Today I’m thrilled to interview Edi Campbell, a librarian, book reviewer and blogger. Whether you are a publisher, a writer or simply someone who enjoys books, I believe it is essential to know people like her. Edi interacts directly with readers, recommending books to students and proving how books can be useful in addressing social issues. I often lurk on her blogs, Crazy Quilts and It’s Just Food; they leave me celebrating good news, reflecting about life, and wondering if I’m doing enough… Below is the email interview, in its raw form. Enjoy!
I’m sitting in the most awkward position (it’s a challenge to type). One of my cats took over my laps and fell asleep! Anyway, thank you again for doing the interview. I’m so glad! I tried to stick to 5-7 questions… Here we go:
Hi Edi! So love your blog and the variety of topics you cover. Its name gives way to a myriad of plausible explanations. Why “Crazy Quilts”? And if I may, how has quilting influenced your life? 🙂
Edi Campbell: Nathalie, YOU ASKED THESE QUESTIONS A MONTH AND A HALF AGO!!! I have to apologize for sitting on them so long! I hope the cats have moved!!!
Crazy Quilts… funny, that’s a style of quilting that has never really appealed to me. I wanted to find a cute, catchy random name for my blog that had an obscure tie to me, unless you got to know me. Quilting was my creative outlet. I’ll have to see if I have a photo of the quilt I made for my daughter. I remember being in my family-room, cutting and sewing, not measuring or planning anything and this quilt was the result. Quilting was a nice outlet for me.
Every time I read your blog I’m touched by your passion for people and for books. Out of all the professions you could have embraced, why choose high school librarian?
Like most things I’ve done in life, I just stumbled into the library from the social studies classroom. It’s such a natural fit, I should have been there ages ago! Right now, working without any kind of staff really drains me because there is so much to do and my time too often is lost on clerical type stuff. Still, the library is where I want to be! I love the times I’m able to give a book to a student who has never finished a book before. And to have them come back for another!! I love it when some student I’ve never seen before stumbles into the media center because they need help with this or that and they become another student I look out for. I really enjoy it when a teacher stops through for teaching ideas, things click and we end up co-teaching a nice little project. I could go on and on! Libraries can be draining because there is so much to do. I work not only with all the students and staff, but I get substitutes who need last minute materials, teachers who left home with no Christmas wrapping paper for gifts, alumni who want yearbooks from 20 years ago and community members working on all kinds of projects. The job description only highlights most of what librarians do!
It is my understanding that you work with a culturally diverse population. Does “race” matter (when it comes to books)? If yes, how so? (special note, just curious: ever had any special request?)
My school is diverse from mainstream America, but in and of itself it lacks diversity. My school is about 98% African American. In this case, in every case in America, race matters. It matters in libraries because we should be the places that open up the world to readers. My students need to have books that allow them to find their place in the world; books that show them people like themselves and books to which they can relate. Don’t all students need that? Where some schools may need Sarah Dessen and Jerry Spinelli, Alex Sanchez, Paula Yoo or Kelly Parra, I need Walter Dean Myers, L. Divine and NiNi Simone. But mine also need the previously mentioned authors because they need to learn about Whites, Latinos and Asians AND they need to be able to read good books regardless of race!!!
I always have special requests! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Black children don’t read! My students are always begging their teachers to bring them to get books! My girls most often want “drama”. Some want vampires and the younger girls want romance. My boys are more diverse. Nine of the ten top readers at my school are boys! Most of these boys are underclassmen and they are often readers of manga. My boys ask for books about war, murder, guns, dragons, sports, cars and the Bible. The last request I had was for Dante’s Inferno.
Banned books: good or bad for the youth? Who decides if a book gets banned?
Libraries are supposed to have policies that lead to deciding whether to withdraw a book from its collection. My school board has approved the policy for our district and should someone as that a book be removed from any library in our district, we would follow these guidelines. Banning a books from a library is not quite the same as banning it from a classroom. In a class setting, a teaching has a captive audience and is using the book for direct instruction. In a library, students choose what they’re reading. Students at varying levels of maturity are able to select books for reading. A parent is free to tell a child to return a book to the library and not allow them to read it. Books selected for a school library should fit the ages of the student in the building while supporting the school curriculum.
Edi, (playing the devil’s advocate and bracing myself for the rotten tomatoes coming my way): In this dire economy, we have to make cuts. Let’s lay off a few librarians or close school libraries, reduce their hours and save on electricity bills in the process. After all if they really read, kids can use internet to get the literary information they need. Your answer?
If they really read, students can get information from the Internet but is it valid? Does it really meet the criteria? How will the student collect the information? What if they can find what they want on the only search engine everyone seems to be using these days? Can they use advance search features? Do they really know how to use key terms? What if they need journal articles from the state provided databases? What if, heaven forbid! they need a depth of information that they’re more likely to get in a book? Or what if what they really need, have needed for the past 30 minutes they’ve been searching, is in a book? Who would tell them that? We could close the libraries but that would show we haven’t read any of the 17 state reports that link performance on state mandated tests to students use of well stocked, professionally staffed school libraries both for research and reading experiences. In education it’s all about the testing!
I won’t throw tomatoes!! Too many people have absolutely no idea what school libraries do any more or even who we are. I was listening to a local report about a school district that was cutting media specialists. How many parents and voters know what a media specialist is?
Honestly, deciding to make cuts in schools can’t be easy. Teachers,librarians, custodians, clerks, counselors and administrators all have roles that are critical to providing students with an education. Just don’t use that old crony system that protects people in meaningless positions that bring nothing to the classroom.
How can we show our support to school libraries?
Visit the library and find out their need. Some libraries need volunteers. I was surprised recently to find that libraries in my own state have no budget! Some libraries need new books, some need contemporary furnishings while others need technology tools. Talk to your school librarian and see what their needs are.
All librarians will benefit from voters paying attention to issues and voting in ways to support school issues.
I saw this on your blog and gotta ask: Please tell us about your involvement with the World Food Program. How can we help?
I was involved with the World Food Program though a social justice challenge in which I’m involved. Every month we read a book related to a particular issue and in reading the book, we become more active! I’m sure it’s not too late to join the challenge: http://socialjusticechallenge.mawbooks.com/
I was so excited about these reading challenges. They sounded like so much fun!! I haven’t kept up with any of them 🙁
Last but not least, a few favorite titles this year?
I wish you’d ask this at the end of the summer. Right now there are just too many books I haven’t read! Some of my favs are:
The other hand (released here as Little Bee) by Chris Cleve
He Forgot to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
The gangsta we are all looking for by lê thi diem thúy
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
Edi, thank you so much for your time and for the information you shared!
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week,