Joyce Fay. The Library (Xlibris
Press, c2010) 352 p.
Sojourner Truth branch of the Washington, D.C. Public library system
is the setting for this exploration into the life of a library staff.
There is Ursula Swann, the young reference librarian who is happy and
proud to be a librarian and who works hard to be good at it. Jackie
Ramsey, the assistant manager has chronic health problems although
some believe she is abusing sick leave privileges. Monique Powell is
the circulation supervisor. Susan McCall is the children's librarian.
The manager, Albert Spencer is old and just wants everyone to calm
down. The issues they deal with are familiar to many librarians.
Staff rivalry, homeless and mentally ill patrons, censorship, budget
cuts. And occasionally they get to help someone find the book or
information they need.
John. The Library Book (Pride's
Crossing, Mass.: Black Spruce Media, c2006) 264 p.
novel about the design and construction of the New York Public
Library 42nd Street branch, this is really more of a book about
architecture than about libraries. That said, it is an interesting
look at all the considerations involved and how decisions were made.
to Murder (New York: St. Martin's, 1987) 305 p.
Cambridge University Library is in an uproar when a rare copy of
Chaucer's Anelida and Arcite is missing from the rare book room. The
Rare Books Librarian, Mr. J.H.R. Manthorpe, being absent, the
investigation is begun by Professor Fenchurch who is interested in
mysteries. Later Manthorpe plays a brief Dr. Watson role to
Fenchurch's Holmes. Meanwhile a bookbinder named Welby is acting
suspiciously. The University Library is closed for several days while
a search for the missing book is executed. The climax of the story
plays out in the stacks and at the top of the tower of the library.
Sheepshanks College library is the scene of another theft. Here we
meet Under-Librarian Mole, who "bore a close resemblance to a
walking-stick with the handle at right angles to its shaft, his head
and shoulders serving as the former" (p. 5). We also meet
Librarian Grierson: "Rotund and somewhat fussy, he was
nonetheless an unexceptionable librarian and, in marked contrast to
his predecessor, an accomplished scholar and administrator" (p.
Dorsey. Academic Murder (New York: St. Martin's, 1980) 244 p.
College, Cambridge has two librarians: Ernest Garmoyle of the Prye
Library, who is a good scholar but an unpleasant man and an
alcoholic, and Mr. Smythson of the Abbot's Library. The two
librarians argue over a Shakespeare manuscript, which Garmoyle finds
in the Abbot's Library and removes to the Prye Library. The Pryevian
Library is described on p. 61-64. The University Library is also
rare books room of the University Library at Cambridge forms a
hideous contrast to its equivalent in Oxford's Bodley. The scholar
who consults a volume in one of the bays of Duke Humphrey, the rare
book reading-room of the Bodleian, performs his researches in
surroundings permeated with an atmosphere of medieval peace. The day
stretches before him in infinite leisure, as though hours might as
easily be years or centuries: a sense of timelessness pervades the
studies of one who performs his labours in umber twilight at a desk
where once clerks pored over chained volumes written in a crotchety
is regrettable that Cambridge's chief library possesses no antique
nook, no venerable cranny where the learned may contemplate the
erudition of past ages in a setting suitably archaic. Instead, the
graceless brick edifice which so brazenly rears its obscene tower to
dominate the Cambridge skyline provides for the purpose a room more
fit for the filing of forms by drab and faceless minor civil servants
than the faun-filled researches of classicists or the gilded and
jewelled imaginings of medieval scholars. The Anderson Room, an
uninspiring oblong, is furnished with sturdy, utilitarian and
unlovely tables and chairs constructed of yellow oak. Raising one's
eyes from (for example) the elegantly spare type-face with which
Nicolas Jenson printed his edition of Pliny, one is abruptly and
rudely recalled to the present rather than gradually acclimatized, as
one is at Bodley: indeed, a scholar in the Anderson Room is apt to
incur a case of the aesthetic and intellectual bends. (p. 209-210).
David E. Katie's Terror (New York: William Morrow, 1982) 263 p.
