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How to raise and develop a librarian

Published originally by InfoTecarios


This post emerges from a question that Julián Marquina made on Facebook: how to make his little daughter to understand the word “No”. After answering something, I realized that I have plently of experience as a mother, something around thirthy years, and that tumbling and not always spot-on I can give today some “instructions” on how to raise a librarian. Together with my experience as a mother, I have also collaborated in the formation of 21 generations of venezuelan librarians. This is why this post is inspired by Julián, to whom I thank and as a homage to my ex-students and my “favorite colleague”, Juan Daniel, with whom we have had agreements and disagreements and from whom I am very proued as a mother, as teacher and professional.

Intructions for before childbirth

For this period, it is very important that the mother works at a library. I am sorry if the fathers are feeling left out. In this case, the mother will no longer work alone but in company “from the inside”. It is something quite peculiar this feeling of being in company all the time, it is like you can take on the whole world. I was studying architecture and the need for having a job took me to the Library of the Faculty of Architecture. This is how we, Juan Daniel and I, discovered together the wonderful world of libraries. Not only attending the users, but also diving for the first time into cataloguing and classification. How was that possible? The director of the library, Carmencita Bigott, quite a character in the field, somehow saw our vocation towards library tasks. In the same way, Juan Daniel and I had our first experiences in academic libraries.

It also helps that the baby listen to short stories before birth, which can also develop since the infancy an affinity for writing, and the possibility to win literary contests. Related to this, a particular poem by Juan Daniel, “La lluvia” (The Rain) had the particularity that when read by him in public, it would turn any sunny day into rain. Although you may not believe this, it is also good to sing to them, in my case they were songs by Miguel Bosé, and yes, I admit it, I still like his music a lot. Sitting in the hospital bed, waiting for the time of childbirth, the two of us alone, singing: “te amaré, te amaré” (I will love you)…

The child has born, now to continue development…

I did not have anyone to take care of him, so from his first days of life he went with me to work in the library. In a long shift you have to divide time, between the carriage, a blanked in the middle of some books, or in the secretary’s lap. With the baby carriage we catalogued and classified, we sought for books and we put them back in the shelves. Some day, he was in the blanket when a professor came and he was in awe to see a baby, awaken and not making any noise. Of course, it is important to keep quiet in the libraries… Shhhhh! With the secretary, Juan Daniel wrote his first library cards. We made several tests and we could verify that the last thing he always did was to write a period (.), even when we asked him to keep writing.

In the first years it is very important to read for them everyday. Many, many short stories, every day, some days more than once. The child responds with surprise to each reading as if it were the first time. In this way, “Where is Spot?”, a short story about a mother dog searching for her cub all over the house, became quite an adventure. Books with records, in that age of vinyl, such as Winnie the Pooh: “I am not disguised as a cloud, I am not a very chubby bear” or similar, could be the first songs of your “librarian cubs”. In that moment even the music for children can be useful for the child to be creative, take a mic and roleplay the circus, etc., or running from one side to the other singing Don Diablo: “Ron con cocacola”…

The short stories that my father used to tell him were also helpful. I have no idea how they were, in my times they were of “Pepín y Don Paquito and Pastrafulata the witch”. Do not believe me, but it is also important to give your child a wall to paint, to let them tape “The Smurfs”, to draw and to write short stories. Before they learn to write we should perform the task of writing the text of their stories, while they narrate them out loud and illustrate them.

The last school years

It is for sure that, as mother, student, and professional you would need help to organize some library. If we remember that the boy could write library cards since he was a baby, now I could propose some business to him: while you classify, catalog and input the documents into the database, your son could -for an attractive fee- could write the labels and paste them on the books. We see graciously how our children come to tell us that a certain book should not be into classified within a certain number or with a certain cutter code. But that is how life is, we see with pleasure how our children learn day by day and we look forward for them to go beyond than us.

In high school

The library of the Faculty of Humanities was migrating their catalogs to a database when Juan Daniel was studying his last high school years. It was necessary to form a team to transcribe their collection in the holiday season. Given the fact that our boy had experience enough, he could be part of such team, integrated by professors and students from the School of Librarianship. This endeavor was a success and it was difficult to play to compete with him.

A difficult choice: to study librarianship

I do not recommend the academic aptitude tests conducted in high schools. Juan Daniel was as capable to be an engineer as a fashion designer, something that does not help a boy of 16 years old to choose his career. It is true that you should not interfere in those matters, it is overkill to say that he has “a certain affinity” with libraries, books, and writing. His poems are very good, he could have studied literature, but as I said in that opportunity, you have to live from something. I know, mothers are horrible!

So he entered the School of Librarianship occupying the 5th place in the admission test and I found him and a hundred more students in class. My usual question, ‘all those who did not want to study librarianship, please raise your hand’. More than half of the classroom, including Juan Daniel, raised their hands. Quite frankly, I told them that my wish in that moment was to escape, but that instead, I took on the challenge of developing very good librarians, with the same love as I towards the career. That semester was quite the challenge, my son was among those who did not want to do it…

Today many of them are information professionals, some have done postgraduate studies in the field or studied other careers. Many of my ex students show everyday that they are very good professionals. Some of them are dedicated to theater, fashion design or sales, I think that being librarians has been a good life experience for them, they are good people, they love reading and books. Juan Daniel has been one of my best students. I cheated, I was much more demanding with him than with his classmates, but I had to do it. The things had to be more difficult for him. Regardless, he chose to take the courses with his demanding teacher. In many occasions we had the chance to work together, an awesome team. But I also saw him grow as a professional, to work on his own and going to study in Europe.

As a manner of conclusion

Up until this point you would like to know the end of this story, but it is not over yet. Juan Daniel has a master and he is finishing his PhD. In some days he will reunite with his mother again, now in a new country, where many things might happen. That little thing who danced and sang, who told short stories and made circus functions is on my memory and in my heart. Today he is married, he offers courses and conferences, write books and loves his career. The merit is all his and I as his mother, happy and proud.

I hope that these “instructions” to raise and develop a librarian may be useful. Of course, they do not always work. In my case, I also have a daughter who is an illustrator, but it is not far from our field. Regardless, what is important is that they are good people.

Estela Mastromatteo @emastromatteo

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