Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Secret Lives of Librarians

We all know and have seen the stereotypical librarians, haven’t we? The hair is always in a tight bun. Their wardrobes always consist of sensible shoes, dull suits and glasses. One of the hallmark characteristics of librarians is the shy demeanor with a vocabulary that consists of one or two words: quiet or sh! After working in a library for over twenty-five years, none of my colleagues fits this description. Heck, at my wedding, the loudest and funniest table was filled with noisy, prankster librarians. Get them out of their elements and those wacky librarians go crazy. The closest I come to “knowing” a librarian fitting that description is my librarian action figure which fits the bill and it is based on a real life librarian, Nancy Pearl. Don’t get me wrong. It is okay if the public likes to think of about our profession as polite, well-educated and professional. We could very well be super heroes, who by day provide patrons with information and great literature. By night, we conquer the world with our super-charged shusher, and Dewey Decimal System. (You are aware that Decimal is just a code word for disintegrate, right?) All kidding aside, the stereotype of the librarian is a far cry from reality, but there are some books out there that portray librarians in a manner that looks at our profession from a different perspective. Which is a good thing for younger readers, they need to see that librarians come in all shapes and sizes.

Eth Clifford’s Help! I’m Prisoner in the Library is a tale of two sisters who are trapped in the library during a blizzard. Everything is fine until the library is dark. The large dolls that were wonderful and interesting in the light, now seem a bit scary. A talking bird flies above their heads scaring them and the moaning coming from the second floor is not what the girls would like to hear. After a climb up the stairs to find the source of the moaning, the little mysteries are solved and the girls find that Miss Finton, the librarian not only runs the library but also lives there. All ends well, when the girls’ father finally finds them the next morning. At first the librarian in this book seems old, mean and unable to bend the rules. Raise your hand if you have ever met a woman like this in your library? Miss Finton does warm up to the girls and confesses that the library may close to make room for a newer, modern library. The story ends with the girls admiring the library and the librarian. . .

Richard Peck, a veteran childrens author, tells the story of Pee Wee, a tomboy who loves automobiles and adores her older brother Jake. Here Lies The Librarian takes the reader back in time to 1914 when the rural life was becoming complicated with the birth of the automobile. When the local library is demolished due to a tornado, everyone in town pitches in to restore it. In come four librarians, fresh out of library school, who know just how to get the library going again. A good thing too, because this gives Pee Wee a glimpse into what she might like to do in the future. As for the deceased librarian, she did cast her presence in the story, but it was more heartwarming than scary. This is definitely a story to warm the heart with nostalgia.

The book that has the ability to help librarians laugh at ourselves, is The Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. Author Jarrett Krosoczka delivers smile after smile with his depiction of librarians who are tired of competing against video games to gain childrens attention. It’s Lunch Lady to the rescue to stop the nasty librarians for destroying the latest video game and conquering the world. (Goodness, how many times have I wanted complete World Domination? Once or twice, perhaps!) It is a charming little graphic novel that gives Lunch Ladies a chance to be in the spotlight. However, everyone knows who the real heroes are in our communities and schools. Shhh…. it’s the librarians.

As stated before, it’s okay to think of librarians as mild-mannered, spinster and shy women. There are many stories out there that share the “secret life” of a librarian with readers. We are, after all, heroes in our community. Just ask Bat Girl.
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