29 December 2007

Road Map:: Christmas Day around Somerset and Bedford, PA

With most of our family and friends far away, what's a couple to do on Christmas Day? Hit the road, obviously, and book it to Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) to visit a close friend. With warmth in our hearts and a longing for more library pizzazz, we took the PA Turnpike-- and each stop for merry picture-taking made the toll more expensive. It was still worthwhile, though, since I can't seem to stop seeking sweet libraries...

Behold the Mary S. Biesecker Public Library in freezing Somerset!

Man, I love creating the illusion of athleticism.

Less than an hour later, we came upon the Bedford County Library in miraculously sunnier and warmer Bedford.

Gracias a mi esposo maravilloso Michael. Learning the exact science of clicking the shutter while I'm in mid-air is no easy feat. Muchos besos, mi amor.

Coming soon:
More adventure! More scheming! More excitement in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York!

20 December 2007

Tips and Bits:: Running an Anime/Manga Club

Last year, I ran one of the most highly-attended anime/manga clubs in the San Antonio Public Library system. Not bad for a part-time library assistant.

What was so charming about my club? First of all, I lived in Japan for three years. As soon as I said that, the teens were enthralled. I got questions like, "Is it as cool as we all think it is?" or "Are you crazy? Why did you ever leave?" I don't like to brag, so it's not like I would talk about Japan so I could go, "Bam, son!" Sometimes, making a reference to Japanese culture just happens to be the right thing to say.

Clearly, though, the way I relate to teens is not based solely on having lived somewhere totally rad. (Yes, I'm bringing "rad" back.) There are plenty of other things that can be done to ensure that an anime/manga club becomes-- and remains-- exciting and fun. Once I get another anime/manga club of my own, I'll make sure to repeat the successes of the past by doing the following:
  • Let them choose a name for their club.
    This club is where teens can meet other teens. It is a source of identity, in a way. Give them control over what they can call their clan. The club I headed chose to name themselves "The Otaku Ninjas." They even came up with a hilarious and endearing signature Otaku Ninja move. So let them throw ideas around and don't cringe visibly. They should get to contribute to the atmosphere of the club just as much as you.
  • Create meetings worth attending.
    Of course, showing anime is fun but that shouldn't be your end goal. Go the extra mile and design a fun activity for each meeting. I've done Japan Jeopardy contests, action writing seminars, and lessons on Japanese language, calligraphy and origami. Use your resources! Try getting ideas for short programs online-- such as this innovative teen programming wiki created by my librarian friend Michael E. Cox-- or even teacher's manuals. Wee icebreakers go a long way; you might find something inspiring at Dave's ESL Cafe. If something doesn't work, get creative. Change things around, if possible. Whether it's a game, craft, debate, or whatever, they'll be happier doing something than nothing at all.
  • Let the kids talk.
    Maybe they've been cooped up in boring classes. Oh yes, they will want to talk. There are worse things than a loud group of teens, like having no attendees at all. At the same time, pay attention to their interaction. Some things are just not cool, like punching or bullying. At one of my meetings, a girl brought in this awesome Sailor Moon baton that lit up. It got thrown around too dramatically and someone broke it. Make sure that respect is a rule from day one.
  • Learn from them.
    I got to know a lot about anime and manga during really productive meetings. The kids would start talking about the latest anime they were infatuated with. Chobits. Cromartie High School. Azumanga Daioh. Show interest in these suggestions. Spend a few hours learning about them, even if it means reading some manga that you don't care for. I've had mini gush-fests over which Death Note character was more appealing, Light or L. Talk to them about the material they enjoy and they will keep coming back. (Useful websites: ADV Films, Anime News Network, Manga Updates)
  • Assert your role with grace.
    They know plenty of teens, so you don't have to start acting like one. You are the leader. Be accessible, be fair, and above all, stay involved. Some of my Otaku Ninjas started coming to the library more, not just for the club meetings. They quickly realized that I was there for them if they needed me and that their ideas for the club were important to me. I've heard of some teen clubs that run themselves, with very little librarian participation. I'm personally biased against that model. It will only work so long as the kids have the energy for it, and the demands on their time are great. Make sure that you are in charge so you can keep the club going after the teens start leading adult lives and may no longer attend. And don't rely on flyers around the library to be your sole mode of advertising. Be vocal. If you see a teen checking out a manga, tell them about your club!
  • Collaborate on a special event.
    By throwing ideas around we came up with the Otaku Ninja Cafe, a festival celebrating Japanese culture. Everyone got to contribute: one teen created the flyer, another made cupcakes, another brought Dance Dance Revolution. All were encouraged to dress up as in a cosplay. It was amazing how quickly they stepped up to the plate-- making tea, washing tea cups, writing guests' names in Japanese. Also, invite a journalist from your local newspaper. How cool is it to find an article in the culture section about your club? Once parents see what an awesome job you're doing, they will want their teens to participate.

Every librarian has their own style. I've seen some people do amazing things that I would probably never have thought of doing. This is what makes teen librarians such an adventurous lot! We aren't afraid to try new things, even though they may not work.

So what if you feel you don't know enough about anime/manga? Don't let that stop you. Start off with meetings about Japanese culture, or just show some anime if you have the license. Get to know what the teens are interested in. Then use those suggestions to design your next meetings. You might be surprised at just how many teens have been waiting for a club like yours!

As they say in Japan, ganbatte! (Go for it!)

13 December 2007

Spotted! :: DeathNote tee at Hot Topic

Perhaps the merchandise at Hot Topic at your local mall is not news. And yet I can't pass up the opportunity to share this pic of me glowing with glee over a Desu nouto shirt right next to Kitty-chan (or, to most of you, Hello Kitty).

Upcoming is a comparison between Death Note and Code Geass, both anime sensations to blow your mind!

07 December 2007

Spotted! :: Twilight tees at cafepress.com

Any loyal Twilight fans out there? I know I am.

I am one of the few out there who didn't become a true Twilightfile until the second book, New Moon. The first was quite fantastic, but I felt that Stephenie took some glorious risks with the second. For fear of revealing spoilers, I can say no more-- although I take any moment I can to be a totally shameless fan girl over it. Shameless.

So imagine my delight when I came across the Cafe Press ode to Twilight; admire the t-shirts and gifts here.

The traveling woman in me has its eye on this international one:
Then again, I'm also rather fond of the umbrella one. They even have it in maternity size!

Oh I could go on and on. I'm not a big spender but I definitely want something along these lines when I grow up.

My all-time favorite Cafe Press shirt, though, is called Baby's Got Book, making reference to Sir Mix-A-Lot's homage to large posteriors. Also, thanks to Looking for Alaska's John Green, for putting up this sweet Jonathan Coulton cover on his MySpace.

When I get this shirt, I will have not only back but book as well. Yeah.

04 December 2007

Road Map:: Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg and Edgewood, PA


As any student worth her latte knows, December represents the ultimate climax.

I have been neglecting this blog lately. That's only because I have been in search of a lovely Snitch in the form of a peaceful month of vacation filled with fantabulous teen fiction reading. To do that, I have to finish my schoolwork. But ah... I've been longing to have some more luscious Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Markus Zusak luv in my life. Right now I am in the final throes of my second-to-last semester, but I still make time to share my recent library exploits.

By the way, next week I will be going to a "Meet the Author" event with Angela Johnson, writer of the magnificent Printz award winner The First Part Last. Anyone have any questions they'd like answered by her? Please comment and I'll post her thoughts later on this month.

In the meantime, here are pictures of winter library cheer in the Pittsburgh area. I have found the library system here alarmingly interesting, since the libraries are divided into city libraries (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, or CLP) and county libraries (Allegheny County Library Association, or ACLA).

The way I understand it, funding at the county level is allotted through a pretty exceptional variety of sources. One library director I spoke to confided that though his branch was built by Andrew Carnegie, no endowment was left for the library's survival. It then made a trade with what is now the neighboring school district. In basic terms, the library had land but no money, and the school district had money but no land, so the trade helps each other co-exist. Fascinating!

The more I learn, the more I realize I haven't even scratched the surface of the amazing world of libraries.

Also, congratulations to Sherman Alexie for winning the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I haven't reviewed that many books but his novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of them. I just saw it sitting on the shelf at work and I thought, this is gonna be awesome! Here are our $0.02: mine and his.

a) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Main (Oakland)
Pittsburgh, PA (12.4.07)
b) Wilkinsburgh Public Library
Wilkinsburg, PA (12.4.07)
c) C.C. Mellor Memorial Library
Edgewood, PA (12.4.07)

27 October 2007

Review:: Beck Mongolian Chop Squad (anime)

I can't help it, I'm a sucker for music. This anime is the other side of the coin of Nodame Cantabile (reviewed 10.22.07), where Beethoven reigns supreme. Beck Mongolian Chop Squad is all about rock and roll, baby. There's loud guitars, a rock god quality in one of the main characters, and a moody dog whose skin appears to be made of fabric patches.

