Dr. Carla D. Hayden, Librarian of Congress
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington DC 20540
You know, the last time I wrote to a librarian in DC, she never got back to me. But then Laura Bush and I did not go to library school together, and I certainly never worked for her, whereas you and I shared an advisor in Zena Sutherland, and I loved doing those science story hours for you when you were running the library at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in the 1980s. I retain as an object lesson the memory of that little girl running screaming from the room when in the course of telling “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” I growled, “Who’s. That. Tripping. Over. My. BRIDGE?” (I think our theme that day was Counting.)
I always remember that anecdote as an example of how we never know how a particular person is going to react to a particular story. And while I have no idea how you are reacting to the real-life troll under the bridge story now going on in DC, I wanted to write and offer my prayers and good wishes.
A friend of mine is a longtime lawyer with a federal agency, and I asked him how much his job changes with every incoming administration. About twenty percent, he estimates, which doesn’t sound too bad. But Carla, my dear, I worry for you when that twenty percent is going to be coming from someone who from all reports doesn’t much like to read. (Way down on the long list of what and whom our incoming president doesn’t like, but still.) President Obama likes to read, as did George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Not liking to read is no shame in itself, although in the case of President-elect Trump I worry that it is another symptom of a personality that does not seem inclined to view the world through any other eyes than its own.
I don’t know how much you’ll have to do with President Trump, but your experience as a children’s librarian should be helpful. (And can we all just say again how great it is to have a youth services librarian running LC?) We understand tantrums and short attention spans. We know how and when to give The Look. We’re pretty good at getting people to sit in a circle, be quiet, and listen.
I’ll bet you could even find him a book he’d like. One of the books Trump did declare liking is All Quiet on the Western Front, not a dishonorable choice at all, even if his citing of it reeks of a desperate grab to a half-remembered ninth-grade reading list. But it gives us a start, right? All a librarian needs. (Your other secret weapon might be his grandchildren. Even grandparents who hate to read love the gravitas that giving a book can lend.) I wouldn’t start him out with anything like the heavy stuff that regularly shows up on Obama’s reading radar, or even with George W. Bush’s choice, the trashy but highly entertaining I Am Charlotte Simmons. (It’s too long for him.) From this year’s Fanfare list, you could try Meg Medina’s Burn Baby Burn, Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star, or Roxane Orgill and Francis Vallejo’s Jazz Day, three books set in Trump’s beloved Big Apple. Or how about Candace Fleming’s Presenting Buffalo Bill, about another big personality with an elastic relationship to the truth? And Antoinette Portis’s Best Frints in the Whole Universe might — might — make him think a bit about Using His Words.
Best of luck, my friend. Be well. We’ve got your back.