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 Houston-based librarian, Marley Crusch.
Book Marks: What made you decide to become a librarian?
Marley Crusch: Libraries have always been a place of comfort for me, and I wanted to be a part of ensuring they continue to exist. There’s so few places where you can just “be” these days without having to spend money. After floating around in my career for a bit, I wanted to dive into something that I liked and that could make a difference. Library science, and the branch I currently work at, just feel like the perfect fit. We’re making a positive impact on the community, helping people improve their lives every day, and spreading the joy of reading. What could be better?
BM: What book do you find yourself recommending the most and why?
MC: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is very popular here, so for folks who want something similar I’ve been suggesting Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, which is so darkly brilliant. My personal tastes are more sci-fi and fantasy focused, which I don’t get many customer requests about. Instead, I’ve just been hounding all my friends to read The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai so I can geek out about it with them. I’m also constantly exploring new graphic novels, in part because they’re my favorite (Iron Circus Comics especially!), but also so I have a supply of recommendations for even the most reluctant readers.
BM: Tell us something about being a librarian that most people don’t know?
MC: It can be a surprisingly physical job! Lifting tubs, sorting, and shelving throughout the day can add up, as can running around finding things for customers or leading them to the correct section. “Librarian Bootcamp” will be the next fitness class craze, I’m calling it now.
BM: What is the weirdest/most memorable question you’ve gotten from a library patron?
MC: “When will these hooligans be out of here?” was something a patron asked that nearly made me lose my cool. We’re a Family Place Early Learning Center in a fairly low-income area, so things can get kind of rowdy (especially following storytime.) Our standard response is that we’re more of a community center than a traditional library, and for a quieter experience we recommend our Kingwood Branch. However, for this particular individual I suggested they either reconsider their prejudices or leave.
On a lighter note, we had a request come in for books on how to defend yourself in court against a murder charge! We suggested Represent Yourself in Court by Paul Bergman.
BM: What role does the library play in contemporary society?
MC: An essential one! We’re of course always here to guide folks towards reading and generally help them learn, especially when it comes to technology. But we do so much more than that! We provide entertainment and encourage curiosity for all ages with our numerous programs, we provide citizenship classes, and we’ve even partnered with the Houston Food Bank to do a Summer Feeding Program. We’re dedicated to improving our community, and it’s exciting to see what’s possible!
BM: Who is your favorite fictional librarian?
MC: Tough one…Marion from Music Man is so aspirational (and has a song about her!), but Mr. Ambrose from Bob’s Burgers is hilarious, so I’ll have to call it a tie.
Marley Crusch is a library service specialist at Harris County Public Library’s Octavia Fields Branch. When she’s not on desk, she enjoys writing, running, and crying about cartoons. Check out her work over at dotandline.net or on Twitter @mindcrusch