Going Over the Wall…I am Steve McQueen!
There is a scene in one of my favorite movies which reminds me of where I am now professionally. In the movie The Great Escape, there is a scene where Steve McQueen’s character is trying to escape from a German POW camp and he is doing quite well at achieving this goal. However, at one point he is asked to BREAK OUT of the POW camp, explore the surrounding area and then break back into the POW camp in order to inform the prisoners how to best “go over the wall.” It is the hope of some of the prisoners of the camp that they can use this information to assist in a larger break out….a break out that will help numerous prisoners. Suffice it to say, McQueen’s character is befuddled as he thinks: “Why should I stick my neck out?” Well ladies and gentleman… I am Steve McQueen.I have been a children’s services librarian for over 7 years. Recently, I went “over the wall” and went to work for a wonderful school library. I did this after I spent a mere 6 months at a terrible public library. I should mention that prior to that, I spent 3 plus years at a WONDERFUL public library and would still be there if it were not for my desire to live closer to my family. My disastrous six month nightmare at this last public library culminated with my pounding my head against a wall and increasing battles with a director that simply was not interested in creating relevant children’s library programming. Furthermore, library children’s programming was viewed as simply not being that important. Oh sure, it was stated that it was important…but when the time came for me to implement the programs the director got cold feet. PLUS, I heard “that wont work here…we’ve never done that before…it wont work” too many times. I was befuddled. After 6 months of this, I decided that I simply had enough. After all, didn’t I just work for over 3 years as at a great library with a great director??!?! Why should I put up with this? I am a 2005 New York Times Outstanding Librarian. I have skills. I have proven myself. I have my pride!! Anyway, I was lucky. I am now very happy as a school librarian. I now LOVE coming to work again. Based on my recent experiences, my point is this: I honestly believe that if we are not careful, too many talented librarians will be shown the door/resign due to shortsighted directors and inept leadership. Children are encouraged to come to public and school libraries, but too often a talented librarian to nurture this love is lacking.Why? Because they left in frustration and were replaced by “Mr. or Mrs. Mediocrity” Simply stated, the passion of many librarians is being eroded by untrained and unenthusiastic “leaders.” Personally, what would help a lot is to bridge the gap and nurture a stronger relationship between public librarians and school librarians-after all, there is strength in numbers. However, so much more needs to be done. How do we fix this problem? There is no simple solution. However, one thing is clear: We are in the midst of a battle…a battle that will have a huge impact on librarians for years to come. If we settle for mediocre services and leadership at any library, we are undermining and diminishing who we are as librarians. We must be willing to dig and risk going out in order to come back in to assist the greater good. At the same time, we must continue to grow and seek out other opportunities to spread our wings.
Have a good day!
Youth Services Librarian