Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Apology Letter to Mrs. Chamberlin, Grade School Librarian

June 28, 2016

Dear Mrs. Chamberlin,

I am so sorry.

I'm sure there were reasons, possibly extenuating circumstances, but that's not an excuse. I do know that once I left my book outside on the patio and it rained, and we paid for that one, but I bet you had to send numerous notes home, and that wasn't right. I should have been more responsible and taken better care of my library book, but I didn't. And I should have brought you the money right away but I bet it took at least a few weeks. Before email I am certain there were notes lost, notes not delivered, notes purposely misplaced in hopes of finding the book. I know you had more important things to do than chase down an irresponsible child who had ruined a library book.

Maybe you don't remember, and quite possibly I shouldn't bring this up, but let me also apologize for routinely finding books that were not really appropriate for my grade or reading level. You know that shelf, the one that was directly across from the biography section? I loved those books, and I now realize that those books were there for children in the upper grades, and I should have waited until at least fifth grade to ask to check them out. Do you remember the time I found the book about the women suffragists; it had a black and white photograph of four women holding placards on the front, and I ran around the library showing everyone my amazing find? I think I may have been a little disruptive because you took that book away from me and stashed it behind the desk with Mrs. Osborn. I also have vague memories of sitting quietly alone for a good period of time following the suffragist book incident. I'm sorry.

I'm not making excuses here but I'm wondering if you still have those carrels, the ones that were on the floor and kind of comfortable? I ask because I know that more than once you had to remind me (and I'd guess Jim L.) to be quiet when we were in those carrels. Here's the thing, we were reading, but we were also talking, about the books. Have you read "Henry and Ribsy"? That's funny stuff. Wasn't there a story about Ribsy trying to save the garbage because he thought it was Henry's? Can you blame us for laughing? Yes, I'm certain we were too loud and I'm sorry. I bet Jim is also. You shouldn't have had to ask so many times, but you know, maybe had I been reading that suffragist book...no, we would have still found something to make us laugh.

A few years ago I found all my old report cards; my mother was holding on to them for this exact reason. Attached to my third grade report card was a receipt, signed by you, for $6.00: lost book replacement cost, received of Allyson Lang. I saved it, made a copy, and hung it on the door to the library where I now work. It's a reminder to our students that everyone looses books and that no one should feel terrible about it, accidents happen. Between you and me, accidents happen far too frequently. There are some students who make a genuine mistake (say leaving a book on the back patio when it rains) and they feel terrible about it. But there are many who say things like "I never checked that book out" or "I already returned that book" or the absolute worst, "my mom forgot to return that". Mrs. Chamberlin! Did their mother check out that book?

Libraries are such an amazing way to teach children about sharing and community and responsibility. Imagine, you allowed me to take home a book every week of my grade school life, and you trusted that I would return that book in the same condition. I know I let you down but I'm grateful that you allowed me to pay for the book and continue to check out for the next three years. Mistakes happen, thanks for understanding that.

I hope you enjoyed your job, running around in those burgundy pantsuits and pixie haircuts, trying to maintain order in that sprawling suburban school library. It was my favorite time of the week, not just because I read funny books with Jim in the carrels, but because I loved finding books in the library that I was genuinely excited to read. Did you know that I read every biography of a first lady in the library? Every one. Abigail Adams was my favorite, still is, followed closely by Eleanor Roosevelt. On the table next to my bed is the new biography of Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy. I'll finish it this summer, and I bet I'll think of you and the tall shelf in the far corner, where you kept your biographies, when I do.

My apologies for all the time you spent chasing after me and my books. I'd like to say it was childhood exuberance, and that may have been a factor, but there was also childhood irresponsibility in play. I should have returned my books on time and paid quickly for those left in the rain, I've learned my lesson.

Thanks Mrs. Chamberlin, I really loved library.

Your former student,

Allyson Lang

1 comment:

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I love this post. So much.

I probably think an unnatural amount about the first librarian I knew. ;)

I was scared speechless of Mrs. W. She instilled the fear in me as a first grader, the wrath that would fall if we lost a book. That was a lot of pressure on a six-year old! I remember crying because we had to go to the library. I was so afraid I'd get in trouble for forgetting a book!


Thank goodness our girls are having a wonderful experience in the library these days. Definitely a 180 from my early elementary days. :)

I LOVE that you still have the receipt from your transgression! Priceless!!!


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