Guest post: Library tourism in Italy

Archivist Burkely Hermann takes us on a mini-tour of libraries in Florence and Venice

I have a new year’s treat for y’all! I am featuring another guest post by Burkely Hermann, who contributed a couple of guest posts in 2021 about BIPOC librarians and BIPOC archivists in animated series, and another guest post in 2022 analyzing the breakout witchy librarian in Hilda.

Burkely asked to contribute a guest post about libraries he recently visited in Italy, and I thought this would fit with previous posts on this blog about similar real-life outings, such as when I visited the Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia and when I visited the Oregon Film Museum. As a real-life librarian, I LOVE traveling to and visiting other libraries, archives, and museums! Also, if you’re experiencing the winter blues right now, this might be a fun virtual vacation to indulge in by proxy. Enjoy!

For more of Burkely’s insights into librarians and archivists, make sure you visit his Pop Culture Library Review and Wading Through the Cultural Stacks blogs. 


Bellissime librerie!: Library tourism from Venezia to Burano

~ Guest post by Burkely Hermann

Buongiorno! After getting my degree from library school in December 2019, I’ve been occasionally going to libraries, sometimes as a patron, and other times as a tourist. The latter was the case in Italy, where I went on a vacation with my parents, in September 2022. I traveled there, in part, to visit a town called Casola, in the mountains above Parma, where my cousins own a trattoria. It’s also where my great-grandfather and his siblings were born, and lived, some of whom immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. In this post, I won’t focus on my expanded albero genealogico (family tree), but rather on my library tourism, as it could be called, during my trip in Italy. For the first part of my trip, I stayed in an agritourismo in the suburbs of Firenze, often known as Florence, a beautiful city in Northern Italy. Multiple times I attempted to enter a biblioteca (library) in the center of the city, known as the Laurentian Medici Library. The first time I tried, I was told by the attendant that the library was only open to students. The second time, I was informed that the library was “permanently closed.” Whether that is still the case, I’m not sure, but I believe it probably is. Later on in the trip, I attempted to enter the Galileo Museum library, in downtown Firenze. Unfortunately, I was turned away, by a nice middle-aged Italian librarian who was working there, and told that the library was only for researchers. Through all of this, I somehow overlooked the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. That library, also known as the National Central Library of Florence, is located on the Arno River.

Image of one of the library rooms at the Correr Museum.
Image of one of the library rooms at the Correr Museum. Sorry for the blurriness. (Photograph by Burkely Hermann.)

It wasn’t until September 18 that I visited my first library of sorts, in Venezia (Venice), Italy. It was within the Correr Museum on St. Mark’s Square. There were various library rooms filled with books and collections for tourists to examine. Some were rooms filled with artifacts collected by Francesco Morosini, Bessarion, and Venezia itself, like globes, manuscripts, and other items.

The next day, with my mom and dad, I visited the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, also known as the Marciana Library or Library of Saint Mark, which is inside the Correr Museum. Run by the Italian Ministry of Culture, it holds thousands of manuscripts, about one million post-16th century books, and many other artifacts, like globes, maps, and sculptures. While it is more of a museum than a library, it still has many library features. This includes pamphlets on a table which were labeled “for reference only” and beautiful paintings on the ceilings, in-keeping with Italian art. Some rooms were built by Joseph Sansovino, a famous Venetian architect.

A mangy library cat and the Venetian isle of Burano

On September 20, my next-to-last day in Italy, I traveled to Burano, an island near Venezia known for its colorful houses. It is a very tourist-centered island geared towards those who want to buy clothing, especially clothing with handmade lace, something the island is known for. A mangy, black cat guided me to a public library! It was almost like a dream. The library’s official website says the library, which is accessible to people with disabilities, has a “total of 5 rooms, 3 of which are reserved as reading rooms with 50 seats.” It is part of the Venice Library system.

Pamphlets on display inside the Burano library.
Pamphlets on display inside the Burano library. (Photograph by Burkely Hermann.)

