Reel librarians are everywhere

I recently received an email from a regular reader (alliteration alert!), who was passing on a few more film titles he had come across that mention or feature reel librarians. He concluded his email with this statement:

Now that I’ve started, I can’t help noticing any minor use of librarians on film!

So true!

This happens to me ALL.THE.TIME. Sometimes, I get excited and yell out excitedly, “Buns and books! Buns and books!” (See also this post, where I explain that reference at the end of the post.) Other times when I am trying to relax, I get annoyed that I then have to take notes. I wrote about that in my Enough Said analysis post:

However delighted I was that James Gandolfini played a librarian in his last major role, I do admit to shouting at the screen, “NO!!!!! Now I have to take notes! This was NOT the relaxing evening we had planned for!” (I do enjoy being overly dramatic sometimes. But it’s all for you, dear readers. All for you.)

Family members can probably relate to this statement, as well, as they send on film titles to me frequently. (I obviously have them trained… ;) ) I don’t watch that many children’s films, so I especially appreciate it when my sister-in-law, who has four children, sends me children’s films that include reel librarians. This was the case with my Monsters University post.

I regularly add to my Master List of reel librarian movies, so readers, please keep sending me film titles!

A real librarian’s work is never done when researching reel librarians… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. :D

Reel librarians with ‘A Bone to Pick’

A few months ago in this post, I highlighted a preview of a new Hallmark TV movie, “A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery,” based on the book series by Charlaine Harris. The title character is a younger librarian, played by Candace Cameron Bure, who also served as executive producer.

The Aurora Teagarden Mystery series continues this summer, with the next TV movie set to premiere this Sunday, July 26, on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. Will you be watching along with me?

Snapshot of Real Murders:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery episode

I also recently rewatched the premiere movie, “A Bone to Pick,” and overall, it’s an enjoyable show. If there’s a bone to pick — I couldn’t resist the pun! — it is a typically “cozy” type of mystery, nothing too scary or mentally taxing. It’s the kind of show where there is a lot of light, and everyone seems to have huge living rooms. I most enjoyed the warm portrayal of its title character as a multi-faceted and multi-talented reel librarian.

Setting the stage for sleuthing

The TV movie starts out not in the library, but instead in Aurora’s bedroom, where she is braiding her hair and practicing a presentation about a notorious historical murder, a speech she delivers in a town hall where the “Real Murders Club” has gathered.

Reel Librarians  |  Opening shot in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  | Real Murders Club in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

After the successful presentation, an older member, Jane, ruffles up some controversy by stating that Aurora should run for president of the club. Jane then invites Aurora to her house the next day to pick up a few out-of-print titles about true crime, and we learn a lot of character background — including the fact that Jane is a retired librarian! The plot doesn’t get going until we learn that soon after, Jane has passed away and left her house and estate to none other than Aurora. Part of the legacy she left to Aurora includes a hidden skull and a mystery to solve….


The resulting mystery is not all that interesting:  It includes break-ins and cheating spouses and a really far-fetched conclusion involving a pregnant cop practically giving birth while arresting the perps.

Librarian role call

This TV movie and the series definitely fit into the Class I category, with Candace Cameron Bure as the title character Aurora Teagarden, or “Roe” for short. Here are the other librarian characters in the story (who, strangely, don’t get seem to get screen credits):

  • Jane, the spinster librarian who died and left Roe her estate
  • Lillian, the middle-aged spinster librarian meanie who scares children and is always on Roe’s case
  • Characters also mention a Mr. Crowley, the head of the library, but we never see him onscreen
Reel Librarians  |  Reel librarians in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel librarians Roe, Jane, and Lillian in ‘A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery’ (2015)

Salary and education

The low salary given to librarians gets mentioned quite a lot throughout the TV movie. Roe doesn’t even expect to afford rent on her librarian’s salary (her mother pays her rent), and she wonders how Jane was able to afford such a big house (it turns out Jane had inherited money).

