In addition to presenting story times, answering Google-proof research questions, and practicing the dangerous art of readers advisory, during the summer the children’s librarian also adds hosting programs to the to-do list. When school gets out, libraries crank into high gear with shows and programs to entice families to visit and, perhaps, decide to get a library card and check out some books.
Programs I’ve hosted have ranged from opera, theater, and
mythology to Twilight and basketball. I’ve mixed potions, folded origami, and
blown stuff up. This past week the wheel of fate spun and I was assigned the Reptiles Alive! show. Lucky me! I like reptiles as much as I like spiders and dishonest
politicians and their lovesick spouses.
|Photo by Reptiles Alive|
However, Fate was in a good mood and gave me one of the most talented and charismatic performers I’ve seen in years.
|Caroline and B. A.|
Before a capacity crowd of eager kids and somewhat less than eager parents, Caroline, the owner of Reptiles Alive, took charge. The petite blonde combined the knowledge of a scientist, the patter of a Borscht belt comedian, and the excitement of a ten year old on a dirt bike into one dynamic package. Plus, she understood her audience. “Once I held up a lizard and it peed on my head,” she shared, to delighted shrieks from the crowd.
Caroline introduced us to a parade of scaly creatures, many of which seemed less than thrilled about being pulled from their comfy, soundproofed boxes.
“Now, this is B. A.” She held up an American alligator, twenty pounds of writhing, pissed off muscle. “B.A. stands for Bad Attitude,” she said as she coolly held the thrashing creature. B.A. was found in a hotel bathtub, abandoned by a pet owner who had somehow not realized that illegal baby alligators grow into illegal adult alligators. Now B. A. has an hour commute and must perform for young shrieking humans. My heart thawed (very slightly) toward the miniature Godzilla, once unwanted and unloved, who looked like he’d happily stomp all of us on his way back to Florida.
Oohs and aahs greeted Sunflower, a ten-foot-long albino boa constrictor, and a respectful hush fell at the appearance of the grande dame, Janis, a spectacularly large and old leopard tortoise.
Many performers must reach to work a bit of library love into their acts. Not Caroline.
“You know how I got into reptiles?” she asked the crowd.
“You picked them up outside?”
“You went to the zoo?”
“You saw one on TV?”
“Nope, my love of reptiles started at the library!” Caroline explained that her grandfather took her to the library when she was two. There she stumbled upon a book on snakes and an animal show superstar was born. Caroline’s eyes glowed. “I read everything about snakes, then frogs, and lizards. Then I studied. And I kept learning, taking out more and more books from the library. If you want to learn more about reptiles, or anything really, go to the library and get a book!”
Caroline was making friends with the library lady in the back of the room.
Caroline continued, telling the crowd why the Internet is not the best place for information about animals and animal care, especially for misunderstood creatures like reptiles. She said that the Internet is full of websites that are misleading. Many people post opinions or urban legends about reptiles that spread misinformation that makes people fear these creatures.
“A librarian can help you find information that is reliable,” Caroline said, cementing her place as my favorite summer performer of 2014.
Have you ever had a dreaded event turn into an unexpected pleasure?