My post about Jocasta Nu, “The Jedi librarian,” published back in March 2013, remains one of my most popular posts! No doubt because of her (infamously) chilly reaction — and facial expression — when Obi-Wan suggests that the archives may be incomplete.
If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.
After that initial and AWKWARD reference interview, I’ve heard from others that Jocasta Nu redeemed herself in the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV series (2008-2015). I still think it’s so cool that a Jedi librarian character even exists. Because OF COURSE. Knowledge is dangerous, you know…
Until next time, may the force (and complete archives) be with you!
I was able to catch the 2007 TV movie, In God’s Country, recently on my cable subscription. It’s a film I saw ages ago, so I already had notes — but I hadn’t taken screenshots at the time. It’s interesting to go over notes I wrote years ago, to see what I focused on then and if the notes differ to how I view the film now.
This Lifetime TV movie — which has been renamed The Ultimate Sin — is an earnest but ultimately mediocre effort taking aim at a big issue, the issue of young women who feel trapped in polygamous religious communities. Kelly Rowan stars as Judith Leavitt — her last name foreshadows the plot! — who “leaves it,” leaving her community, her house, and her life as she has known it. She takes her five children with her and tries to start fresh. Of course, they struggle to adjust living “on the outside.”
The children particularly struggle at public school (Judith reveals that she wasn’t allowed to go to school past grade 7). In one short scene a little over an hour into the TV movie, Judith’s 12-year-old daughter, Alice, visits the school library. Alice wants a book on astronomy in order to teach the names of the stars to her mom. She goes up to the library counter, where the librarian (Agi Gallus) is checking out books to another student.
Librarian: Can I help you?
Alice: I’m looking for a book on astronomy.
Librarian: Astronomy is in the 520’s.
Alice: [shakes her head, clueless]
Librarian: 520’s. Dewey Decimal system.
Librarian: [Hands stack of books to the other girl.] Millie, can you show her for me?
Millie: All the books are numbered. You just have to look at the spines. I know where the astronomy ones are because I like astronomy, too. Actually, I have a telescope.
Alice: You have a telescope at home?
Millie: You should come and see it.
The librarian here is friendly — and it’s nice to see a reel librarian in a bright color! — but as clueless about service as much as Alice is clueless about the Dewey Decimal system. She essentially passes off her reference duties to a young student, who has to explain the classification system to Alice. Peer learning can be great, but there was no good reason that the librarian couldn’t step out from behind her desk and do her job. Of course, the plot required that Alice make a friend, so I understand in terms of plot why the reference duty got passed on to Millie. But in terms of real life, this is NOT a great example of a reference interview!
Ultimately, this reel librarian ends up in the Class IV category, in which librarians appear only briefly with little or no dialogue. The librarian in this film is onscreen less than a minute, and fulfills the basic Information Provider role. She doesn’t provide that much useful information to Alice, of course, but the librarian also provides information to the audience. She is yet another example of how the “real world” doesn’t really understand what goes on in these kinds of communities and the impact of different social and educational structures.
At least the script writers got the Dewey Decimal system right, as this system of classification is the most common for school and public libraries. They also got the 520’s section right, as this is the general call number area for astronomy.
There is also a scene involving the 520’s — one with a decidedly less favorable ending — in UHF (1989) and starring Conan the Librarian. Read all about that scene here in this post. When I relayed this tidbit to my husband, he laughed, and said that I might be the only person to have made a connection between this TV movie and Conan the Librarian.
“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.”
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched the fan edit of the Star War prequel trilogy, entitled Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, which was compiled back in 2007. Out of the 7+ hours of the original prequels (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999; Episode II: Attack of the Clones, 2002; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, 2005), this techie fan managed to whittle the story down to a still-healthy-yet-manageable 4 hours. It seemed like a majority of the second prequel, Attack of the Clones, stayed on the cutting-room floor (no more painful love scenes out on the lake by Naboo, thank goodness!), but guess which scene made the cut in its entirety?
That’s right, the library scene!
Early on in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan (Ewan MacGregor) visits the Jedi Archives to research a mysterious planet called Kamino. During his talk with the archivist librarian (Alethea McGrath as Madame Jocasta Nu, seen below), Obi-Wan discovers that the planet has been removed from the navigation maps of the Jedi archives.
Here’s how their interaction plays out:
Jocasta Nu: Did you call for assistance?
Obi-Wan: Yes, yes, I did.
Jocasta Nu: Are you having a problem, Master Kenobi?
Obi-Wan: Yes, I’m looking for a planetary system called Kamino.
Jocasta Nu: Kamino.
Obi-Wan: It doesn’t show up on the archive charts.
Jocasta Nu: Kamino. It’s not a system I’m familiar with. Are you sure you have the right coordinates?
Obi-Wan: According to my information, it should appear in this quadrant here, just south of the Rishi Maze.
