Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Love Note

This is a love note. Or maybe it’s a fan letter. I’ve said it before, but it needs saying again.

Librarians are my heroes. Have been since I was 9 years old and my father was transferred and I had to go to a new elementary school, and the public library was two doors down from my school and I’d hang out there because I didn’t have any friends except books and the book lovers in the library.

These days, I’m hanging out with librarians once again—at library visits, school visits, and meetings like ALA and TLA (soon!) I feel so in context there—me and thousands of other lovers of the written word.

This is for the librarians who defend freedom of ideas and expression, even when it makes their lives difficult. Who don’t think decisions about access should be made at an administrative level. Who trust their patrons enough to set them free in the marketplace of ideas. Who don’t see danger between the covers of a book.

This is for the librarians who don’t have to bring authors in—but do it anyway. Even though it takes considerable time that they don’t have. Even though it means finagling and conniving and horse trading to find funding and get approvals and make it happen.

This is for the librarian who exchanged countless emails with me, arranged funding, presented book talks and book clubs and arranged for volunteers. She did all the ground work to plan a successful school visit—then was told by her principal that books with wizards in them were too controversial.

This is for the librarians who write grants and host bookfairs and otherwise raise money to supplement the funding that is never enough. These librarians find ways to get books into the hands of kids who have no books at home. Try to imagine accountants or pharmacists hosting bake sales to buy the tools of their trade.

This is for the librarian who gets a new book in and knows just who she’s going to give it to. And who after that, and who after that. Who models the love of books each and every day.

I just spent a day at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, with librarian Sara Stevenson. I presented three large programs and a writing workshop. The library was “closed” because of the author presentations, yet kids kept finding their way in. They couldn’t stay away. Her library is the heartbeat of the school. Running that library is like herding cats. The energy is infectious. I was exhausted and exhilarated after spending one day there. Sara is amazing. Her kids are lucky to have her.

It is so easy to get burned out in these jobs in a time when curricula and test scores have become straight-jackets that imprison flexible and creative educators. When it may be difficult to persuade teachers to send their students to the library and away from drills.

No one gets credit for instilling a lifelong love of reading in our kids. What a shame.

1 comment:

Camille said...

What a lovely tribute to school librarians. I am looking forward to hearing you in Dallas next week!