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Today was a great day for conversations with the littlest tots at the Children’s desk. For instance, a red-hatted little boy, age 3, came up to me with a very serious face, his caregiver nearby, choosing books. And we had this conversation:

“I like numbers,” he announced. (Our Children’s desk has illustrated numbers, one to ten, right at his eye level.)

“Me too!” I said. “Which is your favorite number?”

With no hesitation, the very serious reply came, “My favorite number is five.”

“Five is a great number! Do you want to count to five together?” He nodded. So we counted out loud, one, two, three, four, five, then he walked away to join his caregiver. 

A few minutes later, my number-five-loving friend was back. “I like nine too.” 

“That’s awesome!”

Non sequitor: “Can I sign up for the computer?”

“Sure,” I said, “What’s your name?”

He stood silent, just looking at me. His caregiver came around, and was surprised to see her young charge, signing up for the computer, all by himself. She watched him watching me. “Tell the librarian your name!” she urged.

“Nine.”

“Your name is Nine?” 

“Yes.” Again, a solemn nod, but there was a not-quite-sure look in the eye.

“Okay,” I said, and I started to write down “Nine,” but the caretaker urged again. “Tell her your name. Your name is not Nine, is it?”

I smiled encouragingly at him, waiting to see what number he might come up next. But he surprised me.

“Santa.”

“Your name is Santa?” I asked.

“Your name is Santa?!?” asked his caregiver, amused yet really wanting him to give his name.

Solemnly, Santa nodded. “Yes, my name is Santa.” 

“Are you really Santa?” I asked him, my eyes wide.

“Yes,” he was sure he is Santa. 

“Do you really like giving gifts to people?” I asked.

“Yes, especially the number five, and the number nine,” Santa answered.

And so there you have it, folks. Santa is about three years old, and he loves giving numbers as gifts. And he visited the library and signed up for the toddler computers at 12:30 pm today. For proof see the photo I took of the computer sign-up sheet below!

img_1892

[PS – You can see where I erased, “Nine.” :-) ]

That’s what it says in my new 5 year old library friend’s notebook — which she ran to get from her mom to show me after we bonded over Elephant and Piggie books.

Heart melting.

I like to read

Needless to say, I had to meet this mom (which is how I got permission to take this picture.) She was, like her daughter, a pleasure to speak with. And now we may have another attendee for our programs! To quote my new friend from the photo above: <3 <3 <3

 

A little girl came in, looking for computer time at the AWE computers, just now. In her hand was the biggest, shiniest red lollipop. “It’s hollow!” she told me, cheerfully. I asked her if she’d like to see a book about another girl who had a big red lollipop. Big-eyed, she nodded and her caregiver beamed. We walked over to the “Kh” section in picture books. When I handed  her Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, her eyes got even bigger and her smile wider.

This is the type of moment that makes my day.

lollipopcover

Exchange at the Children’s desk today:

Kid: Excuse me, can you find me the book The Children The Series?

Me: the what?

Kid: The Children The Series

Me: (scratching head, and starting to type into search box to play for time) Um, hmm… okay so the title starts with the words The Children?

children-studying-670663_1280

Kid: Yes.

Me: … and then what’s the next word?

Kid: The Series.

Me: Are you looking for a series of books called The Children?

Kid: No, I just want one book called The Children The Series.

Me: (typing the whole improbable sounding title into Google) Well, maybe there is a series that is called The Children The… (I stop, seeing what I have typed, and suddenly it all snaps together in my head.)

Me: (happier, elated, that I know [i hope] what he really wants) Oh you want the children’s Thesaurus!

Kid: (relieved yet still serious face) Yeah, that’s what I want. The Children The Series.

end scene.

Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”

At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”

Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.

I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.

Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.

Here is a screenshot of my computer, a bit earlier in the day… It shows just the tip of the iceberg of what working in a bustling immigrant neighborhood library is like!


