Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Library Week Library Heroes: Philip Larkin

Although Larkin (August 8, 1922 - December 2, 1985) became a librarian only after his attempts to get into the British civil service failed, he was relatively successful in his job. He began his library career in 1943 at the Wellington urban district council in Shropshire, then acquired his professional accreditation through correspondence courses. He moved on to the post of assistant librarian at the University College of Leicester in 1946, then sublibrarian at Queen's University, Belfast, and in 1955 he became librarian of Brynmore Jones library at the University of Hull, Yorkshire.

In a 1965 interview, Larkin complained that "work encroaches like a weed over the whole of my life... It's all the time absorbing a creative energy that might have gone into poetry." He also said that he "equate[d] librarianship with stoking boilers." By the time he was interviewed in 1979 for the London Observer, however, he had changed his mind: "Librarianship suits me--I love the feel of libraries--and it has just the right blend of academic interest and administration that seems to match my particular talents... I've always thought that a regular job was no bad thing for a poet." On living in Hull, he said that he felt "the need to be on the periphery of things."

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