Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Friday, February 28, 2014


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Author Elsa Marston  
I’m a New Englander who lives in Indiana and writes (mostly) about the Middle East, ancient and modern. That’s because my husband was Lebanese—we met as students at the American University of Beirut—and we had many opportunities to live in Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia because of his work as a professor at Indiana University. And also because I’ve always been fascinated by that part of the world, and like to share my interest with young people today—and I love research, which can lead to quite amazing adventures. My three sons are grown now; I have two grandchildren (Savannah, pushing 21 years and a nursing student, and Kahlil, pushing 21 months and a darling).  I love theatre, tennis, art, music, archaeology, progressive causes, and cats. 

One of the few historical biographies written for teenagers about outstanding Muslims whose faith was an essential framework for their actions. See http://www.wisdomtalespress.com  for suggestions and guidelines for using the book in educational settings. More Elsa Marston's Books and Travel Here (below Elsa living on a houseboat on the Nile)

Libraries Around the Globe
In recent years most of my library visits have been overseas in the Middle East.
In Egypt, for instance, I took part in adult group discussions about children’s literature--in a library, of course.  In Lebanon the young children sat on the school library floor to listen.

Palestine children on the way to school
In Palestine the teenagers sat primly in a circle, asking their questions--and politely phrasing their objections--through a translator.  (Which can be a little tricky…..)

 Below photo of four girls at Bier Zeit University in Palistine where I spoke to students in 2009

A Roar for Libraries Around the WorldI was told that virtually every town and village in Palestine has a library. It’ll probably be pretty small and the contents of the shelves sparse; but it’s there, ready to serve as a public gathering place to encourage reading for the whole community.

Library Love When You Were A Cub
The library in the Massachusetts town where I grew up was a comfortable old brick house shaded by tall maple trees and set back from the busy street, like a haven.  The children’s librarian was an attractive woman with black hair, who always smiled. She even smiled when my twin sister threw up all over a new book by Munro Leaf.   (I think most librarians these days do smile, but that was not always the case in the past.)
Newton Centre’s little old-fashioned library had an almost magical aura for me.  After all, that was where I first encountered, thanks to the smiling librarian, the flying-carpet magic of the wonderful by E. Nesbit books.   

More Library Love
My writers’ critique group, the Bloomington Children’s Authors, has been meeting in our public library since 1987 (yes!).  When I was thinking of starting a group and asked my friend Dorothy Haas for advice, she told me not to meet in members’ homes:  we would spend too much time serving coffee and tea, lemonade and Perrier, cookies and cakes.   So the public library has served us very well indeed for all these years, and its meeting rooms have helped toward the birthing of many good books by some well known authors—Elaine Marie Alphin, Pamela Service, Marilyn Anderson, even me.  Sometimes we get pretty noisy (how can we help it, when Keiko Kasza brings in her latest picture book dummy with its hilarious sketches of willful wolves and befuddled bears?)   But no one ever shushes us;  they just tactfully suggest that we keep our critiquing down to a dull roar, if possible.  
What I also like about our public library is that it serves such a wide range of people in the community, including people who often would not be able to spend time in a place where they can be safe, quiet, warm in winter and cool in summer, and aware—I hope—of a much wider world around them. 

Author’s Roar: Funding for libraries, especially school libraries, is currently under threat. As an author, what are your thoughts about that?  
To paraphrase an oft-quoted remark about the cost of education vs. the cost of ignorance:

If we think libraries are expensive, would we rather pay for the results of our young people having to hunker down at home with nothing to do—or getting into trouble somewhere?  Would we rather try to keep our democracy afloat with little or no public access to books and newspapers?  Or strengthen our society and civilization without the one institution that can bring together the minds and hearts of all citizens?  And where even dogs like to come and hear a story read to them?  Well, I’m getting carried away . . . but I trust my point is clear. 

Roar For Librarians
Librarians are high on my list of the world’s most important people.  They may not make the world move the way captains of industry and finance do, and I suspect they are very rarely paid what they’re worth.   But whether paid or volunteer, they maintain the institution that is essential to any free, democratic society.  I can’t imagine civilization without libraries.
I’ll roar for the director of the Monroe County Public Library, the impressive Sara Laughlin; and for my friend Amal Altoma who, in her calm, soft-spoken way, made herself not only indispensable but wildly popular during her many years on the job. And for all the folks who keep the library open and busy, almost always with a smile.

