Saturday, December 11, 2010

I don't know what a Push Truck is

My volunteers and I have a couple inside jokes.

One of which involves the game "Pig Pong". The box had a tagline that said something along the lines of "Best family game ever". But we couldn't find the "pong" piece (roundish paper foam pieces put together to create a circle). The toy doctor took it home to try and make a new "pong" piece and he tried to play it with his family. He came back and (in more creative words) told me that it is not the best family game ever. I was still trying to make a new pong out of origami paper, nothing worked. So we decided to take it out of the system. About a year later I was going through some drawers and I find extra pieces to games, and to my surprise, the pong pieces for Pig Pong. After the game was completely dismantled and partially thrown away, I find it. I laughed for weeks when I told this story because to me, it meant that eventually everything will be found, sometimes it just takes a while.

The other joke is that I don't know what a "Push Truck" is.

Librarians have their own language and that's bad enough. The Toy Resource Center Language is a dialect of that Librarian language. Like a teeny tiny island language. We're either overly descriptive in the labels so you know exactly which item belongs with the toy, or so completely vague it's ridiculous.  This happened my first year here. I found this bag full of plastic food items, colorful cans and milk cartons, the label reads "For Push Truck". I have no idea what it is. So I begin asking the volunteers, the woman who used to work here, random patrons what a "Push Truck" was. And no one knew. So I begin to obsess about it, a little (maybe more than a little). I take down every possible truck and vehicle toy to look at the label. Nothing. I Google it. Nothing. Look through eBay sites, look through pages and pages of catalogs and images. Nothing. Eventually, (like after 2 years), I put the bags of cartons and cans with the kitchen sets. I gave up on the poor Push Truck. But when I find something random, I usually say, "if only I could find the Push Truck too". Since then I have been a little more careful about explaining how the items go together, makes life a little easier. I have to remind myself often that it is not second nature to everyone. There haven't been many people that speak the Toy Language.

It has been 5 years this week since I was hired. I have had the pig from Pig Pong on my desk for about that long. And I still don't know what a push truck is. And this is where I insert the point of this whole entry...

I have been officially hired at Sully Branch Library to be their new Young Adult Librarian. I am super super excited to be taking on a new position, but it's stories like the ones above that make me truly sad to be leaving such a great place in the library system.

(I apologize for the possible future corniness in this post.)

I have literally grown up with these toys. Not only as a child when I played with many of these same toys, but I have been here for 5 years, an important 5 years. I have been in and out of Graduate school. I have been in and out of relationships, my hair has gone from ridiculous shades of red and back, moved out of my parents house, I have a nephew now! All these things have happened. I have shared a lot of my life with a many of the patrons who have come in. I want to thank them for listening. I want to thank them for making me as much apart of their life as I have made them apart of mine. I will miss the people as much as I will miss the toys.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A realization

It has been a random busy month and not just with work.

I have a nephew! I am a first time Aunt so I am super excited, plus I live with my sister so I get to see the little peanut every day. He doesn't talk and sleeps a lot so we're getting along splendidly so far :-) He has made me think about something. Hopefully it won't take me too long to get to the point, often it does...

I have met hundreds of mothers (my sister now included in this) who just amaze me... They are Mama bears immediately. Would do anything, say anything, sacrifice anything for their child. And it is so sudden. I have seen something kind of interesting happen very quickly in my little house... It's all about the baby. We are quiet more often. We cleaned the house top to bottom. I vacuumed. Wow! 

There one phrase that keeps going in and out of my head lately is: "It's not about you". That is a common phrase in my world... meaning that we have to put our selfishness aside, take ourselves out of a situation and leave who really matters.

So sitting at the library on Monday I was watching teachers interact with the children playing in the room. The teachers were great, they really let the kids play with the toys how they wanted, the only big rule was to clean up after themselves. They talked to the kids, but really, they listened. Then later on that afternoon I found myself talking about programming, and I said, if I was planning a program, I would first see what has worked before and then see what the people want. It felt like a cop out answer to a question that would need a detailed response, but I am sticking to it. And then it dawned on me: "it's not about us."

We provide a service to people. We provide guidance. When it comes down to it, it's all about customer service. It doesn't matter how we feel about a book/movie/toy we have in the collection, the people may want it. It doesn't really matter if we like how a person is speaking to us, we still help them. At the end of the day... it has little to do with us. But it does...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bad at Blogging

I think I went through typical writers block. As the days in summer blended together, so have the days of fall. Instead of group after group of children whizzing in and out, fall has become the season of cleaning and organizing. I would love to say that after a month and half the clean-up project is complete, but I would be lying.

I am proud to say that  the sections have all been organized (aka shelf read in a way). And I am down to approximately 3 bins of mess instead of 6 and it is, and I mean this sincerely, organized mess. It just takes an amazing amount of energy, patience and time to dump out bins of miscellaneous pieces and put them in the bags which they belong. Any pieces that don't go into their "home" eventually make it to the wall of miscellaneous extra pieces. I am also trying to sort that out as I go, which is why, I believe it is taking so long. I am finding pieces of sets torn apart long ago and putting them back together, finally. Rescuing them from the dead, if you will. If you wait long enough, all the pieces make sense, kind of like a puzzle.