I have to admit that I was skeptical when the opening theme, "Hit in the USA" by Beat Crusaders, was sung solely in English. It's a catchy tune, though, and when you pay close attention to the lyrics, you realize it's more Engrish than English anyway. The end credits show drawings of rock greats like Sid Vicious and Kurt Cobain, along with other Japanese icons that I, in my ignorance, do not recognize. By the time you get to this point, though, you know the love for music is entrenched in every frame of this anime.

The animation can be quite striking at times, with shots manipulated to resemble artsy photography and old-school fuzzy film reels. What makes this series special is that it captures the magic of youth, of the power of music, and that desire to be part of something amazingly cool.

8.35 of 9
The main character is your usual run-of-the-mill teen, full of unbearable ennui until faced with something extraordinary (like in Death Note by Ohba Tsugumi). In the case of BMCS, the almost normal Koyuki meets Ryusuke, archetype of rocking coolness. The characters seem real enough, though it is a little unnerving that all Americans (and even Japanese kids who speak English) are portrayed as somewhat violent and foul-mouthed. I mean, I'm a rock-loving American too, doggone it, and I don't make swear-word sculptures out of each of my sentences.
Mature teens, as there are plenty of rather vicious swear words and even partial nudity (though even this avoids being too campy)
Like it? Try this!::
I can't help but recommend "This Is Spinal Tap." I know it's not anime but everyone needs that kind of laughter in their lives.
Further Notes::
The more you know about Japanese language and culture, the more you're bound to enjoy any anime-- this one in particular. Each episode is split up into a "live," which is supposed to mean "live concert." During filler Japanese urban jungle scenes, companies like "Samsung" and "Lawson" are cheekily drawn as "Samsang" and "Lawsan." There's even a poster for the Brad Pitt film "Troy," but it's denoted as "Moroy" instead of "Toroy," as it would be in Japanese. One particular reference to natto may be too obscure for some. I know some people who love this food, but for people like me, it's not just the smell but the sticky consistency that makes me go barf.

25 October 2007

Road Map:: West Virginia, Mountain Mama

So maybe it doesn't count if I go to libraries on a Sunday and I don't get to actually go in, but here are some pix of my recent trip to West Virginia.

And yes, I really can jump that high. Kudos to my husband Michael for taking the shots just at the right time.

a) Mary H. Weir Public Library
Weirton, WV (10.21.07)
b) Swaney Memorial Library
New Cumberland, WV (10.21.07)
c) Swaney Memorial Library parking lot (10.21.07)

23 October 2007

Review:: Nodame Cantabile (manga)

If you're in the mood for love, music, and references to farts, then I say you can't go wrong with Nodame Cantabile. This one won the Kodansha Manga of the Year Award (shoujo category) back in 2004, and I think I can see why. Though the illustrations are not exactly top-notch, they are somewhat elegant and accessible-- that is, no big buggy flashy eyes. My favorite drawings involve hands on the piano. The music that is played by the characters, though not heard by the reader through the page, is definitely felt.

The characters also really make this story. In Chiaki-kun, you have talent and arrogance, and a desire to be more than he is. In Mine-kun, you have engineered rebellion and... well, a comfort with women's cosmetics-- at least when he tries to help Nodame. In Nodame, you have inspired piano-playing, puckered-up lips and an abysmal living arrangement. Nodame is one of the most interesting female characters I've seen in manga because she is not your average girly-girl. She is fragile and a bit love-obsessed but also a bit gross. She is definitely not above making fart jokes. That's right. It's a girl making the gas reference, not a group of jocks as you might expect.

Is this an improvement on a social scale? Maybe not, but at least she is more human than the frilly paper dolls that litter most manga, which is SOOOOO refreshing!

8.15 out of 9
They really propel the story. I love how Nodame "keeps it real." Oh, and as a side note, I really have known someone who reminded me of a sausage.
Moderate or fast, depending on how much you like music that you can only see
From early teens on
Like it? Try this!::
I know it makes little sense to recommend an adult New Zealand film in conjunction with a Japanese manga for teens, but I really love the piano pieces in (surprise!) The Piano with Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin.
Further Notes::
This one has been turned into both an anime (watch the glorious beginning here) and a live action series-- both quite decent. Normally, I'm not into live action, but face it, it couldn't be as bad as the Sailor Moon live action series. Here is a wonderful piano scene and the obligatory karaoke scene. Ah, the nostalgia of karaoke! Natsukashii!

