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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The library where I was stationed last week is in an industrial, toxic wasteland of old shipyards, petrochemical refineries, and munitions factories: a case study in environmental racism. There is not much around the library now but projects, liquor stores, and Nation of Islam temples.

Aside from the depressing and carcinogenic surroundings, it is actually a very pleasant place to work. The stern old African American librarians who work at that branch brook no nonsense and have all the patrons, especially the children, walking the line. After the rowdiness and insolence I have faced at some of the other branches, it's really a welcome change. While I was there a little boy actually raised his hand like he was in some English public school and asked in a quavering voice,

"Mrs. Lieberrian? May I please have a turn on the computer?"

While I was there, one of the support staff, a teenage boy, told me with gallant delicacy, "Well, ma'am, see, that gentlemen over at the far table. Well, well he sometimes does things with his er... man parts that can be quite offensive. But I'll keep an eye on him for you."

I feel very safe there. Another librarian,a small and gentle rabbinical man who also floats at different libraries, was stationed there one time. He doesn't drive so after the library closed the two librarians escorted him to the bus stop and waited with him until his bus came, glowering like German Shepherds at anyone passing by. No one messed with them.

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