McGregor Townsend is a librarian at the 42nd Street branch of the New
York Public Library. We find her at her job in the information booth
and in the closed stacks, with descriptions of shelving and
retrieving procedures. We learn that the books are shelved by size
rather than by subject. "The library is, in these deepest
depths of what is after all its soul, the very antithesis of its
public conception; there is little quiet, calm, and peace here. At
night, of course, it is a different story. At night the stacks are
empty, deserted, dark and very nearly haunted. A spine-chilling
chase in the stacks and a falling stack of books climaxes this
Timothy. Headhunter (New York: Crown, 1993) 440 p.
Kemp was once Chief Librarian at Rosedale Public Library. The library
burned to the ground and Lilah developed severe schizophrenia. Now
she lives in Toronto where she pushes an empty baby buggy and visits
the Metro Library nearly every day. Lilah has the power to let
characters escape from their books into the real world. We are
introduced briefly to Myra Cherniak, who works at the Information
Desk at the Metro Library (p. 353-54).
Next in First Among Sequels (New York: Viking, c2007) 363 p.
Thursday goes in and out of her own books, more information about the
Great Library is revealed.
there are very few authors whose names begin with Q, X, and Z, floors
seventeen, twenty-four and twenty-six were relatively empty and thus
free for other purposes. The seventeenth floor housed the Mispeling
Vyrus Farst Respons Groop, the twenty-fourth floor was used
essentially for storage, and the twenty sixth was where the
legislative body that governs the BookWorld had taken up residence:
the Council of Genres....
Great Library looks smaller from the outside," observed
Thursday5, staring out the window at the rain-streaked exterior.
was right. The corridors in the library below could be as long as two
hundred miles in each direction, expandable upon requirements, but
from the outside the library looked more akin to the Chrysler
Building, liberally decorated with stainless-steel statuary and
measuring less than two hundred yards along each face. And even
though we were only on the twenty-sixth floor, it looked a great deal
higher. I had once been to the top of the 120-story Goliath Tower at
Goliathopolis, and this seemed easily as high as that. (p. 52-53).
Cheshire Cat has now assumed command of Text Grand Central and
communicates by means of a mobilefootnoterphone.
Rotten (New York: Penguin, 2005) 385 p.
librarian Cheshire Cat make a brief appearance with some crucial
he first started working in Alice in Wonderland he was known
as the Cheshire Cat, but the authorities moved the Cheshire county
boundaries, and he thus became the Unitary Authority of Warrington
Cat, but that was a bit of a mouthful, so he was know more
affectionately as the Cat formerly known as Cheshire or, more simply,
the Cat. His real name was Archibald, but that was reserved for his
mother when she was cross with him.
worked very closely with us at Jurisfiction, where he was in charge
of the Great Library, a cavernous and almost infinite depository of
every book ever written. But to call the Cat a librarian would be an
injustice. He was an überlibrarian—he knew about all the books in
his charge. When they were being read, by whom—everything. (p.
Well of Lost Plots (New York: Viking, 2003) 375 p.
agent Thursday Next continues to use the library in her law
understand the Well you have to have an idea of the layout of the
Great Library. The library is where all published fiction is stored
so it can be read by the readers in the Outland; there are twenty-six
floors, one for each letter of the alphabet. The library is
constructed in the layout of a cross with the four corridors
radiating from the center point....
the Great Library are twenty-six floors of dingy yet industrious
subbasements known as the Well of Lost Plots. This is where books are
constructed, honed and polished in readiness for a place in the
library above–-if they make it that far. The failure rate is high.
Unpublished books outnumber published ones by an estimated eight to
one. (p. 1).
Jasper. Lost in a Good Book (New York: Viking, 2002) 399 p.
agent Thursday Next finds the Library of the Jurisfiction Dept. which
allows her access to the realities of all books.
in a long, dark, wood-paneled corridor lined with bookshelves that
reached from the richly carpeted floor to the vaulted ceiling.... The
library appeared endless; in both directions the corridor vanished
into darkness with no definable end. But this wasn’t important.