Not long after entering, my mom, dad, and I met an elderly Italian woman who was helpful, even though she knew very little English. She seemed to be the librarian on duty, helped by another Italian woman who was about the same age, sitting behind an information desk. On the wall in another room was an Italian-language version of the Dewey Decimal System. Both library workers were friendly and embodied an attitude of Italians I experienced throughout my vacation in Northern Italy: Italians want you to understand what they are saying, even if you speak very little Italian. 

The librarian showed us around the small library, noting their collections, and what services they had to offer, such as a children’s corner. This even included a bathroom. While that might seem strange, elsewhere in Italy, you had to pay one Euro to use the bathroom, equivalent to about one U.S. dollar. In this library, the bathroom was open and could be used free-of-charge.

The library seemed like a place that Lady Elianna Bernstein or Myne, protagonists of Bibliophile Princess and Ascendance of a Bookworm respectfully, would be at home. However, both would probably complain that there weren’t enough books, even if they were enthralled with books about town’s history, teen fiction, or even children’s picture books. Myne would likely be overjoyed by the latter, since she tasked kids at a local orphanage with creating such books, in the anime series, in an attempt to make free books available. She did so despite pushback from her sponsor-of-sorts, a city merchant named Benno, who wanted to sell books rather than giving them out for free. My parents and I were likely some of the only – or maybe even the first – tourists to enter the library in Burano. Many probably walk past it, as they’d rather shop or see the recommended sites. They might be thrown off by the mangy cat or the library itself. After all, black cats are, unfortunately, seen as bad luck, as witches in disguise, or many other silly superstitions. For me, the black cat was, in a sense, a form of good luck, as I wouldn’t have found the library if I hadn’t followed the cat! In order to respect the privacy of the librarians, I decided to not take their photographs. Instead, I only took photos of the library itself. In fact, I took all the photos displayed in this post.

Library entrance (left) and close-up of library sign (right).
Library entrance (left) and close-up of library sign (right). (Photographs by Burkely Hermann.)

There were no witchy librarians like Kaisa in Hilda, nor any like Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne. That didn’t matter. What was important is the fact that the library was there with services to help the community. I remain optimistic that those in the community use the library to learn more about the island they live on, the world in-large, and themselves, becoming more informed citizens in the process.

Bibliotourism + its benefits

While visiting libraries in Italy did not give me culture shock, it gave me a glimpse into how libraries in Italy function and serve patrons. That is something I believe is valuable. Some have praised library tourism, also known as “bibliotourism,” or argued that “public libraries should be a tourist destination the way museums are” since libraries are a reflection of the community they serve. Others even created blogs about this form of tourism, like The Library Tourist, considered integrating libraries in “the tourism sector,” or called bibliotourism the “next big trend.” 

Whether any of that is the case, the fact is that library tourism must be done respectfully without imposing one’s culture and beliefs onto another. Although this doesn’t always happen, as the trend continues, as libraries become tourist attractions, and some tourists are downright snobbish. Ultimately, library tourism is inevitable since libraries play an important role in tourism. Some even believe that since libraries interconnect with tourism, they can promote sustainable development in countries such as China. In any case, visiting a library as a tourist, and even better, as a patron, can allow you to experience the space, the architecture, and understand the library’s role in the society in which it resides.

While I was a tourist in Italy, along with my parents, I was also a patron, as I used available library services. It is possible for someone to be a patron and a tourist. Doing so is more respectful than coming into a library on a whim, taking some photos and leaving, then going on your merry way, without a care in the world. Library tourism is possible despite the continually raging COVID-19 pandemic, causing library practices to change. The latter includes renewed efforts to serve those coming to a library as tourists, in addition to serving patrons from the local community.

In the end, as I continue through my career, I plan to visit libraries, not just as a tourist, but as a patron, understanding the role that the libraries I’m entering play in the local community, while respecting those who work at the libraries, and fellow patrons.


