Reel Librarians referenced in a new book!

I recently came across a new book that references me and this Reel librarians site, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with you!

It’s a publication entitled La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015) by María Rosario Andrío Esteban, published in 2017 by Ediciones Universidad Salamanca, a university located west of Madrid in Spain. The title translates in English to The Image of the Library in Cinema (1928-2015), and it seems that my site helped provide titles of films for the author to analyze, as well as provided information about (stereotypical) characterizations of librarians in cinema. This book is more general and expansive in scope than my site — as evidenced by the title, the author focuses on the depictions of libraries, and not just librarians — but what an honor to have served as a resource for this academic publication!

Here’s a cover image of the newly published book:

Cover image of 'La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Cover image of ‘La imagen de la biblioteca en el cine (1928-2015)’ by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Here is the (translated) abstract for the book on the Ediciones Universidad Salamanca website:

The objective of this work has been to configure the profile of visual elements, user activities and professional tasks that the filmmakers have chosen to represent the public library throughout the sound stage. For this, a list of 855 films was obtained between 1928 and 2015 (60% were American and 7% Spanish) in which 1,642 scenes with a library were identified. A visual analysis of each one of them allowed detecting about 1,220 librarians and about 9,000 users doing various tasks and activities that were systematically described.

The results show that the image of the public library is configured in the majority of the films with few cinematic elements. Books, shelves, tiles, labels and some ornaments are enough. On the other hand, the librarian actor generally possesses a more stereotyped image than librarians, who hardly carry more than one feature of the classical stereotype, especially if they are protagonists. The most frequent tasks in the film professional are customer service and non-specific technical work, order the fund, maintain order and the loan, tasks closer to the assistant than the information expert. For the cinemas the majority of the users are male, and they are mainly dedicated to talking to them, consulting books on the shelves, reading and studying.

From a professional point of view, for the cinema there are two main types of libraries: the public and the academic, being the functions related to the support to formal education and as a place of social gathering their more cinematic images. On the other hand, the representation of the library in the cinema has varied relatively little since 90 years ago, in spite of the great technological advances associated with the library and the profession.

OF COURSE I did a search through the book in Google Books, and my Reel Librarians site is referenced in two main places:

“Elementos estructurales de la representación bibliotecaria” (“Structural elements of library representation”) section, p. 132

Reel Librarians mentioned in 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Rough translation (via Google Translate):

Although this typology has not been confirmed empirically until date, it has served in function of the appearance and behavior of the librarian characters. This is the case of Jennifer Snoek-Brown and her website Reel Librarians. This librarian keeps the page up to date, including an important collection of films about librarians, classified from leading roles to simple cameos. The most relevant is her analysis of the typology of library characters seen in the cinema and that she defines as a function of the genre.

The author then goes on to summarize, as you can see a bit in the screenshot above, the different “character types” for male and female reel librarian roles, as well as the “atypical” characters that I have identified on the “Role Call” section of my Reel Librarians site.

“Metodología” (“Methodology”) section, p. 176

Reel Librarians mentioned in 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Rough translation (via Google Translate):

Chief librarian of Mt. Hood in Oregon Jennifer Snoek-Brown maintains “Reel Librarians,” a blog that compiles an extensive list of 862 films in English, 155 from other nationalities and 94 documentaries and short films with scenes in which she appears or speaks of a librarian. According to the author these references have been extracted from books, articles and web pages, as well as personal suggestions. This blog remains active, and its content is updated periodically.

This publication, only available in Spanish, looks to already have found its way into some library collections in the U.S., as per the book’s Worldcat record.

WorldCat record for 'The image of the library in the cinema (1928-2015)' by María Rosario Andrío Esteban

Amazing — this news has made my year!

Side note: This has reminded me that I need to explore that subject term, “Librarians in motion pictures,” in WorldCat. You can see in the screenshot above that that’s one of the linked subject terms listed for this book. I sense another post coming up… 😉

 

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Angels in the library in ‘Wings of Desire’

I am following up on another reader question from my call earlier this year for reader questions and ideas, a question posed by Kvennarad, who left a comment that contained several very intriguing post ideas, including this one:

‘Wings of Desire’ is an amazing film, with lots of footage set in a library… No reel/real reason why I include this, it just haunts me.

