Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Things They Don't Teach You In Library School

I came across this while chasing down a lead for another entry; I couldn't resist it:
OXFORD, OH (2007-11-12) In library school, commentator Jennie Kiffmeyer learned all about the Dewey Decimal system, database design, and storytelling. But as she was to realize on the job as a school librarian in suburban Washington, that knowledge didn't amount to a handful of jellybeans. Here is her list of ten things they don't teach you in library school.

10. On your second day of work as a school librarian, there will be a sewage backup in the building. You, along with a hundred four and five year olds and their teachers will be evacuated to a nearby church basement, where you will be asked to read the children a story. Not having a picture book the size of a twin mattress handy, you take a deep breath and tell a story you learned by heart. When the story ends, students will leap up and hug your legs. More! They command you. You about break open with joy and comply until it is time to go home.

9. You will be asked to wipe noses, tie shoes, braid hair, and once, you will be mooned by a three year old.

8. And then there are the gifts:
the handmade Christmas ornaments made out of starched string and tin foil
a tub of homemade tapioca pudding
a hanging pot of Impatiens that you manage to kill
a hot pink cyclamen plant that you don't
a candle holder made out of an empty can of cat food
a bottle of sexy perfume

7. In the beginning, you will work about 65 hours a week during the school year. As your expertise grows, you will be able to decrease that amount by approximately 43 minutes per year.

6. Upon hearing the words, book fair, you will break out in a cold sweat.

5. Every year, you will meet about 300 people who are losing their teeth, wear pants with elastic waistbands, and who think any joke with the word underpants is the height of comedy and you will find something to love about each one. Really.

4. You will divide your wardrobe into two categories: clothes to wear on days when you have recess duty, and clothes for all other occasions.

3. You will finally have an appreciative audience for your repertoire of silly voices.

2. You will watch as parents lose their hair from chemotherapy. One first grader's leukemia comes back, but after months in the hospital and a bone marrow transplant, she is in remission. Another child is killed in an auto accident.

Lauren was coming back from a birthday party in Baltimore. It was raining and a tour bus skidded to a halt on I-95, jumped lanes, and plowed into the car's back seat where Lauren was sitting.

A year before Lauren died, her mother had asked if their mother-daughter book club could meet in the library one Sunday afternoon. I said yes--all I had to do was come in and unlock the library--and was surprised to find a beautiful potted cyclamen on my desk the next day as a thank you. When I moved from Maryland to Indiana two summers ago, I took it with me, wedged in between a snack bag and my son's car seat. The drive about did it in, but it perked up once we arrived in Richmond. It continues to thrive on my shaded deck during the summer and my kitchen windowsill in winter. It is like a thread I can trace back to those days in the library and to Lauren and her family.

And that brings me to the number one thing they don't tell you in library school: with any luck, your job will be full of stories those found in books and those you glean from your students' lives.

Happy reading!
I think that Ms. Kiffmeyer has hit the proverbial nail right on its proverbial head.