Librarian of the Year Activist Author Lauren Comito
Lauren Comito is a cape wearing, ukulele playing, sword swinging, activist librarian in NYC. She is currently a Neighborhood Library Supervisor at Brooklyn Public Library, Library Journal’s 2020 Librarian of the Year, and is founder and the Chairwoman of the Board of Urban Librarians Unite, a national c3 not for profit focusing on providing training, advocacy, and support for front-line library staff working in large urban systems. Lauren has spent the last 30 years figuring out how to make her ADHD work for her, and has done a pretty good job of it. She is creative, passionate about connecting library patrons to the services they need, and a true believer in the ability of the library to change people’s lives and communities for the better. Enjoy!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & Lauren discuss:
1:32- Intro and welcome Librarian of the Year, Lauren Comito! Ref: Library Journal
3:05- So what happens at a Librarian of the Year awards banquet??
4:15- What are the lion’s names at the New York Public Library on 5th Ave? What are the Muppet critics’ names?
4:48- So when were you diagnosed with ADHD?
5:50- How does someone with ADHD end up loving libraries?
7:14- Would you say libraries are mm… like the last bastion of societal levelazation, if that’s even a word?
8:20- On new and antiquated “library tech”
9:40- How do you thrive with your ADHD?
11:53- What’s the hardest part about having ADHD? Also, what’s the hardest part about having ADHD as a Librarian?
12:48- So how are you handling the quarantine?
14:00- Sometimes the more you do, the less productive you are, or become. Have you hit any wall, or law of diminishing returns?
15:00- How do you say “no” when we always kinda need to say “yes”?
16:00- What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to our listeners, especially during this era of Covid-19?
17:18- Other than being Librarian of the Year, what is the best, strangest, or whatever moment you’ve ever experienced as a librarian?
19:19- Thank you Lauren for joining us today! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.
STAY HEALTHY – STAY SAFE – PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!
20:00- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
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We have a new sister video cast called 20MinutesInLockdown! A video podcast devoted to learning fascinating lessons from interesting humans all around the world, all in 20 minutes or less! 20 Minutes in Lockdown was born in early April of 2020, when we were in fact, in lockdown, and couldn’t do much of anything. Realizing that more than ever, people could benefit from learning from people outside of their comfort zone – people with interesting stories to tell, people with good advice, people with useful ideas that could help improve lives, we started hosting short Facebook video interviews, and we grew from there. (Plus, you can actually see my hair colors change before your very eyes!) Check it out: www.20MinutesInLockdown.com
Hey guys, Peter, Shankman welcome to another episode of faster than normal.
Coronavirus edition episode. I don’t even know at this point, literally does it matter? Like every day it just sort of merges into days. We took a couple of weeks off to sort of get our bearings thought, we’d go away. That didn’t work. So we’re back and we’re still here and we’re still alive and we’re still surviving.
And I hope you guys are too. We’re me. The damn mask. I’m so sick. You know, if we just, if we had done what China did, which was the Steve Irwin side, threaten to shoot them and say walked outside three months later, we’d all be back at work. And now we have those stupid things called freedom. And for some reason, half American thinks that not wearing a mask or wearing masterpiece of their freedom.
So I’m not going to get that because that’s on the show. It’s not a show that we talk about that. Although it’s driving me crazy where the DMS good enough. There’s my rent. Thank you for being here. Good to have you. We have a guest today who is a librarian. She has an ADHD librarian. If there were ever
did not fit together. You know, ADHD libraries I think is one of them. Two of those words, without question Lauren Camino is a Cape wearing ukulele playing sword, swinging activists, library, activists, librarian. That’s like a band named miss librarian. In New York city, she’s a neighborhood library supervisor at Brooklyn public library, library, library journals 2020 librarian of the year.
All right. So I learned two things from that one. There’s something called library journal, and they have a library of the year, which Lauren one, which I just think is freaking awesome. Lauren. Well, that’s so cool. Librarian of the year. Welcome to faster than normal. I’m so glad to have you. Thanks. Yeah. The librarian of the year thing was a bit nuts.
