Toward the end of last year (November 17, 2017, to be exact), I posted my Top Ten list of books I had been looking forward to earlier in the year, and books I was looking forward to in 2018. Now we’re nearing the end of 2018, and it’s time to see how things went. Those who are familiar with Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column – or really anyone who always has a to-read list going – know that some books never quite rise to the top of the list, even if you really meant to read them, while others jump the queue. Here are the ones I was planning to read:
I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman (YA/new adult)
I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (memoir)
Starlings by Jo Walton (short fiction and poetry)
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel/memoir)
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (YA)
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn (fiction)
The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (sci-fi/fantasy)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (gothic romance)
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (nonfiction)
Hunger by Roxane Gay (memoir)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (fantasy)
Walking Home by Simon Armitage (nonfiction/memoir/poetry)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
I’ve done pretty well with this list, even with queue-jumpers; the only ones I haven’t read (yet!) are Mrs. Queen, Daniel Kahneman, Roxane Gay, and Walking Home. Of the rest, I really enjoyed them all, but Jemisin’s trilogy was particularly outstanding for its world-building, character development, and storytelling structure/perspective, and Transcription was incredible as well; when Kate Atkinson observes that “The mark of a good agent is when you have no idea which side they’re on,” file that away for later. And Maggie O’Farrell continues to amaze me; I’ll read anything she writes.
Re-reading: I used to love re-reading, but when I started working in publishing and then in libraries, there were always so many enticing new books I didn’t re-read the ones I liked nearly as often as I used to. This fall I’ve made more time for re-reading, including the Harry Potter series (I’ve re-read the first six since the end of August). I plan to re-read the seventh, and maybe The Cursed Child as well. I’m also planning to re-read The Princess Bride (that was on my mental list for November/December even before the sad news that Bill Goldman passed away). And December wouldn’t be quite complete without re-reading Greenglass House by Kate Milford, though maybe this year I’ll re-read Ghosts of Greenglass House or Bluecrowne by her instead.
Community Reads: In addition to continuing to serve on the Arlington Reads Together committee, I’ve been drafted to be on the Winchester Reads committee, which means I have a nice new stack of books to read before our next meeting in February; I’m not sure if our shortlist is public knowledge yet so I won’t say what those titles are, but there are some strong candidates and I’m looking forward to starting them…after I finish S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure.
2019: It looks like Nick Laird’s new poetry collection will be out next summer. I’m also hoping for the next Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, and Audrey Niffenegger’s sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’m sure there are plenty of other books to look forward to – what’s on your radar for next year?
It was a rather dreary 50-degree morning and storytime was packed! There were at least 15 kids in the 2-3-year range, plus several younger siblings, including babies. We skipped the name song, but along with announcements, I pointed out the five early literacy practices that I always put up on the board – Read, Talk, Sing, Play, Write – and reminded caregivers and parents that doing those five things every day build the skills that will help kids learn to read.
Hello song with ASL
Sam and Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen: This went over okay, but I think it’s a better one-on-one book, or maybe a better read-aloud for the preschool group. The illustrations are a bit subtle from a distance.
Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle” – We had a lot of littler ones this time, and grown-ups were great about chiming in and singing.
Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough: This was a bit better, and I had a prop, thanks to a toddler who dragged in one of our larger stuffed bears.
“Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” – Very good! Every kid knew the song and did the motions as best they could.
Handed out scarves for Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow, which has a hide-and-seek element. Again, this one might have been better for a slightly older group; it’s very good one-on-one, as the elephant is usually pretty obvious and the kids have fun pointing it out in each picture. Collected scarves.
Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” – at least one kid was super excited about this song. I do it twice, in case it’s unfamiliar to anyone and they miss the countdown/blastoff bit at the end the first time through.
Thank YouBear by Greg Foley: Simple, sweet, and just right for this group today. Bear finds a box that he wants to give to his friend Mouse, which makes it a great segue into…
Not A Box by Antoinette Portis: Also just right for this group! Someone checked it out after storytime. (I always put all the books I read to the side so people can check them out afterward.)
Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot”
One Pup’s Up by Marsha Wilson Chall and Henry Cole
Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood: This one is short and lends itself to being read with plenty of expression; it was pretty well received and a good one to end on.
Goodbye song with ASL
Clean up mats, put on music, dance in bubbles!
Next week we’re closed on Monday for Veterans’ Day, and I’m hoping that by the week after that I’ll have my yoga cube ready to go so we can do some yoga poses in storytime. I also want to make sure I have a more diverse batch of books next time; I try to keep a 50/50 gender balance but today’s books were more by male authors.
Last week I was at the NELA annual conference and missed storytime, so I was happy to be back to it this morning, and we had a full house even on a very rainy day!
I’ve had Mem Fox’s Where Is The Green Sheep? as an alternate for a few weeks now, and this morning I quickly made a few flannel sheep to go with it. I also found a big stuffed sheep in one of our storage closets, and that generated a lot of excitement right away, so even before we sang the hello song I let any kid who wanted to come up and pet the sheep.
After our welcome announcements (keep the door clear, feel free to come and go as needed), we sang our hello song with ASL. Then we sang the name song; there were about ten kids at the beginning of our storytime (plus a brand-new baby, sibling to one of the kids), and a few went out but more came in throughout.
Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel: I cannot overstate what a great first book this is. The text is so minimal, the pictures so bright and interesting, and so many opportunities for interactivity (e.g. waving arms like an octopus for “Hello bend”)
Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: I used the flannel board for this one, and had plenty of volunteers to remove the fruit as the caterpillar ate it. It was surprisingly orderly.
Song cube: “ABCs”
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: Also such a great book for this age, with simple text but lots of opportunities for counting and movement; in the middle of the book we marched around in a circle (well, a circle-ish shape). Tie-in craft at the end!
Song cube: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek: I used the flannel board again, with four sheep I’d whipped up this morning before storytime started.
One Little Blueberry by Tammi Salzano, illustrated by Kat Whelan: I hadn’t set out to do a counting-theme storytime, but lots of today’s books were counting books. Another simple book with a surprise at the end.
Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: This one has been a hit every time. I invite kids to stand up if they want to so they can do the animal imitations (waddle like a penguin, hop like a kangaroo), and when the girl and her monkey fall asleep at the end of the story, that quiets everyone back down again. Perfect.
Goodbye song with ASL
Cleaned up sitting mats
Taped purple butcher paper to the floor and put out glue sticks and paper elephants (also made this morning – thank you, die-cut machine!). I just let them glue the elephants down wherever they wanted on the paper, but with an older group, we could have made patterns with the colors, or drawn a line and had the elephants “march” along a parade route.
Tuesday, 9am: ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo’s “Big Ideas” Talk: “Libraries = Strong Communities”
ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo’s speech put libraries at the center of their communities, and gave examples of the many different ways libraries serve their communities, from the usual (“When it comes to connecting people to information, librarians do it better than anyone…We promote reading, lifelong learning skills, equal access to information for ALL”) to the unusual (one library has partnered with a hospital so that every time a baby is born there, the mother can push a button and a gong rings in the library to announce the birth).
Garcia-Febo showed a slide of the text of Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” She said, “Access to information is at the core of what librarians do” – and access to information leads to education, citizen engagement, and empowerment….Libraries play a critical role in leveling the playing field.”
She concluded, “We are all creating the library of the future every day. We need to continue working with community members and local organizations….Libraries are the cornerstones of democracy….Information is a human right.”
Additional resources with links, and tweets below:
Tuesday, 11am: Free Speech & Libraries, Edward Fitzpatrick
Much of the content of Ed Fitzpatrick’s talk can be found in his October 2017 Providence Journal article, “Nation needs First Amendment refresher course.” The roomful of librarians (unsurprisingly) did much better than the national average at identifying the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment, and after the talk there was some articulate pushback on the pithy idea that “The best answer to hate speech is great speech.”
