Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Horror

I was at home pondering the meaning of life when it occurred to me that I should ponder other things, such as:

Who is Quinn Perkins?

Who’s dead on NCIS?

Why does this man have his shirt off every other episode instead of every single one?

Why does chocolate have calories? Where did I put my salon hair products? How come Criminal Minds hasn’t been renamed Random Strangers Want to Kill You? Can I claim my house guest as a dependant? Why does Taco Bell think breakfast starts at 8 am? How come no one else thinks cookies and croutons are a balanced meal when they have the 4 Cs of chocolate, chewy, crunchy and carbs? Why don’t we have robots like on The Jetsons?

I was promised robots!

Since all of this was either fruitless or would be answered during season premiers (that would leave me even more puzzled), I went to the Halloween Store to find a costume.

I should have stayed home and pondered the origins of the universe.

First off, you walk into the competing sounds of screaming fake monsters, screaming real kids, and parents yelling, “Don’t cry! Let’s go to Pet Smart!” I honestly don’t know why kids need to be in the store when all you have to do is dress them as pumpkins and everyone goes, “Awwwwww!”

Elsie asked, “What’s your niece going to be for Halloween this year?” And I told her, “She’s going to be adorable.” Because kids can wear decorated paper bags and everyone will go, “How cute!” Plus kids don’t wonder, “Does this pumpkin make me look fat?” But adults can use Halloween help. After wandering around looking for something that didn’t make me look like I was working at, how shall I put it, “The Rabbit Farm,” I gave in and asked where I could find an outfit with more coverage.

I expected technical difficulty.

I didn’t expect laughter.

Halloween costume shopping while female is a real problem, one that won’t be addressed in a PSA.

Apparently after the first 8 million rows of minuscule costumes, the worker assured me the remaining 3 aisles had at least one covering costume.


Because having two would have caused a hurricane in Florida.

Everything was tiny. Even the nun’s outfit was almost nonexistent. They might as well come with a warning from the surgeon general stating, “This costume may cause you to freeze your butt off, catch pneumonia, and possible forfeit your right to future employment when pictures of you in it are posted on Facebook.” All I could think is, “What’s next, will they start selling us bags of air?”


Online was almost as bad. The outfits tended to be gorgeous and expensive or kind of sad and pathetic, such as the “Contestant” costume.

A rip off of the Hunger Games tribute outfit, this costume screams less “President Snow wants to kill me!” and more “I work at Target but they lent me this jacket so I can collect carts in the rain.”

I thought about being a replacement ref; however, since the strike is over that wouldn’t be nearly as funny. Someone suggested Effie, but that cost too much, and I know it’s Halloween, but she’s just too tacky, and the teens will take pictures and post them. So what is a woman to do?

---Put on pajamas, grab your blankie and bottle and be a baby.

---Grab your track suit, and be an Olympic gymnast. You can either put on a stoic face and wear a button that says, “McKayla is not impressed.” Though I'd personally be impressed with any medal, seeing as I lasted exactly 1 day on the high school gymnastics team and spent the rest of the week crawling and asking if someone, for the love of God, could take me to the hospital.

Or you can put on a big smile and a button that says, “Making Russian gymnasts cry since 2012.”

Seriously, the Russian team looked so sad I wanted to adopt them. Then I remembered how hard it is to get teenagers to move out of your house (though maybe he’ll get the hint if I throw all of his belongings on the front lawn…). Plus their coaching fees would bankrupt a small island country.

---Wear wings. I have a collection of wings from Clare’s and JoAnns. A few were so gorgeous I bought them without realizing their span is so large you can’t walk through the stacks without knocking over books or maiming children. Stick to smaller wings and color coordinate your clothes.

 ---Be something random. At ALA I picked up a few things, including a hockey mask. You can be Jason on the cheap!

 ---Deconstruct a T-shirt. You can go 80s and be a flash dancer with a head band and leg warmers over leggings. If you're like me, you might have these things in your garage already because you never donated them the first (or secon or third) time around.

Or shred a shirt and be a flapper.

Or a zombie.

Or a zombie flapper.
Or layer the T-shirts over one another and create a mob of zombie flapper flash dancers. If you go all out, please do us all a favor and post the pictures on Friday Finale and upload the video on YouTube. Because I, for one, would love to see that, yet I don't have enough volunteers to pull it off myself.

If all else fails, bring something cute with you. No one will notice you’re not wearing a costume if you’re holding a puppy AND a kitten. Though I'm not sure exactly where you can find both of two who like each other, plus there is that taking care of them for the next 15 years thing to consider. Perhaps you should simply grab a child. Go ahead and wear your baby on your front. Or borrow someone's baby. I'm sure someone you know is looking for a babysitter.

These prisoners ALMOST make jail look like a fun place to hang out. Kind of like when Martha Stewart finished her sentence, got out looking skinny and sporting highlights and skinny jeans and a poncho and a bunch of women said, "I want to go to jail!"

For me, I just wanted the poncho and the weight loss.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

ALA 2012 Session: Books To Go!

Ever attend a lame-looking party and you don’t know if you should stay and hope it gets better or flee before you get trapped in a useless, fun-less black hole? Perhaps if you’d stayed you’d discover it was awesome (like me!), that they had free massages and a Mojito fountain, but the Mojitos were hidden away in the back and you’d already fled the scene.

That’s what a library is to a lot of people; a cool place they barely venture into.

Did you know the average UK library visit is less than 5 minutes? Or that no patron searching fiction at one library made it past the letter G? That’s right, just let the toddlers “shelve” the H section onward.

Why is this so?

According to Rachel Van Riel, director of Opening the Book, librarians assume that people a) know what we want, b) have the time to find it and c) will ask for help. But the truth is (in my words):

We don’t know what we want.
I don’t browse the library for books I want to read. I, first world citizen, shop online for those. The library is for items accidentally stumbled upon.

