Monday, March 2, 2009

Famous Librarians In History

I'm doing a bit of research on librarians and the history of libraries. Here's one article that amused me. A long time ago, when degrees on LIS (Library and Information Science) were still unheard of, the typical librarian may be a philosopher, mathematician, scientist, poet, writer, lover, future FBI agent, pope and communist. Librarian's come in different shades, shapes and sizes! So where did the "lady in a bun" stereotype came from?

Throughout history, many people who later became well known in other capacities served as librarians. In 1979, the journal Library News reprinted this section of The Book of Lists. Unfortunately, all the "famous people" listed are men. A comparable list for women would balance this view. (One example would be the recently deceased novelist, essayist, and poet Audre Lourde. Readers are encouraged to send other suggestions.) However, even with this gender bias, the following list does show the variety of people who have chosen to work in the field. More information about these "famous librarians" will be posted soon!

Gottfried Von Leibniz (1646-1716) was a German philosopher, mathematician, and intellectual giant of his time. Liebniz was appointed librarian at Hanover in 1676 and at Wolfenbuttel in 1691.

David Hume (1711-1776), he British philosopher, economist, and hisorian, served as librarian from 1752-57 at the Library of the Faculty of the Advocates at Edinburgh, where he wrote his History of England.

Casanova (1725-1798) was not only a great lover. At the climax (!) of his career in 1785, the famous womanizer began 13 years as librarian for the Count von Waldstein in the chateau of Dux in Bohemia.

Swedish author August Strindberg (1849-1912) was made assistant librarian at the Royal Library in Stockholm in 1874.

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) was a librarian before he became Pope. He served 19 years as a member of the College of Doctors of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, and then became chief librarian. In 1911 he was asked to reorganize and update the Vatican Library and four years laer became prefect of the Vatican Library. From 1922 until his death in 1939, the former librarian served as pople.

Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911), poet, author and columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, became librarian of the Somerville, MA public library in 1898.

Archibald MacLeish (b. 1892) had a varied professional life. He was a playwright, poet, lawyer, assistant secretary of state, winner of three Pulizer prizes, and a founder of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). MacLeish was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as librarian of Congress in 1939 for five years.

Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976) worked as an assistant to the chief librarian of the University of Peking. Overlooked for advancement, he decided to get ahead in another field and eventually became chairman of the Chinese Communist Party.

FBI Head J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was a Library of Congress messenger and cataloger in his first job.

Author John Braine (b.1922), best known for the novel Room at the Top (1957), worked as a librarian for many years. He was assistant librarian at Bingley Public Library (1940-1951), branch librarian at Northumberland County Library (1954-56), and branch librarian at West Ridings of Yorks County Library (1956).



Anonymous said...

Please include Hashim Salamat in your list. He was a government librarian before he co-founded the MNLF and later the MILF.

Zarah C. Gagatiga said...

talaga? salamat is filipino, 'no?

Mal C said...

Interesting post. Check out the blog I'm making on Archibald MacLeish for a school project:

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