ACRL comes to Portland

I interrupt our previously scheduled programming… because the national ACRL 2015 Conference has come to Portland! I will be spending the rest of this week at the conference — and this is Spring Break week in-between winter and spring terms, so no rest for the weary! Therefore, I am taking a quick break from the weekly posting schedule on this Reel Librarians blog to focus on networking and professional development opportunities at the conference.

ACRL 2015 Conference logo

If you’re wondering what in the heck “ACRL” means, it stands for Association of College & Research Libraries, and it is the academic division of ALA, the American Library Association. The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world, founded in 1876 and chartered in 1879. There are over 62,000 members in ALA, and Melvil Dewey was one of its founding members!

The ACRL has an interesting origin story — it began informally in 1890, was officially adopted into ALA as a “College and Reference Library Section” in 1923, and was then officially reorganized as an ALA division in 1940. So this year (and conference) marks the 75th anniversary of ACRL, which is now the largest division of ALA and accounts for nearly 20% of ALA membership totals!

ACRL Conference Fun Events teaserThe ACRL 2015 Conference is shaping up to be a great one, with tons of programming and interesting keynote speakers. And being Portland — “Keep Portland Weird!” — there is even a section on the conference website, “Squatch out! for Serious Fun,” highlighting fun events in and around the conference.

For more info about ACRL:

For interesting (and slightly related) posts on this Reel Librarians site:

  • Click here for my “Typical or stereotypical?” post about typical characteristics of librarians. This post includes Melvil Dewey’s 1876 description of a typical librarian!
  • Click here for my “Cheers for library education” post about the 1941 film Cheers for Miss Bishop. This post includes info about the origins of library science education in the U.S. — and again, Melvil Dewey features heavily in this slice of librarian history!
  • Click here for my “Reel Librarians poster sessions” post highlighting personal pics from a state library conference.

Casanova, the lover and the librarian

This past week, I rewatched the 2005 film Casanova, starring the late Heath Ledger as “the world’s greatest lover.” It’s a slight film, to be sure, but an enjoyable one amidst stunning backdrops. Heath Ledger is well cast as the title role, and a large cast of well-known actors — including Oliver Platt and Jeremy Irons (!) — romp their way through the film.

It starts off with a closeup of Casanova writing his memoirs, and flashbacks reveal tales of love and adventure (along with heartbreak). “10,000 pages, my life and loves. That’s just about 1 woman for every page.”

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Casanova' (2005)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Casanova' (2005)

So what does this have to do with librarians?

Casanova spent the last dozen or so years of his life as private librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein at the Castle du Dux in Bohemia. In 1783, Casanova was exiled from his birthplace, Venice, for the second time, and from 1785 to 1798, he spent the remainder of his life at the Castle du Dux. While the job — and locale — must have been quite a lonely one, Casanova used that time well by writing his memoirs, Histoire de ma vie (Story of my Life). All 12 volumes of it! And it is because of these memoirs that we know his name today. Becoming a librarian, therefore, helped Casanova in preserving his legacy — and by his own hand, cement his place in history.

(See, librarianship helps EVERYONE. ;) )

Libraries and librarians are never mentioned in the 2005 film. There is, however, a literary angle explored in the film. Casanova falls in love with a young lady, Francesca Bruni (played by Sienna Miller), who is a (fictional) swashbuckling intellectual who writes philosophical texts under a male nom de plume. She visits a libreria, which is Italian for “bookstore,” as seen below (Library would be “biblioteca,” FYI). There are a few scenes throughout the film set in this bookstore.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Casanova' (2005)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Casanova' (2005)

There’s an interesting history to how his memoirs made it to the public, here in this article about Casanova on the Smithsonian site. The memoirs were published in bowdlerized versions all through the 19th century through the mid-20th century, and the complete text was not published until 1960. You can read the (bowdlerized) English translation of his memoirs here on the Project Gutenberg site.

You might also enjoy this round-up of 10 surprising former librarians. As well as my review of the book Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession, written by librarian Kathleen Low.

Good news + updates on friends’ projects

Cover of Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21Good news! My compatriot Colin Higgins — a librarian at Cambridge and blogger of Libraries at the Movies — has written a cataloging book, Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21, newly published by ALA Editions. Last year, Colin had asked me to provide editing feedback on the first half of his manuscript, and I was glad to do so. Even more so because he wrote a book about cataloging, and I’m no cataloger. (But I think that’s exactly why he asked for my feedback — if I could understand it, surely a cataloger would! ;) )

So in all its newly published glory, here is Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21 by my blogger friend and reel librarian compatriot Colin Higgins. You can view more info and pricing info here at the ALA Store.

Congratulations, Colin!

And when I went to view the press release about Colin’s new book, lo and behold did I spy a familiar name listed as the book’s book’s contact and marketing coordinator:  Rob Christopher! The same Rob Christopher as the author of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, which I reviewed last year? The same Rob Christopher whose Kickstarter campaign to finish “Pause of the Clock,” a film he shot 20 years ago, I featured a couple of weeks ago on this blog? It is a small world after all! And I am pleased to let everyone know that Rob’s Kickstarter campaign goal was successfully funded (as a contributor, I’ve been getting updates about the project’s progress).

Congratulations, Rob!

It’s a good day for real librarians and libraries! :)

Finding a reel librarian

So if you’re a regular reader of this blog — thank you! — you know that the idea for this blog all started with my undergraduate thesis over a decade ago. And in this post, “It all started with a big list,” I list the films included in that thesis. Finding Forrester (2000) was one of those films, and although I’ve mentioned it here in the “Is reading a spectator sport? Librarians in sports movies” post, I have not analyzed the film yet on the blog. Correcting that oversight now…

Here’s what I wrote about the film in my thesis:

In Finding Forrester (2000), Sophia Wu only remains on screen only long enough to inform the main character that all William Forrester’s books are checked out, but her part is notable for the fact that she is Asian.

But let’s go a little bit deeper, shall we?

This was director Gus Van Sant’s second film released after 1997’s Good Will Hunting, and Finding Forrester (2000) enjoyed solid, if not spectacular, reviews and box office at the time of its release. It’s a film I’ve rewatched a few times, and it holds up well. Rob Brown co-stars as Jamal Wallace, a young African-American teenager who has skill in both academics and athletics. He strikes up a mentoring friendship with the neighborhood recluse, played by Sean Connery, who turns out to be the title character, William Forrester. Forrester is an author (and recluse) famous for having written only one book, Avalon Landing, which won the Pulitzer Prize and became an instant American classic. The fictitious character of Forrester is based on J.D. Salinger and his classic book, Catcher in the Rye.

I personally like the film for its message — I’m married to a writer, and it’s one of his favorite movies about writing! — and for how Rob Brown’s style matches up well with the director’s style. There is a stillness in his delivery — his eyes are always watching, always observing — but you can tell there is so much happening beneath the surface. Even more impressive given that this was Rob Brown’s acting debut!

Almost exactly an hour into the film, Jamal jokes with Forrester about the neighborhood changing.

Jamal:  Go ahead. I want to hear about the neighborhood, back when people were still reading your book.

Forrester [choking on his drink]:  What did you say?

Jamal:  Nothing.

Forrester:  No. you said, ‘back when people were still reading my book.’ Didn’t you?

Next stop:  The library! More specifically, the New York Public Library and a close-up of its online card catalog and its copies of Avalon Landing.

Reel Librarians  |  NYPL library catalog in 'Finding Forrester'

Side note:  This looks like a pretty typical card catalog screen, especially for that time period. But what is UP with those janky call numbers? D-107424, D-109478, D-783719, etc. Those do not look like any call numbers I’ve ever come across — especially not for a fiction book. They look more like accession numbers to me, which are automatically assigned numbers to items as they are entered into a system. (Archives collections are the only collections I’m aware of that sometimes shelve items by accession numbers. A public library would have a more generic call number for a work of fiction, something like FIC FOR, for “Fiction – Forrester”)

And YES, I looked up the current New York Public Library online card catalog. Y’all knew I was going to do that, right? ;) I did a title search for Catcher in the Rye, which came up with 63 items, 49 of which are currently available. And the call number is the logical “CLASSICS FIC S.”

NYPL Library catalog search for 'Catcher in the Rye'

Back to the scene… we hear the voice of the reel librarian (Sophia Wu, as Librarian) narrating her title search for Avalon Landing:

Librarian:  We have 24 copies. But I’m sorry, they’re all checked out.

Jamal:  Ok. Well, thank you anyway.

Reel Librarian  |  Screenshot of the library scene in 'Finding Forrester'

Jamal then walks away, and when he returns to Forrester’s apartment, Forrester is reading a tabloid and sarcastically calls out behind him, “Any luck? Did you get on the waiting list?” ;)

By the way, the librarian did not offer to put Jamal on the waiting list, or offer Interlibrary Loan (ILL), a common library service to request items from other libraries. Tsk, tsk.

