Happy Halloween!

While creepy fiction is fun this time of year, personally I enjoy creepy nonfiction even more. In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve picked one of my favorite local true crime stories to share. These murders happened in a city near where I live, and part of why I find this particular crime so fascinating its connection to public libraries and one of their core foundational principles in the United States: intellectual freedom.

The city of Auburn, Washington was originally named the city of Slaughter back when it was settled by non-indigenous residents in 1893 (1). The city hotel was even named the Slaughter House (1) – side note, with a name like that I would definitely want to stay there!! Little would anyone have guessed that the city’s original name would become prophetic over a hundred years later. Most who think of killers in Auburn would point to the obvious: Gary Ridgeway, called the Green River Killer after Auburn’s Green River where he hid many of his victims’ bodies. However, in 1980s Auburn there also was the much lesser-known case of two murders which sparked worry of a nationwide poisoning…

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Terrifying Tales Contest Entry!

One of the libraries where I work hosted a TERRIFYING TALES short story contest! Being the Halloween lover that I am, I couldn’t resist entering. Especially because, in my humble Halloween-loving opinion, adults don’t take as many creative risks as we should and I like to be the change I want to see in the world.

Image of a "Terrifying Tales: Short Stories Contest" poster

Here are the contest details:

Description
Ages 10-adult.
Tweens, teens and adults! Submit an original eerie, horrifying, and/or spine-chilling short story to the Fairwood Library by October 23 for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Winners will be selected from each of the following age groups:
Ages 10 to 12, 13 to 15, 16 to 18 and 19 and older.
All participants are invited to read their original terrifying tale aloud on Tuesday, October 30 at Fairwood Library. Refreshments will be provided by the Friends of the Fairwood Library.
7pm: ages 10 to 18
8pm: ages 19 and older
Contest Rules
One submission per person.
Include your name, age, phone number and/or email address.
Submissions may be typed or handwritten. Handwritten submissions must be legible to qualify.
Limit your story to 1000 words or less.

And now, without further delay, here’s my entry….(cue lightening flashes, a wolf howling in the distance, and menacing organ music rattling dust and cobwebs while the rats skitter deeper into the shadows)…

PURPLE

by Mary

“Well, at least I can check one thing off the list.”

Becca smiled, looking down at the library book in her hands. The purple cover had been what first caught her attention – the particular shade drawing her eye. As she had pulled the book from the shelf and examined it, she realized she couldn’t find an author or title – not anywhere on the front or back of the book, not written within the first pages as she peered curiously inside. Even library staff were unable to identify the book (something about it being “bulk cataloged”). That was when she knew – this would be the first library book she had checked out in years. The first book she’d read in almost just as long.

Who had time to read anymore, really?

But making time for reading has been top of her list of New Years’ resolutions. Stepping out from the library into the cold February wind, Becca felt hopeful the year was off to a good start.

~

As the garage door closed behind her car, curiosity got the better of Becca. The engine still running for heat, she unbuckled her seatbelt and tugged off her orange gloves. Flicking on the overhead dome light, she checked the time – 4:13 – and thumbed past the initial few blank pages of the library book. She found the first block of text and began:

“Purple like rotting plums, flesh ruptured with the overly-sweet juice of decay. Purple like old blood lingering in dark, broken veins. Purple like wet fallen leaves, spent past autumn’s glorious yellows and reds. When he saw the book cover in her hands, it colored her similarly.”

Her pulse was quickening. What kind of book is this? Becca paused to stare at the purple cover again, the hue somehow less inviting in the pale-yellow light. Was someone playing a sick joke?

Continue reading “Terrifying Tales Contest Entry!”

Inspirational Ideas Post

This entry is going to be a post I will continually edit to come back and add ideas I find for library programming and display ideas. I find that I collect ideas from a variety of resources and am not inclined to rely on any specific medium for accumulating them all, except through a list I can arrange as I please.


