Welcome to the library jungle

Why is a librarian featured in Toto’s song “Africa”?

This post started via a Facebook conversation from my husband:

Facebook post about Toto's Africa song
Facebook post about Toto’s Africa song

The song, “Africa,” from Toto’s 1982 album Toto IV, does indeed feature a librarian and a library/jungle setting. The plot seems to revolve around a man — played by lead singer David Paich — on the hunt for a book called “Africa.” There are multiple shots of the librarian, a woman of African descent, giving her very best “librarian glare” to the singer, whilst adjusting her spectacles amidst the usual library props of a wooden desk, book stamps, and bookcases.  The music video also includes shots of the band “jamming” on top of a stack of books. Both multicultural AND cultured, eh? 😉

Lyrics that might have inspired the library setting for the video include:

But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation

I stopped an old man along the way / Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The Wikipedia entry for this song also included a quote that the idea for the song came from David Paich, about “… a white boy [who] is trying to write a song on Africa, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past.”

After watching this video, methinks the video came from the idea of a white man trying to film a music video in a library, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past. 😉

You can view the video here:

Toto – Africa (Official Music Video)” video uploaded by Toto Toto is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

Sources used:

Marian or Marion?

Researching the reel librarian in ‘The Music Man’

I am a stickler for spelling and punctuation (see my post last week on that anal-retentive trait), so it still bugs me that I can’t ever seem to remember if the librarian in The Music Man is spelled “Marian” or “Marion.” I spelled it BOTH ways in my undergraduate thesis, which still makes me cringe. And that’s probably what inspired this blog post — maybe after writing this, I won’t have to look it up again. 😉

Oh, and if you don’t know who “Marian the Librarian” is, then you’ve probably stumbled onto the wrong blog.

Here’s a quick Google search for “Marian the Librarian”

Google search for 'Marian the Librarian'
Google search for ‘Marian the Librarian’

And here’s a quick Google search for “Marion the Librarian”

Google search for 'Marion the Librarian'
Google search for ‘Marion the Librarian’

Both ways result in tens of thousands of results each. So it’s a relief that I’m not the only person with this problem. Google does provide a big hint in asking on the 2nd search:

Google hint for 'Marian the Librarian'
Google hint for ‘Marian the Librarian’

So what’s the difference between the two spellings? Is it like Frances/Francis, that one little letter denotes a difference in gender? Wiktionary tells me… there’s really no difference. Both spellings can be for boys or girls, and the idea that “Marion” with an “o” is for boys and that “Marian” with an “a” is for girls is contributed attributed to folk etymology, or common misconception.

I took another route by looking up Meredith Willson, who wrote the original play, which was produced on Broadway in 1957.

"Meredith Willson Star HWF" by JGKlein is in the public domain
“Meredith Willson Star HWF” by JGKlein is in the public domain

Why did he choose the name? I was crossing my fingers for an answer more interesting than it rhymed with the word “librarian.” (Not that I’m against that.) And lo and behold, he based the lead female role on an actual librarian! (I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not to our profession. Guess it depends on how much you like the play or subsequent adaptations.) A little snippet, “A Pair of Marians,” in the March 2005 issue of American Libraries revealed that Willson met Marian Seeley, a medical records librarian from Provo, Utah, in California during World War II. He dubbed her “Marian the Librarian.”

So Willson based his fictional Marian with an “a” on a real Marian with an “a.” 🙂

An interview between the real Marian and her grandson, Dave Kimball, on the Marian Seeley blog (with only one post) reveals even more. Marian Seeley knew Willson through her husband, Frank, who worked with him in the Armed Forces Radio Service during that time. Seeley’s explanation of how “Marian the Librarian” moniker came about:

Well, he [Willson] thought a medical librarian was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard.


In another interview, this one by Heidi Toth in the Daily Herald from Provo, Utah, Marian reflects on whether or not the character she helped inspire was anything like her.

Marian Seeley interview in Daily Herald
Marian Seeley interview in Daily Herald

So there you go. A long and interesting answer to a short question. What did we learn?

  • If referring to “Marian the Librarian” song and character Marian Paroo from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, it’s spelled with an “a.”
  • If you’re referring to the real “Marian the Librarian,” Marian Seeley, it’s spelled with an “a.”
  • If you’re referring to the recurring character Marion the Librarian on the animated TV show Handy Manny, it’s spelled with an “o.”

And if you’re a fan of L. M. Montgomery’s works set in Avonlea and Green Gables, then you know it’s “Anne” spelled with an “e.” 😉

Sources used:

Musical numbers for the library-minded

Musical clips from librarian films

I’m sensing a theme… I’ve been musically minded lately (see here and here), so I thought I’d come full circle. So here’s a round-up of fun musical clips from librarian films to perk up your day… or night.

Note: Some of the films are musicals (Good News, Strike Up the Band), some are not (Party Girl, You’re a Big Boy Now). Clips arranged below in chronological order.

