‘Naughty Librarian’ character type summed up in an ‘SNL’ skit

Be careful what you wish for!

In last week’s post featuring the reel librarians program I recently presented, I mentioned that a class of students were able to attend. The students were really engaged during the program and asked lots of questions. I’ve also enjoyed follow-up interactions from a few of those same students, who have been letting me know about how much more aware they are now of librarian portrayals. It is so true that when you start looking for librarians in film, you start seeing us EVERYWHERE.


‘The Librarian’ SNL skit:


A couple of students have even passed on additional movie or TV examples of reel librarians, including a Saturday Night Live skit Margot Robbie did a couple of years ago, a skit entitled “The Librarian.”

SNL's The Librarian skit, 2016
SNL’s The Librarian skit, 2016

Click the images in the post to open up the video in a new window.

The concept of this skit, available on NBC’s Saturday Night Live site, is simple. Margot Robbie plays a school librarian, Ms. Dalton, complete with a pussy-bow blouse, cardigan, glasses, and bun. She confronts a bunch of male students drooling over her and begins to take her hair out (literally)… and then some. Things turn unnerving and horrifying very quickly, turning desire into distress. As The Independent noted at the time, “That ‘Ohhhhhhh yeeeeeeaaaaaah’ song you might remember from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello) plays as Robbie starts to undress, but then things take a turn for the macabre.” The “Oh yeahs” morph into “Oh NOs!”


The ‘Naughty Librarian’ character type:


This skit lasts only 3 minutes and 5 seconds, but WOW is it spot-on, acknowledging and then upending soooooooo many stereotypical traits of the “Naughty Librarian” character type.

Margot Robbie as The Librarian in the 2016 SNL skit
Margot Robbie as The Librarian in the 2016 SNL skit

This skit basically checks every box for this character type:

  • ✔ Young to middle-aged
  • ✔ Wears conservative clothing and then “lets her hair down”
  • ✔ Includes sexual undertones in conversation
  • ✔ A flirtatious or sexually charged librarian who often becomes violent (or demonstrates otherwise criminal behavior) when sexual desires go unfulfilled, repressed, or challenged

Fantasy… or nightmare?


I primarily focus on film, so I admit that I’m not as knowledgeable about TV series or skits featuring reel librarians. This skit, which went live in fall 2016, was not on my radar (so I am thankful for the student letting me know about it!). So it was interesting to watch this clip for the first time after the #MeToo movement, which has, and continues, to bring about a social reckoning of sexual harassing behavior, behavior both explicit and/or passive-aggressive (this skit has both). Sure, this skit is fun and sexy, and you don’t have to go any deeper than that. But there’s a darker undertone that I argue actually feels right at home in our current climate. The boys in the skit start out passive-aggressive, making suggestive and sexualized comments at their table about the librarian, but then one student says one out loud to Ms. Dalton, albeit by proxy (“Jeremy thinks you’re hot!“). The librarian directly calls out the student and challenges him (“What are you going to do about it?“), which sounds like a fantasy at first… until that fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare. Be careful what you wish for! Ultimately, Ms. Dalton holds the male students accountable for their behavior and brings about her own reckoning.

And Margot Robbie totally commits to this skit, bringing the same maniacal edge to Ms. Dalton as she did to the character of Harley Quinn in 2016’s Suicide Squad. A Nerdist review even wonders, “If Harley had to fight the Librarian, who would win?

Bottom line? Don’t mess with librarians — real OR reel!


Sources used:



And if you have more examples of reel librarians to send my way, please leave a comment and/or contact me via email (reel.librarians@gmail.com). Thanks in advance!

Video recording for ‘Shush-ers, Spinsters, and Sirens: Exploring Librarians in Film’ presentation

You can finally put a voice to the words I write every week on this blog

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I presented about reel librarians at my college a few weeks ago as part of our “Library Lunchtime Lecture” series. My talk was filmed by our Media Services staff, and they’ve uploaded it to our college’s YouTube channel. So if you’re a longtime reader (thank you!), you can finally put a voice to the words I write every week on this blog. 😉


Shush-ers, Spinsters, and Sirens: Exploring Librarians in Film:


Check it out below!

“Shush-ers, Spinsters & Sirens: Exploring Librarians in Film (5708140 Melissa Adams),” uploaded by TCC Multimedia, Standard YouTube License

Please note that this recording does not include captions.

The camera operator kept the camera pretty close (to protect students’ privacy), and I wore a mic (which I promptly forgot about, so there are times when I hit the mic that was pinned to my denim jacket, sorry). The room was full, so there were 40-50 people present in total, including one entire class of students. The energetic vibe in the room on the day isn’t all that evident in the video recording (especially because you can’t hear anyone else!), but it was a really fun program to present!


Presentation timeline:


  • Introduction:  My intro lasts the first 17 minutes of the recording
  • Film clips:  The bulk of my presentation, including a majority of the brief film clips, start from 17 minutes in and last through the 48-minute mark.
  • Audience Q&A:  The questions start around the 48-minute mark and last through the final 1 hour, 2 minute duration of the video
    • I forgot to verbally restate the questions during the program for the benefit of the recording, so I’ve summarized the questions below and their approximate start times in the video:
      • What got you started in this research and your undergraduate honors thesis? [48:40]
      • What has been the greatest change in librarianship that you’ve experienced personally, things you didn’t know about librarianship until you became a librarian? [50:15]
      • Do you think you would have chosen librarianship if your mother hadn’t been a librarian? [52:10]
      • What is the reaction from other librarians when you present on this topic at librarian conferences? Is it well-received? Do they see the value in this research? [53:45]
      • What are some indicators of what it takes to be a librarian (in case some students present are interested in librarianship)? [56:00]
      • Have more recent films included more positive portrayals of librarians? [58:00]
      • Is there more diversity in librarianship itself? Or is art imitating life? [59:00]
      • From your personal experiences, do you have concerns about the profession or where it’s headed? [1:00:00]

Continuing the conversation:


Let’s continue the conversation! Please share any additional questions you’d like to know about my reel librarians research, and/or share anything you found particularly interesting in the video.

And if you actually did watch the video all the way through, then five gold stars for you! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Ask the (public) librarians

How do you spend your day at the library?

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
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. 😉


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A tale of two trailers | Library scenes in two upcoming movies, ‘The Public’ and ‘Truth or Dare’

Sometimes I’m excited about seeing a new reel librarian movie… other times, I’m not.

I am 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’m not.


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 Trailer (2018) Emilio Estevez Drama Movie” video uploaded by JoBlo Movie Trailers is licensed under a 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 leaving a comment below.


Sources used:


Librarian action figure

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

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

Librarian action figure closeup
Librarian action figure closeup

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
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
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… 😉


Sources used: