Category Archives: Adventure of rural School Librarianship in Northern Ontario

The Pacifist movement: Anti-violence going too far in education and literature.

So, I had an interesting experience last week. Has anyone ever had a problem with Eric Carle being violent in his books?

I was reading the Grouchy Ladybug and one of the adults in the room commented that they didn’t like the book because it was violent. I finished the book, asked the kids if they learned anything and went about my business. As I thought about it I tried to figure out how someone could consider this violent…then it dawned on me…we’ve become a society of absolute pacifists, and rather than educate people on a subject we have decided to pretend it doesn’t exist or ignore it completely.

The premiss of the Grouchy Lady Bug is pretty straight forward: 2 ladybugs meet to eat bugs off a leaf. One is grouchy and asks to fight the other lady bug. The grouchy lady bug is grouchy and flies around continually asking to fight animals…and declining when recieving a yes to his challenge. In the end he gets smacked (accidentally I believe) by a whale tail he tries to challenge to a fight. He then ends up back at the leaf, and is no longer grouchy.

So anybody see any violence? Other than an accidental slap…..me neither. It seems that our society has become so blinded by their own fear of violence that any hint at conflict in any manner is considered violence. This is not the sign of a healthy society.

Just because something might imply violence (Hey wanna fight?) does not actually mean anything violent is happening or is going to happen. In fact every time he challenges someone he walks away from it….no violence occurs until the whale slaps him accidentally near the end of the book.

What we should be doing is engaging children in conflict resolution and teaching them how to deal with it properly. If we just ignore violence the child is never going to grow up knowing how to deal with it when it occurs. If this happens it could lead to the child resolving the violent situation with more violence, or learning how to intentionally be violent instead of knowing how to resolve it.

Personally I would like to see more advocacy for violence resolution in schools, libraries, etc. Maybe we could educate the teachers and their generation that they can’t just ignore something till it goes away, you have to deal with it at some point.

Librarian: Jack of all trades, master of none. (A life in the day of a librarian/library tech)

Most people are under the impression that all librarians do is stack books, read stories to children, and check books in and out of the library. In most libraries this is not true, mainly because much of that work is done by library assistants. Here at my school I am the only librarian (library technician) in the school (for two libraries senior and elementary) so I do perform all those tasks. Even then, those activities are only a part of my job. Below will follow a typical day in my job as the Library Technician at Ignace School. I will outline activities and time frame from arrival at 8:30am to my departure at 4:00pm. I will mark where I am in the case of senior and elementary library, along with a few other place I also perform duties.

8:30 – 9:00am – In Senior library – Check email – This may seem mundane, but I do get many emails in my work email pertaining to my daily activities. These include requests for library usage, updates to the check in/check out system, school board emails, and tech questions from staff and students. I’m not just checking gmail or hotmail here.

9:00am – 10:00am – In Senior Library – Restack any returned books in Senior Library. I also reload and maintain the 3 printers and computers in the senior library.

10:00am – 10:15am – In Empty classroom – Music at Recess – I run a music at recess program where kids can come in strum on some guitars or play on one of 4 keyboards. This is primarily a supervision role, but gives kids something to do during recess if weather is bad or if they just don`t feel like going outside. Morning recess is for JK to 3rd grade.

10:15am – 11:00am – In Elementary Library – Restack any returned books in Elementary Library. I also reload and maintain the printer and laminate machine in the elementary library.

11:00am – 11:30am – Lunch break

11:30am – 12:30am – In Senior Library – Lunch supervision. I also use this time to repair books, put book covers on new books, enter work ticket for student laptops and troubleshoot any student laptops that may have been reported or turned in to me (before putting in a work ticket for the repair) Check board email if there is times. Depends on the day. I spent one lunch playing Risk with a 10th grade student because he asked if I would.

12:30pm – 1:30pm – In Elementary Library – Library time for various grades. This is flexible throughout the afternoon depending on what day of the week it is. I have 1-3 classes, 3 days a week, each with 30 minutes of library time. I read to grades K-2 and do reader advisory for them all when asked “Where are the drawing or cat books?” What is a good/Do we have any ghost story/ies?” “Whats new in the library?” I also check in and out library books

1:30pm – 1:40pm – Afternoon break (If there is time for such non-sense)

1:45pm – 1:55pm – In Empty classroom – Music at Recess – I run a music at recess program this one is for grade 4-8. Kids can come in strum on some guitars or play on one of 4 keyboards. This is primarily a supervision role, but gives kids something to do during recess if weather is bad or if they just don`t feel like going outside.

1:55pm – 2:00pm – In main office – I Check my cubby hole/Mailbox in the office for newsletters, fixed laptops, new book orders or anything else that may have come in for me. Also use the office for printing.scanning, etc if needed.

2:00pm – 3:30pm – Elementary Library – Re-shelving books in Elementary Library, doing administrative stuff. I use the end of the day to get other stuff done. In the first few weeks it was weeding and reorganizing the library (which both are ongoing projects). I also use the time to re-check my email again and do any activity prep for kids. On Thursdays I run a young readers program (Bookworm club) for grade 2-3. It basically is a half hour for them to read and them come together and share their thoughts on the book (an extra library/reading time. I go around and help anyone who needs help with their reading comprehension skills.

3:30pm – 4:00pm – In the Senior Library – Administrative stuff/End of day stuff – I use this final half hour to check my email (if I havn’t had time in the previous block). Go through final check of any new tech/laptop problems that may have come up and finish any other¬† stuff that may have come into my office or I did not complete earlier in the day.

This is just a sample of stuff that I do. I also control inventory for the AV room in the Senior Library. The av room includes: TV’s, VCR’s, VHS, DVD player, DVD’s, Cameras, E-readers, Overhead projectors, Teacher resource binders and Family studies electronic babies. I am more than just a giver and taker of books. I am the first line tech guy, library administrator, program planner, supervisor, literacy teacher, and yes….a book shelver.

The importance of Weeding

So as I delve into this job at Ignace School I have discovered that the elementary library had not been weeded in quite some time. I figured…5 years. I was so wrong I could have been right. It appears the system has not been weeded since they switched over to an electronic catalog in 2000, the earliest record of entry into the system.

So 15 years since a weed….I have my work cut out for me. I am wrong again. That is just when they switched systems. Many books are 25-35 years old, some as old as 1968. I came across one book that threw me for a loop. The book is called The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop. This book was published in 1938 and describes a Chinese tale about five Chinese brothers……who all looked exactly the same. One brother is accused of murder and sentenced to death.This is irksome as it is inappropriate for children with its themes of violence and racism. The pictures depict the five brothers who are drawn as stereotypical Chinese people, this is to be expected in the 1930’s and can be likened to Black face of the 19th and early 20th century.¬† This book is also frequently present on many lists of banned books and has been removed from many classrooms.

Titles like these need to be weeded for both the protection of the patron (in my case young children) and the protection of the library. If Items like this were allowed to get into the hands of the public, not only is it sending a racist message, but could lead to a public outcry from the public and possibly legal action against the library. I understand that we are to be beacons of free speech and offering a variety of ideas, but something that is 50, 60, or 77 years old is certainly worth a look at for potential weeding.

So weeding is a necessity of our job, we may not want to get rid of knowledge, because it could still serve a purpose, but you must consider the consequences of keeping certain text, and figure out if it is within the mission of the library you are at, or is it just a text that needs to be thrown to the trash.

My first week at Ignace School

Well I made it. 17 hours of driving and two stops on the way up. I have found the environment to be harsh and the people friendly. Working in such a small environment proves to have its advantages, as well as its disadvantages. My first week has been littered with informal meetings in the hall with other staff and students, as well as a bit of a laid back atmosphere.

I have found that things move slower up here, and being that I am one of only two library professionals in the school I am generally left to rule the library with an iron fist…..not really, but I am left to my own devices. The other library tech is now a supply teacher and her availability in the school is limited.

I have taken it upon myself to slowly, but surely re-imagine the libraries. I have taken a survey of the students and staff, and found a few things out about the library purposes. The senior library acts as not only a house for books, but also a communal lunch area. As well students and staff saw the library as primarily a giant bookshelf, but also as a place to sit quietly and do work. The idea of a book-fair and skyping in authors from time to time seems to be popular as well.

I have began the task of weeding the elementary library. Many books are donated to the school apparently, as some books are over 40 years of age. I am taking a liberal approach to weeding and only skimming some of the older books. I have also begun consolidating shelves, as I believe I could cut some of the excess shelving.

Some time this week I am to begin training for the tech side of the job. I am the first line in tech issues and distribution of tech. We shall see how the tech training goes.

The northern journey continues….

In the beginning

In the beginning there was only darkness, actually it was more like a range of emotions. I received a call from Ignace School notifying me I had been chosen as the School Librarian. For those who don’t know Ignace is in Northern, Ontario approximately 3 hours west of Thunder bay, Ontario.

After I got the call, as mentioned above, I went through a range of emotions. This was going to be a big change for me. I went from pure excitement at having my first job out of school, Apprehension of leaving what I knew, and fear of the unknown.

Excitement – I was pumped. My first real job out of School. A full time job to boot. I was moving to a new community, known for its lake resorts and outdoor tourism.

Apprehension – I was a bit anxious, I have never made a move this far, away from everything I knew. I grew up in Southern Ontario and this was gonna be a huge change.

Fear of the Unknown – After a few days I began looking excitedly at places to live, people to meet, and learning more about the school I was going to. It slowly dawned on me that this could go horribly wrong. What if I didn’t find a place to live? What if the job didn’t work out, what if I froze to death?

This was going to be huge. I was so excited for the experience, but terrified at the same time. I have found temporary lodging and the school has been very helpful with finding the accommodations I have. I am now packing to move up there and will be making the 2,000km drive north from London, On to Ignace, On. Next stop frozen north.