She read The Lord of the Rings and said what you’re not supposed to say to get the job

…everyone deserves these chances, moments when something pierces the everyday and points a path toward health and wholeness, toward growth and adventure and change.   – Adrienne Furness

In February, when we began talking about The Hunger Games (the book and the movie), I asked readers to share books that affected them in a profound way when they were growing up.

A couple of people said The Lord of the Rings trilogy had been an unforgettable and transformative reading experience. I considered writing about J. R. Tolkien’s trilogy on Books Can Save a Life, but I knew I couldn’t do his books justice. I’d read Tolkien when I was young, but for whatever reason his fantasy novels didn’t speak to me in the way they have to countless other readers.

Then the other day I visited a favorite blog, What Adrienne Thinks About That, authored by a librarian friend, Adrienne Furness. Adrienne is a superb librarian and a superb writer. Anyone, child or adult, who walks into her library is very lucky indeed. She has just become director of the Henrietta Public Library, and there’s a story behind how that came about.

Adrienne graciously agreed to let me re-post her story:

When I went on my interview, the hiring committee asked me why I became a librarian. For many years now, people who give advice on these matters have been telling librarians not to answer this question, “Because I love to read.”

But I answered this question the same way I’ve answered it in every single job interview I’ve ever gone on. I told the truth.

I became a librarian because I love to read.

The Fellowship of the RingI tell this story often because it was a moment that’s defined my life: I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was in the fifth grade. I got to the end and was overwhelmed by the sadness of the story being over, and so I got my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and read the whole trilogy again.

I’ve reread the series more times than I can count. My love for these books has nothing to do with elves or magic or swords, although those things are all fine, as far as I’m concerned. What makes me return to this story again and again, though, is the notion of life as a quest. My fifth grade self couldn’t have articulated what she found in those books, but I know now that I needed to see that even the smallest person can step away from comfort and into challenge, that change is possible on scales small and large, that our efforts and intentions matter. The story reinforced for me that there are things in this world worth protecting–fellowship and love, food and conversation, adventure and courage, songs and stories. These are the things that sustain us when life is difficult, when we are hurt or afraid and have to be so much braver than we feel.

These books told me to find people who value the things I do and to treasure them, because they are essential. That’s a lesson that led me from fifth grade straight to this moment when I’m sitting here writing this to you.

I’ll never know how many lives have changed because of a book I made sure was on the shelf or something I helped someone find, but I’ll spend my last couple weeks at WPL watching children check out stacks of books, knowing that some of them will find something that will still matter to them when they’re adults trying to figure out this world that defies understanding.

I became a librarian because everyone deserves these chances,  moments when something pierces the everyday and points a path toward health and wholeness, toward growth and adventure and change.

I believe we all get to write our own stories. When I was in fifth grade, I decided my story was going to be a little epic.

I like the way that’s working out so far.

About Adrienne

Henrietta Public Library’s newly appointed director, Adrienne Furness, was formerly head of the Children’s Department at the Webster Public Library in Webster, NY, where she managed over $100,000 in grants focused on providing better services to homeschoolers in Monroe County, expanding the reach of storytimes and other literature-based programs, and creating a space for tweens in the Children’s Room.

Adrienne is the author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library, ALA Editions, 2008. She has taught library staff all over the country about working with homeschoolers, and has published articles in Library Journal, School Library Journal, Public Libraries, Children and Libraries, and AudioFile Magazine.

Share your book stories

If you’d like to share a story about a book that is special to you, send an email to valoriegracehallinan[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject line: My Book Story. Please include a post of about 500 words or less in the body of the email or an idea/book you’re interested in writing about.

7 responses

  1. Dear Grace,
    This post moved me. Stirred in me something so deep because I found the words of Adrienne Furness echoing something from within me. Those moments which shape us from our youngest childhood after being particularly impacted by a book. Indeed how many of us have been saved by a book. Books. I am right now reading the Fellowship of the Ring. I started off the LOTR books rather late in life but I think it is only because the teacher comes when the student is ready. Thank you so much Valorie for this post. Sharon

  2. I can’t remember how old I was when I read LOTR. I know my older brother was in high school, since I borrowed them from his shelf when I was sick at home and ran out of my own reading material. So I must have been in 6th-9th grade. They opened my imagination to new things and the importance of high ideals. I have since read them several times, including reading the whole series (including The Hobbit)aloud to my sons twice. My husband, on the other hand, has tried to read them, but never makes it much past the first book. Too bad he didn’t find it as a child!

  3. Pingback: “Live in the Layers” – What Adrienne Thinks About That

  4. I too read LOTR in fifth grade and was profoundly affected by it. It made me realize that you don’t have to be an elf (I.e., WASP male) to make a difference in the world. The one time I took a job just for the money, I hated it and knew I was not being true to myself, so I quit it. Since then, all my jobs have had the potential to make that difference.

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