PC038: In the House of the Seven Librarians

By Ellen Klages.
Read by Rachel Swirsky.

Once upon a time the Carnegie library sat on a wooded bluff on the east side of town.

Rated G. Contains a childhood made strange by books.

  del.icio.us this!

37 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Wilson Fowlie said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

    What an utterly delightful story!

    (Minor) Spoiler alert!

    Even if it hadn’t been so enjoyable on its own merits, it would totally have been worth it for the phrase “feral librarians”!

    End of (Minor) Spoiler

    So much of this story resonated with me. I wonder if one would have to be of a particular age (or older) and remember libraries not unlike this (the library in my town was more central than this one, so what happened in the story – at least, the good part – couldn’t have happened, though the bureaucracy could have, and may well have).

    I also liked hearing about Ann’s favourite books in the introduction. We have some favourites in common – I loved the Edward Eager books (and still do, and am now able to share that love with my daughter!) – and there are many she mentioned that I haven’t read that I am now looking forward to investigating. (My tastes, or at least the books that I knew about as a child, ran to more straight fiction, like the Alvin Fernald stories, the Danny Dunn series, almost everything by Cleary, and the Great Brain books.)

    And, like Ann, my heart is wrenched every time I see those old, loved books put out as Discards. I did a similar rescue mission with a few of the Great Brain books (though not the actual copies I’d read as a kid – different library in a different city) as Ann did with the Norton.

    I loved Rachel’s reading. Did I detect a bit of emotional choking-up in her voice near the end there? It would have been hard to avoid; I was rather overcome myself, even though I saw it coming. (In my opinion, an ending you can predict is fine, as long as it’s the right ending! And besides, I only predicted its general nature, not its specific form.)

    This is – and I imagine will be for a long time to come – my favourite PodCastle episode.

    For those who’d rather discuss it in the forum, the link is http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2282.0

    Here’s hoping the HTML in this post works, or I shall be respectfully requesting Rachel to remove it.

  2. 2

    Andy Kerr said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

    I love it. Not terribly different from my real view of an exceptionally creative, fun-loving God, but the portrayal as a mischievous little boy made me laugh.

  3. 3

    Andy Kerr said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

    Whoops, that should have been for Minitature 24, “Intelligent Design.”

  4. 4

    Jason Puckett.net » Blog Archive » PodCastle: In the House of the Seven Librarians said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

    […] week the fantasy fiction podcast Podcastle published In the House of the Seven Librarians, a fairy tale about a foundling raised in the Carnegie Library.  Don’t look for it to break […]

  5. 5

    Chainring said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    What a fun story… nothing too deep, but rich enough to draw you in… sweet without being saccharine… moving without feeling emotionally manipulative.

    … criminey… being a parent has turned me into a sap. I would’ve hated this a decade ago.

  6. 6

    Impressively uplifting « Capybaras are haters said,

    January 9, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

    […] 10, 2009 Various stuff is going on, making these last few days pretty awful. This still made me almost uncontrollably happy, though. I wish I’d grown up in a magical library. […]

  7. 7

    Hyperion said,

    January 10, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    I have been so looking foward to the return of PodCastle, checking daily, like a girl might check the post for a letter from her soldier-love. (Okay, that was a lame analogy, but it was old-fashioned, and I think the librarians would have liked it.)

    I was having a lot of fun listening to the story, so much so that I managed to forget for a little while that with any sort of “reality” making an appearance, one had to acknowledge that in some ways Dinsy’s completely sheltered upbringing bordered on child abuse, or at least neglect.

    This thought took full shape at the door with the key, as visions of some creepy Witch-Ya Sisterhood (with unsettling implications) danced through my head.

    Luckily, all was made right in the end, and we’re left with just a wonderful tale, and a shout-out to what WE will likely be the last generation to see: an old fashioned library, where many of us first learned that magic was real.

  8. 8

    Jonathan said,

    January 11, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    We have a split opinion of this one.

    I loved it. Absolutely. I loved it so much I wanted to share it with my wife. We both shared a love of the Carnegie Library while stationed in Pittsburgh over the past four years, and I thought the story would strike a chord in her.

    My wife, who is a green-eyed, black-haired beauty I met while she was studying for her Masters in Library and Information Science, hated it. She found it sappy.

