Thanking librarians in book acknowledgments

Please allow me to go off on yet another tangent… today’s post was inspired by the book I’m currently reading (The Mystery of Agatha Christie by Gwen Robyns, a biography published in 1978, just two years after Christie’s death). As I started the book, I glanced over the Acknowledgments page, and I happened to notice that the author actually thanked librarians — not just libraries, but the librarians themselves!

As you can see in the pic below, Robyns thanked:  Mr. John Pike of the Torquay Public Library, Mr. J. M. Evelyn (Michael Underwood), Mrs. Imogen Woollard, Miss Grace Rich of the City of Westminster Public Library, Miss Jennifer Emerton of the Wallingford County Branch Library, and Dr. Michael Rhodes of the Westfield College, University of London.

Reel Librarians | Librarian acknowledgments in 'The Mystery of Agatha Christie' by Gwen Robyns

And that got me thinking… how often are librarians thanked in book acknowledgments? It turns out that I’m not alone in this question!

In 2011, Margaret Heilbrun, a former Senior Editor for the Library Journal Book Review, wrote about “Best Acknowledgments of 2011,” looking through acknowledgments of Library Journal‘s Best Books of 2011.

Librarians‚ like all mortals‚ love to be on the receiving end of gratitude. When the occasional library, archives, or special collections researcher publishes the results of all that research and expresses thanks to the library in the book’s acknowledgments, and includes the names of the staff who helped, well, the staff in question are thrilled. Natch.

You know what? It doesn’t happen often.

Heilbrun goes on to highlight Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, in which Foreman “personally names and thanks over 200 library, archives, and special collections staff members from around the world who helped her and her assistants with access to materials over the course of several years. Her acknowledgments are not only a tribute to all the women and men who enabled her work, but a tribute to her for the stamina and focus to keep track of them all systematically and name them with little fuss or muss.”

Heilbrun went on to bestow the “Amanda Foreman Award” twice more, in “Best Acknowledgments of 2012” and “Best Acknowledgments of 2013.” And Foreman herself, a Man Booker Prize Award winner, mentioned her namesake award with pride in the introductory paragraph of her 2013 “Prize-Writing” essay in The New York Times.

This post, “The Story Behind the Story: An Appreciation of Authors’ Acknowledgments,” runs through the history and complexities behind acknowledgments, noting that “There was a time when acknowledgements were brief and rare.” (Kind of like film credits, eh?, which seem to be getting longer and longer nowadays. People want credit!) Although that post doesn’t mention the practice of thanking librarians or other researchers, some commenters do!

Comment about thanking librarians in acknowledgments

Comment about thanking librarians in acknowledgments

This informative post, “Think Before You Thank: Writers & Acknowledgments,” by Kate Messner urges writers to double-check beforehand with those they want to personally acknowledge in print, to make sure they aren’t compromising those individuals. She specifically mentions librarians as examples:

A teacher or librarian who enjoys an author’s work might be delighted to see his or her name in the back of a book.  But what if that reader wants to be on a state or national awards committee and the author’s book shows up in the pile of titles to be discussed?  Suddenly, having that public thank you in the book is awkward at best and at worst, could create pressure for the person to resign from a great opportunity.

That is admittedly something I had never thought about before, but it does make sense to double-check beforehand.

But not everyone is so appreciative of librarians or libraries in their acknowledgments! This Mental Floss article highlights “7 Book Dedications that Basically Say ‘Screw You’,” including Alfie Kohn’s diss to Harvard University Libraries in his 1986 work, No Contest: The Case Against Competition.

And this satirical piece poking fun at the excesses of acknowledgments, “Acknowledgments Pages Say More Than Thanks,” has a section lampooning authors for thanking “Your Research Crew” but DOESN’T EVEN INCLUDE LIBRARIANS. Patrolmen, detectives, lawyers, forensic anthropologists, NASCAR drivers, river guides, Civil War reenactors, and circus clowns are mentioned in this section, but NOT LIBRARIANS. I know it’s satire, but ?!#!@?! Librarians ARE the Original Research Crew!

So to my fellow Research Crew members, are you intrigued enough now to start poring over the Acknowledgments pages of the books you’re reading? Have you always sought out mentions of librarians in Acknowledgments pages? Have you ever been personally thanked in any book Acknowledgments? If so, please share!

And may librarians continue to be thanked, on or off the Acknowledgments page. Even a simple smile and/or a “Thank You” in person/phone/email/chat will make our day. 😀


Reviewing ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

In last week’s post, I mentioned and quoted from a book I have in my personal library, The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999, written by Ray Tevis and Brenda Tevis and published by McFarland in 2005. Although I have quoted from this book in several previous posts, and the book is included on my Resources page, I realized that I had not yet devoted an entire post to this book!

Reel Librarians | Front cover of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Front cover of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

My husband picked up this book for me at a Popular Culture Association Conference years ago, knowing that I would find it useful. And I have! In prior posts, I have described this Tevis book as “invaluable” and “well-researched” and “a great source for information on reel librarians.” The authors also refer to librarians in cinema as “reel librarians,” as evidenced in their table of contents.

Reel Librarians | Table of contents of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Table of contents of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

The Tevises, who are themselves librarians, organize the book by time period and highlight patterns throughout film history in regards to librarian portrayals onscreen. (Librarians have been in film since the silent screen days, with one of the first reel librarian film sightings in 1917, with A Wife on Trial.) The Tevises identify an early turning point for reel librarians — for better or for worse — with the 1923 film, Only 38; they continue to use that phrase, “only 38,” throughout the rest of the book. As they highlight:

Throughout the twentieth century, the majority of reel librarians, especially those in supporting roles, will be afflicted with this “only 38” characteristic. These reel librarians are portrayed as middle-aged or older, a stigmatization of librarians that begins the first time individuals, when as children, enter a library and encounter an adult librarian, an “only 38” person. (p. 13)

Reel Librarians | Page in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Section in book about the film ‘Only 38’

In a 2012 post entitled “The Liberated Librarian (ladies, you’re up),” I connect the “only 38” stereotype with my own “Liberated Librarian” character type.

The Tevises also include a filmography of films included in the book and note common characteristics of reel librarians in those films, such as “B” for “Bun” and “E” for “Eyeglasses.”

Reel Librarians | Filmography in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Filmography of movies that were included in the book

These details then are collected in tables in the Afterword, with percentages of reel librarians who wear eyeglasses, etc. I highlighted these tables in my “Visual characteristics of reel librarians” post, comparing characteristics of “reel” versus “real” librarians. Take a look at that past post — the comparisons might surprise you!

There is also a filmography of films NOT included in the film, along with the reasons why. For example, they did not choose to include science fiction/fantasy films, TV movies, short films, or prison films, among others. (I do choose to include these kinds of films in my own Master List and other related lists on this site.)

Reel Librarians | Filmography in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Filmography of movies not included in the book

On the back cover, the write-up highlights a silent 1921 film that “set the precedent for two female librarian characters: a dowdy spinster wears glasses and a bun hairstyle, and an attractive woman is overworked and underpaid.” The (unnamed) film referred to on the back cover is 1921’s The Lost Romance.

Reel Librarians | Back cover of 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Back cover of ‘The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999’

Reel Librarians | Page in 'The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999'

Section in book about the film ‘The Lost Romance’

So if you are interested in this research topic, then I would recommend checking out a copy of this book, as it is one of the most comprehensive collections and analyses of reel librarians I have come across in printed form. It is available, new or used, on, and according to WorldCat, it’s available in multiple formats in almost 400 libraries worldwide, if you’d like to request it from your local library via InterLibrary Loan (ILL).

I do refer to The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999 as a “reference book,” as it is not the kind of escapist book you read in bed the end of a long day. It doesn’t serve that purpose — not even for me! It has been referred to in one external review as “slow-moving” (libref); I would describe the pace as methodical, as the authors work through 80+ years of reel librarian portrayals and “employ a content analysis methodology to examine reel librarians” (Riggins).

I am grateful that Ray and Brenda Tevis spent years researching this topic — kindred spirits, I am sure! — and were able to capture that research in this book, which I will continue to find useful in my own exploration of reel librarian portrayals.

Works Cited:

Libref. “Librarians in Cinema.” Wells Reference Blog, Indiana University Libraries. 22 October 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.

Riggins, Adina L. “Review of the book ‘The image of librarians in cinema, 1917-1999.” NC Docks, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro. 2009. Web. 14 June 2016.

Tevis, Ray and Brenda Tevis. The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005.

When a librarian reads ‘Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians’…

So what happens when a real librarian (yep, referring to myself) reads the book Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians? The real librarian (yep, still me)… laughs and enjoys the equal-opportunity humor, of course!

(I suppose that means I’m not an evil librarian myself? Or am I just double-bluffing… 😉 )

Reel Librarians  |  Title page of 'The Complete Alcatraz'

I had read a few reviews of Brandon Sanderson’s book when it first came out in 2007 — including a rave review and recommendation on NPR by Nancy Pearl, a legendary librarian in her own right (she of the Book Lust fame and model for the shushing librarian “action figure,” as seen here). Sanderson has since penned three additional titles in the series.

The first book, with its irresistible title, had been on the fringes of my radar, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Until recently, that is, when a work colleague at our library loaned me her copy of The Complete Alcatraz, an omnibus of the four titles (thus far) in the Alcatraz series. She thought I’d get a kick out of it — and she was right!

Reel Librarians  |  Book cover of 'The Complete Alcatraz'

The first title in the series, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, definitely starts out with a bang, with this opening line:

Reel Librarians  |  First page of 'Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians'

Turns out, this opening sentence was what inspired Sanderson to write the whole book! As he reveals on his personal website:

The book began, essentially, as a free-write based on what became the first line: “So, there I was, tied to an altar made from out-dated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.”

