There was a lovely moment in the Inly Library today. I wish I could tell you it was planned.
Today was my annual two-hour meeting with our wonderful library book sales rep, Pierre. Pierre represents many of the companies that publish books for school and public libraries, and I always look forward to his visit. My primary goal in these meetings is to fill gaps in our collection. Like most school librarians, I have a vision of a library that kids and teachers can rely on, that enhances the curriculum and reflects our school’s values. A good collection takes years to build and every year we get a bit closer. Pierre arrived, as he does each May, with cases of books. Of course, I schedule our meeting at a time when I don’t have classes scheduled, and usually we go through the material in a fairly predictable manner.
But this year was a bit different. Three fourth grade students were sitting at a table near us, and as Pierre pulled the books out of his big black cases, I could feel three sets of eyes watching us. Eventually, I knew they were paying more attention to our conversation than they were to their school work. Well, I thought, the books are being purchased for their use. Maybe, in true Montessori style, I should “follow the child.” So, with Pierre’s gracious assent, they joined our meeting. The kids were incredibly thoughtful and helpful. When I showed them a few books about how people lived during different historic periods, they liked the ones that focused on how children lived so that, as they said, “if we have to dress up like them, we need to know what they wore.” I showed them options for books about animals and science – and they went right for the ones that I know their classes spend the most time on.
This meeting also gave me a chance for a teachable moment. There was a series of books that, in my opinion, looked like the covers of supermarket tabloids. Like any nine-year-olds would be, they were attracted to them. I explained my objection to the books – that I don’t want books that bombard them with too many competing images. These books seemed to speak to them as though they are merely consumers of celebrity information. I showed them another set of books with engaging graphics and a “cleaner” design. The kids, experienced at standing in grocery store check-out lines, knew exactly what I was talking about. When presented with thoughtful – and focused – books, they agreed that they were a bit easier on the eyes and perhaps more conducive to research.
Of course, the kids selected a few books that won’t make it into the final order, but that being said, it was the most enjoyable meeting of the school year. I may not have planned to invite them this year, but they’ve already been invited back to next year’s meeting.