‘City of’ librarians

Bonus points for the angels in this film, as many like to hang out in the public library

City of librarians… not really! We only get to see one librarian in City of Angels (1998), a dramatic weepy starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. Basically, an angel (Cage) becomes romantically involved with a doctor (Ryan). My memories of the film immediately bring to mind the following:  1. Cage and Ryan having almost no romantic chemistry, kind of a necessity in this kind of film, and 2. Meg Ryan having an overly fussy hairdo. Not a great movie, but I remember the soundtrack being really popular.

Although the film is set in Los Angeles, the library showcased in the film is the quite picturesque San Francisco Public Library. (And fun side note: I’ve actually been inside the main branch, which is quite breathtaking in real life, too.)

Below is a trailer for the film, which does include footage of the library scene!

City of Angels – Trailer” video uploaded by YouTube Movies is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

Bonus points for the angels in this film, as many like to hang out in the public library (see above in the trailer). There are several short scenes set in the library, including one in which Ryan asks a young male circulation clerk about a particular book. She asks if he can tell her who it belongs to. The clerk can’t tell her who, but can tell her when. The clerk is bald-headed, clean-shaven, and wears thick glasses. In a rare display of library technology (although he says, “Give me five minutes“), the clerk scans the book’s barcode and looks it up in the computer system. He is your basic Information Provider, following the rules, no more, no less.


Sources used:


  • City of Angels. Dir. Brad Silberling. Perf. Meg Ryan, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Franz. Warner Bros., 1998.

Movie, movie

I have lots of films to watch, so how do I go about that?

So out of the roughly 650 titles currently on my Master List of librarian movies — not counting the lists of foreign films, TV shows, or documentaries — I’ve personally watched almost 200 of them. Some films I have seen many, many times (It’s a Wonderful Life, Desk Set, Party Girl being among my personal faves), while others I have watched so that YOU don’t have to (Neverending Story III — just say no!)

I have many more films to watch, so how do I go about that? First off, I own a large collection of librarian movies. I keep adding to it when I can; as of now, my personal collection of librarian movies stands at around 70 titles. I’ve added a shot of some of them all stacked up, so you can get a peek. You might notice several of these personal titles are still plastic-wrapped; those are the ones I haven’t gotten around to watching (yet). Another great reason for this blog! And yes, I have several titles taped off TV, so no judging.

A glimpse into my world of reel librarians
A glimpse into my world of reel librarians

I also use my local public library to check out movies — hurray for libraries! Seriously, they’re better than Netflix or Blockbuster, so sign up and start checking out their collection of (free-for-you) movies. I’ve already got a list of over 50 more dvds I have begun requesting steadily from my public library, and I get to pick them up at my local branch just a few blocks away.

Plus, I’ve got a list of 60 more titles that are available from my cable on-demand service and Hulu (a subscription to HuluPlus only comes to about $8 a month, totally worth it). And throughout the year, I pick up a few more movies by going through the TCM and AMC TV schedules – this can be a gold mine for older movies that aren’t otherwise available. So I’ve got plenty more posts and reel librarian analysis down the pipe!

Dishonorable Mention

A few extras rounding out my bottom picks for reel librarian portrayals

Denver Librarian in Ask the Dust (2006):

In this Class III film set in Depression-era L.A., struggling writer Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), an Italian-American immigrant, meets and falls in love with Mexican immigrant Camilla (Salma Hayek). There is a brief flashback scene set in a public library, in which a young librarian first flirts with Bandini and then rejects him based on the name on his library card. In addition to helping set the library scene, her role reflects the discrimination toward Italian immigrants at that time.

Related posts: Reader poll write-up, Spring 2018: ‘Ask the Dust’

Jude in Bookies (2003):

In this Class I film, a student library employee uses the university library as the drop-off spot in a bookmaking scheme. This shining example of a library worker smokes, drinks, curses, plays video games, and has an addiction problem with gambling and drugs (in one scene, he does drugs on the library copier!). He is called an “asshole” by everyone, including his co-workers!

Related posts: Notable additional occupations for reel librarians ; Is reading a spectator sport? Librarians in sports movies

Librarian in The Caveman’s Valentine (2001):

This Class III film features another Spinster Librarian, this time one who is outraged by a homeless man sleeping in the library.

Related posts: The Spinster Librarian

Lindgren in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011):

In this Class III film and American version of the Swedish novel, a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) investigates the 40-year disappearance of a young woman. He is aided in his search by a punk investigator/computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Late in the film, Lisbeth researches records in a company’s archives, disgruntling a steely, stern-faced archives librarian named Lindgren (Anne-Li Norberg). Lindgren is most unwilling to help Lisbeth, even ignoring her gestures for help and calling her supervisor to complain about Lisbeth’s attitude.

Related posts: If looks could kill in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ ; The Lindgren trilogy | Comparing the archivist character in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ book and film versions

White Librarian in Hidden Figures (2016):

This Oscar-nominated Class IV film spotlights the personal and professional struggles and contributions of three African-American female mathematicians — or “computers” — at NASA during the early 1960s. There is a brief, but pivotal, library scene in which mathematician and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer, in an Oscar-nominated role) enters the “whites” section of the library because the “colored” section doesn’t have what she needs; a white librarian (listed in the credits as “White Librarian”) refuses her service, causing Vaughan to spirit the book out of the library.

Related posts: First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene

School librarian in High School High (1992):

In this Class IV film, a school librarian shows up briefly twice to yell out, “You suck!” to a naïve, well-meaning teacher.

Related posts: Reel school librarians ; Reel librarians on the loose

Miss McKenzie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969):

This Class III film features another Spinster Librarian, one who shoos noisy children out of the school library and declares, “This is a library, not a fun fair!” The drab clothing and unflattering hairstyle of side buns do not help.

Related posts: The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘The shushing librarian,’ Feb. 5, 2013 ; Reel school librarians ; The Quotable Librarian 1

Miss Gottschalk in The Seventh Victim (1943):

In this Class III film — the first horror film to feature a librarian — a teenage girl (Kim Hunter) tries to find her missing sister Jacqueline and uncovers a sinister cult. Poet Jason Hoag (Erford Gage) goes to the library to gather clues from cult members’ circulation records; he flirts with the librarian, who breaks the rules to give him restricted books. The horror of an unethical librarian!

Related posts: The horror of an unethical librarian in ‘The Seventh Victim’ ; Breakin’ the rules ; Victims or villains? Librarians in horror films and thrillers

Marcia Pilborough in Wetherby (1969):

In this Class II film, a misguided scholar visits the British Library Lending Division (where he is informed by a rude, wholly disinterested librarian that they do NOT lend books) and then shoots himself in a stranger’s house later that night. Coincidence? Perhaps, but definitely not the most positive reel librarian portrayal.

Related posts: What’s in a name?

Honorable Mention

A few extras rounding out my top picks for reel librarian portrayals

Miss Franny in Because of Winn-Dixie (2005):

At first glance, Miss Franny seems to be a spinster librarian in this Class II film, but we soon see her as a warm, friendly kindred spirit to the film’s heroine.

Microfilm Clerk in The Changeling (1980):

In this Class III film, John Russell (George C. Scott) — whose wife and daughter are killed in a freak road accident — rents a house with a mysterious (and murderous) past. John researches old newspapers at the library, and a clerk sets up microfilm in a viewing room. In fact, the young clerk is able to take the microfilm box out of the drawer, roll the microfilm out of its box, thread it through the microfilm reader in the next room, AND spin it through to the requested article — all in 4 seconds (!!!!). WOW. He personifies the concept of “efficiency” for all librarians ever after. 😉

Related posts: The fastest librarian in the West, as seen in ‘The Changeling’

The librarian in Curse of the Demon, aka Night of the Demon (1957):

Psychologist John Holden (Dane Andrews) investigates a colleague’s death and becomes the next target of a satanic cult in this Class III film. In one segment, Holden investigates his colleague’s research at the British Museum and gets help from a librarian. The librarian is polite, very knowledgeable, conscientious, and efficient — a very positive onscreen depiction of a reference librarian!

Related posts: Positive portrayal of a reel librarian in ‘Curse of the Demon’

Kala in The Golden Child (1986):

In this Class III film, private detective Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) sets out to find the “Golden Child,” a Buddhist mystic who has been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer (Charles Dance). A mysterious dragon lady librarian, Kala, supplies him with information about the Golden Child and his quest, and he is told that she is the librarian at a Sacred Depository library, a half-dragon lady over 300 years old (!). Kala is seen onscreen for less than 5 minutes total, yet her presence is quite memorable. Right on cue throughout the film, Kala provides the vital plot points to propel the plot forward.

Related posts: The dragon lady librarian in ‘The Golden Child’ (1986)

The librarian in The Human Comedy (1943):

In this Class III film, there is a brief, but heartwarming, scene in which the elderly librarian shares her love of books to two young boys.

Related posts: Reel librarians on library ladders ; Battle of the sexes ; Updating the list of Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

The librarian in Lorenzo’s Oil (1992):

This Class II film features one of the best reference interviews on film—an academic librarian calms an irritable patron without patronizing him.

Marian the Librarian in The Music Man (1962):

This Class I film is not one of my personal favorites (sorry, Robert Preston fans), but it is a good film notable for its influence in cementing librarians in popular culture. Also, a reel librarian gets her own song!

Related posts: Marian or Marion? ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Marian or Marion?,’ May 28, 2012 ; Marian and Ms. Jones ; Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s ; Musical numbers for the library-minded ; A love song for a librarian ; Reel librarian love for Valentine’s Day: Movies for different romantic moods ; Updating the list of Best Picture nominees featuring librarians

The Records Keeper in RED (2010):

In this comedy-action, Class III film, retired but extremely dangerous (“RED”) agents team up against people trying to kill them. In one of his final roles, Ernest Borgnine pays Henry, the CIA records keeper. “They don’t make them like that anymore.

Related posts: The ultimate Information Provider in ‘RED’

The school librarian in The Substitute (1996):

A school librarian stands up to hoodlums in this Class III film—and backs it up by packing a pistol! Probably not the most family-friendly reel librarian (she’s got a potty mouth, as well) but one of the most memorable!

Related posts: Reel school librarians ; It all started with a big list

Hall of Shame

Bottoms up! My list of negative reel librarian portrayals

Here are my bottom picks for reel librarian portrayals. I have tried to limit my comments to specifically address the depiction of the librarian(s) in each film. Some of the films in this Bottom 10 are good — or even classic — films, so I am not judging the films on just their artistic or storytelling merit. I am, however, judging the portrayals of librarians in these films. So here are my personal takes on how the following depictions (mis)represent the occupation. Arranged in alphabetical order by film title.

Librarians in Cain and Mabel (1936):

One of the plainest and most severe Spinster Librarians ever onscreen! In this Class III film, a couple kisses in a public library, and a librarian immediately descends upon them, quite like a vulture.

Related posts: Reel librarians on library ladders ; Earliest reel librarians I’ve come across, reader question follow-up ; Earliest reel librarians in different character type categories, reader question follow-up

Sally in Chainsaw Sally (2004):

In this Class I indie film, April Monique Burril plays the title role, a librarian by day and serial killer by night. She murders several patrons, for offenses like talking too loudly in the librarian, misspelling words, and never returning library books. Not the best role model for librarians!

Related posts: Little miss serial killer librarian in ‘Chainsaw Sally’ ; Revisiting favorites | ‘Serial killer librarian,’ Oct. 30, 2013 ; Conan the Librarian and Chainsaw Sally

Miss Anderson in Citizen Kane (1941):

This Class III film features another severe Spinster Librarian, one who is loath to give out information to a reporter. She doesn’t so much as have hair as a helmet!

Related posts: Updating the list of Best Picture nominees featuring librarians ; Reel librarians vs. reel archivists ; A list of banned reel librarian movies ; Out of the habit ; Between perfect order and perfect chaos ; The Spinster Librarian ; It all started with a big list

Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):

Another Spinster Librarian (a pattern perhaps?), this one arguably the most recognizable of all reel librarians. In this Class I film, lovely Mary becomes — what else?! — a librarian in the film’s nightmare alternate reality, after her husband George is granted his wish that he had never been born. In this classic film — which I’ve written about before, it’s one of my favorites as a film, but not as a librarian film — the message is depressingly clear: get married soon, or you will end up an old-maid librarian.

Related posts: ‘It’s a wonderful’… stereotype? ; Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ; All hail Mary? ; Hall of Shame ; The Spinster Librarian ; Best librarian films by decade, Part I: 1910s – 1950s ; Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list? ; Three cheers for librarians! ; Librarian as nightmare ; ‘The danger of a single story’ for reel librarians ; Reel Substance: A look at Classes I and II ; War films and reel librarians ; The Quotable Librarian 5 ; It all started with a big list

Joe in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990):

This Class I film is not so much a lamentable depiction of a librarian — Joe seems to want more responsibility in his job — as a (perhaps unintended?) criticism and over-the-top depiction on how little librarians are valued and respected. In one scene, he is asked about his job, and he states, “I was an advertising librarian for a medical supply company.” The reaction? “Oh. I have no response to that.” Devastating.

Related posts: A Liberated Librarian ‘versus the volcano’ ; In name only? Librarians as title characters ; The Liberated Librarian (guys, it’s your turn) ; Reel librarians take a trip

Louise in The Killing Kind (1973) and The Attic (1980):

This reel librarian character is kind of complicated. The Attic (1980) serves as a kind of cinematic continuation of two characters featured in The Killing Kind (1973), including Louise the librarian. Luana Anders plays Louise in The Killing Kind (1973), as a thoroughly nasty and sly peeping tom. We never see her in the library, and Louse is a supporting character in that initial film. Carrie Snodgress plays Louise, the main character, in The Attic (1980), and her character’s motivations are revealed to be more bittersweet and pathetic. She does have hallucinations of doing terrible things, like burning books in her library, and she makes bad decisions, like drinking while working in the library. Neither Louise is a great role model for librarians!

