1. THEY KEEP ME LAUGHING ON LISTSERVS
I’m embarrassed to admit how many hours I’ve procrastinated by scanning my inbox for emails from ALA listservs, listening in on librarians dishing about character names, how to get teens involved in writing, and favorite books. Here’s what people in the business know that outsiders may not – librarians are HILARIOUS.
2. THEY KNOW HOW AND WHERE TO FIND ANYTHING
In my novel MULTIPLE CHOICE, the main character is obsessed with anagrams and other word puzzles. Being the semi-Luddite I am, a big chunk of my writing time was spent painstakingly constructing anagrams from scratch – until my hometown reference librarian Kathy Killeen asked me why I wasn’t using an online anagram generator. Changed. My. Life. Not only did I save myself months of work, I never could’ve come up with a gem like ASTRONOMERS = MOON STARERS on my own.
3. THEY HELP ME SCOUT OUT FURNITURE
When my public library was getting renovated, the local librarians knew what a library geek I was and told me about the super secret sale the town was having to sell off the old furniture. I was devastated to discover I was out of town on the designated day but my husband took pity and went in my place. Oak tables! Desk chairs! Wooden book carts with wheels! AN ATLAS STAND!! Coming home that night was like a dozen Christmases rolled into one.
4. THEY LET ME SLEEP AT THEIR HOUSE
When my son and I traveled way up to Blue Hill, Maine last year for a school visit, there was literally nowhere off-season to stay in this beautiful harbor town. Enter librarian Nancy Crowe who let us stay in her gorgeous home, replete with gluten-free breakfast. We had an amazing day of presentations, writing workshops, even an obstacle course in the schoolyard enacting scenes from MY LIFE AS A BOOK. That’s what I call some good old-fashioned Down-East hospitality.
5. THEY RALLY A SCHOOL AROUND ONE BOOK
I just love the One Book/One School events librarians champion in their towns. They’re a great way to get to know other readers in your community and get kids invested in a story with their friends. Theresa Robinett organized a giant event in Glendale, CA that got hundreds of kids excited about reading. In Oxford, CT, Jan Redfern is hiding a capuchin monkey doll from MY LIFE AS A STUNTBOY around the school for kids to discover with clues from the book. I’m taking a side trip from our vacation to stop in because I can’t bear the thought of missing out on so much fun with my characters and readers in a place that isn’t inside my head.
6. THEY SHARE MY QUEST TO CONQUER RELUCTANT READERS
One of my missions in life is to make a dent in this whole reluctant reader thing. I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to writing books that are funny and exciting enough for reluctant readers (i.e. boys) to actually look forward to reading. Librarians are on the front lines of this important undertaking; I’m just happy to be fighting on their side.
7. THEY RECOMMEND THE PERFECT BOOK
I never would’ve picked up Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL if a friendly librarian at ALA hadn’t recommended it. And what I would’ve missed! I recommended the book to anyone who would listen and devoured Flynn’s other books straightaway. There are hundreds of books I could say that about; my rule is – if a librarian recommends it, it’s worth reading.
8. THEY LET ME TALK ABOUT RESEARCH
Nothing makes me happier on a school visit than when a librarian asks me to talk to students about doing research. For me, one of the true benefits of writing books is getting to learn about new subjects every day. Sir Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of the scientific method, died of pneumonia that he caught while STUFFING SNOW INTO A DEAD CHICKEN to study food preservation – are you kidding? You can’t make this stuff up – and no one knows how to find those kind of super-cool facts like librarians.
9. THEY GIVE ME A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Writing novels is about as solitary as a job can be so it’s always a pleasure to meet people at conferences and school visits who devote as much time, effort, and LOVE to books as I do. It’s almost like a group of people with a secret language based on well…language. I feel less like a nerd than I usually do when I get to talk about characters and story and – dare I say it? – SENTENCES. Librarians make me feel like I belong.
10. THEY PUT MY BOOKS INTO KIDS’ HANDS
This, of course, is no small thing. If it weren’t for conscientious librarians and teachers, there’d be a lot of us making up stories for our own amusement without being able to share them with the readers we intend them for. I have stacks and stacks of letters from kids over the years – many from boys who read THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LARRY – saying how much the book meant to them, and that the only reason they read it was because their school librarian literally put it in their hand. If my editor is the midwife to my books, then librarians and teachers are the proud relatives, showing photos of my babies and bragging to anyone who’ll listen. And you need more than a special week to celebrate THAT kind of love – you need a lifetime.
Janet Tashjian is the author of eleven novels for children, including MY LIFE AS CARTOONIST and the upcoming EINSTEIN THE CLASS HAMSTER.