Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Morning at the Gaynor Campus Library

Today, Wednesday, was my early day: 8:00 to 3:00. Because The Green School has an early release schedule on Wednesdays, the whole schedule for the day gets flip-flopped. On Wednesdays, my fourth period ESL class happens first period (9:00). Getting in at 8:00 makes me available for multiple functions: prepping for my ESL class at 9:00 (if I haven't prepped earlier), processing the good old "legacy collection" I've been blogging about for so long and which is still a work in progress, or giving a library lesson or hosting any other kind of class visit for the other two schools, which begin their days by 8:00. Today, it was processing and a little bit of ESL class prep.

One of the things that's been happening this year is that since The Green School starts at 9:00 (8:58, actually), there are kids entering the second floor by 8:30 or so, strolling around and thinking about going to the cafeteria for breakfast. If I'm in the library between 8:30 and 8:58, as I would be on Wednesdays, of course, with my 8:00 start time, I get kids knocking on the door, even if I'm clearly engaged in some kind of solo prep work. Unless I'm giving some kind of New York State ESL test and have a sign taped on the door stating "Testing: Please Respect the Students Taking the Test," the kids will just knock and knock until I break what I'm doing and let them in, or at least open up and speak with them, which for me is effectively the same thing, since both break my flow. Such are the hazards of being a public service...

This little wrinkle requires me to be strategic about how and when I enter the library. Don't get me wrong. I'm not avoiding the kids all the time, but sometimes I have to. Yes, yes, I'm doing what I do so the kids will have a library service, so although it may sound kind of hypocritical, but if the kids don't let me get any behind-the-scenes work done, there won't be anything in place for them when I do open the doors. Things are still in a jumble and I'm just starting to make a little headway. This means my usual entry strategy on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, when my hours are 9:30 to 4:00, is to enter only after 8:58, after the students are situated in their first period classes. I'm usually there just around that time because I don't like to be late. I can then have an entire 30 minutes just to do what I need to get done, or at least a good chunk of it, without being interrupted.

On Wednesdays, with my 8:00 to 3:00 hours, this isn't possible, so I've decided to fling the doors open on Wednesdays at 8:00 and let the kids wander in if they want to. In fact, I'm having them sign in on Wednesday mornings so I can show their visits to the powers that be at some point in the future when I go back to advocate for a two-person library staff: if the kids do want to come and visit both before school and after school, there's no way one person on teacher's hours can swing staffing both ends of the school day.

This morning I had it in my head to finish some book processing. Yesterday afternoon I'd trained my 12th grade intern E. how to use Follett's Destiny online OPAC system to enter uncatalogued, unprocessed books. It requires several steps, and missing any of them makes the process even more tedious in the end, so it's worth paying attention as you go to keep things running smoothly. E. did great, but we didn't have time to do the final steps: printing out the bar code and spine label stickers for the books that had just been entered and sticking them on the correct books. Just before closing, as we were working along, a student saw that Stephenie Myer's New Moon was in the stack of books getting processed and asked politely if she could take it out the following day. "Wow," I thought, "that's a huge lot better than screaming, 'Hey!!! New Moon!!! Gimme that!!!' and grabbing it," which wouldn't surprise me in some of the kids who've got what I'd call emerging social skills. But this young lady was very polite and had the insight to realize that E. and I weren't done with everything we needed to do to get the book ready for the public. I told her I'd put it on hold for her and she could have it the following day.

"When can I come and pick it up?" she asked. I was so impressed with her maturity that I said, "First thing in the morning," not wanting to make her wait after being so good, and knowing I'd be in early. I hate to have a bunch of books in the OPAC that haven't had their bar code and spine labels stuck on yet: it's just begging for disaster and confusion. So today, I came racing in and printed out the labels and was finalizing the stack of books we had done last night when, sure enough, a couple of my regulars came loping in. Now that I'm expecting it, baking it into my day, as it were, it was actually kind of fun to have them there in the morning. In fact one of the kids who came in, K., also likes to help out with things and she helped me shelve the newly processed books. Just before first period began, which is fourth period on Wacky Wednesdays, my New Moon reader came by and I was glad the book was ready and signed out to her. Finally, at least a few things are going along as they should. Baby steps.

Another thing my schools' administrations have been great about is letting me take a lunch break. This happens to conflict with The Green School's lunch, when the kids should have what I call a Free Choice library period. Given that I spend most of my Green School time as the ESL teacher, however, something's got to give and it's The Green School's lunch. Today, however, the Wednesday schedule being what it is, I was actually in the library during The Green School's lunch time, rather than having run out immediately at the beginning of the period, and had the pleasure of two of my regulars happening by and, seeing I was there, coming in for a visit. One of them, T., began to show me his sketches for a comic book he's doing and they're really great. I had no idea this student was even interested in art! "What am I doing?" I thought. "Here are some kids who could use a little breather in the library during lunch time, I'm not making that happen."

I don't want to get too starry-eyed about it, though. Last year, I hosted Open Access (which I now call Free Choice) lunch for both Lyons Community School and The Green School and the latter proved to be among the worst experiences of my working life. And I'm old and have worked in a lot of places. It was so bad that we all agreed that for the remainder of 2008-2009, I would only work as the ESL for The Green School and we'd deal with me as The Green School's librarian later on. It's now later on and as of yet, I'm not dong it. If I'm going to open up for lunch time this year, and I could possibly take a break a little later to make this work, there would have to be a lot of conditions and maybe some backup from the Dean's office to make sure kids didn't repeat the same performances they did last year.

Some of the students, a few of whom were the very angels who so abusive to me last year, have asked why I haven't provided lunch time access. For now I'm just toeing the party line: I'm using my hours as an ESL teacher during the day, but they're welcome to come after school.

Opening up for The Green School at lunch time is a service to seriously consider. It's something that should happen, and if I were employed full-on as a librarian rather than being split between ESL and library, it would be happening already. I know I'm sort-of, kind-of making it work for Lyons now, after a lot of trial and error last year. This is a question I'll come back to some time soon on this blog as I think it through in writing.

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