Does Meeting Authors Make Us Better Librarians?

Benjamin Saenz

Questions for Reflection:

Does being an author groupie inform me in a way that makes me a better librarian? Absolutely. When I go to conferences or author readings, or better yet, when I sponsor authors at my school, I get the opportunity to interact, if only briefly, with writers on a personal level. When I attend panels, I always come away with lists of new authors and books to explore or a deeper understanding of an author I’ve already read.

Do These Experiences Translate into My Job?

Of course! My favorite role as a librarian is as readers’ advisor to my middle school students. Or really, to anyone when the subject of books and writers comes up in conversation. When I get to meet writers, as I did at the just completed Texas Library Association convention in San Antonio, I can not only garner many likes from my school library Instagram followers, but I can also pitch the authors’ books to my students with a personal anecdote or insight gleaned from these experiences.

Jenny Han

Gene Luen Yang and Emily King Echols

 

Susin Nielsen

 Benefits:

What I love about meeting authors up close and personal is that it demystifies the writing process. Certainly one wouldn’t argue that just anyone could write a good book, but there is something so encouraging in the authors’ humility, wisdom, humor, and advice. More specifically, when writers come into the schools, they prove to students that books are not artifacts created in another zone but the creative products of individuals who share common human faults and doubts. Books are testaments to perseverance and recovery from failure. (All writers experience rejections, the exception being Stephenie Meyer of Twilight success.) Young adult authors seem especially lacking in hubris. Perhaps arrogance is a character flaw that makes writing a successful YA book impossible. The only hubris I detect in middle school students is an artifice to hide deep insecurity. In fact, perhaps one of the reasons I am drawn to working with adolescents is that I empathize with their confusion, doubts, and struggles with identity and in navigating the way to adulthood because I once (and still do) share them.

Ryan Graudin

Gratitude:

In addition to inspiring me to read books by new authors and more books by the authors I love, meeting the authors allows me to share anecdotes with these writers about my students and their reactions to their work. And I am able to thank them. That’s a short sentence but a deeply felt one. These authors need to know that the work they are doing makes such a difference in the lives of the children we teach. Most authors are grateful for our role, too. We are the bridges. One lovely author, Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe), was especially thankful for the role we play. Librarians are the “real estate” agents for books, in a sense: the catalyst between the seller and the buyer/ the author and the reader. We make the connection happen.

Jennifer Niven

Tim Green

Renee Watson

Nicola Yoon

Writing Rock Stars

And, yes, we must admit that some of us truly are author groupies in the same way that fans everywhere love to see and meet the people who inspire and entertain us, or why would anyone pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a live concert?  I apologize for the envy many of you are now feeling because TLA consistently attracts the best writers ever! I am so grateful to be a part of my professional organizations: TLA, AASL, and ALA. Surrounding myself with career peers and mentors always reinforces the truth that becoming a school librarian fourteen years ago, at age forty-two, was my best career decision.

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Author: Sara Stevenson

I’m a reader, writer, swimmer, and a public middle school librarian. I love all things Italian. I was honored to be Austin ISD’s first librarian of the year in 2013.



Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development

5 replies

  1. “And I am able to thank them. That’s a short sentence but a deeply felt one. These authors need to know that the work they are doing makes such a difference in the lives of the children we teach.”

    This is absolutely the most important part of meeting an author– to share with them appreciation for the job they do which most certainly helps us librarians to do our job of motivating readers. Bravo – great column!

  2. Meeting one or two authors in the exhibits, listening when they are the speakers at dinners is a treat, but most librarians attending conferences need to learn what is new in the field, ways to collaborate with teachers, new ways to make teaching and learning easier so that our students excel and become successful adults and citizens. If the choice is between meeting an author or attending a professional development session, then the choice was not the best one.

  3. Excellent post, Sara! Some of the best sessions I’ve attended at workshops for librarians have been panels where different authors discussed their books, their struggles and their successes.

  4. Dear Blanche,

    I was so fortunate to have three whole days at TLA, so I was able to go to author panels and events while also attending other sessions that fit more neatly under your definition of professional development. I also attended the TCEA conference, which includes all kinds of sessions on maker spaces and integrating technology into instruction. It’s not either/or but both/and.

    That said, learning about authors and new books is professional development because our mission is to create lifelong readers. “If young people develop a love of reading, they will have better lives.” — Rafe Esquith from Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire.

    Thank you for reading the post and for commenting.

    Best,

  5. I am pleased to read this and yes, as a children’s librarian for 33 FT years I hosted about 100 authors and had them talk at my public library as well as at our schools. To name a few–Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Paul Zelinsky, Kate DiCamillo, Ann Martin, Anthony Brown, Bruce Coville, Paul Zindel, Megan McDonald, and many more of the best writers and illustrators.
    I found these visits were very inspiring to kids and excited them about reading,writing and drawing.
    Jan

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