Library Program Ideas

      • Day Storage for homeless (source)
        • The city of Eugene and St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County have joined forces to provide free day storage as a pilot project.
        • People can store belongings in a PODS container on a county-owned lot on Olive Street between the Public Library and The KIVA grocery store. People can stow backpacks, baggage and other items seven-days-a-week, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through Sept. 30. St. Vincent de Paul employees are on site to manage the container. Any items left after 4:30 p.m. will be disposed of.
        • The city is paying St. Vincent de Paul $7,350 a month to operate the program, plus expense reimbursement, according to the contact.
        • St. Vincent holds a lottery every three months for the use of the 20 lockers at the service station.


Library Display Ideas

      • Binge Boxes (source)
        • Boxes containing 5 (or more/less) DVDs within a certain genre
        • All movies are listed and covers displayed on box label
        • I appreciate that the fines and check-out times are addressed on the flyer to be as clear as possible

bingboxes

binge

Graduation!!

I started this website three years ago while attending the orientation for my masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree at the University of Washington. Amid discussions about future career opportunities and ways to create a presence for yourself as an online student, I decided I wanted to create a website/blog where I could talk about things that interested me at school and share my other passion, artwork.

Wow, how the time has flown!!!

I worked full time my first year of doing school part-time and found that I couldn’t manage that work-life-school balance. So I quit my administrative job at a college with the intention of getting some public library experience instead. Volunteering perhaps? But I was able to get a public library JOB, which was even better! The part time work along with 3/4 time enrollment kept me busy, but not completely and utterly overwhelmed (at least, not all the time). My partner Katie and I moved from our apartment into a cheaper space, a basement apartment where we have now lived for two years.

Katie and I got engaged this March, with a wedding date set next September. We also are set to move again, this time in mid-July into a beautiful townhouse. I got a full-time position at the library system, which are coveted and rare positions with a lot of competition! And I graduated last Saturday in a convocation event for all UW Information School (or iSchool for short, we like the Apple influence apparently) graduates.

PSX_20190607_105322

Life has changed a lot in the three years I’ve been in school. Graduation felt like a celebration of the slow burn of life, of the eventual progress and overcoming of obstacles that seem at first so huge and insurmountable.

My Katie and I have a motto: Together, we can do anything. And moments like this it feels absolutely true. PSX_20190608_154552PSX_20190608_154615

Now, on to the next phase of life’s adventures!

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Is Homelessness a Public Library Problem?

My current public library job is in an area known as south central King County, where many individuals experience the challenge of homelessness. Official counts cite Seattle and the King County area as having the third highest population of homeless people in the country (as of 2017, the last official census count).

And we experience that reality in the libraries where I work.

What does that mean? It means that people sleep outside of the library doors in anticipation of opening. That there are uncomfortable bodily smells (of varying intensities) throughout the library. It means that people come in laden with bags and carts and animals, which take up extra chairs, tables, and computer space. That often the root of homelessness is connected with mental illness and/or addiction, and this means behavioral issues in libraries are not uncommon.

Continue reading “Is Homelessness a Public Library Problem?”

Houston Public Library Sued Over Drag Queen Story Hour

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that a group of activists (who refer to themselves as “Christ Followers”) rallied outside the federal courthouse the afternoon of October 19th, making the announcement that they are suing the Houston Public Library. For what? For violating their freedom of religion by hosting the city-sponsored Drag Queen Story Hour program.

Per the article:

The library director and Mayor Sylvester Turner are named as defendants, accused of being recklessly entangled in “LGBT doctrine.” The lawsuit says the storytelling sessions advertised as appropriate for patrons of all ages at the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood branch should not be funded with taxpayer dollars since the library would not host a “man-woman marriage storytelling hour.”

First, I want to emphatically make the point that I think it’s important that everyone has a venue through which they can express themselves, especially in regards to the work public institutions like libraries are engaged in doing. These card-carrying library patrons do not approve of this particular program on a very fundamental level and I agree with their right to speak up about that disapproval. I come from a very conservative family, so I can emphasize with the perspective that the moral “other” are forcing the spread of their agenda through government programs.

