Lessons Learned by a Volunteer School Librarian

I've been volunteering at my daughter's school as a parent librarian now for two years. I really enjoy it since I get to know the school, kids and teachers my daughter sees everyday a little more. She also loves it especially when her and my library day coincide.

The school serves a couple of small communities so the library isn't huge. We don't have a computerized system so there is often a lot of guess work involved. Since the library is organized by volunteers, they all have their own ideas about how things should be shelved. Some things are easy: books on horses go in the animal section but what do you do with a book about tanks? Military or machinery? Finding something for a student can be a bit challenging.

Then there's the kids. Here's a few things I've learned.

Kids Don't Know Authors

The older children have a fair sized novel section but it is alphabetized by author. Guess what? Kids never know the names of authors. They know the titles but names... forget about it. Unfortunately, neither do I. You think I would, doing what I do, but I have the worst memory for names. Most of the time I end up when a kid asks for a book I end up scanning the shelves for them. It's a good thing we don't have a lot.

Kids Are Curious

A couple of weeks ago, I had the grade ones in the library. There was a girl who was not at all shy. She walked right up to me. "You got a kid in this school, lady?" Yeeees. I told her who. "Oh yeah, I know her." I guess I checked out. She reminded me of Junie B Jones. It was so funny.

Kids Might Be Too Curious

Sometimes I get a request that surprises me. I'm not really surprised by young girls looking for Twilight books, even though it seems we do not have them in the library. The school has kids ages 5-12 so I imagine the school only gets books for that age group. Twilight might be a little old for them. What did surprise me was a request for The Lovely Bones. I can only assume that the girl asking for it was unaware of the brutal rape and murder scene at the beginning of the book.

No One Names Their Kids 'John' Anymore

Part of the check out process involves writing down what child took out what book for the teacher. This is always challenging. There is a healthy immigrant population and as expected they have names I've never heard before. However, there are the other kids with run of the mill names. That should be easy. It's not. I think I've spelled Kaylee about a dozen different ways now. Even when you think you got it, they'll throw in an extra letter or two to keep it interesting.

Kids Like Hamsters

I get many, many requests for the same books from kids. Spongebob and Pokemon are at the top of the list but they are second to the most requested book. It's a book on taking care of hamsters. Everybody wants it. It's always out. My daughter has had it out twice. We don't own a hamster! We have no plans to get one either.

When They Like Something, They Stick With It

I notice that some kids take out the same book several times, but one little guy takes the cake. He took the same book out (sports related) six times in a row.

Kids Are Adorable

Like this is a surprise. A while ago, a little red haired boy came up to me and whispered. "Miss?" I bent down, thinking he wanted me to find something for him, "Can I help you, Bud?" He looked at me. "Um, no, I just wanted to say I love the library." Aw! So cute.

I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as the year continues.


  1. My son is guilty of checking out the same book over and over (and over and over) again. He has checked the same book off and on over the past three years. We give him grief about it every time we see him with it, but you have to admire a kid who knows what he likes!

  2. Great observations! I remember many of these things from when I was a kid. There was one cheerleading book that I took out of the 'brary a gazillion times, and there was always the "it" book about animals or a particular sport that we all wanted to get our hands on.

  3. Great post! I used to volunteer at the library when my son was in elementary school, but it was computerized, so I basically shelved books and cataloged new ones.

    My son went to high school in a college town so there were kids from all over the world in his class. My son's names are easy to pronounce & spell and there's only one way to spell them. I used to joke that I bet the teachers were glad when he was in their class!

  4. That's so funny that they all want a hamster care book!

  5. Ok that is cute :) Yeah we never got a hamster either, or a rabbit, or a cat but I kept checking those books out and leaving them around the house whilst making hopeful eyes.

  6. Bookshelf MonstrosityJune 28, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    I love this! I hope that I have great parent volunteers like you in my library next year :)

  7. Amanda (nyc bookgirl)June 28, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Oh that is just adorable. I have to say that you are making an impression on their young minds. I remember nice helpful librarians when I was younger which helped me love reading and libraries. I also remember not so helpful and nice ones.

    I remember a particular friendly librarian who would make games where she'd write questions on pieces of paper and we'd have to use the library to answer them and get prizes. Oh, this was back in the days of card catalogs. Sigh.

  8. Awww, that red-headed boy is a keeper :-)!

    I think adults have a hard time remembering author names, too! I know I do sometimes, especially if it's one I haven't read before.

  9. Kayle, Kayleigh, Kailee, Caleigh, Kaylee, Kayley, and then there are the Kylees, Kylas, Caitie, it's crazy!

    Love the new comments. I'm off to investigate, I may be back with questions.

  10. Funny story about the hamster book!

  11. What a great post - the kids are one of the best parts of working in a library!

  12. This is a great post! I spent time volunteering in the library when my kids were in elementary school, too.

  13. I never paid attention to authors when I was little, until my mom pointed out that I was reading the same author over and over. Then I was like, "Hey, you're right! That's genius!"

    I don't think I ever checked out a book more than once from my school library, though.

  14. I enjoyed reading about what you learned at the school library. You are lucky to have the chance to volunteer and they are lucky to get you. Working with the children is probably the best part of the job.

  15. Love it! I remember checking out books about hamsters when I was young. :-) I loved looking at the pictures of cute hamsters. And yes, I was able to talk my parents into getting me one!

  16. The hamster book story is quite funny. When I was in kindergarten there was a book on magic tricks that was the 'hot' book of my peers. I'm not sure it was at our grade level though. Also, I probably first paid attention to authors in 3rd grade when I started reading everything that Roald Dahl had written. I was a big Matilda fan.

    - Christy

  17. Trisha (electic-eccentric)June 28, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    I want to babysit the kid who told you he loved the library. That is adorable!

  18. What a wonderful job, working at the library. I have often thought that I should be a library volunteer. I frequently spend my time in the library and often help people find the books they are looking for even though I am not a volunteer or employee.

    I bet a children's school library would be a great place. Children are so anxious to absorb information and of course 'kids say the darnedest things.'

  19. oh this is so incredibly cute. I love the hamsters fact. How funny. And I'm with you on the odd spelling of names. My son has a traditional name spelled in a traditional way. People ask his name and seem surprised that it's so "normal."


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