Worst possible year to be it, but, Oh, I’ll tell you about it. There’s the joke about 2020, right? I’m I’m I’m I’m uh, you know, in Hawaii. No, you’re not. No, no, no, no, everybody, all my, all my friends who’ve had it before or like, it’s going to be great. You’re going to travel so much. Well, is that, is it like the award ceremony?
I imagine I’m trying to imagine a librarian party. Is it just like, it’s just like one big ass, like, can you not even talk about it? Is it like. What happens to the library, your library of the year awards. Yeah. So that was actually fun. Um, what they did was they put us up in front of everybody and then made us stand there and listen, as people said, nice things about us, which is.
One of the most awkward experience
that’s about as low key exciting. I would expect a librarian of the award of the year award party. Yeah. That one is more official. There have been conferences where we have, um, drank out the bars, but that wasn’t, that wasn’t one of them where the bars ran out. I believe that for two days you would never expect, you know, I just, yeah.
I imagined like a whole bunch of likely 50 or 60 librarians. Shutting down the bar for you, ribbons fat lions and like, just get wasted on good quality tequila. I can totally see that. It’s always,
yeah. The first time we hit it city for a conference, they’re not expecting it. And the second time they know better. Alright, so, so let’s talk. So I love libraries. I love to read, by the way, I got to ask you and you better know this, or it’s gonna be, I’m gonna report it back to your boss. The name of the, what’s the name of the lions.
Patience and fortitude and named them that after the depression. Yes, he did. Oh, that’s my girl. Right? That’s like that. I don’t work for New York public library question. Great question. That’s important note, patience and fortitude. And what was the other, there’s a follow up questions that, which is the name of the, uh, name of the two Muppets who sit up in the balcony and complain.
Oh, that I don’t remember because that’s a New York thing to Statler and Waldorf. Yup. That makes sense. Very cool. So when were you diagnosed with ADHD? Oh, I was seven, seven years old, super early. I was like 1989. It wasn’t really a thing. 1989. You were spent on it to fight for it. I was going to high school and I say, okay, yeah, this interview’s over.
So here’s my question. You young, young person. So I look, I love to read, I had a library card from second. I was born. I performed Staten Island st. George library, headache play series every year. And I acted in, I was crane. I think when I was seven years old, um, that’s a library, which is awesome. But when it came time, like the Dewey decimal system, right.
Or card catalogs or things like that, that’s where the ADHD kicked in.
So there’s this sort of stereotype about librarians and libraries that we’re all one organized, just not true. Uh, quiet bookish and like. That it’s just about reading and that’s not necessarily why I love libraries. Um, I sort of fell into libraries when art history seemed like a bad career path, but I really liked the people and there’s so many different people, right?
It’s like the last place in society where you can go and have like toddlers. Seniors for knitting program, somebody looking for a job and people who just need a place to be for the day. Cause there’s literally nowhere else for them to sit all in one space and have to sort of navigate that the societal expectations of those people being together.
And it’s just kind of, while also helping them find the information that they need to live their lives. And it’s just kind of this fascinating mint miniature society that pops up in like every library building and. The country. Is it the last, um, is it the last, it’s the last bastion of levelization?
Every you walk in the library and everyone there is on the same plane sort of, I mean, society goes into libraries. It’s not, we do our best right. The all of the problems that exist in society also exists in libraries. People, you know, the differences in resources available to people on one block are vastly different than the resources of the people that live on the next block.
Like even. In New York city, you go from block to block and like the cost of the houses changes by like five times. Yeah. And like all of those people have to be in the same place and they, and they bring everything, lets them, you know, all of, all of this sort of societal inequality is come with you into the library.
I remember being in public school, how to be junior high and we would always have projects where we had to go to the library. It was, it was very close. Um, setting out library st. George Branch is very close to. My junior high. And we always had at least once a month had to go into the library and research something and do a project.
