How David Wellington Created "The Toughest Librarian in Post-Apocalypse Seattle"Not all librarians are mild-mannered. Some of them write zombie books.
Tim Kempfer, the main character in David Wellington's Plague Zone, is a librarian. That is to say, he was a librarian, before the zombie apocalypse came to town.
David Wellington worked as a librarian before he became a zombie author.
A few days ago, I corresponded with David Wellington regarding his prior work as a librarian with the UN. I was interested to know how this fit in with his writing career. I asked David a few questions, and he graciously responded with some detailed comments.
Jule: I noticed that you have a Master's of Library Science Degree. I also read that you worked as a librarian for the U.N. Would you be willing to tell me a little more about that aspect of your life?
I worked at the UN while I was writing my zombie novels, back in 2003 and 2004. I didn't work directly for the UN libraries but as a contractor on a massive digitization effort, taking documents that went back to 1947 and the founding of the UN and making them electronically accesible. We scanned documents and assigned metadata to them, and worked on creating a finding aid. It wasn't nearly as exciting as it sounds.
I worked toward getting my MLS in the hopes of getting a permanent position at the UN, but sadly, it was not to be. They just didn't have it in the budget to hire my team on full-time.
The job ended just after I got my first book contract, and I've been working as a writer ever since.
Where did you work in the U.N. and which collections did you deal with?
I didn't work directly for the UN libraries but I did spend a fair amount of time in the main library, which is a fascinating place. The UN library is probably the only library in the world that has among its concerns not just shelving space and the high price of academic journals but also espionage and terrorism.
While working there I met ex-KGB agents, European aristocrats, and people implicated in global scandals (the Oil for Food scandal, specifically), as well as people from countries I'd only ever known before from maps. It really broadened my perspectives.
Did you enjoy the tasks associated with the job?
I enjoyed my time at the UN. My grandfather was a dietician who worked with the World Health Organization, fighting famine in Iran and Africa many decades ago, and so it was really cool to work for the UN; I'm a huge supporter of the organization and wish it had more power to do good around the world.
I find library work interesting as well--any good writer needs to love doing research on topics most people would find deadly boring.
Do any of your experiences as a librarian show up in any of your zombie novels?
My career in library science was a short one but it definitely helped inform my books. The main character of my novel Plague Zone, for instance, was a librarian and I drew on a lot I'd learned while creating him.
My studies in library science also exposed me to a lot of great research databases and avenues. So I consider it an extremely positive experience.