So what’s the book all about? Alcatraz Smedry has grown up in Libraria — the United States, Canada, and England, countries controlled by librarians — often referred to as the Hushlands. (Ha!) On his 13th birthday, Alcatraz receives a mysterious package full of sand… and is quickly thrust into an adventure involving oculator lenses, self-driving cars, talking dinosaurs who also love reading, and of course, evil librarians.

It’s a fun, quick tale, overflowing with magic and adventure and snarky humor. The first-person narrator style took me some getting use to, and I can imagine future tales getting a bit formulaic in that Lemony Snicket kind of way. But overall, I quite enjoyed the book, and I liked the twist on so-called “flaws” turning out to be heroic talents (the power to “break things” is a powerful talent, for example, as is the talent for arriving late to things as well as the talent for tripping).

Side note:  I myself am a dropper — if only dropping things were a talent to be admired… 😉

Reel Librarians  |  Title page from 'The Complete Alcatraz'

Here are some choice bon mots about those evil librarians and their dastardly deeds:

He was accompanied by a large group of Librarians — not the skinny, robe-wearing kind but the bulky, overmuscled kind in the bow ties and sunglasses, as well as a couple of sword-wielding women wearing skirts, their hair in buns.

Bastille shuddered. “Papercuts,” she said. “The worst form of torture.”

I looked up at the dungeon guard, who had walked over to watch me. He wore the clothing one might have expected of a Librarian — an unfashionable knit vest pulled tight over a buttoned pink shirt, matched by a slightly darker pink bow tie. His glasses even had a bit of tape on them.

–“Somewhere in this room, the Master Librarians have placed one misfiled volume. The apprentices have to find it.”
–I eyed the nearly endless rows of tightly packed bookshelves. “That could take years!” I whispered.
–Sing nodded. “Some go insane from the pressure. They’re usually the ones who get promoted first.”

— “Why do the Librarians work so hard to keep everything quiet?” I asked. “Why go to all that trouble? What’s the point?”
— “Do you have to have a point if you’re an evil sect of Librarians?”

Of course, the Librarians in this story are “evil” because they are trying to control information. And while this story is firmly tongue-in-cheek (a cheek that stings from a strategically placed papercut, no doubt), there is something underlying that image of librarians “hoarding” or “controlling” information, resources, access, etc.

If you dare, I’ve written about that tension that exists between order and chaos within a librarian’s world in my “Between perfect order and perfect chaos” post, and I’ve also explored the “Librarian as nightmare” image. I’ve even delved into darker territory in my “Killer librarians” post… now there are some truly evil librarian portrayals!

Last, but not least, a shout-out of thanks goes to my colleague for lending me her copy of this fun series. I couldn’t resist sharing it on this blog — a side sojourn worthy of interest, surely, for the Reel Librarian reader.

Has anyone else read this series? If not, are you interested in reading about Alcatraz and his adventures fighting the Evil Librarians? What’s your own hidden “talent”? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Countdown deals for E.J. Runyon’s fiction books

I just heard word from author E. J. Runyon that her fiction books are on sale today and tomorrow via Amazon’s Kindle countdown deals.

E. J. Runyon meme

I reviewed Runyon’s book, A House of Light & Stone, earlier this year, and that review expanded into an author Q&A. She initially piqued my interest when she revealed that a librarian had a prominent role in the book. 🙂

So if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, now’s your chance to support an author and score yourself a deal on her books!

Good news + updates on friends’ projects

Cover of Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21Good news! My compatriot Colin Higgins — a librarian at Cambridge and blogger of Libraries at the Movies — has written a cataloging book, Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21, newly published by ALA Editions. Last year, Colin had asked me to provide editing feedback on the first half of his manuscript, and I was glad to do so. Even more so because he wrote a book about cataloging, and I’m no cataloger. (But I think that’s exactly why he asked for my feedback — if I could understand it, surely a cataloger would! 😉 )

So in all its newly published glory, here is Cataloging and Managing Film & Video Collections: A Guide to using RDA and MARC21 by my blogger friend and reel librarian compatriot Colin Higgins. You can view more info and pricing info here at the ALA Store.

Congratulations, Colin!

And when I went to view the press release about Colin’s new book, lo and behold did I spy a familiar name listed as the book’s book’s contact and marketing coordinator:  Rob Christopher! The same Rob Christopher as the author of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, which I reviewed last year? The same Rob Christopher whose Kickstarter campaign to finish “Pause of the Clock,” a film he shot 20 years ago, I featured a couple of weeks ago on this blog? It is a small world after all! And I am pleased to let everyone know that Rob’s Kickstarter campaign goal was successfully funded (as a contributor, I’ve been getting updates about the project’s progress).

Congratulations, Rob!

It’s a good day for real librarians and libraries! 🙂