Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.
–Marge Piercy, The Art of Blessing the Day
Traditionally, the transition from one year to the next is a time of both reflection and looking ahead. However, as the world crosses over from 2020 to 2021, it’s probably safe to say that there aren’t many of us who feel the desire to engage in a nostalgic retrospective of the year that’s been. To be sure, there has been a great deal that we have been forced to change, admittedly cursing a bit along the way.
Yet what about things we might actually want to change? There exists the possibility that one of the few silver linings brought about by the pandemic may be the emphasis that’s been placed on what’s truly important, no matter what the facet of life–personal or professional. Of course, we can all make our (often perennial) resolutions at home; but perhaps, in the midst of all that’s occurred, we’ve gained an insight or two here and there, and also realized that there’s something at work, in our libraries, that we would like to improve.
No stranger to contemplation and subsequent desires to leap, Barbara Gordon-esque, into action, I’d like to offer a few examples of my own. These are not as “loci classici,” mind you, but just a newish librarian’s illustrations of changes, little and large, that can be made, and made sooner than you think.
Picking Up the Tools
The tools you’ll need to use depend upon the transformation you’re going to undertake. There’s so much available! Every potential project has its own unique set of materials, resources, and instruments of contrivance or innovation.
When I first started working in our school library, I was struck by its rather drab appearance. It simply wasn’t very welcoming, and I figured that if I didn’t particularly want to spend hours of my day there, then imagine how children must feel! Part of my mission that first year was to tackle aesthetic issues and make the library enchanting. Therefore, the tools I had to pick up were my design sense (this needed some “sharpening,” truth be told), and, more literally, some paintbrushes. I’m no Michelangelo, but hopefully my efforts helped to recast the humdrum as the magical.
Blessing What You Can
If you are like me, you might struggle with the reality that you cannot do and have everything you want when you want it. I don’t mean this in the Veruca Salt sense; rather, I mean that you may have ideas that you’re genuinely excited about that you’d like to have come to fruition right away. Alas and alack, this can’t always be the case. It’s especially true at this moment, when many of us are unable to have as much direct interaction with students and/or students are not permitted to frequent the library due to mitigation-related reasons. However, instead of concentrating on what we CANNOT do, we can switch our focus to what we CAN do.
Since I found myself subject to some limitations this year, I set about thinking outside the box–and also thinking about how to make the box a bit more spiffy! I decided that if I was going to be visiting students and bringing the library to them “a la cart” (pun heavily intended), then it would be one heck of a cart indeed. (Our library is lit!)
I also determined that I would expand the library’s online footprint, so I created a library website (there hadn’t been one before; Google Sites is easy to use, and free) and a “virtual library,” a scavenger-hunty venture chock full of fun and informative hyperlinks, which could be found both on the site and on our school’s learning management system. Little Blue Engine mode engaged, and hopefully, so are students!
Making It New
It might seem that now is not exactly the best time to trailblaze. Still, the adage “there’s no time like the present” became time-honored for a reason. Perhaps you, like me, had been planning to create a makerspace in the library (and had even used funds to purchase a myriad of great materials), or maybe you’d recently brought one into being, or possibly you’ve had one in place for quite some time. Now what, though?
Not that long ago, I got some inspiration from a School Library Connection webinar titled “Makers Gonna Make: Maker Ed in Remote/Hybrid Learning Environments,” presented by Stacy Brown, Maggie Melo, and Leslie Preddy and moderated by Heather Moorefield-Lang. Their insights and ideas (some of which I am probably going to steal, frankly) made me rethink my plans and start investigating my options, and thanks to these incredible librarian muses, my musings bore some fruit of their own! My new makerspace project, which I’m formulating now and hope to start up in January, will be based on the works of and books about Joseph Cornell, and will involve sending “care packages” of basic supplies to students so that they can create their own wintry shadowbox artworks. We’ll see how it goes; I have high hopes!
These are merely MY thoughts. What might yours be? Take a moment now to think. Ask yourself: “What do I want to change in the library?” Once you’ve answered that question, consider any related difficulties you may have experienced in the past. Curse these obstacles, but don’t stop there; figure out what tools you can use to remove them. Use your knowledge and skills to see the possible within the impossible, to get your hands dirty, and to share what you do. Prepare to transfigure your collection, your program, your space, or whatever is in need of metamorphosis.
Go forth and make it happen. Give your attention and your love to your students, your colleagues, and your library itself.
Now is the time to make it new.
Fleming, C., and G. Dubois. 2018. The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell: Based on the Childhood of a Great American Artist (Illustrated ed.). Schwartz & Wade.
Jaszi, P., P. Aufderheide, J. Urban, and K. Coles. 2011. “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry.” Center for Media and Social Impact. https://cmsimpact.org/code/code-best-practices-fair-use-poetry/
Merriam-Webster. n.d.-a. “Gadarene.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/gadarene#adjective
Merriam-Webster. n.d.-b. “Locus classicus.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loci%20classici
Piercy, M. 2000. The Art of Blessing the Day by Marge Piercy. PenguinRandomhouse.com. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/131135/the-art-of-blessing-the-day-by-marge-piercy/
Simic, C. 2011. Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell (New York Review Books Classics) (Illustrated ed.). NYRB Classics.
Winter, J. 2014. Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes (Illustrated ed.). Beach Lane Books.
Author: Lia Fisher Janosz
I am Regina Libris.
I’m…a Bibliothecaria Rebellatrix (“librarian…because Book Wizard isn’t an official job title,” at Sharon Elementary School in Alleghany County, VA) wending a way through the seven ages whilst geeking out over Shakespeare & sundry other stuff. I am rather like Hermione Granger and have “conjured” floating candles in our school library. I’m an admirer of Eowyn and would place myself somewhere in the middle of the shieldmaiden-healer spectrum. I am inimitable, I am an original, and yet I am totally #TeamHamilton (see what I did there?). I’m a graduate of the Longwood University School Librarianship program and an avid reader and lifelong learner (and, apparently, Mistress of the Obvious as well). Any rumors regarding me having a crush on either Stephen Colbert or Chris Martin (or Benedict Cumberbatch or Andrew Scott) are completely…irrefutable. That being acknowledged, I am the loyal consort of an unsung prince of Poland and very proud mother of a tornadic, talented, and talkative wunderkind girl and a happyhopper jollyjumper bouncyboy who has a memory like an elephant.