Thanks to SLMC Daniel Everhart for sharing this personal reflection about his own school library experience.
To begin this blog I must take the time to reminisce about my library experiences as a child. There are two vivid memories I have about the public and private libraries I attended as a little boy.
The first memory is the children’s librarian at the Davidson County Public Library. My mother brought us to the library about once a month and it was certainly a highlight of our various activities. I wasn’t one of those readers who always picked up a thick novel that had that new page smell. Many times I would prefer a piece of non-fiction that focused on my current obsession. I went through many obsessions over the years from dinosaurs to old horror movie characters. Regardless of what I was excited about at the time our local public librarian knew what it was. She knew my name, what I was currently interested in, and always smiled when I walked through the door.
At the time I thought this was because I was just such an awesome kid. In hindsight I know better. She knew how to make me salivate over books and was ringing the bell just like Pavlov. When I came in she asked me how I enjoyed the last book I checked out and asked what I wanted to find that day. She was as specific as she could be given the number of children that walked through her door but it was obvious to me that my interests were of importance to her. She led me to the exact spot I needed to go each visit and shared the new books that were available. I felt special when I was there and it was because she took the time to make me feel special.
The second memory was at my local school library, which happened to be Southwood. The librarian would hang large posters up in the library with artwork from high quality books. She had collaborated on this with the art teacher. The librarian would always take time to share about the books and get us excited while still longing for more. After this introduction to the book, it was every student for themselves in regards to checking them out. I remember waiting months to finally lay my hands on a copy of Superfudge. I had read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing about a million times and I anticipated the continuance of the characters’ stories. Every time I came to check for the book and found it gone, there was always that beautiful poster reminding me how bad I wanted the book.
The strategies used by these master librarians aren’t extremely complicated. They suffered from the same lack of time we do today, work with the same large number of students, and would have liked to have a larger budget. These things didn’t deter me from falling in love with books. Sometimes it just takes remembering what kind of books a student checks out, giving a smile, treating books like they are gold to be searched for, and building a relationship with your clientele. Their slick library skills were smooth enough to slide me right into this position a few years back.
I have tried to keep these experiences in focus each time I make decisions about the library. Yes, it does matter that students take care of books, it is important that we get books back into the library, and it is important that we try to build collections that are connected to library expectations. Thirty years from now there will also be some things that don’t matter. Overdue books will be forgotten and that book that was left in the rain and wasn’t paid for will never be thought of again. I do not say these things because we should simply forget about teaching students to be responsible and caring of the books they are borrowing but instead I say them because they don’t align with my main goal as a librarian. That goal is for a kid to look back 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now still loving books, still drooling over an upcoming release, and still actively using their surrounding libraries. What I don’t want them to feel is that using these local institutions is a hassle, to feel uncomfortable in their surroundings, or to lose a love for books. Maybe I am just an idealist but I think that goes hand in hand with being an educator. We have to be pragmatic idealists in order to build lifelong lovers of books.
My Mother Leesa in the center, my brother Adam on the right, my sister Hannah in the middle, and me on the left with the funky face. Bless my mother for sharing a love of reading.
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