At the Library

I started teaching in 1998. I have worked with young and adult students, as a volunteer and paid teacher.

One of my favorite positions has been working with adults at the New York Public Library; these are my thoughts on the past year at the Mulberry Street branch:

It was the perfect job. I was a volunteer instructor for a conversational ESL group at the New York Public Library.

That was in 1994. Then I became a mother. I couldn’t do the hours. The group met in the evenings, after work. I swore I would come back.

It took a while, but in 2016, I made a concerted effort to make my way back. Libraries are in my blood; my father worked for the Queens Borough Public Library for thirty years, and my aunt worked for the 42nd Street library, as well. I have spent the last thirty years patronizing the Brooklyn Public Library and my children, when they were visiting their grandmother, lived at the Massanutten Regional Library, in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Getting back in, though, turned out not to be so easy. It seems there are a lot of people who want to volunteer for the library (thank goodness) and what seemed like a simple phone call was going to require a lot more effort. Undeterred, I persisted. A humorous moment occurred when I got a call from the volunteer division of the 42nd Street library and the woman mistook me for another Anita Bushell.

Finally, I was set up with a woman who managed adult learning for the library. It would be a data-entry position and, although, I am no administrator, I committed to it for a three-month period; however, because of scheduling conflicts, that position didn’t work out. What a gift. While looking at the volunteer needs of the branches, I found the posting for a Writer’s Circle instructor at the Mulberry Street branch.

What a joy this year has been. The workshops, which were only supposed to run from September through January, were extended into July (and will begin again in September). And when I saw that the sessions were too short, the library happily extended the time to two hours.

And the participants? They are marvelous. As one would always expect at a library in New York City, they come from all over, around the corner, and as far as India. They come with every level of writing background, having written little since school to professional writers. All are welcome, to commit to a regular writing practice and the invitation to tell their stories.

We talked about New York a lot this year and one participant mentioned the idea that, even though the city changes all the time, “New York is still here.” This served as a writing prompt for pieces that were developed over months and shared with the library at the end of the year. It was a wonderful event that brought together a group of New Yorkers, who had recently been complete strangers to each other, telling their stories in a warm and nurturing environment.

Interested in the workshop?

Can't make the workshop but want to create a writing practice? Allow yourself the time and space to start a daily writing discipline. Below is a piece I wrote for the Writer's Circle on this subject.