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This month marks ten years since the inception of this blog. Ten years have flown. Ten years in which I started and finished a Master’s program in Library Science while working full time as a librarian in training, worked at over six branches of my library system, worked in a more suburban area, and then returned to my city, did hundreds of arts and crafts projects, dozens of Lego programs, scores of storytimes, wrote creatively with Teens, mentored at least a dozen volunteers, and answered thousands of reference questions.

It has been a good ten years in Library Land working with kids and teens!

And here’s to the next ten for this Bookish Desi Librarian!

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!

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.

… and how! Already have had two sessions of each class I’m taking this semester. Which, for the record, are a research class (wherein I have to do a real-live research project) and a more fun but still lots of work Managing New Technologies class. (Finally, a legitimate reason to delve into Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Posterous, Technorati, Digg, Delicious and all those other cool Web 2.0 sites!)

On top of this all, I’m in the thick of a thorny fellowship application which had had my butt glued to a chair in front of my parents’ computer for most of the Labor Day weekend.

But, the kids at the library are still making my day, every day. The day before yesterday, H., an 11 year old girl, came in looking for ‘scary books,’ so I picked my tired self up off the ref desk chair and scoured the shelves with her. Half hour and some impromptu booktalks later, a very happy H left the library.

A few days ago a woman came to the reference desk to complain. Why is it, she asked, that we have tons of books about Islam and Buddhism, but few about Christianity?

I tried to point out how many books we do have about all religions, but she was not satisfied. Where were books by Billy Graham, she asked. So I showed her that we had books by him. She was still not satisfied. Then she asked who was responsible for ordering books. I told her that it was centralized ordering, not in the hands of the individual branch. She did not seem to believe me. She asked me why it was that they would order so many books on Buddhism and Islam and not enough on Christianity. (Her words.) I made the mistake of conjecturing that maybe they ordered books according to the demographics of the neighborhood, and that this neighborhood is heavily Asian and Pakistani. At this (pure guess) she raised her eyebrows. Then she looked me up and down. And asked me if I was Muslim.

I am not Muslim, but I really wish I had told her, yes, I am. Or that I had asked her, How does it matter?

Yesterday was quite stressful at the library. I came home soul-exhausted. There were some incorrigible customers who seemed to relish putting the librarian through her paces. But on second thought, there were some thought-provoking and delightful encounters that made the day well worth living. Here are some highlights.

Two Pakistani-American girls befriended me at the children’s desk. One of them shadowed me all day and even helped with reference transactions. I think it made her feel grown-up and responsible. The best part was when we were talking about how bad my spoken Hindi/Urdu is. I explained to them that Hindi isn’t my mother tongue. Then they asked me where I come from. India, I replied. We silently digested the fact that “our countries” are having some “problems” at the moment. One of them said, Read the rest of this entry »

Long ago and far away (as in from the upper reaches of Manhattan) Sandhya from Literary Safari tagged me for a 7 Things About Me meme. Here are the rules (from the source):

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Since #1 is done above, I will proceed with sharing seven facts about myself.

1. I have freckles, which for some reason a lot of Indian aunties think is a personal affront to them and to the bleaching industry. But I like ’em. (edit: I meant the freckles. The jury is still out on the aunties; well, at least the ones who come armed with bleaching cream.)

2. I adore sour things. Lemons. Grapefruit. Sour belts. Lemon cake. Green mangoes. Thai papaya salad with lime. The tangier, the better. My mouth is watering now.

3. I read (sometimes) while walking in the park, or even across the street (after looking both ways first).

4. I recently discovered Tehelka and I adore that site. It is my new favorite. When I first wrote this, I was thinking in a lighthearted vein, but even from a more serious perspective, Tehelka’s writers have important, insightful points to make regarding South Asian politics. After the November attacks in Mumbai, as I was seeking solace online by trying to find answers, I found Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal to be one of the most thoughtful, informative and human voices in the strident cacaphony that erupted online and off.

5. I am a bit (ahem) of a germaphobe. But I don’t walk around encased in plastic, so don’t worry too much about my sanity. But I do believe in coughing in my sleeve, not my hand! It drives me crazy when people cough ineffectually into hands that only half-heartedly cover the general area around their mouths. In case you think I’m totally nuts, take a look at this awesomely funny and smart video that may just convince you that the sleeve idea ain’t all that weird.

