“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
I’m sure you have heard the expression that when one door closes in our lives, another door opens. That has been the case so often in my life. Today a door closed and I am curious to see the next door that opens. Today I turned out the lights and shut the door one last time at the Rosa Guerrero Elementary School Library where I have been a part-time librarian sub since October. To be perfectly honest, the door at Rosa Guerrero only opened after the door to the H.R. Moye Elementary library closed when I retired (most reluctantly) in December 2013. I have never written about why I retired, other than to say I had to have cervical spine surgery and I was first eligible to retire at Christmas that year. But my neck surgery was only a part of the reason I retired. It’s the other part that I don’t like to talk about, can’t really talk about without crying and I am not sure I am really ready to talk about it now. So, I am going to begin this post with my first days at Guerrero and see how things go. I may have to wait for another day to get into all of the other details of my retirement but let me say that the El Paso Independent School District has struggled for years under the questionable leadership? of now convicted and indicted criminals. In December, 2013 those criminals were just beginning to be identified and rounded up and the school where I worked was under ethically and morally-void administration.
It is now Thursday. I started this last night and just couldn’t seem to write what I was thinking and feeling. Not sure today will be better but I am feeling more optimistic, so let’s give ‘er a-go.
When I started working as a librarian sub at Guerrero, school had been underway for about a month. The librarian had experienced a tremendous and very sudden loss and retired without a moment’s notice. Totally understandable. She had suffered the death of a child (this one a young adult), her second child to die in a half-dozen years. For about two months, I shared the long-term sub job with a friend and colleague, each of us working two and a half days a week. Right before Christmas, Lori decided it was best if she gave up subbing to return to being a stay-at-home mommy. Because I am retired (and had subbed in a classroom within my first 12 months of retirement), I was unable to work full-time or I would have jumped on this opportunity. The Texas Retirement System states that one cannot return to full-time employment with another TRS entity after retirement unless remain unemployed for one calendar year. I subbed one day in October before my calendar year was completed. So I was ineligible to work full-time. I continued working my two and a half days.
The librarian at Guerrero had been there since shortly after the school opened in 1992-1993. It had become her home away from home, and as is the case with most of us in our jobs, Mary had become comfortable and well settled into her library. When she walked out, she did just that. And after about 23 years, she had collected quite a number of items and had a system in place that worked for her. But the library needed a little TLC and housekeeping. Lori had worked hard getting boxes of books opened and organized, opening the library for classes to visit but there was much yet to be done. Here is a picture I took in October a day or two after I started.
In the foreground, sitting on the circulation desk, I had piled several hundred posters of all shapes and sizes that had been stored in a cabinet in the back office. If you look carefully at the shelves, they are literally packed with books. So much so it was impossible to shelve books that were returned. In almost every section of the nonfiction collection the shelves were so full, I couldn’t put another book on them. And this was after the children had been coming to the library for at least a month so some of the books were checked out. On the shelves at the right in the photo, we had removed several sets of old encyclopedias – some almost 30 years old. Think what has changed in this world in the last 30 years.
In December, my former library assistant from Moye, Lorena, had moved back to El Paso from where she had been living in Idaho. She was hired by the principal at Guerrero to work the days opposite me. It felt like old home week, except we rarely saw each other, except on Wednesdays when I was going and she was coming. Like two ships passing in the night.
Over the next few months, I would withdraw close to 10,000 items from the library collection. I used The Crew method as my guidelines for evaluating and weeding the collection – removing books whose information was out-of-date/irrelevant, books that had not circulated in six years, books in disrepair. The school received an $11,000 capital replacement fund grant from the state to update the print materials and the wonderful Guerrero principal roughly matched that amount to ensure that I was able to create a more current collection. The average age of the collection went from 2001 to 2005, with some areas in the nonfiction section averaging a copyright date of 2006 and even 2008.
As I shelved books, I also weeded. The books on the very top shelf are the ones I have pulled from the fiction section to be removed from the library.
