Librarian on my mind

The final plot point of the indie film He’s On My Mind (2009) reads like a female counterpart to 2000’s What Women Want:

“Elementary school teacher Kayla King thought she had the perfect relationship, and after an impromptu wedding, Kayla discovers that not only is she the other woman, she’s the other wife. She is spontaneously imbued with the magic ability to intercept men’s thoughts.”

This film stars Sherial Mckinney as Kayla, who is the best thing about this film. The movie overall is admittedly rough in that “indie film” way, with lots of uncomfortable and prolonged closeups, out-of-focus transitions, and inconsistent sound levels and effects. Unfortunately, this movie falls into the “I watched this movie so you don’t have to” category. (FYI, I watched this movie through Hoopla, a free streaming service available through my local public library system.)

The last bit of the plot write-up, about being “spontaneously imbued with the magic ability to intercept men’s thoughts” is key to my own write-up — because it happens when she visits her local public library!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

City library sign

Just after a half-hour into this 2-hour film, Kayla visits the library. The entire library scene lasts a total of 3 minutes.

Library scene:

Kayla is at a round library table, which is piled high with books, and she calls out to the librarian when he rolls past with a book cart. Read MacGuirtose plays the role of the reel librarian. You can read about this actor’s bio here and his personal website here. I have to admit, I kind of love that an actor whose name is “Read” got to play a reel librarian!

Read’s character is listed in the credits as “Cranky Librarian,” and he wastes no time living up to that description.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

Kayla asks the cranky librarian for help

Kayla:  Oh, excuse me. Can you bring me some more books on male psychology? Just bring them here.

Cranky LibrarianMa’am, does this look like the Cheesecake Factory, and do I look like a waiter? Get your own books. Psychology section is aisle 4.

Kayla [under her breath as he walks away]:  I said please, jackass.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

Cranky librarian face

I’m with Kayla here. This reel librarian IS a jackass. Another example of what NOT to do as a librarian!

Kayla then does do research on her own, as she gathers armload after armload of books and brings them back to her table. This research montage uses overhead shots to capture the passage of time — and books — as you can see in the two sceenshots below. (Also, who knew a small public library would have this many books on male psychology?!)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

Beginning her research on men’s psychology

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

Falling asleep on top of her research of men’s psychology

Kayla falls asleep on her pile of books. It’s closing time, and the librarian comes back and jostles her shoulder to wake her up.

Cranky LibrarianMa’am, it is closing time.

KaylaWhat?

Cranky LibrarianTime to go. We’re closing. [Inner monologue:  You ain’t gotta go home, but you got to get the hell outta here.]

Closing time at the library

Closing time at the library

This is the first time Kayla can read men’s thoughts, and she is understandably confused at first.

KaylaWhat’d you say?

Cranky LibrarianI said it’s time to go. We’re closing. [Inner monologueJeez, lady, hurry it up already. I want to get home and rub one out before I get too tired.]

KaylaOh, how did you do that? [referring to the the inner monologue]

Cranky LibrarianDo what? [Inner monologueOh, great. Another nut case.]

KaylaThat. How did you do that?

Cranky LibrarianMa’am, I’m not doing anything. I’m just trying to get you to leave. [Inner monologue: Man, I don’t get paid enough to deal with this.]

KaylaWhat are you doing? Throwing your voice?

Cranky LibrarianNo, but in two seconds, I’m going to be throwing you out. [Inner monologueJeez, crazy lady, get out already!]

KaylaAll right, I’m leaving! You don’t have to yell at me! Golly!

Kayla starts to gather up all the books on the table.

Cranky Librarian:  [Inner monologueGreat. Now I’ve gotta put away all her damn books.]

KaylaLook, I’m a teacher, I know the Dewey Decimal system.

Gotta admit, I kind of cheered at this! But the Cranky Librarian is not impressed at a patron knowing about the Dewey Decimal system. Instead, he just orders her to leave.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

The cranky librarian throws Kayla out of the library

Cranky LibrarianDon’t worry about it. Just go. [Inner monologueI’m going to do your decimal if you don’t get the hell outta here! Damn, she’s got a fat ass.]

Kayla grabs her behind in embarrassment as she hurries out of the library. Double shame on that librarian for making a woman feel bad about her body!

Significance of this scene and reel librarian role

Why can Kayla suddenly read men’s thoughts after she falls asleep in the library? Are we supposed to think she soaked up all the knowledge in the world on men’s psychology so much that she can now read men’s inner thoughts? Is her city library that good? Suspension of disbelief at your local library, aisle 4!

So what role does this reel librarian play? It’s a memorable enough scene to merit a Class III category, films in which the librarian(s) plays a secondary role, ranging from a supporting character to a minor character with perhaps only a few lines in one memorable or significant scene.

I would venture to say that this reel librarian role primarily fulfills the “Anti-Social Librarian” role for male librarians. This character type:

  • hoards knowledge (he won’t help her find what she’s looking for);
  • dresses conservatively (light green polo shirt and atrociously unflattering pleated trousers);
  • made up to look generally unattractive (those closeups are not kind to this actor);
  • exhibits poor social skills (definitely);
  • very unfriendly (yep);
  • seems to dislike people (yep again); and
  • an elitist who rates the library and its rules above the public (I would say yes).
Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'He's On My Mind' (2009)

Cranky librarian face

There is that inner monologue line, “I want to get home and rub one out before I get too tired” — which made me review the characteristics of the “Naughty Librarian” character type — but this line about masturbation reveals more about his unsociable lifestyle than it does about sex or sexual attraction. Indeed, this librarian is not attracted to Kayla at all, judging by his final, derogatory comment about her bottom.

Bottom line? Not the finest three minutes of reel librarianship onscreen!

Sources used:

He’s On My Mind (dvd). Dir. Kazeem Molake. Perf. Sherial Mckinney, Ayo Sorrells, Dylan Mooney. Vanguard Cinema, 2009.

He’s On My Mind Movie Trailer (Official Version),” uploaded by Y!kes Entertainment, Standard YouTube License.

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Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods

In the vein of the “Cinematherapy” books — which you saw a couple of on my movie book collection post — I have put together lists of different reel librarian movies for different romantic moods. Enjoy!

Valentine love by Nietju is licensed under a CC0 public domain license

Valentine love by Nietju is licensed under a CC0 public domain license

If you’d like to skip to a specific category, click below:

Finding your prince… with a twist || Grown-up love || Star-crossed love || Love triangles || I’m not crying… you’re crying! || Summer romances || No more drama? No way! || Love notes || Opposites attract || Love on the rocks


Finding your prince… with a twist


Ella Enchanted (2004):

This Class IV reel librarian movie features an actual “Prince Charming” (played by Hugh Dancy)! The well-known Cinderella plot hinges on Ella’s gift of obedience bestowed by a fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox), whom Ella (Anne Hathaway) is trying to find in order to release this curse of a blessing. Ella tries to find a record of Lucinda’s whereabouts in the castle’s Hall of Records, where an archives clerk is most unhelpful. The twist in this movie is that Ella is the film’s true hero and savior. Read my analysis post of this film here.

Screenshot from 'Ella Enchanted'

Screenshot from ‘Ella Enchanted’ and its Hall of Records scene

Ever After (1998):

Another Cinderella story turned on its heel, starring the ever-charming Drew Barrymore as Danielle and dreamy Dougray Scott as Prince Henry. Danielle also saves the day, more than once, in this historical romance. To impress Danielle, Prince Henry takes her to a monastery library, for a fun historical version of a  “first date” — swoon! Read my analysis post of this film here.

Reel Librarians: Ever After monastery library

Fade-in from Prince Henry to the monastery library in ‘Ever After’

That Touch of Mink (1962):

If Cary Grant is your idea of a modern prince — and I join you in that thought! — then you can’t go wrong with this romantic comedy starring Grant as a millionaire playboy and Doris Day as the klutzy-but-adorable object of his affection. The twist? She wants marriage while he wants only an affair, and the movie is pretty straightforward about the conflict.

In one hilarious scene and sub-plot, Grant and his friend (Gig Young) break into a motel room in order to find Day, but they end up interrupting a romantic tryst between a librarian and her would-be lover. “You do believe I never cared for another man until you walked in the library?” Will the reel librarian find her own prince? Read my play-by-play post of this movie here.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'That Touch of Mink' (1962)

A reel librarian’s tryst from ‘That Touch of Mink’ (1962)


Grown-up love


Do you like to watch romance blossom slowly, but surely, between two adults, including scenes filled with the details and issues of real life? Then you might enjoy one of these romances, featuring both minor and major reel librarians:

Brief Encounter (1945):

This classic romance is about an ordinary English wife and mother (Celia Johnson) and an ordinary English husband and father (Trevor Howard) who meet one day by chance and fall in love. So simple, yet so devastating. The woman stops by the Boots Lending Library during her weekly shopping — and later uses the librarian as an excuse for staying out late! Click here to read my full post of this film.

Screenshot from 'Brief Encounter'

Boot’s Lending Library in ‘Brief Encounter’

Desk Set (1957):

In this sparkling workplace comedy, Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) expertly handles a TV network’s research library, as well as the attentions of an efficiency expert (Spencer Tracy). Their mutual admiration and respect for one another’s abilities and intelligence — a relationship in which they start out as competitors and then develop into friendship — is a delight to behold. Click here to read a comparison of the original play and the film adaptation.

Hepburn & Tracyy in 'Desk Set'

Hepburn & Tracyy in ‘Desk Set’

Enough Said (2013):

A quirky slice-of-life glimpse into the budding romance between two middle-aged, single parents. Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a free-spirited masseuse, and Albert (James Gandolfini) is a digital archivist at the fictional American Library of Cultural History. In one scene, Albert takes Eva on a tour of the archives, his office, and the public viewing room. Click here to read my full analysis post of this film.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Enough Said'

Kissing in the archives in ‘Enough Said’

The Magic of Ordinary Days (TV, 2005):

This TV movie romance, set during World War II, features a beautiful young woman (Keri Russell) in an arranged marriage with a lonely, good-hearted farmer (Skeet Ulrich). They slowly start to fall in love. In an early scene, they travel to the nearest public library, which is an hour away. Now that’s love! 🙂 Click here for the full analysis post of this film.

The public librarian in 'The Magic of Ordinary Days'

The public librarian in ‘The Magic of Ordinary Days’


Star-crossed love


If you like your films to have a fantastical element, like time travel or reincarnation… these films might be just what you’re looking for:

The Age of Adaline (2015):

Adaline (Blake Lively), a young woman and a recent widow, gets into a car accident in the 1930s and stops aging as a result of the accident. (Just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the costumes and the camera work.) After decades of living alone, she meets a man, Ellis (Michiel Huisman), who makes her question her life choices. Adaline works in the archives at the San Francisco Heritage Society library, and there are several scenes set in the library. Click here to read my full analysis post of this romance.

Reel Librarians | A collage of Adaline reading a book in braille on the library steps

Love meets cute… and a book from ‘The Age of Adaline’

Chances Are (1989):  

In this romantic comedy, college library assistant Alex (Robert Downey, Jr.) falls for his girlfriend’s mother (Cybill Shepherd). Oh, and there’s the bit about the mother’s husband having been reincarnated into Alex. It’s high-concept romantic comedy… just don’t think too hard about it. 😉 Click here to read my full analysis post of this romantic comedy.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Chances Are'

A ‘meet cute’ in the library in ‘Chances Are’

Somewhere in Time (1980):

A time-travel romance in which a Chicago playwright (Christopher Reeve) uses self-hypnosis to go back in time and meet the love of his life (Jane Seymour). This is Romance with a capital R. There is a brief but pivotal library scene toward the beginning of the film. Click here for the full post of this film.

Reel Librarians | Screenshots from 'Somewhere in Time'

Looking for love… in the library, in ‘Somewhere in Time’

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009):

Henry (Eric Bana), a librarian, time travels in and out of a sweeping love story with Clare (Rachel McAdams). There are a couple of early scenes set in a library, and Henry is called a “special collections librarian.” Based on the best-selling book by Audrey Niffenegger. Click here to read my full analysis post of this film, which won a reader’s poll.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Time Traveler's Wife'

Time-traveling romance in a library, in ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’

Wings of Desire (aka Der Himmel über Berlin, 1987):

An angel in Berlin falls in love with a mortal and wishes to become human. Although there are no reel librarians in this film, there are three memorable scenes set and filmed in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), where angels often go to hang out with humans. Revisit each library scene here in my post about this beautiful film.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)


Love triangles


When you like your romances complicated…

The Philadelphia Story (1940):

This classic romantic triangle features a a rich socialite (Katharine Hepburn), her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a reporter (Jimmy Stewart). In one comedic scene set at the public library, Hepburn and Stewart discuss a book he wrote, and a Quaker librarian shushes them. What does thee wish? To rewatch this film, of course! Click here to read my full post for this film.

Reel Librarians | Library scene in 'The Philadelphia Story' (1940)

Library scene in ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)

Possession (2002):  

A double-decker romance with two love triangles. Two literary researchers (Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart) track down the correspondence and relationship between two Victorian poets (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle). Both the modern and Victorian romances include past (and present) romantic partners. It’s complicated. In an early scene, Eckhart checks out a book at the British Museum library and answers questions from a nosy male librarian. Click here for my review of this reader poll-winning film.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Possession' (2002)

Maud and Roland walk through a library en route to Maud’s office

Rome Adventure (1962):  

In this romantic drama, Prudence Bell (Suzanne Pleshette) quits her job as a librarian at a private college and sets off to Italy in search of adventure and love. She definitely finds them with both Rossano Brazzi and Troy Donahue, who later became Pleshette’s real-life husband. Click here to read my full post of this film.

Rome Adventure (1962) Official Trailer – Troy Donahue, Suzanne Pleshette Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Trailer Vault, Standard YouTube License


I’m not crying… you’re crying!


“Good cry” romances, for when you need to let your emotions out:

Bed of Roses (1996):  

A romance dedicated to its genre! A career woman (Mary Stuart Masterson), who’s got a lot of emotional baggage from her childhood, falls in love with a florist (Christian Slater), who can’t stop sending her roses. The florist also has his own emotional baggage. On a day out together, they stop by the public library to hear a children’s storytime hour.

Bed of Roses (1996) Trailer,” uploaded by depplover63, Standard YouTube License

City of Angels (1998):

This romantic drama follows an angel (Nicolas Cage) who becomes romantically involved with a doctor (Meg Ryan). The angels like to visit the San Francisco Public Library — I don’t blame them — and there are several short scenes set in the library, including one featuring a young male circulation clerk. Although a remake of 1987’s Wings of Desire — also included in this round-up — this plot and tone of this film is very different from its original inspiration. Click here for my full post of this film.

City of Angels – Trailer,” uploaded by YouTube Movies, Standard YouTube License

Love Story (1970):  

The first scene of this film, set in the Radcliffe College library, sets up the five-hanky romance between Jenny (Ali MacGraw) and Oliver (Ryan O’Neal). Jenny is a student library assistant, but we quickly find out she’s a music major. Have the Kleenex ready!

Love Story (1970) – Official Trailer,” uploaded by OldSchoolTrailers, Standard YouTube License


Summer romances


For when you want to relive the fleeting love of youth…

Goodbye, Columbus (1969):  

A poor Bronx librarian (Richard Benjamin) enjoys a summer romance with a privileged “Jewish-American princess” (Ali MacGraw). Based on the book by Philip Roth.

Goodbye, Columbus | Trailer (Klara Tavakoli Goesche),” uploaded by Klara Tavakoli Goesche, Standard YouTube License

Racing with the Moon (1984):  

This is a romantic drama set during World War II. Two young men (Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage), about to join the Marines in early 1943, spend their final days in town finding out about love and growing up. Penn falls in love with the new girl in town (Elizabeth McGovern), who works part-time at the local public library. Turns out Elizabeth McGovern and Sean Penn enjoyed an off-screen romance during the making of this film, even becoming engaged for a short time afterward.

Racing With The Moon Trailer 1984,” uploaded by Video Detective, Standard YouTube License


No more drama? No way!


For when you don’t want your romance sweetened with comedy or musical numbers… just bring the drama!

Forbidden (1932):

In this film’s first scene, Lulu (Barbara Stanwyck), a lonely and idealistic young librarian, quits her library job. She cleans out her bank account and sets sail for Havana, where she becomes romantically involved with an older man (Adolphe Menjou). Romantic melodrama ensues: the plot includes an illegitimate child, a lifelong adulterous affair, murder, and a deathbed pardon!

Forbidden 1932 Barbara Stanwyck,” uploaded by SweetnSaltyLife99, Standard YouTube License

Where the Heart Is (2000):  

In this chicken-fried romance, a pregnant teen (Natalie Portman) rebuilds her life after giving birth in a small town’s Walmart. Along the way, she falls in love with a young man (James Frain), who runs the local public library and cares for his alcoholic sister, the real librarian. There are a LOT of odd and dramatic subplots and characters in this film.

Where The Heart Is ~ Mary Elizabeth Dies & Forney/Novalee Love Scene,” uploaded by Cassie Hill, Standard YouTube License


Love notes


Movie musicals that feature librarians, for when you are in the mood for love to be set to song.

Good News (1947):  

A college student and library assistant (perpetual cutie June Allyson) falls for the college’s football hero (Peter Lawford) in this musical comedy. One of musical scenes, “The French Lesson,” is set in the library.

The French Lesson,” uploaded by rokrchicky, Standard YouTube License

The Music Man (1962):

In this classic movie musical, con man Harold Hill (Robert Preston) tries to scam a community into buying band uniforms — and ends up falling for the librarian. As you do. 😉 Shirley Jones’s portrayal of Marian has been immortalized in popular culture, in part due to the song “Marian the Librarian.”

03_Marian The Librarian,”  uploaded by Night Owl TV, Standard YouTube License

Strike Up the Band (1940):

In this “putting on a show” musical romance, high schooler Jimmy Connors (Mickey Rooney) wants to start a dance orchestra band to compete in a national radio contest. His girlfriend Mary (Judy Garland) sings along for the ride. We learn later in the film that Mary works part-time at the local library. This has nothing to do with the plot of the film, except that she sings a song while closing up at the library.

JUDY GARLAND: ‘NOBODY’, 1940. A SONG TO REMEMBER.,” uploaded by Michele Bell, Standard YouTube License


Opposites attract


For when you’re in the mood for two strong personalities to crash into love and let the sparks fly!

Adventure (1945):

A buttoned-up public librarian (Greer Garson) falls for a roustabout sailor (Clark Gable) in this rocky romantic drama. The two “meet cute” in the San Francisco Public Library.

Greer Garson and Gable Adventure 1945,” uploaded by fred freeze, Standard YouTube License

Bloomington (2010):  

In this LGBTQ romance and independent film, a former child actress (Sarah Stouffer) attends college and falls in love with a female psychology professor (Allison McAtee). When she gets a chance to return to Hollywood, what will she choose? Although both women are blonde, their personalities are very different, as are their roles as student and professor. There is a sexy scene set in the college library, as well as a young reel librarian at the end of the film. Click here for the full post of this film.

Love in the stacks in 'Bloomington'

Love in the stacks in ‘Bloomington’

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961):  

In this classic romance, free spirit Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) finally finds love with writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard). You get a sense that there is an old soul within Holly’s carefully curated nonchalance, while Varjak comes off as a man-child who pretends to be suave but is really desperate for love. Opposites attract? There are a couple of scenes set in the New York Public Library; in one of those scenes, Varjak autographs a copy of his book in the library, which the librarian exclaims is “defacing public property!”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Paul Tells Holly in the Library He Loves Her (16) – Audrey Hepburn,” uploaded by EverythingAudrey.com, Standard YouTube License

No Man of Her Own (1932):  

In this romantic drama, con artist and gambler (Clark Gable) goes to small town Glendale to escape prosecution and ends up falling in love with the young, straight-laced, and sassy-mouthed librarian (Carole Lombard). OF COURSE. A few scenes are set in the library, including one in which Gable looks up Lombard’s skirt while she shelves books!

Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own (1932)/ famous quotes,” uploaded by JohnnyDepp Persianfan, Standard YouTube License


Love on the rocks


For when you’re in an “anti-romance” mode… when love goes dark, and you’re in the mood to make some trouble:

I Love You to Death (1990):

This pitch-black comedy has a different take on a romance:  a deadly one. A loyal Italian-American wife, Rosalie (Tracey Ullman), tries several times to kill her husband (Kevin Kline) after she finds out that he is cheating. And where does she find out about his philandering ways? At the local public library. (SIGH.) Click here for the full post of this film.

Screenshot from 'I Love You to Death'

When love makes you sick, in ‘I Love You to Death’

Miranda (2002):

In this noirish romance, hapless librarian Frank (John Simm) falls in love with the mysterious Miranda (Christina Ricci) and goes after her when she disappears from his life one day. The film’s opening sequence is set in the library, which is set for demolition. Click here for a special double feature post of this film.

