Tom Angleberger (Librarians are Rockstars!)

This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. This episode is a very special collaboration with Michelle and Alison from the Authors Are Rockstars podcast. We teamed up to talk to authors about what they love about libraries and librarians. In this episode you’ll hear from Tom Angleberger, author and illustrator to The Origami Yoda series among other great books.

Together with Alison and Michelle from the Authors Are Rockstars podcast, we are chatting via Skype with author and illustrator Tom Angleberger all about libraries today. Thanks for joining us, Tom.

[Tom] Hey I’m happy to be here, thanks for having me guys.

And thanks also to Michelle and Alison for being here for this special episode.

[Alison] We’re excited.

[Michelle] Yes.

Well let’s start off by talking about your childhood library. Do you have any special memories or a favorite book you checked out over and over?

Oh well I, I certainly do. I was, I was hitting the Pinkwater section pretty hard when I was a kid. I actually had a period in my life where I had a lot libraries that I was going to. I had a bookmobile that came to my school, my school library, my church library and the public library and in the summers my parents worked at a place that its own tiny library.


Well, I was library crazy.


We love to hear that. So, well with all those libraries, did you get to know your librarian or librarians?

You know, it’s interesting. I was, I’m not the kind of kid that, that goes up and talks to a librarian unless they hand sell me on a book. I was a loner back there in the stacks, figuring out stuff all on my own. Ended up reading some terrible books that way. Maybe I should have been asking the librarian, but I was one of those loner kids that tried to get in and out without any human contact.

I was like that too, I was scared of librarians.

I actually was too. And now I am one.


Well Tom, do you remember getting your first library card?

Oh that’s interesting to ask it that way. Hmm, gee I guess the first one I might have gotten was when I went to the public library and, because I remember they actually used to stamp the numbers into the plastic. That’s, kind of like on a Visa card, you know what I mean, the raised numbers. But they would actually stamp it there as you, as you watched, I remember that, that was an exciting moment, my library card had been forged, you know, sort of like Vulcan forging the lightning bolts.

That’s amazing.

How many library cards do you think you’ve had over your life?

Oh my stars, I can’t, I couldn’t begin to tell you. I’ve been, I’ve had so many different libraries that I’ve loved over the years and I’m one of those people, if I have a, you know, if I’m in a county that has three or four different libraries, I could show up at any of those three or four different libraries at any moment, you know. I, I’m a, and the problem is I’m not a great patron, I rack up a lot of overdue fines, I’m.

Hey as long as you pay em.

I do pay them, I’m very good about that. I consider it a way of supporting the library.

Well then you are a good patron.

Yes you are.

Yeah, unlike those ne’er-do-wells who return their books on time.

Yeah, they don’t help at all. How many library cards do you have in your wallet right now?

Huh, I think I only have two in my wallet right now, but that’s because, between those two libraries I get, oh actually make that three, between those three library cards though, I can visit probably 15 different libraries, you know, cause two are them are for consolidated regions and then the third one would be for the Virginia Tech college library.

Wow, very good, they’re powerful library cards.

Very cool.

They are, oh I can, I can, I can travel for hours and still stop in at a library and my card will cover it.

That’s awesome. Well, how have libraries or librarians played a role in the research you’ve done for your writing?

Well you know it’s interesting, people, you might not believe this, I actually write my books at the library, not all of the time.


Often not a conducive atmosphere. People have this stereotype of librarians telling people to be quiet, but they don’t.

No, not a lot.

The library I go to the most is sort of a raucous place, but I’ve been known to sit there and type away on their computers and often known to bring in a light box and sit there at one of the tables and work. It’s, you know, a library’s a nice place to be and I go there all the time and, of course, I use it for research, you know I always need new Star Wars, I have a lot of Star Wars books myself, but it doesn’t hurt to look something up at the library.

We get that question so often, like where are the Star Wars books? And there’s about a million different Star Wars books and types of Star Wars books. I mean there’s early readers, there’s picture books, there’s graphic novels, there’s non fiction for adults, so, that’s funny.

They are all over the library.

Yeah, I, I’ve proposed the Darth Dewey Decimal system. There’s just a big sign that says Star Wars this way and then sort of like other books that way.

You have no idea how needed that is.

And, by the way, in, my books would go in the Star Wars this way section.

Yes, they’d be up at the front.

Of course.

I, I don’t even care if they have the other section or not, right.

We just need all Star Wars all the time.

I’m not that bad, I am open to other forms of entertainment.

Well, other lesser forms.

That’s right, I mean that, you know, they’re, we have to have a place for the Lunch Lady, the Fangbone, the Babymouse graphic novels.


Well speaking of Star Wars, we have to talk about your most popular series, Origami Yoda. Your last book The Secret Of The Fortune Wookie ended in the biggest cliffhanger this side of the Empire Strikes Back. But you’ve announced that your next Origami Yoda book will actually not be a continuation of that story but something else. Can you tell us about what your next book is? And when fans can expect to find out the resolution of Fortune Wookie’s cliffhanger?

Okay, well my next book, you’re absolutely right, my next book is a little different. It’s still going to be a case file, the kids of the school are still putting together their ideas and stories, but this time it focuses more on the how-to side of things. So, Calwin and Dwight are gonna help us learn how to fold and draw all kinds of different Star Wars characters and stuff and, and then there are other tips in there from the other kids on all sorts of different subjects, so I, I hope people are going to like it. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and it really seems to fit with this story, I think this is what Calwin and Dwight and Tommy would, would want to be doing with their time. But, you’re right, there is a battle looming in their future, things are getting, well things are getting problematic at their school, let’s say. There, a showdown is coming with their principal, principal Rabsky and I can’t tell you officially though exactly where it’s all going to go or what’s going to happen or when we’re going to find out.

Oh suspense.

I know, who knows what might happen. We, you may just have to use your imagination, or there may be more books forthcoming, it’s all a, you know, as Yoda says always in motion is the future.

Oh my gosh, I love it. Well that, that folding and doodling book sounds awesome, so we’ll look forward to that.

Yes, yes it does.

And Tom while we’re on the topic of your writing, I recently read the Dear Teen Me anthology published by Zest Books, which is such a great anthology and your contribution was short, hilarious and actually quite profound. How did you decide what moment in your teen years to capture? And like what was it like revisiting that moment?

You know the sad thing is it wasn’t a moment, it was almost my entire teen years revisited. If you haven’t read it, it involves my, not just obsession with the movie Buckaroo Banzai, but my obsession with talking about the movie Buckaroo Banzai. And yeah, that was pretty much from, I guess I probably saw it when I was maybe 15 and so definitely that carried me through until I was 23 or so, 8 solid years of talking about the movie. Until one day I was suddenly finished and I had no more to say about it.

Oh, the teen years.

Okay, well, Tom thank you so much for talking to us today.

Oh guys, I’ve had so much fun talking to you, I really appreciate this.

Such a pleasure.

All right, may the books be with you.

Thank you to Michelle and Alison for a wonderful collaboration.