I have the uncanny ability of knowing where a piece of a toy belongs just by a simple glance. I can tell you which animal set a particular style of animal goes in, which game a pawn may go in, which set of baby toys the giraffe rattle goes in. Fisher Price makes this easy because they have so much consistency. So it started there.

I would like to say this ability was learned just by being surrounded by the toys. I would say 75% of it is. I learned how to do this job on the job. The other 25% of it I have Google to thank. I have the ability of finding whole toys by typing in description of some of the pieces. That comes in most use when I am sorting out donations. People will typically keep the whole set/ games together, but other times it is just a box of toys and I have to figure out what it is. There are a few other sites, especially the Fisher Price one, I use frequently. I am thankful for either the obsessiveness or boredom of people who have put these together. If only I could make a living making one myself.

This Old Toy-Fisher Price catalog of toys. Amazing resource if you are a collector of the brand. You can look up the play sets and then see how it's changed over the years. Also, you can look up an item by number and see which sets it's in. I found this one recently because I am trying to put together the mass amount of Duplos the library has into their correct sets. It will be a lengthy project. Anyway, thankfully all the bricks and pieces are numbered, because you can just look them up and it will tell you which set you can find it in. I am finding items from sets and I didn't even know we once owned!

Stingray's Hideaway: Toy Museum- I use this mostly for Little Tikes. It is a little harder to find items by pieces, but it does give you original catalog photos so you know which toys belong in a set.

I have to say that this whole organizing, putting things back together part of my job is probably the most productive feeling. I am adding back to the collection, I am making toy sets whole, they original way they were sold and enjoyed before coming to the library. Archiving toys is fun :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

First Saturday Back...

As thankful as I am for the children to be back in school, it means that I am back here on the weekends. For about 11 weeks I get to find out what it's like to have weekends off (well, kind of, I have another job at a movie theater, I have to schedule time off from there to get any real days off.) All of this is to say, that today is my first Saturday back and I have to admit, it was kind of hard to come in. The first one back is always the hardest.

It's not that I don't have plenty to do. I am still catching up from being closed this past Monday. I came in on Tuesday and cleaned up half the toy room. It took over 4 hours and only half of it was perfectly cleaned. I am still tempted to take pictures. Piles of boxes, bags neatly aligned in bins on the shelves, the happiness comes from  a place of OCD organizational bliss. I reorganized a little bit. Since we have so many kinds of blocks and building sets I rearranged how those were shelved this past week... It's my own personal tricky form of marketing for under-circulated items. Today I intend on rearranging a few of the larger items. It's a seasonal thing for me... I think the change of season should bring a change in look the library. So I am going to move the play house closer to the kitchen items... bring in a new (to me) fixture for the games. I have been getting so many game donations, I have no room left on the shelves.

I intended on doing a whole lot today. Instead I find myself talking with the parents and other grown-ups coming in and finally catching up on the blogging.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I can almost think about the quietness

8 boys are playing basketball.

7 girls are playing house.

There are random hoots and hollering of playing. I'm sure in a week, when it is quiet in here, I will hate it. I love the good noises of this place. I don't have to look up when I just hear basketball growls and girl's jibber jabber. Unless there are higher pitch screams or crashing, I can sit here in my own little world and attempt to get work done.

I have to begin thinking about the clean up of this room. I have set aside the day after labor day to do it. Kids will be in school, I won't be open to the public. I am going to get hopped up on Red Bull and see how much I can get accomplished.

I also have to think about some sort of "door/wall decoration". Over a year ago, our teen center was renovated. In that renovation my door was moved from the corner to the almost middle of the back wall of the library. Now, I have this wall space to work with, to kinda say: "hey! look! it's a toy library!" And then no one can ever walk into this building again without knowing it's here. This was presented to me last week. I was told as long as it could be done cheaply, we could do some painting of some sort. Something like this would be my dream.

Maybe a little more toys involved. I like the city idea.

 I will work with what I have. This is what My current brochure and sign look like:
I love it, the person who designed it has retired :-(. I am thinking something along these lines. Maybe a little less generic clip art. I am officially on the hunt for cool toy pictures and a way to semi-permanently hang them on the wall. And then maybe bright paint + block letters spelling out Toy Resource Center?

I'm sure there are more things on my agenda that I am supposed to think about as school goes into session. Like the quietness....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Violence AND/ IN Play

I found the first article below during the daily blog reading and as per usual it got me thinking. So then I did a little research and found the other two.

I don't allow them to see TV or video games that represent any violence at all, let alone gun play. Still, I can't give my older child a banana for his snack without him pretending it's a gun. Is it a boy thing? It seems to be in his DNA.

In conversation's I've had this has happened often. Many mom's are screwed if they do, screwed if they don't. If their child doesn't own a gun toy, it wants one and may not be happy until it has one. And then they go and make their own guns (hence the banana). I do believe it is a boy thing. I also believe that "gun play" is a stage. I have no problem with toy guns as long as they are not pointed directly at people. I recently bought my godson a Nerf gun. It surprised me how much I didn't have a problem with it, it shoots out green balls, not bullets. The most important part to me: it doesn't look like a real gun.

