Billeting

As librarians, we always get bonus perks to our jobs. We get to see new books before anyone else, we have little kids who adore us, we are surrounded by books on a daily basis… I could go on and on. One of the perks that I most enjoy is hosting authors. As book lovers, we tend to have a great appreciation for those who create said books. Sometimes authors are like rock stars to us. (Wait, authors are Rock Stars.) When I was in graduate school (oh so many years ago) I worked in a bookstore that hosted authors. I got to meet and bring coffee to wonderful people like Virginia Hamiliton, Mollie Hunter, and George Ella Lyon. In my librarian life, I’ve had the honor of driving Gennifer Choldenko all around Washington County, Oregon and picking up Molly Bang at the airport. Here in Canada, I’ve gotten to do something even more fun. Billeting. Now, you may think of that term as something forced, as in the English army coercing settlers to lodge soldiers. Today’s billeting is a much kinder, gentler experience. When we have author visits here, many are happy to stay in someone’s home. They get a home-cooked meal and get to really experience the local area. When they stay with me, they get to live in the woods for a day or two. Cost is also a factor–I really don’t mind hosting these authors, and by not paying for a hotel, we can afford to bring in more authors. And guess what we end up talking about over dinner and wine? Books, one of my favourite subjects.

Mark Oakley and his fans

For the first time, our library has hosted a Writer in Residence*. Now, this does not mean that an author holes up in the guest room of my house for a year (I’m not that crazy!), but it does mean that for a year, we offer workshops and readings, and the author works in our libraries all around our region. When the host libraries are close by, our Writer in Residence does stay at my home. I’ve had some great conversations about the world of comics, because our Writer in Residence, Mark Oakley, is also a cartoonist. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and invite an author to a sleepover at their house, but I do encourage you to get to know your local authors. They are just people, after all, and they live in your communities. Get them into your libraries (pay them, of course) and show kids that real people create books, that writing is a valid and important occupation. And maybe take an author to lunch. You’ll have a great time talking about books.

*If you want to know more about our Writer in Residence, click here.

About Angela Reynolds

Head of Youth Services for a rural library system in Nova Scotia.
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