Thinking Like Others


By: Amy Steinbauer

On just a normal day at work, recently, a young boy came up to me to inquire about the next book in a series. We had the item, but it was currently checked out. I asked for his card and put the item on hold for him. Everything was normal, and then, just as he was leaving, he asked if he could see who had the item checked out.

I suppose to him it was an innocent question—he thought he might know who was reading it (although, I don’t know what he was planning to do with that information—make them read faster?). Of course, I told him that that is private information. He told me that he just wanted to see who it was; it might be his friend from school… I remained steadfast about not giving out the information.

The boy remained steadfast about trying to guess who it was, or guess the library card information. He would not let up, and argued with me for a good 10 minutes. He could not understand why I couldn’t give him the information…

I tried to relay the idea to him that suppose he had checked out an embarrassing book, like a book about Why People Fart, and he didn’t want anyone to know that he read it… and then suppose I told people that he had checked that book out—he might feel embarrassed and upset. I thought I was making a really great point, until the boy shrugged his shoulders and said, I wouldn’t care.

That’s when I realized that the real problem was that the boy couldn’t think past his own opinion on a subject. He didn’t care what example I gave him, he was fine with the answer he had in his head, and all I was saying to that was “No.” He ended up leaving a bit disgruntled shortly thereafter.

To me, this little anecdote speaks to the broader messages that we relay to children and expect of the world around us. When we feel and expect something and then things aren’t like that… it’s disappointing, but we can usually move on.

There has been so much uproar in the news lately about rights for minorities, ethnic or religious groups, women, etc.; and people love to talk about their opinions on the matter, and everyone has the right to do that. However, we aren’t doing enough thinking about the experience of other people that are not us.

It’s easy to think that everyone would feel the way that we felt, but in reality, people feel vastly different about things based on their mood, their upbringing, their beliefs, etc. And when we realize this, we need to try to model it for the next generation. We need to empower them to think outside of themselves and empathize with others. I think that’s the only way that we can have a real conversation. Until then, I won’t share your secret readings with anyone, and I hope that you won’t share mine!

Amy Steinbauer is a Children’s Librarian for DC Public Libraries. She specializes in outreach and early literacy. She has her MLISc from University of Hawaii, and a B.A. in English from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She won the 2015 Conable Scholarship to attend ALA Annual in San Francisco, and will be presenting at the 2016 Annual conference in Orlando, FL. She loves professional development, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), is on ALA’s Public Awareness Committee, and on the SASCO Committee through NMRT. She loves mermaids, and advocating for libraries, and will one day combine them both to take over the world! Until then, follow her on twitter @merbrarian.

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