I have always had the tendency to apply idioms and proverbial phrasing to the “bumps in the road” encountered while human-ing (I also make verbs out of lots of things). It is one of the ways I’m able to persist in difficult times and have had to rely heavily on this during a year where words like “challenging,” “chaotic,” and “concerning” are all surface level descriptors of 2020, a truly transformative year. Yes, I mean transformative.
I am, and remain, impressed by the ways in which librarians and teachers serving youth of ALL ages and stages have reimagined library programs, services and learning. Although I miss face-to-face programs and outreach visits, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve thanks to the collaborative efforts of colleagues in Chicago and nationwide. I am proud to be amongst the ranks of children’s, teen and school librarians who have plunged heart first into virtual programs and teaching, to deliver engaging formal and informal activities and lessons. I am proud to be a member of a group of professionals who have thought so deeply about issues of equity and inclusion that they have collaborated to provide learning opportunities via grab-and-go kits, reading lists and literacy activities broadcast on television.
Transformation is often messy, but always beautiful. I am reminded of this with each request for kits, inquires like, “When is the next program?”, moments such as when a school librarian informs our staff that they have registered all of their students for eCards, or when a parent expresses gratitude for the library’s support of her school age child’s education. I am reminded of this as I work with the awesome library staff in my department to record outreach videos for the schools we serve and for inclusion in an educational tv show created by our city’s teacher’s union. I am reminded of this as kids from dissimilar schools and neighborhoods meet and connect in ways beyond their community’s borders. It is my “silver lining” in the year 2020, a year indelibly clouded by COVID-19 and civil unrest.
As we look back on 2020, take a moment to reflect on the ways that you (yes, you, awesome children’s/teen/school librarian) have transformed service to your patrons. Reflect on the road up to now; the struggles, progress and triumphs that have led you to this moment. Take a breath, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself and your colleagues on a job well done. You deserve it.
Tamela Chambers is a children’s librarian/department manager at the Chicago Public Library. Tamela has worked as both a children’s and school librarian serving the children and teens of Chicago. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation Committee and the current chair of BCALA’s Public Library Subcommittee. Tamela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.