A bit about Burkely: 

Burkely Hermann is an archivist and researcher who works for the National Security Archive (NSA) as a metadata librarian and indexer. He graduated from University of Maryland with an MLIS degree with a concentration in Archives & Digital Curation in December 2019, and earned a B.A. in Political Science, minoring in history, in May 2016 from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He is currently a member of the Society of American Archivists Issues & Advocacy Steering Committee and I&A Blog Coordinator for the Issues & Advocacy section blog. He often writes about libraries on his blog Pop Culture Library Review and about archives on his blog Wading Through The Cultural Stacks. He presently writes pop culture reviews, mainly of animated series, for Pop Culture Maniacs and elsewhere. He also occasionally researches his family roots and puts together a newsletter on Substack. He has been published in the American Archivist Reviews Portal, the SNAP Roundtable, Issues & Advocacy, Neurotastic, I Love Libraries, and the NSA website. In his spare time, he volunteers as a National History Day judge. He also likes hiking, reading webcomics, watching animated series, and reading books. He can be found on various social media sites, from Twitter to Instagram.

Sources used

BONUS! Guest-vlogging on ‘POP Archives’ YouTube channel about libraries and archives in the Star Wars universe

A librarian and an archivist walk into a Zoom room and hit record…

It has certainly been the summer for iconic sci-fi universes, hasn’t it?! First my exhaustive series cataloging all the library, archives, librarian, and research scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now a hot-off-the-presses video foray into libraries and archives in the Star Wars universe with Sam Cross on her POP Archives YouTube channel. (By the way, these two universes, Star Wars and the MCU, actually connect in an episode of What If…?, which you can read about here in this post.)

Here’s the video description from POP Archives:

This episode Sam (she/her) is joined by Jennifer Snoek-Brown (she/her), aka Reel Librarians, as they travel to a galaxy far, far away to uncover the archival nature of the Skywalker Saga. They theorize about what exactly is “The New Hope,” dive into Jocasta Nu’s backstory, and ponder the media degradation of the Death Star’s digitization practices.

So how did this come about? Earlier this summer, Sam Cross, the real-life archivist and genius behind the POP Archives site, contacted me about guesting on her new POP Archives YouTube channel, to chat about the differences between archivists and librarian portrayals in movies. I was admittedly a bit nervous — I feel most confident communicating through writing — but it sounded like a fun opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. After some back-and-forth brainstorming (I literally had jotted down 4+ pages of notes and topic ideas, LOL! I’m glad I didn’t scare Sam off! :D), we decided to “travel to a galaxy far, far away” to the Star Wars universe, which has many examples of libraries/librarians and archives/archivists, including in the movies, TV series, and graphic novels.

And it was SO. MUCH. FUN. chatting and laughing with Sam! She made me feel immediately at ease. It really felt like a natural conversation between two information professional nerds (or professional nerds? either way works!), as we weaved around themes and differences and similarities amidst different librarian and archivist portrayals in Star Wars. And I think that natural flow comes across in the video. Please check it out! (Note: It is an admittedly long video! Feel free to let the nerdiness wash over you in the background as you fold laundry or take a walk or what-have-you, etc.)

And if you’re on YouTube and/or have a Gmail account, it’s super easy to subscribe to the POP Archives channel, so you get a notification for when there’s a new video (just make sure you’re logged in and click the red “Subscribe” button). And, of course, make sure you’ve bookmarked the main POP Archives website plus visit Sam’s Twitter account. Sam writes about all sorts of archival topics and portrayals in all types of pop culture mediums, including video games, comics, TV series, movies, and more!

Sources used

All the sources we referenced in our chat are linked in the YouTube video record (click on the “More” link in the video title and description field).

Guest post: Analyzing the witchy librarian in ‘Hilda’ TV series + new movie

It’s all about that Kaisa!

I have a treat for y’all! I am featuring another guest post by Burkely Hermann, who contributed a couple of guest posts last year about BIPOC librarians and BIPOC archivists in animated series. I asked Burkely to contribute another guest post because I thought analyzing the reel librarian character of Kaisa, the breakout character and fan favorite from the Hilda TV series and the new Hilda and the Mountain King movie, would be interesting for readers. Enjoy!

For more of Burkely’s insights into librarians and archivists, make sure you visit his Pop Culture Library Review and Wading Through the Cultural Stacks blogs.

