On One Year Of Being a Librarian

I’m just terrible at blogging.  It slips my mind, I’m lazy, there isn’t anything that feels important enough to write about, etc. etc., excuses, excuses. Fine, no big deal, you all have to deal with my daily updates via Facebook anyway.  You don’t need long, drawn-out ones, right?

Anyway, tomorrow (today?) marks one year of starting my position as the Dundee Library Youth Services Director. One. Whole. Year. It hardly seems possible.  I’ve tried to make a habit out of writing something when it’s important. Our wedding anniversary, my best pal’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, etc. I suppose surviving an entire year as a children’s librarian should definitely count as an “important event”. So, here it goes. Things I’ve learned, things that have happened, things I’ve thought in the past year as a librarian:

1. Kids don’t care if you’re terrible at things, so long as you put your heart into it. I can sing all of my books off key, I can glue together a couple sticks and call it a log cabin, I can draw a picture of a dog, and they will think ever single thing is entirely incredible.  Unless they’re older than 7.  Once they’re 7, they start calling you on your bullshit. “Mrs. Rachel, that doesn’t look like Cinderella.” “Mrs. Rachel, what is that supposed to be?” “Mrs. Rachel, that’s not how the song goes.”

2. Kids do care if the crafts they’re making don’t stay together properly.  If it stays together and looks awful, it’s fine.  If the Elmer’s doesn’t hold, tears ensue. Every. Single. Time. I used to think that using a hot glue gun was too dangerous (we don’t want little hands to get burned), but now I’ve learned it’s worth the risk.  And so far, no burned hands (mostly because only the moms or I operate the glue gun…), and far fewer tears.

3. No games get old. Ever.  Those kids will play Hide and Seek and hide in the same three spots over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  It is always hysterical when you can’t find them.  My favorite is when they don’t even wait, they just pop out from underneath the table and laugh maniacally, then beg to play again. Also? Other children are not required to play games.  In the past year, I have witnessed multiple games of single-child Tag (imaginary friend style) and single-child Red Light, Green Light.  I’m not sure if there were imaginary friends involved, but I assume they were there somewhere.

4. If you do something a child enjoys once, you should expect to do it every single time you see that child again for the forseeable future.  You spun them around in a hug when they left? You will now do it every time you say goodbye.  You let them play with your iPhone once when you were tired? That’s their new favorite thing (though I do my best to discourage them from playing with screens….iPhones are always a last resort, usually only when I’m battling a headache or a cold). You toss one kid onto the beanbag chairs after a hug? You now have to do the same thing for ALL EIGHT CHILDREN, and then do it repeatedly for an hour.  Unless moms have somewhere else to be, they are entirely happy to let you entertain their children for an hour with repetitive and absurd kinds of fun.  My few adventures in babysitting have helped me appreciate their need for just a little bit of peace, so I’m more than happy to provide a stress-free break.  Plus, it’s like I’m working out–those 4 year olds are light, but after you’ve lifted them 8 or 9 times, you start to feel the burn in your muscles.

5. Being a Children’s Librarian does not mean that you only work with children. As the person with the most technology experience, I’m also the go-to for any patron who needs assistance with Kindles, Nooks, or computers.  I love it because it makes me feel super smart, even though the things I’m helping with are in no way difficult.  Also, a HUGE part of my job is maintaining relationships with the parents of the children I work with.  I don’t care how great of a story-teller you are–if you’re non-personable to the grown-ups in the room, they will not bring their kids back.  Luckily, I have the very best kind of parents, which my husband pointed out is because I deal with the kind of parents who bring their children to the library.  They’re already a cut above the rest.

6.  I made two new best friends this year through my position at the library.  First I fell in love with their kids, and then I became friends with their moms. Today, as I made plans with one for a cook-out this Saturday with our husbands and her kids, I got a phone call from the other to remind me of her son’s birthday party on Friday.  It hit me that a year ago, I didn’t even know these women existed, and now I can’t imagine my life without them.  Since graduating college, most of my friends have moved to NYC or Boston or some other faraway place that we can only visit a few times a year. I am so incredibly lucky that I somehow found two incredible women who I can see any time I need them, I can tell them anything, and they also never, ever judge me for not having kids of my own.  They have both become entirely necessary to my sanity.