 Let’s Link Up
Website:   http://www.elsamarston.com

Thank you, Elsa Marston, for your terrific interview. It was particularly cheering to hear that virtually every town and village in Palestine has a library!

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Stuart Levy.

(Stuart pictured here on left with author Chris Crutcher.)  
I am the teacher-librarian at Inza R. Wood Middle School in Wilsonville, Oregon.

I have been a teacher at Wood for the last 21 years, and this is my 10th year as the librarian. According to my computer, as of the time of this writing, we have had close to 150,000 checkouts during that time. Wow!

The Skinny
 I love that I get to work with all of the students in the school, plus all of the staff. It’s a great feeling to connect someone with just the exact resource that they need – especially when they didn’t even realize that what they needed existed! Libraries can be amazing places. I also love reading young adult literature. There are some incredible authors out there, and the books nowadays are so much better than the ones that were written back when I was in middle school. I love the fact that buying books is part of my job.

A Mighty Roar!
Libraries are the great levelers in our democratic society. In a library, everyone is truly equal in a library. Regardless of how many books people have at home, everyone has access to all of the books within the library catalog. For free! It’s truly an amazing concept that I think people take for granted. And, not only do they have access to the “stuff” for free, but they have access to people who can help them get the “stuff”, explain the “stuff”, and train them how to use the “stuff”, all for free. Libraries are not just repositories of information; they are the keys that unlock the doors for all of our citizens.

(Students playing Rock-em Sock-em robots as a part of the lunchtime activity conducted by Wilsonville Public Library to promote their evening teen event.)

Library Laughs

I always find it amusing when students ask if they can “rent” a book. I ask them how much they are willing to pay, and this puzzled look appears on their face. I tell them that they can rent from Redbox, but our materials they get to borrow for free.

(Students checking out the new books.) 

A Lion’s Pride of Programs
There are tons of great non-fiction for students to just read. It’s amazing to me that students completely overlook some really interesting non-fiction books that I buy – except, of course, for the sports, biographies, and Ripley’s books. When I purposefully give some of those books to students, they eat them up. But, when they are on their own, they typically don’t pull books from those sections.

I want to plug the importance of having teacher-librarians in schools. Our numbers have dwindled over the years. There are about half the number of teacher-librarians in Oregon from about 20 years ago, and the number of schools, and students, have increased. Some people, outside of the system, think that all you need is someone to check in and check out books. But, anyone who has actually been in a school with teacher-librarians knows that we do a heck of a lot more. We actually are teachers, and we understand students. We understand instruction, curriculum, and assessment. We work with all of the people involved in the community to create a place where everyone feels safe and supported, and we provide the resources that allow everyone – everyone – to succeed in what they need to do. School libraries are magical places, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Readers Roar
“Libraries are the awesomest place on earth. Even though you are supposed to be quiet, you can have lots of fun.” Abigail, 8th grade.
“They are a place full of wonder and thought.” Willow, 8th grade

“It’s a place where you can escape reality.” Emily, 8th grade

(Students entering our weekly Librarypalooza  that gives them a riddle or puzzle to solve.) 
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
Divergent series by Veronica Roth: very hot! I think it’s because it’s an Oregon Reader’s Choice Award, plus the movie is coming out (and, it’s a very engaging book).

Wonder by Palacio is also very popular, probably because it’s well written and a very compelling story.
Maze Runner by Dashner continues to be very popular in our school. The author visited about 3 years ago, and, ever since, it’s stayed as one of our top checkouts.

Author! Author!
The best author visits I have had are the ones when the author truly connects with the students. Sometimes that is done by simply talking about when they were young, or even from reading from one of their books. But, it’s the simple act of talking “with” the students instead of “to” the students. I have also have had some authors who are willing to not only speak to the large student body but also to do writing sessions with smaller groups of interested students. That has been very powerful for that group.

Thank you, Stuart for your terrific interview!
Let’s Link

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot.