Thursday, June 15, 2017

Meet our new Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith

The Library of Congress has named Tracy K. Smith its 2017 Poet Laureate! 

Image Source: Lewis Center for the Arts - Princeton University
My favorite part of Ms. Smith's response to this prestigious title is best read in her own words:
"I think the responsibility really is to just help raise the awareness of poetry and its value in our culture," Smith tells NPR. "To me that means talking to people — getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry. 
"I would love to go to places where people might be struggling, where people might wonder if there are voices out there for them," she says. (Source: NPR, The Two-Way)
Since becoming a Librarian, I have often contemplated how best to reach those who don't know what they are missing. Poetry is in my blood, so her message strikes home for me. The idea of "getting off the the usual path" is relevant outside of poetry also. As the Library Director in a small town near Albany, NY, I found myself faced with the question of how to reach the rural population when it came to youth-related library events. On the one hand, we had Main Street residents bringing their small children to Storytime and other library-sponsored events, so we could rest assured we were reaching our patrons. On the other hand, we had farming families living in the outskirts of town, who likely didn't follow the Library's Facebook page, and didn't have the free time to bring their children to our events. One solution that worked for us was to partner with the local Fire Departments, and bring Storytime to them, closer to their homes, and within walking or biking distance to the older children. Outreach was key, and being willing to load your personal car up with books, magazines, audio materials, and DVDs was a valuable service to the community members who either didn't know what they were missing, or who couldn't make it to the Library's Main Street location.

Now I work in a University Library, and while I did try to get an "Adult Storytime" off the ground last year (I'll spare you the sad details of attendance, where we actually managed to chase some students away when we started reading), Storytime is no longer my problem to ponder. Now I have other questions, such as: How do you reach students who spend more time on their phones, than physically in the library? Full Disclosure: I spend more time on my phone than in any physical location, so I'm the first to be thrown under the bus here. In any case, I welcome the challenge of reaching our University population in their natural habitat, and offering them glimpses into our resources.

And so I cannot wait to become more familiar with our new Poet Laureate's body of work.  And I hope to help make these resources more available to our Library's patrons (students, staff, faculty, and community-at-large).

Please take some time to explore some of Tracy K. Smith's work - available in our catalog, and our poetry databases. Here are some of her works available from Columbia Granger's World of Poetry Database.

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