Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Little Girl Who Lived in the Library

Day Three of Laurel Snyder Week! This is the blissful day after publication day for Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, Laurel’s fantasy for middle-grade readers. Like most writers, Laurel started out as a reader, with a team of librarians as her mentors. Here’s what she remembers about those days:

I don't have one librarian who started me writing, but librarians were a huge part of my childhood.

Laurel's favorite branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

My parents split up when I was in the second grade, and we were pretty broke. So, since I was "old enough to take care of myself" at the wise old age of 8, I didn't have a nanny or after-school program. (Mom had gone back to school and was working full time.) Instead, after school every day, I walked across the street to the Roland Park branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.

I'd sit on the steps and eat my snack, then go inside, find a chair, and read until my mom would, in theory, come pick me up.

Well, you can imagine that the little girl who sits alone every day reading fairy tales gets noticed, so after a while the librarians kind of adopted me. And put me to work! Boy, did I learn to shelve books! I also read stories to younger kids sometimes. But most of all, the librarians just treated me like a young friend. They'd give me things to read and help me with my homework, and talk to me.

No wonder I decided the following year to "become rich and famous writing books and plays for children."

Ha! In fact, I credit the librarians of the Enoch Pratt libraries in my acknowledgements page, as my babysitters, mentors, and friends...

But what I find myself thinking about, when I dwell on the role they played in my life, is the fact that this really doesn't happen so much anymore. I think if I sent my kids off unattended to the library today, I'd get arrested. And I find that sad in a way. I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't watch our kids and care for them, but there was a freedom, an independence, a discovery in those years— eating my snack alone, trusting strangers, searching out my own reading materials in the stacks—and I don't think kids get as much of that today.

Which is ironic, since children's books are full of just those kinds of experiences...

What a great way to nurture a writer! Thanks, Laurel. Tune in tomorrow to catch Laurel in a lie and win a book.


Anonymous said...

What a heart-warming story, Laurel!
And you're right, we couldn't pull this off today!

Barrie said...

One nice thing that our local library offers (and it wasn't available when I was a kid) is book clubs for children. My 8 y.o. is actually in a book club where she has to read certain book (chosen by the librarian) and be prepared to discuss. Juice and cookies are provided! That said, I do agree, times are changed and the world is a scarier place.

TJ Brown said...

Great Library, Laurel!

Anonymous said...

I remember being on my own in the Central branch of the Multnomah County Public Library! I loved it! It was like my indoor Treasure Island. :-)

Congratulations on the book Laurel! Can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

I work in a library myself, and you're right - if someone left their kid unattended in the children's section, we'd worry about them - worry they were being abandoned, or that someone creepy would bother them... and it is kind of sad. There have been too many incidents of bad things happening to kids for us to look at it any other way anymore.