  9. 9

    James said,

    January 11, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    A welcome return. I missed my Podcastle fix!

    I loved this story, my local library here in the U.K. is a Carnegie.


  10. 10

    phignewton said,

    January 12, 2009 @ 12:18 am

    ..i thought the warning said ‘a life made strange by boobs’ which perhaps gave me the wrong expectation for this story. Is good though.

  11. 11

    Bingorage said,

    January 12, 2009 @ 5:04 am

    Everyone wants a magical childhood, or at least wishes it for the children. It took seeing “Dinsy” in print, before I perceived reference to “Disney”; the ultimate purveyor of kiddy fantasy for us nouveau geezers.

  12. 12

    Penguin Girl » books » she’s back said,

    January 12, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    […] If you want to read more of Ms Klages’s work, I highly recommend that you check out Portable Childhoods. I discovered her through the PodCastle podcast, they have at least two of her stories included in this collection of short stories in recent podcasts. […]

  13. 13

    scatterbrain said,

    January 12, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

    A simply wonderful story that makes me want to get back to that Gene Wolfe on the bedside canbinet. Klages managed to create an interesting blend of Ballardian slipstream and magical realism without really tieing the story down to any genre.

  14. 14

    Gary H said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 1:17 am

    Wow, that was great. Well imagined and written, especially the blend of the familiar with the fantastic. Nothing over the top, just fun fantasy in a real world setting.

    I had to laugh at the librarians’ comments on the early teen years, exactly what we said about our daughter: “remember when she was a sweet kid”. They still are at heart, and we know that as parents. We are really lamenting for ourselves at the transitions we go through as our children grow up. We love every part of our kids, even the parts that want to break free of us.

  15. 15

    Mark M said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 4:19 am

    I really loved this one.

    The independent characters of each librarian really helped to develop and move the story, and Dinsy wasn’t simple or naive. And I didn’t make any real comparisons to witches (ala Andre Norton or other semi-magical genres) until the very last.

    Although it did remind me (a LOT) of Norton at the very end when I finally looked back and compared all the librarians.

    And I had to laugh at the reference to Marian. My daughter played Marian (the librarian) in a college production of “The Music Man”. Although no librarian never hummed “Stairway to Heaven”…

    And I really loved the “10 things to remember” for the library.

  16. 16

    Mark M said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 4:40 am

    Oh yeah, I forgot. “Raised by feral librarians”. I roared. Best line ever.

  17. 17

    Dylan said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    I enjoyed the start of this story so much that I didn’t even wait for it to be done to write this comment.

    It wasn’t the magical library that grants wishes that made me love this. It was how the author constructed perfectly how it feels to be in the library at such a young age. It feels full and as if every book is telling its own story all at the same time.

    The story also reminded me how wonderful it is to form new words with your mouth. This was common when I was young, but it is becoming harder to come by.

    also “non-friction section.”

  18. 18

    Josephine said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

    Swear I know these librarians.
    This was a really wonderful story, thank you.

  19. 19

    The Evil Eyebrow » “In the House of the Seven Librarians” said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    […] listened to the Podcastle story, In the House of the Seven Librarians today. This is a story about a magical library and its seven librarian attendants who raise a […]

  20. 20

    carrie said,

    January 19, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

    Oh, I wanted to like this so badly. Raised by feral librarians! A beautiful, wish-granting building! So much time alone with books!

    Sadly, I found the story soft-toothed and cliched. None of the librarians I know would want to be stuck in time and all would realize that it’s the “outside world” that creates the exact thing that they protect.

    As for Dinsy, she held no fascination for me at all. I couldn’t care less what happened to her after she left the library.

  21. 21

    Xenia K. Chamberlynne said,

    January 24, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

    It’s stories such as these that make me truly desire to become a character within them. Only the finest of literature can evoke a feeling that brings to try desperately to climb within it. By the end of the story I desperately wish that I was the eighth of the seven librarians!

    The imagery was unprecidented. I especially loved the descriptions of the fireplaces and Children’s Room. It brought me back to memories of my own childhood library.

  22. 22

    LaShawn said,

    January 26, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

    When I was a little girl, my most frequent fantasy (and this was before boys entered the picture) was that I would run away and make my local library my new home. I think one time, I tried hiding during closing time just so I can stay the whole night, reading all the books I ever wanted. Unfortunately, the librarians weren’t as whimsical or sweet as the ones in this story.

