Saturday, January 21, 2012


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
Linkthere: 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 Zoƫ 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.


  1. Hi Lesa,

    The first librarians I have a clear memory of were at the public library in Woburn, Massachusetts. They were wonderful. They always had books to show me that I might like to read - and I always did . . . how did they know!

    I would walk to the library and have a wonderful quiet time reading and looking. They had photographs for loan, and the librarian would give me sets of photos that had to do with my geography lesson for the week. That, in particular, was way beyond what anyone else did to encourage my study as a small girl.

    And then there was the wonderful librarian who drove the bookmobile to the school. We would line up outside, all these eight-year-olds, and would enter the van one at a time. The librarian would make each child feel special with a personal "reading consult" and would magically produce just the books we would enjoy. I still remember some of those books, the ones that made me want to visit places far away. And I did. I visited those places.

    xo Thank you!

  2. Good morning, Reine. My mother always talked about Betsy the Bookmobile, her access to a library when she was young. And, when we were kids, she took us to see Betsy, who was at the county fair in the county where my Mom grew up. There was something special about sharing that with Mom.

    And, I noticed you said those librarians magically produced just the books you would enjoy. Librarians, magic and books. Somehow, it just goes hand in hand.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with librarians.

  3. Hi - I love all the Librarians at the Gleason Public Library here in Carlisle (MA), but I have to give the nod to my first ever librarian Miss Osgood. She was the one who after having me read a book that "wasn't for my age group" let me take out any book I wanted to read and or steered me to ones she knew I would love. Dee

  4. Dee,

    It's so nice to see you here. And, I love to hear about librarians who made a difference in a child's life. Thank you for sharing about Ms. Osgood.

  5. Lesa, enjoy your blog daily. So many good recommendations.

  6. Hi, Lesa! The first people I met at a mystery conference were two librarians who were carrying backpacks (their clothing) and wheeling suitcases (filled with books they were hoping to get signed.) Yes, librarians love books and their authors, but authors return the affection in equal strength.

    Lesa, a question: is your library lending e-books and is there much demand for them?

  7. Lesa, I am adding your blog to my reading list. It'so great to learn abot another blog that will "feed" me!

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to honor the librarians who nourished us over the years. I will always be grateful to Mrs Cronin from the bookmobile of the Ferguson Library, which is the public library in Stamford CT, the city where I grew up.

    I was an extremely shy child and NEVER spoke to strangers, but Mrs Cronin was The Keeper of the Books and I was able to overcome my shyness to constantly follow her around and ask "what else is there to read that I didn't read yet?" She introduced me to the Little House on the Prairie books and the Betsy-Tacy books, amomg others, and to an excellent series of biographies. I particularly remember being impressed by the biographies of strong women like Julia Ward Howe and Florence Nightingale. She recognized early on that the majority of the books for my age group were not challenging enough for me and so she allowed me to start borrowing books from the YA and adult sections early on. (When I tried to borrow books from the same sections from the downtown main library I had to have permission from my mother. Fortunately,my mom was with me at the time and readily gave her permission, which surprised the downtown employees. My mom simply said that our entire family loves to read.)

    Mrs Cronin was middle-aged when my parents were young so I am sure she is long gone from this earth. I am also sure that there is a special place in Heaven for persons like Mrs Cronin. Thank You, Mrs Cronin for all that you did for me!

  8. Good morning, Lesa!

    I so enjoyed your post. In fact, I got a bit teary when I read, "Librarians and authors share a dream. We want to bring the magic of storytelling to other people."

    When I was a little girl, I lived on a rural farm and the library was quite far away. Going there was a destination and treat.

    Even now I can picture the faces of the librarians so clearly. They put books in my small hands that sent my imagination into flight. I was 6 years old when I got my first library card, and was so excited that I squealed. The librarian laughed and laughed. I'll never forget it.

    Thank you for being such an exceptional librarian and friend, Lesa. The world of books is a better place for having you.

    Sending a Southern-style hug from your #1 fan in Kentucky!

  9. Lesa, I wrote another post that disappeared when I clicked on "Publish", so I will try again (And try to remember everything I said):

    It is frustrating to me that communities cut library services from the budget so readily. Hours are cut, depriving students of a place to study and do research, and libraries are often not open at night and on weekends when working people are free to go to the library. People cannot afford to buy every single book that they want to read.

    Going to the library is as important to me as eating properly, exercising, taking vitamins, etc. I wish that the politicians who hold the purse strings felt the same way. When the library in the city where I currently live had to start cutting back hours during the summer a few years, I started going to a library in a nearby town. Not everybody is able to do that, particularly if transportation is a problem.