In worldviews that endorse a specific and absolute  moral narrative, it can be difficult to appreciate that vital to a public library’s purpose is welcoming multiple perspectives and moral narratives. Literally, the most fundamental concept of a public library is diversity – imagine visiting a public library with only one book on the shelf, or with all books by only one author.  Different authors, different books, different ideas, different voices. The theme for this year’s Banned Book Week was “Banning Books Silences Stories.” The same individuals who do not approve of the Draq Queen Story Hour program probably do not approve of the content in MANY of the books that their tax money is also used to purchase for the library shelf. Quite frankly,  I know I personally do not approve of books at the library! But I have appreciation for the idea that public libraries are intended to represent the larger human experience – much, much more than my narrow slice of life. The presence of materials I object to in this tax-funded space do not signify my personal endorsement of those materials – only my stake in the mission of the public library as a whole.

Second, – setting aside ideologies and discussing this situation specifically – I am curious what this group’s understanding of drag culture is. Specifically, if they understand that not all drag queens are gay? Equating Drag Queen Story Hour program to a “man-woman marriage storytelling hour,” I can’t help but wonder if the lawsuit was as confused…

Overall, it will be interesting to see what happens to this case in the courts and how that reflects on Houston’s library programs. I can’t imagine that the case will make it to trial, but I hope that perhaps it inspires the Houston Library to sponsor educational events to help the public better understand drag culture itself (any culture that is unfamiliar can seem intimidating and scary, especially one with a long history of negative stereotypes and bias) to supplement the fun of experiencing drag performance during Drag Queen Story Hour program.

The Difference Between Privacy and Exploitation: Why Understanding The User Data Conversation Is Important

The New York Times recently published a piece called “Just Don’t Call It Privacy,” and I think it helps to explain a fundamental misrepresentation in the United States of what’s really at issue when we talk about personal data.

Data collection giants, such as Amazon and Google, currently have pretty free reign over the information they collect on individuals who use their services. Even when headlines announced a huge data breach at Facebook, there was no mass exodus away from the social media platform.  After all, what does a data breach even mean? Everything related to the conversation about user data is termed using oversimplified vocabulary attached to abstract definitions, so of course it’s easy to get lost.

Continue reading “The Difference Between Privacy and Exploitation: Why Understanding The User Data Conversation Is Important”

Some Interesting Library-Related Stories This Summer

Being a future librarian, I can’t help the impulse to index and collect! Here’s some interesting library-related (and information-related, since the two go hand-in-hand) things that I saw in the news this summer I want to save for future reference…

Continue reading “Some Interesting Library-Related Stories This Summer”

Summer Reading Program

Working for a library this year has meant my first exposure to one of the biggest library events of the year, the Summer Reading Program (SRP for short)! Librarians work on these programs for MONTHS. Many library systems participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program, including the library system where I work (the King County Library System, or KCLS). This means that the themes for summer reading programs are often the same across the country.

The theme this year was “Libraries Rock!” and the reading charts my system used embraced a retro interpretation with cassette tapes, vinyl records, and boom boxes. Even before the summer program began, I was excited to be participating on the peripheral from my role in circulation (I’m a Library Technical Assistant, which means I check out books, help patrons, and manage circulation tasks – I act to support library programs, but no work related to the building and developing of those programs). Listening to the librarians it sounds like all their planning and preparation left them exhausted by the time the program actually started. And, now that it’s all over? Relief!

smallreadinglog
My favorite reading log design, although the elementary-aged children for whom it was designed probably weren’t able to appreciate the nostalgia of an unwinding cassette tape.

This year was a stand-out year (at least, I was told it was) for two reasons:

First, KCLS was offering a summer reading program for adults, which they did not do last year (in the years prior, I am unsure).

