Tuesday, September 14, 2010


THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS are thrilled to feature Jeanette Larson this week as our featured sweetheart! Jeanette lives here in Austin and makes every event more enjoyable with her vivacious presence.

Without further ado, here's Jeanette!


TXS: That’s impressive you worked in the libraries for thirty years! Could you share some of your most rewarding experiences with us?

JL: There have been many. I think probably some of the most rewarding experiences have been when parents bringing their children to storytime would tell me that they had also come to my programs. Of course, that also made me feel kind of old! I also was thrilled to learn that two young people who had been my patrons and volunteers went on to library school. One young man stood in front of me at a library school program and asked if I recognized him. It took me a few seconds but I did! I can think of few other careers where I would have had the influence I've had on so many young people. I also have had so many personal rewards--meeting Maurice Sendak and Robert Ballard (who found the Titanic), becoming friends with many of my favorite writers--only a few other professions offer those kinds of perks.

TXS: In addition to your experience as a librarian, you also teach, write, and do freelance jobs. How do you structure your schedule and stay motivated?

JL: I'm probably one of the most disorganized librarians you will ever meet! I enjoy having a variety of tasks to attend to and I do love planning but I'm a bit of a slacker so I have to really keep motivated. The teaching is probably the most structured part of my week but I don't teach every semester. When I do, my students have to be the priority. I teach entirely in an online environment, which means my students can be anywhere in the world and they are on different time schedules themselves. So I usually try to check in on them first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. Other than that I work by deadlines and try to mix in some fun activities, like writing and answering questionnaires, with the more mundane stuff, like compiling bibliographies. Feedback from people who have read my articles, or used the information I provided them keep me motivated. I also love that I can take breaks to read a novel, walk my dogs, and do other fun things--like have coffee with writing buddies--when I feel like it.

TXS: Congrats on your forthcoming book, HUMMINGBIRDS: FACTS AND FOLKLORE FROM THE AMERICAS! How did you get the idea, and what was your writing process like for this book?

JL: It's a cliché that librarians want to be writers so I always said I didn't really have a book in me and had no interest in writing for kids. But...I had worked with my friend Adrienne Yorinks on her book Quilt of States (I wrote the Texas part and compiled and edited the entries for the other 49 states) and we wanted to do a book that would be a true collaboration. I wanted a topic that would work well with her fabric art. My husband and I were in Rockport, TX for a weekend getaway and it happened to be during the hummingbird migration in September. I walked out of the hotel and literally was surrounded by hummingbirds! Then I started thinking about some of the folklore I had heard while studying anthropology at the University of New Mexico. That led to some research where I learned that hummers only exist in the Americas. Many native cultures have stories about why hummingbirds do the things they do and why they are the way they are so I decided to mix facts and folklore in the book. It's a great opportunity to show the connection between facts and fiction and the birds are amazing little creatures.

TXS: Do you have any writing tips to share? What about tips to get kids and teens motivated to read?

JL: I think I'm too much of a novice at writing to have many tips. A lot of my other writing has been more technical, for librarians and educators. The research is important but I've also had to learn to stop researching and start writing. I guess one tip is to just write. You can edit and revise and refine later but get the thoughts and ideas down. Until I learned to do that I would often forget some of my best ideas before I could get them written out. Oh, also don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Experts want to share their expertise so pick up the phone and call them for the information you need for your writing. I also keep a notebook for ideas, thoughts, things to follow up on, and other things I don't want to forget. Going back through my notes can be very helpful in my writing.

As for helping motivate kids to read, it's important that adults show young people that reading is fun by talking about books and sharing books. Read children's and YA books if you want your kids to read. Ask for their recommendations. Kids are motivated by what the adults around them spend time and money on. So buy books for kids! Read books with them. Listen to audiobooks in the car. I also recommend that parents of teens surround them with books. Teens are so over-scheduled that reading may take a back seat for awhile. Check out books from the library and leave them around the house. When your teen has a little time to read, books are right there. The worst thing that happens is they go back to the library unread.

TXS: What is your hope for reading and libraries in the future?

JL: Reading will always be a part of our lives. We read for fun and for information. The format, and the ways in which libraries collect and share information, has always been changing. We've seen a resurgence of interest in libraries in the current economy. While many of us want to "own" all our books and information, we can't and that's where libraries come in. My local library prints out my "savings" on the date due slip. I can easily save thousands of dollars a year by using the library. It's the best bang for our tax bucks! I also hope that libraries continue to grow as meeting places and literary, cultural, and intellectual hubs for our communities. I'm thrilled to see young people wanting to be librarians--information specialists and professionals who help people find exactly what they need to know or want to read. The dean of a library school told me that I couldn't retire (nor could other librarians of my generation) until I had "replaced myself." It gives me great hope for the future of libraries that I have replaced myself with a couple of real hot-shot librarians! Now I'm looking forward to adding to their "work load" by creating more books that will hopefully land on the shelves and in the hands of readers.

TXS: Thank you, Jeanette!


Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.


  1. Jeanette's book on hummingbirds looks wonderful~ we have a couple of them in our yard, and they are fascinating to watch!

  2. I love the cover, Jess! Thanks so much for visiting!

  3. Jeanette is a generous person so it makes sense that she's a librarian who works towards providing the best services for the public good. I especially love her take on the library in the last paragraph. Way to go, Jeannette, cannot wait to see your new book.

  4. Thank you for replacing yourself. The library has always been my refuge & the librarians its best resource!
    J. Aday Kennedy
    The Differently-Abled Writer & Speaker

  5. Wow... I logged into this site to find one of my college professors there! :) Hooray!

  6. How very cool, Jessi! The world is full of wonderful coincidences!

  7. Jeanette was a teacher of mine for my library program at TWU. Congrats on the new book!

    Jen Bigheart
    I Read Banned Books