The World’s Strongest Librarian

Heartbroken with my mother’s dementia and busy with my two kiddos off of school for the summer, I have struggled lately with finding a book which captures my attention.  While on vacation in Salt Lake City, Utah, though, I discovered that book I had been searching for desperately.

When out of town, I always like to explore the local library with my family, especially a library located downtown.  All of those books housed right in the center of the hustle and bustle of a city causes the goosebumps to rise on my skin.  So, while in Salt Lake City, my girls and I sought out the local library.

While at lunch, we asked the waiter to point us in the right direction of the city library.  I was bummed when while rubbing his chin he repeated my question back to me with, “Hmmmm.  Where is the local library?”  Doesn’t everyone know where his/her local library is and frequent it on a daily if not weekly basis?  I know the answer is “no,” but always advocate for an eventual answer of “yes.”

After too long of a walk for my arthritic knees, we arrived at a beautiful glass building with multi-levels.  We could barely contain our excitement as we entered the structure.  What was interesting to note is that to the left of the main entrance was a row of small shops, one being the library’s gift shop.  My daughters and I agreed we would definitely peruse this shop once our exploration of the library as well as the FREE art class offered by an instructor from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts was complete.


Two hours later we were looking at all of the literary offerings in the small shop.  What caught my attention was a book with the title The World’s Strongest Librarian with a subtitle of, A Book Lover’s Adventures.  Sold (!) even before the young woman working behind the counter said the author, Josh Hanagarne, was a librarian who worked in this very branch, the branch my girls and I had just explored.  If this wasn’t the perfect souvenir, I didn’t know what was.


Immediately taken with the anecdote offered in the Introduction, I giggled, cried, and learned while feverishly reading this book.  Hanagarne has such a humorous take on life which comes shining through in his detailed descriptions.  I could smell the stench in the library, hear the man calling Hanagarne a “. . . tall bigot” (1), and feel his exasperation when young people didn’t think reading was “cool.”  When he described how in one of his college English classes, students nearly came to “. . . blows over the implications of a semicolon . . .” I couldn’t help but think of my own English studies full of uncomfortable arguments in class, which I had to sit through while watching the clock, and laugh out loud.

With his words, Hanagarne caused me to fall in love with his devout Mormon mother, the person responsible for the author’s love of reading and his constant cheerleader through life, and his wife Janette, who stood by him through years of educational and career failings due to his Tourette Syndrome.

I found myself reading portions of the book to my hub and then later catching him reading The World’s Strongest Librarian on his own in our hotel room.

Besides a fascinating look into the life of a Mormon, a young boy suffering with Tourette’s, and a young man struggling to find his way in life, it is also a list of recommended readings as Hanagarne highlights books which have touched his life throughout the years. . . a definite must-read.