Libraries and librarians

So, I finished up my library book tour yesterday in the nice little town of Blanchard, Okla. I had a good time at each stop and met some great readers (Heidi, Kyler, Lauryn), aspiring writers (Kimberly and Amanda), and some fantastic librarians each time. For the record, I suck at remembering names and have included the above because they’ve Facebook-friended me or e-mailed me or something. If you were there, I enjoyed meeting you, too!

Anyway, my point in all this was to talk about the influential role a librarian can play, and what one in particular did for me. As a writer, librarians are invaluable resources when it comes to research. You have to remember there’s more out there than what you’ll find on the Internet. In many cases, you can simply let a librarian know what you’re looking for, give him or her some time, and they’ll find material you never dreamed existed. For general readers, though, the most important role is turning you on to new books.

Every librarian I meet has to be compared with Virginia Atchinson, the librarian at Longfellow Junior High School in Enid, Okla., when I was there. She was an older, petite woman with red hair and a real passion for books. The last half or so of my seventh grade year, because I was an advanced reader, I got to go with a few other kids to the library for that period and Mrs. Atchinson was our teacher. That’s where I first learned to analyze literature beyond plot and setting. For eighth and ninth grade years, we convinced her to allow us to come back during homeroom (we had that back then) to keep teaching us. The woman assigned some books that are still among my favorites. Here’s a list of what I can remember off the top of my head:

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles (okay, this one is still the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s the exception on this list)
  • Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (I can still remember sitting in Mr. Ogletree’s Algebra class when I started Fellowship of the Ring and being transported back to Middle Earth.)

Oh, there was more, but I can’t recall them right now. These books, of course, led me to other books, particularly by these authors, but then books with similar themes. Her influence was like an infection that just kept spreading tendrils through me as book after book that I read was somehow related to those she assigned.

Librarians can do this for you, too, and will be happy to if you just ask.

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