Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable? My first information literacy memory

First a little background: I grew up in small town Indiana. My mom is Hispanic; my dad white.

It’s the mid-1980s. I’m in the second grade. I remember this event like it was yesterday: It turned out to be my first inkling of “information literacy” – although too young to know it – and the term itself wasn’t emphasized until 1989.

This is what happened: My mom came to visit me at school. After she left, one of my classmates asked me in all seriousness:

Is your mom Mrs. Huxtable?

Yes, Claire Huxtable. The mom from 1980s hit The Cosby Show.

As a second grader, I couldn’t define the word askance, but that was the look I had on my face.

Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

Me: Where did you hear that?

Him: Nowhere. I just thought that.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Where did he get his information from? Why hasn’t he verified it?]

Me: You know that Mrs. Huxtable is just a character on The Cosby Show, right? She’s not a real person.

[Insert future librarian thinking: Why can’t he distinguish between fiction and real-life?]

Him: Oh.

Me: You also know that Mrs. Huxtable is African-American, right? My mom is Mexican.

[Insert future librarian thinking: I want to go grab the shiny new World Book Encyclopedia off of the shelf. Why isn’t he using prior knowledge as context? After all, I know he’s eaten at my aunt’s taco truck. Everyone in town knows it!]

Him: Oh. Ok.

Another classmate: “I heard your mom was Hawaiian.”

Me: [sigh]

Here’s my mom – mid-1980s (top) and Mrs. Huxtable, aka Phylicia Rashad (bottom). What do you think?

photo

Childhood Library Memories

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

So was I destined to become a librarian from the beginning? One of my earliest childhood memories is of the library. In my small Indiana hometown (and you know it’s a small town when the library website’s top link is to an ‘obituary index’!), the Garrett Public Library sponsored a “Tuesday Toddlers” program: story time with the children’s librarian. I was always mesmerized by her awesome felt-board shows (do they still do those? Or doesn’t that keep toddlers’ attention anymore?). A few years back, my parents were preparing to move into a new house. I was helping to clean up in the attic. There I found a much used, grubby looking book, Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. According to the due date card inside, I had checked it out in 1983. I hope becoming a librarian excuses me from the overdue fine. Or maybe becoming a librarian was my punishment? I kid! I kid!

In elementary school, the small Catholic school I attended had a library housed in a camper (true story!). Unfortunately, during a thunderstorm, it was struck by lightning. The resulting fire destroyed all of the books. However the teachers came up with an idea: to help build a new library collection, each student would donate a book on his/her birthday. It was fun to “check out” other students’ books. I also got a kick out of it years later when younger cousins who attended the same school would check out books I had “donated.”

Visiting with my Grandma Janice would usually involve a trip to her local public library. Her library, the beautiful Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana (here’s a pic I snapped on a visit last year), was exactly the type of library that I think most people picture in their minds: the old book smell, magazines, comfy chairs, wood paneling, large windows. My grandma was one of those people who always had something checked out from the library. I felt special when she would let me pick out a book and check it out with her library card. She spent a lot of time inside just browsing (usually looking for a book on the Kennedys). When the weather was nice, I would sit outside the entrance and read my books. Or sometimes I would go to the little park out back and read by the fountain.

Now lots of people can surely relay stories of “bad” childhood library experiences. I have only one. And it’s not that bad thinking back. When I was in 7th grade, I picked out a book at the public library and took it to the circulation desk. I was told that I couldn’t check it out because it was from the ‘adult’ section and you had to be at least 14. Really? As a 13-year old, I thought: “There’s nothing in that book that I haven’t seen on TV or heard my dad utter!”  The librarian told me I had to have my parents’ permission. So, I decided to show her! I only lived a block away, so I dragged my mom with me back over to the library. We marched up to the circulation desk. I told the librarian that I wanted to check out the book and I had my mom with me. “Are you going to let him check out that book?” the librarian snarled. My mom replied, “Well, I didn’t have my Wheel of Fortune interrupted for him not to…so check it out!” I got the book. And many more.

These libraries helped to educate me and entertain me. They set the stage for life-long learning. They are the public trust. Let’s keep ’em funded.

What are your childhood library memories?

Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN

My grandma’s library – Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN