I'm reading TWMF once again and after reading this piece I couldn't help but ask myself, why would so many students bother with being a scriv doing such tedious work?

Just like a city, parts of the Archives teemed with activity. The Scriptorium held rows of desks where scrivs toiled over translations or copied faded texts into new books with fresh, dark ink. The Sorting Hall buzzed with activity as scrivs sifted and reshelved books. The Buggery was not at all what I expected, thank goodness. Instead, it proved to be the place where new books were decontaminated before being added to the collection. Apparently all manner of creatures love books, some devouring parchment and leather, others with a taste for paper or glue. Bookworms were the least of them, and after listening to a few of Wilem’s stories I wanted nothing more than to wash my hands. Cataloger’s Mew, the Bindery, Bolts, Palimpsest, all of them were busy as beehives, full of quiet, industrious scrivs.

My first guess is that they're getting paid to do it, just like Kvothe at the fishery. But then there's Ambrose who works there too from time to time. Why would Ambrose need to work there at all? Is it mentioned somewhere what their reason is exactly?

  • 1
    I don't think it's mentioned, but as Ambrose is doing it, it suggests it's more for Brownie points. Sep 8, 2014 at 14:50
  • Because it's a pretty cushy job compared to breaking your back farming or whatever.
    – Joe L.
    Sep 8, 2014 at 15:00

5 Answers 5


In order to become a Re'lar, you need sponsorship from a Master. I do not recall any requirement that you need to be a Re'lar to become a Scriv, but I may be wrong. If I'm right, however, and E'lir can become Scrivs, some may be seeking to become sponsored by Master Lorren by doing so.

Even if you need to be a Re'lar, some might take on jobs as Scrivs in the hopes of Lorren sponsoring them as El'the.

More likely a motivation, though, is that being a Scriv gives one access to the Stacks, which are mentioned as being only accessible to members of the Arcanum, and Scrivs. This implies that you might be able to access the Stacks as a Scriv before attaining the rank of E'lir.

There are opportunities for advancement within service for Master Lorren. Presumably he chooses Procurement Scrivs, like his giller Viari, from those who start off as Archival Scrivs. Procurement Scrivs actually sounds like one of the most adventuresome careers to take within the University hierarchy, as their job is to travel around in search of rare and valuable books.

There are also other career opportunities available through approval and acceptance by Master Lorren. For example, those with aspirations of writing their own books would likely consider being a Scriv an important and valuable apprenticeship.

When Kvothe encounters a draccus, he mentions:

I knew naturalist scrivs in the Archives who would have cut off their hands to study such a rare creature.

This clearly indicates that love of books isn't the only motivation people would have to become a scriv.

I would suspect very strongly that Chronicler was a Scriv at some point during his tenure at the University. I would also doubt that it was solely so that it was due to a lack of major, or for need of money.

Finally... some people simply like books. Others may appreciate the quiet, or the reduced social interaction.

Remember that visibly assisting one or more Masters will likely have a significant impact on your tuition each term, so even those who didn't "need" the money would have incentive to do some amount of currying favor.

  • @Himarm I disagree. Presumably, he interacts with the higher level scrivs regularly. We don't see much of Lorren, so much of this has to be speculative, but certainly he is shown as meeting with Viari (who, incidentally, is a good reason to doubt your claim that anyone seeking sponsorship from Lorren most likely intends to be a permanent scriv in the archives). Also, as far as I recall, e'lir are allowed in the stacks. It is only students who are not yet accepted into the Arcanum (i.e. not yet e'lir) who are prohibited.
    – Beofett
    Sep 10, 2014 at 16:53
  • 1
    @Himarm Supporting quote from NOTW: 'I had my hands on the handles of the doors before Fela’s voice stopped me. “I’m sorry. It’s your first time in here, isn’t it?” I nodded, not letting go of the door’s handles. I was so close. What was going to happen now? “The stacks are Arcanum only.” She said apologetically. She stood up and walked around the desk to the other set of doors. “Here, let me show you.” '
    – Beofett
    Sep 10, 2014 at 17:03
  • 4
    @Himarm looking through the book, I'm finding other conflicts with your claims. For example, when Lorren intervenes with Kvothe's first attempts to research the Amyr, he explicitly mentions "I noticed your request while assisting one of the newer scrivs in his duties.” That lends serious doubt to the claim that he rarely interacts with scrivs, mostly to yell at them.
    – Beofett
    Sep 10, 2014 at 17:07

Someone correct me if I'm wrong on this but there isn't any explanation on why students take jobs like this in any of the books released to date.

The job is probably paid, but it's safe to assume the primary reason for taking a role like this (very few students there are as poor as Kvothe) would be non monetary advantages.

Having the Master of the Library recognize your face / first name would no doubt be one. If you want a Master to apprentice you, spending some time in the building they work and wishing them a good morning each day would no doubt help.


The benefits of being a scriv are that you get an in-depth knowledge of the archives. If you do not have a major of study, such as working in the Medica, or the Fishery (both of which actively enhance your ability in that field) being a scriv is simply a means to increase your knowledge and ability to study. So far we've seen that scrivs tend not to need a position such as Ambrose, Fela, and Sim. We've also seen all three show an interest in poetry which may be another reason that drew them into the archives. I do not think many people are scrivs to impress Lorren for a sponsorship because he does not actually teach many classes nor have a field of study beyond being in charge of the archives. I can't imagine more then two or three people who actively pursue his position and there appear to be many scrivs.

So benefits:

  1. Learning the archives to speed up book finding, helping your education.
  2. Maybe helping Lorren out and his shaving 1 jot off your bill.
  3. If it applies (the limited few) achieving sponsorship under Lorren to become the new archivist after Lorren's death/retirement.

Hence for most it's purely a means to further their education.


Adding to Mikey Mouse's answer, which I believe to be correct, the Scriv is a position that holds a lot of prestige.

If I remember correctly only Re'Lar and higher can be Scrivs, since they need to have access to the Stacks to get the books requested by other students.

It is not only less tiring, but also a lot less dangerous than working at the Fishery ( barring master Lorren's fury, of course).

  • Any member of the Arcanum can access the Stacks. That means El'ir and higher, not Re'Lar and higher. In fact, it is exactly where Kvothe heads as soon as he is done with his lashing, as he is now a member of the Arcanum. It is then that Ambrose sabotages his first visit to the Stacks with a candle.
    – Beofett
    Sep 10, 2014 at 17:04

In real life, college students often work in the library doing similar jobs; I don't think there needs to be any reason particular to KKC that explains it there.

Though, I do like the theory that Lorren is a chief crypto-Amyr in charge of recruiting a quiet cabal to prune the Archives. In that case, at least some of the scrivs do have a reason that I doubt they share with your modern work-study student.

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