Victims or villains? Librarians in horror films and thrillers

Do reel librarians usually turn out to be villains… or victims?

Last month, while I was analyzing horror films for Halloween, I remarked that librarians show up in quite a few horror films. My husband then posed an intriguing question:

Do reel librarians usually turn out to be villains… or victims?

Based on the horror films and thrillers I have seen so far that feature reel librarians, let’s investigate:


Reel librarian villains:

Reel librarian victims:

Of the films I’ve designated as featuring reel librarian villains, three are title or central characters:  Sally in Chainsaw Sally (2004), a public librarian by day, chainsaw-wielding serial killer by night ; Ilona in Weird Woman (1944), a college librarian who sets mischief in motion due to a spurned love (“hell hath no fury…  “) ; and Heather in Personals (aka Personal Ads, TV, 1990), featuring a public librarian who kills unsuspecting men who dare to answer her personal dating ads.

One film boasts both villain AND victim:  Ghostbusters (1984); in the film’s memorable opener, one poor librarian gets scared out of her wits by a spinsterish library ghost.


When going through my Master List in search of horror and thriller films, I realized that the “victims or villains” question was too limiting. There are a few reel librarians who turn out to be heroes/heroines:

Interestingly, the above characters all seem like they will turn out to be victims, or at least weaklings who cannot stand up to the evil forces they come up against — but all find inner strength and come through stronger in the end. Not surprisingly, all three of these librarian heroes/heroines are major characters whose arcs fulfill the role of Liberated Librarians.

(Not-so-innocent?) bystanders:

There are also several reel librarians in horror films who are Information Providers, serving to further the plot along. This role is not unique to horror films; rather, it is the most common purpose, and role, for reel librarians across all film genres.

Some of these reel librarians are perhaps not-so-innocent bystanders, including Miss Gottschalk in The Seventh Victim (1943), who gives away confidential patron records in exchange for a few flirty glances and innuendos. Louise, a supporting character in The Killing Kind (1973) is NOT the killer the title is referring to, but she is far from innocent. She relates her own violent rape fantasies and reveals a decidedly vengeful streak toward her neighbors.

Next week, I have a special treat in store for y’all — an international reel librarian perspective! — so please stop by again soon. 😀


Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

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