10 Surprising Former Librarians

Len Trievnor/Getty Images
Len Trievnor/Getty Images

It's National Library Week! To celebrate, we're taking a look at 10 people who once worked among the bookshelves.

1. Mao Zedong

Before he led the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong worked as a librarian's assistant at Peking University between 1918 and 1919. He needed a job, and earned only $8 a month carrying periodicals to the readers and organizing shelves. "My office was so low that people avoided me," he once said.

2. J. Edgar Hoover

The future FBI director got his start in government when he worked at the Library of Congress ("the world's largest filing cabinet") while attending night school at George Washington Law School. At GWU, you had to be a government employee to attend night school. He started as a messenger, but soon rose in rank to cataloger, then clerk. While working at the Library of Congress, Hoover mastered the Dewey Decimal System, which became the model for the FBI's Central Records System.

3. Laura Bush

MANDEL NGAN, AFP/Getty Images

The former First Lady holds a masters degree in library science from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to teaching in the public schools, she was a librarian in the Houston, Dallas, and Austin school systems. Bush used her passion and enthusiasm for reading during her time in the White House, launching (with Congress) the first National Book Festival in 2001.

4. Lewis Carroll

The talented author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass served as sub-librarian at Christ Church, Oxford University. The library was perfect job site for this avid reader: Carroll kept track of the library's books and their borrowers in addition to tutoring students and lecturing in mathematics.

5. Jorge Luis Borges

Although he never won the Nobel Prize for his literary achievements in Latin America and beyond, Jorge Luis Borges did work as a public librarian in Buenos Aires. When he supported the allies during WWII, Juan Perón dismissed him from his position and offered Borges a poultry inspector position instead (he declined). Once Perón fell from power, Borges was appointed director of the Biblioteca Nacional, but stepped down when Perón regained control of Argentina. While serving in this prestigious position, Borges also taught literature at the University of Buenos Aires.

6. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova

Keystone, Getty Images

The world's greatest lover worked for 13 years at the castle of Count Waldstein in Dux, Bohemia. Down on his luck and low on funds, Casanova asked for a favor, since the occultist count was known to have an affinity for fellow adventurers and fascinating people. Casanova set out to catalog the count's more than 40,000 volumes and clean the library, but he spent most of his time writing. It was there that he wrote his famous Memoirs.

7. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe explained his passion for the details of a librarian's job when he said, "The library organization proceeds little by little, slowly enough. I hold my course, and seek to push on from section to section. I profit occasionally from an hour of poetry, or a bit of scientific knowledge." Goethe worked at the Weimer Library, one of the most important libraries in Germany, where he meticulously organized and cataloged. His success here led to other branches asking for his help.

When cleaning and organizing the disarrayed Jena library, Goethe needed more room for books, and his request to use an empty room was denied. He was determined to succeed, so much so that he broke through the brick wall to complete his project. Later, because the dampness of the library was damaging to the books, Goethe wanted to break down a city wall, and did the same thing.

8. Eratosthenes of Cyrene

In addition to measuring the Earth's circumference, Greek mathematician and geographer Eratosthenes served as head librarian at the library of Alexandria, and also personally tutored the Greek-speaking king of Egypt. Alexandria was considered the scientific and cultural center of the world in the 3rd century BCE, and being a head librarian gave Eratosthenes the reputation of a universal scholar. He was a model bibliographer and possessed an all-around broad knowledge of many fields of study.

9. BEVERLY CLEARY

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

This Newbery Medal-winning author and creator of beloved characters such as Ramona Quimby served as a children's librarian in Yakima, Washington.

After studying at the school of librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle, she took the job, where she enjoyed interacting with all sorts of children. Cleary's favorite guests were the ones who had homemade roller skates and scooters and asked her, "Where are the books about us?" Cleary answered by writing dozens of children's classics, the first of which featured Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy.

10. Batgirl

When DC Comics wanted to generate female interest, a "grown-up" version of Batgirl appeared in January of 1967 in Detective Comics #359. In this later incarnation (the original character, Bat-Girl, had been created in 1961), Barbara Gordon was the grown daughter of a police commissioner and worked as a librarian. She only began her crime-fighting career by accident, breaking up a robbery when she happened to be wearing her Halloween costume. Who was the victim of this crime? Bruce Wayne, of course!

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

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13 Facts About Se7en for Its 25th Anniversary

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).
Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).
Warner Home Video

While the 1980s were all about the cinematic mass murderer as a mute, emotionless entity, the 1990s were a good time to peddle screenplays about high-IQ serial killers: The Silence of the Lambs started the decade by becoming one of the few thrillers to ever receive a Best Picture Oscar. But with audience fatigue setting in, few expected that 1995’s Se7en—from a first-time screenwriter and an as-yet-unproven director—would turn out to be a modern genre classic.

1. Se7en came from the mind of a record store employee.

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was a graduate of Penn State’s film program. Several years later, however, he was no closer to achieving his goal of working in the industry. Making ends meet at a New York City Tower Records store, Walker was so depressed that he wrote a bleak and oppressive script about the hunt for a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his crimes.

Satisfied with the outcome, he sent the script to professional writer David Koepp, then followed up with a phone call. Koepp agreed to send it to his agent, who found a buyer in New Line Cinema. (After reading it, Koepp also advised Walker that he "needed professional help.")

2. David Fincher signed on to direct Se7en because of a mix-up.

Getty Images

With only the disappointing experience of Alien 3 under his feature directing belt, David Fincher knew he wasn’t going to get too many more chances to impress Hollywood. He chose Se7en because of its unconventional approach to the genre—particularly the finale, which featured Brad Pitt’s detective character finding that the killer, “John Doe,” had beheaded his wife and stuffed her cranium into a box. Producers wanted the ending changed so that the wife lived, but when Fincher expressed interest in the film, he was accidentally sent Walker’s earlier, more intense climax. Fincher told the studio that was the draft he intended to shoot; they agreed, although producer Arnold Kopelson continued to argue against it throughout filming.

3. Brad Pitt worked himself to the bone on Se7en.

Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).Warner Home Video

During a scene in which Pitt’s character, Detective David Mills, is chasing the killer through a perpetually rainy backdrop, Pitt slipped and drove his arm through a windshield. The resulting injury (a severed tendon) was so deep it went down to the bone. Pitt had to wear a cast for the rest of filming, which was written into the script; for scenes that had to be shot that took place earlier than the chase, the actor had to conceal his arm as best he could.

4. Se7en’s "Sloth" was a very, very underweight young man.

Warner Home Video

To cast the role of a victim who was chained to a bed and starved, producers had only two criteria: the ability to lay down for long periods of time and a very slight frame. At 98 pounds, actor Michael Reid MacKay fit the profile. Mostly. “They asked if I could lose a little more weight,” he said. “I didn’t.”

5. Se7en’s “Greed” didn't know what he was in for.

Actor Gene Borkan answered a casting call looking for a smarmy lawyer type. It wasn’t until he arrived on set that he realized he was going to spend his time naked, covered in blood, and acting like a corpse. "Right there and then I renegotiated," he said, asking for (and getting) five times the Screen Actors Guild day-scale fee of $522, as well as a pair of underwear.

6. Most of Se7en’s violence happens off-screen.

Warner Home Video

Despite extended examinations of tortured, bloated, or insect-infested corpses, virtually all of the actual bloodletting in Se7en takes place before Detectives Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills arrive on the scene. The film’s lone on-camera murder happens only when Mills kills Doe for murdering his wife.

7. Even Se7en’s title sequence was revolutionary.

Fincher originally intended to open the film with scenes of Detective Somerset visiting a home in the country and taking the train back. But when Fincher had to screen a rough cut for studio executives, he needed some filler. That’s when he called Kyle Cooper, a Yale graduate who created a kinetic opening montage of John Doe’s journals set to a Nine Inch Nails song. The New York Times hailed Cooper’s work as a step forward in filmmaking; the designer would go on to high-profile projects including the Spider-Man series and Dawn of the Dead. His work was so compelling, director Zack Snyder once said that some directors refuse to use him because he “makes title sequences better than the movie.”

8. Se7en opened against Showgirls.

Gina Gershon in Showgirls (1995).Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Se7en opened in theaters September 22, 1995, the same day as director Paul Verhoeven’s critically reviled Showgirls. While the latter was not the complete commercial disaster it’s often remembered as—Se7en made $13 million in its first weekend, compared to $8 million for the NC-17 film—it came nowhere near Fincher’s worldwide take of more than $327 million dollars.

9. Morgan Freeman was supposed to shoot the killer in Se7en.

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Se7en (1995).Warner Home Video

Walker and Fincher toyed with the idea of having Freeman’s Detective Somerset shoot John Doe after finding his partner’s wife’s head in a box, but Pitt vetoed the idea: he figured anyone who found their loved one like that would put a bullet into the perpetrator without a second thought.

10. Brad Pitt made sure Gwyneth Paltrow's head stayed in the box in Se7en.

After a bad experience where studio heads intervened on Legends of the Fall, Pitt was determined to make sure Se7en didn’t suffer the same fate. When he signed on to the film, he insisted that the original “head in a box” ending stayed intact. New Line agreed, but after testing the film, Pitt found himself having to put his foot down. “They go, ‘You know, he would be much more heroic if he didn’t shoot John Doe—and it’s too unsettling with the head in the box,’” Pitt recalled in 2011. "'We think maybe if it was the dog’s head in the box ...'"

11. Audiences swore they saw Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in Se7en.

As with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its legendary shower scene, audiences believed they were shown more than they were. Viewers came out of the film believing the severed head of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who played Pitt’s wife, appeared onscreen. It did not. “The thing I appreciated about it and what I thought Andrew Kevin Walker’s script did so well was that it got your mind in overdrive,” Fincher told Playboy in 2014. “It worked on your imagination … we were in great shape and didn’t have to show the head in a box.” Despite his protests, Fincher has gotten into at least one argument with someone who swears they saw it.

12. Se7en inspired a comic book.

In 2006, Zenescope Entertainment acquired a license to produce a seven-part limited series based on John Doe’s fascination with the seven deadly sins. “Pages” of the journal glimpsed in the film were included. The title lasted seven issues.

13. Naturally, the studio wanted a sequel to Se7en.

Despite the closed nature of the film’s ending—Pitt’s character is probably headed for either prison or a mental institution—New Line wanted to build on what they thought could become a franchise. The studio took a spec script titled Solace about a psychic investigating a serial killer, and had it retrofitted for Freeman’s Detective Somerset. The project never moved forward with Freeman; Solace was eventually released—with former Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins—in 2015.

This story has been updated for 2020.