Thursday, April 8, 2010


Heads Up!! Join me, along with other bloggers, authors, and libraries across the country in celebrating National Library Week, April 11-17.

I'd like to introduce you to my hometown library:

Winslow Public Library
former roller rink converted into our library

As a writer with the goal of breaking into the publishing world via the YA/MG realm of books, I had a thought not too long ago. 'So, when I do have my shiny book jacket with my name in print, where will it go?' Of course my first thought was a physical bookstore and then the web stores. But shortly after I had a vision. A person pulling my book off the shelf of a library to borrow it to read it. My words. Wow. How would that be possible if it wasn't for the wonderful caretakers of our words--Librarians.

And here's the important leadership at my local library: Judith Larson, my hometown librarian. She's graciously taken the time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts about celebrating libraries.

How long have you been a librarian? 

Professionally I have been a librarian for 10 years, this is my 11th year here at Winslow Public Library. Before I earned my MLS (Masters of Library Science) degree I worked in an elementary school library as an educational technician III for 4 years and as a teacher for 10 years.

And what drew you to this field?

After the school librarian left they asked if I would like to become the librarian. I wasn’t ready at that time in my life to go back to school but after a few years my children were grown and in college I decided it was now or never. My family supported me and I built up enough courage to apply for the GED exam and to a college. I first had to find a college that offered the MLS degree and I was excited to find one that was near where my sister lived in New York. So I called her and asked her if she would like to put up with me for a year while I studied, she agreed and I earned my degree while reconnecting with my sister and her family. I was 50 years old and finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up!

Isn't it funny how it can take years to decide what we want to be when we grow up? We are an evolution, aren't we? 

Have you always been an avid reader, and what were your favorite books growing up?

I was an avid reader as a child, escaping into books. My elementary school librarian was always giving me books to read and poetry to enjoy. As I grew up I worked in my high school library and also when I went to college but it was strange I never thought of becoming a librarian. No one ever encouraged me to become a librarian or to go to school for a library degree. I didn’t realize at the time that you had to go to school to become a librarian!

My favorite books as a child were Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie,( I never really wanted to grow up, still don’t) and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Jo was my favorite of the girls, I was a devout tomboy! I also liked reading novels about famous people, like Ben and Me by Robert Lawson and Basil of Baker St. by Eve Titus.

Great bunch of classics. 

Can you define the difference between a classic of yesterday and a classic of today? As a keeper of books, how have you seen it change over the years?

I don’t really think there is a difference between the classics of yesterday and today. Good literature is good literature and it deals with people and the everyday challenges they face. I am a member of a book group where we are reading classic books by Maine authors as early as the turn of the century and they speak to today just as they spoke to the times in which they were written.

People are reading as much as they ever have, I am very pleased with the number of children we have enrolled in our winter and summer reading programs. They may be using different methods to read their books, such as audio-books, downloadable books on ipods, mp3 players or Kindles! But I believe the good old fashioned hard copy of a book will never die, you just can’t curl up in bed with a laptop!

At your library, I know you've mentioned a few but what other types of programs or services to you offer to draw more readers to use your facility? 

Well, within our book discussion group, occasionally we are able to have an author visit. We also have a Knitting Circle and a Watercolor group that meets weekly; then once a month we have Scrabble Night.

Social media and networking has changed our lives so dramatically and quickly. Do you feel it's affected libraries and how?

A lot of libraries have become involved in many of these technologies, I have not in this library. We have not had the need to as yet but I am sure as younger librarians come into the field they will be more adept at bringing these tools into the library.

Do you think the role of the library is changing? Positive or negative? 

The role of the library has changed dramatically, it has become a great equalizer for all members of the community, especially in these hard economic times. Libraries have become the only place for many people where they can use a computer to apply for a job, publish a resume or access the internet to search for jobs. Libraries have become community centers bringing free entertainment and educational programs to the public besides being their source for reading materials, not just books but magazines and books on CDs. Many libraries also loan out movies free of charge. Many community groups use libraries to hold their monthly meetings and for many of these the library does not charge a fee.

This has definitely been a positive change because it has brought many more people into the library.

And that's always a good thing. 

How has all the federal and state cuts in funding limited what you can do as a librarian?

This year for the first time we have had to reduce our current year’s budget by over $5,000 so that has limited our book purchasing. We will see no increase in our budget for next year. So far we have not been asked to reduce our hours but that may come after we know exactly what our funding will be for the next budget cycle.

Do you think there are ways your local community can help?

We have been very fortunate to have received two generous endowments, one was specifically set up for children’s and young adults’ books and programming. The other is to set up to purchase books for the library. In these economic times these really help to supplement our budget but we want to also be fiscally responsible so that these funds will continue to grow and be around for the future because we don’t know how long this economic situation will last.

So I think one way community members can help is to think about including your community libraries in your will or setting up an endowment fund for them. The other way is to volunteer, many libraries may have to cut positions and there are many tasks that can be performed by volunteers that would help the staff greatly.

What would you like to see for libraries in the future?

For our library I would like to be able to put our collection online so that people could look for a book and request it through us directly from home. I think bringing libraries into people’s homes this way so that they  could request books from home and even have them mailed directly to them would be wonderful. But we also want more people to come into the library so we need to find out what our communities would like to have at the library in the way of programming, both educational, informational and entertaining. Libraries must be open to all people, must have free access to whatever information their patrons need, and however that patron needs to access it.

To contact Judith at the Winslow Public Library: 

Judith, thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and I hope it stimulates others to think and appreciate all you do.

Support your local library!!
(If you appreciated this article and your local library, leave a comment and tell me about it. Thanks.) I will be re-posting this on Monday to kick off National Library Week.
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  1. Great interview, thanks for sharing Sheri!

  2. I think it's awesome that you posted this tribute to your library and its staff. Great interview and a wonderful reminder to support our own libraries. :-)

  3. Great interview. It's great to see that libraries and books are still so important as the Internet grows.

  4. Thank you all for your comments! I agree; our libraries need our support and appreciation.

  5. Wow, great interview! I love going to the library, and it's something my kids love too. :)

  6. Elana, thanks for the comment and I hope you stop by next week. Granted, I'm re-posting this on Monday to kick off National Library Week, but I think it's important. When I was a kid--I'm really not that old just because I have 4 kids and sound totally insane most of the time--we'd stop at the library often. But now, with so much info at the tip of a kid's finger, why bother?

    Need to rid us of that thought process. There's nothing like sitting in a library and reading. Ahh.....

  7. I love that they feel there has been positive change! Thanks again! :)

  8. Anytime, Shelli. I honestly enjoyed this. And thank you for stopping by!!


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