September 14, 2011

Librarians and Chocolate Cake

In honor of my 1 Year Blogiversary, I have a GREAT week of guest bloggers lined up! Check back every day this week to see what I have in store for you! My very first guest is author Kirby Larson. Kirby won The Newbery Honor Award for Hattie Big Sky. Her newest book is The Friendship Doll. Thank you Kirby for your post, and thank you for your online friendship! I am so glad that cyber-fate brought us together!
I am so pleased to help celebrate both the first birthday of the Lemme Library blog and a truly amazing librarian, Kelly Butcher. She has not only been an enthusiastic cheerleader for my books, she has even given me blogging lessons, especially in how to manipulate graphics. Despite all the coaching, I will never be able to create images as cute as the ones Kelly does. My particular favorite is the one she created of my famous light sword battle with fellow author, Tom Angleberger:

I love librarians, for reasons you will discover below, and am happy to honor this library blog’s first birthday even though, sadly, there is no cake.
People often ask me why I became a writer, a question that I can easily answer: books saved me. I grew up in a home with lots of love but little money and we moved nearly every single year as my dad searched for new ways to support our family of six. This took place in the olden days when people didn’t move around much so, at each new school, I was an oddball from the get-go. In addition to being the new kid, I was the new kid with a really bad home-permanent, cats-eye glasses and a name that would make any bully think he or she had won the lottery: Kirby Miltenberger. (My folks might as well have painted a target on my forehead!) As a kid, however, I soon learned that, no matter where I went, I could quickly find a friend in the school library, between the pages of a book.

Books allowed me to imagine myself tracking a thief, like Emil in Emil and the Detectives, or eating all the pancakes I wanted while bench-pressing horses, ala Pippi Longstocking, or even jetting to a distant planet, as did the children in Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet series. My mother saved my report cards and most of them said something like, “Kirby rushes through her lessons so she can read her library books; she needs to pay more attention to schoolwork and less to stories.” Soon, it wasn’t enough to simply read stories; I wanted to create my own (after I did my homework, of course!). And that’s what I’ve been doing since I was about eight years old.

I gave up permanents ages ago, now wear contacts instead of glasses, and thankfully married a man named Larson so I don’t read to soothe a lonely heart as much as I once did. But I still could not survive without a library. Of course, I use them to check out delicious reads--like TomAngleberger’s Origami Yoda, KarenCushman’s Alchemy and Meggy Swann, Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog, Gary Schmidt’s Okay for Now, or LindaUrban’s Hound Dog True--as I always have. But I also use them to track down the name of a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco in 1919 or to find out when the term “waterwings” was first used or to read the New York Times from 1890. As a writer of historical fiction – as a writer, period!—I consider my library a tool of the trade, just like my keyboard, thesaurus and special assistant, Winston the Wonder Dog. 

The best part of any library is its librarians. On the outside, librarians may look like ordinary mortals, but underneath their “Too Many Books, Too Little Time” tee-shirts, they wear superhero costumes. Somehow they can do the same keyword search I have tried ten times and actually come up with what I was looking for. They know where to find old maps, how to load the microfiche machines, and what magic words are needed to request a book through interlibrary loan. And they get as excited as I do about finding just the right fact to make my stories sparkle. And, maybe most importantly, they work very hard to place the right book into the hands of a reader. Because of that, they are as ferocious as a tiger mom protecting its cubs when it comes to protecting our rights to read. Librarians are the wizards of these modern times and I wouldn’t want to live in a world without them.

Especially if there is chocolate cake.   

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! This librarian thanks you, Kirby, for your kind words! The opposite is also true: I wouldn't want to live in a world without Kirby Larson's books in it.