Photo by Chuck Kneyse
Copyright 1997, American Library AssociationA special thanks to:
Lillian Gerhardt, editor-in-chief of School Library Journal, whose generous donation purchased the rights to reprint the photo of Mike Printz taken by Chuck Kneyse.
School Library Journal, for permission to reprint "An Unusual Contribution: The Work of 1993 Grolier Award Winner Mike Printz, " an interview by Roger Sutton.
Voices of Youth Advocates ( VOYA), for permission to reprint "A Big Fat Hen; A Couple of Ducks," by Mike Printz.
KASL News , the newsletter of the Kansas Association of School Librarians, for permission to reprint Mike Printz, 1937 - 1996, by Joanne Proctor.
Table of Contents
Editor’s Forward - Dorothy M. Broderick
Life Summary: Michael L. Printz, May 27, 1937 - September 29, 1996 - Judy Druse
Introductory Essay: A Splendid Man - Marilyn Miller
Section I: Mike Speaks for Himself
A Big Fat Hen; A Couple of Ducks, June 30, 1991 - Mike Printz
An Unusual Contribution: The Work of 1993 Grolier Award Winner
Mike Printz, an Interview - Roger Sutton
Section II: Kansans Remember
A People Man - Diane Goheen
Mike Printz: Master Teacher - Robert Grover
The Topeka West Oral History Projects - Allen W. Hartzell
A Broom Closet Library and a Sad Silk Flower Arrangement: Life with
Mike Printz - Barbara Lynn
Mike Printz, 1937-1996 - Joanne Proctor
Section III: From Across the Nation
Caring Enough to Give Your Very Best: Mike Printz as a Leader -
Remembering Mike - Mary K. Chelton
A Man of Consequence - Chris Crutcher
BBYAer par Excellence - Sally Estes
My Favorite Fan - Gary Paulsen
A Man with Roots - Hazel Rochman
The Mike Printz Theory of Collection Development, Life and a Few
Other Matters - Pam Spencer
A Passion for Excellence - Deborah Taylor
A Respecter of Kids, A Lover of Books - Jeanne Vestal
Section IV: Tributes
1993 Grolier Foundation Award Citation
1997 ALA Council Memorial Resolution
Epilogue: A Poem - Lynda Miller
This book is being published by the Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) as a tribute to one of its most beloved and highly respected members, Mike Printz. Many of Mike's closest friends were also colleagues. In the essays that follow you will discover how Mike touched their lives both professionally and personally.
Mike was a collector. He collected Fiesta dishes, teddy bears, books, and friends. Mike loved not only the collecting but also the displaying and promoting of what he collected. Despite his talents as a collector, Mike was the first to admit he wasn't very good at collecting money. He often said that he kept his money in circulation because it was good for the economy.
YALSA believes in keeping the memories of Mike in circulation because it's good for the profession.
Colleague, Friend, YALSA Deputy Executive Director
I cannot predict how many tears will be shed by readers of this festschrift, but I can tell you that the majority of contributors shed buckets of tears as they struggled to put on paper what Mike Printz meant in their lives.
No one contributor knows all of the other contributors: Mike’s network was vast and varied. Some of the contributors know each other and dislike each other: Mike collected individuals and if some of them did not like each other, it never influenced how he felt about them.
Everything you need to know to become a great youth services librarian you can learn from this volume. Respect the young people you work with; challenge them to perform, and they will. Add technology, not because it is the current fad, but because it offers library users more and better tools to help with their research papers and personal information needs. Most of all, read and love books and appreciate the authors and editors who create them.
Be active in your state and national association and inspire others to do the same. For many, when there was no other good reason for attending an American Library Association Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting, the thought of seeing Mike was enough to make the trip worthwhile.
September 28, 1996, was a very gray day in Kansas. As I stood in the backyard after dinner, trying to ease some of the tension that had built each day following Mike’s operation on September 9, the clouds in the east magically disappeared and the full moon shone brightly. Then, gradually, a dark shadow crept across the moon, little by little blocking out the light until the eclipse was complete. I could not help but think that Mike Printz was, for many of us, our full moon, and that little by little he was being removed from our lives. The next day, in the early afternoon, Mike's partner called to say Mike had died.
John Donne did not know the half of it when he wrote that each man’s death diminishes us: we were more than diminished, we were devastated. And still are.
Dorothy M. Broderick, Editor
Dorothy M. Broderick is the retired editor and co-founder of Voices of Youth Advocates
( VOYA) magazine.
Michael L. Printz
May 27, 1936-September 29, 1996
Mike Printz gave a piece of his heart to all his students, friends and colleagues. No wonder it gave out after a short fifty-nine years. Mike died September 29, 1996, from complications following heart surgery.
Michael L. Printz was born May 27, 1937, at Clay Center, Kansas, the son of Floyd and Hazel Printz. He graduated from Clay Center Community High School in 1955;earned his bachelor of arts degree in English and history from Washburn University of Topeka, Kansas, in 1960; and received his master's degree in library science from Emporia State University in Kansas in 1964. Mike would, in later years, return to Washburn University as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of English where he taught a hugely popular "Literature for Young Adults" course and to Emporia State University where he was a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Management.
In 1970 Mike served as president of the Kansas Association of School Librarians and in 1972 as a regional director for the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). However, the ALA division in which he was most active, where he found kindred spirits, was the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). He served on the YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults Committee from 1982 to 1985 and again from 1993 to his untimely death; he was then 1985 committee chair. It was during Mike's first term on this committee that he became nationally recognized as an expert on literature for young adults. Publishers sought his counsel, and librarians flocked to conferences to hear him speak. The attention overwhelmed him--he was just doing what came naturally, sharing with others his love of books, reading and working with young adults.
First and foremost, Mike was a teacher. Fresh out of college, he accepted a position as a part-time English teacher, part-time librarian at Onaga (Kans.) High School. Mike loved working with the young people, but not necessarily in a classroom environment. In 1963, he moved on to become a librarian at Highland Park (Kans.) High School; and then in 1969 he moved across town to become a librarian at Topeka West (Kans.) High School, where he remained for the next twenty-five years until his retirement in 1994. After retiring, Mike worked as a marketing consultant and selection specialist for Econo-Clad Books of Topeka, Kansas.
Mike was known for his ability to stimulate his students' love of learning. That's because he never stopped learning himself. Although he often swore he wouldn't touch a computer, he was one of the first school librarians to demonstrate and incorporate online searching into his research skills curriculum. He always said that he wanted to teach his students two things: how to follow directions and how to work independently. He taught much more. He taught caring, responsibility and pride. The projects he intiated at Topeka West High School reflect this.
In 1976 Mike pioneered a Kansas Oral History Project in which students created video documentaries about a famous Kansan or event in Kansas History. These oral history projects sometimes sent students across the country for interviews, a fearful trek for some who had hardly ever left home. Mike encouraged, sometimes scolded, but always believed in his students. This trust and respect carried them beyond their apprehensions. These students not only learned of their own proud heritage, but they became scholars who donated their projects to the Kansas State Historical Society for future researchers to use. One of the proudest moments of Mike's life was a reunion with his oral historians.
Mike also initiated an author-in-residence program at Topeka West to give students an opportunity to work with and learn from noted authors like Gary Paulsen and Chris Crutcher. The Mike Printz Author-in-Residence Program is now in its fourteenth year. In addition, Topeka West students and faculty still celebrate an annual Ethnic Week, a cross-curricular, literature-based study initiated by Mike.
Because of his pioneering work with young adults, Mike won many awards and honors over the years. In 1988 he was named the District Teacher of the Year for Topeka Unified School District 501. Topeka West students and faculty celebrated with a special "Mike Printz Day." In 1993 Mike won the prestigious Grolier Award from ALA. Gary Paulsen's book, The Island, is dedicated to him. Posthumously, the Topeka West High School library has been named in Mike's honor. As much as Mike appreciated these awards and honors, he reveled more in the accomplishments of his friends, and most in the minor successes of a previously-unsuccessful student.
Mike respected the youth with whom he worked and hoped they would in turn respect themselves. He believed in treating others the way you wanted to be treated,regardless of age. He made his students, his friends and his colleagues feel important. He modeled what it means to care. He gave much of himself.
Mike Printz represents the BEST of the profession. The Topeka Capital-Journal, October 1, 1996, said "Mike Printz was a kind of travel agent for life. He took Topeka students through books and oral history projects, on wondrous journeys they might never have experienced without his enlightened guidance."
Mike was a pushover for a clever phrase or passage in a book. One of his favorites was from the chapter "Confer with Sages Here" in The Natives Are Always Restless by Gerald Raftery (Vanguard, 1964). One of these lines reads, "But there are moments when I realize how lucky I am to be a librarian." Mike knew how lucky he was;and those of us who knew him count ourselves lucky too. His death leaves a void in the hearts of us all.
Judy Druse is the Curriculum Media Librarian at Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.
A Splendid Man
Marilyn L. Miller
Mike Printz and I were friends for nearly forty years. During those nearly forty years, we were also professional colleagues. Both parts of our lives were intricately entwined. We shared professional aspirations, accomplishments, plans, philosophy, and activities. We shared personal triumphs, failures, health disasters, families, and compatible friends. I left Topeka, Kansas, in l967 where our ten years of friendship and professional collaboration began and flourished. I left for other locations, types of jobs,and challenges. Mike moved to Topeka from Onaga, KS, in l962. He remained there as a building level school librarian until l993 when he retired. Throughout his career Mike was contented with his job as building level school librarian and the frequent opportunities that were presented to him to teach library science courses for two Universities and to work as a consultant to Econo-Clad Books. He found deep,continued fascination with young people and helping them learn was for him a neverending challenge, opportunity, and source of great satisfaction.
Distance was never a problem in our long association. The phone was our communication medium of choice. We never wrote. In fact until l993 we didn't exchange cards at Christmas. I would send him a card each year, and once he received it he would telephone to wish us a Merry Christmas. Just one of his quirks he would remind me. Sharing time at ALA, my occasional trips to Topeka, and his rare trips to North Carolina, where I eventually settled and which was the home of excellent flea markets that he so dearly loved, gave us opportunities for those sit down reminiscing times that were so very important to us.
The major problem of trying to summarize the early years of Mike's and our relationship is that I do not, unbelievable as it may seem, remember when or where I met Mike. (The absence of a diary or a journal is the loss of memory, so specific dates are a problem.) I assume we met at a regional meeting of the Kansas Association of School Librarians since Onaga and Topeka were in the same region. I assume we struck up a conversation because we were both relatively new school librarians,younger than most who attended those meetings, and we were both high school librarians who enjoyed our schools immensely. Mike has spoken publicly and written about being a student of mine. I don't remember that either. The first course I taught for the then Emporia State Teachers College was in children's literature, and I was so numb with what I didn't know that I am afraid I remember only one face from that course, and it is not Mike's. Wherever and whenever, the groundwork was established for a long friendship.
Mike was an intense young man. He was energetic, outgoing, loyal, and easy to get to know. He had eclectic interests, and his ability to demonstrate commitment to friends, students, colleagues, and his work as a librarian was inspiring. More than any of these things, though, was his deep passion for reading and his fervent belief that reading would help young people grow and develop. He believed in the power of the book to change lives. He believed that young people could develop a wider understanding of their lives and their world. He believed that books would bring to young readers solace, understanding, inspiration, insight, courage, and an appreciation for life's experiences that they might or might not face themselves. None of those characteristics changed over the years. They just intensified. In addition, however, as Mike grew older his deep complexities as a human being became more evident. And as he became more determined to have only the best for his school library, he demonstrated interesting techniques to gain the support he needed in times of forced economies or priorities of others for expenditures and allocations. But those are stories for others to tell.
Shortly after the Kansas State Plan for administration of Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Act was accepted by the U.S. Office of Education, I went to Mike, who by then was in his fourth year at Highland Park High School in Topeka, and informed him that as consultant for Title II, I needed a school library that could demonstrate the multi-media approach. "O.K. he responded, "what do I need to do." Within a very few weeks, Mike, with the help of the custodial staff and the cooperation of his wonderful principal, Earl Volkland, had developed a very basic, elementary, but workable audiovisual center. They had taken a library table, partitioned into sections so he had individual stations for a tape recorder, a phonograph with ear phones, a filmstrip projector, a sound filmstrip projector, an 8mm film cartridge projector, and a slide carousel projector. And, of course, being Mike, and unafraid of striking out, he began immediately to structure with teachers the assignments and activities that would get those stations used by students. I can hear him now talking excitedly about the way the physical ed. students were using the 8mm projector to study various techniques in track and field, how the home economics students were using filmstrips to study the art of table setting. Highland Park became one of the first demonstration high school library media centers to help implement the State's ESEA plan, and Mike began to write about their experiences, host visiting librarians and administrators, and doing some speaking at workshops and conferences in the State.
Mike always took his multi-media responsibilities and opportunities seriously,and those opportunities one day would turn into the demanding and rewarding oral history project that would send Topeka West students all over the country interviewing famous Kansans. However, in spite of the sophistication he gained with multi-media,he was quick to admit another quirk. He always claimed to me that he would never learn how to operate a 16mm projector. "I have to draw the line, somewhere," he vowed. According to conversations many years later, he still had not given in. No matter, however, how far he plunged into the "multi-media concept" and how competent and creative he became in the librarian's roles of teacher and curriculum consultant, it was always the books and the power of reading that most quickly turned Mike into a passionate advocate for learning and experiencing through resources.
