Monday, March 4, 2013

Case Study No. 0823: Jinny Williams (library assistant) and Clara Bender

Robot Reviewer No. 2: Jinny Williams, Library Assistant by Sara Temkin and Lucy Hovell (1962)
Two Robots discuss an old book about working in libraries.
Tags: xtranormal robots androids book reviews libraries librarians
Added: 2 years ago
From: MrRobotReviewer
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[scene opens with two cartoon robots speaking directly to the camera]
ROBOT 1: Today, we are reviewing an out of print book called "Jinny Williams, Library Assistant" published in 1962.
ROBOT 2: This is part of the series "Career Romances for Young Moderns," which includes other intriguing titles such as "Nurse Todd's Strange Summer" and "The Vet is a Girl."
ROBOT 1: Jinny, the main character, is a stone-cold moron with the ambition of a clam. Does Jinny, who is currently a junior library assistant, want to grow up to become a doctor?
ROBOT 2: No.
ROBOT 1: Does Jinny want to grow up to become a lawyer?
ROBOT 2: No.
ROBOT 1: Does Jinny want to grow up to become a librarian?
ROBOT 2: No.
ROBOT 1: What does Jinny aspire to eventually become, then?
ROBOT 2: Jinny wants to become much more than a junior library assistant. Jinny wants to become a ... qualified library assistant.
ROBOT 1: Jinny does not get along with the lady reference librarian named Misses Bender. Jinny thinks Misses Bender is a bitch.
ROBOT 2: Luckily for Jinny, Misses Bender moves to Arizona where she probably works in the pornographic movie industry doing fetish films for library perverts.
ROBOT 1: The book is actually unclear on that point.
ROBOT 2: We give this book our highest rating of "Klaatu nikto barada," primarily for a wonderfully retro book cover and some very cheesy dialogue.
ROBOT 1: Thank you for watching Robot Reviewer.



Jinny Williams, recent high school graduate, is also graduated from page girl to Junior Library Assistant at the Ranford (New Jersey) Public Library. As a non-professional worker, Jinny's duties are largely clerical though she soon discovers that the official definition of her job hardly encompasses all the situations she is required to meet. There is an attempt to add color and romance to the story, but the prime purpose of the book is to present the scope of library work to future non-professionals in the field. A respect for books, an interest in serving the public, patience with children and a combination of flexibility and tenaciousness are the outstanding requisites. Because of the day by day dramatization of typical library situations, this is recommended chiefly to those who are unable to approach librarianship professionally but feel they would like to find some career in this field.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1962
Publisher: Messner



Jinny Williams, the Summary
Posted on February 26, 2012 by Samantha Boardman

First, some administrative things. This book has 13 chapters and is only 191 pages. I am attempting to write a summary of this book in just a few blog posts. To accomplish this, I will attempt to summarize each chapter in one sentence*! I will also provide my favorite (and sometimes ridiculous) quotes from the chapter.

*Unless it needs more than one to do it justice.

Chapter 1: Career, Unlimited

The reader is introduced to Jinny Williams, a young girl who just loves working at her local library, and we are introduced to some family members and her oh-so-hot boyfriend; Jinny is promoted and her boyfriend is pissed.

He just doesn't understand, she thought sadly. He can't grasp how I feel about books and the library, and the hush and marvel of it... everything in the world you want to know, right there between covers!


"I can imagine some rich guy with a new card and a college degree falling for you. will you still like me after you meet all the other men that will be coming into the library?"

Chapter 2: Opening the Desk

Jinny starts working as a staff member, is treated like garbage by the professional librarian, gets patronised by a former classmate, and tricks a friend of the mayor into injuring himself so that he will be more inclined to let the library have a larger building.

"Do you want to put your purse away in the desk?" Mrs. Mason had come into the room and her pleasant brown eyes approved Jinny's appearance. "That's an awfully pretty dress. I love shirtwaists, and yellow is so pretty for brunettes."