Describing the library would be like going to see a Turner and
commenting on the frame. On all of the walls, end after end, shelf
after shelf, were books. Hundreds, thousands, millions of
books. Hardbacks, paperbacks, leatherbound, uncorrected proofs,
handwritten manuscripts, everything. I stepped closer and
rested my fingertips lightly against the pristine volumes. They felt
warm to the touch, so I leaned closer and pressed my ear to the
spines. I could hear a distant hum, the rumble of machinery, people
talking, traffic, seagulls, laughter, waves on rocks, wind in the
winter branches of trees, distant thunder, heavy rain, children
playing, a blacksmith’s hammer-—a million sounds all happening
together. And then, in a revelatory moment, the clouds slid back from
my mind and a crystal-clear understanding of the very nature of books
shone upon me. They weren’t just collections of words arranged
neatly on a page to give the impression of reality–each of
these volumes was reality. The similarity of these books to
the copies I had read back home was no more than the similarity a
photograph has to its subject. These books were alive! (p.
librarian is the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. He
tells Thursday how to enter the books and warns her of agents who
have been lost forever in books.
Harvey. Hot Saturday (New York: Knopf, 1926) 261 p.
Budlong is the librarian in a small western town. Alma's father is a
retired judge and the Budlongs were once social leaders in the town.
Now that old Judge Budlong is old and senile their social prestige
has fallen on hard times but Alma still has influence. “She was one
of the first women in town to smoke openly. Not many others would
have dared to start, but when Alma started, several dared to follow.”
the library, too, she had done things no one else would have
attempted. She made the city council double the appropriation for
books and she made the board of governors buy whatever books she told
them to buy. She certainly had furnished the town with some spicy
reading. Out went the Elsie books and Mühlbach's historical romances
and a lot of other stuff that had slept under the dust for years. In
came H.G. Wells and Arnold Bennett and even Dreiser and Mencken. (p.
had once been involved with a man but he had left town suddenly. Now
a young friend describes her with
pity of youth full-blown for youth beginning to wane. Alma could
still make herself look young sometimes at night, but lying tired in
daylight she seemed almost middle-aged. Her figure was still good
and she had pretty ankles, but her neck was beginning to wrinkle and
she had a few grey hairs – and then her glasses.... Funny what a
handicap glasses were to a woman. Men never liked them and they must
be always falling off and getting in the way at critical moments....
That was another trouble with working. You wore glasses and looked
tired. Alma began to look old just about the time she went to work at
the library. (p. 30).
comments I think are meant to be more revealing of the young friend
than of Alma.
Kane X. The Infinite Library
(U.S.A.: Civil Coping Mechanisms, c2011) 510 p.
has taken Borges' “The Library
of Babel” and expanded it into a novel. It starts with a scholar
studying at the Vatican Library being recruited by a man named
Castellemare to work in the infinite library. Castellemare calls
himself a librarian. The infinite library comprises all possible
books. Occasionally one of the books escapes into the real world and
must be retrieved.
The scholar considers
working for Castellemare.
I had considered becoming a librarian, but I love books too much to
merely be a functionary who must fight a losing battle of
maintaining order in a collection that constantly expands, and the
gruff disrespect of the patrons who would wrongly re-shelf at will.”
The scholar explores the
infinite library on his own and eventually meets another librarian
named Jorge Luis Borges. He is friendly and explains the simple
be disruptive, keep the books in order, no smoking or eating, and no
defacement. (p. 333).
There is an order of silent,
hooded figures called Devorants who study in the library.
Lucile F. Marian-Martha. illustrations by Dorothea Warren (New
York: Dodd, Mead, 1936) 257 p.
school girls learn about libraries and begin their own library
careers in this novel for young people. Marian Pearce is pretty,
likes lettering and binding; tasks in which she works alone. Martha
Webster is plain looking, but outgoing. She is an excellent
organizer. They both work in their high school library with the
enthusiastic, helpful librarian, Miss Hand, and the less enjoyable
Miss Brook. They think about choosing a career:
of course, Marian and Martha thought about being librarians. Whenever
some other vocational bubble burst, Marian thrilled to the idea of a
life devoted to books. "You know, Martha, I just love to read,"
she would say, "and Mother thinks being a librarian is such a
genteel occupation because you don't have to be commercial and you
can be lovely and charming like those girls at the Public Library
loan desk who always know the latest novels because they have so much
time to read."
