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What ELSE do you do?: five questions for Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor is third from the left in this 2014 photo of the "Cincy Gang." Photo by Alison Dougherty Berkowitz

Deborah Taylor is third from the left in this 2014 photo of the “Cincy Gang.” Photo by Alison Dougherty Berkowitz.

This series of interviews debuted last spring with five questions for author T.A. Barron; now I’m following it up with five more for one of my favorite librarians, Deborah Taylor, coordinator of school and student services for the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Deb and I have been friends for more than thirty years since we served together on the Best Books for Young Adults committee (when there still was one) for YALSA (when it was still YASD). She is the 2015 recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, and she wrote about this year’s CSK winners in the July issue.

More important for our purposes today, Deb is a HUGE tennis fan, revering one player above all (as you’ll see below) but an avid student of the game in all its nuances. I share her enthusiasm if not her expertise, and I thought that with the U.S. Open now upon us, it would be a great time to ask her Five Questions.

1. When and how did your interest in tennis start?

We always watched the major sporting events on TV when I was growing up, so I had a working familiarity with the sport. It caught my attention again when the Williams sisters broke through and it grew from there.

2. Do you have any recommendations for how to explain the whole love-advantage-love thing to neophytes?

Not really. I’ve heard a couple of different explanations for the origins of “love” (I really do watch those tennis history documentaries on the Tennis Channel) and all you need to know about advantage is that whoever has it and gets the next point wins the game.

3. You are Roger Federer’s number one fan. How did this passion begin?

Believe me, there are millions vying for that title! I guess it goes back to the time I saw him play in the 2006 Wimbledon final. I’ve always admired graceful athletes and he makes a tough physical sport look like dance. (See David Foster Wallace’s essay about Federer, considered one of the best pieces ever written about an athlete.) Interestingly, I find my Federer fan community has much in common with my young people’s literature community: Both have members from a variety of backgrounds who came to be involved in many different ways and are fiercely loyal to their subject and often to each other. In neither group do the members all agree with each other all the time. The Federer group is more international (and probably a bit more diverse). You will find groups like this in almost every city Roger plays.

4. Is Serena Williams the GOAT yet? (Claudia Rankine in the Times also recently addressed this question.)

To me, Serena is the greatest of all time of the women’s game for no other reason than her ability to remain at the top and to achieve so much for so long. She has reinvented herself so many times, always getting better. I once watched her practice serves for an hour. She works very hard.

5. What has tennis taught you about youth library services and/or vice versa?

One thing tennis has in common with teen services in libraries is that someone is always predicting their demise and both always find ways to remain relevant. I love the problem solving that has to happen to be successful in both. In tennis, players have less than a split second to figure things out on their own. Thank goodness we have a bit longer and colleagues to help us out.

Bonus question: What’s the best book you’ve read about tennis? My nomination would be John Feinstein’s Hard Courts.

Probably Arthur Ashe’s autobiography, Days of Grace, and coming a close second: Andre Agassi’s Open. Both are books that any reader can enjoy, whether they are tennis fans or not.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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