I believe that books save lives. In a very pragmatic way, a book on, say, defensive driving or swimming pool safety can do it, but I’m talking about a more esoteric emotional and spiritual rescue. At times in my life where I felt disconnected and friendless, authors like Susan Cooper, Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Pratchett came to me. They gave voice to my despair and demonstrated the potential for triumph. They kept me alive by teaching me to laugh and allowing me to weep. They restored my soul.
Librarians have been my guides in this spiritual quest. Jan Zander at my elementary school brought me to The Boxcar Children. My mother Jeanine, during summers at her school library, let me comb through the discards and take home Danny the Champion of the world, The Phantom Tollbooth, Bridge to Terabithia. In high school, the remarkable Michael Printz gave me Hatchet and showed me works like the Oxford English Dictionary and Current Biography, planting the seeds for my own career as a librarian.
For a while, I taught high school English. There I was the one sharing the books. I taught Shakespeare and Dickens, Twain and Poe. Always I watched for the spark that told me I was reaching someone. Now that I’m a librarian, I must be the one to take the next generation of readers and show them my old favorites and the new ones, too. In the end, though, it’s not about me. It’s the books themselves, with enduring, endearing characters (Charlotte, Mr. Rat, Lucy Pevensie, Bilbo Baggins) who have kept me sane and in control. I believe that they can do the same for anyone.
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