Celebrating the New York Public Library
This post is for the people attending this morning's screening of Ex Libris, which I will be introducing.
It's a photo of me at the New York Public Library earlier this year, and I promise to tell everyone the whole story later.
UPDATE: As promised, here's the full story behind that photo.
So, Dallas VideoFest had a screening of the movie Ex Libris yesterday, and they asked me to help introduce it. It is a documentary about the New York Public Library. I don't think the VideoFest folks knew that I have some strong feelings about the library, even though I made my first visit there only a few years ago.
I found the library by accident. I was in New York for my day job, and on a free evening, I had time for my favorite New York activity: Walking in a random direction until I find something interesting. In past years, this approach to sightseeing has led me to great bookstores, beautiful parks and all kinds of famous things that impress those of us who grew up in the middle of the country. (It also led me to at least one woman wearing a shirt made of paint, a guy with a python around his neck and a couple of offers to buy illegal things. So although I highly recommend this method of tourism, if you are the age of the characters in Revenge of the Star Survivors, I suppose you should ask an adult first.)
Anyhow, I got about half a mile from my hotel, and I came upon the rear of a lovely white building. "I think I'll check this one out," I said. I rounded the corner and -- there were lions! Famous ones. I had found the New York Public Library. It quickly became one of my favorite buildings in New York -- this beautiful, amazing temple to the importance of books and knowledge. And Ghostbusters. But mostly books and knowledge.
Revenge of the Star Survivors was then just an unsold manuscript. But when it finally became a book, one of the nicest endorsements it received was from ... the New York Public Library, which put it on their list of recommended middle-grade fiction. "Character-driven, Fast-paced, Realistic fiction, Witty," they said.
Which meant a whole lot to me, and to the book. As I told the VideoFest crowd: It's one thing to get a nice review. But when the librarians at one of the greatest libraries in the world give you a shout-out -- people pay attention. I also thought that Clark and his friends, who spend a lot of time in their library, would think it was totally awesome.
So when I was back in New York this spring, a couple of months after the book was published, I made it a point to stop by and see whether I could find the book on the shelf. It turns out, I was able to make the trip with my editor, Kelly Loughman of Holiday House, whose kindness and wisdom shaped the book into something much better than I could have accomplished on my own.
When we arrived, I had a double surprise.
First, the book was right there, on the shelf, almost as soon as we walked in. So that was exciting.
Second, the librarian at the desk -- and I am pretty certain I caught a glimpse of her in Ex Libris, singing "Old MacDonald" to toddlers -- enthusiastically greeted us and pulled out this beautiful ledger filled with signatures of all the authors who have appeared at the NYPL. She let me be one of them.
She also encouraged me to sign the library's copy of the book.
And that's what's happening in the photo. I don't know if you can really tell, but I have a funny look on my face -- in that photo, and the one below. Why?
Well, that's the look of an author who is fighting back tears. Because I spent a lot of years assuming that Clark, Ricki, Les and the rest of the Star Survivors crew were going to live only in my head. When I saw them in the New York Public Library, I realized -- they belong to the world now. To you, if you're reading this.
It was a happy feeling.
And that's the story of the photo.