The short library scene is very efficient, and the reel librarian is a classic kind of Information Provider.
This week is finals week for summer quarter, and then I’m off for a few weeks! (In real life — I am scheduling posts for the blog during my summer break, no worries.)
And on the theme of vacation… I recently rewatched the adaptation of Evil Under the Sun from the long-running series (1989-2013) of Agatha Christie’s Poirot starring David Suchet. (And in my humble opinion, Suchet is THE Hercule Poirot for all time. Absolute perfection as the little Belgian detective.) The TV movie aired in July 2003, and it’s based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.
Evil Under the Sun is set at a luxury island hotel off the coast of Devon, where Poirot is on holiday. During his stay, a beautiful young woman, Arlena Stuart Marshall — who has been flirting with another guest, a married man, and generally upsetting everyone in her vicinity, including her own husband and stepchild — winds up strangled on a secluded beach. Poirot is ALWAYS going on a busman’s holiday!
Here’s a video review of the book:
Fun fact: The setting for this story was inspired by the Burgh Island Hotel, where Christie actually stayed in real life! And this adaptation was actually filmed at the Burgh Island Hotel!
So what does this movie adaptation have to do with libraries or librarians? Just a little over one hour into the movie, Poirot visits the mainland and has lunch with Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp. During lunch, Poirot reels off a list of questions about the murder, including:
“Also I wonder what was in the book that he [Arlena’s stepson, Lionel] was reading.”
Lionel had stated that he went to the mainland the morning of the murder to get a book.
Next stop? The public library!
We hear the librarian stamping in the moment we are introduced to her. Harriet Eastcott plays the Librarian; her character has no name, just the name of her profession.
Poirot has asked about the book Lionel has checked out, and the librarian immediately recognizes the name.
Librarian: Lionel Marshall, a young man staying on the island. Let me have a look.
She then goes to the card catalog and flips through cards.
Librarian: He borrowed a book yesterday morning.
She then looks at the card more closely and has a puzzled, thoughtful look on her face.
Librarian: Oh, yes, of course I remember now. I thought it was a rather strange choice, but he said it was for a homework project.
Poirot: And the name of the book, if you please, madame?
Librarian: Dangerous Chemicals and Poisons.
Duh duh dummmmmmm! SUSPICIOUS. This scene lasts only 30 seconds total, but it does move the plot along and serves to establish a potential suspect. The reel librarian serves as an Information Provider.
NOTE: I have written about this before, but this scene exhibits completely unethical behavior on the part of the librarian. At least here in the United States (although it may be different in the United Kingdom), you need a court order to view patrons’ library records. It may be convenient as a private detective or a police officer to go into a library and ask for a patron’s library records, but it is unlawful without a court order or warrant. And it is certainly unethical for a librarian to give out that information without requesting proof of a court order or warrant! I just had to do my duty in helping protect patrons’ privacy and reiterate that.
A couple of more notes from this short scene:
I appreciated how the costume designer matched the color of the librarian’s cardigan to the color of the curtains. This immediately and succinctly ties her visually to the setting of the library.
The set designer didn’t need much to establish the library setting, just a row of bookcases behind the librarian, a second row of bookcases (with organizational signs along the top in an Art Deco font, nice touch) behind Poirot, a table with card catalog drawers, and a few props like a stamp, pencils, and a notice board. I don’t know if this scene was filmed in an actual library — I couldn’t see any credits to that effect or anything mentioned online — but it could just as easily have been filmed on a set.
How does this scene compare with the book?
*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*
There is a public library mentioned in the book source material, and Arlena’s stepchild does check out a book that elicits suspicion.
