Monday, December 31, 2012

"Chatty" Patrons Welcome Here

I am going to end this year with a rant because I saw someone I like retweet a tweet to the tune of dealing with "chatty" patrons by asking them "Can I help you with something LIBRARY related?"

Now perhaps said patron is holding up a 10 deep circulation line, or a reference desk with 25 people waiting eagerly to have their question answered. But somehow, I doubt it.

Yes, perhaps you have other work to do. Perhaps you really need to go to lunch, or relieve someone on another desk. Perhaps you're burned out after 2 story hours in a row, or you need to make 15 more cunning flannel boards that are totally unnecessary because they're of great picture books, or you need to cut out 50 craft items that the kids can stick on paper to make 50 identical, boring, uncreative crafts.

I get that there are times when you don't want to talk to anyone. Hell, in my first years in this profession I was happy to go home and have no one to talk to but my cat, and there are times that I still feel that way.

But here's my news for you, girlie:



Most of what you can get in a library, you can get WITHOUT the library.

You can get book information from our catalog. You can get your book reviews or suggestions from Amazon or Good Reads or a hundred other places. You can look up your reference questions on a computer.

People want more than that when they come to a library. They want HUMAN contact.

I have spent 25 plus years working in libraries and a lot of that time has been spent talking to people, from little old ladies who just needed to chat to moms who need some thoughts on parenting along with their toilet training books, to teens who like having an adult who talks to them like a grown up, to small children who want to be silly. 

I've chatted with our crazy and or homeless patrons who just want someone to speak to them and acknowledge them like people.
Frequently it has nothing to do with books, or reference questions or anything else "library related: And none of it has been a waste of my time. I've built friendships. I've built trust. I've learned from every conversation I've had. When you talk to that "chatty" patron you are building  a relationship that will bring that patron back into your library. Isn't that the point?

In this day when the NY Times actually has had discussions of whether we need libraries, when e-readers and Amazon make it easy for people to get their books without us, we need more than ever to make our patrons feel that this is place where people WANT to talk to them.

And if you don't get that, please go work in a frickin' research library, or work on-line, or somewhere where you don't have to deal with "chatty" people.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can't We Just Tell The Story? A Rant About the "Five Practices"

Many years ago I had a parent who I think was home schooling and never missed a minute for learning.
One day she and one of her sons were sitting at a table reading a book while I was working in my "office"--a plexiglass partitioned off area right nearby. 

I heard her talking to him about the story, which apparently featured glass. "Oh, Benjamin, do you remember what glass is made of?"

And I heard Ben reply: "Mom, can't we just read the book?"

I couldn't laugh, but inside I was cheering, because Ben got what reading with a parent should be about. He didn't want to be educated every second of the day. He just wanted to enjoy his time with his mother, and enjoy the story.

I ranted this past spring about Saroj Ghoting's courseon "Early Childhood Literacy" and how stultifying I found it. But I am bringing it up again now because of the wonderful Melissa Depper's blogpost today about fingerplays helping to develop early motor skills.

Now, as I just said, Melissa is wonderful, and I respect the incredible work she and the rest of the Colorado Early Childhood people do, and wish we had something similar here. And it was a well researched piece. And yes, kids do need to work on those motor skills.

But does it have to be underlined so carefully? Does every moment in story times at libraries have to have some correlation with the "Five Skills" or whatever the hell they're calling it this week?

Do we have some sort of inferiority complex because we are librarians, not teachers?

We ARE both early childhood educators. But so are parents and caregivers. And parents and caregivers are the bulk of the adults most public librarians serve.

Is the message we want to send them the need to look for teachable moments in every second of the day?
Do we want them to think of reading and singing and playing and talking and writing as educational tools and nothing more?

Where are the deeper things that reading, singing and the rest can bring to the relationship of an adult and a child? The love, the closeness, and humor, the sharing that go with those interactions over a book or a song or a fingerplay?

Where is the frickin' JOY in it?

My job as a librarian is to teach all right. It's to teach parents that they can go home and read and sing and play and talk with their children and find joy in it--joy that will make them want to do those things day in and day out, every day.

Tell the story. Read the book. Sing the song. Do the fingerplay.

Have fun with it. Share your joy in it with a child.

When Saroj Ghoting and the rest have stopped peddling their stuff, when ALA has moved on to new and more fashionable theories the stories and the songs and the fun will still be there.

I hope librarians will find their way back to the fun.
Because everything else stems from that and that alone......

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