Jeff Kinney Honors Librarians with "Nerd Dream" Weekend

The best-selling "Wimpy Kid" author selected eight nominated librarians for a weekend with him in Boston and at his bookstore and studio in Plainville, MA.

Authors Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi (far left and far right) were surprise dinner guests,
joining Jeff Kinney (center) and librarians Ashley Knotts, Eli Olson, Kim Christensen,
Flora Camacho, Barb Ohashi, Brandy Hudson, and Kelly Kiff. 
Photos courtesy of Wimpy Kid Inc.

Kelly Kiff was thrilled when she tagged Jeff Kinney in her tweet about his “Wimpy Kid” series, which beat out “Harry Potter” to win her school’s book March Madness brackets, and the best-selling author replied.

“It was amazing—the ­accessibility, the fact that he is actually looking at this and taking the time to respond to it,” says Kiff.

Imagine, then, how the Sparta, NJ, middle school librarian felt when she learned Kinney had gifted her and a group of fellow librarians a trip to Boston in June. The author would chauffeur them into the city in his own Wimpy Wagon for the ­Boston Duck Tours, Freedom Trail, and a trip to the ­Boston Public Library. They would also get a tour of his studio, time in his bookstore, An Unlikely Story, and enjoy some karaoke with Kinney.

“This is the nerd dream,” Kiff says with a laugh. “I was ­overwhelmed, but very appreciative.”

The email telling her that she had won said, “This is not spam,” a note she appreciated because it really did seem too good to be true. 

­Kinney and his team selected the ­winners from a group of librarians nominated by their communities. Kiff is the grand prize winner—which means she’ll also be Kinney’s guest at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November.

“I was just really appreciative when I read a couple of the quotes [from the nomination] that people thought enough of me to nominate me and some of the wonderful things they had said about me,” says Kiff.

One of the comments read, “Miss Kiff is an incredible librarian who's passionate about providing the most comprehensive and fortified library resources to her students in an unprecedented era of modern book banning.”

“We did go through a rough year last year,” says Kiff. “There was a book challenge, and we got put through the wringer. I think that maybe had something to do with why the people in our community who have been very supportive nominated me and also why I was selected. It's very much an issue in our country right now.”

Kinney (third from right) with the honored librarians during the visit to his bookstore.
Photos courtesy of Wimpy Kid Inc.

On June 9 and 10, Kiff spent a special two days with a group of honored peers: Ashley Knotts, Anna Jarvis ­Elementary School, Grafton, WV; Brandy Hudson, Timber Ridge Elementary, Marietta, GA; Kim Christensen, Springville (UT) Library; Elijah Olson, Horizon Elementary Library, Kent, WA; Flora Camacho, Mildred Baskin Elementary School, San Antonio, TX; and Barb Ohashi, Dexter McCarty Middle School, Gresham, OR. Kathy Cole of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (OR) Library was also selected by Kinney but couldn’t make the trip.

“We know that librarians right now are under an enormous amount of pressure. It’s unprecedented,” says Kinney, who spent his recent international book tour celebrating and spotlighting school and public librarians. “We wanted to do something to acknowledge that and reward some really special librarians who are working hard for their communities under challenging headwinds. And honestly, we just wanted to have fun. We thought it’d be really fun to gather a few really special librarians together for a weekend in Boston to celebrate the good work that they do over dinner and duck boat tours and maybe a little bit of karaoke thrown in.”

Kiff was most excited about the time in Kinney’s bookstore and the opportunity to meet librarians from different parts of the country. Kinney looked forward to bringing a group of strangers with a common mission together for an intense weekend of activities.

“We’re going to keep them really entertained and keep things buzzing and moving,” Kinney said before the weekend. “I hope that by the time they leave, they’ll feel really appreciated and recharged.”

Kiff certainly did.

“I know that it was a ‘thank you’ to librarians, but it also reignited my purpose—connecting kids with books that will inspire them to read,” says Kiff. “And to make it fun, because everything about this weekend was fun.”

She left with lasting memories and a new group of inspiring peers.

“For me, the best part of the trip was meeting the other ­librarians and learning about the ­important and unique purpose they serve in their communities,” says Kiff. “For example, Kim from Utah works with the food bank to provide food to patrons in need, among many other responsibilities. My favorite part of the trip was visiting An Unlikely Story, playing some intense book trivia while we were there, and listening to amazing karaoke—­including some songs by Jeff. It was a weekend that I will never forget.”

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