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.
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.
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.
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.
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