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An Open Letter to the Youth Librarian who was working Saturday Morning

My 10-year loves to read. Loves. As in:  reads all. the. time.

Personally, I think it's a good hobby. I mean, what if she was one of those kids who liked to throw rocks at the windows of the businesses from the back alley downtown? Or what if she was one of those kids who liked to beat up little kids at the park? (Which reminds me: freaking 8-year old punk bully that smacked my 2-year old in the head with your pretend double-barrel shotgun --- I've got your number. Same to the other freaking 8-year old punk bully who grabbed my toddler's arms and twisted them behind his back. I don't care that you "shot" me 4 times in the back of the head after I yelled at you to take your hands off of him. Like I told you, he's smaller than you are and we don't put our hands on anyone ever. Let's you and me reunite in ten years and you can tell me how much jail time you've done.)

But my kid, well, she likes to read. She likes to cozy up on the couch or bed, or even on the floor of her closet where she has designed the perfect reading hideaway, and she likes to pick up a book and soak up the words and escape to worlds she's never been. She likes to read the stories and learn about the people and then she likes to talk about their stories while she goes and picks out another book.

My kid is awesome.

So when my kid asks if we can go to the library I say yes. Because I want to encourage that reading for fun behavior. Now, if she happens to ask for a gun I'll say no because I don't want to encourage that behavior. It's just the way I am.

And so when we go to the library and my little girl is holding her library card tightly like it's the lifeline to her soul, and she's got her canvas bag ready to transport the books because she thinks using plastic bags is bad for the environment and we should all be recycling, well, I tend to get a little proud. I think, she is so awesome.

And after she quietly picks out her books: books for herself as well as books to read out loud to her baby brother, and she respectfully puts the books on the counter in the youth section of the library, I do not expect the youth librarian to curl her lip and snap, "well, you've got a lot of books. Are you actually going to read them?" and huff and shake her head.

And my daughter, my dear, sweet daughter, who was born into this life acting like a skittish kitten, blushes and burns red as tears spring to her eyes because she has no clue whatsoever why this stranger before her is angry with her, is visibly crushed. Well, now. That not only breaks my heart, it makes me angry.

And so I have decided to write an open letter to the youth librarian who was working Saturday morning entitled:

An Open Letter to the Youth Librarian who was working Saturday Morning

Dear Librarian Lady,

You were not nice. At all.

Perhaps you were nice earlier in the day and maybe even after we left but you most certainly were not nice when you were waiting on us.

Yes, my daughter picked out eight books. There is no limit to the amount of books she can check out at one time. We have checked. And yes, she will read those eight books within two weeks. Would you feel better if I signed an affidavit?

The reason I let her get out that many books at one time is because she reads them so quickly. I'd be in there every single day returning one book and picking out another if we did one at a time and in my mind that's not very feasible.

See, the library is awesome because it shares. It shares its most prized possessions: its books. And the people working there should probably grasp that concept sooner rather than later. It's okay to share. And you, you specifically as the Youth Librarian, should want to share. The goal should not be 'is it too much to ask for one hour without being interrupted' it should be to have that section of the library as busy as it could possibly be!

Because here's the thing: a lot of kids out there could use a decent hobby like reading. They might deserve a bit of an escape from the crappy lives they've been thrust into. Maybe they feel lonely, or are bullied, and a good book would be a great way to show them that there's other things out in the world. Maybe there's a kid who is really smart and could be further encouraged by some books about science or math. Maybe there's a kid who just lost his mother to cancer and is having a really hard time sorting things out and could use a good book to help him through. Or maybe the child is painfully anxious and worried about the world she lives in and just wants to feel safe reading a book and you - yes, YOU - have the chance to be a wonderful inspiration for all of these children.

Maybe instead of glaring and being snippy and rolling your eyes, maybe you could show them how to smile at one another. Learn their names. Find out what their interests are. Show them that no matter how different they are they still share the same interest: reading.

And her's a novel idea: maybe, just maybe, when their mother requests information about the summer reading program you could actually provide it instead of quipping "sign up is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at three o'clock." And when that mother explains she works full time and is unable to make it at 3:00 on those days, maybe you don't have to be such a royal rag by cutting her off and repeating "sign up is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at three o'clock."

Or, maybe it's just time that you acknowledge this is not the job for you and go apply at the local Wal-Mart. Their customer service is non-existant so you'll probably fit right in.


A Very Disappointed Mother of a Very Terrific Reader

PS: My daughter announced she no longer wants to do the summer reading program. And she asked if from now on we can go to a different library to get books. How's that for influence over a child? 


Heather Bush said…
I am SO sorry that this happened to her. Reading is a wonderful, wonderful hobby/habit. I wish that there had been more adults around me when I was younger to encourage it. (It's a good thing that I was comfortable being the "oddball" of the trailer park.)

Have you called the library to let them know about your experience?
Rebecca said…
Aha - I didn't figure those librarians wrong after all. That's our cue! Let's break out the long skirts and glasses, throw up our hair, and take over!
Phoenix Rising said…
@Heather: I thought about printing out my post and dropping it off in their drop box.

@Becca: we would ROCK that library!
Mary said…
This breaks my heart. Change "10-year-old" to "9-year-old" and you would be describing my daughter (right down to the non-plastic tote bag!). Definitely send this letter to a higher-up at the library. The kids deserve better.
Becca said…
This makes me so angry.

Someone needs to see this. Make yourself heard. Who knows how many little spirits that woman has crushed. I am so sorry.
Brenna said…
Fuck "open letter" honey, write a direct letter. Maybe she had a bad day, maybe she's lovely outside of work, but her behavior toward you was bullshit. Go ask Janel over at Girls the Care and Feeding of. I bet she'll have a few words. Your daughter is awesome, I hope she's a librarian one day.
Chiconky said…
I agree. You should definitely print this out and make sure that the library gets it. In fact, I'd post a copy on the bulletin board that all libraries seem to have. Poor kiddo. The library is supposed to be a safe, awesome place. Not a place where children are accused of being selfish and lying.
Send the letter to her and a copy to her supervisor. That is RIdiculous!!! I was actually terrified of the librarian in the children's section of the Delavan library when I was a kid. About as scared of her as the Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Knutsen. But, whether you do or you don't, make sure you tell your daughter that whatever crawled up that woman's arse, has nothing to do with you. It is her own sadness and anger that she's clinging on to. I like to respond to these types of people with a pause followed by a simple, "Hmm. Interesting." And then walk away completely uneffected.
Mary said…
That's so funny, I lived in Delavan when I was a kid, but we moved by the time I was 4 so I don't really remember much about the town (or the library specifically).
I hope that you contacted the supervisor at the library and informed them of the poor customer service/people skills that you and your daughter experienced.
Then I hope that you waited outside for the troll and threw eggs at her car.
Janel said…
What. The. FUCK.

As a librarian that prefers to stay as far away from the youth services desk as possible, it makes me furious when I hear stories of bad librarians, especially bad children's librarians. Being a children's librarian is so incredibly special and important, but nooooo, they'll let any asshole sit there and ruin a kid's attitude for life towards the library and reading.

I hear bad librarian stories all the time, and I always think, "Why? Why not do something else? Take your terrible attitude to the adult desk, or better yet, to the back room, where you can yell at paiges to your heart's content and not make some kid cry because they're DOING WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN YOU'RE A KID.


Please hug your amazing daughter and tell her that this librarian is her new biggest fan, and that she should check out fifteen books next time, and read every single one. Tell her that this librarian used to do the exact same thing when she was a kid, and that she should know that the librarian that made her cry is a terrible example of an librarian.

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