Friends. Countrymen. Lend us your eyes.
My super awesome friend Tracie is here with us today, sharing about the time she was an almost-librarian. Tracie can be found on her blog From Tracie and on Twitter @fromtracie. I’m stoked to have her here today because she’s fantablous.
The summer before fifth grade was one of the best summers of my life. It was the year my school decided to rearrange the library, sell a large amount of old books, and bring in an even larger amount of new books. All of those new books needed to be cataloged, have card holders glued into the front covers, and be shelved appropriately.
I am not entirely sure how it happened, but somehow my aunt talked the librarian into hiring me for the summer. Hire is probably too strong of a word, as I wasn’t actually paid anything for the five hours of work I did each day – but I did not care. I was just happy to spend my days and weeks in the library organizing all the books.
Each morning I arrived at the school at 10am. It was completely quiet. Most of the lights were off. Once I passed by the front office, I would not see another person until I reached the library at the back of the building. There I would meet up with the librarian, and start work. It was just the two of us.
We started with the young readers section. Large books with color illustrations filled round tables. I glued card holders in place until my head felt swimmy. Even though I was well past the age to be reading those books, I stopped more than once to read pages from some of the old favorites I encountered. I made little tabs for the spines, copying the Dewey Decimal numbers off of a long list that been printed out on a dot matrix printer. On the third day of work, I talked the librarian into moving the young readers section by the only window in the library. It seemed right to have those large picture books bathed in sunlight.
It was a great deal for the librarian. She quickly realized that I was eager to work and did not need a lot of supervision. She spent most of her time at her desk reading, and I worked my way through the rest of the library. Section by section. New book by new book. It was glorious. I did not even want to break for lunch – and most days I didn’t.
The library felt like my own space after so many days spent there that summer. I was acquainted with each shelf and knew to keep an eye on the one by the back door that was prone to falling over if small people tried to climb it. I had helped to fill in some of the hand-written card catalog cards and smiled when I found my writing staring up at me from the small drawers. By the end of summer, the library was ready for a new school year. The new books interspersed with the old ones, just waiting on the wooden shelves to be picked up and taken home. I wanted to read all of them. To make sure each one would get a chance to be loved.
I did take many of those new books home (and not a few of the old ones), two at a time during that year. I stamped the cards of many of them on afternoons I helped in the library, so that other people could take them home as well – usually with a quiet reminder not to dog-ear the pages, write in the margins, or damage the covers. They were, after all, the books that belonged in my library. I felt a certain ownership of them, even though they were never really mine.