Gone are the days of me tripping off around the place at the drop of a hat and leaving ChickPea and PudStar at home…those days came to a crashing halt when Dan died, so it was both a treat and a logistical nightmare for me to escape the house to accept the Dromkeen Librarians Award in Melbourne recently. My mother and I flew to Melbourne for Dromkeen Librarians Award ceremony, presented in conjunction with the Dromkeen Medal.
The Dromkeen Librarian’s Award is presented annually to an Australian teacher, teacher librarian or children’s and youth services personnel in a library setting, in recognition of the important role they play in introducing young people to literature and encouraging an enjoyment and love of reading. The Dromkeen Medal winner for 2017 was Erica Wagner, Children’s and Young Adult Publisher at Allen and Unwin.
The Dromkeen Awards Ceremony was held in the Red Rotunda at the State Library of Victoria, which is grand indeed, and the staff who looked after us were wonderful. One of the staff even took us on a tour of the bronze Dromkeen sculptures and I was slightly beside myself about being able to touch my favourite childhood book character, ‘The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek’- that bunyip filled my dreams, and some of my nightmares- was never sure if he was truly friendly or not.
Dromkeen Librarians Award Acceptance Speech – Megan Daley
I am so very honoured to accept the Dromkeen Librarians Award. The Dromkeen and the Dromkeen Librarians award are held in such high esteem and it is humbling indeed to be nominated for such an award, let along to take it home. All I do differently to any of the other quality teacher librarians I know is squawk a little louder (which my family will attest to) about the importance of introducing young people and their parents and carers to the wonder of children’s literature and the joy of libraries.
2017 has been horrific for my family and I. I lost my favourite aunt and then mere weeks later, my husband Dan. My girls awoke to the news that their beloved, bedtime reader, their daddy, had passed away.
In the darkness, there have been many moments of light: friends and family who have rallied; online and offline support that has been breathtakingly beautiful and a school community that has held the girls and I close and never let us fall. I work at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School in Brisbane and my girls also attend this wonderful school…and occasionally think they live in the library (they do have beds under my desk actually).
When they work well, as mine does, school communities are magnificent and powerful and they send little people out into the world as confident and creative thinkers who can achieve greatness. To me a school library is at the very centre of creative and powerful school communities. Our library welcomes staff, students and families, it offers overwrought little minds refuge from a crowded curriculum, a cool escape from a bustling, steamy Brisbane playground and a place to inquire, wonder and be creative (often with a hammer and nails, a scary looking cardboard saw and glue guns these days) and it offers a place to connect with quality children’s literature and engage with like-minded lovers of literature.
It fills me with horror that some schools are doing away with their teacher librarian and library. Yes, our worth is not easily quantifiable, I really do understand this, and I also appreciate that schools are businesses and tough decisions must be made. But dropping the library and the teacher librarian is not a smart business, education, social or emotional decision.
There is a plethora of academic and anecdotal evidence to support the importance of libraries and librarians, and the ‘never quite seen through to conclusion’ 2010/2011 parliamentary inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians (at which I presented) highlighted a wide and varied ‘measures of worth’ and recommendations. But to me our worth is most clearly seen in ways which may not be seen by many but can have huge impact. My worth is seen in the prep child, so engrossed in a book reading that they don’t realise they have grabbed my leg for comfort as I read a slightly intense story. Seen in the Year Five student who waits at the door in the morning to tell me that they finished my recommended read in one night and could I please get them another book just the same…RIGHT NOW. My worth is seen by the parent at Year Six book club who tells me that book club has given her a way to connect with her tween daughter and our worth is seen when my teaching partner and/or partner in crime sets up a makerspace that is so darned amazing that people come from far and wide to look at her work.
Some years ago now, my blog became an extension of what I do in my school library. A family friend set the blog up for me and presented it to me on a virtual platter, telling me to stop reviewing all over the shop and keep my pondering on children’s literature and libraries all in the one place. My brother had just passed away and my blog filled the long night-time hours when I couldn’t sleep. Children’s Books Daily is my own little space on the interwebs where I connect with other parents, teachers, creators of books and readers about all things children’s and YA literature.
Back at the start I reviewed and wrote for no readers and bribed dear friends like Narelle Oliver and Stephen Axelsen to be my first ‘author interviews’ (still my favs). I deeply miss Narelle Oliver but am so pleased and honoured that I was able to share a little of her life on my blog for readers worldwide.
Six years on, my (over) sharing on my blog has become part of who I am and I do not have the words to adequately express how much my blog means to me. It is my creative outlet, my passion and, recently, my therapy, and I so enjoy pouring my thoughts onto a screen and sharing them with my incredibly supportive online tribe.
Immense thanks to Joy Lawn and Kristen Lewis for nominating me and for being part of my terribly fabulous group of children’s literature friends. The children’s literature industry in Australia is a truly beautiful place to work and play and I cannot imagine what would have become of me had I not followed my mother into this world. My mum is also a teacher librarian and a tireless advocate for literacy, art and literature and I grew up surrounded by books and playing and learning in libraries. I am eternally grateful to my parents for the years they spent reading to my siblings and I, for the books they gifted us and the libraries and book launches they dragged us to.
Today the tables have turned somewhat and my dad texts me for book recommendations – he, my brother and my late husband developed a strong taste for Rangers Apprentice last year, with a dash of Claire Zorn on the side.
I hope I can imbue the same love of children’s literature and libraries in my own children, the children I teach and the people who read my blog and who *hopefully* read my upcoming book, to be published by University of Queensland Press (UQP), which is unsurprisingly about books.
Thank you so much to the State Library of Victoria, the people behind the Dromkeen Librarians Award and to all those who continue to believe my loud squawking is worthy of accolades.