RIP to a reel librarian

Last week, a friend and librarian colleague let me know that Peggy Platt, the comedian who played a librarian in Harry and the Hendersons, had recently passed away. My friend also let me know that the filming location for the library in that film was the West Seattle branch of the Seattle Public Library system. But update, there is a discussion going on right now in the “Librarians in the Northwest” Facebook group with convincing evidence that it’s actually the Green Lake branch — librarian crowd-sourcing for the win! (Side note: I really appreciate how many friends and family members alert me to reel librarian movies and updates!)

I had previously written a post analyzing that library scene in Harry and the Hendersons, and I knew that the film had been made in the Pacific Northwest — but I hadn’t realized that the person who played the reel librarian was a local comedian.

I found Peggy Platt’s obituary on the Seattle Times website, and learned that she passed away last Monday at the age of 58 (so young!). There is also a memorial service planned at a local theatre this coming Monday, April 16; more details are in the article. I also learned that Peggy was a leader in Seattle’s LGBTQ community, and that she loved using this quote from a past Seattle Times profile:

“Let’s keep this simple: Peggy Platt is a feminist. Peggy Platt is funny. Peggy Platt thinks feminist issues can be funny.”

Her Seattle Times obituary also highlighted Peggy’s “national marquee moment” in Harry and the Hendersons, describing her role as “a deadpan librarian.” They even included a clip of her short but memorable turn as a reel librarian:

RIP to a reel librarian and real-life inspiration.

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Ask the (public) librarians

Last week, I was browsing PBS shows online, and I came across the “Ask The…” public television series, including one recent episode from January 2018 entitled “Ask the Librarian.” Reader, I was intrigued.

Ask the experts

Turns out, “Ask The…” is a public access show produced by WGVU, a service of Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Here’s the write-up from the WGVU site for the show:

“This informative program features a variety of topics, from medicine to sports, from animals to entertainment. Each week, host Shelley Irwin invites a group of experts into the studio to discuss new developments in their fields and to answer your questions. Viewers are encouraged to call in and ask questions on air, or questions and comments can be e-mailed to the show’s producer before the show.”

“Ask the Librarian” episode

And here’s the “Ask the Librarian” episode in question (click the image to view the video in a new window):

Screenshot of "Ask the Librarian" TV episode

Screenshot of “Ask the Librarian” TV episode. Click the image to watch the full episode.

The group of experts for this episode consisted of three librarians from public library systems in Michigan, including an older female librarian who works with books for the blind and physically handicapped; a younger male librarian who works in a “library lab” and STEM programming; and an female library director.

So the episode is not so much about “Ask the librarian” as it is about “Ask the public librarian.”

Questions, questions

I jotted down the questions that the host asked during the program, including:

  • How do you spend your day at the library?
  • Do you [librarians] have specialties?
  • So how does the e-system work? [the host is referring to e-books here]
  • It’s not difficult to get a library card, is it?
  • Do you still charge fines?
  • Do libraries use volunteers?
  • What’s the job market these days [for a librarian]?
  • What are you reading now? As every librarian should be reading a book… or two.

Probably the most interesting question of the lot, asked of the younger librarian who works at the “library lab,” was:

“You do, like beer-making opportunities on campus… what’s up with that?”

Judging just from some of these questions, one can tell that librarian stereotypes are still alive and well. For example, the following question was one of the first ones asked:

“Is today’s library system the same as it was when Grandma went through the front door?”

And the host summed up the program by stating:

“Grandma just wouldn’t have had any idea.”

Yeahhhh… this is the kind of stuff librarians hear when people don’t know anything about what librarians actually do. I’m kind of shocked the host DIDN’T ask, “Isn’t it nice to have a job where you just read all day?:\

NYPL reference questions

If you’re interested in some actually interesting and challenging questions asked of public librarians, check out this recent “Ask a Librarian” article, all about past reference questions asked at the New York Public Library:

“When librarians were asked something novel or difficult, they’d often write the question down on a piece of card and file it away for future reference. A box of these cards from the ’40s was recently unearthed at the New York Public Library, and they’re every bit as hilarious as you’d expect somebody’s Google queries from 50 years ago to be.”

