Self Care for Teens: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

RuPaul's words of wisdom now reside over the YA reference desk.

RuPaul’s words of wisdom now reside over the YA reference desk.

If you are one of the seven people who read this blog, you know that I like to do a “hot topic” display at the YA reference desk. I’ve covered body image, racism, LGBTQ  pride, and other topics. This time around, I decided to talk about the concept of self care. In addition to the display, I finally decided to add a pathfinder and a BiblioCommons list as well. I don’t know why it took me so long to add these other options. They seem like a necessary and logical addition to the display.

Look, everyone! I’m learning how to make stuff better.

I feel like Self Care is a touchy subject in general, not only with teens. There’s a need to never show weakness or ever ask for help when we’re overwhelmed. Yet, the best way we can be good to others is to first take good care of ourselves. I did some research on Self Care and came up with this pathfinder:

Within the pathfinder, I included a definition of Self Care and why it’s important, the 12 Steps for Self Care (I’ve also seen them listed as 10 Steps, but I saw 12 more often), and ideas for how one can take better care of themselves:

If you’d like the actual word document (I know the screencap of it is kinda blurry), just hit me up on my contact page.

The flip-side has a list of relevant library books, which again, can be found in this BiblioCommons list.

For the actual display, I borrowed/stole heavily from Calming Manatee, Emm Roy, and Skeletor is Love. Along with the search term “Self Care” I also used “Positive Affirmations”. I made an extra effort to find images featuring POC. Take a look:

Full Maya Angelou quote here if you are interested.

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Survey: Documenting Code of Conduct Violations at ALA Conferences

My wallet a smidge lighter, my skin a tiny bit more sunburned, and my heart a whole bunch more inspired by my fellow librarians, I am back from the ALA conference in Vegas. I had a pretty great time: I went to the Stonewall Book Awards brunch (and sat next to Ken Setterington!), I got to introduce Sara Farizan in a panel, AND I got lots of work done with Kyle on his upcoming project.

Oh, and uh, yeah. I got sexually harassed. Twice. Once by a fellow librarian at the conference hall. I was touched without consent. I was told a couple of things that were pretty unsettling and kissed all over my hands in a super-sloppy-spitty manner. It was gross. The other time was by a non-librarian who was an attendee. It was also gross. It was just a comment, but it was bad enough that I would have reported it in my place of work.

This is not my first conference and this is not my first time being harassed.

I don’t think people know how wide-spread harassment is at conferences. When I relayed the story of the librarian touching me at the conference hall, most male librarians were shocked. Female librarians expressed sympathy and then usually shared similar (or worse!) stories with me. However, I am not naive enough to believe that those who identify as female are the only ones who are harassed, intimidated, threatened, or even physically attacked at conferences. Homophobia, racism, transphobia, and able-ism can also occur.

Being harassed can be a shock to the system. I consider myself a total loudmouth who is assertive and outspoken. However, when harassed or touched or mistreated, I can freeze. I can forget what to do. I might start nervously laughing (which might make me look like I’m enjoying my harasser’s attention!). I may look around to see if there are any witnesses. I might choose to just flee the area. I haven’t, however, reported my harassment. Not even once. It’s never that easy for me. I would have appreciated signs up in the conference hall telling me who to contact if something unsafe occurred. It may have jostled me out of my shock and into action.

I am a big fan of the Hollaback! project and wondered why librarians weren’t collectively documenting their experiences with harassment at conferences. While I appreciate the presence of the Code of Conduct (even though some people just don’t get why it exists), I am not convinced that it’s enough. We, as attendees, need an added layer of awareness.

In the spirit of Hollaback!, I have created this survey. If you have experienced or witnessed any Code of Conduct violations, I am asking you to take part. It’s only 10 questions (because I couldn’t afford the upgrade, sadly), but hopefully it will give us a better understanding of what can occur at ALA conferences. Answers will be kept anonymous. If you choose to include any personal information (which you don’t have to and probably shouldn’t), I promise not to share it with anybody: not on my blog, not with my coworkers, not with my partner, not with my cat. Nobody. Any anecdotes that I receive will have any and all identifying information removed. This includes names and specific event characteristics (I may mention what city it occurred in if it seems relevant, but I won’t include names of events or divisions).

will however share non-specific stories and anecdotes. I will share statistics and the like in an upcoming blog post should people actually take the time to fill it out. If you’re concerned about sharing something publicly, do whatever feels safe. Many results will be included in a public post on this blog. For your protection, it’s best to keep things vague. No names, nothing too specific.

