What sorts of roles do librarians play in works of fiction? In what sorts of dramatic situations do contemporary writers involve them? How are the personalities and the working situations of these fictitious librarians described? Can we construct a tentative “literary image” of the profession, based upon scrutiny of a few recent novels involving librarians?

This article explores portrayals of librarians in selected works of fiction, notably those involving mystery or detection. It begins with a summary of information derived from descriptions of about one hundred and twenty contemporary or recent works, then discusses particular stories involving detection or mystery, with occasional references to other genres. Librarians frequently appear in these works as protagonists or as major supporting characters – detectives or villains, suspects or nuisances. In a substantial number of them, librarians figure as supporting characters – as partners or foils for the protagonists.

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