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Librarians in fiction
By Beverly Stuart
September 29, 2002

It occurred to me, as I was reading the second book within a month that featured a librarian as one of the main characters, that you don't often see fiction that features a librarian as one of the main characters. Sure, there's the classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but the dour old librarian in that classic could not really be considered one of the main characters (even though the library itself is important to Francie's development). And of course there are a few well-known movies, such as Party Girl and Desk Set. But as for books, I couldn't think of that many. So here is a short list of titles, in no particular order, some of which I have read, some of which have been recommended to me by trusted sources (as in "librarian").

The Grand Complication, by Allen Kurzweil. The main character here is a reference librarian, and much of the book takes place in the New York library where he works.

There is no way I can do this book justice in my little list here, but I will say that it is a fun read - lots of library humor, librarian in-jokes and so on. It might help to know a little history, but you don't have to be a history major to enjoy this. And anyway, you can always go to the library and look up anything you want to know more about. It is actually a mystery, but moreso in terms of "dig in and do the research," as opposed to "whodunit."

You can find lots of reviews on, and you will see that people seem to either love it or hate it. My advice: Don't take it so seriously. Sure, the characters are obsessed and neurotic, but so what? What else would you expect from a librarian, an artist, and a rich old eccentric?

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. And now for something completely different, as they say. The librarian here is an orangutan. He doesn't have much of a speaking part, but he seems to get his point across just fine. I should add that you have to like fantasy -- and humorous fantasy at that -- to enjoy this. Dragons, wizards, and general magical mayhem abound. This is the book I am currently reading and it is one of those "laugh out loud on the bus" books. Guards! Guards! is part of Pratchett's Discworld series, and I believe the first in the series is The Color of Magic, which I have not yet read. However, judging by some of the others that I have read, I don't think it matters what order you read them in.

Out of Circulation by Jo Dereske. Another mystery, but this one is more of a traditional "whodunit" of the "cozy" genre of mysteries. It is also part of a series, but this is the only one I have read so far. Helma Zukas is a librarian in a fictional Pacific Northwest town, very responsible, very logical. But her friend Ruth makes up for all that. Ruth talks Helma into a hiking trip, even though neither one of them know the first thing about hiking and backpacking; however, as the librarian in the bunch, Helma knows enough to do the research and come prepared (for both of them because she knows Ruth will not). So Ruth gets them into trouble, but Helma uses resourcefulness and logic to solve the mystery. There is also a cat (Boy Cat Zukas), but he stays home.

Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. Don't read this expecting something intellectually profound; read it because it is entertaining. Our heroine, April, is a Latin teacher in a high school. April was adopted and has known all her life that her parents adopted her, and she has never been actively curious about her birth parents. She lives a quiet life and she likes it that way.

However, April's birth mother, Berenice, has been keeping tabs on her all along, and decides it is time to make contact. Berenice is a local celebrity, being the glamorous talk show host of a locally-aired television show, quite the opposite of her brainy, down-to-earth daughter.

Dwight, the school librarian and April's confidante, helps her with some research concerning her "birth father." Yes, they fall in love. However, this is more about family than romance, especially mother-daughter relationships.

The Giant's House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken. I have not read this one, but it was recommended to me so I am including it here. The story is about a librarian who befriends a boy who grows up to be a giant. Over the years they fall in love. I looked on for more information about The Giant's House, and I have to say it sounds rather intriguing, a love story about two outcasts. It could be really good. Or really bad.



So there's my list, such as it is. I am sure there are tons of other fictional librarians out there, and hopefully I will discover some of them eventually. If anyone out there can think of others, please let the Silverfish know!

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