Seattle's Nancy Pearl is a professional librarian who turned her passion for reading into a mission to help others find good books and share the pleasure.

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ONE can hardly imagine even Seattle’s Nancy Pearl has a bookcase large enough to display another award, but she was in San Diego Friday to be honored at the midwinter conference of The American Library Association.

Her passion for books and reading, and her signature ability to convey that enthusiasm, earned her Librarian of the Year accolades from the Library Journal.

Amid the nation’s preeminent organization for professional librarians, Pearl received an award from a publication that has tracked library activities for 133 years. Honors that typically go to library directors and meritorious staffs fell to one retired librarian who has sent legions of people in search of another good read.

Ask Pearl how she has managed to connect so thoroughly with the public and inspire such an intense following, and her answer is as unaffected as her approach. She really loves books. Her mission is to share her belief that reading is a pleasure, and that pleasure should not be taken lightly.

Pearl recommends books she enjoys reading and wants to share the fun. Her style is conversational and approachable, not instructional.

She was executive director of the Seattle Public Library’s Washington Center for the Book, and founded the “If All Seattle Reads the Same Book” program. The idea, picked up by other cities, was to bring in authors to meet and chat with readers, and take their questions. Not a reading, but a discussion.

Pearl, who retired in 2004, has published four books of recommendations and reviews, including her latest, “Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers.” She reports the 2010 “Book Lust” is her last. From now she “will be reading more haphazardly.” She is working on a novel, another unnamed project, and she will continue to appear on television and radio, “as long as they will have me.” She is also teaching at the University of Washington, sharing her passion with another generation of librarians.

Pearl has received many honors and awards. Recognition by her professional peers is especially gratifying. But she is eager to chat about the latest literary delight she found.