It got me wondering, though: why are the votes for our own kind so spread, even among a group of library lovers? Perhaps it’s because few librarian characters who rise to “literary fame” are the everyday hero types. They get polarized on a spectrum that has magical action heros at one end, and shushing spinsters at the other. I suppose we can allow some of these in the service of the story, as explained by J.K. Rowling:
“I would like to apologize for you and any other librarians [crowd laughs] present here today, and my get-out clause is always if they’d had a pleasant, helpful librarian, half my plots would be gone. ‘Cause the answer invariably is in a book but Hermione has to go and find it. If they’d had a good librarian, that would have been that problem solved. So … sorry.”
But librarian stereotypes in literature are strong, and have been written about extensively. Instead, I find myself wishing I’d kept a list of the librarian characters — especially school librarians — who figure so unassumingly, yet importantly, in the lives of so many contemporary teen protagonists. Sometimes they are a listening ear. Sometimes they are a teacher. And sometimes, they are simply a person with a neutral space that is safe — safer than the cafeteria, safer than the bathroom, safer than the hallway. Much as JKR would not have had a plot without a “bad librarian” to allow a child researcher to be autonomous, many realistic fiction books would falter without the inclusion of a trustworthy, non-parent adult and a refuge in which to recover, find kindred spirits, and make plans.
Alas, my list of the Everyday Hero Librarians will have to be a work in progress, for the library-as-refuge is not a searchable subject except in my own foggy memory. What books/characters would you include?
–Becky O’Neil, currently reading Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith