Guest post: Cinfolit

Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!

Our last — but certainly not least — guest post comes to you from Bob Schroeder @ Cinfolit. A fitting end to the past couple of weeks — or perhaps, a rebirth? Read on, dear readers, read on! 🙂


Cinfolit Graphic
Cinfolit Graphic

The Blog Cinfolit at the Crossroads


by Bob Schroeder

A blog posting wherein the author bakes organic bread in Ann Arbor in the ’70s, makes Lord of the Rings allusions, invents a new muse, and poses a most timely and scintillating question to us all.

The question before us ladies and gentlemen is:  “How to make a collaborative blog thrive?

A bit of back story. In July of 2010, Joseph Hardenbrook posted a questions to the ili-list. He was looking for videos that illustrate information literacy topics for library instruction sessions. A great idea! Videos on info lit topics would definitely add some pizzazz to the old shtick in the classroom. Then my inner librarian kicked in and I wondered how would we will be able to find and access all those great videos? An online index of information literacy related instruction videos – of course!

Such was the genesis of the blog Cinfolit (Cinema + Information Literacy).

Cinfolit logo

But how to find all of those great videos I knew were out there, and how to be eternally and incessantly vigilant ? (Even the Eye of Sauron occasionally blinked, right?) That’s when my inner cooperator kicked in. Cooperation has been one of my life’s leitmotivs over the past four decades. I’ve was a member of Ann Arbor’s Peoples’ Coop in the early 70’s , I learned to bake great hippie whole wheat bread at the Wild Flour Bakery, and was a owner/worker of the Soy Plant – cranking out a thousand pounds of tofu a day. My cooperative self even followed me into libraryland, inspiring me to write an article entitled A Cooperative Publishing Model for Sustainable Scholarship. So duh! Making it a cooperative blog seemed to be the obvious answer.

I must confess that while blogging always seemed like a cööl thing to do I was waiting for a muse to enthuse me to rapturous and meaningful words (BTW – perhaps it is time to birth a tenth muse of good blogs, Eupostia?) Finally with Cinfolit a raison de blôgtre! But not only would the content be meaningful and helpful for instruction librarians , it would also be a social experiment for me – seeing if cooperation and collaboration would work on the web.

From the beginning everyone was invited to submit relevant videos and anyone could become a co-author of the blog just by asking. I posted a note it the ili list and about 14 librarians started adding their favorites. And we managed to find some great videos, like The Tourist Lane by ImprovEverywhere, Eli Pariser on Filter Bubbles, to the classic Medieval Help Desk. There are even a few summaries of articles about info lit and videos – like “New Shit has Come to Light”: Information Seeking Behavior in the Big Lebowski from the Journal of Popular Culture.

Fast forward to fall of 2011 – it was then, a year after Cinfolit started, that the last post was made. I’ve been ruminating since on the fate of this blog. It still seems like a good repository for these videos – they’re still great spice to add to instruction sessions, and having the index and links online makes them accessible to anyone with a computer. Just writing this blog post has started some blog regeneration seeds sprouting in my brain. But the question remains about collective action in cyberspace….

“How to make a collaborative blog thrive?”

Do you feel that Cinfolit is a potentially useful source for instruction librarians? If you have any epiphanies on how to reinvigorate a cooperative blog please let me know. You can email be at schroedr@pdx.edu with your ideas.

Guest post: Tom Goodfellow

Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!

Next up in our global guest post adventure is Tom Goodfellow, a film nerd and librarian at the University of Sydney, Australia. This post — all about reel libraries and dystopian futures — is derived from his Masters dissertation, where you can enjoy more of his witty insights into libraries and film. 


In the eye of the survivor


by Tom Goodfellow

The world as you know it has ended. The countryside is a barren wasteland, resources are scarce, lawlessness is rampant and shadowy forces control whatever remains. First up, you’ll probably need some heavy duty weaponry to defend yourself from marauding wolves/cannibals/robots. Next, some clean water and tinned food are probably necessary, along with clothing and shelter.

And not forgetting that great essential, the public library.

This being Reel Librarians, obviously my main source for this assertion is the world of movies, which have provided us with a range of apocalyptic futures that feature a surprising number of libraries.

The Day After Tomorrow offers a particularly literal use of the library as a safe space. Following a climate change induced big freeze hoo-ha, a group of chilblained survivors hole up in New York Public Library. They preserve themselves by burning books, allowing for much ironic chat about which tomes should be first for the pyre. Sorry legal librarian readers, but by unanimous agreement the tax codes get it first.

Preservation, in fact, is the key theme here. In several movies, ruined libraries are visited by our square-jawed hero, and the lost secrets (re)discovered therein lead to ultimate victory.

In Zardoz, a copy of The Wizard of Oz inspires Sean Connery (resplendent in ponytail and bright red codpiece/suspenders combo) to discover the power behind the throne of his own society.

Inspiration is also crucial in Logan’s Run, in which Michael York and Jenny Agutter come across the crumbling Library of Congress, thereby understanding some of the culture that preceded them, i.e. 20th century America. The film is not subtle in conveying its agenda, featuring a discussion of who the individual portrayed in a portrait might be (it is Abraham Lincoln) and the eventual impalement of the main villain on a flagpole bearing the U.S. flag, both of which take place in the main reading room.

My favourite, though, is the incomparable Battlefield Earth (I watch it so you don’t have to). Once again the LoC is the setting, and an old text that we recognise as the Declaration of Independence is what spurs Barry Pepper on to defeat the alien critters that John Travolta has inflicted on us all. In a stroke of somewhat implausible good fortune, he also finds an instruction manual for building the nuclear bomb necessary for ridding the world of nefarious extra-terrestrials. As library/patron interactions go, this can probably be marked down as a success.

There is another strand of science fiction/library crossover movies in which a futuristic information source provides library-style information – think The Time Machine, Soylent Green or Rollerball. I could go on about these for a while, but I hear the reader crying (quoting Jane Austen):

You have delighted us long enough.

Guest post: Beautiful libraries

Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!

Next, please welcome Beth @ Beautiful-libraries.com, a site of beautiful libraries, indeed. Beth shares her personal inspiration behind the site, and a love of libraries that, as she so rightly points out, connects us the world over. 


Here’s the story… of a lovely library site…


by Beth @ Beautiful-libraries.com

I have always loved libraries – as a kid, my favorite place was my elementary school library filled with books and beanbag chairs; my parents, university academics both, always had a large collection of books. One of my earliest recollections is waiting for the Bookmobile to park and climbing aboard to choose among the children’s offerings.

Hearst Castle Library, Beverly Hills, CA
Hearst Castle Library, Beverly Hills, CA

As an adult, I assumed I would always be surrounded by books and dreamed of the cozy home library I would someday have. The first thing I did when my new husband and I bought our first house in 1998 was to design and build a wall of four-foot-high shelves in an upstairs room to create an office/library. Those shelves filled up fairly quickly.

The MA library from This Old House Magazine that started my "collection"
The MA library from This Old House Magazine that started my “collection”

The following year, I ran across an article that left a deep impression on me: In the July 1999 issue of This Old House Magazine were photos of a truly magnificent home library addition to an older house in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Since I was reading a public library copy, I returned the magazine, but over the years my thoughts returned often to the magnificence of that home library. About five years ago, I searched online for that back issue, which became the start of a binder I kept of beautiful home library photos, which I added to as I found other impressive library portrayals in Architectural Digest and other magazines, as well as online photos.

Two years ago, my husband, two children and I, well-settled into our third and (we hope) permanent house, and running out of space for free-standing bookcases to hold the 5,000-or-so books I had managed to amass, decided that we might like to build our own library addition.

Alnwick Castle, England (I have an extensive collection of English Country House Library photos)
Alnwick Castle, England (I have an extensive collection of English Country House Library photos)

I immediately began looking through my binder and looking online for inspiring photos of well-designed home libraries, and found, to my surprise, that although several sites had lists of ten or so library photos, no one had yet compiled an extensive collection online.

Thus began Beautiful-libraries.com, a site dedicated to inspirational photos and information about libraries of all kinds: private, public, academic, commercial and many other types – including Libraries in Art and Libraries in Film, naturally!

I have now added over 600 photos and still continue to add more, whenever I have a moment (and we’ve finished our own library addition too, BTW). I try to accompany each photo with information about that library, and personal observations and commentary about its design. And I have received photos of libraries from visitors around the globe, from Europe to Africa to Asia. The love of beautiful libraries is universal.

Château de Groussay in France
Château de Groussay in France

Many thanks to Jennifer, for her permanent link to my site as well as for giving me this chance to do a guest blog here at Reel-librarians.com. I hope you find a moment to visit and enjoy Beautiful-libraries.com.

Guest post: Libraries at the Movies

Just a reminder to everyone that I’m on vacation this week. Hope you enjoy the guest posts!

First up is Colin @ Libraries at the Movies, one of my favorite reads. His posts are always insightful, funny, and illuminating. If you like Reel Librarians, then you’re probably already a fan of Colin’s blog! (And if not, then you need to get on that, pronto.) And you will be a fan of his guest post below. How can you NOT enjoy something that combines words like “solipsism” and “mundanity” along with laugh-out-loud lines like “So we are not under siege at all (though sadly, there are no libraries or librarians in Under Siege)”?! 🙂


Libraries at the Movies
Libraries at the Movies

by Colin Higgins

What can the cinematic portrayal of libraries tell us about the practice of cinema? The answer is surprisingly complex. Libraries provide filmic shortcuts. They are backgrounds that foreshadow moods and provide the architecture of mise-en-scène. They are places of discovery, sources of inspiration, stores of myth. We don’t expect anything dramatic to happen in a library, so they are perfect locations for unexpected drama. And they look great on screen.

This is why the embarrassing, reckless, and sudden turning point of Atonement must take place in a library. It is why crumbling libraries are such frequent features of post-apocalyptic worlds that the ruined library is now almost a cliché. New York movies use its great Public Library as a signature almost as often as they show the Brooklyn Bridge. Directors and screenwriters are drawn to librarians because the word has power – the power of expectation, long unrecognized until Jennifer’s blog revealed the currency, mundanity, and complexity of librarian archetypes.

Ever since I launched the Libraries at the Movies blog, I can’t seem to go to the cinema or watch a DVD without seeing a library somewhere. Which gives me great hope. I started writing on libraries in film as a reaction to the introspection, defensiveness, and mutually-reinforcing solipsism that seemed the common currency of most library bloggers on this (the east) side of the Atlantic. I wanted to say “Look, cinema is full of libraries and librarians, and movies are our most dominant cultural reference point!” Filmmakers use libraries in their films because libraries are meaningful to their audiences. So we are not under siege at all (though sadly, there are no libraries or librarians in Under Siege). We are cherished by Hollywood.

There are as many librarians in America as there are bakers. What’s the last film you watched with an important scene set in a bakery? If you’re reading this blog then thinking of films with libraries in them should be easy. If not, then visit my blog