Little Reminders Everywhere: Again! Again!: The benefits of re-reading

Each month, my goal is to make and display a sign with an early literacy tip on it. I prop this sucker up right behind the children’s desk. This is my second and it’s based on something I feel pretty strongly about:

Often at my library, I’ll see a child pick up a book, eagerly asking their mother/father/nanny/babysitter/whoever to read it to them. My blood boils when I hear a reply like this: “But we have that book at home!” or “We read that all the time!”

So? Who cares? Read it again!

Not only do I think it’s discouraging to a child to hear that they can’t read a book they’re interested in, but there are many benefits to re-reading (or re-hearing/re-listening to) a story. Any children’s librarian worth her cardigan knows that kids learn through repetition. Re-reading is a great way to learn new words and increase self-confidence. If your child loves a book, that’s a wonderful thing! You want them to love to read and be read to. So you have to read Pete the Cat over and over again. Big deal. You’ll live. It’s a small price to pay for raising a child who loves to read.

So quit complaining and just read it again, already.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2013

I’m so excited about my top five blog posts of 2013, I can hardly contain myself! 

Let’s take a look back on the year that was on this tiny, sparkly, hole-in-the-wall blog.

My fifth most read post of 2013 is Cats (and Librarians) Against Cat Calls, where I tried to combat sexual harassment in the library. I love making library displays and I’m glad that you like to look at them.

cats against catcalling

I like images like the upper one, because it helps to break down the difference between compliments and harassment.

Though I wrote it in 2012, Please Don’t Say This to a Librarian is my fourth most popular post. I’m glad you still like it or love to hate it! Read with caution, as comments from “Zach” may send you into a lady-rage tailspin. It looks like sexual harassment will always be a hot topic on this blog.

Zack, where've you been? You never write. You never call.

Zach, where’ve you been? You never write. You never call.

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Codes of Conduct, Freedom of Speech, and Male Privilege: Writing the kind of blog post I hate writing

I didn’t want to write another blog post this year. It’s been a bad year, to put it mildly, and I wanted some time to regroup before I started writing again. It was going to be a new blog in a new year, full of good, positive things.

I despise the kind of blog that is simply a series of reactions to the ideas of others rather than a place where at least I’m pretending to possess an ounce of original thought. I do not want to be the kind of writer that participates in an endless whirlpool of reactions and debates regarding other librarians.

But then.

My Twitter feed was all in an uproar this morning regarding a blog post by Will Manley, a librarian that I’m not familiar with, but that’s not saying much as I tend to haunt the blogs of youth services or LGBTQ-friendly librarians. In any case, librarians were livid. I was trying to not read it, instead attempting to sort of read around the outrage. I know, I know. I could have gotten off of Twitter and learned to basket weave or something, but I didn’t. I read this post by Mr. Manley. And then, like a real jerk who should absolutely know better, I read the comments.


Mr. Manley feels that ALA’s Code of Conduct will inhibit free speech and free thought at ALA conferences. Yet, I find ALA’s expectations of us as librarians to be pretty much predictable:

We recognize a shared
responsibility to create and hold that environment for the benefit of all.
 Some behaviors are, therefore, specifically prohibited:

  • Harassment or intimidation based on race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, appearance,  or other group status.

  • Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.

  • Yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).

This is just a portion of the CoC, but you get the point: Don’t be a dick. Don’t sexually harass people. Don’t touch people unless they make it explicit that they want to be touched. Don’t use racial slurs. Don’t intimidate people. Don’t be a jerk.

I find myself offended by authority figures pretty much on the regs, yet nothing about what ALA is asking of us is beyond what I’d expect. Yet, Mr. Manley is very concerned. He’s afraid that this will stunt intellectual and creative conversation. He’s afraid someone will call him out for saying bad things about Neo-Nazis. He’s afraid that the ALA is going to put Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, and Howard Stern behind bars.

Now, look, I’m a Jewish girl with a foul mouth, so I love Sarah Silverman. Give the Jew Girl Toys is my favorite holiday song, hands down. If she read from her book at ALA, it would be amazing and I’d be totally down for it. Otherwise, do I really want a Silverman-wannabe on the exhibition floor hurling racial slurs at librarians? Do I want Howard Stern making pointed comments about women’s body parts? I don’t. Call me an enemy of free speech. I don’t care. I am not down with harassment based on race. I am not down with sexual harassment. Going to ALA conferences is part of my job. My place of work pays me for my work day and I’d like to go to work without being harassed or bullied. I don’t want to be called racially charged names at my job. I don’t want to be intimidated or touched or stalked at my job. OK, I don’t want these things happening to me, period, but if they occur during work hours, you best believe I’m reporting you. And you best believe I am going to make sure you face the consequences. I want the freedom to remain unharassed and unmolested. This trumps your desire to make edgy jokes. Trust me, though, Manley supporters, you’re not as revolutionary as you think are. You’re not pushing the envelope. You are no Sarah Silverman.

