Librarians have long been burdened with a variety of uncomplimentary stereotypes, stern old maid and milquetoast bookworm being perhaps most common. Oh, and we mustn’t forget that standby of 1960s sitcoms, the plain-looking young woman who upon removing the hairpins from her tightly-wound bun transforms into a sexual dynamo. Thank you Mr. Freud.
In my personal experience with librarians I have encountered few to none of these personality disorders. However, one could probably safely deduce that librarians are interested in reading, research and learning. All of which seem rather tame compared to say the activities of the X-Men.
So as a library employee I’m always interested to find a story where a librarian has a bit of adventure in his or her life.
A recent pleasant surprise that came my way is Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. The main character of this story, Isaac Vainoi, is a librarian, and while his occupation is somewhat irrelevant to the story, his love of books is vital. Isaac is one of a select group called the Porters, people who have such strong imaginations and symbiotic rapport with books that they are able to pull objects from stories (as long as said objects are not larger than a page). This trick comes in handy for Isaac and his fellow Porters as they try to keep the peace between themselves, vampires (yes, yes, I know, vampires are very last Thursday), and regular humans. Sadly, Isaac has been removed from field work and demoted to research duties after letting his magic run amuck. But when a group of vampires attacks a Porter stronghold and libriomancers start dying gruesome deaths, Isaac is thrust into the battle. He is a most excellent example of a bookish, non-athletic, not particularly brave person thrown into a highly dangerous adventure.
As it turns out, Libriomancer is just one of many books that feature the exploits of librarians. Here are just a few that you might want to check out.
Henry DeTamble is a librarian who involuntarily travels through time, which creates a strange and challenging relationship between his wife and himself.
An American librarian goes to Africa to help with a library that delivers books to nomadic tribes via camel.
In this uproarious thriller, university librarian David Goldberg finds himself on the Ten Most Wanted Criminals list as well as involved in a conspiracy to steal the presidency.
In 1950 Cape Cod, an unlikely romance blossoms between a little librarian and the tallest boy in the world.
A children’s librarian is fired, mistaken for a deer and shot, turned into a vampire, and framed for a series of vampire murders. Any questions?
In addition to these captivating novels, there are a number of graphic novels that feature librarians.
Unshelved by Bill Barnes
So the next time you feel compelled to paint librarians into tiny boring boxes, pick up one of these titles to give yourself a refreshing dose of reality.