A particular dilemma faced in libraries centers around our public meeting rooms. If they are open to all, does that mean we must allow hate groups such as the KKK to use them? A July 2018 feature in School Library Journal, updated with comments by Jamie LaRue and a sidebar by Martin Gardnar, “Free Speech Debate Erupts with ALA’s Inclusion of Hate Groups in Revision of Bill of Rights Interpretation,” summarizes the issue neatly. In short, the ALA’s answer is yes. (So is Ed Fitzpatrick’s: ““When you’re a public library, you’re committed to that public experiment…It doesn’t mean the library is supporting or welcoming these groups or advocating for them.”) But there are other things libraries can do to show that we don’t agree with hate speech or hate groups. However, no matter how inclusive our collections, how welcoming our displays, or how diverse our events, patrons who are the target of such hate groups may well feel threatened and unsafe in the library.
Fitzpatrick cited two books repeatedly, both by Anthony Lewis: Gideon’s Trumpet (1964) and Freedom for the Thought We Hate (2007). Even as he defended free speech, including hate speech, he admitted, “Hate speech does exact a toll. We all pay a price, some more than others….Such freedom carries a real cost.” Fitzpatrick, a white man, may not bear as much of that cost as others in our society.
Tuesday lunch: Gregory Maguire
The author of Wicked (the book the Broadway show was based on) and many, many other books for children, teens, and adults spoke during Tuesday’s lunch, and he was an amusing and engaging speaker. I hadn’t known much about his childhood, or all the picture books he wrote, and I may dip into one of his more recent novels (After Alice) – it’s been a long time since I read Wicked or tried (but didn’t finish) Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Here are some tweets from the talk:
Tuesday, 2:30pm: Ignite!
The “Ignite!” sessions are quick, five-minute presentations on various topics:
“Time Travel Toolkit: Historical Maker Activities for Modern Kids,” Elise Petrarca, Youth Services Librarian, Cranston PL: Attendance at kids’ technology programs (like 3D printing and coding) was dropping off, so Petrarca used her background in history to come up with a new series of programs, branded “Time Travel Toolkit,” featuring stories and crafts related to a particular time period. Open to kids in grades 3-8, the goals of the program were to provide a unique, hands-on experience around an era of history, and to engage kids so they have fun and learn a little bit. It was a success, with the older kids helping the younger ones. The most popular activities were bread baking and butter churning (nor surprising, if they got to eat their creations…).
Sue Sullivan talked about ArtWeek (#ArtWeekMA); many ArtWeek events take place in collaboration with Massachusetts libraries.
“Collapse & Rebirth: Librarians as Architects of a New Humanity,” Madeleine Charney, UMass Amherst: Charney talked about hosting discussions on climate change, using the World Cafe dialogue model. She also recommended the book Emergent Strategy: shaping change, shaping worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown.
Four presenters from Johnson & Wales University presented “Who’s Got Your Back? Empowering Student Chat Ambassadors”: J&W librarians talked about training student employees to answer chat questions, and the results of their training.
“Touchscreen Digital Displays to Showcase Local History at the Watertown Free Public Library,” Brita Zitin: Zitin spoke about how they had made local history more accessible to library users in Watertown by placing touchscreens throughout the building. Using the software Intuiface, they made an interactive historical map, partnered with their local history society to make biographies of local historical figures, and – always popular – made features from high school yearbooks (such as guessing the decade from the hairstyle).
“From Reference Desk to Genius Bar, Public Libraries of Brookline” Callan Bignoli: Bignoli spoke about rethinking how library staff offers tech help at the (very busy) Brookline Public Library. In addition to one-on-one tech appointments, patrons can now come during drop-in tech help sessions, “Lunch and learn” sessions, and use LibChat reference. Bignoli’s advice if you’re rethinking how you offer tech help at your library:
Make sure staff are prepared – not for everything, but for many things.
Think about who’s coming in (and when). What are they asking you for help with?
Meet people where they are.
Try to get them what they came for. Does the format fit the person/topic? (Class, drop-in, 1-on-1)
Finally, Anna Mickelson from the Springfield City Library and Alene Moroni from the Forbes Library in Northampton presented “Weed This, Not That.” (Aside: I just noticed that the Springfield City Library’s tag line is “All Yours, Just Ask,” which is brilliant.) Their rapid-fire presentation included two case studies with before-and-after pictures (Before: crammed shelves. After: shelves with plenty of space for face-out titles, and no books too high to reach or so low they’re on the ground). When there’s “too much stuff” on the shelf, “people can’t find what they need. Find a reason to keep something not a reason to get rid of it.” Weed in accordance with library mission, space, etc. Different methods include item-by-item, “dusty” lists (low/no circulation in last __ years), and at the shelf (e.g. pulling books that have obvious problems like torn covers, water damage, or appallingly out-of-date information). Use professional discretion; you can do things like keeping series while getting rid of years-old “incandescent debuts,” and keep the inclusive, diverse books (put them on display!) and “get rid of the old white guys.”
Are you excited to weed, but need some talking points to convince others in your library? Weeding makes room for new items, seating areas, welcoming spaces, display opportunities, and it increases circulation. After all, “Do you still have every pair of shoes you’ve ever bought?”
All in all, a fantastic conference experience. Thank you to all the presenters, NELA and RILA, and the staff of the Crown Plaza in Warwick – professional, courteous, and unflustered in the face of fire alarms.
The New England Library Association (NELA) annual conference was in Warwick, Rhode Island this year, and it was a fantastic conference; all of the sessions I attended were worthwhile, and I saw lots of activity on Twitter (#NELA2018) to indicate that many other sessions were generating a lot of excitement as well. To top it off, the food was good, and the room temperature resembled neither saunas nor igloos. Well done, Rhode Island! Now, on to the sessions:
Monday, 9am: Finding Appeal Factors: Or What I’ve Learned from Being Twitter’s Resident Reader’s Advisory Specialist by Margaret Willison (@MrsFridayNext)
Willison had spoken the evening before about debunking the myth that “smart people like smart things and dumb people like dumb things.” Her presentation Monday morning was two-pronged: (1) how to learn to like what you don’t like (e.g. how to recommend horror if you don’t read/watch horror), and (2) cross-format recommendations (e.g. “I just watched ___, what should I read next?”). She talked about the need to step outside your natural tastes and build enthusiasm/information for other things; a great way to do this is to ask an articulate friend, and have them explain why they like what they like (not why you should like what they like). By discovering the appeal factors, you can build a common ground and work back. After all, “Just because something isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean you can’t understand why someone else likes it.”
Willison did a live example with an audience member who reads the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, finding out the appeal factors, making a “wrong” recommendation (a series of books that matched in character and content, but differed in tone). This can be done for music and movies as well as for books, and that’s where cross-format recommendations come in. See, for example, NPR’s Read, Watch, Binge series (and while you’re at it, check out their incredible Book Concierge tool, which they make annually; here’s 2017). Other resources are Goodreads, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and The Ripped Bodice (for romance), The Criminal Element and Stop, You’re Killing Me! (for mysteries and thrillers), and the publisher TOR (for sci-fi and fantasy).
Monday, 11:30am: Sensory Storytime at the Public Library by Babs Wells, Maria Cotto
Shifting gears from adult readers’ advisory to children’s services, I attended two librarians’ joint presentation about sensory storytimes they offer at their libraries. Sensory storytime is geared for kids on the autism spectrum or with other developmental issues, though neurotypical children are welcome. Wells and Cotto strongly encouraged anyone thinking of offering a sensory storytime to use the book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Barbara Klipper, and also pointed to an ALSC blog post that serves as a brief how-to guide. It’s important to be aware of community resources as well, to partner with and to spread the word. (If you’re in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or nearby, check out The Autism Project.)
