Saturday, January 21, 2012
JR'S LOVE YOUR LIBRARIAN DAY
DEBORAH CROMBIE: In honor of the ALA (that's American Library Association) Midwinter meeting this weekend in Dallas, Texas, one of JR's own favorite librarians, Lesa Holstine, is visiting us on Jungle Red.
Lesa Holstine has been a librarian for over thirty years, so she has the opportunity to share all kinds of stories with other readers. She discusses books and authors on her award-winning blog, Lesa's Book Critiques, where she emphasizes mysteries. Lesa regularly hosts authors at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona, for the Authors @ The Teague series of programs.
I've been privileged to give programs at Lesa's library, and I will be there on February 10th. Can't wait!
We wish Lesa was in Dallas for ALA Mystery Day, as four of your very own Jungle Reds will be there: Rosemary Harris, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Lucy Burdette, and yours truly. (And loads of other really great writers, too, including Cara Black, Denise Hamilton, Charles (Caroline) Todd, Bill Crider, and many more.)
But since Lesa is in sunny AZ, we'll let her tell us what meeting authors is like from a librarian's point of view.
LESA HOLSTINE: There’s something ironic about the fact that some of you are off to ALA, the American Library Association’s mid-winter convention while many librarians are at home because our libraries can no longer afford to send us to conferences. When Deborah asked me to write about ALA, librarians, and what it means to meet authors at the conferences, I told her it has been so long since I’ve been to a library convention that I’d have to write about mystery conferences instead.
But, I can talk a little about my first ALA convention. I was twenty-five, a young library director, when I attended my first one in Philadelphia. It was overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone there, and so many of the panels didn’t have anything to do with a small public library in Ohio. ALA is an enormous convention, and they cram programs for public libraries, academic libraries, and special libraries all into that conference, along with all kinds of exhibits. The exhibits are from publishing companies and companies supplying everything for libraries; book shelves, furniture, and, now, all kinds of automation systems.
But, other than a feeling of being lost, I remember one thing from that conference. I had the chance to meet Lloyd Alexander. Lloyd Alexander specialized in children’s fantasy books, and won the Newbery Award, the highest award given for children’s literature for his book, The High King. It was part of a five book series, The Chronicles of Prydain. And, I remember thinking when I met him, he looks just like the bard in his books, Fflewddur Fflam.
When I met Lloyd Alexander, I felt as if there was magic at the convention. And, maybe it’s because the first authors I ever met were fantasy authors, Madeleine L’Engle when I was in Washington, D.C., and then Lloyd Alexander in Philadelphia, that I’ve always associated authors with magic.
I can only speak for myself as a librarian, but authors bring magic to conventions. Many of us became public and school librarians because of the magic of books, and the hope that we could share those books with other people. When we get the chance to meet authors, it brings our hopes to life. We’re standing in front of those people who have the ability to put words down, words that can somehow change lives. Those words may entertain us, inform us, intrigue us, or keep us riveted to the page. But, storytelling is the magic that has endured since man first gathered together. And, it doesn’t matter what format those stories take, if they’re on paper or on some wireless device. The written word is still powerful, and it’s still magic.
I haven’t attended a library convention in years. Some of that is by choice, and some is because of economics. As I said, libraries have cut back on the number of people who go to conferences, because many libraries don’t have the money to send staff any more. Often, we can’t even afford to send many people to our state conferences.
When I have to spend my own money to go to a conference, I usually choose a conference that is more closely related to books, and even mysteries, than ALA is. I’ve been to Book Expo America (BEA) twice. The first time I attended that, my job was to meet authors. And, I had the chance to see The Rock Bottom Remainders perform, the cover band made up of authors such as Stephen King, Mitch Albom, and Amy Tan. Now that’s magic! Last year, I went to Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, and this year, I’m going to Bouchercon in Cleveland. And, I go to the Tucson Festival of the Book, a festival that celebrates books and authors. For five years, I chaired the Authors Programming for the Lee County Reading Festival, and I brought in authors to speak to readers. Those are the places where I’ll get to meet magicians, the people who put their thoughts and hearts into books.
When I went to Left Coast Crime, I finally met Donna Andrews, Beth Groundwater, Camille Minichino, Gar Anthony Haywood. I had breakfast with Zoë Sharp, lunch with Kathryn Casey, dinner with Craig Johnson, drinks with Avery Aames, Rebecca Cantrell, and my friends from Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I have hopes of meeting Hank Phillippi Ryan and Brad Parks at Bouchercon. Those conferences give me the chance to meet people who have a talent that I want to bring to the people I work for, readers.
Authors bring magic to our lives. Librarians recognize that, and when we have the chance to meet authors at our library conventions or at mystery conventions, it reminds us why we became librarians. Librarians and authors share a dream. We want to bring the magic of storytelling to other people. Librarians hand books to people every day, hoping to find readers that will be as excited about a book or an author as we are.
In a sense, librarians and authors all live in fantasy worlds. Authors spin stories, share dreams, share their own imaginings with other people, all the time hoping that someone will recognize the magic in their words. Librarians hope those words can change lives, so we encourage people to pick up books, to talk about books, to share books.
So I hope the authors who attend ALA, the authors who meet librarians at conferences and bookstores recognize that librarians truly honor you as storytellers. When we show up to meet you, to buy your books for ourselves or our libraries, we are there to recognize the magic and dreams you bring to the world. Every time a librarian stands in line to meet an author, we’re honoring something we share with you. Where would the world be without storytellers, without magic? And, where is the world going if we let libraries disappear, the one place where everyone can go to find the magic and dreams of stories?
DEBS: We talk endlessly about paper vs e-books in the future of publishing, and I think we give our librarians short shrift. How many were introduced to a lifetime love of books and reading by a dedicated librarian at your school or local library? I know I was.
Readers, say "hi" to Lesa, and tell us who you'd choose to honor on our Love Your Librarian Day.