If people are so terribly worried that rules concerning harassment and stalking will curb their ability to express themselves, I’m concerned about what exactly they’re trying to express.

I’m not saying that white men can’t get harassed or bullied, but I’m curious if it’s as widespread as it is with People of Color, the LGBTQ community, and women. Has Mr. Manley been afraid of going to his job? Interacting with certain co-workers? Opening his email? Walking alone at a conference? Has he regularly feared for his safety? I have. And I’m more concerned for my safety and well-being than I am about whether or not I can bust out with homophobic slurs at a panel.

The comments got considerably ugly, with one man named Messina calling everyone a pussy. At first Mr. Manley applauded this show of bravado and supposed edginess, but eventually withdrew his enthusiasm.

At first Mr. Manley said this Eagles quote paired with a gendered insult made his day, but he later deleted his own comment. Before he did so, I wanted to talk to him about it:

Mr. Manley’s major concerns have nothing to do with providing a safe place for women, but more about whether we’d treat the Eagles well at ALA Midwinter.

The Eagles suck, just so you know. They’ve been irrelevant for a thousand years. So, I’d be against it, just for the record.

After my comments about the Eagles being irrelevant, their number one fan, commenter Messina expressed his outrage:

OK, I might have also hinted that out of touch librarians were irrelevant as well. I'm not sorry.

OK, I might have also hinted that out of touch librarians were irrelevant as well. I’m not sorry.

And the above screen capture really reflects what Manley’s post boils down to: Sharing privilege. Messina, and to an extent Manley, have had the privilege of being safe at conferences. The idea of letting the rest of us make a go at obtaining a similar environment is just infuriating. Their idea of harassment and bullying is the idea that they can’t say whatever they want without consequence. For many women, POC, and LGBTQ folks, harassment is more than experiencing annoyance when a pink-haired Jewish librarian calls you irrelevant. It’s fearing for your job, your safety, your physical autonomy, and your dignity. If me calling you a silly little name on the internet is the worst harassment you’ve seen in your life, consider yourself very lucky.

I didn’t want to write this blog post, but I’m sickened to tears with this kind of nonsense and I’m bored with the echo chamber that contains sentiments of misogyny. I expect so much more from librarians. We’re well-educated and many of us work with the public, so I’d hope we’d be more sensitive to the needs of different kinds of people. I thought we’d be more aware of the privilege we have (and believe me, as a white woman, I have plenty. I’m learning how to be responsible with it all the time. I know I screw up. We have to want to learn to be better, though). White male librarians: When it comes to issues of harassment and safe spaces, your first reaction should not be, “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? WHAT ABOUT ME?Librarians are in the business of information. You have the ability to learn why a Code of Conduct can be so vital to the women, and others, in this profession.

For more on this topic, please refer to the Librarian in Black’s post (I’ve linked to this before. Still relevant) and Coral Hess’s post, found here.

Come on 2014, I swear! Only posts about flannel boards and the Rainbow List and my favorite kinds of glitter! From here on out! I promise!

Who am I kidding? Honestly.

Love and Libraries, Ingrid

P.S. At the time I wrote this, Mr. Manley’s blog still existed. He took it down, so this links to an EverNote version. Sorry for any confusion.

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Making the Library a Friendlier Place. Well, at least trying.

Making the library safe for all kinds of kids and teens is something that’s on my mind quite a bit. You may have realized by now that I’m super into signage and displays. I have no delusions that signs will create this magical library utopia, where homophobia, sexism, and racism take a massive hike, but it’s a start and hopefully it’s helping to facilitate an atmosphere of tolerance.

I saw this sign on Tumblr and thought I could recreate it. For the background, I used pages from old Time Life Science books that I snagged from Tim. I banged out the letters on our die-cut machine. The letters are glued to circles I made with a giant hole punch. Here’s the result. I’ve tacked it up behind the YA/Teen reference desk:


The picture isn't crooked. My photography is.

The picture isn’t crooked. My photography is.

We want to add some other posters, but I think we’ll ending up buying instead of DIY-ing. I’m thinking about something like this or this.

How do you promote tolerance at your library?

