Programming for a Pandemic?

Well I sure picked a weird year to start off my librarian career!

I was off to a strong start – in February I offered a workshop on completing the low-income housing assistance application (which was open in King County for only ~3 weeks) and had 21 people show up (plus their partners/children/etc)! For the Auburn Library that’s a really successful adult program and I was really proud that I was able to offer something so needed by the community.

I was helping to coordinate a special Earth Day event this month that would have hosted several special guest speakers including the mayor of Auburn, the director of KCLS, and real live honeybees! It was going to be awesome…until it got cancelled, along with everything else for the foreseeable future.

My fingers are crossed for summer programming to still happen – I lined up a local improv company to come perform, set up paint and sip events with a local art instructor, and so many other fun things!!

But in the meantime, I’m scrambling to figure out how to best serve patrons in a remote role. I mean, I think all librarians are in a similar boat right now. We’re used to libraries as physical locations and physical resources – but right now, those aspects of service are out of the picture. The community where I work has a prominent disadvantaged population and I wonder about how they’re doing – how they’re staying safe, how shelters are functioning, what libraries could be doing from a distance to support that work. As an adult librarian, what can I do to best help adults during this time?

One thing I did do was I created my own directory of easily navigated links here. I’ve been sharing this directory around on social media and with my coworkers – while this isn’t an official KCLS website, it contains everything you can find on the KCLS website but formatted in a simple, direct way.

mypage
This is the simple link directory I made – scroll down and there are separate sections for children, tweens/teens, adults, and general Washington state COVID19 information.
theirpage
This is the main website for KCLS after it finally got updated with the black header of “Online Resources” – still too busy and difficult to find the really valuable stuff the library has to offer. 

I also researched the senior center locations across King County and compiled a list detailing what services they are currently offering (focusing on meals, mainly).

So I’ve been keeping busy….but right now everything feels so uncertain.

MY FIRST LIBRARIAN JOB!!

There’s no way I thought, so soon after graduating earlier this year with my MLIS, that I would have news like this – BUT! – I have actually been hired for my first librarian job! It’s a full time, temporary position as an Adult Services Librarian for the Auburn Library in Auburn, Washington (yes, the same city I wrote about here) and was open only to applicants within the King County Library System. It’s kinda the perfect job to serve as a stepping stone into a librarian career.

6829auburnDSC_4004
Photo of the interior of the Auburn Public Library, a branch of the King County Library System. Source here.

I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky. The staff at the Auburn Library seem like an excellent team and I think I will have a set of fantastic mentors to help guide me. In September of next year the person who occupied this position previously will have the option of taking the position back – and my old job as an LTA will be saved for me, although everyone already knows I’m not planning to come back.

My specific job duties will include:

  • providing reader’s advisory
  • answering reference questions
  • managing parts of the collection
  • maintaining and creating community links
  • develop/design/host adult programs

And, frankly, I’m so excited I struggle to express it in words.

A career was never part of my life plans – I was raised in a conservative religious environment where women were actively discouraged from becoming career-oriented (luckily, there has been some progress in recent years regarding this attitude). I had zero professional guidance from my parents – my mother hasn’t worked since getting married and my father joined the Navy after high school, taking various jobs to support his growing family until he landed a job at Boeing (where he’s worked ever since). My siblings and I are all first generation college students, and I’m the first and only to earn a master’s degree and also to be employed in a field requiring a degree. But while I’ve worked hard, I know I have also been fortunate – fortunate that my random job-jumping landed me at Green River College, where I talked with the educational advisor to flesh out ideas for my future. I got hired on to KCLS as an LTA, not a Page – everyone tells me that rarely happens. And now I’m jumping from LTA to Librarian – again, incredibly rare as mentioned to me more than once!

I feel very grateful and equally determined to prove myself worthy of the rare opportunities I’ve been afforded. My start date is December 16th, so in the meantime I think I’m going to put together some ideas for “tools” I can use in my librarian role.

 

Confrontations with history

There is an ongoing struggle in public discourse to tackle how to acknowledging the harm of the past without giving it power to cause harm in the present.

This New York Times article focuses on an excellent example. From the article:

In the debate over the 13 murals that make up “The Life of Washington,” at George Washington High School, one side, which includes art historians and school alumni, sees an immersive history lesson; the other, which includes many African-Americans and Native Americans, sees a hostile environment.

Following the “Continue reading” cut below, I’m going to share a few images of the murals as taken from the article. Content warning for depictions of violence and historical racial oppression.

Continue reading “Confrontations with history”

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…

Continue reading “Happy Halloween!”

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 off the list.”

Becca smiled, looking down at the library book in her hands. She thoughtfully moved an orange-gloved finger across its cover. The purple cover had been what first caught her attention – the particular shade drawing her eye. As she 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. 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!

20190612_230145

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.

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! Librarians work on these programs for months, planning and preparing. 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.

Continue reading “Summer Reading Program”