We have no time.
When you’re busy a library visit isn’t a refreshing treat; it’s an errand…an errand that ranks beneath buying groceries, milking surgical drains, and corralling your "house guest" of 10 months (not a typo) to clean up.

(Me: “Is your room clean?” Snotty Entitled Teenager: “It’s clean.” Me: “Send me a picture.”)

We don’t ask for help.
Help is a last resort for when we’re wandering around the desert because Google Maps was incorrect and we’re out of bottled water.

Solution: Books To Go displays

This is when the vendor tries selling us products. (They’re a business, not a non-profit.) However, they had the money to research what works. Essentially it’s a display set up right inside the library doors that allows people who don’t know what they want and neither have the time to find it nor to ask questions to spot something attractive, grab it and go. Libraries using these displays report that the 5% of items placed on display account for 30% of checkouts. Since SPL is sadly lacking in fountains of cash, I used a book cart.
Note: even if you don’t decorate your cart, clean it before stocking it.

Now, what should you stock it with? Skip the best sellers. It’s not like we have tons on the shelves. People will request book club titles. People can readily find 50 Shades of Grey…

It’s at Costco, next to pallets of LCD TVs and gallons of relish.

Fill it with nice looking older books, cookbooks, WWII stuff, DVDs, beach reads, duplicate copies, items piling up in the back because your branch was shut down for lack of AC, etc. The ideas are endless! It takes about 30 minutes to put together, including cleaning, selecting, and making a temporary sign. Hey, perfection is nice, but it's Saturday and I have storytime prep.

So get started today on Books To Go display and enjoy the music!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

ALA 2012 Wrap Up: Awkward Moment Edition

If you left ALA annual not totally in pain you did it wrong and have to do it over. Every part of me was burning to the point that I’m pretty sure I asked, “Where’s the eyewash?” My pupils were on fire. Fire!

Very little sleep should have occurred. My brother says sleep when you’re dead, but since I have an inkling we’ll be in a post-life work release program my mantra was “NO SLEEP TILL TUESDAY!”

(Tuesday was a lot more doable than 2072, when a family member discovers I've passed in my sleep in one of my luxury mansions and decides to hide this fact to avoid reenstated estate taxes.) 

Unless you’re a student, you get points deducted for commuting in. The rest of us stayed in hotels that wanted $14 to use their gym and printed instructions on their “deluxe” shower caps (in case you mistook one for an iPad 2) and either spent 6 uncomfortable hours crammed in a Mini Cooper with 2 co-workers and 14 boxes of swag, or got patted down extra special by the TSA.

I “chose” the pat down.

When asked by a glove-wearing body-gropping agent, “What’s in your jeans?” I stopped myself from saying, “Fat. That’s my butt.  I like to loaf around in yoga pants while eating brownies and watching Grey’s Anatomy.  Now you owe me dinner, or to explain on my behalf to the online community that Shondra Rhimes didn’t kill off Lexie because she has a personal vendetta against them, and why I went from hating Kepner to really liking her."
(BTW Kepner, God was ready to give you a fist bump for hooking up with Avery, but then you upset Him by booting Avery out of bed. Had you not done this, you would have passed your boards.)
In preparation for the return flight, four plus hours should have been spent cramming 3000 pounds of swag into your carryon while saying, “Miracles can happen. Don’t people see Jesus on food all the time?” As a last resort, you dumped swag outside the closing session ballroom.

At at least one event you should have felt overdressed and socially uncomfortable. Like at the ALA Dance Party. I knew it would be in an unusual place---they always are. What I didn’t know was the Saloon was a country line dancing spot.

I don’t think anyone had a clue.

Who knew you needed a choreographer to have a good time? Since we paid $10 to get in, my friends and I made the best of it. When they asked for two-steppers, we did the tango.


While laughing hysterically.

The only line dances I knew that they did were the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble.  Yes, the floor was packed with skinny dancers in cowboy boots line dancing rap music.

And I just loved it when the Saloon regular I danced with asked me about my favorite books. He said, (I kid you not):

I’ve never heard of the Color Purple.”
Please guess which response I used:

a)      “How cool is it that you live under a rock! Awesome!”

b)      “You’re a drunk guy in a bar.”

c)       “It’s like the Shawshank Redemption for women.”
    d)      “It’s a movie.”

Hint: I went on to list The Hunger Games and Stephen King novels.

But at least Am and I had fun.
(For those of you who don't know, my full name is Tabin Am Rain Crume, so imagine my shock at meeting someone named Am? Score!)

You should have experienced at least one awkward moment. Pick which ones happened to me and which belonged to colleagues (or you):

a)      Running into a former ALA president in a swimsuit cover-up because someone put all their meetings on the same floor as the pool. (Thanks a lot!)

b)      Not recognizing an author you talked to the day before.

c)       Having someone lie about being drunk so they can claim not to remember what they said.

d)      Trying to avoid weird non-ALA people who insist on joining your group.

e)      Having to publically clip your nails as you break them one by one while “bowling.”

f)       Telling people, “I’m awesome! I rock! I’m worth millions of dollars! Why doesn’t this menu have prices on it? Hey, waiter, can you tell me how much this stuff costs?”

g)      Trying to explain a personal philosophy called “Don’t be in an orange jump suit” to an author.

h)      Explaining how it is easier to get a job when you’re not crazy-in-a-bad-way.
i)     Asking someone if they had a designated driver and it turning out they weren't drunk, they were just a "questionable" dancer.

j)    Dancing to misogynistic rap music while saing, "This song is sooooo feminist!" 

k)    Lying to get into something you don't have a ticket for.

l)    Sitting alone at an offsite ALA event for 45 minutes because no one wants to wear their badge and admit they are a librarian there for an ALA event. 

You should have also dealt with lots of shushing. I had to explain to someone, “I don’t  shush. I call security.”

Inspired by a truly awkward moment (that I really wish I had witnessed because it would have made my year) a friend and I decided every time something awkward happens during a conference you should say, “This moment was brought to you by ALA.”

Does anyone have anything they want to add to this?