In my original notes after watching the film for my thesis, I noted the following:

Reel Librarians  |  Notes on 'Finding Forrester'

(In case you can’t read my terrible handwriting, that reads:  “younger white male sitting beside her, typing on a computer, blue shirt, dark sweater vest”)

The trivia section on reveals that the film’s director, Gus Van Sant, is that “younger white male sitting beside her,” — he made a cameo as the library assistant in this scene! This might just be the only time a film director has also played a reel librarian! :D

Reel Librarians  |  Gus Van San's reel librarian cameo in 'Finding Forrester'

The library scene lasts only a few seconds, so this definitely lands in the Class IV category. Sophia Wu fulfills the Information Provider role, as she not only helps reinforce the library setting, but also provides the information that the book is still popular and relevant and credible — and by extension, William Forrester. He then becomes more relevant and credible to Jamal, thus solidifying and deepening their friendship.

This part is also notable for bringing a little diversity to the world of reel librarians, as she is Asian (or Asian-American). This makes sense, as Finding Forrester (2000) is a film filled with racial — as well as socioeconomic — diversity. This role is one of only three Asian/Asian-American reel librarians I have come across so far.

If you’d like to see more examples of reel librarian diversity, see my “Reader Q&A” post which answers the reader question, “How many movies are there with librarians of color?

Toward the end of the film, Jamal pens a private letter to William Forrester. His choice of sanctuary? The New York Public Library, of course. ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Finding Forrester'

And who do we spy in the background with a book cart? Another (anonymous) reel librarian!

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Finding Forrester'

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshot from 'Finding Forrester'

Until next week…

The Quotable Librarian

It’s time for another “Quotable Librarian” post! This time, in honor of the Academy Awards this past weekend, it’s an Oscars special. These quotes are from films with reel librarian roles that have been nominated for Oscars.

Oscars statuettes

Photo from Flickr – Prayitno – click image for source

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Sam Jaffe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider, an ex-con who was a prison librarian. How did he become a prison librarian?

I cause no trouble. The prison authorities appreciate that. They made me assistant librarian.
~ Doc Erwin Riedenschneider in The Asphalt Jungle

Love Story (1970)

Ali MacGraw was nominated for Best Actress for her role as Jennifer Cavalleri.

A Harvard law student and jock (O’Neal) falls in love with a Radcliffe music major (MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant.

This is their “meet cute” moment:

You have your own library, preppy.
~ Jennifer Cavalleri in Love Story

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor for his role as Alec Leamas in the film adaptation of John le Carré’s novel. The story focuses on spy Alec Leamus (Richard Burton), who pretends to quit the Secret Service and defect to the Communists. As part of his cover as a failed spy, he starts work as a librarian at the psychical research library.

From the book:

Finally he took the job in the library. The Labour Exchange had put him on to it each Thursday morning as he drew his unemployment benefit, and he’d always turned it down.

“It’s not really your cup of tea,” Mr. Pitt said, “but the pay’s fair and the work’s easy for an educated man.”

And could this following quote about spies also apply to librarians (reel or real)?:

What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?
~ Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

For more Oscars fun on the Reel Librarians site, see here for a post on Oscar-nominated reel librarians and here for a post on Best Picture nominees featuring reel librarians.

Kickstarter campaign for a living time capsule

Pause of the Clock posterAt the beginning of the year, I revealed my own personal favorite posts last year, one of which was my review of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, a book by film enthusiast and writer Rob Christopher. This was the first book I was sent a copy of and asked to review for the site — by no less than the author himself! — so it holds a sentimental place in my heart (and my bookshelf). The book was published in 2012 by Huron Street Press, an imprint of the American Library Association.

I was also thrilled to learn recently from Rob that he has an exciting project in the works. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish “Pause of the Clock,” a film he shot 20 years ago. It’s his quest to finish the film — a feature-length film which he wrote, produced, and directed. I love how he describes the film’s significance:

Pause of the Clock is not simply a souvenir—it’s a message from the past about how our society has changed in 20 years, while also exploring those things about us and our relationships that technology can’t touch. A living time capsule.

Such an intriguing project, and I’m happy to support him in this endeavor. Will you join me?

The Kickstarter campaign is open for another week, and you can read all about it here — as well as view an excerpt and a trailer — on his “Pause of the Clock” Kickstarter page.


Valentine’s Day round-up of reel librarian love

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I thought a round-up of reel librarian love was in order. Here are romance-themed posts from my blog archives that you might enjoy:

Reel librarians in love

round-up of films featuring reel librarians in love, including the appropriately named Love Story (1970).

A love song for a librarian

This post explores a few love songs inspired by librarians, including “Heaven Sent” by INXS (1992).

Romance and the reel librarian

A post lookin’ for love — or rather, romance films featuring reel librarians.

Love story analysis posts

I’ve also analyzed several love stories featuring reel librarians, in parts both major and minor, including: