Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Librarian fails at being a nerd who plans ahead. Reel at eleven.

by Tammy Garrison

I’m officially the nerd librarian where I work. The director is a nerd. But most of the time he has to keep his administrative hat on, and can’t let his freak flag fly. I’m in charge of a lot of the programming, so I have the opportunity to bend those programs to my strong suits. Like this fall’s Doctor Who party, and last week’s Star Wars party. Conveniently I can throw parties for premiers of TV shows and movies that appeal to the masses and let me indulge in stuff I probably care way too much about.

Please, let me share my feelings about how Mrs. Hudson from BBC Sherlock and Wilf from Doctor Who would make the perfect couple. Also, I count fan fiction as actual books read for Summer Reading.

Sometimes, being a super-huge nerd who gets to incorporate that into their daily job dealings can have its own problems.

I’m learning to work ahead. Yes, I should have learned this in fourth grade, with the rest of the kids. But I’m a slow learner. Remember when your teacher said ‘you can’t do this all in one night, so you’d better start early’? That used to be more of a challenge than a warning. I found out later it was a magical combination of executive dysfunction, ADHD and OCD. Yes. OCD has prevented me from starting projects until the day before they were due for the last, oh, thirty-two years of my life, give or take.

Which is a sad story when you are both a library administrator and in charge of the vast majority of your library’s programming. Yes. For the last nine years of being a librarian, I have been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve been putting together programming the day before, or the day of, based entirely on whatever I had put on the flyer at the beginning of the month. I have written grant proposals the day before they were due (and I have gotten the grants) and I have planned actual university classes I have taught an hour before the class began.

I know that sounds like bragging. In a way, maybe it is. The classic hum-brag (a brag disguised as humbleness). But in reality, it does cause more problems than it solves. What problems are solved by procrastination? Well, the OCD perfectionism has to take a back seat when you are flying by the seat of your pants, trying to meet a deadline, instead of trying to make everything as good and perfect as you know it could be, in your mind. It quiets the ADD, because you are forced to focus. It also kicks executive dysfunction in the teeth, and usually the adrenaline rush caused by the deadline will override the brain’s inability to grasp the task at hand and outline the steps necessary to get a task done. And when you have executive functioning issues, anything that a normal person sees as three steps (open litter box, scoop poop, dispose of poop) becomes a million tiny tasks in my mind (probably also aided by autism). I’ve counted, cleaning the litter boxes takes me approximately 21 micro-steps.

So I see two weeks of library programming, consisting of a craft, sometimes a movie, games and accidental learning, with each program lasting about four hours, as some impossible task. This, to me, requires somewhere upward of 37,509 steps. Yes, I’ve counted.

I planned a theme for each day of winter break, when the kids would be flooding the library looking for something to do. I made sure there would be extra staff on the schedule, to help with the programming. Believe it or not, most kids under the age of twelve mostly need help doing the crafts themselves, and playing whatever games are on hand. Any game that says it is for 8+ actually needs an adult to help ten year olds play it.

I even had boxes for each day of programming, labeled appropriately. Crafts went into those boxes as I found them, prizes, relevant books, etc. I had entire days worth of activities planned by the first week of December.

Except I forgot one little thing.

The first day of winter break was the 18th. Yes. These kids have over two weeks off of school, and the first day was Friday, only slightly more than half-way through the month. If that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.

Star Wars party Invitation - blankConveniently, however, December 18th was also the premier of the new Star Wars movie. Rejoice! We have a theme! We have a party idea!

So I threw myself into Star Wars planning. I had decorations, I had games and crafts, and I had movies to show. And even better, I had backup crafts. Backup games. Backup movies. I was so ready I could kinda cry a little.

I just forgot one little thing.

Staff.

Oh.

Yes. I was so intent on making a Star Wars party to end all Star Wars parties, that I forgot to actually staff the darned thing. Lesson to future librarians, and future administrators: actually have employees or volunteers on hand when you throw a six-hour party. Oops.

So, I spent six hours trying to keep kids under control. Kids on the first day of winter break. I helped them with crafts. I controlled the glue gun with an iron fist. I dished out popcorn until I finally just had to cut them off and say we’d run out (a big fat huge lie). They drank six gallons of lemonade in less than two hours, and they used every single puppet face I had meticulously hand-drawn and cut out the day before.

Also, do you know what happens when you give twenty-five children and their parents popcorn during movie time?

Basically, it’s a sad story that ends with you spending an hour vacuuming the entire party room. To paraphrase and abuse the words of the Buddha: life is pain.

Friday was a mess of my own design. Half an hour at the radio station to promote both the party and everything else happening over break, then an emergency trip to Walmart, because I had forgotten to check out one of the Star Wars movies a month ago, so I could hold onto it for the party, where I spent $45 on three DVDs that weren’t even the original versions (I have a chub-rub-esque relationship with the Special Editions), and $15 on the Star Wars Lego movies. Oh yeah. And a Star Wars shirt that didn’t really fit. It’s cute. But it doesn’t fit.

Back to work to finish putting party stuff together; photocopying the BB8 craft, putting things in the party room and setting up, then a whole morning and afternoon of scissors, glue, popcorn, overly excited kids who demanded their free poster for showing up at the movie at the beginning of Return of the Jedi even before Leia had killed Jabba the Hutt. Epic cleanup, a sore back, and only myself to blame.

So that’s how my Friday went. Learn life lessons. Learn them from my mistakes. If you’re going to plan ahead, make a list. Check it twice. Maybe even make sure that extra help is on your list, and that it matches the lists for all of the other things happening that week. Monday I have no game planned, but I sure do have crafts and staff on hand. Modify lists as necessary. Weep into your oatmeal if you find it relieves stress. Do whatever you need to.

That is my bit of wisdom gleaned from all of this, my first attempt at really, truly planning ahead. More lists taped to boxes. More help. More backup crafts.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m going to plan ahead to plan ahead better.

A bit about the columnist:

Tammy Garrison was abandoned on this blue/green sphere by her own people.‭ ‬She persists in her efforts to make contact with her people via work that can be seen at Flashshot,‭ ‬guest spots at nearandfarcomic.com,‭ ‬and in Chicks Dig Time Lords from Mad Norwegian Press.‭ ‬She also has an internationally-read webcomic,‭ ‬speaks at science fiction conventions,‭ ‬and works as a crazy cat lady in training/librarian. Visit author page

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