Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries and for the outstanding Librarians serving Children and Young Adults in Schools and Public Libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest author Lois V. Harris
here with us today to share her Library Love!
Lois V. Harris
I am the author of three inspiring picture book biographies:
Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist, a 2011 Western Writers of America Storyteller Award Finalist, and a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award Winner. And Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Magical Make-Believe, released in September 2011.
My fiction and nonfiction have appeared in magazines and the L.A. Times. I write to encourage children to follow their dreams and live with my family and two cats in Washington State. When not researching or writing, you might find me on our boat in the beautiful San Juan Islands watching for whales.
Library Love When You Were a Cub
When I was four, my grandmother, a reader and word lover, took me to the Brooklyn Public Library. I selected The Story About Ping
by Marjorie Flack and took it home. I loved the story and asked over and over again to have it read to me. The next time my grandmother and I visited the library, I immediately chose The Story About Ping
No, I did not want another book—only The Story About Ping. My grandmother checked the book out a few more times before she could convince me to choose another one. About ten years ago I read an article about taking another look at your favorite childhood books. Through Powell’s Books in Portland, OR, I bought a used copy of The Story About Ping. Surprise! When I read the story, I remembered some of the illustrations and the repeated words. As an author, I analyzed Marjorie Flack’s work. She did a masterful job with her simple story. No wonder the book enjoyed many editions over the years. I read the book to my two grandsons, and they now ask me to read it again and again whenever they come.
More Library Love
I write nonfiction biographies. For each of my books, I spent about six months researching the subject before I started writing. I want to be sure my subject’s life will inspire a child. I begin the process in my Anacortes Library and the University of Washington (as an alum, I can check out books). I track down more sources through WorldCat and search internet library sites like the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and various university and historical societies.
Anacortes, WA Public Library
University of Washington Library – photo of reading room by Shannon Bowley
Roar For Reference Librarians!
Reference or Research Librarians save nonfiction authors effort and time. For my Maxfield Parrish: Painter of Magical Make-Believe book, I researched in the Rauner Special Collections Library of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Before my trip, the Reading Room Supervisor, Sarah Hartwell, sent me a thick copy of the Finding Aid to their Parrish collection. I marked the boxes of material I wanted to look at and brought the guide with me. In the hushed atmosphere of the Reading Room, I met Sarah who explained how to order the material and helped me get rolling on my project. For three days at a gleaming wood table in that high-ceilinged sunlit room, carts filled with boxes were delivered to my table. (Maxfield lived to the age of ninety-five and saved almost everything!) I pawed through the papers and was impressed with the efficiency and knowledge of all the librarians.
The staff suggested I also visit reference librarians in the Baker-Berry Library next door for additional information. These Reading Room librarians understood researchers may come from far away and at considerable expense for information. Staff copied material and arranged for me to pick up my order on the last morning of my visit to Hanover. I flew home and went right to work on my manuscript!
Baker-Berry & Rauner Special Collections Libraries
Bravo! (applause, applause!) for the interlibrary loan program. Nonfiction authors depend on the ability to order books, microfilm tapes, and other material for delivery to their local library for a nominal fee. Without the service, my research would be restricted to local libraries.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
School or library visits give me the opportunity to talk directly to children and answer questions. Nothing pleases me more than to read one of my books and notice a child watching and listening intently, never taking her or his eyes off me. After my presentation, that child might whisper to me, “I like to draw and paint, too, and want to be an artist like Mary (Charlie or Maxfield) was.” Bingo! I write to inspire children to follow their dreams.
Samantha Smith Elementary School, Sammamish, WA
Funding for libraries, especially school libraries, is currently under threat. As an author, what are your thoughts about that?
During these tough economic times, libraries play an important role in providing a rich experience for children and their parents. Some of these people have experienced job loss or paycuts. But they can take their children to the library and spend quality time together reading and enjoying books and checking them out—at no charge. Legislators and city managers need to try and save essential library services and look elsewhere for their cuts.
Thank you Lois for the terrific interview!