*SPOILER ALERTS BELOW*


It’s all about that Kaisa: Analyzing the breakout witchy librarian in Hilda

~ Guest post by Burkely Hermann

In recent years, librarians have become more prominent in animated series. Unfortunately, most of these librarians either only appear in one episode, like Wong and O’Bengh/Cagliostro in What…If?, and Mira and Sahil in Mira, Royal Detective, or are stereotypical and problematic. There are some exceptions. Librarians Sara, Sarah, and Jeffrey/Desiree in Too Loud, Amity Blight in The Owl House, Naoufel in I Lost My Body, and Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm all defy stereotypes in their own ways. Apart from these characters, one character shines through. She has become one of the best depictions of librarians in fiction, especially in animation, for some time. Her name is Kaisa. She is a casually gothic, witchy librarian in Hilda, an all-ages animated series. This article will analyze this character, noting her significance in representations of librarians in fiction.

Although Kaisa’s character only appears in six of the show’s 26 episodes – not even 23% of the series – she has become a smash hit among fans. She even appeared in three graphic novels by Luke Pearson that the series is based on: Hilda and the Great Parade, Hilda and the Nowhere Space, and Hilda and the Ghost Ship. There is a subreddit for her, which has over 180 subscribers, voluminous fan art, and cosplays! 

Currently, fans have written over 90 fan fictions featuring her character on Archive of Our Own. The UK retail seller Forbidden Planet has shirts, keychains, and pins featuring the character. While Kaisa’s name is not revealed until the second season, she is based on the name of a Swedish actress with the same first name: Kaisa Hammarlund. As such, her voice is an “amalgamation of Nordic accents.”

Kaisa after casting a spell in the episode "Chapter 3: The Witch," in the show's second season, with Hilda and Frida alongside her.
Kaisa after casting a spell in the episode “Chapter 3: The Witch,” in the show’s second season, with Hilda and Frida alongside her.

Kaisa in the first season

In the show’s first season, she remains mysterious, only appearing briefly. She is still shown as having an unmatched knowledge of cemeteries, the dead, and mystical items. At first, she helps Hilda and her friends, giving them books of interest and anticipating their questions.

At one point, she reminds Hilda that reference books are not taken from the hidden special collections room. She gives Hilda, who is a bit snobbish in how she treats a reference book in one episode, the right materials so she can raise the dead! At the end of the first season, she is shown outside the library, walking across the streets of the city of Trolberg. According to a new interview, Kaisa was supposed to have more scenes in this initial season, but the crew and producers weren’t sure how to develop her character at the time. Despite this, by the end of that first season, she had become a breakout star.

Kaisa in the second season

In the second season, which aired in December 2020, Frida and Hilda help Kaisa find a missing book, with all three of them fighting beasts and finishing challenges on their way. Although they eventually find the book, the committee of three witches chastise them for not turning it in on time (it’s over 30 years late at that point), and they are sucked into a void, where a monster awaits them. This was the beginning of an expansion of plot points from season 1.

While Kaisa uses her witch powers to try and save them, she is helped by Frida and Hilda. They give her the right book so she can make sure the void is subdued, and all three escape unscathed! After all of that, she is still grateful to an elderly patron and powerful witch who was her mentor, a person who is pleasantly surprised to see her as a librarian. She is later shown outside the library in the same season, fighting Tide Mice who can take over people’s minds. 

Kaisa asks Frida and David about body swapping in the recent film, Hilda and the Mountain King
Kaisa asks Frida and David about body swapping in the recent film, Hilda and the Mountain King

Kaisa in the new movie, Hilda and the Mountain King

Not surprisingly, Kaisa appears in the recent film, Hilda and the Mountain King, a continuation of the animated series. Although she only has a guest appearance, she has an important part in the film. Frida asks her for help in reversing a spell cast on Hilda which has made her swap bodies with a troll. At first, Kaisa agrees to help but stops when she realizes it wouldn’t work, having a “purely mechanical understanding of the situation,” as one fan put it. While Frida is annoyed by this, when she tries to use the spellbook anyway, it doesn’t work, as witch magic can’t be mixed with troll magic.

