A First-timer at CLEL

As a fairly new children’s librarian, I had no idea what to expect at CLEL, let alone how it would benefit me. It was an all-around wonderful and informative conference, and my positive experiences throughout the day have guaranteed my attendance next year. As it turns out, though, the most valuable and constructive class I attended was not about how to include aspects of science into a children’s program, or how to transition between a movement activity and a sit-down read-aloud during storytime. Don’t get me wrong, these classes were incredibly useful in their own ways. However, I found the session about failure to be the one that really had a lasting impact on my memory.

Let’s face it, we all have dealt with “fails,” both massive and minute, at some point in our library careers. Even though I am still at the beginning of my career, I, for one, know that I have experienced many “fails”: programs that had zero attendance, complete toddler chaos during storytime, crafts that didn’t turn out to be at all what I had intended them to be, and an overabundance of exploding paint, broken furniture, and shattered (yes, shattered!) glass.

Yet behind all of the stories, laughs, and cringe-worthy anecdotes we shared, was the very profound lesson that failure (or failures in my case) can lead to some pretty worthwhile discoveries. How else would we know never to use old glass jars when making colonial-style butter than to have one shatter in my hands, flinging curdled dairy product everywhere? Or how about not to base an entire storytime around the number “12” when a majority of your audience cannot count beyond the number “3.”

Sharing and experiencing these vulnerable moments also led to a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork. There is no denying it: we are all very much “in the same boat” in all of these instances, accidents, and embarrassing moments. We have all been through them. All of us. Yet every single one of us made it through, not only to see another bright day in libraryland, but also to support one another, to let each other know we are not alone, and to proudly have the ability to say, “let me offer you this piece of advice because I have definitely been down this road before!” And, in the end, those that we do all of this for – the kids – still come to see us with giant smiles and infectious laughter, despite (or maybe because of?) our many, many, many failures. After all, one of the greatest lessons we can teach these kids is that we are all human, and thus imperfect, and we will all encounter failures. We just need to get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep reading, singing, crafting, and, above all, learning!