The Berenstain Bears and Librarians

The co-creator of The Berenstain Bears, Jan Berenstain, passed away late last week.  It’s been years since I have read – or even thought of – those collections of books but seeing her obituary brought back a flood of memories, not only of the books but an influential librarian in my life.

Growing up in small town northern Ontario, my mother always brought my sister Anna and I to the local library (I believe it was called the Whitney Public Library) to take out books.  Located right next door to the fire department (where my dad volunteered for a while), it was a sea of information and entertainment and we would spend hours there, perusing the shelves for the books.  The librarian, a fantastic older woman by the name of Mrs. Kullas (who had worked at the library for a great number of years), took a shine to my sister and I and, knowing that we loved reading The Berenstain Bears books, would always put aside the latest ones just for us upon their arrival.  We would be so excited to get those new books and crack them open when we got home later that day.

We’ve been working with librarians now for the last two years on Kill Shakespeare but it wasn’t until this very moment that I realized how important Mrs. Kullas was in my life, helping to foster an appreciation for books – and reading in general – in me.  It was just a small gesture, but her putting aside those Berenstain Bears books was a highlight for me that always had me excited to go to the library as a child.  Mrs. Kullas passed away when I was in my pre-teens and the library closed down shortly thereafter but my love of the written word has stayed with me to this day.  And for that I owe a big thanks to the influential librarian in my life, Mrs. Kullas.

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