bookish librarian


  1. Of, relating to, or resembling a book.
  2. Fond of books; studious.
  3. Relying chiefly on book learning: took a bookish rather than a pragmatic approach in solving the problem.
  4. Pedantic; dull. See synonyms at pedantic.
  5. Literary and formal in tone. Used of words.

bookishly bookish·ly adv.
bookishness bookish·ness n.

Here it is: I became a librarian because I love books. I love to read. That’s it. That’s all. Maybe you did, too. I love touching books, straightening them on shelves, feeling the raised lettering on their spines. I love running my fingertips up and down their pages, especially a new book with glossy pages. I love sniffing those, too, inhaling the new book smell.

And I became a librarian rather reluctantly, too. Was told by family, “The way you love books, you ought to be a librarian.” Or, “You’d make a good librarian the way you got your nose buried in a book all the time.” But I raged against familial interference and decided I’d be a journalist, then an artist, then an ecologist, then a political scientist/activist, then returned to being an artist, and then, finally, settled into being a librarian.

I love physically processing books. You know, you remember that, possibly? When I worked as a page at a public library I actually signed an agreement, legal-like and all, so I could volunteer in technical services in order to gain more skills. Yeah. The DireKtor, a very lovely man, actually, was concerned I might sue him or the library for back wages since I was already employed there.

Geez. The lengths a person must  go to in order to learn new skills. For the most part, my work in technical services dealt with physically processing books. I put mylar covers on the book jackets and also applied protective plastic laminated covers to paperbacks. The latter took skill. The first dozen or two books I covered were awful. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and took pride in the process and in the look of the finished book. Then, and even now, when I came across a paperback I’d critique its cover to determine whether it was skilfully applied or not. Most of the time, it was not.

Surely this is one of those jobs that are outsourced to B&T.

The great irony of my life as a librarian is that I rarely ever touch a book in my daily work flow. Maybe, if I’m tending the reference desk, I’ll touch a style manual or dictionary. I sit in front of a pc, estranged from books.

This wasn’t going to be my first adj discourse, “bookish librarian,” but reading Rachel Cooke’s Time to Go Into Battle to Save Our World of Books, about the state of UK’s bookless libraries, inspired me to go to the mat about why libraries should focus on books.

Read this bit. The way Rachel describes her love of libraries and books and did something to me, and it should so move you, as well:

And then there’s this place which, for me, is in another league altogether when it comes to instant nostalgia: Broomhill Library, Sheffield, outside which I am standing, in the rain. I gaze at it across the street and, as if by magic, I ache with longing, just as I used to in the days when a trip here was the most enjoyable thing I could possibly imagine: when books were all I wanted, when I thought of them as pieces of ripe fruit, waiting to be peeled and devoured. I have never given up being grateful for the fact that, when I became a reader, so many of these juicy things were so readily available.

I’m not one of those new-fangled librarians who were drawn into the profession because the promise of new media and new technology suckered them in and they had a little too much personality to go into IT work. I’m at odds with the direction my library’s resources go. Our Dean spends our money on online resources to support the online degree programs and distance programs. Our book budget….well, she’s been scolded for referring to it as a “book budget.” It’s supposed to be called a “materials budget.”

Don’t you believe that books should be at the heart of the library experience?

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