Rural Librarian: Famous Librarian Writers

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Famous Librarian Writers

The famous folks below were at one time librarians but became famous for other reasons. While Beverly Cleary and Andre Norton were professional librarians, others, (such as Proust) dabbled in the library sciences.

Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Author, printer, inventor, diplomat, postmaster, scientist, and activist, it's hard to pigeon-hole Franklin into one category.In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at the age of 21, Franklin started a subscription-based library where members pooled cash to buy and read books.

Photo: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis (1725-1802), c. 1785, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007)

American writer Madeline L'Engle is best known for writing the classic young adult novel "A Wrinkle in Time" (1962), she also served as a volunteer librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City in 1965.

Photo: Courtesy of Square Fish Books.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

In 1913, painter, writer, and artist Marcel Duchamp took a position as librarian at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, France, where he also studied physics and math.

Photo: Marcel Duchamp playing chess (photo by Kay Bell Reynal, 1952)

Beverly Cleary (1916-)

Children's book writer Beverly Cleary graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a library degree in 1939. Some of Cleary's books include "Beezus and Ramona"(1955), "Ribsy" (1964), and "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" (1965).

Photo: Photo of Beverly Cleary, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov

Hypatia (b. circa 350-370 - 415)

"There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more." ~ Socrates Scholasticus, from his Ecclesiastical History

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. An actress, possibly Mary Anderson, in the title role of the play Hypatia, circa 1900.

Lao Tsu (b. circa 571 BCE - Zhou Dynasty)

This philosopher and poet of ancient China, Lao Tsu is said to have held a position as scholar in the Imperial Archives. The most famous work most often attributed to Lao Tsu is the Tao Te Ching.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. A painting of the Daode Tianzun ('the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue'), the deified Laozi, one of the supreme divinities of Daoism.

Andre Norton (1912-2005)

Born Alice Mary Norton in Cleveland, Ohio, she went on to become a highly successful science fiction writer. But before she became a famous, award-winning author, she worked in the Cleveland Library System for 18 years. During World War II and from 1940-41, Norton worked as a special librarian in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Cover of Voodoo Planet by Andrew North, artist Ed Valigursky; half of Ace Double #D-345 (1959)

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

While many consider French writer Marcel Proust to be one of the greatest authors in the history of literature, he was a terrible librarian. An asthma sufferer who appears to have been coddled by wealthy parents, Proust secured a volunteer position at the Bibliotheque Mazarine in 1896 and then went on sick leave without ever having worked a day. Oh, Proust. How adorable, frustrating, and funny.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Marcel Proust in 1900.

It is interesting and strange to me that there are not more famous writers who were once librarians as librarians may have access to the best books and resources. Great readers make great writers, but not all librarians, it seems, are great writers. Alas.

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