We’re sure it’s a bit of a coincidence, but after years of visiting different branches of the San Francisco Public Library, we started to discover that there are some incredibly talented people who work behind the desks, shelve the books and keep order in the world of reference materials. We set out to meet just a few of the astonishing number of musicians, artists and other creative types who dutifully serve the public every day….
Moazzam Sheikh has a theory as to why so many creative types hold down day jobs in the public library system.
“Writers and artists and painters and dancers and photographers, in their bones, they see themselves as marginalized people,” he says. “We are really drawn to people who have never touched a computer or don’t have language skills or young kids who have never read before. We go out of our way to make sure these huge, expensive buildings don’t intimidate them. Every day we come to work and expend our patience, knowledge and caring to the marginalized and lonely people.”
Sheikh, who is a librarian in the art and music department at the Main Library, is also a prolific translator whose works are frequently published in Punjabi and Urdu, and a fiction writer who has put out two short-story collections. The title of his most recent, “Cafe Le Whore,” is a play on the name of his native city of Lahore, Pakistan, and features witty, touching takes on the challenges of immigrant life in the States.
But there is a finer, more literal focus in his work, too.
“I get to work on the 38-Geary,” he says. “I get off on Hyde Street and walk that patch to the library and see that side of life — whores and pimps and war veterans and drug addicts. We cannot turn our back on these people.”
These librarians rock, literally!