The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

19 November 2015

Of things left behind

As a title, I think “Left behind” is fabulous.  As a theology it makes me giggle just a little bit because when I was younger and foolisher I used to say that I should have a hard hat with me at all times, ‘cause what if I happened to be under a bridge when the rapture happened? Of course, with that sort of attitude, I’d be more likely to be left behind myself than taken up into heaven, so the point is moo, as Joey Tribbiani would say.

Anyway.  I am currently at work in a high school library. I have, for many more years than I care to admit to, been an elementary librarian.  Leaving aside my less than supportive opinion of contemporary education, elementary schools are a fun place to work. Lots of work and plenty of challenges of course, but being able to read to enraptured (haha!  See what I did there?)  little people is my idea of a terrific job. The days are filled with visiting classes, helping teachers figure out where to find the Robert Munsch books (hint: try “M” for “Munsch”), gathering books about recycling or the War of 1812 or monster trucks.

The high school library is an entirely different kettle of fish.  In fact, I would say it is so vastly different from elementary that we’re talking zebras instead of fish. Children do not come here with stars in their eyes to hear a wonderful story read by their favourite librarian in the world, ever. They come to hang out with their friends, talk loudly with their loud voices, watch Youtube, or eat while “studying”. They come in droves and herds. When I remind them they’re not to eat or shout, or lay prone on the sofa, they typically begin a defence with, “But I’m just…” There is very little reading or studying on their behalf, and very little librarianing on mine. For the first two weeks I found this quite daunting. What is a librarian to do if there is nothing to MARC code, no barcodes to apply, no readers to advise? Instead of Tess the Librarian, I am Tess the Library Cop.

Teenagers are interesting specimens of humanity. They are wonderfully passionate about the things they are passionate about. They are busy exploring who they are as people, and each has a different approach to becoming that person.  They are far too busy doing all of that to remember anything else, such as to not eat in the library, or to take their personal effects with them when they leave.

Which brings us to “Things Left Behind”.  Our school day is divided into four class periods and two lunch periods. At the end of each one, I do a round of the library to tuck in chairs, pick up wrappers from the “But I’m just gonna leave it in my bag, I won’t eat it” food, and gather together the items that have been forgotten, and put them in what I call The Left Behind Box.

Here is a sample of what I have found: lip gloss, lunch bags both depleted and stocked, water bottles, text books, binders, musical instruments. I kid you not… even now there sits, in the Left Behind Box, a flute. My question is this: how does a student who has math class each and every day not clue into the fact that he is lacking his math binder? Or the person who left behind her history text not think to check the library – the very last place she probably opened the book – when she realizes it’s been a week and she still doesn’t have it with her?

Teenagers seem to shed pens and pencils like so much dandelion fluff. I have a box set aside solely for writing implements I collect after each class. Somehow, by the end of the day the box is empty again, because I just as quickly give them out to other students who have forgotten to bring a pen or pencil with them.

I must have been the same as a teen myself, though I find it difficult to believe, being just German enough that efficiency and organization are creeds I hold most fervently to. Also, my love of stationery forbids me to use any old pen (not that I’m a snob about it. A pen need not be expensive, merely be of  good heft, the right colour, and not blot.)

My mind is another matter, however. That, I frequently leave behind.


  1. I always like it when people quote Joey Tribbiani as it is easier for me to identify with those on my own level. And I have to admit, I have fond memories of high school and the library. Her name was Debbie. Unfortunately for me, she actually studied.

    P.S. Nothing worse than a pen that blots.

    1. I feel a great fondness for Debbie, who studied, and got you to enter the library. Supposably that is what they are for.