My Many Hats, Literally

As librarians, we wear many hats. We are advisors, programmers, advertisers. We are educators and social workers. We don’t do any of these things in total, but they are a part of how we approach our jobs every day. However, that is way too figurative for this blog. It is about hats. Actual hats.

2I love hats. I wear them in general life, but I try to avoid them when I am on desk so that brims don’t cast shadows on my face. However, with Read Across America yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting classes while donning Cat in the Hat couture. I think that I often hold my head high, but yesterday it may have been even a degree higher.

I was nervous about going to a sixth grade class with the hat on, but school staff encouraged me to do so. It turned out wonderfully. Sure, I would not use puppets with this group. I did a non-fiction book and answered more reality-based questions with them than I usually do with younger kids. However, my hat wasn’t a problem at all. I think that me wearing it abashedly and unapologetically is what carried the most weight in terms of it not being a problem.

In fact, it was the opposite. As I was walking to the classroom of older students, younger students saw me in the hall. Everybody looked at me. Several smiled, and a few waved. It felt great.

5When we had our New Year’s Eve party, I wore a festive hat and posted a blog on The Kansas City Public Library’s Kid’s Page about how to create one at home. I discovered the design in one of our library craft books. On Pintrest, I found another easy craft hat—a “love bug.” In February, I subbed at a love-themed story time. Kids made their own love-bug hats at a story time with one boy even incorporating a mask into his.5b

When I was a little kid, there was a woman at synagogue who we called “The Frog Lady.” This wasn’t derogatory. It was because she wore frog-themed jewelry every week. We would count all of the frog rings, bracelets, pins, necklaces, and key chain. It was her trademark; and we loved how this game incorporated us kids into her obsession.

A big concept right now is HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out) as the way that teens learn. On a MacArthur grant, Mizuko Ito studied and coined this term YOUmedia Labs at Chicago Public Libraries. Geeking out is the phase of discovery where someone discovers a passion and goes crazy discovering more about it.

So, how does this apply to outreach? Maybe hats aren’t your thing, but embrace what is your thing. Bring it with you and use it amidst your community. This can mean bringing a rock collection with you and books about rocks when your geologically-minded self spends time in the community. It can mean that the animal-lover in you teams up with a pet-adoption site in your area to bring materials about pet care to the people you serve. If you love music, be sure to bring some of your CDs or downloadable tunes with you when you are out and about.

With her specially designed outfits, Miss Frizzle of Magic School Bus Fame was on to something. She served as a walking billboard for what she loved. So can we.

cropped-cropped-with-book-and-educator-site-2013.jpgAnna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for a decade in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. She and her boyfriend both rock fedoras. Her seven-year-old daughter’s obsession is giraffes, and a friend actually gifted her with a giraffe-hat that her mom crocheted.

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