This is a roundabout way to introduce The Bedside Blog of Libraries but stick with it if you can. Back in the 1960’s the body responsible for the engineering profession, the Engineering Council decided that it wasn’t happy with the image or status of engineers so they made a bit of a fuss and persuaded the government that rather than the BSc then awarded for engineering they should have their own nomenclature in degrees specific to engineering so there would be BEng and MEng that should be superior in engineering education to the BSc. A little later that same body began lamenting again this time upset that there is a Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey but not an Engineer’s Corner. “In Britain we always make more fuss about a ballad than a blueprint” they whinged in an article lampooned wonderfully by Wendy Cope in her poem Engineer’s Corner. Better not tell them about the Pets Corner in my local zoo then because they certainly won’t like playing second fiddle to Flopsy the rabbit. So engineering is one of the few professions that I can find that has this close interest in its image and status but it is beaten at that game into the proverbial cocked hat by my own profession. No professionals seem to invest such a lot of time, effort and indignant emotional energy into lamenting their portrayal as do librarians!
To be fair librarians have had a bad press. Writers, comedians, cartoonists and many other creative people have had plenty of fun at the expense of libraries and librarians. “Librarian” has usually been lazy and crude shorthand for shabby, underachieving failure, timidity and frigidity. He was insignificant or vindictive or both; she was an alarming cross between Miss Marple and Miss Trunchbull. It is a stereotype invariably painted in a palate that runs from beige to grey and will almost certainly feature a breakfast stained tank top for good measure. The discovery of another such portrayal of their profession in popular culture would send some colleagues into incandescent righteous anger whereas I always thought that it was a lost opportunity for a bit of fun. So as soon as I had the chance I resolved that I turn as many of those representations of librarians into a source of humour, laughing with our libraries and librarians not at them.
My name is Pat Noon and after a working lifetime in libraries I like to think that I am as qualified as the next person to write about libraries and having developed the delusion that I can be entertaining as well conceived and wrote The Bedside Book of Libraries to bring together those countless examples of references to libraries and librarians wherever they have appeared. Many I gathered during my career others are the result of research for that book but many are from other librarians who, partly out of that concern about image, have researched collated and even catalogued voluminous references to the portrayal of librarians in popular culture. I took all of those sources and hoped to create a humorous and entertaining narrative from that raw material that would produce a list topping best seller. Unfortunately the failure of several publishers and agents to share my enthusiasm for such a project left me with a book that no one would ever read unless I found an alternative outlet. That was how The Bedside Blog of Libraries was born. Rather than abandon and waste all my work I opted to inflict it on an unsuspecting online audience so here it is. The Bedside Book has become The Bedside Blog. It is dedicated to everyone who loves libraries as much as I do and to share a smile with them before they pass from endangered species into extinction pursued by illiterate politicians and their bean counting bag carriers.