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In praise of school librarians

I can’t imagine going through school without a librarian. It’s unfathomable.  Similarly, I can’t imagine a school not offering a band program or a choir. But every so often, I see in the news that a school has put these arts programs on the chopping blocks as a way to balance the budget. It hurts my heart every time I hear that someone thinks these programs are expendable.

In theory, you can’t teach every subject imaginable. So a small part of me accepted that some schools—thankfully not all—merely chose to focus on strengthening other programs and allow other schools to offer strong band/choir/arts programs.  Distasteful, but I could accept that.

But a school without a librarian? Will we be getting rid of the teachers next? Because every librarian I had growing up was a teacher, whether in name or not. How is it even possible to have a school without this invaluable resource? Yet I keep hearing more and more about how librarians (and libraries) are being cut from the budgets of elementary, middle, and high schools.

No. This is wrong.

My life was changed by school librarians. I know this. I can barely remember the names of half the kids I went to school with but I can tell you about every school librarian I had, from elementary to high school:

Grant Elementary School, Kellner, WI

Miss Gronski—You always remember your first. And Miss Gronski was mine. She managed the Grant library while I was in kindergarten and first grade. I swear she had ESP and knew exactly what to give me. From her, I got the book about the seven Chinese brothers, identical in every way except for their unique abilities.  I remember feeling bad as the first brother held the ocean in his mouth while a boy ran about collecting seashells and how guilty he must have felt when he had to release the ocean and the boy drowned. Miss Gronski put that book in my hand. How she knew it would stick with me after all these years, I’ll never know. She left Grant to work in the children’s section of the public library in Wisconsin Rapids. So I still got to see her from time to time and she still remembered me.

Mrs. Pfeiffer—She was like my co-conspirator.   Every week in class, we’d watch Cover to Cover (I believe that was the name of the show) on PBS where a man would draw a scene from a book as a narrator read the corresponding excerpt.  Then I’d race to the library, looking for that book. Veronica Ganz, Scruffy…. Mrs. Pfeiffer always had the book and always knew I’d come looking for it. And she taught me how to use the Apple IIe so I could play things like Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand. (She also taught me the Gershwin song, “Summertime,” as it was a piece of music in the Lemonade Stand game.)

West Junior High, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Miss Bell—A bit older in junior high, Miss Bell was the first librarian I realized was also a person. (I know. Quite the revelation, right?) When we did a unit on the civil war in history, she came to class with her guitar and taught us songs from the era. A librarian who knew stuff about things other than books! She was also the one who introduced me to weird books, like Daniel PInkwater (The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, FTW!).  She might very well be to blame for my attraction to unusual books that I harbor to this very day.

Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Miss Cicely—Now, Miss Cicely was a bit different than the other librarians. I didn’t have quite the…relationship I had with the others. But it was high school and I was doing things like growing and stuff. But I remember her. She was strict (“Two to a table” was her mantra when it came to people using the library to study and it was always enforced) but sharp as a tack. If you started describing what you were looking for, she knew exactly what it was before you were finished. Honestly, I don’t think she knew me from Adam. But she made an impression on me.

Cut out the librarians? You’d be cutting out a very important part of my life.

Published in: on December 7, 2012 at 9:34 am  Comments Off on In praise of school librarians