Guest post: Libraries at the Movies

Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts! Jen

First up is Colin @ Libraries at the Movies, one of my favorite reads. His posts are always insightful, funny, and illuminating. If you like Reel Librarians, then you’re probably already a fan of Colin’s blog! (And if not, then you need to get on that, pronto.) And you will be a fan of his guest post below. How can you NOT enjoy something that combines words like “solipsism” and “mundanity” along with laugh-out-loud lines like “So we are not under siege at all (though sadly, there are no libraries or librarians in Under Siege)”?! 🙂


What can the cinematic portrayal of libraries tell us about the practice of cinema?

The answer is surprisingly complex. Libraries provide filmic shortcuts. They are backgrounds that foreshadow moods and provide the architecture of mise-en-scène. They are places of discovery, sources of inspiration, stores of myth. We don’t expect anything dramatic to happen in a library, so they are perfect locations for unexpected drama. And they look great on screen.

This is why the embarrassing, reckless, and sudden turning point of Atonement must take place in a library. It is why crumbling libraries are such frequent features of post-apocalyptic worlds that the ruined library is now almost a cliché. New York movies use its great Public Library as a signature almost as often as they show the Brooklyn Bridge. Directors and screenwriters are drawn to librarians because the word has power – the power of expectation, long unrecognized until Jennifer’s blog revealed the currency, mundanity, and complexity of librarian archetypes.

Ever since I launched the Libraries at the Movies blog, I can’t seem to go to the cinema or watch a DVD without seeing a library somewhere. Which gives me great hope. I started writing on libraries in film as a reaction to the introspection, defensiveness, and mutually-reinforcing solipsism that seemed the common currency of most library bloggers on this (the east) side of the Atlantic. I wanted to say “Look, cinema is full of libraries and librarians, and movies are our most dominant cultural reference point!” Filmmakers use libraries in their films because libraries are meaningful to their audiences. So we are not under siege at all (though sadly, there are no libraries or librarians in Under Siege). We are cherished by Hollywood.

There are as many librarians in America as there are bakers. What’s the last film you watched with an important scene set in a bakery? If you’re reading this blog then thinking of films with libraries in them should be easy. If not, then visit my blog

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One comment on “Guest post: Libraries at the Movies

  1. […] Guest post: Libraries at the Movies (reel-librarians.com) Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

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