Another Stint in the School Library

by Abby on September 26, 2011

Mrs. Peterson was my elementary school librarian. As I remember her, she was an older woman partial to festive seasonal sweaters. She was as warm and calm as you’d hope a children’s librarian would be, with a wonderful reading voice. I don’t recall the exact books she read to us as we gathered on the multicolored carpet each week, but I can still hear her voice and remember what a pleasant place that sunny little library was. While I grew up in a family of book-lovers, it’s likely that my love of reading at an early age also had something to do with Mrs. Peterson.

Library booksThis was in my mind when I volunteered at my 5yo son’s school library last week. This time was much different from the last time. First, this was not just a little preschool library with a few bookshelves; it was a real elementary and middle school library — the largest in the city, I was told. There were stacks and shelves and tables full of every kind of book imaginable, lots of them brand-new. That’s thanks to the parents, the librarian told me. (See? Fundraisers ARE worthwhile!)

This time I didn’t read to the kids. My job was to learn the surprisingly complex computerized check-out system and help re-shelve books. While I was there, the middle schoolers had the use of the library. They came in in packs, tossing books at me as fast as I could check them in, fidgeting as they waited impatiently for me to check out their next selections. From what I could tell, fantasy and graphic novels are hot amongst the tween set. The boys were into a series called “The Prince of Tennis” and the girls clamored for some romance/fantasy titles I’d never even heard of.

I’m happy to say that the school librarian was exactly what I had hoped for. No seasonal sweaters, but she was friendly and had obvious enthusiasm for her job. As the kids came in, she greeted them by name, asking, “Hi, Josh. So how did you like that book?” Or, “That wasn’t your style, Kelsey? Try this one.” Each time she sat down to work on something or grab a bite of her lunch, a kid would come up and she’d rush off to help them.

In between customers, she chatted with me. She told me one boy came in three times a day to check out books as quickly as he read them. She told me a parent had just donated a new book that hadn’t even been released yet in the U.S. She told me a couple of the other volunteers came in for hours every week to help her get caught up.

Since I usually have writing assignments and need a sitter for my younger son, I probably won’t be one of those weekly volunteers. But I left that day feeling great about my son’s new school, and lucky that he and his classmates have access to all those books and a dedicated librarian. I bet Mrs. Peterson would be proud.

The I'm Not Scared BookREAD O’ THE DAY: With Halloween coming up, it seemed like the perfect time to get the boys Todd Parr’s The I’M NOT SCARED Book. My kids love Parr’s books, probably because of the whimsical illustrations and the frequent references to underwear.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie September 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

I never thought I’d be into volunteering, but I do like it. And it’s so interesting to see the things that HAVEN’T changed in the past few decades. Right now, I’m heading up a fundraiser (ie, hitting up parents) to raise money for leveled reading books for my son’s class. I feel invested in the process, which again, is surprising to me. I thought I’d be much more apathetic. 🙂


Lou Mello September 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I don’t really remember much about libraries in elementary school, I know we had them and I can sorta visualize them, but, no memorable librarians until high school.
I loved Jayne Jacobson, our high school librarian, she was interesting and entertaining and livened up the old library. I spent a lot of time in the library from the time I was in 7th grade until I graduated (all 6 grades in the same school building).
I know I read every single sports book that the library had and more stuff on stars and planetary systems and such. I really enjoyed spending time there and very fondly recall Ms Jacobson.
I also remember that the library was where I was sitting when the announcement came over the PA that President Kennedy had been shot…still makes me cringe. That was a really hard day for everyone in the school.


Shannon @ AnchorMommy September 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Glad to hear this visit wasn’t like last time! 😉 I just LOVE a good children’s librarian. They really do make a difference. My boy is obsessed with one at our city library, and she is just the nicest lady – she asks him about all of his latest interests, and before I know it, I turn around and she’s got the perfect book for him about whatever he’s into!

Also, good for you for volunteering! Makes me think I need to do something at my boy’s preschool…


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