Who were you in the hot tub with?

And was Warren G really at Fire and Ice?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fire! Fire!

Katniss Everdeen, aka, Girl on Fire, aka heroine of The Hunger Games, got her own Barbie.


I wasn’t sure how they’d pull it off---would they stick to her cool-Lenny-Kravitz-made-this-stunning pre-slaughter reaping dress?

(I want this dress!)

Would they create the post-traumatic stress dress with sewn in state-issued-plastic-surgery-dodging padding which screams, “Look, I’m innocent!” and makes President Snow less likely to send mutts to kill her in her sleep? No, they went with her arena gear.

Or at least the original version of her arena gear.

It’ll be interesting to see if someone will alter this to create a fresh-out-of-the-arena Katniss doll. You know, after she’s been stabbed, starved, dehydrated, hunted like she’s Number 2 of Al-Qaeda, poisoned by venomous insects, concussed, deafened in one ear, burned by balls of fire, wearing filthy one-legged pants and a hood with attached sleeves, her hair matted, face dirty, and overall looking like a traumatized wounded rabid animal on the attack after killing four people to save her own life while nursing someone else back to health. You know, what reality TV producers call her “before” picture. In the next movie they can have Tyra Banks telling her to widen the gap in her front teeth because it will make her unique. Unique and possibly toothless, but unique nonetheless.

Personally I liked the book better than the movie. Except for the boring books I was forced to pretend to read in college, I usually like books better. Books give more detail. Books let you wallow in the scenes you enjoy and skim the ones that give you nightmares. Books let you use your imagination, allowing you to delude yourself that characters described as black are white, followed by you getting called out for tweeting you were no longer sorry the character died because she was blonde in your imagination.
Yes, and in my imagination I click my heels and someone landscapes my backyard for free.

(Reminder to self: start hanging out in Lowes in hopes Yard Crashers will appear…)

The top reason I prefer books to films is writing is cheap. Typing extra words cost 3 cents in ink. Translating words into film costs mucho dinero. Ever see a book turned into a TV movie? I was watching one and wondering, “Where are the plane crashes? She didn’t have a brother in the book, which was set in Georgia not California. I’m pretty sure I’d remember an Argentinean nationalist being in the book. What, did they start letting Universal Studio tourists take turns acting?” I have to remind myself they were given 21 days, $37.58 and a case of Power Bars to make the film, and it’s still more entertaining than anything on the Lifetime Movie Network. (“I think the ghost of my ex-husband’s sister’s dead cat is stalking me!”) There’s the occasional studio that has lost its freaking mind turning books into films, like when they made the Scarlet Letter. How many high school students flunked their “book” reports after watching the movie version? However, with the Hunger Games I realized if the movie had followed the book a tee, it wouldn’t simply be R rated, it would be NC-17 and viewers would need therapy.

That, or it would be a mini-series on HBO called “Game of Thrones: Teenage Edition.”


Speaking of fires, did you know the American Red Cross provides free disaster parties for libraries? They’re greeeaaat!!! I love them not only because they are free, but because they do a really good job with them. They provide the publicity, bring everything with them, and the only thing you have to do is set up chairs and advertise in E-Vanced. Pretty neat set-up, huh? I learned things about safety that I had not known before. Did you know you are to use the back of your hand to feel for heat at the door? I always thought we felt with our palms. Apparently we’re used to heat on our palms, making them less sensitive. Or did you know there are two ways to stop, drop and roll? If your upper body or hands are on fire, you don't want them anywhere near your face and should hold them to your sides while rolling. Most of us know we should have an emergency supply box. My box consists of hoping I have my ID, my American Express card, and that I'm close to a Marriot or Hampton Inn. (Perhaps I should work on this.) As for emergency numbers, I have 9-1-1. What good is calling my family on the side of the road? Get me to the hospital ASAP! I'm O-, 5-6, my official weight is "Why do you want to know?" and I don't take NSAIDS or aspirin.

To go along with this program I created a special storytime. Comedies joke about fires---maybe your boyfriend bonfire got out of control, or you ran back into the room because you left your wedding shoes in the closet. This means young children are not prepared for an emergency and need some practice. Be warned: you will get dirty looks from parents (see below).

Fire Safety Storytime

No Dragons for Tea
Valuables---an empty computer bag, keys, an empty purse, etc.
A stuffed cat or dog
The ability to set aside your dignity for at least 7 minutes

Extra Books:
Stop, Drop and Roll
Fire Safety

1. Wear jeans for this storytime. Not a long skirt, not yoga pants, jeans. This storytime requires crawling. You don’t want people staring at your butt.
2. Before storytime set up a table behind you or to your side filled with valuables.
3. Read “No Dragons for Tea.” In this story a dragon sets fire to a house during tea, then tries to run back in for a toy.
4. After the reading go over the important parts---when there is a fire drop to the floor, crawl out and never go back in because WE CAN’T REPLACE YOU!
5. Have everyone practice crawling to safety.
6. Before you reach the door/safe spot, jump and say, “Oh, no, I forgot_____!” and return to get it. At this point the children should try to stop you. Ask, “Should I run back for______? No, why not? Because WE CAN’T REPLACE YOU!” Emphasis never going back, especially for an obsolete laptop.
7. Repeat step 6 with the valuables, saving the stuffed pet for last. Emphasis that it represents a real pet. They shouldn't return inside even for Fluffy. DON’T say you can replace a pet---storytime is a tear free zone! Tell them, “The firefighters can save your pets.”
8. This is where the adults will give you the evil eye. The kids have to meet at their designated spot. Most families don’t have one. When you’ve reach the designated spot adults are to call 9-1-1. Kids only call if adults can’t do so, which is where the next bit of homework comes in: kids need to know their full names, their parents’ full names, and their address. Address is required when calling 911 from cell phones, and names are useful. A few weeks ago we had a lost parent, and when I asked the child for his parent’s name he said, “Her name is Mommy. It’s spelled M-O-M-M-Y.” For some reason this didn’t help much.
9. Here is the final homework assignment: ask parents to have a practice fire drill. A good idea is to have them twice a year when they change the batteries in their smoke alarms. It’s much better to know now that your child’s first instinct is to hide in the closet or that the alarm volume is too low to wake people up.

