Portrait of a real librarian adventurer

Portrait of a librarian, Bill Nikolai.

Portrait of a librarian, Bill Nikolai.

Last week, I promised a post about another adventurer librarian… this time, a real one! 😀

This week’s post shines the spotlight on Bill Nikolai, a librarian at Vancouver Community College (VCC) in Vancouver, British Columbia… who also happens to be an actor, a stand-in and a photo-double (those are two different jobs, as I have found out), as well as a paraglider, among other things. Wow!

A few years ago, Bill contacted me after he came across my post on Reel Librarians about our visit to the Vancouver and the (awesome) Vancouver Public Library, a post that included a behind-the-scenes look at a TV pilot that was shooting at the library one of the days we happened to visit. After a few emails back-and-forth, I asked Bill if we could do a librarian profile, and just three years later… here we are! And it’s sooooooo worth the wait, as Bill has had — and continues to have — an amazing life, both in AND outside the library.

By the way, here’s the quick backstory for the photo shown at right: This pic was a photo gag for an April Fool’s blog post about fitness in the VCC Library, and was also part of a “Men of IT” charity calendar at VCC.


From the film biz…


Prior to beginning his career as an academic librarian, Bill, in his own words, “dabbled in the film biz” after taking acting courses as an undergraduate.

MacGyver

He so much resembled actor Richard Dean Anderson that he ended up as his double for both MacGyver and Stargate SG-1. (Side note:  I *loved* MacGyver, y’all. LOVED. Watching MacGyver every week with my family remain some of my happiest memories of childhood. I grew up in the country backwoods of northeast Texas, with access to only one TV channel, ABC. Thank goodness MacGyver was on ABC!) So this bit of trivia about MacGyver had me geeking out and asking Bill questions like, “How glorious was Richard Dean Anderson’s feathered mullet up close?

And here are some awesome photos of some AWESOME mullets, courtesy of Bill himself:

Photodoubling Richard Dean Anderson for a low-flying helicopter scene in Season 4 of MacGyver, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Photodoubling Richard Dean Anderson for a low-flying helicopter scene in Season 4 of MacGyver, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Working as a stand-in for Richard Dean Anderson on MacGyver (complete with mullet!), photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Working as a stand-in for Richard Dean Anderson on MacGyver (complete with mullet!), photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Bill Nikolai and Richard Dean Anderson had a lot of fun on and off set, occasionally skiing together as well as playing a version of hockey on set with pucks made out of used camera tape, with doorways and table legs used as goals. Such an awesome visual — I’m sure there were a lot of double-takes (har har, pun intended) when they were together! ♥

Stargate

Bill also got an occasional line or two on Stargate SG-1 as the character Tech. Sergeant Vern Alberts, in addition to photo-doubling and standing in for Richard Dean Anderson.

In uniform as Airforce Tech Sergeant Vern Alberts on Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

In uniform as Airforce Tech Sergeant Vern Alberts on Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Photodoubling RDA in Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Photodoubling RDA in Stargate SG-1, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

More about the Stargate experience and his role as Vern Alberts:

“Stargate was an interesting gig in that mostly I worked as a stand-in, but I also often would do Richard’s off-camera lines for other actors if he wasn’t available on set for their singles (as opposed to two shots or other wide shots that included RDA). Sometimes the shot would catch a bit of “Richard’s” back (an “over-the-shoulder” shot); often that shoulder would be mine. I did a lot of the close-up hand doubling as well, both on MacGyver and Stargate. Lastly, occasionally, I would get a line or two as my own recurring character, an Airforce Tech Sergeant (my character finally became known as Vern Alberts), often with General Hammond (played by the late Don Davis) hovering over my shoulder in the Stargate control room. The name “Vern” was established in an episode called Window of Opportunity when Rick shouts “How’s the wife and kids, Vern?” as he is cycling past me in a hallway.  My real-life middle name is Vern (after my father, Werner); the “wife and kids line” was improvised, so just before delivering it, Rick asked me what I wanted my first name to be. Vern was a bit of an homage to my dad.”

