I'm one of those people who needs more than a paycheck to be happy at my job (like most librarians). It is the moments where I truly make a connection with someone or the times when I'm able to help a patron find something that they didn't even know was possible that really make me feel at one with the universe.
These moments of course don't happen every day. In fact, since I've worked in multiple public library-secondary school shared facilities, super special connections don't even happen every month -- just note, it's naturally difficult to have these moments when you are having to kick out 10 girls from a three stall bathroom when a mom can't get past the gauntlet to change her baby's diaper on the change station or when you have to notify the vice principal about students skipping classes to vape in the stacks.
With all these daily struggles, it is even more important to remember those good times -- the moments that make it all worth it.
On those bad days when I start to doubt everything in my career path, here are the 10 best warm and fuzzy moments from the past decade that I think about as a pick-me-up:
In shared facilities with secondary schools, it is common to have rules about the students eating during school hours (seriously you wouldn't believe the mess when they treat the library like an extended cafeteria during lunch).
However, getting into the kids who bring in food can get tedious. At the shared facility that I worked at previously, I wound up stumbling on gold.
ME: *reminds student that outside food isn't allowed as he digs into a Subway sandwich*
STUDENT: "I'll go get you one if you let me keep eating."
ME: "I can't be bribed...I'm Batman."
The student and his friends laugh and then leave the library.
The best part was that any time someone in the friend group had food during the school year and they saw me coming it became a "thing."
STUDENT: "Dude, Batman is coming. Better take out the food or you're getting the grappling hook."
STUDENT: "Call Commissioner Gordon! Batman is about to take out The Eater!"
9. MORE THAN PHONE CHARGING (pic below)
Several years ago, I stumbled upon what I dubbed "Event Hype." In promotion of teen programs, I would visit various school libraries in the nearby area during the lunch periods with mini-versions of various games and activities as a way to talk up the event and give the teens a taste of the fun to come.
In honour of Silent Library, I visited the closest high school to the branch where the event was going to be held. Any student who stumbled into the library during lunch were able to play quickie Silent Library games for candy prizes -- including a competitive book stack.
At the end of the Event Hype, one of the boys came up to me to say:
"I just came here to charge my phone, but this was an insane surprise. When will you be back?"
8. RETURN OF THE RESEARCHER
Being a librarian in a public library-secondary school shared facility (and a former teacher) means I have to get pretty intense with info literacy instruction. The older the students get, the more in-depth the research methods get. A graduated student apparently appreciated it enough to come back for a visit.
She said that no one else in her British Lit class had ever heard of a keywords-for-searching brain cloud exercise (where people close their eyes and imagine related terms to search, including synonyms). She wound up being pulled up by the professor to run the class through the exercise, and the professor told her that he would be using it in his other classes before the first big project again!
7. IT'S ADVENTURE TIME! (pic below)
OK....yeah...I'm a nerd. It is what it is. My nerdiness leads to multiple programs where I try to connect nerd-tastic teens with each other while having a blast. For my first-ever cosplay event, we had a multi-fandom trivia contest to get everyone pumped up and ready for some cosplay accessory creation.
After each question, the teen teams of two would put in their guesses then the fandom that the image/character was from would be revealed.
The magic came after an Adventure Time question.
One of the girls started to sing the theme song when the answer was revealed and then ALL 15 teens (from several friend groups who had never met before this night) started singing along.
I didn't say anything (or sing along even though I wanted to) nor did I move. I just sat there and let the awesomesauce of 15 teenagers bonding in a spontaneous (and crazy nerdy) way at my program.
Thinking about it too hard still makes me *SQUEE* :-D
6. VOLUNTEERING? ARE YOU SURE? (pic below)
One of my biggest sources of pride is Library Maker Crew (LMC). It is basically TAG taken to the next level as my group of teens actually are event-creation apprentices -- working with me to come up with activities and decorations for a specific community event each session and ultimately staffing it. As long as the work list for the day gets done, they are welcome to hang out, have fun, and listen to music.
At my current library, LMC does their work in a classroom with glass walls so that people can see inside.
Three teen boys actually stopped to look in on the work party happening in the classroom one day:
TEEN ONE: "Who are those people in the classroom?"
TEEN TWO: "I think it is some kind of club. Maybe we should look into joining."
ME: "Actually, that is Library Maker Crew. They're my volunteer force."
TEEN TWO: "That is volunteering? For real?"
ME: "Yep. They're making the Book Mania Street Fair and will staff it in August."
TEEN ONE: "Do you have an application?"