However, there are some key differences, including:
Arlena has a stepdaughter in the book, Linda Marshall, which got changed to stepson Lionel in this film adaptation
Linda is obsessed with witchcraft and checks out a book on witchcraft, not poisons — still suspicious, but in a totally different way
Linda also later attempts suicide, but that is scrubbed entirely from the film adaptation
All in all, this short library scene is very efficient, and the reel librarian is a classic kind of Information Provider. She also looks fairly stereotypical for a reel librarian, being a white, middle-aged woman dressed in conservative clothing. Her demeanor is one of trying to be helpful (although winds up being inadvertently unethical). No glasses, but her hair is pulled back in a low chignon bun.
Are you a fan of the David Suchet Poirot series of episodes and TV movies? Have you seen this particular adaptation of Evil Under the Sun? Please leave a comment and share!
I have watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade many times over the years, and goodness, how this film holds up! It’s just a really solid — and really re-watchable — action adventure movie with romance and comedy perfectly mixed in. It’s the third film in the series, and in this installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) sets off to find the Holy Grail… and his missing father (Sean Connery), who is also a professor and historian. Such good casting!
Here’s a quick trailer for the film:
Facts, libraries, and research:
Before we get to the library scene, we first have to visit a pivotal scene that occurs 14 minutes into the film. After the introductory scenes of “Young Indy” and a glimpse of Indiana Jones in full adventurer mode at sea, we swing back to spy on Indiana Jones in the classroom. Instead of wearing a fedora and leather jacket, Indiana is in full professor mode in a three-piece tweedy suit, bow tie, and round glasses. (Put a pin in that, as we will revisit that costume.)
He writes “FACT” on the chalkboard, underlines the word, and then states what is arguably the most important speech in the entire film:
“Archeology is the search for FACT, not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”
Why is this speech so important?
Not just because of the focus on the library, researching, and reading — that’s all gravy! — but because this character is setting up the rest of the film’s plot for us. Even though he’s in denial, we viewers know we’re set for lost cities, exotic travel, maps to buried treasure… and libraries!
The library scene:
Flash forward 10 minutes, almost to the half-hour mark of the film, to when Indiana Jones goes to Venice to meet Dr. Elsa Schneider (Allison Doody). She takes him to where his father was last seen, a local library.
Elsa Schneider: I have something to show you. I left your father working in the library. He sent me to the map section to fetch an ancient plan of the city. When I got back to his table, he’d gone, with all his papers, except for that scrap, which I found near his chair. Here is the library.
Indiana Jones: That doesn’t look much like a library.
Marcus Brody: Looks like a converted church.
Elsa Schneider: In this case, it’s the literal truth.
Trivia alert: The exterior is St. Barnaba church in Venice, but it’s actually still a regular church, not a library. (Bummer, right?!) The interiors were filmed elsewhere.
Below, watch a video of the entire library scene, which lasts about four minutes in total:
I love the “X marks the spot” reveal in this scene — harkening back to that pivotal speech in the classroom.
The reel librarian:
And of course the BEST PART of this scene is the reel librarian stamping his books, which exactly syncs up when Indiana Jones hits the floor tiles with the end of a metal post. (Suspension of disbelief? Yep.) It only takes three hits to crack the tile, and the closeups of the reel librarian’s face after each stamp are priceless. He never says a word, yet says SO MUCH through his facial expressions.
My favorite moment of this scene is when the reel librarian — an older man, dressed in a suit, formal collar, and bow tie — stares at the stamp in his hands, then puts the stamp atop the last book softly, in a daze, like he can’t fathom the power he just unleashed. Thus is the power of the library stamp! 😉
Reel librarian as comic relief:
This reel librarian is onscreen for a maximum of 30 seconds in a 4-minute scene (thus landing the film in the Class IV category), and the actor goes unidentified in the film’s credits. Yet he makes such an impact! Literally. 😉
This reel librarian is a prime example of the Comic Relief character type. The purpose of this character type is the most obvious of all reel librarian roles, to entertain, but the reel librarians of this type do not necessarily entertain themselves or other characters in the film — rather, they entertain the audience. Exclusively minor characters, the Comic Relief librarians serve as the target of jokes, and the audience is encouraged to laugh at them.