7. Kids are the most hypersensitive, impressionable, loving, hateful human beings on the earth. I’ve made kids cry when I yelled at them for breaking rules. They’ve made me want to cry when they talk back and say terrible things that they don’t realize the implications of.  There are days when they come in after school looking glum and acting quiet–when I ask them what’s wrong, they’ll tell me non-chalantly that so-and-so was mean or that they didn’t get the best grade, or that their saxophone broke.  There is a moment where they act like everything is entirely okay, until I offer my arms out for a hug; they fall into me and it makes me feel so wonderful that they could share with me and that I could do some small tiny bit to make them feel better. On the days when I’m feeling terrible, they are quick to notice and to react empathetically–they’re quiet if I have a headache, funny if I’m feeling sad, and the first ones ready with open arms to hug me when I need it.  When people in the library ask me when I’m going to have kids or why I don’t have them yet, my library kids respond for me: “She already has kids. Us.” And they melt my heart every day. Sure, sometimes they’re terrible brats–but even then, I love them to pieces.

8. Books are the greatest bonding agents ever to exist.  This is something I’ve known for a long time, but it’s still something that I am reminded of almost every day.  Since I moved the YA collection downstairs near me, my interaction with the teen readers in our community has grown exponentially.  They ask for my recommendations, they tell me what they’ve read, what they liked, what they didn’t, what they can’t wait to read (DIVERGENT # 3!!!).  They bring me in their own books from home to share, they gush with me over the gorgeous boys depicted in the novels, they share their anger over stupid choices characters made, their love for the writing, their excitement to read more. I share my love of YA novels with other adults that come in, we discuss which are our favorite, which are realistic, and which are entirely unrealistic but still so much fun. Not since working at Random House from 08-09 have I been surrounded by such a book-loving community. And in a village that is not known for its literacy, I think this is truly an amazing feat.

9. I was taught in library school that being a librarian means you don’t have time to read. False. I make time to read, because in my opinion, a huge part of my job is being able to recommend great books based on my own review.  Sure, you can read the multitude of reviews online and recommend based on that–but how do you build personal relationship and create conversations around books if you haven’t read it? I make it a point to read every day at the library, whether it’s a few pictures books or an entire YA novel–it’s all making me better at my job.  And damn, if I don’t love what I do.

10. Children’s books are WAY funnier now. Mo Willem’s “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs” is a prime example. While children love it for its classic Willems style of narration and illustrations, adults (myself in particular) fall in love with the ridiculous humor.  “How To Be A Baby” is pretty much my all time favorite: “When you’re a baby, you do all sorts of illegal things, like poop on the floor, eat my books, draw on the walls…and when you do that, you go to jail (insert picture of a playpen)”. Honest to goodness, I still discover books in my library that I’ll sit down and read and laugh at, all by myself, sitting on the basement floor in the middle of the children’s room.  I might be crazy. But it’s kind of awesome. And I love it.

11. The most important thing? I love what I do. I love the kids I see every day, I love the books I read, the programs I run, the things I do on a daily basis.  I feel like I’ve made a difference in my community, that I matter to my kids and their parents.  I think I’ve helped kids learn how to read, and more importantly, I think I’ve helped kids learn to love (or at least like) reading.  And the reason I know that? Because I am so lucky and blessed to work with amazing kids, wonderful parents, and supportive community members who never hesitate to tell me how much they appreciate what I’m doing and how impressed and happy they are with my work.  My mother (my biggest fan) would be the first to tell you that I don’t need the ego boosts, but I promise you, I do my damndest not to let it get to my head. And I thank you all for all the support and love you’ve given me over the past year.  It’s been fabulous, even in all its ups and down.

Thank you, Dundee, for letting me live my dream job, and for letting me do it my way.