Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Old and New, Andy Berkbigler

Old and new. I am beginning my fourteenth year at Shorecrest, my twenty-first year teaching, and my first year as our school librarian. In a way, my life as a teacher began even before I was born since there has been at least one person in my family teaching every year since 1902! My twin sister is a 4th grade teacher in Seattle, my wife is a para-educator at Highland Terrace Elementary, and my children are students at Shorewood.

In making the transition from the classroom to the library, I have thought a lot about libraries both old and new. I worked in an art slide library while in college at the U.W., earned my Master of Library and Information Science the year after my daughter was born and a few months before my son was born, and worked as Shorecrest’s part-time librarian from 2004 to 2006. My first time as a head librarian was while teaching in Aleppo, Syria a long time ago. What is a long time ago for me is nothing in comparison to a long time ago in Syria. Aleppo has been a city for the last seven thousand years—it was a city before books, alphabets, logograms (kanji), and writing of any type existed.

While teaching in Syria I took my students on a fieldtrip to Ebla, the site of the world’s first known library. Ebla’s scholars and scribes, or librarians, began collecting clay tablets into a library back when the pyramids were being built in Egypt. This picture shows a Bedouin guard explaining to me the location of the library and how it was organized.

Today, Syria has descended into a hell on earth for the people who I used to know—a true dystopian world. Over the summer I read my share of dystopian novels from The Giver and The Maze Runner to Divergent and Mockingjay. I was captivated by these imaginary worlds, and so very relieved that I was reading about them from the safety of my home. Over the last few years I have thought a lot about the teenagers that I taught and the colleagues that I worked alongside in Syria. I have also thought about the clay tablet collection at Ebla that existed for centuries as a library, was buried for thousands of years and has now been destroyed by civil war.

Old and new. I walked amongst the ruins of the oldest known library and I am now the librarian in one of the world’s newest libraries. I am looking forward to the newest books and e-books, databases and digital resources that will deepen our understanding of life and transport us to vivid literary realms. So, come on into our library and ask me about what’s new and about what’s old!