Pandemic Librarian Life, The Book Wagon, and Running for Local Office
Wow, it’s been a bit since I updated this. My last entry, titled “We Need to Talk About Race,” was posted on May 12, just two weeks before George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter protests erupted all across the country. Saying that a lot has happened since then is quite an understatement.
The last few weeks of May, I wrapped up the weirdest year of my teaching career, filled with online story times, book talks, and virtual book clubs. My colleagues continue to amaze me, and I’m so proud to work alongside them. I love my students and our families and the support that was felt throughout our community. The longer we were at home, the more I found myself worrying about kids and a lack of access to books. My students come to our school library every week to check out new reading materials, and suddenly that was taken from them. Plus with most public libraries being closed completely at first, and then materials needing to be quarantined before returning to circulation, a lot of families had limited access to a community resource that they depended on.
So it became my driving passion to give away books to kids… and OH BOY did we give away some books. My family and I started what since we’ve lovingly dubbed “The Book Wagon,” literally walking around with a wagon and delivering books to neighbors. This quickly expanded to anyone in the Chicago area within driving distance who requested books, and I even dropped some packages in the mail for out-of-town friends.
We also began attending Black Lives Matters protests and rallies, bringing our trusty red wagon along and giving away books by Black authors and illustrators to attendees. Our book wagon even made it into School Library Journal, which was pretty exciting for this nerdy librarian!
All in all, our family gave away over 700 books to young readers during the months of May, June, and July. We personally funded these initial giveaways, but I just found out that we received a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to fund future giveaways. So stay tuned… the Book Wagon will be back in business next year!!
In September, I teamed up with a local nonprofit It Could Be Your Kid for a book giveaway event, celebrating Black authors and providing books to children in low-income communities. I helped with fundraising during the planning stages, and then I was responsible for selecting and organizing the inventory of books. I had so much fun picking out my favorite books that celebrate Black joy, and I loved seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces. Truly a beautiful thing. ICBYK gave away over 400 books at this event, as well as backpacks and school supplies, and I was honored to be a part of it. I learned A LOT from organizing an event of this scale, and by shopping across various marketplaces, I was able to provide 1000 brand new books for ICBYK for less than $2700!! If I can assist your organization in this same way, please let me know. I don't consider myself an expert on many topics, but I DO know books, and now that I've figured out how to get the best deals, I'm happy to share my secrets for a good cause.
Now, after the shortest and strangest summer yet, we’re back in school. My district has returned to full-time in-person teaching, with about 20% of our families opting for remote learning. It has been challenging to say the least, but we’re making it work for now with only a handful of positive cases so far. The libraries are closed to student browsing at this time, so I’ve been loading up a cart with hundreds of books and rolling it all over the school so that kids can check out reading materials. It’s been physically exhausting, and a heck of a hamstring workout (added bonus!) but it’s wonderful to see my students so excited about checking out books again.
Finally, I'm also embarking on a new and slightly terrifying adventure: running for local office! I’m working to get my name on the ballot in our upcoming April 2021 municipal election to run for Homer Township Library Board Trustee. Right now I’m collecting signatures on my candidate petition, so if you're a registered voter in the district and would be willing to sign, please let me know. I love and believe in the institution of public libraries, and I’ve been talking about getting involved in local politics for a few years now… and 2020 seems like the right time to turn that talk into action. Wish me luck!