Confessions of a High School Librarian–Part 2


Peter Parker in the Library

Peter Parker entered and signed in dutifully at the front desk. Mrs. Mars, Inches away, faced her computer screen, seemingly preoccupied. Then Peter Parker went and sat at one of the little round tables along the wall directly across from the circulation desk, where Mrs. Mars sat. He was reading a book, sitting in profile, so that Mrs. Mars could see him. This was not the first time Peter Parker had come into the library on his free period, and, after finding a piece of preferred reading material, had sat down at that very table, in that very same position, in Mrs. Mars’s full view. Other students often visited on their free—or ostensibly free—periods, and located themselves so as to be strategically shielded from Mrs. Mars’s sometimes penetrating gaze. They sat behind a pillar, or hidden from view by a stanchion announcing class reservation times, or behind the “Return Books Here” sign. Or way in the back of the cavernous facility, behind the Fiction shelves.

But not Peter Parker. He seemed to find security, perhaps, or some form of satisfaction, in visual proximity to the librarian—as if the radius of her field of view conferred upon him magical protection: a force-field of sanctuary and sanity, perhaps. Or was it something else?

He had come in that morning with a class, and here he was again, on his own. He had impressed Mrs. Mars as one of the rare students who actually acknowledged her presence as he walked in, his pale, scholarly face set off by earnest deep brown eyes, looking out from behind round-framed eyeglasses. He really did look like Peter Parker, she had thought when she first really noticed him, at which point she had given him this surreptitious pseudonym. He had the close-fitting brown, medium-length hair, medium-to-slight build, and conservative clothing to go along with the image of Spiderman’s alter ego. He was also intent on being polite and agreeable with her. This is why he stood out to Mrs. Mars. She appreciated his refined manners, and she responded to his greeting with one of her own.

Today, though, was notable. It almost seemed that Peter Parker was asking for some kind of interaction. He was smooth enough in his behavior that he did not appear nervous in his chosen spotlight, as he sat at the little round table, fully within Mrs. Mars’s gaze. He didn’t look up, or over at her. For her own part, she kept busy with her computer work.

Then, Peter Parker stood up and approached the circulation desk. He looked directly at Mrs. Mars and asked if he could borrow a pencil. She found a new, sharpened pencil in a drawer, and handed it to him politely, but a bit distractedly, and without looking at his face. She could tell, however, that he was looking at hers as he took the pencil and thanked her.

Some girls joined Peter Parker at his table. They were nice-looking white girls. They appeared to be working on a common project or some schoolwork. Mrs. Mars gave no hint of interest in their activities. Eventually, the bell sounded for the end of the period, and the students scattered about the library made their way to the door to proceed to their next class. Peter Parker and his classmates were getting up from the table. Most of the time, students who “borrowed” pencils from Mrs. Mars didn’t return them. Mrs. Mars was understanding about this, as she had plenty of pencils and considered it a small act of charity to provide them to students who needed them. Then Peter Parker walked up to the circulation desk, held out the pencil thoughtfully, looking Mrs. Mars in the eyes and saying, “Thank you,” as he smiled very pleasantly. “You’re very welcome,” Mrs. Mars replied, also pleasantly, and with a legitimate smile, for she was genuinely pleased at Peter Parker’s considerate behavior. As Peter Parker walked out the door with his table-mates, Mrs. Mars looked down at the object in her hand. The point was still sharp, the pencil none the worse for wear.

Returning to her solitude in the empty library, Mrs. Mars took her eyes off of the computer screen. She reflected on the nice young man who had been so polite and gracious with her. “I wonder,” she thought, “if that sweet young man was trying to get my attention, or if he just wanted to be acknowledged for his good-naturedness and his upholding of mature social standards.” It was almost, she thought, as though he were trying to make a very personal impression on Mrs. Mars. She smiled, and permitted herself a small, sensual sigh.

© 2016 Anne Campagnet-Reed


Confessions of a School Librarian – Part I

The Artist's Sister at her Window

“Sometimes it seems that kids don’t really understand what books are anymore, and they sure as heck don’t know how to find them,” Agatha reflected.

