Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday Slice: Rethinking reader engagement

I am a librarian.  Connecting readers with books, interacting with students during read-alouds, prompting discussions on genres, teaching students how to navigate databases and cite sources--it's what I do.  I enjoy my job so much that when I am in my library, these responsibilities feel like privileges.  Seven years in, and I still pinch myself sometimes, grateful that I found my niche.

Library lessons didn't stop in March; they went online.  I helped students find books to read--but only the ones who asked.  It would have taken a lot of digital detective work to hunt down which of my 1250 students was aimlessly wandering our virtual aisles of ebooks without checking anything out.  I did read-alouds--but they were pre-recorded, no faces looking back at me, no vibe to prompt where I should pause and interact.  I had a few virtual read-alouds and discussions with classes and book clubs--but they were stilted due to technology restraints.  I provided links to databases and password sheets, offered personalized screencasts to help students navigate online--but I wasn't there looking over their shoulder to point out details, encourage them to dig further, remind them where the citation tools were located.

There's a very good chance that at least part of my job will be virtual in the fall.  There are some details that are absolutes, such as quarantining book returns for 72 hours before making them available again, and disinfecting the library in between classes.  That's assuming that we'll have students checking out books and receiving in-person, socially distanced lessons.  Education has veered toward collaboration as a standard, but we'll have to learn how to teach elementary students to do so in a virtual setting.

I will be on a different campus next year, faced with the task of building relationships with a new group of readers.  But will I be able to adequately do my job, especially for the readers who need this relationship the most?  I'll spend the rest of my summer thinking about it.      

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tuesday Slice: Out with a whimper while life is a bang

I didn't write last week, and it felt like skipping a workout.

The words were there, but they were all jumbled up in my head, swirling with emotion, mixed with selfish, civic, global intents. I am 
navigating a career transition, while
contemplating my white privilege, while
hurting for people of color, while
concerned about rising pandemic numbers.

My focus is scattered.  I am
walking and enjoying birdsong, then
reading How to Be An Antiracist, then
dreaming about library renovations, then
watching the news, then
processing library books, then
ordering fashionable face masks, then
reading funny kidlit, then
bemoaning the mess I've brought home.

My motivation and energy levels vacillate from one day to the next, one hour at a time.  There is so much to do, which means so much to avoid.  I am
napping more,
playing computer solitaire more,
shopping more,
eating more,
scrolling Facebook.

I sit at home whimpering, while life is banging loudly around me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tuesday Slice: First encounters

I grew up as a white military BRAT, the minority in countries around the world.
My parents were never the ugly Americans.
Any division in the ranks seemed to be officer versus enlisted.

Racial epithets were not part of my childhood home.
Sesame Street and Mr Rogers depicted a rainbow of people on TV.
I was only two in '68, shielded in my youth from that dark year.

An avid reader, I learned the words in print, recoiled at their use.
Heard the first aloud in college, walking the dorm halls with my roommate's little brother.
"Why's that white girl holding on to that little n*'s hand?"

I couldn't say anything to that girl in the presence of a four-year-old, just kept walking.

I dated a man with distinguished parents, a doctor and a lawyer, former military.
Didn't occur to me that his black skin mattered, until my family met him.
It was then I learned that the absence of epithets doesn't mean the absence of racism.

I have friends these days, distinguished in their own rights, who are followed in stores.
Pulled over in their cars in their own neighborhoods.
Afraid for their children who have done nothing wrong, but may be attacked anyway.

I have never been more aware of my privilege than in the last two weeks.
If I have been silent, it's only because I have been listening.
I pray those in positions of power are hearing with their hearts.

We know better.  We need to do better.