Welcome to Shhh…Secrets of the Librarians, a new series (inspired by our long-running Secrets of the Book Critics) in which bibliothecaries (yes, it’s a real word) from around the country share their inspirations, most-recommended titles, thoughts on the role of the library in contemporary society, favorite fictional librarians, and more. Each week we’ll spotlight a librarian—be they Academic, Public, School, or Special—and bring you into their wonderful world.
This week, we spoke to Georgia-based writer and Art Library Assistant, Nina K. Guzman.
Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian?
Nina K. Guzman: Libraries have always been a safe space for me. When my family first moved to the States from Puerto Rico, I would go to the library and make scans of illustrated books. Even though I couldn’t read English, I would look at the illustrations and make stories up in my head. I would save up my change and make scans of my favorite pages so I could color them in. My family moved several times but that feeling of comfort never left. It wasn’t until a few years after college and cementing my place as the worst waitress in town that I realized I could apply for a job I’d actually like and be good at.
BM: What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?
NG: I am constantly recommending The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. These are two books that are kinda hard to explain what they’re about but because of their malleable nature can give something different yet meaningful to all types of readers.
I also currently work at an art school so I often find myself recommending Just Kids by Patti Smith to students.
BM: Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?
NG: I literally spend zero time at work “shhhh”ing people. In fact, at the Art Library, we endorse talking, eating, puppies, whatever! This is a spot for people to congregate and hang out, whether that’s working on a group project or catching up with friends. As long as patrons act like adults they are treated like adults.
BM: What is the weirdest/most memorable question you’ve gotten from a library patron?
NG: The strangest and most delightful occurrence that happens quite frequently at the Art Library is a student who likes to use our Media Room to play Dance Dance Revolution. See! You really can use the library for whatever you want!
BM: What role does the library play in contemporary society?
NG: I don’t think most people realize that libraries are the last bastions of privacy. Check out history is erased, computer searches are wiped, we can’t even tell patrons who has a certain book checked out. The main difference between a library and Google is that the library won’t sell your information to the highest bidder who will then turn it into an algorithm they can use to sell you stuff. Libraries are not trying to put patrons into neat boxes for their capitalistic needs. They’re not trying to figure out your last web searches so they can feed you links to articles with the same views, turning you into a proverbial Ouroboros. In a library, people are free to wander, both physically and mentally, and are exposed to a diverse collection of views and stories. Google wants you to stay the same, libraries want you to grow.
BM: Who is your favorite fictional librarian?
NG: That’s a tie between Mary in Party Girl and Bunny Watson in The Desk Set. We’re all just modern gals trying to make it in this modern world.
Nina Karina is a freelance writer and the Art Library Assistant in Lamar Dodd School of Art. She has worked in libraries for 4 years and is currently working towards a masters in Library and Information Science. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico she now calls Athens, GA home.