They are also the most extreme physically — note how the reel librarian in this film is rail-thin, which is emphasized by the slightly oversize nature of his suit. And these physical characteristics are part of the humor; marveling at this heretofore unseen and unknown strength (!), this reel librarian could not fathom that something other than his stamp could be making noise in the library.
Now for a few additional things I noted while rewatching this film…
First up, I enjoyed the peek at the signs at the end of each bookcase, which give hints about the organization and classification system for this part of the library collection. They’re obviously in the Arts & Literature section of the library, including literature, dramatic arts, and music.
Reel library goof:
I watched this film on Amazon Prime, which also provides trivia and goofs. I had never noticed this goof before, that when Indiana Jones gets to the top of the spiral staircase, you can tell the backdrop is made up of book spines glued on a black background, rather than real books. Wow!
You can click the screenshot below to view a larger image of it in a new tab. Tip: Look for the shadows on the shelf behind Indiana’s elbow, which reveal that the books are really just book spines.
A tale of two personal libraries:
The two Dr. Joneses like to think they’re so different — yet they’re so alike! And this goes to the state of their personal spaces, as well.
For example, here’s a screenshot of Dr. Jones, Sr., in his personal library at home, in the film’s introductory scenes. The room is lined with bookcases, but none of the items in the bookshelves — books, artifacts, scrolls — look to be very well organized or neatly arranged. Quite disheveled! And the father is dismissive of his own son.
But the younger Dr. Jones is equally dismissive of his own students — he escapes by his office window! — plus his own office, full of bookcases and artifacts, is equally messy.
Attention to detail:
I also appreciate the attention to detail in this film. In that same scene I mentioned above, when Young Indy tries to enlist his father’s help, we see a closeup of his father’s hands sketching a stained glass window in a small book.
We see that drawing again in the library scene, when Indiana Jones takes out his dad’s diary and flips to the page with the stained glass drawing.
A tale of two suits:
And here’s one final thing I noted this time around while rewatching this film. Remember when I said put a pin in the costume Indiana Jones wore while teaching? Let’s revisit that. And I used the word “costume” very deliberately, as Indiana Jones only looks truly comfortable when he’s in his leather jacket and fedora. His entire being — posture, manner, etc. — gets stiff when he’s wearing the three-piece suit and bow tie.
And notice just how similar that costume is to what the reel librarian is wearing:
Both of them are wearing a three-piece suit, a bow tie, and round eyeglasses. There are differences, of course: Indiana Jones’s suit is lighter in color, and a different texture, while the librarian’s suit looks shabbier, and his collar is more old-fashioned. Both bow ties have polka dot patterns, however, and it’s the same outfit formula. It’s like they’re wearing a uniform to do research!
I recently watched the tearjerker romance Me Before You (2016) on Amazon Prime, and I was — once again — surprised to see a library scene pop up in the middle of the film. The film stars Emilia Clarke as Lou Clark, a ditzy but warm-hearted girl who loves bright colors, striped tights, and fashion with a bedazzled “F.” Sam Claflin plays Will Traynor, a recently paralyzed man that Lou helps take care of.
Here’s a trailer for Me Before You, directed by Thea Sharrock in her directorial debut:
The film is based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay. I have to note that it has become a controversial film, with criticism and protests from the disability rights movement protesting the film’s central issue of disabilities and voluntary euthanasia. (I did warn you about spoilers.) But it’s not really a spoiler when the fact that Will wants to kill himself comes up halfway through the film and provides the motivation for the remaining half of the film — and the library scene. And that it’s a plot point featured in the trailer.
So. Will is depressed and convinced he is a burden to his family and cannot reconcile the ideal of his former self with his current self. (Can you understand why this film has garnered criticism?) In an attempt to stimulate Will and get him out of his depression, Lou tries to plan fun activities for him. This idea comes out of a conversation with her sister, Treena (played by Jenna Coleman).
