Category Archives: Rural Library

Where Have I Been???

I have not entered a single thing on this blog since last July. Was I on my middle-age tour of the world? No. Was I sitting in solitary confinement for breaking a law of the Dewey Decimal variety? No. Was I sitting on the beach in Jamaica selling jewelry to fund my retirement. Sadly, no. So, what was I doing?

I was being a dedicated wife, mom, librarian, church member, accompanist, committee member, etc, etc, etc. I have been involved in something known as …wait for it…drumroll, please…LIFE!

Now that I am ready to take a stab at this again, I ponder what would not only benefit me (through this process of contemplative writing), but also what might benefit someone else who may read this blog (sadly, still no followers). But there is hope. I will be speaking at a conference in May, and I am seeing the importance of marketing not only myself but my library as well.

Here I am big wide world. I’m back.

Currently reading: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson


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Am I nuts?

It’s the middle of July and suddenly I want school to start. Seriously???

Yep, something must be wrong. Or, is something right? Does that mean I am a truly dedicated civil servant? Do I miss my colleagues and students that much? Or am I so addicted to a routine that I crave a rigid schedule again?

In a way, it’s ‘yes’ to all of the above. I enjoy my job as a public school librarian. I enjoy conversing with adults and pre-adults. I enjoy routines.

Over the past few days my brain has been wrestling with itself. I’ve been thinking about how I will decorate the two showcases outside of the library. Then I think to myself, “Are you nuts? Enjoy the summer. STOP THINKING ABOUT SCHOOL!!!” But a little while later, the showcases pop back into my head. This happens when I’m weeding the garden, cleaning toilets, washing dishes, etc. Maybe these thoughts of school are my inner-child’s way of trying to get out of work at home.

Whatever the case may be, August 12th (Staff Day) quickly approaches. The students will enter our buildings on August 13th with their squeaky new shoes, new school clothes, backpacks filled with new notebooks, pencils, and calculators. I’ve got a couple of carts filled with new books, waiting to see the smiles on their faces.

Yep…I’m looking forward to it.

Currently reading: Clean by Amy Reed

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I have a new job title!

Yeah…go me! My new title is…(drum roll, please)…Manager of Child Play Area.

I’m sure I can come up with something better than that, but I’m too irked to think of it now. Here’s the lowdown. I’ve been working one day per week over the summer (it’s part of my contract). I actually don’t mind it at all since it’s nice and quiet so I can get loads of work accomplished. I’ve been moving books this summer to make room for a couple hundred new books. Imagine my surprise today when I went into my library and found 10-12 bookshelves in major disarray.

Putting my superb CSI skills to good use, I have determined that it was thanks to a child or children of a staff member. Over the summer staff members are, at some points in time, unable to use the computers in their classrooms. They are supposed to use the computers in the library. I’m guessing a staff member was in the library and brought their kids with them. Why do I think it was kids in the shelves?

  • A responsible adult wouldn’t scatter books all over just for the fun of it.
  • A majority of the books scattered were in my easy section…mostly Clifford and Disney books.
  • A page was torn out of a graphic novel…Captain America.
  • Books were shoved from the front to the back of the shelves and turned upside down.
  • The colorful bindings on my Hardy Boys mysteries were an obvious drawing point as several were scattered and piled up in odd places.

While I lack a fingerprint dusting kit, I feel that the above clues would lead me to believe that the dastardly deeds were performed by children. That, in itself, isn’t what bothers me. I have 4 kids. They were young once and managed to get into loads of trouble. What raises my hackles is the lack of adult supervision and the irresponsibility of said adults to leave my library messed up.

I’m not going to try to find the perpetrators. What’s done is done. Some kids were enjoying books. Hey…I should be thrilled! So why was fire spitting out of my eyeballs as I was reorganizing my bookshelves?!

Oh well…as C.S. Lewis said, “Onward and upward.”

Currently reading: Diverse Energies by Tobias and Joe Monti, eds.

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Did you catch the Super Bowl video about the Oreo cookies in the library? Here it is if you happened to miss it. Don’t worry…I missed it. Obviously I haven’t learned to stay in the room for the commercials. Duh! But never fear, people pointed it out to me, including one of my kids. Kudos to them for thinking of their librarian friend and mom.