Setting:
A busy Wednesday evening at the super-busiest (yet physically tiny) branch of a large urban library system. The year: 2011. The date: July 13th Circa: 7:40 p.m. The patrons are (almost) bouncing off the walls, the building is that packed. Children play (or do summer school homework) on the computers. Teens skulk in corners, reading The Odyssey. Or a Justin Bieber biography. Or both. Adults browse the DVDs, the Chinese books, the EZ readers, the fiction, the Large Print, the new books…. Babies laugh and coo and scream and sleep. Toddlers run in circles. Or play with the wooden bead games. Or read board books with their big brothers and sisters. People of all ages borrow the bathroom key.
In addition to the general Wednesday evening roar of activity, a long line of patient and hopeful ESL patrons meanders through the branch – New Americans waiting to register for free ESOL classes. 
In the midst of the general hustle bustle, a YA librarian hears her name hollered by a deep-voiced tall fourteen year old, from all the way across the library…
Well, here it is, in skit form:
Yugi-oh Boy — Yesha!!!!!!…………..Yesha! YESHAAAAA!!!!
Yesha: What? How can I help you?
Yu-Gi-Oh! Boy — Ummm… Is it raining outside?
Yesha: (Astounded look.)
Yesha: (…)
Yesha: (deep breath)
Yesha: Um…. why don’t you go and _check_ !
(Mind you, our library branch does have windows. And a door. A door that is unlocked.) And these kids were/are playing Yu-Gi-Oh! (while I am helping patron after patron after patron!)
But, on the other hand, I am touched at their utter trust that I will take care of their every information need, no matter how small. Match that, Google!

The other day I went to a local middle school to make presentations about Summer Reading to sixth graders. In one classroom, the inquisitive ones started asking me about the looming budget cuts my library system is facing.

While I was there to tell them about how and why they could/should join Summer Reading, I was impressed with their interest in the library’s woes, and so briefly talked about the budget crisis, and said that we’re facing about $20 million in cuts and that this could impact the service that they receive.

At this, one energetic boy started to wildly wave his hand, which I could not ignore. When I said, yes?, he bursted out, “No, it’s $25.2 million!”

I gave him a salute.

old time reference desk

This photo was found on the following blog: http://www.closedstacks.com/?p=3315

I am working the ref desk this Sunday (not a frequent occurence) and thought it would be fun to list all (or at least many) of the reference questions that are brought to me today. Enjoy.

1. request for Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules (10 year old kid was surprised we didn’t have it ready and ripe for the picking on the shelf. I put a hold on it for him after explaining that it’s a pretty popular title that is rarely seen on the shelf)

2. request to check on the status of a 7 year old’s hold for the DVD Barbie in A Christmas Carol. Had to explain that she won’t be able to get it, as all copies of it are missing. But then we were able to put holds for three other Barbie DVDs, so she went away satisfied. (By the way, the same 7 yr old also apologized for not visiting me at the library last Tuesday, after running into me in the park, and promising that she would. Yes, she is 7 going on 70.)

3. Request for books on the Bill of Rights. Happy 7th grader was sent off with three books on the topic.

4. Convoluted request that a book on hold be transferred to a friend as the 5th grader with the hold had forgotten her card. Was not sure if I should, but went ahead and did this as a one-time-only exception. Profuse thanks were given.

5. Was asked to check a book out by a 6th grader who has a history of asking for special favors. I regretfully told her she will have to wait on line at the circ desk, like everyone else. (Had to be firm, as she has been known to take a mile if given the proverbial inch.)

6. the 7 year old came back with an urgent request for Pony books. Some non fic books on horses satisfied that request… Also a hold was placed for “Penny the Pony Fairy”

7. 12 year old boy, (one of the usual neighborhood mayhem suspects, looking like he’d rolled in the dirt at the local park before entering the library) had been hanging around the reference desk. He and I are buddies, apparently. I worry about him, as he has getting-into-trouble tendencies. But he can be funny and sweet too. He observed and was amused by the request for pony books, asked for a  copy of Penny and Pepper to be put on hold … Am still mystified as to whether this was an ironic or sincere desire to read the book. The hold was placed, to his satisfaction, and he went off to wreak more mayhem.

8. 7th grader requested cooking books. Took the first two I showed her without even glancing at them. Ah, the pressure of so much implicit trust!

9.  a 2nd grader was lurking behind my ref desk… looking like she was half-heartedly browsing the biographies.  I asked her if she would like some help. At first she said no. Then, in a tiny voice, she informed me, “my friend was looking for some plant books before, but he couldn’t find any. He went home.” The plaintive tone and accompanying look on her face was a sight to behold. I explained that he could have asked me for help. “I know,” she said, “I told him to ask you, but he didn’t want to ask…” I asked her if she wanted me to show her where the plant books would be, so she could tell him and she liked the idea. Unfortunately, we are currently clean out of all plant books (There must be a 2nd grade Plants assignment at the local school.) So I explained how they could ask a librarian to put plant books on hold…

10. While the previous reference transaction was taking place, two sisters (grades 1 and 2) snuck up behind me, and asked, “Where are the weather books???!!” They were adorable, in splendiferously matching pink tees and purple pants. They were excited to find so many books on weather. (I guess there is no on-going weather assignment at the time!) One book they were especially excited about: The magic school bus inside a hurricane (the other girl, who turned out to be their friend, informed them excitedly, “Hey, I read that! It’s good!” All went away happy.

11. The three musketeers from #9 and 10 came back to ask if they could take one of our monthly activity calendars. I took the opportunity to encourage them (and their moms) to come to my weekly Arts and Crafts program… (old recruiter habits die hard!)

12. a young woman who teaches daycare came in seeking a book on Memorial Day – so she could do a Memorial Day lesson for her little ones. Unfortunately, our books on the topic are checked out. However I showed her the library’s database page, and how from there, she could access Bookflix for online books she can share with her kids. I was willing to find her some more Memorial Day specific resources, but she seemed in a hurry and pleased enough to learn about the database resources, so I let it go at that.

13. Two teen sisters came in, (grades 6 and 12) , requesting to know, “where you keep the sports books…” After a short reference interview, it was determined that Volleyball is the sport of choice. Thank god we had at least one book on the topic and they were pleased. After that, a quick introduction of myself as the “Teen librarian” and an unashamed plug for them to attend the teen programs at the branch was made. They seemed happy to hear of them, but I doubt they’ll attend, as they seem like mostly weekend visitors, and we don’t have weekend programming for them… ah well… one can hope!

14. One of my usual suspects (spunky 9 year old 3rd grader) came in to ask me to check on the status of her holds. (they’re not here yet). Then we put a couple of movies on hold for her. (Million Dollar Baby and Babel) She sounded excited that Babel takes place in Morocco, which is where her family is originally from. (I think it sounds like a neat film too – I may just put it on hold for myself!) Also, I taught her how to use the OPAC to put holds on for herself. She was astounded that it was possible to do this!

15. —- Whirlwind of boys grades 1, 2, and 3, asking for books on dozens of topics, too fast and oneontopofanother to enumerate, but here are some I remember —

  • request for the Bone series by Jeff Smith
  • dinosaur books
  • books about the Bermuda Triangle
  • mystery books
  • books about facts (i.e. Almanac and Guinness book of World Records type of books)
  • books about saber tooth tigers
  • books about the woolly mammoth
  • a request to know if dinosaurs were alive when people existed
  • what time period did the mammoth exist in? How long ago was that?
  • Dinosaur poop becomes rocks, doesn’t it? (this was prompted by the title of one of the dinosaur books – Jurassic poop : what dinosaurs (and others) left behind.

—–

whew!