I know this survey won’t be super scientific and there’s probably some components I should have included. I tried to leave lots of wiggle room in the survey so that every kind of story can be told. Still, if there’s something you’d like to express but can’t find a good place on the survey to do so, feel free to hit me up elsewhere.

I’m not out to shame ALA staff or council members with this survey. I am not out to combat the Code of Conduct because I think it’s extremely necessary and I’m glad it’s in place.  What I am out to do is raise some awareness among conference attendees. I want to get a better grip on what conference harassment and intimidation looks like.

Please fill out this survey and share it with other ALA conferences attendees, past and present. I’m not sure what the survey results are going to look like. Maybe no one will fill it out. Maybe we’ll find that conditions aren’t as bad as I thought. I haven’t the slightest idea, but I’ll let you know when I find out.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Kyle Cassidy’s Portrait Sessions in Vegas: Starring You and Your Favorite Librarians


Do you want Kyle Cassidy of Slate’s This is What a Librarian Looks Like-fame to take your portrait at ALA Vegas? Do you know a librarian who would be great for this project? Sure you do! Click here to see where and when he’ll be photographing.

Oh, and did I mention that Kyle has gotten NEIL FREAKING GAIMAN to narrate this documentary?

It’s a fact, sons!

There’s still time to fund the Kickstarter. The Kickstarter money will fund the portraits, a documentary, AND stock photos for library use. So, donate and share like the wind.

See you in Vegas!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW: Three Picture Books You Need for Your Collection This Very Second

After my first go-round on the Rainbow List, one of my major complaints was that we weren’t receiving many picture book submissions (I believe we only got two last year, and out of those, only one had LGBTQ content. It was a bummer). I was also dissatisfied with the number of books that featured People of Color. It seemed that way too many titles revolved around white, cisgendered men. I was yearning for more protagonists that were black or Asian or Latino or…anything.

Well, someone heard my prayers, because I have been blessed with three offerings that have restored my faith in picture books (for a while, anyway. I’ll be fussy by as soon as next month). If they’re not on your radar, I insist you order them right now. Your collection desperately needs these titles. If you don’t think you have LGBTQ folks in your neighborhood, you’re wrong. Even if that were the case, we owe it to the children and families that frequent our libraries to have rich, diverse collections. Hey, everyone, #weneeddiversebooks.

I have to be honest, I was wary of another “boy in a dress” book. Our library has a few of them with varying quality and appeal. Sometimes I feel that featuring a boy in a dress is talking around homosexuality/queerness/trans-ness instead of about it. But, with weekly stories about kids being kicked out of school (Or reprimanded. Or shamed) due to their manner of dress, apparently books like this are still very much needed, though possibly more for the world’s adults more than the children.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dressby Christine Baldacchino, is indeed a “boy in a dress book”, but its dreamy illustrations help it stand out from the others. It’s super lush and beautiful. By the end of the read, you’ll be wanting to live in Morris’ world of cats and elephants and spaceships. Plus, his dress looks like orange cotton candy.

Morris and his tangerine cloud of a gown.

Morris and his tangerine cloud of a gown.

I want to be part of his world.

I want to be part of his world.

Not Every Princess exists in sort of the same vein as Morris Micklewhite, in that it tackles gender identity and gender presentation. While Morris has a plot and dialogue, Not Every Princess simply introduces us to a number of children who see no limits to how they experience life. Gender stereotypes are not talked about explicitly. Instead, the reader is simply told that girls can be tough and boys can be gentle and vice versa. Some princesses are strong. Some knights are kind. Traditional gender roles don’t prevent us from being our fully realized selves.

