NEW YORK – Richard Ford and Timothy Egan, winners of literary medals presented by the American Library Association, both credit libraries for making their work possible.
Ford and Egan are this year's recipients of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence for the best works of fiction and nonfiction. Ford was cited for the novel "Canada," narrated by the teen son of bank robbers. Egan won for "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher," a biography of photographer Edward Curtis, who compiled an encyclopedic archive of North American Indians.
Egan, a prize-winning author and reporter for The New York Times, noted in a recent interview that libraries were a vital part of his research for the Curtis book. Curtis, who died in 1952, had compiled a 20-volume set of his Indian photographs. Few copies exist today, but Egan managed to look through the pictures at the University of Washington library in Seattle.
"It was really magical," said Egan, winner of the National Book Award in 2006 for "The Worst Hard Time," a history of those lived through the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. "You have to put on these white gloves and look very carefully through this glowing, magical achievement. Libraries, in many ways, are the keepers of our stories."
Ford, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, recalled that he grew up down the street from a Carnegie library in Jackson, Miss. His mother would leave him there at times, considering it a safe place for a child.
"I got an introduction there to what books were, why books were important," said Ford, who now regularly donates books to the library near his home in Maine.
Ford and Egan each will receive $5,000, and finalists each receive $1,500. In fiction, they were Junot Diaz for "This Is How You Lose Her" and Louise Erdrich for "The Round House." In nonfiction: David Quammen for "Spillover" and Jill Lepore for "The Mansion of Happiness." The Carengie medals were established in 2012 and are funded through a grant by the Carnegie Corporation.