Here was my initial response to Kvennarad’s comment, in my reader Q&A follow-up post:

Yes, this film was already on my Foreign Films reel librarians list. I have also written an analysis post on City of Angels, the (inferior) U.S. remake starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage. It would be interesting to do a post about Wings of Desire, and then perhaps a follow-up comparing the two films and their two reel libraries/librarians. Adding this to my ideas list… 

And here it is, at least the first part of the idea to analyze Wings of Desire (1987), which is a truly haunting film.

Plot and atmosphere

The original title of this primarily German-language film is Der Himmel über Berlin, which translates to “The Sky over Berlin.” I actually prefer that title, rather than the more generic-sounding Wings of Desire. We see humanity through the wanderings of angels throughout Berlin, including one particular angel, Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz), who begins to fall in love with a mortal woman. Peter Falk also stars in the film, playing a version of himself. I can’t say anymore about the plot, as I want to avoid any spoilers. This is a film to savor watching the first time, if you have not already seen it. (And let’s just say, it has almost nothing in common with its American remake, City of Angels, THANK GOODNESS, except for the barest of plot lines and the angels’ penchant for long coats. I analyzed the library scene in City of Angels in this post.)

Here is a trailer for the film, set only to music:

There are so many beautiful moments in this beautiful film, including every time a child looks up and smiles in recognition of an angel. I tear up just thinking about it. None of the adults notice the angels’ presence; only the children notice them and share knowing smiles.

I had passively resisted watching this film until now, in part because of the *awful* American version of it. I suppose I thought the film would be too “arty” and depressing (the bulk of it is in black and white), but that’s what I get for assuming! The film is ultimately uplifting, and the director, Wim Wenders, sustains an atmosphere of bittersweet wonder with the lightest touch… like that from angels’ wings? 😉

In short, this film is special. See it now — for the first or 100th time.

Library scenes

There are three short scenes set and filmed in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), where angels often go to hang out with humans. Another reason to love the angels, who obviously have such good taste — and not just in overcoats!

There is no reel librarian character that I could see, so this film does end up in the Class V category of films with no identifiable librarians (although Class V films might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries). But that does not take away the significance of the library in this classic film, as I demonstrate in detail below.

Library scene #1

Sixteen minutes into the film, Damiel and his friend, Cassiel (Otto Sander), visit the Staatsbibliothek. The scene lasts 7 minutes in total as the angels and the camera wind their way around the shelves and different levels of this eye-catching library.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Angels visit the Berlin State Library

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Angels like to read over people’s shoulders in the library

Here’s how this online review at DVD Talk describes this scene:

“There are wonderful scenes on a plane or in the public library where the sound mixers scroll through the gathered people, moving from one inner monologue to another the way we flip through channels with our TV remote. In the library, there are almost as many angels as there are mortals, all looking for something interesting to commit to memory or maybe scribble down in one of their little notebooks.”

The sound throughout this scene is a hushed murmuring of voices/thoughts layered on top of choir-like singing. The effect is like that of visiting a church, and indeed, this library has soaring ceilings to match the soaring vocals. The director and the angels treat this space like a sacred space. In the book The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, Laura Marcus argued that in Wings of the Desire, the angels’ affinity for libraries do indeed make the library a miraculous place.

This is very obviously a well-used library, filled with people — and angels! — in all corners. It also showcases that a library provides space and resources for many different kinds of needs and different kinds of users.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

A well-used public library

The scene comes to a close as Damiel takes notice of an old man slowly climbing the stairs, pausing every few steps to catch his breath and wipe his face. We see this man, the storyteller, throughout the rest of the film. His inner dialogue feels appropriate for such a setting:

“Tell me, muse, of the storyteller… Those who listened to me became my readers…”

Library scene #2:

This same older man is our link to the second library scene, when at 39 minutes into the film, we revisit the man sitting at a table in the library. This table is filled with a collection of globes of many sizes, and he is enthralled with a rotating solar system. The camera then cuts to the old man sitting at a different table in the library, this time thumbing slowly through a large book of photos. The angel Cassiel follows the old man through the library, just as the reader does.

Reel Librarian | Library scenes from 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

An old man finds treasures to enjoy in the library

This scene lasts only two minutes. But as Marcus points out in The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History, Wenders highlights the library as a tool of “memory and public space.” This is especially evident in this scene.

Library scene #3:

The final scene in the library lasts only a minute, but it is a memorable minute. Cassiel remains in the library, but this time, the tables and desks are empty.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

One is the loneliest number

The library is closed, the only mortals the cleaners, yet the angels still seek solace within the library walls.

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

The library after hours

Real-life library, trivia, and significance

The movie was filmed on location at Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, Germany. This library is also featured in two other German-language films, Agnes and His Brothers (2004) and the TV movie Götterdämmerung – Morgen stirbt Berlin (1999).

Reel Librarian | Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Berlin State Library

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, screenshot from the DVD featurette

The DVD features include an interactive map that also highlights the library, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Reel Librarians | Interactive map on DVD of 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Interactive map on DVD of ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987)

The library clip on the interactive map lasts less than 30 seconds, but it reveals why the public library location was chosen for the film:

“The Staatsbibliothek was built between 1967 and 1978. It is one of the largest libraries in Europe, with a collection of over 8 million books and manuscripts. The quietness of the library, due to its acoustics, makes it an ideal place for the angels to tune into our thoughts.”

Here’s a look at that acoustic ceiling in the library:

Reel Librarian | Library scene in 'Wings of Desire' (1987)

Acoustic ceiling in the public library

Wings of Desire was both a critical and financial success, and as per its Wikipedia entry, “academics have interpreted it as a statement of the importance of cinema, libraries, the circus, or German unity, containing New Age, religious, secular or other themes.”

I will end with this thought, that Kvennard is certainly not alone is being haunted by the library imagery in the film. Indeed, the German news publication Der Tagesspiegel recently highlighted the film’s memorable imagery, in particular the library scenes:

“A film lives on such images that get stuck in the memory of the audience.”

Have you, too, seen the film and been haunted by its imagery? Have you seen the American remake? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Lippold, Von Markus. “Engel, die auf Menschen starren (Angel Staring at People).” Der Tagesspiegel. 4 February 2016.

Marcus, Laura. “The Library in Film: Order and Mystery.” The Meaning of the Library: A Cultural History. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Rich, Jamie S. “Wings of Desire – Criterion Collection.” DVD Talk, 3 Nov 2009.

Wings of Desire,” Wikimedia Foundation, is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.

Wings of Desire [dvd]. Dir. Wim Wenders. Perf. Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk. Road Movies Filmproduktion, 1987.

Wings of Desire – Official Trailer (1987),” uploaded by 2AM Ltd, Standard YouTube license.

Librarian action figure

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

Librarian action figure

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

And they included an inspiring “librarian code” on the back of the packaging:

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… 😉

First Impressions guest post: ‘Columbus’

Today, I am very excited to introduce you to a guest post by Dale Coleman, a librarian I am lucky enough to work with in real life — and a fellow movie buff. We have enjoyed many interesting conversations about movies! Dale is the one who alerted me to Columbus, which also made several film critics’ “best of ” lists of 2017, as I highlighted in a post a few weeks ago. I asked Dale to contribute a guest post of his own “first impressions” of Columbus, in the tradition of my other “first impressions” posts of reel librarian films.

Dale has a wicked sense of humor and is one of the kindest fellow librarians I have ever had the pleasure to work with. You can enjoy his insight and sense of humor here on his Twitter account and his Instagram account. Dale also talks about movies online, here on his Letterboxd profile. After the “Columbus plot + trailer” section below are Dale’s thoughts and “first impressions” of Columbus. Enjoy!

Columbus plot + trailer

A quick introduction to the film Columbus, which is the debut film from director Kogonada. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson as a young library worker living in Columbus, Indiana, who also loves architecture. She meets Jin (John Cho) and starts to show him her favorite buildings around the city. (A quick glimpse of the library can be seen in the trailer below, at 1:24 mins.) Rory Culkin plays Haley Lu Richardson’s co-worker, the library director, and he enjoys a fair amount of screen time.

Columbus Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Indie,” uploaded by Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films, Standard YouTube license

‘First impressions’ of Columbus from a real-life librarian

by Dale Coleman

There are two scenes in Kogonada’s visually rich and quietly stirring debut feature, Columbus, that I identify with more than any scene from any other film in 2017 (with the possible exception of Rooney Mara eating an entire pie in A Ghost Story). The first scene is one in which it is revealed that John Cho’s character once confessed his undying love to Parker Posey’s character when he was 17 years old. Same here.

