By Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department
Originally published on April 17, 2015
A few days ago, I was having a relaxing night watching the Fellowship of the Rings and eating dinner, when I had a sudden revelation about the beginning of the movie. When (spoiler alert!) Gandalf realizes that the Ring left to Frodo might be a dangerous and evil object, what’s the first thing he does? He rides through the night, straight to the LIBRARY! Gandalf went to the library to save the world and fight evil. I know, technically, he went to an archive where they preserve all of the important historical documents, but it’s still a library.
In all these wonderful fictional stories, I know that information from a library has saved the world, but that made me start wondering, what about the librarians who saved the world (because we all know that real librarians are awesome every day, right?). So in honor of National Library Week, here are six librarians who saved the world, and just so you know, past this point are a lot of spoilers. BEWARE!
6. ZOE HERIOT
For those of you who are familiar with one of the longest running sci-fi series, Doctor Who, Zoe was one of the companions to the Second Doctor from 1968-1969. She is first introduced to the Doctor while working as a librarian on a 21st century space station. She had a photographic memory and was incredibly smart, especially in mathematics, so basically she’s a complex human calculator. On her most intense adventure with the Doctor, her skills and intellect are instrumental in calculating an explosive chain reaction to destroy enemy ships to stop the Cybermen invasion.
5. REX LIBRIS
Rex is the main character in a science fiction/humor comic book. Everyone knows him as the head Librarian at the Middleton Public Library, but what they don’t know is that he is actually over a thousand years old and was the original librarian at the Library of Alexandria. As a member of the Ordo Biblioteca (a secret international society of librarians), and with the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, Rex travels to the farthest reaches to fight the powers of darkness and ignorance, as well as to collect late book fees.
4. EVELYN (Evie) CARNAHAN
Evie could read and write Ancient Egyptian, decipher hieroglyphics and hieratic, and was the only person within a thousand miles who could properly code and catalog the library where she worked. Although she was surrounded by more action inclined individuals (an adventurer mother, an explorer father, a treasure-hunting brother, married to a gunslinger and close friends with a Medjai warrior), she was proud to be a librarian. And rightly so, because the first time she encountered a resurrected mummy, it was her knowledge and research ability that allowed her to strip the cursed mummy of his supernatural abilities.
3. RUPERT (Ripper) GILES
Buffy the vampire slayer’s long-suffering mentor may have seemed like a mild mannered librarian when first introduced. However, as the series continued, it was revealed that he was a wild and dangerous teenager who ended up knee-deep in dark magic, and that magical dabbling ended up costing a friend’s life. While he helped save the world many times with his reference and research skills, he would show that his dark past left him capable of making difficult and morally-questionably decisions to protect not only the world, but those that he loves.
2. BARBARA GORDON
Barbara Gordon was a librarian at the Gotham Public Library, and you might also know her as BATGIRL, or ORACLE. As a crime fighter information was her true weapon, along with her ability to kick butt. She had a near flawless memory and was a computer expert, and after her spine was broken, she continued to fight crime by acting as a information broker for superheroes (and later operates as the leader of a full team of female crimefighters). And as all librarians know, the librarian’s special power is finding and organizing information. She had no superpowers, like Batman himself, and yet she was able to protect others and defeat villains who were powered.
1. FLYNN CARSEN
The main reason I gave Flynn the top spot is because his title is The Librarian. Flynn is the guardian of a secret collection of magical artifacts at the Metropolitan Public Library. Originally he was a somewhat lost but insanely intelligent individual (by the time he was 31 he had 22 academic degrees) and it wasn’t until one of his professors kicked him out of college that he stumbled on his librarian career. Unlike most librarians, however, he travels the world searching for dangerous artifacts like the Judas Chalice, the Spear of Destiny, and King Solomon’s Mines and defeating those who would use those artifacts to harm others. He saved the world with his intellect, knowledge, research skills, and the fencing skills he learned from the sword Excalibur. Also, he had apprentice librarians who had their own TV series and saved the world on a weekly basis.
By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
This year’s theme supplies a good reason: “Libraries Transform.” Over twenty years ago, some were saying libraries would go the way of VHS tapes, floppy disks, and beanie babies. But libraries are still going strong! Again, one big reason is how libraries transform people who visit. Please let me illustrate with a few examples.
One morning as the doors open to WCPL, a very focused patron marched in and went immediately to the computer center where he started searching for jobs. After 20 minutes of what he called, “Nothing,” he asked for help. He explains how he just lost his job and desperately needed to find employment. A librarian responds to his request by leading him to a few of the better job search sites, while at the same time helping him narrow his search. This was so helpful that he found three promising jobs to apply for. But he soon asks for help again, as his computer skills were challenged by the application process. The librarian takes time to help him set up a profile and become familiar with just what the applications are seeking. Upon finishing the applications, the man stops to tell the helpful librarian, “Thanks for being so kind to me and taking time. It restores my belief in human kindness.” This patron continues to come to the library, and will never forget how a librarian took time to help transform his situation.
Several weeks later a library patron approached the reference desk with a request. She had retired from two careers but, in her words, “had missed the computer age.” Her children and grandchildren asked her again and again to learn computers, but she held back. Until today. The patron wanted to “turn over a new leaf” and learn how to use a computer, so as to surprise her children by being able to look up answers online all by herself. The librarian gladly set up a one-on-one time with the patron, during which time, the patron disclosed, “I have to tell you, I have arthritis and trembling so bad that I have trouble using the mouse.” Not to be deterred, the librarian scheduled three months of one-on-one times starting with exercises on using the mouse. Although slow going at first, the patron learned to control and use the mouse, which led to creating her first email account. She learned to make and evaluate online searches as well as how to make lists and write letters in Microsoft Word. Over three months she went from being fully dependent on the librarian to semidependence to joyous independence. She reported how her children were impressed with her “entering the computer age,” but that now she uses the computer just because she enjoys it. The patron and her family were grateful that “libraries transform.”
There are many other stories I wish we could relate about patrons who experience the library as a place for transformation. They would talk about learning new skills like Excel; finding interesting books never before considered; discovering Powerspeak Languages to learn a language for their summer vacation; enjoying their first eBook; seeing a program on square foot gardening that doubled their gardening production; tailoring a resume and cover letter for a new career; finding a dyslexia friendly font; and many other stories. All would tell of how libraries transform and become very personal reasons why we celebrate National Library Week.