The Pseudo Librarian

Literary Genres Poster

A while back I mentioned the boys’s school asked me to volunteer as their children’s librarian. I told them I would think about it, and this morning I accepted the position. I’m nervous. The Mister, on the other hand, is really excited for me. He thinks this is something I’m going to love doing since it involves kids and books in a learning environment. I repeat, I’m just nervous. I’m nervous about the responsibility, about doing a great job, about inspiring in the kids a love of reading. I’m not even supposed to teach–I’m a glorified filer–but I feel like I’ve accepted the challenge to mold the future. I don’t know how you teachers shoulder the pressure.

Today I gave the school my hours and because I’m me, mentioned I wanted to computerize the library. They had an electronic system purchased and ready to go years ago, but their librarian was resistant to change and technology so it sat unused. It’s out of date and the license has expired, so they told me to find a system I liked and they would pay for it and my training. I have no idea where to begin. I know there are several librarians out there, so tell me what’s what.

I am not a librarian. Years ago I had to decide between getting a law degree or getting a library science degree. I chose the former, but since hindsight is 20/20 I can’t say whether I chose poorly. In law school the library science classes were my favorites (naturally) and in an ideal world I would have continued my education and become a law librarian, but that’s an additional degree. I wasn’t looking for more years and more loans. How funny that despite everything I ended up in a library.

Unpaid, mind you.

I suspect if I do a good enough job they may find money in the budget to bring me on full time in the next year or two. (A former research attorney willing to work near minimum wage in a Catholic library? Please. They’d be cuckoo not to take advantage of my poor business sense.)

I’m asking for assistance from those of you with library science and literacy experience, particularly with children. I know there are a few of you out there. I just need a nudge in the right direction–I’m not arrogant enough to think you can condense your expensive education (master’s program for some of you) into bullet points. Books, websites, programs, anything along those lines would help.

The good news is that with private school libraries being so often neglected, even the smallest amount of dedication looks impressive. I hope.


That cute literary genres poster is available for sale here, and you can bet I’m going to buy it for the kids.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    I think this is awesome, Jules. You have so many awesome things to teach – doesn’t matter that you’re not a “teacher”: you’re organized, funny, interesting and clearly devoted to kids getting better at things. This makes you brilliant for the role – not to mention your book love! I chose law over anything else, ended up graduating with 3/5 of my law degree and a PhD in English instead, so I feel similarly about your fork in the road choice. Books always win. I have no librarian advice, other than to say you’re going to kill it. Can’t wait to hear of your progress. (Also: nerves are usually a sign that you’re taking on something important and it’s just your body telling you so. Let them come, and show them what you can do!)

  2. Kathy says

    I’m so happy for you. Although, believe me, I understand the nerves. In a different world, this is exactly how I would want to spend my days.
    The school is lucky to have you.
    Oh, and thanks for link to the poster!

  3. Susan says

    This is pretty much my dream job, although I’d also be breathing into a paper bag to manage my nerves.

    I can’t wait to hear how it all comes together!

    • says

      It’s my dream job, and I’m hyperventilating. So, yes, I’m right there with you! I really, really, really don’t want to screw this up!

  4. says

    I just got a library job, too! I’m now our district’s media coordinator–which means overseeing 13 libraries. Um, have I ever been a librarian? No. Worked in libraries a lot, and did get my certification, so I know some stuff, but still. I feel just as nervous (and excited). But mostly nervous. I know just enough to know how much I don’t know.

    My fork was library or education, and I chose education. Oh well. I think Robert Frost said it best about roads and choices.

    A few starting places: School Library Journal. California School Library Association ( You are going to be so good at this. We can learn together. :-)

  5. HeatherL says

    You may already know this, but the American Library Association has some useful information on their website, particularly the ALCS Division. The Libraries Buyers Guide may also be helpful; it is a website where vendors advertise their library books, supplies, & services. This may give you a start in looking for your catalog system.
    (Disclaimer: Also not a librarian, but I work in the book industry.)
    Good luck!

  6. says

    So funny–I made the same choice between law and library (obviously I choose poorly, grasshopper). Then after law school when I was aware that I detested the practice of law, I was accepted at two local library Masters programs (not carrying enough school loans, lets get some more!), and the day I sat down to write the check to accept my spot, I was offered a visiting law professor job….and thus ended my budding library career. Last year I thought about it again (I’m nearly halfway through paying my law school loans off, life isn’t exciting unless you are carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt), only to find that the long distance internet program offered by both Illinois and Drexel has now doubled in price. Dun dun dun.

    I think you will do great with this job!. Good luck! Bring a paper bag and breathe deeply. :-)

  7. says

    Golly, I have no advice for you, but I just want to say that I think what you are doing is great! As a teacher, I rely on our librarian (or “media specialist” as they are now called) an awful lot.
    Have a great school year!

    • says

      Media specialist! That’s too high brow for our school. There’s no media. There are books and a card catalog. :)

      Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  8. CaitlinH says

    When I read your recent post about doing a lot of research after watching Hell on Wheels, I thought, man, she should have been a librarian! So funny to come to the blog today and read this. Speaking as a public librarian with a library science degree, I can tell you that my co-workers (and my family–my brother and sister-in-law are both librarians, too) and I are all weirdos who do that same must-find-out-everything-about-it kind of reseach. I really think that sort of curiosity is necessary to be a good librarian, so you’re already off to a great start. If you’re trying to find out more about children’s literature, The Horn Book Magazine is a good resource. I would also recommend looking at large public library websites (any major city library should have a very good site) to find what sort of children’s resources are available.

    • says

      I subscribe to that magazine! I subscribed when I was thinking about it accepting the position, which I guess means I knew I was going to do it but was too scared to say it out loud. I’m glad to know it’s a good resource.

      Thank you for all your advice and the vote of confidence. :)

  9. Susan G says

    Yay!!!! Nothing useful to add – but they are SO fortunate to have you! No wonder you’re nervous. Some clueless silly people, knowing they were going to be a VOLUNTEER librarian – you know, FOR FREE – might think the school should be thankful for whatever it gets from them. But insightful people like us know you are actually taking on the burden of molding all those future minds and lives and so of course you are nervous! :)

    • says

      I’m pretty sure after I cleaned up the library last year that the school knows that I’m not one of those people. They’ll have another problem on their hands: me becoming territorial. 😉

  10. says

    Hi Jules,

    I was a teacher-librarian for 15 years. I have lots I could share about systems as well as other library stuff but it’d all be way easier to do over a skype chat. If you are interested (really, I’m not some internet weirdo) email me and we’ll set something up. Don’t know if it adds any credibility, but you can check out my linked in profile here:

    • says

      Thanks, Lianne! Let me think about it. Not because I think you are a psycho, but because I am, truly, painfully shy and awkward!! I’m nervous to be in front of a bunch of kids. Talking to adults gives me the vapors. 😉

  11. says

    FUN, Jules!!! You should send an email to Rebecca Dunn, from the blog Sturdy for Common Things. She’s super nice and she found work at one of the public libraries in her state (Missouri? can’t remember) as a children’s librarian, even though she didn’t have her library science degree. She really transformed the children’s program there and is now pursuing her library degree via an online program through the University of Washington. ANYWAY, I’m sure she would be happy to discuss all things library with you!

    • Laura says

      I did the UW program and it was great! It’s not a masters but it can lead to one. It is 18 masters level credits that can be applied to the full masters a) should you want one and b) should you remember to fill out the proper paperwork in the designated amount of time.

  12. says

    So exciting! I think you’ll really enjoy it! There are so many great resources out there that it’s hard to know where to start. I would recommend tracking down an elementary librarian or two in your area and getting together for coffee. Most librarians love to help out and talk shop so I’m sure they would be willing to meet and give you some ideas.

    I’m in the midst of getting our library ready for school to start next week. It’s always fun when the kids come back!

  13. LauraC says

    Yeah! Excited for you! Excited enough that I will dust off my brain and email you tomorrow. I will be so excited if you digitalize the library! My mom was a huge inspiration to me because she took a seminary library from paper to computer nearly single-handedly. With no degree or training (well, on-the-job). So you can definitely do it!

  14. says

    Love the poster -but it’s missing ‘Creative Nonfiction’! =) I’m really into that genre right now and find it reminds me of the kiddie science magazines I read as a child: learning made interesting; reality written in color (vs. b&w).

    I’m psyched you took the position! I think you’re going to do a fantastic job simply because you care enough. The respect and desire to learn that come from that caring are going to push you into true excellence. That school just won the lottery with you!

  15. Barbara says

    The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease has a great book list. The part about the benefits of reading aloud to children would be preaching to the choir :).