NYPL Library Reference Card from the 1940s

The New York Public Library has also been posting these reference question cards on their NYPL Instagram account, if you just can’t get enough. 😉

Sources used:

Ask a Librarian,” Smith Journal, 18 Feb. 2018.

Ask the Librarian,” Ask The… . WGVU, 28 Jan. 2018.

A tale of two trailers | Library scenes in two upcoming movies

I’m always adding titles, both for older and newer movies, to my Master List of reel librarian movies. Friends and family members also often send me titles of movies or trailer they see with library or librarian scenes in them. Sometimes I’m excited about seeing a new reel librarian movie… other times, I am not excited.

The Public movie trailer

First up, an upcoming movie release that I am excited about, The Public. I first came across this movie a couple of months ago, when more than one friend tagged me in Facebook when sharing the trailer. The film is set in a public library (it was filmed in and around the Cincinnati Public Library) and focuses on the very real and interconnected issues of social services for homeless persona and public libraries. Which members of the public does a public library truly serve? The film stars some very big names, including Estevez as well as Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Gabrielle Union, and Jeffrey Wright, among others.

The Public – Official Trailer (2018) HD,” uploaded by MovieClips & Mashups, Standard YouTube License


The film premiered in January at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, but no official release date has been announced (yet).

The film has, understandably, attracted lots of attention amongst librarians, including a recent interview with Estevez in American Libraries, the magazine and website published by the American Library Association, as well as essays by librarians sharing personal perspectives about services and programs to help homeless members of the community. The trailer looks GOOD, y’all, tackling real-life social issues and featuring several substantial and diverse reel librarian roles. You can keep up with news about the film on its official Twitter feed.

Below are two major quotes from the trailer that have already stood out for me. One of them had me guffawing out loud in scorn; the other had me tearing up. I don’t think it will be hard to figure out which is which. 😉

“It must be really nice to have a job where you get to sit around and read all day.”

“The public library is the last bastion of true democracy that we have in this country.”

The Public seems intent on smashing stereotypes for homeless persons as well as stereotypes for librarians. It’s also an example of how movies can help focus attention on very real and very relevant social issues. Count me in!

Truth or Dare movie trailer

Contrast that with a trailer I recently watched during previews before (re)watching Black Panther, a preview for an upcoming teen horror flick, Truth or Dare. The film stars Lucy Hale, one of the stars from the Pretty Little Liars TV show. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the trailer… until 1 minute and 29 seconds into the trailer.

Truth or Dare Official Trailer #1 (2018) Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey Horror Movie HD,” uploaded by Zero Media, Standard YouTube License


When I realized the background of a scene was set in a library, I literally groaned out loud:

Oh no! Now I’m going to have to watch this movie!

It’s not clear in the 10 seconds of the library shown in the trailer if there is an actual librarian in this scene set in what is presumably a school library. Regardless, I will have to watch the movie to see if there is a librarian or not; even if there’s not — and there isn’t a role called “Librarian” on its cast list — it is often illuminating to explore a scene set in a library and analyze the purpose of the scene and setting.

Admittedly, I feel no pressure to actually watch Truth or Dare in the movie theaters when it premieres next month. But I have added it to my Master List, and I will keep an eye out for when it is released on DVD or streaming, when I can either stream it online or check it out from my local public library. If you do plan on watching Truth or Dare in theaters, let me know how the library scene goes! 🙂


Are there any other upcoming movie titles featuring librarians and/or library scenes that I may have missed? Please let me know by either emailing me at reel.librarians@gmail.com or by filling out the “Ask the Real Librarian” contact form.

Librarian action figure

For my Christmas gift this year, my husband gifted me the brand-new version of the librarian action figure!

Librarian action figure

The first librarian figure was produced in 2003 by Archie McPhee, and this figure was modeled on legendary librarian Nancy Pearl, outfitted in a blue skirt suit. You can read more about the history of the librarian action figure here on the company’s website.

