Friday, June 09, 2006

Librarians are Cool

My Bookman and I attended the Nancy Pearl talk at the new library last night. The library is still so new that the auditorium we were in was still clean, the blonde wood unscuffed. It even still had a new smell too it. There were close to 200 people there, all adults, mostly women. Quite a few people had just bought the action figure (thanks to my friend tin lizzy, I already have one) and were laughing at the "shushing" action (there is a button on the back that makes the arm go up to shush position). After we politely clapped for the short speech from the executive director of the Friends of the Library, and after we politely laughed and clapped at the speech by the CFO of the corporation who sponsored the talk, Nancy Pearl finally came out. She was wearing sensible heels but my guess is she is about five feet three inches or so. She talked non-stop for about 50 minutes. And she talked fast! She told all kinds of stories and would interrupt a story to tell another story which would also get interrupted. She said she used to think she got distracted but now she realizes she talks in hyperlinks. I had my paper and pen out, taking notes, the only one. I felt so justified when she started naming book titles and nearly the whole auditorium began frantically digging in purses and bags looking for paper and pen. Ha! She talked about her childhood in Detroit, Michigan and how she'd spent it in the public library. She said he family was dysfunctional before dysfunctional had a name (this was the 50s). To escape her home she'd go to the library every day. On Saturdays she would pack a lunch and stay from open until closed. She said there was a table in the library that she used to hide under because she believed when she was under it she was invisible. That's where she would eat her lunch so she wouldn't get in trouble from the librarians for eating in the library. She said the librarians were nice enough to pretend they didn't see her there. Francis Whitehead, was her favorite librarian. Francis was the one who started suggesting books for young Nancy to read. At the time, Nancy only read books about dogs and horses. Francis would bribe her into reading other books by showing her a new horse book and asking her is she wanted to be the very first one to check it out. Nancy always said yes. But Francis told her that before she could check out the new book, she would have to read this other book which Francis was certain Nancy would love too. Francis was the children's librarian at Pearl's public library. It is because of her that at the age of 10 Pearl knew she wanted to be a librarian when she grew up. Pearl told story after story. She is extremely funny and has a great sense of timing. Before she started recommending a few books, she reminded everyone that in suggesting a book to someone we had to remember that any book someone hasn't read is a new book for them no matter when the book was published. She thought it only a fair and balanced thing to do by ending her talk about the joy of books by mentioning the perils of a life of reading. The number one peril is that you never know if your memories are yours or if they belong to a character in a book. She said she has a distinct memory of going to the junior prom with a boy named Mike. She remembers her green dress in detail. She remembers she had a wonderful time. She was reminiscing with her sister about it once when her sister's end of the phone line went quiet. "Hello?" asked Pearl into the phone. Then her sister quietly said, "Nancy, you didn't go to the prom. That dress you said you wore is from a book called Double Date." Pearl read the book when she was a kid, retrieved it and re-read it. She found that the dress she thought she wore to prom did indeed belong to the girl in the book. And the girl's date is named Mike. There are other perils of reading but she didn't get to them because her time had run out. Early in her talk she mentioned she hated social situations because she has lived her life in libraries and after the question of "So what's everybody reading?" is answered she doesn't know what to say. When the evening was over I felt convinced that she and I and any number of other readers I know, would have no problem carrying on a conversation. Pearl currently lives in Seattle but did say that if she were ever to move anywhere else it would be to Minneapolis. So maybe someday I'll get to ask her, "So, what are you reading?" Hey, I can dream! If you haven't read Pearl's two books Book Lust and More Book Lust, I highly recommend them. You will never be at a loss for what to read again.