Kibbitzing with Richard Dean Anderson, in 2006, underwater, on the set of Stargate Atlantis. Photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Kibbitzing with Richard Dean Anderson, in 2006, underwater, on the set of Stargate Atlantis. Photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai.

Here’s the backstory of the photo above, courtesy of Bill:

“This episode involved a spacecraft crashing into the ocean and Colonel O’Neill (by then, a general, I believe) is forced to try to regain control of the craft as it sinks and fills up with water. I was there to potentially double RDA in some of the scenes. ( I have Advanced SCUBA training and am comfortable in confined spaces.) In the end, Rick did all his own action in this episode. This was just prior to the start of library school at UBC and coincidentally, this episode was largely shot on campus in the Marine Engineering facility, where the production had access to a large tank that could accommodate the submerged spacecraft.”

And OF COURSE y’all know that I looked Bill up on IMDb.com, right? Check out Bill Nikolai’s IMDb.com profile for yourself.

First Target

What was Bill’s favorite day on a set? It was for a 2000 TV movie called First Target (also, check out the film’s trailer here, which also features him!), and as Bill described it, “[A day] in which I got to kiss a very bad girl, then got drugged, kicked and drowned by her.” The “very bad girl” was a beautiful assassin, played by Ona Grauer, and it serves as the one time he also got to do a stunt. The TV movie also starred Daryl Hannah.

You can check out the scene in the video below:

First Target,” uploaded by Eduardo Pérez, Standard YouTube license


… to the library biz…


Bill earned his Master’s in Library Science at the i-School at the University of British Columbia in 2008 at the age of 51 and has been working full-time ever since at the Vancouver Community College Library, where he co-led the library instruction program and teaches information literacy classes. (As Bill and I are both librarians at community colleges, we have shared via email our common experiences about our love of teaching; our love of serving a diversity of students; and the myriad responsibilities, and usually smaller library staffs, that are a common reality for many community college librarians.) Before earning his MLS, Bill also had an academic career as an ESL instructor at different universities in Japan.

Check out Bill’s profile page, brief bio, and subject specialties here on the VCC LibGuides.

Bil Nikolai's profile page on the VCC LibGuides

Bil Nikolai’s profile page on the VCC LibGuides

And Bill in another photo for the “Men of IT” charity calendar at VCC. (I feel 100% positive that charity calendar sold out! Go VCC!)

"Ask a Librarian" indeed! Photo for "Men of IT" charity calendar for VCC, courtesy of Bill Nikolai

“Ask a Librarian” indeed! Photo for “Men of IT” charity calendar for VCC, courtesy of Bill Nikolai

That photo above TOTALLY FITS the description in the last lines of Bill’s personal bio on IMDB.com, right?!:

Bill subsequently returned to school and completed a second Master’s Degree. He now works as a mild-mannered college librarian in Vancouver.

Behold the “mild-mannered” librarian below, in a fun photo collage of him in 2006, before and after scary-looking monster makeup on the set of the failed TV pilot A.M.P.E.D. Of course, my favorite part is the photobombing of the classic library science textbook, Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. Bill had just started his library science program at UBC, and he brought along study material for the long hours spent in the makeup chair.

Fun fact:  I also had the SAME textbook in library school for my reference services course in library school!

Collage of two shots Bill Nikolai put together, taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D.

Collage of two shots Bill Nikolai put together, taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D.

Also, I think I might just have my next Halloween costume idea… 😀

With retirement from the library on the horizon, Bill has started to get back into the acting game, as he is still a member of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), which is Canada’s version of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) in the United States. He recently had a non-speaking acting role on the TV series Supernatural (April 2017, Season 12, Episode 18, “The Memory Remains“). His character was named “Black Bill,” and his role was to “slit someone’s throat in a flashback sequence … very un-librarian-like!” 😀

Bill was also featured this month on the cover of a local senior’s magazine, Inspired Senior Living:

Bill Nikolai's cover and interview in Inspired Senior Living magazine, June 2017

Bill Nikolai’s cover and interview in Inspired Senior Living magazine, June 2017. Click screenshot to browse through the issue online.