Mike's focus on books would inevitably be enlarged by his discovery of the people who wrote the books he loved to present to kids. I found it great fun to watch him work with authors. Once he realized the rewards of knowing and sharing with authors, Mike began to "discover" authors whom he believed had powerful messages for young readers. He joyously supported these authors with his friendship, his counsel about young readers when it was sought, and his introduction of their work to his students. Perhaps his first discovery was Joanne Greenberg. His process for identifying great young adult authors grew more sophisticated with time, but this first discovery was great fun.
One evening Mike came rushing into our living room waving a copy of Booklist. "Let me show you a wonderful book. It is my perk choice." I, of course, did not know what a perk choice was. A perk choice was a little reward system Mike had developed for the book collection. After he would finish making a book order and listing everything he was supposed to for the curriculum and for his good books for young adults collection, he would go through the adult fiction section and order a book with a title that fascinated him.
"Look here," he pointed to a book written under the pseudonym Hannah Green.The title was I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. I don't remember being as impressed with either the title or the annotation, but when it arrived I dutifully opened it and was grabbed, as Mike had been, from chapter one with its tremendous promise for young adult readers. Mike got busy, trying to find out the author's real name, writing reviewers and the publishers urging them to recommend this book for young adult readers. Mike eventually found the author's real name and located her. They corresponded, and when Joanne Greenberg came to Topeka a few years later to do research at the Menninger Clinic for a new book that was eventually published as In This Sign, Mike learned the genuine pleasure that flows from a friendship with a creative artist. That experience led him to a lifetime of many great friendships with those who write for adolescents.
Mike's book knowledge quickly gained him a seat on The Kansas Reading Circle. The Kansas Reading Circle was a book selection and supply project of then Kansas State Teachers' Association. The book selection committee, composed of teachers, librarians, and administrators, selected current titles each year for all levels of Kansas schools. The books selected were presented in a catalog and jobbed to the schools. Mike's wide reading, wonderful ability to select those titles that would speak to adolescents, and his persuasive advocacy made a tremendous impact on that committee in a time when publishing for young adults was beginning to change, and we needed to look at more adult titles for young adults. I think Mike served longer on that committee than any other person in the history of the Kansas Reading Circle. As a result of his work with the committee, his reputation began to move even farther out into the state.
I don't remember Mike and me ever arguing about anything. I was miffed at him one time, but I waited thirty-two years to tell him about it--publicly, of course, when he came to my retirement party in 1995 to lead the wonderful roast prepared by my colleagues. When I decided to leave my building-level position at Topeka High School in 1961 for a position with the State Department of Public Instruction, I wanted Mike to take the position. Topeka High School was a wonderful school with undoubtedly the most beautifully decorated, handsomely furnished, spacious library in the Midwest if not the entire country. A sympathetic administration, a talented faculty, a wonderfully diverse, talented student body, and an excellent curriculum would support all the talent and ability I knew he possessed. I felt that Mike and that wonderful school deserved each other. It was time for him to leave Onaga, expand his influence, and have the support to try all of the things he wanted to do. He would not take the job. His response to all of my pleas was, "I will not follow you."
It worked out that in l962, the following year, he did come to Topeka. The principal at Highland Park High School had met Mike, and when the librarian announced her retirement, Earl Volkland quickly turned to Mike. I did get mine back then, just a little, for Mike's not coming to my beloved Topeka High School. One of two things neither Mike nor I ever enjoyed was cataloging. Cataloging was a necessary evil. When he reported to Highland Park and began looking around, he found an appalling organizational mess. His predecessor cataloged the books, prepared the catalog cards, and then as she should have, she put the call numbers on the back of the book. The only problem was if the spine was not wide enough for the call number, she would just stop when she was out of spine. The result was an interesting series of collections within collections. I always reminded him that while I did not like to catalog either, he could have saved many months of grief if he had done what I wanted him to and taken the position at Topeka High for we had completed recataloging of Topeka High's collection and none of our books were spineless.
Mike revolutionized the library at Highland Park High School. He took a library that cried for attention and fixed it. He reached out to students and faculty who, within a few weeks, realized that they were participating in a revolution. Before he left for Topeka West High School where his career really came to fruition, Mike built a program, embraced the emerging multi-media approach to learning, designed and presided over a redesigned and renovated library, and realized his desire to become an essential, integral part of the school, or, as we liked to say in those days, the "heartof the school."
Mike moved to Topeka West in the early 1970s, and his achievements there were legion and will undoubtedly be described in other essays in this tribute. He began to be recognized in larger circles, and his maturity as a librarian was enhanced and expressed through his eventual activities in YALSA and the increasing number of opportunities to do workshops and speak at conferences. He truly became an inspiration and a model for others throughout the country.
I must note here almost parenthetically that I believe Mike's defining moment as a service-oriented librarian serving youth came from the assassination of John F.Kennedy. Mike was deeply affected by the presidential efforts of Kennedy and by his exhortations to service that he delivered so well to the American people. Kennedy's death was a shattering experience for Mike. I believe that in the few months following that tragedy, Mike's values coalesced and centered on what would be the driving force in his life--service to others through librarianship, counseling, and unselfish friendship.
I cannot end this without sharing two of my very favorite stories. Mike and I reminisced about them often and shared them with others every chance we had. Both were to be in the travel book we were going to write someday for novice and naive travelers. The kind of travelers we were in our early years, before, we would slyly laugh, we became sophisticated world travelers. One chapter would be entitled, "Oh,Look at That Nice Little Closet in the Hotel Room Door." OR, "So That is What ValetService Is."
Mike was in Chicago for some ALA event or other. He came in his hotel room the first night, and, as he took his coat off, he noticed a door within the hotel room door. He opened it and found a little closet-like space, and he thought it was so nice to have that extra closet especially for a wet coat. It would save his clothes in the main closet from getting damp. So, he hung it in the small closet in the door.
It is important to know that the hotel was the Palmer House. And it is important to know that twenty-five years ago before there were so many hotels and the necessity for public relations and customer friendly behavior, hotel clerks could be very snippy. It always seemed to me in those days that the desk clerks at the Palmer House were the models for snippy behavior.
So, Mike hung his coat in the nice little closet in the door and went to bed. In the middle of the night, Mike heard someone rustling at his door. He hears the little door being opened, so he jumped out of bed, peeked out the door, and saw a man going around the corner with his coat over his arm. He threw on his clothes, took the elevator to the lobby and rushed breathlessly up to the desk and blurted out his complaint that his coat had just been taken from his room. The desk clerk looked at him haughtily and snippily told him about the purpose of the nice little closet in the door. "I was so embarrassed," Mike laughed. "I slunk back to the elevator, and at the next floor, what do you think? Jimmy Durante got on, and we had the best conversation while we went back up to my floor. I was so excited."
Another chapter was going to be "The Joys of Eating Cold Soup." I took Mike to his first Newbery-Caldecott banquet. The first course was vichyssoise. We picked up our spoons and began in unison to sip our soup. After a few sips, Mike, who was sitting to my left, said out of the right side of his mouth, "Marilyn, my soup's cold." Without either of us breaking sipping stride, I responded out of the left side of my mouth, "Mike,it's supposed to be." We dutifully finished our soup without further discussion.
Just as we started our careers sharing experiences and good times, we ended our active careers sharing honors. To my absolute delight, Mike was named the l993 recipient of the Grolier Award, and the presentation coincided with my presiding as president of ALA at that year's inaugural banquet. As we sat side by side at the head table, we talked about the wonderful times we had had in the profession we shared and the many outstanding and memorable people we had had the great good fortune to know. As Mike's beautiful Grolier citation was read, all I could think of was that here stood one of my great good fortunes and how truly I had been favored to know and love such a splendid man.
Marilyn L. Miller is professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Mike Speaks for Himself
A Big Fat Hen; A Couple of Ducks
June 30, 1991
The President's Program at the 1991 American Library Association Conference featured three youth librarians who make a difference in the lives of the young people they serve. Mike Printz, librarian at the Topeka West (Kans.) High School, was one of the honored speakers. As will be clear from his remarks, Mike is one of the most self-effacing professionals in the nation. Many other librarians have been prodded by such national leaders as Marilyn Miller and turned a deaf ear. Great librarians hear, and then act. Mike is one such great librarian.
President Daugherty, Mr. Rogers, platform guests and colleagues, I am delighted to be here today. I have titled my remarks "Big Fat Hen and a Couple of Ducks," and when I finish I hope everyone understands why. When President Richard Daugherty telephoned and asked me to share with you, I was touched and honored. I also began to think about what success is and realized immediately that all librarians have success stories, and those stories happen because of many people and not just one. In schools,success comes to pass because of teachers, students, administrators, authors,publishers, parents, and a network of professional colleagues all over the country. After thirty-two years as a school librarian, I think I have begun to develop a credo or a series of beliefs I have about this profession. Like most of us I'd like to take credit for this philosophy, but I must give credit to those people who helped develop a success story that I mentioned earlier. I am fortunate that some of those folks are here today, and when I mention their names, I'd like for them to stand. One of my earliest mentors was Dr. Marilyn Miller (President-Elect of ALA) and she is responsible for starting my professional guidelines.
In the early 60s Marilyn was librarian at Topeka High School and taught a summer course in school librarianship at the library school in Emporia. In addition to being a very practical course, she instilled in me four ideas that have guided me for these years. She said that school librarians must keep abreast of curriculum; we must adapt to the new technologies; we must insist that service to students and teachers come before everything else, even filing cards in the card catalog; and we must care about those young adults who attend our school. She said that if we followed those directives that program success could result and that we might even change one young adult's life in a positive manner. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to change thousands of lives, but she continued by saying that perhaps that is all one person could do in this life and that is to change another person's life positively. Somehow, I have never forgotten her words.
So here goes, here is my credo; here is what I believe about this business of school librarianship. I believe that every young adult can learn and the library is the best place for this to happen. In the library every student can find all types of learning materials to meet educational needs, be it the most sophisticated computer software to seed catalogs. In my early years I built strong collections of all types of print and non-print learning materials and was proud of the way they were being used. Marilyn Miller was now in Michigan and came to visit and, I don't want to say Marilyn badgers, but she subtly reminds you that you could be doing more. After viewing classes using these varied materials, she wondered where the audiovisual production facility and video editing bays were located. Thus came our next challenges and the two were established. Now, I also believe that if you spout philosophy, you must follow with proof. Not long after we established the production center, Bobby came into our library lives. Bobby was a fifth year senior in a three-year high school. He was not a discipline problem; he just didn't come to school on a regular basis. We even joked in the faculty lounge that he had more tenure than most of us. He had even convinced the school nurse that he had to take a pill each day after lunch and then rest for thirty minutes on the cot in her office. This went on for several weeks until the nurse got suspicious and had the white jelly-bean-pill tested. I don't think that even President Reagan got that many miles out of jelly beans. Bobby had one great love in life and that was working on cars. He got a job offer to be a mechanic, but, alas, he had to have a high school diploma. He needed one course to graduate and that course was British Literature,which, needless to say, was not his "cup of tea." His teacher or saint, Marge Bakalar,told him that she would be fair and explicitly outlined what he must do to pass British Literature. Before the study of Macbeth, the class came to the library to prepare oral reports concerning Elizabethan culture. Bobby's topic was falconry. He had no idea what falconry is and began to read. In one of those magical moments in a kid's life,something happened, and he became fascinated and looked up everything we had on the topic. After using National Geographic Index, he found some fine photographs. His mother got involved and she worked for the Menninger Foundation, which has a collection of rare books on falconry. She was able to borrow those, and Bobby used our production equipment and prepared slides to accompany his talk. He didn't attend school for three days prior to his presentation date, but came to the library to practice.The day of the falconry report arrived as did Bobby with clean fingernails, shampooed hair, and new clothes. Off he went to the classroom with slide projector and notes in hand. He returned in about thirty minutes, and he had tears in his eyes. Now, I think you know Bobby well enough to know that tears were not common. I was sure the worst had happened, and I went to him and asked if the projector blew a lamp or what."No," he said, "I got an A and it is the first I've ever had." He graduated and went on to his mechanic's job. About ten years later, I encountered Bobby's mother in the shopping mall and asked after her son. She informed me that Bobby did not come home from Vietnam and that she had just returned from Washington where she saw his name on the Wall. She said she didn't know that people could leave things at the Wall,or she would have taken one of his prize possessions. I told her that I was going to Washington for Midwinter ALA in a few weeks, and I would be glad to take what she wanted placed there. She brought the envelope to the library and asked me not to open it until I got to the Wall. I followed her instructions, and when I opened the envelope, it contained one 2" x 2" slide. I held it to the light, and it was his title slide. It read:"Falconry in Elizabethan Times: Directed, Written and Produced by Bobby Fisher." I remember wondering that day if his short life was the one that Marilyn Miller had talked about having been made better by a library experience.
Several years passed, and in 1985 Marilyn Miller came to visit again, and I proudly showed her our production and video facilities, and she seemed impressed, but in her true style wondered where the computers were located and what online services we offered. I remember thinking that we could not possibly find time to add one more service, until I went to visit Linda Waddle at the Cedar Falls (Iowa) High School Library.Linda, would you please stand?
