Growing up, the school district of my small southern town was split into four schools: Primary (K-3), Elementary (4-5), Middle (6-8), and High Schools (9-12). That's the city schools, the kids that lived inside the city limits or whose parents worked here or snuck in because ain't nobody gonna tell them where to learn. In each of those schools there was a library, in each library sat a librarian whom I assume had a library degree of some kind. These are a few of my experiences with these librarians.
In Kindergarten, I remember being lead into a big room with a bunch of books and a lady at the front with brown curly hair read us a story about a woman teacher who left her classroom and the substitute was a mean old lady. I remember the twist at the end of the story that (spoiler alert) the teacher may have been the mean substitute all along. Mind fucking blown at age five.
In first grade I remember getting tested to see if I belonged with the smart kids. Turned out I was not verbal enough for the testing lady. Lady asked me what I saw and I told her, she never told me to tell a story about what I saw. I was a pretty literal kid. Go figure.
Second third grade hold not real distinct memories of the library beyond watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids and something with an Australian cartoon Kangaroo with live joey footage that I still think is the dumbest thing I have ever seen.
Fourth grade I remember taking more tests at the library, learning to fill in bubbles. Later that same year I found a book on the shelf about reading palms. I remember reading a friend's palm and telling him he was impotent, a word I had just learned from the Golden Girls. Turns out he was independent and I read pretty fast and would say a lot to get a laugh. That kid still does not have children, though, so maybe I was on to something.
Fifth grade we were all taken to the cafetorium (cafeteria and auditorium combo) and learned about sex and sexual reproduction in the human people. After words all us boys played kickball while the girls watched a video in the library. I had to go find our teacher and get a key from her for the classroom and caught hell for what I saw on the screen. Twenty-two years later and I can not tell you what I saw that got that coach so mad.
Sixth through eighth grade I had the approximately same experience with the library. A giant building, it was once the high school for the African American population and acted as the school’s gym until they integrated in the 1960s. Once the white folks moved in they used the high school’s gym, so they made the gym into a library. My mother also taught in that building and knew the librarian quite well, so I got to help out there whether I wanted to or not. My only distinct memories were not doing a poster project correctly and not finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as a book report. My fault both times, not the librarian’s.
The high school librarian… We called her Library Barbie because she was blonde and we were in high school = assholes. I cannot for the life of me remember talking to her once, and I was in that library a lot. Wait, no. I talked to her once complaining about having to pay for printouts when we got new fancy “computers” and I typed up an important paper for an essay competition. The principal made her stop charging, although I never got my money back. Mostly I remember taking tests in there and learning how to use the Reader’s Guide to Periodical literature, which looking back was wasted because the Internet was gaining hold even then.
And that’s my history with school librarians: curly hair, faceless sex lady, mom’s friend and Library Barbie. Did they play an integral part in my school experience? I hate to say it, but no. My teachers and my mother had me reading. Helping that middle school librarian only really taught me what the symbols meant, “F” for Fiction, “B” for Biography, etc. Also blue circles for… something. Couldn’t have been important because in my professional library career I have never used blue circles. But that’s all I knew from my librarians. Might have been better had there been a Dark Arts section, though...