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Finding the Right Visiting Author or Illustrator

One of our many tasks as school librarians is to arrange author and illustrator visits. While these visits may look seamless from the outside, only we know how much effort goes into one – from selecting and inviting an author or illustrator to making the arrangements for rooms and needed equipment, and making out (and revising!) schedules for the presentations. Add to that managing book orders for the students so that they have the opportunity to get signed copies of books which have now moved to the top of their favorites list because of this newly-formed connection between reader and the creator.


Just last Friday I had such a visit. The job of find potential guests may seem daunting, but OELMA provides its members many sources for finding the right guest. One place is the listserv. Not only can we share which authors or illustrators do school visits, we can also find other schools in the area willing to share the cost of bringing them in by making it a two to three school stop. Another source is the annual OELMA conference held each October. Authorpalooza allows us to meet the artists and find potential matches for our schools. In fact, that is where I had the opportunity to volunteer to introduce and “preview” this year’s guest illustrator to my school: Richard Cowdrey.



My school is K-8 and finding a speaker who can adjust his/her presentation to suit the audience is not an easy task. Mr. Cowdrey did that and more. Cowdrey not only discussed and showed the creative process involved in illustrating picture books and invited the students to “draw-along,” he also talked about his career path and the people who were instrumental in finding his way. It is evident that Cowdrey is a very skilled and talented artist, but it was his underlying message that resonated with my school.


Students and teachers and administration are speaking very highly of his visit. In fact, I have heard nothing but an enthusiastic response. No one knew what little glitches went on behind the scenes; they only took away a positive and inspiring message.


I have had other positive author/illustrator visits, too, but it became clearer to me last week that we have the powerful ability to be conduits to connect readers to books and their creators. In the midst of negative turmoil, what a satisfying way to look at one of the roles of school librarians.