RIP to a reel librarian

Last week, a friend and librarian colleague let me know that Peggy Platt, the comedian who played a librarian in Harry and the Hendersons, had recently passed away. My friend also let me know that the filming location for the library in that film was the West Seattle branch of the Seattle Public Library system. But update, there is a discussion going on right now in the “Librarians in the Northwest” Facebook group with convincing evidence that it’s actually the Green Lake branch — librarian crowd-sourcing for the win! (Side note: I really appreciate how many friends and family members alert me to reel librarian movies and updates!)

I had previously written a post analyzing that library scene in Harry and the Hendersons, and I knew that the film had been made in the Pacific Northwest — but I hadn’t realized that the person who played the reel librarian was a local comedian.

I found Peggy Platt’s obituary on the Seattle Times website, and learned that she passed away last Monday at the age of 58 (so young!). There is also a memorial service planned at a local theatre this coming Monday, April 16; more details are in the article. I also learned that Peggy was a leader in Seattle’s LGBTQ community, and that she loved using this quote from a past Seattle Times profile:

“Let’s keep this simple: Peggy Platt is a feminist. Peggy Platt is funny. Peggy Platt thinks feminist issues can be funny.”

Her Seattle Times obituary also highlighted Peggy’s “national marquee moment” in Harry and the Hendersons, describing her role as “a deadpan librarian.” They even included a clip of her short but memorable turn as a reel librarian:

RIP to a reel librarian and real-life inspiration.

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Regarding a public library

In the 1991 film Regarding Henry, directed by Mike Nichols and written by J. J. Abrams (!), a library scene takes place almost exactly halfway through the movie.

Movie plot

But first, let’s set the context. Harrison Ford plays the title role, a hot-shot and ruthless New York lawyer who is out of sync with his 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, or his wife, Sarah (played by Annette Bening). One fateful night, Henry gets shot by a kid holding up a corner store, a shot that causes brain damage. When Henry wakes up, he has to figure out how to start all over again — including the basics of movement and speech — including getting to know his family again.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

The library scene — over 10 seconds of it! — makes the trailer, at 1:45 seconds into the clip above.

Library rules

Rachel takes her father to the library, and she explains the basic rules of the library on the walk there.

Rachel: Some of them [books] you can borrow and take home, but some of them you have to read here.

HenryAnd you can’t talk loud.

RachelRight.

Books and silence — libraries in a nutshell. (Sigh.)

Library scene

The camera then pans quickly through the library, following the polished floors and atmosphere so quiet you can hear every step of every shoe and squeak of every chair. Every table is occupied, showcasing a variety of people.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

Henry’s daughter hard at work in the library

Henry’s daughter is working and studying, writing in a notebooks. A stack of National Geographic magazines are on the table in-between father and daughter. (It isn’t clear if the magazines are for Henry or for his daughter.) There is also a large photography book open in front of Henry.

Henry then starts throwing wads of paper from a box of call number slips, crumpling them up, and then flicking them at his daughter. (This is the part of the scene that makes the trailer.) The sly expressions on Harrison Ford’s face make this scene a(n initially) comic one.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

What? I’m not up to anything…

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

Nothing to see here…

His daughter is not so amused. She keeps saying, “Stop it!” and “Dad, I’m serious.

Henry’s mocking response? “I know. VERY.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

The library is VERY serious.

But the third time he flicks a paper wad at her, Rachel cracks a smile. But then this short scene turns serious.

Rachel: Read your book.

HenryI can’t.

Rachel:  [Realization dawning on her face] I’m sorry.

Rachel’s mother no doubt hid a lot of the details about Henry’s recovery from her daughter, including details about how he had to painstakingly learn how to speak and walk again. It never occurred to Rachel — or the audience?! — until that moment in the library that her father no longer remembered how to read.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

The moment Henry’s daughter realizes her father can’t read

This realization then leads to Henry’s daughter teaching him how to read again. This is significant because he had always put pressure on his daughter to be smart and self-reliant and grown-up; this friction had caused emotional distance between them. Henry being able to admit weakness to his daughter helps them bond again.

It’s a poignant scene. And that this discovery — that Henry can’t remember how to read — is made IN A LIBRARY makes this scene even more poignant and memorable.

Although memorable, this scene lasts less than two minutes. No librarian is visibly present in the scene. Theoretically, one of the several people in the background could be a librarian, but there is nothing obvious — like, say a prop like a book cart — to make this connect visibly clear for the audience. And no librarian is needed in this scene; rather, the focus is on the relationship between father and daughter.

Therefore, Regarding Henry lands in the Class V category, films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries.

Library filming location

The filming locations mentioned in its IMDb page are very general — it was filmed in New York City — but luckily, an internet search turned up the “On the Set of New York” site. This site’s page for Regarding Henry reveals that the library scene was filmed at the 5th avenue branch of the New York Public Library. This turns out to the iconic central, or main, branch of the library. Kudos to director Mike Nichols for finding a way to make the library space in this scene look more cozy and warm than the usual cinematic shots of the NYPL central branch.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Regarding Henry' (1991)

Interior shot for the library scene

Sources used:

Regarding Henry. (1991). Dir. Mike Nichols. Perf. Harrison Ford, Annette Bening, Rebecca Miller. Paramount Pictures.

Regarding Henry – Trailer,” uploaded by YouTube Movies, 2012, Standard YouTube license.

Research skills: What ‘Suits’ you?

Sometimes, ideas for posts come from the most unlikeliest of places.

Trying Suits on for size

This past week, I decided to give the TV series Suits a try (while we are still enjoying a free preview of Amazon Prime!).

In the pilot episode, I was particularly drawn to the character of Rachel Zane (played by very-soon-to-be-a-princess-in-real-life Meghan Markle), who is the law firm’s top paralegal and researcher — and knows it! I do love a woman who is smart and is not afraid to be smart.

Here are just a couple of snippets of how Rachel describes herself and her work ethic in the pilot episode:

  • “I’m smart.”
  • “I take my job seriously.”

Breaking down the research scene

A little over halfway into the episode, the newbie assistant lawyer, Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams), asks Rachel for her help on a case. Let’s beak down their conversation.

First, the ask and recognition of Rachel’s research skillz. (I also have to admit that at one point, I thought seriously about becoming a paralegal and putting my own research skills to use in a different way.)

MikeRachel! I need your help!

RachelSo why are you coming to me?

MikeBecause Donna says you’re the best researcher in the firm.

They walk into her office, which, in the pilot episode at least, is lined with bookshelves. A woman after my own heart!

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane, paralegal

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane at her desk

Mike: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You have an office? How do you have an office, and I have a cubicle?

RachelLike you said, I’m the best researcher in the firm.

Next, the research set-up:

RachelYou’re asking to look at private files without any evidence of your assertion.

MikeYeah, but the only way we can find the evidence is to look at those files.

RachelIt’s a rickety argument.

MikeBut is there precedent?

RachelLet’s go see if we can find one.

Finally, the pay-off at the firm’s in-house law library. (Two stories, no less!)

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane in her natural habitat, the law library

RachelResearch is as much art as science. So, we’re gonna look at privacy and harassment law to see if we can find a combination of cases to make an argument. I’ll take privacy.

MikeI’ll take harassment law.

RachelThis’ll take a while.

Final lessons about research

What do we learn from these few seconds about research with ace paralegal Rachel Zane?

Screenshot from pilot episode of 'Suits'

Rachel Zane, paralegal, tellin’ it like it is

  1. Research is a combination of art and science — in other words, being BOTH “book smart” AND “street smart”
  2. Have a plan before you start researching
  3. Think about multiple starting points/keywords/potential sources
  4. Research can take time
  5. If you need help, ask a research expert!

I’m admittedly new to Suits — even though its final season is about to air, having already hit that 100-episode marker! — but I was very pleasantly surprised by how invested I was in the characters by the end of the pilot episode.

Have you seen Suits? Do you like Rachel Zane’s character? Please leave a comment and share!

Ask the (public) librarians

Last week, I was browsing PBS shows online, and I came across the “Ask The…” public television series, including one recent episode from January 2018 entitled “Ask the Librarian.” Reader, I was intrigued.

Ask the experts

Turns out, “Ask The…” is a public access show produced by WGVU, a service of Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Here’s the write-up from the WGVU site for the show:

“This informative program features a variety of topics, from medicine to sports, from animals to entertainment. Each week, host Shelley Irwin invites a group of experts into the studio to discuss new developments in their fields and to answer your questions. Viewers are encouraged to call in and ask questions on air, or questions and comments can be e-mailed to the show’s producer before the show.”

“Ask the Librarian” episode

And here’s the “Ask the Librarian” episode in question (click the image to view the video in a new window):

Screenshot of "Ask the Librarian" TV episode

Screenshot of “Ask the Librarian” TV episode. Click the image to watch the full episode.

The group of experts for this episode consisted of three librarians from public library systems in Michigan, including an older female librarian who works with books for the blind and physically handicapped; a younger male librarian who works in a “library lab” and STEM programming; and an female library director.

So the episode is not so much about “Ask the librarian” as it is about “Ask the public librarian.”

Questions, questions

I jotted down the questions that the host asked during the program, including:

  • How do you spend your day at the library?
  • Do you [librarians] have specialties?
  • So how does the e-system work? [the host is referring to e-books here]
  • It’s not difficult to get a library card, is it?
  • Do you still charge fines?
  • Do libraries use volunteers?
  • What’s the job market these days [for a librarian]?
  • What are you reading now? As every librarian should be reading a book… or two.

