Icons of England
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634 of 1170 nominations



Is this an icon?



The English librarian – or chief librarian, more properly – is a formidable figure. Overseeing her book-lined domain, she was traditionally seen, in both comic films and popular affection, as a staunch disciplinarian. There was no chattering in her libraries, only the quiet turning of pages, and the occasional punch of the date-stamp as it released another Dennis Wheatley novel to a fortnight of freedom in the outside world.

Woe betide anybody who brought books back after the due date, when a swingeing system of late returns fines swung into action. You fumbled shame-facedly for 10p, while others in the queue silently tutted at your lack of consideration. If a title you wanted didn’t appear to be in stock, you could gamely ask her to order it in, but needed to be prepared for the meaningful raising of eyebrows if you requested Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

These days, there are DVDs and CDs on loan as well as books, and library etiquette has in many places gone the way of cinema etiquette, in a society that has lost the ability to sit still and keep quiet. Nonetheless, the chief librarian reigns supreme, a still centre of authority and calm in a changing world.

Photo: David Pearson



Your comments

I think the English Librarian should be an icon of England not the lily-livered 'foreign' librarians... the 'proper English' librarian should have a bun, glasses, a tweed skirt and sensible shoes... she (no sexism meant but have you ever seen a man in a tweed skirt??) should be quietly spoken, but a dragon if you cross her... extremely knowledgeable...do YOU know or understand the Dewey system? She is excellent at keeping peace and harmony at all times in all areas of the deathly quiet library ... in fact she is the best!

Sue Newbold

I am a librarian, we attempt to provide a wellcoming, peaceful environment that is accessible to all. Shame on all of you who voted for such a narrowminded, stereotypical view. Why should the icon of the information professional (either male or female) be the preserve of this wonderful nation? My colleagues in other countries are both knowledgeable and helpful, encouraging study and learning in students of all ages and disciplines.

I cannot believe that so many people have voted against the notion that librarians are NOT an English/British icon! These seneschals of 'many delights', regardless of their dragon-like discipline, created a haven for both education and imagination. Shame on you who thought otherwise!
Johnathan Oswin

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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer