Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Be A Children's Librarian

Every once in a while, there is a need to update a top ten list. While attending Wayne State University, it was never my intention to become a children's librarian or a school librarian for that matter. What happened? Fate has a funny way of placing you where you never thought you would dream of going. I have worked in both libraries and found that it has it's unique rewards that can not be found anywhere else in the library world. Going through old notebooks earlier this week, I found a list containing why I wanted to be a librarian. It was a nice stroll down memory lane but seriously, the list is so outdated and no longer useful. At least not for me. So here is my new top ten list for choosing to be a Children Librarian.

10. Where else can you color, glue, cut out shapes and get paid to do so.

9. Reading children's literature for work but that is just a "cover" because these books are on the "wish"list of books to read before you die.

8. Always on top of who is hot and who is not! Dora still in, Barney still out.

7. Library tours where children get excited over display cases and really want their own library card.

6. Hokey Pokey in the middle of day with twelve bouncy preschoolers. Need I say more?

5. Never, ever forget a nursery rhyme. However, should this happen, don't panic. A forgiving, encouraging three year old will re-teach it to you.

4. Silly songs to sing. Silly songs to giggle at all day long!

3. Sticky fingers, smiling faces and warm hugs after Story time.

2. A Children Librarian never grows old because interacting with children keeps the mind from thinking like an "old" person.

1. Helping a child find the joy in reading, which hopefully lasts their entire lives. It's actually magical!

Had someone shared this type of list with me back in the day when I deciding where to make my mark in the library world, maybe I would have jumped at the very first opportunity to be a children's librarian. However, I really don't begrudge anyone. Eventually I found my way to the children's room. I intend to stay until I have read every imaginative, adventurous and humorous children's book ever written. Which should take quite a while. Anyone up for Good Night Gorilla?

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Library Week Wrap Up

As National Library Week comes to a close, there is a sense that the opportunity to spread the "wealth" that awaits in every library should be shared every day, of every week and of every year. Each library around my area have celebrated this week in different and creative ways. From each of them I have been inspired about the prospects of what I can do for my patrons in the coming months. The other night, the library where I worked had a program and the library was packed. The topic was about Hamtramck, Detroit's own little Poletown, and how it has changed over the years. Watching the patrons, young and old alike, come in for the program, a flash of "aha" moment came into my head. This is why libraries are so important, the keys to the past, present and futures lies within for anyone to capture for themselves. It may sound corny or nostalgic but it's a true and worthwhile to repeat.

Libraries have a long and colorful history. They are in my humble opinion, the first Do-It-Yourself centers of learning. Where else can a person gain a free education and learn at their own pace? Libraries main purpose in every community has not changed. They are the source to go to when one is in need of information, books, or CDs. That's not to say that there hasn't been changes. Boy, have things changed in the past twenty-five years since my first job in a library. As an example, some of the things I miss like the card catalogs, (which I love so much that I have one at home) the paper indexes, and finally the ever faithful microfilm machine have been replaced by computers. It is absolutely amazing to me that technology has changed so quickly that it three tools that libraries once depended on have now been replaced by one machine: the computer. Life moves forward, and libraries thankfully have moved along with the times.

Since I am allowing myself to be nostalgic and sentimental, it seems appropriate to thank all the librarians that have gone before me, and paved the way for librarians like myself. If it were not for their vision, dedication and hard work, libraries would not be functional today. They truly were trailblazers in so many ways. I can only hope that the work that I do today will inspire the next crop of professional librarians to take up the torch and the light the way for the patrons who are in search of the keys to the past, present and future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Secret Lives of Librarians

We all know and have seen the stereotypical librarians, haven’t we? The hair is always in a tight bun. Their wardrobes always consist of sensible shoes, dull suits and glasses. One of the hallmark characteristics of librarians is the shy demeanor with a vocabulary that consists of one or two words: quiet or sh! After working in a library for over twenty-five years, none of my colleagues fits this description. Heck, at my wedding, the loudest and funniest table was filled with noisy, prankster librarians. Get them out of their elements and those wacky librarians go crazy. The closest I come to “knowing” a librarian fitting that description is my librarian action figure which fits the bill and it is based on a real life librarian, Nancy Pearl. Don’t get me wrong. It is okay if the public likes to think of about our profession as polite, well-educated and professional. We could very well be super heroes, who by day provide patrons with information and great literature. By night, we conquer the world with our super-charged shusher, and Dewey Decimal System. (You are aware that Decimal is just a code word for disintegrate, right?) All kidding aside, the stereotype of the librarian is a far cry from reality, but there are some books out there that portray librarians in a manner that looks at our profession from a different perspective. Which is a good thing for younger readers, they need to see that librarians come in all shapes and sizes.

