Thursday, May 19, 2022

Blather-- Snapshot of my library

I used to do detailed reports about what went on in the library, and now... I don't. Ever since Sierra Dertinger ofBooks. Iced Lattes. Blessed mentioned that she got a job in a school library and wanted tips for the transition, I've been thinking about what notes I would leave my successor. (At left, my library.)

There just is not enough paper in the world to tell a new librarian everything that needs to be known. I volunteered for FIVE YEARS for the librarian in my position. I weeded HER collection, cleaned out HER back room, and learned to eviscerate a VCR under her capable tutelage. Still, I have spent twenty years finding random keys, "I'm a happy booker" buttons, vintage tissue boxes, and chalk chucks still in the original packaging. 

We have five days left with students. Over 200 overdue books. I need to clean the back room, revamp my curriculum for next year and deal with textbooks and 17 carts of 30 Chrome books, 12 carts of a dozen Chrome books, and who knows how many random student Chrome Books. Nota Bene: Textbooks are NOT my job. Chrome Books are textbooks. Just sayin'.

Because there's so much work, let's visit my library instead! I took some pictures on my way in this morning to show Sierra and other hopeful, shiny, new librarians what glee awaits them. (At left, the circ desk. This is also where I keep deodorant and other toiletries that I hand out thanks to neighborhood bridges. And yes, these include sanitary products.)

Sure, there are the 13,000 books that I have to organize. But there's also the vast space, as well as storage that I am very grateful to have. I've taken down some shelves over the years to have more floor space and to limit the amount of unneccesary STUFF. 

I am very diligent about cleaning out and organizing, but there is still so much stuff. Supplies. Equipment. Cords. Book processing supplies. A tambourine. A stuffed alligator hat. And this isn't the worst. One of our district librarians inherited several drawers crammed full of plastic flatware, because the previous librarian used her back room to host parties for teachers (back when we had assistants, I imagine.) The back room is such a mess because I can only get into it in the morning, and that's when I try to write book reviews. I haven't had lunch outside the library more than five times this year.

Sierra is also expecting her first child in October. Inheriting a library is similar to having a child. You can read all the books you want, makes plans, and it's still just... a crap shoot. No matter how hard you try, it can still go so, so wrong. You do what you need to do, and hope for the best. I have zero regrets about giving my toddlers powdered milk with a side of bread and margarine for the fat for their little brains. The pediatrician said it was okay.

Last year, I didn't get the library organized because I spent several days cleaning out the classroom of a teacher who had been here for thirty years. I took fifty trips to the recycling to clear out eight file cabinets. Unearthed 60 boxes of tissues. There were dusty paperbacks, student projects from twenty years ago, and more paperclips than I have ever seen amassed in one location. 

I have at least fifteen more years left to teach, if I am lucky and my district keeps librarians. You never know. I started out teaching Latin, and I have been grateful to be employed every single year of my 24 year career. It could end tomorrow. I'm not leaving a procedure manual. There might be one page of notes. Whoever takes over my job will have a baptism by surprise filmstrip projectors and letters from long dead authors in a file cabinet, but I hope that things are not messy, dirty, and cluttered. 

Note to self: remind daughter that if I die, she needs to clear the cabinet of Clarks loafers and my box with an entire change of clothing out before the new librarian arrives. That person, however, is totally welcome to my cabinet of pain relievers and over the counter meds I keep for teachers. And that stuffed alligator hat.


  1. Thank you for this post. I retired four years ago after 21 years as the Teacher-Librarian in one school and a total of 33 years in the role in five different schools. I did try to write everything down and now I realise it was a waste of time - my school Principal did not replace me for over two years. The classroom teachers (I worked in a Primary/Elementary school) who were given the "easy" library job completely wrecked it. They tossed out thousands of books with absolutely no knowledge of their value. At the start of 2020 a real Teacher-Librarian transferred into the school. I am so embarrassed about the mess she must have found there and the way my 20+ years of curating a terrific book collection, nurture of young readers, and making a welcoming space with limited resources etc was all trashed - I have been a TL leader in my district but the new TL is sure to have thought I was a fraud and hopeless. I just have to let all of that go and move on but it is hard - so your decision not to leave extensive notes etc is a good one. Heavens only knows what happened to my huge folder which explained "everything". I loved all your references to "stuff" in this post. My predecessor left lipstick; hundreds of audio tapes of books read by parents (sigh); strange tea towels and a huge number of dreadful coffee mugs not to mention redundant equipment for slides and photography. We sure do have a lot of that in a library even though I didn't have an alligator hat. Oh and you are SO right about Chrome books = textbooks. Thank you for your blog - I really enjoy your honest insights into the huge number of books you read each day/month/year.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your school after you left. How heartbreaking! (Although I sort of want to see the strange tea towels!) Just today, I cleared out most of a cabinet (why do I have so many gift bags?) but left a boutique box of tissues from 1974 with flowers printed ON THE TISSUES at the very, very back. So I'll leave some surprises. The big one will be that over half the boxes on the shelves are EMPTY. If you have an empty shelf, someone always wants to fill it with something. And I'll try hard to keep the ugly mugs and lipstick to a minimum. Glad you enjoy the blog.

  2. Good article! You run a

  3. I meant to say that you run a well-organized library!