"Why, this book was due three weeks ago. Didn't you get a postcard asking you to return it?" She pulled the slip from the pack labeled "First overdue notices sent," and inserted it into the book pocket. "You owe," she said, figuring out the fine on the chart, "exactly thirty-six cents."

After Jinny gives someone a senator's address over the phone while the librarian is otherwise occupied, the professional librarian is super-duper angry and chastises Jinny:

"... Reference work is a professional function!"

"But," Jinny stammered, "when I was a page, I always gave the kids this book when they needed it. You used to send me for it yourself."

"That's different! You were getting the book, and not giving out information from it!"

Jinny swallowed. Her intentions had been good. "I'm sorry, I won't do it again," she said contritely. But as Miss Savage turned to speak to someone who had just come in, Jinny said to herself, "Professional function! ... Big deal! I don't need five years of college to get an address out of a book that I used in high school!"

Chapter 3: A Day at the Shore

Jinny goes to the shore and a carnival with her friend, her friend's boyfriend, and her boyfriend, but she doesn't wear any sort of sunscreen; later, she and her boyfriend argue after he says he thinks the library doesn't deserve a new, larger space: he wants teens in the area to have a rec center.

"Arcade! Let's go to the arcade," Gail said with enthusiasm.

Bob shook his head. "What a child you are!" he said dramatically. "Just a small child, the size of a large woman."


"Joe, why does it have to be one or the other? That seems silly. We need a new library. No one denies that. We-"

"I deny it," he answered hotly. "You have a library. You're getting on with it very nicely too. You wanted to work there more than anything. Well, you have your job in the library. Now you want a new library. It doesn't make sense."


"If we had a rec center, it could be used in the daytime maybe for a nursery school for kids of working mothers, and in the afternoon for little kids, and at night for the teen kids. It would get plenty of use. Sure, only poor people would really benefit. Your library isn't interested in them."

Chapter 4: New Interests

Jinny gripes about her sunburn, makes several mistakes at work, gets chewed out and treated like a little girl (appropriately, considering her behavior), and is asked out by a hot guy named Paul, who was creeping on her in the stacks; she agrees, but worries they don't have common interests, after she creeps on him and reads about him in a previous school yearbook.

He placed both hands on the desk and looked down at her. Shaking his head as though he were in awe of her genius, he said, "My! You are an intellectual, aren't you? You should be working in a library."

Jinny laughed. How pleasant he was!

Chapter 5: "The Play's the Thing"

Jinny sees a play with her new, slightly-snobby beau (who will be attending Princeton in the fall), mends books, and watches a librarian get squirt-gunned to the face by an unruly child.

"Gloves?" Kathy's blue eyes went wide. "Why gloves? Don't tell me you're going to wear a hat too!"

"No, a hat won't be necessary. Just the little, white, cotton gloves. They sort of dress up the whole outfit. That's what the college girls wear when they go out on dates. At least, that's what Seventeen says!"


That afternoon, one of the library's regular patrons, old Mrs. Harding, came in. "Give me a good book to read,' she said to Jinny. "I can't seem to pick anything myself. None of the books are worthwhile, lately."

"How about this, Mrs. Harding?" Jinny said, handing her a book that had just come in. "It's about a woman who gets to be a senator-"

Mrs. Harding stopped her with a white-gloved hand and shook her smartly coiffured head. "No! I don't want to read about pushing women. A woman's place is in the home."

Chapter 6: One Never Knows

Jinny tells Joe about her date with Paul, and he's not too happy with it. Jinny works on (and we get a long description of) the reserves, or holds process for books. Later, while in charge of the library for a time, she calls the mayor about his son who is being belligerent and making a disturbance; this garner's her some respect (somehow) from her coworkers.

"What have you done this week that's new or interesting?" he asked in a light, almost bantering tone, and she tried to retain the mood.

"Something I wish I could have done with you," she said lightly. "I went to a play. It was a lot of fun. I loved it."

