Information Culture

Information Culture

Thoughts and analysis related to science information, data, publication and culture.

Famous people like libraries and librarians!


It's nice when people say nice things about you. It's especially nice when, in the midst of budget cuts and job losses and questions about your relevance, famous people make poetic defenses of the job you love.

Earlier this week, well known author, journalist and activist Cory Doctorow reminded us of an eloquent defense of libraries and librarians made by British author Neil Gaiman in a 2010 interview. Gaiman spoke of the concepts of "information overload" and "filter failure," though he didn't use those terms:

We’ve gone from looking at a desert, in which a librarian had to walk into the desert for you and come back with a lump of gold, to a forest, to this huge jungle in which what you want is one apple. And at that point, the librarian can walk into the jungle and come back with the apple.

Other famous folks have gone on record to discuss the merits of the library. The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards is on record talking about the democratizing affects of libraries:

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. The public library is a great equalizer.

Support Your Radical Militant Librarian

Folks have also acknowledged librarians' efforts against censorship, book banning, and invasions of privacy. When librarians protested against provisions of the PATRIOT act that allowed warrent-less seizures of library records, the FBI complained about those "radical, militant librarians."

Filmmaker Michael Moore has given librarians high compliments by calling us "subversive" and "among the most dangerous people in society" for, amongst other things, defending against publisher attempts to prevent his already printed book Stupid White Men from shipping to bookstores.

This librarian, Ann Sparanese, a woman I did not know, sent out an e-mail to a list of librarians, telling them that my book was being banned. Her letter shot around the Internet and, within days, letters from angry librarians were flooding Regan Books. I got a call from the Murdoch police.

"What did you tell the librarians?"

"Huh? I don't know any librarians."

"Yes, you do! You told them about what we are doing with your book and now “we're getting hate mail from librarians!"

"Hmm," I replied, “I guess that's one terrorist group you don't want to mess with."

Moore's book eventually shipped and went on to become a bestseller.

Of course, I can't write a post showcasing quotes about libraries without mentioning the favorite quote of many librarians from Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges:

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

There you have it, folks, famous people love libraries and librarians and we all want to be just like famous people. If you have a favorite librarian (I know it can be hard to choose), consider nominating them for the 2013 "I love my librarian" awards.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Email this Article