  • I can’t afford a new dress.  /  Because you are woefully underpaid.
  • I never thought I’d own a house, not on a librarian’s salary.
  • Too bad I can’t afford it.

Moral of the story? Pay librarians what they are worth! (This means at least a living wage, y’all.)

Education and “library science” also merit a mention, mostly in the early exposition scene between Roe and Jane. Her master’s thesis was in true-crime literature, which sounded odd to me. Jane agreed!

Roe:  I wish I had had access to a collection like this when I was getting my master’s. My thesis was in true-crime literature.

Jane:  That wasn’t a speciality of library science in my day.

Roe:  It’s still not, officially. I think I’m the only librarian in the state who has it.

Side note:  I also did a research project in my Children’s Literature graduate class, a project all about character types in detective and mystery stories for children and young adults. We’re so alike! ;)

Here’s how Roe would probably react to that statement:

Reel Librarians  |  Librarian eye-rolling in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Whatever, Jen.

There are several scenes highlighting the bright and spacious public library. The sign on the front door says “Lawrenceton Public Library,” which is a nod to the Lawrenceton, Georgia, setting of the books. However, the TV movie was filmed in British Columbia.

Librarian tasks we see onscreen include: opening up the library, researching on the computer, shelving books, and helping a little boy find a book (he’s scared of Lillian, the dragon-lady librarian, who is really rude and condescending to him). Lillian is a total rule-monger and Spinster Librarian character type.

Reel Librarians  |  Public library in  'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe helping a young boy in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel librarian style

Roe’s fashion sense is subjected to many negative comments throughout the TV film, mainly by Roe’s mother — and by Roe herself!

  • This has no pizzazz. [her mother, referring to a blazer with piped trim, seen above]
  • I’m sorry, I wanted to change into something nicer. [Roe, wearing a sweater on a date]
  • This is what you wore, on a date?! [Her mother, after Roe’s date]
  • Please tell me you’re not wearing that to church. [Roe’s mother]
  • I wish I had more fashion sense. [Roe, going shopping]

I didn’t really get this style criticism, because she looks cute, relatable, and modern to me. Cardigans and practical coats abound. (I did think they overdid it with the praise whenever she wore a dress.) But no one except her mother ever comments on her hair and her signature side braid.

Reel Librarians  |  Collage of Roe's style in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Collage of Roe’s style in ‘A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery’ (2015)

Librarian skillz

Roe has got skillz. She is smart, observant, and resourceful, and she’s not afraid to do research and get her hands dirty. And it’s nice to see how she uses her skills as a public librarian, as well, using knowledge of patrons she observed who were frequent visitors to the library. People also trust her, given her position in the community.

We definitely see a well-rounded character in Roe and an atypical reel librarian portrayal. I haven’t read the series, so I don’t know how close it is to the character in the books. We get to see different sides to Roe, the good and the flawed. Other characters, including her friends, both compliment and challenge her.

Reel Librarians  | Best friends in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Best friends Roe and Sally

Roe has relatable flaws — she is stubborn and doesn’t really listen to her closest friend or her mother. She prioritizes her own pleasure in figuring out a puzzle above the logical (and legal) step of handing over evidence to the police — and then doesn’t want to return the skull to the police because she doesn’t want to get in trouble for withholding evidence! Gotta go with her mother on that one — “maybe you deserve to be behind bars.”

Roe is also warm-hearted, friendly, and generous. And she’s definitely got spunk! It is interesting to note that Roe is susceptible to stereotypes — she starts dating a young minister — but is also open-minded when those stereotypes are challenged. (As a librarian, wouldn’t Roe be used to being stereotyped by one’s profession?)

Her sleuthing skills are highly praised throughout, including how she had set up a crime board in the living room of her new house. But it really annoyed me that common sense takes a back seat sometimes. For example, she set up her “secret” crime board — complete with maps and post-it notes and records — in full view of the front door and the front windows with blinds wide open for anyone to see what she was up to.