The second scene I identified with requires a bit of backstory.

In late 2012, I found myself at an existential crossroads. After completing my undergraduate degree and promptly realizing that there probably was no future for me in public relations or campaign speech writing, I decided to go a different way. Drawing from my delightful work study experience as a circulation assistant and a handful of research assistant jobs, I landed a gig as a reference specialist at Tacoma Community College. In short time, I realized it was the library life for me. Accordingly, around this time, as I weighed the prospects of pursuing an advanced degree in library science, a fun Forbes article made the rounds within the library blogosphere. In a ranking of master’s degrees, based on employment prospects and mid-career median salary, the MLS ranked… (you already know) dead last. I decided to power through and get my MLIS anyway. Buoyed by data from job satisfaction surveys, a handful of wonderful mentors, and my own overwhelmingly positive experience working in libraries, I got my dang master’s (and a job). I’m super glad I did.

Anyway, you can imagine the kaleidoscope of delight, anxiety, and empathy blooming in my consciousness, as this very Forbes article is referenced at the beginning of Columbus, a softly-told coming-of-age/coming-to-terms story, set amid the modernist architectural wonders of Columbus, Indiana. In this particular scene, Casey, a circulation assistant (played by Haley Lu Richardson, who seems poised for world domination) chats career prospects with her librarian colleague, Gabe (played with disaffected, smart-guy irony, by an all-grown up Rory Culkin). “Whatever you do, don’t get an MLS,” Gabe tells Casey in a deadpan mansplain. “It was recently declared the worst master’s for a job.” In spite of  my bubbling defensiveness, I was kinda thrilled to see, even briefly, this weirdly specific, if somewhat pessimistic, depiction of librarianship as a career path.

Screenshot from 'Columbus' (2017)

Screenshot from ‘Columbus’ (2017)

Happily, Columbus is not a film about the job prospects for people with advanced degrees in library science. Casey (Richardson) is a recent high school graduate with an eye for architecture and a promising spark. She has a loving, but complicated, relationship with her mother, with whom she lives and very much fears abandoning. Jin (played by John Cho) arrives in Columbus, on leave from his high-pressure job in South Korea, to look after his estranged father in the wake of a medical emergency. Each at their own crossroads, the two strike up an unlikely friendship, touring the town’s architecture and sorting out their complementary existential dilemmas.

Screenshot from 'Columbus' (2017)

Screenshot from ‘Columbus’ (2017)

The visual appeal of this film is immediately striking. Anyone with even a passing interest in architecture will appreciate the loving eye at work in Columbus. (And if you are the type of person who can recognize an off-hand brutalism pun, you are in for a treat indeed.) The titular town is a bit of an architectural mecca, and the ubiquitous modernist marvels are almost characters themselves. The buildings frequently take the central framing of a shot with characters populating them as a secondary interest. Throughout the film, we return to a handful of set locations, often in a new emotional context or at a different time of day. It is a subtle technique that illustrates the manner in which our built physical environments are both spaces we inhabit, and reflections of our inner lives that change over time. It also adds a layer of visual poetry that propels the film. Of central thematic interest here is the ability of art to comfort and heal and offer new perspective. Thankfully, it’s explored in a way that doesn’t come off as banal or trite. The film also uses space to mirror the characters’ sense of confinement or restriction. Casey’s home, for example, is always shot through multiple door frames.

Screenshot from 'Columbus' (2017)

Library interior, screenshot from ‘Columbus’ (2017)

Screenshot from 'Columbus' (2017)

Architecture highlight, screenshot from ‘Columbus’ (2017)

I also appreciate the way the characters in this film all all afforded dignity and complexity, even when they are being terrible. Standout performances all around, but Richardson shines brightest. Her portrayal of a character struggling to find her way, awash in the opinions and expectations of others, is literally transcendent. She has been racking up the breakout performances, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. John Cho also delivers an understated, impactful performance that is light years removed from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Parker Posey, in addition to being brilliant and perfect and wonderful in every possible way, does a bang-up job in her supporting role.