He smiled indulgently. "Oh, men don't like plays."


When all the new magazines were placed in the current magazine rack, she took the old ones and put them with the rest of the year's issues filed alphabetically along the magazine shelves. After she had sorted and straightened out the disorderly shelves, she felt a housewifely price in their neat appearance.

Chapter 7: All Kinds of People

Jinny's BFF gets engaged, and it causes Jinny to over-think her relationship with Joe and the one date she had with Paul (especially since she just left high school a few months ago). Later that evening the town meeting committee decides to build a new library instead of a rec center. Jinny also has a run-in with a hostile, entitled patron, and gets the better of her.

He smiled down into her face. "I hope you aren't too mad when they refuse to vote yes [for the new library]," he said, and kissing her lightly, ran down the stairs to his car.

For a second she was speechless. "They will so vote yes," she said in a loud whisper. "You'll see."

Chapter 8: A Dance and A Dilemma

Jinny and the library folks attend the ground-breaking for the new library, and then Paul takes her to the harvest dance, but being the only girl not attending college makes Jinny feel uncomfortable. At the library, Jinny almost helps a woman diagnose her husband's illness, and is chastised by the librarian. After a talk with the head librarian about professional work versus clerical work, Jinny still remains irritatingly naive.

Jinny thought a while, then answered slowly, "You mean, because you're smarter than I am, I wouldn't have known how to decide whether or not we should buy the book."

This time is was Clara Bender's turn to look horrified. "No, no," she said, shaken out of her usual calm. "Don't think the difference between professional and non-professional people means that one is smart and one isn't. I knew, because I was trained in library school, how to evaluate a book. ... The difference between professional and non-professional people lies in the amount of training they've had and has nothing whatever to do with intelligence, though I will admit it takes intelligence to do any job well."

Chapter 9: Thanks for a Lovely Evening

Jinny's been on several more dates with Paul, and he invites her to spend time with him and his family when he returns for the Christmas break. Jinny goes with Joe to a Thanksgiving eve dance at the plant where he works. She is super-sociable, making friends with everyone, including the plant's owner (having known his wife through her library work). Joe's best friend tries to guilt-trip Jinny into marrying Joe, and Joe himself proposes, for what appears to be the third time. But Jinny turns him down, saying she's not ready, because she doesn't feel they've been going out for long enough for her to be sure. Joe breaks it off with her in his anger.

I hardly know him in this mood, Jinny thought, realizing with a pang that she actually knew him very little. She had never, she mused, met his family although she knew that he had two parents, a married sister, and a married brother, and that all of them lived in Ranford, not far away from her.


"Don't be mean," Jinny said miserably. "I think I'm in love with you, but is it enough to... to feel this way when you kiss me? Joe, I've never even met your family; I don't know you well enough..."

"My family! Well if that's what you mean, I can tell you they aren't any Mr. and Mrs. Hueston, but I'm not ashamed of them. None of us went to college, but we're all hard workers, and honest." He gripped the wheel of the car. "That isn't enough, is it? You are a little snob!"

"I'll see you once in a while," he said in the same cold tone. "If I happen to have a free night, and you happen to want to date me, O. K. I like your company, as well as being in love with you. I get burned up at the thought of you going with another fellow. But I'll be darned if I will ever ask you again to marry me."

Jinny looked at him unhappily.

"And," he finished, "if you ever decide you want to marry me, you'll have to be the one to say it."

Chapter 10: The End of the Year

It's Christmas for Jinny et. al., and they are decorating the library and having a jolly time. Jinny meets Joe's parents at a church service, and Joe carries her to and from the car so she won't get her shoes wet and catch cold. She goes to Paul's house for a songfest on the 26th; she enjoys herself, but doesn't quite fit in. Jinny can't get Saturday off to go to a New Year's party, and Joe decides to take someone else.

