At the David & Joyce Milne Public Library, kids are hitting the stacks after school -- and stocking them too.
For several years, the library has offered a Junior Librarian Program, in which students in Grades 4 through 6 can learn to shelve, clean and repair books; create bulletin boards and library displays; use research sites for school work and projects; and learn more about the library in general, from technology to operations. The after-school club also allows students some social time to talk about books and borrow them under the guidance of children's librarian Mindy Hackner and assistant Helen Olshever.
Hackner said the library has a particularly large group this year, with a dozen students and more boys than previous years. She said the program helps build a steady patronage.
Asked why they joined the program, Sophie Jones' hand shot up, and a smile lit her face.
"I love books. I love reading," said Jones, 11.
"It teaches you more about the library and you get to come here more often," said Gabriel Gerry, 9.
All the current junior librarians go to Williamstown Elementary School, with the exception of home-schooled student Nathan Lescarbeau, 11.
"We come here all the time, so when we saw a poster for junior librarians, it was like, why not," said Lescarbeau, who said he has gotten to make new friends in the process.
Last week, Olshever introduced students to the Dewey Decimal System. The numerical library book classification system was created by Melvil Dewey when he was 21 and working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. The system was considered a revolution in library science and is still used today.
The formal six-week junior librarian program concludes this month, but Hackner said the students can come back at any time to help sort and shelve books, give input on library programs and work in a section of the library that they like.
Students said the additional perks of working at the library include being able to check out books (preferred by the group over movies and magazines) for free, having a quiet place to do homework and being able to get help from library staffers.
Jacob Crosby, 9, called the program "a wonderful place."
Morgan Nottke, 10, said she particularly liked the program because it's been helping her learn about the role of a librarian.
"Sometimes you don't get it ‘til you actually do it," Nottke said.