Do your students know you have a life? Do they know you have a life OUTSIDE the library? If you are working with middle and high school students, they should know that you have an online life, perhaps even a Second Life (SL). Steven M. Cohen and Walt Crawford discussed Second Life recently. Steven urged librarians to be ahead of the curve, even when your users aren't. Walt looks at the statistics and says not to be intimidated at the suggestion that Second Life is where our users are. The learning curve is steep but there is value and I anticipate more online meetings will be held for librarians to explore. The ALA Washington Office has a place in Second Life and recently held a session on Participatory Culture. Since I am fairly new to SL, I had to IM for help within the program to learn everything about navigating, including the fact that when you enter a meeting, you should sit down.
Related Book Titles To Show You're Human:
Arthur's Teacher Moves In
My Teacher Sleeps in School
Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10
First Day Jitters
My Teacher's My Friend
The Secrets of Ms Snickle's Class
Do you have a visible online place for your students? If not, that's fine and you are probably being very safe. But if you do have an online life where you want students to find resources and be able to contact you for help, please market it. If you staff an online reference area, please let them know. Students aren't going to come looking for you when it's convenient for you, they will be needing you the evening before the big senior project is due.
My elementary students are not in SL, but they are heavily involved in the community. I need to be seen in their places so they can see I do understand their reality. Yesterday when a child was looking at the opening in my desk where cords come up, one of the students called out, "Hey! There's real stuff like food in this desk!" They started to take an inventory of what they could see. I asked, "Do you see my pillow in there?" They started looking excitedly while one second grader looked at them in disgust and said, "Mrs. Chen doesn't live here in the library. She has a L-I-F-E!" They started listing all the places in the community where they have seen me including restaurants, retail stores, public libraries, movie theatres, video stores, electronic stores, bookstores, sports stores, soccer games, hockey games, concerts, grocery stores, Hot Topic, the hospital, and church. By the time they finished, they had decided I was a real person, but that I eat out too often.
Are you everywhere you need to be? Do you take the time to pop into stores where you know your students' families shop just so you can meet those parents who never come to school? I know that there are times when the last thing you want it is to meet all your students' parents. For three years my #3 son refused to dine in public with me in the community where I teach because he was tired of people spending their meal telling their parents that I was their librarian. He even told one child, "No, she's not, she's my mom on Sundays." Have you made yourself human?
Some of my best experiences have been at Hot Topic and at Best Buy. Having four teenage boys I'm there looking at what my children really want vs. what I'm going to have in my house. Most of the time they win because I do try to parent without over censureship, but I make sure they know that I know what they are doing. Former students find me in these stores and pronounce me today's equivalent of cool and with-it.
I don't have to play Dance Dance Revolution DDR or Guitar Revolution, but I do have to know what the most popular games are that my students and former students are fascinated with. Last night I saw 15 high school boys excitedly grouped around Guitar Revolution watching two friends compete. Even when they own it at home, there is something exciting about performing in public at the video store. This is their choice for hanging out on a Friday night. I applaud those libraries that are meeting students where their interests are and hosting events like DDR.
Just being there can raise your standing among your students. Go out this weekend and be visible where your students are. Try a technique I use each summer. Visit all the branch public libraries where you might find your students. When you catch them there, have them sign your library log and hand out a sticker or a treat. I have seen in high schools the photos of students "Caught Reading." Make your library a "cool" place to be and reading a "cool" activitiy.