Treena: If this is what he really wants, then use the time he’s got left. Make it special. … A bucket list. Show him how good this time can be.
Lou: But.. what if that list could do more than that? What if it could make him change his mind?
Cue library research montage!
The director then cuts immediately to a public library. This scene occurs 47 minutes into the film.
Note: I’m not sure where this scene was filmed, as its filming locations on IMDb.com don’t list a public library. If anyone reading this blog knows the real-life library used in this scene, please leave a comment and share!
Research is hard, y’all:
I laughed so hard at the next bit of the scene. The director starts out with a shot of Lou searching online from the perspective of the audience looking over her shoulder (so that we see the back of her head and the computer screen, a website about activities and support for quadriplegics)…
… then overlays a shot of Lou’s face getting more confused as she reads the computer screen…
… and THEN finishes off with Lou’s doubly confused face(s), one looking down at a stack of books she has loaded into her arms and the other still staring at the computer screen.
Also… maybe ask a librarian for help next time. That’s why we’re here!
The reel librarian:
The first time I watched this scene, I thought it would turn out to be a Class V film, a movie that may have a library scene but does not feature any reel librarians. But the second time I watched this scene, I am convinced that I spy a reel librarian — or at least the back of one leaning down to either retrieve or shelve a book. I’ve indicated the character I’m referring to in the screenshots below. The bun, cardigan, and dowdy skirt sealed the deal for me. Even though no background character from this scene is listed in the credits, I’m putting Me Before You in the Class IV category, with cameos and bit parts for reel librarians.
A real-life story:
The entire library scene only lasts thirty seconds. Near the beginning of this research montage, Lou pulls out a book from the bookcase, and the title clearly reads Walking Papers.
And it’s a real book! (Y’all knew I would look that up, right?!) Its full title is Walking Papers: The Accident that Changed My Life, and the Business that Got Me Back on My Feet by Francesco Clark, published in 2010. Here’s the write-up of this book on Amazon:
Walking Papers is the incredibly inspiring story of a young man who wouldn’t give up. Francesco Clark was a twenty-four-year-old with a bright future when he went to Long Island for the weekend–but a nocturnal dive into the pool’s shallow end changed everything, forever. Paralyzed from the neck down, Francesco was told by his doctors that he would never move from his bed or even breathe without assistance. But Francesco fought back. Within days, he was breathing on his own. His father, a doctor himself, investigated every opportunity for experimental treatment, and Francesco used every resource available to speed his recovery. To avoid having his lungs painfully suctioned, he sang, loudly, for hours–and that was just the beginning.
Seven years after the accident, Francesco continues to improve and to surprise his doctors–for instance, he can now work on a computer. Walking Papers is the inspiring story of how, with individual determination and unconditional family support, Francesco Clark overcame extreme adversity and achieved an extraordinary triumph.
“I was never asked if my book could be included in the movie, nor was I ever told that it would be included. While I understand that this movie is based on a work of fiction, my book – and my life – is not.”
If you just can’t get enough of the time-honored tradition of fast-forwarding plots with library research montages, then check out my posts for WarGames, He’s On My Mind, and Spotlight, just to name a few.
The 2006 film stars Salma Hayek, who plays Mexican immigrant Camilla, and Colin Farrell, who plays Arturo Bandini, the son of two Italian immigrants. Here’s the film description from Amazon Prime:
“Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), a young would-be writer who comes to Depression-era Los Angeles to make a name for himself. While there, he meets beautiful barmaid Camilla (Salma Hayek), a Mexican immigrant who hopes for a better life by marrying a wealthy American. Both are trying to escape the stigma of their ethnicity in blue-blood California. The passion that arises between them is palpable.”
The film is based on the book by Italian-American author John Fante and was first published in 1939 — but the book, and its author, fell into obscurity in subsequent decades. However, Robert Towne rediscovered and used the book as inspiration for the Depression-era (and Oscar-winning) dialogue he wrote for the 1974 classic Chinatown, and writer Charles Bukowski helped the book get republished and wrote a foreword for the 1980 reprint edition by Black Sparrow Press. The book is part of the “Bandini Quartet,” four novels about central character Arturo Bandini.