We had both been members of the YASD's Best Books for Young Adults Committee, and she had given glowing reports of her successes with Dialog, the online searching computer program. Incidentally, Linda is now the deputy executive director of YASD. What a thrill and coup for that division's membership! She demonstrated to me how quickly students could get bibliographies and how some databases even printed out magazine and newspaper articles full text. This was in 1985, and I decided to try a search about a topic for which I could find no materials when a student asked. It was September and Dr. Robert Ballard, a native Kansan, had just discovered the Titanic. Using traditional research materials, I had located two newspaper clippings from our local paper. By using Dialog, I found fourteen citations--seven of them full text. I was sold! Never again would students leave empty handed. My principal pulled some secret, magic strings, and we introduced our students to Dialog in the spring.
I believe that school libraries should provide opportunities for young adults to get in touch with their own local heritage and history by providing oral history experiences. During the Bicentennial of the nation I became concerned as to what students would remember about 1976 ten years hence. The commercialism bothered me, and when I came home one day and the Avon lady had left a catalog advertising George and Martha Washington hand soap, I decided to implement an oral history program at Topeka West. Briefly, the experience works like this. Seniors enroll during their last semester. They are paired with a partner and assigned a significant event in Kansas history or a famous Kansan. During the next three months they prepare a thirty-minute video documentary concerning their topic. They raise all their own money, conduct interviews and after spending the last month of school sharing their findings with civic groups and school classes, they present their projects to the Kansas State Historical Society for scholars and researchers to use in the future. After sixteen years of these projects, we have covered 160 topics involving almost 320 seniors. They put to use everything they have learned in eleven and one-half years and travel all over the U.S.to conduct interviews. In addition to what these students learn about original research,primary sources, raising money, traveling, and communicating, I feel they begin to realize that one can hail from Kansas or any state and do anything they want with their lives if they are willing to work hard enough and dream big enough. I sometimes wonder if Shannon, who developed a one-woman show concerning the women in Dwight Eisenhower's life, or J.R., who covered Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and chose racing as his profession, is the one Marilyn Miller spoke about. Carol Wilson, our school's Department of English chairperson, does oral history projects with her students who interview senior citizens about a multitude of subjects on a one-to-one basis and then the class desk-top publishes a booklet of the interviews.
believe that librarians, perhaps school and public together, need to let young adults know that we do not live alone on this continent or in this world. Diane Goheen and I are co-librarians at Topeka West High School and provide multicultural experiences that stretch across the curriculum and are based on literature. Hazel Rochman, a young adult reviewer for Booklist, compiled a book describing what it is like to live under apartheid in South Africa. She compiled these autobiographical and fiction vignettes by South African writers when she was a school librarian and was working with a social studies teacher. That book, Somehow Tenderness Survives, changed lives, attitudes,and created an awareness in our school when the library sponsored a week of nationally known anti-apartheid speakers featured in library forums, film festivals,community speakers, student art and poetry exhibits based upon that book. Our principal provided fifty copies of Hazel Rochman's book several months before the week began so that classes in all areas of the curriculum could have time to develop an awareness. After the week was over our student council took out all the Coke machines in our school because Coca-Cola supports the South African government. One student got a summer job with the state department of education. Her task was to help with clerical jobs concerning a tri-state educational meeting being held at a Holiday Inn in St.Louis. She was to help make room reservations at the motel and remembered that Holiday Inn also supported the South African government. She told her supervisor that she could not morally make those reservations and she told him why. He responded and changed the location. Now I know that those two actions did not hurt Coke or Holiday Inn, but young adults spoke out about their feelings and new-found awareness because of an experience that had its beginning in the school's library. In consequent years we have covered the Holocaust, Native Americans, and plan, at Mary K.Chelton's gentle urging, to raise awareness about the Hmong people in the United States during the next school year. I couldn't help but wonder if the young lady who got the motel reservations changed might be the one Marilyn Miller had in mind.
I believe that school librarians should provide young adults the excitement of working with authors. I met an author for the first time in 1960. Her name was Loula Grace Erdman, and she had written an historical novel, Many a Voyage, about Kansas Senator Edmund G. Ross whose vote kept President Andrew Johnson from being impeached. She was in Topeka for a Kansas Association of School Librarians convention, and I was invited to a reception in her honor. The lifelong love affair with authors began. In fact, I was so taken with Ms. Erdman that I stole one of her finished cigarettes from the ashtray as a memento. I still have that cigarette butt.
Eight years ago our school started the author-in-residence program. We bring in authors for an intense two-day writing workshop with approximately thirty students who have been selected by their composition instructors. For the first half day no adults,except the author, are allowed in the library reference room, and the workshop begins,and the same thirty students and the author really open up to one another and begin to write, critique, and share. The students have copies of two of the author's books, which they read before the workshop begins. The results have been exciting and each author has a special experience that comes from this adventure, and sometimes they don't even know about it. Time will allow me to tell about three authors. Two of the three are here today, and I would ask them to stand as I relate the impact and force they have had.
When Mr. Brooks was our guest, a new kind of supermarket department store was opening in Topeka. It is called Hypermart. He gave the kids a writing assignment about this grand opening and a lost child. The kids never forgot this and continued to write all year about openings of new stores with some unusual twist. In fact, the creative writing teacher picked up on this idea and used it extensively. Kevin, now a student at Yale University, called me long distance to tell me that his work had been accepted for that school's prestigious literary magazine and much of the credit was due Bruce Brooks who taught him to believe in his ability and encouraged him to keep writing and submitting until it reaped rewards. Another of our writers-in-residence was Chris Crutcher.
Chris Crutcher touched lives deeply and with a long lasting effect. I don't think he even knows about the two specific incidents that I will relate because I haven't held up my end of the deal. Bryce, an athlete, wasn't sure he should let his peers know that he is a poet. Bryce told me that Chris Crutcher gave him the courage to submit his work,and it was accepted for our school's literary magazine, Calliope. I am supposed to inform Chris Crutcher. Then there is Hugh who loves to write, but doesn't like the rest school has to offer. He hasn't stuck with college, but lets me know that he writes every day as Chris told him he should do, and one of his most prized possessions is a framed book jacket of Running Loose that his family gave him for graduation. Gary Paulsen can't be here today since he is appearing on another program at this same time. There was a freshman boy named Mark. He lived with his mother and waited in the library some nights for a ride home, and I introduced him to Gary's works. By the time the year was over he had read all the Paulsen books and was an avid fan. I suggested he write to Gary, and he did and got a nice answer. A couple of years later Gary Paulsen was our writer-in-residence. Mark attended the workshop, met Gary, and graduated that spring. He got a degree in film from a state university and landed a job as an associate director for the Women's Film Institute in Los Angeles. Mark comes to see me when he visits Topeka and last Christmas was no exception. I noticed he had a terrible cough and suggested he see a doctor. The final diagnosis was that one lung was filled with cancer and had to be removed. He had never smoked and is a runner. Even then they weren't sure they had gotten it all, and he faced thirty-two radiation treatments, then chemotherapy. I visited him regularly in the hospital, and one day he asked me if his friend Gary had written any new books. Incidentally, Mark was really scared of what was happening and what was about to happen with the radiation. Woodsong, Gary's autobiographical story concerning his life with his dogs and love and life and death had just been published. I took Mark a copy. When I returned to his hospital room the next day, we visited about a lot of topics and when I was ready to leave, he handed me the copy of Woodsong, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm not scared anymore." Mark is back at work in L.A. and is making it one day at a time determined andvunafraid. I know these authors have changed lives. Programs like the author-inresidencevdo not happen without the cooperation of administrators, publishers, and onevspecial person, Barbara Lynn.
It is with a lot of pride that I introduce Barbara. She is one of my former library science students, served as a school librarian for sixteen years, is one of the leaders of Young Adult Services Division and is the national library consultant for the Econo-Clad Company. Her influence in getting quality materials to young adults all over the country is exceptional and admirable. Econo-Clad is also a tremendous help with the author-inresidence program because Barbara helps with getting books for the students,complimentary copies of the author's books for the participants' instructors, and usually provides a fine dinner for the authors and the student coordinators.
Finally, I believe that librarians must have a sense of humor. One of my responsibilities is to teach a two-week reference unit for all the sophomores in our school. A straight diet of indices, handbooks, special encyclopedias, dictionaries, and electronic research methods can get a little boring. If you've ever seen the musical Gypsy, you will remember that one of the strippers believes that everyone needs a gimmick. Gypsy's gimmick was strategically placed blinking lights.
I have two gimmicks that work with the young adults and reference books. First, I call them scholars, use scholarly terms, award scholar's crowns for them to wear when they answer difficult scholarly questions. They even autograph these silly cardboard crowns with names and graduation year. Second, I teach them how to count to ten my way. In over twenty years of teaching these books, I've only had six people make it to ten my way on the first try. I was going to have everyone here today try to count, but unfortunately time will not allow.
It goes something like this:
A big fat hen
A couple of ducks
Three brown bears
Four running hares
Five females sitting on a fence
Six simple simons standing on a stump
Seven Sicilian seamen sailing the seven Sicilian seas
Eight egotistical egoists echoing eight egotistical egoisms
Nine nimble pneumatic nudes naughtily nibbling gnat's knuckles and nicotine
Ten tiny trumpeters tunefully tooting ten tiny tunes on their ten tiny trumpets.
Years after graduation I see former students and they tell me how much they remember their sophomore scholar's unit. I tell them how thrilled I am that they recall and retain the information about Essay and General Literature Index,Play Index,Granger's Index to Poetry, etc., but, alas, they remember a big fat hen and a couple of ducks. Marilyn, I'm afraid no lives have been changed in this experience.
So I don't know how successful the program has been or whether I've changed that one life yet, but I do know that my life has been enriched and blessed by them and those with whom I work. It works both ways, you know. I read something the other day from Robert Fulghum's book, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It... that caused me to reflect on what it is that I do.
"The story says that a traveler from Italy came to the French town of Chartres to see the great church that was being built there. Arriving at the end of the day, he went to the site just as the workmen were leaving for home. He asked one man, covered with dust, what he did there. The man replied that he was a stonemason. He spent his days carving rocks. Another man, when asked, said he was a glassblower who spent his days making slabs of colored glass. Still another workman replied that he was a blacksmith who pounded iron for a living. Wandering into the deepening gloom of the unfinished edifice, the traveler came upon an older woman, armed with a broom,sweeping up the stone chips and wood shavings and glass shards from the day's work.'What are you doing?' he asked. The woman paused, leaning on her broom, and looking up toward the high arches, replied, 'Me? I'm building a cathedral for the Glory of Almighty God.' I've often thought about the people of Chartres. They began something they knew they would never see completed. They built for something larger than themselves. They had a vision."
For school librarians it is the same. Most of us will never see our students grow up.But from where we are and with what we give, we serve a vision of how the world oughtto be. The old woman of Chartres was a spiritual ancestor of librarians who build cathedrals to the human enterprise in our own quiet way. From us young people learn to live with knowledge and care.
Thank you for listening to me today.
An Unusual Contribution
The Work of 1993 Grolier Award Winner Mike Printz
Mike Printz, librarian at Topeka (Kans.) West High School and visiting instructor at Emporia State University, is the winner of the 1993 Grolier Foundation Award. The award is given by the American Library Association "to a librarian who has made an unusual contribution to the stimulation and guidance of reading by children and young people." Here, Printz discusses his long career as a school librarian, some of the programs he has implemented, and his successful strategies for getting young adults hooked on reading.
You began your career as a high school English teacher, and then moved over to the library. What made you stay with it for almost thirty-five years?
PRINTZ: Well, probably a couple of things. One, I like the diversity of being a school librarian, so different from teaching five or six hours of English in a day. As a librarian, I have different things to do, different people to work with, and different challenges each hour of the day. Second, I've always loved to read and wanted a chance to be able to share that, to encourage young people.
What kinds of books were you getting kids to read in your early days as a librarian?
PRINTZ: I especially remember the challenge of getting boys to read, which wasn't an easy task in those days. Henry Gregor Felsen wrote Street Rod (Random, 1953, OP)
and Hot Rod (Dutton, 1949, OP), books that had some interest for boys. Then came that wonderful Two and the Town (Scribner, 1952, OP), which was, I think, one of the first stories that ever dealt with a high school couple who had to get married. Felsen maybe paved the way for young adult literature with that. Then for girls there were I'm not trying to be sexist at all, but there were a lot of writers. There was Betty Cavanna,Rosamond du Jardin, Beverly Cleary, and Seventeenth Summer (Dodd, 1942) by Maureen Daly. Of course, I had them reading lots of adult books as well.
I remember when I was on the Best Books for Young Adults Committee (BBYA) with you, one of your big crusades was to get a lot of adult books on that list.
PRINTZ: It still is. I think we sometimes forget the mature, sensitive young adult who can handle adult books and has adult interests. I think it's important that we find the very best of those books and writers like Joanne Greenberg, for example, who writes books that really have an interest for mature young adults.
What do you do to get kids to read?
PRINTZ: I think the greatest thing for getting kids and books together is the booktalk. You can publish booklists, you can do displays, you can do all kinds of motivational things to get people to read. But there's nothing as great or as powerful as going into a classroom with a cartful of books and talking for twenty minutes about thirty or forty books, then standing out of the way when students come up to get them. Of all the things I've ever done, that would have to be the greatest rush in the world. To be able to talk about books and turn somebody on; to have them come up and almost pull the book out of your hand or knock you over to pick up the book because they want to read.
What's your technique? Do you have any secrets?
