Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meaningful Work

Last week Elaine and I (Janet was still on vacation) went out to some of our secondary schools on what we call a reconnaissance mission. We listen to the needs and questions of the staff, look around and offer suggestions about improvements. One of the first high schools we visited has a new library staff member. She’s new to our district too. Her school is broken into 6 smaller schools. With over 5000 students, she is the lone wolf, coming into a situation that is just- plainly put- hard. There is no teacher librarian. No other classified staff. Only three students are currently coming in to help with clerical tasks, like shelving. Even in a library where things are in great order when you get there, it would be tough.

Unfortunately, staffing at this site has not been enough or consistent. The staff that has been there for the last 9 years (that’s all I can vouch for) have admirably done everything they can to just keep their heads above the water. With the new library tech starting after the first textbook distribution was over, there were still offices full of boxes of consumables. The library has been a place to put (or leave) things that don’t work- from equipment to furniture.
Before anything has been rearranged.

Enter new tech. She comes to training. She makes a list of what she thinks is a priority to make this high school a better place for kids. Elaine and I go out to look things over. We all jump right in and see what we can do right away. We clear out things that have been dumped in the front. We find signage to hang to welcome students in.

Teens flock to an area that has been created for them.
Elaine rearranges some furniture and creates a welcoming place for kids to sit and read. Within minutes of this, a class comes in to check out books. Instantly kids are there reading. Not going to the computers. Not leaving. Sitting and reading. They want to be there, but they need a space that speaks to them. With the three of us working, and the help of a substitute, the space begins to take shape.

When we talked about this at the next elementary training, some of our library assistants volunteered to come on their own time to help this school. When we talked to the new high school tech to encourage her about all the work there is to do, her response was “it’s meaningful work.”

We have great people in our team of SDUSD library staff. There is Elaine, who switches her days off so she can be with Janet when she comes back, as I am in Canada. Sharon, who volunteers to help a high school in need. Library assistants (and teachers) who came to Books and Boys on Saturday morning. Janet, who skips lunch to talk someone through and issue on the phone. The list goes on and on.

Yes, my job is hard too. There is a reason why I have a collection of crowns. Some days a girl just needs to wear one. Some days, she just has to think about all the great work being done by people who work harder than they get paid for because it’s “meaningful work.” Today is one of those days. So, thank you, library staff, on behalf of all the kids and teachers in this district for what you do for kids.

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