1. Ben Franklin: Ben Franklin didn’t sit behind a circulation desk and help college kids find research materials, but he is still a legitimate librarian. In 1731, Franklin and his philosophy group Junto organized the “Articles of Agreement, ” which set up the nation’s first library. Their library, called The Library Company, was first meant to benefit only the members of Junto, so that they could share books on the issues they discussed during meetings. It was organized as a subscription library, and members of Junto payed a small fee to retrieve books.
Franklin was actually the second librarian, and the Company grew to include more books than most university libraries at the time, plus artifacts like coins and fossils. Over time, The Library Company granted access to members of the Second Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention and others.
2. Melvil Dewey: Founder of the Dewey Decimal System, Melvil Dewey was born in New York in 1851. While a student at Amherst College, he worked in the school library to support his living expenses and stayed on as a librarian after graduation. After experimenting with different cataloging and organization methods for library collections, Amherst College published his work A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library. Dewey has been named the “Father of Modern Librarianship” and even helped created the American Library Association in 1876.
3. Eratosthenes: The Greek scholar Eratosthenes discovered the system of latitude and longitude and made significant contributions to astronomy. Eratosthenes was also the chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria.
4. Saint Lawrence: As one of the patron saints of librarians, Saint Lawrence, or Lawrence of Rome, was a Catholic deacon who was killed by the Romans in 258 for refusing to turn over the collection of Christian treasures and documents he was entrusted to protect.
5. Mao Zedong: Mao Zedong, the man responsible for uniting China during the 1940s and 50s when he organized the People’s Republic of China, was a librarian. In 1918, Mao lived in Peking China as a young man, he was as assistant librarian at Peking University. The chief librarian at Peking University was a Marxist, and succeeded in converting Mao to communism.
6. Seyd Mohammad Khatami: Seyd Mohammad Khatami was the fifth president of Iran and a former Iran Minister of Culture. He is also a former head of the National Library and Archives Organisation of Iran. He is considered to be a reformist in Iranian culture and politics, supporting freedom of expression and foreign diplomacy.
7. Golda Meir: Golda Meir was the fourth prime minister of Israel, from 1969-1974. She was also one of the twenty-four who signed the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948; am ambassador to the Soviet Union; Minister of Labour from 1949-1956, and the inspiration for the Broadway play Golda, which starred Anne Bancroft. Before her distinguished political career, however, Golda Meir worked as a librarian.
8. J. Edgar Hoover: As the legendary director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover led domestic investigations from 1924-1972, as head of the Bureau of Investigation and when he founded the FBI in 1935. In his early life, however, Hoover went to night school at George Washington University and supported himself by working at the Library of Congress. There, he was a messenger, cataloguer and clerk. In 1919, Hoover left the Library of Congress and worked as a special assistant to the Attorney General.
9. John J. Beckley: John J. Beckley is recognized as being the first political campaign manager in the U.S. He was also the first Librarian of the United States Congress, serving from 1802-1807. In 1789, he was sponsored by James Madison to be the Clerk of the House and supported the new Republic party in 1792, backed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
10. Giacomo Casanova: The infamous spy, writer, diplomat and lover Casanova was born in Venice during the first half of the 18th century. Although he studied to become a priest at the University of Padua and the seminary of St. Cypria, Casanova is well-known for being a drinker and for having scandalous love affairs with numerous women. Later in life, he worked as a librarian for the Count of Waldstein in Dux, Bohemia.
11. Pope Pius XI, or Achille Ratti: Pope Pius XI served from 1929 -1939, during which time he established the feast of Christ the King and spoke out against social justice crimes and unethical financial corruption practices. Before he became pope, Ratti was a librarian and scholar, and at the Vatican, Pope Pius XI famously reorganized the archives.
Scholars, Artists and Philosophers
12. David Hume: Scotsman David Hume contributed greatly to 18th century philosophy and economics, writing important works like Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and A Treatise on Human Nature. He was an anti-Mercantilist, and according to The New School, Hume “was also one of the better articulators of the Quantity Theory and the neutrality of money.” In 1752, Hume became a librarian at the Advocate’s Library in Edinburgh, where he wrote his famous History of England.
13. Marcel Duchamp: Marcel Duchamp is considered to be one of the most significant and influential modern artists of the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp was born in the Haute-Normandie region in France, where he took drawing and painting classes as a child. In the early 1900s, Duchamp experimented with Cubism, nude works, and was active in the intellectual and artistic groups influencing the newest culture and trends in Paris at the time. Around 1912, Duchamp became tired of painting and worked as a librarian at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genvieve, during which he devoted his time to math and physics experiments.
14. Lewis Carroll: The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Dodgson grew up in Cheshire and Yorkshire, England, and after graduating from Oxford with a B.A. in mathematics, he became a sub-librarian at Christ Church there. He left that position in 1857 to become a Mathematical Lecturer. Dodgson first told the story of Alice Adventures in Wonderland to the three daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, in 1862. The book was published three years later and continues to be a popular and significant work of fiction today.
15. Beverly Cleary: Popular children’s book author Beverly Cleary wrote the Ramona Quimby books and Henry Higgins books and has received three Newbery Medals. But before she became a celebrated author, Beverly grew up in a tiny town in Oregon, where her mother asked the State Library to send books to their farm. During the Depression, Beverly went to junior college in California and later attended the University of California at Berkeley. She then attended the School of Librarianship at the University of Washington, Seattle, and became a children’s librarian.
16. Laura Bush: Former First Lady Laura Bush earned her Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Texas at Austin after working as an elementary school teacher. As the First Lady of Texas, she supported George W. Bush’s campaigns and started her own public projects regarding education and literacy. When George W. Bush became President of the United States, Laura supported librarian recruitment initiatives and toured many libraries around the world.