Friday, December 13, 2019

Gift ideas for librarians: the Invisible Library series

I continue my short series of librarian gifts. By the way, these are all works of fiction/ fantasy which feature librarians: real librarians' are diverse and so are their tastes, so I'm not straying beyond that boundary.
About a year ago I came across the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, and I've consumed five of the six books published so far. The heroine, Irene, is a Librarian, in a universe where fae and dragons are constantly on the brink of war, there are alternate worlds galore, and the Library is key in maintaining the order of the universe and preventing human worlds from getting squashed by more powerful beings. This order is maintained by librarians obtaining all variations of all books ever published and depositing them in The Library, thus forming stable connections with the worlds from which the books were purloined.
Since tracking down and obtaining books by whatever means is the key function of a Librarian, the skillset is a bit different from the one outlined in CILIP's Professional Skill and Knowledge Base (and indeed from the curriculum here at the University of Sheffield Information School).
As Cogman says in an interview appended to The masked city "Languages are very important ... General physical health, martial arts skills and great marksmanship are all useful - as is the ability to run fast when needed." After also mentioning diplomacy, spycraft, burglary, art theory and literary criticism, Cogman sums up "The perfect Librarian is calm, cool, collected, intelligent, multilingual, a crack shot, a martial artist, an Olympic-level runner ... a good swimmer, an expert thief and a genius con artist" although "In practice, most Librarians would rather spend their time reading a good book".
I should add that using catalogues and search engines is important to Librarians, and obviously collection development is at the heart of their work. Irene's information literacy is well developed, as she uses all her senses to gather information in any given world/situation and then applies this to everyday life decision-making, in order to avoid death and mass destruction.
I think one of the reasons I took to the series is to do with my time at the British Library, which we referred to internally as The Library, as if it were the only one in the universe. However, Cogman's series may appeal to anyone who likes alternate worlds, fantasy action, and books.
Genevieve Cogman's website is here and it has links to online booksellers, as well as her blog etc.

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