Nodame Cantabile, Vol. 1. By Tomoko Ninomiya. Del Rey Manga, 2005. 208 pages. $10.95

18 October 2007


I can't take this. Clearly I've become a gigantic wussy pants.

I'm reading award-winning juvenile and teen fiction, and this stuff is brutal. I'm talking trails of carnage and guts. I can't get through these books without wanting to throw them across the room and hiding under my blankie.

These are just some of the things I can't handle:
  • Grandmother tries to stick her grandson into a refrigerator and close the door on him-- while it's plugged in (Joey Pigza Swallows the Key by Jack Gantos)
  • Adult gives a newborn baby the lethal injection, graphic detail of convulsions and all (The Giver by Lois Lowry)
  • Mother mistakes kerosene for water, and as she tries to make coffee, gets burned to a crisp. Faceless and sore-ridden, she dies days later, as she gives birth to a child (Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse)
And I don't even have to talk about The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. You know what I'm talking about.

The thing is, violence has always been a form of entertainment: public executions in previous centuries, bloody folk tales (such as Bluebeard or Bethgellert), and The Little Mermaid is actually supposed to die.

Am I just being lame? When kids read about needles in babies and flaky, scorched skin, does it really sink in?

02 October 2007


Ah. You know, I've met some wonderful library workers in my time. Generous. Effective. Ambitious. Innovative. And I'm talking about librarians, library assistants, circulation attendants, pages, janitors-- everyone. There are people out there who really work hard at making libraries a bit of a second home for the community.

The one I met just an hour ago did not fall into those categories. I'm sure that she is hard-working and brings wonderful input to the library. Just not today.

I was getting my assigned 20+ Caldecott winners from the holdshelf at the circulation desk. A really polite circ attendant was checking my books out to me when a boy in his early teens came up to the desk to use the phone. Another library worker looked at the boy and asked, "Why don't you go read a book or something?"

Her tone was not rude or malicious by any means. I know that in her mind she was trying to be helpful, maybe by ridding the kid of boredom. My first thought, though, was "Way to go, lady. Now he's REALLY going to go to the shelf and pick up Tolstoy."

  • If you want respect, you don't patronize teens by telling them what to do.
  • You won't get anywhere with a sentence or two of "helpful" suggestions. You have to get to know them on an individual basis. Find out what they are interested in.
  • If you have the luxury of a varied collection, you might want to slip them a cool book/graphic novel/magazine while they wait for the computer to be available. Again, it should be something that fascinates them. You don't want to hand a Sweet Valley High book to a manly guy who's into hip-hop, you know?
Granted, the library worker I mention is not a teen librarian or library assistant. She is not expected to specialize in the psychology of the fourteen-year-old male mind, but come on. Can you not ruin the work of so many people who are trying to show the community that libraries are essential?

Review:: Breaking Up (graphic novel)

"In the stormy ocean that is high school, the four of us clung to our friendship like a raft." --Chloe Sacks

There are so many stories out there about break-ups between lovers, but let's not forget about sisterhood, ladies. Emotional divides between your best girlfriends really can be just as painful.

Friedman takes four girls and puts them through the meat grinder that is maturing into young women. There are certain aspects of the story that certainly feel real to anyone who's had to brave the late teens. The ocean wave of acne, boyfriends, and pressure is pretty effective. Each character deals with sexual pressure/desire, though it is the trend nowadays to speak of it more frankly and openly.

While the text is usually superb, Norrie's sumptuous drawings kick the story up a notch and create a layer of texture that the written story alone couldn't expose. The illustrations during a New Year's Party glitter with freedom and insecurity at the same time (p. 74 is a beautiful example). Page 15 shows the girls through the years, and I imagine it's very difficult to show maturity in just a handful of drawings that barely measure two inches wide.

Growing into a young adult is a difficult time to really accept yourself, as Chloe finds out. It's the time when people grow apart, and hurt does fly around like jagged snowflakes. Ultimately, though, how much power should you give your friends and your enemies?

Story: 7.95 of 9. This was an enjoyable book but see "Characterization."
Illustrations: 8.75 of 9.
I found Chloe, Isabel, and Erika to be quite real in their heartbreak over being true to themselves and being good friends. Mackenzie, though, becomes such a one-dimensional, insensitive juggernaut that I found it hard to take her seriously. I think that there are ways of making her a bit more human and still keep her controlling and obsessive nature intact.
The succinct observations about youth and the expressive drawings ensure that the story move along swiftly.
From early teens up
Like it? Try this!::
I'm assuming this is a series (the cover says "A Fashion High Graphic Novel"), but it appears we'll have to wait for those. In the meantime, read "The Breakup Bible" by Melissa Kantor. How about anything by either Friedman and Norrie?
Further Notes::
I think this is a must-read for young women. It certainly means something different to me, nearly ten years out of high school, than to someone who is living through it right now. Unfortunately, though, having problems with your friends is not just a high school issue. *SIGH* Here's to friends and all their quirky ways!

Breaking Up. By Aimee Friedman. Illustrated by Christine Norrie. Graphix, 2007. 192 pages. $9.99

29 September 2007

Review:: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel)

I was initially drawn to this book because:
  • the main character is a boy and I don't want to focus only on girlie lit
  • the quotes of praise on the back are from such literary contributors as Neil Gaiman (god of creativity), Amy Sedaris (who gives her brother David his best work), and Alison Bechdel (creator of the phenomenal Fun Home)
So yeah, how could I not read it? Fortunately for me (and everyone who chooses to read this), this is the kind of book that grabs you from the first paragraph. You stop doing dishes and your homework just so you can finish it. It's not just because the humor sneaks up on you like an ice cube running down your back-- seriously! It makes you uncomfortable but you can't deny that you love it. After all, Alexie has a distinct knack for making situations hilarious, even when they're difficult to deal with.

The main character Arnold Spirit speaks of being Indian (as in feathers, not dots) and of being an underdog with candor and courage. Many angsty teens are bound to latch on to him as a stuttering but fierce hero of sorts. Watch out for the part at the beginning of the book when he discusses the worst part about being poor. That's a heart-wrenching performance piece right there.

Some argue that it goes too far in its portrayal of boozed-up, aggressive Native Americans. I am not Native American, so I really cannot make that call. I do think that the point is aimed more at being adventurous, challenging yourself, and leaving a world that isn't for you, even if that world is home.

8.5 of 9. It's a complete joy to read, but a couple of parts towards the end seemed a bit staged for a novel that usually flows so freely and naturally.
The drawings of the characters seamlessly and brilliantly contribute to the fabric of the characterization. Though the teen characters are archetypes, they seem fresh and more fleshed out than most teen novels.
The humor keeps it going fast!
If you like to laugh and maybe even cry at the same time, you're going to love this. It also helps if you don't mind reading about boners, zits, and death.
Like it? Try this!::
If you want to continue along the same vein of Indian, poor and humorous, try reading "Smoke Signals" by the same author.
Further Notes::
What I enjoyed about this book most of all is how it didn't cater to literary "shushers." It is what it is, and talks about what it wants to, with no apologies. Neil Gaiman says this book will be banned at some point. That's a good start to ensuring the immortality of this gorgeous novel, which may very well be working itself towards a sequel. Yeah!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. By Sherman Alexie. Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007. 240 pages. $16.99.

20 September 2007

Review:: Happy Mania (manga)

If you don't know that much about manga, it's easy to think that it's all the same. You could also make the mistake of thinking it's all easily divided into series for girls (shoujo) or boys (shounen).

Prepare yourself for Happy Mania. No, really. You can't go in thinking it will be your average cutesy/funny series because, though it has its entertaining moments, it'll probably drain you. You will see the main character, Shigeta-san, look desperately for a boyfriend but end up constantly confusing sex for love. Welcome to josei manga, where it's totally fine to show a man's hand pleasuring a woman's, um, love nest.

You can think of it as Sex and the City, except with a less trendy younger woman who doesn't really know enough about herself to understand her predicament. Though this series deals with relationships, the more realistic parts of it portray your average woman's self-esteem and life expectations. As you watch her make mistake after mistake, you want her to get with her sweet, nerd-to-the-bone co-worker Takahashi. You know that he can give her the love she needs. The big tragedy here is that her dream could very well be within reach but she is not mature enough to give a good man a shot.


I have to give it a 7.75 of 9 for standing apart from most manga, but a 6.25 for the overall package. The layout and drawings are okay enough, and some of the story can be quite charming, but I don't have any inclination to continue the series.
An insecure young woman who is so desperate for love that she (a) lies to herself constantly, and (b) keeps getting intimate with jerks? You bet that hits a nerve among tons of women.

I wouldn't recommend it to any teens if I were a librarian and wanted to keep my job. That aside, I think that many of them could relate, particularly to her weak self-image. Who hasn't looked at herself in the mirror and seen only a fat blob with ears?
Like it? Try this!::
Enjoyed all the sex? You don't have to stop there. Join the many open-minded women who are really into yaoi.
Further Notes::
I initially hated this one, but I could recognize that at least it was powerful enough to elicit a reaction. And isn't that the mark of worthwhile manga anyway?

Happy Mania. By Moyoko Anno. TokyoPop, 2003. $9.99

Review:: Babymouse, Queen of the World! (graphic novel)

Okay, I need to stop choosing all these pink images because the color is driving me a little nutty. Plus, I wanted to tackle a Japanese manga next, but I accidentally came across a little treasure called Babymouse, Queen of the World! I didn't even realize it was a series until I went to the website. And believe me, we're fortunate that this isn't the end of Babymouse.

It is everything that parents and teachers could wish for: a G-rated graphic novel with positive messages that actually make both kids and adults laugh. Positive messages like saving the planet against global warming, you ask? Goodness, no. This work tackles issues that are much more personal: social acceptance, self-compromise, and the importance of friendship. The tongue-in-cheek commentary from the narrator ensures that it never gets preachy.

You could draw similarities between Babymouse and Art Spiegelman's Maus, but I think that would be stretching it too far. Yes, there is a bit of a "mouse vs. cat" power scale here, and both have their own niche in the graphic novel world. Thankfully, though, the brother-and-sister writing duo Jennifer and Matthew Holm keep things light and bubbly with wild daydreaming sequences that beg to be read more than once.

Warning (though this comment is superfluous, since all you have to do is look at the cover to see who this is aimed at): I don't really see your average boy picking this up and saying, "Wow, I gotta read this!" This is very much intended to engross a girlie audience, with each page number engulfed in a small heart and the white/black/shades-of-pink coloring. With its random slips into manic creativity, though, I think this would be an entertaining story for both girls and boys if you could strip it of its blatant femininity. I don't recommend that, though, because that's totally part of its charm.

8.25 of 9
Endearingly over-the-top at times, all for the sake of entertainment
Quite fast with plenty to distract you without overwhelming you
From preteens up-- and anyone who has a thing for daydreaming, cupcakes or tiaras
Like it? Try this!::
Any of the other Babymouse adventures
Further Notes::
The Babymouse website is aimed at kids, but it's actually a bit of a hoot. Go to "Create Your Own Babymouse Story" under the "Glamour! Excitement! Adventure!" tab and fill in the bubbles with your own spicy dialogue. Take that, you ungracious wench!

Babymouse: Queen of the World! By Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2005. 91 pages. $5.95

19 September 2007

Road Map:: Choosing this life

Though I was born in Texas, my family moved to a border city in Mexico when I was four years old. The city I lived in does have a library, but it's roughly the size of your average one-car garage. I hate to say this, but most people there didn't read much other than celebrity magazines. It's hard to say if the demand for a better library has just never been there to begin with, or the lack of supply ensured that the good people of la frontera simply learned to do without a biblioteca.

Still, I suppose the librarian blood has been pumping within me for a long time now. We moved back to Texas in '89, to a small neighborhood that I affectionately call "Little Mexico." There is a small but popular little library there, and since my mother loved to read, she'd take us there every other Saturday or so. I specifically remember one particular instance, as I perused the juvenile fiction section. I must have been around ten or eleven. I knew that the books were classified by the last name of the author, and I saw a few books that were-- *GASP!*-- not in proper alphabetical order. I looked around and made sure no one was looking at me. When I made sure that I truly was alone, I quietly rearranged them so that they were in the right order.

Aw yeah. Life in the fast lane.

In high school, I worked at the school library one semester, where I met a long-haired bookworm in a leather jacket who would later become my first boyfriend. In college, students in the work-study program had to take a personality test to place them in the right department. I simply asked them to stick me in the library, where I knew I could read and be happy. I was majoring in Spanish and French, but of course those degrees do nothing for you in the workforce, unless you couple them with something else. Business. Marketing. Translation. Anything!

I, of course, was clueless. I'd see flyers in the library lounge for library school. But I thought, "Are you kidding me? More debt? Yeah right!" At this point, I was working both at the university library and a law library downtown. Soon I was also preparing to move to Japan with the JET Programme, where I taught English to high school students for three years. I think I could be just about any type of librarian, but I feel my experiences with teens in Japan really prepared me for youth librarianship.

After JET, I went back home and got a job as a part-time library assistant. I was working but unable to make ends meet, so I was, fabulously, getting into even more debt. Then I learned about a foundation that would help me finance my education, I wrote a kick-ass admissions essay, and a year and a half later, I'm halfway through with library school.

Nowadays I try to keep my camera on me, just in case we pass up a library. If my husband is with me, he'll take a picture of me in mid-air, just like the one you see here in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. See my bare foot and a big black spot next to it? Believe it or not, that black dot is my shoe, which fell off during my jump.

It's a hazardous and sometimes embarrassing thing, you know, being in love with libraries.

Pictures, from top to bottom:
a) Providence Athenaeum Library
Providence, RI (06.01.07)
b) William J. Clinton Presidential Library
Little Rock, AR (7.17.07)
c) Squirrel Hill Library
Pittsburgh, PA (7.28.07)

17 September 2007

Event:: Otaku Ninja Cafe (07.01.07)

I spent nearly a year and a half working as a library assistant at a public library, and it was my interest in kids and teens that allowed me to sneakily tweak my position and grow in the field of young adult librarianship. I organized a few programs including the Otaku Ninja Cafe (view the first of three) and Lunar New Year Festival, putting my knowledge of Asian culture to good use. Ganbatta ne!

The pix decorating this entry are from the last Cafe we put on, and by this time I wasn't even working at that library anymore. The Ninjas were so attached to me that I was asked to do a bit of a guest spot. This was their last chance to say goodbye to me before I moved east. At that point, nothing was keeping me from seeing my Ninjas one last time!

Activities created for the Cafe:
~ Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero
~ Japan Jeopardy
~ cosplay contest
~ manga exchange
~ art corner with paper and supplies
~ unofficial tea chugging contest (this was their idea)

We had our hardcore members come to nearly every Cafe, but we would also get patrons who were present in the library on that day. I'd make my announcement in Japanese, then explain the event in English, of course. It helps when you say that there are cupcakes, cookies, and tea available, ha ha.

This club was not my idea, but it quickly became my baby. For a small branch library, it was pretty impressive that we usually had 30-40 attendees. I think that what made this club work was my respect for the kids' interests. Also, I lived in Japan for three years and I'd make sure to work it in to conversation as nonchalantly as I could. Their eyes often widened in excitement-- or narrowed in jealousy-- but then they'd open up about how they love X manga or how they think Y anime is hilarious.

I know I have a lot to learn in the realm of anime and manga (and Japanese language, of course), but I'm willing to attack with relish!

Review:: Gray Horses (graphic novel)

Japanese manga are very popular among teens in the States right now, and for good reason. Many of them are entertaining, touching, and make heroes out of otaku. Who doesn't love that? Still, that doesn't mean we should overlook western gems like Hope Larson's Gray Horses.

The main character is Noemi, a young French woman studying abroad in what appears to be Chicago. I could say that anyone who has studied abroad is immediately hooked by this story, but that would be trivial. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider finds himself/herself in the first couple of pages of panels. Insecurity, loneliness, and self-doubt over one's choices is familiar stomping ground for just about anyone at some point in their lives. However, this isn't a self-pitying story for emo kids. Stick with the plot, and you'll find yourself soaring in the night wind among the stars as well.

What I find astounding about Larson is that she is the complete creator of her gorgeous work. She draws entirely unique characters-- once you see one, you'll be able to instantly recognize her other drawings, which have been featured in the New York Times and have won her a few awards. She also writes her own soft meandering stories, so she is not dependent on either a writer or an illustrator. What you see is what she feels, and the experiences and emotions she conveys are not easily shaken. A true blue beauty.