Chapter 11: Bad Leads to Worse

Jinny prepares the yearly statistics for the library, but her circulation statistics are not adding up as they should. She combs through the records, and ends up finding a mistake. Jinny makes some errors processing books, as she is thinking too much about her two beaus. As the week goes on, Jinny makes one careless error after another (and feeds a stray cat, against the rules), and her boss is not happy. The worst thing is when she accidentally does not lock up a valuable coin collection (closing the library by herself), and it is stolen.

What a miserable New Year's Eve it had been. If she hadn't told Paul that she was going to a party New Year's Eve, he might have asked her for a date. Now she'd never really know. How ironic! Two boyfriends, and she had to spend New Year's Eve at home with her family.


Her father put a hand on her shoulder. "What happened, Jinny? What did you forget?"

Jinny whispered, her eyes blurred with tears, "The coin collection. Oh, Daddy!" she sobbed, throwing herself into his arms. "I forgot to put it away and it was stolen. I'll be fired, and I deserve it!"

Chapter 12: The New Director

Jinny speaks to the police about the incident, and is not fired, but she does have to tell the owner of the coins what happened. Joe comes by to console her and offer his help. Mrs. Bender announces her retirement as library director, due to her arthritis problems. The new librarian arrives, and Jinny really likes her. A little boy has an accident, cutting his arm and Jinny uses her first aid training to help him until they get to the hospital.

"Maybe you were right. Maybe I'm not the type to work in the library. If I were in an office, my work would be laid out for me, and I wouldn't make so many mistakes." She hesitated for a moment. "Maybe I ought to quit."

Joe said sternly, "You're no quitter, Jinny. That's not the right attitude. Besides, I don't know how right I was when I told you not to work in the library. I've changed my mind about it, and I must admit I'm proud of you."


"Mrs. Merrill just doesn't seem like a librarian." Jinny searched for the right word. "She seems just like-like-like anyone else!"

Mrs. Williams laughed. "Jinny," she said, "why should librarians be different from anyone else?"

Chapter 13: And Life Goes On

Jinny goes down to see Paul at Princeton. She's decided that she likes him, but not romantically; his way of life is just not for her, so she breaks it off with him. The coin collection is recovered, and Jinny gets promoted to senior library assistant, because the city is going under civil service in a few months. Jinny reads in the paper that the mayor has decided to convert an old municipal building into the recreation center that Joe wanted. She decides that she loves Joe, but wonders if he still cares about her. She invites him over to talk to him about the center, and they agree to marry.

Joe and I are a lot alike, and perhaps that's one of the reasons we argued so much, because we are both stubborn and insist on sticking up for what we think is important. Maybe that's what love really is - believing in something and working together for it, and helping each other over the rough spots.


"Jinny," he said, taking her chin in his hand and looking into the intent blue eyes, so troubled and honest, "would you understand if I said I'm glad you waited? I was wrong to want to rush you into marriage. I was the childish one, not you. If we had gotten married then, and later you had found someone like Paul, our marriage wouldn't have been as good as I hope it will be now. I've done some growing up, too. And I'll act differently. We'll do the things together that you want."

"Joe," Jinny admitted in a small voice, "I was awfully smug. I'll change too, if you want me to."

"You've done enough," he said tenderly. "All I wanted to know is that you love me. You do, don't you?"

"Yes, Joe. Oh, yes," she said. He took her in his arms and there wasn't a bit of doubt left then, for either of them.

And that, dear readers, is the end of Jinny Williams: Library Assistant. Thanks for following me through this book. If I come across any more gems, I'll let you know.



This treasure is from the "Career Romance for Young Moderns" series. There are three things to talk about: the library setting, the romance, and New Jersey.

The Library:As a librarian I found it absolutely fascinating. First of all, it was published in 1962, so it is 45 years old. And many library things about it were exactly the same as they are today. I'm not sure if that's good, bad, or just weird. Obviously anything technology related was wildly different, but the issues were much the same.