PRINTZ: Well, I don't know if there are any secrets, but I try to find some element,some area of a book that picks up on an emotion or an event in somebody's life. Something that touches a responsive chord in a student and makes him or her want to read about and share that kind of experience.
Do you let them check out the books right there when you talk?
PRINTZ: They check them out right there. You have to be able to let the books go immediately that's the secret of a booktalk. I guess I'm not much of a purist, but if the books have just come in and you haven't had time to catalog them and put your little stamp and your tag on the back, you need to be able to let kids take them anyway. I even get them to sign the inside of the book jacket. That way they can take the books immediately. They love the fact that the books are new and nobody's read them before.
You really caused a revolution at Best Books meetings when you started bringing in,very systematically, comments from kids. Until then it had been kind of hit or miss,where someone would say, "Oh, one of my kids read it, they liked it, they didn't like it." But you really started collecting what these kids had to say about these books. How did you do that?
PRINTZ: Well, I think that's very important. Some friends that I teach with are lovers of books, they let me come into their classrooms with books that have been nominated for BBYA, and I do some booktalks. I say, "You know, we really need your input. I'd like you to read some of these books and then I want you to write some comments for me. And when I share them at the Best Books meeting I'll say your name. I'll say this is what Mary thinks or this is what Joe thinks about this book." You have to make kids feel important. That's one way I do it. Another way is through an independent study program. I enroll six or seven kids a semester who do nothing but read for an hour a day. They come into the library at the beginning of the semester and I give them some guidelines. Then they read the books that are nominated and write for me all semester about what they think of them.
What do you think of their comments?
PRINTZ:I respect them very highly. Kids need to feel that you respect them as equals when it comes to their comments about books that have been written about them or for them. They need to know that what they say, what they write about a book, is important and that I trust their opinions as much as I do those of my professional peers.
How do you establish relationships with teachers?
PRINTZ: The number one thing you need to say to teachers is, "Get rid of those awful,awful textbooks." Textbooks are geared to the average student, and I'm not sure who the average student is. We need to throw that textbook out the window or only use it to start with. Let it be the guide to getting kids involved in all sorts of reading and sharing and research. For example, I'm doing this project right now with a mathematics teacher. He came to the library one day and said, "I get so tired of teaching math the same way all the time, but everybody says I have to do this to get through the textbook by the end of the year. I want to branch out. I wish there were a collection of science-fiction math stories I could give to my students. Then they could come up with some research topics from the stories." Not being a strong science fiction person, I called Sally Estes at Booklist, and she said, Of course there's Mathenauts (Arbor House, 1987)." We bought a class set of the book, and it's been amazing to see what the kids reading those short stories have come up with. They are doing all kinds of research. They get on Dialog and get into some really scholarly professional journals. They get articles and books. With interlibrary loan the way it is today, we can get almost anything they need. To see that excitement happen in a mathematics class has been a real joy for me. You don't usually think there's much that the math department and the library can do together.
When you started your career, we were dealing with books and magazines, and now you have information in all kinds of formats. How did you introduce all that at Topeka West?
PRINTZ: Probably kicking, and screaming, to begin with. One of the people who's had the greatest influence on my life as a librarian is Marilyn L. Miller. One of the first courses I took in library school at Emporia State was with her. And, I remember so well when she told us that we could not even comprehend what was going to happen to information in our lifetime. No matter what it takes, you have to be on top of all the different formats of information. You need to help the kids find the information they need and you also need to teach them how to select the very best of that information. To wade through the materials that may not be good and develop some criteria for selecting the very best. For example, there's one database in Dialog called Papers,which has full-text retrieval of thirty or thirty-five daily newspapers from the mid-1980s through today. Students can enter a topic and get a bibliography of articles, and they can have those articles printed out for them within minutes. Then, they have to be able to sort through all that.
I have to give credit to another person, Linda Waddle, who has long been an advocate of Dialog and online searching for high school students. I went up to visit her library in Iowa in 1985, about two days after the Titanic was rediscovered (incidentally by a Kansan). I had a kid come into the library who wanted to read something about that, and I found two newspaper clippings from local papers. So Linda said, "I want to show you how to use Dialog." She got me into that newspaper database, I entered "Titanic" and the name of the Kansan who had led the expedition, and I had something like thirty-four articles in five minutes.
I knew that somehow I had to convince the people back home that we needed this. I said to our principal, "We have to have this. We have to have this tomorrow." And,bless his heart, he said, "Well, I've got a little money stored away here that I made from pop sales and a couple of other things. We'll try it for a year." And it started. You have to work with administrators that way. You have to convince them that this is something he kids need. At the end of the year he said, "We can't go backward. We have to ontinue this."
that the discovery of the Titanic was "incidentally" by a Kansan," but I know that's not incidental to you at all. Some years ago, you wrote an article for SLJ about your Kansas oral history project ("In the YA Corner," [April 1984]: 33-34). Could you talk about that?
PRINTZ: I sometimes think the way we teach history to students is all wrong. We start with world history at the sophomore level, and then junior year they all take a course in American history, and if time allows we have local history. I think we need to work that around the other way and start with our own roots.
The oral history project began in 1975 as we were getting ready to celebrate the bicentennial of this country. Our school district had some money ready to give to a school to celebrate the occasion with innovative programs, so we developed a program whereby seniors could enroll in a course in oral history. They would select a famous Kansan or an event in Kansas history and go out and interview anybody they could find who knew anything about that topic. Then they pulled all that together into a thirty-minute documentary. We started with audiotape recorders and then went to videotape. Over the sixteen or seventeen years we've had that project, we've probably covered about two hundred topics with three hundred or four hundred kids traveling all over the United States to do their interviews. More kids researched Kansans famous Kansans than they did events in Kansas history, and I think that's very important. Kids who grow up in the Midwest think that to make it big they've got to be on either coast. I contendvthat if you're willing to dream big enough and work hard enough, you can do anythingvyou want to right here in Topeka, Kansas.
When the projects were finished, we gave them to the Kansas State Historical Society, and they've been there for scholars to use. I think it's great for kids to realize that something they did in 1983 or '84 might be used fifty or sixty years from now. I think that gives them a sense of their place in history.
What kind of a staff do you have at Topeka West?
PRINTZ: I have a wonderful staff; I'm very fortunate. I have two people who have been with me for years, Kay Ping and Darlene Luellen. They are library clerks, and they have a real understanding of kids. Kay has worked with me for many years on the oral history program, working with the students on the editing and that sort of thing. And Darlene has an uncanny knack for finding kids who hurt in some way and reaching out to them with a lot of love and care.
I also have an outstanding co-librarian, Diane Goheen. She and I really work well together. I'm kind of an idea person and not really good with details. She is good with details and is also an idea person. She remembers kids' names, something I'm not really good at, and once kids have worked with Diane, they come back to her again and again. The first year she was there, Hazel Rochman's book Somehow Tenderness Survives:Stories of Southern Africa (Harper, 1988) came out. I read it and said, "Diane,you've got to read this book." She came back after she read it and said, "We've got to do something with this book in the school." So we went down to the principal and said, "Dr. Frazer, we know that every year in this school there's an ethnic week, and we don't do a lot with it, but we'd like to volunteer to take over that week."
We had the whole school read the book, any class we could. I'm talking not just language arts and social studies classes, which read it eagerly, but we had speech and home ec. classes read it, and forensics classes did dramatic readings. We did a schoolwide program on apartheid and were able to bring in some speakers Hazel recommended. I think if nothing else happened, we at least created an awareness of what apartheid was. Our student congress passed a bill that Coke machines would be taken out of Topeka West High School because of the Coca-Cola Company's presence in South Africa.
Another thing that happened was that the oral history kids who traveled all over the United States made a resolution they would never again stay at Holiday Inns, because Holiday Inn supported the South African government. One young black girl in our school who was very moved by Hazel's book got a job that summer with the state Department of Education as a clerical aide to earn some money to go to college. The state education departments of Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa, I believe, were planning a meeting in St. Louis, and her responsibility was to make the hotel reservations at a Holiday Inn there. On her second day on the job, she, to quote Shakespeare, "screwed her courage to the stickingplace," went to her supervisor and said, "I cannot morally make these hotel reservations." She told him why, and they changed the place of the meeting. Well, I know that didn't hurt Holiday Inn and didn't hurt Coke, but the kids were taking some stands that I hadn't seen since the '70s when they were involved with the environment, Vietnam, things like that. They were taking some real stands on issues. And I think that's very important.
What kind of an ethnic mix do you have at Topeka West?
PRINTZ: Topeka, the home of Brown vs. Board of Education, has a neighborhood school system. And, you go to school in the neighborhood in which you live, although a minority student may go to any school he or she wishes until a racial balance has been reached. Of the 1,300 students, I imagine maybe two hundred or three hundred are minorities.
Do you see any tension because of that?
PRINTZ: Yes, I do. I've noticed it more in the last couple of years, but I'm not sure the tension is because of the minorities. I see tension because of violence and weapons. It bothers me that in the last year we've had eleven or twelve students expelled from our school because they were carrying loaded guns on campus. In fact, our school system has formed a separate school called "The Second Chance School." When you are caught with a loaded weapon you are expelled from your school and go to that school. There's an unbelievable lady there who teaches sixteen to eighteen kids. They go there for a semester a year, and they come back to their original school. If they are caught with a gun or anything again they are expelled, I suppose, permanently.
It bothers me that we've come to that. I worked with some kids who had come back from the Second Chance program, and I think I failed them in some way because I wasn't able to spend the kind of time with them they needed. But, I learned a lot from them. I learned a lot about what it is to be alone, what it is to be ostracized, what it is to be watched by the school security people and administrators, what it's like to be watched by other kids' parents. And, I know they did something wrong. But sometimes it's hard to say "I did something wrong, and I'd like to try to be better" when you don't have a lot of support to be better.
I've always believed that to work with kids you have to let them know you respect them. And if you respect them, then perhaps they will respect themselves, which I think is something very, very important. And, they will give that respect back to you. I think you get what you give. I believe that very strongly. I think it's simple. You just treat people the way you want to be treated. No matter how old they are.
Roger Sutton is editor of Horn Book and formerly executive editor ofThe Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
A People Man
Innumerable words can describe Mr. Mike Printz, Topeka West Librarian for twenty-four and a half years. Mike was many things to many people, and various people associated with Topeka West remember him for a myriad of reasons.
Students who were at Topeka West during Mike's tenure remember his wit and faith in them as people. He established the Oral History program that sent students throughout the continental United States to conduct research and interviews of the subjects while today some of us have difficulty sending students across town for information. Mike's faith in these young adults prompted him to expect the most from them and most often see his expectations met. Many nights, though, Mike paced the floor waiting for the oral historians' obligatory call summarizing their day in the distant locale. Mike's students, too, remember his orneriness. More than once I heard him call a trusted library proctor to his desk on the morning a vacation was to begin at 3 p.m. With all seriousness, he instructed the proctor to proceed to the main office, turn on the intercom, and announce that school was now dismissed! His "Couple of Hens" ditty has become immortalized with sophomores who experienced his "indices unit" during their required English class.
Professionally, Mike led several of us in the library profession. As an enrollee in one of his adjunct courses, I first encountered Mike Printz. During the initial class meeting, it was evident that Mike possessed a rare charisma. He exhorted us to reach to creative heights and strive for superiority in the field. Oddly enough his exhortations were never voiced as such; rather, it was a rare student who did not reach into the depths of him or herself to retrieve the innate excellence Mike was convinced each individual possessed.
Mike's passion for the library and learning was matched by his compassion for people. While he was always eager to work with the bright student, he seemed to have aspecial place in his heart for the less appealing teen. He was a master at finding just the book for the loner who visited the media center at lunch and then suggesting the title to that person. The student being treated for lymphoma, the student serving time in the detention center, the first-year teacher nearing his or her wit's end, or the parent suffering through the loss of a child would very likely receive a visit from "Mr. Printz" bearing books to help ease the pain. Always, he would end these visits with his trademark, "Well, bless your heart."
His concern for others was global. Hazel Rochman's Somehow Tenderness Survives prompted a campus-wide study of apartheid in South Africa. Through his many connections, we were able to elicit the attention of the library world at least for a brief time to the suffering in South Africa; VOYA, ALA, and Indiana University Bloomington provided avenues for us to keep apartheid in the forefront of many librarians' minds.
From establishing the Oral History Program, to working with Ethnic Week studies,to enhancing curriculum projects, Mike's energy seemed limitless. Mike brought ideas back from professional meetings he attended and often found a teacher willing to implement those innovations at Topeka West. A teacher might come to Mike with a kernel of an idea, and before that teacher knew it, a full-blown project was underway. Give Mike a mole hill and you would soon possess a mountain in terms of ideas and information. Ownership was always given to the teacher with the original idea germ, but it was general knowledge that the "ideas man" had the real patent on the undertaking. Always humble, Mike's goal was to empower students and teachers.
That Mike Printz was extremely instrumental in developing the Topeka West Media Center and was a leader in the library profession cannot be denied. Overall, though, I feel Mike would most appreciate being remembered for his "people skills." He was a compassionate man with a gift for enabling others to pursue their own gifts. He is missed by former students, parents, and colleagues.
Diane Goheen was Mike’s long time co-librarian at Topeka West High School where she remains as librarian.
Mike Printz: Master Teacher
Some people are "born to teach." Mike Printz was one of those people. He taught high school students, his faculty colleagues, and graduate students with equal skill and caring. He was honored twice during his career with district and city "teacher of the year" awards. This piece recognizes his extraordinary ability as a teacher.