Removing the old, seldom used, out of date materials left room for the exciting new books to be seen and more easily accessed. There were also bins and shelves and crates of paperback books everywhere. Sometimes four and five copies of the same title. Some of the books were in the database and some were not. But trying to find a particular title was nearly impossible without looking through all of the little containers.
Yesterday, when I turned out the light and closed the door to the Rosa Guerrero Elementary School library one last time, I did so with tears in my eyes but also with a sense of pride at what I was able to accomplish while I was there. Here are a few before and after pictures.
This was the audio visual area behind the circulation desk. Hundreds of old VHS tapes mixed in with DVDs. Scores of old magazines, including about three decades of National Geographic from last century.
Off of the circulation area is a small back office that was absolutely full of stuff…three twirling racks of CD and book kits, two large carts each with a TV, DVD and VHS player, shelves of unprocessed books, boxes of more books, three typewriters, an old opaque projector, overhead projectors. I couldn’t easily walk through it all.
In the picture book section, there was a large screen TV that didn’t work, some large and very dusty stuffed animals, and a paper backdrop covering a large bulletin board.
I had taken my bulletin boards down yesterday when I snapped this picture but during the year, I had this large board divided into four smaller areas with different fabric backgrounds, borders and themes. The large letters on the wall are just propped up there for now but will be adhered this summer to indicate the different sections of the library. Is it just me or does this space seem larger, more open?
Here’s the board subdivided.
These are pictures of the library space as a whole. I just feel so good about the work I did here. I feel like the library is updated and the collection is current. The cobwebs have been swept out and everything looks neat and organized.
It is ready for a shiny new librarian to start work there in August.
As I shut the door behind me, I thought of the day I left my library at H.R. Moye. I had opened that school library, ordered and purchased everything in it and probably felt toward it as I think the Guerrero librarian probably felt about her library. It felt like my second home.
In October 2013, I began losing my voice and having a lot of pain in my neck. At first, I thought it was stress. Our campus was very troubled and the administrator who had been hired to oversee the school had been removed from administrative positions in two other area school districts before being hired by my silly district. Our school’s state test scores had sunk to the bottom five out of close to 70 district elementary campuses. Morale was horrible. District and state educational policies were being ignored with great abandon. The faculty and staff tried time and again to get someone (inside the district and out) to help our school but no one would listen. All of this while the district itself had been taken over by the state education agency for mismanagement. Then superintendent Lorenzo Garcia was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for creating and implementing a state standardized test cheating scheme across the district. He has since served prison time. In recent weeks, five additional administrators have been indicted and yesterday, two more. One of those arrested yesterday was the very person our faculty asked help of for our campus. The whole thing has broken my heart. Read more here.
So not only did I have the kind of pain in my neck from stress, insomnia and worry but the disks in my cervical spine has collapsed. And when I learned that I would need surgery, I felt that retirement was my only option. My administrator would never have worked with me to allow me to remain on staff despite not being able to talk. Without telling anyone but family, I put in for retirement. I didn’t tell the students or teachers until the very end and didn’t go into school my last day on duty to avoid the inevitable tears.
These are pictures I took that last day at Moye.
The pictures on the wall above the shelves were backdrops I drew in pastel for the reading TV show I used to do for the district.
My mother made these curtains. This was a little “store” I had where the children could buy items with points they earned from reading books. These babies were very poor and would spend their reading points to buy crayons, shampoo, tooth brushes. My sweet Moye babies. Thankfully, that administrator was finally removed from Moye. Sadly she was placed at another campus.
So, when I closed the door to the Moye library that last day in December 2013, I didn’t know how sad I would be as an old retired librarian. How lost. And then I started blogging to fill my time, to try to rediscover this new (retired) me. And that’s when another door opened. The door to the Guerrero library. And yesterday that door closed. I cried when I left. When I said goodbye to the principal’s secretary and the principal – she is everything an administrator should be, EPISD at its best. I had a beer last night and pondered this post but set it aside.
Today I woke up smiling and wondering ‘what’s next for me?’ What door will open now?
Hugs and kisses,