My first job after receiving my Master of Science in Library Science was as a Children’s Librarian in a branch of the Rochester (NY) Public Library. Each branch had three librarians—adult, young adult, children’s—one of them also the Branch Head, plus pages (teenagers who shelved books) and a janitor. My branch was located in a neighborhood of lower income families (not poor) and hippies. If we had been a poor neighborhood where homes did not have PBS, we would have been assigned a television for the purpose of giving the children access to Sesame Street. This being the show’s first year of production, RPL had high hopes the show would raise the literacy of impoverished children.
Though we did not have a TV for our clientele, we, as well as every library in the system, had a 16mm film projector for showing movies borrowed from the main library’s huge collection. I usually used one short movie based upon a picture book (produced by Weston Woods) in my weekly preschool storyhours, and I also prepared a Friday after school movie program for elementary children with an hour of art or literature films for their age such as “The Red Balloon” and “Paddle-to-the-Sea.”
At least one librarian had to be on duty when the library was open from 10am to 9pm, so we always had two or three librarians every afternoon, with one or two working mornings, and only one evenings. Plus the library was open Saturdays. The Saturday person worked only one evening that week, while the other two librarians each worked two evenings. Halloween that year fell on a Friday, and I was assigned to work that evening.
I doubt I had much of an attendance for my Friday afternoon movies on Halloween afternoon, though the movies were related to Halloween in some way. The library was dead quiet that evening. Until. . . a group of rowdy teenagers came in—maybe ten of them is my memory. Of course, they were looking for a howling good time. They flitted here and there and everywhere, noisy, and definitely NOT exhibiting their library manners, let alone not interested in the library for it intended uses. They wanted some mischief to liven up their Halloween, so I came up with a haunting idea before they started tossing books through the air or sending chairs like missiles across the room.
When asked if they would like to see some movies, and they were OK with that. I suggested they pull up the chairs in the area used for viewing while I rolled out the projector, set up the screen, and gave them the cauldron of Halloween candy I had brought for any Trick or Treaters that might come along. They settled down, enjoyed the movies for the full hour, and began treating me as a friend. I was only 22, not much older than they. At closing time, they were ready to leave.
Whew! God helped me pull that one off! I was grateful I did not have to call the cops to assist them in vacating the premises.
Monday came. After school, my new friends came to the library! They sat ON my desk and expected I would be delighted to chat away my afternoon with them. They kept returning day after day. They were OK kids, and I felt I was a good influence on them, yet I had a job to do and I was neither educationally nor socially prepared to be a social worker for them. Our young adult librarian, who was our Branch Head, saw their daily attendance as inappropriate. Being unsure how to handle the situation, she called in professional help.
A social worker, who knew these kids from a local recreation facility, came to talk to us. He, in his blue jeans and T-shirt, explained these kids had never met a woman who dressed and spoke professionally and would be drawn to me as I accepted them as they were. It has stuck in my mind that he said they likely come home from school each day to find a different strange man in bed with their mother. Wow! This was totally out of the realm of comprehension for a naive, religious girl!
He offered to speak with the kids explaining I had work I needed to accomplish and the library, though not a hangout place, welcomed them to use the library or seek homework help at any time.
I felt sad the kids were chased away from the library, yet grateful I had prevented them from causing any trouble on Halloween night!