Secrets of the Librarian Universe

I make librarians out to be pretty awesome, and not just through my own awesome example. Last year’s NaNoWriMo revealed that all librarians are trained secretly from birth by the International Librarian Corps, given subject specializations and cool badges and maybe even the ability to travel through printed works by Dewey Decimal. In the script James and I are writing this month for Script Frenzy, my character reveals that librarians follow a strict Librarian Code:

A page after this, we're attacked by a Jane Chance monster

In the real world, librarians don’t fight epic battles with literature’s greatest villains or even have cool ILC badges. I know, it’s a total bummer. However, there are some ancient librarian secrets I can report back to you after becoming a MASTER of library science (I will always, always say it like that from this day forth; I assume that’s the whole point of calling it a “master’s degree”). Here are some true librarian facts that might shock you:

1. Librarians haven’t read every book ever
2. Librarians judge books by their covers ALL the time
3. Librarians don’t hate fun (your mileage on this one may vary depending on librarian/library)

The first of this list is probably the toughest to deal with because, of course, we want to appear knowledgeable about every book ever, even though it’s impossible for this to be the case. Here are some tricks librarians (including me) are using right now to fake you out:


GoodReads is amazing! It’s kind of like the facebook of books. You can keep track of all the books you’ve read and want to read, organizing them into any categories you want. Mine include “Books I Own”, “Favorites”, and “Books I Started But Couldn’t Finish”. You can assign them star ratings and write reviews, and see what your friends are reading. When I remembered it existed a few weeks ago, I went into a frenzy trying to remember every book I’ve ever read to properly record it. But you probably only have these OCD urges if you’re actually a librarian already. If you don’t have GoodReads, you should def check it out, and if you do, then we should be friends.

Favorite Book Montage!


WorldCat is like a library catalog, but it lets you search all libraries in the world at once! Okay, maybe not all libraries, but it certainly seems like it. Librarians use it all the time for things like Inter-Library Loan, but I mainly use it to see how far away I am from a given book at any time. Seriously. Search for a book, and the results will tell you roughly how far away you are from a library copy. For instance, if I search for my book I get:

Of course, it doesn’t know that I have boxes of them in my closet. It’s really great when someone asks for a book we don’t have at the library to be able to tell them “Wow, the nearest copy is 3000 miles away! And in ENGLAND!” It makes me look like some kind of book psychic!

What’s Next?

You know what’s annoying? Series. And not just because I’m always confused about what the plural should be. Especially annoying are ones like Warriors or Left Behind that are actually a bunch of different series all shelved together in a seething, confusing mass. Luckily, I don’t have to read all of them to untangle this confusing web of prequels and sequels and spin-offs and “companion books”. I have What’s Next, which is maintained by Kent District Libraries in Michigan. It’s super helpful when some kid wants to know “Which Magic Tree House book comes after the one with the dolphins?” or “I need Magic Tree House #15!” Because there are 45 books in that series! Not to mention the confusion of Erin Hunter’s six series within a series about tribes of warrior cats.

Don't laugh, if you were born 12 years earlier you'd be into it too. Apparently.


Library grad school is ALL ABOUT Novelist, but my experience is that real librarians don’t use it to fake you out as much as you might think, just because it takes awhile to load. It’s a huge database full of books and recommendations for other books. Chances are, you can access it too through your local library, although you probably don’t know it. If you search for a book, you get a brief description including quick one-word descriptions of the genre, pacing, tone, and writing style, plus the reading level and any reviews from “real” sources. Then on the side bar it recommends books like that one, and lets you customize a search for them by giving you check boxes with that book’s characteristics.

This one is from the book I'm reading with Steven right now, Museum of Thieves

So I can easily find other books with 12-year-old girl thieves, but maybe not museums. Of course, there’s no guarantee your library will own any of these books. And you can’t search by cover design, which would be the single most important librarian tool if someone would just invent it.

Bonus Library Secret: Custom Book Lists

This is possibly only a librarian secret in that I don’t think it’s advertised very well. At the library I work at right now, if you fill out an online form about what kinds of books and movies you like, they’ll email you a detailed book list just for you about a week or two later! The form is way detailed with lots of check boxes for preferred genres and sub-genres, setting, main characters, relationships, or tone, and the book list you end up getting is usually very thorough (and pretty!). They don’t ask for your library card number either, which means anyone can take advantage of it!

4 responses to “Secrets of the Librarian Universe”

  1. Brian says:

    1. Jane Chance monster made me laugh out loud. That woman certainly was a Jane Chance monster.
    2. This summer if I have a lot of free time I will totally join GoodReads.
    3. How do you guys get the super fancy official Screenplay Type Settings working? I mean, I’ve only written a scene and a half, but it’s in times new roman and left aligned and no big spaces or anything. Is there like a Screenwriting Mode in MS Word?

  2. Caitlin says:

    Everthing in this post and the comments is the best thing ever. And no that’s not impossible.

  3. TheJamesFox says:


    PATRICIA and JAMES FOX step out of the intertimensional pipe onto the crowded streets. Tons of people walk around in lederhosen.

    (Donning her MOST GERMAN hat)
    Now we just have to stop the CENSORSHIP NINJAS before they can enact their FIENDISH PLAN to RETROACTIVELY DESTROY ALL WESTERN LITERATURE

    She sees that James is attempting to purchase BRATWURST and wrests him away from the street vendor.

    (Struggling to complete the transaction)


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