Movie in a haystack

I love movies, and I love librarians. And I love watching librarians in movies. That much is obvious.

Most people are surprised when I mention there are hundreds, even thousands (when you count up the foreign films, TV shows, etc.), of examples of reel librarians. But I’m sure that other professions, like lawyers or teachers, have scores more cinematic counterparts. Of course, most reel librarians are not significant to the film (see my lists for Class III and Class IV), so when you think about major roles for reel librarians, the number is considerably smaller (see my lists for Class I and Class II). And hey, while you’re at it, take a look at my Master List for the most complete list I have compiled so far of reel librarian films.

I’ve already written about how I go about getting movies to watch. But how do I go about finding which movies have librarians?

It helps that I’m a list-maker. 😉

Selected bibliography for my thesis – click for larger image

So here’s how I’ve done it, starting with research for my undergraduate thesis, A Glimpse through the Glasses: Portrayals of Librarians in Film, over a decade ago. First, I wrote down all the librarian movies I could think of. As I remember, that list wasn’t very long, but I’m sure It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Desk Set (1957) were on it. (FYI, I eventually ended up with a list of 47 titles for my thesis.)

Then I gathered as many sources as possible about the subject — you can see these in my Resources page — including books, articles, dissertations (gold mines!), and web sites. I began a file of movie titles, and checked this growing list against any new resource I was able to get my hands on.

This remains my basic strategy.


The Whole Library Handbook series (see left) is quite useful, with a “Librariana” section and “Media” sub-section in every edition. There are several annotated filmography articles out there, including Martin Raish’s website, Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography, which have proved invaluable. And, as I’ve mentioned before, Raish’s interest grew from asking his students for examples they knew of. The Film Librarian site is also a good starting point. – advanced search

I also have scoured sites like, using “advanced search” features to look for librarian films. Searching tip #1: Seek out and use any advanced search options you can!

And IMDb – the Internet Movie Database. How I love thee. I cannot even count the ways. It has fantastic basic and advanced search options, including keyword, plot summaries, advanced title text searches, etc. Its advanced keyword search is called MoKA, Movie Keyword Analyzer. Fancy! I have been using the IMDb to help compile these lists for years now, and its search features and capabilities have continued to improve.

IMDb search bar

My family has been very supportive of my research and contribute ideas and titles all the time. My mom has sent film copies my way – always much appreciated (thanks, Mom!). My husband has come back from several academic conferences with books in tow — including the best book published so far on the topic, The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999.

So, as you can see, there’s not just one approach — I use many, many sources available in various formats. Sometimes, it can be tedious, as it IS a bit like finding a movie in a haystack. But the hunt can be as exciting as watching the films themselves.

I enjoy re-browsing some of my favorite sites on this topic, including Movie Librarians: Notable Librarians & Libraries in Film, as well as the newest addition to my resource list, the Libraries at the Movies blog. For example, from these sites I’ve added about 15 new titles in the past couple of weeks, including: Jury Duty (1995), Grave of the Vampire (1974), The Incubus (1982), Frankenstein (2005 TV movie), The Namesake (2005), The Pink Chiquitas (1987), and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979, plus a remake is coming out soon).

I continue to add movies to my various lists, and I’d like to think that one day, my site will be a go-to resource for others interested in the topic. I keep my ears and eyes open for any news about upcoming librarian films or characters.

And I find that people, those who are aware of my interest, come to me about new (or old) movies with reel librarians. I love when that happens! So let me know if you have a movie in mind with a memorable librarian. And please share your personal favorites – I always enjoy discussing reel librarians. 🙂


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