Kaisa is shown to be right all along, to the chagrin of Frida, and David, to a lesser extent. Reportedly, in early stages of the film’s development, the crew tried to incorporate Kaisa into the climax of the film. According to the movie’s director, Andy Coyle, the scene had Kaisa rebelling against the rule that witches shouldn’t interfere in a fight. Sadly, the scene was cut from the final film because of a “limited amount of screentime.”

Characteristics of the Trolberg library and Kaisa the librarian

The library where Kaisa works appears to be “ordinary” on the outside. It is grand inside, with secret passageways going through one special collections room after another. This ultimately leads to an inner chamber with a committee of three witches controlling the Witches Tower. There are so many resources that someone could stay there for hours and days, studying to their heart’s content. It is a magic library in more ways than one, and is amazing, as real-life librarians have recognized

Kaisa explains why she can't help Frida and David in the film
Kaisa explains why she can’t help Frida and David in the recent film, Hilda and the Mountain Kin

Kaisa is a principled librarian who likely has a MLIS degree and is an atypical librarian who has a life outside the library. Her portrayal fulfills what I’ve termed the “Librarian Portrayal Test.” She is a twenty-something who wears headphones, like Kino does in Kino’s Journey, has a cassette player, and is skilled with magic. Despite this, Kaisa, like any librarian, is tasked with enforcing the roles. In one episode, she tells the show’s protagonists to “keep it down,” but never shushes them.

Her character has led some librarians to “feel seen” and others to note she used skills from her “previous career path” (as a witch) to save the day. Others have used Kaisa as a way to praise librarians more broadly. While some have said that her job isn’t as realistic as it might seem, some have countered this by saying that Kaisa and the series as a whole, communicates “very positive messages about libraries.”

She has a unique appearance since the series is in an intentionally nebulous time frame. It has a setting that is something familiar, something foreign. The series and the film was described by the director of Hilda and the Mountain King, to be set, vaguely, in the early 1990s. The series, and the film, are also inspired by Scandinavian folklore. This makes it no surprise that the two-leveled Trolberg library has “outdated” elements like library slips and card catalogs, along with “newer” elements like copiers. Despite this, it is abundantly clear that she has experienced burnout as a librarian. In one episode, she argued that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them, tying into the debate among librarians and libraries over the role of patrons.

Some have argued that Kaisa might be asexual, basing it on her character’s colors (purple, black, grey, and white), even though this supposition has not been confirmed, or denied, by the show’s creator or anyone on the show staff. If this is the case, Kaisa would be one of the recent depictions of LGBTQ librarians in pop culture such as Desiree in Too Loud and Amity Blight in The Owl House.

Undoubtedly, Kaisa will reappear in the show’s next, and final, season, which will go beyond the graphic novel series by Luke Pearson that the series is based on, and likely into new, and exciting, places. The season, which may premiere later this year, will likely be 13 episodes long, allowing for Kaisa to, once again, get a chance to shine in the animated series, serving as an important depiction of librarians in popular culture.

A bit about Burkely

Burkely Hermann is an archivist and researcher who works for the National Security Archive (NSA). He graduated from University of Maryland with an MLIS degree with a concentration in Archives & Digital Curation in December 2019, and earned a B.A. in Political Science, minoring in history, in May 2016 from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He was recently elected as a member of the Society of American Archivists Steering Committee. He currently writes about libraries on his blog Pop Culture Library Review and about archives on his blog Wading Through The Cultural Stacks. He presently writes pop culture reviews of animated series and webcomics for The Geekiary and Pop Culture Maniacs. He also writes about his family history roots, and sometimes writes pieces for I Love Libraries, an initiative of the American Library Association. He has also been published in the American Archivist Reviews Portal, the SNAP Roundtable, Issues & Advocacy, Neurotastic, and the NSA website. In his spare time, he writes about fictional works, volunteers as a National History Day judge, likes hiking, reading webcomics, watching animated series, and occasionally swimming.

Sources used

Guest post: YU in the library

Sketches about libraries in ex-Yugoslavian movies

I hope you enjoy this guest post by Ljubomir (Ljuba) Branković. If that name feels familiar to you, it’s because I interviewed Ljubomir and his lovely wife, Valentina (Tina), for a post here on the Reel Librarians blog, back in August 2021. Ljuba and Tina are both real-life librarians in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia (which was formerly part of the country known as Yugoslavia from 1918-1992). Ljubomir is another movie-loving librarian like myself and collects inserts from feature, short, and animated films as well as from TV series in which libraries and librarians appear. Below are Ljubomir’s insights into interesting library scenes in movies from his region. Enjoy!


YU in the library: Sketches about libraries in ex-Yugoslavian movies

by Ljubomir Branković

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (YU) was a state that once included several republics. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, today there are several independent countries, including Serbia. Today the most common term for this geographic area is “Western Balkans.” In the period 1945-1990, it was a Communist/Socialist country, the only one from the so-called “Eastern block” that did not belong to the group of pro-Soviet states formed after the end of World War II. Up to its traumatic breakup, it had received an interesting epithet “East in the West, West in the East,” due to the state’s historical past. Actually, the development of the social conditions in Yugoslavia is faithfully represented by this saying. The very social transformation of the second half of the 20th century had perhaps been best reflected by development of its cinematography. The significant number of awards and worldwide recognitions that Yugoslavian films have received reflect this artistic, cinematic focus.

So, as this wonderful blog, Reel Librarians, is primarily dedicated to the libraries and librarians in film, I will try to bring closer for your readers some of the most impressive examples of our little pearls of local cinema. [Editor’s note: All of the films below have been added to the Foreign-Language Films list, thanks to Ljubomir!] Although there were several titles before 1979 with library scenes, the next few examples are those that have remained in the collective memory of us all. 😊 Dialogs and quotes from these movies are still – even today – very fresh and catchy (primarily for their wit). These movies stay even in the memory amongst the young people from our region, who were not even born at the time of their premieres.

1. Nacionalna Klasa (aka National Class Category Up to 785 Ccm, directed by Goran Marković, 1979)

The local racing ace, Floyd (interpreted by Dragan Nikolić), in order to avoid joining the army, is preparing for the entrance exam for the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. One specific scene takes place in the reading room of the University Library “Svetozar Marković” in Belgrade (built back in 1926, a gift from the Carnegie Endowment). Here in the calm of the greenish lights of the library, we follow his consultations with another student, while he is actually flipping through a book on female anatomy because he had suddenly learned that his girlfriend is pregnant…

Screenshot of library scene in Nacionalna Klasa (aka National Class Category Up to 785 Ccm, directed by Goran Marković, 1979)
Screenshot of library scene in Nacionalna Klasa (aka National Class Category Up to 785 Ccm, directed by Goran Marković, 1979)

2. Poseban Tretman (aka Special Therapy, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1980)

One of the scenes takes place in a local brewery factory’s library. A strange group of treated alcoholics (along with their doctor) are to give a lecture, followed by a stage play on the harmfulness of alcohol. 

In the middle of the movie, a fellow factory’s librarian, played by the great Yugoslav actress Milena Dravić; for this role she won the award for Best Supporting Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980. Convinced she is really doing a good thing for the guests, she decides to remove from the library all the books associated with alcohol or by authors known for their inclination for alcoholism.

Screenshot of librarian and library scene in Poseban Tretman (aka Special Therapy, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1980)
Screenshot of librarian and library scene in Poseban Tretman (aka Special Therapy, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1980)

3. Variola Vera (directed by Goran Marković, 1982)

This film may best correspond to the current global moment because it is about the smallpox epidemic (the “Variola vera” virus) in Yugoslavia during 1972. The one library scene from this movie was filmed at the University Library in Belgrade, following a doctor (Rade Šerbedžija) who, at first uninterested in epidemic, looks over books on infections, unaware he himself had been already infected with Variola vera.

