Help Out a Fellow School Librarian
I couldn’t help but notice that this blog appears to be on a website for something called "School Library Journal". Hm! So when I got a recent email from a brand new Library Aide, it occurred to me that perhaps there are school librarians that read me. More importantly, perhaps there are school librarians who would be interested in sharing their experiences with a woman who has taken a librarian-ish position but hasn’t our training or degrees. Please be so good as to read the message below.
I recently retired from my corporate job of 16 years to spend more time with my 5 boys. Within a week of retiring, I noticed a job opening at one of the elementary schools in town for a Library Aide position. Perfect! I interviewed yesterday and within 5 minutes of walking out the door I had a call with a job offer to start August 11th.
This is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. See, I have no experience whatsoever of a working library, or even a bookstore. The only thing I have in common with this job is my love of children’s literature. Oh, and one more thing…I thought the aide position meant there would be a librarian on site and she would tell me what to go do – a gopher of sorts. Well, no – that’s not the case. The aide position is basically THE librarian for the school. There is a district librarian, but she is shared between the 3 elementary schools, middle, jr. high and high school. The library is mine to do with it how I want. And boy does it need work. This is an inner-city school with houses crumbling down around it. The library is dark and blah…like a 50’s government building. They only have one fund raiser a year and that is a book fair. Now who in their right mind would offer a book fair for these parents to come in and purchase a brand new $25 book when they can’t even put food on the table most nights?
My salary will be $14,000 a year. Yes, you read that right. So I won’t have much money of my own to turn this library around. I would really appreciate any help you could offer – suggestions, ideas, grant sites, web sites, etc.
My interview was held in the library there at the elementary school. They had a few lights off in the corners (perhaps to save money???), but I just remember leaving there thinking this did not appear in any way to be a library children would find inviting. No windows, no stuffed animals, nothing to spark the imagination. From what I could tell, the space is about 800 square feet. I honestly don’t know much about the condition of the books. My interview was about 20 minutes and within 5 minutes of leaving they called to offer me the job. I think they just want someone to breath new life into it. The library at the school where my children attend is a beautiful space – trees with twinkling lights, flowers hanging from the ceilings, comfy tables and chairs, a couch in a corner – just a great place. This inner-city school where I will be working had nothing of sorts. I’m thinking it is because they only hold the one fund raiser a year – all 3 elementary schools hold the same fund raiser – a book fair. This school simply isn’t bringing in the funds to support the library. The demographics are 26% Hispanic, 40% Black and 25% White, with 70% qualifying for the reduced/free lunch program.
I’ve already given her my advice on the matter, but perhaps you experts in the field would be better qualified.
If you’ve any advice you’d like to tender, feel free to do so in the comment section. Always remember to COPY your comment before attempting to post it on my blog. My comment function is wonky, so if you have a long piece to post, write it, copy it, then type in the three letter code and attempt to send it. That way you can always repaste your message if the comment box rejects your words intiially.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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