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It’s National Library Week! In fact, today is National Library Workers Day.

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again. In celebration, I’m working 40 hours!

Well, I’m doing a few other things, too. It’s not just about being here for the community. As part of that, last week I attended my first ever library conference, PLA 2016. It was an absolutely incredible experience. PLA is held every other year, and by sheer luck, I was given permission to attend for the opening of the exhibits last Wednesday.

It’s a short drive to Denver. I got to the conference about an hour ahead of the exhibit hall opening, and wandered the convention center, marvelling at how weird it was to see the place devoid of cosplayers (since the last time I’d been there was Denver Comic Con in 2013). I watched the bustle of downtown Denver from a balcony, read some Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and waited as patiently as possible for the doors to open.

When 3:30 finally arrived, I entered the exhibit hall and was blown away by the sheer number of vendors on site. Book distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram; publishers Hachette, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Dorling Kindersley; library service providers Overdrive and Mango… I spent three hours wandering the rows, chatting with representatives of companies like Lulzbot. I got to meet people from libraries around the country. I snagged some ARCs from publishers (stay tuned for some reviews!), got a free mango smoothie from the folks at Mango Languages, and chatted with some library school representatives about my desire to pursue my masters degree. I got to demo some software, play a game of Super Mario Bros. using a system of fruits and circuits as a controller, and drive a BB-8 Sphero toy around. I saw floor models of furniture designed for library use and new construction toys for kids. But the best thing that I saw at the entire conference? People like me. Young people who are just as enthusiastic about libraries as any generation before. People who want to challenge the stereotypes of libraries and librarians alike. People who are eager to spread their knowledge of and passion for libraries around the country and the world.

The future of libraries is bright and varied, folks. Please continue to support yours.

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
Neil Gaiman

It’s almost the end of September, and another favorite time of year is here. This year, Banned Books Week runs from the 22nd to the 28th. For you uninitiated out there, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. You see, some people in the world are so terrified of knowledge that they actively seek to hide information from other people. In some unfortunate cases, this results in people attempting to remove a book from public access. In response to this behavior, the American Library Association started Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of free and open access to information.

I’m not going to mince words. I fucking hate people who push for the banning of books. It is the one thing that gets me upset more than anything else. It is an act of supreme ignorance to ban a book. No one should be able to tell someone else that they can’t read something. Period. In fact, I’m rather stubborn about it. If you tell me that I shouldn’t read something, I’ll ask you why. If you tell me I CAN’T read something, I’m going to find a way to read it.

So, why do people ban books? Most challenges to books occur in schools. This frequently has to do with a book that a class has been assigned to read having some content in it that a parent or guardian of one of the readers finds offensive. Case in point: Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a frequently challenged title. This is usually more because it includes a description of a girl having her first period than because it is about said girl’s questioning of the existence of a deity. Yeah, that’s right, kids. Talking about the changes that EVERY HUMAN BEING goes through are apparently reason enough to stop someone from reading a book. HOW DARE YOU CHILDREN ATTEMPT TO LEARN WHAT YOUR BODY IS DOING!

But yeah, “sexually explicit” and “unsuited to age group” are the two biggest reasons cited when someone challenges a book’s presence in a library. That’s because both of these terms are open to a very loose interpretation. If a parent feels that their precious little snowflake of a child isn’t ready to read about something that everyone else in their class at school has been talking about, then BAN THAT BOOK. Guess what, folks? Mitch Hedberg said it best. “Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!” Look, if you’re concerned about what your kid might learn from a book, talk to your kid about the topic. It’s called parenting. The librarians aren’t there to do it for you. They’re there to provide information to their patrons, not to keep them from accessing it.

Why should I care? Orwell left us this gem in 1984. The oppressive regime in control of England in the book uses several slogans, including  WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It’s quite telling, and a bit terrifying, that 1984 has itself been challenged. We’re living in a world where our ability to access information is greater than ever. Thanks to the internet, we have an unbelievable amount of data that we can use every day, WHENEVER WE WANT. However, there are people who want to limit this sort of access to those things that they feel are appropriate for us to see. Sound familiar? People who want to ban books are proponents of ignorance. Fight them. Peacefully.

What can I do to help? Learn your library’s policy on reacting to book challenges. If someone says that they want to complain about a book, ask them if they’ve read it (Yes, this is a legitimate issue—most of the people I’ve met who complained to me about Harry Potter, for example, had NEVER ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK). Many complaints are based purely on hearsay. I like to think of this as the “Cycle of Stupidity.” Some day I’ll draw you a nifty illustration as an example of the cycle. For now, let it be known that only you have the power to stop stupid people. Fight the spread of ignorance. Embrace literacy. Read a banned book. Judy Blume has a great strategy for getting a kid to read. “The best thing to do is leave the books around the house and from time to time say, ‘I really don’t think you’re ready for that book.'”

Other people can stand where they like on the issue of reading freedom, but me? I’m with the banned.

About two weeks ago, I was approached by a coworker to craft the opening lines to a collaborative story that would be taking place in my library’s lobby. The starting words I wrote were posted on a large paper tablet on an easel. Patrons are free to come up and add a sentence to continue the narrative. As of this morning, we’re onto the fifth page It’s been an intriguing community effort, and I will try to post the whole thing once it is done. For now, however, here are the first one hundred words. I was given two themes to weave into this intro, summer and the library. This is what I wrote.

* * * * * *

The summer sun was hanging low in the sky, lazily dropping toward mountains. A light breeze carried a leaf from behind me and whisked it across my path before dropping it to the ground. I could still hear the laughter of the children playing games in the park I’d passed a few minutes before, mixed with yells that the ground was lava. I paused briefly to look toward my destination. The library stood tall amid the growing shadows, as if it were waiting for my arrival. I shivered in anticipation and approached the entryway, placing my hand on the door.

* * * * * *

I can’t wait to see where they go with this one.

June is here, and I’ve been productive. I’m almost (finally) completely unpacked and pretty well set up in my new apartment. I’m sorting through books and paring down to no more than two copies of any given title, though some exception may be made for collectible editions (I’m looking at you, Tolkien).

Why two? I like to share my books with my friends, and it never hurts to have a backup of something you’re going to loan to somebody. Plus, it’s a good chance for me to use this:

Knock Knock's Personal Library Kit

Why, yes! I DID buy this for myself. How did you know?

Besides, I need to free up room in my place for new books. I’m very much looking forward to what I find next. Every day around books is a beautiful adventure.

For this week’s Trifextra challenge, we were prompted to write the origin of a superhero in thirty-three words. I debated doing someone from my favorite comic book series, but then I remembered I had this little thing floating around in my drafts folder, so you get someone original-ish. Enjoy.

The Librarian:

Raised in secret in the catacombs beneath our nation’s capital. Trained from birth in the ways of those who have always walked in silence. He is the peerless warrior of words. The Librarian.

 

 

 

 

This week is National Library Week, and so I would like to share a few of the things that have been going on at my library.

We’ve had a couple of very successful programs for our local teens. We hosted a Blind Date With a Book, where library books were wrapped in paper and labeled only with a small singles-ad-style blurb.

Happy Valentine's Day, book lovers.

Happy Valentine’s Day, book lovers.

Teens were encouraged to take home a book based solely on the paragraph attached. This sense of mystery allowed for them to be surprised by an author that they may not have encountered, or to unwittingly revisit an old favorite.

Up next was our Readbox display. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Redbox, the DVD and video game rental kiosks.

It's like a Redbox, only better.

It’s like a Redbox, only better.

And finally, some days it’s important to just have fun at the library. Nothing helps this like a subtle addition to our self-check station.

"Luke, this is where you scan your library card."

“Luke, this is where you scan your library card.”

If you’ve not visited your local library lately, you should. See what’s new. Libraries are evolving to meet your 21st century needs. Happy National Library Week.

This week’s challenge from Chuck gave us ten randomly chosen words (library, ethereal, storm, dolphin, replay, undertaker, envelope, satellite, chisel, and cube). We were asked to pick five of them to include as elements within the story for a thousand word piece. Here’s “Grave,” featuring library, storm, envelope, undertaker, and satellite, albeit a couple of hours late.

Grave

Lightning crackled across the sky, chasing itself from cloud to cloud as Devlin slung his spade over his shoulder. The storm had been building on the horizon for hours, and the apprentice undertaker had plenty of time to finish his last task, but he’d spent much of his afternoon hiding from his master, Thom. So it was that he found himself crawling out of a newly-dug grave as the first drops of rain began to fall.

Sure, Thom was kind enough on the surface. He’d taken Devlin in several years before, allowing his parents to care for his younger brother and pursue their own careers in archaeology. The old man knew he wasn’t going to be able to carry on his job for more than another year or so, but still, he didn’t have to beat Devlin every time he found him reading. His ears still ached from the boxing they’d been given that afternoon. At least his book hadn’t been thrown away this time.

Digging graves was a bore, always the same dimensions, always the same shovel. The only thing that changed was where in the yard he would be digging. At least the people in the books he read got to escape from their dull lives, off on some adventure. Dev sighed and made his way back to Thom’s cabin at the northern edge of the graveyard. At least the day’s work was done. He called out as he entered the door, the first raindrops hitting the ground as he propped his shovel against the door frame. “Thom? I’m done.”

“Ah, good. I see you managed to beat the storm. Dinner’s nearly ready, if you’ve completed your work.” The senior undertaker stood from a chair near the stove. A fire blazed in the fireplace, lending warmth to the cabin as the temperature dropped outside.

“I did. Mission accomplished, boss.”

“You know it would take you a hell of a lot less time if you didn’t read when you were supposed to be digging.”

