Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am relentlessly upbeat. Relentlessly.

For the record, when I first started writing this, the first line was, "Today was the first day of classes." A few short sentences later I was asleep on the couch with my computer on my lap. Further attempts at writing this week ended similarly. The beginning of the school year takes a lot out of a girl.


Monday was the first day of my third year at this job; this means that I have now, officially, been here longer than the previous librarian. Which, I suppose means I need to officially stop thinking of myself strictly in terms of how I'm trying to repair the damage done by a long-neglected program. The previous librarian was, as far as I can tell, a good librarian—she was just not a very good school librarian, and there is a significant difference. Even before she was here, the library and library program had, clearly been neglected for many years (and I have a collection full of books from tag sales to show for it--really, what teen doesn't want to read a political biography from 1982? And yes, I'm weeding, but the conflicts inherent in weeding such a badly outdated collection are too much to get into in a parenthetical aside. Some other post). One of the things that quickly dawned on me when I started this job was that in addition to rebuilding a neglected program, I needed to pay some serious attention to changing how people viewed the library--and how the librarian was likely to treat them.

Now, two years later, it's finally starting to dawn on me that I don't have to constantly prove to everyone that I'm approachable, and helpful, and good at my job, and unlikely to shush them. It helps that at least a dozen faculty members and probably about half the students have never known a different librarian here; there are fewer and fewer people for whom I have to counteract negative memories of the library. But repairing attitudes towards the library is still a major part of my focus--in part because a lot of new students do not come in with positive associations with the library. (As a side note: One of our new faculty members--a graduate of the school--told me that after knowing me she had shifted her entire view of librarians as being cold and intimidating. Which kind of almost made me tear up.) Sometimes I worry, however, that by spending so much of my energy there that I end up neglecting the less visible parts of my job. Like cataloging and processing and curriculum development and my own professional development--the kinds of things that if I let slide too much or for too long will become visible parts of my job, but not in a good way.

As I was saying:

Monday was the first day of classes; Tuesday was the first day I had classes in the library for info lit sessions. I've been pushing the "get kids into the library early" agenda for a while, but was kind of unprepared to have someone take me up on it. I had played with the idea of having a formal library orientation through classes, but I think it's important to teach these skills in some sort of context--and not to overwhelm students with information that they're not going to be able to put to immediate use. Also, my students come from all sorts of educational backgrounds, so I like to get a sense of what students are and aren't comfortable with when researching, and I have yet to come up with a general orientation that lets me assess that as well as an assignment that's integrated into a content area class. It's a question I go round and round on--I want to be sure I see all new students (and even returning students) at the beginning of the year, get a sense of their abilities, and start teaching as soon as possible. But in order to do that I need teachers to bring their classes in, and most don't want to do research that close to the beginning of the year. They have a lot of assessing and reviewing and introductory material to cover as well.

Also, as someone working without a para or or any clerical support, I count on the beginning of the year to be quiet so I can get caught up on cataloging and processing and organizing and curriculum development and all the other things that fall by the wayside once things get busy. If things get busy on day two, when are those other things supposed to happen?

But here's what it all comes down to, and what I've been trying ineptly to say throughout this entire post: there are ups and downs and conflicts and confusions and crazy hours and constant demands and often more things to think about and consider and weigh than I can even conceive of (seriously, this post doesn't even cover the half of it), but despite all of that and more, I really, truly love my job and can't imagine being happy doing anything else. And if that means a life of falling asleep on the couch while writing navel-gazing blog posts, so be it.


  1. K-M... have you heard of Nancy Pearl? I read her description (she's a speaker at the NCTE convention) and thought of you.

    Nacy Pearl:
    Having worked as a librarian and bookseller, Pearl's knowledge of and love for books is unmatched. In 1998, she developed the program “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book,” which spread across the country. The former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book, Pearl celebrates the written word by speaking across the country and on her monthly television program “Book Lust with Nancy Pearl.” She is also the author of Book Lust and More Book Lust. She is a regular commentator about books on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Pearl lives in Seattle with her husband Joe

  2. Know of her? I have her action figure on my desk: