It has been an… intense? exhausting? exhilarating? (go ahead and insert your own superlative adjective here)… couple of weeks, to say the least. My energy has been depleted, y’all. But while I have been trying to distract myself from the news and vote-tallying and current political events here in the United States, I have been enjoying some really interesting articles about libraries and reel librarians and pop culture, so I thought it would be a good moment to share them with you all. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
This post, published last month, was written by John Lindaman, Manager of Technical Services at Thomas J. Watson Library. The Thomas J. Watson Library is the central research library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (I had to look that up. Cuz I’m a librarian, y’all, and I practice what I preach.) This article made me chuckle all the way through. As a kid, I grew up happily helping out in my mother’s school library, and as a teen, I volunteered to help catalog resources at my local public library when they were converting from the physical card catalog to an online system (I really was meant to become a librarian myself, wasn’t I?!), so I recognized a LOT of the obsolete library technology and supplies featured here in this article. Also, be sure to savor the witty captions on all the photos.
Beyond the chuckles, there is a point to this article:
There’s a popular misconception that librarians as a profession are conservative. Not politically conservative, but literally conservative—wanting to keep old stuff. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth—we are often on the cutting edge of using new technologies, and always looking for the most efficient, up-to-date way to help our patrons. […] We are forward thinking, technology-savvy, and driven to find the most modern way possible to fulfill our patrons’ needs. However, the dirty little secret is that sometimes the old stuff, while no longer useful, is actually cool.
This made me think about the central conflict in the classic reel librarian comedy, 1957’s Desk Set, when an efficiency expert, played by Spencer Tracy, installs a room-sized computer in a TV network’s research library, headed by Katharine Hepburn. Who is more needed: the librarians, or the computer? Spoiler: That’s a logical fallacy. The answer, of course, is the unwritten third option: BOTH. Librarians have always used technology, and we keep learning and investing in new technologies that help us do our job better, and help us connect with our patrons and communities.
This article was published in August 2020 and written by Burkely Hermann, who also writes the blog Libraries in Popular Culture. I agree with Hermann’s opening statement, as it also applies to me and how I often think about librarians and libraries in pop culture:
When people think about librarians and libraries, they may point to films, live-action TV shows, or even novels. However, one area is often missed: animation.
So Hermann remedies that by highlighting stereotype-defying librarian characters in a couple of current animated series, Cleopatra in Space (streaming on Peacock) and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (streaming on Netflix). These are two streaming services that I do not currently subscribe to (there are so many! I had to stop myself after subscribing to Amazon Prime, HBO, and Acorn), but I will definitely keep an eye out for these series! I have also added these series to my TV shows list.
Related posts: Bonus reel librarian love on ALA’s I Love Libraries blog
I’ve really been enjoying reading the posts from the Behind the Couch movie blog, written by James Gracey, a Library Assistant at the British Film Institute, located in London. (Does that sound like a dream job, or what?! I’ve often daydreamed of being a librarian at the Margaret Herrick Library, the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood.) The two recent “Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema” posts delve into the classic horror movie Carrie (1976), and the lesser-known horror movie Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004).
I really enjoy the deep-dive into thoughtful analysis, and not just about what’s onscreen. Here is an example from the Ginger Snaps post:
By providing users a welcoming and peaceful space to spend time – browsing, reading, learning or simply reflecting or sheltering – libraries also act as a safe place, providing a lifeline, especially for the socially isolated and vulnerable within our communities.
I also find the premise of using libraries as safe spaces within horror movies just a really interesting one, and an idea to explore more here on this blog. In fact, you could argue that my previous film analysis post, featuring the short — but vital! — library research scene in Jennifer’s Body (2009) is included in this vein. It’s also intriguing to think about the flip side, of libraries being used purposely as UNsafe spaces within horror movies… the ultimate betrayal?! 😉
Related posts: Paranormal research in ‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)
Have y’all come across some interesting articles and posts about libraries, librarians, and pop culture recently, too? Please share them in the comments!
- Gracey, James. “Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema – Case Study One: Carrie (1976).” Behind the Couch, 8 Sept. 2020.
- Gracey, James. “Libraries as Safe Places in Horror Cinema – Case Study Two: Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004).” Behind the Couch, 18 Sept. 2020.
- Hermann, Burkely. “These Animated Shows Defy Library Stereotypes.” I Love Libraries, 11 August 2020.
- Lindaman, John. “Step Inside The Museum of Obsolete Library Science.” The Met, 14 October 2020.