Second, the halfway finishing prize (for all age levels) had a pretty significant monetary value: two free tickets (per patron) to a popular local water park called Wild Waves. For an adult, these tickets are worth over $30.00 each (so two are potentially worth over $60.00). To participate and receive two free tickets, all someone had to do was bring in one of the tear-off coupons from a reading log stating that they were eligible for the prize. No registration, no showing identification, not even a requirement of proof that the individual possessed a library card – literally, just handing in a coupon from a reading log freely available in any KCLS library. Unfortunately, this “honor” system created an opportunity for the program to be exploited for valuable free tickets – and it was.

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Paying My Library Fines

I haven’t updated here in a while – and so much has happened! So now, it’s time for an OVERDUE post – let’s just say that this post is to pay my dues and settle that account 😉

I got a library job – actually, I got the TWO library jobs I applied for (different locations, same work), but I turned down the one with less hours. I now am working around 25 hours a week while also doing school. Somehow my time is still incredibly pinched, even working so much less than when I was employed full time. But working in a library space feels like a natural extension of learning about libraries in school – plus, there are lots of very human realities that just aren’t included in classes. Libraries are one of the last truly public community spaces, which means we see a variety of populations (and problems).

I’m now in the last third of my second year in the program – which means I’m approaching the last year of classes before graduation! I’m very nervous about my last year of grad school, especially making sure I meet all the requirements to graduate (there is a special Capstone Project you must complete as part of graduating, I guess I should probably figure out what that is…).

Funny side-story: I also accidentally joined the leadership for the Society of American Archivists – UW branch. On the student Facebook pages they were saying that a club needed a graphic designer to do publicity stuff and I signed up before even checking what club it was. So I made sure to become official and actually join the Society (which means $$), but I’m honestly fascinated by archival work so I’m not sorry it worked out as it has. I’ve learned a lot working with this club and hope to maybe get a chance to do some archiving experience – unfortunately, the University of Washington (where I attend) does not offer very much in the way of archiving classes.

That’s essentially the life update! I’ll do my best to not be so “overdue” with a blog update next time and keep updating!

Judith and Artemisia Gentileschi

In Catholic and Orthodox Christian versions of the Old Testament in the Bible, there is a small book called the Book of Judith.

The story is simple but powerful – her Israelite town under siege, a widowed woman named Judith – described as wealthy and “very beautiful, charming to see” (8:7) – demonstrates the brute force of her faith. She charms and ingratiates herself to the general of the enemy army (named Holofernes) by providing “insider” information, acting as if she is a traitor while slowly building his trust. One night she uses this trust to gain access to the general’s tent while he is drunk and utilizes the moment of weakness to her advantage – by decapitating the general.

She then takes the head and returns to her people, brandishing it as proof of God’s ability to deliver. The story notes that although she is courted afterward, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life – a powerful widow who will not be coupled again.

This story has been illustrated through classical paintings time and time again. Although I have an art background I had never honestly given these paintings or this story much thought until I recently read the graphic novel “Becoming Unbecoming” by Una (a pseudonym chosen because it is the Spanish feminine form of the word “one” – “one of many” as the book explains). The graphic novel – which deals with themes of misogyny, rape, and the objectification of women – points out something about the artwork telling this story that I found incredibly fascinating.

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End of my first quarter!

Well, I did it! Somehow, despite how terrified of online classes I secretly was (I did an online class back in my BYU days, circa 2008ish, that didn’t  instill much confidence in that format), I got through my first quarter and I actually feel really good about how well it went (I got As in both classes!).

I even got the chance to create some artwork for an assignment, which made me feel even happier. After all, any excuse to create art 😉

books2
[ I modeled this display space after an actual shelf I saw in my local library, although the display itself and book selection here are my own ideas ]
My classes were Research Design (basically, an introduction to reading and writing research papers) and Resources for Digital-Age Children (a children’s literature introductory course, I really enjoyed it and all the children’s books I got to read as part of the coursework).

And this is only the beginning…