A few years ago, my escort at the National Book Festival in DC was gracious David Fernández-Barrial. I was intrigued by the specific work he does at the Library of Congress and am delighted that he agreed to participate in our Creativity Salon. I’m also pleased that he invited his colleague, Jill Garcia, to join us too.
1.What is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and what are your roles?
David: The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (also known as NLS) is the national library program for persons with blindness, physical limitations or print disabilities that prevent the reading or handling of standard print. NLS ensures that people who have difficulties reading standard print are still able to have access to reading. We are a part of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, which is the world’s largest library!
Jill: I select the young adult and kid’s books that will be recorded as an audio book and/or read in braille. The titles we choose are for patrons across the entire U.S.
David: And I am the foreign-language librarian at NLS, responsible for selecting books in Spanish and other languages.
2. Do you consider yourself a creative person? If yes, how does your creativity affect your work?
Jill: Strangely enough, I never really thought about it. But I do get to be creative when I write the annotations for the books I select. We write short descriptions about the books for our patrons. And what really thrills me, is trying to create a summary that entices a person to read a book they normally would never pick up. Now that is pretty cool.
David: Yes, I think we are creative people. Our jobs involve creativity, but we also love words and book culture and actively participate in it. If you are a creative person, it is not as though you come to work and push that creativity aside: it informs everything you do. Outside of work I love to write, and have dabbled in different things like novels and short poems. And within the hallowed halls of the Library, I actively problem-solve, open my mind, and breathe in the centuries of human knowledge. Being creative is a lifelong process: it is about participating fully in the world and being aware of things. Being a librarian makes you hyper-aware of the larger, expansive, and active, volcanic world all around us. A world of becoming.
3. What are your two or three key challenges in the work you each do?
David: One challenge is that things happen very, very slowly in our workplace. We try to accomplish many things, yet they take time and much negotiation. What makes it so rewarding, though, is knowing that your job has such a positive impact on people’s lives.
Jill: My biggest, heartwrenching challenge is being limited on how many books I can select for the collection. I love them all, but I can only pick a small amount of what is published.
David: Yes, there are so many good books out there.
4. What were you like as a child? Were you a reader?
Jill: Given the amount of toys laying about at work, I think we both never grew up. Yes, I was a happy, lunatic reader as a child … I carried books with me where ever I went. I had a burning need to be surrounded by the magic of stories. I think that is why I grew up believing that anything is possible, if you just believe.
David: I was a gloomy and morose child, trapped in the world of imagination … no, I am joking. I still am a child. I loved (and love) to read, which is why being a librarian in the world’s largest library is really a kid’s dream job.
5. Día is one way I promote bookjoy. Do you see possible connections between your work and Día?
David: Día is about promoting bookjoy and inspiring the love of reading. We at NLS help provide access to all readers, including those who are multilingual or multicultural or just want to read books in other languages.
Jill: I agree. We love books and love to make people aware of the great diverse literature out there.
Pat: Many thanks again for your time.
David: It is our pleasure, Pat. It is an honor to talk about our program to let your readers know about how reading, literacy, accessibility of learning materials are a right for every person, including persons with disabilities. And that creativity and love of learning are alive and well in corridors of the temple of knowledge that is the Library of Congress.
Jill: Thank you, Pat. One very nice thing about our jobs is that we can meet great people like you!