Monday, January 26, 2015

Two Worlds Collide

This is one of those posts that I have spent a great deal of time mulling over. It is a post that has been months in the making. To be honest, some of my school library followers are going to initially question the relation to school libraries, but I promise I will get there. Just stick with me.

Something many of you may not know about me is that my favorite sport is wrestling. Not that overdramatized stuff that you see on TV, but the sport that is a test of determination and skill. I can hear many of you expressing surprise to learn this fact. If you know me, you probably think this just does not match my personality. Yet it is true. From junior high through college I was the manager for a wrestling team. It happened as a fluke, but it is something that has enhanced my life and shaped who I am in many ways. There is so much that I have learned from my time around the mat.

On the surface these parallels between a school librarian and a wrestler are not obvious, but if you know the sport as well as I do, you would see it in a totally different light. These similarities have been so apparent to me as I have thought about this post for the last few months. Yet I continued to postpone writing it. I know why. It is simply because I wanted to give it the due diligence it deserved. Today I came home from a very long day and there was a reminder in the mailbox that spurred me into action. Today is the day I share with the world why I would not be the person I am without this sport and the coaches and wrestlers that have been a part of my path.

Wrestling is a beautiful sport. A sport that is unappreciated and misunderstood. A sport that has to fight to live another day. Those familiar with school library programs understand this better than most. School libraries are often under utilized and must constantly advocate to get the appreciation they deserve. I have always tried to represent the sport of wrestling in a positive way. Explaining to someone else why the sport deserves the respect of the masses has been a constant for me for many years. The same is true of school libraries. Without my previous experiences, I don't know if I would have so quickly recognized the need to articulate my vision of school libraries. Advocacy isn't easy in either scenario. You must be prepared for the negativity. You must stand your ground but in a way that doesn't reflect negatively on the program. Instead talk about what has been gained instead.

Sometimes being a school librarian is an isolating experience. As the school librarian there is a lot to be learned from the experience of the wrestler. This is a sport where you are an individual but part of a team as well. You have an overall record to achieve, but you also want to contribute to the team as well. I recently saw the movie Foxcatcher. We won't discuss the merits of the movie (or lack thereof), instead I want to focus on something from the film that stuck with me. Steve Carrell who plays John DuPont mentions that a wrestler must be confident when he steps onto the mat. I agree. A true wrestler, no matter his personality, steps on the mat and exudes confidence. As school librarians, we need to do more of this. That confidence will pervade our school's library and help teachers see us as part of the team, a member that has valuable contributions that will lead to success for all students.

My Southern Conference Championship ring for wrestling. Yes, this non-athlete has a championship ring.

From my days as a wrestling team member, I forged relationships that will undoubtedly span the ages. As with many old friendships, we may not stay in contact, but I know if I were ever in need they would be there for me. I may have one biological brother, but trust me, I have many "brothers" that would be there if I called. Don't get me wrong, there were fights and disagreements, but these are the men that I know I will always want in my corner. Relationships are part of the foundation of every good library program. Without relationships it is difficult to make those connections to teachers and students. However, once those bonds are formed they are permanent. The advantage of making these connections has an impact on student learning, but it also goes to support your library program in the long run.

It saddens me that two of things I love most must fight to survive. They are both endangered species, and it is incredibly heartbreaking. At this point in time, I wonder constantly if this will be the day that they announce the demise of the wrestling program at my alma mater, Appalachian State University. The university that I once loved has made a series of questionable decisions in the last few years in regards to athletics. A select few have changed the path of a university that I love, and I am concerned that this might mean the end of the wrestling program. While I had several universities where I was accepted many years ago, I chose Appalachian because it was the best of both worlds. It had the academics that were important to me, and it had a wrestling program. As a female, a male sport provided me with skills of perseverance, dedication, and a sense of belonging. I worry that one day another introverted female student with a love of this sport will no longer have a place to go in the future. While I am still introverted in some ways, I learned to stand up for what I believed in because of my time in a wrestling room. Nothing can take the place of the gratitude I owe this sport. My time in a school library only helped solidify these ideals and characteristics. School libraries are a critical part of every school, and it is important that school librarians unite to help educate their schools and communities.

So, school librarians, walk confidently onto the mat. It's time to take action. Show the education world what we've got. If you are equally motivated, support your local wrestling program. Trust me, someone will notice. You never know, they might just support the school library program too.

#supportASUwrestling #supportschoollibraries