The first time I saw it, I laughed due to the absurdity of it. But then I started wondering. Is that how strict I am in my library? It’s definitely not ingrained in some of my students to whisper whenever in my hallowed stacks. Do I welcome the buzz that comes with junior high and high school students?

After much introspection, I hope I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t mind the buzz and noise when I see groups of kids working together for a research project. Or, and I LOVE this one, when I hear one student discussing the merits of a particular book with another student. “Sarah, you have GOT to read this book. It was, like, sooo good. I literally could NOT put it down. They should make a movie out of this one.”

The noise that I have a hard time dealing with is when Romeo Joe scams his teacher to get a bathroom pass out of class, but decides to prowl into the library to pounce on an unsuspecting female. You know the type. He walks in, scans the room, finds a girl he knows, sits down next to her while she’s trying to work and then turns on the charm causing aforementioned girl to immediately giggle and twirl her hair. Thus causing Romeo Joe to walk out 5 minutes later with a puffed out chest and Herculean-sized ego intact. I have dubbed this as “uneducational noise”. This is the type of noise that irks me. Yes, I occasionally get irked.

Thanks to Nabisco for the Oreo commercial and choosing to use a library in it, even if it is a parody. Hey, we need all the press we can get.

Currently reading: Every Day by David Levithan

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Library Contests…And the winner is?

Bribery, reward, bait, cajole…call it what you will. I want students to come to the library, especially ones who rarely step foot through these hallowed doors. I’ve tried various contests in the past. Some have been successful and some have bombed. Here are a few examples:

1. Guess How Many M&Ms in the Jar. Rules: you have to come into the library and borrow a book to get an entry form, closet guess wins the jar. The winner was a student who rarely checked out books. I was feeling pretty good about that. However, the next year this student was caught for trying to order books for the school from a book vendor. Thanks to the vendor’s keen eye and a phone call to me, we realized the order wasn’t legitimate. The student made the mistake of putting his own phone number on the online form instead of the school’s number. He was caught and suspended for fraud. Also, in an effort to be more health-conscious, we are trying to stay away from candy prizes. This contest was discontinued.

2. Poetry contest. This contest was open to both staff and students. Rules: Create an original poem and submit it to be judged by a panel of staff and students. The winners received a handsome leather-bound notebook and pen/pencil set. This contest was done 3 years in a row during National Poetry Month. Unfortunately, 3 years in a row I had students turn in plagiarized poetry. This contest was discontinued.

3. NCAA Bracket Contest. This contest was open to both staff and students. Rules: Fill out an NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket and submit it to the library. The prizes include books about basketball and a few other sundry items. Last year we even included a small trivia contest revolving around the NCAA pep bands. This contest was a huge success with people asking if I will do it again this year. It was a huge headache to score the brackets, but we had kids coming into the library daily to check their scores. While they were in here, they checked out a book. Score one for the librarian! So, it was worth the effort. This contest will continue.

I’m constantly on the lookout for more contests. I’ve thought about the following contests…maybe someday…

1. Putting QR codes in random places around the schools. Students can win books once they figure out the message from the code.

2. Battle of the Book contests between grade levels.

3. Guess the Author contest.

Does anyone else have any good ideas??? Please share!!!


Currently reading: The Warrior’s Heart: Becoming a man of Compassion and Courage by Eric Greitens, US Navy SEAL.

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Drop Bears and Velcro Crops

With the recent news of Notre Dame football player, Manti Te’o’s, girlfriend hoax, I could not but help to think of my students. Starting with “Stranger Danger”, we want our students to be safe out in the big bad world. With technology standards in hand, we try to preach and teach about cyber-bullying, safety on the Internet and social networking. In the classroom we also try to hone their research skills on the Internet. However, more and more I think we need a course in “Internet Discernment”. (Sorry…this is my own made-up term…but I like it).

Yesterday, before I heard about the Te’o incident, I was emailing a colleague of mine about yet another Internet hoax found through Google Scholar. This teacher is trying to get it across to her 7th grade English students that, while there are valid things on the Internet, there are also scams. Here are a few examples:

California’s Velcro Crop (includes a graph)

Anti-Alien Abduction Helmet

Indirect Tracking of Drop Bears Using GNSS Technology (Drop Bear hunting in Australia = Snipe hunting in the US)

The Dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide (water)

The country of Ruritania (fictional)

Burmese Mountain Dogs (the pictures should be a good clue that this is a hoax)

I could add so many more, but I’ll run out of room. My point is that, while technology is great, there are flaws. Of course, this is not new. Remember these literary hoaxes?

Angel at the Fence
The Hitler Diaries
The Education of Little Tree
A Million Little Pieces

There’s good and bad everywhere. My job is to help the staff and students in my school discern between good and bad. Before I go off to dispel the myths from our big bad world, I’d better arm myself with my anti-alien abduction helmet and California Velcro. And where did I put my bottle of dihydrogen monoxide???

Currently reading: The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen (no, this isn’t a hoax)

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The Best Christmas Present Ever

On Thursday, December 21, I received the best Christmas present ever of my professional career. Even as I think about it now, I turn into a big pile of goo.

I taught 4th grade before becoming a librarian at the high school. One of the benefits has been seeing the last group of former students of mine grow and mature into wonderful young adults. One student in particular stands out. He was a little Amish boy who didn’t want to be in school. His dream, at the time, was just to be by himself out in nature. He would have loved to try out the survival skills needed to be Brian in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Who needed math, English and Indiana History? I felt for him because I know the feeling and love of being in solitude, enjoying the the quiet stillness of nature. But the part that bothered me was the fact that he was one of the best creative writers I had ever seen during 15 years of teaching. I still have a book of poems from that class in my office at school. His poem about watching deer is a highlight in that book. One day, my patience with this little guy had reached its end. He made a bit of a smart comeback when I confronted him about his lack of effort. Needless to say, we went out into the hallway for a “Come to Jesus” meeting.

Fast forward 8 years. This little Amish boy ended up deciding to forgo joining the Amish church and finish high school instead. He homeschooled in junior high and entered the public school system again when he was a ninth grader. I was surprised to see him one day as I was getting ready to do a book talk in his English class. For the next 4 years we enjoyed small conversation and saying “Hi” in the hallways. About 3 weeks ago I found out he was graduating at the end of Semester I in December. I saw him in the hallway, told him congratulations and asked him what he was planning for the next year. Imagine my surprise when he said he was joining the Marines. We were both in a hurry, but I was hoping to finish the conversation later.

On Thursday, we both found ourselves in the hallway during class. He promptly came up to me, held out his hand and we shook hands. Then he said, “I’ve wanted to tell ‘Thank you’ you for a long time. You’ve always been a special teacher to me, and I could tell that you cared about me. You know, I remember that speech you gave me in the fourth grade. At the time, I wasn’t so happy about it, but I thought about it quite often afterwards. You were right, I could do a lot more than I was doing. And I just really wanted to tell you ‘Thank you’.” Well…I held it together, but I get teary-eyed even now thinking about it. We talked more about his decision to go into the Marine corps and his Amish family. I wish we had more time to talk. And I wonder if he’ll ever know how profoundly his ‘thank you’ has affected me.

Sometimes, I’m sure we all wonder if we are truly doing our calling. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But there are times that I question. However, that student was placed in my path for a reason in 2004, and I was placed back in his path for a reason in 2012. We each taught the other in ways we may never fully comprehend. What a blessed present this truly has been…

Currently reading: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

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The “FWS”

Have I ever told you how much I LOVE the First Week of School?

Some people in the educational system enter the FWS with a healthy (0r non-healthy…depends on your perspective) dose of fear and trepidation. Others have a sense of melancholy because, with the beginning of school, it means the end of summer (Duh!). I know of a few others that look forward to the FWS so that they can return to some semblance of a routine.

So…why do I like the FWS? Since moving into the library seven years ago, I have tried my best to foster a sense of need/desire/craving in the students to get to the library as soon as school starts. Why is that, you ask? Well…I want the kids to need/desire/crave the library. They know that I will order new books in March/April but not put them out until August/September. Mwa ha ha ha ha… It feels so evil to keep them waiting and wanting, but it gives me such rush during the FWS. A rush, you ask? Yes.

