The Chicago teachers’ strike is reminding me of one of the more embarrassing moments of my professional career. I was working at Chicago Public Library as the manager of a small branch on the North Side, and there was a teacher’s strike. According to the news, CPL was offering alternative programming for children at all the branches. It will come as no news to branch librarians everywhere that this was news to us, but–and here is where I go all red just remembering it–I called the children’s services office downtown and pretended to be a parent looking for more information. Unfortunately, I did not recognize that children’s chief Liz Huntoon herself had answered the phone, and not seconds after I began my charade she said “Roger? Is this you?” Oh GOD.
Had I just been an adult about the whole thing, I would have realized that Liz was only expecting us to do what we always did anyway: find books for the kids who came in and give them a comfortable place to sit. Make sure big brothers kept an eye on little sisters. Pass around date-stamps and paper. If more formal programming was called for, I could tell “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “Pierre” on command. (Still can.) But my thoughts are with the old place today, and I hope there is a speedy and fair resolution.