Telling my story

April is known for many things…touted as the cruelest month (oh how true this year!), National Poetry Month, and most importantly, the return of America’s pastime.

Outside of the library world, however, it is hardly known that April is also School Library Month. I’ve never made a big deal out of it in the past, as I intrinsically celebrate every month as school library month, but this year, inspired by the school librarian twittersphere to share how becoming a librarian changed my life, I offer this.

Libraries have always loomed large in my life. Memory fragments:

  • A small-town library of my early childhood housed in a remodeled farmhouse
My childhood library

My childhood library

  • The more imposing brick edifice where I spent my tween and teen years both as a patron and a page
Where I hung out in the stacks

Where I hung out in the stacks

  • The city libraries of Hartford and Evanston where I worked/studied as a college student
  • Years serving as both a friend and trustee of suburban libraries in New Hampshire and Massachusetts

 

Yes, libraries have been woven into the very fabric of my existence.

And yet, when it came time to declare a major in college, I was encouraged to choose economics by the esteemed chairman of the department.

And when job-hunting in the late 1970’s (when library jobs paid mere pittances, especially to those without a Master’s degree), I chose banking.

Yes, the glasses were big. It was the 80's!

Yes, the glasses were big. It was the 80’s!

A banker I remained for over ten years, rising to the position of Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager. The transition from numbers gal to bibliogal took almost as long, but a much more circuitous route. For seven years, after the birth of my second child, I explored options–from stay-at-home Mom to home daycare provider to educational toy store clerk to playgroup manager.

And then a serendipitous glance at a job posting in the local paper led me to a part-time paraprofessional job at a nearby public library. I had come home. Within months I had enrolled in a masters program and one year later I was hired as a school librarian, in a job that I still hold today, sixteen years later.

So, how did becoming a librarian change my life? It gave me back my life. My true, authentic life.

The life of a little girl who would rather organize and arrange Barbie’s outfits and accessories than actually dress her in them.

The life of a teenager whose hangout was the library stacks and whose friends were the nerds back there with her.

The life of a young adult who sought out the nearest library before finding the nearest establishment serving adult beverages when moving to a new community.

The life of an adult who cares more about what others are reading than what cars they drive.

How did I become a librarian? I think I always was one. It just took forty-plus years before I could actually put it on my resume.

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Sweet Dreams, the Sequel

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It’s that time of year again, when I am invited into the home of one of my families to read bedtime stories to their children, as part of our school’s silent auction fundraiser. Last year I chose a chapter book that would work with siblings of kindergarten and third grade age.

This year (also with K and 3rd grade sibs), I opted for a favorite new picture book, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. I carefully wrapped the book (along with two other books chosen for each individual child) and presented it to brother and sister when I arrived at their house, along with the milk and cookies of course. There was quite a reaction when it was unwrapped, even more excited than I expected. Clearly I had hit upon the perfect choice as big sister ran into the other room and brought out the same book which she had borrowed from the library in hopes that I would read it to them! As expected the read aloud was a huge success! I was given such a warm welcome that I offered to read some more, so the kids scurried off to their rooms to bring back two favorites of theirs–Stop that Pickle (which I got quite a kick out of) and The Lady with the Alligator Purse (a burst of nostalgia for me).

The following day I received a lovely thank you note for my visit.

What was missing, I realized, was a thank you from me to them–for their gracious hospitality, for sharing their children, for supporting our school, for making books and reading a priority. May this post be a thank you to this family and all the families at Peaslee School who support the library, literacy and believe in the power of books.

 


Digital Balance

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg

 

When my colleague, first grade teacher Eileen Badstubner, commented that she was concerned about the amount of time her young students spent in front of screens, my response was “Have I got a book for you!”

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg (sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and  a social media expert in her own right) is a simple, straightforward paean to a life that balances the connectedness of technology with the equally important connection to the world beyond the screen.

The recommendation turned out to be much more than a just-in-time readers advisory. The students loved the book so much that Eileen and I decided to take the read-aloud one step further. Taking a page out of Randi’s book (literally and figuratively) we came up with an idea that combined both old school and new school tools.  Using good ol’ markers and paper, each student created his/her own interpretation of one of the pages in the book. These were scanned into the app Explain Everything. Then, one by one (with the cooperation of Eileen and her co-teacher Jessica Alderman), the students joined me in the library to tap, touch, swipe and speak the words and actions to make their drawings come alive.

As I noted in my previous two posts about working with kindergarten students as individuals rather than in a whole class setting, technology that allows for every voice to be heard is worth a little time in front of a screen. Won’t you spend 2 minutes and 13 seconds for a little reminder about what life is really all about?

This is Dot. Dot Knows a lot.

This is Dot. Dot Knows a lot.