Reaction Journal #2
The visit to Madison Jr. High School’s library, an event that took place on February 22, was much less of an adventure than the first library visit. Specifically, I didn’t get lost this time. The school is located at 1000 River Oak Drive in Naperville, and the Web site is www.ncusd203.org/madison. The library can be reached by dialing 420-6406, provided you are still within the 630 area code; all calls outside of this range are mysteriously redirected to a 79-year-old woman in a Florida nursing home.
Along the way to the library, I didn’t see much in the way of other forms of public transportation, other than maybe hijacking a fellow student's car. At least the parking wasn’t a problem, but getting to the library required a long drive from Wheaton.
We were quickly introduced to LRC Director Jackie Plourde. The library place isn’t quite a public one, but school libraries are similar in that they're not strict when it comes to who can check out books. The main patrons of the library, however, are the 916 students; the 75 faculty and staff members also can check things out. Upon walking into the library, you notice . . . rows and rows of books and shelves. Not unusual, considering where you are. There are approximately 8000 books, according to Jackie, who will not be reading many more of them any longer because she stood at the glowing overhead projector for too long. Between retina-torching glances at the Blazing Overhead of Doom, she gave us a little info about the library. We sat in wooden chairs, all of which are designed to begin rocking without being provoked. They snarled a couple times but were comfortable; you could say their bark was worse than their bite.
Jackie briefly mentioned a figure of $6595.20. Either that was the budget or how much she actually spends in the average year. I don’t recall her talking about her own salary, but I am sure that had she done so, her voice would not suddenly have begun to sound especially excited. Like most people who work at a school, school librarians get a modest paycheck.
While I have already discussed the 916 students, I should probably mention – just to keep the discussion from becoming too dull – that we got a "sample" of the student population as one lone adult led a group of kids through the background in a straight line. Being kids, they were unable to do so without significant noise, however, so not only does the term “herding the cattle” come to mind, but also the phrase “the 11:45 express, right on time.” Actually, whether it sounded more like a stampede or a locomotive is up to the individual’s discretion.
The library does have a rather significant variety of materials. The books are of a fourth-grade reading level and higher, which is probably a good thing, considering this is a junior high. The technology is probably the most impressive part of the library; there are a number of both computers and computer labs, and the computers are high-quality and up-to-date. The machines are all connected through the computer network and servers. The terminals are “restricted access,” however; many of the site-blocking programs are in use to ensure that students use only what is available. However, they have access to a meta-search engine, many databases, and the school’s page provides a number of links to sites. There are the more traditional projectors, overheads and the like, all near the main desk of the library. What is interesting is that the students and faculty are able to check out the materials on their own; swipe the library card through the scanner, and then scan what you’re checking out.
Jackie’s tour went all over the school, all of which was interesting, but most of it was not relevant enough to include here. As for the actual building, Jackie didn’t know the size, and apparently the rest of the school doesn’t know either. It’s not mentioned on the Web site. I will comment on the staff work areas, however, which are very neat and organized (though the dictionary might say the best word for that is “bland”). Despite somewhat-questionable taste in sofas, the work area and staff room seems efficient enough, especially with an interesting poster-making printer.
Despite not running into the staff during any part of our visit, Jackie assured us that they are, in fact, friendly. She mentioned that only a couple of people work directly with her in the actual library, mainly an intern student. Speaking of staff, Jackie stated that she reports to her supervisors, the most direct ones being the School Board and then the District Superintendent. Jackie tends to work a bit longer than most of the other faculty and staff, not only within library hours but also after closing and occasionally on Saturdays. The library stays open for about an hour or so after the last class period ends, but the library does not open during the weekend.
Everything in the library is relatively simple to find. There are a couple of restrooms within the library area. The pay phones are out in the hallway near the school entrance, thankfully; who ever heard of talking on a pay phone right smack dab in the middle of a library? The librarian would go berserk, and the patrons wouldn’t appreciate it much either. There’s no elevator or stairs, and even if there were, they would just go straight through the roof. (What’s the point in a one-story library?) The main desk functions as the reserve, circulation and information desks all in one.
All in all, the library seems to be doing things right. I can’t honestly say that there was much about it I didn’t like. One of the best qualities is the atmosphere in the place; it seems small but not cramped, and there are some open areas, making the library come off as a nice area to sit and read. Jackie Plourde adds a lot to the library, and the computers are new and efficient. If I was picking a library job, I don’t think I would pick a school library, but I would pick one with this sort of feel to it. I wouldn’t work at one of those large libraries where the place is always busy and everyone has a dozen different people to report to. This library is quite a drive. It’s a pretty straight shot, but after the first week’s incident, making it to this library without error was likely just a fluke.