    Deb -in case you didn't have a chance to check the late comments last night: I will email my address on Monday. Thank Dean and Diesel again!

    Deb Romano

  10. I am appalled at my typing when I use my Kindle to respond! I type faster than the words appear on the screen, the spacebar does not always work, sometimes I don't hit a key hard enough for a letter to appear,and sometimes I hit it TOO hard and the letter shows up more than once! Sorrry if reading my comments hurts your eyes! I sometimes forget to proofread before sending.

    (Better drink more coffee...)

    Deb Romano

  11. I went to the grocery store, and came back to find wonderful notes! Thank you everyone.

    Hallie, My library does lend e-books through Overdrive. However, there isn't a great demand for it yet. I see that it's usually older patrons because they can afford the device, or get it as a present. They like the ability to enlarge the type and the light weight. I'm in a poorer community, though, and it will be a while before most of my patrons have e-readers. Many of them don't even have computers.

    Deb - Thank you for all your comments! I hope you do find your way to Lesa's Book Critiques. And, it's wonderful to read about librarians who truly love to inspire children.

    And, you're right about the libraries hours. It's a vicious cycle - we had to cut hours because of the economy. Patrons can't get to the libraries in our open hours, and then politicians don't think people need libraries because the numbers are down. If you break it down hour by hour, though, we're busier than ever because we're cramming those people in our limited hours.

    I hope you contacted your local politicians and complained about the budget cuts to the libraries, and the hours that were cut. If people don't complain, politicians think people don't care.

    Good morning, Beth! It's always a joy to see your name come up. It's wonderful to know that librarians and libraries were important to you. And, for those of you who don't know Beth Hoffman, she's the author of one of my favorite books, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

  12. I'm going to be gone for a few hours - going to see the movie, The Descendants. But, I promise I'll be back then to respond to your comments.

    Keep them coming! And, thank you so much for the comments.

  13. Lesa, Hey!!

    How fun to see you here!

    I very much enjoyed this piece, but the whole time I was reading I could NOT get this statement you made out of my mind - "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."

    This is a heartbreaking observance that speaks to the times, I think.

    It was a librarian, along with my parents, who nourished my love of reading by personally taking me by the hand, literally, and walking me through the stacks pointing out the authors she thought I'd enjoy and hand picking some of their books for me to check-out.

    Thanks for all you do, my friend!

  14. "I can only speak for myself as a librarian, but authors bring magic to conventions."

    Me, I think *librarians* bring magic to conventions! Love talking with them, hearing what they love and how they interact with patrons, helping them find that magic.

    I wrote about my love of libraries last fall on Jenny Milchman's Suspense Your Disbelief: It all started in a castle -- or at least that's how it seemed to me!

    Thanks for the conversation, Lesa!

  15. I love my library. When I was younger, I moved around a lot and the first question was "Where is the Pediatrician," The second was "Where is the Library." I live in a small town, and the library has become a hub for computers, as well as wifi, and oh yes, will get me any book they have access to in their system. In addition, our town is multi lingual, so there is a reading program, crafts connected to books, and they are open seven days a week. Short hours sometimes, but they are there. Librarians guide us to the magic, thank you.

  16. Kaye, Thank you for everything you do for books and authors. You're one of my favorite bloggers, and one of my favorite people that I've never met. I know how much you love books, and it's wonderful to hear that a librarian took you by the hand, and pointed out the books you might love. Look what you grew up to do! (Or, knowing you, you'd probably say you haven't grown up, yet!)

    Leslie, I can't thank people enough that write about libraries, and tell others how much you love them. Thank you for sharing the magic!

    And, Lil? It's so wonderful to hear that you still have a library open seven days a week, and one that is that involved in the community. That's the way it should be. Thank you.

  17. One of the best parts of being an author has been traveling to libraries all around the country, meeting and talking to librarians and their patrons. (Including meeting Lesa at Poison Pen Bookstore!)

    However, my librarian to love today hasn't entered the profession...yet. My oldest daughter, Victoria, is going for her MLIS after she gets her undergrad degree. So cheers to her and all the other future librarians!

  18. I love our city-run library, seemingly a rarity in today's bigger county-wide systems. It's a single story brick building with just a few rooms that always seem to have patrons. Although it's small, I guess it reminds me of the town library where I grew up. Like the setting in a mystery, these libraries serve as a character in their own right.

  19. Julia! Good luck to your daughter, Victoria. It's always so good to learn about young people still planning to become librarians with all the changes. There are so many directions she can go with that degree.