Mike had an excellent rapport with young adults, he was as open to students as his circulation policy. Mike told students that they could "check out anything in the library but the librarian." On one occasion he checked out two large potted plants to a student who used them at his mother's wedding. As noted by Margaret Fowler, Topeka West High School counselor, "He accepted every kid as an equal. He saw no difference in kids, no matter if they were rich or poor or black or white or yellow. He loved them all."
Shortly after I met him, Mike invited me to visit him at Topeka West High School. After a tour of the library media center and a discussion of his services and collections, a class came in for one in a series of instructional sessions on indexes and other reference. Mike deftly presented an introduction to indexes, drawing from his audience their experiences in the library and with this type of resource.
The incident that was etched into my memory that day was his "crowning" of students. When he asked questions, and students responded with thoughtful and appropriate answers, Mike reached up and plucked a cardboard crown from a collection that rested on shelves around the room. The successful student proudly positioned the crown on his/her head. I was transfixed that this seemingly "uncool" activity was viewed as an honor by the young people. Mike obviously gauged correctly the pulse and interest level of his audience. Indeed, he understood young people, and he loved them.
Mike's signature teaching activity at Topeka West High School was his annual oral history project, which he described in a School Library Journal article. Begun in 1976 to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial, the oral history class was begun " . . . to make history come alive for students, and also to give them a clearer understanding of their local--Kansas--heritage."1 Students, working in pairs, selected a person, event, or place connected with Kansas history and spent the semester researching. The topic was first researched locally by consulting school, university, and public libraries, newspaper archives, and historical museums. A substantial part of the students' information came from interviews conducted in the home of the subject. Often the subject was a famous person who had lived in Kansas at some point in his/her life. Participating in the project have been Hollywood stars like Ed Asner and Elizabeth Taylor, race car driver Rick Mears, astronaut Joe Engle, and former U.S. Senators Nancy Kassebaum and Robert Dole.
Students arranged their own interviews and were responsible for soliciting contributions to pay expenses of the class. For many it was the first time they had traveled without adult supervision to distant locations. While traveling, students were instructed to check in with Mike every evening. When students had difficulties, Mike activated his national network of friends to help the students who were in trouble.
The finished product of the research was a thirty-minute slide/tape or videotape presentation at a public showing, which Mike labeled "Opening Night." Invitations were sent to parents, friends, local teachers, and leaders of civic and service organizations. The event drew as many as 1,500 for a single night's program. Projects were retainedin the Topeka West High School Library, and a copy was given to the Kansas Historical Society.
Mike articulated the benefits of this project as follows: "Our students have learned to do careful, detailed research, and have acquired problem-solving techniques that will aid them in many endeavors. Also, career choices have been influenced by the oral history experience."2
For this unique class, Mike's role was that of guide, consultant, coach, and advisor. Mike clearly loved this teaching, but admitted that it was extremely time-consuming,and during spring semester, this one class consumed vast amounts of his time, day,and night.
Mike was also a very successful teacher of graduate students. Teaching for both Emporia State University and Washburn University, he consistently drew large numbers of students to his classes on school library media program management and young adult literature. In these classes he demonstrated his knowledge of current young adult titles and authors, as well as his knowledge of young people and their reactions to the literature.
What was the secret of Mike's extraordinary success as a teacher? Perhaps the essence is found in his own words: "I've always believed that to work with kids you have to let them know you respect them. And if you respect them, then perhaps they will respect themselves . . . . And, they will give that respect back to you. I think you get what you give."3
During my numerous visits to Topeka West High School it was apparent that Mike,during his twenty-five years at the school, had earned universal respect for the library media program and himself. More importantly, he also taught his students and colleagues to love learning, perhaps his greatest gift to all of us who knew him.
1. Printz, Mike. "In the YA Corner: Topeka West's Students Honor E.T.'Mom," School Library Journal 30(Apr. 1984):33-34.
3. Sutton, Roger. "An Unusual Contribution": The Work of 1993 Grolier Award Winner Mike Printz," School Library Journal 39 (Sept. 1993):154-58.
Robert Grover is a professor in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, Emporia Kansas.
The Topeka West Oral History Projects
Allen W. Hartzell
I consider myself to have been a very lucky person to have had a chance to work closely with Mike Printz during spring semester of my senior year at Topeka West High School in Topeka, Kansas. I was one of the twenty-two students selected that year to do one of the Oral History projects. Although I did not really know Mike at that time, I had met him many times in the library, and he had always been helpful and friendly. Upon the recommendation of one of my history teachers, Earl Williams, I joined the Oral History projects. I was selected to work with two other students on a project covering the early years of the Menninger Foundation (now Menningers) in Topeka. This project was very interesting and appealing because it gave us the chance to interview many of the people who had helped to create and shape the Menninger Foundation. Probably the most interesting was the chance to interview Dr. Karl Menninger, who had helped to form the hospital with his father.
Throughout the entire process, Mike was available whenever we needed to speak to him. He always made time for us, and was willing to listen to whatever we had to say. He was the teacher who helped us to learn new ways of looking at things. He was the cheerleader to give us support when things were not going as we had hoped. He was the motivator when we were not moving along as quickly as we should have been. In short, he was the best friend that a person could have. I realize now just how much I learned from Mike during that semester.
In the years that followed, I kept in touch with Mike, although not as much as I now wish I would have. He was always willing to make time to talk when I stopped in to see him at the Topeka West High School library. He was always glad to have a chance to talk with former students, and to hear what they were doing now.
After I graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, I did not have any luck in locating a job in my field. I had heard about the Library Science program at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and I decided to go there. I must admit that my initial reason for attending was to become an archivist, rather than a librarian/information professional. Shortly after my decision to go to Emporia State,Mike retired from Topeka West. I was fortunate to have been able to attend the retirement/Oral History reunion party that was given for Mike in December 1993. It had been several years since I had last seen him, but I was glad for the opportunity. I told Mike that I was entering the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State. He said that he was excited for me and told me some good things about the program. I did not realize until later that he had been a graduate of the program.
Although I really did not think about the role that Mike had played in my education,looking back now I wonder if someplace deep inside of me there was that memory about how important Mike had been to me. That may have played a bigger role in my decision to start at SLIM than I realized at the time. The influence of the Oral History projects is still with me. In one of my classes as SLIM, we had to do a repackaging project. I decided to do a reindexing of the Oral History projects that are held at the Center for Historical Research, Kansas State Historical Society, in Topeka. This work should help anyone who is interested in the Oral Histories to locate them easier. During this project, done in the spring semester of 1996, was the last time I talked with Mike. I regret that I did not get the opportunity to show him the finished project, but it is one that I hold a special place for in my heart.
I feel that I am a better person for having known him and worked with him. Although my plans are not to go into school libraries, I hope that maybe someday I can have the kind of positive influence on someone that Mike Printz had on me, and all of the students he met during his years at Topeka West High School.
Allen W. Hartzell is currently a student at the School of Library and Information Management, Emporia, Kansas and a member of the West Topeka class of 1979.
A Broom Closet Library and a Sad Silk Flower Arrangement:Life with Mike Printz
Moments that alter our lives forever are unplanned and seemingly insignificant. The moment that has most defined my professional career and personal growth happened in the spring of 1981 when I decided to take my reference class in Kansas City, thus moving my Secondary Materials Selection Class to summer school on campus at Emporia State.
That decision, at the age of thirty-five, allowed me the privilege of experiencing education in its truest sense at the hands of master teacher, Michael Printz. In spite of the fact that I carried a huge course load that summer so that I could finish my degree by summer’s end, I suddenly found myself involved in a project that resulted in creating an AV presentation and coordinating a gala event at the end of summer school with recently released Iranian hostage, Rocky Sickmann. While this was a fun and exciting project, what had the most lasting effect was Mike’s quiet guidance and encouragement. Through his mentoring and guidance, I and my colleagues, learned to believe in ourselves and our abilities. In the space of six short weeks, we accomplished things I would never have thought possible, especially by me. This included coordinating press coverage, organizing a parade through Emporia, Kansas, assuring dignitaries greeted Rocky in Topeka, and more. Mike showed us that we could accomplish anything to which we put our mind. That brief six-week experience changed my life and was the beginning of a professional and later a personal friendship that I cherish.
Throughout that summer school course and later young adult literature courses taught by Mike, I experienced the real meaning of education and began to understand teaching that was not dissemination of knowledge and the evaluation of a student’s grasp of that knowledge. Mike’s life was the model of an educator with ongoing guidance of the student and the encouragement of each person to reach his or her highest potential. While Mike never gave a single test, assigned a grade to a project, or subjectively evaluated one’s work in any of the four or five courses I took from him,there was not a person in his classes who didn’t come away from them with a wealth of information and new found confidence in themselves. In Mike’s classes, a student always evaluated and graded themselves, a policy that caused administrators anxious moments!
Another invaluable gem of wisdom that I learned from Mike that fateful summer of 1981 was that you can run the best library program in the country out of a broom closet. When my first professional position presented the challenge of a small turn-of-thecentury facility with a totally out-of-date collection in which my predecessor had alienated the student body but endeared herself to portions of the faculty by assuring there was always hot coffee and their personal favorite magazine available, Mike’s broom-closet philosophy carried me through that first tough year and many more professional challenges.
Over the next fifteen years I observed countless examples of Mike, the teacher,from the courses at Emporia State, to Opening Night of Oral History sessions at Topeka West High School, to mentoring a young clerk at Econo-Clad. In my years of knowing Mike, I don’t think there was a person who Mike didn’t take under his wing and encourage to expand his or her horizons.
Mike was also a lifelong student. He was fascinated by every new experience and took the time to visit and learn from everyone that he met. When Mike discovered something new and interesting, he bubbled with enthusiasm for that book, or restaurant, or gadget, and I will have to admit that some of Mike’s culinary discoveries were certainly unusual if not downright strange!
Only a couple of weeks after Mike went to work at Econo-Clad Books in the Spring of 1994, I was fascinated to observe him back on the production floor exchanging recipes with one of the machine operators. At that point, I had worked there for more than six years, and yet in a few short months Mike knew more of the production staff’s interests and names than I or many other managers.
In ten years as a classroom teacher, the most difficult part for me was standing in front of a classroom of students. I had hated speech classes in school and shied away from any situation that put me in front of an audience. Just a short time after making Mike’s acquaintance, I found myself giving presentations at local, state, and national meetings. Mike’s gentle pushing gave me the confidence to pursue and experience events and relationships with professionals all across our country that have enriched my life. From observing Mike, I began to understand the importance of encouraging and involving new people in their profession. I know many of you reading this have found yourself involved in a project or committee because of Mike Printz’s gentle nudge.
Mike’s invitation to serve on a book vendor’s advisory committee opened totally new doors for me. Again one phone call in the Fall of 1982 greatly impacted my life. Serving on the Econo-Clad Advisory Board, which Mike unselfishly chaired for more than twenty years, opened up professional opportunities in the vendor environment, a chance to travel and make friends all over the country, even to be part of a special ladies beach group.
My relocation to Topeka, Kansas, in 1987 provided me the opportunity to experience Mike’s friendship on a more social, personal level and ultimately the privilege of working together daily when he joined the marketing staff at Econo-Clad in 1994. While I was officially his boss in that setting, our relationship continued to be that of teacher< and student, each of us learning from the life experiences of the other.
After the move to Topeka, Mike invited me to be a part of the Flea Market Group. An interest in junking had tied a group of Mike’s friends together for more than twenty years. As lifetime president of the group, Mike would call for an official meeting every month, which was really a social excuse for us to get together and enjoy a meal and each other’s company. Over the years, the president of the group organized many road trips where at the end of the day in some motel, we’d all share the treasures we’d found as well as an evening of storytelling, each person trying to top the other,but Mike always creating the tallest tale!
While Mike’s kindness, mentoring, and teaching skills are legendary, if you never had the opportunity to experience his sense of humor and downright orneriness,you’ve missed one of life’s most delightful experiences. Mike was a master joker and loved nothing better than getting the best of you with a practical joke. For years, a group of us had this truly ugly silk flower arrangement that we had delivered by a florist to each other, displayed on the podium when Mike spoke on an ALA conference program, found tied to our car antenna, and presented at national sales meetings! I’ve returned from travel to find my office totally empty with a large banner across the door claiming no entry, crime scene or another time closed for remodeling for new marketing director!
On April 1, 1994, Mike spent the day telling various people there was a fire across from the back entrance to Econo-Clad. Gullible people that we were, one-by-one, we trouped back to see the fire only to find Mike sneaking up behind us whispering April Fools! Several days later, we did manage to TP his car in the parking lot, and Dick Tinder, Econo-Clad’s president invited Mike to the parking lot to get his advice on a new car! Knowing Mike’s mechanical aptitude or lack of should have tipped Mike off,but he fell for it completely and the rest of us were cheering from the front windows.Pam Spencer and I spent many hours and countless cross-country phone calls in an attempt to get Mike. We actually even accomplished it once or twice!
Mike’s humor and jokes were always administered with love and caring. He was a master storyteller who could entrance any audience. For my father’s eightieth birthday,he was an integral part of a surprise party that included a trolley ride for my family with Mike sharing ghost stories of famous people and locations in Topeka.
