Los Angeles Public Library - West Valley Regional Branch
Credit: Daryl A. Maxwell

Librarian Daryl Maxwell talked with Celadon about impactful Science Fiction, recommending the perfect book, and diversity in publishing.

By Celadon Staff

What does the world get wrong about librarians?
Primarily, I keep waiting/hoping for the stereotype of the older, generally white, woman with her hair in a bun to go away. We’re all genders, ethnic groups, and ages with a wide range of interests and passions, both professionally and personally. Librarians are as diverse as the patrons we serve.

Librarian Daryl Maxwell

What book has made the greatest impact on you?
If I had to name one, it would probably be Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson. It was the first Science Fiction title that I read that wasn’t a Space Opera. It really opened my eyes to what Science Fiction could explore and the questions it could ask. Robinson’s books are always about people, regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves. It was a game changer for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good Space Opera, but I’m drawn more to books about characters.

What book do you recommend most and why?
I don’t have a single title that I recommend because I always hope to find the right book for the patron. There is no “silver bullet”’ title that will please everyone, so you have to read, and know about, a range of materials so that you are able to find the right book for the person at that time.

What’s the last great book you read?
Only one?! Seriously?! How about one fiction and one nonfiction? For fiction, I would have to go with Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss. Goss has written The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, both of which I loved! Snow White Learns Witchcraft is a collection of her short fiction and poetry, re-telling or re-imagining well known fairy tales along with new stories told in the fairy tale form. It is a beautiful and breathtaking collection and shows what is possible when a talented writer deals with material that she loves.

For nonfiction, it would have to be The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara. She has uncovered the long unknown, and purposefully hidden, story of Milicent Patrick, the woman who not only designed the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but was also one of a handful of women animators at the Walt Disney Studios in the late 30s and early 40s. It is a book that will amaze and frustrate readers as they realize that what happened to Patrick over 60 years ago is still happening today. It’s a fascinating and compelling read.

Los Angeles Public Library West Valley Regional BranchWhat’s your favorite genre?
I definitely read more Speculative Fiction (both Science Fiction and Fantasy) than anything else. However, I try to follow the stories, so I will read anything where the author is telling a story I can’t put down!

What’s your favorite bookstore?
Again, only one?!?! I regularly order books from bookstores across the country when they are holding events that interest me. So, I have some favorites, like Parnassus Books in Nashville, Borderland Books in San Francisco, and One More Page Books in Arlington, VA that I’ve never had the chance to visit. But, if I have to choose one I’ve actually been to, I’d have to say my absolute favorite is Rediscovered Books in Boise, ID. They are a wonderful place with an incredible staff. I have family there, so I get to visit a few times a year. And I always walk away with a bag full of books. Locally, I’d have to say that my favorites are Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Dark Delicacies in Burbank, which is a Horror bookstore. There used to be so many more stores like Dark Delicacies in the L.A. area that specialized in a specific genre of fiction, but most of them are gone now.

What’s the most unique or memorable book request you’ve gotten?
A few years ago, a young woman came up to the desk and asked me for a copy of “Jane Eerie”. Thinking about titles like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, I immediately started looking for it and kept coming up with nothing. I finally asked her for the author and she said “Brontë.” At that moment, I knew what had happened and what she needed. But I’ve now thought for a while that someone needs to write “Jane Eerie”!

What have been the biggest book trends at your library in the past six months?
I’d say this has been going on for a bit longer than six months, but greater diversity in publishing, both in terms of writers and their characters, is a welcome and important trend to me. I’m pleased with the diversity that is now represented in the stories being told, the characters that inhabit them and the writers who write them. It is so much easier now to recommend a title to a person knowing that when they read that book, they will see themselves, or someone they know, reflected in the pages. This was especially problematic for a long time with some genre fiction, but it is so much better now. If a young woman of color comes in looking for a Science Fiction title, I can give her Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. If she’s looking for Fantasy, I can show her P. Djèlí Clark’s The Black God’s Drums. If she’s looking for a Mystery, I can refer her to Claire O’Dell’s A Study in Honor, where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been reimagined as African-American women in a near future Washington, D.C. There are so many more! And this diversity is not only important for readers of color. Because no matter who the reader is, we all benefit from the chance to read marvelously rich stories about and by the wide range of people around us.

Want to read more librarian Q&As? Check It Out: Librarians’ Best Book Picks

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