This month as I begin my career as a public librarian at two different libraries, I’m doing a few things. I’m moving to a new city and buying a car. I’m memorizing piles of important information about the different systems. I’m meeting dozens of new (amazing) coworkers. I’m trying to master the “neat” bun hairstyle. And I’m reflecting on what character traits make a good librarian.
While completing my MLIS I learned about the many roles and manifestations of a librarian; now I get a chance to decide what kind of librarian I’m going to be. Enthusiastic, innovative, thoughtful, curious, thorough, dedicated, genuine, and dependable: this is what I hope to achieve. And what better way to communicate my aspirations than with literacy examples? Here are my 3 favourite literary manifestations of inspirational librarians, from 3 of my all-time favourite books.
Name: Lady Jain
Book: Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Library: A previously abandoned library in the castle
Admirable Trait: Enthusiasm
Castle Waiting is a graphic novel, feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty, featuring many imaginative and delightful characters who have found their way to a mythical safe haven community for those in need. The most recent addition to the community is Lady Jain. She arrives at Castle Waiting very pregnant, on the run from an abusive husband, seeking a new home and a new life. What she finds is a new family (full of weirdos with dazzling back-stories), and a new career: Librarian. I like her because she’s in it for the right reasons, and she’s out-of-her-mind excited about taking charge of the library. She truly loves reading, and more than that, she wants to share that love with her community. She works hard to promote literacy within the castle, and she genuinely loves every member of her community and helps them in any way she can.
Book: Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Library: Dream Kingdom, contains every book never written
Admirable Trait: Meticulousness
Out of all the fictitious librarians out there, Lucien may have the most interesting collection to rule over. He is in charge of Sandman’s library in “The Dreaming”, which contains a copy of every book never written. Books that were merely dreams in the minds of their authors; stories that were never told. Upon losing one book in his vast collection, he is exceedingly diligent about retrieving it from it’s unwitting new owner. He is extremely trustworthy, and as a result, is Sandman’s unofficial second-in-command. I can’t think of another librarian character who is more dedicated and meticulous about the upkeep of his collection.
Name: The Librarian
Book: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Library: Public library in Japan
Admirable Trait: Curiosity
There are two unnamed librarian characters in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but I love the one from the reality similar to our own. Writing anything about the characters from this book requires some tip-toeing, as no characters are given names, and the narrative alternates between two storylines. End of the World Librarian, as I will call her, is approached by the main character with a reference question about the anatomy of unicorns. What I love about her is the way she goes above and beyond answering his extraordinary question, without ever questioning his motives or sanity. In fact, she’s so dedicated and curious that she joins him on a magical and dangerous 48 hour adventure. She also eats constantly, while remaining miraculously thin, which I think represents her unappeasable appetite for knowledge and adventure.
Of course there’s also Madame Irma Pince from Harry Potter (although she’s a bit strict for my tastes). I found a reading list of Librarians as Characters in Fiction, if you’re interested in exploring this topic further.
Who’s your favourite librarian character?