“There are typical librarians, but not all librarians are typical.” ~ Excerpt From: Peters, Elizabeth. “The Seventh Sinner”
Jacqueline (or ‘Jake’ as she is often known by) isn’t the librarian one usually encounters in fiction. Throughout her book series, she tries her hand at other professions – amateur detective (she already has the enquiring mind), sometimes historian (posing as a Richard III enthusiast), and romance writer (because she knows all the tropes and how to write them).
She’s also smart and independent. Sometimes she dresses as librarians are imagined to dress, but she wears it almost like a disguise or a who-do-I-want-to-be-today? outfit.
I wonder how many other librarians get the same response when confessing their profession? This is how a conversation at a social gathering usually progresses:
So what do you do?
I’m a librarian.
Whoa, no way! That’s cool. You don’t look like a typical librarian.
What does a typical librarian look like?
You know – twinset…bun…glasses (gestures)
Oh I only dress like that if they force me to be in a promotional photo.
Ah, do they like you to dress librarian…ish?
They like it about as much as I like being in photoshoots.
If you should come across a photo of a librarian looking like Wednesday Addams with her hair in a bun and cat eye glasses, it is probably me.
Yeeeaaah… much like that.
I read the Jacqueline Kirby series before I became a librarian. The books sided with me on my counter-assumption that librarianship was more interesting and librarians less typical than most portrayals allowed them to be.
I have since come across many different librarians in fiction that begin to traverse from what was once the norm. Not all of them are brilliant or remarkable, but it’s nevertheless a step outside what has been a fairly rigid square.
John Simm as “Frank” in Miranda
The sarcastic teen librarian that Lisa Simpson has a crush on in Bart’s Girlfriend
The Orang-utan librarian in the Discworld
I could do more of a list, but the thing I begin to notice is that many of the librarians who get to step outside of the norm are male, whereas female librarians are often still constricted to being the “Scary Librarian” or “Hot Librarian” (you will find both of these as tropes on the infamous TV Tropes website.
I trust I am mistaken in this – and that there are plenty more unique, female, fictional librarians out there too. But this is perhaps why I hold Jacqueline Kirby up as the quintessential example of a well-characterised fictional librarian.
Moreover, as fascinating as it is to find librarians in pop-culture, what I find most entertaining and ground-breaking are the other librarians I meet in my line of work.
It makes me think you could never easily pick in real life who a librarian might be. Sadly, in fictionalised media, it is often almost too easy.
“Quanto in aeternum”
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