I am working at my college library this summer quarter, so I got to thinking about the 1987 comedy classic Summer School. The film stars Mark Harmon as gym teacher Freddy Shoop, who gets stuck teaching remedial English in summer school. I checked out a DVD of the movie from a local regional library system, and I watched the “Life’s a Beach” DVD edition that had a few special features, including commentary from director Carl Reiner and star Mark Harmon.
I had watched Summer School before, and my vague recollection was that there was a scene (or two?) in the school library, but no librarian present. It felt like perfect timing to revisit this ’80s comedy, just to make sure. I am nothing if not thorough, y’all. 😉
Before we dive in, below is a trailer for the film. I was pleased that the school library does get highlighted in the trailer!
Let’s all go to the… library?
At almost 19 minutes into this 97-minute film, Shoop is flipping through curriculum sheets, trying to figure out what to do. Context: This is the second day of class. He seizes upon book reports, and you can practically see the light bulb go off in his brain. Shoop calls out to the class:
“Anybody want to get out of here? Go to the library?”
All of the students shout enthusiastically at this idea.
This bit highlights just how BORED both the students AND the teacher must be, if going to the — gasp! — library sounds like a good idea. (Sigh.)
And, of course, almost everyone takes off and ditches while Shoop is leading the students across campus to the library. (Double sigh.)
School library scene
Shoop leans on the library door as the few remaining students shuffle into the school library. I thought it interesting to spot the library hours sign on the door. (For you purists out there, the library is open 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 3 p.m. You’re welcome. 😉 )
Here’s a look at the students in the library at the beginning of this scene. Pretty empty, huh?
We then get a closeup of Dave and Chainsaw, who are trying to flirt with the new foreign exchange student, Anna-Maria, who is taking the class to brush up on her English language skills. In the closeup below, you can see that Anna-Maria has a stack of books about the English language. I appreciated this detail — and the fact that the library does contain materials that she could use!
In fact, this library has a large range of materials for all different ages and reading abilities:
From this initial angle, the library looks quite empty. But when the camera swings back to Shoop, who’s reading a newspaper in front of the periodicals section, we see more people on the other side of the library. A security guard then brings back the rest of Shoop’s students, who went out for doughnuts. (Eating in the library, gasp!)
What I found most interesting when I paused this back view of the library was the figure right below the “Please Return Books Here” sign in the upper left corner. It looks to be a woman with blonde hair tied back with a large white bow, and she’s wearing a light blue blazer or shirt. There also seems to be a large computer or machine behind her and to the left.
Therefore, I’m calling it… I think that’s the school librarian! Who else would stand below a “Please Return Books Here” sign?!
This role goes uncredited, but I’m convinced. Therefore, Summer School belongs in the Class IV category, films in which reel librarians make a cameo role. This librarian also clearly fulfills the “Information Provider” character type, as she’s there simply to help establish that it is a library. Of course, all the hand-lettered reading signs around the library also help establish setting. (My favorite sign is the “To read is to feed your mind” sign. Rewatch this scene to see if you can spot it!)
And here’s another wide shot of the school library, upon the return of all of Shoop’s students. Definitely less empty now.
Of course, none of the students want to be there. Heck, not even the teacher wants to be there! Shoop makes that clear when he says:
“We’re stuck here. We’re trapped, like rats.”
Trapped in the school library? Enh, there are worse things in life. 😉
That’s when students get the idea to go on field trips, and the rest of the film’s plot kicks into high gear. The school library scene lasts exactly 3 minutes total.
The students never return to the school library en masse, but there are a couple of mentions or glimpses of the school library throughout the remainder of the movie.
Library as excuse
Vice Principal Phil Gills (Robin Thomas) takes over the class toward the end, at 72 minutes into the movie. The students want Mr. Shoop back, so they start humming under their breath to annoy Mr. Gills.
Chainsaw then sees an opportunity:
“I just cannot study. I am going to the library.”
Spoiler: He never makes it there.
One minute later, we get treated to a study montage before the big final exam. Denise (Kelly Minter) has been diagnosed with dyslexia, and she meets with a reading specialist.
Where do they meet up? At the school library, OF COURSE. ❤
The real school library location
As per the movie’s IMDb.com Locations page, scenes set at the movie’s fictional high school, Oceanfront High School, were filmed at the real-life Charles Evans Hughes Jr. High in Woodland Hills, California. And this school library really looks and feels like a genuine school library, once you soak in its hodgepodge of signs, orange carpet, paperback book racks, bulletin boards, and old-school card catalogs.
#Memories #CardCatalogsForever #SchoolLibraryNostalgia
And fun fact — courtesy of the Movie Locations & More site — this same location served as the school in both The Karate Kid (1984) and Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985).
Continuing the conversation
Did you enjoy this trip down memory lane? Do you remember the school library scene in Summer School? Are you in summer school right now??! Please leave a comment and share.
More school library movie scenes
Putting this post together reminded me of when I analyzed the school library scene in Pretty in Pink (1986). For that ’80s classic, I also spotted a school librarian from behind. Hmmm… I’m sensing a theme here. 😉
Want more school library scenes and glimpses of reel school librarians? No worries, I’m on it:
- School library scene in ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’
- The kids shush themselves | School library scene in ‘Psych’ TV Show
- Reader poll write-up, Spring 2017: ‘Teenage Mother’
- The school library in ‘Pretty in Pink’
- The school library in ‘Blackboard Jungle’
- ‘The Last American Virgin’ librarian
- Reel school librarians
- Summer School. Dir. Carl Reiner. Perf. Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne-Smith. Paramount, 1987.
- “Summer School (1987).” Movie Locations and More, 24 May 2011.
- “Summer School (1987): Filming & Production.” IMDb.com, n.d.
3 thoughts on “‘Summer school’ in the library”
This movie came out the Summer (of course) between my Junior and Senior years, and I was quite a fan. My New Yorker teenage self would have been SHOCKED to know that it was a real school – there were no corridors! You just opened a door to a classroom and you were outside! I thought that was something Hollywood made up. They do make good use of the library, and of the attitude most students that age have toward libraries.
I totally know what you mean! That type of school design is definitely a West Coast thing.