Monday, January 19, 2009

unintended consequences

Everything in the the children's department at the library is either damp, sticky or damp and sticky. The day I found out that a 2 year old took a dump in the playhouse, I vowed to never go in there except under pain of death or while wearing a hazmat suit.

Plus, you know, the children's department is full of children...or demons parading as children. Some of the sounds they make, you never know.

Some of the children are okay, I guess, managing to find a book in there amidst the toys and the DVDs and the computers. I see them sometimes, quietly curled in an armchair, discovering the new worlds that can found by combining a book and their own imaginations. I've learned to recognize a blossoming reader - they are so often alone, their joy misunderstood. Their first venture out of the safety of the children's department and to the reference desk is frequently a stuttering, hesitant thing but I get giddy when I see them coming to my desk. I lead them into the vastness of the non-fiction section, explain the Dewey Decimal system, and then watch the realization dawn on their little faces.

"Wow. All these books?" they say.

"Yep. All these books," I answer, spreading my arms wide as if gifting them with the whole world. We're both grinning by the time I leave them alone in the stacks with all those books.

A new "for the children" federal law might ruin the magic, for all of us.


alan said...

If it hadn't been for books and libraries I might not have survived my childhood. It would be criminal to take books away from the ones who need them the most.

falnfenix said...

oh holy christ cakes, i didn't realize it affected BOOKS as well as every-bloody-thing else.

if parents would teach their kids not to eat the paint chips, there wouldn't be lead poisoning. i mean, *i* never had to worry about lead, so why the hell is there a sudden terror about it?

ugh. parents and their demand for putting children in bubbles without actually THINKING.

stbaguley said...

I don't "think" I am paranoid. But this rings alarm bells with me. I first heard them when reading that grass was not "a governmentally approved play surface". Now unapproved old books aren't safe??!! These are flanking maneuvers of an insidious enemy. There is some hope in the idea that if they were stronger they would not have to be so damn sneaky. Also that they are stupid enough to think we won't notice this kind of march.

Rich in Ohio said...

My first job in high school was working as a shelver in the public library - with the responsiblity for the children's books. It was a messy, gooey job sometimes, but helping kids begin a lifetime of reading was more fun than restoring order to the adult stacks.

Anonymous said...

In the early 50's there were no toys in the library I went to.

There was a reverential silence, and the everpresent fear of the dreaded "SHHH"

You knew that if that happened, you might not be allowed entrance there for a week.

Not something I ever experienced,though I saw it happen to one boy. (I also heard what his father told him when he took him out, glad it wasn't me).

I also remember having the Dewey system explained to me, and the wonder of being able to access the books (knowledge/adventure/wonders) I wanted.

To this day, I have NEVER betrayed the trust of a librarian who has entrusted me with the care of one of her charges. I took care of them better than my own toys.

I also remember the shame I felt when I had to bring a book back late and explain why I had broken my word to have it back on time.

Thank you for letting me get a glimpse of what those moments are like from the other side of that desk, and reminding me of those wonderous days that set my feet firmly on the road of the Reader.

Dennis (the librarian shhh'er)

P.S. Just so you know, Nothing you have ever written her has detracted from the awe those earlier Librarians inspired in me, but have only enhanced it

Joe Huffman said...

When our son was little he would spend all his time in the house reading. We would have to force him to "go outside and play". Then we would have to go check up on him because frequently he would just sit on the swing to read his book rather than get a little bit of exercise.

Books... they are a menace to society and should be heavily regulated and/or banned. ;-)

Earl said...

The best day in my reading history was the day when my son told me that he could see the picture in his mind, from his reading - we went to Disney World with fat books to get through the lines to the rides.

Very nice misdirection in your story, I almost thought you didn't like children...

boomvark said...

Children who don't read grow up ignorant. Ignorant people are easier to rule. Sadly, it doesn't surprise me that any government would see laws like this as brilliant.

And I'm not even an anarchist.

Anthony said...

Ahhh I remember my first time. I went into the library, looking for a certain author because I read only one of his books before and I loved it. The librarian was delighted because it was one of her favorite pieces of fiction as well! She showed me all the books this author wrote and I could have pee'd my pants it delight. I spent hours that day talking to her about books, and every week for years I would visit her at th library. She was truly one of my best friends as a child.

God I love books.

Gudis said...

Books as hazardous material; dammit Breda, now I'm depressed.

Jay G said...

How much longer before books are banned and firemen burn houses in which books are found?

Mr. Bradbury, call your office...

Angela said...

Falnfenix: anything which is intended for children under 12, or anything which looks like it was intended for children under 12, falls under this law. CPSIA is just a way for the .gov to pretend they're doing something about those lead recalls that happened not too long ago, without actually doing something about it (which would require dealing with China, not wrecking the 'home-made' industry in America). The Headmistress at has been keeping tabs on CPSIA and what it means, everyone should check her out.

