When I was a kid, the after school hours worked a bit differently than they do now.Â My mom didnâ€™t work outside the home (except for a part-time gig for a few years teaching at a preschool), so most afternoons she was home when I got off the bus.Â We had a big back yard bordering on woodlands, so I could go outside after grabbing a snack and run around and play with the neighborhood kids (or by myself) while Mom did her thing inside.Â On the days that Mom wasnâ€™t home when I got off the bus, Iâ€™d sit on the front steps and wait for her.
Things are a bit different now, obviously.Â A lot more moms work full-time and canâ€™t be home to greet the school bus when it arrives.Â And every day there are scary stories about kids being abducted from their driveways or streets or yards – those woodlands of my childhood home would look a lot more sinister to a parent today than they did to my mom, and sitting alone on the front steps just wouldnâ€™t be safe anymore.
Because times have changed, there are kids who canâ€™t go home after school, and end up spending their afternoons in the local library waiting for their parents to finish work.Â These are great kids; Iâ€™ve gotten to know a lot of them in the town where I work, and they are smart and interesting and creative.Â But theyâ€™re also kids, who have been sitting in school all day and who are itching to do something beside SIT and be QUIET all afternoon.Â I donâ€™t blame these kids one bit – when I was a kid, I needed to run and be active after a long day of education.Â And I donâ€™t blame their parents, either – Jim and I keep delaying parenthood because we canâ€™t imagine how we could afford it, even with both of us working full time.Â But the fact is that the library needs to be a quiet place for the people who go there to study and research.Â So what to do?
Weâ€™ve been running a Thursday afternoon game hour, run by teen volunteers, that has become pretty popular.Â Itâ€™s a good outlet to be kind of loud and have fun playing games in a safe atmosphere.Â So thereâ€™s an hour on Thursday taken care of.Â On most Tuesdays I run book groups, but those are grade specific (the fifth grade group meets only once a month, and so on), and letâ€™s face it, book groups are still a bit like school.Â But at least theyâ€™re fairly popular.Â So thereâ€™s Tuesday afternoons taken care of, as best I can.
But what of Wednesday and Friday afternoons?Â The library closes at five on both days, so any activity I add would have to be finished up by 4:30 or 4:45.Â Mondays I have a bit more leeway, since weâ€™re open until nine.Â And thereâ€™s also the issue of staffing, since I really do have other tasks that I need to be accomplishing besides running programs: I need to order books, I need to assist patrons who need help finding books, I need to plan storytimes and coordinate volunteers, and any number of other tasks.Â Mary tells me that we have been gifted a soccer ball, which we could â€œcheck outâ€ for kids to use on the front lawn; maybe we need to invest in a few other basic pieces of sports equipment, like a frisbee and a football, that could also be loaned out.Â Iâ€™m not really sure what the solution is, but would like to spend less of my time â€œspeaking toâ€ kids who are really good people, just in need of some structuring of their free time.