Avocado Is to Stainless Steel as School Library Is to…

Well, here we go again. Your humble Upper Grades Exchange host has a memory to share. It is a memory that comes from a time when “avocado” was a color found on kitchen appliances and not a food item essential for delicious, home-cooked Mexican dinners. I’m talking about the 1970s, when “avocado” was to kitchens then what “stainless steel” is today. What we geezers call “the good ol’ days.”

Anyway, it was the early 1970s. Corduroy and polyester, wide-collars, and bell-bottoms were de rigueur. It goes without saying that telephones had to be connected to walls by thick cords and you had to wait a week to see how the photos you’d snapped would come out. After school, we played with toys. Outside. Pong had not been invented yet.

Are you with me? Did someone forget their ticket to the Wayback Machine again?

Yours truly was a second grader at Chapman Elementary School in Cheshire, Connecticut. One of the most exciting things we did early in that year was help carry the books out of the old library down into the new library space in the school’s expansive basement. The old library was the epitome of uncool: a glorified classroom; small and second-rate. The new library was the epitome of the future, with interesting lighting, student-friendly reading spaces, high-tech microfilm readers(!), horizontal filing cabinets from the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Beanbag chairs!

All the classes in the school helped carry books from one location to another, following the colorful cardstock footprints that were taped to the floor. We marched and remained organized with a conviction that would have made Melvil Dewey smile placidly. It did make our school librarian and her assistants very proud!

Yes, I said “school librarian and her assistants.” With the fresh smells of new paint and carpeting thick in our nostrils, we soon learned to navigate and love that library. Thinking of it still makes me dizzy today! But it is a memory of a nearly bygone era. A school library. Books. Card catalogs. Subject files. Magazines. Microfilm. Microfiche! And, of course, the school librarian and her aids. Yes, multiple paid assistants.

Does your school still have a dedicated librarian? Do you take your classes to a school library to learn research skills? Do you consult a school librarian or teacher-librarian to help you prepare more thorough lessons?

Tell us about the status of your school library and its staff. A lot has changed since this old codger trekked through the polyester halls of Chapman School. Help my age-addled brain understand your new-fangled ways.

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