Lydia said...

Having grown up in the very library that you work at, through the renovation and all...I never ONCE suffered anything other than a fear of librarians (them old ladies can be mean) and lots of fines.

I applaud trying to protect children, except that the attempt is stupid and not thought out.

dr mac said...

"Wos. All these books ?"

You have given them the whole world.

I know, it happened to me.

BobG said...

"...or demons parading as children."

You have to remember that children are larval humans, and larvae can be disgusting sometimes.


My experience and attitude is much the same as Dennis (the librarian shhh'er); I miss the days when people were quiet and read books, instead of running around and yakking on cellphones.

Buckshot said...

I guess they are REALLY going to be mad at me, teaching kids under 12 to shoot rifles and even using LEAD bullets!

I remember libraries reverently, not so much so the Dewey Decimal System, it let me down badly! It would not sort my favorite books (science fiction) by title or subject, only by author! Mean, nasty Dewey!

Not having computers then to track what one had checked in and out, and not knowing soon enough to check the author's name, it took me a YEAR from my first read to discover Robert Heinlein again!

Then I had to fight the librarian. I ran out of Heinlein in the children's section and tried to get the ones on the list in the adult section and she TRIED to refuse me the books! I was trained to be polite and respectful to teacher and librarians, but I WAS NOT taking that, she could not deny me a book becasue it was in the wrong room or rack, but she wanted to and tried to. So I MADE her call my house and get permission for me to take out that book, she did it, and I got that book. After that, if one of the helper librarians tried to limit me, SHE came and set them straight like I had had to set her straight!

Breda, I used to annoy reference librarians, too! I used to complain that their searches were too broad, not what I asked for specifically!


Ish said...

Would someone please page John Galt to the Reference Desk?

Christina LMT said...

I was one of those kids. I got locked in the library once, when I was about twelve. I was sitting on the floor in a corner of the children's section and was overlooked at closing time. I only noticed something was wrong when it grew too dim to read...:)

Joe said...

A kinder, gentler kristalnacht.....

Tom said...

it's like democrats WANT children dumb, angry, and violent.

Whatever could they gain by that?

Oh, right, the presidency.

txmom2jami said...

Apparently someone gave a heads up to China regarding this ridiculous new law. I was in Target the other day picking up a few household items and a little stuffed animal toy on one of the end caps caught my eye. "All Natural, Organic Materials" proclaimed the label. A very official looking seal stated this little toy was CERTIFIED NON-TOXIC. I flipped the packaging over because a curious thought had crossed my mind ...


"Made in China" ... hmmmmmmm.

I guess they got the memo.

Jenny said...

Dang Breda... I wish you were my librarian once upon a time. That's so sweet!

Well done. :)

As to the feds.. feh. Sounds like the perfect law to just plain ignore.

Joseph said...

Ah, but Breda, you ARE gifting them with a world...a world they didn't know existed, a way to explore it.

AztecRed said...

As a child, I grew up in a world filled with asbestos, lead, radon, carbon monoxide, guns in my parent's nightstands, various poisons under the kitchen sink, easy to reach matches,and McDonald's.

I managed to not die. I guess they just don't make kids like they used to.

Anonymous said...

Aztec Red,

You forgot, you also had a thing called "parents".

These strange creatures were tasked with guiding,protecting,disciplining,teaching,
and making you a responsible adult.

For some unknown reason(Possibly social pressure, or something instilled by thier "parent's") they did all (or at least most )of these things.

Perhaps they just don't make parents like they used to

Dennis (the librarian Shhh'er)

Ken said...

@Rich in Ohio: My first job in high school was library page, too. Great way to break into the working world.

+1 Jenny. The coming years will call for a great deal of quiet creativity.

1894C said...

What a JOY of a post!

Thank you Breda! On an otherwise depressing day, the joy of a mind awakened to books.

I laughed out loud picturing the scene, my own two oldest are avid readers at 9 & 7 yrs old and I'm so very proud.

Great post!

TJP said...

Oh for crying out loud. The people who were at risk were the typesetters, because the Linotype machines smelted "linotype" alloy (84/12/4 Pb/Sb/Sn) and cast lines of type on the fly. Imagine being stuck inside a room with these smelting machines--which occasionally spit hot metal--for an entire work day, for an entire career. I'm sure they also ate and smoked around the machines, too. That's where there is danger of lead poisoning.

While linotype alloy is fairly hard for a lead alloy, the type did wear and leave behind trace amounts on paper. The hypothesis of the Millenarian Church of the Anthropogenic Doomsday is that this is one of the ways the Silver Peril will destroy us all. Give me a break. Just make sure the kids wash their hands with soap and running water.

Also: Linotype machines are a marvel of mechanical engineering. You should see some of those old operators runs one of those suckers. Incredible!