Marian," objected Martha, "you know yourself how much work
there is to do in a library because you've helped to do it. Just look
at Miss Hand! She never gets any time to read until she goes home.
And think of all she has to know! She must have studied years and
years." (p. 69-70).
high school they get summer jobs at the local public library. The
librarian is Mr. Fisher. Martha helps with the newsletter and spends
time in various parts of the library. Marian works in Cataloging,
which does not work out because she finds that she makes too many
minor errors. It is here that the girls learn of the requirements to
become librarians and the fact that librarians are "the most
poorly paid professional workers in the United States" (p. 144).
girls attend the same college and then library school. Martha helps
at an ALA convention and gets to meet Mr. Ruddiger, ALA President,
and Miss Englebrecht, President elect.
library school Marian, who has specialized in rare books, gets a job
as director of a special collection in her college library. Martha
goes to the Crenville County Library, where she is hired by Jackson
Byrd to help build a new library system in an impoverished southern
John. The Road to Los Angeles (Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press,
1996) 164 p.
of grandeur and sexual obsession cloud the mind of young Arturo
Bandini. He goes to a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library to
read books he cannot understand and becomes infatuated with the
beautiful blond librarian, Miss Hopkins. The facts about Miss Hopkins
are engulfed in Bandini's ravings. “Miss Hopkins was in the
library every afternoon, floating on white legs in the folds of her
loose dresses in an atmosphere of books and cool thoughts.” (p.
Janet Ayer. Rich Man, Poor Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936)
Jackson is the assistant librarian in Elida, Kansas in 1912. The head
librarian is the portly, enthusiastic Miss Jessup. Babs, “slim
lithe and young” (p. 59), is known as an eloquent speaker on
political topics, especially prohibition and female suffrage.
girl took off her hat with a dramatic gesture and disclosed the fact
that her hair was cut short, like a boy's. It lay close to her head
instead of puffing out the way other women's hair did, and it made
her look very queer-- advanced … (p. 60).
gives up her small library and her small town to marry a rich boy
from Chicago where they move and become involved in national
politics. Although she returns to Elida for visits she never goes
back to library work.
Rachel. Words of Love (New York: Avalon Books, 1999) 183 p.
Lee is a librarian who works for the Library Service Board in
Toronto. She organizes a poetry contest and then falls in love with
the winner, a lumberjack from British Columbia. When his town
advertizes for a librarian she takes the job.
Loula Grace. Three at the Wedding (New York: Dell, 1960, c1953)
Nichols works at the public library in Kelso, Illinois under Head
Librarian Miss Mattie Crowinshield. When a young man begins
frequenting the library Frances gets to know him better. She helps
him get a readers card. Eventually they get married and Frances quits
Sophia Belzer. Wilma Rogers (New York: Dial, 1941) 352 p.
a fresh new MLS from Columbia University Wilma takes the train to
Milo, Illinois to begin her professional career. The Milo Public
Library is a bare little storefront but Wilma sets about to improve
had mentally divided her work into two parts. Outside, she must raise
substantial amounts of money, and make the people of Milo aware of,
and enthusiastic about, their library. Inside, she must bring the
library to the highest possible level of performance and raise the
circulation to the point where the demand exceeded the supply, and
the people themselves began to clamor for a better library. Then, not
even a new building would be too much to suggest. (p. 36-37).
is enthusiastic and friendly and soon has more people coming to check
books out. She also improves the technical aspects of the library
such as the catalog and circulation records. While typing a catalog
card she explains to a friend, “'Some librarians get a passionate
joy out of cataloging …. It gives me a dry kind of satisfaction.'”
becomes friends with the chairman of the library board who is also
the owner of the corn factory where practically everyone in town
works. His wife is an artist and rarely visits Milo, but when she
does she meets Wilma and is impressed. She donates money for a new
library building. Meanwhile Wilma's frequent visits with the chairman
cause gossip in the town.
with every other aspect of librarianship Wilma is ready with ideas
about architectural design.
so much land,” Wilma was saying, “the building can have depth and
breadth instead of great height. The main thing is that every part of
it receive much daylight. The second essential is that there be
separate rooms for the young children, the adults, and the users of
reference material. The book stacks should be open, but placed so
that everyone using them must pass close to the librarian's desk.
