Library Days


The other day several friends who read my blog observed I must be enjoying my volunteer hours in the library. I took that to mean that I talk about it often, perhaps too much, here and on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s true; I do. I’m aware that I’ve become a bit one-note as of late, but try as I might I can’t seem to stop talking about the library because this is the happiest I have ever been. I love, love, love my days in the library.

What I love the most is what surprises me the most. I love my time with the kids. All of them, even some of the 6th and 7th grade boys who sometimes tempt me to shave their heads so I can check for horns. I’ve always thought that I was pretty good with kids, but more of a “I like my kids, not so much other people’s kids” kind of person. It turns out that philosophy only holds true for play-dates and babysitting, because in front of the class I just can’t get enough of them.

I love that the younger class is so tiny. I feel tall! I love that I can make them laugh at the stupidest jokes. They are such an easy crowd. I love that they trust me to help them. They look to me like I am Pythia of the Library. There is no question I can’t answer, no book I can’t find. One 6 year old walked up to me today and asked me for a book on Saint Francis and stood there staring up at me like he knew I had a Saint Francis book in my pocket, right next to my white rabbit and never ending length of tied silk kerchiefs. I ended up finding him four books on Saint Francis. He checked out a book on penguins.

I love that I know many of the middle school kids, since many of them are Mikey’s friends or the children of my friends. They walk in and give me this sly smile as if we share a secret. I know their books best of all. I know their tastes best of all. I know their section of the library best of all so with them I feel the most confident as I help them find books.

I especially love the junior high kids, which surprises me most of all. I talk to them like they are adults and love listening to their thoughts on what they’re doing, reading, watching. (Full House is hot among the girls!) Some of them are so big, so tall, that I forget they are barely in their teens. The 6th grade is a rowdy bunch, a little difficult to control. The first week they were terrible, last week they were better. I’m hoping to see a steady improvement as we get to know each other. I like to think that I’m fun and easy going, but it’s still my show I’m running. I’ve noticed that when I talk, really talk to them, they sit like little mice and listen. Silent reading isn’t as successful, so I think I’m going to read aloud to them this week and venture into some (very easy) critical reading and thinking and see how they do. I think they’ll like it. I hope they’ll like it.

Silent reading hasn’t been successful with many of the older kids because our library features many of the classics. Lots of Newberry award winners from years past, lots of books you and I adored when we were kids. We have our Goosebumps, Geronimo Stilton, Junie B. Jones, et al, but the young adult section is what you would expect in a parochial school. There is no The Hunger Games. There is no manga, zombie graphic novels, or paranormal romance.

It’s an uphill battle selling old books to kids who have grown up on shiny and new, but I have a plan. It might take me a year, but I’m going to figure out a way to hook these kids on the great books we have in the library. If I hear one more kid tell me they loooooooove fantasy but have never read C.S. Lewis or Madeline l’Engle, I’m going to have to issue a reading challenge. If I hear more boo-hooing about The Hunger Games while The Giver and Lord of the Flies collects dust on the shelf, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Maybe I’ll donate a series of their choosing if they read the classic series that inspired the contemporary author. (Thinking out loud.)

The other day I came home so happy that I told the Mister I was worried my big mouth would get me in trouble and that I would be stripped of my volunteer position. I’m opinionated, a perfectionist. I take my jobs seriously, even when I’m not being paid, obviously. Maybe the parents will get upset with some of my lectures I give the children, or maybe I’ll step on some faculty toes. I have to be careful to remember that not everyone feels as passionately about reading as I do, and that it wouldn’t be smart to suggest to the principal that he allocate 50% of his budget to new books. 40% is a much more reasonable place to start.

[image source]

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


  1. Lu says

    I’m so thrilled that you love this new role. It is a good fit. I like that it has surprised you in ways you weren’t expecting. Your enthusiasm is infectious. I feel motivated to do and to share from reading this post.

