Monday, January 23, 2012

Connecting with a community of readers

I feel tremendously lucky to be a librarian, to be able to reach out to children and parents helping them find books, stories, information that might just maybe find a home in their hearts and minds, or maybe provide laughter or escape, or maybe a glimpse of who they are or what the world is like.

I have done many different jobs, from helping little old ladies in Kankakee, Illinois figure out their Medicare problems, to analyzing health care reform plans, to teaching eighth grade English. While I did truly love teaching, no job has been as fulfilling as being a school librarian. I connect with so many kids, help all types of readers, see kids' eyes light up when they discover a new favorite book.

Take a moment to tell someone how much you value your local library, your school library, your local bookstore. Maybe tell your child's teacher how much you appreciate their classroom library (chances are they buy many of those books with their own money). Tell your school principal or PTA president how much your library means to you. Tell your neighbors how fantastic your local public library is. Sign this White House petition to “ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” Find a way to deepen the connection you have to people in your community who value and promote literacy.

But I also feel immensely grateful to have joined a profession with such a supportive community. I am just returning from the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting in Dallas. I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Bill Morris Seminar to help librarians learn to carefully, thoughtfully evaluate materials for children. We listened to leaders in our field who had chaired Caldecott, Newbery and many other award committees talk about how we identify truly distinguished books for children. We discussed with our peers, other librarians with rich experiences, the strengths and weaknesses of picture books, novels, nonfiction and audiobooks for a wide range of children. We dug deeply into ways to analyze books, continually thinking about how the choices authors, artists and designers make impacts children's experiences with these books.

I want to thank so many people, from the co-chairs of the Morris Seminar, Jenny Brown and Connie Rockman, to my local mentors Kathy Shepler, Linda Perkins, and Nina Lindsay. I want to celebrate my friendships with librarians throughout the U.S.: Cathy Potter, Jill Bellomy, Kim Grad, John Schumacher - just to name a few.

As I sit collecting my thoughts, I am struck by a sense of community: a librarian's role in her community at home, our broader community of readers sharing ideas on the Internet, and the professional community of librarians, authors, publishers. These communities, and our engagement with them, enrich and support all of our lives. And so, yes, I do feel tremendously lucky. Lucky, indeed.


  1. I know the way a good conference can make you overflow with appreciation. Thanks for the insider's view of ALA. I'd love to sit there, quietly (of course), listening to that rich discussion. I'm pretty sure I'd leave with an urge to group hug all the librarians in my world....

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. I just signed. I love my public libraries