Welcome to Shhh…Secrets of the Librarians, a new series (inspired by our long-running Secrets of the Book Critics) in which bibliothecaries (yes, it’s a real word) from around the country share their inspirations, most-recommended titles, thoughts on the role of the library in contemporary society, favorite fictional librarians, and more. Each week we’ll spotlight a librarian—be they Academic, Public, School, or Special—and bring you into their wonderful world.
This week, we spoke to Milwaukee-based children’s librarian, Peter Blenski.
Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian?
Peter Blenski: It really is a job that chooses you, rather than the other way around. It’s the wand that chooses the wizard after all. Nerd reference! Anyway, I decided to be a librarian when I realized I did not want to be a teacher. It was a lot harder than I anticipated. Fortunately my job now as a children’s librarian combines all the best parts of being a teacher. I can’t see myself doing anything else really, it truly chose me.
BM: What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?
PB: I find myself recommending interactive picture books more than anything. Something like Press Here by Hervé Tullet. Books like that are always just so engaging and hardly take any work to make them fun. I’ve read that book to several groups of kids at Next Door Milwaukee, and they often call it “the magic book” since there are just so captivated by what’s happening in it and the changes in the pictures. That’s what reading should be all about.
BM: Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?
PB: The job has changed so much, and librarians have been doing an amazing job of adapting. A successful librarian now, in part, has to be a teacher, a social worker, an event planner, IT help, a performer, a reading specialist, and an advocate. Sometimes you get to order books if there’s time left over. We wear more hats that that guy from Caps for Sale. Speaking of which, why couldn’t he just carry them all in like a box?!
BM: What is the weirdest/most memorable question you’ve gotten from a library patron?
PB: How about the most memorable question I asked a patron. I hosted a “Trick or Treat at the Library” event at my old library. One of my favorites kiddos, Theo, came dressed up in costume…as me! Complete with purple ukulele and Chuck Taylors. I asked, “Could I grab a picture with him?” and they were nice enough to agree. When you’re a children’s librarian, you are basically a local celebrity, and I find that so fascinating and humbling.
BM: What role does the library play in contemporary society?
PB: Whatever its community wants it to be. Libraries everywhere are pivoting and becoming makerspaces and community centers, and also changing up collections by circulating everything from tools and kitchen appliances. The opportunities for what a library can now be or offer are limitless, it’s just up to the community to be willing to collaborate with the library and vice versa.
BM: Who is your favorite fictional librarian?
PB: Probably the librarian from Ghostbusters. She’s kinda my spirit animal. All she wanted to do when she died is read.
Peter Blenski has been a children’s librarian in the Milwaukee area for almost seven years, and has recently moved to the Hartland Public Library. Nationally, he’s best known for his blog “The Lego Librarian” which provides unique Lego challenges that promote STEM learning, creative thinking, and collaboration. Peter also writes reviews for both School Library Journal and Booklist. He spends most of his free time with his wife, who’s also a librarian, and their dog, Loki. You can find Peter on Twitter @peterblenski if you need more library memes in your life.