Please welcome Annette LeBlanc Cate, author of Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard to GreenBeanTeenQueen! Check out my review of Look Up!
So much about life now is very different for The Young People Of Today (how i put it when i want to particularly annoy my 12 year old son) than for us pathetic old people. For example...The Young People have many, many tv stations, they may roam freely when they talk on the phone, their Lego people have faces, and on cold days they don't have smelly damp wool scarves wrapped around their faces, because they have Polar-tec. And they are never bored, because they have many devices with various entertainments on them. And every little bit of information they could ever want or need is right at their fingertips, and they are so used to this that it never occurs to them that this is an incredibly overwhelming concept, their heads never spin with this knowledge, like mine still does, because I am, you know, a pathetic old person.
Of course, much of life is the same, too. For the past 6 years I have volunteered in my sons' very large and cheerful elementary school library, and every week the kids march in and drop their books with a satisfying thump onto the desk to be checked in, and then later they skip up to the desk, eyes shining, with new selections clutched hopefully to their chests.
When I went to school in the '70's, we would also march down to the school library, (of course ours was really more like a giant closet) and we would have ten minutes or so to pick a book, and although there must have been a librarian who rubber-stamped the cards, i do not remember her. Then I would have a new deliciously musty smelling cloth-bound Black Stallion series book, with thickish yellowy pages and lovely mysterious black ink illustrations, and it was mine for the week, and that was that, and I was happy. I would write my book reports, and i did well at that because i was very smart and always read well past my grade level, and everything was perfect until 10th grade or so when i suddenly was supposed to be able to write a 10 page research paper on a theme of Henry James, and then life was not so perfect, because i had no idea how to research a theme of Henry James. And it was really shocking to me, because i thought i knew how to do stuff, and really... when i got right down to it, i had no idea at all how to even begin.
I am betting this is not going to happen with the Young People of Today...and I am not even making fun of them here, I am sincerely very, very happy for them...because their libraries are so different, and kids' librarians are so different, and that is all so wonderful. While i shelve the books the kids have just dumped onto the desk, I have had the pleasure of eavesdropping on Mrs. DeCesare's delightful library lectures...the little kids start off with a song, and then they get a talk... maybe about what's a fairy tale, what's a fable, what are the parts of a book... and then she tells them a story. The older kids - and this is what really fascinates me... are learning about how to do research, they learn all the good places to go to find information... and how to weed through it, and what to do with it, how to assimilate it and make it part of their own understanding. When I hear Mrs. DeCesare patiently explain what a source is and how to document it... I honestly think WOW! To think someone thought to explain this to kids, in small yearly easily understood chunks, a little at a time, all in one place... how to navigate not just the library... but the whole world of information out there.... so kids will not be lost and overwhelmed when it is time to identify a theme of Henry James.... I think, good grief, what a great idea this whole library program thing is.
At times I cannot help to be a little worried at just how much completely accessible stuff is out there... I'm a mom and I can't help it. I didn't grow up with the internet and I am suspicious of it sometimes. I know I am nostalgic for my musty old book being rubber-stamped and being sent on my way, and i can't really help that, either. But I love all this new library business. I am encouraged by the work of Mrs.DeCesare and all the other youth librarians out there who help and give talks and point out the good books, who guide kids toward making good choices, who help them figure stuff out. How different life is going to be for these kids, how ready they will be to write their papers and their essays, to think about college. I'm really thrilled it is a whole new world for them.
(But of course I'm happy kids still bring me, eyes shining-ly, their occasionally musty old books. I'm happy those still get to live at the library, too! I just wish I could rubber stamp them)