‘Library Wars’… oh, the places you’ll go

Librarians as the ultimate freedom fighters!

It’s amazing sometimes to think about how you first come across a piece of information, and then the journey that bit of info can take you on. For instance, my Irish compatriot Colin Higgins @ Libraries at the Movies sent me a Facebook message last week about an official trailer for a 2013 film called Library Wars.

Had I heard of this? Nope. I focus mostly on English-language films, but I do maintain a list of foreign films featuring reel librarians.

So OF COURSE I watched the trailer. As should you:

Library Wars Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Sato Shinsuke Movie HD” video uploaded by Movieclips Indie is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

Wow! From the trailer, it feels like a modern Fahrenheit 451. Librarians as the ultimate freedom fighters!

Screenshot from Library Wars trailer
Library warriors to the rescue!

And then, being a librarian, OF COURSE I had to do a little more digging.

Turns out, this film is an adaptation of series of Japanese novels called Toshokan Sensō by Hiro Arikawa, published in 2006-2007. These novels have inspired a manga, an anime TV series plus an animated feature released last year. A-mazing!

And now this live-action version is out, making its U.S. debut in early August at the Japan Film Festival of San Francisco. You can read an interesting interview with the film’s director, Shinsuke Sato, here. The official plot summary on the JFF site reads:

Japan Film Festival of San Francisco | Plot summary for 'Library Wars'
Japan Film Festival of San Francisco | Plot summary for ‘Library Wars’

But it doesn’t stop there! Turns out, Arikawa’s novels are themselves inspired by the Japan Library Association’s Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries, which was first adopted in 1979. How cool is that?! You can read that Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries here.

Japan Library Association Intellectual Freedom Statement
Japan Library Association Intellectual Freedom Statement

And if you’re wondering, huh, does the U.S. have a similar statement? Why yes, we do! Here’s a link to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights; the Freedom to Read Statement; as well as the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

So there you have it. A trailer for a new movie leads to the discovery of a series of popular novels about defending libraries (squeeee!) to the JLA’s Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries to the OIF. It’s been a good day indeed, celebrating the right to read.

Happy reading! 🙂

Sources used:

‘Necronomicon’: Dead on arrival

“Consider your privileges revoked, Mr. Lovecraft!”

Continuing in our series this month of scary movies featuring librarians, next up is 1993’s Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (aka Necronomicon, aka H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, Book of the Dead). The film is comprised of three segments, (Part 1, The Drowned, based on Lovecraft’s short story “The Rats in the Walls”; Part 2:  The Cold, based on the story “Cool Air”; Part 3: Whispers, based on the story “The Whisperer in Darkness”) plus a “wraparound” entitled The Library, which serves as a framing device for the other stories.

One of the directors, Shûsuke Kaneko, didn’t speak English during the time he was filming his segment, Part 2, although the entire cast is American. I’m not sure what the other directors’ excuses are. 😉


The Library wraparound story is set in 1932 and stars Jeffrey Combs as the author H. P. Lovecraft, who pulls up in a taxi in front of an imposing building that houses a monastery library (see below).

Library scene in Necronomicon
Library scene in Necronomicon

The small bronze sign above the doorbell reads, “By appointment only.” Not sure if Lovecraft has an appointment, but he is apparently well-known by the librarian monks (played by Tony Azito as the Librarian, and Juan Fernandez as the attendant monk and library assistant).

Librarian:  Mr. Lovecraft, always a treat. And how can we indulge you this time?

Lovecraft:  Actually, I’m here because a new story of mine demands a bit of fact-checking.

Librarian:  Fact-checking? We were under the impression you dealt in fiction.

Lovecraft:  My work is wrongly construed as fiction by the lesser minded. In fact, I take great pride in presenting fictional possibilities. It is my duty, after all, as a human being to enlighten the darkest depths of experience, to expose certain secrets unjustly hoarded by others.

Librarian:  We shall see.

There is NOTHING subtle in this movie — from the makeup to the costumes to the “acting” to the “writing” (quotations marks intended) — so why would the librarian character be any different? Check out these facial expressions from the librarian monk:

Collage of monk librarian's facial expressions in Necronomicon
Collage of monk librarian’s facial expressions in Necronomicon

After signing in, we next spy the librarian on a library ladder. Obviously up to something, Lovecraft nervously directs the librarian to the alchemical encyclopedia on the top shelf (of course). While the librarian is busy reaching for the volume, Lovecraft manages to unhook the librarian’s keys from his waist sash without him noticing the sound of jangling keys or the sudden missing weight. Yeah. Right.

Library ladder alert!
Library ladder alert!

When you get massive eye-rolling from not only a main character (ahem, librarian monk) AND the audience within the first five minutes, you know it’s going to be a bad time. And the librarian monk tries to give Lovecraft a bad time with his next comment.

Please try to remember that if you leave this area unattended for any reason whatsoever, we shall be forced to revoke your privileges.

Does this stern warning work? Yeah. Right.

The very next shot shows him scurrying downstairs — although his furtive act is actually seen by the librarian assistant monk. Lovecraft approaches a secret archives room with a safe along the back wall, which DA-DA-DUMMMM, reveals the Necronomicon, the book of the dead. Cracking it open, Lovecraft disturbs some kind of force, causing the two librarian monks to look up (see below). Knowing what he’s up to, do the two librarian monks actually follow through on their threat to “revoke his privileges”? Of course not! There wouldn’t be a plot (such as it is).

Two monk librarians
Two monk librarians

I won’t go into the plots of the three story segments, but I will reveal that they’re all (sort of) set in the future. Or possibly alternate futures. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Inbetween the stories, we are treated to an ever-increasing sense of unease through the library wraparound scenes, as the wall safe opens up more portal doors as more pages are turned. The librarians’ actions also (finally) escalate:

  • After the first story segment, the two librarian monks pick up Lovecraft’s hat in the main hall and casually ask, “Will he truly be brainless enough to try?” Response:  “Of course. He’s human.”
  • After the second segment, the librarian monk then tries to open up the door leading to the archives room, but finds the handle locked.
  • And finally, after the third story, the librarian monk shouts to Lovecraft through the iron bars. After Lovecraft reveals that he dropped the keys, the librarian begins to reveal his true self: “You impetuous little fool! Do you know what you’ve done?! Put it back. Put the book back!”

Too late! As the safe opens and an alien creature comes hurtling down the portal, the librarian monk squeezes through the bars and grabs Lovecraft. More threats and cheesy lines:

The secrets of the Necrominocon do not come cheap. This is going to cost you your life! Consider your privileges revoked, Mr. Lovecraft!

Perhaps balking at this ultra-cheesy line, Lovecraft unhinges the librarian’s jaws and pulls off his face, revealing the librarian as an alien! LIBRARIAN MONK ALIEN … LIBRARIAN MONK ALIEN … that phrase just kept spooling through my head … in all caps … LIBRARIAN MONK ALIEN.

Library fight in Necronomicon
Library fight in Necronomicon
… off!

Does Lovecraft get away? Of course! The alien creature grabs the LIBRARIAN MONK ALIEN instead and heads back down the wormhole portal, leaving this mess behind:

Librarian skin in Necronomicon
Idea for a Halloween costume?

The Necromonicon closes, and Lovecraft runs away as the librarian monk assistant shouts, “You don’t know what you’ve done! You’ll pay!” The movie ends on a closeup of the Necronomicon that he stole from the library.

Book thief in Necronomicon
Book thief!

Afterwards, my husband’s summation? “We’ve definitely seen worse.” As I pointed out, that’s not really a compliment. 😉

And in a film that supposedly celebrates Lovecraft’s craft, the character himself comes off rather poorly. We learn that (a) he’s a thief; (b) he’s smug about said thievery and escape; (c) he’s a plagiarist, as he was just copying the stories from the Necronomicon; and (d) he doesn’t care about the damage he caused — and presumably will continue causing — by opening up this book of the dead. The LIBRARIAN MONK ALIENS don’t come off well in this film, but Lovecraft comes off worse. It’s never a good time when you can’t root for a single character!

Sam is so well-versed in my reel librarian research that we also enjoyed a lively discussion of what character types the LIBRARIAN MONK ALIENS fulfilled:

  • Comic Relief? It’s sad when the bad acting and writing in a would-be horror film could count as comic relief, but that wasn’t the intention, I’m sure.
  • Liberated Librarian? No way.
  • Librarian as Failure? One could argue this considering the failure of the librarians to protect the book they were supposed to protect. Ultimately, however, one should assume these monks chose to live their lives in the library and wanted to protect the book of the dead, even though they were horribly inept at doing so.
  • Information Provider? I say yes, as the main librarian’s actions in the beginning of the film (signing in a library patron, climbing the library ladder, helping Lovecraft find a specific book) are used to establish the setting as a library, and his own role recognizable as a librarian, even while dressed in monk robes.
  • Anti-Social Librarian? Bingo! Hoarding knowledge; never seen outside the library; poor social skills; seems to dislike people; dressed conservatively; and elitist? Checkmark on all accounts.

