Librarian on the Roof – Interview with M G King

Today we get to celebrate with author M G King, the one year anniversary of her Picture Book, “Librarian on the Roof”. Librarian stories were some of my favorite read-alouds when I was a school librarian, and what can be better than a TRUE librarian heroine? RoseAleta Laurell is a plucky librarian who campaigned from the rooftop of the oldest library in Texas.

“Braving heights and severe storms, Ms. Laurell refused to come down until she received $20,000 in donations to improve the children’s section and to bring computers and public internet access into her rural, bilingual community. During her weeklong campout, the local community came together to raise nearly twice that amount.”

 

What are your first childhood library memories?

I grew up on the banks of the Ohio River in a small midwestern town, whose claim to fame lay in possessing one of the world’s oldest and biggest fossil beds. Back then, in the post-Paleozoic era of the 1970s, librarians did not coddle their young patrons. In fact, they forced us to walk past a large bronze replica of one of those tentacled Devonian creatures on our way into the library. In my memory, this squid-like creature equaled the size of the giant nemesis of Captain Nemo. My brother named it Sheila, for reasons I don’t remember. Although I’m sure she terrified many small children, I loved her! Sheila’s existence hinted at unseen worlds to be discovered, which is exactly what I was looking for in the books I found on the shelves. The seventies were simpler, less affluent times. But walking out of the library, past Sheila, with as many books as I could hold, I felt like every possibility in the world was mine.

How did you come across the story of RoseAleta Laurel?

The best stories are often the ones we find right in front of us. My husband’s mother, who is a long time volunteer of the historic Dr. Eugene Clark Library, gave us a tour of that beautiful old building one afternoon. While the sunshine sparkled through all the colors of its giant stained glass window, she recounted RoseAleta’s episode on the roof. I was hooked. The story had all the great elements of a picture book — an intriguing setting, a colorful and persistent heroine, and plenty of snags to keep every page interesting. I emailed Rose Aleta the next week and asked her for an interview.

How was the book received in Texas?

Texans love stories about their state, and RoseAleta’s story captures something of the larger-than-life characters we admire most. But the story has a universal appeal that goes beyond one rural Texas town. Wherever people work together and refuse to give up, wonderful things happen. 

               What touches you most about this story?

The fact that RoseAleta didn’t give up! The book may read like a tall tale, but her troubles are understated. When she set out to bring internet access into a rural library that was on the wrong side of the digital divide, she received a letter that said “We don’t think your community will support kind of changes you’re talking about.” And in part, the writer of the letter was correct. Some members of the community felt like it was more important to protect the library’s historic building. But as director of the library, RoseAleta knew it was her job to make sure the library served the needs of the generation growing up in Lockhart. In any small town, the local politics can be pretty thick. But RoseAleta persisted, and her vision for the library’s place in the community caught on. 

What have been one or two fun moments promoting this book over the past year?

There have been lots of great moments! But when a mom told me her daughter slept with my book in her bed every night, I got goosebumps. We don’t usually think of books as being “cuddly” objects. But stories are able to touch young hearts and minds in powerful ways. I had books I cherished as a child, books that still feel a little like old friends whenever I see them.

Another great moment — I’ll never forget the photo of the Schoolcraft, Michigan librarian reading LIBRARIAN ON THE ROOF to her patrons — while seated on her own roof! The dedicated librarians and volunteers of the Schoolcraft Community Library raised $12,000 for their expansion that weekend.
 Can you tell us a little about your author’s journey and plans

 for other books? 

Although I love dabbling in picture books, I spend most of my time writing middle
gradefiction. I’m currently working on a revision of a puzzle mystery I wrote a couple years ago, something of a cross between Treasure Island and The Westing Game.

 

I have been following with concern the many cutbacks in school and public libraries in the US. We aren’t all RoseAleta Laurels, but what can we do to support our local libraries?

Often we think of libraries as repositories for books. But libraries are a whole lot more than that. Information is power, as the saying goes, and now our information is increasingly dependent on technology that is out of reach for a significant number of people. In the U.S., a third of the population still does not have internet access. Libraries have always served as a leveler, enabling everyone to have access to knowledge and information. I think that’s even more true now than before. So I the first step is simply understanding how crucial a library system is to the health of our democracies.

Once we realize how critical libraries are, the next step is to find out how we can support our local libraries, whether it’s through community awareness, political advocacy, or volunteering directly.
But I think it’s even more important to take this one step further. Often the libraries that shut down first are those in the poorest communities — those places where the need is greatest, but the patrons have the fewest resources to be able to shore up shortfalls in government funding. We need to be searching for ways to lend these libraries a helping hand.