8.95 of 9 (Oh, what the hell, I'll give it a 9.)
Some of the characterization is carried out wordlessly, proving the brilliance of Larson's painstaking visuals. These aren't vapid paper cut-outs-- they are real people with familiar emotions.
Slow, but in a really glorious way
Anyone who can deal without action sequences in graphic novels
Like it? Try this!::
Her first graphic novel, Salamander Dream, is just as touching, creative, and beautifully cryptic as well. It's not very popular, so you might have trouble finding it at your library or bookstore. Try going through interlibrary loan or ordering it online. In the meantime, check out her website, http://www.hopelarson.com. I highly recommend her short comic 2 Rabbits, found here.
Further Notes::
I was so moved after reading this one that I immediately went to her website and emailed her. She wrote back the next day, and her very sweet and polite message made my week. Apparently, librarians are very good about seeking her out and praising her work. (Yay us!) I listened to Patti Smith's song Horses while I read this, though I'm not sure I recommend it, since the thrusting force behind Smith and the gentle breeze in Larson are not quite compatible. Still, there was something magical about making this graphic novel my own, which I think is the point anyway.

Gray Horses. By Hope Larson. Oni Press, 2006. 112 pages. $14.95

16 September 2007

Review:: Chobits (anime)

I think we can all agree that in the world of movies and TV shows, there is camp (think Sex and the City) and then there's kiddie camp (Dora the Explorer). In the case of Clamp's Chobits, think band camp. It's far more daring than you would have originally thought. This anime is certainly loaded, not just with sparklies and cute technology but plenty of sexual innuendo.

This is a world where people can have their own walking persocoms-- a bad transliteration of the Japanese paasocon, which stands for personal computer. That's right, this story is about a P.C., except that this anime is far from politically correct. These persocoms are fleshy, appealing, and oftentimes very feminine. You know what I'm talking about. Hideki, in his late teens, is the lucky bumbling main character who finds himself a mysterious persocom, Chii, and is nearly constantly turned on by her adorable innocence. In the first episode, when trying to wake her up, he has to figure out how to turn her on. I'm not even going to tell you how he does it. I'm sure you can use your imagination.

Despite the notion that Chii is a bundle of sensuality and impulsiveness faintly evocative of a sex toy, this is a winning series that really grows on the viewer. However, I'd only recommend it to a more mature teen audience. I know of a few preteens who are quite obsessed with this anime, and I have to wonder if perhaps the occasional references to breasts and porn sites are a bit much for the younger kids. I'd want a feminine role model to do more than say "chii" in a cute girlie voice and innocently put white, filmy natto residue all over her face.

7.5 of 9
The episodes I saw had likeable male characters but one-dimensional, attractive female characters. As far as Japanese anime women go, they're not so terrible but I still prefer complexity in the girlie brain. Try Azumanga Daioh for a wide (if sometimes hilariously overdone) range of female characters.
Moderate, as in most non-action anime
Mature teens (and soft core pervs of any age)
Like it? Try this!::
I'd say you'll be safe with anything by Clamp.
Further Notes::
Of course I recommend watching this in Japanese with English subtitles, but from what I could tell, they did a formidable dubbing job. Still, I dare you to think that Chii's "underpants" chant is funnier than the Japanese equivalent, "pantsu." I crawled into bed one night, happily singing "Pan-tsu! Pan-tsu! Pan-tsu!"

Chobits. Directed by Morio Asaka. Geneon Studio, 2003. 100 minutes. $29.98

03 September 2007

Death by librarianship


Exhausted after a day of pricing books, shelving, and working the register at a local bookstore, I have to come home and ponder the primary and secondary collections at X library nearby.

Yay MLS.

30 August 2007

Introduccion de la TeenBibliotecaria: Here I am!

I'm Violeta Garza, a multi-lingual twentysomething aspiring librarian who just kinda fell into the profession. Still, I'm convinced this is what I want to do with my set of skills and experiences.

I'll be finished with my MLS in May of '08, and I'd be thrilled if I got to work at a young adult department of a public library. Although, I wouldn't mind working at any library. I have extensive experience working in the following library settings:
  • Public
    • Circulation
    • Reference
    • Teen
  • Academic
    • Circulation
    • Reference
    • Archives
    • Interlibrary Loan
    • Cataloging
    • Documents
  • Law
This blog shall be my touchstone for pictures of my library travels, tales of my library experiences, and reviews of books I come across. Do we really need another librarian blog? Maybe not, but I am definitely desirous of establishing my place as a library rock star!

More to come as time allows, since I'm working full-time, taking nine hours, and enjoying the bliss that is married life. Ah, the sweetness!