October 28, 2018

Easy Like Sunday Morning: A Calling To Serve

     I'm attending the last day of the School Library Journal Leadership Summit today in Brooklyn, New York.   Having that change of scenery surrounded by loved colleagues and new friends can force one to stop and really reflect deeply about things that normally you wouldn't because you are so busy.  It is times like this when I think about how libraries have impacted me as a child and now drives my deep desire to serve.  

I love libraries.  This love began when I was in pre-school and continues to this day.  When I visit new towns/cities, I always like to see what the library looks like...sometimes to the sheer aggravation of my family and friends.  My love of listening and reading stories dates back to my early childhood. Libraries sparked my curiosity and imagination so much that I would beg my teacher to get a pass to the school library during class every day.  I enjoyed reading the stories of Virginia Hamilton, Judy Blume and anything that had a Disney stamp on it. This love of books was also extended to the University Park Public Library in my small hometown in the south suburbs where I was raised.

My parents were born and raised in Jim Crow Louisiana.  They along with other relatives before them were a part of the great migration of African/Americans who escaped the Deep South for the promise of northern better life and jobs during the 60’s in Chicago. They were ecstatic that I had a well stocked school library and public library. They were relieved that I would not be discriminated against to enter and check out books of my choice because of the color of my skin. So essentially, my joy every 1-2 days was visiting the library to check out unlimited books, magazines. You see, the library was a place of solace for me,

- the introvert,
- the shy girl
- the loner
Libraries gave me the voice that I didn't have and the bravely I didn't know existed within me.

Now I’m going to speak solely for myself here, being the child of two science teachers turned me completely off from working in education. I had a front seat view of year round preparation for lessons.,...(we know that just because teachers get the summer off does not mean we turn off our radars as educators!) I also had a front seat view of hearing and observing the stress teachers have of dealing with lack of funding to support programming, dealing with challenging students and parents and a host of other things that teachers must deal with. When I was 18 I knew I didn’t want to deal with that type of stress, I wanted to do something different. I majored in Mass Communications with an emphasis in broadcasting for television. I actually worked in the field for a couple of years prior to working in education for a local origination satellite company, then moved onto corporate America.

      When I had had enough, it was my late father who sat me down and made me realize that I was not working in a field that I was passionate about. I wasn’t working in a field that God called me to
work in. When he suggested school libraries, it clicked - it made sense, but I didn’t want to go back to school. But my father assured me that because I was passionate about reading, I would breeze My Dad through….he was right. God had to show me that when I did things my way, it didn’t work out so well, but when I did it HIS way, things just fell into place naturally. But I quickly learned, sometimes the path taken is filled with challenges, confusion, events that make you stronger.

      So it is through my faith in God, I was redirected to serve in Libraries. Through this service...
 -Libraries helped me overcome shyness,
- Libraries helped me find my voice,
- Libraries helped me crawl out of my introverted shell
- Libraries helped me be less afraid of my opponent,
- and yes from time to time, libraries have gotten me into as Congressman John Lewis has famously named, #GoodTrouble
 Congressman, John Lewis 
     I have served children, teachers/staff and communities for over twenty years through school libraries. My experience spans:
 - Three school districts
- Two District Library Managerial Positions
- Five Schools
- Two Directors
- 13 principals (and yes I had to adjust, bend and comply!)
- All of these schools but one were Title I schools.  In all of these schools, I had to clean up and re-build the library.

     At each school, I was the lone voice that defended:
- Student choice
- The right to read
- Student access to technology

Did I experience struggles...YES LORD! Sometimes in my school library, I would jump for joy for the victories or simply stare at a blank wall and ask God, “Why are you using me as this painful example?’ Once I stopped fussing/venting/complaining and calmed down, God would reveal the WHY, bless me with the sustained energy to keep moving forward and fighting for my students.

      Working in school libraries is not easy. It's a roller coaster of events and emotions that are not for the weak, but more so for committed warrior librarians who all possess the same love: A deep and abiding love for libraries. Service to others is the driving force of what we do as school librarians and
providing a safe, warm and inviting library haven for all students is what we fight for every day. I want all of my students to have the same, if not better feeling and experience, than I did each time they walk through the door of my school library. I see small pieces of myself in each one of my students who attend Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C. A smile, enthusiasm, laughter, love of hip-hop music, or sometimes a side-eye when they learn that copies of, "The Hate U Give," "Dear Martin," or "Long Way Down," is still checked out! I love my job serving as a school librarian because it is simply the best job on the planet! Getting into #GoodTrouble is worth it because my students deserve the very best. I am a school library media specialist and I'm proud to serve.

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