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Karen DeFrank wrote: "Each September I have every kid in my school get a
permission slip signed by a parent or guardian that states they may
bring library books home.
The permission slip explains how our library works, and specifically
states any lost or ruined books must be paid for before the students can
borrow any other library materials.
While I wouldn't say it has cut our losses too much it is great to pull
it out when a parent comes calling."

I've been thinking something similar:

I do a two-day library orientation for all incoming sixth graders here.
(We have fun, but, man is it grueling after a couple weeks.) Anyway, In
all my time doing orientations, I've never felt the need to mention the
simple philosophy behind a library nor the simple social contract one
tacitly agrees to when borrowing from that library. I've always assumed
this was, at least, prior knowledge, if not something people, almost
instinctively, just 'get.' So, had you asked me ten years ago, I would
have probably told you that explaining the basic premises behind a
library to sixth graders would be as ludicrous as trying to teach them
how to breathe; not only pointless, but demeaning.

But it was also about ten years ago that I began noticing that students,
increasingly, would inquire about "renting a book." It became pretty
obvious as the usage quickly became the default parlance that--in the
community I serve, at least--kids were deriving much of their prior
knowledge about the Highlander Way Library by drawing from their
experiences at the counter of their local Blockbuster. A few years
later, I began to notice that the terms "check in" and "check out"
suddenly started to confuse many students, as this circ desk scenario:

Student plops books on desk, says nothing. 

"Good morning, would you like to check these out, or are these books
you're checking in?"

"...In. No, wait: Yeah, in. In."

"Okay, well, in that case, did you know you can just drop them in the
book return slot, right there?"


"No. OUT, I want to take them out; you know, to rent them."

So, maybe the bare-bone-basics now do merit some coverage. Maybe next
year I'm going to have to get all LaVar Burton with my orientation
sessions and take a moment just to explain the basic concept of what a
library IS, what the social contract that anyone who chooses to use a
library is agreeing to actually entails, and how only by following that
agreement can the beneficent economics of community sharing play out. 

(Of course, I'll have to tweak that verbiage a bit, but I trust you know
what I mean.) 

Anyway, I think I'm going to try and wedge some of that primary content
in next fall. And then I'll serve milk and cookies, and by then it'll be
nappy-nappy time.

Jeffrey Hastings,
School Librarian,
Highlander Way Middle School
Howell, Michigan, USA.

You can respond to shankhead at gmail dot com if you'd like.



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