National Librarian's Day

April 16, 2024 08:57 AM By Paul Boucher

I celebrate three things - knowledge, literacy, and most importantly, the person who helped provide me with the first two: my mom.

It’s National Librarians Day today.

Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing that to write, you need to read everything you can get your hands on. Be omnivorous.

Long before I read that, my mom, a librarian at the Kapuskasing Public Library where I grew up, sat me in front of our 20 or 30-volume American encyclopedia when I wanted to learn how to speak English and said essentially, “…Ok, commence avec les “a” (start with the A’s)…”. 😆

She instilled a voracious appetite for words and knowledge that is still with me. Now that I think about it, King’s likely satisfied it more than any other author.

It’s also one of the main reasons I genuinely revel in the opportunity to narrate scripts of every kind, every day, in two languages, as a voice actor. eLearning scripts are a map to treasure to be discovered. As a voice actor, I love the thought of helping a learner find the X that marks the spot where they now KNOW something new.

Partially inspired by my wife, whose mom was a teacher, and my librarian mom, I’ve enjoyed having a guy’s book club for over twenty years. We call it Liquor & Letters, and we have a bottle of whisky every month to “facilitate” the conversation over a book one of us picked. We reflected just last week that, as a club, we’ve wandered through a fabulously eclectic collection of over 250 books in our time together. Ditto the whisky variety – but that’ll be another post. 🥃

Pause for a moment to think of librarians who share their passion and who make the road less traveled a path possible to imagine for their young charges.

From story time for elementary kids (pictured) to feeding adolescents novels and non-fiction of growing complexity, they continue to deliver joy in bound pages for their curious customers.

How many terrific writers were inspired by something a librarian chose for them? The librarian respected their intelligence and trusted them to find their way through. It’s a vote of confidence in your intelligence that you don’t find from just anyone. It helps inspire the fabulous hubris that leads to fantastic flights of imagination from Tolkien to Franzen to King. It builds the mental muscle to inspire less fantasy with facts from Smil, Harari, and Bryson.

Libraries are a powerful equalizing force. I’ll never forget walking into my mom’s library office in 1984 and seeing a beige IBM PC and asking her what THAT was. She explained that it was the Inter-Library Loan Computer and that with the program, even in our small town, students could get any book they needed sent to them from the bigger cities in the south. In my mind, it was a bridge to the rest of the world. That notion has forever been at the base of my belief that the Internet is one of the most potent forces for good in the hands of most of the world.

Where I now live, in Calgary, the new Central Library is that bridge for new Canadians. They access language classes, study for the citizenship test, and find resources to help them understand the strange new context they’ve landed in – and how their life and experiences can become part of the fabric of their new community.

If you haven’t been to a library branch in a while, I encourage you to wander into the closest one, look for one of your favorite authors, pull up a chair, put your phone on DND, and get lost in the forest of letters that always end up being so much more than the sum of their parts. 

Take your kids. Let them discover the visceral joy of judging a book by its cover…and delight in showing them how there’s sometimes more to it than that. It’s a profound pleasure we often take for granted.

I’ve loved sharing my love of reading with my kids. Bedtime story times are still some of my most treasured memories with them.

This means that I owe some of the best moments of my life to what I was taught by a librarian. So, on National Librarians Day, I’m toasting my librarian mom and librarians everywhere.