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Beyond Stereotypes

Recently, a group of Library staff members visited the Marvels & Monsters: Asian Images in Comics exhibit to see what some of our colleagues have been working so passionately on over the past several months.  Good things had reached our ears about the event that highlighted cultural diversity, but until now we had not experienced it for ourselves.  It was high time to do so.

The display was intriguing even from a distance with the bold colors, most predominantly yellow, symbolizing the Asian skin tone of the characters depicted.  It captured our attention immediately and drew us from one end of the Charles B. Wang Center quickly to the other.  We were met with an impressive array of painted panels that depicted various Asian archetypes created by American graphic artists for comic books during the Second World War and Cold War Eras.  The exhibit served to show how easy it could be to alter society’s impression of a demographic who most knew little about.  As we took it all in, we began to realize how closely this hit home to all of us.  We, being library workers, were all too familiar with stereotypes that have been forced on those in our profession, probably since the dawn of the printed word.  Allow me to address a few, as they related, at least in my mind, to their Asian comic character counterparts.

The Shusher

The Shusher

The Shusher is one of the most predominant images in the Library world.  Librarian dolls have been made that mimic this aggressive shushing motion.  To the world, library staff thrive in a world of peace and quiet and mechanically react with this hand to mouth gesture when any noise is heard.  Much like The Kamikaze villains, they are a greatly feared character void of all personality who devoutly adhere to their mission to seek out noise and stop it dead in its tracks.

The Mean Librarian

The Mean Librarian

Who can forget the depiction of The Mean Librarian in countless Hollywood films? Always seen glaring from behind a desk piled high with books, squinting angrily through a pair of eyeglasses that have slid just a little too far down her pointy nose? Ruler in one hand, overdue stamp clasped tightly in the other. Wherever there is a scene set in the library where the heroes are happily piecing together bits of an exciting plot, there is a mean librarian there to serve as The Brute, spoiling fun simply for the sake of being bitter and mean.

The Brain

The Brain

Both Asian comics and American libraries share the archetype called The Brain.  An example of a positive attribute somehow turned negative, these characters just can’t win.  Whereas The Brain in the comics just wants to rule the world, the library version would settle to help you write a stellar research paper.  Neither has a bright future in the romance department.

The Sexy Librarian

The Sexy Librarian

A beloved Asian character in Marvel comics is The Temptress, there to use her powers of seduction to thwart the hero.  A beloved character at American Halloween parties is our counterpart, The Sexy Librarian.  A little less in-your-face sexy than the comic book version, the Librarians show that there is a mysterious kind of beauty to be found in a girl with brains.

The Techie

The Techie

Every library has at least one, some guy who keeps abreast with all the latest technology.  Though we are quick to label him/her as a geek in conversation with our peers, we will always compliment them on their sweater to be in their good graces because we know we will inevitably need computer help one day.  They could be seen as a traditional Guru figure, the teacher of all that is wise, but in reality they will also always be part Alien, a perpetual foreigner in the workplace – but in a good way.

By learning of the stereotypes that have been invented to negatively depict others in our society, we were inspired to reflect on how vulnerable we all are to being unfairly categorized in potentially harmful ways by media and pop culture.  That is perhaps why it is so essential to never pass up an opportunity to demonstrate that we are bright, friendly people who enjoy laughing and learning and defying preconceived notions to express who we really are.

The same can be said of Library workers!

The same can be said of Library workers!

Library staff at play

Library staff at play

Spending time in the shoes of someone else's stereotype

Spending time in the shoes of someone else’s stereotype

 

Having been forced to endure a week of office work while the rest of campus was celebrating the best holiday of the entire calendar year, Spring Break, we were yearning for a serious adventure today.  Ken had sparked our interests with the promise of a secret trail to a new and wondrous place, but alas, part-time weather reporter Kathy informed us all that it was raining.  The sound of our hearts breaking into many pieces was all too audible for the quiet study atmosphere in the Library.  The shushes from studious patrons at the sound of our hearts breaking added insult to injury.

Thank goodness for backup plans! We all perked up a bit when we recalled that there was currently a Marvels & Monsters Asian images in comics exhibit being held in the Wang Center, an event that some of our colleagues were assisting with. So we shuffled on over, not quite sure what to expect, but feeling certain that what we really needed on this gloomy day was a vivid splash of color that this graphic narrative art was sure to provide.

The Wang Center was in full cultural swing today, with groups everywhere honoring the textiles and traditions of peoples from all over the globe.  Some arts and crafts fanatatics were busy making masks – a party which we tried and failed to blend in with to join.  As we watched from the outskirts, our attention was seized by other creative attractions, such as a map made of old pants and an indigo skirt made with the oil of a water buffalo.  As fascinating and beautiful as this all was, we were on a mission to proudly find the exhibit sponsored, in part, by the Library.

Mask maker mask maker make me a mask. I think that's how it went...

Mask maker mask maker make me a mask…

America celebrating Casual Friday by donning their denim

America celebrating Casual Friday by donning its denim

At long last we found it, the best exhibit saved appropriately for last.  As we carefully studied each picture, we saw that they were more than mere comic illustrations, they were reflections of real life that we could all relate to.  For instance, the following picture made all of us recall recent feelings of hurt and betrayal when members opted to defect from team Walk-O-Rama and walk with our competitors, Healthier U.

No hard feelings, we swear ;)

No hard feelings, we swear ;)

We also saw ourselves each depicted in the character stereotypes that were displayed in brightly colored panels, though none of us could agree which of us was The Brute, which was The Brain, and which The Manipulator.  Only Ken could be indisputably identified as The Temptress.

Ken and Celeste adding a bit of intrigue to their Friday

Ken and Celeste adding a bit of intrigue to their Friday afternoon

Ken makes a marvelous monster

Ken makes a marvelous monster. He clearly practices in the mirror each night

Fortunately for us, there was also an illustration that brought us all back to reality and beckoned us to take note of the time. Oh no! Our lunch hour was nearly over and we still had not eaten! In honor of this great Asian art, we rushed to grab some ethnically appropriate cuisine, as Ken chose pork and rice and Celeste opted for the pineapple chicken and rice.  Kristen confusedly grabbed pizza.

Translation: "Look at the clock, dummies, it's time to eat." Disclaimer: we do not speak this language and doubt it really says that. But it could...

Translation: “Look at the clock, dummies, it’s time to eat.” Disclaimer: we do not speak this language and doubt it really says that. But it could…

We’re very proud of those members of the Library, Stony Brook University, and everyone else who has worked on this exhibit so far.  Great job, guys! Check it out if you get the chance.  Learn more about the upcoming symposium HERE!

We hope to see you next week as we hopefully walk to Ken’s mystery destination!

 

 

 

March is upon us and what can we say – it has been one helluva winter.  Abnormally cold and snowy conditions had forced us all into a state of deep hibernation at our desks for months, but as the morning temperature slowly and surely crept closer to a level of warmth that even the grumpiest among us would declare “bearable” (but not quite as close to the Caribbean temps that Raquel had become accustomed to), something inside each Walk-O-Rama member instinctively sparked to life today at noon, driving us all to abandon our work and meet, without knowing why or how, at the same gathering place at which Walk-O-Rama members have been meeting to walk throughout history.

The new semester had brought with it a new architectural achievement on campus (which incidentally houses food), and we had made up our minds to explore it.  Unfortunately, the new semester also brought with it weekly snowstorms, which meant our visit had to be delayed until a day just like this one rolled around.

Ken, the leader, stuck to the back of the group, making the journey a clumsy and awkward one.  Kristen vaguely recalled that the destination was located near the weird lego-like buildings, and Arielle more traumatically recalled that it was a brutal but doable hike there from the SBS Building in a 10 minute time span.  Using those two fragments of knowledge, combined with Peggy’s mental picture of the building burned into her memory after what seemed to be some pretty serious map studying, we were able to get there safely, despite the campus’s obvious attempt to thwart us by discontinuing sidewalks.

The West Campus Dining Hall (Kelly Dining Center) has a curious design. The outer facade gives one the feeling that the architect was more of a guestimator where measurement is concerned.  The pieces just didn’t seem to go together properly.  Uncertain of how this would factor into their staff’s ability to make a sandwich, we cautiously wandered in.

Meant as a psychology experiment to test how to put different shapes together. Fail.

Meant as a psychology experiment to test how to put different shapes together. Fail.

