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Nancy Pearl: an interview with the 2011 Librarian of the Year

When Seattle super librarian Nancy Pearl was named 2011 Librarian of the Year by Library Journal her fans asked: "Why did it take so long?"

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Q: With all that you read, are there any books you make time to re-read?
A: I reread a lot – I find that it's like great comfort food – mac and cheese and an Agatha Christie favorite, "Why Didn't They Ask Evans," or Josephine Tey's "Brat Farrar" or "The Franchise Affair" are books I reread frequently. Also, I reread my favorite novels from 1960 to 2000, now all, sadly, out of print.

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Q: I saw that you own an iPad, but not a Kindle. What are your feelings on ebooks?
A: I am not at all opposed to ebooks per se – it's always been the content of a book that I care most about, not its delivery method; and they certainly will make it easier to take books along on a trip. But reading on an ebook doesn't offer the same tactile pleasure that reading a bound book does. There's just something about the heft of a book, the different fonts different books use, even the shade of white of the page that seems awfully special to me. And that's all lost in an ebook. And I worry that ebooks will be the death of the few independent bookstores that we still have managed to keep in business. And then I worry about libraries, and whether it will now make it easier for people to argue that there's no need for library buildings, since everything can be downloaded. People forget that not everyone can even afford a Kindle or a Nook.

Q: Tell me about interviewing Neil Gaiman at the ALA (American Library Association conference)! What do you think of his work?
A: The interview with Neil Gaiman was great – he was charming, talkative, and interesting. Although it was about an hour long, it was one of those interviews that could have gone on much longer – I never really got to ask him about "The Sandman" series, or much about "American Gods" and "Anansi Boys." I am a big fan of his work, beginning with "Neverwhere" and "Good Omens" (which he wrote with another favorite of mine, Terry Pratchett). I reread "The Graveyard Book" just before I went to ALA for the interview and found it was even better the second time.

Q: As I remember, the stack of books your "Librarian Action Figure" is holding keeps changing – except for one book, "Farenheit 451." Were there any other candidates?
A: Mark Pahlow, the head of Accoutrements, who made the Librarian Action Figure, wanted the Bradbury book to be included in each batch of books. And, of course, I agreed.

Q: Have you seen a major shift lately in readers tastes and the types of books they read? In the age of Twitter, are you finding readers willing to follow even a 50-page rule?
A: I haven't actually noticed any changes at all – people are still interested in finding books, both fiction and non-fiction, that will engross and entertain them.

Rebekah Denn blogs at

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