Librarians are some of my personal heroes, providing a beacon of light in a world that often seems hellbent on devolving into the movie Idiocracy faster than you can say illiterate.
This weekend, more than 12,000 members of this noble profession from around the country and as far as Norway descended upon Anaheim for the annual American Library Association conference, participating in panel discussions, snapping up new releases at publisher booths and learning what’s new and helpful in their field.
I was there Saturday and Sunday, signing books and chatting with librarians. They are a groovy bunch who are unabashedly enthusiastic about books and reading, and we can talk openly about having 1,000 books at home without feeling like freaks.
But what I want to leave you with is not a tale about how librarians are beleaguered, or have reinvented themselves for the digital age, or now sport tattoos and pink hair, but rather to muse on three short stories about librarians that I read recently.
The first is Aimee Bender’s brilliant “Quiet, Please,” in which a librarian takes off her glasses, steps out of her nondescript clothes and beds down a variety of male customers in her public library – in the stacks, in a quiet empty room! - on a grief-stricken day. It's in her collection "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt."
The second is “Magic For Beginners” from Kelly Link’s upcoming collection “Pretty Monsters,” a fantastically imagined tale in which a pirate TV show called “The Library” becomes a cult hit that holds audiences spellbound.
“The Library” features a brave and daring librarian named Fox who wears a green t-shirt and “long full skirts to hide her tail” as she battles pirate magicians in the Free People’s World-Tree Library, which contains at least 140 floors and includes lush parks and underground seas.
The third is “In the House of the Seven Librarians,” a lovely short story by Ellen Klages about a girl raised by nurturing librarians in a hermetically sealed library world. This terrific tale is included in “Firebirds Rising, an Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy.’
I’m really happy to see writers paying homage to librarians in such whimsical and often Borgesian prose. For many of us, libraries have been a lifelong refuge, and the place where we first felt that rush of exhilaration for books and reading. And we want to make sure that libraries continue to receive enough support to provide this for new generations of kids, as well as adults.
That’s why I was happy to see so many librarians in one place, talking about what they do. And I guess it’s really true, as Aimee Bender says in “Quiet Please,” that everyone’s got a librarian fantasy.