As a kid, the library was a huge part of my life. During the summer, my mom would take me every week to check out new books and return the old ones. I loved going. In the unbearably muggy Illinois summer, the cool library (imagine a time when everything wasn’t air conditioned) was a welcome respite, and the seemingly endless supply of books meant hours of entertainment during those long, hot days. My favorite part of the trip was always story time, when we’d sit on the colorful carpet and listen quietly as the librarian brought a picture book to life. Even writing this, I can smell the old books and hear the crinkle of the cellophane covers. It was a magical time for me.

So I’m excited to set off for the beautiful town (I’m psyching myself up!) of Anaheim for my first ALA. In the children’s book world, librarians are some of the most important people around–and I’m proud to be a part of a world that recognizes them as such. With kids’ books, “gatekeepers” like librarians and educators aren’t seen as the enemy, but rather as allies. They’re the front line in getting kids interested in the books that are being published, and when they love a book, stand back: they will hand sell it to any kid who’ll listen. Librarians often champion the books that aren’t the biggest, loudest and most commercial; they’re often the first to recognize under-read talent. When they bestow their awards, like the Printz, Caldecott, Newbery and others, they literally change lives overnight. And when they get excited, they get excited. These are some of the most passionate book people around, and knowing how poorly most of them are paid, you know they’re in it for the love of books.

It’ll be great to spend the next few days with my authors, publishing colleagues, and the great unsung heroes of the book world, librarians. Do any of you have great librarian memories?

6 Responses to Librarians

  1. As a recent MLIS recipient and long-time library assistant, I appreciate this post very much. I hope you enjoy your first ALA. I’ll be there on Monday; maybe I’ll bump into you!

  2. Monica says:

    Librarians rock!*

    *FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a librarian.

  3. Joelle says:

    Your Illinois in summer story takes me back to the summer of 2000. I spent three months in Chicago, studing improvisation, and stayed with my cousin who lived in Forest Hills. The Oak Park library is closer, and larger, but the Forest Hills library is one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever been in. I loved it so much (and thank goodness for the air conditioning after the ten minute walk to it). If I remember correctly, it’s two floors, and the children’s books are upstairs. There are easy chairs by a fireplace, and I used to imagine living in Forest Hills in the winter and making my way through the snow to sit there and read. I checked out loads of MG & YA while I was there, and even though I grew up with a great library system (Multnomah Count Libraries in Portland) and we have a fantastic library system here, and are having a big expansion done right now to our island library, I still think the Forest Hills one will always stand out. I’d love to go back again someday. Have you been there, Michael?

  4. Joelle says:

    Oh, and YES! Librarians have been very, very good to me. Both online and in the branches. I am extremely grateful for them!

  5. Liz Hollar says:

    I loved the library as a kid, and in high school I worked as a shelver at the local library. I was pretty fast, and after I’d finish a Juvy cart I’d curl up in the stacks and read a few picture books before grabbing another cart.

    Great memories. Thanks for bringing them back.

  6. Michael,

    Great post! I lived in libraries as a kid. More often than I admit to my own kids, I started on my way to school and ended up spending the day at the library instead. And I totally get the humidity thing, having lived in NJ for three of those years.

    My favorite part of libraries for as far back as I can remember was walking down the aisles and randomly pulling out different books. It was like having thousands of different worlds at your fingertips. Then, when I found an author or series I really liked, I would read everything they had.

    One of my favorite things is seeing my books among the authors that made me so happy. Have a great time at ALA.

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