Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Questionless Books Interview: Librarian Alexandra Yarrow

Share |
The Questionless Books Interview: Librarian Alexandra Yarrow

Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, The Questionless Books Interview gets a host of lit-types (authors, editors, publishers, publicists, designers, booksellers, readers, bloggers, journalists, etc.) to finish a bunch of statements about the state of literature and the "future of books".

Next up is Public Librarian Alexandra Yarrow.

Alexandra Yarrow is a supervising librarian with the Ottawa Public Library. She is president of the Library Association of the National Capital Region (LANCR), vice chair of the OPLA RA Committee, and serves on the judging committee for CLA’s Book of the Year for Children Award. She is also a past president of the Montreal Chapter of CLA and a former member of the Boards of Directors of the Quebec Library Association (ABQLA). She blogs at http://ottawapubliclibrarian.b...

I am... a public librarian

I am known to... type and read very, very fast, devour novels while slouching in wingback chairs and then share them with library patrons, offer library tours and free coffee, and sing in a high voice for storytime.

I do this in... skirts.

I do this because... We’re the people’s university! I feel strongly about the need for excellence in our profession, and service to all members of our local community. When I was getting my Masters in Library Science, I had this quote from librarian Wendy Newman on my kitchen whiteboard, and it’s still a touchtone for me: “Universal access to the universe ideas.” That’s the business (I hope) I am in.

I do this when I... breathe.

The way I do this is... to connect with the community via outreach activities, class and group visits, readers’ advisory, new media, book clubs, writers’ groups, refugee centres, schools, and daycares.

At its core, a Writer is... One who writes.

As opposed to an Author, who is... One who creates.

A Writer is responsible for... Listening, observing, recording, inspiring.

As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for... All of the above, plus being articulate at author readings.

At its core, Publishing is... the business of making the printed word available to the reading public, for a fee.

As opposed to Editing, which is... hell. But a hell for which I have a great deal of respect.

A Publisher should always... be staffed by readers.

As opposed to an Editor, who should always... be reading.

A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is... a rare and lucky one.

As opposed to a Book that's ready to be ready by others, which is... shinier, and sometimes equally rare.

A Manuscript should always... give you paper cuts.

As opposed to a Book, which should always... sit in your lap easily.

At its core, Bookselling is... the art of knowing your readers, knowing your buyers, and finding the best way to appeal to both.

As opposed to Book Marketing, which is... a rapidly changing landscape of creativity, hubris, genius and hype, with a dash of social networking thrown in.

The smallest unit of narrative is... a fragment of Sappho’s poetry.

To be a Book a thing must be... a self-contained world.

The biggest reason to be scared of the future is... the idea, posited by scientists, that reading only Facebook status updates is re-wiring our brains.

The biggest reason to anticipate the future is... to be around to see long, thoughtful reading survive, despite the odds.

In the future we will all... have e-readers AND ratty paperbacks.

At his/her core, a Reader is... an un-lonely person.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

George Murray

George Murray’s six books of poetry include The Rush to Here and The Hunter. His most recent books, Whiteout and Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, are published by ECW Press. He is the editor of the popular literary website

Go to George Murray’s Author Page