At first accidentally and then with deliberation I ended up spending the first half of July reading only librarian literature--that is books and zines by and/or about librarians.
By a librarian
I have long admired Barbara Fister's writings on the COLLIB list and the ACRL blog, so I was really hoping I would like her fiction, as well. First I read her second book, In the Wind, which fortunately I found very compelling. I even dog-eared a bunch of pages, which is what I do when I want to remember to copy down passages I like.
Some I liked for their politics, like:
"There were a couple of newspaper boxes on the sidewalk. I put in two quarters and pulled out the morning Trib. The usual: a headline about the latest crisis in Iraq, concern that the power grid might fail again as temperatures rose. Protests held at police headquarters over the second shooting of an unarmed black youth by police in a matter of weeks. I wondered, not for the first time, why they bothered to call it news." p. 10
"You should have asked for a lawyer."
"They just get in the way. Attorneys want to protect their clients; they're not interested in speaking truth to power." p. 126
Others for their description:
"Gerasim Golovkin--'Golly' for short—had given up on finding his long-missing daughter, when he found us intead. He was a chainsmoker, overweight, and permanently rumpled, with the melancholy face of a basset hound and a deep, rumbling laugh." p. 47
And this one because it's so modern librarian (even though the character is a cop turned Private Investigator):
Settling at my grandfather's desk with a mug of coffee, I switched on my laptop and checked the news. p. 92.
The ex-cop is a single Chicago woman who spoke truth to power despite the blue wall of silence, hence her now being a PI, and the story is about a radical fugitive and whether or not she did the thing she's on the run for. I was very impressed that Barbara could so successfully get in the mind and mindset of a police officer (two actually, since her other book is also narrated by a cop) when I know that her politics are not unlike mine, and I would have a really hard time writing a not evil police person. I hope she brings this protagonist, Anni Koskinen, back in her next book.
I also read Barbara's first mystery novel (published six years earlier, in 2002), On Edge. The narrator had a similar personal profile (cop in trouble with the cops, missing parents and raised by a grandparent, one brother, living in Chicago) except for the gender. Konstantin Slovo is the detective in this story, and the action takes place in Maine. There is one research character who says he can find anything on the internet, and another character who is the police department's technology guy, and when she describes them, you can tell that the writer knows what she's talking about. On Edge was compelling enough, but I liked Anni and In the Wind more.
About a librarian
I read two Aurora Teagarden mysteries, the first one, Real Murders and Last Scene Alive, from 2004. They're about a young librarian in a small Atlanta suburb who, while fascinated by true crime, doesn't set out intentionally to solve whodunits. She's not a bad character, and the writing is fairly compelling (though I like author Charlaine Harris's supernatural Sookie Stackhouse series more). My main beef with it, based on the two novels I've read, is that the librarian seems to spend all of her work time shelving books and staffing the circ desk--and once repairing some books in the staff lounge. In other words, nothing that requires an MLS. She's also a little computer shy. Doesn't sound like any librarians I know.
By and about a librarian
I also read librarian Mindy Klasky's librarian witch novels, Girl's Guide to Witchcraft and Sorcery and the Single Girl. The library work details were more accurate, but they're pretty light fare. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, and I enjoy chick-lit as much as anybody, but I wanted just a little more substance. There are some good elements, though, that might just get better as the series progresses: the protagonist's relationship with her best friend, and also her relationships with her mother (who abandoned her when she was young) and her aging grandmother.
There was one very authentic moment, I think in the second one, but I'm not sure because I forgot to copy it down from the dog-eared page where Jane, the witch/librarian protagonist complains about the annoying things people say when they learn about her library job. Oh, those hilarious Dewey Decimal System jokes!
I tried, unsuccessfully, to read another by/about book, The Inferno Collection, by Jacqueline Seewald, but I just couldn't get into it. I find it interesting that the book was published by Gale, a library trade house that to my previous knowledge didn't do much fiction. Turns out the imprint under which this book was published, Five Star turns out genre fiction. This is a romance novel. I wasn't crazy about the writing, but it's a popular book, so what do I know?
Next up were issues 2 and 3 of Clutch, minicomics by then IPRC Zine Librarian Greig Means of the many aliases. The zines consist of drawings of each day in his life for a specified amount of time. They can be really poignant, especially one that ends with him saying, "I'm lonely," though it will probably seem to most reader's that Greig leads has a very full and interesting existence. Since one of the issues covers 9/11 it has additional drama. You know it's coming. You see it. You remember what it was like. You keep going and feel a little guilty for moving on.
NYPL had more to offer, but a lot of them were children's books. Of the adult materials, most of them were also genre fiction...
Fantasy (I like some fantasy fiction, but these didn't grab me.)
Lord of the Libraries by Odom, Mel
The Quest for the Trilogy : a Rover Novel of Three Adventures by Odom, Mel.
The Witch is Dead : an Ophelia and Abby Mystery by Damsgaard, Shirley (I missed this one the first time around. Will look into it!)
Chili con Corpses : a Supper Club Mystery by Stanley, J. B.
The Unraveling of Violeta Bell : a Morgue Mama Mystery by Corwin, C. R. (missed this one before, too)
...or I'd already read them (reviews in my zine reading log):
The Librarian by Larry Beinhart (didn't love it)
The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (liked it pretty well)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Niffenegger, Audrey (loved it)
CLIO had five titles all together, two of I'd read (see above), one I'd tried to read and found to be not my cup of tea (The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil), one whose book jacket summary scared me off (The Book of Flyingby Keith Miller)
"Meet Pico. He’s a poet and a librarian whose soul is nourished by stories and by books. He’s brave and honest and humble, like heroes used to be. And he’s passionate and idealistic, like lovers used to be. The Book of Flying is the story of Pico’s quest to gain his wings in order to win the heart of the girl he loves - a journey in which he meets a robber queen, a lonely minotaur, a cannibal, an immortal beauty, and a dream seller. He will tell them his story and learn theirs. He will fall in love. He will duel with a mad painter. He will stand face to face with himself, in a dark castle on a remote mountain peak, and survive the valleys of the country of death before he reaches the morning town, before he learns that sometimes you must lose yourself completely in order to discover who you really are."
...and actually another one whose book jacket summary scared me off--and at the very first sentence, "Matthias is a man of orderly ways, a librarian whose life rarely strays from its narrow channels." How is it that so many people completely buy into the fussy librarian stereotype and yet fail to notice that 4 out of 5 librarians are women?