5 Librarians Who Changed the World

Who's your favorite library superhero?

There are some interesting and unconventional library superheroes you may not know.

We here at EveryLibrary know that librarians are some cool cats. After all, they protect intellectual freedom, provide vital resources to their communities, and inspire the minds of old and young alike.

But did you know they’ve always been society’s superheroes? 

While there’s no way to make a comprehensive list of all the badass bookworms that make the world a better place, here are a few from history that we think you should know.

1. Eratosthenes

Eratosthenes was the chief librarian at the Great Library of Alexandria, rumored to have housed 900,000 manuscripts along with the first known example of a library cat (a rescue named Myeo). 

Like many modern librarians, he was a multihyphenate, dabbling in geography, mathematics, poetry, astronomy, and music theory. He’s known for discovering the system of latitude and longitude and inventing a way to find prime numbers.


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2. Giacomo Casanova

You may think librarians are all bifocals and Dewey Decimal Systems, but Giacomo Cassanova was known more for his wine and wild nights, disastrous money schemes, and multiple jail sentences. 

A scam artist who once pretended to be a 300-year-old alchemist, he was also considered a brilliant writer and poet. In his later years, he worked as a librarian for the Count of Waldstein in Bohemia.

3. Helen Marot

Helen Marot was a librarian at the turn of the twentieth century who wrote extensively about the horrific labor conditions of the time. She investigated the working conditions of women and children and was the leader of the first large-scale strike of dressmakers.

In 1887, she helped found The Free Library of Economics and Political Science, which focused on economic and social reform. The library soon became a center of thought in Philadelphia, encouraging a more humane vision of society.


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4. Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde—poet, writer, feminist philosopher, civil rights and LGBTQ+ activist—was also a librarian. 

Before she received an NEA grant and became poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College in 1968, she served as the head librarian of the Town School Library in New York City.

Among her many achievements, Lorde is known for such works as Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches and Black Unicorn. She’s thought to be one of the architects of our modern understanding of intersectionality.

5. Pura Belpré

Pura Belpré was New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian. Frustrated by the library system’s lack of Spanish language books for children, she decided to write one herself. 

The result—Perez y Martina—was the first Spanish children’s book published by a mainstream press. She traveled all over the city using puppets to tell stories in both English and Spanish, a first at the time. 



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