On Saturday, I volunteered as a chaperone for my partner's after-school program's weekend field trip to the local library. The instructors, students, and parents were to meet up at the school and then walk over together -- maybe a 20-minute walk. Unfortunately, though 12 students (out of 19) in my partner's class turned in signed permission slips for the field trip, only 2 actually turned up. (And they were mistaken about the time, arrived an hour early, and then met us at the library -- so we didn't know that they were coming until the end of the walk!) The program's site supervisor had estimated that 30 students would be involved... and we ended up with 3. Added to the 2 who met us at the library and someone's little sister (not in the program), that made a total of only 6 children, which was very disappointing.
The children's librarian gave our group a brief tour of the stacks in the children's section. She had pulled a selection of books appropriate for pre-readers, first-, and second-graders, which the students perused after storytime. The librarian read two stories: Beto and the Bone Dance and The Little Old
Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. Beto was the story of a little boy who celebrates Dia de los Muertos with his family in Mexico; the librarian explained briefly about the holiday and its traditions during the reading. The second story was an interactive one: children and adults both joined in with the sounds of the scary objects that confront the little old lady: boots that go clomp, clomp, hands that go clap, clap, and so forth. Storytime was enjoyable even with so few children. Afterward, parents and instructors helped the students find two books apiece, and then they checked them out using their new library cards. (The library had requested a list of the students' names beforehand, and issued cards for any student that wasn't yet in the system. Kindergarteners have their cards kept behind the desk by default, but can request to take them home. First- and second-graders are given their cards on a string to wear around their necks, and need to remember to bring them along when they visit the library.) I filled out my own application for a card in this district and checked out two children's books in Spanish to practice my language comprehension.
While children were checking out books and heading outside for snack, I chatted with the children's librarian, who said she'd been in her position for 15 years. Hearing that I was a library student, she warmed to her topic. She was discouraged by recent budget cuts, and concerned about a strange trend in management. Apparently, newly-hired children's librarians have been assigned branch manager duties as well in this district. Either focus would be sufficient for a full-time position, even for a seasoned librarian, but trying to juggle both seems like a tough situation to be in! She hoped that the public library would be sufficiently funded to hire new graduates in a few years. (So do I!)