Wherever possible, formality should give way to grace. The library
has to make up for the lack of beauty in so many homes. Then, as it
is to be a memorial, it must have dignity ….” (p. 185).
so the new library is built. Wilma organizes a Friends of the Library
and begins a story time. Sometimes she muses about aspects of
librarianship such as the lack of men in the profession. When the
town gossip overtakes her she reflects on her job and life.
odors, sights, sounds, touch of all the library came crowding into
the small office. She felt the books in their order. She smelled the
ink of the new books. She weighed in her palms an encyclopedia
volume, and sensed the excitement of the chase after a reference
question. She felt the hostess-like pleasure of welcoming callers to
the library. Even the chafing moments of the library were sweet,
compared to not having any more moments here at all....
was a gentle world. A world lit by small fires. Giving knowledge,
opening blinded eyes, and satisfying minds' thirsts—these were the
spiritual call of librarianship. She was served as she served others.
I told myself that I needed something besides my work; that the town
was so limited. He took me out. I began to love him.”
mouth grew dry, and the words seemed to peel from it.
I fell in love. I said I had a right to life …. But maybe life and
love are things librarians have no right to.” (p. 328).
Wilma. First they tried to give her job to the old untrained woman
who had mismanaged the library before. Then they wanted to give it to
the untrained daughter of a board member. Even though Wilma has to
leave Milo, her final victory is to convince the board to hire
another trained librarian in her place.
Marian. Bear (Boston: Nonpareil Books, 2002, c1976) 121 p.
aging librarian works in a Canadian historical institute.
when the weather turned and the sun filtered into even her basement
windows, when the sunbeams were laden with spring dust and the old
tin ashtrays began to stink of a winter of nicotine and
contemplation, the flaws in her plodding private world were made
public, even to her, for although she loved old shabby things, things
that had already been loved and suffered, objects with a past, when
she saw that her arms were slug-pale and her fingerprints grained
with old, old ink, that the detritus with which she bedizened her
bulletin boards was curled and valueless, when she found that her
eyes would no longer focus in the light, she was always ashamed, for
the image of the Good Life long ago stamped on her soul was quite
different from this, and she suffered in contrast. (p. 2).
But when she is sent to an
island in northern Ontario to catalog a private library left to the
institute she finds a strange new life.
Cloak of Night and Daggers (New York: Daw Books, 1997) 345 p.
Ruth Marlow continues to pursue her elf in this third book of The
Twelve Treasures. Another elf named Gauvain Makindeor who is the
Royal Librarian of Chandrakar seeks his treasure. Makindeor finds the
precious Book of Airts and hides it in one of the many libraries in
upstate New York. One of these is the Basingstoke College Library.
The librarian here is Mrs. Dean who has not left the library in 25
years. “Barely five feet tall, she wore a long-sleeved
midcalf-length dress in some dark flowered pattern. There was a
paisley shawl around her shoulders, clasped firmly in place with an
enormous jet and amber brooch. Her steel-gray hair was done up into a
thick, hairpin-studded bun from which protruded a number of yellow #2
pencils, and she wore little wire-rimmed glasses that made her
resemble drawings Holly had seen of Miss Manners.” (p. 198). Two
minor characters are also librarians: Carol Goodchild and Penny
Cup of Morning Shadows (New York: Daw Books, 1995) 317 p.
this second book of the Twelve Treasures series Ruth Marlowe has her
library degree and a job at the Ryerson Memorial Library in
Ippisiqua, New York. She and the mysterious Library Director
Nicodemus Brightlaw fall through a magical bookcase in the library
basement and find themselves in the land of the elves. They later
meet Philip LeStrange, one of the library students from the first
book. It turns out Philip has been living in the elf world having
fallen through the same bookcase.
