Today and yesterday several of my colleagues and I spent the whole day making many, many presentations to students at a local high school. We went into many of the English and ESL classes to talk to them about the perks that a library card can give them: everything from online homework help to borrowing books, dvds, and magazines to getting to use the internet at their local library. We signed up 650 students with library cards. Some of these were brand-new enrollees, while others were ones who had “lost the way” (i.e. stopped borrowing due to overdue fines or lost cards.) The selling point that helped these “wayward souls” find their way back to the library was amnesty on fines if they signed up for a new card! :)
The ESL classes were simultaneously the most rewarding and the most energy-sapping for me. Rewarding because these students were genuinely attentive and actually appreciative of the presentation and grateful for the opportunities that the library offers to them. (Not that they need to be, but it’s nice to be talking to polite, kind kids!) The draining part was the fact that, due to the language barrier, what was supposed to be a 15 minute presentation for each class got drawn out into a full-period discussion and explanation–in fact I felt like I was teaching for a full day. The great thing though, is that all those supposedly forgotten teaching skills I learned when I was a teacher came back. The whole waiting for silence before speaking, the asking them to raise hands, the checking for understanding, the pausing, the giving them wait-time to think about the answer to a question before blurting out the correct response… All of that came back. In a way it was fun. But in another way, at the end of the day, I remembered why it was that I wanted to go into librarianship. While I do truly enjoy teaching, what I really revel in is the one-to-one helping. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be amenable to teaching classes (in or outside of a library setting) in the future. Just that I prefer a more balanced routine, something that allows me to teach and yet also have more of that reference-type interaction also.
Food for thought for the future.