Librarian Superheroes: Ellen Bosman

Welcome to LIBRARIAN SUPERHEROES–the unsung defenders of books. Ellen Bosman is a librarian at the University of New Mexico. I caught up with her in the middle of a challenging mission, cataloguing books by New Mexico Authors. Her cape made quite the impression. Lucky for us, she took time from her dangerous mission to answer a few questions from a pesky reporter.
Ellen reading in 2008

Ellen reading in 2008

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

The ability to be in more than one place at a time. I would be simultaneously kayaking, bird watching, and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

What is the best thing about your job?

Helping people with their research questions. I love the combination of detective work needed to find an answer and knowing

I helped the user. Plus I learn about many subjects along the way.

What is the worst?

Being in administration, I wish I had more opportunities to work directly with users on their research needs.

What are you reading now, and what do you think about it?

I am on the Stonewall Book Awards committee so read a lot of gay/lesbian books. Unfortunately I can’t comment on those books

until the awards are announced, but I can comment on a few I enjoyed last year.

Very cool! Tell us more…

One my favorite genres is young adult fiction. I really enjoyed Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie, by S. J. Adams. I read the book in one day. The fast pace, breathless nature of the writing/story was engaging and reminiscent of the headiness of being in high school, feeling like everything is earth-shattering and must be taken care of NOW. The rush and confusion of first love, the risk-taking, the cliques, the clunker cars with not enough gas or enough money for gas, the realization of religious hypocrisy–it all felt very realistic. I just had to keep reading to find out what happened. I found the plot unpredictable and the characters engaging. I think everything about the book was fun, from the cover art and title, to the writing style and characters.

Art on Fire by Hilary Sloin is a somewhat unusual work of fiction. It is a pseudo-biography, complete with fake footnotes and art reviews, of lesbian artist Francesa desilva. Tomboy Fran lives in the shadow of her genius sister Bella in their otherwise typically dysfunctional family circa late 1970s–early 1980s. Fran meets Lisa, also a genius, at one of her sister’s parties for the socially inept. Thus begins Fran’s only love, an on again-off-again relationship burdened by Lisa’s internalized homophobia, her own familial baggage, and Fran’s belief that she can never really, truly love. Fran runs away from home, begging Lisa to join her. Ultimately, Fran ends up living a life of artistic deprivation. The isolation suits her and, through a serious of coincidences, she becomes a famous artist, eclipsing her sister’s success.

There are several layers of mystery in the story and the reader is invited to read between the lines–and footnotes– looking for the truth but the mystery is only a subtle part of an otherwise tragic story, filled with broken people, thwarted desire, unfilled dreams. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the scholarly art analysis of Fran’s work with the rest of the story. The reader almost has to laugh at the art reviews, as each attempts to decipher the meaning in Fran’s art within the context of feminism and lesbianism while the reader knows how each piece came about and why. A story of contradictions and sadness.

My TBR pile just grew. Tell us a story about yourself or about a librarian you know that runs counter to the myth of librarians as retiring, spinster-ish, bookworms.

At my last job I was working with a colleague on the reference desk and another librarian came by. We were carrying on some discussion when a patron asked us to be quiet. Clearly we were a chatty bunch, social to a fault—literally. The image of librarians as quiet, etc. has become a trope, media’s code for communicating precisely that someone is quiet, retiring, and book-ish. However the advent of the Internet, e-books, and other technologies in the library has mitigated the image to some extent. Librarians are now portrayed as tech savvy.

Is there a librarian in your past that influenced you?

I don’t recall the names of my local, branch librarian in NJ and my school librarian. I’ve always been drawn to libraries and have a very vivid memory of my first library visit. I had just learned to write my name and my mom took me to the branch library. I was in heaven and asked the librarian how many books I could take home and she said “as many as you can carry.” That response wowed me. Plus, I wanted to play with all the stamps on the librarian’s desk. Alas, by the time I became a librarian stamps were virtually non-existent.

Are there topics you feel writers need to write about more?

There is always more room for stories with characters of diverse ethnic backgrounds.  I would like to see a greater variety of religious fiction based on faiths other than Christianity; the latter has pretty much cornered the market.  The growing visibility of transgendered individuals indicates the need for more serious fiction featuring transgender individuals and bisexuals could also be included in that category.

What do you have to say to readers?

Read as many books as you carry. Read outside your favorite genres to broaden your horizons.

Great advice! That’s why I belong to a book club. It forces me to read books I never would’ve picked up on my own.

Thank you for stopping by, Ellen. Have fun snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef!

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