Songs of the Library Staff: the Reference Librarian

Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911) was a journalist, poet, and librarian (at the Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts) who, in 1906, wrote a series of poems that were delivered at an American Library Association conference that was held at Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island. The poems were collectively called The Song of the Library Staff. The poems, which described some functions that occur in a repository of knowledge, were eventually published as a single volume. The following is the second in a series of poems that will be circulated through the fall semester.

Be sure to say hello to the Cardinal Cushing Library Reference staff and feel free to ask for help.


“See the Reference Librarian And the joys that Appertain to her; Who shall estimate the contents and the area of the brain to her? See the people seeking wisdom from the four winds ever blown to her, For they know there is no knowledge known to mortals but is known to her; See this flower of perfect knowledge, blooming like a lush geranium, All converging rays of wisdom focused just beneath her cranium; She is stuffed with erudition as you’d stuff a leather cushion, And her wisdom is her specialty—it’s marketing her mission. How they throng to her, all empty, groveling in their insufficience; How they come from her, o’erflooded by the sea of her omniscience! And they know she knows she knows things, —while she drips her learned theses The percentage of illiteracy perceptibly decreases.. Ah, they know she knows she knows things, and her look is education; And to look at her is culture, and to know her is salvation.”


Image by: Merle Johnson

Works Cited:

“Foss, Sam Walter.” Compton’s by Britannica. Britannica Online for Kids. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2016. Web. 22 July 2016 .

Foss, Sam Walter. (1906). The Songs of the Library Staff. New York: John R. Anderson. Retrieved from:;view=1up;seq=7.

Peabody Essex Museum. “The Song of the Library Staff” by Sam Walter Foss. Rerieved on July 2016. Retrieved from:


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