War Play, Gun Play, Superhero and Violent Play...Why Won't It Go Away?
"Why do preschoolers play this way sometimes? Three-, 4- and 5-year-olds typically are not in control of their own lives. Adults make most of the decisions, and older siblings and playmates make up most of the rules. Teachers and child-care providers work with larger groups of children and must have some control over planned activities and schedules. Preschoolers may feel a bit lost in this world of older decision makers."

Last week I was listening to kids talk as they played. One girl was telling the other girl what to do in their play. It got me thinking, how many rules are there in the kids games? Does everyone know the rules? And why is there always that one bossy person in a "game"? I sometimes like to settle down the bossy person if they are going to the extreme. Like when they tell someone else "you have to play it this way" I can't disrupt the nature of the alpha-dog process and I know it.

The Truth Behind Violent Play
"Children who excluded a child tended to call him or her a name (girl or baby or tattletale) and then they seemed to feel justified in being physically or verbally hurtful to that child. On the other hand, a child who is frequently ostracized can justify violence as a means of retaliation."

I see this kind of "violence" more often than not. The key word in the article above is "justified" My least favorite story to tell happened a couple weeks ago. A little girl was accidentally pushed by another boy. Instead of the little boy just saying sorry and the situation being over... the boy's older brother + friend took him out of the room and began hitting him for "hurting" a girl. The older boys believed they were justified in their punishment. 

It is hard to tell stories about this room without mentioning a violent act once in a while (weird huh?). Sometimes it's a older sister dragging her younger sister out of here by the arm. Sometimes it's 2 boys fighting and/or play fighting. Sometimes it's verbal: name calling, degrading, general yelling. The occasions of pretend gun play are rarer. There might be a game of cops and robbers once in a while, but since it typically includes play fighting and yelling it's squashed within moments. 

This is my question. What if violent play has nothing to do with guns, soldiers and war? What if the play and games just turns violent?

Monday, August 2, 2010

I found my patience while playing with Marble Runs

July is over, meaning we're officially half through the busyness of summer.

July = 619 children, 195 came in without adults. Some days there were 20 kids in here at once. Other days it was more like 10, but they all seemed relatively the same amount of work and stress.

I had a conversation today. It was the endless conversation that we have daily, weekly, monthly. We may have new insights once in a while, but there are never solutions. What do we do with children who misbehave. This is the conversation: "If we kick them out forever, then we lose them forever... They are too young for us to lose them... We have to be their parents in here..." It is something that I have battled with for a long time while working here. Is that fair to us? No. But are we working for the greater good of children, literacy  and the surrounding community? I believe the answer is yes and that is why I have worked here for over four years, went to school to become a librarian and will love to continue working in this field.

The conversation happened after my break, and right afterwards the children came back in after their snack. We all had a break from one another. But they came in annoyed with each other, Robert was doing this, or Jeremiah was doing that and Heaven just wasn't helping matters.... So Jeremiah came up to my desk as I was counting the pieces to a bingo game (with the cage that spins and holds the number balls) He was spinning it around and telling me how it worked. I figured if he was interested in that, maybe he would like the marble runs, he would like to see how it worked. So I sat him down and we played with it, and then the other kids surrounded us and they all wanted to play with it. But Jeremiah needed some time alone so we shooed them away. And for about 10 minutes we had this perfect toy time. And I realized how simple it is to find the patience to handle this job... Sometimes I get so busy doing my job (counting returns, cleaning up, paperwork, putting toys sets back together) that I forget to take the time to do my job.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Words From My Days...

My days have become a cloud of all these statements. I go home exhausted. There are more children, more to do and less people to do it. More mess. More Noise. Brain hurts.

Don't climb on the horse!
Don’t throw the baby dolls!
Share the ball.
Can we play the game where you listen to me?
Go tell/ask/find your sister/brother/ parent.
Please stop talking back .
Don’t throw the ball at her .
Can’t come in yet kids, there is a group in here .
Want to play Connect Four/ Mr. Mouth/ Mancala with me?
Please don't come behind my desk there are way more fun things to play with out there.
Baby cakes, sugar, darling, dude, dear...
Everyone cleans up until the room is clean.
No food allowed in the library .
Come back in here when you have a better attitude, please .
Stop climbing on the horse!
You’re inside not outside!
Simmer down por favor!
Where is your grown-up?
Be good, Meghan has already had a busy day
Stop running.
Stop chasing him/her.
Don't you think you're too big for that?
This is a kids room, please act like it.
Clean up your mess.
Please stop yelling.
Just pretend this is a normal library.
Please don't crash into my desk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In some towns, libraries serve as a haven for kids, day care for parents -

"Librarians … they are the hidden stars of our communities," Neuman said. "Librarians act as substitute mother teachers. They have taken it upon themselves to fill this role. They are doing it and doing it well, even if it is not something they wanted to do."

Read the rest of the article here...Kids find summertime haven in libraries, parents find day care