Reel librarians by the numbers + through the decades

This is a post inspired by the comment posed by longtime reader Michael of the Century Film Project site. He left a short comment on my call for reader questions and ideas that contained several very intriguing post ideas:

I would ask about some of the earliest things you’ve found:  first reel librarian you’ve found so far, oldest library in a movie, first “liberated” librarian, first instance of each character type, maybe first of each class of reel librarian as well!

Two weeks ago, I detailed the earliest reel librarian portrayals I’ve been able to come across so far, and last week, I detailed the earliest portrayals for each character type category.

Calculator photo by edar is licensed under CC0

As I prepared those posts, I made notes of the number of films for each decade per class, so I thought I’d share those totals here in this follow-up post and in the table below.

As a quick reminder, here are the brief descriptions for each class category of reel librarian films:

  • Class I:  Films in which the protagonist or other major characters are librarians, and the librarian’s occupation serves as catalyst or is otherwise integral to the plot.
  • Class II:  Films in which the protagonist or other major characters are librarians, but the librarian’s occupation does not directly affect the plot.
  • Class III:  Films in which the librarian(s) plays a secondary role, ranging from a supporting character to a minor character with perhaps only a few lines in one memorable or significant scene.
  • Class IV:  Films in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue.

Class I

Class II

Class III

Class IV

Decade Totals


0 1 0 0 1


4 1 3 2 10


4 2 12 1 19


3 4 4 1 12


6 6 10 3 25


2 4 7 3 16


5 8 18 14 45


10 9 22 27 68


7 7 24 12 50


2 2 5 4 13

Class Totals

43 44 105 67 259

Please note that the above table is a snapshot, by decade, of the 259 films I have seen and analyzed thus far. This is not a reflection of every reel librarian film that exists, or those I have identified thus far on my Master List.

Looking at the totals by this angle, I am most surprised by how many 1990s reel librarians I have identified and analyzed thus far. In general, I have watched more recent films than older films. This might be partly explained by the fact that it’s simply easier to get copies of newer films and more difficult to get copies of older films.

I am not surprised that Class III, filled with supporting characters, garners the most reel librarian portrayals for all but one decade (the 1930s).

If you love numbers, then I also broke down more numbers of the Master List I’ve compiled thus far, and more, here in this “Revisiting reel librarian totals” post.

Stay tuned for next week…

Next week, I will be begin celebrating the 6th year anniversary of Reel Librarians — and I will be hosting a special giveaway for readers!


4 comments on “Reel librarians by the numbers + through the decades

  1. popegrutch says:

    Very interesting! While I was recently at the Cinecon Film Festival, I saw a movie that may be a candidate for oldest Category V movie. In the famous windstorm scene in Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” (1928), there’s a building with a large “LIBRARY” sign on the front that is blown apart early on (this is not the famous building whose facade falls on Buster). I noticed that they didn’t even bother to fill it with books getting blown away – it just seemed to be a large empty warehouse space!

    • Oooh, nice! Are you going to “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” to your own blog? It might make for a nice crossover… I could reblog it on this site 🙂 And that’s too funny that they most likely just painted “LIBRARY” on an empty building!

  2. […] So technically, that means that all foreign films made before 1980 were banned in Uganda. Based on my recent post about reel librarian movie totals, that means at least 83 reel librarian films that were made before 1980 were […]

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