While Mike, like all of us, enjoyed those moments of glory and recognition, it was the constant small random acts of kindness that truly defined Mike. On the night before Mike’s open heart surgery, he spent the evening letting his friends know how much they meant to him. Mike’s last words in this lifetime to me were, I love you, Barb. Those words and his continued spiritual presence will comfort and carry me for the rest of my days.
Mike Printz, you made a difference. In your brief time with us, you transformed many of our lives. Mike, we are better people because of you. Your legacy lives on!
Barbara Lynn is Western Regional sales manager for the Brodart Company.
1937 - 1996
Over the months since Mike Printz’s death, many tributes have been written in local newspapers and national journals by those more eloquent than I. Being a teacher and remembering how Mike always made us write a paper on the grade we thought we should receive and why, it just seemed logical to remember Mike with a report card from a personal view:
Fairness/Acceptance of Others - A+
One of the qualities that always impressed me about Mike was his willingness to listen to everyone’s point of view without being judgmental. It didn’t matter who you were,what you looked like, or whether your opinions differed from his.
Thoughtfulness, Generosity, Friendliness, Sense of Humor - A+
Mike probably gave away as many of the books as he kept of those he received from publishers. I see many as I look around my library, and I know of others who also benefited from his thoughtfulness. It didn’t matter when or where you happened to meet Mike, he always had a smile or a story or a friendly, Hi, how’s Proctor (Proctor is my daughter)
Connecting Young Adults to the World - A+
The young people who passed through the Topeka West Library were connected to the rich heritages we share through the Oral History project, and to information needed for research projects, and especially to the incredible variety of literature that Mike exposed them to. Until the semester she worked in the Topeka West Library, my own daughter never read a book that wasn’t required reading. This Christmas she asked for books. Thanks, Mike.
Connect Teachers and Librarians to Books and Authors and Each Other - A+
Through his classes (some of us are wondering how we’ll renew our state teaching certificates without them), he insisted that we connect to young people first by finding out their preferences, experiences, concerns, and dreams. He literally connected us by phone calls to authors of the books we were reading. He connected us to each other by letting us talk to each other about the books we read. There are many of you that I first connected with because we first met in Mike’s class. He shared his expertise at workshops and conferences locally and nationally. Without Mike, we are still a little disconnected.
Joanne Proctor is president of the Kansas Association of School Librarians (KASL).
FROM ACROSS THE NATION
Caring Enough to Give Your Very Best: Mike Printz as a Leader
There is no good time to receive the news of a friend's death, but perhaps it's possible that some times may be more appropriate than others. Although, frankly, when the news of Mike Printz's death arrived, my mind was so filled with thoughts of personal loss that there was no room for such philosophizing; yet in retrospect it does seem somehow appropriate that the sad news should have arrived during a fall YALSA Executive Board meeting in Chicago.
Appropriate" because Mike and YALSA went together like love and marriage but even more appropriate because four of the five of us present, who by virtue of our positions represented YALSA's top leadership, were there because of Mike. Not that he had "placed" us there in any Machiavellian way but because we had been inspired by his own example of leadership and his unique talent for bringing out the best in others.Speaking only for myself (though I suspect my colleagues would agree), I often felt that Mike had more faith in me than I had in myself. It was partly his you-can-do-it attitude and partly a desire not to betray that trust that helped so many rise to the occasion and try on the mantle of leadership to see if it fit. And with Mike around to provide necessary alterations, it usually did.
When I was still a library director, I used to feel a bit guilty that subjects like leadership bored me to tears (they conjured up too many visions of M.B.A. programs and dreary business texts, I guess). I suspect that Mike felt the same way but his great talent was for taking the "drearies" out of the topic by removing the dryly theoretical and replacing it with humanity.
If there was a Mike Printz Model of Leadership, it was surely made up in equal parts of caring, inspiring, providing a personal example, and, yes, employing some gentle persuasion when necessary. In this context my first encounter with Mike was as appropriate as my last: it came at the first gathering of a newly appointed YALSA Best Books Committee. Though a novice member, I already knew Mike by reputation as "the godfather of Best Books," but this was the first time I had actually met him. He was introduced, appropriately, by the Committee Chair Barb Lynn, who had asked him to be present so she could acknowledge his having inspired her own first interest in young adult literature when she had been his student in library school. At least that's what she told us. Frankly I think the real reason she asked Mike to be present was that his love for books was as infectious as the common cold. And I suspect Barb hoped her committee would catch the bug from him, and, I'm happy to say, we did.
You couldn't love Mike without loving books. The author-in-residence program he created at Topeka West High School brought America's leading young adult authors there to meet and work with his students and like so many programs Mike started, it quickly became a national model of excellence. It's one of the reasons a Margaret Edwards Award-winning author once dubbed Mike, in conversation with me, "Mr. Young Adult Literature."
That was appropriate, too. For Mike didn't only give the reading bug to librarians and library school students, he gave it to countless young adults whose lives were enlarged and improved, accordingly. He encouraged their feedback and respected their opinions as readers and so they became his de facto partners whenever he served on the Best Books Committee (and if there is such a committee in heaven, I'm sure Mike is chairing it right now). As a result, not only were lives enhanced so was the literature. To me that's real leadership in action--the kind that inspires by offering a caring, personal example and respect that encourages and empowers.
Mike demonstrated his gift for leadership, as well, with the oral history project he started at Topeka West. I was amazed at the level of ambition and sophistication his kids brought to their research and to the real contributions they made to the preservation of Kansas history (if Mike loved books, he may have loved Kansas history and lore even more!). Seeing Mike in action was to understand that the students were inspired to stretch beyond what they might have thought themselves capable of because Mike believed they could. Mike believed in possibility, and it rubbed off on his students and his colleagues alike. Maybe because he grew up in Kansas, that belief in possibility was as big and broad as the horizon. When I became president-elect of YALSA, I immediately called Mike for help in planning my 1998 Washington, D.C.,preconference about youth at risk.
Who could we get as keynote speaker?" I asked. Mike didn't hesitate to give a one-word answer: "Hillary," he said
And you know what? If he had lived, Hillary wouldn't have known what hit her. He would have gotten the first lady there, speech in hand, because that's the kind of leader Mike was.
Some leaders leave monuments to themselves in the form of bricks and mortar. Mike, through the programs he had the vision to start and through the countless lives he touched and the countless people he inspired with his caring and confidence, left living monuments, instead, that continue to enrich young adult literature, young adult library service and future young adult lives.
Now that's leadership with a human face. And that face was Mike Printz's. May we never forget him and his example.
Michael Cart is president-elect of the Young Adult Library Services Association and author of My Father’s Scar.
Remembering Mike . . .
Mary K. Chelton
I loved Mike Printz and considered him (besides Dorothy) my best professional friend, and a source of personal inspiration. He was a genius with kids, a superb teacher, and a person of rare humility. I miss him every day I live here in his beloved Kansas, wondering how I came to be here without him, and hearing his voice often in the Kansas accents of students and colleagues. He always made me feel deprived that I wasn’t from Kansas, much like Pat Conroy does for people not from South Carolina. It is easy to answer the frequent questions about why I’m here, though, because the best librarian I ever met was from Kansas, and his name was Mike Printz.
I had decided to nominate Mike for ALA’s Grolier Award about a year before I did it. During that year, I left my job at the Montgomery County Public Library in Maryland and asked that they consider as a farewell present a round-trip ticket to Topeka, Kansas. They thought I was nuts but gave it to me, and I had the fun of following Mike around for a week and getting to know him on his home turf. (Mike and I, you see, were both spendthrifts and never could afford to visit each other outside of ALA, so this was a great treat.)
I had heard about Mike long before I met him for the first time on a street corner in Los Angeles after one of YALSA’s Best of the Best retrospective preconferences on the Best Books for Young Adults list. We bonded over our mutual disgust that Vision Quest by Terry Davis hadn’t made the list, and we got together in person at conferences and by phone often thereafter. Since Mike often told funny stories on himself, but never bragged about his work, it took me a while to put the picture together.
I knew that he had involved kids in reviewing books for ages, because that’s how I first heard about him. I then learned that he invited the authors often censored elsewhere to do appearances and writers’ workshops at his high school under library auspices,not because they were censored but because they wrote provocative stuff which he felt kids wanted. Chris Crutcher and Terry Davis came to Topeka West High School that way, and although they never were able to come, Judy Blume and Stephen King got invitations. He also invited the first time and neglected author, if he felt they had something important to say to kids, which is how David Moore and two of his Hmong boy scouts from his book, Dark Sky, Dark Land, were invited to standing-room-only audiences, even though the book had been unanimously rejected that year by the YALSA BBYA committee. All of these invitations and local arrangements were made by kids, not Mike. He started the ball rolling and then stepped in again only when necessary, the mark of a fine youth leader. The experience was theirs, not his, which is just the way he wanted it.
Mike could turn anything into a learning experience, although sometimes circumstances defeated him. He brought a couple of kids from Topeka West to talk to the BBYA committee to make the point that kids also read adult books, and the committee should pay more attention to them. Since ALA was in New York that year, he hoped the kids would also enjoy all the cultural attractions there like the Museum of Natural History. Instead, to his intense consternation, they preferred watching the previews of X-rated movies on the hotel’s closed circuit television and never did go to the museum. He laughed at himself, though, when he shared that with me.
Besides his author visits, though, he pioneered an oral history program on Kansas, which was privately funded by the Topeka business community and which led to many exhibits in the Kansas Historical Society. One of those students, now in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University, did a class project in the spring of 1996 indexing all of Mike’s student projects on file or display there. It’s not accidental that a man over the age of forty from Mike’s first oral history class showed up to share some personal information with him while I was there visiting, nor that 250 of these students came to the Historical Society to honor him at his retirement.
In fact, Mike’s obsession with Kansas history led to one of our funnier phone calls. He called to tell me that he had spent several days in the Eisenhower Library to prepare for a program at Topeka West to create Junior Fellows who would get the chance to study in the presidential library. I, a lifelong Democrat, could not understand this fascination with Eisenhower (and worse was beginning to think I would have to love Mike despite his being a Republican), when he reminded me that Eisenhower was from Kansas. He then shared the resulting program video with me, which showed what the two kids< selected had done. one chose to study eisenhower’s military campaigns, and the other to dramatize his women. as was the custom established by mike, all the oral history kids had to present their research publicly to the school and community. this was experiential learning at its best, which mike understood intuitively long before national groups on the subject came into existence.
When I was working on a paper on evaluating federally funded youth services programs in 1989, I asked Mike about the expected outcomes of secondary school library media programs. Without missing a beat, he said that they were (1) knowledge of oneself as a unique person with special abilities who is also part of a larger community; (2) reading for pleasure as a lifelong habit; (3) the ability to do independent research in a wide variety of media; (4) the knowledge and skill to be gainfully employed and to engage in personal relationships; (5) the ability to distinguish between factually-derived and unsubstantiated or biased information; (6) the knowledge and skills necessary to participate as a U.S. citizen; and (7) the knowledge that, while one cannot know everything, that there are people and places to help. I was impressed then, and still am, as how grounded he was in knowing what he wanted to achieve.
Preparing a Grolier Award nomination is an arduous process, because you have to submit a resume for the person without their knowing about it, so on my trip to Topeka, when I wasn’t worrying about being rear-ended because of Mike’s hopelessly inept driving, I would grill him for information which I then surreptitiously wrote down every time he pumped gas or went to the bathroom. Like most people, he liked to talk about himself if asked, so I discovered that he had never intended to be a librarian, but needed eight hours of library service for his first job, that Marilyn Miller was his great inspiration as a teacher, that he was Kansas born and bred in Clay Center, and that he had only had two jobs in his life, with Topeka West High School as the second one. I also learned that he deliberately had no librarian’s office in his library. When I asked where it was, he said that he felt the librarian should be on the floor or in classrooms helping kids, and that the secretaries needed offices, so they had them, not him. His life partner, Gene Floro, helped me smuggle files about his Kansas Teacher of the Year award out of their house later to put the final nomination package together. (I felt like Kinsey Malone on an investigation.) Since he never suspected a thing until he got the award, it was doubly delightful, not only to pull it all together in secret, but also to watch his utter delight in New Orleans where he not only won the Grolier, but also where Marilyn Miller asked him to be her presidential escort for the inaugural banquet.
Mike and I swapped book titles, recipes, professional annoyances and just about anything else we could think of over the years. For example, I loved his story of almost quitting AASL when one of the titles being suggested for school librarian was media programming engineer. He was a good friend always. Sick as he was toward the end, he made an excuse to come down with Gene to Emporia to visit us when we arrived in the summer of 1996, perhaps knowing that it might be the last time, but wanting to welcome us to Kansas.
Probably the best thing we could do for Mike is to carry on his great work with kids. As he said once, it’s like building a medieval cathedral, where you never live to see it finished, but you do the best work you can. Library work with kids was a calling for Mike, not a job. He raised practice to an art most of us only hope to emulate. I want his memory to live on in the quality of my work, but I will continue to miss him every single day.
Mary K. Chelton is assistant professor at the School of Library and Information Management, Emporia, Kansas.
A Man of Consequence
In 1985, at the age of 39, I was sitting in the living room of my very first house,
staring at the computer and slapping myself on the back for tricking the world into
publishing a book written by a man who had finished writing one more book than he
read in all of high school, when my telephone rang. It was Mike Printz from Topeka
West High School in Topeka, Kansas, to tell me that Nortie Wheeler was one of the
great characters of American YA literature, and that Stotan! had been voted an ALA
Best Book. He wanted to be the first to tell me because he loved the character so much,
had promoted the book tirelessly among the other members of the selection committee,
and that it had been a unanimous choice. I don’t know how many other books on the
list were unanimous choices, probably many, but I hung up the phone thinking
something special had happened.
That was the feeling Mike seemed to create for everyone with whom he came into
contact. Not long after that conversation, he called again asking if I’d be interested in
being the Author-In-Residence for two days at Topeka West High School. I had no idea
what that was (having recently bought a house I thought I was an author in residence)
but I said most certainly I would. Mike went on to explain the program he had created
for Topeka West and Topeka High students in which a writer came into the school for
two days and worked with the kids in any way she or he wanted to. That sounded
wonderful as he said it, but as the time approached I became more and more anxious
because I had no specific strategy.
All further communications about the project were held with one or the other of two
students who had been chosen the previous year to work out the details of my stay.
They arranged my travel, my accommodations and worked with me with my schedule.
By the time I got to Topeka, I had two friends in the room, and they were students.
Mike met with me the night before the workshop to be sure everything was going
smoothly, and spent time telling me about some of the kids who would be in the
workshop,particularly the kids he really believed could get something extra from the
experience. The workshop wasn’t for students with the best academic records,
necessarily, but rather for the students that teachers thought would benefit from it for
any reason. He let me know that teachers from several schools and the college would
be stopping in but to ignore them and simply do my thing. He had total confidence in
me. Far more confidence than I had in myself.
Since those two days in Topeka, I have given scores of presentations and done
many, many workshops. I forget sometimes, how thin was the ice on which I skated
when I walked into that room of thirty students, all of whom were familiar with me and
ready for something big because of the extensive behind-the-scenes preparation (for
which Mike refused to take credit). None of those presentations or workshops sticks out
in my mind, however, with the clarity of that first one. Within an hour, this workshop took
on a life of its own; all I had to do was fall into the excitement and passion these kids
had for writing, and hang on. When it was over, and the kids were gone, Mike and I sat
in the back room of his library, waiting to go to the airport. He said I must be exhausted.
I was flying so high I had no idea whether I was exhausted or not. He said, "Could you
feel it? Could you feel what you brought to those kids?"
Later, as I sat on the plane headed west, feeling that jubilant exhaustion that I tend
to relate to the best 10-K road race, or the fastest mile swim, or the basketball game
that is so perfect all you have to do is step into it and it carries you, it occurred to me
that I did indeed feel it. But it wasn’t what I brought to those kids. It was the totality of
what Mike Printz had created. It was the soft, powerful pressure of his invisible hand
that opened the possibility for that experience. And I realized I got more than I gave,
because Mike gave more than he got.
And that is my experience of Mike Printz. When I think back on the second Topeka
West workshop I did for him, and my small part in his presentations at ALA, and the
quiet time in which I was honored to simply sit and talk with him about his vision of YA
literature and its place in kids’ lives, the ache I feel is my wish that he could have
accepted for himself what he so readily gave to us, readers and writers alike; a place to
stand in the circle of the joy and heartache that is storytelling.
My high school band teacher used to tell me that anytime I felt indispensable I
should stick my finger into a glass of water, pull it out quickly and see how long the hole
remained. I learned of Mike’s death over the Internet, (appropriate, I believe, because
of his bear-hug of technology’s ability to bring more information faster than ever) and I
was numb, but I walked into my kitchen, poured myself a beer and raised it to Mike
Printz. I took a long swig, put my finger in the beer and pulled it out quickly. The hole
Chris Crutcher is the author of numerous young adult novels, including Running Loose
BBYAer Par Excellence
Mike Printz, BBYAer par excellence, was always the first to admit that he would like
to be on the Best Books for Young Adults committee for life. He came on the committee
in the early 1980s and chaired the 1985 committee, which, at that time, finished its list at
the 1986 Midwinter Meeting. He served out his appointment on the 1986 committee,
which was chaired by Betty Carter. To his great delight, he was reappointed to the 1994
committee to serve until 1996. Unfortunately, his deteriorating health prevented his
serving out his term.
Remembering Mike's BBYA tenure, you can't help but think about his dedication to
YAs and their reading, his sense of humor, his determined push for putting adult books
on the list, the number of titles that he read. We got to know Mike's students because of
his frequent quoting of their opinions of the books under discussion. Mike's students
were definitely well read. How many times did Mike say, "It's a stretch book"? He
nominated a lot of adult books, most of them also field tested by his kids. When Morgan
Llywelyn's Bard, The Odyssey of the Irish, was published in the fall of 1984, Mike
enthusiastically nominated it to the committee's dismay. Eventually, he allowed that
perhaps he shouldn't have nominated it. But, in his own irrepressible way, he could not
resist sending me the mockup of the jacket for the 1994 paperback publication of Bard,
along with the following note: "Do you remember my ‘infamous’ nomination of Bard
during the mid-80's for BBYA? It seems several folks, perhaps even yourself, made
caustic remarks. Well, it must have been popular, because the paperback has just been
released lo' these many years later. You may want this cover for your memory book.
'Twas good to see you in L.A. and look forward to the next BBYA plus preconference in
Miami." That was an "I told you so" that has rested in my memory book ever since. He
also felt that participating in the BBYA preconferences re-evaluating past lists was the
next best thing to sitting on the committee.
Mike was extremely loyal to authors he liked and to their books. In Mike's eyes Gary
Paulsen could write no bad book. Mike nominated every one that came along and
always prefaced his discussion of a particular title with the statement, "This is Gary
Paulsen's finest book," usually reducing the rest of the committee and any observers to
Mike was also, as I recall, the first committee chair to enliven his mailings with
sophisticated computer graphics and brightly colored paper, and his mailings were
frequent as he cajoled committee members to READ, READ, READ. It was a joy to get
a mailing from him just to see what he'd thought up this time.
Mike was such a genuine person to know him was to love him. There is always a
bonding process that goes on as committee members get to know each other, but the
bonding that occurred with Mike and his co-members was awesome (in the original
meaning of the word). What emerged was a circle of closely knit friendships that
endured long after BBYA.
Sally Estes is editor of the "Books for Youth" section of Booklist and consultant to the
Best Books for Young Adults Committee.
My Favorite Fan
I have been asked to do a few words about the benefits of a relationship between a
school librarian and a writer (of books for young people),specifically how my knowing
Mike helped me as an author.
God . . .
It’s difficult to discuss any portion of this without talking about love and gratitude. I
know, literally, hundreds of school librarians. When I toured schools constantly,some
months I would only be home three or four days,it was school librarians who requested
that I come, set up the schedules, fed me, housed me (I slept on many porches and
couches), nursed me when I was ill (the flu seems to accompany appearances),
cheered me when I was depressed (there were many times when I would sit a whole
night and autograph only one or two books), arranged for help from bookstores,
arranged for travel or helped with a sick dog (I traveled for two years with a border collie
To put it even more simply: without school librarians I wouldn’t have a career as a
writer. And I know many writers,perhaps most of them,who would say the same thing.
And to all of them, to all the librarians in my life, I say thank you. With all my heart,
But more importantly, on a very profound level librarians have helped me to
understand young people. It is fundamentally vital that a writer of books for young
adults understand them, how they think, how they want to think and how they know
things. Without this knowledge it becomes impossible, ridiculous, to write for them
and this author learned, and continues to learn from school librarians (and of course
Of course Mike was one of them, a school librarian and a teacher, and certainly a
stellar example of both. But he was more, too, much more...
I first met Mike when I really didn’t yet have a career as a writer. I had just finished
writing a book called Dogsong, it was not published yet, and my publisher, Richard
Jackson, had brought me to Dallas for ALA. It was my first convention, my first time to
be in a luxury hotel (the Adolphus), my first time at nearly everything. To compound my
difficulties I had only two months earlier finished running my first Iditarod and was
suffering from a kind of post traumatic stress disorder from the experience.
I was nervous, confused, absolutely terrified that I would say or do something wrong,
and when Dick Jackson set up a small lunch with "...just a few librarians," I felt sure
that I would be the proverbial bull in the china shop.
The luncheon was in a suite and there were eight or ten librarians, and everybody
was of course very nice but I still wasn’t sure of what to say, what to do, and felt myself
mentally slipping away when a man turned to me and said:
"I loved your book Dancing Carl. Tell me about it..."
It was of course Mike. He made me feel completely at ease, and as we started
talking an almost instant friendship happened. I would say it began to develop but that
wouldn’t be true. It happened in a second. It was as if we’d always known each other,
always been able to talk freely, always been relaxed and easy with each other, I was
to find Mike had this same effect on many, perhaps all people he met, always felt a
kinship, always felt a love.
I do not make friends easily, I suppose because of my childhood difficulties, but
when I left that room after the lunch I felt as if Mike and I had known each other forever.
And that was just the start.
As time passed and I knew Mike better, the love grew. I came to lean on him,
depend on him. When I finished a book I would send him the manuscript, often before
it went to the publisher, and ask his opinion, his thoughts on reaching young people.
When I had some difficulty with my son wanting to join the army, I was frantic, had
done the army myself and hated it, I called Mike and asked for advice. He suggested:
"Find something more fun for him to do," and I sent him on a bike trip to Europe. When
my own heart difficulties developed I called Mike, frightened, and he talked me through
There were scenes, small vignettes I think that showed Mike as he really was, the
beauty of him.
At a convention where he was to speak: I was sitting up and slightly to the rear of
him, he did not know I was in the audience, and he was nervous, fidgeting. I was just
going to lean over and make myself known, try to help him relax when the person next
to him handed him a book. I couldn’t see the title, but it didn’t matter. He held the
book, looking up at the stage, and then started petting the book with his right hand, the
way he might pet one of his collection of teddy bears or as I might pet a puppy, and I
could see the calm come into him. It was as if the book were alive, a friend to help
Again: I was at Topeka West High. Mike had brought me in on a residency. It was
near the end of the week and we were in the library (now the Mike Printz Library)
talking. There were young adults everywhere, working, finding books, bringing them
back and Mike and I had found a place where we could speak alone for a moment.
We’d only just started when a tall boy came near us. He was clearly troubled about
something and Mike excused himself from our conversation and went off to a corner to
speak to the boy. I never knew what it was about but the picture, Mike and the boy
standing in the sunlight coming through the window, the boy obviously in need of help
and Mike helping him, talking earnestly, softly, until I could see the strain come out of
the boy the way it had come out of Mike when he petted the book, that picture of Mike
will always be with me. He so obviously and truly cared for the boy, cared that he was
troubled, wanted to help the boy, all of it in the way he stood, the way they talked...
He called me one night. A boy was dying and something I had written in Woodsong
gave the boy some help and Mike wanted to know if it was all right to go to the hospital
and read it for him, wanted my permission. Permission. God. He was so careful, so
worried that something wrong could be done about a book and I knew then the most
wonderful thing about Mike: he truly loved books. Loved the paper, loved the ink, the
covers, even the process and that love extended in some wonderful way to the authors.
He told me of his first convention that night, when he went as a new librarian and there
was a woman there, a writer, to my shame I cannot remember her name now, and
he watched her put a cigarette out and walk away. He looked at the cigarette butt,
looked at her walking away, and he picked up the butt and wrapped it in tissue and kept
is as a souvenir. He still had the butt. Not so much because of the woman as the books
she wrote, to have something of a person who wrote books.
I came to dedicate a book to Mike, The Island, and when I called to tell him he
hesitated and choked up a bit and said that he was truly honored and wasn’t sure he
deserved it, "I never thought a thing like this would happen to me..."
I will miss Mike every day for the rest of my life.
Gary Paulsen is the author of numerous young adult novels, including Dancing Carl
and The Island.
A Man with Roots
Mike Printz made me feel at home.
We met as new members of the Best Books for Young Adults Committee when we
were both school librarians back in 1983. Talking and arguing about books, we got to
know each other and became friends forever.
Who would have thought we would have anything in common? Me, an uprooted
stateless alien from Johannesburg who didn't know how I got here; Mike an American
so rooted in the Midwest that (as Mary K. Chelton always said) he made you feel
deprived that you didn't grow up in Topeka, Kansas. But it never made him rigid. On the
contrary, I think it was that rootedness that gave him the strength to be so open. He
knew who he was. Those he loved, he loved with a fierce, unshakable loyalty. He didn't
care if you agreed with him or not.
For a mover and shaker, he was so quiet. In his school, where he had enormous
influence on hundreds of students, he was a background presence, never in the
limelight. He brought me to Topeka West High School to talk to the school community
about the stories I had selected for Somehow Tenderness Survives: Stories of
Southern Africa. It was in his school library that he encouraged me to talk not only
about how I had selected the stories, but also about my personal experience of what it
was like to grow up white and apart.
But not just me. When Mike was on a roll, you couldn't stop him. With his great
colleague, Diane Goheen, he created a schoolwide project on apartheid that reached
out from the library to teachers in every department in the school, and even beyond to
the parents and the wider suburban community. From Chicago, he brought in Prexy
Nesbitt, formerly consultant in the U.S. for the government of Mozambique, and two
thousand students crowded the library to hear him in nine workshop sessions. The
eminent Mozambique artist Malangatana Ngwenya came to the school and painted
murals with the students. Films were shown all week. The kids did research online and
gave class presentations on various aspects of apartheid and institutionalized racism.
Mike and Diane's work is a model for junior high and high school projects across the
curriculum and they presented it in workshops around the country. Mike just wouldn't
take no for an answer. Because of Mike's determination, Mark Mathabane, the
celebrated author of Kaffir Boy, agreed to speak at the great YASD preconference on
nonfiction in 1990.
In his passionate commitment to bringing books and teenagers together, Mike
exemplified the best in our profession. He drew us into community. Sometimes it seems
that he was right and just about everybody important did come from Topeka. He
certainly made the place special for me. I miss him.
Hazel Rochman is assistant editor of the "Books for Youth" section of Booklist and
author of Against Borders.
The Mike Printz Theory of Collection Development, Life and a Few Other Matters
Mike Printz, as sweet and stubborn a Swede as one would ever want to meet.
In 1985 I attended the Midwinter Meeting held in Washington, D.C., which, being
held close to my home, allowed me to attend the Best Books for Young Adults meetings
where I saw and heard Mike for the first time. New to the whole world of young adult
literature and BBYA, I was entranced by the literary knowledge these committee
members had. On a Sunday afternoon of the conference, I brought one student from
our school's young adult group to hear the literary discussion. She was hooked on YA
lit, I was hooked on YA lit, and lucky us, we got to meet some of the "legends" in young
adult literature-Christy Tyson, Betty Carter, Linda Waddle, Hazel Rochman, Roger
Sutton and Mike Printz, to name only a few.
From that first encounter with Mike in D.C., a friendship developed between us and
the phone rang regularly with questions, news, concerns and issues. Mike had some
firmly held views that were often in direct opposition to "normal library management
techniques" popular in school libraries. Let me share some of them with you:
Inventory: that sacred ritual that brought all library activities to a halt and allowed a
librarian to sit in front of his/her bookshelves was not part of Mike's routine. When I
asked him how he knew when a book was missing so that it could be reordered, his
reply was "If a student needs a book and it's not available, it's time to order another
one." So logical! And best of all, it didn't take away any time from working with students.
Collection development: Mike's reasons for ordering any materials were
student-driven. He read and read and then read some more. And then he sold books
to students, and sold books to students and then sold some more books to students. He
booktalked to anyone and everyone. If he'd read a new book, he had a regular circle of
librarians, publishers and friends he'd call to discuss the book. If you hadn't yet read the
book, you immediately felt guilty, rushed out and either found or bought the book and
read it immediately. He goaded, cajoled and inspired everyone to read.
Holidays in libraries: Mike was very inventive in decorating the Topeka West High
School library around the winter holidays. The main office in his school was always filled
with poinsettias which were probably bought through the school administrative fund.
Somehow many of those poinsettias ended up in Mike's library, thanks to a few stealthy
trips of his.
Sense of humor: Infamous for playing practical jokes on his friends, it was hard to play
a "gotcha" on Mike. For many years Mike chaired the Econo-Clad Advisory Committee,
and I was one of his committee members. One December Barb Lynn (then Marketing
Manager for Econo-Clad) and I cooked up a scheme one week which led to my calling
Mike to find out if he'd received a bonus from Econo-Clad. I explained that I had
received a sizable bonus and couldn't imagine why. Well, Mike fussed and blustered,
as only Mike could, but had no idea why Econo-Clad was doing this as they never had
before and he'd certainly never received one, and on and on and on. However, he
planned to call Barb Lynn immediately and find out what was going on. Well, Barb and I
giggled and kept stringing him along. We gave him the whole weekend to stew about
this large bonus I had received and he hadn't. The following Monday I finally called and
told him the truth. It was the only time Barb and I were able to say "Gotcha!" And he
made sure we paid for it!
Friendship: My husband Art also became great friends with Mike to the point that they
often called one another, especially as each of them became sicker. During the summer
of 1994, Art and I stopped in Topeka on our way back from visiting family in New
Mexico and spent several days with Mike and Gene. Though I had told Art that Kansans
traveled miles for lunch or dinner, he was amazed when the four of us drove 125 miles
to have lunch in Lindsborg, a special smorgasbord lunch in honor of Mike's and my
Swedish heritage. Following a wonderful afternoon of shopping and sightseeing in this
Swedish-inspired town, we drove a little further for chicken dinner at the infamous
Brookfield Hotel. On the entire trip, Mike made sure we saw every monument and
heard every snippet of Kansas history. We enjoyed side trips to the Eisenhower
museum/library, some tower out in the middle of nowhere and a historic mill and
museum which had a display of figures made of cement. Yes, Mike even knew who was
represented by these cement figures. Mike knew everything about Kansas history-you
had no choice but to join him in his love for his native state.
Students: Everything Mike did in his library was done for his students. They came first,
and he had no time to waste on adults who didn't share his student-centered views. His
influence on his students was long-term. A wonderful example is the resolution for Mike
Printz offered at the 1997 ALA Midwinter by a former student of his who is now an ALA
This article was supposed to be about how Mike influenced others with his ideas on
collection development. Mike was Mike and his collection development policies would
be the same as his theories on reading and they would be the same as his views on
student use of the library. What you saw with Mike was what he was; there was no
pretense, no status, no excuse. He was a wonderful person in addition to being an
outstanding librarian, and I will always proud that he was my friend.
Pam Spencer is the councilor for the Young Adult Library Services Association and
coordinator of Library Services at Fairfax County Public Schools in Annandale, Virginia.
A Passion for Excellence
It is truly rare to find an individual who personally or professionally is just what they
say they are. Mike Printz was that rare individual. When I met him, many years ago, he
was a member of the Best Books for Young Adults Committee. He was doing something
he loved more than anything, working to discover and herald books of high quality,
which he loved, for young adults, whom he loved and respected. As our professional
acquaintance grew into a mutual friendship, I was always moved by Mike's passion for
excellence, and I was touched by his belief that those of us who toiled in the YA field
could accomplish great things. He had a way of making you feel, if he thought you could
do something, you could. He is the reason I became a candidate for YALSA President.
When I was elected, I felt comfortable sharing with Mike the emotion I felt as the first
African American elected president of YALSA. Lots of people give lip service to diversity
and inclusion, but Mike truly acted on what he believed.
When I received the news that Mike had died, I was with the YALSA Executive
Committee in Chicago. I was so grateful to be with Linda Waddle, Michael Cart, Pat
Muller, and Pam Spencer that day, people who understood why our hearts were broken.
Before we left Chicago that weekend, I vowed to dedicate the 1997 YALSA
preconference on Popular Reading to Mike. I wanted to make that day a joyous, living
memorial to a man who, (in Mike Printz-speak) "knew a thing or two about books and
young people." Mike loved YALSA preconferences devoted to books.
Many who read this volume, knew and loved Mike as much as I did. However, I hope
we will remember to share this with others, particularly new librarians who did not know
Mike as well.
Mike Printz left all who work with youth in libraries an incredible gift. He left us a
standard for service, a beacon so bright, it can't help but light our way. He also showed
us how to be the best, with warmth, good humor, and love. He really knew how to
appreciate and celebrate the differences and common ground of folks from all walks of
There is a gospel song with words that say, "May the work I've done, speak for me.
May the life I've lived, speak for me". Well spoken, Mike. There is also a Langston
Hughes poem that speaks of loving his friend who has gone away. Hughes captures as
only a talented poet can the depth of hurt we experience when we lose a beloved
Deborah Taylor is the 1996-97 president of the Young Adult Library Services
Association and the coordinator of School and Student Services at Enoch Pratt Public
Library in Baltimore, Maryland.
A Respecter of Kids, A Lover of Books
"Just Say Know: Meeting the Information Needs of Young Adults," the ALA
Preconference sponsored by YASD in June of 1990 was an outstanding experience for
me, I got to KNOW Mike Printz.
For many years he served on the Best Books for Young Adults Committee. He had
always done his homework and could speak eloquently about any book up for
consideration. However, he often championed the step-children on the list, nonfiction
and appropriate adult titles. Mike never underestimated his kids either for their
intelligence or their wide range of interests. Mike seemed to become one with his
students, always searching for the best and always seeking the books that would
speak to his readers’ needs.
At the "Just Say Know" preconference, Mike brought his students, glowing with
enthusiasm, and handed them to us. And, they were saying, "Isn’t history and learning
wonderful!" One of his students sat next to me at dinner one night, and I asked him
what his plans were after high school. His reply reflected the incredible experience he
was having at school. "Oh, I may be a pro-football player, an actor, or maybe major in
history, or maybe even a librarian like Mike." What a wide world had been opened to
him, and he was only a junior in high school.
It wasn’t enough for Mike to promote and teach his kids about the world around
them, they had to be part of the universe. His co-authored book, Cultural Cobblestones,
tells the story of his efforts to make the other voices heard from the past and present,
from far away and from near. Read about it in fact and fiction and poetry and biography.
Look at life in art and listen to its music.
When Mike was interviewed about changes in school library services by School
Library Journal in their fortieth year celebration issue ( July 1994), he was very excited
about the advent of the various forms of technology. But "books...are still a power..."
He noted several authors whose novels speak to young adults and enrich their lives.
He praised the nonfiction works that had brought responsible, accurate titles into the
library, "titles that not only provide information but create a sense of awe and wonder."
He professed that during the next forty years, school librarians would lead the way in
the information explosion. Well, for 36 years, Mike Printz led the way for his students
and,thank God,for many of us publishers.
If Mike had been paid for every book idea or opinion we solicited from him, his estate
would have been in the high millions.
Jeanne Vestal is the publisher of Twenty-First Century Books, New York, New York.
THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
1993 GROLIER FOUNDATION AWARD
MICHAEL L. PRINTZ
As writer Gary Paulsen says of Michael Printz, "He has an interior dream that seems to drive
him to bring young readers together with books with imagination, insight and enthusiasm." His
conviction is that every young adult can read and learn and that the library is the best place to do
it. His life commitment is to making a difference in the lives of young people. He sees each kid
as important and as an individual.
He was an advocate of youth participation long before it became popular. He has students get in
touch with local history by teaching research skills through investigating native born Kansans.
He shows them that we don’t live alone in this world by creating school-wide projects on South
Africa apartheid, the Holocaust, Native Americans, and the Hmong. He has shared his life-long
love affair with authors by creating the framework of his Author-In-Residence program and
giving his students the excitement of working with authors. He creatively engages students and
helps them become "Scholars" through his respect, sense of humor, and creativity. He is more
than a librarian, more than a teacher, because he has been for over 34 years a caring friend to
students, sharing his love of books and love of life with them.
He has made his colleagues aware of quality, stimulating, interesting literature for young adults
with his longtime leadership on ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults Committee and by his
enthusiasm and humility and tireless support of good literature for young adults. He has a
passionate belief that kids should get what they want to read and has lived his life committed to
He has a vision of how the world ought to be and from him young people have learned to live
with knowledge and to care. His caring is a role model for the profession, and he has respect and
stature as a professional educator and is a powerful, human influence in our profession.
He says he is inspired by Marilyn Miller, and believes with her that all one person can do is
change another person’s life positively. The lives he has changed can’t be measured, but
Elizabethan falconry, a big fat hen and a couple of ducks resonate in the lives of all who have
come in contact with him. As one of his students said, "He knows his stuff."
New Orleans, June, 1993
Peggy Sullivan, Executive Director Marilyn M. Miller, President
1997 Midwinter Meeting
Memorial Resolution Honoring Mike Printz
WHEREAS Mike Printz, high school librarian at Topeka West High School for over thirty
years, passed away this last Summer, and
WHEREAS Mike touched many, many librarians in addition to students with his love of and
enthusiasm for reading, and
WHEREAS Mike encouraged everyone he met to read, and
WHEREAS Mike was a longtime, stalwart member of the "Best Books for Young Adults
Committee" where he believed strongly in "stretch books, " those books which stimulated
greater thinking and challenged a student’s reading ability to take them beyond a narrow world,
WHEREAS Mike’s students were well known for their development of the oral history
approach to recorded learning, performing at The Center for the Book, and
WHEREAS Mike was well known for his work with the American Econo-Clad Young Adults
Books Committee, and
WHEREAS occasionally in life a dedicated and loving professional will leave behind a legacy
which lasts far beyond their own lifetime,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mike Printz be remembered by the Membership of the
American Library Association for his vast contributions to the library profession and young adult
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Library Association’s Members be
encouraged to contribute to a scholarship fund in Mike Printz’s name at Washburn University of
Moved by: Kent Oliver
Kansas Chapter Councilor
Seconded by: Pam Spencer
A MAN IN PLAID
A PROUD MAN
A MAN OF MANY FACES.
A KEEPER OF PEOPLE
A MAN IN LOVE WITH ORIGIN,
IN GHOST TOWNS
PEOPLE AND THEIR ACTIONS,
A COLLECTOR OF
SMALL TOWN CAFES,
WIND UP TOYS,
A MAN INTERWOVEN WITH SENSITIVITY
BEST FRIEND TO MANY
A TEDDY BEAR.
A MAN ANGERED BY
A "GOLDEN RULE" MAN
PROTECTOR OF THE UNDERDOG
A GENTLE HISTORIAN,
A STAND ALONE KANSAN,
A PROUD AMERICAN.
KEEPER OF THE WRITTEN WORD
JUGGLER OF BOOKS...
GOOD NIGHT, SWEET PRINTZ.
Lynda Miller is the executive director for the Topeka Public School Fund and project
coordinator for the Business Partnership Program in Topeka, Kansas.