WSIRN Ep 142: The moment you became a reader

what my kids are reading right now

“Children’s librarians are ambitious bakers: ‘You like the jelly doughnut?
I’ll get you a jelly doughnut. But you should try my cruller, too.
My cruller is gonna blow your mind, kid.” ~ John Green

We recently had NYPL librarians Gwen and Frank on for episode 138, and you might remember that even though they worked within the same library system, their jobs were WILDLY different. Today we’re exploring a smaller-town librarian experience through the eyes of Sarah Peden, a children’s librarian from Humboldt, Tennessee.

Sarah is full of stories about the long road to librarianship, strange patron requests, small town scandals that echo for decades, and so much more delicious library gossip. And if you’ve ever wondered who wins in battle Wikipedia vs the Librarian… she’s weighing in with her opinions.

What Should I Read Next #142: The moment you became a reader with Sarah Peden

Check out the Humboldt public library if you’re in the area, and follow Sarah Peden on Instagram!


Books mentioned in this episode:
Some links are affiliate links. More details here.
If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library! 

• Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Mongomery (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Penderwicks series, by Jeanne Birdsall (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Real Friends, by Shannon Hale (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Hank the Cowdog series, by John R. Erickson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)

Also mentioned:
• the Tennessee Electronic Library
Gale Books and Authors database


Was there a memorable librarian in your childhood? Sarah and I would LOVE to hear about them in the comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Linda says:

    I just shared some book recommendations with a younger patron last night and I’ve told children and teens when they’re checking out a book I love. I wonder what kind of an impact that interaction having? Hopefully, I’m a small part helping them become a part of the community of readers.

  2. Dawn says:

    I have been so thankful for our children’s librarian. She helped my son get out of a Percy Jackson rut and now whenever he’s looking for something new he goes to see her; she gives him a big smile and takes him into the stacks to put the stories into his hand (so much more effective than showing him the cover on computer screen). Sometimes I think she’s prepared a list of recs just for him, because she always has something good up her sleeve that he ends up taking home.

  3. Courtney says:

    Not a librarian moment for me per se, but I witnessed a little boy (about 2-3 years old) check out his very first book! The librarian was so excited and asked everyone nearby the cheer. She gave him a sticker and a bookmark for “his big boy books”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger smile on a kid before. 🙂

  4. Ellen W says:

    Listening to these librarian episodes makes me want to consider going back to school and getting a library science degree :).

  5. Laura says:

    I witnessed a scene while visiting a community library in college that reminded me of the delight of unlimited checkouts. Two boys went up to the front desk and asked how many books they were allowed to check out and the librarian responded “Well, how many can you carry?” The boys just looked at each other gleefully and ran off to grab books.

  6. Jessica says:

    After listening to this episode, I just have to give a shoutout to Mrs. Caringi, the librarian at my elementary school. She looked exactly how you would expect a librarian to look and was everything an elementary school librarian to be. She was such a warm person and really encouraged my love of books, especially the Little House series. I can still picture “Book Bug,” the tattered, well-loved stuffed animal she took off the shelf to sit with us every week during story time. More than twenty years later, I still think fondly about the hours I spent in Mrs. Caringi’s library.

  7. Sally Tibbetts says:

    Many many happy memories from the little Dale Carnagie library in Kokomo, Indiana. The Children’s room downstairs was filled with magic and the libraraians were fun to talk with–always recommending good books to take home. In those days I read things like the Mother West Wind books, the Oz books and onto the Nancy Drew books. I loved the coolness of the marble stairs and the smell of all those books. When I was in high school I even got a job as a “shelver” at that library. I went off to collage and when I returned they had torn that charming, beautiful building down. The new building was/is very nice, but the old one will alway hold a part of my heart. As I went through life and my familyy grew, I found my true field was to be in libraries and I ended up in a high school library for over 20 years. I really loved working with high school kids, doing book talks, running book clubs and exploring, along with the kids, all the fabulous young adult literature out there.

  8. When I moved to my town a year ago, it was clear that I didn’t fit in. I felt like I belonged when I was in the library. One day, I was looking for “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. The card catalog said that it should be in a specific section, but it was not. The librarians helped me search, but no one could find it. All of a sudden, this older man walks up to me and hands me the book. He didn’t say a word or have any affiliation with the library. Maybe he just wanted us to be quiet..who knows! It was such a great experience because I felt like I belonged someplace. Now, any time I move to a new place, the library will be the first place that I go.

