At my previous library branch, I had the pleasure of working, for seven years, surrounded by the artwork of the late, great Ashley Bryan. I also met him when he came to admire the branch, and he was an absolute delight, both to library staff and to the local school children he visited. I, along with countless others, mourned his passing earlier this month.
The memory of how excited the kids were to meet the artist who “decorated” their library stand out as a career highlight. I imagine that Mr. Bryan’s Let it Shine! is a childhood favorite of these young people, who are now high school upperclassmen, if my math is correct. They were second graders when we opened the new branch in 2012. I remember thinking that Mr. Bryan’s energy, being that he was in his late 80s at the time, was astounding, as he engaged the kids in stories and in call and response fun. I commented to my then-supervisor that I hoped to have half the amount of energy at age 60.
At times, our jobs allow us to give children memories that can affect their entire lifetime. Another “big” moment for me, as I am lucky to work for a large system with resources (Cuyahoga County Public Library in suburban Cleveland, Ohio) was when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to my branch to talk to local upper elementary students. When talking to young people beforehand, many were big basketball fans but didn’t know much about “historical” players (yes, this makes me feel old too). When I said that he was taller than the local mayor (Bradley Sellers, the mayor of Warrensville Heights, played for the Chicago Bulls), that got their attention! The two seven-foot-plus men standing side by side was indeed a sight, but more memorable was Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s talk on his past, and giveaway of his autobiography Becoming Kareem.
However, I know that “smaller” moments have an impact too. A community garden at a branch surrounded by apartments gave children a place to play, learn about flowers and vegetables, and taste something new…literally. A fun, safe place to visit once a week during the summer was treasured, even if 75 people making slime was a bit overwhelming for yours truly. We’ve had fun “hip hop coding” with Makey Makeys and free Scratch software.
Every one of us who work in libraries with children have given youth experiences they can treasure. The past two years have been a challenge for us. I hope you take this opportunity to think back at your successes and to look ahead at how we can continue to give kids fun memories to treasure.
This post addresses the core competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.
I absolutely LOVE that your library is decorated with Ashley Bryan’s wonderful artwork. This makes me so happy. I am so grateful I had a chance to meet him at a library conference a few years ago, what a legend!
To clarify…I now work at a different branch decorated by Denise Fleming’s work. I totally agree! To have met Ashley Bryan is to adore him, I think!