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.

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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… 😉

‘Reel Librarians’ gets cited!

And I mean “cited” in a good way! 🙂

My “Hall of Shame” page has been cited on the Matthew Wilson: Big Screen Project website. The site outlines a film project for Quiet Please, described as “a short mockumentary … following the life of a librarian who aspires to become a serial killer.” As you do. 😉

Screenshot of citation

I am included on the site’s Research Dossier, as well as in the research presentation’s bibliography, which is linked off the dossier page. I have watched the 11-minute short film, which is available to watch here in this post. I’m honestly not sure how my “Hall of Shame” page helped the production, but it’s exciting to be cited!

And if you can’t get enough of reel librarian serial killers, then check out my post about “Killer librarians” as well as my “Little miss serial killer librarian” post.

I will be back next time with a new reader poll, so please check back next week to cast your vote for what film I should watch next!

‘Ssshhh gets real’ on Project : Library web series

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had presented a conference program on reel librarians — and one of the best things about the program were the titles and suggestions audience members have sent my way since. One suggestion — and one new to me! — I recently watched was a 2013 British web series called “Project : Library,” a four-part action/comedy web series.

The plot is pretty simple:  Battersham Library is set to close in 3 weeks and is in serious need of funds. During inventory, two library workers realize there’s a book that’s been checked out since 1989, and the boy who checked it out, Michael Foster, is now 25… and owes the library 1 million pounds!

As the web series tagline says:  “Ssshhh get real” — and FAST.

The manager of Battersham Library, Troy Bennet, is a blowhard who throws his own grandson out of the library and cares more about money than about books. And in a cast of Brits, he stands out by having an American accent. (OF COURSE.) This character, hilariously described to me as an “evil librarian mafioso,” chomps every bit of scenery he can while spouting lines like “I’m gonna send the boys ’round.”

There are 4 episodes total, with each episode running 10-20 minutes apiece. As shown in the trailer, the series does get progressively and over-the-top violent, featuring bullets and blood. Also, more than one book sacrificed itself to the making of this web series. (R.I.P. books, R.I.P.)

But above all, this series is HILARIOUS, and I highly recommend taking an hour out of your day to watch through the episodes. It is very well directed and acted, with high production values. The series was co-created by TimH and Mike Cannon, and TimH is also credited as one of the writers, directors, and stars of the series.

Morals of the story?

  • Properly fund your libraries.
  • Return your books on time.
  • And get some wi-fi in your libraries.

Below are the “Project : Library” episodes, as well as my favorite quotes from each episode. Enjoy!


Episode 1: OVERDUE

Favorite quote:

If this library closes, then that’s my sex life out the window.


Episode 2: DINOSAUR

Favorite quote:

I’m not a cop. I’m a librarian.


Episode 3: COLLATERAL

Favorite quotes:

Michael’s friend Jason:  You don’t know who’s working for the library. It could be anyone!
Michael:  You saying ANYONE could be a librarian?
Jason:  Maybe. For all you know, I could be a librarian.


Episode 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Favorite quotes:

Jason:  Sticks and stones may break my bones…
Michael:  …but words will never hurt me.
Jason:  [using a thick dictionary to knock a guy out] Bull. Shit.

Welcome to MY library. Your visit here is OVERDUE.

Nobody does romance like librarians. I’m serious. We’re famous for it. Librarians are S-E-X-Y. Don’t laugh. We’ve written the book about it. Well, at least date-stamped it.


Can’t get enough of “Project : Library”? Then check out the Tumblr site for the project, http://projectlibrary.tumblr.com/, which includes behind-the-scenes info about the series and archives of posts and photos. And last but not least, an outtakes video!