So canny! She knew I'd be hooked, not by library school itself but by the job. While attending library school, I worked as a "student librarian" at the Los Angeles Public Library, a now-defunct position that allowed me to be page, clerk, and assistant librarian all in one. I attended meetings, worked at the circulation and reference desks, put away thousands of books, and presented my first storytimes.
And somehow, I knew without even thinking about it that I would become a children's librarian. It wasn't the storytimes. It wasn't even the kids (I was remarkably indifferent to kids at the time, being barely grown-up myself). It was the books. Children's books.
As a child, books were my salvation. Not from my circumstances - my family was loving, my community was eccentric and wonderful, my friends were close - but from... my own brain, I suppose. From the beginning, books were a way not only to immerse myself in other worlds, but to escape from a time from the ceaseless churning and worry and analysis of my own mind. Reading was also a way to tune out other people. Ever since I can remember, I've only been able to handle being with my fellow humans (even my most beloved family and friends) for a certain amount of time before I need to get away and soothe my frazzled nerves. Books were and are my drug of choice. I took books with me out to eat with my family, on trips to my grandparents, and even to Disneyland. I was told to "get your nose out of that book" more times than I can count - even my book-loving parents felt that a child should try chatting at the dinner table once in a while.
My childhood relationship with books was so strong, so necessary, so much a part of who I was, that it seems to have created a permanent love for children's literature. At about age 12, I leaped from children's books to adult SF and fantasy and then on to "the classics." At age 22, I began reading children's literature again. I haven't stopped. Most of the books I read are for adults (I'm an addict - I read everything), but if I'm not currently reading a children's book, there are a pile of them in the wings.
Children's books are books that are stripped bare of extraneous stuff - plot fluff, long descriptions, existential meanderings. The focus is on characters - the things they do, the way they think, and the people they encounter. When I read a children's book (and I'm talking about the good ones here), I'm sucked in immediately, the same way I was when I was a child. What is it that is so enthralling? Is it being allowed to experience childhood again, as portrayed by gifted writers who seem to have retained an intimate knowledge of their 9-year-old or 11-year-old selves? Is it that pure, stripped-down quality of the plot and writing? Is it that note of hope at the end? Is it the joy of sharing thousands of books with my own kids and the kids at the library? Or is it just that I'm permanently stuck at age 12? Or is it age 7? I think I fluctuate between the two...
Children's books are some of the best books around. They provide more intense, world-changing, mind-expanding pleasure and thought per word than any other kind of book. Is it the form? Is it the audience? Is it the writers? I have no idea. I just know that it is so.