Blogger Kary Henry

Challenged by Nostalgia

Isn’t it funny how a random conversation can lead to something more….like a blog post? One day, I was talking with a friend about library memories, feeling a sense of nostalgia. I might have mentioned my elementary school librarian, Miss Secrist.

Miss Secrist fascinated me by pronouncing Washington as “Wershington.” She read to us, even as we got older. More importantly, she encouraged my love of reading and sense of agency by letting me check out my two favorite books over and over and over again. I also fondly recounted how I “collected” area public libraries with my dad. In each, he would head off to flip through the (I’m dating myself here) records (jazz was his passion), while I went to gather more books than I could carry. I started wondering: What memories did others have of libraries and librarians? Thanks to Twitter, here are some of the stories that I collected.

I remember…

  • “Mrs. Shaughnessy at [my local library]…she made every child feel welcome and valued. I remember feeling that she knew me. It’s that connection I try to emulate.” — Laurel S.
  • “…there was a circulation clerk named Lois who always seemed to be working the desk when I visited. I would get into her line and she would always chat with me about the books I chose (usually Strega Nona and Lyle Lyle Crocodile repeatedly) and complimented me on my hair. See when I was younger, my hair was always down to my waist. When I dared to cut it all off in middle school, that was a HUGE deal (for me AND Lois). … I still remember her and how she cared enough to engage me in conversation as I was checking out books. I eventually found my way to library school to get my MLIS and my first library job was working in the same system that included my home town. I would sometimes sub at the other branches so funnily enough, I ended up working with Lois 20 years later!” — Kimberly A.
  • “Definitely my elementary school librarian Ms. Lagontrey. She lovingly entertained my tiny nerdly enthusiasm for armfuls of books above my grade level.” — Colleen H.
  • “Cheryl and Joanie from my hometown library inspired me to become a librarian! Being a member of TAB in my teen years, they showed me the impact librarians can have in people’s lives while providing fun programs and necessary resources.” — Megan S.
  • “I adored Miss Sheri, & 20+ years later when I was a brand-new children’s librarian in the next county over from my childhood library, I went to a training session at the regional library AND THERE SHE WAS! Her soft but captivating voice and warm smile were exactly the same.” — Jill H.
  • “My grandma was best friends with the librarian at my elementary school so I still see Ms. Barker around when I’m home! She claims she knew all along I would be a librarian.” — Aryssa D.

I loved reading these memories. Words like “warm” and “welcome,” “caring” and “connection” jumped out at me. For those with such positive recollections, I imagine you are, like I am, trying to continue that legacy. But there are many out there who didn’t or don’t have that same sense of nostalgia for libraries or librarians. Why is that? What aren’t I doing that I could be doing? Who am I not reaching that I could be reaching? So that, years from now, more people can look back and be grateful for a warm, welcoming, caring connection. I don’t see these memories as just lovely bits of nostalgia. I see them as a challenge to be better and do better. Please feel free to share your own library memories in the comments below!

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and V. Outreach and Advocacy.


  1. Lina Crowell

    For as long as I can remember I’ve loved books and growing up I cherished trips to the library after school on my mother’s day off. There is one sort of sour memory that stands out, however. I needed a couple of books for a school assignment that were at the main library rather than the branch nearest home. The librarian at the branch put them on hold for me and my mother took me to the main library to get them. She waited in the car (no doubt we had lots of errands to accomplish) while I went in to get my books. The woman at the desk was reluctant to give them to me and asked “Do you have someone at home who can read these books to you?” They were nothing subversive. I was in 5th grade at the time, was an excellent reader, an A student, and felt rather insulted. I was perfectly capable of reading them myself. As a children’s librarian myself, I keep this experience in mind and don’t insult our patrons by asking such questions, but help them find the information they want.

    1. Kary

      Linda, thank you for sharing those memories. What you wrote about is exactly the point of my post: how can we do better as we move forward to create more positive memories for more people?

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