I hope you have fun with this one. Remember, safety first, jeans second!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Hunger For You

I’ve been sick. If you’re sick on your off day, there goes your fun. If you’re sick during work, there goes your PTO. And if you’re sick at my house, there goes any sympathy. I got to hear things like, “Your room is a mess,” and “After you go to the doctor’s we need to run errands/do things that involve you baking in the car.”

So I’m at home, freaking out at my medication’s side effects (“Tell your doctor if you know someone who owns a cat or might want to purchase a home…”) and trying to nap, only to be interrupted by one nephew setting off the alarm (“Oops!”), another wanting homework help, and an annoying relative at the door. At least this one didn’t have a suitcase, but I treat relatives like I’m a native and they’re 15th century explorers ready to give me smallpox-infested blankets in order to take my home.

Thus I was miserable and my (non-annoying) family was giving me that “You’re not contagious, right?” look when it hit me: either I can read or they’d decide I should cook.

Cooking was not happening.

The Hunger Games trilogy had been on my reading list for a while. When I opened the first book up it still had the receipt in it…

The Borders receipt.

Guess I should have put reading the series higher up on my To Do list.

These books are harsh, yet I enjoyed them and I’m going to see the movie with my older nephew, preparing myself for what’s likely to be brutal violence, but for myself, it having violence in it is not as important as what it doesn’t have:

Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Anistan, Adam Sandler, Tyler Perry as Madea, the Wayans Brothers, Robert Pattinson, Shia Lebeof or a non-animated Eddie Murphy.

Violence couldn’t possibly traumatize me as much as that drive-in double feature of “The Bounty Hunter” and “Remember Me” did.

That said, why do folks want to take young kids to see The Hunger Games? Did I miss the notation on the calendar stating it is Take Your Child to be Traumatized Day? Yesterday I had a tour of 4th and 5th graders. Some had read the book; some had holds. (Good luck with that, patron number 930!) Most wanted to see the movie. However, when the teacher asked my opinion, the kids groaned because I said, “My personal opinion, which is not the opinion of others, is that parents should review movies beforehand to decide if they are appropriate. After reading the book and reviewing film information I decided against taking an 11 year old to see it.”

Instead he can see something more to his level, like the R-rated comedy “21 Jump Street.”

Seriously, if you review the movie yourself and decide it is fine for your child you’re out an extra $10.50. If you decide it’ll give them nightmares, you’ve saved a bunch of psychiatric care co-pays.

But then again, what do I know?

Anyway, I saw a card similar to this card in a pop-up card book. Then I realized I wasn’t willing to do the 8 million steps it required, so I simplified it a bit. It’s easiest to have volunteers put together the first part of the card, then have participants decorate. You can also print words onto the white cardstock so that things are nice and pretty when you’re all finished. (Writing after you’ve glue a bunch of stuff on can be tricky!)

Pop Up Cards

Card supplies:
Cardstock---white and assorted color
Glue sticks

Crayons and pens
Multi colored paper
Glitter glue

1. Fold 2 pieces of card stock---inner and outer---in half

2. Take the inner card stock and fold it no more than 1/3 of the way over. Reverse the fold.
3. Unfold the inner paper to reveal a pop up.

4. Glue the inner cardstock to the outer cardstock on both ends, being careful to maintain the pop up.

5. Allow card shells to dry before storing them away.
6. When ready to use, have participants decorate them with paper flowers. If you have tons of volunteers, have them cut out/die cut shapes so that smaller children can do this craft

Happy Hunger Games!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easy as Pi

Some things in life aren’t easy. Like the other day, when I had to tell tough tattooed teen, aka, my nephew, that our sheepdog Peaches had died…in the 1990s. My sister hadn’t wanted to break the news to him, so when he came over and asked, “Where’s Peaches?” my grocery cashier brother said the first thing that came to his mind: “She went to the store.” Which was a problem, because whenever my nephew went to a store he would ask, “Is Peaches here?” So I morphed the story over the years, to the point in which we were sitting around a waiting room and I mentioned missing having a dog and he responded by saying, “Then you really shouldn’t have sent Peaches away to live on a sheep farm.” As all the adults in the room gave me that knowing look I said, “Oh, yeah. That farm…up north…”

Way up north…

Where she enjoys chasing sheep to this day…

Other things in life are easy. Like when the supervisor asked everyone if they wanted to bring in pies for Pi Day. Americans have never needed an excuse to eat dessert, though we will grab latch onto one if possible. There was apple pie, cherry pie, banana cream pie, peanut butter pie, unidentifiable-yet-good-looking pie, and I brought cookies. I figured we’d get sick of pie, but no one gets sick of cookies. This is how I ended up at home groaning from with the trifecta of allergies, an overly full stomach, and forcing myself to exercise when all I wanted to do was lie on the couch rubbing my eyes while my family yelled, “Stop touching your face!” But this is okay, because the next day someone brought in a vegan veggie pie, which, like hitting Ctrl Alt Delete and clicking restart, is the equivalent of a new beginning.

Another easy thing is tile crafts. I did this a few years ago. Back before I realized the only people who should attempt renovations themselves are either HGTV hosts or married to them, I would wander home improvement stores for ideas, until I came up with the best one yet---buying a brand new home. During one of these trips I came across 4x4 tiles marked 75% off and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cute to let the kids decorate them with Sharpies?” Normally I would clear a store out of good deals, but those puppies are heavy! When an employee offered to load them into the cart I was tempted to ask, “Can you take them all the way to work for me?” Thus I settled for a reasonable amount I could lift without a back brace.

Decorative Tiles

Plastic tablecloths
Rubbing alcohol

1. Cover the tables with tablecloths.
2. Give sharpies and tiles to children. Unlike teens, you can give pens to children without too much worry. It’s the parents that will be totally freaking out at the thought of their child getting permanent markers on their clothes. Like the time we used tempura paints, this is one craft program you won’t hear any parents asking, “Is it okay if I leave my child here?”
3. Try not to laugh out loud as you see parents trying to pry pens out of their 6 year olds' hands because they look like they might be aiming for skin.
4. Clean up the tables with rubbing alcohol and paper towels.

I woke up this morning in the mood for ABBA. Maybe I needed a pick me up from the rainy weather. Maybe it’s the allergy medication traveling through my system. Whatever it is, I’m most likely going to go home, break out my ABBA sheet music and give it a try…after I take a long nap and eat takeout…

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Having a Party

I will say that despite literally crawling into bed after almost passing out in the shower from exhaustion (and wondering if SPL has hazard pay) that hosting a big Dr. Seuss Day was totally worth it. Everyone had so much fun! There were those looks on the kids’ faces, and the happy looks on the faces of the fathers as they got to see Lance Briggs, and staff was happy to see him, too!

Briggs was extremely nice. He hung out in the staff room with his family beforehand and I heard someone say, “He’s sitting in that chair! We must never wash it!” Which I wasn’t even thinking of doing, meaning it will never get washed, so one wish down; what are your other two?

He read “Green Eggs and Ham” in the big purple chair with a gazillion people listening. Then he signed sign autographs and took pictures for 40 minutes. When trying to round up the staff I thought, “Staff would be upset if we don’t take a photo, but the guys my kill me if I don’t include them.”
Someone pointed out that I’m right next to Briggs in the photo. Yes, I am. After giving half of Logistics my cell number to work out, well, logistics, and breaking my nails while setting out parking cones while everyone else was meeting downtown, I would have happily elbowed the Pope to get by him.

You may also want to steer clear of me if I’m clothes shopping.

That said, Lance Briggs was the highlight of the day, but by no means the only thing going on. We did lots of stuff---crafts, storytimes, face painting, giveaways, refreshments, etc.--- that are easy to duplicate at any branch. When doing something big, thinking inside the box is actually more important than thinking outside of it. Thinking outside the box usually costs money. That’s fine for members of the Jersey Shore or if you’re married the future king of England (if his grandmother doesn’t succeed in living forever). The rest of the world has budgets. Besides, we already have the box---it’s sitting in your storage room…and under your desk...and in that room near the “dungeon,” aka, the scary storage space in Central’s basement. You are surrounded by and know how to do plenty of stuff already. Just do more of it at once. (And schedule a massage for the next day.)

Crafts: I’ve already posted instructions for all of these crafts. They just needed tweaking for the event.

Lanterns---Kids made lanterns from Dr. Seuss coloring sheets
Postcards---Dr. Seuss coloring pages were set 4 to a page and printed on the back of postcard templates.
Flags---More Dr. Seuss, this time in colorable flag form.

Napkins and gloves: We used the latex gloves from the janitorial closet (yes, they are food safe), and obtained napkins from the surplus supply list.

Face painting: Did you know YS has a face painting kit? What I thought would be some intricate hard-to-use mash up of paints was actually a colorful kit that looked like crayons. Though we brought in Just for Fun face painters from 3-5, we needed something for the smaller children who showed up from 1-3. A volunteer made painted simple designs that pleased your average toddler.

Storytime activities: I can honestly say I did not plan to do additional activities, but when some kids began to get restless I ended up shaking shaky eggs and flapping around like a bird.

Read to a Dog: Since we already have a regular service dog literacy program, I contacted the leader to see if additional dogs could come in.

Scooter the Safety Dog: Scooter was kind enough to join us for a storytime, so I called to see if he was available to visit that day. The children enjoyed the mascot (save for the ones who went screaming to their mommies) and Scooter’s handler read “The Lorax” to an enraptured crowed, and scooter also flapped his "wings" right along beside me for storytime activities.

Giveaways: People have commented that I have the cleanest children’s librarian space they’ve been to. This is because of my “Everything must go! Give it away, give it away, give it away now!” policy I developed towards kids stuff so that a certain librarian who shall remain nameless (she's the sup at CHS) wouldn't strangle me when we worked together. Unlike Twinkies, kids’ giveaways have a shelf life. Erasers die. Popular book titles get old. Paper looks like it’s been attacked by mice. You have about a 6 month window to turn your clutter into someone else’s prize before it starts slowly drifting into the trash column. We gave away books, pencils, bookmarks, tattoos (thanks Scooter!), and pretty much any item that wasn’t nailed down.

Volunteers: The volunteers were excellent. Even my nephew did a good job manning the giveaway table, though he complained, “Those kids kept mobbing me!” They came on time, if not early, stayed longer than I thought, and they were extremely hard working.

If you’re looking for something special to do for summer reading, don’t be afraid---go for it. And remember, even if you don’t have tons of cash to spend, there might be a boxed program or two (or five) you can borrow to help make that special day just so much more specialer.

Yes, that’s a made up word.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spa Day!

One of my favorite pastimes is shopping. I’m good at it, plus it means I’m not at home about to half-strangle my teenage nephew for wearing that same gross sweatshirt I want to burn for three weeks straight to cover up that tattoo he got. If you don’t have teens at home, here’s the scoop: when children are toddlers you count to 10. When they are preschool age you count to 3. And when they’re teenagers, you just keep counting and hope that by the time they are 25 you’ll have stopped counting and your hair will still be its original color without the help of dye.

So while I’m out mumbling numbers to myself throughout the aisles while wishing my sister had a job that didn’t require travel, I buy gifts (already started on Christmas!), clothes that look familiar because I already own similar items, and items for future programs. After Christmas is a good shopping time. Others see red, green and stars and think of Christmas. I see red and think of Valentine’s Day; I see green and think of St. Patrick’s; and the stars have me thinking of pretty much every federal holiday between May and November. Thus when I was out after Easter one year, I didn’t simply see colorful baskets with a 90% of tag and think of delicious boiled eggs smeared in Miracle Whip; I thought of Mother’s Day…and how my brother made me look bad by buying Mom a Movado watch when I simply took her out to dinner and gave her a scarf.

Since he paid for that trip to Aruba I guess I’ll forgive him.

This basket is fairly easy to make, so a good pairing for it would be the Felted Soap box program. It’s also fairly cheap. That said, if you want a lot of baskets at a decent price, please call the store manager to make arrangements beforehand.

Spa Day Program Supplies:
Felted Soap box program
Easter baskets (or on sale gift bags if you can’t find them)
Mini body scrubbers (5/$1.00 at the Dollar Tree)
Bath salts (scroll for instructions and supplies)

Optional basket items:
Face towels (I found some bulk at Big Lots)
Mini bubbles (found in the wedding section in Target and other stores)
Tissue paper
1. Make bath salts and felted soaps.
2. Arrange in the basket. Tissue paper at the bottom will make this look nicer. So will tying on a bow and inserting a card.

Bath Salt Supplies:
Epsom salts (bulk, or at the Dollar Tree)
Food coloring
Essential oils (Can buy at GNC for $5-$6 dollars)
Small containers for scooping (I use the containers from individual applesauce packages)
Ziploc bags (if this is for kids I let them just keep them in this)
Plastic baggies (NOT Ziploc) and ribbon (for teen and adult programs)

Optional salt containers:
Glass baby food jars or yogurt jars (from Trader Joe's---put out your feelers)
Rubber bands
Fabric squares (purchase at Joann’s)

The instructions are really straight forward. I print them out on 3 sheets of paper using 85 point Times New Roman font, set them out in a row on a table, and let people go down the line:

1. Place 1 scoop of salt inside a zip-top bag.
2. Place 2-3 drops of food coloring inside the bag. Seal and shake.
3. Add 1-2 drops of essential oil (see volunteer). Seal and shake.

Afterwards teens and adults can transfer their salts into plastic bags and tie it with ribbon. It you have glass jars place fabric squares overtop of the lids, secure with a rubber band, then tie on a ribbon.

Your finished product will look failry impressive for a "mere" library program, so if possible make up a basket beforehand and put it on display.

I'm still trying to let the death of Whitney Houston sink in. I got the text between discovering my nephew's tattoo and going to a party. At first I thought it was a joke, since I turned on the radio and, thanks to a lack of live DJs, the folks were talking about Chris Brown (at whom my nephew screams, "Woman beater! Woman beater!" whenever he sees him) and I figured my friend got it all wrong. Apparently she didn't. This is completely horrible, and I guess I'll spend some time watching the copy of The Bodyguard I bought last month, and continue singing "I Will Always Love You" in the shower (which I was I doing even before her passing).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We Like To Move It, Move It!

Tomorrow or Monday (or before the Mayan Apocalypse) I’ll post my personal feelings on The Help. But for now, you’ll have to be satisfied with tips on advertising.

Ever pass by those poor, unfortunate souls whose job it is to hold signs while dressed like inanimate objects? Simultaneously you think, “I wonder how many calories that burns…” and, “Wow, cell service for only $9.99 a month!” It’s catchy, but you won’t find any librarian dressed as a hot dog while doing the Running Man on the corner to advertise a cooking program.

At least not outside the Elk Grove Library.

Yet sometimes you feel as if you need to wear a sandwich board to get people into your programs, which is almost as unflattering as dressing as a questionable meat product. Programs are listed on Evanced, in calendar, but when you see stacks of flyers collecting dust you wonder if only you and the crickets for your event. However, you can get these flyers out the door in a method that doesn’t involve you tossing them in the recycle bin, cutting them into note paper, or standing at the door like a bouncer at a night club.

The reason many flyers are sitting about is the white and mint green bookmark that list tax prep info blends with the white and mint green bookmarks you set out last week that lists storytimes, which blends with the ones on some writing contest sponsored by professional wrestlers, which means none of them get moved out the door. But if you draw attention to them, about every 3rd person who asks about them will pick them up, and maybe, just maybe, take them home.

Moving the Bookmarks

Library Bookmarks
Ribbon and/or twine
Hole puncher

1. The Eye Catcher
I brought this glittery red tree to the library several years ago after I bought it for myself but my family looked at me as if I needed an intervention. Yet it goes great with these flyers for our Dr. Seuss program featuring Chicago Bear Lance Briggs that happens on Friday, March 2nd from 1-5 pm.
2. The Post-Story Craft
I know, kids’ crafts are supposed to be interactive, but have you ever tried interactive with 80 people? Doesn’t work too well. So I give them bookmarks of upcoming events, chat up the event, then have them decorate the back with crayons, (washable!) pens and stickers. Kids love stickers. Even if you run out you’ll come over and see they’ve adhered the sticker outline to their forehead and are having fun running around, ‘cause that’s what you do when you’re 2 years old.
3. The Official Bookmark
This is the best one because it gives teen volunteers something to do (quietly, at a table far, far away from you), and it makes the bookmarks so attractive that people will spot it, pick it up, then come to the front desk to ask, “Can I have this?” Which is when you say, “That bookmarks for our Friday Stitch and Chat program, and we would love for you to keep one of those bookmarks.” Simply punch a hole in the top of the bookmark and tie on a ribbon or twine. (I colored the twine with a pen because I was desperate to use up stuff we already own.) Tapering the side with scissors is optional.

Hopefully these ideas will get the flyers flying out the library!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Let Me Help You---Part 1

I could seriously talk for hours about my opinion on The Help---and I will...well I won't talk for hours, just write something you can read in 5 minutes before moving on with life. And I'll do that. Next week...I think. Right now I’m getting ready for Chicago Bear Lance Briggs to read at Elk Grove Library for Dr. Seuss Day on Friday, March 2nd at 3:30 pm, and that prep takes precedence over my opinion. For now you’ll have to be satisfied with info on how to prep book-t0-movie programs.

The Help

The book
A copy of the book discussion questions
A copy of movie discussion questions (see below)
Popcorn (food is always good)

1. Advertise. Since we’re not allowed to actually say the title online, this can be tricky. In the past I’ve called for clarification, and their guidelines DO change from time to time, but in general you can mention the movie’s year, the main actors, and a general summary of what the movie is about---plus put in the Telis phone number for those who can’t figure out that the latest animated feature with the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen is Toy Story 3. (If you have kids around you probably can’t even remember where you set your keys.) Put flyers up around the branch, and push programs at other programs. Example: I’ve set out flyers for programs in the meeting room while they’re doing tax help. I also pressed more flesh than a politician in hopes I wouldn't be talking to an empty room.

2. Read the book. Seriously. It helps when it comes to discussing things. Otherwise you sound like an ill-prepared high school student. (“I love The Chocolate War because I love chocolate. Chocolate is the best thing in the world. Don’t you love chocolate, too? I ate some this morning.”) With 15-20 programs to deal with per storytime month, I set aside storytime-free December to read it before I was once again bombarded by toddlers.

3. Go over the book discussion questions. There are others online, but I started with these.

4. After watching the movie be prepared to discuss the book and the movie for a loooooong time. The meat of our discussion lasted for over 40 minutes. It was nearly 4 pm when the last people straggled out of the room---the movie had started at 12 noon! But, the plus side of viewing The Help is that everyone feels guilty about leaving you to clean up by yourself, so you suddenly have all these people putting away chairs and asking if they could sweep.

Before doing this program I was concerned patrons might come in upset about the movie. Then I realized that most people hate trying to park in our parking lot and wouldn't come here unless it was for something good. The people who showed up in general had read the book and they were ready to articulate their feelings without beating one another with sticks. I started out with the book questions, and we continued on from there.

My made up questions:

What was your favorite scene in the movie?

What book scenes would you have liked to have seen included in the movie but were omitted?

What parts of the movie/book bothered/disturbed you?

How do you feel the movie could have been better?

Describe your reaction to hearing Skeeter’s mother, who did not work, cook, clean, run errands, raise her own children, or even provide her own food items for fundraisers denigrate African American domestic workers as “only being in it for the money.”

Upon finding Jim Crow literature in Skeeter’s bag, Hilly confronts her and states, “There are some real racists in this town.” Did you see this as Hilly being a hypocrite, or did you take this as a veiled threat? Please explain your reasons why.

What type of stereotypes did you see in the movie?

Minny mentioned that the maids were afraid to ask for minimum wage and their employers were not doing Social Security set asides. What are the implications of such practices today?

What do you feel would best describe your interactions with “The Help” of today?

Do you feel, in regards to today’s domestic labor, that our interactions with them are fine or are they tinged more with racism, sexism, classism, or something else? Explain your answer.

Motherhood is described as the “toughest job in the world.” People say if mothers were paid they would receive anywhere from $40,000 to over $100,000. Yet the median wage of a child care worker in 2008 was $9.12, or less than $19,000. Why do you feel there is such a large discrepancy between the two numbers?

Are you the help? How do you feel you are treated?

What are some things we can do to better our interaction of those serving us today? (Hint, if you come into the library and don’t get your way, don’t scream, “My taxes pay for your job!”)

General topics discussed:

Hypocrisy. The white employers were raising money to feed African children yet were demeaning their African American employees. Was it that they just didn’t get it, or that fundraising was all part of the show?

Race. That actually took up a lot of our time.

Mothers as being universal figures. (Skeeter’s mom sounded like half of our mother’s---“You’re eggs are dying!”)

Other movies that had unsettling relationships between employers and domestics. (Crash stood out.)

Redlining and segregation. I learned in one college class that upper class blacks actually live in neighborhoods with greater poverty than lower class whites due to segregation. One a neighborhood reaches about 12% black, white flight takes place. My hometown (Chicago) was recently declared the most segregated city in America. When you look around your neighborhood, what color faces do you see? Have they changed dramatically?

Female roles and sexism. Skeeter wanted a career. Elizabeth Leefolt was clearly not cut out for motherhood. Yet during this time period women were not only expected to get married and have children, women were commonly fired once their pregnancies started to show. One patron discussed how not only did potential employers ask her if she was pregnant when applying for an interview, they asked her for the date of her last period!

For my opinion on The Help, stay tuned…

Happy Super Bowl!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rose Red (Or Pink)

This shorter blog will soon be followed by a longer blog because last Saturday I showed The Help. Seeing as this library gets so empty on Saturdays I’m surprised I don’t see tumbleweed rolling down the aisle, I was shocked when people not only came for the movie, they stayed for the discussion.

We talked.

And talked...

And kept talking.

Forty minutes later I wound the discussion down; some people stayed until almost 4 pm. They asked, “When’s the next movie discussion?” To which I thought, “Can I recover from this one?” Program prep translated into reading the book, watching the movie, creating questions, reading reviews and criticisims, and, of course, finding someone to operate the popcorn machine because I really didn’t feel like cleaning it.


For those who want to know about “The Help” and get discussion questions, come back next week.

About that craft…

By now everyone knows how much I love paper and its dehydrating effects on my hands. So when I saw construction paper so old it gets a pension, I thought why not use it for Valentine’s postcards? It’s simple, you can’t tell the paper was bought during Regan’s first term, and it uses up our old flyers. This is good for drop in crafts.

Heart-Shaped Roses Postcards

Kiddy scissors (even if they beg for the sharp kind)
Construction paper---full sheets
Scrap paper---assorted colors
Old half-sheet bookmarks
Valentine’s postcard templates
Glue stick
1. Cut the full sheet construction paper into quarters; cut the postcard templates out. Cut the half-sheet flyers in half. Trim about ¼ of an inch off the top and one side.
2. Glue the template to one side of the postcard.
3. Glue the old flyer to the other side of the postcard.

