The Spirited Young Girl

Continuing our series of reel librarian character types…

The Spirited Young Girl is always young, attractive, and intelligent, and often outspoken and independent-minded. These fashionable, modern and physically attractive library workers view their work in the library as a temporary job. Their roles are often used in contrast to older, more conservative librarians (see The Blot, 1921; Racing with the Moon, 1984; Storm Center, 1956; Weird Woman, 1944, among others).

What's a Spirited Young Girl to do?

How do they differ from Liberated Librarians? The main difference is that Liberated Librarians undergo a change — personality-wise and/or physically — often comprising the film’s main plot. Spirited Young Girls don’t really change throughout the film. A good example of this is the young public librarian Amelia Griggs in The Blot – it is her steady, sweet personality that influences others, not the other way around.

The characters are usually main characters, but their links to libraries have little or no impact on the story. It makes sense that most of these character types find themselves in the Class II category. As the female leads, there are no unnamed Spirited Young Girls (at least so far that I can find) — they have names like Caddie, Lucy, Jenny, and Mary — but truthfully, the “Spirited Young Girl” moniker could stand in just as well for them on the cast list.

This plucky youngster usually meets the story’s leading man in the library, attracting him with her intelligence and often spunky personality and continuing to impress him outside the library. Three films that exemplify this storyline are Pump Up the Volume (1990), Love Story (1970), and Good News (1947).

In Good News (1947), Connie Lane (June Allyson) works as the assistant librarian to help pay for her schooling. She falls in love with the college football star (Peter Lawford), and they later sing and dance while she closes up the library.

Ali MacGraw as Jenny, the lovely and intense library assistant in the Radcliffe College Library in Love Story, is verbally rebellious, ’70s style — while also clad in so-chic-I-want-her-entire-wardrobe-for-my-own ’70s style. In the opening scene, she ridicules Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), who is charmed nonetheless and invites her out for coffee. As you do.

In Pump Up the Volume, Samantha Mathis plays Nora, a rebellious teen who works behind the counter at the high school library. She also sends letters with sexual content to a renegade DJ, under the alias of “The Eat Me, Beat Me Lady.” See her “meet cute” moment with Christian Slater, below.

Next week we take a look at the Male Librarian as a Failure.

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