEHIND YOU?!"

Jinkies! There's even a RAVEN perched atop the sill! And are those GLOWING SKELETON HEADS?!! So chilling!

"The horror... the horror..."
          The big bulletin board has all my old handmade Halloween stuff. I made the spider way back in the early NINETIES, when I was working at the Santa Ana Public Library, in the Children's Room! I was basically their art whore, so I was given plenty of time to make arty things in the back work room. It was only recently that I thought to make clip art books for the spider to be reading. Now he represents people who read a bunch of books at one time. (I admit sometimes I do that)
          It's too bad you can't really see the details on the building there, but it's a spooky library, which I drew in black over dark grey paper. I think it looks really cool and subtle in person, but doesn't show up in pictures.
           At the back of the room over history and biographies is a long bulletin board that still had a summery display asking "What did you read over summer break?" so it was way past due (pun intended) for a change. Now it's Frankenstein's monster, and bats.  

Frankenstein's monster "Library Good!" poster, plus clip art stuff
Google image search for "bat clip art"

Google image search for "bat skeleton" and "fancy frame," and a few layers of colored paper
          Near the front half of the library is a long bulletin board that used to have a cheery smiling pencil and "Welcome!" in big letters. Now it's all skulls and weird scenes.

Clip art skulls, and posters from Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick

          I've been using the posters from the "portfolio version" of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for years. It comes in handy for creative writing workshops AND decorating! In case you haven't seen it, here's a link to it on Amazon (be patient for the widget/link to load, it may take a few moments):

          Recently I saw there is a new "Harris Burdick" book, which is an anthology of new tales by prominent children's and YA authors, who have used the tantalizing illustrations as inspiration. But the book is getting mostly bad reviews, because people seem to like Van Allsburg's pictures specifically for their unexplained eerieness. Despite the quality of the stories in the new anthology, the stories just aren't going to live up to what fans of the original have been imagining in their OWN heads for the past 27 years. (And yes, it really has been that long since the original book came out!)

Our cylindrical display case done up like a "cabinet of curiosities" 
           Our "cabinet of curiosities" has a rubber skeleton and various stuff from Michael's, or wherever, plus fake grass at the bottom with little "tombstones" I made out of construction paper and metal bookends. Plus some spooky-looking books. We're lucky to work with students who don't (often) steal things. We leave the case unlocked so they can get to the books inside.

Oh my gosh, the Reference Section is suddenly TERRIFYING!!!
          That raven on the pedestal is from Michael's, fairly cheap. I put a little "Nevermore" tag around its neck. The little orange plastic witch is a total vintage thing the Librarian brought in, from when she was cleaning out old decorations from storage. I love it.

I did a variation of this same Poe shrine last year
          The Librarian brought back some cool things from her visit to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. We now have parchment reproductions of some of Poe's poems in his own handwriting.
          The raven is just more Google image search clip art, and so is the little pic of Edgar in the clip art frame. I made the "curtains" last year out of construction paper.
SNEAKY TIP: when I'm printing clip art images and I don't have copy paper in exactly the color I want, I frequently find construction paper that's the right color and cut it to 8 1/2" x 11" and put that in the printer.

If you wanna see 2010's Halloween bulletin boards in our library, click HERE.

Monday, October 10, 2011

RECOMMENDATIONS : My favorite books for Halloween!

          Here are 18 of my Halloween reading picks, but please be patient, for the "widget" takes a few moments to load... In the meantime sit quietly with your hands clasped and both feet flat on the floor. No fidgeting.