Tea Time in the Library

As part of our Big Read we host a program called Chai & Chat on Wednesdays. It’s a way of having a relaxing book talk experience. On Fridays we host a multi-sensory activity called Tastes, Textures, and Thoughts where we can taste Pakistani foods, smell aromatic spices, and feel the unique textures of authentic salwaar kameez. We are reading I Am Malala.

Last Friday I had a group of young men come to the library and join our activity. We served a traditional rice pudding, Kheer, topped with pistachios, as well as other sweets. Savory would be served the following week. A student asked, “Mrs. Seymour do you have anymore chai tea?” Yes, of course; I actually have several varieties of tea stored in my office as I can’t seem to go two hours with out a cup. It’s Friday, not Wednesday so I hadn’t planned on serving tea until a second student chimed in, “Oh, I like chai tea. I tried it last week.” And a third exclaims, “I’ve never had tea.”

This is the point when my eyebrows raise involuntarily and an incredulous look permeates my face. “Seriously?” “No, Mrs. Seymour. I’ve never had a cup of tea.” Okay, we have to rectify this situation – immediately. Get the tea kettle from my office. Fill it with water. You, get the milk from the fridge in my office. Let’s get to work.

As we wait for the water to boil, we talk about Malala, history, and the Marines; one of the boys has enlisted and will be off to Parris Island this summer. He expressed a desire to read about Malala’s situation in Pakistan and the Taliban. I hope any new information and cultural experiences acquired will serve him well.

I leave the students with tea, milk, sugar, and a sense of amazement. For I have in front of me a group of young men, upperclassmen, Seniors, marine-in-waiting, sitting around a library table sipping tea. Shaking my head, I think, ‘you just can’t make this stuff up.’ I also think, if a group of students can graduate high school knowing how to read and in turn choose to read about things that interest them all with the comfort of a cup of tea, well then, life is good and I’ve done my job well.


¿Dónde está la biblioteca? Where is the Library?

My school library has been under construction for several weeks now. Old windows, replaced by new ones – the 900s on book-carts, manga and anime stored on bookshelf counters and a makerspace packed up. This past week I, too, needed to relocate. First to our community board room and then to a computer lab ‘206’ where I kept up with email, MARC records, and other assorted duties. After two days in exile I had an interesting conversation with a teacher. She said, “…when I was talking to you in the library earlier.” Hmm…I haven’t been in the library, what are you talking about? “Oh, come on Gina you know the library is wherever you are!”Wow, did she just say that?  Other staff members in the room smiled and nodded in a agreement. This got me thinking…where is the library?

While displaced, I collaborated with several teachers on upcoming projects, scheduled time in our computer lab, cataloged books, and updated our social media pages. I even processed and circulated books; titles for our upcoming staff book club meeting. I dropped off the books to participants or they found me. Having given out my mobile phone number to staff in an email, I was accessible by email, phone or text and of course, in person. The texting worked out really well. All in all, I was able to function as a librarian and accomplish numerous professional duties. So, where is the library? Is the library a person or is it the ‘stuff’? Don’t get me wrong, I like, no I need, the stuff – books, magazines, newspapers, supplies and our awesome den of creativity, our makerspace. Students have my email address and use it as needed. Our eBooks, digital audiobooks and databases are always accessible, so no worries there.

I was fortunate that this relocation occurred during testing week and the only students in the building were the ones who had a test to take. If this situation had happened at a different time (I shudder at the thought) things would have been different. I think staff needs and student needs differ. Yes, some staff members sought out the relocated ‘library’ to use our laptops, read our newspapers and just gather and collaborate. It felt the same, but also felt different. We all like our ‘space’. We have our favorite spot – the table by the window, favorite computer workstation or just reading the NY Times in the over-sized armchairs. And what about our students? Our students also need the space the library provides – a safe place, a helpful and nurturing place, a place for tinkering and self-discovery, as well as, study. Could I have provided that ‘on the fly’? Probably. Maybe?

So…Where is YOUR Library?