ARC Review: This Is What a Librarian Looks Like by Kyle Cassidy

thisis1Title: This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
Author: Kyle Cassidy
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Inc
Pages: 240
Release Date: 16th May 2017
Edition: Digital ARC from NetGalley
Goodreads | Book Depository

In 2014, author and photographer Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” a montage of portraits and a tribute to librarians. Since then, Cassidy has made it his mission to remind us of how essential librarians and libraries are to our communities. His subjects are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and personal style-from pink hair and leather jackets to button-downs and blazers. In short, not necessarily what one thinks a librarian looks like. The nearly 220 librarians photographed also share their personal thoughts on what it means to be a librarian. This is What A Librarian Looks Like also includes original essay by some of our most beloved writers, journalists, and commentators including Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Nancy Pearl, Cory Doctorow, Paula Poundstone, Amanda Palmer, Peter Sagal, Jeff VanderMeer, John Scalzi, Sara Farizan, Amy Dickinson, and others. Cassidy also profiles a handful of especially influential librarians and libraries.


*I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like is a collection of librarian portraits, essays, and articles about libraries in America. It is a unique, eye-opening, and important read that leaves you with an urge to visit your local library.

Before reading this book, I had the same idea as most people that libraries are just places for you to check out books. This book proves us all wrong.

Public libraries defend free speech, fight for privacy rights, and provide equal access to everyone regardless of income. In an increasingly privatised world where profits often supersedes ethics, the public library stands out as a radical institution.
– Wick Thomas, Teen Services Librarian

First, let’s talk about the librarian portraits and their quotes. In movies, librarians are often depicted as female, wear glasses and cardigans, quiet, and strict. Not all librarians are like that. The diversity of the librarians in this book is amazing. I hope it can combat the stereotype. Also, Cassidy included librarians that do not work with books. Sounds interesting, right? You will have to read to know what they kind of library they work in.

The greatest challenge libraries are facing is the apathy of the privileged. Libraries are busier than before, but then someone writes a “think piece” stating that “libraries are dead” and politicians cite it when slashing the library budgets.
– Daniel Ronsom, Institutional Services Librarian

Out of the essays, Sangu Mandanna’s stood out to me. I have never heard of her before reading this book, and I’m glad I discovered this author who writes so beautifully. The way she recalls her memories with the libraries is captivating.

Libraries were easy for me even when the rest of the world wasn’t. They asked nothing of me and gave me so much.
– Sangu Mandanna

Other essays are also recollection of these authors, journalists and commentators’ time at the libraries. Some also spoke of the challenges libraries are facing, such as the popularity of electronic books and fines that scare readers away.

As for the articles, I loved reading about what the librarians are doing to change the world. One that got me in tears was the transitional services started by Nick Higgins. It’s very touching to see a librarian providing a chance for parents in prisons to read to their kids.

I didn’t ask for librarians’ help when I was in America, but the culture sounds very ideal in the book. I hope it reflects the reality honestly, and I wish the library culture in Hong Kong was as outreaching and helpful to the community as it is in America.

Libraries are very much like oysters; common, abundant, and seemingly ordinary. That is, until you find endless beauty held within.
– Majed Khader, Director of Morrow Library

Librarians in America don’t just help you check out, return and search for the books you’re looking for, they are making the world a better place by doing the little things. This Is What a Librarian Looks Like will make you look at libraries in a different way and I strongly recommend this book to everyone.


This Is What A Librarian Looks Like comes out on 16th May 2016.
Take a look inside the book here.


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