6. I have been scuba diving. In Curacao. Once. It was hands down the scariest and most sublime thing I have ever willingly done. And, by doing so, I broke the law. (I had no idea it was illegal to go without a special permit, and the friend who persuaded me to go, wisely did not tell me so.) For this I am grateful, as scuba diving is the closest I will ever get to flying. And what slow motion, dreamlike flying! My dream is to one day go again. (After proper training this time, but of course.)

7. Sometimes I am very, very, very slow in responding to email. And yet, when someone is slow in responding to me, I get sad. Go figure. I am trying to get better at this. (Both the getting faster at responding part as well as the not getting sad part.) Um…. see, this post is kind of a case in point. I do believe Sandhya tagged me like, more than nine months ago??? I mean, I’ve had friends get pregnant and have their babies already in that time. (umm, hello Henry! Love ya! So nice to have “met” you last week. You are a doll. At least the size of one. For now. Now don’t forget the Gujarati I taught you, kay? Mwah!)

Sheesh. (Note to self: Got to get better at getting back, Bookish!)

Okay. Whew. With New Year’s and all, I am so glad to have this entry finally finished and published! And now for my turn to tag others. (Rubbing hands gleefully!)

1. Joy from The Spiral of Seasons, my friend and mentor in all things healthy and librarian-y!

2. Sally from Any Given Sundry, another wonderful online friend. Her photographs are perspicacious.

3. Pranav from Scarlet Guju, my friend since babyhood, who tells it how he sees it on his hard hitting blog.

4. Ariah from Trying to Follow, possibly the most soul-searchingly honest seeker I have had the privilege to meet.

5. Linda from Touched by Cancer, a friend of great empathy and eclectic interests who reaches out to others with helpful advice through her blog.

6. Mahmud from Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World, a friend from the west coast days, who is currently writing and writing and writing his heart out in Bangladesh. And who is having a book published very soon–called Killing the Water; definitely check it out!

7. And lastly, I’m tagging someone I know only through the blogging world; Pessimisissimo from Exotic and irrational entertainment… (and Pessimisissimo, I don’t think your obsessions are indefensible!)

Okay folks, it was nice to share with you my first post from 2009, which was more than nine months in gestation. I hope that our next mulakaat (meeting) will not be so far away. May 2009 shower blessings upon blessings upon us all!

Today went by quick at the library, as Saturdays are wont to do. Patrons kept me busy busy busy requesting GRE test prep information, holding/requesting specific romance novels by Brenda Novak, Geronimo Stilton books, inquiring how to obtain some very specific sounding government healthcare documents, and of course downloading tax forms, tax forms, tax forms, and, and, and…. Not to mention the myriad computer and printer assistance requests.

At the end of it all, at a quarter to five, things slowed down a bit. I started wandering around the floor, letting folks know that computers were shutting down, that the library was about to close, that they should bring their books to the front for checkout, and oh, by the way, could I help them find something if they weren’t finding what they wanted?

Amidst all this end-of-day wrapping up, Read the rest of this entry »

picture an almost-two year old. When quiet and watchful, her wan February face is so pale and serious.But now picture her all in pink. Various shades and permutations. Her top is pink. Her pants verge on magenta, but still firmly pink. She has a stand-out little skirt on too. Pink, of course. Her sneakers are, though white, graced here and there with touches of pink and silver.and what she does is jump.
and down.
and up and down and up and down and up and down. and looks across the library at the marveling bookish woman. and lets out a chortle full of glee. and jumps. again and again. with both feet, each time. up.
and down.her mother and the bookish woman share a smile.

this is how we celebrate leap day at the library.

Today I decided to do something with all that kid-energy roaming around our library during this post-Christmas winter-break time… so I invited a bunch of kids who were hanging out in the library to make snowflakes with me… it was fun, although there was a touchy moment when five-year old Ahmed got laughed at by his ten-year old brother for making a square-shaped flake.flake1.jpg

But then Ahmed got back at him by making the best blue snowflake to be found this side of the Mississippi.

Then there were the triplets who came to cut and fold flakes… needless to say, none of their creations were identical.

Oh. And how could I ever forget the little two year old who came to participate with mom and big bro and sis in tow. When asked his name, he said, I kid you not, “Good boy!” And beamed.

November 2019
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