Not Every Princess features one of the most diverse casts of characters I’ve seen in a long time. I adore the sweet faces on all these children:

As a children's librarian, I see a lot of cute every day. I'm practically immune to cute. These kids are next level adorable!

As a children’s librarian, I see a lot of cute every day. I’m practically immune to cute. These kids are next level adorable!

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Little Reminders Everywhere: Want your kids to read? Let them choose their own books

It’s time again to share another early literacy tip! Every month, I post a sign behind the reference desk that features a short suggestion on how caregivers can help their kids become better and more engaged readers. This month, I talked about the power of choice:

Now, I’m not talking assigned reading for school here. I’m talking about a child picking up a book to read in their spare time and the parent or caregiver rejecting the book. If you want a child that reads for fun, you need to let them have a say in what they read. If you’re bringing home a stack of books from the library, at least half should be books that the child has chosen on their own.

I often see parents and caregivers disapproving of books that their children pick. Sometimes the parents want books that contain more serious content (Ibsen for toddlers, anyone?). Other times, adults complain that the book is above or below their child’s reading level (“Put that down. That’s for big kids!”). Here’s what I’ve witnessed just in the past week:

  • A parent complaining to me that his six year old daughter loves to read (what a complaint, right?), but she’ll only pick up books that have tons of fart and poop jokes.
  • A nanny telling me that her boss asked her to bring home “the best book for four year olds. The book that will make them love reading.” Upon further questioning, the nanny told me that she takes care of two young kids who don’t like to read (and apparently aren’t read to, but that’s a whole other problem). The parents are desperate for some “good, educational picture books” because they want to get the girls into a good pre-school.

Oy vey. This is the kind of stuff that is turning my hair (somewhat) prematurely grey. I am always baffled when a parent complains to me that their child only reads tons of one kind of book. Let’s be happy that they’re reading and that they love to read, even if it’s non-stop toilet humor. If your kid loves wrestling, fart jokes, princesses, dinosaurs, cats or trucks, then use that interest to help you choose books that they’ll devour. So what if they’re a little obsessive about a certain topic? Children operate in phases. When they’re 10, they’re probably not going to be into what they were interested in at six (If that’s how people operated, I’d be a ballerina instead of a librarian. I am a not a ballerina, in case you were wondering. I am extremely ungraceful and tend to walk into my fridge every single morning). Unless they’re picking up copies of The Anarchist Cookbook, try not to get too concerned.  So, until they move on to their next serial fascination, let them read whatever strikes their fancy. Don’t let them associate reading with you constantly saying “no”. If  the topic is a bit immature, so be it. Childhood is a great time to be immature.

As for the nanny of the non-readers, I begged her to bring the 4 year old twins to the library and let them choose their own books (or at least have the kids send the nanny in with a list of requests). If there was just one book that made kids interested in reading, we’d carry 1,000 copies of just that book and all us children’s librarians would be out of a job. Forcing your child to read a specific book is just going to make the both of you miserable. The threat of not getting into a good pre-school has spawned exactly zero lifetime readers. I don’t have the numbers to back up that claim, but, trust.

Like the LeVar Burton of early literacy displays, I don’t want you to take my word for it. Scholastic is TOTALLY on my side here:

Also, check out this article entitled Parents ‘must let children choose what they read’It’s a great read overall, complete with these helpful suggestions:

Picture 3See? I’m totally not making this stuff up.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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On how not to apologize when you’ve said something really extra stupid from someone who says stupid things all the time

Imagine I’m on a panel at ALA or a library conference of your choice. Imagine I’m partaking in spirited and humorous, but respectful banter. Imagine an exchange of ideas and a healthy debate. Imagine, suddenly, that I decide to bust out with a relevant quote from one of my favorite, though purposefully offensive, comedians. Pick something from Sarah Silverman or Amy Schumer. It doesn’t matter which joke. Pretend that while the quote is slightly relevant to the conversation at hand, it’s mostly just offensive, inappropriate, disrespectful and just plain rude. Now, imagine that some people in the audience get the reference and some don’t. Imagine I’ve upset people in the panel and the audience. Image that folks on Twitter and Facebook have gotten wind of my awful comment and want me to apologize.

