“While I’m out recovering from surgery, I’ve asked a few friends to step in and fill my shoes. I hope you enjoy what they have to share with you! If you like what you see, stop by their blogs and tell them!”
Hey, everyone! I’m Benji and I’m a librarian, usually a kid’s librarian. My wife and I are from Alabama, but my librarian adventures have taken us to a few places, including Memphis and the Shenandoah Valley. When I last wrote a guest post for Elizabeth (You can read it here if you like. http://lifelovelibrarianship.com/guest-post-the-life-and-times-of-a-new-librarian-meet-benji/), I was a paraprofessional children’s librarian at a small branch in Charlottesville, Virginia. I honestly loved my job. My coworkers were terrific. The kids and parents were all great and very enthusiastic about the programs, story times and everything else we were doing. My goal was to eventually move up in the system to a professional position.
Like everyone who has a paraprofessional job, and is hoping for a professional one, I was pretty aware of what jobs were opening and where. When I saw that a private school in Montgomery, Alabama had an open elementary librarian job that would be closing soon, I was surprised that I hadn’t already seen it. Alabama was one of the places where I had been focusing my search because my wife and I were hopeful to one day move back home. I quickly wrote an email to the Head of School, attached a cover letter, and went about my day, planning story times and helping patrons. I figured I was too late, and that not much would come from it.
The next few days were a whirlwind, and kind of fuzzy in my memory, but here’s how I think I got the job. I got an email back from the Head of School that afternoon, asking me to give her a call. After work, I dropped off the coworker that I carpooled with, and parked in a church parking lot, somewhere on top of a Blue Ridge mountain. I took a deep breath and dialed the number.
It had been a while since I had heard someone outside of my family speak with an Alabama accent, and it was kind of refreshing. The Head of School was very friendly. The way she spoke, and the things she said let me know immediately that I would be welcome and happy at Saint James School. We set up a flight and hotel reservations for an in-person interview and within the next few days, I was an employee of Saint James School.
I returned back to Virginia to finish out the summer reading program at the public library where I was working. That was a crazy time, and it all flew by very quickly. It was late July before I knew it, and it was time for us to move back to Alabama.
August came and school started. If you read my previous guest post, you know that I didn’t take any children’s classes in library school. At that point, everything I knew about serving children came from my experience at the public library in Charlottesville, so I just decided to wing it. I would do things the way I knew how, and I would adjust it, as needed, to fit it into a school setting. The kids and teachers were very surprised when I began because my story times/classes very much resembled a public library story time. We danced, sang songs, did reader’s theater, and watched book trailers. I brought in a flannel board, and told stories that way. I used puppets a few times and sometimes we played games, and then checked out books. I heard from students and teachers all year, that the previous librarian was a LOT different than I was. I wasn’t really sure how to take this because everyone I had talked to agreed that she was phenomenal. In the end, I just had to shrug my shoulders and do what I knew how to do. It may have been different, but no one ever complained or said that it was better or worse. (OK, so that’s not true. One girl who was in trouble and throwing a tantrum, did tell me that she liked the old librarian better, and a few students told me that they liked me better when I let them have their way) It was just different: I was a bit louder and well, more male. I did make minor adjustments, here and there, but for the most part, when May came with the end of the school year, I didn’t feel like I had changed things all that much. I had fun. I think the kids did too. We got a lot of reading done, together, and I hope that it sticks with them. I’m keeping the library open one day a week this summer, for kids to continue to come in and check out books, sit to hear a few stories and get prizes for showing me their summer reading lists. (Again, I find the library looking like a public library) It’s lovely to see the same kids that are forced to visit me every week during the school year come in voluntarily and rave about the great books they’re reading. (Right now a lot of them are into the Fablehaven series, Doll Bones by Holly Black and One For The Murphys by Lynda Hunt)
Now, I’m looking forward to the quickly approaching school year. I know of several things that I want to improve, but all in all, I hope to keep the same fun, lively atmosphere going in the library. I hope that it helps get the students excited about coming to the library and that they grow up to be lifelong readers.
Benji is the elementary librarian at Saint James School in Montgomery, Alabama. He tweets about books, librarianship, his wife and kids and anything else that amuses him. You can follow him, if you like. He’s ‘BenjiHaiku’.