Librarians hold a deceptively humble, yet powerful, role: Whether you’re a young child or an adult, a new student or an erudite academic, they offer guidance to rich worlds of literacy and scholarship. Librarians are on the front lines, putting a friendly face to the idea of book love and helping millions of Americans get the resources, encouragement and support they need to become avid readers.
Who our librarians are, then, actually matters a great deal. In Kyle Cassidy’s new book This Is What a Librarian Looks Like, the photographer reveals portraits of hundreds of librarians, sharing both their sunny faces and their thoughts on the value of libraries. The result: a colorful tapestry of men and women of all ages, races and ethnicity, some dressed conservatively and some with tattoos and brightly dyed hair, but all bursting with smiles and enthusiasm for their life missions.
In his introduction, Cassidy writes that he began the project after one of his future subjects, Naomi Gonzales, asked him to attend an American Library Association meeting. “She promised me,” he recalls, “that librarians were both friendly and photogenic” ― a bold claim that is backed up by his project. His book, which features guest essays by writers like Jeff Vandermeer, Neil Gaiman and Amy Dickinson, doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges libraries face in an era of threats to public funding and a rising emphasis on digital resources over print collections. Nonetheless, the tone is heartwarming and optimistic, encapsulating the idealistic value for the written word and commitment to equal opportunity that many associate with libraries.
Above all, the volume is a touching reminder of the loving human work that keeps our libraries thriving, ready to help us when we need them. Below, we’ve excerpted several portraits from This Is What a Librarian Looks Like: