Eisha and I couldn’t be happier that school librarian Camille Powell (or, Miss BookMoot — “Jenny Holm called me that one time and I quite liked the sound of it,” she told us) is our first blogger interview of this new year. We already liked her blog BookMoot and had the pleasure of meeting her briefly in Chicago at the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, but then she gave us the fabulous responses below in this blogger interview, and we like her even more. If I could only hand-pick school librarians for my daughters . . . Ah, if only. Camille would be first on the list. And if you read BookMoot, you probably know well her passion for school librarianship and getting good books in the hands of children. However, if you don’t read BookMoot on a regular basis, then keep reading. Her thoughts on “good books” in this introduction to her short Q & A and her response to the Pivot what-turns-you-on question (and what-turns-you-off, for that matter) show your more run-of-the-mill librarians what having commitment to and passion for school librarianship is all about. Snap, snap. (And could there be a lovelier, more sincere response to the prom-date question?).
Remember our most recent blogger interview with the honorable Tasha Saecker of Kids Lit? Tasha’s been blogging for approximately five years now, and BookMoot is about to turn four years old. Yup, another dinosaur blog in the kidlitosphere, considering the very young age of most blogs. Thank goodness we had smart, enthusiastic librarians like Tasha and Camille (and others, to be sure) to show us the way. As you’ll read below, we have Camille’s husband to thank for suggesting she start a blog in the first place.
When we interview bloggers, we ask them about their blog’s features, should they have any regular ones at all. But the thing about BookMoot is that there are no bells-and-whistles features. Camille might talk a bit about movies or even her personal life a tad, but her focus remains consistent, informative posts on books, books, books. In fact, here’s her response to the features question. Again, if only I could hand-pick school librarians . . Or clone her. Hmmm, cloning would be good. But I digress. Here’s what she said:
Originally a corporate librarian, who worked with technical data and research, I was very content to revisit that magic time of reading unconscious delight through my children until my youngest looked like she would always prefer Power Rangers to the printed word. I began to really understand and experience the anxiety parents feel about their child’s reading ability, and sharing my love and enthusiasm for children’s books beyond my immediate family circle began to seem like a calling.
BookMoot was originally my way of pondering the most fascinating part of being a school librarian: Why do some kids love to read and others do not? What books do those avid readers love? What can I do to convince nonreaders or struggling readers that books are worth their time and attention? I really believe the saying that “the right book at the right time with the right child will make a reader.” Making that match is what it is all about.
The perennial question in any school library is “Where are the GOOD books?” — as if the “good” books are hidden away in the librarian’s office. Kids want to know about books and appreciate book talks and personal suggestions. Sometimes, they just need some individual attention. The librarian is in a unique place to fill that need by just walking the stacks and talking with them or being there to talk to during lunch or homeroom. It has been my privilege and great fun to share “good” books with folk of all ages in schools and through BookMoot.
I don’t really have any regular features though I always enjoy sharing those interesting moments I experience in the different school libraries where I work.
I also hope to encourage and support school librarians who have too little time to do all the good work they want to do. If my modest exhortations or suggestions from time to time are useful, I am happy.
I think Eisha and I speak for a lot of bloggers when we say her exhortations are way beyond “useful,” indeed. Many thanks to Camille for stopping by to cyber-visit us. She’s a member of the judging panel for the Nonfiction (MG/YA) category for the Cybils 2007, so we’re glad she had a moment amidst all her reading and evaluating to chat with us. Here she is, the one and only Miss BookMoot . . .
7-Imp: What do you do for a living?
Camille: Well, besides being an ongoing parental unit, I am a school librarian, currently working as a librarian substitute. Having any substitute in a school library can be problematic, but I know the district and the automation systems, so I am not an overt danger to the circulation records. Plus I can do things for the librarians, like catalog the nasty AV and realia materials they don’t have time for.
Dragon and I also do some storytelling. He really loves going to schools to read and kids seem to like him, even though he is a disagreeable, snarky, and disrespectful creature. I don’t know why I put up with him.
7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?
Camille: Gosh, since June 2004, 3.58 years now.
7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?
Camille: When I needed to downsize my day job, my students asked, “Who is going to tell us about the ‘good’ books if you leave?” So my husband, who is very wise, suggested I start a blog. I used the name BookMoot (à la entmoot) because that was what we called our lunch-time book group at my school.