Wells and Cotto described their usual sensory storytime, starting with registration: not required, but helpful, especially if it gives the librarian a chance to talk with the parent/caregiver beforehand about any special needs their child might have. They might also want a “social story,” a one-page handout that can help prepare the child for a new environment or event; it can be read like a picture book. Once the storytime has begun, it’s helpful to have visuals for everything, to ease transitions from one activity to another (books, bubbles, songs, activities, etc.). Starting with a hello song is a good idea; the librarian learns everyone’s names (parents too!) and can roll a ball to each kid and have them roll it back. Cotto said she always has a felt board or a puppet, and stools or mats for kids to sit on, and things for them to hold in their hands and fidget with. “These kids need something that will capture their attention, they need something in their hands, they like to participate.” She only reads one book, something like Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd or The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood. “Go with the flow,” she advised – much like toddler storytime. After the organized part of sensory storytime, it’s playtime: they bring out more activities – popsicle sticks with velcro on the ends so kids can make different shapes, sensory sand, water marbles (but not together!), dried beans with little treasures kids can find and scoop into a cup. This can be a time for parents and caregivers to socialize (they shouldn’t be socializing or on phones during storytime; they should be involved. “I get in everyone’s faces!” Cotto said). Be sure to give plenty of warning when the program is wrapping up: five minutes, three, one, goodbye!
Lastly, remember: “When you meet one child with autism, you meet one child with autism.”
Monday, 12:45pm: NERTCL Lunch with author Tracey Baptiste
The New England Roundtable of Teen and Children’s Librarians (NERTCL) had their annual business meeting over lunch and then invited author Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies, Rise of the Jumbies) to speak. She tried out a new talk on us, “Creativity Under Pressure.” Here are my tweets from the session, which was probably less polished than one she’d given many times, but definitely interesting (and mark your calendars for the third Jumbies book next year!).
Monday, 2:15pm: Fake News or Real News? Helping Our Patrons Tell Fact from Fake, by Victoria Palmatier and Lisa Lipshires, Springfield City Library
Palmatier and Lipshires’ initial workshop was a lecture format followed by discussion, and they said that next time, they would offer a more hands-on approach in their computer lab. Another great idea they had was to have a copy of the day’s local paper for each workshop attendee, and then look at the local news online as well. They said that an in-person workshop makes the library and librarians seem approachable and legitimate, and as resources that can provide human connection in a meaningful way and make the world less confusing. (We all know we’re not going to change anyone’s mind on Facebook…)
Monday, 4:30pm (slightly delayed due to fire alarm): Great Expectations: Leaping from High School to College, by Sarah Hunicke (Portsmouth High School), Mary C. MacDonald (University of Rhode Island), and Marianne Mirando (Westerly High School)
There is a gap between what college and university professors expect in terms of research skills and information literacy and the students’ abilities in these areas. Because this year’s high school senior is next year’s college freshman, these three presenters worked together to examine what high school librarians (and high school teachers) can do to bridge the gap. College faculty expect students to be able to: 1. determine information needed to answer questions, 2. recognize information bias, 2. distinguish scholarly vs. popular, 3. understand the publishing cycle.
“Where do our students struggle?” Practice, Process, Assessment. “Where do our instructors struggle?” Assignment design (format vs content), Process (time commitment), Additional burden (grading). The two high school librarians who were presenting wanted to help teachers integrate information literacy into their students’ assignments without greatly increasing their grading burden. They each brought an example assignment from their schools, and we split into groups to come up with ways to do just that. In one case, it was as simple as adding a section on research quality to the grading rubric, and having the students hand in an annotated bibliography early in the process. Of course, librarians can also model searching library databases and online, showing students how to broaden or narrow searches as needed, and how to use keywords instead of natural language; if students see librarians working through problems (like getting no results, or too many results), they feel more confident to work through the same problems themselves.
Some teachers may not seek librarians’ help or even accept it when it is offered; however, the idea of “coaching” is big in K-12 education right now, so one approach librarians can take is to ask teachers, “If you’re not happy with your students’ sources/bibliographies, what can we do about that?” and work together.
