LET'S GET SOCIAL
Wednesday
Jan072015

Librarians: A lifeline to education

The beautiful library at the Awsaj School, DohaI recently went on my biggest adventure as an author yet, one that took me all the way to Doha, Qatar, where I was invited by a group of librarians for a week of visits at five schools. It was my first time in the tiny Gulf state, and a wonderful chance to share my books and experiences as a writer. Doha is a fascinating place, with massive construction projects everywhere and a huge push to develop, particularly the education sector.

I was warmly welcomed at each of the schools, and ushered into the most impressive schools libraries I have ever seen. The large and breathtaking spaces were staffed with both upper and lower elementary librarians, as well as several assistants. I was struck by how the schools truly seemed to value the crucial role that librarians play in the academic development of their students. Connected to each student, the librarians worked to develop special projects, helped with research and assignments, set up programs and guests, and fostered a love of reading and seeking knowledge. 

I spent lovely time with the librarians, who took care of me during the school days, even packing me homemade lunches and snacks, and went above and beyond to entertain me after hours. They took to me to delicious dinners, invited me into their homes (where I, overcome with jetlag one afternoon, even napped), and went sightseeing with me. I learned about their lives and their families, where they had worked before, and what their futures held. Among the librarians I met, the Americans and Canadians were fairly certain that they would remain abroad until they retired. I assumed it was because life overseas was exciting and romantic, because they were part of such a close-knit expat community, or because the compensation and lifestyle was so comfortable. But, that wasn’t always the case.

“There are no jobs for us back home,” was what I sadly kept hearing. I was jarred by this news. It breaks my heart that these talented and committed educators feel like they can’t come home if they want and share their knowledge and expertise because there aren’t enough opportunities left for them. But we still need them! In a recent Huffington Post blog post, Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools, Yohuru Williams defends the role of librarians (aka media specialists) and other key staff, and why they must be preserved in spite of budget cuts. I hope his arguments, and others like them resonate with lawmakers and those who make tough staffing decisions. Librarians, as Williams says, must be seen as lifelines who, in addition to all of their traditional roles, “help students to unlock and decode the vast amount of information now at their fingertips.”

The creative "lesson tent" at the Greenfield Community School Library in DubaiI am eternally grateful to the librarians who have championed my work and who continue to share it with their students, taking care that all are represented. They have made me feel at home wherever I visit, preparing their students and creating excitement around my presentations. And they serve as a great source of ideas and sounding boards, especially since they are so in tune with what kids like to read. I’m thrilled that I had the chance to make an amazing trip to Doha and spend time with such kind and thoughtful people. And as an author whose greatest ally is the librarian, I hope that America isn’t willing to lose any more to far away places, or at least not to let anywhere else value them more than we do. 

 

 

Thursday
May222014

Bad hair daze

Mom and me, during one of my haircuts. Note the fear on my face.Tonight, even though spring is in full swing and it’s warmer than it’s been in a while, my nine year old son asked me to blow his hair dry for him after his shower. As I ran my fingers through his hair, hot air tickling his face, I saw his look of utter contentment and had a flashback: me standing in my mother’s bathroom and her doing the same for me at that age.

Since that time, I’ve been to countless hairstylists who’ve dried my hair for me—from cheap cuts in strip malls to fancy blow out bars with menus. As a “curly girl,” it’s always a treat to have my hair straightened, as are occasional head massages and deep conditioning treatments. But tonight I realized, with a pang of longing and nostalgia, that almost nothing has ever felt better or been more comforting than standing in my pajamas, feeling the love from my mother’s hands as she tried not to burn me with her antique Norelco hairdryer with the comb attachment.

The part of the memory that I have tried to block is the haircuts my mom used to also give me. Not just a straight trim—she overconfidently believed she could give me the latest Dorothy Hamil or Lady Diana hairdo. And with her lack of training and my curly hair brushed out into waves, you can imagine the outcome. I only noticed recently while looking through old photos that I wasn’t actually as unattractive of a child as I had felt at the time. Underneath the horrible haircuts, I was actually kind of cute.

My mom also offered to cut my son’s hair for him when he was younger but I firmly declined. She then encouraged me to do it for him myself. “But I don’t know how to cut hair,” I argued on deaf ears amidst grumbling that I like to waste money.

Thank you, Mom, for everything you have done and still do for me. I can never repay you, even if I wasted all the money in the world. And my dear son with a great looking head of hair….you’re welcome.