In the very first chapter, when Jinny is hired as "junior library assistant", the different roles of the professional librarian and the para-professional library worker are explained to her. [A junior library assistant is apparently a circulation staff member, or a clerk.] I swear some of Jinny's co-workers exist in real life and I have worked with them. In particular, Jinny is plagued by the nasty senior circulation staff member who is gossipy and mean to patrons. Jinny, of course, is practically saintly to patrons. In one instance a harried mother of two has a little boy who is being a little unruly and exuberant. Mean Staffer reprimands him unkindly, whereas Jinny is understanding to the mother and the little boy. I can't tell you how many times I've been in such a situation! Also, there are two librarians-one who plays the stock role of unfriendly but extremely knowledgeable librarian, the other the warm and friendly librarian who likes people.

I got a kick out of reading about the procedures of Jinny's work, and how especially tedious some things, like reserves, were. Like in Marcia, Private Secretary, there was a lot of information about the job itself. Much detail about how Jinny manages the circulation desk, sends out overdue notices, etc.

As a YA librarian I was especially interested to see these two issues crop up: The town needs a new library as the present building they are in was built when the population of the town was a mere fraction of what it is now. While some people clearly could see the need for a bigger more modern building, others were more interested in creating a recreation center for the town. They were concerned that older teens had no place to hang out in after school. Forty-five years later and our towns are still struggling with the need to create safe places for young people to spend time when not in school or at home! Although this issue is hotly debated in the novel, it is resolved in a way too tidy everyone wins way for it be real life. In another situation the library is filled with teens (on a Friday night, no less) and Jinny tells a boy he has to leave. The boy balks and basically says "make me." Now, what makes this dated to me are the fact that Jinny takes it upon herself to tell him he has to leave the library because he's not actively doing schoolwork, but is doodling and talking to friends. I would never take it upon myself to judge someone's use of the library (only if his or her behavior was disruptive to others.) Jinny feels that this boy is taking up a seat that could be used by someone who is studying. She follows a pretty standard "if you don't leave, I'll have to ask the police to escort you out", but then ends up resolving it by calling the boy's father (the mayor) and letting him know how disrespectful his son is.

The Romance: Unlike in the private secretary book, the romance is a pretty significant part of this story. Jinny is torn between two boys: Joe, a boy she's dated a while, who is a blue collar worker, very good looking, and loves Jinny; and Paul, a boy she meets at the library who is cultured, a Princeton student, and very different from Joe. Jinny is very fond of Joe, but doesn't think she ought to commit to marriage just yet, as she is not only just graduated from high school and 18 years old, but also because she feels she owes it to herself to make sure she wouldn't be happier with someone else. Yeah, Jinny! I totally agree with her on this. Unfortunately, Joe is a jealous and threatened ass, and doesn't understand why Jinny finds it nice to be taken out to a play or a show. He thinks her library job makes her superior to him. Paul comes across as the intellectual effete opposite of Joe. Jinny dates both, struggles with who is a better match for her, and ultimately comes to a decision which I do not think was a good one.

New Jersey: What a wonderful surprise to discover this book is set in new Jersey! It turns out that the author, Sara Tempkin, was asst. director of the Cranford Public Library. Thus, the book is set in "Ranford." I'm not sure why she bothered with that incredibly undeceptive fake name since so many other details in the book are accurate NJ information–a drive in the Watchung Reservation, a trip to the Papermill Playhouse, a day down the shore, etc. I loved all those details. The one other fake name she uses is "Lenlo Park" for Menlo Park. Again, not real deceptive. Schnookie calls this sort of writing the "Blanguage of Blove".

I thoroughly enjoyed this for many reasons, not the least of which to gleefully read aloud certain things to my husband and say "can you believe they said this?!" All my librarian friends want to read this now (my copy came all the way from the South Carolina State Library!)–perhaps they'll be an ILL run on this title. Happy reading, librarians!!

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