“I see a lot of bewildered students coming into the library and not getting their work done. They don’t look bewildered. They look like they’re playing computer games, or talking loudly with their friends, taking outrageous selfies with dramatic expressions, laughing too loudly and doing things deliberately to get my attention. Like going out the back doors that they aren’t supposed to exit through. Like eating chips or drinking frapuchinos near the computers. Like trying to do cheerleader formations, or play-fighting in the library. I approach them and remind them to tone it down so others can study. One or two of them like to back-talk and tell me that they aren’t bothering anyone, asking the nearest student who is working on a computer, ‘Hey, are we bothering you?’ to which, of course, the student replies no, but then packs up her stuff and leaves.

“How do I know they’re bewildered? First, because life is just bewildering for a lot of kids in high school. The cooler they try to look with their friends, the more pain and fear of looking dumb they are trying to conceal.

“Second, I know that even a lot of the “smart” ones are bewildered, because they really don’t understand libraries or how to use one. I guess no one has ever taken the time to show them how to use a library catalog. Of the three students brave enough to ask how to find a certain book this week, none of them knew how to use the catalog. I had even made a sign which I put right beside the two catalog computers, with very clear directions.

“But I was glad that they asked, because it gave me something to do. I walked them over to the computer, showed them how to get to the school library system’s global website, how to locate the school, and then how to click on the “Catalog” tab. Then I showed them how to type in an item and search, using the category icon (Author, Title, Key Words, etc.) Could they have gotten there by reading the sign? Of course. But did they read it? No. But they really seemed happy that they were able to find what they were looking for. They felt a sense of accomplishment.

“And you know what?” Agatha mused to herself, ” I get it. Computer databases in libraries always used to seem complex and forbidding to me. I always felt dumb when I asked someone to do a search for me (In those days, you couldn’t do your own searches–only librarians could do them.) I never knew what search words to use, and the whole process seemed mysterious and out of my reach.  But I would have thought that this generation, with their YouTube, their Tumblr, their PlayStation, their Xbox, their Nintendo, InstaGram and SnapChats, would totally get how to access databases. But they don’t. I think they don’t for two main reasons: 1) databases are dry and boring, compared to all of the  instant gratification they get from their other computer media; and 2) no one has sat down and shown them how to do research with databases, or convinced them that they should bother. So that’s my job.”

Agatha smiled as she settled down in front of her computer, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt, as she prepared to blog about her new job as a school librarian.



Quantum Physics, Bad Farts, and Job Interviews

Chain Link Fence

By Muselle Kamal,
Guest Blogger

Why is it that we always think we look horrible right now, and a few years later we look back and think, “Wow, I looked pretty good”? It’s an inescapable truth. And probably, if someone looked at us right now, they’d think we were pretty nice looking—I mean, looking good, but also that we looked like a nice person.  Quick tip: as you’re browsing through iPhoto, make sure you have removed all pictures of yourself more recent than 3 years old… or if you’re over 40, make that 5 years. That way, you can look back and still think you look pretty good. And then by the time you see how you look NOW, you’ll really be old and ugly, and you’ll think that how you look NOW looked pretty darn good!

So I’ve been having a day like that. I tend to not like to dwell on negative thoughts, to the point that I’m kind of in denial that I have them. But I’ve decided to go ahead and talk about them. Because after all, they’re a part of who I am.

And that gets me to thinking about QUANTUM PHYSICS. That’s a new buzz word for this idea that everything is related to everything else. The way people talk about it in everyday language, one of it’s main features is the idea that everything influences everything else. Like if you watch someone or something, you are actually having an effect on it just by watching it. Hey, I wonder if I can change the ending of Orange is the New Black by thinking hard enough. Anyway, I know that if someone is watching me, or talking to me, I feel their vibe, and it changes the way I feel and act, and even what I do. You can read what people think, and how they perceive you, and even what they allow you to be in their minds. This is a sixth sense we have. It’s really easy to pick up on in job interviews.

My daughter, who graduated from high school last year, told me they teach “new chemistry.” It came out in casual conversation over the dinner table. Electrons are now known to exist both as particles and as energy (wavelengths). The way she described it, if you are looking at an electron as a particle, then it will only behave as a particle. But if you are looking at it as a wavelength, you can only see it as a wavelength, and not as a particle. To me, this concept makes total intuitive sense on so many levels, but as a scientific concept, it doesn’t make ANY sense. Science is supposed to be able to dissect and divide reality into distinct parts that are only ONE thing. But here, an electron is one thing OR another thing, or BOTH. Depending on how you look at it. THAT’s what is so interesting to me about quantum physics.

