On Monday, Ann Patchett shared her love for libraries from a reader and author’s point of view and yesterday we talked to Neil Gaiman about his role as Honorary Chair of National Library Week . Today, we hear from another perspective: a librarian!
In 2008, Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, and her latest book, The Night Fairy, was released in February. (Read an interview with Schlitz about the book.) Schlitz has another passion besides writing, though: her work as Lower School librarian at The Park School of Baltimore. Below, Schlitz tells us why physical books will always have a place in the library.
What makes a great school library?
A collection of magnificent books—plus some bad ones thrown in for variety—and impassioned readers: students, teachers and librarians.
What do you think of schools, like Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, that are getting rid of books in favor of digital-only libraries?
I don’t know what factors caused the people at the Cushing Academy to consider such a drastic step. I can only assume that their reasons were compelling. But if someone wanted to get rid of the books at my school library, I’d throw a fit. I’d be screaming things like “short-sighted” and “criminal” and “the death of civilization.” I’m 54-years old—not really the best time in life to turn to violence—but I imagine myself shrieking and gesticulating and standing in front of the shelves with my arms flung out.
Will there always be a place for physical books in the library?
Yes. I know that people are very worried about this just now. It’s almost as if they expected a new order to be imposed overnight, against their will: NO MORE BOOKS. And yet I don’t know one single person—including people who swear by their Kindles—who doesn’t want there to be tangible, portable, non-electronic books. It’s going to be up to us, after all—to the world of readers, and readers find reading a physical, as well as an intellectual pleasure. So long as we are unwilling to be deprived of that pleasure—and so long as we are willing to pay for books—publishers will continue to make books.
When people wag their heads and predict a bookless future, I’m reminded of my sixth-grade teacher, who told us to hold onto our twelve-inch rulers, because by the time we were in college, they would be obsolete, and worth money as antiques. I also remember being told that by the year 2000, there would be no real food; we would all be sucking nutritious paste out of tubes, like the astronauts. But people like real food, and people like books. I’m not saying that nothing will change—but I think we will always have books to cradle in our hands and read in the bathtub.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory of spending time in a library?
My memories are good, but there is no specific one that stands out. Every week, I searched the shelves for new books and old favorites. Every week, I walked out of the library with a stack of books so high that I had to steady it with my chin. I don’t remember a single nasty librarian.
If you were trapped in a library overnight, how would you spend your time?
Talking to the ghosts, of course. All good libraries have ghosts.