The Story Keeper

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

“Everyone has a story to tell. All you have to do is write it. But it’s not that easy.”

Frank McCourt

We received two shipments of delayed book orders I placed last semester. Supply chain issues. I’m new at my campus after spending my first five years as a librarian at an elementary school. I went back to the middle. What people don’t know is there are more steps to getting books onto the shelves than what meets they eye. “They already come with the barcodes, why can’t you just scan the book and check it out to me?” Not that easy. Not that quick.

First, I have to make sure I received everything. Publishers make mistakes, so I have to check that all of the pages-of the correct book-are in order, match the cover, match the correct series, match the genre. I load the records. Not only that, I have to go through each record to check for errors. This is the ELA teacher equivalent of grading papers. It’s time consuming. Sometimes I edit records and change genres to match what we have at our library. Example: mystery books are labeled suspense books on my campus. When everything is ready, I send the records to our district systems librarian so they are added to our catalog.

I lay my hands on each book, label them with corresponding genre stickers, print new call numbers if needed, stamp the inside with the date received and label them with our school’s address. Then I pay for them. Well, the district does, but I have to enter financial information on a program that never has liked me. Each book is inventoried and the final touch is a bright yellow NEW sticker above the call number.

They’re enticing. So much so that I want to check all of them out and keep them to myself.

These aren’t the only stories I get.

Yesterday, I chatted with a student while she worked on a 1,000 piece Harry Potter puzzle I set up in our maker space. “I love puzzles. I have so many at my house. And I love books. My mom does too. That’s why I love coming here.”

“What do you do with your puzzles when you finish them? Do you pull them apart and swap them out or do you display them?”

“Modge Podge. I pour Mod Podge on them and attach them to canvas so I can hang them in my room.”

“Cool,” I say, pointing to my Wonder Woman puzzle displayed above the graphic novels. “I do the same, but I use foam core on the back. Heat the blade of a box cutter and it slices right through to trim it.”

We continued with the conversation of books. She described a tattoo her mom wants to get: a girl holding a stack of books ascending a staircase with one side of her parted hair turning into a bookcase. I oohed and ahhed, imagining something similar to what I’ve pinned to my Pinterest boards. “My mom also has tattoos her grandfather drew. He would be my great grandfather. He escaped Germany during World War II and he drew a lot during that time. He came to the United States. I’m half Jewish.”

“Your great grandfather fled Germany during World War II?” I had collaborated with this student’s teacher to prepare them for a unit on the Holocaust. “Does your teacher know this?”

“No.”

“Have you written this story? Have you told it?”

“No.”

“You have an important story to tell.”

“Yeah, my mom says her tattoos tell stories. One arm is for the tattoos her grandfather drew. Her left arm is for her vacations. She loves fish and the beach. She has a mahi-mahi, a catfish, and a turtle. One time, we went to visit my grandfather in Oregon. We went in a red van so she has a red van on her arm too. I’m not sure where we’re going this summer, but I think she’ll add another fish.”

She continued adding pieces to the puzzle.

“Thanks for sharing. I think you have a good story you need to write.”

I went back to the third cart of books awaiting processing. Of all the new stories that made their way into the library this past week, this has been my favorite.

6 thoughts on “The Story Keeper

  1. One of my best friends was the librarian at my former parochial school, so I understand the “process” of getting books on the shelf. I just love your conversation with your student about puzzles and tattoos. I found them both interesting but especially the method to her mom’s tattoos. I am not a tattoo person, but I like to admire them from afar and wonder how/why they choose what and where to ink. I hope your student writes that story one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rita,
      I do hope this student writes this story some day. A friend pointed out she may not yet realize the type of story she has just yet, but in time she’ll understand. I wish I had more time to spend with her though. As I librarian, I spend a few minutes with a lot of kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so lovely the way you weave all the parts of this story together. The background, the dialogue, the putting together of the puzzle, the details between. My favorite line: “They’re enticing. So much so that I want to check all of them out and keep them to myself.” Oh, how much I understand this desire. Love how you wrap this up and show how much the real-life stories matter because they do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the feedback. In retrospect, this is probably could’ve been two separate posts, but I wanted to show how all kinds of stories make their way to the library. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading. I’m new at the campus this year, so getting to know the students has been tough. They’re coming around though. We all are.

      Like

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