The feature interview, entitled “Bill Nikolai: Flybrarian,” is a great read, with more pics of Bill and his wife, Linda. I really loved this quote in particular, which is toward the end of the article:

Quote from Bill Nikolai's feature interview in the June 2017 issue of 'Inspired Senior Living' magazine

Quote from Bill Nikolai’s feature interview in the June 2017 issue of ‘Inspired Senior Living’ magazine


… and up to the skies


Bill Nikolai, librarian and paraglider, showcases how he likes to combine his “thinking person’s pursuits” — literally! This was another gag shot for another charity calendar. In the photo below, Bill is “reading” Inside the Sky: A Meditation on Flight, by William Langewiesche.

Paragliding librarian, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Paragliding librarian, photo courtesy of Bill Nikolai

And last but not least, below are a couple of videos Bill has shared about his “paragliding obsession” mentioned in the article linked above.

The “Paragrinding” video below was shot in September 2013 and screened at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, as well as at the Legacy Film Festival on Aging in San Francisco. (Bill shot all the GoPro footage.)

ParaGrinding” by Bill Nikolai, via Vimeo

And here’s a link to a very recent paragliding video (3 minutes) that Bill also shot:

Grouse Spring” by Bill Nikolai, Standard YouTube license

Like I said, Bill’s story was worth the wait, right?! 😀


Thank you so much, Bill, for getting back in touch with me and your willingness to share so much of your fascinating personal and professional story and behind-the-scenes photos. I am so honored to feature you here on Reel Librarians. You go into the Reel Librarians hall of fame, for sure, as you have an insider’s view in both the library and cinematic worlds.

By the way, when I first asked Bill about doing a “guest post” or profile for Reel Librarians, his charming and modest response was that he wasn’t sure his story would be “much of great interest to the librarians out there.”

Well, I’m a fellow librarian, and I find Bill’s story extremely interesting — AND inspiring!

Anyone else feel inspired around here? Please leave a comment and share!

A funny thing happened on the way to the Jedi library…

Last week, I awoke on Thursday, May 4th, to a series of pingbacks and increased traffic to my Reel Librarians blog post about the Jedi librarian, Jocasta Nu, and her epic fail of a reference interview in Star Wars, Episode II:  Attack of the Clones (2002).

Reel Librarians: Star Wars Library Scene

Jocasta Nu, the Jedi librarian, from Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

“It’s May the Fourth,” I thought.”OF COURSE I’m getting traffic to my Jedi librarian post!” But then I realized that the pingbacks were all pointing toward ONE specific article, namely Ben Guarino’s piece entitled “Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars,” published in The Washington Post on May 4, 2017. The pingbacks started at 3:19 a.m. PST, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Reel Librarians | Pingbacks on my Jedi librarian post

Pingbacks on my Jedi librarian post

The “Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars” piece is quite long, starting out with a dig at the professions in the Star Wars universe, including no journalists and a sole librarian:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of Washington Post article

Intro paragraph to Washington Post article

And this paragraph about in the middle of the Guarino’s piece is the one that includes a link to my Jedi librarian post:

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of Washington Post article

Screenshot of Washington Post article, with link to Jedi librarian post

When I told my husband — a lifelong Star Wars fan — the news, his face lit up. This is how he reacted on Facebook:

Reel Librarians | My husband's reaction on Facebook to the Washington Post article link

My husband’s reaction on Facebook to the Washington Post article link

Although I originally wrote the “Jedi librarian” post in spring of 2013, it continues to be a fan favorite, earning a spot in the list of most popular posts in both 2015 and 2016. I think with the help of The Washington Post, the “Jedi librarian” post is headed toward making the list again in 2017… 😀

 

The Quotable Librarian | Inspirational quotes from famous librarians

I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like I need some inspiration around here. I haven’t done a “Quotable Librarian” post in quite awhile — the last one was over two years ago, in February 2015! — so I thought it high time for another post in the series.

I thought about what kind of theme would be appropriate, and inspirational, this time around. And that’s when I came to seeking out inspirational quotes about libraries and librarians from real-life librarians themselves, including writers who were librarians.

Let the inspiration commence!


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)


“I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.”

~ “Poem of the Gifts” [“Poema de los Dones”], Dreamtigers, 1960

"Jorge Luís Borges 1951" by Grete Stern (1904-1999) is in the Public Domain

“Jorge Luís Borges 1951” by Grete Stern (1904-1999) is in the Public Domain

This is arguably the most famous of all library-related quotes, from the writer and librarian Jorge Luis Borges. He rose to be the Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955, but was forced to resign (twice, in 1946 and in 1973) due to political clashes with Juan Perón. But all the while, he was writing.

“I cannot think it unlikely that there is such a total book on some shelf in the universe. I pray to the unknown gods that some man — even a single man, tens of centuries ago — has perused and read this book. If the honor and wisdom and joy of such a reading are not to be my own, then let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.”

“Deutsches Requiem,” Emece edition, 1974


Carla Hayden (1952- )


“Librarians were called during that time [during the Patriot Act] feisty fighters for freedom, and we were very proud of that label.”

~ interview with Jeffrey Brown, PBS, 2016

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress (2016- )

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress (2016- )

Carla Hayden is our current and 14th Librarian of Congress, becoming the first woman and the first African American to lead our national library. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees in Library Science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School, and she worked as a children’s and public librarian.


Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)


“To be a librarian, particularly a librarian for young adults, is to be a nourisher, to share stories, offer books full of new ideas. We live in a world which has changed radically in the last half century, and story helps us to understand and live creatively with change.”

~ Acceptance Speech for the Margaret Edwards Award, 1998

Madeleine L’Engle was a longtime librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. She won the Newbery Award in 1963 for the young adult classic novel, A Wrinkle in Time.

“”A Wrinkle in Time” writer Madeleine L’Engle shows off her writing spot” uploaded by gconversations, Standard YouTube License.


Beverly Cleary


“I haven’t been very enthusiastic about the commercialization of children’s literature. Kids should borrow books from the library and not necessarily be buying them.”

~2006 interview

“My mother always kept library books in the house, and one rainy Sunday afternoon — this was before television, and we didn’t even have a radio — I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered I was reading and enjoying what I read.”

~2011 interview

Beverly Cleary was raised in Oregon and became a librarian, first working as a children’s librarian and then at a medical hospital library during World War II. She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. Cleary has also written two entertaining autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995).

"Beverly Cleary in 1971" via State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives is in the Public Domain

“Beverly Cleary in 1971” via State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives is in the Public Domain


Avi (1937- )


“For some 25 years, I worked as a librarian… My life has always been with, around, and for books.”

~ Scholastic.com article

Avi (pen name of Edward Irving Wortis) is a writer of children’s and YA books, winning the Newbery Award in 2003 for Crispin. He was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up, and I loved his two Newbery Honor books, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing But the Truth (1992). He was a librarian at the New York Public Library and at Trenton State College.

“Meet the Author: Avi” by adlit, Standard YouTube License.


Laura Bush (1946- )


“I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.”

“Every child in American should have access to a well-stocked school library. … An investment in libraries is an investment in our children’s future.”

~ As quoted in Biography Today : Profiles of People of Interest to Young Readers, 2003

Laura Bush was the First Lady of the United States from 2001-2009, and she worked as a school librarian in Texas. As First Lady, she helped establish the semi-annual National Book Festival.

"Norbert Claussen and Laura Bush," 2007, by Shealah Craighead, White House photographer, is in the Public Domain

“Norbert Claussen and Laura Bush,” 2007, by Shealah Craighead, White House photographer, is in the Public Domain


Nancy Pearl (1945- )


“The role of a librarian is to make sense of the world of information. If that’s not a qualification for superhero-dom, what is?”

~ as quoted in Seattle Times, 10 July 2003

Nancy Pearl is one of the most famous librarians of the modern age, well-known for her Book Lust series and philosophy that it’s okay to not finish reading a book if you don’t like it after 50 pages. She also was the model for the “shushing librarian” action figure doll!

“Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee” by Archie McPhee, Standard YouTube License.


Any favorite quotes of yours here? Or would you like to add a quote to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

And if you’re interested in reading more about famous real-life librarians, then check out:

 

Tweets about Reel Librarians

After a couple of intense and in-depth film analyses these last few weeks, I thought it might be nice to try something a little lighter.

I admit that I’m not personally on Twitter — and I don’t have a Twitter account for my site Reel Librarians, either — but every so often, it’s fun to explore on Twitter if anyone’s tweeted about Reel Librarians. And lo and behold, they have! 😀

Here are some of the tweet themes I’ve noticed over the years, as well as some (not all) of my favorite tweets about the Reel Librarians site in general or about specific posts:


Such a site exists!


Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot


Real librarians love watching reel librarians


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Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

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Twitter snapshot


Loving research


Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot


Loving librarians in horror films


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Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

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Twitter snapshot


Loving The Librarians TV show


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Loving librarian style


Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot


VIP reader and tweeter


Emily, a librarian and bee keeper, is a longtime reader of Reel Librarians, and comments frequently on posts. I love that she has also tweeted often about the site — thanks so much, Emily! 😀 😀 😀

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot

Twitter snapshot


#HarryPotterFanGirl

And last but not least, what might just be my personal favorite tweet about Reel Librarians, directly from actress Sally Mortemore, who played librarian Madam Pince in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). She personally responded to the post I wrote about Madame Pince, comparing the librarian character in the books with her onscreen portrayal.

Twitter snapshot


Hope you enjoyed the Reel Librarian-themed tweets! I’ll be back next week with more reel librarian fun 😀

Reader poll write-up: Teenage Mother

Teenage Mother (1967) won the recent reader poll, squeaking past at the last minute due to my husband’s shameless promotion. He gets the credit blame for this post, as he wanted to watch ME watching this film, just for my reactions. I had some. 😉

My DVD copy of this film is from Something Weird Video in Seattle, with a “special edition” DVD. Something Weird promotes itself as “the very best in exploitation cinema,” and that rings true for Teenage Mother. The back of the DVD case has Handsome Harry Archer’s complete review of Teenage Mother, which opens with stating it as a “textbook example of classic old-school exploitation.” The film was directed by Jerry Gross, who would later direct the cult classic I Spit on Your Grave.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Reel Librarians | DVD case for 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

DVD case for ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

The basics

Here’s the basic plot, such as it is:  A new health teacher is hired to teach sex education in a high school and gets blamed when a student turns up pregnant. Except the student isn’t actually pregnant. She just told her boyfriend that so that he wouldn’t leave her and go off to medical school. Winners, all. And there’s footage of a live birth at the end. And an extended musical interlude in the middle. Cue the sweet anticipation!

As my husband said:

When you have a 70-minute film and only 40 minutes worth of plot, you HAVE to fill it with musical interludes and a live birth at the end!

To be clear, this movie is NOT good. It is bad. I knew it would be bad. But the question in my mind was this:  Was it SO bad that it would turn out to be awesomely bad? Unfortunately, NO. But as my husband quipped:

It’s the kind of bad that almost feels like a cultural moment.

The film starts off with footage of a stock-car race. Because WHY NOT.

Reel Librarians | Title screen from 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

Title screen from ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

Introducing the books and the school librarian

Fifteen minutes into the film, the coach gets to introduce the new health teacher, Miss Erika Petersen (Julie Ange), who dives straight into the required and supplemental texts for the new “anatomical biology” course.

Fun fact:  This film was the film debut of Fred Willard, who plays the coach!

Reel Librarians | Miss Petersen introduces the two textbooks for the new sex education class, in 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

Miss Petersen introduces the two textbooks for the new sex education class, in ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

Miss Petersen:  Two texts are required reading for this course. The first, Moreline’s (?) Basics in Human Anatomy is the best for our line of work. In fact, most colleges use it today. This will be supplemented by Caracola’s (?) Adult Sexual Behavior. Both of these books have been ordered, and we should have them for you early next week.

Miss Petersen:  If any of you would like to do additional reading on this subject, I strongly recommend Saucer’s (?) Male and Female. I’m sure your school library has a copy available.

Tony [a student]:  I’ve already checked the library, and Miss Fowler, the librarian, told me it wasn’t available.

Miss Petersen:  That’s very interesting, Tony. I didn’t know you knew of this book.

Tony:  Well, I’d like to become a doctor. In fact, our family physician Dr. Wilson told me to read this book last year.

Miss Petersen:  And Miss Fowler didn’t know of the book? Well, it’s fairly recent. Perhaps she didn’t notice it in the book publisher’s catalog.

Tony:  She knew of it. She said it was indecent for our library.

[classroom erupts in laughter]

Miss Petersen:  Nonsense. At least 90% of all colleges and universities have this book in their libraries, and as many as 50% of all high schools. I’ll discuss this matter personally with Miss Fowler.

The bell rings, ending this scene after a couple of minutes.

Editor’s note: There were no captions available, and the actress’s “European” accent (dubbed?) makes it hard to understand the authors’ names she was saying, which explains why I put in question marks beside names in the quotations above. I couldn’t find any record of the first two books she mentions in this scene. Also, in the scene above and in the later scene with the school librarian, Miss Petersen clearly states the supplementary book, Male and Female, is by an author whose last name sounds like “Saucer” and that it has been newly published. I searched WorldCat — ’cause y’all know I would, right?! — but could not find any book published by that title in the late ’60s by an author with a similar last name. There was, however, a well-known text in this field, Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World, written and published in 1949 by Margaret Mead. And interestingly, there was another edition of this book published by Penguin in 1967, the same year of this film. So why use the same title but change the author? Just another question among many when it comes to this movie!

School library scene

At almost half an hour into the film, we get the library scene. It’s a very short scene, lasting a minute or less. But it is memorable. I have also nicknamed the school librarian “Fowler the Scowler,” as you shall soon see why.

Reel Librarians | School library and librarian in 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

School library and librarian in ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

The scene begins with a wide shot of the school library — the film was filmed at East Rockaway High School in Long Island, so I assume this was also their school library — and the school librarian (an uncredited role) is checking in or filing cards in card catalog drawers. The school library is (surprisingly?) filled with lots of students and lots of books.

Miss Petersen walks in, and they make nice for about 5 seconds.

Reel Librarians | The school librarian and the new health teacher meet in 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

The school librarian and the new health teacher meet in ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

Miss Petersen:  Good morning, Miss Fowler.

Miss Fowler:  Good morning, Miss Petersen. Can I be of some assistance?

Miss Petersen:  Yes, one of my students, maybe you know him, Tony Michaels. He told me he was unable to find Saucer’s Male and Female on file here. You do have the book, don’t you?

Miss Fowler:  Most certainly not.

Miss Petersen:  Why not, Miss Fowler? It’s one of the most standard texts on anatomical hygiene.

Miss Fowler:  It’s a filthy book.

This outburst and Miss Fowler’s high-pitched exclamation catch the attention of nearby students! Miss Fowler clears her throat.

Reel Librarians | A startled student in the school library in 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

A startled student in the school library in ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

Miss Petersen:  Filthy?

Miss Fowler [in a lower voice]:  Yes, filthy! I wouldn’t allow one of our students to even leaf through it. The illustrations are positively vulgar.

Miss Petersen:  They only show the beauty of the human body.

Miss Fowler:  Teenage children are not meant to see such things.

Miss Petersen:  That’s just the point. These youngsters are not children any longer. Their bodies are the bodies of young adults, with all the needs and desires of young adults.

Miss Fowler:  I wouldn’t know about that. [turns her head and looks down, rapidly blinking her eyelids]

Reel Librarians | Librarian closeup from 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

Miss Petersen:  Apparently not. These young people have the right to know about the facts of life. which you say they cannot read. This is a free country, Miss Fowler.

Miss Fowler:  That book has never appeared in this library and never will, as long as I’m here.

Miss Petersen:  Let’s hope that’s not too long.

“Fowler the Scowler” then adjusts her glasses and goes back to filing her cards, an even more pinched look on her face. She ends as she begins the scene, as an uptight, sexually repressed librarian whose mind is closed to new ideas. An uplifting cinematic message for all librarians. 😦

Reel Librarians | The school librarian goes back to filing cards in 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

The school librarian goes back to filing cards in ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

I put together a collage of facial expressions to illustrate the reason for my “Fowler the Scowler” nickname of this school librarian:

Reel Librarians | Collage of 'Fowler the Scowler' from 'Teenage Mother' (1967)

Collage of ‘Fowler the Scowler’ from ‘Teenage Mother’ (1967)

Town meeting and attempted censorship

The rest of the film delves into the Tony’s relationship with his girlfriend, Arlene Taylor (played by a real-life Arlene, Arlene Farber), the one who lies about being pregnant in order to trap her boyfriend. She attempts to run away, and her friend confesses the (fake) secret pregnancy to Arlene’s dad, who somehow has the clout to call an immediate “town meeting” at the high school in order to get Miss Petersen fired.

Here’s one memorable line from the town meeting scene, in which the principal defends his decision to hire Miss Petersen:

If your daughter became pregnant, it wasn’t because of anything she read in a book.

Oddly, “Fowler the Scowler” is NOT at that meeting, which I found disappointing. A missed opportunity! In my head, it would have been an awesome ending to have Miss Fowler also join the attempt to get Miss Petersen fired — and then the reverse happens! It would close the loop on Miss Petersen’s final words in the library scene, that she hopes it’s “not too long” before Miss Fowler is gone.

And that’s what this film does:  It makes a real-life librarian root AGAINST a reel librarian. 

In the excellent and thorough reference book on reel librarians, The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999, which I reviewed here in this post, the Tevises sum up the censorship message of the film and the ultimate contrast and conflicting messages of the school principal and the school librarian:

Teenage Mother is one of the few films that confronts the topic of sex education materials in secondary schools. Although the principal of the school is progressive, the librarian scorns the value of sex education. Without the support of the librarian, whose responsibility includes obtaining the appropriate learning materials to support instruction and student research, the program’s success is problematical. The film depicts the librarian as the high school’s moral watchdog who uses her power to censor library materials. (p. 122)

Spinster Librarian role

So what role does Miss Fowler play in this film? I would say most definitely the Spinster Librarian character type, with her uptight manner and closed-minded outlook on collection development. The midpoint of her conversation with Miss Petersen — the self-confession of “I wouldn’t know about that” in response to the health teacher’s remark about the body’s “needs and desires” — clinches the deal.

Also, all of the stereotypical physical traits are there:  an older white woman, hair pulled back in a bun, glasses on a lanyard, high-necked blouse, etc. Even though her time onscreen is short, “Fowler the Scowler” is memorable, landing her librarian role and film in the Class III category.

The 30 seconds of “Fowler the Scowler” in Teenage Mother almost rival the 30 seconds of Spinster Librarian infamy in the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Final review and trailer

Here’s an excerpt from Ian Jane’s DVD Talk review of the film:

Preaching to its audience from a fairly lofty perch, the picture purports to deliver a social message about why kids should abstain or at the very least play it safe, but it’s been made so cheaply and marketed with such a sleazy, hyper-sexualized marketing campaign (be sure to watch the trailer which completely misrepresents the film in every way possible) that all of that gets thrown aside. Why? Because it’s obvious that all of this build up and moralizing was simply an excuse to bust out some really graphic footage of a baby popping its way out of some gooey female genitalia.

And finally, I’ve linked to that spectacularly misleading trailer below. I usually like to begin a film analysis post with a trailer, but this trailer needs to come AFTER the film, not before. Also, this trailer IS graphic — as it warns, it includes footage of the live-birth scene from the end of Teenage Mother.

Teenage Mother (1967) Trailer,” uploaded on April 18, 2016, by Vulture Graffix, is licensed under a CC BY license.