—–

16. I took a break to eat some mung beans, tindola, and rice. Yum!

17. Girl came to me, asking for the book “Cooking with Mom” (She was puzzled as she saw it on the shelf the last time she was at the library, but it didn’t seem to be there today.) Upon searching it was found that the actual title of the book is Mom and me cookbook : have fun in the kitchen and that the reason it’s not on the shelf is that it has been checked out! So we put it on hold for her. Since she was a new face, I took the opportunity to shamelessly plug my Arts and Crafts program. Her dad came up and heard the tail end of this, and was pleased to hear of this.

18. the 6th grader from #13 came back, now more comfortable with me, having had the “I’m your friendly neighborhood teen librarian” spiel from me, and asked for change for a dollar. Because there’s a bit of a lull I actually had time to go scrounge up some change for her.

19. close to closing – one of the clerical staff came by and asked me how I liked my library school program.. She’s been toying with the idea of going to library school for a long while now.  She seemed to be wanting the push, so I encouraged her, go, go go!!! It’s worth it! We spent a few minutes looking up the commute from her home to the school she has in mind…

and now, we are making the “we’re closing in a couple of minutes” sounds… Most have cleared out…

And that was a Cloudy Sunday in May at my library.

Today was just oh such a satisfying creative writing day at the library — every week I host a creative writing workshop for teens and tweens. While last year I had a crop of older teens who were just drop dead gorgeous writers, this year I’ve had a bunch of sweet and yet slightly recalcitrant tweens, who really want to come to the program but often have second thoughts about actually writing… So we do a lot of (a LOT of) ice breaking and chatting about what’s up in middle school, to coax them into something resembling a writing mood. Dude, middle school’s tough stuff, you know? Plus, writer’s block at any age is a doozy. (I should know, I’m mired deep in a writing project that’s going at the pace of… frozen ghee.)

At any rate, I don’t know what to attribute it to, but both this week and last, the girls (yes, mostly it’s girls that are drawn to this program, at least at my library) produced some beautiful work. And better even, they seemed to get into it! They were sweetly proud of what they had written and wanted to share, and truly, some of the images they came up with were just marvelous. (I don’t have examples in front of me, but, some real good showing vs. telling, which by the way, I’m breaking the rule right now, as I write this, and yes, I know it!) Yay, them!

… maybe it’s the fact that both last week and this week we did activities that somehow hit the sweet spot for them and hooked their interest. I noticed that it’s always better if I give plenty of opportunity for them to talk about stuff that’s on their minds, especially small (to us adults) irksome things that happened at school, but which for them, are major… It’s like talking them out for a bit lets them relax into writing.

The activities? Last week we did “found poems,” where we cut out a whole slew of interesting words and phrases from newspapers and magazines, pushed them all together into a big shared pile, and then people grabbed whichever ones caught their fancy, arranged and rearranged them on a piece of construction paper until they had “found” their poem, and then there was the über-satisfying act of glue-sticking them down. And then the grand finale of sharing creations with the group. (Or not, in the case of certain shyer individuals).

Today’s activity was to create a “list” or “catalogue” poem – one which lists a bunch of ways to think about just one idea. My tweens tend to be concrete thinkers, so for this first foray into list poetry, I gave them a template, and everyone wrote on the same topic – “Happiness is…” Now one would think that this would lead to rather sticky-sweet treacly goo-messes of poetry, but the results were deeply touching, especially in illustrating the importance of family in their lives.

It’s times like this that make me smile.

Oh and one more unrelated thing. I also do a weekly arts and crafts program for kids of all ages. Yesterday a little boy came running up to me an hour after the program and asked, Are you really my sister’s art teacher? Looking backward, he directed me to his sister who was sitting at a table some distance away, smiling and waving at me. I waved back and smiled too. “Yes, I surely am,” I declared, so pleased to be termed “an art teacher” that I was probably beaming. “Will you be my art teacher too?” he asked. “Sure, Sure, definitely!” Gosh. I had a smile on my face for at least an hour after that… love the kids. Got to love the kids.