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Little Reminders Everywhere: Our New Literacy Tip of the Month Sign

Recently, I whipped up this little sign. It’s got blue iridescent glitter! I have this tacked up on the door that’s behind me during Toddler Time and Babies and Books. It’s my way of letting caregivers know that librarians are are on a serious early literacy mission. I’m also including this message on take-home sheets that I give to parents and nannies.

A sign with the same message is also up at the reference desk so that non-storytime goers can see it. I plan to change up the literacy tip every month.

What do you do to remind patrons that storytime is serious developmental business?

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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I’m Crafty and I May or May Not be Your Type: Shranky Danks Forevah

At my place of work, we’ve been talking about projects we can bust out during our Teen MakerSpace/DIY program. We remembered that we have a toaster oven and have been thinking about using it in different crafts. Shrinky Dinks came to mind, so I thought I’d do a test drive at my apartment.

You might remember Shrinky Dinks from when you were a kid, that is, if you’re as ancient as I am. You colored in little pieces of plastic, your mom bopped them in the oven, and they came out smaller but sturdier. They probably looked something like this:

I had Smurf ones, too, and they were the jam.

I had Smurf ones, too, and they were the jam.

You can buy plain sheets of Shrinky Dinks at craft stores. The good thing about the plain sheets is that you can decorate them however you want, instead of being stuck with Smurfs and Rainbow Brite (who are rad. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think my teens are interested in those). I got mine at Michael’s crafts, which I understand is a regional chain that not everyone has access to. They didn’t have a great selection. I really wanted white sheets, but they just had clear.

It’s good to have lots of paint markers and Sharpies and acrylic paint. Any kind of marker that is too watery will just bleed everywhere (you’ll see that go down in some of my finished pins). I started by making some pins based off ones I’ve seen on Etsy. You have to draw your design super giant because they shrink down super small (Shrinky Dink is NOT just a clever name):

Riot not Diet is my mantra, and the mermaid pin is for my coworker, Leigh. Don't get attached to it, I end up wrecking it.

Riot not Diet is my mantra, and the mermaid pin is for my coworker, Leigh. Don’t get attached to it, I end up wrecking it.

This one goes out to all the Chatty Charlies on the F train:

The above sentiment is ripped of from this Etsy seller. Please go buy one of their pins and assuage my guilt.

Tim asked for specifically this:

This one combines my love of cats and feminism and pastel colors:

Here’s where I wish I had the white sheets and not the clear ones. You can see straight through the middle of the symbol.

Everything was ready for the oven. Theses things don’t bake for long. I just followed the instructions on the Shrinky Dinks and it was pretty easy. Sometimes they curl when they come out of the oven. In that case, I just take a spoon and press them back down until they’re flat.

Here’s what came out:

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Oy with the Jokes Already: A totally jokey YA display with a totally broken color printer

I’ve done a couple of “hot topic” displays in the Young Adult/Teen section: one on Gay Pride Month, a Banned Books Week display, one about Body Image, and one about Cat Calls and Street Harassment. I started to do a display concerning bullying, but the topic got me really upset and I’ll have to save it for another time. I’m too emotionally raw lately. I decided to switch it up a bit, as they say, and just do a dumb book joke display. Our color printer is running out of ink, so it only prints things in shades of blue. So, despite my best intentions to make a happy looking display, it’s downright gloomy. I had to throw out pictures of the Hulk because he looked like Violet Beauregarde on steroids (Get it? Because he was giant and blue? Nevermind).

This is what I came up with. I think some of the jokes will go straight over the kids’ and teens’ heads, but hopefully a hardcore book nerd will get a fraction of a laugh. Enjoy!

The view from behind the reference desk.

The view from behind the reference desk.

The view from in front of the reference desk.

The view from in front of the reference desk.

And now, some shots of the individual images:

Sorry if Wrecking Ball is stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Sorry if Wrecking Ball is stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

A nod to Whovians or whatever you call them.

A nod to Whovians or whatever you call them.

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Your Library Needs These Books: 2014 Rainbow List Nominees Announced

In case you’ve been wondering why my blog posts have become fewer and fewer, it’s because I’ve been Rainbow List-ing like a boss. Now, you can see what our committee has been up to here, as we’ve announced our 2014 nominees.

I did a meme thing.

I did a meme thing.

A librarian in ALATT mentioned that these titles are very difficult to locate in public libraries, and she’s right. If you’re a librarian with any buying power or control over collection development, please consider adding these titles. Even if you think your community doesn’t have LGBTQ* citizens (which, you know, isn’t even possible), you need these titles. Don’t let your collection be the one that totally lacks in diversity! It’s embarrassing. Don’t be that library. The members of the Rainbow List have made it easy for you by selecting some of the best LGBTQ* titles of the year.

