The Nostalgia of Back-to-School

September 8, 2006 at 6:24 pm


Yes, the school librarians in New Jersey are back to school this week. It’s often both a happy and a stressful time concurrently; we admit it, we like the routine but secretly hate it. I’m sure I’m experiencing the same things my fellow LMSs (library media specialists) have endured this week. My feet hurt from not wearing dress shoes for the past two months. My bank account hurts from not getting paid for the past two months. But, I’m excited to see the kids, work with the teachers, play with all the new books I ordered, and get the learning underway.

I can’t help but think about how the back-to-school “aura” enraptures everyone at this time of year, and especially educators. We reminisce about all the times September rolled around and we got ready for a new school year. For some, this experience has come and gone twenty or thirty times as a professional, and twenty or so times before that as a student. This back-to-school feeling, of nervousness and excitement, of new school supplies, new school clothes and a reunion of old friends, is a dear and meaningful experience for teachers, and students alike. It is like coming home. Year after year.

Yet sometimes we librarians just want to jolt our users out of this warm blanket, chocolate chip cookie experience. We want them to “look at all the new stuff we got.” Check out our new books, which you’ve never heard of (especially if you’re not a teen literature reader)! Use our new Web 2.0 applications, which you’ve never seen before! Try to do this lesson which no one has ever done before — and which no one guarantees will be a success! It’s crystal clear to me, this week at least, that we don’t capitalize on the feelings of nostalgia that libraries bring to people’s lives.

Now I’m not sure that I want people’s rememberances of libraries in their past to be foremost in their minds, especially if all they remember is the ‘shhh-ing’ librarian, or having detention in the library, or going there to do a term paper which ultimately became the worst experience of their school careers. But I do want them to remember that the library *is* a home of sorts, a place to be accepted, to have your questions answered, and to excite your brain whenever you’re in the mood. Now how can I make sure the best parts of the library remain in the nostalgialgic lore for future generations?? Purchase a system that generates a gentle apple- and cinnamon-flavored breeze when you approach the new YA Fiction section??

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