I had admittedly never heard of the book or the author before, but by all accounts, it’s an underrated gem of a novel — and both its style and subject matter have been extremely influential in the last few decades. For that reason alone, I’m glad I watched this film!
On paper, the film has a lot going for it: it’s based on a groundbreaking novel; stars two talented and award-winning actors; was written and directed by Robert Towne (the same one who rediscovered Fante’s work in the 1970s!); and was produced by Tom Cruise.
The final result, however, is frustratingly disappointing, all the more so considering the talent involved. Hayek and Farrell display very little chemistry onscreen — or rather, Hayek has sexual chemistry for days (and is the bright spot in this film), but Farrell cannot seem to, uh, rise to the occasion. Farrell has a natural Irish brogue, and acting with an American accent seems to have dampened his naturally charismatic personality. (Yes, an Irishman is playing an Italian-American immigrant.) There is also waaaaaaaay too much voice-over narration, an expository trick that falls as flat as Farrell’s American accent.
Reel librarian fake-out:
Within the first few seconds of the title cards, Eileen Atkins’s name came on screen against a backdrop of an open book, a fountain pen, and glasses on a chain. I immediately perked up at these often librarian-adjacent props and thought, “Oh! Perhaps Eileen Atkins is also playing a librarian!”
Alas, no. Fake-out! The first few minutes of the film reveal that Eileen Atkins plays Arturo’s no-nonsense landlady, not a librarian. She does wear glasses on a chain, but the open book in the credits turns out to be the guest registration book.
The real reel librarian:
Nine minutes into the scene, Arturo recalls a memory from when he lived in Colorado. (I didn’t get at first that this was a flashback scene, but then I recalled the librarian role was listed in the credits as “Denver librarian.”) He is in a public library, and he sets down a book on the front counter to check it out.
The librarian at the counter, played by Natasha Staples, is young, blonde, and attractive. She is also fashionably dressed in modern, stylish clothes (for the 1930s time period), and it’s obvious that she has made a considerable effort with her makeup and curled hairdo. She and her red lipstick definitely stand out amidst all the hazy earth tones of the rest of the library setting.
Here’s how their “meet cute” moment plays out, as Arturo sets down the book on the counter:
Librarian: You have nice hands.
Arturo: I do?
There is definite flirty eye contact happening between the two.
Then the librarian looks down as she stamps his card, her eyes registering his name. She looks up at Arturo.
Librarian: Bandini? You’re Italian.
Her face subtly hardens, and her voice flattens out.
Librarian: That’ll be two cents every day it’s overdue.
This is the librarian’s last line, and it is a clear dismissal. Arturo’s face falls as he realizes that the librarian is no longer interested in him, due to his name and Italian roots.
This library scene lasts only 30 seconds and includes the bare minimum of sets and props, including stacks of books and a stamper.
The reel librarian’s role:
What is the reel librarian’s role in this short scene? Although the reel librarian is onscreen for only a few seconds, she stands out enough to merit a Class III category, in which librarian(s) plays a secondary role, ranging from a supporting character to a minor character with perhaps only a few lines in one memorable or significant scene.
Primarily, this reel librarian serves as an Information Provider character type. In addition to helping set the library scene, her role reflects the discrimination toward Italian immigrants at that time. This scene provides necessary backstory for Arturo’s personal frustration and experiences suffering unfair treatment and discriminatory behavior due to his name, ethnicity, and background. The plot is then set for Arturo to meet Camilla, a Mexican immigrant who has also suffered discrimination to her name, ethnicity, and background.
It’s also interesting to note that this reel librarian partially fulfills the Naughty Librarian character type. It’s clear that she’s willing to be naughty… if the man has the right name, of course.
Ask the Dust. Dir. Robert Towne. Perf. Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland, Idina Menzel, Eileen Atkins. Paramount, 2006.
“The Dewey Decimal system? I didn’t even know they still used this.”
I was still enjoying watching episodes of the Psych TV show before our Amazon Prime free trial ran out… and color me surprised when I came across another library scene — and this time, a librarian character! — in the Season 5 episode “Dual Spires.”(See my post from a few weeks ago about a school library scene in a Season 2 episode of Psych.) This episode, which originally aired back in December 2010, brilliantly riffs off of the iconic Twin Peaks series. Below is a 20-second promo for the episode, which includes a peek at the reel librarian on the intro image and at the very end:
The basic plot of this episode? Here’s the write-up from Prime:
Shawn and Gus receive a mysterious email inviting them to the Cinnamon Festival in Dual Spires, a quirky small town nearly invisible on a map. They arrive to find themselves embroiled in the mystery of the drowning death of a teenage girl — who was declared dead under similar circumstances seven years ago in Santa Barbara. Sherilynn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen and Catherine Coulson guest star.
The call number clue:
When Shawn and Gus arrive at the town — which has a population of 288 — they are on the spot when the girl’s body is discovered by the lake. Twelve minutes into the 50-minute episode, Shawn also finds the one spot of cell phone coverage by the lake — they’ve been told the town has no internet or phone coverage — and his phone goes off, alerting him to a new email.
There’s a close-up of the email message, which is one short line: F796.352
I immediately screamed out loud, “It’s a call number!!!“
Note: Because I am a librarian, I also knew that this call number was a Library of Congress call number, a classification system that uses a combination of letters and numbers. And y’all know I looked up the general topic area for this particular call number, right? Class F, as according to the Library of Congress site, is the section for “Local History of the United States and British, Dutch, French, and Latin America,” and the call number range for 791-805 focuses on the history of New Mexico.
Back to the episode…
First library scene:
A few minutes later, Shawn and Gus then bicycle to the local public library after a suspect, the town’s resident jock, says he was in the library during the night the teenage girl died. The first library scene occurs 20 minutes into the episode.
The exterior of the library kind of looks like a converted train station, doesn’t it?
The interior of the library reveals it to be one long room, with a fireplace on one end and rows of bookcases on the other. The librarian’s desk faces the door, and the middle of the room contains a chunky wooden table, wooden filing cabinets, and old-fashioned library card catalog drawers. The librarian’s desk has stacks of books piled up on it, along with a magnifying glass and a retro-style tabletop fan. Basically, this library is where time stopped in the 1940s.
The reel librarian in this episode also looks like she hails from the 1940s, in her retro attire and hairstyle. Sherilyn Fenn, who starred in the original Twin Peaks TV series, plays the librarian, Maudette Hornsby. Her character name provides an initial clue that her reel librarian character is going to play off of reel librarian stereotypes, particularly the Naughty Librarian character type. Demure yet sexy attire? Check! Glasses? Check! Suggestive, flirty dialogue? Check!
Let’s listen in on their conversation, which provides a lot of exposition and flirting:
Shawn: Excuse us.
Maudette: Shhhh. Keep your voice down, please.
Gus: It’s just us and you.
Maudette: Just a bunch of words on paper to you guys, right? Wrong. Each is alive with a story to tell. Listen.
[Pause, as Shawn and Gus cock their ears in silence.]
Maudette: I’m just messing with you guys! Thanks for playing along. That was really sweet. I’m Maudette Hornsby. Isn’t cherry the best? [sips a cherry soda and straw suggestively, invoking the “cherry stem” scene from Twin Peaks]
Gus: The best what?
Maudette: Everything, silly. I thought you were psychic.
Shawn: I am. I am the psychic. But how did you know that?
Maudette: Mmmm, word travels. You know, we don’t get a lot of gossip around here. So, untimely death, a psychic, and a black man all in one day. Epic.
Shawn: I really thought we were being discreet.
