Sunday Reflections: Saying Goodbye to My Book Club Minions
I’m down to the last few days at the library. In a few weeks, we move 90 miles away to just outside of St. Paul. I’ve been ready to move for a long time. A looooong time. But as ready as I am to go, I’m not ready—not even a little bit—to leave behind my library minions.
In 2010, after a few years of being home with my son, Callum, I decided I was ready to go back to work. I’d been a children’s librarian before staying home, and really wanted to get back into a library. When a position opened up for a media para at the high school closest to my house, I applied. I was thrilled to find out, once I started working, that I got to do pretty much all of the librarian things. I got to order books, create displays, weed books, help teachers, do book talks and library tours, and check books in and out. I was pretty much left alone (my favorite way to work) and loved getting to be around teenagers all day. Before long, word got out that I actually read YA, knew how to recommend books, and that I respected teenagers. At first, it was just a few kids who hung around all the time (shout-out to Naimo, Nimo, D’Shawn, and Ryuda). But before long, my desk with thronged with teenagers hanging out all day. I ended up working at that library for three years. Most of my day was spent with teenagers hanging around and chatting with me, trading book recs, and listening to problems. I loved every minute of it.
Then my dad was killed in a car accident. And I spent 11 months as the executor of an incredibly messy, contentious estate. And I was in a constant state of verge-of-nervous-breakdown. I was so grateful for the teenagers distracting me all day long, but the endless work of settling the estate was so much. Too much. And, of course, there was the whole “holy crap, life is fleeting” thing that happens. And while I adored my library minions, that adoration was not enough to keep me at the school I was at. So I quit. I wanted to spend more time with my kid. I didn’t want him to go to daycare every day after school. I didn’t want to come home from work grumbling about the increasing irritations of my workplace. I had gone as long as I could saying to myself, “But I stay at this job for the kids. I’m needed here.” It wasn’t enough anymore.
I wasn’t entirely abandoning my minions. My second year at the high school, I had worked with some of the public librarians to start a teen advisory board at the downtown library. For a very long time, that board consisted solely of kids from my high school. It grew to include teens and young adults from other area schools, and to include homeschooled kids, and unschooled kids. It was diverse, inspiring, and a great way for me to stay in touch with everyone. Also there was Facebook. And texting. And meeting up for coffee. It wasn’t the same, but it was something.
After two years at home, I got antsy to be in a library again. While I was home, I’d certainly kept busy. I wrote for VOYA, SLJ, and The Horn Book. I started working for Teen Librarian Toolbox. I did lots of random freelance stuff, the biggest project of which was writing supplemental curriculum material for a textbook company (sounds boring, but it totally was not). I wrote a novel. And revised it. And revised it again. And once more.
So when a long-term sub job opened up at the public library, and that job also involved getting to do all the teen programming, I jumped on it. I liked the people who would be my supervisors, having worked with them on the teen advisory board. I liked the other staff. I loved the library. The added bonus of my job was getting to see so many familiar faces from the high school—kids who were never part of my clubs or boards but had been frequent visitors to me at the high school library. They’d hug me, update me on their lives, remember our little inside jokes. And those minions, my core group? Most were now in college, but they remained loyal TAB and book club members. The best few hours of my month were the ones I got to spend listening to their brilliance.
Over the years, I have shared bits and pieces of my teens’ insights here on TLT and on Twitter. If you have missed these posts, I highly suggest checking them out. Those teens have lots of smart things to say. We had a fantastically deep and important discussion about sexual violence in YA literature. We talked about mental health in YA literature. We’ve talked about their likes and dislikes in YA. We talked about school violence. Both Abby and Rose have guest posted for TLT. These kids are all smart and unique and I can’t wait to see what wonderful things everyone goes on to do.
For 6 years it has been my absolute honor to watch these young adults grow, learn, and lead. I’ve written scholarship letters, college recommendations, served as job references, had them babysit Callum, gone out to endless meals with them, heard relationship woes, offered up advice, and been their friend—and they’ve been mine. We’ve shared laughs, tears, and incredibly deep and personal conversations. I feel so lucky that they’ve let me into their lives and kept me around all these years. Books have given me so many things. They’ve given me not only entertainment and enjoyment, but bigger things. They’ve given me my education, my career, and my husband (there are worse places to meet your partner than working together at a bookstore). Books also gave me these wonderful teenagers.
They have treated me as their friend and confidant and have been more meaningful to me than any part of any job ever has. I’m so, so grateful for all of you, my library minions, and won’t ever forget the impact you’ve had on my life. Saido, Khadija, Amiro, Anna, Abby, Ashleigh, Ryuda, Emada, Ekran, Fadumo, Ashley, Asiya, Amina, Rose, Sequoia—you’ve made me a better person. Thank you for sharing your lives with me. I am immeasurably thankful to have gotten to know you.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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