She must have a sense of humor — it is absolutely necessary. She must not only see herself as others see her, she must see themselves as others see themselves.
She must be gently needleworkish with the old lady who wants a new pattern in drawn-work. She must be militantly suffragettish with the sister who wants to go to prison for the cause. She must be humble with the man who considers her a menial. She must try to act the part, since she cannot look it, when appealed to as a twenty-volume encyclopedia. She must feel a warm sympathy for all isms, she must of a working knowledge of all ologies.
She must never resent rudeness. Her prejudices, her personal tastes, her feelings must be hidden away. She must remember, always smilingly, that she is a servant of the public.
One of the most difficult demands to satisfy is the frequent request fo “a funny book.”
Now, if you have ever thought about it you know that there is no standard of funniness. Vague though it may be, we have a line above or below which a thing is god or bad as to plot, construction, style; but when it comes to the quality called humor, every man is a law unto himself. The book that one person says is “roaringly funny” another calls “deadly dull.”
A very nice person returns a book saying, “This is so funny we read it aloud, and I left the family still laughing.” Another man slams the same book down on your desk an hour after he has taken it home and cries in fiery tones, “Do you call this funny?” or “Don’t you know the difference between vulgarity and wit?” and goes out murmuring bits of the letter he is going to write the newspapers about gross misuse of the city’s money.”
HOW WE LOOK TO THE YOUNG WOMAN BACK OF THE DESK IN THE LIBRARY: She Tells of the Queer Things We Do and the Queer Things We Say When We Go There to Get a Book. (PDF)
From August 20, 1911