Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?

Last week, when I was talking with librarian colleagues about movies, one colleague asked how many movies I had seen from the Top 100 list compiled by the American Film Institute (AFI).

The AFI compiles “best of” lists periodically, including a Top 100 movies list, which was determined by a jury of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians. The AFI, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this September, is a nonprofit educational arts organization that “provides leadership in film and television and is dedicated to initiatives that engage the past, the present and the future of the moving image arts.”

AFI logo

This conversation with a fellow librarian movie buff gave me the idea of comparing the AFI Top 100 list with my own Master List of reel librarian films — was there any overlap? Sometimes, an idea for a blog post is as simple as that. 😉

Good news, there ARE overlaps! I count 12 so far, but that comes with a caveat that I need to rewatch several of the films listed below to verify if there is actually a librarian (versus a library scene) in them or not.

Without further ado, below I’ve detailed the overlaps between the AFI Top 100 list and my own Master List. (Also, please note that the numbers on the list below correspond to that film’s ranking on the AFI Top 100 list.)


1. Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is classic saga about the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (played by Orson Welles). A reporter visits the Thatcher Memorial Library of Philadelphia to research Kane and runs into the steely, no-nonsense presence of the librarian. This library scene provides the structure for the entire film.

Posts or pages that include Citizen Kane:


17. The Graduate (1967)

I need to rewatch this film! The first time (and only time, thus far) I have watched this film was right before I went away to college, so… perhaps not the best timing or circumstances to watch and appreciate this movie! I do remember a major scene in the library, but I need to rewatch the film to see if there’s an actual librarian in the scene.

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

Benjamin Braddock, filled with doubts about his future, returns to his Los Angeles home after graduating from an Eastern college. His parents soon have a party so they can boast of their son’s academic achievements and his bright prospects in business. Mrs. Robinson, one of the guests, persuades Ben to drive her home and there tries to seduce him, but her overtures are interrupted by the sound of her husband’s car in the driveway. Blatant in her seductive maneuvers, she soon has the nervous and inexperienced Ben meeting her regularly at the Taft Hotel. As the summer passes, Benjamin becomes increasingly bored and listless; he frequently stays out overnight and returns home to loll around the pool.


20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) falls on hard times and is granted the wish to experience life as if he’d never been born. In this alternate reality/nightmare, his lovely wife, Mary (Donna Reed), becomes an old maid librarian. The short scene in which George sees Mary as a librarian serves as the catalyst for wanting to return to his life.

Posts or pages that include It’s a Wonderful Life:


21. Chinatown (1974)

I also need to rewatch Chinatown! It’s on my Master List, but I don’t actually remember a librarian, or even a library scene, in this film. If you have seen this film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

In 1937 Los Angeles, private detective J. J. “Jake” Gittes, who specializes in adultery cases, is hired by the well-dressed Mrs. Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband Hollis, chief engineer for the Department of Water and Power.


44.  The Philadelphia Story (1940)

In The Philadelphia Story, a rich socialite’s (Katharine Hepburn) ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a reporter (Jimmy Stewart) show up right before her planned wedding, and romantic complications ensue. In one scene at the public library, Hepburn and Stewart discuss his book, and a Quaker librarian shushes them.

Posts or pages that include The Philadelphia Story:


50. The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The first in a film trilogy of the well-known saga of Middle Earth, involving a hobbit’s quest to destroy a powerful ring. In one brief but pivotal scene, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) visits the archives to research background info about the ring, and the Gondorian Archivist (Michael Elsworth) leads Gandalf down a winding staircase to the archives.

Posts or pages that include The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:


63. Cabaret (1972)

This film is on my Master List, but I need to watch this film — which I’ve actually never seen all the way through — to see if there’s a library scene or librarian in it. If you have seen the film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

In 1931, naïve Englishman Brian Roberts, seeking to broaden his experiences and further his education, arrives in Berlin, where he hopes to support himself by giving English lessons. Brian goes to the shabby boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider and there is greeted by Sally Bowles, an exuberant American singer. Sally, obsessed with becoming a movie star, is oblivious to the economic and political turmoil in Berlin, especially between the Nazis and Communists, and instead revels in the decadent atmosphere of alcohol, sex and excess.


70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Another film I need to rewatch! I remember at least a mention of a prison library… If you have seen the film and do remember, please leave a comment and share.

Here’s an excerpt from the film’s summary on the AFI site:

Sometime in the not-to-distant future, gangs of teenage thugs roam rubble-strewn streets, terrorizing citizens who sequester themselves behind locked doors. Alex, the leader of one of the gangs, and his “droogs,” Pete, Georgie and Dim, distinguish themselves by wearing all-white, cod pieces, bowler hats and walking canes as the spend their nights committing rapes, muggings and beatings for entertainment.


72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

In The Shawshank Redemption, young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife. Andy maintains his innocence and plots to escape, with the help of fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman). Andy works as an assistant in the prison library and becomes friends with the prison librarian, Brooks (James Whitmore).

Posts or pages that include The Shawshank Redemption:


74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Another film I need to rewatch! I remember research materials playing a pivotal role in this film — perhaps materials from the FBI Library? — but I need to rewatch it to doublecheck any scenes that include or mention a library or librarians. If you have seen this film and do remember, please leave a comment and share!

Posts or pages that include The Silence of the Lambs:


77. All the President’s Men (1976)

I recently rewatched All the President’s Men! This film follows the Watergate scandal uncovered by reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). After several attempts by the reporters to locate information, a library clerk at the Library of Congress helps by giving them library checkout slips.

Posts or pages that include All the President’s Men:


91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

In Sophie’s Choice, a Southern writer (Peter MacNicol) moves to New York City, where he meets Sophie (Meryl Streep), a Holocaust survivor with a troubling past. In a flashback scene, Sophie goes to a library to look up works by Emily Dickinson; she faints after an unpleasant exchange with the librarian (John Rothman).

Posts or pages that include Sophie’s Choice:


And if you’re wondering about the question that started the idea of this whole post, I have so far seen 80 films on the Top 100 list, including 17 of the top 20 titles and 43 of the top 50 titles. Can you guess which titles I haven’t seen?

Please leave a comment and share how many of the AFI Top 100 films you’ve seen!

Revisiting favorites | Spotlight on a news library, May 4, 2016

Today, I am wrapping up my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour… next week is my 5th blog anniversary and GIVEAWAY!

The final entry in revisiting past favorites on this blog is a post from May 2016, “‘Spotlight’-ing a news library,” in which I analyze the 2015 Best Picture Oscar winner, Spotlight, which highlights investigative journalists researching decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic church.

I’ll pause if you’d like to skim or browse the original post

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Spotlight'ing a new library post

Why this post?

The best part about this post was discovering more about the real-life Boston Globe news librarian, Lisa Tuite, as well as reading interviews and articles about how vital she and her staff’s “research forensics” were to the investigation. (I have those interviews and articles linked in the original post.)

I love it when films provide opportunities to uncover more info and meaning behind-the-scenes. I’m never afraid to go off on tangents — they often pay off with more interesting discoveries, not to mention more interesting posts.

Plus, this film features the power of keywords!

And as a librarian, I gotta love a film that treats research — “Get those directories upstairs!” — as pivotal and key scenes.

New thoughts?

It’s such a pleasure — and a rarity! — to not only watch a good film that features a librarian in it, but to also watch a film that includes a good (and realistic) portrayal of a reel librarian. The two do NOT go hand in hand. See also 1957’s Desk Set and 1983’s Something Wicked This Way Comes as additional examples of this rare combination.

For good films that includes not-so-good (or not-so-flattering) portrayals of reel librarians, see the 1946 classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and 1984’s Ghostbusters, among others.


I’ll be back next week to celebrate my 5th blog anniversary and GIVEAWAY!

Revisiting favorites | Mandy the Mormon librarian, Aug. 26, 2015

Continuing along my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour and revisiting past favorites on this blog… there are only two more posts (this and next week’s post) before my 5th blog anniversary and giveaway! Let’s get to it!

Next up is a post from August 2015, “You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian,” in which I go into how the 2006 “comedy,” You, Me, and Dupree, both does and does not include a reel librarian.

I’ll pause if you’d like to skim or browse the original post… 🙂

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian" post

Why this post?

This post stands out to me because both the film and the reel librarian character are such oddities. The film is an odd mixture of comedy and trauma, and “Mandy the Mormon librarian” is a character who affects a lot of people and plot points and yet is never fully seen onscreen.

Although I did NOT laugh out loud watching the film (it’s seriously unfunny for a so-called “comedy,” and I’m personally not a big fan of the “everything goes so wrong that it’s funny” kind of movies), I DID laugh out loud rereading my post.

Dupree then runs out of the house with a pillow covering his private parts and thanks Molly “for the best night of my life” while Mandy, left alone in the house with all those open candle flames, sets the house on fire. Yes, that’s right. The Mormon librarian sets the house on fire.

That sure is some flammable symbolism, y’all.

New thoughts?

I still agree with my final summation of the film and the “Naughty Librarian” character type of Mandy the Mormon librarian:

So while this reel librarian portrayal is disappointing, to say the least — and equal-opportunity offensive to librarians, school teachers, Mormons, and Audrey Hepburn — it does serve up some interesting twists to the Naughty Librarian character type. Not enough for me to recommend the film — but that’s why I watch and analyze these reel librarian movies films, so you don’t necessarily have to. You’re welcome.

That got me thinking about how often I play off that sentiment or phrase, that I watch bad reel librarian films so you don’t have to. And how there’s a personal juxtaposition to be found there, because so often, the really bad movies can be the most fun to write about! Not to watch, mind you, and sometimes not even fun to analyze (read my post about 1937’s Navy Blues, and you’ll see what I mean), but more often than not, fun — and perhaps even a little satisfying — to write about.

I guess I just like gettin’ my snark on. 😉


I’ll be back next week to revisit one final Reel Librarians favorite… and then we get to celebrate my 5th blog anniversary and GIVEAWAY!

Revisiting favorites | WarGames and research, Dec. 31, 2014

Continuing along my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour and revisiting past favorites on this blog… next up is a post from the last day of 2014, “WarGames and research,” in which I delve deep into the brief research scene that takes place about a half-hour into the classic 1983 film, WarGames.

I’ll pause while you browse the original post… 🙂

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames and research' post

Why this post?

This is not only one of my personal favorites posts, I think it is also one of my best posts, both in terms of writing and analysis. And writing this post surprised me, as I stated at the end of the post:

The research scene is only a few minutes long, and the reel librarian portrayal only a few seconds long. I wasn’t expecting to get so much from so little. But there are so many layers to this scene, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated, with a lot of useful information relayed to the audience.

I had always like the classic film WarGames, but when rewatching it in terms of analyzing for reel librarians and research, I gained even more appreciation for the care in which the concept of research was handled in the film. There are valuable lessons to be learned about research by watching WarGames, including:

  • That you will probably search more than once — that’s why it’s called REsearch! Where you end up is probably not going to be where you began.
  • Put effort into your research and get creative in exploring different types of research materials. The research montage features peer-reviewed journal articles, newspaper articles, a thesis, plus a documentary video.
  • Explore different methods of approaching research, because not everything useful can be found through a computer.
  • There’s never just one way. There’s always a back door to research. (Just like with computer systems.)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a librarian for help!

Also, this movie has some of the best fake research materials and library catalog cards I’ve ever seen onscreen!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'WarGames and research' post

New thoughts?

This post is another example of how I can do a LOT with a little. The research scene in the film is only a few minutes long, and the reel librarian is onscreen for only a few seconds, and yet this scene (and the librarian’s help!) is critical to advancing the plot of the film. And rereading this post made me realize just how much I enjoy analyzing reel librarian films that have secondary reel librarian characters.

Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t have a post yet that analyzes such-and-such film, usually one of the major reel librarian films, like The Music Man. The answer? Probably because it’s, well, harder to do and takes a lot more time. (I have written about major librarian characters, just not as frequently. See my Class I and Class II pages and look for film titles that are hyperlinks — they’ll take you to my film analysis posts about those specific films.) There’s just a lot more to analyze and wrap my head around and write about in a seminal reel librarian movie like, for example, The Music Man. That’s why I did a narrower focus when analyzing the 2004 TV movie, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear; in that post, “Quest for the ‘Liberated Librarian’,” I focused only on how the first 15 minutes set up the quintessential “Liberated Librarian” character type, rather than going into exhaustive detail about EVERY scene and reel librarian character in that TV movie.

When I set out to watch a film that I know has a secondary reel librarian character or a brief library scene, I think of it as a fun kind of challenge. Like, how many stereotypical traits can they pack into this brief glimpse of a reel librarian? Let’s see! Or, how many layers of meaning or significance can I detect in this brief library scene? Let’s see! Or, will this secondary reel librarian character be pivotal to the plot? Let’s see! (More often than not, they are.)

And even then, films like WarGames can surprise me by how significant they really turn out to be. When that happens, it’s refreshing and heartening. 🙂


I’ll be back next week to revisit another Reel Librarians favorite… just two more favorites to go before my 5th blog anniversary and GIVEAWAY!

Revisiting favorites | Pride and Prejudice librarian, Feb. 18, 2014

Continuing along my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour and revisiting past favorites on this blog… next up is a post from February 2014, “Pride and Prejudice and librarians,” in which I analyze the character of Mr. Collins in the 1940 remake of Pride and Prejudice. The character of Mr. Collins was changed from a clergyman in the book to a private librarian to Lady Catherine de Burgh in the film, so I delve into researching possible reasons why this change came about.

I’ll pause while you browse the original post😉

Screenshot of 'Pride and Prejudice and librarians' post

Screenshot of ‘Pride and Prejudice and librarians’ post

Why this post?

Is it weird to admit that sometimes, I really enjoy rereading posts I have written? That’s the entire reason for this “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour, but still… maybe it’s odd to admit this in public and on the internet. Oh well, too late now!

But once again, I really do enjoy rereading this post, probably mostly because I love Jane Austen! I am a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, after all. (Seriously. That’s a thing. There’s even a huge Annual General Meeting every year to celebrate and analyze all things Austen.)

I also enjoy this post because I got to detail research avenues I took to try and piece together clues about why the profession of Mr. Collins was changed from a clergyman to a librarian. And I think I came up with some likely theories, including the influence of screwball comedies and adhering to the Hays Code of censorship during that time period.

And once again, I got to go off on a tangent with this post and a minor librarian character. (His profession is mentioned only once, at the beginning, and there are no scenes set in Lady Catherine’s private library.) I can do a lot with a little! 🙂

New thoughts?

Rereading this post made me remember that I still need to get a copy of Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, in order to close the loop on whether or not Collins’s profession is changed in the play this film is based on.

I also was struck by the significance of Collins’s own personal introduction of himself, in which he introduces himself as a librarian.

Screenshot of 'Pride and Prejudice and librarians' post

Screenshot of ‘Pride and Prejudice and librarians’ post

I don’t think this is the first time I’ve come across an introduction of a reel librarian character in which that onscreen introduction almost feels like an apology for the librarian profession. Like the character is saying, “Oh don’t mind me, I’m just a librarian.” How many other reel librarians have introduced themselves, and their librarian profession, as a way of apology? What does this signify to the audience, if we are seen onscreen as seemingly embarrassed by our own profession?

It has stirred a possible future post idea… but perhaps it would be like opening Pandora’s box? 😉


I’ll be back next week to revisit another Reel Librarians favorite! Have I come across any of your favorites during this “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour? Please leave a comment and let me know!