of all the things that get in the way of me ever completing a book that i start, the last thing i thought would be a barrier is the library at the high school i work at. yet that has proven to be the case. upon entering this supposedly sacred space my attention was drawn to the few kids that were in the library. some on computers to take an accelerated reader test. one student waiting at the check out line. another searching the shelves for that literary interest that we as educators always hope our students eventually find… she was soon to join the girl at the front of the check out line (obviously a well experienced seekers of stories, or a student with a plan and intent, equally inspiring)
i was soon after questioned with a tone of urgent accusation. “can i help you?” i replied no and that i was just there to read. “oh (surprised) well you are in the right place.” ok, good. i thought so…
but i have been wrong before. as i proceeded to open i book i have been trying to complete for awhile. yet i was soon distracted (i know right) by the same student who was standing without being acknowledged in the same spot at the front of the waiting line. by this time estimated that 5 minutes had passed from my entering the library, an estimation reached by observing how much (or little) i had read. i mouthed a question through the air to her as she seemed to be fidgeting and uncomfortable. she mouthed a silent response confirming that she indeed was not lost and then pointed to the sign below:
at that point i became curious as to why there was no interaction between the librarian and the student who had been waiting there patiently and silently. the librarian was typing on the computer at a next to furious rate. was she engrossed in some very important work that was on a strict and immediate timeline? my curiosity prompted me to pull out my phone and time just how long this situation was going to persist unchanged. at that point of course the situation did change and the experienced seeker of books proceeded to check out her book by walking up to the counter the librarian was nervously typing behind… she was quickly shooed away (hand gesture and all)… “there is a line, a line… go to the back of the line.”
my curiosity quickly evolved into an uncomfortable frustration. unable to read any more i picked up my pen and jotted down notes in the back of another book i rediscovered in the hope of finishing it to help inform the teaching of my new community action research class. i found it ironic (if i recall the correct meaning of irony) me jotting down observations and scribbles in a copy of Teaching Community by bell hooks of these interactions in my school library that i can only assume normal, meaning that they occur more frequently than just today… i began to formulate questions as to the reasons of such interactions. did the librarian intend or realize her tone? was she hoping to accomplish something by such treatment of students? was their waiting in line without acknowledgement meant to teach them some valuable lesson? patience? perseverance? did she want to make sure that they really wanted to check out the book that they chose? did these students have a class that they were supposed to return to after checking out a book?
the second student to join this line decided that it would be more comfortable to begin reading their book on the chairs where i was sitting observing. the other (seemingly younger student continued to wait in the front of the line and also read from her selection… yet was as unfocused as i was. 10 minutes passed before i word was uttered by the librarian to break the unilateral soundtrack of her typing. “almost ready…” the tone continued to be one that did nothing to build community nor comfort.
when she was finally ready, the gatekeeper decided to help the gentlemen at the computers first. she quickly pawned them off to another adult in another office. “go down the hall and ask for so and so and they will help you.” this was repeated emphatically about two more times in response to clarification for seemed to be a simple password issue. she then proceeded to check out the books wearing plastic gloves, simply stating with a mechanical precision that spoke to her expertise in this role, “july 26th… two weeks.”
shortly after another class arrived, met with the same frigidness and dismissal. the same scene was about to unfold when i decided i had already seen this show. i left having read less than a page. more questions floated around in my head. but the main one that i couldn’t shake was…
who does this librarian serve?