Saturday, February 15, 2014

I've been linked! And on a more serious note...

Just happened to mosey on over to my blog stats this evening, and found that some folks were being referred here by another blogger who writes The Sassy Bibliophile.  Take a peek at her site for a perspective from a middle school circulation desk!

Now on to the serious stuff.  This week, I signed a petition started by some high school students in protest of thinly veiled book censorship in their district.  You can check out the petition and get more information here.  I don't go around willy-nilly signing every petition that comes across my Facebook feed or in my email inbox, but this cause means a lot to me.

Let me take you back to my childhood to give you some background on my reading values.  Books were my friends growing up as a military BRAT, constants in a world that literally
changed for me every 18 months to three years.  There were books that traveled with us, books that we got through book-of-the-month clubs, and there were bookstores and libraries--always libraries, found on military bases, in DoDDS overseas and public schools stateside.  I learned to look for my favorite books in each, hoping to make my global travels seem a bit more homey and secure.  

During all that traveling and growing up, I can never, ever remember having my reading choices censored.  In fact, I recall the opposite.  My mother's "mind candy reading" was Harlequin romances, and I think she had one in progress in every room of the house.  I don't recall every getting in trouble for sneaking a peek at those in my middle grade years!  Most of the "taboo topics" were shared with me through books, when my mom deemed me to be ready for them, be it the Readers' Digest Life Cycle Library or the paperback of The Thorn Birds.  When she handed me the latter (I think I was thirteen or so), I remember reading one steamy passage, then hunting her down and saying "You do know about this chapter, right?".  She just smiled and said something like "Keep reading, it's a good book--a bestseller."  My mom was right; it was a good book, more than just that steamy chapter that served to clue us in to the naivete of the character involved. 

And you know what?  Reading about sensitive topics did not make me want to run out and take unnecessary risks.  It did give me a preview to the complexities we face growing up, and  made me aware of choices that I might have to make.  I could learn from characters' mistakes, and when they overcame obstacles, I felt like I could, too.  I was lucky in having a fairly idyllic childhood, but I had friends who didn't, and books helped me to be supportive of their struggles because I knew if someone had written about it, they weren't just isolated issues.  They were helped by those books, too, for the same reason.

So it scares me when people can't see beyond the language, violence, or subject matter that they deem to be "inappropriate",  and can't grasp the lessons and comfort that can be gained from such books.  It worries me when they can't trust teachers and librarians to pick reading material for their students, and when they feel the students themselves can't be trusted to self-censor.  I know for a fact that many students can and do censor themselves, because I see it in my home, and I see it and encourage it in my library.   Not every book is for every reader, and comfort levels vary--and that's okay.  Removing books from shelves because they make one person uncomfortable denies access to other readers for whom the book may be a "perfect fit", just the thing they need to read to educate and empower themselves. 

One last note, lest this stir up any worries about choices I make for books in my workplace library.  I may be against censorship, but I am not clueless when it comes to choosing books that are age-appropriate for my elementary crowd.  I select books using several sources such as the state Bluebonnet and 2x2 lists, Kirkus reviews, curricular needs, and recommendations from students, teachers, and lit professors.  Serious coming-of-age topics are just that--coming of age--and most students will have the chance to read those books in their middle school and high school libraries....if they aren't pulled from the shelves by scared, distrustful adults.

P.S.  My advice to parents who are worried about their children's book choices--read the books, too.  Ask them about the passages which concern you, engage in booktalk with your child; you may be happily surprised at how well they interpret and navigate those details, and what they gain from them.  Wouldn't you rather they learn that now, in the safe confines of a book and your home, before they face the complex world they'll enter as young adults?  Keep on reading!

(Photo of PAHS courtesy of the school website, )

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Still breathing! My school life as a librarian

Just looked at the date of my last post, and oh, my!  It's hard to believe that this is already February 2014; the school year is flying by for this new librarian!  I am having SO much fun with my latest incarnation as a "book pusher".  But my job entails much more than booktalks and manning the circulation desk.  Here's what my typical day looks like:

  • I greet my lovely assistant at the circulation desk.  She's always there before me, and has the computers booted up and set to the online catalog.  I log on to "my" circ desk computer and get the circulation program up and running, because we have a few kids who are in the library right at 715a to check out!
  • Unlock my office door, get that computer up, unpack my bag, and set up the computers for the broadcast team that arrives at 725a.  We're joined by the IT support and music teacher who handle most of the technical/ directing side of the broadcast with the team in front of the camera; I assist the other team of students who are at the computers preparing for their next week's report.
  • After broadcast, I get a few minutes to check emails, help students who wander in for checkout, pull materials for teachers, and handle scheduling issues, financial stuff, and answer any phone messages.  Sometimes I'll have a class that's making up a visit during this time, or I'm teaching a special lesson.
  • Classes typically start arriving for their fixed visits around 845a.  On a slow day, we see eight classes; on a busy day, it can be eleven or more!  Kindergarteners get a storytime every week, with books off of our local Armadillo list or from the Texas 2x2 recommendations.  First and second graders get a story or lesson every other week, so that on their "off" weeks they can have a full half hour to browse the shelves.  Third, fourth, and fifth graders also get lessons every other week.  I tend to focus on library and information literacy skills with the upper grades.  I want them to be able to navigate any library they walk into with ease, for a lifetime!
  • Tuesdays after school, I help host the fourth grade newspaper club.  Each edition team meets for one month, and this year we've published our newspaper using the Google S'more application.  It's colorful, and we can import pictures, videos, whatever the team imagines and writes up!
  • Every Thursday, I meet with a group of fifth graders during lunch for book clubs.  It is one of my favorite things to do; we discuss the common book we just read, make text and life connections, and choose the next book to read.  
  • Friday mornings start with school assembly.  I'm on stage right after the national anthem, and report on library news, give the "Shelf Elf" award to classes that have been exceptionally great in the library, and generally encourage reading.  This TERRIFIED me at first; getting up in front of 900+ people was not in my comfort zone!  It is getting easier, though, especially since I get such a good response to "Good morning, READERS!" when I step up to the microphone.
  • The rest of my job is probably what you think it is--checking books in and out, finding books for students and teachers, ordering new books and supplies, coming up with library lessons, cataloging new materials, and managing the facility use and funds.  
I love my job.  I love that I get to promote literacy, and the enjoyment of reading, on a daily basis.  I truly believe that reading is at the heart of all learning and social/community engagement--it affects our school performance in all subjects, allows us to participate in social systems and our democratic processes, and facilitates career choices, global awareness and communication.  On an emotional level, it allows us to problem solve and deal with serious issues in the safe environment of a book plot--important skills to last us a lifetime.  I am honored to be given such a responsibility!