Friday, October 14, 2011

Mary Library

My mother, even though she didn't finish high school, was a well-read person. She loved books and loved learning. I remember her teaching me to read before I went to school, and she passed her love for books down to me.

Mom wanted to be around kids, so when we were in school, she got a part-time job in the school cafeteria, and went back to earn her General Equivalency Diploma at night. Math was her greatest challenge, and I vividly remember standing in the kitchen, holding the phone, and listening to her share her pride with me that she had passed her test and earned her diploma so many years after leaving high school. She had actually called from a payphone rather than wait to get home to tell us, and she told me she wasn't sure while she was taking the test if she had passed that math part.

I think this was a great lesson for a young person, witnessing someone face a subject which was difficult and work at it.

Mom had a plan. She applied for, interviewed for, and got a job as a teacher's aide at another school in the system, eventually working her way back to the school in our neighborhood. Then the library aide position opened up, and she applied for that; much to her delight, she was hired.

The library was pretty sad when Mom took over. Some of the books which were on the shelves had last been checked out by me, and I was by then in my later years of high school. The room was plain and dreary. Mom had book sales and fund raisers, Buying new shelving and carpeting the space. She added to the collection, replacing John F. Kennedy's Profiles of Courage with books on dinosaurs and monsters, replacing the dusty collections of poems by Joyce Kilmer with Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak. He theory was that, if you could get kids to read, they would discover how wonderful it was and gradually move on to the more serious stuff, but few kids would willingly start with the droner books. Those she culled mercilessly, giving them away to rummage sales or wherever else she could send them.

While in art class in high school, my sister made a huge paper mache stork-like bird wearing crew socks and red tennis shoes. Mom took the bird to school, christened him "Word Bird," and hung him over the dictionary. Every week, she would hang a new word around Word Bird's neck, and open the dictionary to that page, and the kids would read the definition and learn to use a dictionary.

Mom's eye doctor had her trifocals special made so she could comfortably read the numbers on the books to shelve them. Her days were spent doing what she loved, working around children and books. My sister said, "She hated Fridays and loved Monday mornings." She was useful and energized and enjoyed every aspect of her job.

Dad retired, and mom would most likely still be in her library if it hadn't been for the attempt to computerize her. She retired after ten happy years, and the library was dedicated in her honor, with a plaque on the wall outside in the hall. When Mom passed away, we requested memorials be made to the school library, the place where she was most happy.

In the past year, the library was moved to a new space in the new addition to the school; it is a big room with lots of light, laminate flooring, and a computer lab. Mom would have been delighted. The current librarian (my mother would approve of her, to be sure) held on to the memorial money to use in the new space.

Last night, the school had an open house in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. It was a nice celebration. My sister and I received a special invitation from the current school librarian to view the items which were selected from Mom's memorial. There is now a welcoming corner with a pretty red and blue rug and red and blue beanbag chairs, a place for kids to relax and enjoy books. There are some new books. On the table there, was a sign describing where these items came from; Mrs. K described my mom as a "past librarian." In reality, Mom's job title was "library aide," as she did not have the paper credentials to be a librarian. However, in her heart, she was a librarian, and we appreciated her being referred to that way.

At the entrance to the library is a big rug which reads, "Welcome to our library." I like the use of "our," as Mom will always be a part of the library. But even more important, I like that a little part of Mom will be welcoming all those children to her wonderful world of books. She would be pleased.


Anita said...

Indeed she was a "librarian!"

You can add me to her fan list. I've done some tutoring in the past, but gave it up because of the many demands of my kids, home life, and yes, my hobbies. Gotta maintain my sanity. :)

Yet, I know that my future includes tutoring, or something similar again. Like your mom, I love libraries and book stores.

How nice it was for her to love her job and to make a difference in the lives of children. God gave her a bit of heaven on earth.

Kimluvswinston said...

I love this story. I just love it.
What a wonderful legacy.

maeve said...

There is no question that she was an educated woman, if not in the formal sense; she was also much more a librarian than some that I've met, that's for sure.

There's also no question that "genes will out". You are her daughter in every way, aren't you? You must miss her terribly.

As someone else said, what a legacy!