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In Praise of Libraries...Our Favorite Authors Speak Out

Did you know that more than 1.9 million people visit the Springfield-Greene County Libraries each year? Many of them come to attend the thousands of programs offered free for children, teens and adults. About 5,000 adults visit to attend free computer and job-readiness training classes. The bookmobile delivers books, music, movies and audiobooks to more than 18,000 people in underserved neighborhoods.

The library is also a major employer, providing more than $6.7 million in annual wages and benefits.

During National Library Week, April 10-16, the library district invites everyone to revisit their neighborhood branch and enjoy the free downloadables, books, music and movies; free computer training sessions, WiFi, public computers, reference databases, and all lectures and performances focusing on the American Civil War as part of The Big Read celebration throughout April.

As part of National Library Week, the library asked several regional and national authors to tell us why they love libraries. They responded passionately about their memories of using the library as a child, and about the importance of not only sustaining but increasing support for libraries.

Authors are natural allies of libraries. Especially in these challenging times, they understand the key role that libraries and library staff play in the economic, social and educational fabric of our nation. Here’s what they had to say:
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“Never have we needed the library as much as now, as their peer group tightens its electronic grip upon the young, and the text and the tweet destroy our language. Let the library be the last safe place--for the full sentence, the developed paragraph, and the privacy to savor both. --Richard Peck

Richard Peck has written more than 20 novels, and in the process has become one of America's most highly respected writers for young adults with books such as “A Long Way from Chicago,” A Year Down Yonder,” and “The River Between Us.” A versatile writer, he is beloved by middle graders as well as young adults for his mysteries and coming-of-age novels. He lives in New York City. He has won a number of major awards for the body of his work, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award from School Library Journal, the National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award, and the 1991 Medallion from the University of Southern Mississippi.

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“It’s so easy these days to complain about all the things that don’t work. Then you have the public library — one of the oldest, simplest, and greatest ideas ever. And best of all, libraries work. If I had my way, all public money would be put into libraries and parks. In fact, I think the two are closely related. Parks are where we can freely exercise or relax our bodies. Libraries do the same thing for our brains—and our souls.

“I know some people who think that because of the Internet, libraries will soon become irrelevant. I think the opposite is true. I love technology as much as the next guy. But after a long day of writing on my laptop, I don’t need or want any more screen time. I want to build a fire in the winter and sit in my comfortable living room chair – or on my porch in the summer – and read a good book.

“And I think every person has the right to do this – not just those who can afford to buy any book they want, but every single person who has a desire to learn about different places, people, and possibilities. That’s why I believe in libraries. They’re the best working and most democratic institution we have because they provide us all with a place and an opportunity to dream. --Kate Klise

Kate Klise is the award-winning author of the bestselling “Regarding” series of graphic, middle-grade mysteries (“Regarding the Fountain,” “Regarding the Sink”, “Regarding the Trees”, “Regarding the Bathrooms,” “Regarding the Bees”), as well as other quirky graphic novels (“Letters from Camp,” “Trial by Journal”); picture books (“Shall I Knit You a Hat?,” “Why Do You Cry?,” “Imagine Harry”); and the coming-of-age novel, “Deliver Us from Normal,” and its companion novel, “Far from Normal,” both published by Scholastic Press.

When she's not writing fiction, Kate works as a correspondent for “People” magazine. She lives in Norwood, Mo.
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“When I was seven, our family moved, and I was delighted to find out that our new home was near a library - the Brentwood Library, then on Sunshine Ave. Every week, I rode my bike the mile or so to the library clutching my yellow library card with the little metal rectangle that had numbers stamped into it. That little card was like the magical key to the world. I had two baskets on the back of my bike and I filled them both with books, books that took me to many places and introduced me to many people. Since that time, there has rarely been a week that I haven't stepped foot in a library, whether in Springfield, or some other town. When on vacation or on author visits to schools across the nation, I frequently find myself visiting their local public library. It always feels like home.”  --Judy Young

Judy Young is an award-winning author of children’s fiction, poetry and nonfiction books. Among favorites is “The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious, and (maybe even) Magical Creatures.” A Springfield resident, she is a frequent speaker at schools nationwide and her author visits include both educational presentations and poetry writing workshops for elementary and middle school students. She also conducts writing workshops for teachers for their professional development in-services and is a frequent speaker for educational organizations and professional conferences. With 20 years’ experience in the public schools, Judy has first- hand experience with improving students’ writing skills and her presentations and workshops are directly related to school curriculum.
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"In these troubled economic times, libraries are our lifeline – our Internet access, our job search, our access to current magazines and newspapers. With the loss of so many brick-and-mortar bookstores, libraries are also preserving the art of browsing – of having the opportunity to walk up and down the aisles, the perfume of printed books in your nose as you pull spines from the shelves to sample pages, discover new voices. As a new author, librarians have been instrumental in introducing my work to readers. I’m grateful, on both a personal and professional level, for public libraries." --Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler is a lifelong Springfield resident and the author of the critically acclaimed debut young adult novel, A Blue So Dark, which received a starred Booklist review, was named one of Booklist's Top 10 First Novels for Youth, and is a finalist for ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year. Her second YA, Playing Hurt, released in March 2011.
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“I have fond memories of the Mayne Williams Library in my home town, Johnson City, Tennessee. I think I was six years old when my parents first took me there, which would make it 1959. I was tremendously excited to have a library card and be able to check out whatever books I selected. In fact, just walking in the front door was exciting. The shelves seemed to tower over me and the building smelled wonderfully of books and the wax polish used on the hardwood floors.

“In those days there were cards and due date sheets in each book, and I always looked at them, noting the dates when a book had previously been checked out. When was the earliest date? The most recent? All these people, I thought, have read this book, and now it is my turn.

“When I then took the book to check out, the due date stamped on it was a personal thing. It was my due date, and I was now part of a community of readers. Such memories will strike modern readers as very silly, and they are. But gosh it was fun to visit the public library as a child.

“Public libraries remain essential because they help form communities. Reading is like no other solitary act, for instead of isolating us, it connects us to past, present, and future, as well as the world around us. It is not an exaggeration to assert that the creation and funding of public libraries is noble.”  --William G. Piston

William G. Piston has been a history professor at Missouri State University since 1988. He specializes in American military history and the Civil War and Reconstruction. He is the co-author with Richard Hatcher of “Wilson’s Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It.”
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"One of the best things my mother ever did for me was to abandon me in the stacks and then go do her grocery shopping. Illegal, yes, we both knew. But the total freedom of it, and unheard of now in our age of fear!

“Here's the thing about book shelves: books nest in small flocks called discoveries. You may hunt a book on the Crusades, but did you know you really wanted a book on the Children's Crusades? Hoping to net a book on Napoleon? How about a book by Napoleon? Rocks, minerals, gemstones, I learned geology, botany, entomology, Ozark folklore, ghost lore, cryptozoology, history, and literature, all by being, willingly, left alone in the stacks of the Brentwood Library." --Steve Yates

Steve Yates is an M.F.A. graduate from the creative writing program at the University of Arkansas, and is assistant director/marketing director at the University Press of Mississippi, in Jackson, Miss. His fiction has won two fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Commission and one from the Arkansas Arts Council. The Springfield native is the author of “Morkan’s Quarry: A Novel,” set in Civil War Springfield, Mo. Portions of “Morkan’s Quarry” first appeared in “Missouri Review,” “Ontario Review,” and “South Carolina Review.” A novella-length excerpt was a finalist for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society William Faulkner / Wisdom Award for the Best Novella.
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“I'd walk to the public library a couple times a week ('twas a small town) and check out books; the children's section was in the basement. Occasionally I'd miss my trip to the Saturday movies because I'd have used my pennies to pay for library fines. But my memories of the children's section remain fresh as yesterday.” --James S. Baumlin

James S. Baumlin is a professor of English at Missouri State University and editor of Moon City Press, Springfield, Mo. He was a contributing editor of the 2010 book, “Confederate Girlhoods: A Women’s History of Early Springfield, Missouri,” a compilation of Civil War correspondence of the Campbell family.
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“I have always loved our library system. In my younger years, I mainly checked out fiction. For the past 30 years, I have relied on the Local History Department’s collection and their expert librarians to help in my own historical research. They can’t be beat – anywhere!” --Sally Lyons McAlear

Sally Lyons McAlear, of Springfield, Mo., has written a family history (genealogy) book and two local history books, “South of the Tracks: A Centennial History of St. Agnes Parish, Springfield, Missouri, 1908-2008,” and “First Ladies of Springfield: A History of the Rachel Donelson Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution and its Charter Members.”

Listen to National Library Week honorary chair and author John Grisham talk about why he feels libraries are so important. Go to http://thelibrary.org/libraryweek.

 

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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