I've said before on this blog (and to anyone who'll listen), librarians are my heroes. That's because libraries were the sanctuary of my childhood. Growing up in a home with few books, libraries were magical places that opened doors to unimaginable worlds. I always left the library and bookmobile with armloads of books that I devoured. And there were always more. For a kid like me, it was absolute heaven.
Today, I have the honor of meeting librarians all the time—through the research I do for my books, through readings and talks that I give at libraries, and through the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), of which I am a Life Member. Not surprisingly, JASNA attracts people who love books—go to any JASNA meeting, and you're sure to meet librarians, educators, writers, and avid readers of all professions.
One of my favorite JASNA friends is Paula Dacker, a high school librarian whose enthusiasm for Austen is only exceeded by her passion for turning her students into avid readers. "Ask me if there's anything you don't understand," she tells her kids when they check out PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or any of Austen's novels. "I'll explain it to you."
But Paula's no Austen purist. From my Austen Addict books (she made my day by sending me the pictures below) to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, if kids are reading, that's a good thing. At our JASNA reading group's annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea last week, Paula was telling our group about a boy who checked out PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES from her high school library. How did he hear about it? she asked, to which he said that some of his friends were talking about the book, and it made him want to read it.
"Boys talking about books," said Paula, glowing with pride. "It doesn't get any better than that."
Librarians. They don't get any better than Paula Dacker.
[Students of Charter Oak High School, where Paula is a librarian.]