A Day in the Library: A Creatively Nonfictional Informative Essay

The library begins its day at 6:50 AM when the daily calendar is texted to the librarian. This is an early reminder of what is happening that day. Doors must be unlocked, computers logged on, whiteboards prepped, and lights turned on. Students are allowed into the school building when the bell rings at 7:05 AM. It takes approximately 2 minutes for the first student to clear security, walk down two flights of stairs, down the library hallway, and through the library door. Each ID is scanned as students pause at the circulation desk, auto-populating an Excel spreadsheet with student name, grade, general notes, and the current time. Approximately 20 to 30 students come to the library during breakfast time.

At 7:25 AM, the second bell rings, and students begin to leave the library to go to 1st block. At least one student will ask if the librarian can call so the student can finish some homework due at 7:35 AM. Depending on the library schedule for the day, this request may or may not be feasible.

Today, there have been 25 students through the library for breakfast time, two who have asked to stay, one via email that was sent while the student was on the bus to school and it been forwarded to first block, and one intern for block one. Block one is likely to be quiet, with one small ELL Geography class using the 12 desktop computers on one side of the library with their teacher. The class comes down without a problem and settles in. The intern has homework, so shelving is not done. The library teacher has Edmodo to read for blocks 2 and 3.

Then, an ELA teacher comes down with six students trailing behind. She asks if she can leave the students there to work on essays, but she needs to be in her classroom. She states that the students are well-behaved and knows what to do. The library teacher acquiesces. The students use the other 9 computers and settle in to work. The ELA teacher returns to her classroom. This is the type of request the library teacher doesn’t like getting, but rarely says no to. It is far preferable that teachers call a day or an hour ahead and ask about space, but one block first thing in the morning is understandable. This teacher repeats this situation today three times.

Second block is history class. A teacher is going on paternity leave soon and the library teacher is co-teaching and taking point on a research project. All students in the honors History of the Americas will be graded by the library teacher on their civil rights project. Second and third block blur together with project help, discussion of lesson plans, and evaluation of resources. Second block, another teacher has requested library space and laptops, so there are over forty students in the library for that hour.

Second block, a student who skips frequently comes to the library. The library teacher is upbeat and tells him to go to class; try to deal with the personality issue he is having with a teacher and learn. The student goes to class. Fifteen minutes later, the student comes back, having gotten kicked out of class. An administrator follows shortly, and escorts the student to the Civility Room until further notice.

Second block students post to Edmodo and update the library teacher and their history teacher on their research.

Third block starts, and the next round of research students comes in with the same questions, problems, and a little less confidence than second block. Another teacher comes down with six students in tow, including the student who had been escorted out earlier to Civility. The explanation is that the Civility teacher is going home sick and these students need to stay in the library to finish whatever time punishment they have. Five are until the end of the period, one is until his mother calls to dismiss him for his three day suspension for threatening his teacher. The library teacher realizes that if he had skipped class, he would not be suspended. Administration is called to explain the Civility Room situation and the principal is emailed. The library teacher does not mind helping out and “being a team player,” but the library is not to be used as a punishment for students who have maliciously acted out in class. Both the dean and principal respond to emails stating their thanks and that it will never happen again.

And that is only the first three hours of a day.

The library is an amorphous thing. It is not just a place of learning. It has evolved into a sanctuary for the intelligent, socially awkward bookworms, but also for the learning-disability kids who need space to spread out, the emotional-issue kids who can’t be around certain classmates, and the students whom teachers have removed from the learning space for ten minutes, an hour, the week, or have simply given up on so to the library they go. Students are accompanied by bright colored passes; the yellow ones are the backs of administrative passes for class re-entry, pink and purple are library passes, post-it notes of all shades, and ripped notebook paper for the truly desperate with a 50% chance of forgery.

The library teacher is a jill-of-all-trades; advising students on what book to read next, helping teachers plan projects, teaching literacy lessons, research skills, technology skills, troubleshooting everything from personal relationships to why the computer dropped the printer as an option and adding it back on. The library is a hub for those who want to learn, those who need some space to show off, and the occasional moment of doing science the “stupid way,” (such as holding stripped wires to a batter to make an old computer fan spin).The library may not be a hub of the entire building, but it is the heart of the school for 200 students.

Written for a Teaching of Writing class, UMass Amherst, 2015

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