We’ve been called upon in this province to say our reasons for wanting to keep all the teacher-librarian positions in BC schools that are presently in danger of being cut. As an author, it seems obvious why (and perhaps a little selfish) I would want teacher-librarians to stay – they buy my books and hire me to speak.
I assure you that it goes deeper than that. I would even go as far to say that, once upon a time when I was a teenage boy, there was a librarian who changed the way I think. To be honest, I don’t even remember his name. (Anyone who went to Gorden Bell, Winnipeg Manitoba, in the late 80s would remember him.) I don’t think at the time I ever thought his actions were even having an important impact on me.
I wasn’t the type of teen who enjoyed reading. I think I looked at reading the way most people look at fungus between their toes – “How did that get there, and what can I do to get rid of it before it gets worse?” When my friends and I went to the library, it was usually to play pranks on the librarian – such as when we discovered we could take those little metal tags from books that make the machines beep when you try and leave with them, and hide them in our pockets to make the librarian think the machines were broken. The library seemed like a very unlikely place for me.
In fact, it became the place I went to when I needed to nap. You see, growing up (and even now) I had a sleeping disorder called “Sleep Apnea” that was going undiagnosed. (Back then, doctors didn’t believe in it.) teachers labelled me lazy, and garnered rather poor opinions of me (such as the one English teacher who told me I should drop out and take a trade). So, when I had to crash, and I always did in the late afternoon, I started hiding in the library.
Our librarian knew I was there. He knew I was napping. And he let me be. When other teachers tried to kick me out, he stopped them and allowed me refuge. This resulted in he and I having a common bond, and suddenly I started hanging out in the library not only when I was tired, but also when I just needed to relax and unwind. (I was a typical inner city school kid with very typical inner city troubles. I should add that the choir teacher and the drama teacher offered me their rooms as places to escape once they saw that by doing so it would guarantee my attendance in class.) The librarian, once he had my trust, started asking me for advice on what books he should buy the library. “What do you boys want to read?” he’d ask me.
Having a teacher at my high school take me seriously, and ask for my advice, was a tremendous way to get me to start using the library. It was also a great way to get me, a non-reader, to start reading. Thanks to the understanding of this high school librarian, his patience and the fact that *the library was open*, I grew into the type of adult who enjoys reading and has made a very successful career out of the one thing that I’m pretty sure no one thought I would.
Dude, Mr. Librarian What Ever Your Name Was, while I have forgotten what to call you I have not forgotten the contribution you had to my life. And to the BC Government, shame on you for taking this same experience away from BC children.