And that was Monday! Stay tuned for Tuesday’s sessions: the ALA President’s “Big Ideas” speech, the First Amendment in libraries, Gregory Maguire, and the Ignite sessions (quick, 5-minute presentations on different topics).
Roopika Risam, of Salem State, worked with researchers at Columbia University and the University of Houston to produce Torn Apart/Separados, a data visualization project using public data (including a previously FOIAd list of detention centers and children’s shelters in the U.S.) to show the locations of ICE detention centers and their funding. Risam said that she and other researchers asked themselves, “Can we [librarians, students, faculty] mobilize the skills we have to respond in times of crisis? Who are the people on the ground (lawyers, families), how can we be helpful to them?” The result was “Torn Apart/Separados,” released June 2018. Volume 2 – “to follow the money,” i.e. government contracts – was released later, and Risam showed us the “murderboard,” which shows connections between products, contractors, and subsidiaries.
Next, we heard from Chuck Collins, author of Born on Third Base and Is Inequality in America Irreversible? Starting with personal stories, he also gave an overview of how the U.S. was on track to becoming a more equal society after WWII, when progressive taxation was invested in public goods like infrastructure, education, and mortgage loans. The American Dream of social mobility was much more possible then than it is now; now, the American Dream is more achievable in Canada.
Since the 1970s, assets at the top have multiplied with little to no effort, while wages have stagnated. Wealth at the top has now reached “absurdist levels,” with the combined wealth of the 400 richest individuals in the U.S. equaling the combined wealth of the bottom 60% of households in the country; the three richest individuals (Bezos, Buffet, and Gates) have as much as the bottom 50% of households. Almost one in five households have zero or negative net worth; the “precariat” is largest-growing group in this country. If we look at the story through the lens of race, a median white family has 35x wealth of a median Black family and 27x wealth of a median Latinx family.
Is this inequality good for anyone? No. (See: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty.) How do we make things more equal? There are plenty of answers, but the main one seems to be creating and maintaining a “social floor” or a “decency floor,” through which people cannot fall. Is this a “welfare state”? No, it’s a “pro-work state” that supports its people at a foundational level, adding security to everyone’s lives.
“What a good society does is it recycles opportunity,” says Collins. If you have millions or billions of dollars, you didn’t do it alone. But if you admit that you had help, you’re obligated to ensure a more level playing field for others. If you believe you did it alone (on hard work and merit), then you believe anyone else can do the same. “Powerful stories hold inequality in place,” such as “the myth of deservedness.” For some families – mostly white – public subsidies and assistance programs have led to stability, and wealth that can be passed down, but the recipients of this inheritance don’t always understand its origins. We can begin dismantling the myth of deservedness by identifying instances of advantage of privilege. “Tell true stories of how advantage works. Tell true stories about advantage.”
Next up, we heard from Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality. Eubanks talked like most of my favorite teachers and professors: fast, energetic, full of memorable examples and cases, with plenty of evidence (some of it rendered in easily digestible, yet horrifying, cartoon form), wisdom and a sense of humor.
Eubanks described a number of terrible systems, from the Allegheny Family Screening Tool in Pennsylvania to the process for applying for public benefits in Indiana to the systems used in Los Angeles to match unhoused people with affordable housing.
Like Collins, Eubanks brought up the idea of a social floor or a decency floor; she called it the universal floor. One of her slides said, “For 200 years the US has chosen moral thermometers over universal floors in public services.” She said, “Tools have not gotten better or fairer over time, they’ve gotten faster and scaled up. The narrative of austerity says there’s not enough for everyone and we have to make difficult decisions about who deserves basic human rights.” Tech tools promise to address bias, but really they just hide it, often leading to “a feedback loop of injustice.”
Do people really mean to create these systems? It doesn’t take bad intentions to create bad impacts. Speaking of the 58,000 unhoused people in L.A. and the shortage of affordable housing there (and she went into the history of that a little bit), Eubanks said, “Triage only makes sense if there are more resources coming. If there aren’t more resources coming, it’s not triage, it’s rationing….The fundamental danger of these systems is that they make us think small.”
