Interview with Deanna Romriell, Caldecott Committee member (2012), Manager of the Salt Lake City Public Library's Children’s Department, former president and long-time member of the Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU), and reviewer of audio books for School Library Journal.
Tell me a little about your role at the Salt Lake City Library.
Deanna: I am the manager of the Children’s Department which is, I’m sure, the best job in the world. Not only do I get to do all of the things I love like Pre-School Storytime, Book Baby, Puppet Shows and Outreach Storytimes but I also have the opportunity to work with the most amazing staff on the planet. They are full of energy, creativity, and a passion to serve the young members of our community and their parents, teachers and caregivers.
What advice do you have for parents who want to instill a love for reading in their children’s lives?
Deanna: Read! Read with your children. Provide materials for them to read. And, read yourself. I think that one of the most valuable things parents can do is to let their children see them reading and talking enthusiastically about what they read. I also think providing a variety of reading experiences for children adds to the fun – let them read magazines, comic books, fiction, non-fiction. In the midst of all of the possibilities they are likely to find something that turns them on to reading.
What are some of the more recent books you recommend to young readers?
Deanna: I do like to recommend Diary of a Wimpy Kid because it is so appealing to so many. It looks fun and is not at all intimidating. I also love to recommend John Flanagan’s new title, The Outcasts from his new series The Brotherband Chronicles. I was a fan of his Ranger’s Apprentice series and I think I like this new one even more. For younger children I still love whatever is new by Mo Willems. I think everything he does is just perfect for the pre-school/beginning reader crowds. He really knows how to have fun with words and with his illustrations. In the realm of alphabet books I adore the new E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld. I laughed so hard my first time through and every time I go back to it, I find something new that makes me laugh out loud. Anyway, I could go on for ages. There are always so many excellent new titles coming out and each reader is so different, I am always finding a new favorite to recommend.
Do you have a favorite book you like to recommend to young readers?
Deanna: Well, every reader is so different I really make recommendations based on the individual child that I am helping at the time. That said I have had a number of young animal lovers ask for recommendations lately. For them I love to recommend Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Holden Averill (or any of the other titles in that series). Originally written in 1944, it is still full of wonder for today’s animal-loving young readers. It’s so fun to recommend because very few of them have ever heard of it before so it’s a new discovery.
Tell me some of the ways you hope to make an impact with the work you do at the library.
Deanna: I am always hoping to ignite a spark in children that will lead them to a lifetime of learning, reading, and exploring new possibilities. I went to an Outreach in a Pre-Kindergarten classroom the other day and when I walked in the children were jumping up and down and yelling “Miss Deanna, “Miss Deanna” – not because I am amazing but because they absolutely love to hear the stories and join in the fun of learning something new. Children have such great enthusiasm and I am so blessed to get to experience that first hand. I hope that the things I do as a librarian serve to encourage that joy as they grow older.
Do you or the library do anything unique or interesting to help get children excited about reading?
Deanna: We have a wonderful preschool program called Start Smart. As part of the program children’s librarians across our library system visit Pre-K classes and Head Start classrooms once a month to provide what we hope is a fun and interactive storytime. Then, during the course of the year, we work with the School District to offer Parent/Family Literacy nights. The individual schools plan the evening and we are given the opportunity to meet with the parents for 45 minutes or so and talk to them about literacy and the huge impact that they can have on their children’s reading development as they interact with them. The parents receive a brochure full of ideas to help them read with their children and have fun doing it. Then, each child receives a free book. The program has been a great opportunity to get out into our community, to get to know the children on a personal basis, to meet with parents that don’t always come into the library, and to partner with the Salt Lake City School District.
What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?
Deanna: I became interested in becoming a librarian while working on a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature at Simmon’s College in Boston. So, I started out in librarianship because I love children’s books in all their forms. However, I have come to love working with the children the most. I particularly love storytimes as they give you the chance to really connect with the children and see their eyes light up as you share the books with them. For me, not much could be better than that.
Deanna recently participated on the 2012 Caldecott Committee. Next week I'll post part 2 of my interview with her, in which she relates her experience on the committee.
One hundred years since the Salt Lake City Library first opened its doors in 1898, it now has five branches in addition to its new 200,000 square-foot main library building. The Salt Lake City Library system is a dynamic civic resource that promotes free and open access to information, materials and services with a focus on enabling community members to better enjoy life, explore new ideas, ensure early literacy, access technology, and make its community an even better place to live.