Librarians – A Celebration by Justin Stygles

My love of a library started at Doug Valley Elementary School in Colorado Springs, CO.  When the class went to the library, I felt safe. Accepted.  Maybe the smile librarians offered made the difference?  Maybe their exuberant celebration of every book possible made the difference?

While walking to school once, I dropped my books in the freshly falling snow. Like any accident, I had no intent of fumbling “my” beloved Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers picture books.  I return the now-warped collection of pages, fearing verbal desecration as any first-grader might, to the librarian. Gently, but firmly, reminded me to transport books in plastic grocery bags during inclement weather.  Forgiveness.

The next year, one of the more scarring moments of my educational history was on book fair day. We all brought money, elated to buy books.  I had my heart set on a Star Wars paper-dollish book.  The teacher told us to stand by the book we wanted.  Sadly, one student already stood by the Star Wars book.  He said, “Find your own book! The can only be one person at each book!” Broken hearted, settled with a Smurf’s paper-doll book. The librarian noticed my sadness and swooped in to console me.  Sympathy.

Transitioning between schools, I had the great fortune of spending a week in the library. Moving between three states in one month left me stuck in some limbo that educators needed to sort out.  The library became my home as I endured a plethora of standardized tests to justify my grade placement.

I perused many books and established a relationship with the librarian. Most of the time, sitting on the wooden bench seat at the wood table, I married myself to the “A True Book” non-fiction series.

Once the school placed me in a third-grade classroom, I frequented the library often. Once again, the gentle, but firm demeanor of the librarian appeared.  “Justin, are you really reading two books in a day? You have to stay in your class. You can’t come down two or three times a day.”  (Really? Why not?) Vigilant.

After moving again, I walked to the Griffiss AFB, daily, during summer vacations. The librarians knew me by name. They knew I was in the building even when I tried to get by without them knowing.  Most of the time, the librarians could find me buried amongst the Sports Illustrated or in the adult section – the airplane section. The two issues I read most: This issue when Go For Wand broke her hoof clean off, yet continue running and the famous issue when SI first published the salaries of every baseball player.  I studied the green covered issue religiously. No one opened up “Jane’s Guide” to Military Aircraft more than I did. And! I learned how to research using microfiche!!! That like the portal into the great big world.

Back then, in 1989, I read the Washington Post, the New York Times or the Boston Globe, a week after the printing date, to select and charts horse racing across seven tracks. The local paper, the Rome Daily Sentinel printed Vernon Downs Entries daily, thankfully. Everyday, I went back, picked and checked my selections, beginning my love for handicapping. And the whole time, even to the point of cutting out race entries by pressing my bic pen hard enough into the newspapers, the librarians knew every step I made. However, never once, did they call me on it. Accepting.

During my high school years, the BRACC commission had decided to close the air base.  “Non-essential” facilities close first, which meant the libraries. When the Griffiss Air Force Base library closed, a gift wound up at the Plattsburgh Air Force library, where I now lived, out of the blue. My mom had taken a job at the library for a short time, which helped the librarians from GAFB locate me. The package contained a single book the librarians could not throw out, Handicapping Beyond the Basics by Jerry Conners. (Which I still have, see below.) Two years after I had moved away, the librarians not only remembered me, they remembered my most passionate hobby and took the time to save a book, for me. Reflecting back, the whole time, I just thought the “old ladies,” they were nice to me.  I didn’t think they knew me. Love.

handicapping

Too often we go through life and rarely recognize love like the librarians showed to me. Because I was young and naïve, I didn’t appreciate librarians as much as I could have. As a teacher, I see the importance of caring, compassionate, and dedicated librarians – the ones who know every kid and all their passions. Librarians are the strengthening adhesive linking learning literacy to literate lives. Sadly, I have forgotten the name of every librarian that impacted me. I am so sorry.  The guilt can be overwhelming because, not only did I forget their names, I never really said, Thank You. Even today, I cannot run out and say thank you, but I can let the universe know that I appreciate their effort.

 

And to all librarians loving books and building relationships with students, thank you.

 

Justin Stygles is a 5/6 Teacher in Norway, Maine.  He is teaching for his 11th year. You can find him on Twitter as @JustinStygles.