And I know that back then it was hard to know. Right. And, and back then there was no internet. Um, I had that when I was a kid too, I kinda missed the card catalogs. I do have a bunch of cards. I told my daughter once that it was just this morning, we were listening to 10, 10 wins on a, on Alexa. And I said, um, I said, your grandpa, grandpa, grandpa used to play this all the time when I was growing up.
And I hear it every breakfast as well as she just really, she goes. Where was your Alexa in your house? Yeah. Okay. We’re done. But, um, you know, it was, it was always an amazing experience to me. The library was always, and I think the library was always a center of calm for me, which is something as ADHD. I didn’t really have.
Right. Just go there and just know that I can read and not get in trouble for getting lost in a book. Right. Because that’s the thing, when I would find a book mighty and she would kick into my game and I, you know, 14 hours that will be up till 3:00 AM sometimes. And then I’m like, Oh no again. And you’re like, this is going to suck in the morning, but it was worth it.
Right. And so I think for me, it was the center of calm. What do you do for a bit? How are you, how do you manage it? How do you, um, so what’s, what’s sort of interesting about libraries is that they are large bureaucracies, right. And I have so many ideas. Constantly and larger accuracies tend to squash ideas.
Um, and so I’ve had to like over the last 15 years, figure out how do I make some of those ideas happen anyway? And a lot of that has been just figuring out how to not take no for an answer off the bat, how to talk to people in a way. Way that they can actually hear me instead of being so excited that I run on for like five to 10 minutes about this amazing thing that we have to do right now.
And then they can’t follow me. And I sound like a crazy person. Right. So a lot of it’s been like slowing myself down, making sure I’m listening to what you know, what people are worried about and then trying to move us forward anyway. But yeah, no, I mean, I have digital calendars. I have a sort of, um, modified bullet journal thing that I do where I just never put my notebook down.
Um, if I’m walking around yeah. For, for, to do lists and notes for meetings and stuff, it has to be written down for like appointments. It has, I need a reminder. So it has to go in the digital calendar so that it’ll pop up and tell me, like, you have to be somewhere in 15 minutes, but yeah. One time. I actually was checking out board books to someone and accidentally picked up my notebook and handed it to this mom.
And she left with it. Oh my God. I managed to find her and call her and meet her off with her and get it back. But I don’t know. There were like floor plans for things I wanted to do for a teen space in there. It was like I was going to lose. My entire life, because it was absolutely the worst day. Tell me about, um, what’s the hardest thing about both having ADHD?
So two separate questions. So like when I can’t focus on things, I like. You know, like if it was just that I couldn’t focus on the stuff, I don’t like doing fine, whatever. I’ll just make it work somehow. But like, when I want to read a book and I can’t, that’s kind of the worst, right. Is that like working in a bakery and not being able to eat the donuts or the breads.
Yeah. I don’t have time to read anymore. I’ve had times since I’ve been home, but I can’t focus on reading because I’ve like, I’m really great in a crisis, but right now there’s like a crisis that requires you to sit still. And that’s true. I can’t like, I feel like you can’t do anything.
I am volunteering for too much stuff. Uh, I’ve been working on, um, mutually dispatch to try to help people get resources. Cause it’s very much like my job. Uh, I’m also a manager, so I’m having to have meetings with my team and make sure that they have all of the information. They need to try to work like work from home and do trainings and things so that they can keep active.
Um, At some point, my building is going to reopen for holds pickup and I’m going to have to manage that. I’m doing zoom programming. Like we have a knitting group and there’s a expecting a new parent support group that I’m hosting and helping one of my staff do this book club and doing the tech end because you can only access through him on his phone.
Um, it’s, there’s actually a lot. To do. Um, but none of it, well, you know, it was like one of those things where none of it feels like it’s really doing anything. Like after Sandy, I was on the book bus in the Rockaways, helping people find food and prescriptions. I’d like, That felt like doing something. So what do you, what do you do in terms of, um, you know, this is our life for the foreseeable future, right?
And if people continue to not wear masks, they’ll continue to be our lives for even longer. So what are we doing? How, how are you handling the premise of not being able to quote unquote, do anything when yet still managing to do so much? Is there, is there a limit where. It was a law of diminishing returns.
