Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making Librarians Cry

Library, Here is where people, One frequently finds, Lower their voices, And raise their minds — Light Armour McGraw-Hill, 1954, Richard Armour

I confess – in the last few months, I've made my school librarians cry. But let me back up and explain -- the back-story, so to speak.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, part of an international expat community, our school, Jubail Academy was the center of our childhood universe. It was more than just a school – it was where we had our boy/girl scout meetings, sporting events, photo-club meetings, reading challenges, knowledge bowl sessions…. You get the picture. It was a beehive of activity, one supported and encouraged by the wonderful teachers and staff. A hub within the school was the two libraries, one serving the elementary school, the other junior high (the more racy stuff was on the junior high side – sweet valley high anyone?)

I, as Neil Gaiman said in his Newberry acceptance speech, was also a “feral child raised among the stacks.” I lived in the library, before and after school and during lunch. Although libraries are not child care facilities (and Neil says) our librarians were nurturing beings – always there with a smile, encouragement and good advice. Mrs. Hackworth, the librarian on the elementary side, taught me the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal system and let me help catalog books. It was here I discovered Roald Dahl, Beverley Cleary and Judy Blume. Mrs. Murray manned the junior high section and introduced me to books I would never have picked up on my own. She helped me do research for projects and questioned me when I needed questioning. Both embedded in me the passion for the written word and set me on the path to becoming a writer.

I met Mrs. Murray again at our Jubail Academy reunion, held this past summer in San Francisco. Her husband had been my algebra teacher and when I told them I’d written a children’s book and dedicated it to her, she cried. I didn’t mean for her to, it just happened. I later emailed Mrs. Hackworth a copy of the manuscript and told her she too was in my dedication. These past few days she read the book out loud to her husband, who was my reading teacher in the 5th grade. Her email mentioned how she took “emotion breaks” while reading – one of the greatest compliments a writer can receive. So thank you both for being the best librarians we could have.
Librarians are amazing – go hug yours today.

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