50 Fictional Librarians, Ranked
20. Marian the Librarian, The Music Man
Home library: River City Library
Special talents: Singing, seeing through people, advocating “dirty books” (Chaucer! Rabelais! Balzac!)
Classic joke: What do you want to take out? The librarian!
Very bad banter: If I stumbled and I busted my what-you-may-call-it / I could lie on your floor unnoticed / ‘Till my body had turned to carrion . . . Madam Librarian!
Fun fact: Marian Paroo was based on Marian Seeley, a medical records librarian from Provo, Utah, whom creator Meredith Willson met in California during World War II.
19. Wan Shi Tong, The Last Airbender
Home Library: Wan Shi Tong’s Spirit Library
Special talents: Long life, library burial, purity of spirit
Harsh but fair: “I am Wan Shi Tong, he who knows ten thousand things, and you are obviously humans; which, by the way, are no longer permitted in my study.”
18. Flynn Carsen, The Librarian(s)
Home library: Metropolitan Public Library
Special talents: Above-average intelligence (22 academic degrees in the bag by 31), particularly with languages, below-average self-confidence. Also, eventually, swordfighting.
I feel you: “The fate of the world is in my hands, that is just so . . . sad.”
17. Mrs. Phelps, Matilda
Home library: Matilda Wormwood’s local public library
Special talents: Compassion, patience, hiding her astonishment, minding her own business
Hard same: “A fine writer will always make you feel [that you’re witnessing the events of the book as they happen] . . . And don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.”
16. Jorge of Burgos, The Name of the Rose
Home library: the labyrinthine library of an unnamed Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy
Special talents: Masterminding, fanaticism, secretly controlling the actual librarian
Banned books: Literally poisons the book he doesn’t want the other monks to read (Aristotle’s second Poetics, his lost treatise on humor) so that those who do die slow deaths; ends up eating it himself and burning down the library around himself.
Not fun at parties: “Laughter, for a few moments, distracts the villain from fear. But law is imposed by fear, whose true name is fear of God. This book could strike the Luciferine spark that would set a new fire to the whole world, and laughter would be defined as the new art, unknown even to Prometheus, for cancelling fear. To the villain who laughs, at that moment, dying does not matter: but then, when the license is past, the liturgy once again imposes on him, according to the divine plan, the fear of death. And from this book, there could be born the new destructive aim to destroy death through redemption from fear. And what would we be—we sinful creatures—without fear, perhaps the most foresighted, the most loving of the divine gifts?”
15. Oshima, Kafka on the Shore
Home library: Komura Memorial Library
Special talents: Keeping his shirt unwrinkled, music appreciation, driving being the calm in the center of the storm
Curse/blessing of the poetry librarian: “No one comes here to read the latest Stephen King novel.”
Bliss, man: “If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving, I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there. But listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally, I find that encouraging.”
14. The narrator, “The Library of Babel”
Home library: The universe (which others call the Library)
Special talents: Searching, storytelling
Books as religion: “We also know of another superstition of that time: that of the Man of the Book. On some shelf in some hexagon (men reasoned) there must exist a book which is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest: some librarian has gone through it and he is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone vestiges of this remote functionary’s cult still persist. Many wandered in search of Him. For a century they have exhausted in vain the most varied areas. How could one locate the venerated and secret hexagon which housed Him? Someone proposed a regressive method: To locate book A, consult first book B which indicates A’s position; to locate book B, consult first a book C, and so on to infinity … In adventures such as these, I have squandered and wasted my years.”
Now that’s devotion: “Like all men of the Library, I have traveled in my youth; I have wandered in search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the hexagon in which I was born.”
13. Romney Wordsworth, The Twilight Zone (“The Obsolete Man”)
Home library: There are no more libraries.
Special talents: Obsolescence, crafty defiance, furniture-building.
Damning verdict: “Since there are no more books, Mr.Wordsworth, there are no more libraries, and of course, as it follows , there is very little call for the services of a librarian. . . You have no function, Mr.Wordsworth. You’re an innacuranism, like a ghost from another time . . . You’re a bug, Mr. Wordsworth. A crawling insect. An ugly, misformed, little creature, that has no purpose here, no meaning! . . . You’re a librarian, Mr. Wordsworth. You’re a dealer in books and two cent finds and pamphlets in closed stacks in the musty finds of a language factory that spews meaningless words on an assembly line. WORDS, Mr. WORDSworth. That have no substance, no dimension, like air, like the wind. Like a vacuum, that you make believe have an existence, by scribbling index numbers on little cards.
Honestly: “Delusions, Mr. Wordsworth, DELUSIONS! That you inject into your veins with printer’s ink, the narcotics you call literature: The Bible, poetry, essays, all kinds, all of it are opiate to make you think you have a strength, when you have no strength at all! You are nothing, but spindly limbs and a dream, and The State has no use for your kind!”
In sum: “A case to be filed under “M” for mankind—in the Twilight Zone.”
12. Bunny Watson, Desk Set
Home library: Federal Broadcasting Network reference library
Special talents: Taking on the computers, holding court at booze-soaked office parties.
Even better than an electronic brain: “I associate many things with many things.”
Assigned reading: “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” by Rose Hartwick Thorpe.
Vintage forever: Even minor Hepburn & Tracy is better than most movies.
11. Zelda Schiff, The Magicians
Home library: Library of the Neitherlands
Special talents: Adherence to duty, performing prissiness, battle magic, ASL
The Head Librarian explains: “Well, every book is here—all the books ever written, all the books never written, all the books of all the people who ever lived. . . . People who read their books often discover they don’t like the main character and are rarely happy with how it ends.”
See also: late-game Penny (sorry!)