librarians are awesome

I was recently invited to participate in an awesome literacy project, and I wanted to share an excerpt from my contribution:

I want to take a moment and say thank you to librarians, because it was a librarian who made me fall in love with reading. In third or fourth grade, part of our curriculum was a monthly trip to a local library in Tujunga, California. One of the librarians would read us a short story, give a short talk about a literacy-related topic, and then let us pick a book off a table of paperbacks that we could keep. We were also allowed – no, encouraged – to check out up to three books, which we would have a month to read.

I was a nerdy, shy, awkward kid who was scared of everything, and the library intimidated me; I never knew where to start, I was afraid I’d pick a book the the Cool Kids would tease me about reading, and I always felt lost in the stacks. This librarian, though, reached out to me. She asked me what sort of things I liked on TV and in the movies, and recommended a few different books based on my answers, including the first real SciFi book I can recall reading, Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. I loved it so much, when I went back the next month, she taught me how to use the card catalog to find other books like it, entirely on my own. On that day, the library was transformed from a confusing and intimidating collection of books into a thousand different portals through time and space to fantastic worlds for me to explore.

I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she was in her fifties, wore epic 1970s polyester pantsuits, huge glasses that hung from a long gold chain around her neck, and had a hairdo that was ten miles high. She was friendly and helpful, and when she reached out to that nerdy little kid, she changed his life. If you’re a librarian today, you probably don’t hear this very often, but thank you. Thank you for making a difference in people’s lives.

Libraries are constantly under attack from people who fear knowledge, politicians who think guns are more important than books, and people who want to ensure that multi-millionaires pocket even more money. As an author, father, and a reader, I beg you: please support your local libraries in any way you can, and if you enjoy reading, take a moment to thank a librarian.

109 thoughts on “librarians are awesome”

  1. @Wil — Thank you for thanking us. :) I can’t remember the names of any of my childhood librarians either (well, apart from my mom), but I very much appreciate the impact they had on my voracious reading at the time. Being part of a family of nerd-tastic readers, we visited the local public library at least every other week and I borrowed from my school libraries as well. These days I tend to buy more than I borrow, but I am at the public library about once a month to pick up the latest selection for my book club, and it makes me very happy that they’re still plugging along despite the financial crunch.
    @SLBurnell — Paraprofessionals unite! Though I don’t have the fancy expensive paper, I’ve been working in libraries for about 12 years now. I love that we get to help unite people with the information they want (and sometimes the information they didn’t even know they wanted) in so many ways.

  2. A few thoughts about libraries:
    Up until 12 or 13 we used to go to the library quite a bit.
    1) During the last week of school the library would visit and talk about a book contest that was organised during the summer. I think one year there was an Aztec theme and they gave us cool pendants to go with it.
    2) They normally would have squares up on the wall that would help you progress towards a finish line and win prizes based on how many books you read.
    3) They would also show movies on certain days and I think you had to win tickets based on the books that you read.
    4) After we moved I remember another library had organised a clue based hunt in the library that would lead you towards other clues.
    5) When we were older we would look up addresses for the stars and requests their autographs (before the Internet of course)
    As teenagers we would normally go to the bookstore and buy books at the mall instead of checking them out.
    The fact that I still read 10 or 12 books a year is probably based on those experiences.

  3. Libraries & librarians are awesome! Many years ago, after typing my way through Northwestern at a work study job in the library basement, I got my start in advertising/
    marketing in the publishing division of the ALA. I learned quite a bit about librarians during my time there. First, public librarians rock! Second, most librarians are in love with their career. They have to be to go to grad sch to get a MLS degree and then commit to what can be a very low-paying job, under a very large local magnifying lens.
    Finally, one of ALA’s most important events is Banned Books Week, a necessity because our freedom to read is attacked continually from coast to coast by different groups with different agendas. In fact, ALA has an entire office dedicated to intellectual freedom.
    So, Go Librarians!

  4. GreekTragedyPodcast, it is not in the least hyperbolic to say libraries are under constant attack. Just to use my Library system as an example: in 2009 we had to mount a grassroots campaign to head off a move by our “sympathetic” then governor to cut our budget in half. Then we had to convince voters to agree to a levy to fill the gap left when he only cut our budgets by 30% in 2010. Now in 2011 we have a new governor who has said he doesn’t think libraries need any state funding. Doesn’t get any more constant than that.

  5. As a librarian and sci-fi nerd, thank you, Wil, thank you! I love you more than ever now! It does mean a lot when a Net God like yourself speaks passionately about books, libraries and reading.
    And, just to let everyone know, e-books do not spell the death of libraries, far from it. Libraries all over the world already offer free e-books to check out for download. Some leand out e-book readers too. People forget that not everyone can afford to buy such devices, or have computers at home. The public library, as they say, is the university of the people.
    Wil, we should totally invite you to speak at ALA. That would rock!

  6. I counted the library as my safe haven from the nastiness of school. In grade school I came in early to help the school librarian with putting away books and cleaning up the library. In high school, I discovered many new worlds both real and imaginary. My mother was an avid reader and delighted to see me with a nose in a book, though she did try to go outside periodically.
    Now I have many librarians as friends though I am not a librarian. I have heard their stories of the cuts that have been made at the city and county levels. What it means is less access to information. Yes, there is the internet, but nothing can equal a trip to one’s library where you can sit and pore over many topics. Libraries are the only place where income doesn’t matter when it comes to access to knowledge. To me, the library is the epitome of the exercise of free speech.

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