In Their Own Words

Authors unite in library advocacy effort

August 12, 2010


“Our Authors, Our Advocates” was launched at my Inaugural Banquet during Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., in June. I was deeply honored to have as my special guests four wonderful authors who spoke so eloquently. They were, by turns, funny, passionate, compelling, and thoughtful, and they illustrated how authors can partner with us to advocate for the essential role libraries play in this nation’s economic and educational success.

Here are some excerpts from their presentations:

Marie Arana, fiction author and veteran editor of the Washington Post’s “Book World.” “The big break in writers’ lives, more often than not, was the library. The thoughtful librarian, that singular moment when the child or striving novelist or historian or journalist is guided to a book that sparks the imagination and serves the relevant question, brings alive worlds. I myself had a similar story coming to the United States from Peru at the age of 10 and being taken to get my first library card in Summit, New Jersey. I had never been in a library before, and I will never forget what it was like to check out a book and be allowed to take it home with me. I felt as if I was committing a crime, absconding with something that wasn’t mine. It seemed such an act of trust, of generosity, of acceptance. I was bowled over by the sheer bounty of possibilities that a library card could give.”

Brad Meltzer, attorney and thrillers author. “We did not have money growing up . . . but I got this library card. And in Brooklyn, New York, where we didn’t have books, we had this library. And my grandmother would take me there. And every week when I would stay with her, we would go, and I remember the librarian would always say, ‘This is your section,’ and I thought she meant this was my section, it was my own, just made for me.”

Sharon Draper, teacher and author of books for teens. “I have been reading a lot about the library in Alexandria. That library was charged with collating all of the world’s knowledge. When ships came into port, they were required to bring their books to the library, and scribes would take them and copy them and then return them. They were so good that sometimes they would give the copy back to the people on the ships and keep the original . . . they had books on mathematics and astronomy and physics and the sciences and languages. All of the world’s knowledge was in this one place. And through various wars, all of this was lost. It was destroyed. It is said that inscribed at the top of this library when you walked in, it said, ‘This is the place for the cure of the soul.’ So we don’t really know what was lost, but we know that a lot of knowledge was destroyed. And when you think about all the libraries around our country that we’re losing, it’s the same thing as that library in Alexandria being destroyed . . . So let’s not lose our souls in our cities and our towns and our communities. Save our souls. And save our libraries.”

Carmen Agra Deedy, storyteller and children’s book author. “I have been ineluctably drawn to libraries ever since I entered that sanctum sanctorum. It was a place of quietude. In a world where things go beep and ding and ring, where you’ve got mail and you’ve got messages, when I enter a library, I feel that I am still entering a temple.”

Feel free to access these speakers’ presentations and download public service announcements through the ilovelibraries and atyourlibrary websites. Taped interviews with the many authors who were part of Annual Conference will be available late this summer or early fall. Look for updates in AL Direct as they are released.

Maureen Sullivan and Peggy Barber, collaborating with ALA’s Committee on Library Advocacy and Office for Library Advocacy, are preparing guidelines on how to make the best possible use of these rich resources for building support for your library.

And one last pitch. . . if you have not already, please make your contribution today to the Spectrum Presidential Initiative. Through ALA’s website, making your donation couldn’t be easier. In keeping with unique voices above, I’d like to quote from a letter received from Susan Trujillo of Moreno Valley, California, who is part of this year’s class of Spectrum scholars: “I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to be more excited about this award than I am, but my family is coming pretty darn close. I am the first to graduate college and the first to attend graduate school. My family is tickled that I have been granted the Spectrum award and I am thrilled to be able to serve as a role model for my young nieces. They are so excited that I am going to be a librarian and told me ‘Librarians rock!’ So true.”

Join us as we strive to ensure that our profession reflects the diversity of this country.

ALA President ROBERTA STEVENS is on leave as outreach projects and partnerships officer at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Visit her website. E-mail:



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