Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Morning Review

So normally on a Monday morning I introduce some quirky writing exercise to get us going.

Sometimes it's simple; other times not so. But this morning, in light of National Library Week, I've decided to veer off course. I'm offering advice and a challenge instead.

When I was a kid, my parents would take me to our local library that at the time was located by the Kennebec River--In 1987 we had a massive flood, drowning most of the priceless literature and sending it down river. But before that, I remember tip-toeing around that 18th century building, terrified the wooden planks would creak and someone would shush me. 

But, I also remember...the huge glass windows that let in great reading light, the warped bookshelves and the pride they shared in displaying some really old books, the skinny spiral staircase that lead to the dank and dusty basement where older books hid, and the smell of aged literature yearning to be read.

Have you ever spoken to your local librarian? Do you know the history of that building? Do you know those aids who help her? If so, share what they've done for you or the story of your library. If not, I challenge you to take a visit during this week and browse. Introduce yourself to the librarian. Whether you're published or not, offer to do a reading--a children's reading is great fun.

Will you take my challenge?

I'm re-posting my interview with my local librarian to kick-off this week in conjunction with MG/YA author Shelli Johannes Wells blog, Market My Words.

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:

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.


  1. Awesome idea Sheri! Thanks for sharing the post and the interview.

  2. Thanks for the interview Sheri. I renewed my three year old library card yesterday and I hadn't even realized it was library week! Is that kinda creepy?

  3. Creepy but cool. I, too, need to make a point of visiting more often.

  4. Aw, Shannon, thank you. Sometimes, even myself, we need to step back and remember. Writing about my old library really brought back fond memories. I hope I can give my children a few of those to carry with them, too. ";-) Thanks for the comment.

  5. woot woot!! awesome post!! fab interview -- i am all about supporting our libraries!! (after all, where would we be without them??)

    thanks for sharing!!

  6. I absolutely support our libraries. Last month I joined the Library Blog Challenge and made $100 for my local public library. Last year I became a volunteer and am now on the board of the Friends of our library. The best part of all this is I now know my librarians and talk to them regularly! Go libraries and all of you guys who appreciate them.

  7. Thank you for the comment, Sliding on the Edge, and for supporting and appreciating libraries!!


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