So far, so good. But when the computer screen pulls up a blank on that quadrant, the Jedi librarian fails to look further:
Jocasta Nu [shaking her head]: I hate to say it, but it looks like the system you’re searching for doesn’t exist.
Obi-Wan: Impossible. Perhaps the archives are incomplete.
Jocasta Nu: If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.
This is not at all a flattering scene for real librarians or archivists; that look on Jocasta Nu’s face during her last line is a real groaner, as seen below.
Obi-Wan is not convinced of Jocasta Nu’s declaration. He takes his discovery to Yoda, and they reason that this erasing of archival data could have only been done by a Jedi, suggesting a dangerous conspiracy.
This library scene is a classic cinematic example of a failed reference interview, to be sure. (I’ve even used it as training example of what NOT to do on the reference desk!) Where are the follow-up questions? A keyword search for “Kamino” in other archival collections? A search to see when/if the planetary archives log has been tampered with? A helpful referral for another archivist or department to look into the matter?
Nope, none of those things that would (hopefully) happen in the real world. (SIGH.)
Nevertheless, this library archives scene is still quite an important one, and Jocasta Nu still remains a key Information Provider (even if she is a provider of misinformation in this case). It’s a pivotal scene that propels the plot forward, revealing the depth of the conspiracy. Even Jocasta Nu’s prim refusal to believe in the infallibility of the archives adds proof to the difficult task ahead of Obi-Wan and the Jedi, who are fighting generations of tradition and complacency — the very things that the Emperor is manipulating to ensure his plan’s success.
A memorable reel librarian in an otherwise troubled film.
Continuing in our series of scary movies featuring librarians, this week’s feature is Twisted Nerve (1968). SPOILERS AHEAD. Whistling past horror — although there are some close-ups of bloodied bodies and hatchets along the way — this decidedly odd film tries to sell itself as a psychological drama, with a main argument that homicidal/psychopathic tendencies are passed genetically. It also attempts to relate this issue of “twisted nerves” to Down’s Syndrome — referred to as “Mongolism” in this ’60s film — as the main star/villain of the film, Martin (played by Welsh actor Hywel Bennett, who looks like Zac Efron in a bad wig) has a brother with Down’s Syndrome living in a mental institution. Martin himself reverts to a mentally handicapped personality, “Georgie,” throughout the film.
This (controversial and offensive) link to Down’s Syndrome is so badly pieced together that the filmmakers were forced to add a prologue during post-production, stating “that there is no established, scientific connection between Mongolism and psychotic, or criminal, behavior.”
You’re probably wondering… what in the world is a librarian doing in this film? Enter Hayley Mills as Susan Harper, a lovely young librarian who, in the space of an ill-timed smile, becomes the obsessive target of Martin, who assumes the persona of “Georgie” around Susan in order to gain her trust. Which isn’t very hard to do, because again and again, Susan is shown to be incredibly gullible, naive, and easily manipulated (even blaming herself in one scene for Georgie’s behavior!). It’s a credit to Hayley Mills’ acting skills that she comes across as warm-hearted and intelligent as she does; otherwise, you would just want to scream at the screen constantly about how dumb her actions are. Which, now that I think about it, totally fits the tradition for those watching horror movies, to scream at the young girl who walks into a dark house without telling anyone where she is.
A little over ten minutes into this Class II film, Martin/Georgie embarks upon his obsession by following Susan one morning to the public library, whilst whistling a creepy tune:
Susan is a classic Spirited Young Girl character type: a young, physically attractive, intelligent, and modern girl who is working temporarily at the library. She’s quite open about working for a teaching degree, and she has a conversation later with her mom about school lasting “only one more year.” And along with Ali McGraw in Love Story (1970), she’s one of the best-dressed reel librarians ever! Behold the blonde-haired cuteness:
Our first introduction to Susan in a library setting is a classic one; while looking for a book atop a library ladder, two young lads enjoy the view up her (short) skirt.
It’s interesting to compare how the behavior of these two boys comes off as cheeky, while Martin’s behavior as alter ego Georgie — a young boy’s personality stunted in a man’s body — comes off as creepy. In small moments like this, this movie can be quite clever and intriguing.
Susan enjoys a nice moment of readers’ advisory with the boys:
Susan: Here we are. How about this? [hand them book ]
Boy #1: The Tower of London? Get off. That’s history, isn’t it?
Susan: That’s bloodthirsty enough, even for you, Johnny.
Boy #2: Any girls in it?
Susan: Well, there’s Lady Jane Grey. She gets the chopper.
Boy #2: I’d rather have Lady Chatterley.
Susan: I bet you would. But you take this. You’ll like it. I promise you.
