Top Ten Qualities of the Perfect Librarian

My friend who is a librarian recently wrote a blog post about the most annoying things library patrons do. While I agreed with her on some of the complaints (ex: patrons sneezing on librarians. What???), there were several which I thought would make the list of "most annoying things librarians do". I resisted the urge to blog this list. But today, at the library, I was reminded of these inner complaints that I have been developing for 23 years. Rather than vent my negativity, I decided to rework the list in a more positive light. In the end, it remained mostly negative. I'm pretty sure it will still be offensive to some people. The intention was a tongue-in-cheek, glib tone...mostly.

10. She is approachable. Sometimes, rarely, I will need to ask the librarian a question. When this happens, it is already extremely uncomfortable. Taking ten seconds to look up from the book she is reading to glare at me in annoyance does not qualify as "approachable".

9. She is humble. If I ask a question, she answers truthfully and non-pretentiously, and is not afraid to refer me to someone else. Brevity is a gift of the humble; she does not try to mask her lack of knowledge by long, complex, irrelevant tangents.

8. She is accessible via email or web chat, especially if she is involved in family history research. She responds promptly and her emails are concise and accurate. The best library I have ever dealt with for family history is in Rosenberg, Texas.

7. She lets you use the family history room. Many libraries have an entire back room somewhere that is full of dusty books with local genealogies and family trees. These are treasure troves. The best librarians unlock them and let you use them unsupervised, so you do not have to feel like someone is breathing down your neck. This gives you the advantage of not being embarrassed when their microfilm reader is completely backward from all the other ones you have used in your life, and you look like a fool the first ten minutes of trying to get set up.

6. She lets you put the books away in the book return. Sometimes, when the librarian is scanning in books, she will ask me to just put them on the counter. I don't like doing this because I know, I know she will look at the books I took out, then look at me, and draw some kind of conclusion. I hate wondering what this conclusion may be. If you want to know about the books I read, look at my blog, not the stack of books I'm returning. I only read about 1/4 of them, anyway; the others are for skimming.

5. She never makes comments about your fines. This has only been an issue because my library lets you to continue to check out books even if you have a small fine (up to $25). I have gone one or two days over the limit on some books occasionally. This is human, not a crime against humanity.

4. She does not shush loud people in the children's section. This has never happened directly to me, actually; all of our librarians are sweet angels to babies. But there is frequently shushing of preteens making noise in the children's section. In my opinion, there is an implied "no shh" zone in the children's section which applies to ALL living things therein, not just the under five year old crowd. Obviously, preteens are more annoying than babies; I taught middle schoolers. This is just the truth. And I DO think there should be some areas of the library where silence is enforced. This does not include the children's section. Lighten up!

3. If you are browsing in an area, she stops what she is doing and moves away to let you look at the books. She will be there all day. You will not. She is there to serve you, and the book shelving can wait.

2. She NEVER speaks unless spoken to. Exceptions to this rule include (but are not limited to) exclamations of how cute your kid is or to give you something that you forgot or misplaced. She never asks if you attend the weekly mommy-baby sing times. She never starts a conversation based on the books you have checked out. She does not approach you as you are browsing to ask if you need some help finding something. If I did, I would be asking you!

1. She never, under ANY circumstances whatsoever, makes any comments on the books you have chosen to take out. This includes all verbal comments as well as (but not limited to) body language such as raised eyebrows, glances, slight exhales of breath, etc. If the librarian can follow this number one rule, she is already 99% of the way to being the perfect librarian.



  1. Uh.... Feeling a little insecure about the books we're reading, are we?

  2. Well, yesterday my friend teased me because I am on a self help book kick right now: " those librarians must think your life is so messed up; you need financial, marital, and spiritual advice, you don't know how to cook or clean, and somehow you are both infertile AND pregnant!"

    But actually, I am still self conscious when I take out non self help books. I mean, what can one infer about someone who takes out books by Edith Wharton? All kinds of weird things.

    Mostly it has to do with the ratio of read to skim books I take out, which really is about 1:4. I hate wondering if they are annoyed because I can't possibly read 30 books in a week, yet I am walking out the door with them. This has been my reading style since the age of 5, so it's not likely to change.

    Danny has the same self-consciousness about library books, fwiw.

  3. Nice list. How does Mr. Teller stack up? Hehehe...

  4. Well, one time I went to the library couches with the purpose to catch up on some sleep, and I woke up with the sign: "DO NOT DISTURB: this is a serious sleep deprived, senioritis-experiencing student" on my lap. That was pretty embarrassing. But he never commented on my choice of books, so...


  6. In regard to #1: that is why I LOVE the self check-out kiosks! No one can judge me for all of the young adult fiction I read :)


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