Library Career Romances

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That was one of the delightful things about her job. It brought her in touch with so many people, all—or almost all—of whom made her not only feel welcome but that she was doing something really worthwhile.

She gave a little sigh of pleasure as she unlocked the library door. She loved working here and she loved the work itself. -- from Jan Marlowe, Hospital Librarian (1960)

From girl detective stories to novels about boy wizards, series fiction has long been a staple of young adult literature. One type of series less well-known today is the “career romance” or "career girl novel" that appeared during the 1940s through the 1960s, as women entered the workplace in increasing numbers. Publishers of juvenile fiction sought to exploit this demographic trend with books featuring accomplished and attractive young women simultaneously pursuing their professional and romantic goals.

Although Nancy Drew is still sleuthing over 70 years on, her one-time fictional contemporary found herself retired from the shelves once the novelty of women in the workforce wore off. Today one needs an eBay buyer's account or access to a library with a historic children's literature collection (or an inadequate weeding policy) to find career-girl titles like Joan Chooses Occupational Therapy (1944) or Brenda Becomes a Buyer (1960). Out-of-print series such as Dodd Mead’s “Career Books” or J. Messner's “Career Romances for Young Moderns” present a broad range of job scenarios, including the pioneering (Lady Architect [1957]; Lady Doctor [1964]; Lady Lawyer [1964]) and the unusual (Sandra Kendall of the 4-H: The Career Story of a Young Home Demonstration Agent [1942]; Tune in for Elizabeth: Career Story of a Radio Interviewer [1945]; Space Secretary [1963]). However, most titles explore more commonplace, female-dominated professions such as nursing, teaching, and library science. 

Featured here are 20 examples of the latter, often written by librarian authors, and starring heroines (sorry man librariansyou're left out in the cold as usual) who find love amidst the glamour of card catalogs, microfilm readers, and bookmobiles. Like many teen novels from this period, library career romances tend to have nearly identical bildungsroman plots (girl wants city job, gets stuck with country job, grows to appreciate small-town American values), give or take the occasional mystery storyline (girl hones information-seeking skills on the reference desk, tracks down kidnap victim, donates reward money to the city for library improvements). Though formulaic, dated, and varying in quality from the excellent to the almost unreadable, the novels help document the evolving image of librarians in popular culture and can still hold charm for modern-day library professionals. Such readers might find resonance with the real romance story underlying the heroines' entanglements with civic-minded boy reporters and their wealthy playboy foils: a true love for libraries and librarianship.