(April 17) While it’s not unusual to pay tribute to the tremendous role coaches can have in our lives, it may not be common to pay tribute to a librarian.

But school faculty of any sort can be of seminal influence for the better, and my grade school librarian, Dorothy Lill, was a blessing to student lives for a solid quarter century. Mrs. Lill, who died earlier this month at age 92, showed me how books can open my mind — and, more importantly, feed my spirit.

I spent 10 years, pre-K through eighth grade, at Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans. The whole time, Mrs. Lill ran Trinity’s little library not merely as a pedagogical tool but as a place of wonder.

To understand Mrs. Lill’s influence, it helps to understand that she exactly looked the part of a librarian. Actually, she had the mien of one particular sort of librarian.

A stereotypical librarian’s “look” starts the same, with the same facial aspects, but can go in either of two directions. There are the intelligent eyes behind narrow glasses, a personal tidiness and economy of movement, and a sense of placidity. But the same basic facial features can be used in two ways. Librarian One has eyes that glower (with brows that arch) and lips that purse. Librarian Two has eyes that sparkle and a mouth quick to sneak into pleased little smiles of delight.

Mrs. Lill was Librarian Two, to the nth degree.

What was most remarkable about her was what catalyzed that delight. For every child that gave her even half a chance, Mrs. Lill had an absolutely uncanny ability to discern just which books would be of most interest and be at the right reading level, at just which time…. Mrs. Lill’s little but radiant smile of delight would emerge when the student returned the book and expressed enthusiasm about it, especially when, almost inevitably, they asked if she knew of more books like it….

[The full column is at this link.]


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