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The Princess Bride, Tara Westover’s Educated, and Supporting the Learning Society

8 July 2019

From The Literary Hub:

This week, we spoke to the New York Public Library’s Melissa Gasparotto.

. . . .

Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian? 

Melissa Gasparotto: Working in libraries made me want to be a librarian. I think the particular role that made things really click into place was at the Chicago Historical Society (now Chicago History Museum) Research Center, where I was a page 20 years ago. When I got my first call slip for an archival box, the emeritus archivist at the time, Archie Motley, offered to take me down to the archives and show me the ropes. After we got the box, he took me on a detour to show me the files of the Chicago Police Department Red Squad, which had for many years harassed and conducted illegal surveillance of political dissidents. I was 19 years old and got the most powerful lesson on the importance of libraries and archives as stewards of difficult, contested histories, and our obligation to help document all communities at risk. This and other experiences there also underscored the importance of generosity in mentoring others into the profession. I went on to become a librarian specializing in Latin American and Latina/o Studies, and I think about these issues every day.

Fun fact: I kept up a pen pal correspondence with my favorite patron from that job for almost 10 years after moving to New York!

What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?

MG: The closest recommendation to the front of my mind is often the most recent book I’ve finished that I loved. Lately I’m recommending Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, which I only just now got to reading. The library’s hold list is very long! She really captures the complexity of families in a way that feels extremely personal even as the particular circumstances she describes can be unfathomable.

But the book I recommend most often is probably William Goldman’s The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and Adventure! It’s my go-to air travel novel because it’s always available in airport bookstores and I’ve almost always loaned out my copy. I must have owned it at least a dozen times. Goldman’s book is so much better and funnier than the movie, which says a lot. Don’t skip the introduction, or the introduction to the introduction. When I was a kid, I really thought there was an author named S. Morgenstern, and once asked a librarian to help me find the correct Princess Bride edition because I didn’t understand why the catalog said the author was William Goldman.

Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?

MG: We don’t all maintain super organized book collections at home! My personal book collection is organized opportunistically: the most recently read books go wherever they happen to fit. It drives some of my non-librarian friends crazy, and I’ve caught at least one doing some sneak reshelving. But I love the feeling of constantly rediscovering things I’ve already read when I’m looking for something.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

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