Revisiting favorites | A brief encounter, Nov. 28, 2011

Our second stop on the “Summer of Nostalgia” tour through the Reel Librarians blog… today, I am spotlighting the “A brief encounter with a librarian” post that I wrote and published on Nov. 28, 2011.

Reel Librarians screenshot

Revisiting a favorite post on Reel Librarians

Again, I’m pausing while you reread the original post

Why this post?

I chose this post to revisit because it’s an early example of a film analysis post, in which I analyze a reel librarian portrayal in-depth. It’s also an analysis of one of my favorite films, the often-overlooked 1945 classic, Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson in an Oscar-nominated performance.

This post is also a great example of how I can do a lot with a little — in this case, a librarian who is onscreen for a few seconds only — and yet I wrote almost 1,000 words about it! And part of the reason why I wrote so many words about a Class IV portrayal is also one of the reasons why I enjoyed rereading this post, because I got to go off on a research tangent. In this post, I explore why the main character is checking out a book in the Boots pharmacy chain.

As I wrote then:

Boots is still around, but their lending libraries ceased in the late 1960’s. The Boots Lending Library was an example of a subscription library. You’d pay a small monthly or annual fee to the library — or a small fee per item — to be able to check out materials. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same idea as video rental stores or Netflix.

Reel Librarians screenshot

Reel Librarians screenshot

New thoughts?

This past spring, I enjoyed a lecture program about the origins of subscription libraries (aka “lending libraries” or “membership libraries” and precursors to public libraries), and how subscription libraries were one factor in helping women enter the writing profession. (There was such demand for fiction, particularly by women, that publishers started seeking out and publishing women’s writing!) It was a fascinating peek into the power of libraries throughout history, as both an agent for change in the literary world and an agent for social change, as well.

You can read more about subscription libraries here and here, as well as this interesting post about how subscription libraries might be seeing a rebirth.

Also, rereading this post makes me want to rewatch Brief Encounter… excuse me… 🙂


Thanks for reading this past favorite, and I’ll be back with another favorite next week!

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2 comments on “Revisiting favorites | A brief encounter, Nov. 28, 2011

  1. popegrutch says:

    All of which raises a fascinating question: did Boots employ degreed librarians or did they just train some of their clerks to handle books? Also, were Boots’ books organized by Dewey Decimal, alpha by author, or some other system? I wonder whether subscription libraries have anything to do with the system of libraries paying royalties to publishers for lending out books in the UK? Yes, you’re right, a brief glimpse of a librarian in a movie can open many a can of worms…

    • YES, I agree on that can of worms analogy! 🙂

      (And sorry for the late response to your comment — I literally moved the day after you left this comment! It’s been one thing after another since… but I’m back on track now!)

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