I have always felt that truly good librarians are magic makers: they inspire readers to follow their passions and ignite new ones by introducing book selections that might not have been considered. I love to check out books from the library and have the librarian give his or her thoughts or ask for my opinions. As helpful and encouraging as librarians are to adults, I think their true spark comes from their interaction with children.
The librarian at my children’s New Hampshire elementary school and the Amherst town librarian took on the role of an adult confidant and mentor to my own children. She (in both cases) assumed the role of an adult who wasn’t there to evaluate or to reprimand (usually), but someone who the children could share their thoughts, questions, and inspiration about the books they read. As much as I enjoyed teaching, I often admired and envied the role of a librarian: to be able to read and share books and authors without worrying about grades or projects or state requirements.
Now I know that good librarians do so much more than that! They seem to possess a unique gift to recognize what type of book a child wants or needs and be able to find a suitable title to fit just that purpose. Although a librarian’s work with technology has changed over the years – from microfiches and film strips to ebooks and websearches – I’d like to think that their passion lies truly with the books themselves.
Here are four of my favorite librarians from children’s literature.
Miss Merriweather from Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
I have to admit that this is one of my all-time favorite children’s picture books and I have to thank a librarian for sharing it with me and my children – thanks, Miss Jackie! One day, a lion wandered into the library and sat down for a snooze in the children’s section. As he wasn’t breaking any rules, he was allowed to stay. He became a soft pillow during story-time, helped dust the shelves with his tail, and licked the overdue notice envelopes. When something happens that requires the lion to break the rules, he must leave the library.
This is a beautiful story about rules and when to break them. And more importantly, it is about the friendship between a librarian and a four-legged patron.
Lil in Library Lil by Suzanne Williams
Every since she was a child, Lil loved books and loved the library. One time she even checked out the entire set of encyclopedias and read them from cover to cover; so of course, she grows up to be a librarian. Unfortunately, the people of Chesterville were not avid readers. When a storm knocks out all the power in town and the television service is cut off, Lil jumps at the opportunity, pulls out the bookmobile, and inspires the town to read. Life in Chesterville is good until Bust-‘em-up Bill and his motorcycle game come to town; they discover that they are unable to watch their favorite shows on Tuesday night because there are no televisions in town and they seek out the culprit behind this heinous act. Lil stands firm and converts them all to be book lovers.
This very fun book is illustrated by the immensely talented Steven Kellogg. The vivid and detailed illustrations just add to the humor and depth of the story. Younger readers can appreciate the passion for reading that Lil inspired. My favorite part is when the motorcycle gang members get in a fight over who will check out The Mouse and the Motorcycle.
The Library Lady in All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
This is a delightful book about five sisters who live in New York City with their parents at the turn-of-the-century. This chapter book series was one of my favorites as a child and tells an engaging story while still teaching the reader about the city, the time period, and the customs and traditions of a Jewish family.
One chapter has the girls going on their weekly visit to the library, but Sarah can’t find her book. When they inform the library lady, her kindness and generosity warms the readers’ hearts. A mistake can be made by anyone and her compassion and problem-solving truly make her an exemplary librarian. Although her part in the whole story is small, her impact and influence on the lives of these young girls is memorable.
Mrs. Mullan in Mike’s House by Julia L. Sauer
This enchanting picture book was first published in the 1950’s and truly captures the humanity of the time. Four-year-old Robert gets lost on his way to Picture Book Hour at the Public Library. He really just gets a bit confused and a young policeman rescues him. Unfortunately, Robert’s explanation that he was going to Mike’s House is unclear to the officer; some hilarity and charm ensue as he realizes that Mike’s House is where the book Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel lives.
My admiration of librarian Mrs. Mullan is how she able to enchant a young child that books can be personified; that a reader can have such an emotional attachment and a vested interest in the characters and story that the book can have its own personality. A book or story can have feelings, create emotional ties with others, and live in its own house! I remember this book as a child and was thrilled to discover a very old, worn, and well-loved copy at our library’s rummage sale. A treasure find for me!
So in honor of all the wonderful librarians in your lives, what literary librarians do you admire?