The Secret Life of a Librarian

When I used to be a Children’s Programmer at a library, I loved the shock and surprise that I would receive from kids when they saw me at the grocery store or community centre with my own children…anywhere other than the library. I’m certain most of those little ones thought I just lived at the library, sleeping amongst the stacks at night. It may look like we library workers lead simple, quiet lives. our days spent working amongst books and then reading them at home on our time off, but as Patrick deWitt’s latest tale, The Librarianist demonstrates, this in fact can be quite the opposite. This novel beautifully illustrates the extraordinary that can be found in an “ordinary” life.

DeWitt presents a charming look at the life of introverted librarian, Bob Comet. For Bob, there is nothing better than immersing himself in the dramas of books in contrast to his own elementary and repetitive days. Bob has lived his whole life in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and in his childhood home for that matter, going to work every day where he relishes the silence of the library before it opens. The story begins with a now retired Bob looking to find a new purpose and, due to an odd series of events, he ends up volunteering at a retirement home. Starting with this older version of Bob, we travel in reverse as the book progresses moving further and further back in time through his memories.  

He may fail to see it, but Bob’s own life has had many moments that are of an epic and poetic nature. Long lost friends, a dramatic love story, and even a runaway tale. In what becomes a wonderfully endearing character study of Bob, we are also introduced to a myriad of quirky characters who might be deemed as outsiders as we travel through the odd situations that Bob has found himself in. Not wanting to give too much away, I can say that in the end this is a story about coincidences and the cyclical nature of life.  

As any good librarian will tell you, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” and this is very true of the character of Bob as well. Appearing plain and simple from the outset, Bob has an entire novel of experiences swirling around inside him. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know his back story and relished the intriguing details that make up a life.

Kelly I.
Library Assistant, Main Library

Kelly has the great pleasure of spending her time as a Library Assistant at the Main Library. Her favourite things about working at WPL are getting to experience amazing new books all the time, and then write about some of her favourites for the Check It Out blog. When she is away from the library, Kelly loves spending time with her family, who are big into hiking and taking in the great outdoors. Kelly majored in art history at university and so she also loves to immerse herself in all things arts and culture. Her favourite way to spend a Sunday is at an art gallery and then lounging at a café afterwards with a latte in one hand and a great book in the other.