In name only? Librarians as title characters

There are quite a few main characters who are reel librarians — see my Class I and II categories — but what about title characters? Film posters and taglines hardly ever mention the librarian occupation (see my “Advertising the Reel Librarian” post), but there are a few reel librarians who serve as title characters, however obscure the connection might appear at first glance.

Let’s explore, shall we? 😉

I’ve listed the films below according to the years released. And it isn’t at all surprising that all the films below, except for one, are found in the Class I and II categories.


Desk Set (1957)

The “desk set” in this classic comedy refer to the librarians in a TV network’s research department, headed by Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn).


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

The title spy in question is Alec Leamus (Richard Burton), who actually pretends to quit the British Secret Service and defect in this slow burning Cold War drama. As part of his cover as a failed spy, Alec starts work as a librarian at the Institute of Psychical Research. This title role is also one of the few Oscar-nominated reel librarian roles.


You’re a Big Boy Now (1966)

The “big boy” of the title is Bernard Chanticleer (Peter Kastner), a young man who works as a page at the New York Public Library and falls for a go-go dancer (Hartman). A charming, if odd, coming-of-age story that was director Francis Ford Coppola’s master’s thesis from UCLA film school.


The Handmaid’s Tale (1990)

In this dystopian tale, fertile young women are trained as Handmaids and treated as slaves in their assigned households. Natasha Richardson plays the title’s Handmaid, and we learn in one scene that she used to be a librarian before the war and resulting strict social order.


Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

The “Joe” of the title is Joe Banks (Tom Hanks), an “average Joe” stuck in a thankless job as an advertising librarian for a medical supply company. After learning he has only weeks to live, he embarks on an adventure to sacrifice himself in an island volcano. A typical male Liberated Librarian role.


The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992)

In order to get attention and add some excitement to her dull life, a small-town public librarian (Penelope Ann Miller) — the Betty Lou in the film’s title — finds a gun and confesses to a murder she did not commit. The quintessential female Liberated Librarian role.


The Pagemaster (1994)

Scaredy-cat kid Richie (Macaulay Culkin) enters a library to escape a storm—and literally ends up in another world in this half-animated, half-live action film. Although Culkin is the main star, the title character is played by Christopher Lloyd, both the librarian, Mr. Dewey (get it?!) and the Pagemaster, “the keeper of the books, the guardian of the written word.”


Party Girl (1995)

New York party girl Mary (Parker Posey) repays a loan to her godmother by working as a library clerk in a public library. She discovers her vocation (“I want to be a librarian!”) after learning the Dewey Decimal system one night at the library. This is also one of the only films I have found so far that has used the word librarian in its advertising!


Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

The “drop dead gorgeous” girls in this Class IV film refer to local beauty pageant contestants. There are a couple of small, but memorable, cameo scenes with the 1945 beauty pageant winner, now the town librarian.


“The Librarian” TV trilogy (Quest for the Spear, 2004; Return to King Solomon’s Mines, 2006; The Curse of the Judas Chalice, 2009)

Flynn Carson (Noah Wyle) serves as the title librarian, using his wits and intelligence during globe-crossing adventures to seek out artifacts for the Metropolitan Public Library’s archives.

Any personal favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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3 comments on “In name only? Librarians as title characters

  1. What a great idea for a post!

  2. […] been thinking about names and titles lately, like when I took a look last week at librarians as title characters. And no surprise, almost all of those title characters are in the Class I and II categories, in […]

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