In 2014, author and photographer Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on Slate.com called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” a montage of portraits and a tribute to librarians. Since then, Cassidy has made it his mission to remind us of how essential librarians and libraries are to our communities. His subjects are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and personal style-from pink hair and leather jackets to button-downs and blazers. In short, not necessarily what one thinks a librarian looks like. The nearly 220 librarians photographed also share their personal thoughts on what it means to be a librarian. This is What A Librarian Looks Like also includes original essay by some of our most beloved writers, journalists, and commentators including Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Nancy Pearl, Cory Doctorow, Paula Poundstone, Amanda Palmer, Peter Sagal, Jeff VanderMeer, John Scalzi, Sara Farizan, Amy Dickinson, and others. Cassidy also profiles a handful of especially influential librarians and libraries.
I received this book from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I took way longer than necessary to finish this book. What attracted me to this book was the fact that it celebrated Libraries and Librarians and I’d never seen a book like this before so I wanted to find out what these Librarians said about the profession I want to go into one day.
Kyle Cassidy put together pictures, quotes, conversations with authors (I only recognised two- Neil Gaiman and G.R.R. Martin) and stories from different people about how the library shaped or changed their life. Many of these stories spoke about the library being this fantastical place that you walk past everyday but you don’t notice it unless 1. you’re looking for it or 2. you’re lost and just happened to find yourself at the doors.
I feel like Cassidy did this book justice. He worked years on it to make it what it is and I’m honestly very impressed with it. I’m not sure if I’d ever read this book again but I want to own a hardcopy of it so it can be on display in my personal library. If people ask me what’s so great about libraries, why be a librarian? I’d like to give them this book as an answer and explanation all in one.
One of my favourite quotes in this book is pictured below:
Susan K. McClelland says: “Librarians are warrior princes and princesses wielding book love like swords! We are ever vigilant, curious, intelligent, and kind. Libraries are the banners that we carry proudly into the fray! Forward, ever forward!”
I like that. I love that she says librarians are warriors. I want to be a warrior princess one day too. Imagine if my kids went to school and on career day they ask them what their mom is and they reply: a warrior princess.
As I read each page of this book I found out so much I didn’t know. I learnt with each new story and I felt this huge surge of pride rush through me because this! This is what I aspire to become one day. I want to pass on the fact that knowledge is power, knowledge can be found in books and libraries hold more than just those books. The amount of things that libraries and librarians do for us is so widely spread that you won’t know what you have until it’s not there anymore.
G.R.R. Martin on why certain characters (in his books) appear to be around libraries more than others: “Well, Tyrion in particular says that books are a weapon. As a sword needs a whetstone to keep it sharp, a mind needs books, and his mind is his weapon. He has no physical prowess in a world that values and esteems physical prowess above all, so he has to fight the knights and the lords with his mind. And books are a way to keep the mind sharp, keep the mind flexible, test yourself against other voices, other ideas, and learn things. Because you ever know what you’re going to need to know in some future time.”
This book made me want to visit my childhood library and hug all the librarians and thank them for existing. I hope that one day I can be even a small fraction of what they are. Thank you librarians!
Read: 5 May 2017