    Listening to this brought back all those magical feelings of the library I used to have in full force. I love the beauty of Dinsy and how she was raised not just by the librarians, but the library itself. I loved, loved, loved the fairy tale feel and Klages’ style of writing. It’s rare that I listen to a podcast twice, but this one I definitely want to sit down in a quiet room and listen for pure enjoyment.

    And then I think I’ll start going to the library more.

  23. 23

    Dave said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

    I liked this one. It made me miss the old library in my hometown, in an old church, that got replaced by a huge, sterile edifice across town by the high school.

  24. 24

    In the House of the Seven Librarians « i can bend minds with my spoon said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    […] I link it here so that you might also enjoy it. […]

  25. 25

    Seraph said,

    January 29, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

    A lovely, gently magical tale. Very cool indeed.

  26. 26

    Blaine Boy said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 2:49 am

    A lovely story. I think that’s all need be said about it. Simply, lovely.

    The Blaine Boy

  27. 27

    kirsty said,

    February 3, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    I loved this story

    It takes me back to childhood memories of when I was young and my spinster aunt would take me to an old library in her neighborhood.

    How every corner held a secret and every book it’s own world

    and the dark mysterious reference section I was always too young to be allowed to visit


  28. 28

    arminzerella said,

    February 9, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

    I liked this a lot – especially how the library was some kind of growing, living, vibrant organism itself (constantly adding to its own collection, and offering up boons to its caretakers/keepers, although maybe their relationship was more symbiotic). I’m a librarian myself, and have had discussions with friends of mine about having our own “not public” library to enjoy and look after. But I’m with Dinsy – I’d like to get out into the world and see what *it* has to offer. 🙂

  29. 29

    AdventureMom said,

    February 9, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    Loved the story! Better yet my children (ages 6 and 8) could listen and enjoy it as well! Great choice. Please, please continue to offer family friendly fantasy. It is truly magical to share these stories and continue to build their love of the written word.


    Perhaps you could convince P.M. Butler to write another another Squonk the dragon story?

  30. 30

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: January 2009 said,

    February 17, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    […] first PodCastle story of January is “In The House Of The Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages (read by Rachel Swirsky) and is a fitting start to the year for the youngest […]

  31. 31

    Fred said,

    February 23, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

    I listened to this one on the way home from a convention with my own librarian sweetie. We both very much enjoyed the story, although she would neither confirm nor deny a secret magical society of librarians. (I did always suspect as such, though.)

  32. 32

    tielserrath said,

    March 19, 2009 @ 6:25 am

    That’s an hour of my life I want back.

    The writing was good, the descriptions were clear, but oh, dear dog, so slow.

    And fillling it with a group of characters who were difficult to keep separate was not a good idea; I still didn’t know who was who at the end.

    I’m not a fan of off-the-wall writing, but there was nothing here that didn’t happen exactly as you’d predict it to.

    Most of the stuff I review is reasonable ideas let down by the writing quality. This is, more unusually, the reverse.

  33. 33

    Liz said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 4:08 am

    I loved this – especially the idea of the kitchen as a “taxonomic battleground” (I’m a librarian who constructs thesauri and taxonomies for a living…); this is definitely one I’ll be listening to another time…

  34. 34

    Plug: Escape Pod « Erie Science Fiction Book Club said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

    […] is far broader than the epic high fantasy ghetto I’ve come to despise. Try In the House of the Seven Librarians, which seems appropriate given our book club’s […]

  35. 35

    SF&F Short Stories Online « Book Love said,

    January 12, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    […] In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages […]

  36. 36

    REVIEWS: The House of Dead Maids, The House of the Seven Librarians, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore » Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog said,

    December 24, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    […] – Ellen Klages (read by Rachel Swirsky) [rating: 5] audio / freebie / read Nov. 18-19, 2012 / PodCastle Technically this is a mere short story but since the audio version is a little over an hour long I […]

  37. 37

    Ellen Klages, Toastmaster of the 2014 Nebula Awards | Alas, a Blog said,

    March 19, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    […] “The House of the Seven Librarians” which first appeared in Firebirds Rising and which I got to narrate for PodCastle, and which you can get a kindle single version of, too. But by no means is this the only wonderful […]

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