“I know.”

“I’m not training you to read all day.”

“I know.”

“Is it going to happen again?” Thom raised his fist.

Devlin sighed. “No, Thom.”

“Good. Glad we talked. Sausage and cabbage soup for dinner. Enjoy. I’m going to bed before the weather gets any worse. Goodnight, Dev.”

“Night, Thom.”

Once the old man had gone to bed, Devlin sat at the table and sipped at a bowl of soup. The week’s mail had come in while he’d been at work and was sitting on the chair beside him, so he picked it up and idly thumbed through the various letters, magazines from coffin makers, and postcards from customers until he spotted a small yellowed envelope with his name on it.

Inside the envelope was a matching piece of paper, a letter in neat handwriting, green ink shining in the firelight.

“Dear Devlin,” it read, “Your father and I are very proud of you. We know that your apprenticeship hasn’t been easy. It’s never easy to have to spend your life doing something you don’t want to do. Still, it’s very important for you to have this opportunity. With the work you’re doing now, you’ll be able to earn a stable living. Who knows? In ten or fifteen years, you might be able to pursue more of your passions.

“You’re very lucky you know. Your brother has to travel to the satellite villages to find work anymore, and no one is about to offer him an apprenticeship. Still, I suppose things could be a lot worse for us right now. Your father and I are busy with our own work, naturally. The excavation of the library is going far better than we’d expected and the scrolls and tomes that we’re finding are in remarkable condition. It amazes me how well the desert manages to preserve artifacts for us.

“We continue to search for the heart of the library. We’ve found a clue that is pointing us even deeper underground. Oh, to have lived at the peak of this civilization! The level of skill it must have taken to be able to create something so massive, a facility of this size, beneath a mountain! Devlin, the words cannot possibly describe the way I feel right now. We’re sorry that you can’t join us. You’d love it here. It’s warm and beautiful, and the chances we have to find something big are growing better by the day. We love you, Dev, and can’t wait to see you. Love, Mum and Dad.

“P.S. Your father is working on some sketches to send when the post goes out again. I hope you like them.”

Devlin set the letter aside. His soup had gone cold, so he poured the remnants out and paced around the dining room. The library. His parents had talked about it for years before leaving for the excavation, and in his childhood he had considered it the stuff of legend. Now here he was, hundreds of miles away, the great desert separating him from them, bound by the terms of his apprenticeship. He longed to join them. There was a sense of finality about the work he did for Thom, with each grave he dug serving as someone’s end. The library was history in the making, each day bringing new discoveries for his parents. Even his brother was finding new things in the satellite villages that surrounded his home.

Dev sighed and sat back down. The terms of his apprenticeship bound him, and Thom was too clever to allow him to sneak off any time soon. As he stretched in the chair, a flash of lightning outside the window illuminated the whole room, throwing his spade into sharp relief. “There is a fresh grave outside,” he glanced at the envelope. “And Thom’s got no family to speak of…” The thunder boomed, rattling the cabin. Devlin sat in thought as the storm raged on and the rain continued to fall. “It is an option…”

Happy Pi Day! It’s 3.14, and that means it’s time to celebrate. Eat pie, count as many digits in that wonderful number as you can, and read Yann Martel’s modern classic about a boy and a tiger.

On an unrelated note, have a nice little discussion about libraries and their future from Cory Doctorow.

 

 

 

In all seriousness, though, I’m writing real stuff for you. It’s coming soon.

February is Library Lovers Month, so I’m going to share a little love for libraries that I found today. Courtesy of the folks over at Daily Infographic, here’s one titled Libraries Are Forever.

libraries-are-forever-972-640x4094

In February of last year, I got the chance to spend a week aboard the USS John C. Stennis, and to my great joy I found the ship’s library in my wanderings of the corridors. This opened my eyes to the surprisingly high number of libraries that exist on ships around the world. Apparently even the Titanic had two different libraries on board. This has made me think about some of the opportunities that would be available to someone who has a Masters of Library Science degree. After all, cruise ships need librarians too… I could work on my tan AND help to educate the masses. There are similar libraries everywhere. This is twenty different kinds of motivating to continue my education. Travel the world without leaving your favorite books behind. Hell, even the Semester At Sea program has opportunities for librarians to serve on their ships.

The MLS degree is still far more relevant than a lot of people think. This article from the American Library Association discusses the outlook for the degree, in contrast to a Forbes article which listed it as one of the worst choices for grad school programs. It may not be the best job line from a purely financial perspective, but, like teaching, librarianship is something people do because they love to do it, not because they want to get rich.

I’m looking at my school options for an MLS degree. I’d like to go back to school this fall, and there are two different programs that I’m considering, both of which are 100% online. I know that it’s something that I’ve talked about for a while now, so it’s time for my words to become my actions. Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself running one of those mobile libraries in the not-so-distant future.