Gus: Do you even know what discreet is? That’s a serious question.
Shawn: I know what–
Gus: [To Shawn] Shhh. [To Paula] Was Randy Jackson [the football star] with you the night Paula died?
Maudette: Why? Do you think she was m-u-r-d-e-r-e-d or something?
Maudette: Yes, Randy was here. We have a very special bond, you see. His mom passed away when he was very young. Sheriff Jackson never remarried, so I sort of stepped in and filled a role. For both of them.
Shawn then spies a row of books behind the librarian, and the camera zooms in on the call numbers. These are clearly call numbers using the Library of Congress classification system, which uses a combination of letters and numbers on the first line of call numbers. But one call number in the middle reveals it’s part of a “Parent Teacher” collection, which is odd because none of the other spine labels have that designation. (My thought at this point was that the propmaster didn’t look too closely at their book props.)
But the glimpse of call numbers are enough for Shawn to put two and two together and realize that their email clue is a call number.
Gus: Do you mind if we poke around?
Shawn: Poke. Peek. Peek around.
Maudette: Knock yourselves out.
Shawn and Gus then walk around the back of a standing bookcase, where Shawn reveals his deductions.
Shawn: Okay, remember the last email, the one with all the weird hieroglyphics?
Gus: They were letters and numbers, Shawn.
Shawn: Okay, it was one of these things. [Points to a call number on the shelf.]
Gus: The Dewey Decimal system? I didn’t even know they still used this.
Shawn: That’s ’cause people don’t want to crack war codes when the payoff is Jane Eyre.
Gus: What was the number, Shawn?
Gus: 700’s, that’s sports and recreations.
Okay, I have to press pause on this analysis — and this episode, which I literally did in real life at this point — because THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Let me break down it down.
I am usually #TeamGus, but WTF with the dismissal of the Dewey Decimal system?! That’s just cold, Gus. Just about every public library system worldwide uses the Dewey Decimal system.
This second closeup of the call numbers, as seen above, highlights call numbers that are clearly using the Dewey Decimal system — which uses numbers only, between the range of 000’s to 900’s, for the first line of its call numbers — instead of the Library of Congress system we just saw seconds ago on books behind the reel librarian’s desk. And NO LIBRARY EVER IN THE HISTORY OF LIBRARIES uses both Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal classification systems for organizing their collections. You choose one or the other. Most public and school libraries go with Dewey, while most academic libraries go with Library of Congress. The only reason you would have both call numbers in your library is if you are in the middle of transitioning from one system to the other (which is so tedious, y’all, and most libraries don’t bother).
Shawn clearly recalls the call number and says aloud the “F” in that call number yet fails to notice that the call numbers he just pointed to do NOT have letters at the beginning of their numbers. And Shawn is the one who is supposed to be so detail-oriented that he’s able to pass off those observational skills as being psychic. (Uh, spoiler if you’ve never seen the show.)
Gus is correct that the “796” part of the call number falls in the “Arts & recreation” range of the Dewey Decimal classification system, and the 790’s are specifically “Sports, games & entertainment” (and yes, a search for 796.352 on WorldCat pulls up books on golf, because I am thorough, y’all, unlike the consultants on this show). But that doesn’t matter, because that “F” in front of that call number completely changes that call number from a Dewey Decimal call number into a Library of Congress call number. If the call number clue had JUST been “796.352,” I would not be getting ALL CAPSY right now.
So the show switches — mid-library scene!!! — from Library of Congress to Dewey Decimal call number systems, and seems utterly clueless about THEIR OWN CLUES.
This show should have consulted with a real-life librarian, who would have pointed out that error in a nanosecond. And yes, I totally yelled that at the screen.
But the show wasn’t done being clueless. Because as Gus backs out and peeks at the librarian — slurping her cherry soda — we get more close-ups of books on the bookcases. And these books have NO CALL NUMBERS whatsoever on their spines.
