When someone writes a book, they don’t do so in a vacuum.
They write, and they want people to read what they’ve written.
Authors dream about their books appearing on the New York Times best seller list and in other prestigious publications.
I like to think that authors also dream about their books being available at our country’s almost 117,000 public libraries.
This is a story about an author who dreamed of the latter.
Dillon Helbig wasn’t concerned about his book appearing on the New York Times best seller list. It’s unlikely he’s even heard of it.
He’s only eight years old, after all.
But he wanted his book to be part of his library’s collection, available for others to read.
So one wintry Idaho day, he walked into his local library and put his book on a shelf himself.
Here’s Dillon’s library – the Ada Community Library Lake Hazel Branch in Boise, ID:
And here’s Dillon’s book:
The title is The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis.
“By Dillon His Self.”
The book is 81 pages, bound in a red leather cover, and was also illustrated by Dillon His Self. It describes his adventures putting an exploding star on his Christmas tree and being catapulted back to the first Thanksgiving and the North Pole.
And here’s what I think is the best part of the story:
Instead of dropping off Dillon’s book at the library’s lost and found or tossing it in the trash, a staff librarian read it. Then, she or he shared it.
The staff librarians who read Dillon’s book agreed that as informal and unconventional as it was, the book met the selection criteria for the collection in that it was a high-quality story that was fun to read.
In other words, they took Dillon, and his book, seriously.
Library branch manager Alex Hartman asked the Helbigs for permission to put a bar code onto the book and formally add it to the library’s collection.
Dillon’s parents enthusiastically said yes, and the book is now part of the graphic-novels section for kids, teens and adults.
But The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis isn’t languishing on a bookshelf. According to Hartman, by the end of January, 56 people were on the waiting list to check it out. Ada Community Library patrons are allowed to keep books for up to four weeks, so that’s a waiting list of around five years.
John Grisham can only dream of being in such demand.
The library even gave Dillon its first Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist, a category the library created for him, named after the library’s owl mascot:
Eat your heart out, Danielle Steele!
Dillon’s story was reported by the Idaho Press on January 2:
And local KVTB-TV on January 19:
And in early February the Idaho Press announced:
And they weren’t kidding.
When I googled “Dillon Helbig” I got 872,000 results, and Dillon’s story was everywhere:
And not just nationally – it went international, including this, on February 2:
Stephen King, you should be so lucky!
From what I can see, Dillon is taking it all in stride. In a February 2 interview with his parents on The Today Show, Dillon seemed quite relaxed. He acted like any eight-year-old, his attention wandering a bit, scratching his nose…
…and perhaps contemplating his next book, which he’s already entitled The Jacket-Eating Closet, based on actual events.
Best get your name on the waiting list for that…
What resonates about this story for us?
Maybe it’s Dillon’s innocence. Maybe it’s that he had a goal – for his book to be in his library – and accomplished his goal. Maybe it’s that Dylan cut to the chase – if he’d told his parents or the library staff what he wanted, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
Dillon knew better.
A little child shall lead them.
But here’s what resonates with me most:
The open minds – and open hearts – of staff at the Community Library Lake Hazel Branch in Boise, ID.
They could have gone either way with Dillon’s book, and they chose the high road.
And now, because they did…
- Dillon’s classmates have told him that he’s inspired them to write their own books.
- Some of them may become recipients of that Whoodini Award, like Dillon was.
- Library branch manager Hartman said he heard from someone in Texas who hoped to get Dillon’s book through an interlibrary loan. The library had to say no, due to the long waiting list.
- But…Hartman is talking with Dillon’s mom about possibly creating an e-book version of The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis to share.
- If that happens, that person in Texas – lots of people everywhere – will be able to read Dillon’s book.
- Maybe more than “lots” – publishers have contacted the library about officially publishing the book, Hartman said.
And all this – all of it – is because a librarian with an open mind and an open heart discovered Dillon’s book, read it, and saw its possibilities.
Librarians are unsung heroes, often unappreciated and unvalued.
So I’m going to do a little singing for them: