Working Overtime: Why Teen Book Festivals are Worth the Saturday Investment.

I spent most of my day yesterday (Saturday) working. Sort of. Being a middle school librarian, whenever I’m reading, I’m working. My thoughts usually subconsciously include: Would my students benefit from adding this book to our library? Would my staff? Could my school use this book as a literature circle book? Would this author be a good one to invite for an author visit? The list goes on. The good news is that I really don’t mind “working” overtime because being an avid reader and a former teacher, these questions usually cross my brain anyway. But I didn’t read yesterday.

Yesterday was, for me, similar to how I would think people going to ComiCon feel. I attended the NoVa Teen Book Festival in Arlington, Virginia, with over 20 authors who presented panels, Q&A sessions, and did book signings. It was free to go! How could I say no? I met Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, Jennifer Donnelly, Maggie Thrash, Josh Sundquist, Jeff Garvin, and SO many more. I was nervous! I was excited! These people, after all, have made me enjoy working overtime. I felt like I already knew so much about them from their works, and then, to actually meet them and put a human to their words. To hear them speak about themselves, their inspirations, and their books was without a doubt a fangirl moment.

Why does this matter? In a way, it matters because hearing these authors speak and talk to them personally gives me greater respect for them and I’m more apt to read more of their books. I am more likely to book talk their books, and I can make better connections and conversations with students by mentioning that I have met the author or the story behind the book they are checking out (“You met ____? REALLY?”) Somehow meeting authors to some students is like meeting a celebrity. But then again, isn’t it the same way for us librarians, too?

I absolutely relished every moment yesterday, as I do with all the book festivals I attend. Being so close to DC, I’ve visited the National Book Festival many times as well, and met authors like Mike Lupica, Lois Lowry, Judy Blume, and Walter Dean Myers. Every time, I feel like I’m making strides to be a better librarian for my students: to understand the people that are providing the experiences and emotions for my students in ways they need or don’t even expect. In all, they are my heroes: they do the hard work so I can gleefully recommend it to the right kid at the right time. Meeting them and hearing their stories is one of the many ways I’m able to recommend so well, and it is worth every moment of unpaid overtime that I absolutely could not live without. If you haven’t been to a book festival, go! If it is somewhat nearby, go! If it’s free (or somewhat free), go! If you can work with a few other libraries to create your own book festival for your students/users, do it! It will make you a better reader and librarian. Promise. 🙂

PS: Special thanks to the nearby Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, and DC Public Libraries (and many more!) for their sponsorship of the book festival yesterday. Just another service that our public libraries do for us, putting our tax dollars hard at work. I appreciate you! 🙂

One thought on “Working Overtime: Why Teen Book Festivals are Worth the Saturday Investment.

  1. Go fangirl! Although I haven’t actually met as many authors at the festivals as it sounds like you have, Rachel, I agree that seeing them in person and hearing their stories adds a dimension to our librarian knowledge of literature that isn’t the same as watching online. We’re lucky to be in an area where there are so many opportunities, but I hear about more places having readings and author visits in book stores and public libraries too. I remember waiting in a long line to have Christopher Paul Curtis sign my copy of Bud Not Buddy at the National Book Festival years ago and he was so nice. Another highlight of my reading life was getting to meet Ray Bradbury at the Novello Festival in at the public library in Charlotte, NC. He signed Fahrenheit 451 and kindly told my friends and me that we didn’t look like the librarians he remembered. Unforgettable.
    Thanks for the blog. Well done and thanks for taking the time to share your “unpaid overtime” with all of us.
    Sheri Ruffle
    Franklin Middle School
    Fairfax County Public Schools


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s