Reel Librarians  |  Snapshots of Roe's evidence wall in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Roe’s evidence wall, which is visible from the front door and windows

Connections between research and sleuthing

Does Roe being a librarian matter to the story? In some ways, it seems more important that she’s a member of the Real Murders Club, but the fact that she’s a librarian is emphasized throughout the TV movie. She applies the same skills — her intelligence and logical way of thinking, her organizational and research skills, as well as her friendly demeanor — to both her job as a librarian and to her adventures as an amateur sleuth.

Roe connects the dots for the audience by using research in her sleuthing, skills she obviously picked up as a librarian. So I would argue that yes, identifying Roe as a librarian not only helps the audience trust Roe but also helps us believe in her skills as an amateur detective.

Reel Librarians  |  Roe researching in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe studies a skull in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

Reel Librarians  |  Roe compares maps in 'A Bone to Pick:  An Aurora Teagarden Mystery' (2015)

I mentioned in this prior post, “Nancy Drew as a librarian?,” how much overlap I personally see between private detectives and librarians, and I’ve already stated that I think Nancy Drew would have been an AWESOME librarian. I’d like to think that in the character of Aurora Teagarden, we can have the best of both worlds — why choose between being a private detective and a librarian? You can be good at both! ;)

I will wrap things up with a compliment(?) that Jane bestowed upon Roe in an early scene:

You have a mind for murder like no one else I know.

Thank you. I think.

Again, the next Aurora Teagarden Mystery movie, “Real Murders,” premieres in a few days, on July 26. Are you interested in watching along with me?


A body in the library in ‘Murder, She Wrote’

I love the classic TV series, “Murder, She Wrote” (1984-1996). The character of Jessica Fletcher? Angela Lansbury? Angela Lansbury’s repertoire of facial expressions? LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Lansbury ReactionsThere’s even a Twitter account, Lansbury Reactions, shining the spotlight on her priceless facial expressions. Genius!

I recently had a “Murder, She Wrote” TV marathon going on in the background while I worked on other things (they regularly run classic TV marathons on the Hallmark channel). By the way, I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures” — there’s no guilt or shame in liking what you like, and no apologies.

So I’m sure you can imagine my delight when a reel librarian appeared onscreen! The episode “Family Secrets,” which was the second episode of Season 9 and aired in September 1992, opens in the local public library.

Here’s the episode write-up from

“One of Jessica’s former students is murdered when he returns to Cabot Cove to write a book exposing new information on a 30-year-old town scandal.”

The episode opens with a bird’s-eye view of the local public library, dark and stuffed to the gills with bookcases, furniture, and piles on tables.


Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

Jessica is typing on a laptop (!) and looking over a stack of books. Behind her creeps up a librarian, complete with thick bottle glasses and a buttoned-up cardigan.

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

Librarian:  Ms. Fletcher? Ms. Fletcher?

Jessica:  I’m sorry, Arnold, I’m guess it’s getting to be that time.

Librarian:  I’m afraid so. Still looking for that perfect poison?

Jessica:  Oh, yes. I know it’s here somewhere, deadly, exotic, virtually impossible to detect.

Librarian:  Until the murderer gets caught on the last page.

Jessica:  You’ve been reading my books! I’ll just gather my stuff together.

Librarian:  No hurry. I just wanted you to know that I’m leaving. Just be sure and lock up when you’re finished.

Jessica:  Oh fine, thank you, Arnold, I’ll do that… See you tomorrow, Arnold!

My immediate reaction to this opening scene:  Ummm, WHAT??!! I know I’m going to get all capsy on y’all. While I’m glad to see the librarian — and a less common portrayal of a male librarian — enjoying a friendly rapport with Jessica, there is NO WAY I would allow a patron to stay in a library after hours. Not even for my beloved Jessica Fletcher. (Unless she were a librarian. And Jessica Fletcher would have been an AWESOME librarian.)

