Librarian Helps Teen Find New Outlook On Life Through Books

SHREVEPORT, LA (AP) — This is the story of a 13-year-old booklover who only knew one student at his new middle school last year, sat by himself on the bus and didn't have anyone to talk to at lunch.

         And it's about the soon-to-retire librarian who made a huge impact on his life by taking personal interest in him when he wandered into the library.

         And, of course, it's about the north Shreveport mother who wanted the librarian to know "her special attention did not go unnoticed."

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         If you fret that books are doomed, maybe Ian Golsby's seventh-grade perspective on the joy of reading will inspire you.

         And if you forget what a difference educators make, perhaps Debby Macy, retiring middle-school librarian at Herndon Magnet in Belcher, will remind you.

         "She encouraged him to expand his reading horizons," mom Julie Golsby says, "and has had such an impact."

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         Ian agrees.

         "I only knew one kid there, so one of the first things I did was go to the library. She helped me find some good books," he said.

         Now finishing seventh grade and with a long list of favorite books and a host of friends ("They all love reading, which is good."), Ian gives "Miss Macy" the credit.

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         "Without her, I don't know if I'd be where I am," he says on a busy week, between a track meet and going to a movie with friends. "She's kind of the reason I've been able to fit in so well. She always listens."

         And, yes, her retirement after 41 years is hard on him.

         "I can always go to her and tell her I need a book to read. She always has a good book," he said. "She knows the library so well that she could find a book with her eyes closed."

         Well, maybe the students give her more credit than she deserves, Macy says with a laugh. "They think I've read every book in this library."

         But she knows the books middle-schoolers like. "I read them. I think it's important that I read books that are appropriate for their age group."

         Macy's strategy to connect the right book with the right reader?

         "I ask them the last thing they read that they really liked." And she makes it a point to speak louder when recommending a book to a student, knowing that others will overhear and be intrigued.

         Though a few decades separate Ian and Macy, they share excitement about books. They talk titles and series and authors and plot and characters with the enthusiasm of New York Times book-reviewers.

         Macy can rattle off a list of her recent favorites. A few (with author names in parentheses): "Wonder" (Palacio); "Out of My Mind" (Draper); "Counting by 7s" (Sloan); the new Newbery winner, "The Crossover" (Alexander); "It gets you," she adds. Then there's "The House of the Scorpion" (Farmer), a science-fiction book about the ethics of cloning; and SYLO (MacHale).

         "I haven't read much grown-up fiction in a long time," she confesses. "These books any adult would read and enjoy."

         Ian can reel off a list, too.

         He had just started the "The Unwanteds" series (McMann) when I talked with him. "These are really good." His favorite author is Rick Riordan with the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series.

         He also likes Margaret Peterson Haddix, mentioning "Found," in particular. "I've read all of her books we have in the library."

         What makes a readable book?

         For Ian, it's plot twists and "that suspense moment," which he also calls the "gasp moment."

         Macy appreciates "characters that I can identify with" and "if I say 'this book has a twist,' it sells it to kids."

         Her influence on so many students through the years can be traced in part to the librarian in the small Central Louisiana community of Elmer, where she grew up with one librarian for kindergarten through 12th grade.

         "The librarian was constantly handing me books telling me I should read them. She was right," she said.

         With Macy's retirement, things will be different at Herndon, but her influence will remain, spiraling out in ways we can't know.

         "Of course I'm going to miss her," Ian says. "The only thing that's going to be the same is the books."

         – by AP/ Reporter Judy Christie with The Shreveport Times

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