March 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator, Children’s Rep, and Library Supporter

Author Jennifer Allison

Librarians now have another ally—psychic investigator Gilda Joyce has taken up their cause.

The pint-sized protagonist in Jennifer Allison’s mystery novels was up in arms this week about the Chicago teacher’s strike, pointing out that, like educators, children need an advocate—and appointed herself Children’s Union Representative, while also stressing the importance of school librarians.

“In the humble opinion of this Children’s Union Representative, the average American has no clue that the school librarian is becoming an endangered species these days—at exactly the time he or she is most needed to prepare kids to navigate the so-called “information age,” writes the character Gilda Joyce on Allison’s blog.

“And in case you think that a weekly opportunity to check out a book from the school library is a frivolous, “extracurricular” activity, consider conclusions of recent research linking access to books and reading for enjoyment with educational success regardless of socio-economic status.”

Allison, who has three children in Chicago’s public schools, drafted the blog post herself and stayed at home with her twin kindergartners and third-grade son for the past week before the strike ended Tuesday. While she sympathized with classroom teachers, she also says some concerns were left out of the conversation, such as the value of school librarians and libraries.

Allison’s books sometimes involve Gilda going to the library, like in her fourth novel, Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop (2009, Dutton), where she visits the Library of Congress to help solve a mystery. Allison believes that great librarians and school libraries still play an essential role in education, even in today’s digital age where students turn to the web to help with their school work.

“There’s something important about asking questions and learning how to find an answer, and when librarians are really being teachers, that needs to be promoted,” says Allison. “I think people believe everything is becoming digital and with so many innovations you don’t need libraries any more. But I think you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

With Chicago teachers back in school as of Wednesday, and a new contract looming, it looks like Gilda won’t have a chance to represent kids at the union bargaining table. But she’s ready should the need come up again. (Allison is tied up working on a new series, “Iggy Loomis,” which comes out in July 2013. And there’s a new Gilda Joyce book in the works).

Gilda says it’s important that librarians stay on top of the needs of their young patrons—and not someone who “just notices kids when they’re talking too loud or chewing gum while keeping the really good books locked up in her own private stash,” she writes.

“We at the Children’s Union support our teachers, but we know that we’ll never guarantee that they will all be great,” writes Gilda. “Let’s at least keep those books and librarians around, so that kids like me have a chance to find their own way to the books that are sometimes our best teachers.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at