Loving Your Library - Janet Raye Stevens 

Hello and welcome to National Library Week, which here at YA Outside the Lines is totally going to be Library Month, as we celebrate libraries every day in April.

I’ve always loved the library, since day one. What an adventure to go somewhere and grab a bunch of books they let you take home. For free! I mean, what’s not to love? And there’s so many library spaces to love: the one downtown, the different branches with their own quirks and special people behind the desk, the little free libraries in old phone booths on your neighbor’s front lawn, and even the old-school style bookmobiles.

One particular kind of library has a special place in my heart—the school library. The place where a child can let their imagination fly, build on the ideas introduced in the classroom, and lose themselves in stories about people just like them, or learn about people not like them at all. Though my lifelong love of reading was kindled at home, my school library (and some very helpful librarians) fanned the flames.

Long ago, in fifth and sixth grade, I was tapped to work as a librarian’s assistant. When new books came in, I helped open the boxes and stacked the books into piles, then welcomed each one to our library family by stamping my school’s name inside the front cover. A simple job that filled me with pride. I got a sneak peek at the latest acquisitions. A win-win.

I remember checking out one book shortly after it came in. Karen, by Marie Killilea, a story about a girl growing up with cerebral palsy. It spoke to me. My brother had a physical disability and I saw my family in Karen’s, an ordinary family touched by an extraordinary challenge, and dealing with it through love and humor.

In high school, I signed up to be a library aide. This job required more housekeeping than my grammar school job—straightening shelves and putting books away on the metal book racks that spun around and around. There were a gang of us library aides, and this being the ’70s, we patrolled the stacks dressed in polyester pantsuits and platform shoes. I got a sneak peek at the new books in this job too, and that’s where I discovered Stephen King’s Carrie, soon after it came in. I’m sorry to say I neglected my shelving and tidying duties for a few days after finding that book. The story was daring and violent, a warts-and-all look a high school life, and oh-so-relatable for an unpopular, nerdy library aide like me.

Today, school libraries are under attack by people who think kids shouldn’t be allowed to read books like Carrie, and a whole lot of other books. Books that dare to show the world as it really is or how it can be. Books that explore and celebrate our differences. Books that talk about sex and fitting in and all the questions a young person might ask as they navigate this often-scary thing called growing up.

While Carrie would have a few suggestions on what we can do to push back on this anti-library movement, reality demands a less telekinetic and more practical response. My advice? Love your library, support your library, advocate for your library, and do the same ten times over for the librarians who work so hard to open up new worlds for all of us.

For free!

Janet Raye Stevens writes smart, stealthily romantic mysteries, WWII-set paranormal suspense, and time travel. She lives in Massachusetts with her family, and it should come as no surprise that one of her sons grew up to be a librarian. 

Connect with Janet at: janetrayestevens.com


  1. Great post. My sister became a writer as much from being a library aide in our open one afternoon a week library, as anything.

    1. Aww, that's wonderful! It's only natural a love of books spawns librarians and writers!

    2. The above is from me, Janet. LOL, I don't know why my comment was published as being from unknown!

  2. It's SUCH a powerful thing to be seen in a book!


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