We were given a grand welcome by someone whose name I rudely did not ask for, but if you drop by yourself, look for the super friendly guy in the biggest hat.  He gave us the royal tour and made some great recommendations, which sold even those among us who were not the least bit hungry.  Those lucky diners who choose West Campus Dining will have the pleasure of munching in a bright, sunny cafeteria that’s been more impressively designed than one might guess from the exterior. There was something for everyone: Caribbean Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Bob’s BBQ, cupcakes the size of your head, suspiciously taste specific gelato, coffee, Asian cuisine, and soon even Italian, pizza, and salad (for those who somehow  manage to avoid all those other fabulous options). We might just go again for the BBQ Breakfast.

Fork and knife dispensers: adequate defense when you want to protect your additional food from Walk-O-Rama members

Fork and knife dispensers: adequate defense when you want to protect your additional food from Walk-O-Rama members

The royal tour. given by someone we're hoping was actually an employee

The royal tour. given by someone we’re hoping was actually an employee

Seriously...skull-sized pastries

Seriously…skull-sized pastries

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Tune in next week for the special Spring Break Edition.  Or, better yet, come along and share in our next adventure!  Hope to see you there!

Though you may be thinking perhaps this is just another one of Kristen’s hollow threats trying to improve Walk-O-Rama membership, I assure you it is not.  It is actually one of Kristen’s hollow threats trying to improve registration for the Library’s most recent scavenger hunt, Spy Hunt. Hey, it worked! Students, faculty, and local community members alike all flocked to the library to avoid the certain doom that awaited them if they did not do whatever it was we were forcing them to do.

Based loosely on the spy activities associated with Long Island’s Culper Spy Ring, the hunt had participants scrambling to decode clues using many of the same techniques believed to have been used by General George Washington and his intelligence operatives during the Revolutionary War.  These included invisible ink, cipher wheels, the pigpen code, and more.  When asked where on earth we came up with this idea, Kristen’s eyes glazed over and her expression went blank. We are not quite sure where it all began, but the picture used to describe the crude stage in which all of her ideas originate in our Walk-O-Rama time capsule post can be applied here as well.

The crude form in which all of Kristen's ideas originate

The crude form in which all of Kristen’s ideas originate

In truth, a hunt requiring participants to utilize research skills was just too complex for the rhyming clue scheme used in our annual scavenger hunt. A narrative was required to be the glue that held it all together.  And what better narrative than one that combines our Library’s unique holdings (a letter written by George Washington himself!) and our rich local history.  We also had a curious supply of glow in the dark paint, clothesline, and historical garb that really needed to be put to some use.

Thanks to super generous staff members, this hunt suddenly became the most prize-rich one to date.  This is perhaps why it was so shocking to see that our first eager person to register was a faculty member who expressed that she did not want prizes.  She was in it for love of country, or Library, or perhaps just curiosity. Whatever her motivation, she gave us some helpful hints for improving our clues and making it a little easier to figure out (yes, hunters, this was the easier version).

A spy hunt - it's what to make when you have too much glowing ink in your house

A spy hunt – it’s what to make when you have too much glowing ink in your house

Think of how exhausted you'd feel if this was the hard version?

Come on, guys! Think of how exhausted you’d feel if this was the hard version!

Come game day, students and staff alike were eager to take part in the action.  As it turns out, colonial attire is on its way back in the fashion world, as was evident by the number of staff who own pieces that they believe will once again be all the rave this spring.  Our student workers confessed that they were not aware of this trend, so we kindly lent them some of our hottest accessories.

 

Look! It's...George Washington? Looking fabulous with the Super Sly Spies

Hey! It’s…George Washington? Looking fabulous with the Super Sly Spies

Spy Hunt! Where students unintentionally learned a lot about the French and Indian War

Spy Hunt! Where students unintentionally learned a lot about the French and Indian War

Striking a treaty that would put an end to Library fines

Attempting to strike a treaty that would put an end to Library fines

Proving that Benjamin Franklin’s Join Or Die! political cartoon is still as effective today, we were surprised to receive a call from workers at Ward Melville Heritage Organization who wished to also take part in the event so they could remain happily living.  They were at a slight disadvantage since they did not register for the more introductory scavenger hunt held in the fall, so they had not yet been introduced to some of the key locations in the Library building.  Nevertheless, they breezed through the clues at a speed that would bring a tear to George Washington’s eye. And it even looked like they had fun along the way! Thanks for spending your lunch break learning more about the Library and our helpful services!

