My Librarian Memory

We’ve been called upon in this province to say our reasons for wanting to keep all the teacher-librarian positions in BC schools that are presently in danger of being cut. As an author, it seems obvious why (and perhaps a little selfish) I would want teacher-librarians to stay – they buy my books and hire me to speak.

I assure you that it goes deeper than that. I would even go as far to say that, once upon a time when I was a teenage boy, there was a librarian who changed the way I think. To be honest, I don’t even remember his name. (Anyone who went to Gorden Bell, Winnipeg Manitoba, in the late 80s would remember him.) I don’t think at the time I ever thought his actions were even having an important impact on me.

I wasn’t the type of teen who enjoyed reading. I think I looked at reading the way most people look at fungus between their toes – “How did that get there, and what can I do to get rid of it before it gets worse?” When my friends and I went to the library, it was usually to play pranks on the librarian – such as when we discovered we could take those little metal tags from books that make the machines beep when you try and leave with them, and hide them in our pockets to make the librarian think the machines were broken. The library seemed like a very unlikely place for me.

In fact, it became the place I went to when I needed to nap. You see, growing up (and even now) I had a sleeping disorder called “Sleep Apnea” that was going undiagnosed. (Back then, doctors didn’t believe in it.) teachers labelled me lazy, and garnered rather poor opinions of me (such as the one English teacher who told me I should drop out and take a trade). So, when I had to crash, and I always did in the late afternoon, I started hiding in the library.

Our librarian knew I was there. He knew I was napping. And he let me be. When other teachers tried to kick me out, he stopped them and allowed me refuge. This resulted in he and I having a common bond, and suddenly I started hanging out in the library not only when I was tired, but also when I just needed to relax and unwind. (I was a typical inner city school kid with very typical inner city troubles. I should add that the choir teacher and the drama teacher offered me their rooms as places to escape once they saw that by doing so it would guarantee my attendance in class.) The librarian, once he had my trust, started asking me for advice on what books he should buy the library. “What do you boys want to read?” he’d ask me.

Having a teacher at my high school take me seriously, and ask for my advice, was a tremendous way to get me to start using the library. It was also a great way to get me, a non-reader, to start reading. Thanks to the understanding of this high school librarian, his patience and the fact that *the library was open*, I grew into the type of adult who enjoys reading and has made a very successful career out of the one thing that I’m pretty sure no one thought I would.

Dude, Mr. Librarian What Ever Your Name Was, while I have forgotten what to call you I have not forgotten the contribution you had to my life. And to the BC Government, shame on you for taking this same experience away from BC children.

About jamesmccann

I grew up a reluctant reader, which basically means that adults thought I hated reading. Actually, though, I loved reading. I just didn't like the kind of books that adults thought I should like. I mostly read comics, and, thanks to a 3 day bus ride from Winnipeg to Kelowna that my family took every summer, I read dozens of comics. As a teen I became involved in Dungeons and Dragons, which gave me the tools necessary for story-telling. I used maps and pictures as a source of inspiration; a technique I still use today. From this I discovered a love for reading, and devoured everything fantasy. Now a resident of Vancouver, I write novels for teens. In 2005 I took on the role of VP for CWILLBC (Children's Writers and Illustrators of BC), and in 2006 I became their President. I'm still best known for my popular map-making workshop, and secondly for my ability to change reluctant readers into avid readers. My work can be seen in the Canadian Children's Book News, and on the shelves of bookstores in Canada, the US and Australia.
This entry was posted in books/writing, libraries & librarians, literacy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Librarian Memory

  1. Tallia says:

    thats a pretty great story…my elementry school librarian was a very memorable one. he has since retired but i never liked reading and school work. but somehow he managed to get me hooked on books. It was easier from the books he recommended then the teachers.I totally agree, it would be very unfortunate to take that experience away from other. so Thanks Mr. Heath! You have impacted at least one life!

  2. Pingback: Tanya Lloyd Kyi » Blog Archive » More love for librarians

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