During the month of May, the birthday of L. Frank Baum is being celebrated in libraries across Kansas. As a librarian and a native of Wamego, L. Frank Baum has influenced my life in a few ways.
The city of Wamego is not only home to the Wizard of Oz Museum, but is also the host of a number of activities revolving around the classic children’s book and the musical, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As a child, I had the pleasure of participating in a children’s theatre performance of the musical at the famed Columbian Theatre. The only munchkin brave enough to stuff her outfit with foam for accuracy’s sake, the performances were both embarrassing and entertaining. We sang and danced about the yellow brick road, not knowing that we would, decades later, be able to walk along Wamego’s own yellow brick road.
Later, as a high school student, I worked at the Wamego Public Library, checking books out to patrons and helping out in the children’s library. It was such an honor to be working at my childhood library, the same library that I would walk to every day during the summer, to get away from my little brothers and to indulge in wonderful books. During my time at the Wamego Public Library, I worked with a friend who instilled in me a love for children’s literature, as well as whimsy, imagination and creativity. Because of the town that we lived in, this most definitely included The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This same friend would go on to play Dorothy at the Oztoberfest, and make significant contributions to the Wizard of Oz Museum.
A decade after my time at WPL, I find myself a children’s librarian at Manhattan Public Library, trying my best to pass on that love for whimsy and children’s literature. While I may not always buy my wine from the Oz Winery or my lunch from Toto’s Tacoz, I would be remiss not to attribute some of my love of children’s literature to the legacy of L. Frank Baum’s work and success.