Screenshot of library scene in Variola Vera (directed by Goran Marković, 1982)
Screenshot of library scene in Variola Vera (directed by Goran Marković, 1982)

4. Varljivo Leto ’68 (aka The Elusive Summer of ’68, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1984)

Probably the most impressive movie scenes among the library shelves of the ex-Yugoslavia are saved for this sweet movie. This film has several library scenes that are arguably the most well-known in Serbia. The movie follows the adventures of a high school graduate and his futile attempts to find his first great love during lively and turbulent days of the summer of 1968.

In fact, the world’s important socio-political events are only the basis for depicting his love woes. Among the women who capture his attention, we see: a professor of Marxism, a pharmacist, a baker, and a beautiful librarian from the local library (played by Neda Arnerić). The line that the main character Petar (Slavko Štimac) utters passionately looking out of her window while she was getting ready for bed, best evokes his impatient emotions:

That night I had firmly decided to obey my father. I will not pass by the pharmacy anymore, but I am definitely going to become a library member and read all about Marxism! 

In another famous scene, Petar’s parents perform a burlesque conversation:

Father: Where is this one? Was he in the library?

Mother: Three times.

Father: How’s that? Three times?

Mother: Well, the first time to register there, the second time to choose the book, and the third time to pay the membership fee.

Father: And where is he now?

Mother: Gone for the fourth time.

Father: Why?

Mother: To help Jova and Djoka [his schoolmates] to register themselves!

All the hard work and effort of the young Don Juan ended with him breathing over the neck of the charming librarian and her “concrete answer” in the form of a juicy slap! 😊

Screenshot of the library scene in Varljivo Leto ’68 (aka The Elusive Summer of '68, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1984)
Screenshot of library scene in Varljivo Leto ’68 (aka The Elusive Summer of ’68, directed by Goran Paskaljević, 1984)

5. Krvopijci (aka Bloodsuckers, directed by Dejan Šorak, 1989)

A parody of the vampire movies, this movie is set in Zagreb, the capital of the Republic of Croatia. It’s like this movie foreshadows the upcoming painful years of disagreement and war between former compatriots.  The library scene, in an extremely sarcastic way, indicates its social and material status of the cultural institution – always neglected. It turns out, when it comes to the library in the Balkans – to a greater or lesser extent – it is always a “negative traditional trend.” 

The librarian (played by Vitomira Lončar) agrees to be bribed in order to allow access to materials from the 16th century to a psychiatrist who was investigating the case of an alleged Zagreb vampire of the period. At his request for helping him in dealing with the old, baroque books, she clumsily and sympathetically replied to the client’s astonishment:

You have paid $100 just to see a book?

The scene was filmed in the old building of the National and University Library in Zagreb, where the Croatian State Archives is now located. 

Screenshot of library scene in Krvopijci (aka Bloodsuckers, directed by Dejan Šorak, 1989)
Screenshot of library scene in Krvopijci (aka Bloodsuckers, directed by Dejan Šorak, 1989)

6. Mi Nismo Anđeli (aka We Are Not Angels, directed by Srđan Dragojević, 1992)

This teenage comedy took place in the early 1990s, in the YU region that was at the same time spreading armed conflicts and dismantling of a state – and brings a completely new and fresh form of film expression. The main character Nikola is a promiscuous, troublesome young, good-looking man (secretly infatuated by all the city girls!). Guided by the old saying, “he who dares wins,” we follow a series of attempts by the two naive, unversed young girls to win him over by studying in the library all that would be “sufficient” for catching this good-looking boy! Their attempts take a good deal of effort, but they somehow always fail to come closer to Nikola! The “mysterious interference” which doesn’t allow girls to meet Nikola is his alter ego reflected into two characters: a devil and an angel. Two of them are having a constant argument and they lead the plot on crazy roads; there are turns, stumbles, ups and downs all the way. The whole movie has been made in a humorous, amusing, and insightful way. 

There is a line from the reading room of the University Library (which is definitely the most filmed interior of any library in Serbia) that is still an example of “fake speed learning.” 

How can I go through the whole philosophy in one afternoon?! 

Why? Well, it took you all the morning to go through the literature!