ME: "We're full up for this particular project but you're welcome to join us in the fall. Let me get you an app!"
5. EARLY ARRIVAL (pic below)
Live Action Roleplaying (LARPing) in the Library is one of my most amazing creations. The framework for these interactive games are great for reframing the library as an awesome place filled with fun, creative energy for youth. Originally the games were just for teens. However, the first Zombie Survival Night at my current library got multiple request calls from tween parents. I couldn't let the tweens join the Zombie Survival Night -- 25 high schoolers running around screaming is way too intense for 10 year olds.
BUT...to make it up to the local tweens who clearly wanted a zombie LARPing event, I held one just for them at the end of summer reading last year.
The program was drop-in, and we had a full house. One mother even brought her son and his best friend AN HOUR early to ensure their spot. After the game, the mom even made sure to let me know that her boy was so excited that barely slept last night and had been counting down to it for weeks.
TWEEN MOM: "This was everything he was hoping for and was SO much fun! I didn't know libraries did this."
4. A SIMPLE THANKS (pic below)
This year saw our third-annual Maker Fair for the adjoining secondary school. I bring in fun tech, games, and plenty of arts and crafts maker stations. The events are always well received and welcome around 300 teens via class visits and lunch time participants.
The event this time around was really special. Not only did one of our problem students see awed and said "there are so many options!" but I was fortunate to receive a sincere, genuine thank you.
STUDENT: "I know how much everyone enjoyed being here. I just want to thank you for all the time and hard work that went into making this. It as great."
A weirdly mature thing for a grade 9 to say, but the look in her eyes said that she meant it -- thus the warm and fuzzy!
3. WHO KNEW?
During the end of the school year, I've started reaching out to the secondary schools in our catchment area. They tend to have carnivals before end-of-the-year exams begin. They've been nice enough to allow me to set up an outreach booth at the carnival.
My coworker and I bring, bean bag tosses, bubble maker, MaKey MaKey guitar game, DIY henna, and more.
One of the students commented to us:
"You guys are from the library? How do you have such cool stuff?"
Because we are cool, my son...we are cool.
2. INTERACTING ON THEIR TURF (pic below)
Making an interactive, high participation Instagram account for teens is crazy difficult. But the rewards can be outstanding. The first summer of IExChallenge, I posted about free colouring sheets in all the branches at the library system where I was currently working. Due to how popular the Instagram account had become with local teens, one young girl in particular was more comfortable asking a question about the library on our feed than in the library!
She sent in her question on the free colouring post WHILE AT THE LIBRARY that she couldn't find the station. I just love how this situation single-handedly proves how valuable Instagram can be when interacting with your local teen community. Rather than asking the librarian at the reference desk, this girl preferred to ask the question on her phone.
Since I wasn't at work that day though, I was both thrilled at the Instagram account becoming a communication platform and panicked as I called the library branch where the girl was to get the problem figured out.
It definitely spiced up my day off and shows how our teens DO have questions about the library and its services, but they tend to feel more comfortable asking them virtually instead.
This warm and fuzzy was technically overheard by a coworker of mine, but fortunately she shared the comment about the program with me.
At my first annual Zombie Survival Night for teens (was supposed to be a max of 25 but 3 more teens snuck in after start time), we actually managed to attract several teenaged boys. 13 of the total 28 were guys! Anyone who works with teens knows how almost IMPOSSIBLE that is.
After the game was over (plenty of running around the library screaming while solving clues and completing challenges), one of the grade 10 boys and his friend were waiting to grab their pizza.
BOY TO HIS FRIEND: "That was so intense...but fun though!"
Absolute perfect victory...BOOM!
A fun warm and fuzzy and probably the coolest thing I've ever said off the top of my head.
As the Library Maker Crew creates our Star Wars Escape Room, one of the volunteers suggested we use an old How the Grinch Stole Christmas standee as a decoration in the room, cutting and painting it to look like a storm trooper.
ME: "Isn't that a little bit short to be a storm trooper?"
OTHER VOLUNTEER (Star Wars aficionado): *laughs* "That's why you're my favourite librarian of all time."
SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE WARM AND FUZZY STORIES IN THE COMMENTS!
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Originally wanting to be the love-child of Kathy Reichs and Indiana Jones, Brooke was pulled into the magical world of library service over 12 years ago. Finding that her ultimate passion was in teen services, she did what she normally does in a heart-fueled endeavor -- ran in head-first and never looked back! Cosplayer, movie fanatic, binge watcher, Disney Worlder. Proud cat mom of Evelyn (named after the librarian character in The Mummy ).