Law libraries (and librarians) in pop culture

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to enjoy a special tour of the Washington State Law Library, which has a fascinating history. Their collections also hold some gems, including an original set of the Pentagon Papers!

Pentagon Papers in the Washington State Law Library collection

Pentagon Papers in the Washington State Law Library collection

One of the displays in the public entrance to the library I enjoyed most was a “Law in Pop Culture” display, seen below. (And yes, you can also see the back of me in the photo below — I’m the one in the red jacket.)

"The Law in Pop Culture" display at the Washington State Law Library

“The Law in Pop Culture” display at the Washington State Law Library

I chatted with the law librarian who created the display — and lo and behold, she had recently written about this very topic on the Washington State Law Library blog!

Screenshot of "Leading Lady Justice — The Law in Pop Culture" blog post, Washington State Law Library blog

The first post about this topic is entitled “Leading Lady Justice — The Law in Pop Culture,” and this part really hit home for me:

The law has been such a star in pop culture that some law schools study the intersection between the courtroom and the theater and the effect of its influence on perceptions of the legal profession and court system. After all, what we see in the movies and on TV and read in books can heavily influence how we view the real life subjects they portray. 

That last line pretty sums up the point of this Reel Librarians blog! 😀

Screenshot of "Courtroom Drama — The Law in Pop Culture Sequel" blog post, Washington State Law Library blog

The second post, “Courtroom Drama — The Law in Pop Culture Sequel,” explores some of the stories behind famous court cases depicted in film, including:

  • The real-life case behind the 1952 novel Anatomy of a Murder. I have written about the 1959 Oscar-nominated film version, starring Jimmy Stewart, here in this “Anatomy of a law library” post; the film version showcases a law library (but no law librarian, alas).

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of 'Anatomy of a Murder'

  • The real-life case behind the Oscar-winning film Philadelphia . There IS a reel librarian in this film, but I haven’t yet analyzed the film for this blog. It’s on my list!

I have also written about a reel law librarian portrayal in the 1989 film Criminal Law, a legal thriller starring Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon. Can you tell which one is the law librarian from the screenshot below? Check out my “Criminal law librarian” post to find out!

Screenshot from 'Criminal Law' (1988)

So please check out the Washington State Law Library blog… and if you spot any more reel law librarians onscreen, let me know! 😀

 

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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.

Discovering a librarian game character

The primary focus of this website is about analyzing librarian portrayals in film, but I have also enjoyed highlighting librarian portrayals in other kinds of media and popular culture. Once you start looking, it’s amazing where librarians pop up — even when you least expect it!

When I’m working online, I occasionally like to take a break and play an online puzzle or word game. Over the winter break, I happened to play a new online game called “The Book of Treasures,” which is similar to “Text Twist,” where you get 6 letters and see if you can figure out all the possible word combinations within a set time limit. Lo and behold, this game featured a librarian! Here’s “The Book of Treasures” game description from its web page:

Jessica West is a librarian at an ancient library that is rumored to house a lost Egyptian manuscript. One day she finds a secret room and discovers 35 envelopes, each containing six letters. Her curiosity piqued, Jessica is on a mission to discover the secret of where the hidden manuscript resides. If you enjoy TextTwist but are ready for a word game and wraps a compelling mystery around challenging gameplay.

(Please note that I am NOT promoting this game, website, or company. I am focusing on the central character in this particular game, who happens to be a librarian.)

Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Screenshot from ‘The Book of Treasures’ online game

The landing page of the online game spolights Jessica the librarian front and center. The angle is from below, so the bookshelves behind her slant up and in. It’s an imposing angle, and Jessica comes across as most definitely no-nonsense, with her piercing stare and eyebrow raised above her half-moon spectacles. She is a mix of contradictions:  Her posture and expression/demeanor are severe and exact, while her bun hairstyle is a bit messy and asymmetrical. Her figure is drawn to be quite feminine while her clothing is modest and practical. The “props” shown on her desk, a clock timer and a cup of coffee, are also practical for the context.

I also found it amusing how the look of the game character of Jessica West seems inspired, at least in part, by the reel librarian character of Evelyn ‘Evy’ Carnahan, a librarian and Egyptologist, from the 1999 film, The Mummy. Below is a side-by-side comparison. There are a LOT of physical similarities, even down to the open-collared, button-down shirt!

Reel Librarians | Comparison of Jessica from 'The Book of Treasures' online game vs Evy Carnahan from 'The Mummy' film

Comparison of Jessica from ‘The Book of Treasures’ online game vs Evy Carnahan from ‘The Mummy’ film

Here’s the backstory of the game as you begin playing:

Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Screenshot from ‘The Book of Treasures’ online game

I like that Jessica’s librarian vocation is front and center, both with the game description online and in the introductory backstory to set up the game. (HOWEVER, the game description states her name as “Jessica West,” while the game story has her name as “Jessica Bright.” Someone didn’t cross-check references…)

In film, librarian characters in film often provide key plot points, to help keep the action moving, and the librarian character in this game also fulfills that same purpose. In addition to providing motivation for the game’s story and context, Jessica the librarian also keeps the gameplay moving along — and no-nonsense chiding when you miss a word or fail to complete a level. When playing the game, you are ostensibly playing as Jessica, but it also feels like you are playing for Jessica, like a student library worker or someone trying desperately to please the librarian as the timer ticks away. This impression is aided by Jessica’s withering stare when you type in a “word not found.”

Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Screenshots from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Screenshot from ‘The Book of Treasures’ online game

And *SPOILER*, when you complete all the levels to put together the pieces of the puzzle, guess what the ultimate prize is? Recognition and a promotion for the librarian! I approve of this outcome. 😉

Screenshot from 'The Book of Treasures' online game

Screenshot from ‘The Book of Treasures’ online game

The final scrolling credits reveal more details:

Jessica’s name shall be remembered at the Archeology Hall of Fame and she’s become world famous for finding a treasure that was lost for centuries. Jessica has also been promoted to Director of the Library! Congratulations! What other secrets does the library hide?

I chuckled at how the game ended on a possible tease, to hold open the door for more possible puzzle adventures with Jessica the librarian. Will you be on the lookout for more adventures with this gamer librarian?

Lego minifigures, a visual history

Earlier this summer, I posted the news about a new Lego librarian minifigure, which included my experience hunting one down. I also celebrated the second anniversary of this blog with a librarian minifigure giveaway, here and here. I thought I had thoroughly explored the librarian-themed minifig universe…

I was mistaken. 😉

Last week, while I browsed the shelves at a huge Scholastic book fair warehouse (does anyone else get really excited and wax nostalgic about Scholastic book fairs?), when lo and behold, I turned a corner and encountered the book, LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History (published by DK, 2013).

Reel Librarians | Lego minifigures, a visual history

Front cover — click for larger image

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Back cover — click for larger image

So OF COURSE I had to take photos. You’re welcome 😉

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Turns out the modern Lego minifigure was first introduced in 1978. Who knew?! The librarian minifigure didn’t show up until this year, in the 2013 Series 10 series, meaning it took 35 years to get around to including a Lego librarian minifigure. We came after the mime, super wrestler,  zombie, cheerleader, musketeer, sleepyhead, lederhosen guy, and lawn gnome, just to name a few.

And when I mentioned that to my husband, here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  It took them 35 years to feature a librarian?!

My husband:  Well, they kept bringing it up, but they kept getting shushed.

SNAP!

Gotta admit, that got a chuckle — or two — out of me. 😀

Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew logoThis past holiday weekend, my husband and I settled down to play the latest Nancy Drew adventure game, The Silent Spy, the 29th installment in the computer game series by Her Interactive. We are hard-core Nancy Drew fans (I grew up on the book series, as well as related spin-off series like The Nancy Drew Case Files), and we look forward to playing each new computer game together. This latest game release is set in Scotland and involves a highly affecting backstory about Nancy’s deceased mother, Kate. We both enjoyed The Silent Spy, especially as it had so many elements right up my husband’s alley:  Scotland, clan tartans, old coins, archery, the “Samantha Quick” tie-in (you have to be a longtime fan and player of the computer game series to get this reference), etc.

But what does this have to do with librarians? I was surprised — very pleasantly so! — that a librarian reference was worked into a phone conversation between Nancy and her father, Carson Drew (he’s a lawyer and protective single father). This conversation occurred about 2/3 of the way into the game, with Carson continuing to urge Nancy to stay safe and return home as quickly as possible. Here’s how this specific conversation begins:

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Nancy is quite surprised at Carson’s suggestion of a career change! The conversation concludes:

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

What I love about this:  Carson Drew (or rather, the game writers) know about library science. Score! And he recognizes us as “the world’s unsung heroes”? ♥ LOVE ♥ (But pssst, Carson, you might want to check out The Librarian TV movie trilogy. That’s one reel librarian who DOES get himself involved in all sorts of adventures, and I’m pretty sure Flynn “The Librarian” Carsen has found himself kidnapped a time or two… )

But I digress … Nancy Drew as a librarian? Gotta say, Nancy Drew would be an AWESOME librarian. Am I right or what?! Her ability to recognize patterns and organize information would definitely be put to good use as a librarian. As would her lifelong quest to ask questions and find out info relevant to whatever adventure she is currently pursuing. Plus, in the games, Nancy is always seeking out books to read up on whatever topics are relevant to the game’s backstory and puzzles; for example, in The Silent Spy, we (through Nancy) get to read about clan tartans, Mary Queen of Scots, the history and construction of bagpipes, as well as different kinds of archery bows.

For  librarians — especially those of us who work with the public at the Reference Desk, like yours truly — every day holds the promise of learning something new, every day is like a scavenger hunt, every day is an opportunity to hunt down useful information. So there actually are quite a few similarities between detectives and librarians, however much our tools in trade and work locales may differ. And similar to private detectives, our job is to locate relevant info as efficiently and seamlessly (read:  quietly) as possible.

Unsung heroes, y’all. Carson Drew, YOU are my hero. 


And if you’re interested in learning more about The Silent Spy, click here for more info, including character profiles, trailers, screenshots, and reviews.