DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Mar 10 2010

Musings of A Book Wrangler

by Jnai W

In brainstorming  this week’s blog post, I began wandering around the Internet and found a fascinating article on NPR.org. The article featured a blurb about a new book called This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson. It seems so insightful that, despite having requested it through the Library, I may just go out and purchase it for my own collection.

Lately, I’ve been really pondering what it means to be a librarian (or semi-librarian in my case, as I don’t have my Masters in Library Science yet). I won’t say that I have a hard time answering this question, especially since I’ve been working at the Library and learning more about librarianship in my day-to-day duties. But there are times when I’m at a loss for words when someone asks me “Why do we need librarians when there’s Google?” (Yes, I’ve been asked that, readers.)

The question of what it means to be a librarian is one that I’m always seeking answers to and the answers I’m finding are always fascinating. Here are a few books that spring to mind when I ponder my current occupation as semi-librarian/book wrangler:

Librarian as Bookmonger/Disseminator of Information: There was a book that I read about a year ago called How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard. I have to confess that I didn’t finish reading the book and here I am attempting to talk about it. Within the first chapter of this book, Bayard discusses a passage in a book called The Man Without Qualities (don’t ask me if I’ve read it) in which an ideal librarian is one who “never reads more of the literature in his charge than the titles and the table of contents”, lest a librarian lose perspective in his role as disseminator of knowledge. I found that quote so astonishing that I stopped reading to make note of it…and hadn’t really started back.

Librarian as Social Worker/Psychologist/um, Mall Cop: Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in The Public Library is a fascinating and uproarious book about the rigors of public library work. I liked this book because I could relate in certain ways to author Don Borchert, a free-spirited wage laborer whose path into the library field was, well, non-traditional (read: a happy accident, really).

Librarian as Book Aficionado: The Library At Night is an intriguing book by author and bibliophile Alberto Manguel that features fascinating musings on his own expansive book collection and on libraries in general. Though not a librarian by trade and profession, Manguel is a man possessed of a deep appreciation of books themselves. He loves not only the wealth of knowledge and beauty within a book but also the sight, the feel and perhaps even the smell of books.  I can imagine that quite a few librarians are initially attracted to this field by their simple love of books.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nolan March 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM

J’nai, you could always direct them to this link when asked why librarians still exist 😉

An excerpt from “Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian.”


Librarians wield unfathomable power. With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines. They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings.

People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: