Patron tales

A little girl came up to the Youth Services desk yesterday and told me I had something on my face – and pointed to my beauty mark slash mole on the right side of my mouth.  Hahahahaha. 
Oh and one very strange man came into the library a week ago and when I asked for his library card got it plus a deck of playing card and did some Las Vegas sort of shuffling, then laid them out on the desk and asked me to do something or other.  Hit him?  I think the jist of it was he wanted me to decide what he should do next with his cards . . . I haven’t played poker since my dad and grandpa and brothers made me play when I was a girl (so they’d have an even number of players – and an easy loser) so I told him umm, no thanks.  And I suggested that I could show him where the DVDs were, to get him out of the children’s section ASAP.
Another story time tomorrow!  I’ll post after-the-fact this time, in case I change up what I’m doing.  But now, to my final paper for my IT class . . .
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Using media center skills in the public library

In my library courses, I am focusing on school library courses as much as possible.  I have taken courses that were not (Public Library; Youth Services in Libraries; Intellectual Freedom) but this semester I’m taking Reference (with school librarians and those seeking school library certification) and Librarianship in School Communities (as well as an IT course).  But I’m working in a public library, and finding that what I’m doing is interesting but not wholly transferable to the public library environment.
But with that said, I’ve been thinking what I’m learning could transfer to the public library with a little creativity.  This weekend, I’ve had three students ask for help finding sources for a school project about the history of our city.  My default response is to answer the question – we need to go upstairs to look at the local history section – but couldn’t I take this as a teaching opportunity?  I could say, “What sort of resources were you thinking of?”  “What do you think would be the best type of resources for this project?”  “Where else are you going to look for information?”  I’m learning about the Big 6 information model, and there’s a lot there I could implement in a situation like this.
 I guess I do a little bit of this already through the reference interview (the task definition), but I think I could do it a bit more formally.  When I don’t ask the patron (child or adult) to do that part – define the information problem; identify information needed – I may misunderstand what is needed and waste time and effort.  But the second part of the Big 6 – determining all possible sources and selecting the best sources – I should lead the patron to this without doing it for her.  And I could ask the patron what other sources in town are they going to – the city government’s website, the city history museum, etc.  Then my job in the public library is #3 – location and providing access – and that leaves them with #4, #5, and #6.  But I could remind them of those before they go.

I wonder if it would be apropos to suggest we make up a little bookmark with the Big 6 method to give to student patrons when they come looking for guidance?  Is the whole thing copyrighted and you can’t call it those things if you don’t pay the licensing fee?

Why do I do it?

I’ve been working at a public library now for one month and can do a bit of introspection, I think.  Is it as good as I thought it would be?  Oh yeah, and even better!  (The only downside – and it’s a big one – is the insurance for half-time employees is more than we pay now and twice as much as I thought it was.  But that’s because I misunderstood the word “biweekly.”  Duh.  But since I didn’t even expect any insurance, and I *can* get dental insurance for $20 a month, I’m still happy about the insurance.)
And I’ve considered what I would do if my job was magically able to switch to full time, and somehow I get the logistics figured out (like, umm, living 45 minutes away from work in Iowa, where winter travel is a concern).  Of course I’d be thrilled, but what if a full time teacher-librarian position came up?  Where would I rather work?  (Oh this might be more fodder for another post, but I have figured out the key to knowing if a particular school will be open to collaboration with the librarian, or if they want a glorified clerk.  Hint, look to the 500s.)  I really don’t know what I’d do.  I love love LURVE my job.  (And there’s no way a school librarian job would pay as well as this would if I were full time.  And just wait until I get my MLS.)
Okay, so anyway.  Today, a woman and her husband came up to Youth Services and said, “Hablas espanol?”  I said, “Hablo espanol un poco.”  She started to speak more, saying “internet,” which I figured meant she wanted out the computer.  So I said (in very bad Spanish, but I tried), “Tu quieres usar la computadora?”  But she said no.  I couldn’t understand how she could use the internet without the computer.  We kept trying to communicate (I went to the 400s and got a dictionary), to no avail.  I finally decided to get her on the computer on a translation website, but she didn’t have a library card so then there was figuring that out.  I ended up putting it up on my computer, but then a very nice Latino man and his son came over to help out, having heard my laughable attempt at Spanish.  
So we (me on computer, he on the translation) helped the couple scan something and send it (which required setting up a Google account).  This took a long time, since figuring out the scanner was no easy task.  Then the dad and his son came down to YS to get books.  I showed them the Spanish language books upstairs, especially the children’s books that have both English and Spanish.  I’ve seen this dad several times before in the library, always helping his son get the books he wanted and encouraging him to challenge himself too.  Then shortly after they left, another Latino dad came in with his child, a daughter.  He wanted her to get a math book, then a historical book.  I encouraged the American Girl books, but she wanted something a bit more literary, I guess, so I said, “Would you like a book with a Latina character?”  She got a glint in her eye and said, “Yes!”  I was hoping for Esparanza Rising but it wasn’t on the shelf so we took another of her books (without a Latina character, but with a horse on the front, to which she said, “I’ll take this one!”).