Screenshot of library scene in Mi Nismo Anđeli (aka We Are Not Angels, directed by Srđan Dragojević, 1992)
Screenshot of library scene in Mi Nismo Anđeli (aka We Are Not Angels, directed by Srđan Dragojević, 1992)

Ex-YU cinematography has not had a movie with the entire content focused on the library (or librarian) by itself. Mostly, librarians appear as supporting characters, but their roles have been interpreted by such great, unique actors, such as Milena Dravić, Dušica Žegarac, Neda Arnerić, Ivica Vidović, and Bogdan Diklić… The very interpretation of these roles is mostly reduced to stereotypical characterizations, similar to librarian characters in other world cinemas, larger or smaller. 

Until the time of a truly dedicated feature film project – that one which would give the library a more concrete screenwriting significance – the only thing we can comfort ourselves with is a particular line from a famous Serbian theater play, “Radovan III,” by Dušan Kovačević. In one scene, the main character, Radovan, answers when asked if he had ever read anything:

He asks me what I’ve read?! He asks me what I’ve read? I had a library membership card! I used to carry it in the top shirt pocket, sticking out for 2 cm! I was allowed to enter the library in broad daylight!

With my wish that the Balkans, pejoratively called “a barrel of gunpowder,” will become an empire of modern libraries and films about them, I salute you! Živeli! (Cheers!) 😊

A brief sketch about Ljubomir Branković

It is true: “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are,” once said the French novelist Francois Mauriac. Put in my own words, the quote could sound like this: “Tell me what you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Briefly, Ljubomir (Ljuba) Branković, is an enthusiast in love with three things: the library, the movies, and Belgrade, Serbia.

  • With Belgrade, because it’s the city where he was born in 1967, never having wanted to leave his hometown (even when there have been justified reasons for it).
  • With the movies, because he has been spending most of his adult life in the “motion picture world” (rather than in his real environment).
  • With the library, because since 1988, he has been working in the National Library of Serbia, never wanting to leave too (again, even when there have been justified reasons for it).

Ljuba likes to say that he is a “librarian-craftsman,” not a “scientist” because he sees librarianship and libraries as an informal, cozy and warm place “somewhere over the rainbow” – not as a rigid, half-closed academic institution. 

He is a big supporter and activist of all the forms of popular culture, especially comics.

Ljuba’s hobbies include collecting inserts from feature and short feature movies, animated films, and TV movies and mini-series that feature libraries and librarians.

Related post: Reel Librarians interview with two real librarians in Serbia

BONUS! ‘Fright Club’ podcast redux: Librarians in horror films

I re-joined MaddWolf for a follow-up podcast all about librarians in horror movies

More exciting news to share with y’all! Earlier this year, back in February, you may remember that I had been invited by George Wolf and Hope Madden of MaddWolf.com to join them on an episode of their Fright Club podcast, an episode that focused on memorable library moments in horror movies. We had so much fun that Hope and George invited me for a follow-up Fright Club podcast that would dive into memorable portrayals of librarians in horror movies (not just scenes set in libraries).

Well, that time has come. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, Y’ALL. 😉

Head on over to MaddWolf.com to listen to the new “Fright Club: Librarians in Horror” podcast episode, in which I re-join Hope and George to chat about memorable major librarian characters in horror films. I came to the table with my top 5 librarians in horror, and Hope and George shared their personal top 5 — and there was some overlap! We had so much fun chatting and laughing about librarians in horror movies, so check it out… if you dare! 

Here’s a line from the podcast episode:

“You just sum it up in one sentence, and you just want to watch it: It’s a librarian by day, a chainsaw-wielding serial killer by night. I mean, that’s all you need!”

From “Fright Club: Librarians in Horror” podcast, MaddWolf.com, 29 Aug. 2021

There are mannnnnnnny more awesome — or awesomely bad! — major reel librarian characters in horror movies that we didn’t have space for in the podcast. So as a teaser, below are a few additional titles that didn’t make my final list…

… and now go and listen to the Fright Club podcast to see which librarians in horror movies DID make the cut! 😀


Do you have some personal faves in our collective lists? Some additional major librarian roles in horror to add to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

%d bloggers like this: