Silence and the school library in 'Children of a Lesser God' (1986)

It is almost Valentine’s Day, so I went back over my updated post of Best Picture nominees featuring reel librarians — in particular the section for Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch — and looked for any romances in the mix. And bingo, my eyes lit up when I reread my description of 1986’s Children of a Lesser God:

This Best Picture-nominated film boasts the Oscar-winning performance of lead actress Marlee Matlin, who works at a school for the deaf. I have not yet seen this film, which is on my Master List, so I need to watch it for any signs of a school library, or librarian, at this school.

I am not sure why I had never gotten around to watching this Oscar-winning film, but never late than never, right? I was blown away by Marlee Matlin’s emotional performance, especially considering this was her feature film debut! She totally held her own as Sarah — and then some! — against William Hurt, who plays James, a new speech teacher.

The film was also nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Notably, the film was not nominated for Best Director; the film was directed by Randa Haines, and she was nominated for a Director’s Guild of America Award that year for this film.

A few contemporary reviews pointed out that the film was told from a hearing perspective and for a hearing audience; for example, they did not provide captions for any sign language, and James translated most of Sarah’s signing through his own voice.

Here’s a trailer for the film, if you are either not familiar with it or it’s been awhile since you’ve seen it:

“Children of a Lesser God (1986) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers” by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube License

*Mild Spoilers Ahead*

School library scene without a school librarian

A little over 40 minutes into the 2-hour film, James is trying to connect with Sarah, and she becomes angry when she learns that he has visited her mother (played by Piper Laurie). Sarah goes into the school library, where James follows her. There’s a “Library” sign on the wall beside the door, and a “Drop Box” below the sign.

Sarah enters the school library in Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Notice the library sign, the book drop, and the bulletin board of “Deaf Resources” — all tell-tale signs of a school library!

It’s clearly a very small library — just one small room — but as the two circle each other around the room, we can spot a section for print magazines and newspapers, a “Book Nook” corner of bookcases, and a counter with a bell. (The bell prop on the counter gives us a clue that the school librarian is not deaf, because they would need to be able to hear the bell for it to successfully get their attention. FYI, the large amber light on the wall is one used to signal class periods for students.) We also see signs by the counter for “How to Find Books,” and these posters feature the Dewey Decimal call number classification system, which is the most common call number system for school library collections.

School library counter with a bell and multiple "How to Find a Book" signs with Dewey Decimal call number info. Library scene in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
Notice the bell and the multiple (!) “How to Find a Book” signs with Dewey Decimal call number info?
Periodicals corner of the school library, with print magazines and newspapers, in the school library scene from Children of a Lesser God (1986)
The periodicals corner of the school library includes print magazines and newspapers

We can also spot hand-lettered signs for different collections crammed together on the bookcases, including sections for Fiction, Reference and Encyclopedias, History, and Children’s Books.

Hand-lettered signs for different collections in the school library, including Fiction, Reference and Encyclopedias, Children's Books, History, etc. From the school library scene in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
I kind of love the randomness of these hand-lettered signs — including two different signs for Fiction!
"Book Nook" sign along the back wall of the school library in Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Do you notice the “Book Nook” sign along the back?

Behind Sarah, you can also spot call numbers on books. However, there do not seem to be call numbers on every book — including books with wide spines that should theoretically have room for call number labels — so I’m a little suspicious that the propmaster just crammed a bunch of random books — some from libraries and some not — into the room and called it a day.

Closeup of call numbers on library books in this school library scene from Children of a Lesser God (1986)
School library books — some with call numbers, some without — behind Sarah in this school library scene

Side note: The movie was filmed at the Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick, Canada, and here is a look at their well-stocked library in real life. This is not AT ALL the kind of school library depicted in the film, so I think my suspicions about the movie library and book props are true. I cannot be 100% certain, of course, as this school might well have built a better library in the 30+ years since this movie was filmed there.

We also are never gifted with the presence of a school librarian, so this film remains in the Class V category, films that include library scenes but no reel librarian characters. This also means that I get to update my Best Picture nominees that feature reel librarians, 2020 update post, and move Children of a Lesser God into the “Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)” section.

The role of silence

The role of silence is, understandably, a major theme in this film. Libraries are known for being quiet places — or at least, that’s a common misconception, and “shushing librarians” are a common stereotype. (Libraries DO usually have “silent study” spaces for those who really need quiet, but there’s usually a medium-level of expected noise and conversation in most modern libraries nowadays. Libraries are community spaces, and people often need to be able to make a little noise!)

Therefore, Sarah tries to escape into the library to get away from James — a safe space where she may expect others to be as silent as she normally is. But the library instead becomes a private place to have an argument, where Sarah exposes a major secret of her past to James. The library is no longer safe for Sarah; she cannot escape, even from herself or her own painful memories. The library is also no longer a silent space for Sarah, as James breaks the silence with his translation of Sarah’s signing, even shouting in frustration multiple times across the room at her.

I found it very interesting that this film flips the script, so to speak, on libraries as quiet spaces. This library scene, in effect, breaks the silence between Sarah and James. After this scene, they become lovers, which lays the foundation for the rest of the film’s plot and romantic drama.

Continuing the conversation

Have you seen this Oscar-winning film? Were you blown away by Marlee Matlin’s feature film debut? Did you remember this scene in the school library? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

Best Picture nominees that feature reel librarians, 2020 update

Updating Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small

If you’re a regular Reel Librarians reader (thank you!), then you will know that I am a lifelong watcher of the Academy Awards. The 2020 Oscars telecast is scheduled earlier this year, on Sunday, February 9, 2020, and you can view this year’s nominees here. (On a personal note, I, too, hope the Academy continues and broadens its efforts to diversify its membership so that Oscar nominations better reflect the amazing talents and skills that women and people of color contribute to the world of cinema.)

146033_0116” photo uploaded by Walt Disney Television via Flickr is licensed under a CC BY ND 2.0 license

I am updating a post I first put together in 2013 and then updated in 2017, rounding up Best Picture-nominated films that feature librarians, in roles large and small. I have updated the post and have added quite a few new titles to the list. (Note: I am not as familiar with this year’s nominated films, so if there is a Best Picture nominee that I need to add to this list, please leave a comment and let me know, thanks!)

I’ve listed the nominated films below in chronological order, oldest to newest, and you can also skip to a specific time period using the shortcut links below.

Enjoy! 🙂

1940s || 1960s || 1970s || 1980s || 1990s || 2000s || 2010s
Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)
Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch


1940s


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features one scene at the public library and a Quaker librarian (Hilda Plowright). A reporter (Jimmy Stewart) pokes fun by mocking her thee’s and thou’s. She also gets her shush on later in this short, but memorable, library scene.

Related posts: ‘What does thee wish?’ To analyze the librarian in ‘The Philadelphia Story’ ; Comparing the Philadelphia stories ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Romance and the reel librarian ; The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘The shushing librarian,’ Feb. 5, 2013 ; It all started with a big list ; Comic Relief librarians ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; The Quotable Librarian 1 ; Earliest reel librarians in different character type categories, reader question follow-up ; Reel librarian firsts

Citizen Kane (1941)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) is a classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). There is quite a memorable scene in which a reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian, Miss Anderson (Georgia Backus).

Related posts: The Spinster Librarian ; Hall of Shame ; Between perfect order and perfect chaos ; Out of the habit ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Battle of the sexes ; It all started with a big list

The Human Comedy (1943)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), set in the U.S. homefront during WWII, features one touching scene at the local public library. Two young boys go to the public library to look at books even though they can’t read yet, and encounter a friendly female librarian (Adeline De Walt Reynolds).

Related posts: Honorable Mention ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; The Quotable Librarian 3 ; Battle of the sexes

Spellbound (1945)

This Hitchcock film and Best Picture nominee, doesn’t technically feature a librarian — nor does it include a library scene — thus landing itself in the Class V category. So why is it here on this list?! Toward the end of the film, a hotel security guard mistakes a psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) for a Spinster Librarian. To her credit, she takes it in good humor.

Related posts: Mistaken identity in ‘Spellbound’ ; Heard but not seen ; Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI? ; Librarians in horror films ; It all started with a big list

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) has probably the most memorable — and memorably notorious! — scene featuring the ultimate Spinster Librarian. In the alternate reality/nightmare of the film’s second half, George Bailey’s (Jimmy Stewart) wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

Related posts: ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype? ; Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ; All hail Mary? ; Hall of Shame ; The Spinster Librarian ; Best librarian films by decade, Part I: 1910s – 1950s ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Three cheers for librarians! ; Librarian as nightmare ; ‘The danger of a single story’ for reel librarians ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II ; War films and reel librarians ; The Quotable Librarian 5 ; It all started with a big list

back to top


1960s


The Music Man (1962)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class I film) also features a memorable reel librarian in a leading role. In this classic musical, con man Harold Hill (Robert Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms—and ends up falling for “Marian the Librarian” (Shirley Jones). This reel librarian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the namesake song.

Related posts: Marian or Marion? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Marian or Marion?,’ May 28, 2012 ; Marian and Ms. Jones ; Musical numbers for the library-minded ; A love song for a librarian ; The Liberated Librarian (ladies, you’re up) ; Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods ; Romance and the reel librarian ; Librarians save the day! ; Comparing ‘best of’ reel librarians lists ; The Quotable Librarian 6 ; Reel librarian trivia challenge ; Advertising the reel librarian ; It all started with a big list ; Joy in a cup ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s ; What’s in a name? ; Honorable Mention

back to top


1970s


Love Story (1970)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class II film), a Harvard law student and jock, Oliver (Ryan O’Neal), falls in love with a Radcliffe music major, Jenny (Ali MacGraw). They first meet at the Radcliffe library, where MacGraw works as a library assistant. MacGraw was also nominated for Best Actress, the only woman (thus far) to have been nominated for an acting Oscar for a reel librarian role.

Related posts: Oscar-nominated reel librarians ; The Spirited Young Girl ; Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods ; Romance and the reel librarian ; Notable additional occupations for reel librarians ; Stylish female reel librarians ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II ; The Quotable Librarian 1 ; The Quotable Librarian 8 ; Is reading a spectator sport? Librarians in sports movies ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s

Chinatown (1974)

This Best Picture nominee stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in a twisty, neo-noir storyline set in the 1930s. Nicholson plays a private detective, and in one scene he uses the county archives, encountering a sullen archives clerk. This film is on my Master List, and I need to rewatch this film!

Related posts: Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

All the President’s Men (1976)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class III film) features not one, but five reel librarians, albeit in small — but critical! — roles. This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by providing them with info and records they need.

Related posts: All the president’s librarians in ‘All the President’s Men’ ; Favorite reel librarian posts, 2017 ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Librarians of Congress ; Reel librarians in political-themed films ; Heard but not seen ; Information Provider librarians ; It all started with a big list

back to top


1980s


Fatal Attraction (1987)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), a lawyer (Michael Douglas) has an affair with a woman (Glenn Close), who then starts to stalk him and his family. In a short scene, Douglas confesses his troubles to a colleague in their firm’s private law library while a law librarian shelves books from a cart in the background.

Related posts: Law librarian sighting in ‘Fatal Attraction’

back to top


1990s


Awakenings (1990)

In this Best Picture-nominated film that is based on a true story, Dr. Sayer (Robin Williams) finds a new treatment for a ward of comatose patients. And if you blinked during the short library scene for this Class IV film, you’d miss the second or two of Adam Bryant as a librarian.

Related posts: Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV

Scent of a Woman (1992)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) is a coming-of-age story about a young man (Chris O’Donnell), a student library assistant at a private prep school, who spends Thanksgiving weekend looking after an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino). Pacino won the Best Actor Oscar for this film.

Related posts: ‘Scent of a’ student library worker ; Reel librarians take a trip ; Travelin’ librarians ; Reel school librarians

In the Name of the Father (1993)

In this Best Picture nominee (and Class III film), Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is coerced into confessing to an IRA bombing and spends 14 years in prison trying to prove his innocence. His lawyer (Emma Thompson) tries to locate police records, but the chief archivist is not cooperative. She does get records when another archivist is on duty — and the information she gathers eventually leads to Conlon’s release.

Related posts: Reel librarians vs. reel archivists ; Information Provider librarians ; Out of the habit ; It all started with a big list

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) features two memorable reel librarian roles, including star Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker wrongly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy works as an assistant in the prison library — building it up to one of the best prison libraries in the state! — and becomes friends with the old prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

Related posts: Librarian as Failure ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s ; A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Notable additional occupations for reel librarians ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Comparing ‘best of’ reel librarians lists

Quiz Show (1994)

It is on my Master List to rewatch this Best Picture nominee, which is based on the controversial true story behind the Twenty One quiz game show scandals of the 1950s and contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). Research is a major theme throughout the film, and the credits list Anthony Fusco as a librarian.

back to top


2000s


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film), and the first in the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. There is a short scene early in the film in which the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) needs some info about the ring, so he visits the archives in Gondor. There is a quick flash of the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leading Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

Related posts: My precious, my archives in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ ; Reel librarians vs. reel archivists ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Heard but not seen ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV ; Guest post: Cinfolit

The Reader (2008)

I still need to watch this Best Picture nominee, which features Kate Winslet in a Best Actress-winning turn as Hanna Schmitz, a woman convicted for WWII war crimes. Hanna teaches herself to read while in prison, and there are a few scenes highlighting the prison library.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies

back to top


2010s


Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight (a Class III film) won the Best Picture Academy Award for 2015. The film focuses on the Spotlight team of reporters at the Boston Globe who published a series of stories in 2002 about Catholic priests who had been sexually abusing children in their parishes for decades. A few scenes and montages feature the Boston Globe librarians and research methods of using church directories to track down priests.

Related posts: ‘Spotlight’-ing a news library ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Spotlight’ on a news library, May 4, 2016 ; Best of 2015 ; The good, the bad, and the misshelved | Library call numbers in the movies ; Librarians save the day! ; Private libraries + librarians onscreen, reader question follow-up ; A list of banned reel librarian movies

Hidden Figures (2016)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class IV film) is a biographical film highlighting the personal and professional struggles and contributions of three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. Taraji P. Henson plays brilliant mathematician Katherine G. Johnson; Octavia Spencer, in an Oscar-nominated performance, plays mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe plays firecracker engineer Mary Jackson. There is a brief, but pivotal, library scene in which Vaughan enters the “whites” section of the library because the “colored” section doesn’t have what she needs.

Related posts: First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene ; Reel librarians in review, 2017

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

This Best Picture nominee (and Class II film) was also nominated in four other categories, including Spike Lee for Best Director, and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In the early 1970s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is hired as the first black officer in the Colorado Springs police department. Initially assigned to work in the records room as a “Records Librarian” (nameplate and all!), he gets reassigned to the intelligence division. While reading the newspaper, he finds an advertisement to join the Ku Klux Klan. He calls and pretends to be a white man, and eventually becomes a member of the Colorado Springs chapter. Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver, in an Oscar-nominated performance) substitutes for Stallworth in order to meet the KKK members in person. There are a couple of scenes in the Records Room, as well as a brief research scene in an academic library.

Related posts: First impressions: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018)

back to top


Best Picture nominees with library scenes (but no reel librarians)


Libeled Lady (1936)

This Best Picture-nominated screwball comedy involves a newspaper editor (Spencer Tracy), his long-suffering fiancée (Jean Harlow), and his lawyer (William Powell), who aims to compromise a high-society lady (Myrna Loy) before she can sue the paper for libel. In an attempt to cozy up to her, Powell does a little research on her personal interests, first reading newspaper articles about her father and his love of fishing, and then ringing the ship’s steward for books on angling from the ship’s library. Alas, we never see a reel librarian, so this film ended up in the Class V category.

Related posts: A ‘Libeled Lady’ and a library

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

This Best Picture-nominated film is based on a real-life 1952 case in which the novel’s author, John D. Voelker, was the defense attorney. Lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) defends Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), who is charged with murder of a local man. Biegler argues temporary insanity and pulls an all-nighter in a law library to find a case to use as precedent.

Related posts: ‘Anatomy of a’ law library ; Reel Substance: A look at Class V… and a Class VI? ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; Law libraries (and librarians) in pop culture

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, this fairy tale film features a bookshop and a memorable private library.

Related posts: Reel librarians on library ladders

back to top


Best Picture nominees (with potential reel librarians) to watch/rewatch


Imitation of Life (1934)

This Best Picture-nominated drama stars Claudette Colbert as Bea, a white widow and single mother, who becomes close to black housekeeper Delilah (Louise Beavers) and her mixed-race daughter Peola (Fredi Washington). Peola, who “passes” for white, tells everyone she works at the library to cover up the fact that she’s actually working as a dancer in a club. I have not yet seen this film, but it’s on my Master List, as is the 1959 remake.

All the King’s Men (1949)

This Best Picture winner stars Broderick Crawford in the role of the ruthless politician, Willie Stark, and is based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren. It’s on my Master List — but I can’t honestly remember why — so I need to watch it to see if there are any library or librarian scenes!

Cleopatra (1963)

This Best Picture nominee stars Elizabeth Taylor in the title role. It’s on my Master List to (re)watch, as I remember Cleopatra being very upset that the Library of Alexandria was destroyed. I can’t remember if there are any actual scenes set in the Library of Alexandria, so please leave a comment if you do remember!

Related posts: A look at ‘The Hollywood Librarian’

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

I still need to rewatch this Best Picture nominee — it’s on my Master List! — to refresh my memory on this classic epic. Yuri (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie) meet in the local library. I believe Lara works as a librarian in this film… I will have to investigate further. Please leave a comment if you have more to share about this film and its reel librarian(s)!

The Graduate (1967)

In this Best Picture nominee, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a disaffected college graduate, and he rushes to a college library to see Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross). I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List, to see if there are any librarians visible in the background of this library scene.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

This Best Picture nominee is on my Master List, and I still need to rewatch this film! Alex (Malcolm McDowell) works in the prison library, and talks with a priest while in the library. I need to rewatch this movie to see if there are any librarians (perhaps other than Alex, if he works in the prison library?) in this scene.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Children of a Lesser God (1986)

This Best Picture-nominated film boasts the Oscar-winning performance of lead actress Marlee Matlin, who works at a school for the deaf. I have not yet seen this film, which is on my Master List, so I need to watch it for any signs of a school library, or librarian, at this school.

Field of Dreams (1989)

In this Best Picture-nominated film and classic baseball flick, Kevin Costner stars as Ray Kinsella, who is inspired to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn field. I do not recall a library scene, but I do seem to remember a scene about censorship set at the local school… bottom line, I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This Best Picture winner won the “big 5” Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best (Adapted) Screenplay. This film is on my Master List, as there is a scene in which Clarice is researching stories on microfilm about Hannibal Lecter. I need to rewatch this classic film to see if there are any reel librarians in the background of this library research scene.

Related posts: A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Erin Brockovich (2000)

This Best Picture nominee is on my Master List. Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts, in an Oscar-winning performance) visits several records offices and archives in her research to find evidence against a gas and electric company; therefore, I need to rewatch this film for clues of archivists or librarians.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This Best Picture winner (!) is on my Master List, but I have not yet seen it. John Nash (Russell Crowe, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is allowed to return to Princeton to audit classes and work out of the library. I need to watch this film to see if there are any discernible librarians in the background of any library scenes.

Juno (2007)

In this Best Picture nominee, Ellen Page stars as Juno, a high-schooler who gets (unexpectedly) pregnant. There is a scene in which Juno mentions librarians (or rather, wannabe librarians), and I seem to remember a scene or two set in the school library (?)… so I need to rewatch this film, which is on my Master List.

Related posts: The Quotable Librarian 7

Hugo (2011)

I still have not seen this Best Picture nominee (although I loved the book!). This film is on my Master List to watch, however, because Hugo and Isabelle go to the Film Academy Library in one scene to research legendary film director Georges Méliès, and I need to watch this scene to see if there’s a reel librarian somewhere in the background of this special library. If you have watched this movie and remember a reel librarian, please let me know in the comments!

back to top

Sources used

  • Academy Award for Best Picture” via Wikipedia, CC BY SA 3.0
  • All the President’s Men. Dir. Alan J. Pakula. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander. Warner Bros., 1976.
  • Anatomy of a Murder. Dir. Otto Preminger. Perf. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, Eve Arden, George C. Scott. Columbia Pictures, 1959. Based on the novel by John D. Voelker, under the pen name of Robert Traver.
  • Awakenings. Dir. Penny Marshall. Perf. Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller. Columbia, 1990.
  • BlacKkKlansman. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier. Focus Features, 2018. Based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth.
  • Citizen Kane. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Ruth Warrick, Alan Ladd. RKO, 1941.
  • Fatal Attraction. Dir. Adrian Lyne. Perf. Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer. Paramount, 1987.
  • Hidden Figures. Dir. Theodore Melfi. Perf. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2016.
  • The Human Comedy. Dir. Clarence Brown. Perf. Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Fay Bainter, Van Johnson, Donna Reed. Universal, 1943.
  • In the Name of the Father. Dir. Jim Sheridan. Perf. Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson, Pete Postelthwaite. Universal, 1993.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946.
  • Libeled Lady. Dir. Jack Conway. Perf. Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy. MGM, 1936. Based on the story by Wallace Sullivan.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Dir. Peter Jackson. Perf. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett. New Line Cinema, 2001.
  • Love Story. Dir. Arthur Hiller. Perf. Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland. Paramount, 1970.
  • The Music Man. Dir. Morton DaCosta. Perf. Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Ron Howard. Warner Bros., 1962.
  • The Philadelphia Story. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young. MGM, 1940.
  • Scent of a Woman. Dir. Martin Brest. Perf. Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gabrielle Anwar. Universal, 1992.
  • The Shawshank Redemption. Dir. Frank Darabont. Perf. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton. Castle Rock-Columbia, 1994.
  • Spellbound. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leo G. Carroll, Michael Chekhov. Selznick International, 1945.
  • Spotlight. Dir. Tom McCarthy. Perf. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber. First Look, 2015.

Favorite reel librarian posts of 2019

Celebrating my favorite posts from the past year

Happy New Year! Before launching into the new year, I wanted to celebrate a quick look back at my favorite posts from the past year. Please note that these are personal favorites, not necessarily the most viewed posts I wrote and published this past year.

From May 2019: Graduate library school discussion in ‘Party Girl’

In this post, I had fun diving into a specific scene in 1995’s cult indie film Party Girl, the scene in which a group of librarians discuss graduate library science programs. It’s just a WONDERFUL scene, with a diversity of ethnicities, genders, ages, and opinions. I also enjoyed going off on a tangent to explore what graduate library science programs had been available at that time.

Related post: Graduate library school discussion in ‘Party Girl’

Librarians discuss library school options in Party Girl (1995)
Librarians discuss library school options in Party Girl (1995)

From June 2019: The dragon lady librarian in ‘The Golden Child’ (1986)

This post was really fun to analyze and write. Some posts take forever to put together, and some posts come together really quickly. This post is an example of the latter.

In particular, it was satisfying to realize that the reel librarian character, the dragon lady librarian, showed up three times in the film, essentially driving the plot forward at critical points each time. And it was interesting to note that although she was a most unconventional librarian in some ways (by, uh, being half-dragon), she was also a very conventional librarian by how she invited questions (“Do you have any other questions?“) and how she answered those questions.

Related post: The dragon lady librarian in ‘The Golden Child’ (1986)

From June 2019: First impressions: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ (2019) and its memorable fight scene in the NYPL

This post is a good example of my “First impressions” series of posts — posts that feature current films I have watched in theaters that include reel librarians and/or library or archives scenes — as well as an excellent example of how a short library scene can result in a surprisingly in-depth post.

As I wrote in the original post:

And they did this scene so well that it took me more than FOUR HOURS (!!!!) to draft this initial post. For a scene that lasts less than two minutes. My initial notes, the ones I jotted down on the notepad app on my phone, were pretty brief. But once I started to unpack, er, unshelve the scene, there was a lot more there to analyze and think through than I had originally thought!

Related post: First impressions: ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ (2019) and its memorable fight scene in the NYPL

Library fight scene from John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
Library fight scene from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

From August 2019: Here’s lookin’ at you, Mr. Stringer

In this massive post, I delve into the role of village librarian Mr. Stringer, a supporting character in all four movies of MGM’s Miss Marple series of the 1960s. Mr. Stringer was played by Stringer Davis, the real-life husband of Margaret Rutherford, who played the leading role of Miss Marple.

Why did I choose this post as one of my faves? Because I had had the idea of analyzing Mr. Stringer’s role in all four films for YEARS, and I kept putting it off because I knew it would take a long time to watch all the films, take notes, rewatch the films, take screenshots, create collages, write the post, etc. And indeed, it took me weeks to put this post together — but it felt enormously satisfying to finish the post and publish it.

Plus, it was so much fun to watch Stringer Davis’s expressive face! I created collages of his different facial expressions in each film, and narrowing down those pics was probably the hardest — and most fun! — part of putting this post together. 😉

Related posts: Here’s lookin’ at you, Mr. Stringer ; Reel librarian Mr. Stringer returns in ‘The Alphabet Murders’ (1965)

A collage of Mr. Stringer's facial expressions in Murder, She Said (1961)
A collage of Mr. Stringer’s facial expressions in Murder, She Said (1961)

From October 2019: 3 reel librarians who have died in the line of duty

The title of this fave post is certainly a walking spoiler alert! I highlight 3 different films in which reel librarian characters die — in different ways — in the line of duty. I enjoy this post because it’s a good example of:

  • how I go off on tangents
  • how I enjoy making lists
  • how posts can come from asking myself the oddest questions (Why WOULDN’T you ask yourself, “Have there been any reel librarians who have died in the line of duty?” 😉 )
  • how I use my own blog and archives to research these kinds of questions

Related post: 3 reel librarians who have died in the line of duty

Bookmobile goes up in flames in Ricochet
Bookmobile or bust in Ricochet

Any personal faves of yours in this bunch? Please leave a comment and share! 🙂

Sources used

Holiday round-up with reel librarians, 2019 update

Merry Christmas, y’all! It feels like past time to update our holiday round-up with reel librarians. I’ve added more titles, info, and post links to the Christmas-themed reel librarians lists I began in 2011 and updated in 2013 and 2015. The holiday films below are organized alphabetically by title.

Reel Librarians logo for the holidays
Reel Librarians logo for the holidays

The Age of Adaline (2015)

This film is admittedly set around the New Year’s holiday, but I included it on this list because why not extend the holiday season?! Adaline (Blake Lively) stopped aging at 29 years old, and after decades of living alone, she meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who makes her question her life choices. Adaline works in the archives at the San Francisco Heritage Society library — even coming in to work on New Year’s Eve! — and there are several scenes set in the library.

Related posts: A reel librarian for the ages in ‘The Age of Adaline’ ; Reel librarians on library ladders

Adaline and her library co-workers
Adaline and her library co-workers

Christmas on Division Street (1991, TV movie)

Emmy-nominated TV movie that includes a “Librarian” and “Library Guard” in its credits. IMDb.com reviews mention a library scene, although I still haven’t seen this TV movie.

Desk Set (1957)

A classic librarian film that takes place around the holidays and includes a funny — and boozy — office Christmas party in the research department library.

Related posts: Comparing two ‘Desk Sets’ (and I don’t mean furniture) ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Comparing two desk sets,’ Jan. 26, 2012

A Very Drunk Katharine Hepburn” video uploaded by I am an angel…….an angel of love is licensed under a Standard YouTube license.

Home by Christmas (2006, TV movie)

After a woman (Linda Hamilton) gets divorced from her cheating husband, she ends up homeless. A friend urges her to go to the library for books to study for the real estate license exam. There are a few shots in a public library and a few glimpses of an older reel librarian, complete with cardigan and half-moon glasses on a chain.

Related posts: ‘Home by Christmas’ librarian

DVD of Home by Christmas
DVD of Home by Christmas

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Top 5 on my list of Christmas movie favorites — as well as my “Hall of Shame” list for reel librarian portrayals! It’s a wonderful film, indeed, but one that also includes the most notorious “Spinster Librarian” scene of ’em all. 😉

Related posts: ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype? ; Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ; All hail Mary? ; War films and reel librarians ; It all started with a big list ; The Spinster Librarian ; Best librarian films by decade, Part I: 1910s – 1950s ; Librarian as nightmare ; Hall of Shame

Screenshot from 'It's a Wonderful Life' is in the public domain
Screenshot from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is in the public domain

The Last American Virgin (1982)

This teen flick includes a brief scene set in the school library around the holidays. The school librarian is at the front counter, where there is a small — and sparsely decorated — Christmas tree, as seen in the screenshot below.

Related posts: ‘The Last American Virgin’ librarian ; Reel school librarians

A reel librarian and a tabletop Christmas tree
A reel librarian and a tabletop Christmas tree

The Librarians (2014-2018, TV series)

The first season of The Librarians TV series — a spin-off of The Librarian TV movies starring Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen — featured a Christmas episode entitled “And Santa’s Midnight Run,” which originally aired Dec. 21, 2014. Bruce Campbell plays Santa, and he gets kidnapped… who else can save him but librarians?! 😉

The third season of the TV series also featured a Christmas story line in the third episode, “And the Christmas Thief,” which originally aired Dec. 20, 2017. In the episode, the librarians go to a party hosted by Santa Claus, and Santa’s sleigh is left in the care of The Library.

Related posts: Rating ‘The Librarians’ 

Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954)

The seventh entry in the “Ma and Pa Kettle” film series, one that includes character actress Mary Wickes as a “maiden lady librarian” who finds love under the mistletoe during a holiday party at the end of the film.

Related posts: ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ and the Lady Librarian ; Literary librarians, reader question follow-up

Reel librarian kissing under the mistletoe in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home
Reel librarian kissing under the mistletoe in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home

My Side of the Mountain (1969)

A young boy, Sam (Ted Eccles), leaves home to spend a year in nature, like Thoreau. He goes to the public library in one scene, and librarian Miss Turner (Tudi Wiggins) helps him find information about peregrine falcons. Miss Turner also helps save him after a snow storm and spends a memorable Christmas in Sam’s nature hideout. The character of Miss Turner also made my “Hall of Fame” list!

Related posts: Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’ ; Favorite reel librarian posts, 2017 ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; Hall of Fame

Sam celebrates Christmas with the local librarian and a fellow traveler
Sam celebrates Christmas with the local librarian and a fellow traveler

Noëlle (2007)

I discovered this holiday-themed title from both the Movie Librarians website and the “Libraries on Film” Pinterest site (neither of which are active anymore). Here’s the write-up and pin from the latter:

This examination of the librarian stereotype focuses on Kerry Wall as small-town librarian Marjorie Worthington, whose scruffy librarian looks disqualify her for the role of Mary in a living nativity scene, according to the local priest (David Wall as Father Jonathan Keene) and her boyfriend (Curt Dewitz as Seth). She reads Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to children in the library.

True Colors (1991)

Another film I have not seen yet… I got this title from the Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography website. Here is the write-up for True Colors on that site:

An ambitious law student must spend Christmas at school so he uses the library to read magazines. Set in the University of Virginia Science and Engineering Library (formerly the law school library).

The Twelve Trees of Christmas (2013, TV movie)

This Lifetime TV movie is not only Christmas-themed but also boasts a reel librarian as the main character! Plus, it stars Lindy Booth, who also played a librarian on “The Librarians” TV series.

Related posts: Twelve reel lessons learned from ‘The Twelve Trees of Christmas’

A display of Christmas trees from The Twelve Trees of Christmas TV movie
A display of Christmas trees from The Twelve Trees of Christmas TV movie

With Honors (1994)

Rounding out the list is a college-themed film that includes a few scenes in the college library, including one set during the Christmas holidays. In one brief scene, captured below in a screenshot, one can glimpse in the background a few college librarians exchanging gifts and holiday cheer.

Related posts: With or without honors

Librarians celebrating the holidays in With Honors
Librarians celebrating the holidays in With Honors

Happy holidays! Is there another Christmas-themed film I need to add to this ongoing list? Please leave a comment and let me know. 🙂

Sources used

  • The Age of Adaline. Dir. Lee Toland Krieger. Perf. Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn. Lionsgate, 2015.
  • Desk Set. Dir. Walter Lang. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill. 20th Century Fox, 1957.
  • Home by Christmas (TV movie). Dir. Gail Harvey. Perf. Linda Hamilton, Brenda Crichlow. Lifetime, 2006.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers. RKO, 1946.
  • The Last American Virgin. Dir. Boaz Davidson. Perf. Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin.Golan-Globus Productions, 1982.
  • The Librarians (TV series). TNT, 2014-2018.
  • Ma and Pa Kettle at Home. Dir. Charles Lamont. Perf. Marjorie Main, Percy Kilbride, Alan Mowbray. Universal, 1954.
  • My Side of the Mountain. Dir. James B. Clark. Perf. Ted Eccles, Theodore Bikel, Tudi Wiggins. Paramount, 1969.
  • Raish, Martin. “The B Group.” Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography, 5 Aug. 2011.
  • The Twelve Trees of Christmas. Dir. Michael DeCarlo. Perf. Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Shauna MacDonald, Melanie Brown, Casper Van Dien. Chesler/Perlmutter Productions, 2013.
  • User Reviews.” Christmas on Division Street (1991 TV Movie), IMDb.com.
  • With Honors. Dir. Alek Keshishian. Perf. Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, Patrick Dempsey. Warner Bros., 1994.

Law librarian sighting in 'Fatal Attraction'

So THAT’s where one confesses to adultery, in the back corner of a law library!

Happy Holidays, y’all! Nothing feels so Christmas-y as a little adultery, kidnapping, and family arguments that cause kids to cry, right?! 😉 The Oscar-nominated Fatal Attraction (1987) has all three in spades. The film is considered an ’80s classic, but somehow, neither my husband nor I had managed to watch it yet. (We both knew about the infamous bunny scene, and we were both kids when this movie came out, so maybe that explains it. Animal cruelty is scary!) But when it came up on our Amazon Prime video subscription, we decided to watch it.

Haven’t seen Fatal Attraction in awhile? Here’s the trailer:

“Fatal Attraction – Trailer” video uploaded by YouTube Movies, Standard YouTube License

Law librarian cameo

Imagine my surprise that almost exactly halfway through the film, at almost 1 hour and 3 minutes, we get introduced to a reel librarian! (Y’all can hear my groans from here, right? “Oh no, I’m going to have to take notes now! Hit pause!”)

We see a young black man shelving (or unshelving?) books, dressed in a button-front shirt and tie, pushing a cart full of books.

Shelving books in the firm's law library
Shelving books in the firm’s law library

This character is uncredited in the cast list, so it’s unclear exactly who this character is: A law librarian? A fellow lawyer? Researcher? Paralegal? But there is a clue on the film’s Goofs page on IMDb.com, seen below, which states that this character is a librarian. Therefore, I’m going with law librarian!

Movie goof in the library scene, which highlights that this character is a librarian.
Goofs: Crew of Equipment Visible: Reflected in the window that the librarian pushes the cart past.
A law librarian and his cart of books
A law librarian and his cart of books

In the back corner of their law firm’s library, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is having a private conversation with a friend and fellow lawyer. So THAT’s where one confesses to adultery, in the back corner of a law library. Now you know. Because there’s no one to disturb you, except for perhaps a law librarian just trying to get some work done? (Sigh.) 

Private conversation in the back corner of the law library
Why are we having this private conversation in the law library, instead of in one of our private offices?
What's that sound?
Because clearly no one visits the law library, so we’ll be totally undisturbed here… oh wait, I hear something! Who would have thought a law librarian would have been in here?!
A law librarian rolls past
Whew, the librarian turned the other way. We’re cool. Continue whining about how it’s so unfair that your adulterous affair is ruining your life and how you can’t deal with the choices you’ve made.

This uncredited reel librarian fulfills the Information Provider role. This character type is the most common for reel librarians, with the most diverse range of physical characteristics, including diversity of ages and ethnicities. This is also demonstrated in this brief role, as the law librarian is young, male, and black.

Ultimately, this brief law librarian sighting lands the film in the Class IV category, films in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue.

Call number inconsistency

I also thought it funny that this short law library scene, which lasts a little over a minute, showcases some wildly inconsistent call numbers. In the screenshots below, we see:

  • Books with large call number labels shelved vertically, as seen near Michael Douglas’s elbow, as well as on the books stacked horizontally to the right of his colleague’s head, in the first screenshot below.
  • Books with NO call numbers at all, as seen in the back shelves in-between the two men in the first screenshot, and stacked haphazardly in the second screenshot below.

Clearly, the law librarian does not have enough time to properly label all the books, due to all the lawyers who keep whispering in the back corners of the law library! 😉

Call number inconsistency in the firm's law library
How do we find what we need in this law library if there are no consistent call numbers?
Call number inconsistency in the firm's law library
I don’t know, but it worries me greatly.

Explore more reel law librarians and libraries

Interested in more reel librarian sightings in law libraries? Check out a few related posts below:

Sources used