When I came back to YS after helping them to circulation, there were several more children and families in the department.  And I got a tear in my eye!  It was just so touching to see families (especially dads) encouraging their children in the library.  (I’d seen two dads already that morning – where were all the moms today? Sort of weird.)  So to answer the question in the title, this is why I do it.  I always thought it was in a school library where you can really teach kids, where you can impact children.  The public library, after all, requires patrons to come to it.  But here, I can help families, sometimes families who are new to America.  That’s what I did today.  It was a great feeling.

Me thinking about how I love my job

Chapter books . . . for toddlers?

Shortly after I’d read this article about the demise of the picture book, I experienced it myself with a patron in the library.  A mother came in with her child and wondered about finding a book to read together.  The child didn’t like picture books but preferred it when the mother read her books out loud – Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, what have you.  I asked her if it was the intonation the child liked but she wasn’t sure, but she was definitely very advanced and thus needed advanced titles.  
I led the mother to our display of booklets and suggested she look at older Newbery winners.  I said that the titles are really designed for children to read themselves, and of course that wasn’t the case here – pausing in case she wanted to tell me that she in fact does read Shakespeare and Vonnegut.  (Alas, no.)  I said the newer titles might have inappropriate content for a person so young.  I suggested Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson and she showed her the cover.  “Would you like this book about a bunny rabbit?”  The child looked to me like she could take it or leave it.  The mom suggested we get a newer book, too, just in case, so I suggested The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  (Felt pretty good that she took both, though.  That didn’t happen with the 13-year-old who was looking for a book earlier in the day and nothing I suggested would work.)
Seriously, I can laugh, but I think I probably resembled this young mother fifteen years ago.  I pushed my kids out of picture books pretty quickly (partly because they loved those godforsaken Disney movie tie-in books that were so stinking long and boring and the girls could tell if I ever went off script).  I guess I should have pointed the patron to picture books that have lots of words, and of course there are plenty.  It surprises me how few of the picture books are appropriate for story time.  
If I ever land in a school librarian, I definitely want to do more work with picture books.  I think there’s a lot of instructive value there.  But for now, I need to bone up on titles.  I feel really comfortable leading patrons to children’s authors, like Kate DiCamillo, Richard Peck, Linda Sue Park, Carl Hiaasen, Gennifer Choldenko.  (I hope she wasn’t reading Hiaasen’s adult works to her progeny!)  I don’t read much young adult lit, but I can BS my way through them fair enough.  But picture books?  That’s where I’m lacking, perhaps because there are so many to remember!  How do you all do it?  I asked my mentor how she kept track of the picture books she’s read and I could almost hear her chuckle through the interwebs.  🙂  For now, I’m reading all of the books in the NEH list, plus any that land on the Newbery or Caldecott list, and eventually I’d like to read all of the ones on the Children’s Core.  Does that sound reasonable, or not worth the bother? (The NEH list was, after all, how I found the wonders of Caps for Sale and Millions of Cats, the true story of cat-on-cat genocide.)
Not as sweet as they might appear.