If you follow me on any social media platform, you know I got a job working for the city of Thousand Oaks in its two library branches.
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After almost a decade out of the classroom, I love being surrounded by books again; and I don’t mean the books I’ve been writing.
(Because writing a book is awesome, but also hard. Being a library monitor is awesome and not-hard.)
For example, I worked on New Year’s Eve, but only until 5:15. While I was at work, my view featured wisdom by Ray Bradbury.
“Without libraries, what have we? We have no past and no future.“
Then I found this in my employee mailbox: a post card from a coworker with a picture of a cool door, and this cool Rumi quotation:
“You suppose that you are the lock on the door. But you are the key that opens it.”
On another day, a tiny girl picked our Grover puppet to hold while her mother read THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK to her and her also-tiny brother. (Spoiler alert: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK features Grover from Sesame Street.) The two tiny siblings both fit on their mother’s lap. They listened raptly while she read, whispered when they talked, and made the library feel like a sacred space.
It kind of is.
My mom used to read THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK to me, and I read it to my own tiny kids. (The ones who are in college now.) The nostalgia grew so thick, I had to blink back tears. It was awesome.
So was the afternoon a sweet little boy walked up to me with this book from Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Sweet Little Boy: We have this book in my class. I like it. You know why?
Me: No. Why?
Sweet Little Boy: Because you can’t know if it’s a rabbit or a duck! It changes when you look at it different. See? It looks like a duck this way. (He turned the book sideways.) Now it’s a rabbit!
Me: That’s very interesting, and a smart way to think about things.
Sweet Little Boy: When I grow up, all I want to do is explore the whole world!
Me: That is an excellent goal.
Sweet Little Boy (nodding): Do you have any books on adventuring?
He was awesome.
So are the sculptures below, carved from a redwood tree, that sit just inside one of the libraries.
Sometimes kids (and the occasional adult) sit on the indented spots, which is fine as long as the patrons aren’t being destructive.
One day, two people with babies in strollers and three other young children approached me. The oldest child asked me if they were allowed to touch the sculptures. I said yes and thanked them for asking permission first.
All three little ones explored the sculptures. They sat on them, touched them, circled them, grinned. When it was time to go, the smallest one walked up to me, whispered “Thank you,” and lifted a hand for a high five. (It took us three tries because we missed the first two times.) The others waited in line behind to thank me and offer their own high fives.
It was reminder that there are good humans in this world raising more good humans.
Which is awesome.
Like Corduroy. Do you know Corduroy? He’s a small bear in green overalls and all he wants is a friend.
Isn’t that what everyone wants? Someone to choose us?
Someone to see us?
Along those lines, I posted this picture with the caption “Everybody’s working for the weekend. I’m just working for the library.”
Afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of my favorite (albeit obscure) lines in Inherit the Wind, a play I used to read with my students. In the play, a defense attorney, Henry Drummond, is interviewing townspeople hoping to find impartial jury members for the trial of a teacher who’s been arrested for explaining the theory of evolution to his class.
Drummond asks a Mr. Sillers if he’s been working very hard at religion to which Sillers replies, “I’m just working at the feed store.”
Later that day, I talked with the librarians about the importance of literature that makes you wonder and grow, books that expand your knowledge rather than limiting it. We unanimously agreed “expanding” books were better. That no one should fear differing ideas.
Mere exposure doesn’t force you to change your mind.
I think the best way to believe in something is to know the argument against it. That’s the only way to be confident, right? If you don’t ask questions, you won’t give good answers. You can’t see what’s true without opening your eyes. And in my heart, I know this much is true:
Books are magical.
Teachers are heroic.
Librarians are super-smart.
My job is awesome.
To purchase Letters for Scarlet, go here.
To purchase Guest List, go here.