Right. Is there a limit where the more you do the more you volunteer or do this or that the less productive you’re actually being? Yeah, there’s definitely a bit of that. I have a list of projects I’m working on, like on my bulletin board at my desk. And it says stop volunteering for stuff like, so that I don’t volunteer for anything new until the things that are on that list are done because otherwise I won’t really be able to do any of them.
Well, I think one of the things I’m focused on focusing on is trying to help build community around the library, even though we’re doing it online. What do you, um, how do you say now? How is it? It’s not easy to say no, especially when you’re for volunteering. There’s a part of us, I think from an aviation perspective that wants to help.
We just, we liked being needed. We liked helping me like doing thing. So how do you say no?
Mmm. I’ve actually just been saying no or saying that maybe it’s a good idea for some other voices to be heard in more working groups or like maybe, you know, Go ask like five people of color before you come back and ask me to be on this committee. You know, find somebody else I’m on it. I’m on a lot of committees.
My voice gets heard. It’s not going to be quiet, but there’s other people and other staff that maybe don’t get to be on those. And they have something really important and good to say. So come back if no one else says yes, What’s the best piece of advice you can give, um, either as librarian or some of the ADHD or both, uh, for people listening, whether they are productive or whatever.
Um, it’s interesting. There’s actually a lot of us. Um, there’s a lot of librarians with ADHD and I, I talked to them a lot about like how to manage their work and make it so that they. Can get things done without being incredibly stressed out by expectations. And I think my. Biggest piece of advice would be to figure yourself out and then ask for what you need and don’t wait.
Right? So if you need your boss to actually send your meeting invites as a calendar invite. Yeah. That’s an accommodation that should probably be made and will benefit everyone else. You’re not hurting anyone by asking for it. And in fact, everyone on the meeting will be better off because they will also get reminders.
Correct. You know, so like, Ask for things and then ask for what you need so that you can be super effective because otherwise nobody’s going to make it and give it to you without you telling them what it is. What is the number one best moment, other than other than being librarian of the year? I just want to make sure I say that one more time.
What is the best or strangest moment you’ve ever had as librarian?
It was a long time ago, but there was this guy who was looking for work and the recession in like 2008 or not, well that recession. And he came in and I was helping him with his resume and he was a welder and he was just saying like, there’s nothing. Special about me. I mean, in the meantime we’re talking about like, he has a welding certificate, he has all of these skills.
He makes fire escapes. Right. And I’m like, and I just, you know, getting to see his face change. And I’m like, of course, there’s something special about you. Not everybody can make fire escapes and you keep people from dying. Like your job’s important. And having him be able to make a resume and then go out for looking for a job.
But this idea that like, no I’m important was kind of one of the best things I think I’ve ever run into. And I try to do that. I try to make it so that everybody can walk away from the library, thinking like I’m important, this library is here for me and it doesn’t matter how much money I have or anything else.
It’s just, this is for me, I’m important. They treated me like I was important. Come on. I love that. It’s very, very cool. Lauren, how can people reach you? How can they find you? Um, so I’m not on Twitter anymore. I am on Instagram at librarian eater. Um, and then my website is my website is Lauren komeito.rocks.
I love it. Well, that seems like a neat top level domain. Very, very cool. All right guys, you’ve listed alarm Camino lights. Gotta say it 20, 20 librarian of the year. Okay. We are honored to have you thank you so much for taking the time. I’m so glad you reached out guys as always. We appreciate you listening to faster than normal.
We’re trying, we’re trying to get through this whole thing. I hope you all stay in safe. It is tough. It takes some of the ASU that was miles an hour and dropping to five miles an hour. It’s brutal through it day by day, doing the best we can. I appreciate you taking the time to listen. We should be sticking around.
Tell some friends, leave a review. Anything you can do. As always. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week with another interview, stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. And if he can see you guys.
You’ve been listening to the faster than normal podcast we’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play. And of course at www dot dot com. I’m your host, Peter Shankman. And you can find email@example.com and at petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice?
That’ll leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews for more, the podcasts is shown and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast.
Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week.