  9. JiEun Lee says:

    Listening to this episode and the last episode, where Cindy was featured, it gave me lots of thoughts and feelings. Like Cindy, English is my second language. Although I have moved to English-speaking country in my late teens, I share lots of feeling and thoughs Cindy shared, especially a feeling you have where you feel like you belong nowhere. That also influence my reading life (or lack thereof). Like I want to be a reader, an avid reader. But I have hard time enjoying the book as when I encounter English-written work, I automatically go into “dissecting” mode where I chop the sentence up by their parts of the speech, obsessed with the meaning and sentence structure. And lots of times I can’t understand some cultural references made by charaters in the book or in general. It hinders my understanding and appreciation of what’s going on in th bookworld. I also try to read “kids’ book” but I just could not get the joy people are describing. I know I have been told that there is nothing wrong with me but it is really hard to think that way when you have lots of counterevidence that you are. I searched Magic Tree house on my library catalogue and didn’t realize how extensive the series are. And when I read the title, like more adventurous type, I see myself scoffing and such… I guess I’m not the fantasty type. I don’t know what and why I am writing this rant, but I’m kind of desperate to find a book that I can enjoy and kind of establish my reading identity, which may help me build my own identity in this world.

  10. Jennifer says:

    When I was a pre-teen/teen I binge read those trashy teen romance books (Swet Valley High, etc) It drove my mother crazy and she spoke to our librarian about it. The (very very) wise librarian said to just let me read them because eventually I would move on to something else, but at least I was reading and loving it. Now I am a 46 year old voracious reader of all types of books and I remember this when I roll my eyes at my 10 year old checking out every Boxcar Children mystery available, no matter how many times she has read them.

  11. Johanna wilbur says:

    I adore our library! Thanks to libraries everywhere.

    On a curious note, Anne, have you changed the structure of the podcast? I have listened forever, and I noticed that the past few episodes haven’t been ones where you recommend books in the same way. Is this a new thing?


    • Anne says:

      Johanna, we occasionally go off-format to take a topical deep dive. This summer we ran an informal series on libraries, which is why it seems we’ve done this more than usual lately.

  12. Katharine Forsyth says:

    I loved this episode! I don’t have any particular librarian memories, though when I was little I had four books that I constantly checked out of our local library: George’s Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl), The Second Book of Naughty Children (Enid Blyton), The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (Dr Seuss), and one of the Madeline books where they go to a fair. I sometimes wonder if the librariand recognised me and wondered if I ever read anything else! 😀

    I loved that Sarah touched on adults reading Young Adult books, and how it’s not a genre in itself, because it contains so many genres. I would LOVE for you to do an episode just on great YA novels for grownups. I’m a voracious reader of YA, but in my twenties I was often too embarrassed to admit I loved them. Now that I’m nearly forty, I don’t care what people think anymore! But I do think the reason I was embarrassed is because YA gets a bit of a bad rap. People think it’s all just Twilight-clones, cheesy and badly-written, and it’s SO NOT. (And having said that, I enjoyed the first Twilight book, but there’s so much better stuff out there.)

  13. Sara says:

    I really enjoyed this episode, and I felt grateful for the experience the children are having in Sarah’s library. I enjoyed reading as a child, but I had no idea how to pick out a book or where I would find books I might like in the library. I tended to read the same books over and over. My elementary school librarian kept a neat and tidy space but inspiring children to love reading or matching students to books that might appeal to them were definitely not her gifts. Now, I am in my 50s and I still love reading, so all was not lost in those elementary school days. But, I was listening to this podcast excited for children and teens to encounter a librarian who is so passionate about her work. Way to go, Sarah, and thank so much, Anne, for this great podcast I just recently discovered!

  14. Abbey says:

    I have been LOVING all of the librarians you’ve had on lately, but this one was my favorite! I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school to get my MLS focusing in children’s lit, as I used to be a kindergarten teacher and love kidlit, middle grade, and YA just in my own life. (If you could see the amount of these books that I have in my house, you’d think I was running a children’s library out of my home! ? )
    Thanks to you and Sarah for giving me that one final push to get me in gear!

  15. Karen says:

    When I was a young mother and my daughter was about a year old we walked down to the library. I’m not one to ask for help, but the children’s librarian was someone I knew from church, so I went over and asked for some book suggestions for my daughter. There was one I thought was too scary, but a few months later I checked it out and it became such a favorite we had to purchase our own copy! I had that thing memorized and Elise would sit outside the kitchen while I made dinner, turning the pages as I “read” the story to her. (Where the Wild Things Are). There were two other big favorites: Anno’s Journey (& any other book by Anno) which are wordless books so you can talk about the pictures and make up your own story about The Traveler – and When Rain Makes Applesauce.
    I’m so glad I learned to ask the children’s librarians for recommendations! Both of my kids are avid readers as adults AND all 7 grands are following in their footsteps.
    (Yes, we are the family where when my husband sorted his books last year he didn’t have 25 books to donate. He had 25 BOXES of books! He kept 20 boxes.)

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