The Library:As a librarian I found it absolutely fascinating. First of all, it was published in 1962, so it is 45 years old. And yet…so many library things about it were exactly the same as they are today. I’m not sure if that’s good, bad, or just weird. Obviously anything technology related was wildly different, but the issues were much the same.
In the very first chapter, when Jinny is hired as “junior library assistant”, the different roles of the professional librarian and the para-professional library worker are explained to her. [A junior library assistant is apparently a circulation staff member, or a clerk.] I swear some of Jinny’s co-workers exist in real life and I have worked with them. In particular, Jinny is plagued by the nasty senior circulation staff member who is gossipy and mean to patrons. Jinny, of course, is practically saintly to patrons. In one instance a harried mother of two has a little boy who is being a little unruly and exuberant. Mean Staffer reprimands him unkindly, whereas Jinny is understanding to the mother and the little boy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in such a situation! Also, there are two librarians-one who plays the stock role of unfriendly but extremely knowledgeable librarian, the other the warm and friendly librarian who likes people.
I got a kick out of reading about the procedures of Jinny’s work, and how especially tedious some things, like reserves, were. Like in Marcia, Private Secretary, there was a lot of information about the job itself. Much detail about how Jinny manages the circulation desk, sends out overdue notices, etc.
As a YA librarian I was especially interested to see these two issues crop up: The town needs a new library as the present building they are in was built when the population of the town was a mere fraction of what it is now. While some people clearly could see the need for a bigger more modern building, others were more interested in creating a recreation center for the town. They were concerned that older teens had no place to hang out in after school. Forty-five years later and our towns are still struggling with the need to create safe places for young people to spend time when not in school or at home! Although this issue is hotly debated in the novel, it is resolved in a way too tidy everyone wins way for it be real life. In another situation the library is filled with teens (on a Friday night, no less) and Jinny tells a boy he has to leave. The boy balks and basically says “make me.” Now, what makes this dated to me are the fact that Jinny takes it upon herself to tell him he has to leave the library because he’s not actively doing schoolwork, but is doodling and talking to friends. I would never take it upon myself to judge someone’s use of the library (only if his or her behavior was disruptive to others.) Jinny feels that this boy is taking up a seat that could be used by someone who is studying. She follows a pretty standard “if you don’t leave, I’ll have to ask the police to escort you out”, but then ends up resolving it by calling the boy’s father (the mayor) and letting him know how disrespectful his son is.
The Romance: Unlike in the private secretary book, the romance is a pretty significant part of this story. Jinny is torn between two boys: Joe, a boy she’s dated a while, who is a blue collar worker, very good looking, and loves Jinny; and Paul, a boy she meets at the library who is cultured, a Princeton student, and very different from Joe. Jinny is very fond of Joe, but doesn’t think she ought to commit to marriage just yet, as she is not only just graduated from high school and 18 years old, but also because she feels she owes it to herself to make sure she wouldn’t be happier with someone else. Yeah, Jinny! I totally agree with her on this. Unfortunately, Joe is a jealous and threatened ass, and doesn’t understand why Jinny finds it nice to be taken out to a play or a show. He thinks her library job makes her superior to him. Paul comes across as the intellectual effete opposite of Joe. Jinny dates both, struggles with who is a better match for her, and ultimately comes to a decision which I do not think was a good one.
New Jersey: What a wonderful surprise to discover this book is set in new Jersey! It turns out that the author, Sara Tempkin, was asst. director of the Cranford Public Library. Thus, the book is set in “Ranford.” I’m not sure why she bothered with that incredibly undeceptive fake name since so many other details in the book are accurate NJ information–a drive in the Watchung Reservation, a trip to the Papermill Playhouse, a day down the shore, etc. I loved all those details. The one other fake name she uses is “Lenlo Park” for Menlo Park. Again, not real deceptive. Schnookie calls this sort of writing the “Blanguage of Blove”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this for many reasons, not the least of which to gleefully read aloud certain things to my husband and say “can you believe they said this?!” All my librarian friends want to read this now (my copy came all the way from the South Carolina State Library!)–perhaps they’ll be an ILL run on this title. Happy reading, librarians!!