Now, imagine that my apology for my actions goes something like this:

  • I immediately state that I cannot fix what I’ve done (instead of asking what I can do to fix it)
  • I talk about how I’m facing unpleasant consequences due to my actions
  • I mention that Schumer (or Silverman) has a huge following with tons of Google hits that refer to her jokes
  • I start blaming the internet for daring to discuss my misstep
  • I also blame old people who don’t get the Schumer reference
  • I once again talk about how my inappropriate behavior has made my life difficult
  • I restate how I have been victimized in order to garner sympathy

For this full back-story on this rant, click here. Don’t worry, it’s a Do Not Link-er.

If you insist on throwing around a word like “slut” at a conference, realize that you’re surrounded by a mostly female-identifying audience who may not appreciate your choice of words, regardless of whether or not you’re quoting someone else. Realize that not everyone is going to get the reference. Realize that it’s not their responsibility to recognize every pop culture reference ever uttered (Maybe they grew up in another country! Maybe they’re more of a reader than a TV watcher! Maybe they don’t like sketch comedy!). Realize that even if people recognize the quote, they still retain the right to be offended by what you said. Realize that you are a librarian. You are not a stand-up comedian. You may be naturally funny and edgy and extremely clever, but you are not starring in your own HBO comedy special. Conferences are just another workspace. Consider if you’d use that word in front of your boss or employees. When you say that you don’t feel safe, realize that unsafe for you is being called-out on your actions, while unsafe for other librarians is being touched without consent (happened to me in Philly! Thanks guy who tried, repeatedly, to hold my hand even though I kept pulling away!) or having to deal with sexism/homophobia/racism/threat of physical harm. Realize that the ALA Code of Conduct (which I realize probably does not cover Canadian conferences) exists to address this very sort of behavior because it has been a problem in the past (and realize that unsafe spaces continue to be a problem for conference participants). Realize that you are free to say whatever you please to whomever you please, but, in turn, people are free to voice their displeasure. Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism.

More important than all of this, though, is that we all need to learn how to apologize to our peers. Believe me, I need to learn this too, because I say plenty of stupid things all the time. My foot is in my mouth for a good 80 percent of the day. I’ve got that extra abrasive blunt New Yorker thing that, while I try to keep it in check, ultimately can get the better of me sometimes. Often I have very good intentions, but say things that don’t reflect that at all. When I offend someone, my first instinct consists of protecting myself and my self-esteem while trying to explain away my behavior. When I say the wrong thing, I can proceed in two fashions: My first option is to sort of apologize, but then list every excuse possible to shift the blame on anyone and anything but myself. I can then mention how hard my life is now and talk about how I am a victim in this situation. OR: I can say that I was sorry. I can say what I did was wrong. I can say that I realize that I upset people and that I will do my very best to do better in the future. I can ask for forgiveness.

Saying that you’re sorry is not easy. Apologizing can be difficult and uncomfortable, especially if we feel like we’ve been misunderstood.

The world of librarianship is hectic and lively and chaotic, full of different perspectives and personalities and attitudes. We are going to upset each other, even if we don’t mean to. To better interact with each other, we can be mindful of the words we use. If it sounds like a slur or a gendered/racial insult, just skip it. Find another word. And when we screw up and say the wrong thing, which we will all do at some point, we can apologize thoughtfully and respectfully. We can see what we can learn from the situation and try to do better.

Next time I say something extra stupid, I promise to apologize in a way that will make you all proud.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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P.S. I just saw this public apology today, and though it contained some standard excuses, I thought it was pretty on the money.

FUND THIS KICKSTARTER!: Alexandria Still Burns: Librarians & the Fight for Knowledge

This is the Kickstarter you’ve been waiting for.


Please head over to Kyle Cassidy’s (of Slate’s This is What a Librarian Looks Like fame) Kickstarter page and consider funding his upcoming project. Kyle’s goal is to interview and photograph 100 librarians at the upcoming ALA conference in Las Vegas.

