Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Librarians in Literature: Here Lies the Librarian

Once in a while I stumble upon a book with librarian characters that veer off the stereotype.

Oh, you know what I'm talking about! Most of the time, librarians are portrayed as boring and the job (we do) is far from exciting and essential. The Vilma Santos movie, In My Life, is one example. Santos' turn into a librarian was fueled by miseries that life had dumped upon her. From an exuberant PE teacher, she became the unglamorous librarian who resists change. Through this characterization, the librarian's role as enabler and agent of change dissipates. The librarian's indispensable contribution to literacy development and enlightenment is extinguished.

It must be an artistic bent on Olivia Lamasan’s part to use the job of a librarian as metaphor for Santos’ character’s surrender from the zest of living. It would have been better if Santos’ character discovered healing and a zen like approach to life’s many whippings through the books a librarian reads every so often in the library. Or, the routine and systematic work that librarians do would have offered her (Santos’ character) safety and refuge from the unpredictable dictates of fate. Next to the church, the library is a sanctuary for the lost and the confused. Sadly, Lamasan does not know her Library and Information Science. Her writers should have at least did a bit of research.

History and literature has many exciting librarians to be proud of! Such is the case in Richard Peck's Here Lies the Librarian.

In the young adult novel, Peck presented not one, but five librarians. Four lively, spirited, head strong, young and RICH library science students and one dead public librarian. Such contrast! Peck buries Electra Dietz, public librarian of Hoosier County, for good reasons. She doesn't like children and arranges the books on the shelf according to its sizes. On the other hand, the four library science students of Brent University possess the qualities and characteristics of the ideal librarian.

Irene Ridpath, leader of the pack, is confident, outspoken and fearless. Boy, do we need librarians like her. Grace Stutz, poised and pretty, daughter of an automobile scion is well organized. She loves working with and for children too. Lodelia Fulwider is proud of her academic preparation. She knows how expensive library resources are so she values preservation and conservation. Geraldine Harrison is the group’s technology and innovations expert. Note that these young women carry one or two endearing qualities of a librarian. Peck did not lump them all in one person.

He also knows how costly libraries are so he made the librarians rich not only in the pockets but in their hearts as well. The six hundred dollars annual salary was shared among the four. The job entails a lot of heart and a fullness of spirit. What a positive portrayal of the stereotyped librarian! Idols to emulate, right?

The characters are all works of fiction, products of the imagination. In general, they are reflections and representations of our beliefs and who we want to be. We’re not sure how the young reader will turn out to be when he or she reads the novel. One consolation is that, after closing the book’s they may hold on to hope. That the future may be strange and unfamiliar, but with role models to look up to, real or imagined, facing up to life’s challenges is a part of living it to the fullest.


Candy Gourlay said...

well my copy of Here lies the Librarian arrived yesterday (I ordered it thanks to your blog and status update on FB) - and I finished it in one big gollop! What a wonderful book! All librarians ... nay, all ADULTS ... should read it and come away with some skills in helping kids discover that ultimately you are the one who gives permission to yourself to become ANYBODY you want to be!

Zarah Grace C. Gagatiga said...

yes! that's the beauty of the book. RP is a perfect writer for the YA reader. he gives hope to teenagers and empowers them through his novels. :-)

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