In Praise of Libraries and a Librarian

Ms. Kantor, a special librarian

Los Angeles Public Library has a neat new brochure with this clever caption on the front: “Think of the library as a convenience store for knowledge.”  Then, when I opened the brochure this humorous caption greeted me:  “The Library is always open online. And you can be as loud as you want.”

Inside the brochure, I found a map with the 72 branch libraries. In our entryway is a big basket where we keep our numerous library books, which come from this expansive network of branch libraries.  We are frequent users of the convenient online catalog, which allows us to place holds (while being loud) that are delivered directly to our neighborhood library.  Not only is the library a convenience store for knowledge, they are happy to hunt down a volume and deliver it to our doorstep!

During her 2nd grade winter vacation, when Natalie was 7 ½ years old, she experienced what we refer to as a “reading explosion.”  For days, she sat on the floor in front of the living room bay window and read.  She had been pulled into the world of the Magic Tree House series by author Mary Pope Osborne. We had been reading to Natalie since she was a baby and she had begun learning to read when she was in kindergarten, but this was the moment Bill and I, avid readers, had been patiently hoping would arrive. How fortunate she’s been to have access to two fantastic library collections, which helped develop and foster her love of reading.  The children’s library at the Central Library branch of the Los Angles Public Library is a beautiful open space with built-in wood bookcases that stop five feet up so that murals depicting California history can tell a visual story.   Within the many rows of shelves are hidden classic children’s literature, many of them out-of-print, which Natalie fell in love with in 3rd grade.

Natalie was doubly lucky to have access to a fabulous school library: The Gonda Family Library at the UCLA Lab School (called U.E.S. while Natalie was a student).  Even better, her guide in reading exploration was a fantastic librarian who knew the entire collection. Judith Kantor has encouraged thousands of children readers, whose reading lives she nurtures with the utmost respect, knowing that she is working with something too precious to mishandle.  I have overheard Ms. Kantor many times ask children about their interests and the kinds of characters they most enjoy reading about.  She does not rush their answer.  She listens attentively and then helps them find different titles, while reassuring them not to worry if they don’t end up enjoying the book, but instead to come and tell her so that they can find another.  Too many children are told they have to finish books once they begin.

At the end of  6th grade, Natalie wrote this note to this special librarian:

Dear Ms. Kantor, I can’t imagine U.E.S. without you!  The library is one of my favorite places at U.E.S. because it is full of wonderful books, many of which I wouldn’t have discovered without you to recommend them.  Thank you for being such a wonderful librarian and always taking time to describe or show me a book.  Love, Natalie

All children deserve a Ms. Kantor in their lives.

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