  2. says

    I love your ideas! I find myself pushing students to love the books I loved as a kid… I’m skeptical of new series for kids. I feel like every time you turn around there’s another series about a spunky little girl and I just can’t find a way to love her like Ramona. I know I should just be glad they’re reading, but I want them reading my favorites- Roald Dahl! Madeline l’ Engle!
    I try to remember that with all the beautiful books I read, I read a lot of the babysitters club, too, and those are hardly anything to be proud of. :)

    One thing I’ve seen in a library that seemed cool:
    If you like ______ try _____. Like on a bulletin board.

    So like you said- if you like the Hunger Games, try Lord of the Flies.
    You could make it really visually appealing with pictures of the covers and stuff….

    • says

      Yes, that’s what I’m working on. I already have the perfect spot all cleared out. My only problem is that I’ve been procrastinating! :)

      I’m all for diversity in reading (The Library Journal just shared a study linking pleasure reading to increased test performance in schools) but my hands are going to remain tied with some of the books I’m allowed to bring into the library. I’m going to have to sell the kids on a lot of the more chaste releases, and while I’ve been telling them to read Y if they like X, seeing it in writing everyday may help and may keep me from sounding like a broken record.

  3. Barbara says

    You go, girl! Would you consider making book suggestions by age group for those of us that need help buying gifts for children? I’d love some help buying books for my grandchildren. Thanks, Jules. I love that you love what you’re doing.

  4. Susan says

    Your enthusiasm and happiness are so fun to read about…so glad you’re enjoying being the Library Lady. Hope my daughter’s future elementary school librarian is half as happy in her work as you are. Just wondering, at what age are you finding most kids able to read independently? First grade? Second grade?

    PS, I think Robin’s bulletin board idea is a great one.

    • says

      By the end of 1st grade most of the kids can read a Magic Treehouse book on their own. The second graders are reading, but I had them doing a worksheet yesterday and I saw some areas they are still working on, like defining a word from context, inferring what a book will be about based on the title/cover, etc. It’s only the second week of school after a long summer, so in my mind they are still 1st graders. Some of them (girls, strong readers) finished the worksheet in no time flat. It was the boys who seemed to have more trouble, which doesn’t surprise me, sadly.

      It’s 3rd grade where you have the opportunity to build a reader. At least at this school, they are like little sponges ready to soak up ALL THE BOOKS. I gave them a tour of the library, showed them all the popular series, etc. and I thought they were all going to need a change of clothing they were so excited.

  5. Susan G says

    I love everything about this post – from that fab picture at the top to your budget recommendation at the end But what I love most is how very happy you sound. Those are some lucky lucky kids.

  6. vginiafille says

    The Giver: $4.98 for the kindle edition on amazon. Just bought it.

    I am a clarinet teacher by profession: how is Mikey doing?

    • says

      Loves it. I wish I could find a clarinet teacher in our area, although I’m not sure we would have the budget for it until the new year. He has been teaching himself little tricks, playing around with the keys. He’s especially proud of this thing he does with his fingers where he flicks them as fast as he can. Hard to explain, but I’m sure you can imagine what I’m talking about! I need to buy him new reeds (thanks for the reminder!) and I might need to buy a trimmer to keep at home for me to use until his teacher shows him how to use it. He’s going through reeds like water!

  7. says

    I LOVE this post, Jules! Good for you for enjoying your time volunteering at the library. I am SO envious of you! When I was in the second grade, that was all I wanted to do :)

    • says

      Me, too! It’s what I should have done, but I was always caught up in stupid stuff, like making money…which is so not my personality that I really don’t even understand why that was important to me. It was the 80s, I guess.

  8. Shannon says

    I LOVED this post, Jules. Your enthusiasm for this project rocks my socks off. I was surprised, too, how much I love being in the classroom & library. An opportunity like yours is so rare and I’m happy to read of your adventure, so don’t hold back!

    • Shannon says

      Also, just because friends notice how much you are loving something shouldn’t mean that you have to stop sharing. I know that I’m super sensitive to people’s comments and wonder if when they remark about something I’m doing that they are really being sarcastic or mocking me. I’m working really hard on getting over that and taking the remarks as the sincere compliments they most likely are.