I’ve talked about some of the titles I’ve read thus far, if you’re looking for some more information about some of the nominees:

♥ If You Could be Mine, by Sarah Farizan

♥ The Culling  by Steven Dos Santos

♥ Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

♥ Pantomime by Laura Lam

♥ Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

Malinda Lo talks quite a bit about diversity in Young Adult literature, so I thought I’d point out the diversity in our Rainbow List nominees. While all of these titles promote diversity simply by having a significant amount of LGBTQ* content, I thought I’d single out some of the works that feature prominent characters who are People of Color (POC) (Be aware, I have not read all the nominated books yet):

♥ Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark ♥  If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan ♥ The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson ♥ Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ♥ Archenemy by Paul Hobin ♥ Proxy by Alex London ♥ The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger ♥

Again, this is not a complete list. I’m reading as fast as I can! That said, I’d love to see less titles about middle-class, white, gay boys and more nominees that include lesbian, bisexual, trans*, genderqueer, and intersex characters, as well as more protagonists who are people of color.

I hope our list of nominees is helpful to you, and I can’t wait to see who makes the final cut. Get reading, librarians!

Any questions? Fire away.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

Tree Octopuses, Hate Sites, Agatha Ann Cunningham: The “Oh, C’MON!” Menagerie of Information Literacy

Librarians aren’t in the business of books; we’re in the business of information. If that information is in a book, that’s cool. But if it’s not, we’re here to help you determine if it’s the kind of information you can trust. Last school year, for whatever reason, I was mostly doing class visits for elementary school aged students: lots of storytimes and tours and talks about what a library can offer. This year, I’m getting the older kids: mostly middle school and high school. Their teachers want  database and internet research demonstrations. During these demos, I’ve learned what many of you educators already know: HOLY SHIT. Students don’t know how to navigate the internet or conduct simple research. They are without a clue. It is terrifying.

I typically start by asking how they, the students, begin their research. Whether it’s a fancy charter/private school or a NYC public school, whether they’re honors students or not, they all seem to start on their phone. They type whatever into the search box (Google and were mentioned as search engines of preference) and…that’s it. That is it, my friends. That’s their process. Sometimes they’ll mention using Wikipedia. Sometimes not. They dig into the first couple of search engine results and call it a day. This is a sad state of affairs.

We’re often told that this generation of teens grew up with computers. They have some sort of innate, built-in expertise. This is crap.They need more instruction than we realize. Often, when I’m working at the reference desk, a teen will inform me that their computer is broken (Nope! Someone just turned off the monitor! Let me hit that button for you, kid). I have tried to teach more than one teen to cut and paste into a word document. I’ll find them navigating to the most (seemingly) random and bizarre sites for their homework. How did they get there? What are they even doing? Who taught them this is OK?

I use two main sites to talk about information literacy: the Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus site (which is a hoax-site) and the Martin Luther site (which I won’t link to, because it’s a repulsive hate-site. Click at your own risk).



When presenting the tree octopus site, I talk about it as if it’s a real endangered species. I click around the page, showing them pictures (like the one above), talking about how their natural predators are sasquatches, and point to other elements that should set off some red lights. I’m DYING for a student to say to me, “You’re full of shit. This is fake. That’s a stuffed animal shoved into a pine tree and sasquatches aren’t real.” No one ever does. I’ve even tricked some teachers. After I admit that it’s a hoax site, we explore the elements that point to the site’s lack of credibility. If the teens are old enough, I’ll briefly show them the  MLK, JR. .org hate-site as an example of potentially harmful sites out there. The MLK site is particularly troubling, as it typically shows up in Google’s top 7 or so hits for Martin Luther King. Also, the .org component of the website can lend an illusion of credibility to what’s actually a bunch of white supremacist nonsense.

I compare the internet to the streets of NYC. It’s a public place, and everyone is allowed to congregate there and say whatever they want, without filter. Sure, you’ll run into a bunch of pretty smart characters, but you’ll also meet the town crazies. You can’t believe everyone you meet on the street. You need to choose your company wisely, because not everyone on the internet can be trusted.

Which brings me to Agatha. Remember Agatha? I’ve been talking a lot about Agatha. I hope you’ve figured out by now that Agatha Ann Cunningham, the ghost of Brooklyn Public Library, is fake. Yup, our teen interns Roger and Peter made this awesome mockumentary about a little girl who disappeared in my library and was never seen again. The video has tricked a lot of people, but it’s true. Agatha Cunningham never existed.