Reel Librarians | 'Miranda' screenshot

Love isn’t love unless it’s on an Elvis rug, in ‘Miranda’


In the mood for love…

… and more reel librarian romance? Browse to your heart’s content the following posts:

Any favorites here? Are you now in the mood for a reel librarian romance? Please leave a comment and share!

Reel Librarians referenced in a new book!

I recently came across a new book that references me and this Reel librarians site, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with you!

It’s a publication entitled La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015) by María Rosario Andrío Esteban, published in 2017 by Ediciones Universidad Salamanca, a university located west of Madrid in Spain. The title translates in English to The Image of the Library in Cinema (1928-2015), and it seems that my site helped provide titles of films for the author to analyze, as well as provided information about (stereotypical) characterizations of librarians in cinema. This book is more general and expansive in scope than my site — as evidenced by the title, the author focuses on the depictions of libraries, and not just librarians — but what an honor to have served as a resource for this academic publication!

Here’s a cover image of the newly published book:

Cover image of 'La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Cover image of ‘La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015)’ by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Here is the (translated) abstract for the book on the Ediciones Universidad Salamanca website:

The objective of this work has been to configure the profile of visual elements, user activities and professional tasks that the filmmakers have chosen to represent the public library throughout the sound stage. For this, a list of 855 films was obtained between 1928 and 2015 (60% were American and 7% Spanish) in which 1,642 scenes with a library were identified. A visual analysis of each one of them allowed detecting about 1,220 librarians and about 9,000 users doing various tasks and activities that were systematically described.

The results show that the image of the public library is configured in the majority of the films with few cinematic elements. Books, shelves, tiles, labels and some ornaments are enough. On the other hand, the librarian actor generally possesses a more stereotyped image than librarians, who hardly carry more than one feature of the classical stereotype, especially if they are protagonists. The most frequent tasks in the film professional are customer service and non-specific technical work, order the fund, maintain order and the loan, tasks closer to the assistant than the information expert. For the cinemas the majority of the users are male, and they are mainly dedicated to talking to them, consulting books on the shelves, reading and studying.

From a professional point of view, for the cinema there are two main types of libraries: the public and the academic, being the functions related to the support to formal education and as a place of social gathering their more cinematic images. On the other hand, the representation of the library in the cinema has varied relatively little since 90 years ago, in spite of the great technological advances associated with the library and the profession.

OF COURSE I did a search through the book in Google Books, and my Reel Librarians site is referenced in two main places:

“Elementos estructurales de la representación bibliotecaria” (“Structural elements of library representation”) section, p. 132

Reel Librarians mentioned in 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Rough translation (via Google Translate):

Although this typology has not been confirmed empirically until date, it has served in function of the appearance and behavior of the librarian characters. This is the case of Jennifer Snoek-Brown and her website Reel Librarians. This librarian keeps the page up to date, including an important collection of films about librarians, classified from leading roles to simple cameos. The most relevant is her analysis of the typology of library characters seen in the cinema and that she defines as a function of the genre.

The author then goes on to summarize, as you can see a bit in the screenshot above, the different “character types” for male and female reel librarian roles, as well as the “atypical” characters that I have identified on the “Role Call” section of my Reel Librarians site.

“Metodología” (“Methodology”) section, p. 176

Reel Librarians mentioned in 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Rough translation (via Google Translate):

Chief librarian of Mt. Hood in Oregon Jennifer Snoek-Brown maintains “Reel Librarians,” a blog that compiles an extensive list of 862 films in English, 155 from other nationalities and 94 documentaries and short films with scenes in which she appears or speaks of a librarian. According to the author these references have been extracted from books, articles and web pages, as well as personal suggestions. This blog remains active, and its content is updated periodically.

This publication, only available in Spanish, looks to already have found its way into some library collections in the U.S., as per the book’s Worldcat record.

WorldCat record for 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Amazing — this news has made my year!

Side note: This has reminded me that I need to explore that subject term, “Librarians in motion pictures,” in WorldCat. You can see in the screenshot above that that’s one of the linked subject terms listed for this book. I sense another post coming up… 😉

 

Angels in the library in ‘Wings of Desire’

I am following up on another reader question from my call earlier this year for reader questions and ideas, a question posed by Kvennarad, who left a comment that contained several very intriguing post ideas, including this one:

‘Wings of Desire’ is an amazing film, with lots of footage set in a library… No reel/real reason why I include this, it just haunts me.

Here was my initial response to Kvennarad’s comment, in my reader Q&A follow-up post:

Yes, this film was already on my Foreign Films reel librarians list. I have also written an analysis post on City of Angels, the (inferior) U.S. remake starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage. It would be interesting to do a post about Wings of Desire, and then perhaps a follow-up comparing the two films and their two reel libraries/librarians. Adding this to my ideas list… 

And here it is, at least the first part of the idea to analyze Wings of Desire (1987), which is a truly haunting film.

Plot and atmosphere

The original title of this primarily German-language film is Der Himmel über Berlin, which translates to “The Sky over Berlin.” I actually prefer that title, rather than the more generic-sounding Wings of Desire. We see humanity through the wanderings of angels throughout Berlin, including one particular angel, Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz), who begins to fall in love with a mortal woman. Peter Falk also stars in the film, playing a version of himself. I can’t say anymore about the plot, as I want to avoid any spoilers. This is a film to savor watching the first time, if you have not already seen it. (And let’s just say, it has almost nothing in common with its American remake, City of Angels, THANK GOODNESS, except for the barest of plot lines and the angels’ penchant for long coats. I analyzed the library scene in City of Angels in this post.)

Here is a trailer for the film, set only to music:

There are so many beautiful moments in this beautiful film, including every time a child looks up and smiles in recognition of an angel. I tear up just thinking about it. None of the adults notice the angels’ presence; only the children notice them and share knowing smiles.

I had passively resisted watching this film until now, in part because of the *awful* American version of it. I suppose I thought the film would be too “arty” and depressing (the bulk of it is in black and white), but that’s what I get for assuming! The film is ultimately uplifting, and the director, Wim Wenders, sustains an atmosphere of bittersweet wonder with the lightest touch… like that from angels’ wings? 😉

In short, this film is special. See it now — for the first or 100th time.

Library scenes

There are three short scenes set and filmed in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), where angels often go to hang out with humans. Another reason to love the angels, who obviously have such good taste — and not just in overcoats!

There is no reel librarian character that I could see, so this film does end up in the Class V category of films with no identifiable librarians (although Class V films might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries). But that does not take away the significance of the library in this classic film, as I demonstrate in detail below.

Library scene #1

Sixteen minutes into the film, Damiel and his friend, Cassiel (Otto Sander), visit the Staatsbibliothek. The scene lasts 7 minutes in total as the angels and the camera wind their way around the shelves and different levels of this eye-catching library.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Angels visit the Berlin State Library

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Angels like to read over people’s shoulders in the library

Here’s how this online review at DVD Talk describes this scene:

“There are wonderful scenes on a plane or in the public library where the sound mixers scroll through the gathered people, moving from one inner monologue to another the way we flip through channels with our TV remote. In the library, there are almost as many angels as there are mortals, all looking for something interesting to commit to memory or maybe scribble down in one of their little notebooks.”

The sound throughout this scene is a hushed murmuring of voices/thoughts layered on top of choir-like singing. The effect is like that of visiting a church, and indeed, this library has soaring ceilings to match the soaring vocals. The director and the angels treat this space like a sacred space. In the book The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, Laura Marcus argued that in Wings of the Desire, the angels’ affinity for libraries do indeed make the library a miraculous place.

This is very obviously a well-used library, filled with people — and angels! — in all corners. It also showcases that a library provides space and resources for many different kinds of needs and different kinds of users.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

A well-used public library

The scene comes to a close as Damiel takes notice of an old man slowly climbing the stairs, pausing every few steps to catch his breath and wipe his face. We see this man, the storyteller, throughout the rest of the film. His inner dialogue feels appropriate for such a setting:

“Tell me, muse, of the storyteller… Those who listened to me became my readers…”

Library scene #2:

This same older man is our link to the second library scene, when at 39 minutes into the film, we revisit the man sitting at a table in the library. This table is filled with a collection of globes of many sizes, and he is enthralled with a rotating solar system. The camera then cuts to the old man sitting at a different table in the library, this time thumbing slowly through a large book of photos. The angel Cassiel follows the old man through the library, just as the reader does.

Reel Librarian | Library scenes from 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

An old man finds treasures to enjoy in the library

This scene lasts only two minutes. But as Marcus points out in The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, Wenders highlights the library as a tool of “memory and public space.” This is especially evident in this scene.