The supporting characters all feel like real people and not cartoonish plot enablers. Kogonada withholds a lot of character information in the early scenes, opting for more subtle nods to the relationship dynamics at play in the center of this film. By the time the exposition comes in the second act, it feels natural and believable. There is so much cultural and socioeconomic subtext at work in the background that this film seems content to simply let exist without being explicitly remarked upon. A certain type of viewer might be frustrated by the slow burn and quiet unfolding of this story, but the pace feels very intentional and appropriate to me. It compliments the art exploration themes. This is a film that invites you to wander the halls and appreciate the architecture, without hammering you over the head with melodrama. The delicate character development and languid camerawork are storytelling choices that will certainly reward on future viewing.

Screenshot from 'Columbus' (2017)

Screenshot from ‘Columbus’ (2017)

Columbus was an unexpected delight, and one of my favorite films of 2017. Shout out to Kogonada for crafting a quietly confident debut that portends great things to come. Shout out to Parker Posey for being my sun and moon and stars. And shout out to advanced degrees in library science for scoring me a librarian gig, after all.

Favorite reel librarian posts, 2017

As promised last week in my 2017 review post, here are my personal favorite posts from 2017, presented in chronological order:


A disappearing reel librarian (Jan. 2017)

This post took a long time to write… because the film in question, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, actually comes in 3 different versions! Y’all know I like to be thorough, so yes, I watched all 3 versions and analyzed the reel librarian’s character in each version (the reel librarian is the sister of the title character). It was an interesting post to put together, as I had to think my way around how to structure the post and incorporate all 3 different versions of the film — and thus, 3 different versions of this same reel librarian character!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby' (2014)

Screenshot from ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’ (2014)


Librarians of Congress (March 2017)

I got the idea to explore the history of the Librarians of Congress after I did an in-depth analysis of the classic 1976 film, All the President’s Men, which features a pivotal scene in the Library of Congress. I went down the research rabbit hole for this post — and enjoyed every minute of it!

Screenshot from 'Librarians of Congress' post

Screenshot from ‘Librarians of Congress’ post


The reel librarian in The Handmaid’s Tale (April 2017)

This post was a timely film to revisit, right before the Emmy Award-winning mini-series adaptation premiered. I enjoyed revisiting this film and how well it held up, and how relevant this story remains today.

Reel Librarians | A screenshot from 'The Handmaid's Tale' (1990)

A screenshot from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (1990)


New book ‘This is What a Librarian Looks Like’ — and I’m in it! (April 2017)

This was a joyous post to write and news to share with everyone! It still gives me chills to think that I am helping represent the librarian profession in a published book. ♥ ♥ ♥

'This is What a Librarian Looks Like' cover and email


Portrait of a real librarian adventurer (June 2017)

This post was one of the most popular posts in 2017! Years ago, I had asked Bill Nikolai — a real-life librarian as well as an actor, a stand-in, and a photo-double — to share his story with my readers, and it was definitely better late than never! He has had such an interesting and inspiring life, on and off screen.

Collage of two shots taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D., courtesy of Bill Nikolai

Collage of two shots taken on the set of TV pilot A.M.P.E.D., courtesy of Bill Nikolai


A list of banned reel librarian movies (Sept. 2017)

This post took quite a bit of time to research and put together — but it was worth it! It coincided with the annual Banned Books Week, and I thought a list of banned reel librarian movies added to that national conversation about censorship. And it’s a good kind of post to revisit every couple of years for updates.

Reel librarian movies banned graphic


Conan the Librarian and Chainsaw Sally (Oct. 2017)

I enjoyed this post mainly because the idea of Conan the Librarian and the serial killer librarian Chainsaw Sally getting together made me laugh. As did my subheading, “Conan and Sally sitting in a tree… K-I-L-L-I-N-G.” 😀

Conan and Chainsaw Sally collage


Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’ (Dec. 2017)

I didn’t expect much out of rewatching this 1969 film adaptation of the 1959 young adult novel of the same title — but I ended up falling in love all over again with the reel librarian in this film! Basically, the librarian helps save a young boy AND Christmas at the same time.

Christmas with a reel librarian in 'My Side of the Mountain' (1969)

Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’ (1969)


Did you enjoy these posts, too? Any personal faves of yours not represented here? Please leave a comment and share!