During our viewing of the Agatha movie this past Halloween, I waited nervously, for a student to “out” Agatha as a hoax. We even had a panel of Agatha “experts” (Ivy, Howard, Rich, and Deloris from the movie) answering questions from the teens. We hoped this would open up a dialogue about the validity of the story. Not a single teen expressed disbelief or questioned our story. My coworker Leigh and I were open to outing the Agatha story as a fake if the teens simply showed signs of skepticism. They did not. In fact, an adult in the audience suggested that we hire an exorcist.

An incident that makes this entire Agatha debacle more discouraging involves a discussion Leigh had with a local journalist. We were under the assumption that the journalist was going to write up something like “Come to the library and see a scary movie” as a plug for our program. Instead, she was about to write an article about Agatha as if she were a real person. Here’s the thing about Agatha: that picture is actually that of our former coworker. Information about Agatha Ann Cunningham can’t be found outside of our library’s website, the Youtube link, a Facebook page that we made, and a couple of hits on my own blog. Agatha can’t be found in the Center for Missing and Exploited Children or in the New York Times or any local Brooklyn paper. So why would this journalist think Agatha was real?

If adults who call themselves journalists can’t navigate the world of information literacy, how can we expect teens to? The journalist based her assumptions about Agatha based on interviews with two of our librarians (both of whom were playing along with the ghost story because they were kind of confused by the journalist’s line of questioning) and not much else. She didn’t even see the 13 minute video, which is just poor research on her behalf. The journalist finally asked Leigh if the ghost story was real. Leigh said no.

Instead of thanking Leigh for preventing her from writing a pretty embarrassing article, the journalist proceeded to write up a nasty little essay in which she called us “lie-brarians” and “book-minders” responsible for “perpetrating an elaborate hoax”. Nice, no? She patted herself on the back for “debunking” the Agatha story. Though, is it really a debunking if the librarian flat-out tells you that it’s fake? Crackerjack journalism here, folks. I won’t link to her article because I’m not giving her any more hits for blowing up our spot and almost derailing our entire event.

I’d like to congratulate our teens, Roger and Peter, for making such an awesome video that had most of Brooklyn (and a journalist, too!) totally duped. Other than being proud of our former interns, I’m feeling pretty glum about the state of teens, information literacy skills, and research. Until they can confidently single out tree octopuses and little girl ghosts as fakes, librarians have a long, long way to go.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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P.S. Shout out to this guy on the Youtube page for Agatha. Nobody listened to you. Nobody cared. I see you, guy. I appreciate you:

Such language!

Such language!

Where the Links Are: Weetzie Bat Assists in the Escape of the Lisbon Sisters at Night


♥ Who is SUPER proud to be a member of the GLBT Round Table? This girl! Check out a brief history of my favorite part of ALA, complete with this little gem:

To get attention for their new group, they hosted a “Hug a Homosexual” Booth, with a line for “Men only” and “Women only” at the 1971 Annual Conference in Dallas. After crowds were drawn with still no takers, Barbara Gittings, who was then coordinator for the group, shared a kiss with Isabel Miller, winner of the first gay book award, which was filmed and photographed and generated lots of news coverage. 

A sad state of affairs: “The public library in suburban Maywood closed its doors Saturday and will not reopen until funding can be secured. It’s a place to read, use a computer and for teens to stay out of trouble. But now, the Maywood Library is closed due to a lack of funding.”

♥ I agree. Make this movie right now. Or don’t. I might not be ready to share this book with the masses. I’m scared. Hold me.

♥ Wait a gosh darn minute. When did this happen? What rock have I been under? New Sandman comic? I’m kvelling!

♥ Such a bizarre story. But I believe it. And I see people who *truly* need shelter live in public libraries all the time.

Not Libraries:

♥ “I will probably be on some sort of anxiety-controlling medicine my whole life, and knowing the alternative, that is just fine with me.” Such a well-done piece. So many of us, myself included, will be on meds like this forever, and people can be very judgmental about that. We need to talk about this more in order to normalize it.

♥  We need a paradigm shift in how we look at women who survive abuse and how they’re treated by the legal system,” says Sumayya Fire, a long-time advocate against domestic violence and another core organizer of the campaign. “We have such stigma and stereotypes about women who have been victimized by domestic violence. People ask, ‘Why did she stay?’ instead of ‘Why is he abusing her?’ Then, if a woman defends herself, she is sent to prison.”

♥ Writers are not free labor: “I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.”

♥ We live in a culture where young girls are constantly looking for approval and validation and are met with a cycle of negativity and harassment.

♥ Two great articles on Everyday Feminism, as usual: Let’s Talk about Thin Privilege and What You’re Really Saying When You Call Me a Bitch.

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