So there you have it. Two anti-social and information-providing librarians in this Class III film. And one more time…


That is all.

Sources used:

  • Necronomicon: Book of the Dead. Dir. Christophe Gans, Shûsuke Kaneko, and Brian Yuzna. Perf. Jeffrey Combs, Tony Azito, Bruce Payne. Turner Home Entertainment, 1993.

In this reel librarian’s life

Reel librarian in Filipino film ‘In My Life’ (2009)

Last week, I mentioned discovering the YouTube and Librarians (Movies) channel. Although I don’t focus on foreign language films on this blog, I do have a list of those that feature reel librarians, adding to it whenever possible. From this YouTube channel, I have added several more titles to the Foreign Films list, including the award-winning Filipino film, In My Life (2009). Check out the full trailer (over 4 minutes long!) below:

Official Trailer | ‘In My Life’” video uploaded by ABS-CBN Star Cinema is licensed under a Standard YouTube license

Even if you don’t understand the words — the film’s languages include Filipino and Tagalog, along with some English — the plotline seems pretty easy to follow! I’ve run out of fingers counting the reel librarian stereotypes… which ones are your faves? 😉

Mine might be the glasses-on-a-lanyard look as she throws some canoodling students out of the library.

The reel librarian in the Filipino film In My Life, starring Vilma Santos. Screenshot from the film's trailer.
Glasses on a chain? Mean glare? Pursed lips? Check, check, check! The reel librarian in the Filipino film In My Life, starring Vilma Santos. Screenshot from the film’s trailer.

You can read a review of the film here.

Sources used:

Unreflected glory: Librarian authors and their mediocre movie adaptations

This post isn’t exactly on topic, but you know how I love a good tangent. 😉

I’ve actually been thinking about librarians who are also authors for a while now, ever since reading Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession and its section on famous librarians (read my review of the book here). And last week, I came across this web site, Librarians Who Are Authors of Children’s Literature (which is no longer online), which involved lots of “I didn’t know that?!” kinds of shout-outs.

And one thing that kept coming to my mind was how few good cinematic adaptations there are of books written by librarian authors. It seems that most of these movie adaptations are mediocre at best. What’s the deal?

Jorge Luis Borges:

Take Jorge Luis Borges. He was a bad-ass librarian, rising to Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955, but having to resign (twice, in 1946 and in 1973) due to political clashes with Juan Perón. And all the while writing, writing, writing. From his “Poem of the Gifts” [“Poema de los Dones”] comes one of the most beloved library-related quotations:

I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.

I first read a few of his short stories in college, and became enraptured with his labyrinthine imagery. So much so that I checked out Death and the Compass, a 1992 film adaptation (see right) of one of his most famous stories. Unfortunately, this movie ranks as one of the WORST movies I have ever seen. Ever. Ever. EVER.

Madeleine L’Engle:

And how about Madeleine L’Engle? She was a longtime librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Sam and I were lucky enough to meet her while we were in college — and even got her autograph on our well-worn copy of A Wrinkle in Time (see below), the YA classic that won the Newbery Medal in 1963.

Our autographed copy of A Wrinkle In Time
Our autographed copy of A Wrinkle In Time

But the most high-profile adaptation of one of her classic works — of the 3 total (!) listed on IMDb — was the 2003 TV movie of A Wrinkle in Time. There was a movie released this past spring, an adaptation of Camilla Dickinson, but I haven’t read any major reviews of it yet. Here’s hoping it’s good.

Beverly Cleary:

I looooooved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books while growing up — seriously, I thought I was Ramona! But I didn’t realize she was a librarian until my mom recommended this past year that I read her autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet (which chronicles her library science education and her experiences as a children’s librarian in Washington state and as an Army librarian during WWII). And I fell in love with her writing all over again.

I vaguely remember a few Mouse and the Motorcycle ABC Weekend Specials back in the late ’80s (IMDb tells me there were 3 total), and there was a Ramona and Beezus movie released in 2010 (see left), starring teen star Selena Gomez as Beezus. The recent film got decent reviews, but from what I understand, it was a pretty vague interpretation — not exactly a classic adaptation of a classic book series. Beverly Cleary deserves better.


I’ve read a lot of Avi books, starting with Something Upstairs: A Tale of Ghosts back in 1988. He’s got some modern YA classics on his shelf, including The Man Who Was Poe, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Newbery Honor in 1991, see right), Nothing But the Truth (Newbery Honor in 1992), and Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Newbery winner in 2002).

There’s an adaptation of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle planned for 2014. Reportedly starring Saoirse Ronan as the title character (yay!) and co-starring Pierce Brosnan and Morgan Freeman (double yay!), fingers crossed that it breaks tradition and finally does some justice to a librarian author’s work!

A not-so-enchanting librarian in ‘Ella Enchanted’

“I can’t find anything in any of these books!”

The 2004 film Ella Enchanted, adapted from Gail Carson Levine’s book, is a delightful twist on the Cinderella tale. Winningly goofy, it features a sparkling Anne Hathaway as Ella; a, well, charming Hugh Dancy as Prince Charmont (“Char” to his friends); and a deliciously scheming turn by Cary Elwes as Char’s Uncle Edgar and regent of the kingdom.


The well-known plot hinges on Ella’s gift of obedience bestowed by a fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox), whom Ella is trying to find in order to release this curse of a blessing. Almost an hour into the film, Char tells Edgar that he needs to take Ella to the Hall of Records, to try and find where her fairy godmother Lucinda is located. The camera than cuts to a young black woman, billed as the Hall of Records Attendant (Merrina Millsapp), slamming down a thick book on a table, releasing a cloud of dust.

Hall of Records librarian in Ella Enchanted
Whatever, Ella

The attendant, dressed in modest medieval garb, appears quite disinterested in Ella’s task. “Here’s the latest census. Names are listed first by location then species.” As she walks away, she rattles off a “Good luck” with a dismissive flip of her hand. Although more of an archives clerk than an actual public services librarian — perhaps this explains her lack of customer service? — she serves the basic function of a reel librarian.

Due to the incompetence of Ella’s magical aunt, one of Ella’s sidekicks, Benny (Jimi Mistry), has been accidentally stuck in a book for years. Benny, therefore, is right beside her in the Hall of Records (his book, the one that looks more like a frame, is propped up in the screenshot above). He, too, grimaces at the sight of the massive volume. “Look at the size of that thing!” And as Ella heaves the book open, she sighs, “Lucinda, I hope you’re in here.”

Bird's-eye view of the Hall of Records in Ella Enchanted
Bird’s-eye view of the Hall of Records

The camera than spirals up, giving us a bird’s eye view of the messy table in the Hall of Records (see above). The reel librarian will certainly be of no help, and this camera trick underscores just how alone Ella is in this seemingly hopeless task.

A few minutes later, after a brief scene full of Edgar’s evil scheming, we return to Ella slumped in a chair in the Hall of Records. “I can’t find anything in any of these books,” she laments, banging her head on the book. “I don’t know where else to look.” Because asking the librarian is obviously not an option!

Finally, Ella spies a clue in the book in which her friend Benny is enspelled — NOT in one of the library books, I might add — and figures out how to find Lucinda. But alas! Edgar comes into the room and blocks her way, sneering, “I hope you’ve found everything to your satisfaction?” Due to the total lack of help or interest from the reel librarian, I would have answered with a definitive NO! But Ella is more polite than I am. 😉 Then Edgar tests Ella’s secret and sends her out in order to kill Char. Fortunately, Edgar doesn’t notice Benny stuck in the book, who has overheard the entire evil plot.

Archives librarian from Ella Enchanted
This book doesn’t look familiar…

A few minutes later, the archives clerk walks back into the library — sighing at the all the mess, of course — and discovers the book of Ella’s friend (see above). However, Benny can only reveal himself to certain people, so the reel librarian sees only empty pages. Heaving another big sigh, she immediately dumps Benny and his book into the “recycling parchment” bin. Sigh. Thank goodness, Ella’s other sidekicks find Benny in the trash and recycling center outside the castle the next morning. So it’s a relief that the actions — or rather, inactions? — of this disinterested Information Provider did help advance the plot after all.

Sources used:

  • Ella Enchanted. Dir. Tommy O’Haver. Perf. Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes. Miramax, 2004.
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