A Tale of Two Librarians

I know some librarians read this blog occasionally. Well this is for you.

A play called “The Future Australian Race” is being performed in Melbourne at the State Library until this Friday. It sounds absolutely fantastic so if you can get there to see it, do so!

And for those of us no where near Melbourne there’s a podcast of The Book Show interview with the two playwrights Bill Garner and Sue Gore, who are both delightful. The play is about the relationship of Marcus Clarke, one of Australia’s first writers and the author of For The Term of His Natural Life and Sir Redmond Barry, the man who is best known for sentencing Ned Kelly. The two men met at the State Library of Victoria in the mid 19th century, where Barry was the head librarian and Clarke the sub-librarian.

The two men could not have been more different. Barry was a maker of lists. No, that’s too mild a way of putting it. This is a man, who before going on a long trip, made a list of every single item in his house down to the last teaspoon, who kept lists of every thing he ate, and every time he had sex (!). Clarke was not so much of a list person. According to Garner and Gore he’d start writing a list and quickly drift of into a line of poetry. The first historian of the State Libarian called him a “bad librarian,” as Gore and Garner put it: someone who’s “untidy and doesn’t keep a good catalogue.”

Listen to the podcast. It’s hilarious and fascinating. And if you can get to the play please do and report back on what it’s like cause I’m dead cranky I can’t go.

I’m now thinking of the librarians I know and I’m sorry to say quite a few of them are bad librarians. Messy, messy messy.


  1. Hillary! on #

    He wasn’t a bad librarian, he was just modern, or waaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of his time.

  2. Gina on #

    Librarians rule!

  3. Christopher Miles on #

    It’s a terrific play (disclaimer: I know one of the actors). It was great to hear the interview afterwards, too; I found myself swinging between admiration of Sue and Bill for giving us such a fresh look at our history, and envy of them for getting one of those State Library Creative Fellowships.

    Oh, and the inviting-looking old leather couch has a special purpose in the play. Just in case you were planning to sit in it. That’s all I’m saying.

  4. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    But a messy librarian is a good thing! If books are organized too well, it becomes impossible (or at the very least, extremely difficult) to get confused and find something you’d never go looking for on purpose, but which turns out to be fantastic anyway. Hooray for messy librarians!


  5. lili on #

    it IS excellent, i saw an early reading a couple of years ago.

    there used to be two large stone lions out the front of the Library, and every morning, Marcus Clarke would stick a lit cigar in a lion’s mouth, to indicate he was ‘in’.

  6. Christopher Miles on #

    He was a bit of a rock star, wasn’t he? I bet if he was working in a cigar factory, and there were two large stone lions out the front of it, he’d put in a book in one of the lions mouths.

  7. Justine on #

    Don’t look at me. I’m just quoting. I’m all for mess and disorganisation! Bad librarians rule!

    Christopher: Oh, I am beside myself with jealousy! Er, I mean thank you for reporting in.

    Lili: This is prolly the point where I should confess that I have an ENORMOUS crush on Marcus Clarke and you just made it worse.

    Christopher: You, sir, made me spray my computer screen with water. I demand recompense!

  8. cw on #

    Justine, what would make you classify a librarian as a bad one? Messiness alone? Disclaimer: I am a librarian and curious 😉

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