Library scene #3:

The final scene in the library lasts only a minute, but it is a memorable minute. Cassiel remains in the library, but this time, the tables and desks are empty.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

One is the loneliest number

The library is closed, the only mortals the cleaners, yet the angels still seek solace within the library walls.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

The library after hours

Real-life library, trivia, and significance

The movie was filmed on location at Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, Germany. This library is also featured in two other German-language films, Agnes and His Brothers (2004) and the TV movie Götterdämmerung – Morgen stirbt Berlin (1999).

Reel Librarian | Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Berlin State Library

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, screenshot from the DVD featurette

The DVD features include an interactive map that also highlights the library, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Reel Librarians | Interactive map on DVD of 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Interactive map on DVD of ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987)

The library clip on the interactive map lasts less than 30 seconds, but it reveals why the public library location was chosen for the film:

“The Staatsbibliothek was built between 1967 and 1978. It is one of the largest libraries in Europe, with a collection of over 8 million books and manuscripts. The quietness of the library, due to its acoustics, makes it an ideal place for the angels to tune into our thoughts.”

Here’s a look at that acoustic ceiling in the library:

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Acoustic ceiling in the public library

Wings of Desire was both a critical and financial success, and as per its Wikipedia entry, “academics have interpreted it as a statement of the importance of cinema, libraries, the circus, or German unity, containing New Age, religious, secular or other themes.”

I will end with this thought, that Kvennard is certainly not alone is being haunted by the library imagery in the film. Indeed, the German news publication Der Tagesspiegel recently highlighted the film’s memorable imagery, in particular the library scenes:

“A film lives on such images that get stuck in the memory of the audience.”

Have you, too, seen the film and been haunted by its imagery? Have you seen the American remake? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Lippold, Von Markus. “Engel, die auf Menschen starren (Angel Staring at People).” Der Tagesspiegel. 4 February 2016.

Marcus, Laura. “The Library in Film: Order and Mystery.” The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Rich, Jamie S. “Wings of Desire – Criterion Collection.” DVD Talk, 3 Nov 2009.

Wings of Desire,” Wikimedia Foundation, is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.

Wings of Desire [dvd]. Dir. Wim Wenders. Perf. Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk. Road Movies Filmproduktion, 1987.

Wings of Desire – Official Trailer (1987),” uploaded by 2AM Ltd, Standard YouTube license.

Librarian action figure

For my Christmas gift this year, my husband gifted me the brand-new version of the librarian action figure!

Librarian action figure

The first librarian figure was produced in 2003 by Archie McPhee, and this figure was modeled on legendary librarian Nancy Pearl, outfitted in a blue skirt suit. You can read more about the history of the librarian action figure here on the company’s website.

We librarians have had a love-loathe relationship with that original librarian action figure. We LOVED that we had an action figure of our own and that it was based on an awesome real-life librarian, Nancy Pearl, who inspired “one city, one book” programming and is the author of several Book Lust books. But we LOATHED the fact that the “super power” was shushing, and that the figure looked, well, so stereotypically dowdy (it was the shapeless skirt suit, y’all, not Nancy Pearl herself!). And the librarian outrage was global, as you can read more about here in this 2003 news article entitled ‘Outcry over librarian doll,’ published in an Australian newspaper.

Here’s a video starring the original librarian action figure:

Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee,” uploaded by Archie McPhee, Standard YouTube license

A “deluxe” version of this figure was released a few years later, featuring Nancy Pearl in a burgundy skirt suit, which Archie McPhee optimistically described as “stylish.” (You can see my list of ACTUAL stylish librarians onscreen here and here.) The deluxe set included a rolling cart, stacks of books, and a computer. Bless. ♥

And this past year, Archie McPhee released — by popular demand — a superhero version of the librarian action figure! As the company describes it:

“She has a removable cape and a deep understanding of how knowledge is organized. Celebrate an everyday hero!”

INDEED.

I love the call-out to action on the front of the librarian action figure:

“When an age of darkness comes, a hero must rise!”

Librarian action figure logo and action call-out

And they included an inspiring “librarian code” on the back of the packaging:

Librarian action figure and "librarian code"

I love that the librarian code encapsulates more than a love of books — that it’s also about access to information, experiencing empathy, connecting with people, and checking facts, in addition to organizing the world. ♥ Action verbs befitting a real-life action hero.

Excuse me, I now have to find my own librarian superhero cape… 😉