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And Now for Something Completely Different: Questions Are Librarians' Stock in Trade

Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Central Library,
 Librarian Bob Anderson stands behind the reference desk of the Literature & Fiction Department
Librarian Bob Anderson stands behind the reference desk of the Literature & Fiction Department, [ca 1993]. Cary Moore Collection

Librarians who work at public libraries can find almost anything, even someone’s lost dog. No, they will not look for your lost pooch, but they will provide information about public and private agencies that will. Patrons ask questions and librarians provide information. Because public libraries are free and open to everyone, they have been called the poor man’s university. These tax supported institutions are so much a part of American life, that many of us may take them for granted, including this reference librarian. However, it takes only one patron, someone new to the United States, perhaps an immigrant, who will remind me of how special our public libraries are; “The card is free? The books are free?”

There is no better time than this weekend to reflect upon the services that the Los Angeles Public Library provides to all of us. On October 13 -14, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reopening of Central Library, whose history and appreciation are covered in several excellent books. Where did we come from? To better understand and appreciate the history of all libraries, consider these books.

Recommended Books About Libraries

America's Greatest Library: An Illustrated History of the Library of Congress
Cole, John Young, 1940-

A beautiful and informative book that is a history of our national library, which is supposed to be the largest library in the world. Find out why this library is for everyone, not just for Congress.

American Libraries, 1730-1950
Breisch, Kenneth A,

Historian and scholar Kenneth Breisch provides an overview of all types of libraries (public, private, academic), domestic and international.

Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History
Polastron, Lucien X.

Central Library is not the only library to be hit by a fire. Polastron examines why, throughout the centuries, libraries have been destroyed.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

The Library of Congress presents color images of its many treasured books, and is an homage to the written word.

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders
Kells, Stuart,

Stuart Kells narrates the stories of real and imagined libraries.

The Library at Night
Manguel, Alberto.

Alberto Manguel’s memoir is an appreciation of why we have personal and public libraries, and of the many individuals who have fought for the freedom to read and access information.

The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History

Crawford has compiled essays written by experts about how the role of the library has changed over the centuries, from scrolls to digitization.

The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age
Lerner, Frederick Andrew, 1945-

Through the centuries ancient and modern libraries have been vital and influential to the countries that have created and maintained them. Lerner’s history examines their purpose and influence.

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
Cassidy, Kyle,

You may think you know what a librarian looks like and what they do. Kyle Cassidy’s photographs and commentary present more than the hackneyed stereotype of a librarian and their work.