Friday, November 13, 2009

I am still mildly squid-like, but this post is still not about that

This year I decided to do a Birthday Book Club (the process of getting it set-up and running and approved and re-approved sometimes made me squid-like with annoyance, but I'm over that squidiness). Basically, parents make a small donation to the library, I pick out a book for their child, put a special bookplate on the first page, and include a note in the catalog indicating that the book was donated in honor of whoever (that way the students can look him/herself up in the catalog, which is pretty cool). I write out a birthday card for the student and put it in their mailbox the day of their birthday, or sometimes hand-deliver it if I happen to run into the student.

In the card I give to students I let them know that they will have the first opportunity to check out a book, and I have the books in a special display at the circulation desk. The vast majority of students, however, have not even come in to see the book, let alone check it out. When I hand-deliver the cards students often act as if I have just handed them an envelope full of anthrax; they repeatedly demand to know what's in the envelope, and act skeptical of my assurances that once they open the card, they will know what it says. I think I need to come up with a better way to advertise what's going on to students--in part so kids will get excited about it, but also so they stop treating me like a terrorist.

There has one notable exception to the typical series of events, which gives me hope that things might turn around. I had put a birthday card in a girl's mailbox while she was home sick (this may be another part of the problem; a lot of kids have been home sick for their birthdays lately). Shortly after she returned to school she was in the library with her Geography class, and we were in the middle of discussing something else completely, when she said, "Hey, didn't my parents donate a book?" Which made her, officially, the first student to come seek out the book that had been donated in her name. So I got the book to show her and she was so excited. When she opened up the book and found the bookplate with her name she just lit up, and started showing it to her friends. When I told her she could check out the book and keep it over Thanksgiving break so she'd have time to read it. . . I don't think she actually, technically, squealed for joy, but it was close. It made my whole day, and most of the next day, too.

There have been other positive outcomes from this whole project. When I went to get the mail on Wednesday there was a check from a parent who had donated a book for the Birthday Book Club, and who I'd spoken to over Family Weekend. She said that she was going to make an additional donation in support of the library, but that was almost a month ago, so I assumed it was an idle offer (or, that if she did make a donation, it would be for $100 at most). But when I opened the mail on Wednesday I found a check from her for $1,000. Which I know, in the grand scheme of money, is not a lot. But it is the equivalent of 10% of my annual budget. And while the money is, obviously, a huge gift, the bigger message there--that this parent, and her daughter, believe in the library and support what I do--is what I am overwhelmingly grateful for.

These are the types of things I need to remind myself of when I get squid-like with frustration.

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