Modern society has a very stereotypical image of who a librarian is. She – and it is almost always a she – is prim, wears glasses, and very likely loves cats. Despite this persona, in reality, librarians have come in many forms.
Here are three historical librarians who defy modern expectations.
Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) – Italian adventurer and diplomat, Casanova may be best known for causing scandals in Italy and having numerous love affairs, but he also was also a book lover. In his later years, he served as the librarian for the Count of Waldstein in Bohemia. Over his life, Casanova also wrote at least 18 books.
J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) – Hoover’s name is synonymous with the FBI; he founded the bureau in 1935 and led domestic investigations until 1972. Before turning his interest to uncovering secrets, however, Hoover worked in libraries. In his younger years, he staffed the Library of Congress as a clerk and cataloger.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976) – Before Mao was the leader and founder of the Communist Party of China, he was a librarian. As a youth, he worked at Peking University as an assistant librarian. The head librarian there was a Marxist, and Mao learned a great deal about the theory of economy from him.
The above men certainly aren’t typical of librarians, but they do show the breadth of personalities and interests that librarians can have. And despite their many differences, they all shared a love of knowledge in one form or another. (Even if they hid some of that knowledge from the public.)
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Heath Ledger as Casanova in Casanova, Touchstone Pictures, 2005.
Zhang Zhenshi, “Portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate.”