I’ve interviewed a few bloggers and authors in celebration of School Library Month.
First up: Nathalie Mvondo of Multiculturalism Rocks! Nathalie is developing a wonderful, strong network devoted to diversity. She keeps us informed and she keeps us smiling! She provides a very interesting interview while providing insights into libraries in her Cameroon.
Thanks, Nathalie for Supporting School Libraries!
1. Librarians are people we either love or hate. Which was it with you and your librarian? Explain please!
This is a tricky question. In Cameroon, my elementary school couldn’t afford to have a library, so books, a rare treat, would circulate from hands to hands. Lending a book also meant saying “good bye” to it. My high school library was empty and closed all year long. So, my first warm memory is about the person at the front desk of the French Cultural Center in Douala. He was impossible to hate. We could borrow up to five books at once. A few times he forgave my voracity and let me get away with more.
Fast track to high school in France: the librarians were really kind, and helped me the most with thematic research related to newspapers. I am ashamed to say that I remember the books I read more than their names… :$
2. What is your strongest memory about your school library?
An escape and a safe place. Wood all over the place, the tables, the chairs and the shelves. The place was about 200 hundred years old (old school). I would pick a book after my class or during lunch break, would lose myself into a Dumas, Chester Himes or Asimov, and lose track of time. All pain or fears would go away. A loud ring would remind me that it was time to leave, and I still remember vividly the screeching of the chair when I pulled it back to leave.
3. School libraries are changing a lot! What is one thing you think should never change?
Nothing against e-books, they hopefully save lots of trees; my first impulse was to answer “books in print.” I’m trying to be good and stick to the question, to give only one answer. ONE thing that should never change is a librarian in flesh and bone. He or she should never be replaced by a computer terminal. I remember some of my conversations with my high school librarians, and remember observing one in particular. They do not only advise about books, but they truly, really care about kids and listen to them. It is a detail that matters; teachers do not always have time to do so in between classes, things might not always be so great at home for kids, and the smile and kind words of the librarian sometimes makes all the difference int the world.
Thinking about libraries today
4. Should students be taught to use print encyclopedias and dictionaries?
I believe that learning to read and write should be coupled with learning how to use in print encyclopedias and dictionaries. Not all school libraries have the same budget, and in print material, especially if it has been donated, is often times more affordable than electronic material. I do not think that, despite the technological progress, kids should be encouraged to look down on print media, as if they are outdated.
5. Should students be fined for overdue books?
Yes. That is learning to be responsible, learning put into action. They should also know how to handle a book (i.e. return it in good shape: not tomato sauce from the pizza, no chewing from the dog and no ripped pages).
6. You’ve got enough money to buy three classroom sets of books to donate to a high school. What would they be?
I would make sure that cultural diversity is represented in the sets of books, as well as some of the so-called banned books dealing with controversial topics. Classics are a given. Books offer a platform to talk about all facets of life.
My set of books would include:
–Eight Grade Super Zero, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. The setting (high school) and the subject matter (social issues and bully-ism), the humorous writing makes this book a perfect pick for teenagers.
-Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
-Fat Hoochie Prom Queen, by Nico Medina. It’s about popularity contest, drunken parties, gayness and more high school related topics. The book es excellently written and Margarita, the main character, memorable.
-A big fat encyclopedia
-An equally fat English dictionary, and several bilingual dictionaries: English- Spanish, English-Mandarin, etc… according the languages taught in the school and the population.
7. Complete the following: “Every school library should have culturally diverse books. ”
As obvious as it seems: some school librarians barely have enough books. They need books.
It is enriching for a child to see his/her culture accurately represented in a book (as opposed to stereotyping characterizations), and fun and enriching to be exposed to something bigger than his/her cultural world as well.