I get a little frisson of excitement when I am reading a novel and one of the characters turns out to have had superior career guidance and is a librarian. And September was my month of librarian-related reads. It all started with The Beautiful Librarians, a 2015 poetry collection by Sean O’Brien:
The beautiful librarians are dead,
The fairly recent graduates who sat
Like Francoise Hardy’s shampooed sisters
With cardigans across their shoulders
On quiet evenings at the issue desk,
Stamping books and never looking up
At where I stood in adoration.
Then I started to see patterns, and books with library characters jumped off the shelves at me. Like Teresa in Maggie O’Farrell’s latest novel: This Must be the Place. Teresa meets a young man when she is helping tourniquet his nephew’s wound. He asks if she is a nurse and she replies:
“No, a librarian” she said, adding, “but we do a first-aid course as part of our training.”
Well, let’s just say that he was lucky he got her and not me. But he tracks her down, visiting all the libraries in Brooklyn. Although this really is Love At First Sight (good luck with that all you first-aidy library types), they absolutely do not live happily ever after.
And you might not identify with this particular librarian, but the choice of library characters is wide, and there will be one for you:
Take Loretta, who is a school librarian in Laurence Fearnley’s 2016 novel The Quiet Spectacular and who has embarked on compiling The Dangerous Book for Menopausal Women while waiting to collect her son from after-school activities. Hesitant in her dealings with semi-feral packs of teenagers in the school library, she forms a bond with one of them – Chance. No one falls in love with Loretta at first sight, but there is more to library life than that. There’s involvement in even one person’s life that helps to turn it around. Agree?
And not all the books I discovered are about lady librarians. The Book of Speculation has a young male librarian – Simon Watson. Simon is a loner who is about to lose his library job. If the words “crumbling” “mysterious package” and “antiquarian bookseller” are a turn-on for you, then you will love this book. It also has a stunningly beautiful cover.
All these books are recent additions to the library collection. All are well worth reading. All involve librarians. So all you librarians out there, remember these books as you hand out your gazillionth computer pass, download your umpteenth document and wrestle with the wonders of 3D printing yet again. Know that you still have allure, that your library mystique is still there. And that, at least in the minds-eye of these four authors, you remain A Beautiful Librarian!
- Find more fiction about librarians in our catalogue.