If you liked this event, you'd love what these guys have to offer! http://wmho.org/

If you liked this event, you’d love what these guys have to offer! http://wmho.org/

In the end, not many points separated the winners from the rest of the pack.  It all came down to the bonus points, with the team with the best name (Mare Lupus – Latin code name for Sea Wolf) and most patriotic picture gaining those crucial points needed to move ahead – but only by one point! We hope all teams will be happy with the prizes they found at clue checkpoints. It was the least we could do to show our appreciation for you taking part in our latest Library event.  Be sure to like us on facebook to hear about upcoming activities, contests, and important information regarding our collection and services!

Patriotism at the S.S. Melville. We love it!

Patriotism at the S.S. Melville. We love it!

These very clever agents have no trouble solving our puzzles

These very clever agents had no trouble solving our puzzles

Bonus points! +1 for finding a sea wolf, and a few more points for a great picture!

Bonus points! +1 for finding a seawolf, and a few more points for a great picture!

Prizes! Compliments of the SBU Libraries staff!

Prizes! Compliments of the SBU Libraries staff!

Down a few members, but still ready for the challenge!

Down a few members, but still ready for the challenge!

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

Just a fraction of the staff that made this event possible. Thanks to you all!

Just a fraction of the staff that made this event possible. Thanks to you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the season for giving unto others, which is why three wise walkers came together at noon this Wednesday to travel far and wide within the building (because it is cold beyond these here walls), spreading our holiday cheer throughout the many offices that make up our Library building.  This year, holiday cheer took the form of candy canes, cocoa packets, and invitations to today’s much anticipated music performance.  Not everyone could join us on this joyous walk.  Ken, for instance, was very busy working on – HEY! Why are you just sitting at your desk, Ken? Surely you must have known we would find you out as we spread joy to all on this walk! Fortunately for Ken, he had strategically placed containers of cookies all around himself as a distraction, which momentarily ceased our scolding.  Unfortunately for Ken, after those cookies are eaten people have nothing left to preoccupy their thoughts and are left to focus on your betrayal.  As this is also a season of forgiveness, we will let this matter go.  Santa is watching, after all, and he can sort out all this not-very-niceness on his watch. It’s his job.  Thanks, Santa.

These wise ladies were smart enough to know that walk in the cold would be foolish

These wise ladies were smart enough to know that walking in the cold would be foolish

Gold, frankincense, and mirrh are so last year

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are so last year

This container bought Ken a good 23 hours of no scolding

This container bought Ken a good 23 hours of no scolding

We encountered many stairs on our not-very-well-thought-out meander, which showed us what a wonderful workout one can get, even indoors.  But the cookies and pie offered in the Director’s Office, as well as the cookies Ken used as a cunning distraction, were threatening to send this walk spiraling out of control.  We could not resist any longer.  We had to avoid these holiday calories by leaving the safety of the warm building and heading out onto the cookie-free campus grounds.  With Diane now along for this more serious adventure, we did the only thing we could think to do when met with the cold reality of the crisp December air. We headed for the nearest warm building, which happened to be one that prepares food.

We wish you all a holiday season filled with way too much eating, so you will be more likely to join us in 2014! See you in the new year!

This week we were proud to host our 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Feast, even though (or especially because) we had to forgo walking to eat in because of it.  We could not believe the huge crowd of people who came to join in to give thanks during this celebration, mostly due to Kristen’s contradictory emails regarding the day of the event.  Who let her be the one in charge of something important anyway?  After seeing the party’s high attendance rate, it is now quite clear what will need to be done to maintain healthy member statistics on a weekly basis when we meet to walk in the future.  Ken, get baking!

A strange coincidence that only Walk-O-Rama members are sitting and eating in this picture

A strange coincidence that only Walk-O-Rama members are sitting and eating in this picture (?)

To ensure that the true spirit of the day was not lost, a board was set up to inquire what we all were most thankful for.  Some cooks wisely chose to use this opportunity for some free self promotion to advertise the dish they had brought.  Genius.  Others were a little more cryptic in their word choice.  Trying our best to make sense of the text that seemed to be an ironic written refusal to write on the board, we could come to no other conclusion besides that this party goer was too hungry at this point to use proper punctuation and correctly tell a traditional NOT! joke.  Our best estimation is that it should be translated to read “Hell. NOT!” Yes, we get it now. You are so funny.  Please be sure to eat a snack before participating in these activities next time to get a better sense of mental clarity.

Today, give thanks for brussel sprouts, and for the grammar/knock knock joke police

Today, give thanks for brussel sprouts, and for the grammar/NOT! joke police

As further evidence that we were all going to keep the spirit of giving in our hearts and minds on this day, many staff generously contributed food to assist the local Food Pantry! Go us! Now who wants to burn some of the calories from their body’s newly acquired stash by walking it all over to the appropriate building? Don’t be stingy with your calories.  We will all get plenty more next week.

Three cheers for kind donations!

Three cheers for charitable donations!

It was great having our new fearless leader there to join us in the celebration.  Not only is she a good example of library work ethic, she also introduced a sensible style of eating to our group.  We have tentatively named it the “Food that was not acquired exclusively from the dessert table” diet.  Kristen will try this out next year.

Welcome Constantia!

Welcome Constantia!

...and her artistic healthy dish

…and her artistic, nutritious dish

...which was likely healthier than Kristen's

…which was likely healthier than Kristen’s

You know your party has reached “epic” status when people who were not on the guest list pop in because they heard something amazing has going down on the 2nd floor.  That’s how we felt when retired staff and former workers wandered in to say Hello.  It was great seeing all their familiar faces again!

Accidentally becoming a Walk-O-Rama member today. It was great seeing you!

Accidentally becoming Walk-O-Rama members today. It was great seeing you!

We hope we can all work hard to think of more occasions to bring us together in celebration.  Hey, I know! How about Walk-O-Rama! Next week will be a short one, but join us the week after for a chilly meander somewhere interesting.  Hope to see you there! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

We are doubly thankful for leftovers!

We are doubly thankful for leftovers!

And triply thankful for people like Jeanne!

And triply thankful for people like Jeanne!

The best seats in the house - easy food access!

The best seats in the house – easy food access!

 

Walk-O-Rama Forever!

Today we set out to celebrate the tenure earned by one of our elite Walk-O-Rama members.  One can earn Walk-O-Rama “points” in a number of ways to raise their status to this “elite” level. Celeste has earned hers by compiling an impressive mixture of miles, calories, and dollars spent.  Good job! One may also earn points by giving me cash.  Or brownies.  So now Walk-O-Rama is just one member away from being comprised of employees who all have permanency with the state! That means we will be walking together during our lunch breaks until we die – guaranteed! Awesome!!

Having remembered the Lucky Penny that Celeste bought her in Vegas for much more than a penny, Kristen felt sure this would be one magical lunch. And it was! We found one secret door to a mystery tower and, despite its lack of a knob or handle, we were open to will it open with our minds! The person whose arms served as the means of performing this mental command seemed quite alarmed to find all four of us staring drop-jawed at her when she exited the mystery tower, but we were not ashamed. We were amazed by our new group power.

The mysterious could not be penetrated - except by our superhuman minds! (and that one girl)

The mysterious tower could not be penetrated – except by our superhuman minds! (and that one girl)

We also spotted a group of ultra nerdy cool quidditch players out enjoying an intense semi-magical competition on the Physics lawn.  Ken scoffed at the idea that they were playing without a Golden Snitch. Also, none of the athletes seemed to at any point be airborne.  Amateurs.  We do not consider ourselves nerdy in any way for being able to find fault in their sport by noting the lack of a Golden Snitch.  Quidditch may or may not be added to our upcoming Library Olympics, in which some of us will excel at volleyball without a net, and others will run the length of our planned 5 foot long soccer field to attempt to score against Arielle who claims to be an awesome goalie and has the remnants of a once broken thumb to prove it.  Do not click on Special Olympics if it should happen to pop up when you Google Library Olympics.  It is not the same thing.  We swear!

Quidditch players use the light orb spell to prevent us from filming their wicked moves

Quidditch players use the light orb spell to prevent us from filming their wicked moves for our Olympic competition

Having dawdled while observing all of these things, we worried that we might not make it back on time.  Fortunately, the magic in the air today put our fears to rest by speeding up and blowing us effortlessly to the building, where it then only took us 12 minutes to climb two flights of stairs.

Fast motion magic air to save the day!

Fast motion magic air to save the day!

Congratulations to our friend Celeste on her new sentence honor of working as a lifelong state employee! Come join us next week if you have something to celebrate, which we all do!

Walk-O-Rama Elite Club Member: Celeste

Walk-O-Rama Elite Club Member: Celeste

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