  9. Phaedra says

    I love the library posts. They’re fun & inspiring. You’re happy & it comes through. Keep on keepin’ on!

    My daughter informed me at the end of summer that what she really wants to be when she grows up is a school librarian/media specialist . Can you see me jumping for joy that it’s a career on her radar?! Even if that never pans out, I love that she’s inspired by her current school librarian. Just think how you are going to influence these kids in positive ways! I think you SHOULD be talking about it all the time- VERY EXCITING!

    I have to add that I first read Lord of the Flies at age 12 or 13 and it grabbed me & threw me around and I’ve loved it ever since. For all those kids loving the Hunger Games… yeah, this book could grab them, too.

    • says

      Same with me in re Lord of the Flies. I just remember being shocked that these boys basically went nuts and lost their humanity. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. To this day, I still think about that book.

      That would be so cool if your daughter was a librarian/media specialist. (I still like the word librarian better! Old school!) There are these unfamiliar jobs kids don’t really know about because they aren’t on TV or aren’t heavily publicized. You have to admit, librarians from our time weren’t exactly limelight seekers.

      • Phaedra says

        Lord of the Flies: EXACTLY! It might have been one the first books where I realized there were bigger things afoot than just the straight forward storytelling that I’d been used to at that point. Humanity at its most primal does not a pretty picture make, but dang it makes good reading!

        Librarians: She said ‘mom, I want to be a LIBRARIAN’ (not Media Specialist) which thrilled me to no end. I know it will be ‘Media Specialist’ (if it’s still around) by the time she’s looking into it, but I will enjoy the moment. I think it can be fairly said that if my kiddo does pursue it as a career, she might break the mold & be of the most naturally extroverted Librarians I’ve ever seen πŸ˜‰
        speaking of librarians, did you ever see that YouTube video with the librarians to a rendition of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’? totally rad.

  10. says

    I love your posts! I just volunteered to be a library aide at my son’s school (he just started kindergarten at our local Catholic school) and these posts get me all pumped up. I keep waiting for my volunteer information to get to me!

    • says

      Oh, how great! You’ll have to share with me how they do things. Since you have volunteer papers, you’re already ahead of our school by leaps and bounds!

  11. says

    I’m so happy for you (and yes, a little jealous, too). And your enthusiam is contagious even here online, so I can just imagine what the kids are picking up.

    Note: my “reluctant” (but very competent) 3rd grade son is loving Beverly Cleary, esp. the Henry & Ribsy books. The fact that he’s shunning “Captain Underpants” for books written over 50 years ago warms my cockles.

    And, yes! The Giver! My 6th grader read it last year and loooved it and talked about it a lot. I think she’s re-read it 2 or 3 times now. Short, but thought-provoking.

  12. says

    We’ve talked about this already – but I love your library posts. Your enthusiasm and JOY just show through so clearly. It also keeps me inspired as I study long hours for my GRE (ugh, math reviews) so you keep these posts coming.

    Bottom line, whether you are writing about walking, William Morris-ing, or volunteering in the library you are still sharing YOUR stories in YOUR way, which is why many of us are here.

  13. says

    I love middle schoolers. Some of my happiest teaching years were in middle school. Middle school is so often where kids make the choice about which path they’re going to travel in high school. By 9th grade, it’s all over. You have so much power to do good for kids that age. They are lucky to have you.

  14. LauraC says

    Ohhh, I shouldn’t say I told you so, but this was my favorite line, “I especially love the junior high kids.” πŸ˜‰ This post made me very happy to read!

  15. says

    I’ll be emailing you soon.
    You’re going to like what I have to say.
    And it will require us gathering together and talking because I’ll need to pick your brain and gather wisdom.

  16. says

    It’s lovely to read about your enthusiasm. I remember that even geometry became interesting to me because my teacher obviously loved it so! I read books about on the same level that I eat and breathe. They are just so magical. At the risk of sounding old and grumpy, I can’t imagine a librarian being able to excite me with offerings on Kindle…long live paper!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>