Last September, I got a part-time job as library clerk at an elementary school near my house. I’d been out of the classroom for two years at that point and all my teaching experience had been in middle school and high school. I’d never worked in an elementary, and I’d never worked in a library, but I decided to give it a try. I mean, books + kids = fun, right?
Right! Kids are cute. Books for kids are cute. Libraries full of books for kids are cute. It turns out that spending ten hours a week checking out books, checking in books, shelving books, helping kids find books, and reading books to kids was just what I needed to fill the unproductive hours in my day and earn some extra income. And I even survived the filing, stapling, bulletin board decorating, and (shudder) cutting out laminating that also came with the job. (Someday I’m going to invent static-free laminating plastic and become the hero of all teachers and librarians.)
Much of what I experienced during my first year as library clerk was expected. However, there were a few surprises. Now that the school year has ended, it’s time to reflect on…
10 Things I Learned From Working In An Elementary School Library:
1. When working with kids, this is your best friend:
2. You know those squirrels that dash into the middle of the street, freeze, consider turning back, and then end up running in circles instead? First graders are like that. All the time.
3. Unlike the hordes of middle schoolers I taught who all seemed to have the same closet, elementary school kids dress wonderfully, adorably, outrageously weird, and I love them for it.
Some of my favorite outfits this year included:
– The Kindergartner in the orange Ninja Turtles t-shirt and bolo tie
– The third grader in jeans, a tucked in white t-shirt, and red white & blue suspenders (on picture day)
– The fourth grader in the neon yellow t-shirt and yellow plaid skirt, with matching gloves and hair bow
4. Bookmarks come in all shapes and sizes.
5. Talking to children is sometimes like putting a quarter into a conversation bubble gum machine and waiting to see what flavor will come out.
* Bubble Gum Conversation #1:
Me – “Thank you for paying for your lost book.”
Kindergarten Girl – “You’re welcome.”
Me – “Wait here while I get you a receipt.”
Kindergarten Girl – “I can run as fast as a cheetah on fire.”
Me – “That’s great, but now is the time for standing still.”
* Bubble Gum Conversation #2:
[Shouted to me by a lone third grader at the other end of an empty hallway]: “I’m going to meet my friends in the cafeteria! I don’t need any help! I’m fine!”
(For the record, I did not offer help, nor suggest that he was not fine, nor engage him at all.)
* Bubble Gum Conversation #3:
Me, handing books to second grade girl – “Here you go. Enjoy them!”
Second grade girl – [Big sigh] “I have a LOT of talents.”
Me – “That’s nice.”
6. I also have a lot of talents I didn’t know I had, such as:
– Putting together this cart all by myself.
– Stapling 300 book fair flyers in a single day.
– Memorizing the Dewey Decimal System. (Go ahead, try me.)
7. Kids love books about:
– Cars (Call Number 629.222)
– Dogs (Call Number 636.7)
– Scary Stuff (Call Number 398.2) – I don’t think the many volumes of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will ever go out of style.
– Sharks (Call Number 597.3) – Every single week, I re-shelved every book in this section.
– The Military (Call Numbers 355-359) – This one was a surprise to me.
8. Kids also love it when people come to visit them. Being a part of the library means getting the behind-the-scenes experience of some fun school events.
9. Typing up a list of books in the Dear America series can really depress a person.
* Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
* When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
* One Eye Laughing, The Other Weeping
* My Heart is on the Ground
10. You find weird things during inventory. Such as…
* Notes from substitutes regarding questionable content in videos.
* An episode of Reading Rainbow that I definitely did not see in school.
* And THIS:
I had a great time learning to be a library clerk, and I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year. But FIRST, I’m looking forward to my break. :) Happy summer vacation, everyone!
# Hours I worked = 319
# Fire drills I survived = 3
# Surprise unexpected ambush hugs from kids = 4
# Times I had to say, “Please don’t lick the book” = 1
# Times I got sick, possibly from ambush hugs or licked books = 2 (not bad, considering)
# Library Books Shelved = 50,000 (ish)
# Times I reorganized the graphic novel section (Call Number 741.5) = infinity