Watch the video. It will make you feel good about being a librarian.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Tweens and Zines: A Successful Program that I was Super Nervous About

Me before every teen program

I consider myself 3/4 children’s librarian and 1/4 teen/YA services. I feel like I could knock out a Toddler Time or a Babies and Books with absolutely no notice (sometimes I have nightmares that the toddlers come to my apartment at 3 AM demanding storytime, but, you know, I even nail it in my dreams) and I read tons of YA lit, so my teen-related Readers Advisory skills are pretty on point. I rarely, however, am asked to do teen programming. I am a creature of habit: The more practice I get, the more at ease I am. That’s why, every time I’m given a teen program, I like to have a total meltdown.

Last week, I was assigned a spot in our Teen Makerspace program.


I decided to do a zine workshop. I think zines are one of the best DIY projects you can do with kids and teens. They can be about whatever you want. You can include poems or art or whatever you want. I brought in extra zines from my own collection both to serve as an example of what a zine can look like and as giveaways (zines are for sharing, right?), I practiced doing the whole turn one piece of paper into an 8-page zine thing (though most of the people who attended opted for the simple fold-down-the-middle and staple kind), I collected lots of collage materials (mostly old BUST magazines, comics, stickers from a generous Twitter buddy of mine, and pages from beat up design/fashion books I’ve collected for this very purpose), I offered Sharpies in a bajillion colors, and I stuck up fliers everywhere I could:

Part of the bottom got cut out. It’s also good to point out that I’m notoriously bad at making fliers. I feel like each one looks more awkward than the last.

Images shamelessly stolen from here, here, and here.

The only thing I needed now were some teens. Any teens.

My usual crew of teens was mysteriously absent from the library that day (or maybe not so mysteriously. It was very hot in the library and the city hasn’t turned on our A/C yet). I started seeking out teens throughout the day, but none of them seemed very interested in my program. With a pit in my stomach, I started setting up for the program just before 4 PM, when our library sadly looked very sparse in the teen area.

Suddenly, I located two tweens I kinda knew and begged them to come over to the program.

Tween: Are you lonely or something?

Me: Uh…yeah.

And then, you know how it goes. You get a couple of tweens working on a project, their friends walk by, see what you’re up to, and then they join in too. By the end of the program, I had a small, but very enthusiastic and talented group of ladies.

Here’s just a couple of pictures of what they came up with:

Sophia had already been working on this one. I lucked out by somehow finding a tween who already zined!

Sophia had already been working on this one. I lucked out by somehow finding a tween who already zined!

Isn't this a great title for a zine? Extra points for the feminist quote.

Isn’t this a great title for a zine? Extra points for the feminist quote.

Fancy ladies with Adventure Time comic bubbles! Genius.

Fancy ladies mashed-up with Adventure Time comic bubbles! Genius.

Solid last page.

Solid last page.

I was happy to get to gab with a bunch of tweens I sorta knew (but now know a bunch better) and one I had never even seen before. It’s nice to see the kind of comfortable, casual chit-chat that goes down when you provide some kids with some scissors and markers and glue sticks.

At the end of the program, they asked when we could all make zines again. That makes me a happy librarian.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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P.S. I wanted to include my Free Zines sign, because I put glitter on it:

P.P.S. The clearly VERY talented Sophia sketched this picture of me and Finn and Jake from Adventure Time. I’m a lucky woman:

It was amazing how quickly she drew this!

It was amazing how quickly she drew this!

Little Reminders Everywhere: You don’t need to finish every book, you know.

This is April’s early literacy tip and I’m finally blogging about it in early May. I stink.

So, I’ve been making a sign that we keep behind the reference desk that features a new early literacy tip every month.  The response has been great so far. It gives something for people to read while they’re waiting on line at the information desk. I notice people taking pictures of the sign, or slowing down to take a better look at it. We get lots of compliments.

Here’s April’s tip. It has glitter:

As usual, it’s inspired by things that I witnessed as a nanny and interactions I see every day at the library. I often see a nanny or parent insisting that a child read an entire book, even though the child is becoming upset/fussy/frustrated. At a very young age, there’s no reason to make a child sit perfectly still or finish every single book. Reading shouldn’t be a forced activity. You want your child to associate reading with fun and happiness, not with stress.

