The Quotable Librarian | Inspirational quotes from famous librarians

I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like I need some inspiration around here. I haven’t done a “Quotable Librarian” post in quite awhile — the last one was over two years ago, in February 2015! — so I thought it high time for another post in the series.

I thought about what kind of theme would be appropriate, and inspirational, this time around. And that’s when I came to seeking out inspirational quotes about libraries and librarians from real-life librarians themselves, including writers who were librarians.

Let the inspiration commence!


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


“I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.”

~ “Poem of the Gifts” [“Poema de los Dones”], Dreamtigers, 1960

"Jorge Luís Borges 1951" by Grete Stern (1904-1999) is in the Public Domain

“Jorge Luís Borges 1951” by Grete Stern (1904-1999) is in the Public Domain

This is arguably the most famous of all library-related quotes, from the writer and librarian Jorge Luis Borges. He rose to be the Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955, but was forced to resign (twice, in 1946 and in 1973) due to political clashes with Juan Perón. But all the while, he was writing.

“I cannot think it unlikely that there is such a total book on some shelf in the universe. I pray to the unknown gods that some man — even a single man, tens of centuries ago — has perused and read this book. If the honor and wisdom and joy of such a reading are not to be my own, then let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.”

“Deutsches Requiem,” Emece edition, 1974


Carla Hayden (1952- )


“Librarians were called during that time [during the Patriot Act] feisty fighters for freedom, and we were very proud of that label.”

~ interview with Jeffrey Brown, PBS, 2016

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress (2016- )

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress (2016- )

Carla Hayden is our current and 14th Librarian of Congress, becoming the first woman and the first African American to lead our national library. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees in Library Science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School, and she worked as a children’s and public librarian.


Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)


“To be a librarian, particularly a librarian for young adults, is to be a nourisher, to share stories, offer books full of new ideas. We live in a world which has changed radically in the last half century, and story helps us to understand and live creatively with change.”

~ Acceptance Speech for the Margaret Edwards Award, 1998

Madeleine L’Engle was a longtime librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. She won the Newbery Award in 1963 for the young adult classic novel, A Wrinkle in Time.

“”A Wrinkle in Time” writer Madeleine L’Engle shows off her writing spot” uploaded by gconversations, Standard YouTube License.


Beverly Cleary


“I haven’t been very enthusiastic about the commercialization of children’s literature. Kids should borrow books from the library and not necessarily be buying them.”

~2006 interview

“My mother always kept library books in the house, and one rainy Sunday afternoon — this was before television, and we didn’t even have a radio — I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered I was reading and enjoying what I read.”

~2011 interview

Beverly Cleary was raised in Oregon and became a librarian, first working as a children’s librarian and then at a medical hospital library during World War II. She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. Cleary has also written two entertaining autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995).

"Beverly Cleary in 1971" via State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives is in the Public Domain

“Beverly Cleary in 1971” via State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives is in the Public Domain


Avi (1937- )


“For some 25 years, I worked as a librarian… My life has always been with, around, and for books.”

~ Scholastic.com article

Avi (pen name of Edward Irving Wortis) is a writer of children’s and YA books, winning the Newbery Award in 2003 for Crispin. He was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, and I loved his two Newbery Honor books, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing But the Truth (1992). He was a librarian at the New York Public Library and at Trenton State College.

“Meet the Author: Avi” by adlit, Standard YouTube License.


Laura Bush (1946- )


“I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.”

“Every child in American should have access to a well-stocked school library. … An investment in libraries is an investment in our children’s future.”

~ As quoted in Biography Today : Profiles of People of Interest to Young Readers, 2003

Laura Bush was the First Lady of the United States from 2001-2009, and she worked as a school librarian in Texas. As First Lady, she helped establish the semi-annual National Book Festival.

"Norbert Claussen and Laura Bush," 2007, by Shealah Craighead, White House photographer, is in the Public Domain

“Norbert Claussen and Laura Bush,” 2007, by Shealah Craighead, White House photographer, is in the Public Domain


Nancy Pearl (1945- )


“The role of a librarian is to make sense of the world of information. If that’s not a qualification for superhero-dom, what is?”

~ as quoted in Seattle Times, 10 July 2003

Nancy Pearl is one of the most famous librarians of the modern age, well-known for her Book Lust series and philosophy that it’s okay to not finish reading a book if you don’t like it after 50 pages. She also was the model for the “shushing librarian” action figure doll!

“Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee” by Archie McPhee, Standard YouTube License.


Any favorite quotes of yours here? Or would you like to add a quote to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

And if you’re interested in reading more about famous real-life librarians, then check out:

 

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4 comments on “The Quotable Librarian | Inspirational quotes from famous librarians

  1. popegrutch says:

    I’ll be using some of these as signature lines for my emails in coming months! In the past, I’ve quoted Doctor Who: “You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!”

    • Do you often switch out email signature lines? I like the idea of using inspirational quotes that relate to the library! And that’s a good quote from Doctor Who 🙂

      • popegrutch says:

        We tend to be told to change them during fundraising drives and such, then when those are over, “change your signature line to your favorite quote about libraries,” so, yes, I can use these. Right now I’ve got Keith Richards: “When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.”

  2. […] glory: Librarian authors and their mediocre movie adaptations” as well as this post, “The Quotable Librarian | Inspirational quotes from famous librarians,” in which I seek out inspirational quotes about libraries and librarians from real-life […]

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