Cory Eckert is a librarian and branch manager for Houston Public Library and the idea-girl behind Guerrilla Storytime. She received her MLIS from the University of Arizona in 2010 and learned what a flannel board was in 2011. Cory is a huge fan of Tennessee Williams, hates the Narnia books and thinks no book has ever been or will ever be funnier than I Am The Biggest Thing in the Ocean. If asked politely, she can recite Puck’s entire closing monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and/or all the things MeatLoaf wouldn’t do for love. She tweets at @helenstwin and blogs at Storytime Underground. And, like dragons, Cory loves tacos.
The Children’s Book Review: Why did you choose to be a librarian?
Cory Eckert: I don’t know that I did, necessarily—it sort of chose me. I worked at my college library, because it was the only work study job available, and when I got out of college with a fascinating-but-not-marketable degree and was working a series of dead-end jobs, I remembered that the librarians from my college had thought I would make a great librarian. Basically, it was the only marketable skill I seemed to have, so I ran with it.
TCBR: Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
CE: I dare kids. I tell them that no matter how much they think they hate to read, I can find a book they will love, because it’s my superpower. I think buying books that are going to be interesting to kids, whether they’re “literature” or not, is key. WWE Biographies and Bigfoot graphic novels are important gateway drugs.
TCBR: Which kids’ or teen book is the most frequently checked-out in your library? Why do you think it is?
CE: In Houston, winners of the Bluebonnet are a Big. Deal. The nominees for the Bluebonnet are selected by the Texas Library Association, but the winners are voted on by kids. Different classes participate in different ways (here is an example: http://www.houstonisd.org/domain/26078 ) but as far as I can tell, every kid in Houston comes in looking for the Bluebonnets. I think the incentive program that TLA and the schools have come up with is very smart.
TCBR: What is your favorite read-aloud for a preschool story-time? Why?
TCBR: Which new releases are you dying to lay your hands on?
ER: Er, I’m in the middle of the ARC of The Shadow Throne (book 3 in the False Prince trilogy), and it was hard to make myself stop reading so I could write this interview! I also can’t wait for The Battle For Wondla. Can you tell I’m into MG fantasy? In terms of picture books, now that I’m branch managing I’m out of the loop on what’s coming up. I rely on the Storytime Underground ninjas to tell me what to read next!
TCBR: What steps do you take to strengthen the relationship of the library with local schools and the community?
ER: Outreach, outreach, outreach! Go where they are, ask what they want, give them that if possible.
TCBR: What kinds of regular reading events or story-time sessions do you host?
ER: Each of my branches has storytime right now, but I’m looking to add a Saturday and late-night/pajama storytime to the mix for working parents. I’d also like to do something for tweens. (I’ve only been at my branches for a month, so, making changes!)
TCBR: Could you tell us one thing about librarians or libraries that you think would be surprising?
ER: I’m not sure the outside world knows how much librarians talk about gin? Honestly, I think a lot of us feel we’re doing social justice work, which is an aspect of information access that the layperson probably never thinks about.
TCBR: I’m sure that you are asked any interesting questions on a daily basis. What would you say has been the most entertaining question asked of you by a parent or a child?
ER: Oh, goodness. I get a lot of requests for nonfiction books about mythological or legendary creatures, usually right after the Discovery Channel has had a show on it. So then I have to explain that we don’t have non-fiction about mermaids PER SE, unless it’s about mermaid legends. The kids are like, but it was on the Discovery Channel, yo. What do you mean it’s not true?
TCBR: If you could be any fictional character from children’s literature, who would it be? Why?
ER: I spent a lot of childhood years wanting to be Tinkerbell, until I realized that Pan forgets that she ever existed. I think probably Tris from Tamora Pierce’s Circle world books. She’s hard working and smart and super prickly, and she has great hair and can make magic glass dragons.
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