  16. Katie says

    Hi Jules,
    You should check out the Library of Congress Center for the Book.
    The whole Library of Congress website ( is awesome, but the Center for the Book may provide more direction.

    As someone else who really should be a librarian, but isn’t for a variety of reasons…CONGRATS on following a heart’s desire! You are going to seriously rock this!!!

  17. Alexis says

    I’m an elementary school librarian, and would say that in addition to the ALA website that was mentioned before there are some great blogs out there by school librarians. My current top three are:
    We use Follett Destiny for our system and I really like it. Though I haven’t used others so I don’t have a comparison.
    Feel free to email me with questions

  18. says

    I’d love a library job – paid or unpaid. Not sure how good I’d be working with the public, though; our local library attracts all sorts. When I was a child libraries were considered quiet zones. Apparently this concept is out of date. Anyhow, I can’t give you any advice, but I’m confident you’ll do a great job!

  19. says

    Congrats! Email me if you need wise council. Or want to bitch.

    You might investigate continuing ed courses through your local library school. The ones at Simmons are all online, taught by professors or professional librarians, and much more affordable than an MLS!

    My favorite library “textbook” – KT Horning’s From Cover to Cover. More about reading and evaluating particular children’s books rather than librarianship-skillz, but has some good insight on reading levels which I imagine will be very important in an elementary school. Also, you might try to pick up a few issues of School Library Journal to browse…

  20. says

    GASP! Congrats, Jules! The kids are so very lucky to have you; and what a fun adventure for you . . .
    Children’s books are so great (did I ever tell you of my 7th grade teacher who insisted you’re never too old for a children’s book, so she read one aloud to us every Friday afternoon. :)
    I do believe my love of history and research started with the Value Tales books I received each year for my birthday. They re-released the books a couple years ago–but it kinda annoys me that chick-fil-A is on the cover. :S

  21. Sheri says

    I never comment but had to say congrats and great choice! We have followed similar, crooked paths :) I went to law school for one year, loved the research aspect of it but hated that it was far away from home and fiance, so I left to get married. I planned on going back to finish when the husband could transfer, but instead had two babies (boys!) and that was the end of law school. Fast forward 14 years and I decided to get my master’s degree in library science, all the while kicking myself for not doing it years ago. I just finished school, but due to extreme budget cuts in our local school districts, I haven’t been able to find a library job. I am volunteering at a high school library in between filling in as a substitute for district librarians, and I love it! I need a paycheck, and they’ve tried to get it approved by the school board for me to at least get paid as an assistant, but so far there’s just no money. I love it too much to stop volunteering, so I’ll just keep hoping for a job. It truly is a dream to work with books and kids, you will love it! Good luck, even with my library degree it was overwhelming to go from classes to a real library.

  22. Kellee says

    Hooray for you! I have been toying with the idea of getting a masters in library science but keep worrying that the job prospects are not the greatest. Maybe someday.

    Anyway, this sounds completely perfect for you and I am betting you are going to love it and rock that elementary school library’s socks off. Congratulations!

  23. Rachel says

    Also not a librarian although I volunteered in one as a kid and have had a library card since I was five or six. My local library has a shelfari account on their website. It is in addition to their regular catalog. I have used a program called Readerware for cataloging books. I believe LibraryThing is similar but is on the web not computer based.

  24. says

    Oh, how fun! Best of luck, Jules. This sounds like the perfect opportunity — loving books, molding young minds, and organizing along the way! I’m reminded of this quote from Roald Dahl: “I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to be comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”

  25. Laura says

    Congratulations! After 14 years as a classroom teacher I am finishing my first week as a librarian and I LOVE it. My library is for grades pre-k to 2, so lots of little ones learning to love books. Our library uses Follet Destiny, which is great and seems to get strong support from the company. One thing I have done with my colleagues from other campuses is start an instagram account exclusively for the library. We then created a hash tag for each library. Parents or teachers can tag a reading photo with the hashtag and it will appear in the feed on our library home page (which is password protected so only the school community can view it, otherwise I would send it your way. I did like your library pic from my school library Instagram account.). You are already a Twitter user, so mine Twitter for other librarians. Here are a couple of good blogs and they should have their Twitter badge on their pages:

    The best thing you can do to get started is stalk other librarians and see what they do. Its the dirty little secret of teaching…we all steal, I mean LEARN, from each other. Good luck!

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