Eth Clifford’s Help! I’m Prisoner in the Library is a tale of two sisters who are trapped in the library during a blizzard. Everything is fine until the library is dark. The large dolls that were wonderful and interesting in the light, now seem a bit scary. A talking bird flies above their heads scaring them and the moaning coming from the second floor is not what the girls would like to hear. After a climb up the stairs to find the source of the moaning, the little mysteries are solved and the girls find that Miss Finton, the librarian not only runs the library but also lives there. All ends well, when the girls’ father finally finds them the next morning. At first the librarian in this book seems old, mean and unable to bend the rules. Raise your hand if you have ever met a woman like this in your library? Miss Finton does warm up to the girls and confesses that the library may close to make room for a newer, modern library. The story ends with the girls admiring the library and the librarian. . .

Richard Peck, a veteran childrens author, tells the story of Pee Wee, a tomboy who loves automobiles and adores her older brother Jake. Here Lies The Librarian takes the reader back in time to 1914 when the rural life was becoming complicated with the birth of the automobile. When the local library is demolished due to a tornado, everyone in town pitches in to restore it. In come four librarians, fresh out of library school, who know just how to get the library going again. A good thing too, because this gives Pee Wee a glimpse into what she might like to do in the future. As for the deceased librarian, she did cast her presence in the story, but it was more heartwarming than scary. This is definitely a story to warm the heart with nostalgia.

The book that has the ability to help librarians laugh at ourselves, is The Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. Author Jarrett Krosoczka delivers smile after smile with his depiction of librarians who are tired of competing against video games to gain childrens attention. It’s Lunch Lady to the rescue to stop the nasty librarians for destroying the latest video game and conquering the world. (Goodness, how many times have I wanted complete World Domination? Once or twice, perhaps!) It is a charming little graphic novel that gives Lunch Ladies a chance to be in the spotlight. However, everyone knows who the real heroes are in our communities and schools. Shhh…. it’s the librarians.

As stated before, it’s okay to think of librarians as mild-mannered, spinster and shy women. There are many stories out there that share the “secret life” of a librarian with readers. We are, after all, heroes in our community. Just ask Bat Girl.

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week 2010

Here we are again, National Library Week 2010 and where has the time gone? For over 50 yeas, the American Library Association has dedicated the second full week of April as National Library Week, an opportunity to celebrate the great and unique libraries across the United States. Big whoop you say? Well, indeed it is a big whoop. Especially in the economic times that everyone is facing, libraries should not only be celebrated but supported. This year's theme is "Communities Thrive @ Your Library" and what a wonderful reminder of the role that libraries play in every community across the nation.

This could be an opportunity to begin extolling the virtues of libraries and librarians. However, for just a moment, celebrating seems to be more the order of the day. After all, there is another 6 days yet of connecting this week's celebration and the need to gain stronger support for libraries. What better way to get excited about libraries than to share books that readers of all ages can appreciate about the library. There is no shortage of books on this topic however, having said that, there are some titles that just outshines them all.

The Library by Sarah Stewart, this book is by far the best book about libraries and avid readers who can not put down a book. If Elizabeth Brown, the heroine and avid reader, does not make herself endearing when reading the whimsical rhymes, then it just may be possible, that one does not have a heart. Who could not giggle, at the silliness of cleaning the house while reading a book or reading upside down? The love of books and libraries are infused into every page and illustration that it reminds the reader of how wonderful it is to read out of pure joy.

Sometimes Rules are meant to be broken. That is the theme of the children's book Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. Mr. McBee is not happy when a enormous lion comes to stay at the library. Miss Merriweather, the librarian who is the keeper of the rules and keys to the library, states that as long as lion obeys the rules, he may stay. Lion makes himself at home during storytime, (how I would love for that to happen at one of my storytimes!) and providing other servies around the library for patrons and librarians alike. However, the Library Lion breaks the rule when he roars at Mr. McBee to alert him to the fact that Miss Merriweather has had a terrible fall off of a stool. Lion lays low for awhile, staying clear of the library, until Mr. McBee finds him and tells him that sometimes library rules should be broken. Happy ending for all. Lion returns and all is well in the library again! (Can I please have a lion at storytime?)

Bridgett's loves her animals so much, she brings them to the library. What could go wrong in Eric A. Kimme'ls tale I Took My Frog To The Library? So the frog frightens the librarian, the hen lays an egg in the card catalog, and the hyena laughs at the all the wrong places during story time. Big deal! That's not so bad, but when elephant wrecks the library because she is just TOO big, well that was the proverbial straw that breaks the librarian's back. All animals have got to go home, but that's okay. Bridgett's elephants entertains the troop with her own story time. This is an older book, but it is a classic with it's warm pictures and humorous tales. Animal, book and library lovers will love the tale, even if the card catalog is an old fashioned one!

Each of these books are perfect for storytime for preschool up to second grade. Perhaps, a little nostalgic too but is there anything wrong with getting a little attached to a library? For many children at the library where I work, it is a second home to them. Come to think of it, it's like my second home too! The list of books is far from being done. There's more to come next time. In the meantime, celebrate National Library Week by taking someone you love to visit the library. Sit a spell, read a little and check out a book. You'll be glad you did.