It’s just unrealistic to expect a librarian to NOT do a thorough walk through the library before closing time and secure everything and (kindly but firmly) escort any remaining patrons out. There’s the issue of library assets, for one thing.

And for another, the prevention of murder.

This is evidenced by a scene halfway through the episode, when a nosy former student, Randy, winds up dead in the library.

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

But we do get to see Randy a few times before he winds up dead. We first meet him in the library in the episode’s opening scene, after Jessica is left to lock up the library. Randy had gotten “lost in the old files” while researching. We see Randy in the library again on the night he died, table full of materials that he tries to hide from the prying eyes of Arnold.

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

I guess Arnold wasn’t the only one interested in Randy’s research. Someone figured out Randy would be researching in the library past closing hours and took advantage of an opportunity… Methinks that locking up the library properly could have helped prevent that murder.

Or is the librarian the murderer? He is immediately pegged as a suspect, because he was jealous of Randy’s success. We learn that on the night Randy died, when Arnold brings up the past:

Arnold:  I was just remembering how we would take all those writing classes together. We’d always share notes and talk about how we were both going to make it big time. Then you went off to Portland to become a hot-shot reporter, while I… well, you know.

Randy:  Arnold, we earn our big breaks. And this is mine. Yours will come, huh?

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'

I also groaned aloud when Arnold opened up the library the next morning, right before discovering Randy’s body:

“That’s funny, the door’s open. Randy said he’d lock up when he finished last night.”

Way to blame the murder victim! In fact, the expression on my face probably looked similar to this:

Lansbury Reactions tweet

Click the photo for the animated GIF. It’s worth it!

So did the reel librarian commit murder in his own library? I won’t spoil the ending for you. I would never deny y’all the opportunity to watch an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.” ;)

Happy sleuthing!

The bigfoot librarian

My husband and I recently rewatched the ’80s film Harry and the Hendersons (1987), which was filmed and set in nearby Washington state. It’s a cult classic comedy starring John Lithgow and (surprise!) David Suchet. The film is about a family who (literally) run into Bigfoot while on a family camping trip, and they take him home. Hilarity and hijinks ensue. As one could surmise from the title font. ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Title card from 'Harry and the Hendersons' (1987)

In a short scene almost exactly halfway through the film, Lithgow goes to the public library and asks for information on Bigfoot. The librarian directs him to the section on fantasy, myths and legends.

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from 'Harry and the Henderson' (1987)

Here’s how their entire reference interview goes:

Librarian:  May I help you?

George:  Yes. I’m on my lunch break, and I’m kind of in a hurry. Could you point me to some books on the, uh, Bigfoot?  

Librarian:  Sasquatch?

George:  Sasquatch.

Librarian: Sasquatch?

George:  That’s the one.

Librarian:  Fantasy, folklore, myths and legends, basement stacks, take the stairs.

George:  Thank you.

Librarian:  You could also try children’s books.

The unnamed librarian is played by Peggy Platt, and the most memorable thing about her is… her spiky mullet hairstyle. Yikes. The ’80s indeed. Perhaps her hairdo was an homage to Bigfoot? ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Comparing the reel librarian and Bigfoot from 'Harry and the Hendersons' (1987)

Even Bigfoot has a friendlier face than the reel librarian in ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ (1987)

The librarian fulfills the role of Information Provider in a Class III film. Granted, she doesn’t give much information, and her attitude is very dismissive. But this also serves a purpose. Her dismissive attitude of Bigfoot and Sasquatch as fantasy and in the children’s domain is also reflective of the common viewpoint of such legends. We are treated to several more different variations of this social dismissal of the Bigfoot legend throughout the film, jokes and laughter coming from a local policeman and a local television personality, among others.

The librarian’s directions, although minimal, obviously helped, as we see the family going through some a pile of materials later at home. One of the books he takes home is entitled Bigfoot One on One: A True Story by Oliver Dear.

