One of the things that I love the most about working in a library is that I am constantly learning–every single day I discover something new about how to do my job, about children and how to help them, and about the world around me and my place in it. Some weeks I feel this learning experience more then others, and some days I have to chalk up as learning experiences.
Sometimes learning is fun and surprising, sometimes it is awkward and embarrassing, and other times it takes you to new places within yourself and the world. This week I’ve had the chance to experience all three types of education.
Fun came this week as we put on an early literacy activity involving letters and lacing after storytime. Parents and caregivers who were sure that the activity would be too difficult were astounded to discover that their children were able and excited about working the string through the holes. Even the very young children had fun pulling string through holes once it was fed through a bit, and they particularly enjoyed playing with the letters on a string. My volunteen assistant surprised me by helping some of the children make the letters into necklaces! No wrong ways to do the craft, just fun, and surprising discoveries.
While I enjoy learning, there are some experiences that I appreciate more in retrospect. This second is one of those. Last Saturday morning was quiet, and a very sweet older lady came into the library with her daughter and granddaughter. She was effusive in her praise of the staff and the library, and claimed to be a long time regular, who my coworker said brought in delicious brownies. She asked some intrusive questions, which I felt pressured into answering, though I knew I didn’t need to. I helped her find a Magic Treehouse book for her granddaughter, and discussed children’s literature connected with her stated interest in Early American History. She expressed a huge interest, and wanted to know if I could get a few titles for her to show the ladies in her multiple historical societies. I enjoy making bibliographies, and so I said I was happy, and she left me with her address and phone information.
It didn’t take long for me to finish, a couple of hours spent on it while on the desk answering other questions, and coming in and out. But I didn’t have time to call her until the next week when I came back to work. When I did, she wanted me to spell my name and my boss’ names so she could write a note. My co-worker was sure I was going to be written up, and I was fairly uncomfortable. It only got worse when she came in to pick up the bibliography. She had written a poem for me, and wanted to read it to me, along with showing me pictures of the group she would be using the bibliography for. She read it to me–the whole event took less then 10min, but it was potentially the most awkward experience of my library career.
For all of this, it has been a learning experience, and shortly after she had left I was able to put the lesson to use when she called to continue to praise the bibliography and I had to politely excuse myself from the conversation so I could resume my duties. I look forward to putting this skill at breaking away from even nice, well-meaning, ladies to good use in the future.
The final learning experience I’ve had this week has been one of discovery about the world around me. I have long had an interest in working with at-risk children in areas of economic challenge–and this week I began to study this area in greater depth. I’m certainly going to be posting more about this, as I’m reading many fascinating articles and books on the subject. Visiting one of the branches in the area in a challenged area has provided me front line experience, and an amazingly informative tour of the services and issues confronted by the branch and particularly the youth of this area.