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. 


  1. What a lovely post by the even lovelier Elsa! She's right: our public library is a wonderful place...and the children's department staff are exceptional (I used to give them cookies at Christmas, though, in the interest of people's health, I now give them handmade soaps - you know, like the one I gave you this year, Elsa!).

    I would love to grow up to be like Elsa, with her fascinating past and her calm intellect, but I guess I'll have to settle for having her as a friend and fellow Indiana SCBWI member. :)

  2. Wonderful post and so encouraging to know others believe in Libraries and their importance in the life of every reader. I think libraries make the perfect place for critique groups and I envy the experiences Elsa has had.

  3. Thankful for Elsa as a SCBWI IN member, alerted other members to this wonderful site! I work in a public middle school library and am a MG non-fic author. I will hope to make my mark here someday, but this is such a prestigious group that I'm almost afraid to step up to the plate! (Like those clichés?) www.KayleenR.com