My Dad and the Library

National Library Week is April 9-15, 2017. To celebrate, I’d like to share a special story.

My dad wasn’t a reader.

I don’t mean he couldn’t read. He just didn’t read for pleasure. He read for information, to gain knowledge, to figure out how to do something. As far as I know, he never once borrowed a book from any library.

And yet he understood my love of books and the library. From the time I learned to read, I hungered for new books. I would bring home the little Scholastic book pamphlets from school and pour over them, checking off all the books I wanted and confidently handing them to him. He never said no, no matter how tight the budget was.

Then we moved to a lovely little town called Cheshire and I discovered the Cheshire Public Library.

I was nine years old. I couldn’t go to the library unless someone drove me. And there was Dad, driving me to the library after he got out of work, dropping me off while he ran to the store to pick up a few things, waiting in the parking lot while I scanned the shelves looking for a Nancy Drew that I hadn’t read yet. Like the Scholastic book pamphlets, he never said no when I asked to go to the library.

He almost never came inside. He told me I was responsible for keeping track of the books I borrowed and when they were due. He was responsible for getting me to the library so I could borrow and return materials.

Then came one cold night in October when I was twelve years old. Dad was waiting in the library parking lot for me while I selected some books. When I got back to the car, he was shaking. He told me he couldn’t seem to get warm. The next day he suffered his first stroke. He was thirty-nine.

He recovered, but it was six weeks before we could return to the library. I was apprehensive. For the first time in my life I had overdue library books. I had a little babysitting money but I had no idea how much I owed. I was truly afraid they wouldn’t let me borrow any more books.

To my surprise, my dad came into the library with me. He handed the overdue books to the librarian, took out his wallet and said, “I was sick and couldn’t bring these back.” He smiled at me. “It wasn’t her fault.”

The librarian asked what had happened and he told her about his stroke. She asked us to wait and vanished into a back room. She returned with a  smile.

“No charge,” she said. “The library has a heart.”

That was a big deal. My dad was now unemployed because of his health. We didn’t have a lot of spare money.

My father walked out of the library that day smiling. He said, “There are still good people in the world.”

I had already decided I wanted to be a librarian. I couldn’t imagine a career that didn’t somehow involve books. But that librarian’s kindness made me realize what a difference a librarian could make in someone’s day.

Three years later, I was hired as a library page at the Cheshire Library. The librarian who had been so kind to us was no longer there. I never even knew her name, and she never knew how much her action meant to me.

We all make a difference each day, even if we don’t know it.

In honor of National Library Week and the librarian who made a young girl happy a long time ago, here are some of my favorite children’s books about libraries and librarians:

lion-aspxThe Library Lion by Michele Knudsen.
A lion starts visiting the local library but runs into trouble as he tries to both obey the rules and help his librarian friend.



jacket-aspx The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter.
When war comes, Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian of Basra, fears the library will be destroyed, so she asks government officials for help, but they refuse, which means Alia must take matters into her own hands to protect the books that she loves.

jacket-aspxLibrary Lil by Suzanne Williams. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg.
A formidable librarian makes readers not only out of the once resistant residents of her small town, but out of a tough-talking, television-watching motorcycle gang as well.



jacket-aspxMrs. Roopy is Loopy by Dan Gutman.
A.J. and his classmates are convinced that the new school librarian, Mrs. Roopy, has multiple personality disorder because she keeps pretending to be famous people.



jacket-aspxThe Library by Sarah Stewart.
Elizabeth Brown loves to read more than anything else, but when her collection of books grows and grows, she must make a change in her life.

Adult Non Fiction about Librarians and Libraries

libworkI was inspired by the new series of posts about the work that goes on behind the scenes in our library to gather some of the best books about working in a library and the history of libraries to share. If you want to know a little more about life behind the desk, and some history of our little corner of the world and beyond, you might want to take a look at these titles.

I Work at a Public Library: a Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridanlibquiet
Collects strange-but-true anecdotes, heartwarming stories, and humorous interactions with patrons from a public librarian.

Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas
An autobiography set in a Southern California public library offers a quirky description of life as a caretaker of modern literature and furnishes an account of the history of libraries from the Gilded Age to the present day.libstrongest

The World’s Strongest Librarian: a Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
Traces the public librarian author’s inspiring story as a Mormon youth with Tourette’s Syndrome who after a sequence of radical and ineffective treatments overcame nightmarish tics through education, military service and strength training.liboverdue

This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
In a celebration of libraries and the dedicated people who staff them, the author argues that librarians are more important than ever, and discusses a new breed of visionary professionals who use the Web to link people and information.

libbreedDear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim
Provides the story of life in a Japanese internment camp during World War II through the correspondence of the children in the camp to their librarian, Miss Clara Breed, who worked on their behalf to show the injustice of their imprisonment.

Library: an Unquiet History by Matthew Battleslibunquiet
Provides an intriguing historical study of libraries and books, their preservation, and destruction, from the U.S. to Europe and Asia, from medieval monasteries and Vatican collections to the ever-changing information highway of today.

For further reading about the history of libraries and what it can be like on the other side of the counter check out: Running the Books: the Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don libhistoryBorchert, Dewey: the Small-town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter, The Library: an Illustrated History by Stuart A.P. Murray, Library: the Drama Within photographs by Diane Asséo Griliches ; essay by Daniel J. Boorstin, The Librarian’s Book of Quotes compiled by Tatyana Eckstrand, and Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out edited by Katia Roberto and Jessamyn West.

Favorite Picturebooks About Libraries and Librarians

Is there any wonder that those of us that love libraries also love books about librarians and libraries? There are a number of wonderful picturebooks that can show children to true magic of a library, how to unlock its joys, and how  to behave there. These books can remind adults and introduce young children to the many reasons why our libraries, regardless of the form they take, are such special places.

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies.
Bored with another normal, inky evening, bats discover an open library window and fly in to enjoy the photocopier, water fountain, and especially the books and stories found there.

The Library Pages by Carlene Morton, illustrations by Valeria Docampo.
Mrs. Heath is horrified when she sees the changes the students have made while she is on maternity leave and wonders if her wonderful library will ever be the same.

Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk.
Sam, a shy but creative mouse who lives in a library, decides to write and illustrate his own stories which he places on the shelves with the other library books but when children find the tales, they all want to meet the author. If you find this book particularly fun, there are a series of books that chronicle Sam’s library adventures.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq by Jeanette Winter.
In spite of looming war, librarian Alia Muhammed Baker was able to save the books from the library of Basra by moving them to safety. Simple forms and deep colors in a naïve style evoke the war without being explicit. The bravery and action of one person celebrates both everyday heroism and books as a unifying force.

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, Illustrated by Raúl Colón.
While helping his family in their work as migrant laborers far from their home, Tomás finds an entire world to explore in the books at the local public library.

If those are already favorites in your house, or they are all currently checked out, then here are some more books to help keep you turning pages; No Pirates Allowed! Said Library Lou written by Rhonda Gowler Greene, That Book Woman written by Heather Henson, Library Lion written by Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, Stella Louella’s Runaway Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst. and There’s a Dragon in the Library by Dianne de Las Casas. Did I leave out a great picturebook about libraries or librarians?