I have been hesitant to use this blog for anything other than its intended use, but a couple of weeks ago, I changed my mind. This is part one in an ongoing series of posts about THE LIBRARY at the tiny high school where I work. Last week, in my year-end review, I said some things to my director about what the library is and what it isn’t, and I realized only when it was coming out of my mouth that this might be the only time I’ll ever get to carefully curate a collection of books for other people to read.
The new English teacher and I have been given the library, which up until this summer has been a series of metal rolling shelves that sit at the back of the auditorium. The books might be relevant and well-selected, but there is no way any student knows this right now. More often than not, the shelves are shoved together so no one can get to the stacks at all. Students spend their lunches making out between the shelves and then leave their P. Terry’s wrappers at the feet of Steinbeck and Woolf. It’s not their fault. It’s no one’s fault that our school needs to grow and that we are creatively sharing classrooms and space. We’ll grow soon enough. Right now, though, the books are non-existant to students and teachers alike. My goal for this year is to make the books in the back of the room re-appear. Like magic.
The first phase of this magical transformation is the development of a student-to-student recommends section. I’ve gotten a ton of great books, and I definitely feel an obligation to have read most of the books on the shelf so that I can make suggestions and (if necessary) defend its honor to parents and staff. The good news is that a lot of kids still love Vonnegut, Salinger, Lee, Lovecraft, O’Henry, and Walker. I also figure I’m safe with all the John Greenes and the JK Rowlings, which basically jump into backpacks and read themselves to the kids.
I’m not an avid reader of young adult books, but not for any good reason. I’ll still go back and read my favorites (S.E. Hinton’s Tex, Zindel’s The Pigman, Kerr’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, Bloom’s Blubber, among others) every now and again, but I’m usually reading those books because something weird just happened and I’m sad. I should, as a teacher of young adults, keep up with what they’re reading. But when I get home at night, usually the last thing I want to do is open a book detailing the dramatic adolescent undoing of somebody or other. More likely than not, I’ve just spent the last 10 hours of the day with actual teenagers. I am also currently co-parenting two teens, so at any moment in my life, the chance of a real-life undoing is very high.
There are quite a few YA books on the list that I’m working my way through so I can make real recommendations, but for the most part, I’m looking at the stack* without much hope.
*While I didn’t make it through the stack, I did read quite a few of the students’ recommendations, many of which were not YA-specific.