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from 'Harry and the Henderson' (1987)

Side note:  Y’all KNOW I looked that title up in WorldCat, but no such book exists. But I noticed that the author, Oliver Dear, has the same last name as the film’s director, William Dear — and it turns out Oliver is William’s son! Both are still involved in the film industry, William Dear in directing and Oliver Dear in visual production.

George’s son is a born critic, declaring: “This book sucks!”

Reel Librarians  |  A screenshot from 'Harry and the Henderson' (1987)

I’m sure his son wouldn’t say that about the film he’s in… ;) It’s a mediocre comedy, to be sure, and a modest success when it was released. It’s become a bit of a cult classic since then, and a film thought of fondly around here, especially as it was filmed on location.

And Sasquatch in general is still a big deal up here in the Pacific Northwest. As evidenced by a shot I took while at the ACRL Conference this past spring:

ACRL Sasquatch sighting

Bigfoot lives! Sasquatch + librarians = ♥


Baby Boom

First thought upon rewatching Baby Boom? SO EIGHTIES! From the opening title card (seen below) to the music to the massive shoulder pads to the opening narration, complete with bon mots like “sociologists say the new working woman is a phenomenon of our time” and “a woman like this has it all!“. The movie was made in 1987, after all, and stars Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, a successful businesswoman who, through reasons of PLOT, becomes the custodian for a one-year-old.

I think this kind of movie probably had to be made at that time period, and it was well-received by critics and audiences, even inspiring a TV show of the same name from 1988-1989. Diane Keaton is the main reason this movie works.

Reel Librarians  |  Title screen for 'Baby Boom' (1987)

Typically ’80s font for the title screen for ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)


At 1 hour, 14 minutes into the film, J.C. has moved to Vermont and has the idea of manufacturing her homemade baby food. And where does she head first? To the library, of course! Smart woman. ;)

Specifically, she heads to the Bennington College Library.

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the Bennington College Library sign in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

The next shot highlights J.C. back to her fast-talking self, listing all the info she needs from the young librarian at the desk. She wants materials on starting a small business and marketing trends, including info on Baby Boomers, demographics, and new consumerism.

The reel librarian — possibly a student library assistant? — doesn’t get any lines; rather, she just nods and starts making notes. She is wearing glasses and an awesomely ’80s Cosby-like sweater vest. There is also a large tape dispenser and a book truck beside her:  examples of classic “librarian props.” ;)

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the reel librarian scene in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the reel librarian scene in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

The librarian obviously got her what she needed because in the next shot, we see J.C. with a pile of materials and taking notes. As she describes it, “I’m doing a little bit of research.”

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of library research in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

And lo and behold, the cute local vet (played by Sam Shepard) walks down the library stairs. Turns out he teaches a class at the college, and I appreciate the attention to detail that he’s coming from the “Medical Science” section of the library!

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the library in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

He and J.C. then proceed to “meet cute” in the library. J.C. tries to hide behind a magazine, and then later drops all her library materials. Smoooooooooth.

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the “meet cute” scene in the library in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

Reel Librarians  |  Baby boomer research

Screenshot of the “meet cute” scene in the library in ‘Baby Boom’ (1987)

And later in the film, when J.C. and the vet (finally) get together, she references that scene in the library! :)

The library scene is extremely short, lasting only two minutes seconds in total. The reel librarian is onscreen for only a few seconds of that scene, and she doesn’t even earn a screen credit. This short cameo role lands Baby Boom in the Class IV category, in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue. The reel librarian definitely fulfills the Information Provider role, providing information to Keaton’s character as well as helping establish the library setting.

And the library itself is quite lovely. The stained glass windows are gorgeous, and the dark wood paneling and bookshelves give the library a traditional feel. And there is a Bennington College in real life, and they have two libraries:  the main Crossett Library (which looks super modern, as seen here), and the Jennings Music Library.

Y’all knew I would look that up, right? ;)