Eager reader: Gallagher picks Caldecott winner

Genevieve Gallagher has read pretty much every picture book published in 2005. That's 575 and counting, with more coming in every day.

Her zeal suggests a Type A librarian, but Gallagher has another motive: She's a member of the 14-person Caldecott Committee, which will choose the 2005 winner of the prestigious award for the most distinguished picture book of the year.

"It's huge, it's huge," says UVA prof Joan Kindig, who specializes in reading and children's literature. "She'll have an impact forever on what children read." Being asked to be on the committee is quite an honor, Kindig adds.

The committee is made up of members of the children's wing of the American Library Association. Gallagher flies to San Antonio January 19 to meet with the committee and pick the Caldecott winner, which will be announced January 21. "I wouldn't want to make that choice by myself," she says.

She refuses to give hints about her top 10 candidates. But "The cream is definitely in my mind," the Murray Elementary School librarian says.

Gallagher's husband had to build a bookcase to hold all the entries, which arrived by the boxful for a while. She keeps track of them with a database. As for the choosing, "It's been hard," she says. "It's like comparing apples and oranges, or members of your family. One book might be a watercolor, or a cartoon, or goofy..."

While her knowledge of the latest picture books is certainly au courant, Gallagher, 31, didn't dream of being a librarian in her youth. Her degree is in political science, and she wanted to work in the foreign service. But after a stint in Togo with the Peace Corps, she couldn't find a job.

Her aunt clued her in that a public library in Manhattan was hiring, and that's how Gallagher took a different career path– one for which she seems to have been destined all along. "I love finding out what kids think about what they read," she says.

With her long blonde hair, boots, and patterned stockings, Genevieve Gallagher defies the frumpy librarian stereotype. She describes a cowboy-booted colleague who sports a pierced nose and tattoos. "I like that," she says. "My friends and I are giving a new face to librarians."

(And she calls herself a librarian, rather than the obfuscatory "media specialist" in vogue with– well– librarians.)

Gallagher is so serious about her profession that instead of taking vacations, she pays her own way to ALA meetings twice a year.

Wait. Maybe she is a Type A librarian...


Genevieve Gallagher