We all have our own rhythm to the way we read and experience books. Toddlers and Pre-K kids are no different. Some like to fly through books at top speed. Others take an awfully long time, paying close attention to illustrations and specific details. Some kids want to hear the book (or just one page!) over and over again. It’s not unusual for a child to dislike a certain page and want to skip it.

If a young child dislikes a book, it’s no big deal. Move onto something you’ll both like better. Or maybe just stop altogether and pick up at a later time. Reading should be fun, not a chore.

I always look for a second opinion when writing my early literacy tips, just so y’all know I’m not making stuff up. The folks over at Northwestern State University Child and Family Network have my back on this one. They have tons of tips on reading to infants and toddlers:



Until next time, kids.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

#WeNeedDiverseBooks. We always did and we always will.


When I was a just a tiny little kiddo, either my mom or my grandmother introduced me to Alice for the Very Young, which is sort of a Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with training wheels. Just one look at the cover and I was hooked for life. Alice was young and pale and blonde, just like me. I wanted to be just like her and, in some ways, I already felt like I was her. Alice remains my literary buddy to this day. In tough times, she is my rock and my safe space. I go to her when I am not OK. Decades after picking this book up for the first time, she’s still there when I feel lost or out-of-place or just plain sad.

This is my somewhat convoluted way of saying that it didn’t take much to get me hooked on reading. All I needed was a drawing of a girl that shared a couple of similar features with me, and I was in it for life. Not only did Alice help me gravitate towards “big kid” books (in droves!), but she showed me that little girls like me could be smart and brave and clever. If Alice could persevere in complicated situations, then so could I.

If you see it, you can be it. If you can’t see it…

Do you see what I’m saying here? It is *so* powerful to read a book and look at a character and say, “That could be me. I could do that.”

This is why I am delighted by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, which you can read all about here. As a white child with blonde hair, the truth is, I could see myself represented in a multitude of books and TV shows and movies and magazines. Popular culture has always included people like me (though, now that I’m plus-sized, I’m a little harder to find, but that’s a whole other deal). I’ve never really had to worry about whether or not I belong. It’s always sort of been implied.

However, when a parent at the library tells me that their multi-ethnic daughter is feeling bad about the way she looks, I find myself having to scrounge around in the stacks to find a picture book featuring a bi-racial child. Yes, these books exist, but not in large numbers.

When I’m searching for a middle-grade book with a black protagonist, the options shouldn’t be only historical fiction titles concerning slavery or civil rights. How about a modern day boy in a realistic setting? Or a fantasy book? Or sci-fi? How about some choices?

How come Park from Eleanor and Park is one of the few Asian protagonists in popular young adult literature? (Not to mention that his Eleanor is one of the very few fat girl-protagonists YA lit has to offer).

When I review books for the Rainbow List, why am I not totally inundated with titles? Why isn’t my mailbox completely overflowing with novels and picture books and comics and non-fiction? Why am I not faced with an insurmountable mountain of eligible books? Where are the queer protagonists for teens and, especially, children? And out of these Rainbow List titles, why is the T in LGBTQ hardly ever represented? Why am I meant to believe that Queer POC don’t exist? And why do most covers feature a white, middle- to upper-middle class cis-boy? Where are the female and female-identified characters?

Why does popular, mainstream culture want me to believe that the default human being is a white, straight, cis-gendered man that the rest of us are just supposed to magically identify with?

I encourage you to head on over to We Need Diverse Books‘s Tumblr, as well as the #weneeddiversebooks hashtag on Twitter. Partcipate, retweet, reblog. Let’s keep this stuff trending!

Before I go, I want to leave you with some of the fantastic pictures from the incredible people at Oakland Library (I’ve always considered them to be Brooklyn’s sister city, is that OK?). This isn’t a contest to see who can take the best pictures, but I have to say that Oakland is winning in the best way possible:



Check out their Twitter feed right now, because it’s rad.

What would a world with more diverse books mean to you or the patrons and young people you serve?

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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