Meet Our (Almost) Six-Year-Old Librarian

Season 6, Episode 8

If you ask Hannah Jean what would be her greatest wish, she will say running Brooklyn Public Library. Last month, she got to do just that. 

Further resources:


Check out some of Hannah Jean's favorite books.

Episode Transcript

*** AD BREAK: Hi, Borrowed listeners, Virginia here. If you like our show, there’s another series we think you'll love. It’s called Undiscarded: Stories of New York and it’s brought to you by our friends at the City Reliquary Museum in Williamsburg. Each episode celebrates the extraordinary history behind a seemingly mundane object from the Reliquary’s unique collection — a lightbulb, maybe, or a toy, or a piece of paper — finding stories in them that shed new light on the history of New York and the people whose lives have always made the city so alive. Be sure to listen at or wherever you get your podcasts. ***


Virginia Marshall It’s not every day that a librarian gets to sit back and let someone else do their job. But last month, about two dozen staff at Brooklyn Public Library got the rare treat of turning over their duties to the very capable Hannah Jean, age five, who started the day by leading storytime. 

Librarian Hasina Islam helps Hannah Jean read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for her storytime.
(Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library)

[Sound of storytime beginning, singing the welcome song]

Hannah Jean My name is Hannah and today I was a librarian.  

Virginia Marshall Why do you want to be a librarian? 

Hannah Jean Because librarians help people find books. 

Virginia Marshall What’s your favorite book? 

Hannah Jean My favorite book is Paw Patrol and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. 

[Hannah reads from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom]

Virginia Marshall Today: our youngest honorary librarian. I’m Virginia Marshall. You’re listening to Borrowed: stories that start at the library.  

Hannah Jean, Honorary Librarian. (Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library)

Hasina Islam Hi, my name is Hasina and I'm a librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library.  I met Hannah after I had already been a librarian in for a number of years. So I started working with the family almost ten years now. 

[Sound from storytime]

Hasina Islam So Hannah has sickle cell and her father had a conversation with her about a wish of hers to go on a great adventure or to do something, and if time and money weren't an issue ... She said, I want to be Hasina and run the library. And to me, that's like the biggest compliment. And just it means so much that of all the things that she could wish for and all the things that she could have, she wants to be me. And I don't know what that means to her. I don't know what she thinks that means because I don't run the library. I'm just a little part of the big Brooklyn Public Library and all the great work that we do. But the fact that she recognizes me and the library as a whole and how special it is to her, and if that's her greatest life's adventure, then I definitely want to be a part of that and I want to make it a reality for her. So this is what this is about. 

[Hannah reads from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom]

Hasina Islam Hannah will be an honorary librarian today. She will get a little ID badge with her picture on it. And it's going to say Hannah Jean, honorary librarian on it. She's going to do a little read aloud for us here in the Young Adult Reading Room. And then we're going to celebrate Hannah and all her great work and her love of the library.

Hannah gets a tour of the library. (Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library)

Richelet Jean My name is Richelet Jean. I'm a Brooklynite and a father. One of our closest friends is Hasina Islam, and we've known her for many, many years. And she actually we met her at our local library where she met my first daughter, Abigail. Because as a first time father, I knew I needed all the help I could get. So she was really encouraging with her about, you know, telling me, you know, you should read with her. And the library always—not always—but they have museum passes, zoo passes. They have various activities and pretty much all of them are free. So I was in the library like almost every day, just so I didn't break the kid! When the pandemic hit and Hannah couldn't go to school the same way … the library stepped up again. The library had so many programs online. I mean, I'm still friends with the librarians we met on Zoom who had you know, they had Ready Set Kindergarten, and they had, you know, arts and crafts. So, I'm ordering stuff on Amazon and we're doing crafts and we're learning to read. And she's coding. She's learning another language. And this is what the library provides you, why it’s so critical. There were so many people old and young who were immunocompromised, who are still immunocompromised. Who are the most vulnerable of us, and they provided services to help them. 

[Hannah sings the Alphabet Song] 

Hasina Islam Hannah, because of her condition, didn't get to go to the library as much. She didn't get to come to storytime as much. So what she's heard about me and what she sees of me has been through stories from Abigail, from mom and dad. And so she pretends to be a librarian at home. She has a little library. She checks out her books. And it's funny when they tell me stories of how she talks just like me. And she says the things that I would say, like it's important to take care of your books and return them on time and things that I say all the time.

Richelet Jean She got like, boxes and plastic wrap and playing cards and her books underneath, and she created her own check out As she put it, she zoops the books. I have no idea where that came from, but that's officially acting as a technical term is zooping. She zoops the books. She was in the hospital couple days ago. Even in hospital, she wanted to give the other kids books. You know, I mean, because she knew because it was like—there was like a nasty virus going around, everyone was sick, so they kind of isolated everyone. You know, sitting in the hospital, getting transfusions stuff—and she's been in hospital continually since she was born—like, the books have been like a little salvation for her and little escape for her. This morning she was ready, woke up early, got her breakfast, and she said, "So what am I going to do?" I said, "I've been telling you all week." She said, "I want to go over it again." She said, "So are we going to have a meeting?" "A meeting about what, sweetheart?" "I have ideas." I said, "Oh, okay. So what's one of your ideas?" She says ... "Maybe we can sort the books by color." [Laughs] So I said, "Okay, we'll discuss it in the meeting."

Virginia Marshall After the story time, Hannah got to go upstairs and sit behind the huge mahogany desk in the president’s office. She got a certificate for being an honorary librarian … and a birthday cake, because the following day was her sixth birthday. Her mom and dad, her big sister Abigail, Hasina the librarian and dozens of BPL staff all sang "Happy Birthday." Hannah was grinning ear to ear. 

Hannah sits at the president's desk at BPL. (Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library)

[Sound of singing "Happy Birthday"] 

Hasina Islam Sometimes, you question yourself, and this is one of those moments where you're like, you know what? I made the right choice, because I get to see their smiles on their faces and they're not just one family, you know, that I met once. They're one that I have known for ten years now. And it solidifies why I wanted to be a librarian in the first place. Because when I was younger, I had a very special librarian in my life that made me feel special. And so I wanted to do the same for the children that I met. And so that's exactly what I see when I look at that family. 

Virginia Marshall Hannah was a librarian for just one day, but she made quite an impression on us. For a few hours, we got to see the library through Hannah’s eyes: to her, it’s a place of songs and stories, of kind, helpful people and endless books … although we haven’t started organizing them by color … yet. 


Virginia Marshall Borrowed is brought to you by Brooklyn Public Library. This episode was written and hosted by me, Virginia. You can read a transcript of this episode and see pictures of Hannah Jean as honorary librarian and her list of favorite books on our website: BKLYN Library [dot] org [slash] podcasts. Our Borrowed team is made up of: Adwoa Adusei, Fritzi Bodenheimer, Robin Lester Kenton, Damaris Olivo, and Ali Post. Jennifer Proffitt and Ashley Gill run our social media. Our music composer is Billy Libby. Meryl Friedman designed our logo. We’ll be back in a few weeks. Until then, we’ll be busy zooping your books.