When I first started working at the reference desk seven and a half years ago, February was a dreaded month. School aged kids would be dragged into the library in the evenings by parents who most likely would have much preferred spending the cold winter evening at home, basking in the blue glow of their television sets. The children would be led to my desk and instructed, "Tell the librarian what you want."
The child would stare at me (in complete awe, naturally) for a moment and then whisper, "I need a book for Black History month."
I would nod patiently and ask, "Okay. What kind of book?" even though I already knew the answer.
The child would say, "A book about someone," and sometimes pull out a list of approved biographees (yes, that is a word, look it up)...because black history month is technically black biography month.
So off we'd go to the cart of books already pulled off the shelf by a nice librarian (not me) to choose a life story of an inspirational African-American like Magic Johnson (put ball through hoop, contracted HIV), Jimi Hendrix (played guitar, dead of an overdose at 27), Tupac Shakur (rapper, bad poet, shot dead), or Jesse Jackson (don't get me started).
I gently attempted to steer them."What about Langston Hughes or Mae Jemison? Or, hey, George Washington Carver - he was the peanut guy! or maybe Condoleezza Rice?"
They'd turn their little faces to me and blink quizzically. "Who?"
And then they'd add, "Can I have a book with not a lot of pages?"
At this point, I am screaming in my head.