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Librarian Tips for Author School Visits

“So,” Carol said as she sat down at the table. “I have a few tips for authors who make school visits.”


Was her voice perhaps a tad too cheerful, her eyes suspiciously bright? Was I about to be enlightened as to the many things I'd been doing wrong for three days? To an author who was in the middle of a seven-day school visit thanks to the librarian sitting across from me, it was the kind of opener that made my blood run momentarily cold.

Never fear. What followed at dinner and for the rest of my stay was a lively dialogue about authors, school visits, author fees, presentations, material covered, how to handle noisy audiences, websites, and more.

I had tips for the schools, too, about the preparation they need to do, and the limits of how much an author can change children’s attitudes about editing, and the groupings of grade levels.

What Carol talked about made great good sense, but my brain was so much mush at the end of seven days that I asked Carol if she'd write her tips down. What she sent to me is a primer for any author who’s interested in making school visits and I’m going to share with you this week.

Carol is the President of The Literacy Connection, a committee of nine retired librarians in the Tri-City area of Washington State who’ve made it their mission to bring authors and illustrators to their schools every year for the past twenty years so that their children will learn to be excited about books and reading.

In the course of ten days at the end of October, I visited 12 schools and spoke to 28 groups ranging in size from 75-100 children up to 400+ in either the media center or the gym. At every single one of those schools, I was met at the door by a beaming, welcoming librarian, or picked up from my hotel by one.

I’ve never met an unhappy school librarian. Certainly not in Pasco, Richland, or Walla Walla, Washington. The media center is the heart of any school. Children look forward to being there. No where else are they allowed such freedom of movement, the choice of any book on the rows and shelves ringing the room, and in may schools today, a comfortable place to sit and read.

Librarians rock.

(Yes, I know they’re called media specialists, but that’s too cold a term for me. Besides, what media are they specialists in other than books? Anyone can call themselves a specialist these days, but librarians truly are: both about books and the hearts and minds of children.)

Whenever I want to know what children are reading, or what kinds of books they’re looking for, or how they feel about books, I talk to a school librarian.

They know a lot and they aren’t shy. I'm eternally grateful to Carol for her generosity in sharing her sage advice. Stay tuned.

Oh, but before I leave ... the 6th Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of the Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT, will be held on March 19-2. Faculty include Uma Krishnaswami, E Lockhart, and Nancy Mercado, editor at Roaring Brook Press. For more information, email Sarah Aronson at sarah@saraharonson.com.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
wait, but what are the tips? I have a school visit coming up and would love some pointers before prepping.
Nov. 30th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
The tips will start tomorrow. I hope that's soon enough. Carol really does have some interesting things to suggest. I hope they're helpful.
Nov. 30th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, totally soon enough. Visit isn't until Jan. Yay!
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
Where are the tips ...
Yes! Please! As an east coast author who does school visits, I'm eager to hear more.
Judith Geary
Nov. 30th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
Besides, what media are they specialists in other than books?

Well, when I was a media specialist, I not only was queen of the books, but of the magazines, computers, movies, and even somehow the copy machine and laminator (I never could figure out why I was the only one who understood how the latter two worked)! Actually, since I was in a brand-new building at the beginning, there were so few books in the collection while we were waiting for the big shipments of books to come in, that I concentrated most of my lessons on computer usage for the first few months! (Teaching Internet Savvy is one of the things I miss doing most not being a media specialist anymore-- it was always fun watching tech savvy kids realize they didn't know everything after all!)

Unfortunately I WAS unhappy in that job, but not for any reason you mention. Children look forward to being there. No where else are they allowed such freedom of movement, the choice of any book on the rows and shelves ringing the room, and in may schools today, a comfortable place to sit and read --THAT'S the part I remember fondly!

We never had authors in for visits (we were lucky to have any assemblies at all), though, so I can't contribute anything on the subject.
Dec. 1st, 2009 12:15 am (UTC)
I thought about all the other media that librarians have to be versed in as I wrote that, but somehow they seem superfluous to me in a library. It's those books, and the way they can touch a child in a way no other media can, that I think about. One of the librarians in Walla Walla plays soft, classical music in her library. It felt peaceful the minute I walked in. Another one hands out 15-minute passes to the library for good behavior. What better way to put reading in a positive light? I was so impressed by all the schools I visited and librarians I met. I always am. Librarians and schools do the hard work in this country. Thanks for commenting here.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )