Kim Christensen almost didn’t open the email that informed her that she was 1 of 8 librarians nationwide that had been selected for an all-expenses paid trip to Boston to meet bestselling author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney.

“They just sort of emailed randomly and I kind of thought it was spam and if I clicked on it, I’d take down the whole city,” said Christensen, a supervisor over youth services at Springville Library.

Instead, it was an invitation to meet the award-winning author whose “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has remained on The New York Times bestseller lists since the publication of the first book in 2007. There are more than 290 million copies of the series in print worldwide, which are available in 71 languages.

“Have I read them? Absolutely. Do all the kids read them? We can’t keep them on the shelf. So that part is really fun, getting to meet him and they’re donating books to our library. So I’ll get to bring some books back for our tween librarian to add to our collection,” Christensen said.

Other planned activities include a Duck tour of Boston, a walking tour of the Freedom Trail, exploring the Boston Public Library, a shopping spree at Kinney’s bookstore, An Unlikely Story, and a tour of his Wimpy Kid studio.

As Christensen prepares for the trip, she is mindful of what Kinney’s assistant said when she called to make arrangements.

“She’s like, ‘Everyone on our team feels like it’s we’re doing something that won’t happen again, like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something good.’ I agree with that. They didn’t have to do that,” Christensen said.

The trip is also an opportunity for Christensen to collaborate with library professionals from across the country, most of them elementary school and middle school librarians.

Kim Christensen, librarian at Springville Library, right, speaks with a patron at the Springville Public Library on Thursday, June 6, 2024. Christensen is one of eight librarians nationwide selected to meet Jeff Kinney, author of the internationally best selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

In fall 2023, Kinney launched a nationwide contest to find librarian heroes, “unique individuals who create an inclusive environment, support independent learning and advocate for the freedom to read and the right for kids to be able to identify themselves within the pages of a book,” according to an ABRAMS publishing press release.

Among the hundreds of nominations Kinney received, winners were selected for “their remarkable contributions to their community that go above and beyond. For example, one winner stood up against book bans and censorship, another advocated for book vending machines for their school, and one winner hosts ‘blind-date-with-a book’ events,” the press release states.

This degree of advocacy describes Christensen to a ”T,” according to Lauren Tolman, communication specialist for Utah Valley University’s Fulton Library.

“Kim Christensen is so much more than a librarian. She does provide stellar programs and a diverse book collection, but she is also a stalwart advocate for the underserved residents of Springville. She has a unique ability to discern needs, and immediately gets to work on solutions,” said Tolman, who described herself as a friend and colleague.

Christensen “sees beyond the library’s walls to the large percentage of those in her city who lack basic necessities. In the past two years, she has collaborated with Utah Food Bank to distribute hundreds of free lunches for children at the library during the summer when they may be facing food insecurity without school lunches,” Tolman said.

“She also personally raised thousands of dollars to install and stock period product dispensers in library restrooms,” initiatives that Tolman said “truly exemplify the library’s purpose of providing free services to all in their community.”

Christensen is quick to credit her library colleagues for developing a wide array of resources for library users. Dedicated volunteers pitch in to help serve meals, host events and assist with other library functions.

While Christensen said she is grateful for the opportunity to travel to Boston and meet Kinney, her selection is an acknowledgement of “the work of the whole library and the staff here. I am really lucky to get to do this. They know it’s not just me,” she said.

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This time of year, the library buzzes with activity between reading programs, craft workshops and an opportunity for kids to learn some karate moves, to name a few.

Long gone are the days when libraries were more quiet spaces conducive to reading and study but not the community gathering spaces that libraries are now.

Christensen said she much prefers the “chaos.”

“It is summer right now, so imagine how crazy that is. Our reading program is Pokémon-themed and you would have thought Taylor Swift was in town,” said Christensen, softly laughing.

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