The Joy of Sharing by Sarah Peden
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books […] which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
When I first read those words in The Fault in Our Stars, it was the first of many times that I felt that John Green knew me personally and was writing—in far better words than I’d ever be able to express—one of the deepest, most ineffable thoughts of my being. All my life long, I’ve guarded my most treasured stories jealously. There’s always been a moment at the end of an especially perfect book, where I’ve held the story in my heart, trying to dwell a moment longer in the fading glow of the words and the characters they shaped. The moment after that, I lay the book away in a solemn secret. In the past, as a child, I was certain that if I shared my love of this beautiful thing of a book with my friends, it would surely be soiled—tainted forever by the child-minds that mightn’t understand that special something that had spoken to my very being. It was a fear not unfounded, but had I lived on and grown up feeding that notion, I would have been doing a disservice to the stories I love, and to the people I would be keeping them from. Who am I to decide which people get to read certain stories? …as if worthiness is a quality of a good reader.
Thankfully, I’ve changed. Somewhere between mid-adolescence—when I decided that I wanted to be a librarian—and college—when, through many varied experiences I discovered that librarianship wasn’t just a desire, it was a life’s calling—I found in me that generous, sharing spirit of my inner librarian. I’ve learned that not every book is for every reader, but every reader has their book, and every book has its reader. (Library science laws two and three, as proposed by Ranganathan.) Now when I read a book that I love, I may still have that reverent moment of cherishing at the close, but while I’m reading it, I’m proclaiming its wonders excitedly everywhere I go: leaning on the counter in the mornings describing the characters to my sister as she gets ready for school, hashing out a plot detail over lunch with the co-worker who’s read it as well, sharing quotes and Goodreads reviews on Facebook. I’ve learned to embrace the place in me that just plain likes to get excited about stuff.
I love sharing my favorite books with my little world in general now, just putting the titles out there in case they pique the interest of one friend or another, feeling a smidgen of motherly pride when I see that something I recommended has caught on, thinking “I started that… the lovely journey that person is now on is partially due to my willingness to share.” But better than passively sharing books are the chances when I have to actively share.
I’m a firm believer in the trueness of the kindred spirit. I find them now and then, and the best ones are those that have similar reading tastes. When I started my current job as children’s librarian last year, I’d no idea that I’d find one of my closest kindred spirit matches in one of my child patrons. This young lady walked into my library room one day followed by her two younger sisters, and I soon discovered that they belonged to one of the homeschool families I’d been told about. As a homeschool graduate myself, I’m used to automatically seeking a connection with others like me, and I was not disappointed in finding much in common with this family, right down to the fine literature based curriculum they used. They come in from time to time, each quietly making a bee-line to the section they wanted, and politely delivering their returns to my desk. The oldest tends to read the same few books by a select few authors, cycling them out each visit to the library. I began to notice a trend in her selections, as I privately nodded in approval each time she brought them up to check out. I realized that she was reading many of the very same books that I loved to read as a child. Now, I keep a special display stand on my desk labeled “Ms. Sarah’s Pick of the Week” where I put out a book that speaks to me, with a note encouraging patrons to ask me about it,and check it out. It’s featured The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (Dr. Seuss), The Library (Sarah Stewart), and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente), among others.
On this day, it held Emily (written by Michael Bedard, illustrated by Barbara Cooney). In the history of my display at that point, no one had ever picked up the books, or asked me about them, and I had grown disheartened. But my little friend walked up to my desk that day and picked up Emily. “Why do you like this?” she asked, and I told, the full heartfelt reasons for my love of it. She took it home. The next visit, she brought it back, telling me how much she’d liked it as well, and she never visits without giving my display thorough thought, and usually taking my selection home. I pick the books to share for myself, but I find that I’ve picked them for her as well. Seeing that younger reader walk away with my favorite book in her hands is the greatest gift I can give, and the greatest joy I can receive.
Sarah Peden is following her dreams as a children’s librarian in a small Tennessee town. She lives in the garret of a 99-year-old house, where she reads a lot and writes a little. She is fond of making her own clothes, singing at the top of her lungs to Taylor Swift, and staying on top of the latest internet memes. You can find her on Instagram and Goodreads as @sarahthelibrarygirl and read her everyday ramblings at her blog (http://scribblingsjournal.blogspot.com/)