So. We have three different call number situations going on in this scene, within a span of 30 seconds:
Library of Congress call numbers on a row of books behind the librarian
Dewey Decimal call numbers on a row of books in a standing bookcase
No call numbers at all on a row of books at the end of a bookcase.
The propmaster for this episode totally messed up. I. Am. Seriously. Displeased. And thank you, reader, for allowing me to rant online about my rage over these call number shenanigans.
But time stops for no librarian, so the scene continues as Gus and Shawn move around to the next bookcase.
Gus: These books are archaic.
Shawn: And really old.
Gus: Except this one. [Pulls out a book, reads title.] Putt Your Way to a Better Life.
Shawn: By Earl Wyndam.
This is an inside joke for Twin Peaks fans, as “Windom Earle” was a character from the TV series. But y’all know I also doublechecked WorldCat for that title, right, just to be sure? Yep. No such title.
Gus: My short game could use some work. [thumbs through book]
Shawn: There’s no pictures?
Gus: This is the weirdest golf book I’ve ever seen.
Shawn then takes the book and flips off the cover, revealing the book’s true title: Reincarnation and Rebirth, by Ann Power. Clue!
Shawn: Our emailer wants us to think that Paula was reincarnated? We should get back to the lake. Juliet should have something by now.
As clues go, this one’s more than a little thin. But the object of this library scene is to get to the next clue. And set up another potential suspect, which the next shot does.
Shawn puts the book back on the shelf, replacing the cover. Immediately, we get a tried-and-tested scary-movie trick of a person’s face staring from the other side of the bookcase. This time, it’s a close-up of the librarian, who is giving her best “librarian glare.”
Maudette: You’re gonna need a library card if you want to check something out.
Shawn: I think we’re good, Maudette.
The reel librarian definitely scared them! (And the audience?)
Second library scene:
This first scene in the library lasts only three-and-a-half minutes. The second scene set in the public library comes in at 29 minutes into the episode, when Shawn and Gus need some more clues (and a new suspect). This second library scene is even shorter, only two minutes long, but it starts out memorably, with a close-up of the reel librarian’s peep-toe heels — and her legs.
Shawn: Nice shoes.
Maudette: I know.
Shawn: Gus was wondering if you would like to be his date to Betty Boop Night at the road house.
Maudette [to Gus]: Sure you can keep up with me? I like to dance ALL night long.
There is a suggestive pause, which includes multiple flirty looks from Maudette.
Gus: Well.. Shawn?
Maudette: Relax. [Rolls her eyes.] Okay, here we go. This is the most recent Dual Spires yearbook.
Shawn: Thank you, Maudette. Feels a little thin.
Maudette: Small book for a small school.
M[We learn that there were only 6 people in the graduating class, and Maudette’s class only had 3 graduates! Exposition much?]
Shawn: Paula sure is in a lot of photos.
Maudette: Oh, that’s not surprising. She loved the attention.
Shawn thumbs through the yearbook and then notices a clue. He does NOT have a poker face.
Then as the guys leave, Maudette thumbs through the yearbook herself, seeming determined to figure out the clue for herself.
There is another library scene in the episode’s final 10 minutes, a scene that sets up the final action, but I don’t want to give away any major spoilers. Let’s just say… Maudette is keeping a few more secrets that play a vital and personal role in figuring out the mystery and the murder(s).
Significance of reel librarian role:
So what is the significance of Maudette’s role as a reel librarian? She is a supporting but memorable character, one who plays off both the Naughty Librarian and Information Provider character types, winking suggestively at Shawn and Gus, as well as the audience. Maudette also provides a lot of exposition and clues to the audience.
We also learn more about Maudette’s personal life, through details she and other characters reveal, like how she was close to the football star student and his dad. However, we never see her physically outside the library. She is physically — and, uh, literally — tied to her library until the very end.
Have you seen this episode of Psych? Did you remember this reel librarian character? Please leave a comment and share! And feel free to browse more TV reel librarian characters on my TV Shows page.