Melissa Heckler’s Introduction to the Ninth Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Awards

Anne Izard Ceremony
June 16, 2009
Two cornerstones of democracy gather here today: librarians and author-storytellers. We celebrate and acknowledge the essential work of both. Librarians are courageous, outspoken, put-their-profession-on-the-line defenders of diversity of thought, opinion and the right to privacy. Our little Anne Izard committee is no exception. Here are the feisty, outspoken, argumentative, yet, thoughtful, committee members with whom I am so honored to serve: Mercy Garland from WLS. Donna Harvey of the Rye Free Reading room. Marcia Hupp from Mamaroneck. Bob Reiser, storyteller, from Massachusetts. Judith Rovenger, Youth Services Coordinator from WLS. Ellen Tannenbaum from Tuckahoe. Neva Winter, also from Rye Free Reading Room.
Chinua Achebe, the great Nigerian author, wrote in Anthills of Savannah that his faith for a better future resided in an old tradition, storytelling. Why? “Storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control. They frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit—in state, in [houses of worship], in party congess, in the university or wherever.” You see, librarians and author-storytellers have a lot in common.
We have, as we say on the committee, each “gone to the mat” for the books we believe to be the best of the storytelling best, stories that bring memorable comfort, joy, laughter, inspiration, and knowledge to all who hear them. In an age of world wide sea change, these 13 authors remind us that stories, flexible containers that they are, preserve our past, offer guidance for the future, and challenge stereotypes as they entertain. Stories are our mental thumbs of evolution and democracy. Moreover, they are free.
It is with deep gratitude and joy that we welcome and celebrate the award winners of the 9th Anne Izard awards. You have given us much to celebrate. You remind us that if we can dream it, we can be it. You open the door to possibibilities.

Melissa Heckler


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