DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Sep 6 2013

Librarianship by the book

by Dea Anne M

I just finished a book—the type of book for which the coinage “unputdownable”NOS4A2 was invented in the first place—in which a librarian plays a pivotal character. She has purple hair, dresses in a decidedly punk style, and uses scrabble tiles to spell out the answers to the questions that she asks. The character is Maggie Leigh and the book is Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. If you’re a fan of horror fiction (which I am), I cannot recommend the book highly enough. I couldn’t wait to get home everyday to start reading again, and though the book (at nearly 700 pages) is hefty, it is well worth every spine-tingling second you’ll spend reading it.

I started wondering…what other fiction features librarians as characters?historian

There are many fictional portrayals of librarians as it turns out. Not so flattering is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova which features a librarian/ vampire.  And you wouldn’t want to run into Ardelia Lortz from the novella “The Library Policeman” in Stephen King’s collection Four Past Midnight. She is as horrific a creation as you are likely to find anywhere.

un lun dunLibrarians can be adventurers too. Consider Margarita Staples “Extreme Librarian and Bookaneer.” As part of the fantastic world that China Mieville creates in Un Lun Dun, Margarita, and her fellow librarians, use ropes and pick axes to climb mountain size shelves—sometimes battling shelf monkeys—in order to retrieve needed volumes.  Or check out Alexander Short, the beleaguered, and somewhat obsessive, reference librarian who undertakes a commission to search for Marie Antoinette’s missing watch—the title object of The Grand Complication, the very well-received 2001 novel by Alan Kurzweil.

loveIn Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife , Henry DeTamble, the time traveler of the title, works as a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Or you might try Elizabeth Peter’s popular series featuring irrepressible Nebraska librarian Jacqueline Kirby. Die for Love and The Murders of Richard III are two of these titles at DCPL.

If you’re a fan of smart chick-lit, you might try The Dewey Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr or Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi.

One of my favorite collections of graphic novels is the Sandman series written by Neil Gaiman. A recurring character in the series is Lucien who watches over the Library of Dreams which contains every book that anyone has ever dreamed of writing.

Finally, who says that librarians can’t be superheroes? Not James Turnerrex whose Rex Libris series of graphic novels feature a titular character who is both Head Librarian at Middleton Public Library and an immortal gifted with special powers. Rex does battle with samurai warriors who attempt to take out books without library cards and tracks down galactic warlords and their overdue items. At all times, he vows to “fight the forces of ignorance and darkness.” Start with Rex Libris: I, Librarian then move on to Rex Libris: Book of Monsters.

Do you have a favorite fictional librarian?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 9, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Two more for your list!
In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the Librarian at the Unseen
University is a former wizard who was turned into an orangutan and refused
to be turned back. He has the ability to travel through L-space, an extra
dimension that connects all libraries. Never call him a monkey.

And some day I’m going to dress like up like this for DragonCon – Colonel Wexler of the Special Library Services in Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died a Lot.

Joseph M September 14, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Fun post! Speaking of China Mieville, his novel The Scar (which is available at DCPL) features a protagonist who becomes a librarian during the course of her adventures, albeit reluctantly.

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