I love libraries (I literally wake up facing the southeast corner of the Boston Public Library), yet their pull on me remains mysterious. Allow me a moment to explain. I grew up with three siblings and a whole bunch of cacophony constantly circling me as I read my Babysitter’s Club chapters. I’ve grown up with white noise, so to sit in the silent reading rooms of a library kind of freaks me out. How are people that still?! Are we checking pulses regularly?! When I was in college, the alternative to those silent reading rooms were center long tables, and everyone knew those were for embellishing tales of a night before and complaining about how much work one had to get done without ever actually being motivated to do anything but socialize. That, plus the idea that I had to walk fourteen blocks from my apartment to get there only to remember that I’d forgotten my charger (every.dang.time)… not always worth it.
Yet as we come to the end of National Library Week, I do want to focus on the beauty of these literary enclaves. Their high ceilings, their warm hallways and cold reading rooms (temperature protection folks!), their circulation desks, their rows and rows of collections… outstanding. I love watching young readers pour into the library clutching a beloved picture book, waiting for story time to begin. I love when I see young adults making signs that protest censorship and promote banned books to hang on the walls. I love watching seasoned readers slowly wander through the aisles of a rare books collection. I even love watching librarians go through inventory! By the way, a huge shout out (or, as it is more apropos, a huge whisper) to librarians for their endless pursuit to place books in the hands of readers over these past few years. I recall watching the multi-step cleaning process that my own school’s librarian worked through in the early stages of the pandemic to make sure our students were reading safely.
Darcy in The Library of Lost Things seeks refuge in her local library from the tumult of her family life, while Kyle in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is working hard to find a way out when he’s trapped inside for an interactive contest! I decided to bookend (ha!) this middle grade and young adult novel with two stories about librarians. Tales of these unsung heroes have been recently circulating (double ha!), as both focus on women of color with a determination to share great works of literature in a world that was not willing to accept their own stories. It is with this in mind that I select picture book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, and adult novel The Personal Librarian.