I am librarian, hear me Shush!
When people first learn that I’m a librarian, they say something like, “I’ve always wanted to be a librarian; I love reading so much!” Libraries and librarians always bring reading to mind. There is this idea that being a librarian is recreational. We are asked from time to time if we are volunteers. When people learn that we actually have advanced degrees to do what we are doing, they are shocked. “You went to school to do this???? What do they teach you, the finer points of shushing?” Hahahahahah.
Speaking of shushing, did you know there is a librarian action figure who can shush you with the touch of a button? She is modeled after a renowned reader’s advisory librarian, Nancy Pearl. (She’s here, too.)
I’m sure old Nancy does a lot of reading, but whether it is on the clock, is rather doubtful.
That’s the thing. Libraries are about literacy and knowledge, about access to information, about recreation and that third place, the home-away-from-home. We bridge the digital divide and match readers with books. We teach people how to write a resume and attach it to an electronic application. We find high interest books that could entice even the most reticent reader. We enlighten people with the knowledge that a toddler who holds a book in the upright position and turns pages has mastered a beginning literacy skill.
We go out of our way to learn new and different skills so that we can present them to our communities. For example, I learned all about alcohol ink – what it is, where you get it, and what you can do with it. It took weeks. Then I offered a program in which I set up three projects, created an instructional powerpoint presentation and taught a group of women (men would have been welcome, but none signed up) how to create works of alcohol ink art. Another time I researched journaling – all sorts of journaling – and why to indulge in/pursue/and otherwise write a journal. I created a related powerpoint presentation, gathered materials and developed exercises. This was to be a four part series, but by popular demand it continued for four years
So, while literacy is definitely a central tenet of libraries and reading a serious focus of librarians, it is rarely something we do at work; oh, unless it’s Story Time. No, we must discuss books, talk about books, and generally promote books, but the actual reading is done on our own time. It’s the ultimate bringing-your- work-home task. While some books are a joy to read, just as many are torturous to plod through.
For six years I lead an adult book discussion group. We met twice per month – that’s 24 books per year. Then for five years I was an outreach librarian at several middle schools. I visited classrooms at each of the schools three times during the school year – each time bringing around 15 books. Let me tell you, that was a Herculean task (for me anyway, a slow reader) All I can say is thank goodness for audio books. You can slog through any book if you can listen to it. Lest it sound as if I didn’t enjoy some of these books, let me hasten to tell you that, there were many gems among these selections and I have found a number of favorites.
This brings me to the real reason I’m writing today. Because of some heartbreak with one of my cats (info on my FB page), I couldn’t concentrate on reading the past couple of weeks. I sought out some previously read favorites and listened to them.
Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read Attachments, Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. Each one is a work of art with characters I care deeply about.
I ran across Eleanor & Park in my middle school book talk years. It seemed like a possible candidate for my students, because Eleanor & Park were in high school. The last thing I expected was a story an adult could get wrapped up in. I also wasn’t expecting the happily-ever-after. Rainbow isn’t billed as a romance author and she is so adept at the Big Black Moment that her stories bring the reader to the brink of despair… all hope seems lost. In fact, the characters seem to get on with their lives, time passes, the book seems to be ending and then – twist – she turns it around and makes it happy after all.
The second Rainbow book I read was Fangirl. It’s really cool to me that Rainbow wrote this one as her NaNoWriMo novel one year – and says she didn’t change it much at all. It is two simultaneous stories in one. The main story is about a college student who is a brilliant writer – a popular writer of a fanfic about two guys – Simon and Basil. They are reminiscent of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy and a slash fic – where romance is brewing between our two heroes. In the main story, the young writer is going through some huge challenges and life changes – and doesn’t see romance when it’s spending time with her on a regular basis. Arrrrgh!
Last but not least, is Attachments. This is one I just listened to last week. It is the most awesome concept for a story. A guy named Lincoln is employed by a company to work in the IT department. As part of his job, he is to enforce their internet policy. He must read emails that are flagged and advise people when they are breaking policy. Over the weeks and months, he reads the emails bouncing like tennis balls back and forth between Jennifer and Beth, until he knows them like two good friends. Lincoln and his love interest don’t even meet until the end of the book. How can an author create a romance like that – and it works? (OK, Rainbow’s books are more than romance, but they’re romance.) It’s just too awesome.
Here is a total spoiler, but I’m going there. I love this little interchange.
“Lincoln?” she asked.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
Her breath caught in her throat like a sore hiccup.
And then it was too much to keep trying not to kiss her. (pg. 319)
And they do live happily ever after!
These were not the only books I read the last couple of weeks. I had an adult discussion group and read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C Alan Bradley. I listened to the audio version, voiced by Jayne Entwistle. She is SO talented – and sounds like a young Hayley Mills. Her acting adds so much to the main character, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce.
The book group, for the most part, didn’t care for this book. I think it was charming, witty and engrossing. I’ve read four or five of the Flavia books.
The final book I read just this weekend was one I had read before called Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine. It is supposed to be for high school students, but I can’t see it interesting them much. It is the story of a young man who solves the mystery of an urn of ashes left in a cab and also, the likely truth about his own father’s disappearance six years previously. The book delves into parent-child relationships, marital relationships, the nature of love, death, grief and acceptance. It is heavy, but a relatively quick read with a surprising turn of events. This was my second time through this one. It is one to leave you thinking.
Now that I’ve let you in on my reading habits, you’ll see that it is entirely possible that you are already reading like a librarian….and you don’t even have to change careers.