Margaret Atwood on Why School Librarians Rule

Margaret Atwood on Why School Librarians Rule


From: Wall Street Journal - Speakeasy: May 24, 2011


Margaret Atwood spoke yesterday at BookExpo America, the largest trade book fair in North America, and charmed the audience with her wry observations of the publishing industry and a slideshow of pen drawings she made on old-school computer punch cards (one was a comical rendering of two animals roaring at each other, competing over which one was bigger – she likened it to how writers act when appraising each other’s books).


Atwood, the prolific author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Blind Assassin,” and many other works, covered a range of topics in her speech, but touched a nerve when she championed the importance of reading. She described the “serendipitous experience” of walking into a store and picking up two or three unexpected books. She said that unlike the Internet, bookstores provide a filter for customers – they are a modern-day version of hand sellers (earlier, Atwood described how she sold her own first book by going from bookstore to bookstore). Bookstore employees read and make informed guesses as to what their customers would like.


“All of this depends on the persistence of reading,” Atwood said, touting the need for educational outreach to young people. “The librarian is the key person you don’t want to remove from a school.” She said being able to surf online isn’t a substitute for having a librarian who can handpick and recommend books for students in their early years of reading.