The name we give to something shapes our attitude toward it.
This is a true story for someone somewhere:
Ms. Teacher Librarian checks her box at school for the usual overflowing mail–catalogs, advertisements, magazine subscriptions, returned books, reminders, and more–all the typical school generated mail. More than three quarters of it goes shamefully in the trash with a mental note to contact vendors and tell them “we shop online” or “we will request a catalog if we want one.” The wretched waste of paper is gluttonous and sends pangs of guilt through Ms. Teacher Librarian’s heart.
A trend begins
School has been in for three weeks or so now, and suddeny Mrs. Teacher Librarian notices a trend in the mail. Roughly half of the contents of the mailbox is in the wrong box. No wonder that box is overflowing each day! So Ms. Teacher Librarian tracks back to where those teacher mailboxes are to locate the right box for the misguided mail. As she guessed, there is little to no mail in the intended box. But surprise, surprise! It is no where near Ms. Teacher Librarian’s box. Of course Ms. Teacher Librarian thought it would be immediately above or below hers. How else would the same misplaced mail keep getting in her box?
No, that mailbox was clear across the way from the library box. But an idea took root. The misplaced mail belonged to the school bookkeeper. So Ms. Librarian waited for the time of day when mail was sorted and placed in boxes. The high school service learning students handily sorted and began placing that mail, easily accomplishing their assigned task for service learning. Ms. Teacher Librarian waited patiently to check her own hypothesis. CHECK! The service learning students put all mail labeled Library, Media Center, and Bookkeeper in the library mailbox.
What’s in a name?
The students were questioned, and sure enough, they had it all wrong. They had supposed since the library had books, and there is a security system in place, then surely the library is also known as the “bookkeeper.” So the students diligently sorted the mail and included what they thought appeared to be mail intended for the library in the box for the library. Upon further investigation, they exclaimed, no other group in the building had different titles. So it wasn’t too far-fetched to believe that the library was also a “bookkeeper.”
While this story is fictitious for the most part, a sliver of it is based on real facts. Our service learners who sorted our mail were indeed giving us the Bookkeeper’s mail. What is good about this? These students recognize that those who work in the library are known by multiple names and for varied purposes. What is a drawback? A small segment of the student body might also see us as those who “keep” books. It shows we in the library have quite a ways to go to reinvent ourselves and become known as even more than librarian, media specialist, or bookkeeper. Sigh. The gauntlet has been thrown, and there is work to be done. Let the reinventing begin.
Image: ‘Facing Foreclosure with A Sea of Mail‘