Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Library at 22 Months

Thursday marks my two year anniversary as a public library librarian. With so many story time kids running around, I tend to think in a lot of toddler terms, which means I'm about to be 24 months into this career (22 months at this particular branch).

One of our partnerships that I don't think I've mentioned yet is with a group called Early Stages. Early Stages is part of the public school system here and they specialize in early intervention for kids who may need special services. Once a month an Early Stages Representative comes to story time and chats with parents about developmental milestones and when and how they can have their children assessed. The last time Early Stages was here I snagged a handout on developmental benchmarks for 2 year olds and started thinking about how they apply to me as well.

By their second birthday most children:

• Walk alone
I'm becoming more and more adept at handling the children's room by myself. I no longer quiver in fear when someone takes a sick day. I have discovered the grace and confidence to handle hoards of rowdy children who have just discovered the opposite sex.

• Carry toys while walking
I still can't use props efficiently during story time. I see my co-worker, Ms. E., bust out the big books and puppets or juggle multiple musical instruments and I think "hmm, that's ambitious." Maybe next year, until then I've got my trusty flannel board sets.

• Climb on and off furniture 
After months of cajoling and a few loaves of home-made bread, our facilities guy finally gave me a ladder to keep. No more waiting for someone to show up if I want to hang things from the ceiling (or justifying why I absolutely need giant poofballs falling from the ceiling) and I almost always want to hang things from the ceiling. This small addition has given me more flexibility and allowed me to think more creatively in terms of presenting the room. It's very liberating. (I was tempted to make a Martina McBride Independence Day joke here, but I couldn't figure out how to word it so I'll just leave you with this.) In conjunction with the ladder, more and more large scale displays have begun to go up. We had the Baby Mouse Wall and the 25 Days of Art Gallery. Ms. E takes care of most of the book displays and face-outs on the shelves while I change out program bulletin boards and make elaborate collages out of tissue paper. This room is so much more lively and inviting than when I first walked in 22 months ago and I'm very proud of the transformation.

• Scribble with crayon
Programs are expanding. We've gone from 2 every month to at least one a week. And during the summer we've been experimenting with theme weeks. We had a week long no-heat cooking club where we made pickles and salads and smoothies with spinach and coming up next month there will be a week dedicated to fashion, inspired partially by the super successful tutu making party we had back in June. Thanks to a new Friends group who seem very excited to spend money, arts programs are taking off

• Recognize names of familiar people, objects and body parts
I pride myself on knowing the names, families and a lot of the personal dramas of the kids I see each day. I know their name by the third time they come in and by the fifth time I know who shouldn't be sitting next to them at the computers; working up here is like watching a soap opera all day long. For some reason I'm not as good with adult names, parents just don't register like their children do.

• Follow simple instructions (1 or 2 steps)
It's been a tough transition to a new manager. We're being asked to do more and more things, with very little credit or recognition of the program heavy schedule that we have and the sheer amount of face time that goes into knowing the kids and being able to diffuse situations before they escalate too far. I was recently sent to a clutter workshop, during work hours when I had a stack of things to do on my desk, because the new manager thinks our workroom is too messy. We're working on our communication and effective strategies for helping her understand exactly what we do during any given day. Hopefully by the time we open with extended hours in October we'll all be on the same page.

• Begin to sort objects by shapes and colors
Weeding knows no end. In the past 3 months all of the paperbacks have been sorted, integrated or discarded. A shocking amount of our books aren't in the catalog- which just goes to show how long it's been since someone tried to check them out. Ms. E worked for 3 months on the Juv J books and did an amazing job organizing holiday books and the overflow collection. I spent a few extra days working through our problem shelf and laughing at some of the ridiculous CDs that have managed to stand the test of time. I keep telling myself that once the kids go back to school I'll have the time and the motivation to tackle non-fiction. While weeding can be super tedious, it does give me the chance to learn the collection better and to make sure we're not circulating books that give population data for Burma from 1995.

• Imitate behavior of others
I'm picking up a lot of slang and a lot of vernacular that would make an English teacher cry. "You do too much" is not a compliment, although I always thank the kids for recognizing my hard work when they spit it at me. I can't even explain what "You got me guh" means, it's more a feeling then anything.They laugh when I tell them to "walk it out" when they're running, because adults aren't supposed to know about rap music. They're even more perplexed when I can finish the first verse of "Baby Got Back" whenever someones says "Oh my god, Becky" in that particularly snotty way. Seriously though, that song is old enough to be most of these kid's mothers- if songs could have kids- it should not be as popular as it still is.

• Want to do things for themselves
I've never had a problem with wanting to do things by myself. In fact, I'm actively learning how to let go and be okay with other people doing things. Whether that means not always doing a story time, letting the kids help with displays even when I don't necessarily like the end result or delegating tasks to teen workers, this year has been in exercise in not needing everything to be my way all of the time.

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