We librarians have had a love-loathe relationship with that original librarian action figure. We LOVED that we had an action figure of our own and that it was based on an awesome real-life librarian, Nancy Pearl, who inspired “one city, one book” programming and is the author of several Book Lust books. But we LOATHED the fact that the “super power” was shushing, and that the figure looked, well, so stereotypically dowdy (it was the shapeless skirt suit, y’all, not Nancy Pearl herself!). And the librarian outrage was global, as you can read more about here in this 2003 news article entitled ‘Outcry over librarian doll,’ published in an Australian newspaper.

Here’s a video starring the original librarian action figure:

Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee,” uploaded by Archie McPhee, Standard YouTube license

A “deluxe” version of this figure was released a few years later, featuring Nancy Pearl in a burgundy skirt suit, which Archie McPhee optimistically described as “stylish.” (You can see my list of ACTUAL stylish librarians onscreen here and here.) The deluxe set included a rolling cart, stacks of books, and a computer. Bless. ♥

And this past year, Archie McPhee released — by popular demand — a superhero version of the librarian action figure! As the company describes it:

“She has a removable cape and a deep understanding of how knowledge is organized. Celebrate an everyday hero!”

INDEED.

I love the call-out to action on the front of the librarian action figure:

“When an age of darkness comes, a hero must rise!”

Librarian action figure logo and action call-out

And they included an inspiring “librarian code” on the back of the packaging:

Librarian action figure and "librarian code"

I love that the librarian code encapsulates more than a love of books — that it’s also about access to information, experiencing empathy, connecting with people, and checking facts, in addition to organizing the world. ♥ Action verbs befitting a real-life action hero.

Excuse me, I now have to find my own librarian superhero cape… 😉

The Jedi Librarian vs. Darth Vader

As the new Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, opens nationwide this Friday, Dec. 15th (oh, you haven’t heard? 😉 ), it was perfect timing that my husband recently brought home a new Star Wars comic… featuring Jocasta Nu, the Jedi librarian! He was very excited to show me this issue. Below is the cover of this new comics issue, Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III, featuring the Jedi librarian vs. Darth Vader!

Protecting the archives

Cover of Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Cover of Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Here’s the plot summary for this issue:

Plot summary for Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Plot summary for Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Jocasta Nu gets to bust some badass moves using her light saber, although the Grand Inquisitor taunts her with this line:

“I thought it would be so easy. After all, they didn’t stick you in the library because of your combat skills.”

BURN.

Excerpt from Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Librarian light saber skills

Librarian stereotypes and skills

This issue plays off librarian stereotypical traits and behaviors, like hoarding information and enforcing rules and regulations:

Excerpt from Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Librarian insults

Excerpt from Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Librarian insults

But the Jedi librarian also gets to highlight positive librarian skills and traits, including ethical use of information and the vital skills of finding information and navigating complex collections and systems.

Excerpt from Darth Vader 9: The Dying Light, Part III

Librarian finding skills

She also recognizes that she is valuable to the Dark Side for those very skills, as when she says to Darth Vader:

“I know why you want me alive. You want my secrets, and the secrets in this archive. It is too vast to be easily navigated without assistance, after all.”

Ultimately, Jocasta Nu showcases her sense of ethics and personal responsibility — as well as her survival skills! (SPOILER:  She lives to fight another day… at least until the next issue in the comics series.) For me, reading this comics issues went a long way to redeeming her portrayal and epic reference interview fail in 2002’s Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Want more Jedi librarian fun?

I have written before about Jocasta Nu here in this 2013 “The Jedi librarian” post, which also got mentioned and linked in a Washington Post article this past spring.

I noted at the end of that 2013 post that Jocasta Nu made a reappearance in the 2005 video game version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, as well as earned her own action figure. She has also since appeared in several episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. Jocasta Nu also is featured in other Darth Vader comics issues, 6-10, but please note that this issue is the only one I’ve read.

Have you read the other Darth Vader comics or Clone Wars episodes that feature Jocasta Nu? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Jocasta Nu,” Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki, is licensed under CC BY SA.

Soule, Charles (w), Guiseppe Camuncoli (p), Daniele Orlandini (i), and David Curiel (c). “The Dying Light: Part III.” Darth Vader #9 (Feb. 2018), Marvel.