25 April 2012

How my high school math teacher made me a better librarian

No, this isn't a book review.  But it is an awesome story followed by a bit of a rant...er clarification about what I do every day.

When I decided to become a librarian a few years ago, I never knew I would need math in order to do my job, and most of the time I don't.  However today, a group of girls today were discussing how to solve a riddle, and I helped them solve it using MATH.  Yep. Math.  More specifically, Algebra...the bane of my high school existence.  And the most amazing part is, I hate math.  In general, math confuses me and if you asked me to add two numbers bigger than 12, I'd probably say 7. 

Here's the riddle: How old would you be if two years from now you will be twice as old as you were five years ago.
The girls were trying to figure out the problem by randomly picking ages and seeing if it worked.  When I walked by, they asked me if I knew the answer and I said "Uh, if it involves math, I have no clue", but as I walked away, I was filled with the spirit of my high school math teacher Mr. Thomas, and I remembered how to figure it out.  Here's what I did...

When I was done, the girls were in awe.  Then they asked me how I had done it so I had to go back and explain it, so I did.  And I was so excited that I'd figured it out and been able to explain it, that I did a happy dance.  Then I went and found some math teachers to show off how smart I am.

I'll bet you're asking yourself why I would blog about my mad math skillz.  Well, it's simple.  People ask me all the time what exactly it is that I do every day, and I would love to educate the world on the fact that librarians are more than just book nerds, and we do more on any given work day than just put away books and shush people.  I've been asked so many times what it is that I do, I'd like to take a minute to tell you what I do every day, and maybe dispell some age old librarian myths.
Let's start with the myths about my job.  Here are some of the most common questions/comments I hear that drive me crazy.
  • "Do you know the Dewey Decimal System by heart?" Heck no.  I don't even think Melvil Dewey knew the whole system.  Actually he couldn't have.  I do know more about the DDS than most people, but it doesn't mean I think in Dewey.
  • "You are too loud to be a librarian." Well, I am loud.  But my library isn't a quiet library either.  I work in a middle school, and ask any parent, 12-14 year olds do not know the meaning of the word "quiet".  The truth is, libraries - at least public and school libraries - really aren't "quiet" places anymore.  They are places people go to find information, and finding information isn't always a quiet endeavor.
  • "You're too young/sarcastic to be a librarian".  Whatever.  This statement means that all librarians are either stuffy old ladies, or Bill Cosby.  Librarians in general are younger, hipper and wittier than Marion the Librarian ever was.
And the last question I get is the one I'd really like to try to explain, though if I answered it completely, this would be the world's longest post.  The question I hear most often is "What do you do all day", and the simple answer is A LOT.  But instead of giving you a rundown of what I do every day, I'll tell you what I spend the majority of my time doing.  It's pretty simple.

I teach kids (and teachers) how to find answers to questions, how to find information, and how to find books they want to read.  I teach kids how to solve problems using their brains, the internet and print materials. I train students to know that the answer to their question or the solution to their problem is out there, and then I give them the tools to find it.

And today, I taught a group of kids how to solve a riddle using algebra.

Who wouldn't want to do my job?

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