Strike Up the Band (1940):

Sample lyrics from the song “Nobody,” performed by Judy Garland as she closes up the public library. The uplifting (!) lyrics include:

I’m just living in a lull / And I’ll confess it’s mighty dull / … But I ain’t got nobody and nobody’s got me

JUDY GARLAND: ‘NOBODY’, 1940. A SONG TO REMEMBER.” video uploaded by Michele Bell is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

Good News (1947):

I had to search a bit to find an online clip of “The French Lesson,” performed by June Allyson and Peter Lawson. This song also takes place while closing up the library, this time a college library. Interestingly, the film’s original theatrical trailer includes just about every song in the movie EXCEPT the one in the library.

The French Lesson” video uploaded by That’s EntertainedMe! is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

The Music Man (1962 and 2003):

Of course! Repeat after me now:

Marian. The. Librarian.

You’re humming this tune right now, right? No, just me? Ok, sure. ♪ ♫ ♪ And, sorry, not able to confirm nor deny any accompanying toe-tapping. 😉

The Music Man – Part 8” video uploaded by CastingAway is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

You’re a Big Boy Now (1967):

A peppy number — “Girl, Beautiful Girl (Barbara’s Theme)” performed by The Lovin’ Spoonful — for the start of this oddball comedy about dysfunctional father-and-son reel librarians. Go-go boots, roller skates, and the public library, oh my!

Fun fact: This film was Frances Ford Coppola’s master’s thesis for UCLA film school

Party Girl (1995):

“If You Believe” (E-Smoove Believer Mix) by Chantay Savage. Gets me going every time! Should be required viewing for all library science majors. 😉

Yes, mama, I know what’s going on! Yes, I do!

Party Girl Library Dance” video uploaded by jehnnamari is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

From a librarian’s musical perspective

Songs about being a librarian

Inspired by my previous post about love songs for librarians, here are some songs about being a librarian. A bit off the road map, I know, but if you love librarians in movies, then you’ll probably like librarians in songs, too.

“I Am the Sub-Librarian” by Piano Magic (1999):

I am the sub-librarian, counter girl, tea-maker

I am the sub-librarian, swan feeder, spectacle breaker

Piano magic – I Am the Sub-Librarian” video uploaded by Dariaija is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“Librarian” by Jonathan Rundman (2004, from album Public Library):

I bring order out of chaos, I shine light into the dark

because power comes from knowledge just like fire from a spark

“Queens of the Circulating Library” by Coil (2000):

I am a queen of the circulating library

I have declared an amnesty

All books may be returned without a penalty

Return the books to me

Coil: Queens Of The Circulating Library (excerpt)” video uploaded by kittenfood777 is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“When Spring Comes to the Library” by Robert Lopresti (multi-talented librarian/songwriter/author):

When Spring comes to the check-out desk

The travel books all roam

And garden guides go off on digs

With those who stayed at home

“Reference Librarian” by Robert Lopresti (2003):

Now you come walking over like you’re some old pal of mine  

Well, I’ll be glad to help you, but you’ll have to wait in line

Click here for a preview of the song

A love song for a librarian

A round-up of love songs for and about librarians for Valentine’s Day

Okay, so this post is not about movies, but I thought it would be fun to explore a few love songs for librarians for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

“Heaven Sent” by INXS (1992):

Tuesday she works

In the library uptown

Some useful knowledge

Can always be found

Don’t burn the library

Till you’ve read all the books

Sometimes in life

You get a second look

INXS – Heaven Sent” video uploaded by aipotooz is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“Karen” by The Go-Betweens (1978):

This very special girl

And she works in a library, yeah

Standing there behind the counter

Willing to help

With all the problems that I encounter

The Go-Betweens -Karen” video uploaded by hanktsinanski is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“Lisa Librarian” by Velocity Girl (1993):

I want to visit you at work

it is all quiet

it is so quiet at work

“Velocity Girl [09] Lisa Librarian” video uploaded by airbag97 is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“Love in the Library” by Jimmy Buffet (1994):

Love in the library

Quiet and cool

Love in the library

There are no rules

Jimmy Buffett-Love in the Library” video uploaded by Rob McGrory is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“At the Library” by Green Day (1991):

What is it that drives me mad

Girls like you that I never had

What is it about you that I adore?

At the library Green Day With Lyrics” video uploaded by NIMRODxKERPLUNK is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“The Librarian” by Hefner (1998):

He started to woo her in the most peculiar way

The librarian’s dress was a fawner shade of grey

The books he was to borrow he would surely never read

They had an intellectual calibre he hoped that she would see

Hefner – The Librarian” video uploaded by Omearmski is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

“Librarian” by My Morning Jacket (2008):

Simple little bookworm buried underneath

Is the sexiest librarian

Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me

My Morning Jacket – Librarian” video uploaded by ThisDJ4Hire is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

And, of course…

“Marian the Librarian” from The Music Man (1962 and 2003 films):

For the civilized world accepts as unforgivable sin

Any talking out loud with any librarian

Such as Marian…

Madam Librarian

Marian the Librarian-The Music Man” video uploaded by niley4eva2012 is licensed under a Standard YouTube license
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