The Ideal Librarian

In order to make his
work a success, a
librarian must have
certain well-defined
qualities. He must have
not only a college
education and college
training, but must be
open to every form of
knowledge. “A little
Latin and less Greek”
are very well in their
way, but he should be
able also to read
German, French, Italian,
Spanish, Portuguese,
Norwegian, Danish,
Bohemian, and Russian;
a smattering of Hebrew
and Sanskrit would not
be a miss, while a
bowing acquaintance
with cuneiforms would
add still further to his

Above all things, he
should know books-
from a bibliographical
as well as a literary
standpoint. He should
know the publication
date of every book, and
how many editions it
has passed through, the
price when published,
and its present value;
he should be able to
give personal details
about the author, and
about every man,
woman, and child
mentioned in the book.

An ideal librarian should
have a thorough
knowledge of history, of
all the sciences and all
the arts, fine and useful,
and should be able in
an instant to suggest a
reading list on any
subject. An ideal
librarian ought to be
familiar with all
branches of library
economy, and to be in
touch with the latest
library appliances.
Cutter’s rules should be
at his fingers’ ends, and
Cutter’s, Dewey’s, and
every other system of
classification be as
simple as the alphabet
to him.

Then he should “read,
read, read” all the
books, all the
magazines, all the
newspapers. Above all,
he should read the
Library Journal from
cover to cover, not
stopping at the
advertisements. He
should be ready at all
times to attend to the
wants of anyone
entering his office, and,
like Justin Winsor, stop
in the midst of writing a
sentence to greet a
visitor, prepared to
finish the sentence and
take up the thread of
thought at the caller’s

Every reader’s wants
ought to be known to
him instinctively,
whether he is asked for
the right book or not.
For instance, if he
happens to be a college
librarian, and a student
asks him for “Morley,”
he must forget that his
library contains several
books by John and a
number by Henry
Morley, and must know
by some occult power
that the book desired is
Masson’s “De Quincey,”
in the English Men of
Letters series, the whole
series edited by John

In a word, a librarian
should have the
learning of a Bacon, the
manner of a
Chesterfield, the
patience of Job, the
divining power of a
wizard, and the temper
of an angel. Besides, he
must not only be born a
librarian, but must
continue to make
himself one as long as
he lives.


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