counter on blogger

Pickle Me This

March 9, 2011

Wild libraries I have known: My School Libraries

For some reason when I was in high school, they decided to do away with the library. In spite of all the books and the aura of shush, we had to call the library an Information Resource Centre, or something else just as unmemorable, whose exact name I, naturally, can’t remember. The librarian– and I think, somehow, she still managed to be a librarian– was quite adamant about the name change, refusing to tolerate any lapses in terminology. If you mentioned the library, she’d blink twice as though she didn’t understand what you could possibly be talking about, then offer correction like you were an idiot. I do remember that the pride and joy of the Information Resource Centre (and the reason for the name change) was a marvelous invention called a CD ROM Tower. I also remember that my friend Mike once got suspended from school for stealing a magazine (or so went the accusation, but really, it was all just a misunderstanding).

And so you can tell that high school (which was otherwise a pretty great place, and I was lucky enough to enjoy my time there) is not the library I’m talking about. No, I am talking about my elementary school libraries, of which I had two, and at the first one, I remember as venue for visits from Dennis Lee and Phoebe Gilman, among other writers. There was a story-telling competition, which I won more than once in spite of having a speech impediment, and the prize was that you got to be recorded on video tape, which was exciting even though we didn’t have a VCR. I remember molesting the paperback novels, discovering a heroine called Jo who I automatically loved because of associations with The Facts of Life. I remember our teacher librarian, who was called Mrs. Free, and that I coveted her affections. And that I dreamed of being old enough to be a library helper and undertake mysterious library tasks during recesses and at lunch hour.

I moved to another school before I had the chance, however, and was somewhat dismayed to find myself friendless and ridiculed. And so when I was finally able to become a library helper, the place was my sanctuary, a splendid alternative to recess outside and alone in the cold. I can’t remember what I did as a library helper, but the experience was one of the high points in a bleak little life. I remember revolving racks of paperbacks, discovering The Westing Game, wondering why they didn’t have any books by VC Andrews, being obsessed with novels about girls with anorexia (having by then outgrown my fascination with YA-friendly Holocaust fiction), date stamps and ink pads, call numbers typed on a typewriter and taped on paperback spines. I remember I once lied to my friends and said a boy had kissed me behind a copy of The Great Gilly Hopkins, and I am sure that none of my friends (by then, I had a few) believed me. I remember that at this school, the library was a room just like any other classroom, but that the books lining its walls and creating diversions in the floor plan had transformed it into another world.

School libraries are the wildest libraries out there, used by children high on ADHD, white-out and about-to-be raging hormones. Much more domestic spaces than the public library, somehow being at home brings out the worst in its patrons, and they come in twenty-five at a time, a single-filed massive, just like they own the place, because they do. It’s the most magical room in the school.

6 thoughts on “Wild libraries I have known: My School Libraries”

  1. Julia says:

    *LOVED* this post! I could totally relate to the fascination with novels about anorexia (and, in my case, Charles Manson, for some unknown reason) and the holocaust, and, OF COURSE, JO from Facts of Life! (Though I later developed an even softer spot for Nathalie — The Writer– and, still later, for Blair, who, strangely, ended up having the most realistic and powerful epiphanies.)

  2. K says:

    Wonderful and accurate post. Thanks.

    I gave up library helping for office helping when the appropriate grade allowed me to do so (for the thrill of using the PA system and because that’s the way things worked). Regrettable.

  3. Rachel says:

    I was fascinated by books about anorexia too (and was teased in my family for liking “disease books.” My favourite was The Best Little Girl in the World.

    1. Kerry says:

      Oh, Disease books! I loved Lurlene McDaniel.

  4. Rachel says:

    Just checked out her site. How did I miss all of those? My early adolescence was wasted!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pre-Order my New Novel: Out October 27


Sign up for Pickle Me This: The Digest

Best of the blog delivered to your inbox each month! The Digest also includes news and updates about my creative projects and opportunities for you to work with me.

Stop Wondering about Blogging, and Build a Blog That’s Wonder-Full:

Get My New Free Download: 5 MORE Prompts to Bring Back Your Blogging Spark!

Photo Kerry Clare with her Laptop

My Books

The Doors
Twitter Pinterest Pinterest Good Reads RSS Post