Sunday, September 14, 2008

Well, I finally decided to try a blog. I will have to see what becomes of it. My children have had blogs for some time, but I have shied away from this endeavor because of the time commitment. I have taught middle school for the last 36 years; for the last eleven of those years I have been a school librarian.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I sometimes hesitate to say. Not because I am not proud of what I do, but because I am not sure what name to put on what I do. I suppose I could fall back on Shakespeare’s, “What’s in a name?” But would a rose smell as sweet if we decided to call it an onion? Most of us have past olfactory experience with roses and onions and may have strong opinions about both of them. Would those experiences change our perception of the rose with such a name change?
Many school districts call school librarians “media specialists,” and name our base of operations the “media center.” To me, these titles have a cold, metallic ring that brings to my mind circuit boards, plugs, cords, cables, blips on a computer screen, TVs, and VCRs. While I deal with all those items, that’s just not me or what I do.
When I took my position at Mt. Jordan Middle School, in Sandy, Utah, I called myself a “Professional Library-Media Teacher!” After all, I am a teacher; I am a professional; and my stock-in-trade is library and media stuff. I now simply call myself a school librarian. To me, the title “librarian” says more of being an information specialist and reader’s guide than the title “media specialist.”
This is what I do: David, an awkward seventh grader reading on a 12+ level, said he was tired of teenage books and wanted to read a classic. After he rejected several suggestions, I went to the shelf and pulled out Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Hall.
“I read this in high school,” I said, “but you are a much better reader than I was at your age, and I am sure you can handle this.” I did a little book talk with him, and he agreed to try it. I warned him that the beginning was a little slow and encouraged him to stay with it.
Two weeks later, David came into the library and slammed the book down on my desk. “I hate you!” he exclaimed, glaring at me.
“Why? What did I do?” I asked warily.
“You made me cry!” he said, emphasizing each word.
“Ah,” I said smiling. “The last chapter got to you, did it?”
We spent the next half hour discussing the characters and their choices and consequences and made connections to ourselves, to other books, and to the world. Though I had and would help him many times to solve information problems for reports and projects, to access databases and use text files, and the myriad other things school librarians do for their students, he remembers me because of our connection as readers. I know this because when I met him by chance six years later, he wanted to talk, not about how he was using all the research skills in his life, but about the books we were each currently reading.
I know that school and public librarians the world over have many similar stories that they cherish, that make them proud of who they are and what they do, and inspire them to go back to work every day in hopes of having another such experience. We are librarians! Touching hearts and opening minds through reading is what we do!

1 comment:

rebekah said...

yay librarians! We rock!!!