Work Vacations

Monday, March 28, 2022

I’ve had two days of what I like to call “work vacations.” They’re still work, but off campus. Friday, our middle school students competed in our district’s annual reading competition. We have a list of selected middle grade books the students read through the year. We take a team, or two, or three, depending on how many are interested and the sizes of our campuses. In a double elimination tournament style of questions about books, these kids take the competition seriously. Students have a great time meeting peers from other schools and we enjoy watching them show their stuff. And they know those books inside and out.

Today, we had an off-site team meeting. We caught up with colleagues, discussed end of the year procedures, participated in team-building activities, and had time to work on those odds and ends that tend to get left for the last minute. Instead of a rushed thirty minute lunch, we were able to go to a sit-down restaurant to enjoy a meal. Unfortunately, the day ended with a retirement announcement. On the other hand, I’m happy when people step into their next chapters, or even stories, in life. Such is the stuff of an approaching end of the school year.

At the end of April, I’m attending our annual library conference. The last two have been virtual and almost as exhausting. I like to think I have a plan set up for all of the sessions I want to attend and schedule back-up sessions for those that get full. This year, I may just schedule some re-charge time in my hotel room. It’s usually go, go, and go hard for about three days. It’s hard to skip the author lines and rush from one session to another. This is my kind of theme park.

I’m fortunate to have these types of days. A break from work, but still work. Something different that helps me re-charge and continue learning. Having time to eat lunch is also a bonus.

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.