Saturday, June 6, 2009

Class Visits

I'm in that final flurry of trying to squeeze in as many school visits as possible before the end of the school year. I find visiting schools to be simultaneously thrilling and exhausting. It's wonderful to see kids and get them psyched up for Summer Reading Club. And besides that, they look up at you with such admiration, as if you were a rock star, or something. It's pretty cool. 

Here's a picture of me, in front of a marquee of a school on a visit last year.

If possible, I like to get classes to agree to a field trip to the library. It's one thing to hear me give a book talk, but I think it's quite another to be able to see everything for oneself.

Generally, I try to schedule class visits for the mornings when our library is closed to the public. That way, we can have the full run of the place. Ideally, I'll be able to get them library card applications a couple of weeks in advance of their visit.  First, I have them head upstairs to the community room where I give a short talk about how the library works. I answer questions, which usually the kids usually have a ton of. Some of the funniest questions I've fielded were from kids who couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that taking items out of the library was free. They were more used to the bookstore model, where your gift card has a certain dollar amount on it, and kept asking, "But how much money is on your library card before it runs out?"

Another time, I had a child ask me what would happen if someone stole a library book. My answer, "Kids! Don't steal. If you lose a book, you'll have to pay to replace it. But, everything at the library is free as long as you bring it back for other people to share it!"

If there's time, (there usually is) I read a story, and then we take a tour of the building. I have everyone walk by our used bookstore on the second floor, and then from the top of stairs, everyone has a chance to look around at dvd's, teen section and lots of computers.

Downstairs, I point out the the reference and circulation desks, and invite the kids to come over and say "hello" to me at the desk if they ever happen to be at our library after school. Then, I like to tell the class that we're going to see something now special and awesome... something that's really behind-the-scenes... the inside of the book drop! Once, I had a little girl ask me with no small degree of concern, "Will it be scary?"

I save the best for last, and take them over to the children's section. Here are the Caldecotts and Newberys, picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, non-fiction and more: alphabet and counting books, fairy tales. I also point out the statue of Donald Bruce Kaufman (whom the library is named for) that overlooks the children's area.

Before the kids get a chance to look around, I remind them of a few important rules: no yelling, no running, no fighting. Usually, there's a mad dash as kids splinter and look for everything and you try to help 5 kids at once. I break the group into 2 or 3 sections, and bring them over to show them how to look things up in the catalog, and demo how to look something up on one of our databases.  They love the kids catalog, especially the rampaging dinosaur.  Once, after showing them how to e-mail themselves articles from World Book, I had a wide-eyed kid tell me, "It makes homework so easy!  It's almost like you're cheating!"

At that point, I help them checkout books which is also usually hurried madness and I beg a clerk to help me.  If I have enough supplies, I'll give them a bunch of free bookmarks, info on upcoming programs, stickers and other good stuff.

Phew! Just a few weeks more... and then it's on to Summer Reading Club.  No rest for the wicked, so they say.

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