Stories from the Rainier Beach Library


A Great Good Place

A local artist, Robert Horton, and I taught a mask-making workshop. Everyone plunged in to the project with gusto!

Everyone, that is, except for one little boy, who hung back uncertainly. I was surrounded with clamoring kids, but before I could free myself, Robert had gently drawn the little boy over to the table and the two of them began working together.

Finally we all lined up and took a picture of our astounding masks . Afterwards I saw the shy boy sitting on a library couch with another little boy, their black and blonde heads together, discussing their masks. Then they made the rounds of the library, proudly showing off their creations.

A few days later, one of the librarians sent me this email:

The mask making workshop at the Rainier Beach library was a great success. All of the attendees seemed to enjoy the workshop, but, for me, the workshop seemed particulary powerful for one five year old.

For weeks I had been trying to connect with this five year old who was a regular at my library. He usually just sat in the library while his older siblings used the computers. He was not interested in books and was alternately withdrawn and disruptive. I tried to offer him books on several occasions, but he wouldn't even meet my eye much less talk with me about books.

On the Saturday of the mask-making workshop the five year old was, as usual, sitting bored in the library, but when I told him about the workshop he agreed to attend. To make a long story short, it was the first time I saw him engaged and happy in the library. After the workshop he came to the reference desk to show me his mask, and told me he was a dragon. When I asked if he would be interested in books on dragons he said "sure" and followed me to the shelf.

Again, for the first time in my experience he was looking at a book in the library. And he was no longer afraid to approach the reference desk or talk to librarians. The library is no longer just a place for his older siblings; the library is now his place too.

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