Here’s the scenario: Day 1 – Several students came in asking for our new book cart and the new Eliot Rosewater books. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready yet, but don’t lose heart. I directed them to some other great books to help them bide their time. By Day 2, we had circulated over 300 books. Not a bad start. By the end of the FWS, we had circulated over 1,000 books. With a student population of around 800, my bibliophilic heart swells at the thought of all those books in the kids’ hands.

Move over new squeaky shoes and freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils. The library is open for business!

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And Tango Makes Three – The Final Saga

After taking a day or so to calm down and begin thinking rationally, I decided to investigate. But first, I was advised to do one last thing. I was told  it would be a good idea to send a letter to the Superintendent letting him know that I disagreed with his decision. This was to cover my bases in case this type of incident happened in the future.

This did not bode well with my Superintendent who promptly came to my office, gave me a verbal reprimand, handed me a legal letter stating that he now had to put me on 14-day “whistle blower protection status” as per corporation policy. And, oh the horror of it all….he had to investigate how the matter was handled. In other words, he had to investigate himself. I look back at it now, shake my head and laugh. But at the time…I’ll admit it…I was starting to get worried that he could really make my life miserable at school.

I decided that I needed to do a little investigating as well. It was truly not to prove the Superintendent wrong. He had told me I was wrong about the policy issue. Now, my dear reader…I’ll admit it…I don’t like being wrong. And if I truly am wrong, I need to correct my way of thinking and research the correct answer. Whew…glad I got that out. Anyway, on to the investigation.

I contacted 2 people whom I had met at a librarian’s conference. One was a professor/librarian at Purdue University, and the other was a reference librarian at Notre Dame. They both insisted that the Superintendent was wrong and pointed me toward the Director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom with the American Library Association (ALA). She also insisted the Superintendent was wrong and, if I felt that my job was in jeopardy, I should contact them and the ALA would back me up. But my question was still unanswered. I needed a legal reason as to why this was handled improperly. I knew it was wrong, but I needed a concrete legal reason. She then pointed me toward a wonderful lawyer from Indy whose wife happened to be a teacher. He had done some work on censorship issues and understood school politics.

Yes…I got my answer! The lawyer explained that, since the school did not have a policy in place regarding in-house complaints, the complaint should have fallen under the public complaint policy. He also said he wished we had an ACLU office with a plaintiff in good standing. The administration would be “up a creek without a paddle”. I expressed my extreme thanks to him but said that my job is more important than a book. I had been previously advised to drop the matter with the Superintendent. And, now that I knew I wasn’t wrong and had a legal reason to back it up, I was ready to drop it. He agreed that my job was more important and that it would be fine to drop the matter.

So, this saga has come to an end. The penguin books are in the closets in the principals’ offices and can be checked out only if a parent requests it. Our school policy needs to be changed, but that has fallen on deaf ears. However, I am now armed with better knowledge should the case happen again. As I said before, it’s not the content of the book in question. The problem was the way it was handled. I happen to have a large section of Christian fiction books in my library…as requested by a large number of patrons. What if I have an atheist on staff that requests them all to be removed? What if a person on staff asks to have all books with Muslim characters removed? What if a person on staff finds a work of urban gang fiction offensive and asks to have all of them removed? There’s got to be a system of checks and balances in place. I can only hope that something I’ve said in these last three posts can, in some way, help another librarian out there who might be going through the same thing.

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And Tango Makes Three – Part 2

Continuing the saga…

I knew that the handling of this situation was against policy. It was time to talk to the superintendent with our policy in hand. He informed me that this was an “in-house complaint” and was not a part of our public complaint policy. I asked him (with witnessess in the room), “So you mean to say that any employee can make a complaint about a book in our libraries and, because they are ‘in-house’, any book could be removed at will by the principals without documentation?” Take a wild guess at his answer…. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”

Later on, he paid me a visit in my office to explain further. I was ready for him, but there was no breaking through. He even had the nerve to play the religion card. The superintendent and I are both of the same denomination. I calmly informed him that, if I stocked my library based on my religious beliefs, 1/3 of the books would be removed. However, I am employed by a public school and must put my personal beliefs aside and order books that speak to my demographics. And, this has nothing to do with the subject of the book in question. This situation was about policy not being followed. He then said that this was not a policy issue because it was “in-house”. It was a done deal. He left my office with a satisfied look on his face, and I had a resolve to get to the bottom of this policy issue.

To be continued…

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