Also during the few library scenes throughout the film, we are introduced to the head librarian, Mr. Groom, who is portrayed as a textbook example of the Anti-Social Librarian. Again, so clever to juxtapose this decidedly neurotic reel librarian with the name of “Mr. Groom.” Or maybe they’re hinting he’s horsey? 😉
In this first library scene, Martin/Georgie gets upset at Susan refusing to go to the cinema with him and starts unbuttoning his shirt in distress. While trying to help him button his shirt back up, Susan manages to then upset Mr. Groom, who rushes over with a stack of books, hissing in a loud stage whisper:
Look, I don’t know whether you are dressing or undressing your friend, but I do wish you wouldn’t do it in the public library.
In a later library scene, Martin/Georgie is waiting in the library for Susan after hours. Of course, this rattles Mr. Groom’s cage, who quickly scuttles over to him to point out the library’s been closed for the last 10 minutes. Martin doesn’t waste any Georgie mannerisms on Mr. Groom; rather, he calls him “Ratface” and later yells at the hapless reel librarian to “Get stuffed!”
After Martin/Georgie has killed a few people, the drama increases as Susan finally starts putting all the pieces together. But even after figuring everything out and returning to an empty house all by herself (insert shouting at the screen!), she gets trapped in the attic in an effectively tense climax scene. The film ends on a plaintive note, as Martin/Georgie continues to call out for, “Susan, Susan.”
A memorable reel librarian in an otherwise troubled film.
Here’s a clip of the whistling scene (later echoed in Kill Bill: Vol. I), and our first glimpse of the public library:
Twisted Nerve. Dir. Roy Boulting. Perf. Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, Billie Whitelaw. Charter Film Productions, 1968.
This public library is a resource not only for its local population, but for its rural users, as well.
In The Magic of Ordinary Days (2005), a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie set during World War II, a beautiful young woman (Keri Russell) agrees to an arranged marriage with a lonely, good-hearted farmer (Skeet Ulrich) due to an unplanned pregnancy. The farmer’s not the father — they’d never met before the wedding — but he’s determined to do the best by her. This film is based on Ann Howard Creel’s novel of the same name.
The brief library scene happens early in the film. A little over 10 minutes in, as they’re settling in and getting to know each other, Livy (Russell) mentions to Ray (Ulrich) that she doesn’t know how to cook. She’s an intellectual from the city, obviously a fish out of water in this rural setting.
Livy: It [cooking] shouldn’t be that hard. I can get a book from the library.
… [long pause] …
Livy: Is there a library?
Ray: Oh yeah. In La Junta.
Livy: That’s an hour away.
So a few minutes later, we see Ray driving her over to the La Junta, the nearest town. It’s pure Americana, with red brick buildings around a small town square. (Click here to visit the Woodruff Memorial Library, the current public library in La Junta, Colorado.) But Livy isn’t the one interested in checking out the library, after all — she’s too concerned with calling back home. Ray’s the one who mentions that he’ll be in the library, checking out some cookbooks for her.
The next shot (see above) cuts to a close-up on two books: Cooking is Easy by Otto Helmig, and Getting Prepared for Baby by Dr. James Graley.
Side note: I wasn’t able to find any corresponding titles/authors in WorldCat, the largest online catalog of libraries worldwide. I wonder if they made up the titles and authors for this film. And yes, I also looked up the movie’s full cast and crew on IMDb.com, but didn’t find those names listed there, either.
You knew I was going to look all that up, right? 😉
So we go from the close-up of the books in Ray’s hands to the librarian’s hands. She looks up with a smile on her face, “Are you expecting a little one?” And after Ray confirms this, her response is a delighted, “Well, how wonderful!”
This friendly local librarian (Kira Bradley, see below) is quite young and attractive, with blonde hair pinned back in curls. Her dress (a grey, floral print dress and dark cardigan) and accessories (colorful stud earrings and beaded necklace) look conservative yet also fun and modern for the time period.
Because of this reel librarian’s warm and friendly demeanor, Ray feels confident enough to follow up with a question.
Ray: Do you have any books on Heinrich Schliemann? [Note: Livy mentioned this name while talking about what she studied in graduate school]
Librarian [puzzled expression]: Is that ‘sh’ or ‘sch’?
Ray: Your guess is as good as mine. I think he was an archaeologist.
Librarian: Let me have a look.
The librarian is obviously able to find him some information on the subject. About 50 minutes into the TV movie, Ray brings up the subject at the dinner table in an effort to connect with Livy’s interests. Success! 🙂
During this very brief scene, which lasts less than a minute, we also get glimpses of wooden bookcases, shutters, red brick, desk lamps, and a flash of a card catalog on the main check-out counter. Despite the scene’s brevity, the bright lighting and setting of this library, combined with the warmth of this Information Provider, provide a very positive portrayal overall of librarians and libraries. This public library is a resource not only for its local population, but for its rural users, as well.
The Magic of Ordinary Days (TV movie). Dir. Brent Shields. Perf. Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich, Mare Winningham. Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2005.