Glass-eyed crow

So in a recent job interview, three people sat across from me and asked the regular round-robin of canned questions that always get asked for this type of job. The body language was fascinating. The two on my left were really pleasant and seemed to take in everything I said with understanding and even compassion for my nervousness. The person on my right sat with arms folded on chest (a large, tree-stump of a man), and with a constipated look on his face. That’s probably the best way to describe it. Not moving, solid, and strained. His brow was furrowed, making him look half confused and half trying to suppress a really bad fart. I KNEW that he wasn’t listening to anything I said. Or that he didn’t care about anything I said. It was SO clear that his mind was prejudiced against me. (I have a background of facts that substantiates this… no, I’m not paranoid). Still, you like to think that in an interview, everyone would at least give the APPEARANCE of listening objectively and open-mindedly to your answers. But there it is, that old quantum physics thing: the listener influencing the speaker. Changing my entire level of self-confidence because what I read was: “Yeah, just go on talking; nothing you say is going to make me hire you.” And you know what? I was feverish with the flu during the interview (although I didn’t know it yet), and come to think of it, I really didn’t want to work there anyway! I was just going through the motions because I needed to keep that unemployment check coming.



Art in Everyday Objects

Sometimes you just find art. I walked into the kitchen and found this display of dishes in the drying rack. My daughter had done the dishes the night before. Her arrangement was different from the way I would have arranged the dishes to dry. There was something attractive about the soft light on the blue and translucent plastic; also about the way the objects in the rack seem to be at once floating and radiating outward. There is a dynamism that keeps the eye interested. The contrast of the red lid gives the eye a point of interest, while being the exception that emphasizes the blues and whites.

Random Acts of Kindness

Boy & Girl Sculpture

© 2013 Anne Campagnet-Reed

Yesterday my two daughters were at Starbuck’s. They saw a bicycle parked outside. In front of the bike was a sign:


My younger daughter asked her sister for some money to buy a croissant. Then she asked the barista to borrow a Sharpie. She wrote “For you” on the fancy little bag that the croissant came in. Then she went outside and tucked the bag behind the sign. They sat and watched through the store window. When the man returned, he found the bag. They watched as he found the bag and its contents. He seemed amazed and really appreciative. Then he came into the Starbuck’s and looked around. Finally he sat down and ate his croissant. When she told me about it later, my daughter felt really happy.

It was a small act of kindness, but the kind that really makes someone’s day. We need more of these every day!

The Feral Cat Ladies

This is a sequel to “She Chooses Trust” (FromUnderThePages 4/9/2014) and “Open Your Eyes, Kitty!” (Writewireless 5/25/2014). A foray into magical realism and fun. Enjoy!

write wireless

Cats in Pot 3

This is a sequel to “Open Your Eyes, Kitty!”, published on May 25, 2014 on Writewireless. It is basically a true story. Only the names and some of the details have been changed to protect the feral—and the domesticated as well.

When I heard the knock on my door, I thought it was someone else—wandering friends who show up occasionally. When I looked through the peep-hole, it could have been Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two ladies, casually dressed, on the other side of middle age. I opened the door. One had white, somewhat tousled hair, and was holding a long cage with a bowl of food at one end. Her face was soft and malleable and looked forgiving. Her companion was thin, with streaky gray hair pulled back into a severe ponytail.

Her voice was strident, and clung to the high registers like the nervous claws of an excited feline, ready…

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What is an Artist?

Orchid and Wasp

An artist is someone who:

Sees it all right away,
sees it in a different way,
pisses people off
doesn’t really care if people understand her or not
trusts her judgment
knows she is right
worries about what people think
wants to be liked
knows she will never be understood (in this life)
Must have chocolate every day
is obsessed with beauty
will hunt truth to the death
wants to live… really live
is interested in what other people think (and especially IF they think)
MUST see others’ art
loves the greats
needs to share
needs sunshine and plants
needs animals
ponders stuff she doesn’t think is great—but not for too long
must communicate
needs to be loved
can’t stand routine
needs self-discipline
is painfully sensitive
forgets what time it is
does it for love
obsesses over an idea
is anxious about the future of the world
is anxious about the present of the world
likes to challenge the status quo
pursues her vision to the end
often gets exhausted
loves color
loves paint
loves words
loves film
must take pictures
gets angry
gets high on new points of view
loves originality
… has finally decided to go for it.