Probably the most interesting question of the lot, asked of the younger librarian who works at the “library lab,” was:

“You do, like beer-making opportunities on campus… what’s up with that?”

Judging just from some of these questions, one can tell that librarian stereotypes are still alive and well. For example, the following question was one of the first ones asked:

“Is today’s library system the same as it was when Grandma went through the front door?”

And the host summed up the program by stating:

“Grandma just wouldn’t have had any idea.”

Yeahhhh… this is the kind of stuff librarians hear when people don’t know anything about what librarians actually do. I’m kind of shocked the host DIDN’T ask, “Isn’t it nice to have a job where you just read all day?:\

NYPL reference questions

If you’re interested in some actually interesting and challenging questions asked of public librarians, check out this recent “Ask a Librarian” article, all about past reference questions asked at the New York Public Library:

“When librarians were asked something novel or difficult, they’d often write the question down on a piece of card and file it away for future reference. A box of these cards from the ’40s was recently unearthed at the New York Public Library, and they’re every bit as hilarious as you’d expect somebody’s Google queries from 50 years ago to be.”

NYPL Library Reference Card from the 1940s

The New York Public Library has also been posting these reference question cards on their NYPL Instagram account, if you just can’t get enough. 😉

Sources used:

Ask a Librarian,” Smith Journal, 18 Feb. 2018.

Ask the Librarian,” Ask The… . WGVU, 28 Jan. 2018.

A tale of two trailers | Library scenes in two upcoming movies

I’m always adding titles, both for older and newer movies, to my Master List of reel librarian movies. Friends and family members also often send me titles of movies or trailer they see with library or librarian scenes in them. Sometimes I’m excited about seeing a new reel librarian movie… other times, I am not excited.

The Public movie trailer

First up, an upcoming movie release that I am excited about, The Public. I first came across this movie a couple of months ago, when more than one friend tagged me in Facebook when sharing the trailer. The film is set in a public library (it was filmed in and around the Cincinnati Public Library) and focuses on the very real and interconnected issues of social services for homeless persona and public libraries. Which members of the public does a public library truly serve? The film stars some very big names, including Estevez as well as Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Gabrielle Union, and Jeffrey Wright, among others.

The Public – Official Trailer (2018) HD,” uploaded by MovieClips & Mashups, Standard YouTube License


The film premiered in January at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, but no official release date has been announced (yet).

The film has, understandably, attracted lots of attention amongst librarians, including a recent interview with Estevez in American Libraries, the magazine and website published by the American Library Association, as well as essays by librarians sharing personal perspectives about services and programs to help homeless members of the community. The trailer looks GOOD, y’all, tackling real-life social issues and featuring several substantial and diverse reel librarian roles. You can keep up with news about the film on its official Twitter feed.

Below are two major quotes from the trailer that have already stood out for me. One of them had me guffawing out loud in scorn; the other had me tearing up. I don’t think it will be hard to figure out which is which. 😉

“It must be really nice to have a job where you get to sit around and read all day.”

“The public library is the last bastion of true democracy that we have in this country.”

The Public seems intent on smashing stereotypes for homeless persons as well as stereotypes for librarians. It’s also an example of how movies can help focus attention on very real and very relevant social issues. Count me in!

Truth or Dare movie trailer

Contrast that with a trailer I recently watched during previews before (re)watching Black Panther, a preview for an upcoming teen horror flick, Truth or Dare. The film stars Lucy Hale, one of the stars from the Pretty Little Liars TV show. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to the trailer… until 1 minute and 29 seconds into the trailer.

Truth or Dare Official Trailer #1 (2018) Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey Horror Movie HD,” uploaded by Zero Media, Standard YouTube License


When I realized the background of a scene was set in a library, I literally groaned out loud:

Oh no! Now I’m going to have to watch this movie!

It’s not clear in the 10 seconds of the library shown in the trailer if there is an actual librarian in this scene set in what is presumably a school library. Regardless, I will have to watch the movie to see if there is a librarian or not; even if there’s not — and there isn’t a role called “Librarian” on its cast list — it is often illuminating to explore a scene set in a library and analyze the purpose of the scene and setting.

Admittedly, I feel no pressure to actually watch Truth or Dare in the movie theaters when it premieres next month. But I have added it to my Master List, and I will keep an eye out for when it is released on DVD or streaming, when I can either stream it online or check it out from my local public library. If you do plan on watching Truth or Dare in theaters, let me know how the library scene goes! 🙂


Are there any other upcoming movie titles featuring librarians and/or library scenes that I may have missed? Please let me know by either emailing me at reel.librarians@gmail.com or by filling out the “Ask the Real Librarian” contact form.