BIBI BELFORD ROARS FOR LIBRARIES
Welcome to Library Lions Roar. Author, Bibi Belford, is stopping by to share her books and her Library Love with us. Take it away Bibi!
Hey there, I’m Bibi Belford, author of Canned and Crushed, released in March 2015 and Crossing the Line (working title), coming out next year, both published by Sky Pony Press.
If there are therapy groups for people addicted to books, I would need a lifetime membership. Book reading is one of my earliest memories, but since my family couldn’t afford to buy books, the public library became my bookstore and playground. In the good old days, kids couldn’t check out books until they learned to sign their name. I practiced and practiced, and I remember my hand trembling from both fear and anticipation when the librarian set that card in front of me. Since I loved books so much, I always wanted to be a writer. So, after teaching for thirty-five years and raising four children, I got serious. My kids and my students are the best things that’s ever happened to me. If I can write a book that brings them joy and inspires them to be heroes, then I’m a happy camper.
Roar for Libraries
Libraries should be considered a utility, like electricity or water! We wouldn’t consider a day without those resources, as they’re life sustaining and bring quality to our daily lives. Students at my previous school felt this way about our school library. They visited at least weekly, if not more often, and were exposed to new titles and authors, that often became their favorites. I currently volunteer in a school with a library used as a classroom and no students have access to check out books. The teacher I work with offered to come in early and open the library so kids can have a chance to check out books, but she’s not allowed. The public library is not close to the neighborhood, and only accessible by CTA bus. What a sad state of affairs! After sharing Red, by Michael Hall, during a comprehension lesson, the students asked to borrow it and I said, “I’m sure your school library has many copies of this book.” “We don’t have a school library,” they all chimed in. I left my book with them, and when I came back the next week, a girl sidled up beside me and said, “Listen.” She proceeded to recite almost the entire book. “I love that book,” she said. What other books is she missing because she doesn’t have access to a library?
At my school, we have two libraries. The Learning Center Library, which houses the books students check out, and The Literacy Library, which houses the books teachers check out for use in guided reading, novel studies, or writing instruction.
We are so proud of our libraries. As a school, we read Steven Layne’s book, Ignite a Passion for Reading, and brainstormed ways to make our library even better. We bought shelves at resale shops, painted them gold, and introduced them in the library and classrooms. Every month they feature a favorite author and students get so excited when the books are put into circulation.
We reorganized our Spanish books, so they are easier for the first and second-grade students to find. Whenever a new book comes into the library, the first student who reads it signs the First Read Sticker that goes in the front of the book. For a while teachers donated books on their birthday for the Birthday Bookshelf, but it was so popular the shelf was always empty. Every year we hold our book fair in the library, and we split the proceeds between our two libraries so that we can offer students and teachers the latest and greatest books. Mrs. Rodgers, our librarian, retired last year, and students really miss her weekly Read Alouds. Talk about being addicted to books; she’s another lifetime member.
Library Love When I was a Cub
As I mentioned before, my family didn’t always have money to buy books, so we went to the library often. I always left with a stack of books. I used to put my nightlight on the side of the bed that was pushed against the wall, and then create a little tent so I could read late into the night. One night I started to smell burning and then saw smoke. I was so engrossed the book; I hadn’t noticed the quilt touching the nightlight, and it was smoldering. I quickly ran into the bathroom and got a wet washcloth and smothered the little glowing edges, but now the quilt had a two-inch brown spot with a little hole in the center. After that I always made my bed, keeping the holey quilt tucked into the mattress on that side, and being much more careful about blankets and sheets touching my nightlight. When I returned the book, the librarian wrinkled her nose and asked me if I’d been reading outside by a campfire. When my four children were little, I made sure libraries and books filled their lives. All of them love libraries and books, and now my daughter and her husband are teaching my grandkids our addiction.
Today’s Library Love
Libraries are indispensable. Even a book addict like me doesn’t own all the books, and when I’m teaching, I always go to the library to get the perfect book for a comprehension strategy or a lesson on a specific theme. I also love writing in the library. I’m inspired by all the books on the shelves and all the people reading. When I wrote Canned and Crushed, I needed to do a lot of research about heart disease, undocumented workers, recycling, and even what kinds of drawings kids might submit to an art contest. I spent a lot of time at the Batavia Library in Batavia, IL. Now I live in Chicago, and the Chicago Public Library is huge with a capital H.
But there are still lots of nooks and crannies good for writing. Crossing the Line is set in Chicago in 1919, so as you can imagine, it required tons of research, and CPL was the perfect place to excavate that time period. I’m working on a third book, and the Pilsen branch of CPL has great resources for the Latina main character. I’ve also written at the Boston Public Library. They have a great courtyard and an amazing main hall.
One of my favorite libraries is the beautiful library in Saint Joseph, Michigan with a view of the lake from giant windows and a magical children’s library.
Hooray for ALA!
I signed copies of my ARC for Canned and Crushed at the ALA in February 2015. There was a blizzard, but those crazy librarians didn’t let that stop them. I was amazed at the stacks of books they carried around and the hundreds of bookseller booths. What an amazing way for librarians to search for new books to put on their shelves and into people’s lives.
One Last Roar
If you’ve never been to the original Chicago Library, opened in 1897, on Michigan Ave. between Randolph and Washington, it’s well worth an hour or two visit. The center of this building contains a dome and hanging lamps designed by Tiffany Glass and the Decorating Company of New York. The Washington Street entrance, grand staircase, and dome area contain inscriptions of 16th-century printers’ marks, authors’ names and quotations that praise learning and literature in mosaics of colored stone, mother of pearl and Tiffany glass. It’s breathtaking and another great place to read and write.
Thank you, Bibi, for your terrific interview!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet via the Contact page on this website to set up an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.