Slice of Life

What I Wasn’t Taught in Library School: The Hokey-Pokey

The story of what I wasn’t taught in library school is particularly embarrassing. Because it’s something I probably should have known long before that–and should probably never admit that I didn’t know. But in fact I started my first job as a children’s librarian without knowing how to do the Hokey-Pokey. I didn’t even know the song. Luckily a kind group of regular library visitors for whom the Hokey-Pokey was the traditional opener taught it to me and managed not to laugh as I tried to figure out which one was my left hand (always a challenge).

Although this may seem utterly ridiculous (and I’m sure I looked that way at the time) for me it’s a reminder that practical observation and/or experience in a library is an incredibly valuable part of library school education. As with any job, the nuts and bolts of what you do all day doesn’t always reflect the education needed to qualify for a position. And along with making information available and suggesting wonderful books to eager readers, most children’s librarians will also be asked to be entertainers and having the basic skills down before you walk in the door is a very good idea. So go ahead–put your right hand in…

Lisa Dennis
Coordinator of Children’s Collections
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh


  1. Abby

    When I was in my last semester of library school, I went with a local librarian to do a storytime at a Head Start preschool. So I was sitting in front of this class full of children and the teacher asked me to lead them in “Five Little Pumpkins”…. and I didn’t know it…

    But you’d better believe I’ll never forget it now that I’ve learned it. 😉

  2. Heather

    I had a little trouble remembering the hand movements for “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” the first time that I used it in storytime… Unfortunately, a co-worker was observing and he never let me forget it!

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