Through one of my searches through my local community college library consortium, I stumbled upon Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession, written by librarian Kathleen Low and published by McFarland in 2007. With such an intriguing title, I requested the book and have enjoyed myself immensely flipping through all the collected bits of trivia. Some of that trivia has inspired some previous (and future) posts on this blog.
It is a book to be savored and not rushed through. It is definitely NOT a book that needs to be read straight from beginning to end — it is a book meant for opening up and reading whatever catches your eye. And lots of things caught my eye, including:
- The preface, in which the author describes when, as a young librarian, she dressed up for Halloween as the prototypical Spinster Librarian, complete with bun, high-necked blouse with cameo pin, and chunky block heels. No one at work commented on her outfit — they weren’t sure it was a costume!
- The first chapter on famous librarians, which I described in an earlier post about J. Edgar Hoover. Lots of “I didn’t know that!” shout-outs.
- A section in the fifth chapter about librarians in politics (“If librarians were wallflowers, they’d never get elected to office”), as well as a small section of librarians in film. I was able to add a couple of short films to my Short Films & Documentaries list.
- The essays in the ninth chapter about the “ideal librarian” — essays from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- One of my favorites was “The Up-to-Date Librarian” published in 1901: ”the up-to-date librarian must have, besides her knowledge of books, and her technical training, a business training; she must be, first of all, a practical business woman.”
- One of my LEAST favorite from this section came from “Women as Librarians” by Dr. C. Norrenberg in 1901: ”The hopelessness of the learned library career for women need not trouble her, however, for the field of woman is not that of learning, but rather of culture, and that of the librarian not in the scholarly, but in the public library.” A decidedly male perspective of the times — and with his (misplaced) condescension, Norrenberg manages to insult both women AND public libraries. Hmph.
- In the final chapter, interesting tidbits about library history, including library curses (!), library bookcase innovations in the 16th century, and the Camel Library Service in the very recent history in Kenya (begun in 1996, see above).
The best thing about the book is its fun perspective on all things librarian — after all, as Kathleen Low states in her introduction, “Today’s librarians are anything but boring — so be prepared to have your preconceptions shattered.”