So, what do we do? (1) Change the story about poverty; (2) Shift from diagnosis to universal floors; (3) Design less harmful technology. Eubanks said, “If you make these systems poorly, they’re only cheap at first. If you do them well, they’re time- and labor-intensive and expensive. It’s very expensive to punish poor people for being poor….I believe it would be much less expensive to create a universal basic floor.”
The conference ended with a moderated discussion and Q&A with Collins and Eubanks. Andrea Fiorillo of the Reading Public Library started off with a question about the importance of storytelling. Eubanks answered, “The key to dismantling the digital poorhouse is changing the way how we think, talk, and feel about poverty.” She added, “We have to understand our own experience differently….It’s a system we’re supposed to use to share national wealth so we’re investing in each other.” Collins, in addition to the “myth of deservedness,” mentioned the “myth of disconnectedness” and the “myth of superiority.” His audience is often wealthy, and he challenges them to demystify their advantage and tell their true story. He said, “Do an inventory – what forms of help did you get? Understand that advantage is multigenerational. We are shaming people who need help and that rebounds on the whole culture.”
One question/comment from the audience raised the issue that the often-praised Nordic countries with strong social floors are more homogenous than the U.S.; is it more challenging to create a social floor in a more diverse country? “Racism has been used to divide people,” Collins said, and Eubanks stated, “We don’t have to be the same to take care of each other.”
They also discussed the ways in which people opt into their communities or opt out of them. For many, there are plenty of everyday choices that add up to supporting and being part of a community, or not: drive or take the bus? Send kids to public school or private? Order from Amazon or go to the local library or bookstore? In many cases, the affluent (not just the superrich) are opting out. “Be accountable to the other people who live in your community.”
Speaking of communities and libraries, “Public libraries and their partners can be places for face-to-face conversations. The more stakeholders the better,” said Collins. And Eubanks noted the ways in which librarians have filled in as de facto caseworkers for social services, as many applications are online and many people still don’t have internet access at home.
Overall, there are reasons to be optimistic; namely, the solutions to many of these problems are clear. The real issue is, is the political will there? And can we act fast enough?
Last week the library was closed for Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, so there was no storytime, but this week we were back in action! We started with seven kids, mostly on the younger side of our range, but as usual, more trickled in throughout and we probably had more than 10 altogether.
Hello song with ASL from Jbrary
Name song (“____ is here today, let’s all clap our hands, ___ is here today”)
The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: this one went over pretty well! It’s fun to read, and it’s a little long for some of the younger ones but it’s got a pattern they can follow.
Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot”
Handed out scarves for Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda. Blow on the scarves (or just wave them) when the wolf huffs and puffs! Collected scarves.
Song cube: “ABCs”
Let children come up and select shaker egg or bells for 88 Instruments by Chris Barton, illustrated by Louis Thomas. Practiced shaking and making noise, then being quiet with hands (and instruments) in laps. Collected instruments after the book (and one last good shake).
Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. Explained that “abuela” means “grandmother” and “vamanos” means “let’s go,” otherwise let the pictures and text speak for themselves. This is the first time I’ve read this book in storytime and people seemed to really love the pictures.
Song cube: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”
The Steves by Morag Hood. Such a funny book, adults and kids both responded well to the humor. Nice bright pictures work well for storytime also. Could do a tie-in craft with puffin coloring sheets or gluing pieces together. Or color puffins and then glue them onto one big sheet to make a puffin colony!
Song cube: “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (I usually end with “if you’re sleepy and you know it, give a yawn,” and stretch and sit back down; this is a good quieting technique)
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: “Hug-O-War,” “Early Bird,” and “Pancake?”
Goodbye song with ASL from Jbrary
Clean up colored sitting mats, put on music (“Shake Your Sillies Out,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “Skip to my Lou”), blow bubbles, dance!