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In April, Idaho celebrates a 'right to read what we choose'

Aly WEpplo and Deann Campbell work at The Community Library in Ketchum.
The Community Library and 123rf
Aly WEpplo and Deann Campbell work at The Community Library in Ketchum.

Defending someone’s right to right what they choose may sound like the plot of an Orwellian tale or dystopian film, but there was an urgent need for a National Day of Action. And in the wake of efforts at statehouses nationwide, including Idaho, to tighten leashes on public libraries, librarians across the Gem State choose to mark “Right to Read” activities through April.

 “In 2024, we are working to make libraries, whatever people need. That's a huge responsibility,” said Aly Wepplo Collections Manager at The Community Library in Ketchum. “And as we look at book bans and legislation … I've been so impressed at how articulate and how passionate our Idaho patrons are. They're telling us what they want, and we just have to keep up with it. It's exciting.”

Wepplo joined Deann Campbell, Children’s and Young Adult Library Director, also at The Community Library, to visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice.

 Read the transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are so pleased to welcome to the broadcast this morning, Aly Wepplo, collections manager at the Community Library in Ketchum, and DeAnn Campbell, the Children's and Young Adult Library Director, also at the Community Library. Good morning to you both.

ALY WEPPLO: Good morning.

DEANN CAMPBELL: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Right to Read Day. Wow. Here we are in 2024. So, I put it to you. Talk to me about the “right to read “what we choose.

WEPPLO: We are so excited George, to be a part of a community that is so excited to read. You know, as a librarian, I thought I would be doing a lot of recommending books to other people, and that does happen. But I'm surprised how much of my job is receiving book recommendations from the people that come into the library. Everybody's got an opinion. Everybody is reading or receiving a story in some way, and they want us to know what they like and to tell us that we should read it. I'm excited that a lot of those recommendations I get are things that I want to run out and read myself right away, but a lot of them are things I would never have an interest in. And I'm so glad that we have diversity in our interests as Idaho readers, and I am so happy to defend that. Everybody should get to read what they want to be reading.

CAMPBELL: And as the children's librarian, it's really important to me that our kids also are able to make selections as they grow, that are age appropriate for them, that are driven by their own interest. So many times kids are assigned things in school, and reading can become kind of a chore, and it's important for them to learn how to love books and love reading. It's going to enrich their lives for their entire lifetime experience.

PRENTICE: DeAnn, I'd like to talk to you about just that. I'm so glad and honored that you are here this morning again. You are a children's and young adult library director. Can you speak? Because goodness knows a lot of other people are talking about this, but can you speak to the care that you take in nurturing young readers, protecting young readers, inspiring young readers?

CAMPBELL: I just... I love my job as a children's librarian for so many reasons. I love books, I love libraries as a place. I love it as I love libraries as a place where relationships are built. I find libraries to be magical places, and it is our goal here at the Community Library. It's always been important for us that kids are able to grow up in libraries, so that we have books and book selections that are just help them grow, not only through their ability to read. As they learn to read, they start with, you know, very small decodable with easy words, but that they grow as patrons all the way up, you know, into adulthood reading. And part of that is the libraries are very much a place of independence for kids. I find that as a child, there are so many decisions that are made for you, and there are not a lot of places you can go where you have such free access to making your own decisions. And the library is one of those places where you can go and just be like, I really love trucks and I do not want to read about frogs. I want to read about trucks, and I'll take ten books on trucks. So libraries, I yeah, it's just their ability to choose for themselves. And I also think it's important for kids, even just to be able to browse the pictures even before they can read. So giving them this independence, helping them to explore, helping them to have ownership and make their own selections is just so magical for them as kids. That and and one thing about a library is they're just there. There's an abundance. It's just such a place of abundance for them. There's no scarcity, there's abundance. They can come back. The books are still going to be there. If they took six books this week or 10 or 20, they bring them back. There's more. There's always more to discover. There's always more to learn. That's what I love.

PRENTICE: Aly Wepplo, you are the collections manager.  For certain, these are interesting times to be a librarian, I can only imagine. So how are you and your colleagues doing?

WEPPLO: We have such an incredible opportunity, really, to get to work at a library. In this library. I think we're at an incredible crossroads. Working in libraries where we are responsible for the past and the future. For me, libraries are a place that I visited with my grandmother and my mother, where I developed my love of reading and sharing stories. And now my grandmother is gone. But being in the library makes me remember her so fondly. Makes me want to pass on my love of reading to other people. We're also at a place where libraries provide modern tools that people need to to succeed, and to better themselves to share their stories. We provide people free internet access, free printing, free meeting rooms to conduct their business, or just to hang out. Sometimes kids or teens will come just watch a movie in a meeting room. And in 2024, we are working to make libraries, whatever people need. That's a huge responsibility. And as we look at book bans and legislation and deciding what libraries should be in our communities, I've been so impressed at how articulate and how passionate our Idaho patrons are. They're telling us what we want, what they want, and we just have to keep up with it. It's exciting.

PRENTICE: Well, let's talk about Right to Read Day. I have to assume you have some events today.

CAMPBELL: Yes. So in the children's library, we are celebrating libraries at our story time today, that is for young children. And then all week we're going to have well, actually we're going to have it up for a couple of months. George, an interactive bulletin board. We're going to have some information about our library, how many books are in our collection, some fun facts about how our library was started independently. Um, and then we are going to actually ask our patrons, why did you come to the library today? And they get to put their answers up and we can see, did they come for printing? Did they come to hang out with friends? Did they come because there are free snacks? Did they come because they have to write a report or, you know, to get a book? And libraries are just such joyful places of free access for all people, and they are non- transactional spaces. You don't have to spend money or buy a coffee to come hang out, right?

WEPPLO: It's such a good point that all of this is happening for free, including free snacks, and I know we're all excited about that. Um, at the main circulation desk, anybody of any age can come and give us a book recommendation. So pull a book off the shelf that you love, and we're going to take short videos where you tell us who you are and why you love the book that you're celebrating. And then we're going to share it with our library community, um, to just inspire one another about what to read. Um, the other exciting thing that we're doing, uh, is a raffle. So every day, you pledge that you are going to read 20 minutes for the day, and then you can enter your name in a raffle to win a cool library related prize.

PRENTICE: Prizes at the library? As if we needed another reason to go?

WEPPLO: It's also fun to be able to carve out some special time and maybe read something that you really, really love to read instead of maybe...

CAMPBELL: ...having to read. And to recognize that that's an accomplishment. Reading every day is taking care of yourself.

PRENTICE: Aly Wepplo is the collections manager. DeAnn Campbell is the children's and young adult library director at the Community Library in Ketchum. Have a great Right to Read Day, and thanks for giving me some time this morning.

CAMPBELL: Thank you George.

WEPPLO: Thank you.

 Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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