Thomas Bodley (1545-1613, England) Founded the Bodleian, and made it the first depository library; pioneering fundraiser. Superpower: Secret diplomatic missions to France.
Antonio Panizzi (1797-1879, England) As head librarian at the British Museum, doubled its collection and designed its iconic reading room. Devised and implemented a new cataloging code. Advocated for the public’s right to learn. Knighted for his service as a librarian. Termed the “Prince of Librarians.” Superpower: Drama: was tried in absentia for subversive political activism in Italy, committed to death, and sent the bill for his hanging (he refused to pay; Italy later made him a senator); feuded with his trustees; popular with the ladies…
Gottfried van Swieten (1733–1803, Netherlands/Austria) Longtime prefect of the Imperial Library in Vienna. In 1780 introduced the first card catalog. Superpower: Music patronage, notably of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven.
Vespasiano da Bisticci (1421–1498, Italy) Provided catalogs, books, and advice to library founders; collected and organized the Duke of Urbino’s library. Superpower: Luddism: disliked the emerging printing press, despite having written 300 biographies.
Paul Otlet (1868–1944, Belgium) Essayist on information science. Created the Universal Decimal Classification, a faceted adaptation of Dewey, and introduced 3×5 index cards to European card catalogs. Organized the Universal Bibliography Repository, with 15 million facts on index cards, used to answer reference questions by mail. Early adopter of new media. Superpower: Utopianism.
James Bain (1842–1908, England/Canada) First chief librarian of the Toronto Public Library. Advocated for inclusion of fiction in the collection, despite controversy; also sought comprehensive coverage of Canadian history and literature. Founding member of the Ontario Library Association. Superpower: Fundraising.
Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716, Germany) As head of various ducal libraries in Germany, independently re-invented book indexing; called (unsuccessfully, but well ahead of his time) for publishers to distribute abstracts of their new books; helped design what may be the first building specifically intended as a library. Superpower: Mathematics: is best known as one of the inventors of calculus.
Gerdina Hendrika Kurtz (1899–1989, Netherlands) Appointed as Haarlem city archivist despite legal and social pressure against female employment; wrote a book on the history of the city archives; hid Jewish groups’ archives during World War II. Superpower: Documentary photography, recording the history of German-occupied Haarlem.