4. Using scrap paper, cut out 5 heart shapes and stems. Tape the stems to the back of the flowers.
5. With the flowers face down, place arrange them in a bouquet and tape them to one another.
6. Tape the flowers to the front of the postcard, preferably with double-sided tape. If you would like to keep one as a sample, I recommend laminating it.

Someone got me thinking of old school R&B, so I hope you like Boyz II Men. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Easiest. Craft. Ever.

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day---time for chocolate, cards, and/or burning all of your ex’s stuff. It used to be you only hosted parties for happy events. “Look, I’m getting married/having a baby/cured my bad case of hangnails!” Now you can celebrate Anti-Valentine’s Day or throw a divorce party with a “Bring Your Own Bottle” note in the invitation. (Though technically speaking, many would say divorcing someone you loathe is a happy event, too.) Honestly, I was ready to leave that one after the cops showed up, but I was vetoed and had to stay until I crawled out to the car at 2 am while complaining, “I went to work today! Or yesterday! What day is it? Why did you have to put ‘no kids’ in the invite? What kind of crappy parent would even think to bring their kids to this type of party anyway?”

Don’t answer that.

Typically we make cards for Valentines, but depending on whom you send cards to (males), it can be a complete waste. My mother was ready to strangle my brother through the phone when she discovered he’d tossed her beautiful $6 Christmas card. In his defense he said, “What else did you want me to do with it?” Survey says: she wanted you to keep it. Not forever. But at least until January 1st. “From now on he gets the cheap cards!” Another relative didn’t even bother to open his card. His response: “Oh, I threw it away. Thanks for the gift.” I wish I had been there to see him digging through the dumpster when he discovered I’d put money in it. Had he not found the envelope I was completely ready to lie and say, “There was $500 in that envelope! I can’t believe you threw away $500! I should be reimbursed!”

That would have made it the second best Christmas ever.

So it is officially established cards are off the list for men, but what’s an alternative? The following is an easy craft perfect for children to give to their parents, broke teenagers to give to each other, and women to give that special someone that screams, “I like you, but you’re not particularly useful and your FICO score is too low for this to go to the next level.”

Decorative Mugs
Ceramic mugs from IKEA
Sharpies---assorted colors
Rubbing alcohol
Paper towels
A watchful eye
Chocolate (optional)

1. Number the Sharpies. Honestly, the hardest part of this craft is keeping track of the pens.

2. Give each person 1 mug and 1 pen. Explain that when they are done they have to return the pen.

3. If they complain about the pen's color and, “I want purple!” tell them whining is not attractive and they need to switch with another person because you’re not giving them 2 pens and that’s life.

4. Let them decorate the mugs.

5. After they are finished decorating (which takes a lot longer than it seems possible with all the talking) get back 1 pen from each of them, not letting them leave until every pen is accounted for.

6. If a teen tells you they don’t have a pen, explain they’d better make one materialize out of thin air or prove there’s a ghost in the room.

7. Realize that despite all your hard work, you will always be 1-2 pens short of what you started with. If this makes you feel bad, eat some chocolate.

8. Use rubbing alcohol and paper towels to clean up the tables should any ink get on them. If you can’t find rubbing alcohol use hand sanitizer.

This craft is so easy, I wish there was an IKEA right in Elk Grove, and I’m not just saying that because I like to mindlessly wander through the store while eating cinnamon rolls.


And now, time for the perfect Valentine's Day song...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Waiving the White Flag

Don’t you just love princesses? This Halloween my home was inundated with young girls hoping to live in the lap of luxury, marry rich, wear beautiful clothes, and have people wait on them hand and foot despite having few useful skills and zero talent whatsoever. Gee, does that remind you of anyone…

…I just can’t think of who that reminds me of.

Oh, well. I’m certain it will come to me later.

A good 30 princesses (and some adults who knew better) showed up on my porch before I got tired and poured enough candy into that last trick-or-treater’s pillow case to send her into a diabetic coma. I wasn’t feeling the whole royalty thing. Maybe it has something to do with that when a 5 year old boy dresses up as Spiderman, he won’t want to be Spiderman at age 18; but when a 5 year old girl dresses up as a princess, there’s a 1 in 3 chance she’ll be on a cable wedding show at age 30 throwing a tantrum over tiaras. Plus, if you really pay attention to the plotlines of any Disney movie, you’ll realize the message they send out, for lack of a better term, sucks.

See what I mean?

That said, this past summer reading we made princess flags.

Okay, they were really birthday flags, but I found all these crown stickers in the storage room that I needed to get rid of. Old craft material is like pencils---if you keep putting off using it one day you’ll take it out and discover the eraser is so old it’s hard enough to fly across the room and poke someone’s eye out, and then you’ll have to do paperwork. How awful! The birthday flag idea came out of the SR2011 binder. You know what they say, if all else fails, read the manual/directions/street sign. The thing is, if you look through your old binder (if it’s not buried in a pile of recycling) there are no actual directions on how to make them. So here it goes:

Birthday/Princess/Pirate/Dream Flags


Paper (old letterhead anyone?)
Stapler (hopefully with staples actually in it)
Colored pencils, crayons and/or pens
Volunteers OR music to make the time go faster (Craft prep can be tedious...)

1. Wash your hands and wipe the inside of the stapler.
2. Fold paper in half lengthwise. Cut along the fold two make two sheets. Set one aside for later.

3. Fold your half sheet in half. If it’s used, make sure the writing is on the inside.

4. Wrap the paper around the narrower end of the chopstick (to prevent the paper from falling off).
5. Staple the top and bottom near the chopstick. You may have to (gently) fold the paper in half to do this. Place on staple in the center right-side opening.
6. Rinse and repeat.

The nice thing about this craft is you can have volunteers prep the flags weeks ahead of time, set them in a box, and have everything ready for label. Just be sure to label the box, so as not to forget and leave the box laying around until 2014.