I grew up in an idyllic small town in the Midwest. With little traffic and friendly neighbors who kept an eye on all the kids on my street, my parents didn’t need to impose many rules. There were just two important ones: Be home by the time the streetlights turn on, and carry your own library books.
The library was two blocks away, and it was my favorite place to spend the summer. The old brick building was not much larger than my house, but it held untold wonders — a card catalog I learned to use out of necessity, rows upon rows of my favorite “Baby-Sitters Club” books, the best air conditioning in town and, most importantly, Sarah.
Sarah was a magician. She did not need to see library cards because she knew everyone in town by name. She believed due dates were more of a suggestion than a rule. And she had an uncanny ability to know when my mom and I would arrive. She’d have books pulled out just for us, waiting on the counter when we got there. “I knew you’d love this,” she’d say, handing my mom a new mystery, or me the recently published “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” “I set it aside just for you.”
Somehow, no matter how many books I picked out, they’d always fit in the bags I brought with me.
As I got older, I spent less time at the library. I played sports and joined clubs, sang in the choir and had an odd assortment of summer jobs that all required my attention. I kept reading, though — “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” on the bus home from a soccer tournament, “Pride and Prejudice” in the middle of class, “The Book Thief” at a family dinner. More time passed and eventually Sarah retired. The new librarian didn’t know my name.
When my high school English teacher asked me if I’d ever thought about becoming a librarian, I told her, truthfully, that I hadn’t. After that conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I decided right then that’s what I would do. I would be a librarian. I would be a magician.
Librarianship, it turns out, is a little more work than magic. It takes a long time to build the relationships with your community that let you recommend perfect books and know everyone’s name. It takes effort and patience, but it’s always worth it. Because sometimes — just every now and then — you hand a child their perfect book — the one they’ll read under the covers when they should be sleeping and carrying around even after they’ve finished it. I don’t get it right every time, but when I do? It feels special. It feels just like magic.
One of my magic books is “Escargot” by Dashka Slater. Escargot is a French snail with two big goals: become your favorite animal and successfully travel the length of his book, which ends with a delicious salad. “Escargot” is charming, funny, unexpectedly sweet, and best read in your most theatrical French accent.
Nikki Glassley is a children’s librarian at the Thompson Lane Branch of Nashville Public Library. She has been a children’s librarian for seven years and has enjoyed every second of it. She hopes she can connect you with your new favorite book the next time you visit the library!