Librarian Lydia M. Sigwarth’s picture book memoir was inspired by Ira Glass’s public radio show, This American Life. At the age of 5, Lydia’s family moved from Colorado to Iowa. WIthout a home of their own, Lydia, her six siblings, and parents stayed at relatives’ homes, but had no place of their own – until Lydia’s mother took her to the library, where she found a Library Home in the stories, the programs, and in the librarian, who always had time for a hug, to read a book with Lydia, and make her feel safe. Inspired to become a librarian thanks to “her” librarian, Lydia’s experiences illustrate both the library as emotional home for those who may not have anywhere to go; the emotional work of the librarian, and the love so many of us have for what we do. Romina Galotta’s illustrations capture the magic hidden in the ordinary; we see young Lydia walk into the library for the first time, flowers blooming out of shelves and sprouting up from book pages, just waiting for her. The warm atmosphere of the children’s room will bring a smile to any library lover’s face; I ached, missing my library even more, seeing the puppet show theatre and toy bins lining the floor of Lydia’s childhood library. Most of all, I loved the panel where Lydia’s librarian leans forward as Lydia approaches the desk; the two share a smile, connected, as Lydia’s flowers, bloom up from the librarian’s desk, letting readers know that this is part of her magical, safe space. She wanders through the stacks, accompanied by a whale; she and her librarian fight dragons together; she is where she needs to be. Now a librarian, Lydia connects with the children in her room, making paper dolls, sharing books and hugs, and connecting at that desk, robots and flowers present: she is someone else’s safe place now. An afterword from Lydia Sigwarth talks about her experiences in the library and reconnecting with her librarian Deb Stephenson, thanks to This American Life.
I was lucky enough to attend a librarian chat with Lydia Sigworth and her publisher, and it was one of the best experiences! Lydia Sigwarth is amazing, folx; I just wanted to talk books with her forever. She’s upbeat, inspirational, and such a positive force. I’m thrilled that she had a chance to share her story with us. Dear Librarian is a book every library should have handy – and that every librarian should read, because what we do makes an impact (and we need to remember that!).