Reader Q&A

I’ve collected a few reader questions, so I figured it was a good time to flex my librarian skills in answering some questions! Art imitates life, right? :)


Question #1:  How many movies have librarians in them?

This is a frequently asked question from multiple readers (and colleagues!).

I don’t have a hard-and-fast answer, as there continue to be movies made each year that feature reel librarians. Therefore, I am always adding to my Master List of titles that I am also slowly working my way through and verifying. But at current count, my Master List has 795 titles (825 total minus the 30 Class V films that have no librarians in them). There are also currently 152 titles on my Foreign Films list, as well as 94 titles on my Short Films & Documentaries list.

That adds up to a running total of 1,041 reel librarian films thus far. Wow!


Question #2:  Librarians of color

This question “How many movies are there with librarians of color?” comes from reader Tracy S.

Again, no definitive answer, as I continue to work my way through my Master List, a lifelong project. But taking a look through the films I have seen thus far in my Reel Substance section, there have been at least 24 reel librarians of color (15 African Americans, 5 Latinos, 3 Asian/Asian-Americans, and 1 Native American), including the following:

African-American:

Latino:

Asian / Asian-American:

Native American:


Question #3:  Classical music in Spider-Man librarian cameo

Danny D. recently asked, “May I know the name of the classical music when Stan Lee was in the library in The Amazing Spider-Man where he was not aware what was happening behind him.”

Although I haven’t found anything that directly confirms the classical music that plays during Stan Lee’s cameo in 2012’s Spider-Man reboot — see my post about his cameo here — it sounds like the Vienna Waltz by Johann Strauss. It’s most definitely a waltz, in any case.


Do you have any reel librarian-related questions you’d like me to research? Please leave a comment below or send me an email by clicking the “Ask a Librarian” link above. Thanks! :)

On the light-hearted side

Through one of my searches through my local community college library consortium, I stumbled upon Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession, written by librarian Kathleen Low and published by McFarland in 2007. With such an intriguing title, I requested the book and have enjoyed myself immensely flipping through all the collected bits of trivia. Some of that trivia has inspired some previous (and future) posts on this blog.

It is a book to be savored and not rushed through. It is definitely NOT a book that needs to be read straight from beginning to end — it is a book meant for opening up and reading whatever catches your eye. And lots of things caught my eye, including:

  • The preface, in which the author describes when, as a young librarian, she dressed up for Halloween as the prototypical Spinster Librarian, complete with bun, high-necked blouse with cameo pin, and chunky block heels. No one at work commented on her outfit — they weren’t sure it was a costume! ;)
  • A section in the fifth chapter about librarians in politics (“If librarians were wallflowers, they’d never get elected to office”), as well as a small section of librarians in film. I was able to add a couple of short films to my Short Films & Documentaries list.
  • The essays in the ninth chapter about the “ideal librarian” — essays from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
    • One of my favorites was “The Up-to-Date Librarian” published in 1901:  “the up-to-date librarian must have, besides her knowledge of books, and her technical training, a business training; she must be, first of all, a practical business woman.”
    • One of my LEAST favorite from this section came from “Women as Librarians” by Dr. C. Norrenberg in 1901:  “The hopelessness of the learned library career for women need not trouble her, however, for the field of woman is not that of learning, but rather of culture, and that of the librarian not in the scholarly, but in the public library.” A decidedly male perspective of the times — and with his (misplaced) condescension, Norrenberg manages to insult both women AND public libraries. Hmph.
  • In the final chapter, interesting tidbits about library history, including library curses (!), library bookcase innovations in the 16th century, and the Camel Library Service in the very recent history in Kenya (begun in 1996, see above).

The best thing about the book is its fun perspective on all things librarian — after all, as Kathleen Low states in her introduction, “Today’s librarians are anything but boring — so be prepared to have your preconceptions shattered.” :)

Adventures in Trivia

When I first started out researching the field of reel librarians — this was back in my undergrad days — one of the first books I came across was a book called Bib/Triv: Profundities, Banalities, and Trivialities in Libraryland, by Frederick Duda.

An odd-yet-charming title, no?

It’s fun still to flip through this slim little volume, published in 1992 by McFarland & Co. (Note: Its Amazon profile does not have a cover pic, and its title is labeled — incorrectly — as Bible/Triv. Definitely misleading!)

The back of the book makes me chuckle:  But if the idea of an entire volume bursting with succulent morsels of unheard of trivia about books, libraries and librarians makes your mouth water and your hands tremble — well, you probably need counseling more urgently than you need this book.

The bulk of this book is made up of 100 sets of trivia questions, divided into four areas:  the arts, books/authors, literature. and potpourri. Wouldn’t this be a PERFECT resource to convert into a librarian-themed version of Jeopardy?

There are several reel-librarian related questions, sprinkled in amongst the arts questions. Samples include:

What is the message on the license plate of the beautiful special collections librarian in the 1989 Paramount movie about baseball?. (from page 5)

In the 1978 Paramount movie Foul Play, what piece of library equipment does the librarian use to fend off an attack by a paid assassin? (from pages 44-45)

In The Music Man, Mrs. Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, the wife of the mayor of River City, Iowa, denounces Marian Paroo for the “smutty” books she gave to Mrs. Shinn’s daughter. Which of the following is the book in question?  (from page 55)

a. The Picture of Dorian Gray
b. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
c. Sister Carrie
d. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Do you know the answers to these questions? If so, drop a guess in the comments!

In his introduction, Duda reveals that his interest in the image of the librarian was a topic he did not realize was “problematical until I entered the field.” I totally get what he’s saying! He also reveals how he “once thought that librarians were depicted as no better or worse than the rest of humanity.”  Before long, however, he “found innumerable stereotypes and only some examples of attractive and praiseworthy men and women.”

But he winds up on a positive note. “We can laugh at ourselves, and we should.” Amen!

It’s a fun book to revisit, and one I’m thankful I have. :)

Reel Librarian Firsts

1912:

The Librarian, first film to feature a librarian

1919:

A Very Good Young Man, first film to feature a male librarian

Notable: The main character’s profession was changed from brass bed factory worker in the play to librarian in the film

1921:

The Lost Romance, first film to feature a librarian with glasses and a bun (the Spinster Librarian image begins!)

1932:

Forbidden, first sound film to feature a librarian

Notable: “Old lady foureyes!” In the film’s opening scene, two small boys shout this as public librarian Lulu Smith (Barbara Stanwyck) walks down the street.

1932: 

No Man of Her Own, first film to feature a librarian in undergarments


1933 & 1940:

First films to feature a librarian saying, “Shush!”

The Good Companions, 1933 (UK)
The Philadelphia Story, 1940 (US)

1943:

The Seventh Victim, first horror film to feature a librarian

1953: 

Pickup on South Street, first film to feature an African-American librarian

1984:

Cal, first (non-erotic) film to feature a nude librarian (Helen Mirren)


Source: Several items of trivia in this post I gathered together while reading The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1919, by Ray Tevis & Brenda Tevis, 2005, a great source for information on reel librarians.