When you aren’t writing and visiting libraries what can you be found doing? 
I hang out with eight and ten year-old boys! Both my own, and those in the cub scout den I lead. I also seem to spend a lot of time hiding socks from my sock-eating labrador.
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, and feel honored to be included here!

Miriam, thank you so much for sharing with us today and good luck with your puzzle mystery!
Warmly,
Joanna
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28 Responses to Librarian on the Roof – Interview with M G King

  1. Great interview on an important topic. Library funding cuts are everywhere (at least in North America) and they impact so many people. What a unique way of tackling the problems a small town library faces! I must find this book!

    Thanks, Joanna, and thank you, Miriam.

    • Joanna says:

      Isn’t it cool that it’s a true story, Beth. I do know so many wonderful librarians who would fight tooth and nail to maintain the resources their library can offer.

  2. Great post! Now I’m going to have to look up that book.

  3. Wonderful interview, Joanna. And very timely too! I’ve heard about the huge cutback on a lot of libraries/schools in the US. I would definitely look out for this book. 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      It’s a cool story, and the sort of plan I could come up with…. a roof campaign! I do hope this anniversary provokes many to go out and buy the book too.

  4. Patricia Tilton says:

    Really enjoyed the interview with Miriam King. And, the book sounds like a great read. Love the book cover. Enjoyed the questions you asked her. Wonder where along the Ohio Miriam grew up — Portsmouth?

    Pat

    • Joanna says:

      Maybe Miriam will mention where she grew up. I really enjoyed her replies to the questions.

    • M. G. King says:

      Pat, I grew up in Jeffersonville, Indiana, across from Louisville, KY. Are you from the Ohio Valley region?

      • Patricia Tilton says:

        I know exactly where you grew up. My sister lives in LouisviIle. I grew up in Columbus, live in a Dayton (45 min to the Ohio River), but have distant relatives in Seymour, IN. We call it the Sinus Valley. 🙂

        Enjoyed the interview and have ordered the book. Looks like great fun. The rebel librarian!

  5. Joanna – Great interview! Wonderful questions about an important topic and letting us getting to know M G King. This book is going on my wishlist. It definitely looks like one for me to review for my blog! Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Diane says:

    Great Interview Joanna. I can just see you up on a local library roof somewhere, setting up your campaign…. move over, I’ll join you…lol.
    Lovely book and lovely author.

  7. This does sound like a wonderful book. Childhood library memories are some of my favorites. Our own little library here in Lake Worth is suffering from funding cutbacks: I think they’re only open three days a week now. : (

    • Joanna says:

      Gail, how tragic that your local library is on such restricted opening times… I too have great, vivid memories of my little town library growing up… it was a lifesaver for me.

  8. Great interview and such a fantastic book. Yes, library funding is a hot topic in the States, but this book gives readers hope that even just one person can stand up and make a difference, whatever the cause. Or at least we’ve got to try!

    Thanks for the post, I’m lucky enough to be in Miriam’s critique group and can attest to the fact that she is an amazing person and author (and she does pretty well with those cub scouts too!)

    All my best,
    Christina

    • Joanna says:

      Christina, thanks for dropping by and I confess to being a little envious that you are in a critique group with Miriam 😉 Indeed, Librarian on the Roof is a call for us each to do what we can to save and support our libraries. I was a Venture scout in my teens so I have a soft spot for the scouting movement!

  9. Doris Fisher says:

    . I, too, am in her critique group. Librarian on the Roof reminds me of summer days when I rode my bike to the bookmobile and was greeted by a whoosh of air-conditioned air from inside. Since I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, heat relief felt wonderful. And then there were the floor to ceiling shelves with books.

    Miriam is a terrific writer and yarn spinner! Her middle grade mysteries intrigue readers to find out what happens on the next page. All of us benefit from her ideas and comments on our own writing. All libraries should have a copy of Librarian on the Roof.

    Doris Fisher

    • Joanna says:

      Doris, I am so happy to “meet” fellow writers from Miriam’s critique group…. sounds super supportive.

      Do bookmobiles still exist? I am sure there is a need for them in remoter areas.

  10. M. G. King says:

    Joanna, thanks again so much for posting the interview! And thanks to everyone for their supportive comments. (Don’t I have sweet writing friends?).

  11. Doris Fisher says:

    I’m pretty sure they still exist and they have a fascinating history from Alaska to Appalachia, from Idaho to cajun Louisiana. I researched it one time.

    This is the easiest way to reply on a blog that I’ve ever encountered!

  12. Thanks for the interview, Joanna and Miriam!

    And thanks, Joanna, for commenting on my blog! It’s great to see you!

  13. Pingback: Books and Words | Miss Marple's Musings

  14. Pingback: LIBRARIAN ON THE ROOF – A TRUE STORY BY M.G. KING | The Reader and the Book

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