Christy Tyson was not the first librarian to make a significant impact on my life, but she certainly made the largest.

By the time I was 10, I was running out of options in the children’s section I had been haunting in our local library.

I’d been beside Encyclopedia Brown for every mystery, I’d accompanied the Hardy Boys everywhere they’d gone, I had met Mrs Which, What and Who while traveling with Meg and Charles Wallace. I’d accompanied Lucy to Narnia, been to the Mushroom Planet with Mr. Bass, adventured with Tom Swift, solved mysteries with the Three Detectives and saved Barsoom with John Carter.

I’d loved all of them, but the stories that seemed to really get my imagination going were the Heinlein juveniles. These were like something entirely different and amazing to me. But, sadly, they were over too soon and there were, simply put, not enough of them. I’d come back in and check the racks to see if I had missed a Heinlein. Nope, nothing new. I needed more!

One day, while rummaging through the kids section one more time for something new and interesting, I recall the librarian tell me that, you know, Heinlein had written other books. For adults. Really?. Where could I get such things. I craved them. I needed them. The librarian told me that I really wasn’t supposed to be looking for books in the adult section because apparently there was a policy about not letting unaccompanied kids check out books from the adult section. But, as I was clearly in need, she eventually relented and introduced me to the rest of the library. Where the adults found books…

No crack dealer had ever more firmly hooked a new client than when that librarian introduced me to the mysteries and the power of the untapped shelves that were the Fiction section in my local library.

Christy Tyson was no crack dealer, but she offered a different kind of drug. She offered a chance to hang out with other like-minded readers and do something that all young adults craved: Read books and share what we loved.

When I was 16, Christy created the Young Adult Advisory Committee (or YAAC). This was a weekly meeting at the downtown Spokane Public Library at 9am on Saturdays. As you can imagine, 9am on a Saturday was probably not the most attractive time in the world for a group of teenagers to get together and speak coherently about anything, but we did and and we were.

I was there with my friends Ken and Bill and we were amongst the oldest of this crowd. Yes, it was a bookish crowd, but it was a group of young adults who got together with the intent of sharing what they thought about books. And here was the kicker that was hard for me to believe: Christy, who headed the Young Adult Services for the Spokane Public Library, would buy more of the books we liked and less of the ones we didn’t. Suddenly, our opinions mattered. That was a new and wonderful thing for me at that age. At a time when it seemed no one cared what a 16 year old thought about much of anything and I wasn’t convinced I had any opinions worth sharing, Christy was soliciting our opinions and making decisions based on those opinions. What a crazy, wonderful idea.

We did a variety of things in YAAC. We read and reviewed books. We printed a monthly newsletter with reviews and articles. These were printed and available in the Young Adult (YA) sections of multiple libraries in the area. We had editors, we talked about what content we’d print, we wrote, we argued books and we shared what we loved and didn’t love about them. Christy encouraged critical thinking. Why did we like it. What worked or didn’t work about the book?

We also created our Golden Pen award. Each year we’d nominate authors in different categories that had written books we loved. In 1982, our choice for Best Fantasy author was Piers Anthony, author of the Xanth fantasy books. We sent each of our recipients a nice letter and a real golden quill pen and plaque as part of the award. Mr. Anthony was kind enough to write back, thanking us for the award. Later, I recall my excitement when looking at the author notes in his Xanth paperback books, our Golden Pen award showed up in his bio. Someone was listening to us. What a great feeling for a bunch of young adults.

We got involved in anti-censorship campaigns, including creating and selling anti-censorship buttons in school. I was able to participate in a radio story about Dungeons and Dragons including answering some questions about the game and played a mock game for the story.

We also socialized together, had summer picnics and enjoyed each others company. I know of at least one case of a couple meeting because of YAAC and eventually marrying and having kids.

As high school wrapped up, we “graduated” from YAAC as we prepared to head off to college. It was time to move on and Christy was there to wish us well and told us to be sure to stay in touch.

That was … 27 years ago. I wish I could say I had done a good job staying in touch. But, I can’t. I lost touch with most of the friends I made during that time. Occasionally I’d hear something about one or the other of them. I heard when Christy moved to Seattle to join their library. I heard when one of our members published the compendium of Star Trek fiction. But, mostly, time passed as we all lived our lives.

Christy passed away just after the first of this year in 2011. I heard about it via one of those friends I hadn’t kept in touch with but who knew that it would matter to know.

Her family had a memorial service for her up in Seattle. I wanted to go and be there.

Somewhere in my head I had the idea that I wanted to say something. To say thanks. Maybe to see some of those friends that were so important to me at a time when I really needed them.

The memorial was attended by many of her friends and family. Amongst those friends were six of what her sister Jean called “Christy’s YAAC kids”. Speaking as one of those kids, at 45 years old, that was a nice feeling. Her sister said she spoke often of us and it’s nice to think that perhaps that time was in some way as important to her as it was to me.

As I was catching up with some of those friends I hadn’t seen in so long, I was struck by an observation: Out of the six of us that were able to be there (there were many, I know, who would have liked to be there), we had in attendance three librarians. A full half of us had become librarians. What a wonderful thing to pass on to the world. Additionally there was a scientist, engineers, wives, husbands and partners. Christy had played a part in helping us, as well as many others like us, grow up and discover who we would be, who we could be. Good people who cared about the world, cared about reading, cared about each other.

I did speak at the memorial. In amongst my fumbling to try and tell a story about Christy and talk about how she impacted my life, I tried to describe how if our lives were represented by stones tossed in a pond, some people live lives that, like a pebble in that pond, wouldn’t make many ripples. Their impact would be small and quickly lost. Other people live lives that make a splash, make ripples and waves that reach out and touch all the other ripples and waves from all the other lives that are represented by that pond. Christy truly was a boulder dropped in a pond. She impacted all of us who knew her in YAAC. Those ripples continue today as we share what we learned, that love of reading, that love for talking about books and sharing opinions and caring. The ripples from Christy’s life did not stop affecting me 27 years ago when I went off to college. The ripples from Christy’s life brought me back to her memorial where I got to meet her family and hear stories of her life from her co-workers and friends. Those ripples brought me back together once again with friends I hadn’t seen in more than a quarter century.

That’s a life well and truly lived.

Christy didn’t have kids of her own, but I will always be happy to be thought of as one of “Christy’s YAAC kids”. That’s an honor to me and with that, I hope I honor the difference Christy made not only in my life, but the lives of my fellow YAAC members and all the friends, family, co-workers and readers who she came in to contact with in her life.

Thank you Christy. Thanks for everything.

Categories: Personal


Christina · February 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Nicely written!! Thank you for sharing such an important part of your life.

Keith Hall · June 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Very well written. It is always nice to hear about people like Christy and people like you who appreciate them.

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