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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The Quotable Librarian

It’s time for another “Quotable Librarian” post! This time, in honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, it’s an Oscars special. These quotes are from films with reel librarian roles that have been nominated for Oscars.

Oscars statuettes

Photo from Flickr – Prayitno – click image for source


The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Sam Jaffe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider, an ex-con who was a prison librarian. How did he become a prison librarian?

I cause no trouble. The prison authorities appreciate that. They made me assistant librarian.
~ Doc Erwin Riedenschneider in The Asphalt Jungle


Love Story (1970)

Ali MacGraw was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Jennifer Cavalleri.

A Harvard law student and jock (O’Neal) falls in love with a Radcliffe music major (MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant.

This is their “meet cute” moment:

You have your own library, preppy.
~ Jennifer Cavalleri in Love Story


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Alec Leamas in the film adaptation of John le Carré’s novel. The story focuses on spy Alec Leamus (Richard Burton), who pretends to quit the Secret Service and defect to the Communists. As part of his cover as a failed spy, he starts work as a librarian at the psychical research library.

From the book:

Finally he took the job in the library. The Labour Exchange had put him on to it each Thursday morning as he drew his unemployment benefit, and he’d always turned it down.

“It’s not really your cup of tea,” Mr. Pitt said, “but the pay’s fair and the work’s easy for an educated man.”

And could this following quote about spies also apply to librarians (reel or real)?:

What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?
~ Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold


For more Oscars fun on the Reel Librarians site, see here for a post on Oscar-nominated reel librarians and here for a post on Best Picture nominees featuring reel librarians.

The Quotable Librarian

bss-613.QuotationMarksIt’s time for another “Quotable Librarian” round-up! This time, the quotes are generalizations about theoretical, or would-be, librarians.

The emphases in the quotations below are mine. (Also, the films in question may not actually include a reel librarian, just a description of a librarian.)


Juno (2007)


Juno MacGuff: The funny thing is that Steve Rendazo secretly wants me. Jocks like him always want freaky girls. Girls with horn-rimmed glasses and vegan footwear and Goth makeup. Girls who play the cello and wear Converse All-Stars and want to be children’s librarians when they grow up. Oh yeah, jocks eat that shit up.


Beautiful Girls (1996)


Gina: At first, after the breakup, you’ll have these visions. Of you alone, 57,58, walking around, wearing a nightgown, your hair in a bun, maybe you’re a librarian, heating up a can of soup for one, and worrying about the cobwebs that are growing in your womb.

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for my analysis post about this film]


Motherhood (2009)


Woman in Bakery Line: You have to admit it’s your own fault. If you have named her Sophie or Ella you wouldn’t be having this problem. But you gave her an Edna name.

Eliza: A what?

Woman in Bakery Line: You know, an Edna name? Like Mabel or Agnes or Velma…

Bakery Clerk: Yeah, like lesbian librarian names.

[click here for a post about reel librarian character names]

[click here for a post about anonymous librarian characters]


The Ugly Truth (2009)


Mike Chadway: [to Abby, on how to attract a guy] You have to be two people. The saint and the sinner. The librarian and the stripper.


The Quotable Librarian

It’s time for another “Quotable Librarian” round-up! This time, the theme focuses on descriptions of librarians, from either reel librarian characters themselves or from others.

Reel Librarians Collage

Click collage for image sources


Enough Said (2013)


Will:  Eva was telling me that there are no men at this party that she’s attracted to.

Albert [who works at a television archives library]:  That’s OK, there’s no one here I’m attracted to either.

 

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for my analysis post about this film]


Major League (1989)


Jake Taylor: [at the library, discussing Jake’s one-night stand with a flight attendant] I had no choice. She bet me fifty dollars that she had a better body than you and I had to defend your honor.

Lynn Wells [a special collections librarian]: Oh, what a bunch of bullshit! I have a much better body than she does!

[everyone in the library turns to look]

Jake Taylor: She’s right.

 

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for a round-up of librarians in sports movies]


The Music Man (1962)


Marian Paroo [a public librarian]: Do you think that I’d allow a common masher – ? Now, really, mama. I have my standards where men are concerned and I have no intention…

Mrs. Paroo: I know all about your standards and if you don’t mind my sayin’ so there’s not a man alive who could hope to measure up to that blend of Paul Bunyan, Saint Pat, and Noah Webster you’ve concocted for yourself out of your Irish imagination, your Iowa stubbornness, and your li’berry full of books!

 

[click here for more about the film]

[click here for a “Marian or Marion?” post]

[click here for a post about Shirley Jones’s memoir]


Party Girl (1995)


Mary: You don’t think I’m smart enough to work in your fucking library?

 

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for more of my “Hall of Fame” of personal reel librarian faves]


Pump Up the Volume (1990)


Nora [student worker at the school library]: I’m the “Eat me, beat me” lady.

 

[click here for more about the film]

[click here for more about the “Spirited Young Girl” character type]


The Station Agent (2003)


Joe Oramas: It’s the librarian fantasy, man. Glasses off, hair down, books flying.

Finbar McBride: She doesn’t wear glasses [referring to librarian character Emily, played by Michelle Williams]

Olivia Harris: Well, buy her some, it’s worth it.

 

[click here for more about the film]


VAmL (2009)


Gina: Now that is one fucking hot librarian.

Lynn: This is a library. Shh.

Gina: What? I’m just saying?

Lynn: I know. But you are supposed to be quiet in a library.


The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992)


Betty Lou Perkins [a children’s librarian at a local public library]: Why is it so hard to believe, that I might be exciting to other men? People have affairs. People have lovers. Why not me, Alex?

 

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for more about librarians as title characters]


You’re a Big Boy Now (1966)


Barbara Darling: You’re perfect.

Bernard Chanticleer [works at the New York Public Library and son of a rare books librarian]: Me?

Barbara Darling: Absolutely hunky dory perfect. You’re just what I need in my life.

 

[click here for more about the film]

The Quotable Librarian

Yikes, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a “Quotable Librarian” post. For more posts featuring reel librarian quotes, click here, here, here, and here.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans!

Quotable Librarian
Click collage for image sources

Big Bully (1996)


David (Rick Moranis):  I’ve always wanted to tell you what a big impact this library had on my life. It was the first place that really taught me the importance of reading, of books. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that.

Mrs. Rumpert, the school librarian (Norma MacMillan):  Green Eggs … and Ham.

David:  That’s right! That was my favorite book. How did you remember that?

Mrs. Rumpert:  It’s 8,862 days overdue.

David:  You’re serious.

Mrs. Rumpert:  It’s what I live for, dear.

[click here for more about this film]


Desk Set (1957)


Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn):  They can’t build a machine to do our job. There are too many cross-references in this place. I’d match my memory against any machines, any day.

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for a side-by-side comparison of the film version and the original play]


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart):  Where’s Mary? 

Clarence (Henry Travers):  You’re not going to like it, George. She’s an old maid. She never married. She’s just about to close up the library!

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for my “It’s a Wonderful … Stereotype?” post]

[click here for an exploration of the “Spinster Librarian” character role]


Major League (1989)


Lynn Wells (Rene Russo):  I stopped being an athelete three years ago. Books are my life now. Don’t you dare laugh. In two years, I’ve put together one of the best special collection departments in the country.

[click here for more about this film]


Party Girl (1995)


Judy Lindendorf (Sasha von Scherler):  Re-code it!

[click here for more about this film]

[click here for more of my “Hall of Fame” of personal reel librarian faves]