Rosemary. The Sword of Maiden’s Tears (New York: Daw Books,
1994) 284 p.
School Students at Columbia University help an elf prince recover his
magic sword. The students are Ruth Marlowe who is “tall and
blue-eyed, brown-haired and sensible,” (p. 9); Naomi Nasmyth, a
doctoral candidate, is “tall and vivid and poised and serene and
organized. Black hair and hazel eyes and sangfroid that Emma Peel
would envy—not to mention good at games,” (p. 19); Michael
Peacock, a tall handsome man with a mysterious past; Philip
LeStrange, a sarcastic computer geek; and Jane Greyson, a short,
slightly plump girl who has “wit but no real sense of humor.”
Jane came from a family that could (and did) trace its lineage back
to the Signers (of the Declaration of Independence) on both sides and
who (Ruth gathered, mostly by omission) felt that a library degree
was the height of intellectual attainment for womankind; their
collective psychic feet firmly mired in the past where the two
professional tracks for nonmarrying daughters were nurse and
librarian.” (p. 40). Library studies don’t enter into the story,
but get mentioned occasionally: “I hate cataloging, I hate
cataloging exams; everybody buys LC cataloging nowadays which means
that some gnome in the basement of the Library of Congress or
probably his computer is making us all file Outlaws of Sherwood under
Folklore and books on the Miss America pageant under Beauty Aids and
what’s the point?” (p. 145).
Clyde. Raney (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985) 245 p.
Shepard is the assistant librarian at Listre Community College in
North Carolina. Although we do not read much about his professional
work we get to know him pretty well, through the eyes of his young
wife. He plays banjo and loves gospel music. While married life is
not everything he hoped for he is committed to making his marriage
Umberto. The Name of the Rose (San Diego: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, c1983) 502 p. A Helen and Kurt Wolff book. Originally
published as Il nome della rosa (Fabbri-Bompiani, c1980)
Translated from the Italian by William Weaver.
murder is committed in a medieval monastery library.
library was laid out on a plan which has remained obscure to all over
the centuries, and which none of the monks is called upon to know.
Only the librarian has received the secret, from the librarian who
preceded him, and he communicates it, while still alive, to the
assistant librarian, so that death will not take him by surprise and
rob the community of that knowledge. And the secret seals the lips of
both men. Only the librarian has, in addition to that knowledge, the
right to move through the labyrinth of the books, he alone knows
where to find them and where to replace them, he alone is responsible
for their safekeeping. The other monks work in the scriptorium and
may know the list of the volumes that the library houses. But a list
of titles often tells very little; only the librarian knows, from the
collocation of the volume, from its degree of inaccessibility, what
secrets, what truths or falsehoods, the volume contains. Only he
decides how, when, and whether to give it to the monk who requests it
.... (p. 37).
librarian is Malachi of Hildesheim. When he shows visitors the list
of volumes the following ensues:
in what order are they listed?" He quoted from a text I did not
know but which was certainly familiar to Malachi: "'The
librarian must have a list of all books, carefully ordered by
subjects and authors, and they must be classified on the shelves with
numerical indications.' How do you know the collocation of each
showed him some annotations beside each title. I read: "iii, IV
gradus, V in prima graecorum"; "ii, V gradus, VII in tertia
anglorum," and so on. I understood that the first number
indicated the position of the book on the shelf or gradus, which was
in turn indicated by the second number, while the case was indicated
by the third number; and I understood also that the other phrases
designated a room or a corridor of the library, and I made bold to
ask further information about these last distinctions. Malachi looked
at me sternly: "Perhaps you do not know, or have forgotten, that
only the librarian is allowed access to the library. It is therefore
right and sufficient that only the librarian know how to decipher
in what order are the books recorded in this list?" William
asked. "Not by subject, it seems to me." He did not suggest
an order by author, following the same sequence as the letters of the
alphabet, for this is a system I have seen adopted only in recent
years, and at that time it was rarely used.
library dates back to the earliest times," Malachi said, "and
the books are registered in order of their acquisition, donation, or
entrance within our walls."
are difficult to find, then," William observed.
is enough for the librarian to know them by heart and know when each
book came here. As for the other monks, they can rely on his memory."
assistant librarian is Berengar of Arundel, "a pale-faced young
man" (p. 82).
Daniel. The Judas Testament (New York: HarperPaperback, 1995) 464
Gould is assistant curator of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin
and an expert in biblical manuscripts. He is drawn into an
international plot involving a mysterious scroll. Jack meets Yuri
Volnukhin, director of the Russian State Library. Yuri explains that
the Library is in possession of many priceless treasures plundered
from the Nazis at the end of World War II. These include many ancient
Olivia. Close His Eyes (New York: Harper & Brothers, c1961)
bibliographer named John Dryden is hired to catalogue a deceased
poet's papers. Dryden does not like to be called a librarian.
the first place I'm not one; you have to have a special sort of
degree for it. In the second place, we all know what librarians are;
they are nice middle-aged ladies who whisper and tell you not to
mistreat the books. I am fond of many of them. But I am not one. (p.
speaks to the assistant college librarian, Miss Boucher, when he
finds his papers have been tampered with. She explains that a spare
key to the rare book vault is kept on a nail next to the door “for
convenience.” (p. 153).
Charles J. Murder
in a Library (New York: A.L. Burt, c1931) 302 p.
Merton, reference librarian at a large urban public library, is found
murdered in her office. She is well known and not well liked: "No
one had ever called the reference librarian good-looking; there were
many who said she was just the opposite. Eccentric in everything she
did, like many of her type, her clothes ran to vivid, extreme
colors." (p. 9-10). "... the librarian was a stickler for
formality. Perhaps her long years of service at a small salary had
soured her, for there was no doubt her disposition was not of the
best. Few were the people that would have come into her office
uninvited." (p. 20). "She came from one of the old families
of the city. In her childhood they had been wealthy, but the
influence and money had vanished years ago. She had been a soured,
neurotic old maid, whose tongue poured out irony and contempt."
murder in a library causes some surprise: "Did you ever hear of
a fool crime like this, in a library, a place filled with books, with
nice young girls and cranky old maids? What under heavens is there in
a library to bring crime?" (p. 107). The answer soon follows:
the women in the libraries are nice women, as you say, and the
building is very much a public place. They are dealing all the time
with what we call the 'dear public,' and sometimes the public is not
so nice. All day long they meet various types of people; some who are
intelligent, and some--the majority--who are not. Nice people, as you
say, but also neurotics, cranks, selfish people. It's not an easy
task and often it does things to them."
mean this. Many of the women in that building have been there for
years. Their lives are cramped to the extent that they are a bit
unnatural. As they grow older, like all people who have put away from
them a home and children, they become a little self-centered. Once, I
suppose, there were more jealousies and more neurotics in our public
libraries than in any other place, unless in the churches...."
once libraries were run only by women and by women who were given the
jobs because of two things--family or position. They must earn a
living and it was thought anyone could hand out books. So the
libraries were filled with narrow, repressed, neurotic women, whose
outlook on life had become a bit warped and soured. You see, in that
case, instead of saying nothing could happen in a library, you should
have said, anything might happen." (p. 108-9).
above remarks notwithstanding, the Head Librarian is a man, Mr. Henry
Spicer, a well-liked and dedicated professional. About the library
staff in general, however, we read, "as a rule librarians were
not bookish people" (p. 180). "The library staff would know
they were in the safe, but they would not be very much interested in
the safe or its contents. When the days' work was over, books were
the last thing they wished to see" (p. 232). The story involves
stolen rare books.
Charles J. Streaked with Crimson
(New York: Collier, c1929) 280 p. Front Page Mysteries, second
Tripp is the “thin, little nervous librarian” (p. 101) in the
small coastal town of Mansfield. She is curious and is always
snooping on her neighbors. But when she finds one of them murdered
she loses her curiosity forever.