    I certainly enjoy meeting authors, including you! Thank you.

  20. Florida does have a number of county-wide systems, Nancy. It's nice that you still have a city library that meets your needs. My hometown library, where I went back as director, serves a community of about 7000. And, it's still a wonderful library.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Welcome Lesa,

    What I valued the absolute most in the librarians in my small town of Westwood was the relief they provided when I had two small children. I pretty much lived at the library then. While I was scanning the shelves for parenting books, they held programs that lured my kids into a love of reading that has served them both extremely well.

    Everytime I go to the library to drop off a book and see a small child walking out with his/her mother, I get a little misty-eyed and I think - what a wonderful thing librarians do for new moms.

  23. Thank you, Jan, for allowing me to be here today. It's been fun to see what libraries mean to different people. And, right now, the saddest thing I see is when the library is closed because of budget cuts, and a small child has their face pressed against the door. I've even seen children crying because we're not open. It breaks my heart.

  24. Hey darling Lesa! I say.. Every day is love your librarian day! Can't wait to come visit... Thank you so much for being here today! Xx

  25. Hi lesa--so nice to have you visiting! I won't tell a long library story because I'm bleary from mystery day at ala...I did spend many many happy hours at our library as a kid and serve on the board of my library at home. It's tragic to see funding for libraries cut, and to have people wondering if they are obsolete!

    By the way, besides seeing old pals Hank and Ro today, was so happy to meet Debs in person for the first time.

  26. Hank,

    Thank you! And, I'll finally get to meet you at Bouchercon in Cleveland in October! I know it's a big conference, but I'm gong to plan to be somewhere you are so I get to meet you! Looking forward to it.

  27. Lucy,

    So, those librarians wore you out? Librarians have a great amount of energy!

    It's so funny to think of you actually meeting one of your blogmates. I always think of all of you as knowing each other because you blog together. I'm glad you finally had a chance to meet Debs. I'll get to see her again in a few weeks at my library.

  28. And, a final comment before logging off tonight, although I'll check tomorrow morning for any last comments.

    Thank you, Deborah, for inviting me to do a guest post here. I always enjoy talking about libraries and authors. And, thanks to all the other Jungle Reds for allowing me to visit. It's been fun.

  29. Doesn't it figure, I'm sick in bed all day, too sick for the computer and today is Love your Librarian Day! I work in our school's library (or Media Center) and I love it! All day long I get to touch books, and help little kids enjoy reading.

    My own love of reading and books goes waaaay back, to Mrs. Boyer in my elementary school library, who used to let me read books before she finished processing them. I thought she was the most beautiful, wonderful person in the whole world. I absolutely adored her, as you can tell. I have loved books, libraries, and librarians my whole life.

    So when the position of assistant opened up in my kids' library, I grabbed it sooo fast! It's been two years and I am happiest sharing books I love with the kids. I have learned a whole new world of children's literature. I love that part of my job description is surfing book review sites for recommendations on children's books! So welcome welcome welcome and thank you for sharing!

  30. Lesa, this was fun remembering. Thanks. Glendale isn't that far from Tucson. Perhaps we'll meet one day. Maybe at the book fest in March?

  31. Did I forget to say my first student job in grad school was assistant to the technical librarian on the Brittle Books Project? I can't believe I forgot to say that!!! That was perfect: Find and identify books. I spent hours alone with texts from the earliest days of library books. What could be better?

  32. Hi, Lesa, so lovely to read your post about authors, books, and magic! I'm fortunate enough to live in a city with one of the finest library systems in the country-- Kansas City, MO--and with two big regional systems, as well--Johnson County, KS, and MidContinent.

    As a writer and a lifelong avid reader, I love librarians. I've done many programs with libraries and always found the librarians to be charming people who love to bring readers and books together. I hate to see the budget cuts that are hitting libraries and making them close branches and cut hours at others. Libraries are important to our communities and to an enlightened, educated citizenry.

  33. Lora,

    Thank you for stopping in, even though you're sick. You have to be better by tomorrow. There are going to be some very disappointed kids in the media center tomorrow if you're not there. You sound just like the type of librarian that some adult will be talking about in twenty/thirty/forty years, saying that librarian in my school library helped me find books I loved. Thank you, Lora, for what you're doing for kids.

  34. Nothing could be any better, Reine. Isn't it wonderful to have a job that puts you in touch with books every day?

  35. Linda,

    Some people understand the importance of libraries, and value them. Why don't our politicians get it? Thank you for being one of those people who do.