Related posts: The librarian in ‘The Attic’ ; ‘The Killing Kind’ vs. ‘The Attic’

Miss Ophelia in Maxie (1985):

In this Class II film, a couple (Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin) move into a new apartment where the ghost of a 1920s starlet still resides. Patinkin plays a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library who fends off sexual harassment from his supervisor, Miss Ophelia (Valerie Curtin). Shameful — and criminal! — behavior for anyone, let alone a librarian!

Related posts: Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away) ; Reel librarians on library ladders ; It all started with a big list

Librarians in The Name of the Rose (1986):

There are two male librarians in this medieval mystery and Class I film — one who restricts any access to the library and the other a flagellant who engages in sexually manipulative behavior. Not the reel librarian’s finest hour.

Related posts: Out of the habit ; Literary librarians, reader question follow-up

The school librarian in The New Guy (2002):

In this Class III film, Dizzy (DJ Qualls) tries to restart the year at another school as the cool “new guy,” after being humiliated at his old high school when a group of jocks pulled his underpants over his head and pushed him toward the school librarian. The scene comes immediately after the opening credits — a mere five minutes into the film — and it is a memorable one, showcasing perhaps the crassest, most twisted behavior ever from a reel librarian!

Related posts: The hand that rocks the school in ‘The New Guy’ ; Behind the blog: What goes into a film analysis post

Librarians in Off Beat (1986):

A completely ridiculous film — the title isn’t kidding! This Class I film involves satiny cop costumes, a bank heist, and show tunes — no, I’m not kidding, I just put all those words into one sentence — with a cast of library employees who are all dysfunctional and socially inept in some way.

Related posts: The Liberated Librarian (guys, it’s your turn) ; Librarian as Failure ; The Anti-Social Librarian ; Advertising the reel librarian ; It all started with a big list

Librarians in Prick Up Your Ears (1987):

This Class III film made me sit up and yell at the screen! It includes the completely unethical behavior of two librarians, who set a trap — using information from circulation records, no less! — to turn two frustrated writers into the police. Yes, the writers had typed obscene passages onto book covers, but that does not justify a mean-spirited librarian’s actions.

Related posts: The Anti-Social Librarian

Librarians in Rollerball (1975):

This Class III film is a thoroughly depressing depiction of libraries and librarians in the future. Librarians have turned into censors, as their job now is to summarize and edit manuscripts to be suitable for the public. They are also completely ineffectual as computers have replaced them; one librarian flippantly laments a computer’s loss of all data from “the whole of the thirteenth century.” Sigh.

Related posts: Reel librarians in ‘Rollerball’ | Analyzing the 1975 original film and 2002 remake ; Is reading a spectator sport? Librarians in sports movies

Sarah Mitchell in A Simple Plan (1998):

For me, this quote sums up why this Class II film is on this list: “What about me — spending the rest of my life 8 hours a day with a fake smile plastered on my face, checking out books?” Double sigh.

The librarian in Sophie’s Choice (1982):

After Sophie (Meryl Streep in an Oscar-winning role) dares to ask a question in this Class III film, an intimidating and rude male librarian causes her to faint! Enough said.

Related posts: Repeat offenders ; The Anti-Social Librarian ; Between perfect order and perfect chaos ; Out of the habit ; War films and reel librarians ; It all started with a big list

Jocasta Nu in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002):

Don’t @ me, Star Wars fans! So although I love the Star Wars trilog(ies), I have to call out the Jedi Librarian’s imperious, condescending, and ultimately unhelpful attitude as seen in one of the most disappointing reference interviews onscreen. In this Class III film, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) cannot find any information about a mysterious planet at the Jedi Archives, and the Jedi librarian insists that “if an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” LIBRARIAN FAIL.

Related posts: The Jedi librarian ; May the archives be with you | Shining the spotlight on the Jedi librarian ; A funny thing happened on the way to the Jedi library… ; The Jedi Librarian vs. Darth Vader ; Reel librarians and archivists in 16 sci-fi films

Conan the Librarian in UHF (1989):

This cult classic Class III film stars Weird Al Yankovic and features segments from a public TV station. One segment features an over-the-top “Conan the Librarian,” who yells at patrons for not knowing the Dewey Decimal system and slices a guy in half because his books were overdue. Not typical librarian behavior, I assure you!

Related posts: He’s… Conan the Librarian! ; Conan the Librarian and Chainsaw Sally

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