It has grown into so much more than I could have ever imagined. I was standing in line to get some books signed by Mo Willems at TLA last spring and started talking with the person in front of me. She asked me what was BookMoot, referring to my name badge, and another lovely person in the next turn of the line overheard her and said, “You are BookMoot? I read your blog all the time!” God bless her, I was quite amazed.
7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?
Camille: The entire kidlitosphere is such an amazing and warm community. Where else can you moan about a vile virus that has overtaken your family and receive so many sympathetic wishes to get well soon? Where else can you rail against the disgusting commercialization of one of your favorite books (the travesty known as “Will’s Excellent Adventure,” a.k.a. The Dark is Rising movie) and find supporters and equally outraged readers? Their voices are unique, yet we all have this common interest and love for literature for young people. On a daily basis, I read someone’s blog and find myself thinking, “wow, a soul sister/brother” or “whoa, I never thought of that.”
It is wonderful.
7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?
Camille: I am a quilter. I am also trying to learn how to knit socks. Sock-knitting is a useful skill. People have known how to knit socks since forever. Surely, I can figure it out?
7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Camille: I lived in The Hague, The Netherlands as a kid. It was a magic time, very little television and it was there I discovered books and reading thanks to the librarian at my school. My Dutch has fallen away, but I could still manage to eat quite well there. Yummm… patates frite mit frietsaus, pannekoeken, Droste, Verkade, Indonesian ristafel.
7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?
Camille: Van Morrison’s Live at Austin City Limits Festival; the Scottish group Back of the Moon’s Luminosity; Annie Get Your Gun with Mary Martin and John Raitt; Lyle Lovett’s The Road to Ensenada; Dawn Upshaw sings Rodgers and Hart. I’m also working my way through the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I love Alan Corduner’s narration. I am also listening to Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, great narrator.
7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?
Camille: Well, since I am dreaming . . . Jack Gantos, Jack Gantos . . . did I say Jack Gantos? I wish he would start a blog.
The third slot has so many contenders, but after much reflection and the fact that I have just finished one of her books, I would have to add Eva Ibbotson. Her descriptive writing and subtle humor are so satisfying to me. Reading her books is the closest thing I have ever experienced to recapturing those happy hours of reading as a child.
7-Imp: What is your favorite word?
7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?
7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Camille: School libraries. They are so important! There is so much to share with kids, so much for them to discover and learn. Young people can take their first steps toward learning anything and everything at a library. They don’t have to walk around in a straight line or be particularly quiet. When a youngster tells you about a book that they loved (maybe you shared it with them or told them about it), well . . . there is just no other feeling like it.
7-Imp: What turns you off?
Camille: I guess ever since Gutenberg began printing and books became widely available, there have been people trying to control what we read. I despair over book protests and book banning. As a school librarian, I’ve had “input” from every political, religious, and secular corner about the books in the collection. Of course, folks have different points of view. Isn’t it glorious that we live in a country where we enjoy that freedom to choose what we read? Students are particularly vulnerable when books are banned, because the school library is the only library that they have regular and easy access to. The platitude “Well, they can get the material at the bookstore or public library” doesn’t wash and should not be a balm for anyone’s conscience.
I also wish folks would read the books before they call for them to be pulled, boycotted, or censored. It is hard to discuss books in bumper sticker slogans or email hyperbole. If you wouldn’t invest money in a pyramid scheme that you heard about in an email, why would you invest your intellectual capital without further investigation?
7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)
Camille: I discovered that one benefit of motherhood was the inability to shape my lips to some of my favorite and frequent exclamations. I tend to take a page from Colonel Sherman T. Potter in M.A.S.H. and deploy some of his imprecations, such as “monkey muffins,” or terminology of my own invention. Alas, if taken by surprise I do exclaim les gros mots en français.
7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?
Camille: Music, music, music, especially my kids playing the piano, clarinet, and singing. My interests are very eclectic. Our lives are so filled with music; it is in elevators, grocery stores, blasting out of car windows. We have music “on demand” on the radio, TV, on the Internet. I don’t think we appreciate it. I lived without easy access to music for a year overseas once. I didn’t have a radio, and this was back in the days before iPods or even the Walkman. I learned how much I took music for granted — never again.
7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?
Camille: I hate the sounds of trouble, such as screeching tires, wailing children, sirens, my dog retching . . .
7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Camille: Oh, I can just imagine being an archaeologist.
7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?
Camille: Anime convention planner.
7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Camille: “The kids are waiting for story time. Bring Dragon!”