Female Character Types

Spinster LibrarianLiberated LibrarianSpirited Young GirlNaughty LibrarianInformation ProviderComic Relief

Spinster Librarian

Most stereotypical female librarian image

Role: Uptight “old maid” librarian who is sexually undesirable; Rule-monger who hoards information; Sometimes referred to, even if not pictured (“You don’t look like a librarian!”); Supporting or minor characters

Age: “Old maids” (but can be “young maids”); “Old maids” used as contrast with younger characters in film

Clothing: Conservative: high collars, cardigans, long skirts, sensible shoes, dark colors or subtle prints, etc.

Physical Appearance: Bun hairstyle or other “unattractive” style; Eyeglasses, either worn or on a chain; Usually skinny, to the point of unattractiveness

Personality: Uptight; Either timid/meek or very unfriendly/stern


  • Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (see image)
  • Georgia Backus in Citizen Kane
  • Alice Drummond in Ghostbusters
  • C. Francis Blackchild in Party Girl

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Liberated Librarian

Role: Trapped/naïve woman who discovers herself—and what she’s capable of—with the help of a man or in face of an adventure/disaster; “Liberation” can be positive or negative; Usually substantial roles—the librarian’s “liberation” often the film’s major plot

Age: Usually young; sometimes middle-aged

Clothing: Usually more conservative or reserved at first

Physical Appearance: Usually undergoes a change of appearance, becoming more attractive and more feminine

Personality: Intelligent but not that committed to libraries—usually leaves profession after liberation


  • Goldie Hawn in Foul Play
  • Penelope Ann Miller in The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
  • Greer Garson in Adventure
  • Shirley Jones in The Music Man (see image)
  • Bridget Fonda in A Simple Plan

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Spirited Young Girl

Role: The young girl who works in the library—only a temporary job—and usually meets the leading man while working; More significant roles

Age: Young, teenager to mid-twenties

Clothing: Fashionable and modern

Physical Appearance: Physically attractive

Personality: Intelligent and often spunky; Unafraid to express her intelligence/personality


  • Ali MacGraw in Love Story
  • June Allyson in Good News (see image)
  • Samantha Mathis in Pump Up the Volume
  • Anna Massey in Peeping Tom

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Naughty Librarian

Role: A flirtatious or sexually charged librarian; Can become violent (or exhibit otherwise criminal behavior) when love/sex desires go unfulfilled or are repressed

Age: Young to middle-aged

Clothing & Physical Appearance: Either (1) Attractive with fashionable clothing or (2) Conservative clothing in library—like a young spinster—and then “lets her hair down” outside the library

Personality: Flirtatious; Sexual undertones in conversation


  • Heather Stephens in Tomcats
  • Valerie Curtin in Maxie
  • Jennifer O’Neill in Personals (see image)
  • Sarah Shelby in The Seventh Victim

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Information Provider

Role: Provides information/misinformation to a character (or to the audience: includes establishing library setting); Highlights importance of rules: Either rule-mongers or rule-breakers (will bend the rules in special circumstances); Most identified by occupational tasks: shelving, stamping, pushing book carts, checking out books, answering a reference question, closing up, etc.; Supporting or minor characters

Age: Variety of ages

Clothing & Physical Appearance: Racially diverse with variety of clothing and physical characteristics

Personality: Often roles are too brief to establish personality; Usually listed only as “Librarian” in credits


  • Mary Pat Gleason in Lorenzo’s Oil
  • Lillian Bronson in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Alethea McGrath in Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones (see YouTube video below)

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Comic Relief

Role: Usually the target of jokes; Crudest portrayal of librarians; Supporting or minor characters

Age: Middle-aged to old

Clothing: Conservative

Physical Appearance: Either too thin or overweight (extremes add to the humor); Conservative or plain appearance and hair style

Personality: Prefers books over people; Anal-retentiveness makes them funny!


  • Elvia Allman in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (see YouTube video below)
  • Isla Cameron in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Barbara Collentine in That Touch of Mink
  • Kathleen Freeman in Chances Are

Breakfast.At.Tiffanys.(1961).WMV” clip uploaded by deanxavier on May 8, 2009. Standard YouTube license.

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7 comments on “Female Character Types

  1. […] Female Character Types « Reel LibrariansRole: A flirtatious or sexually charged librarian; Can become violent (or exhibit otherwise criminal behavior) when love/sex … […]

  2. […] de bibliothecarissen. Deze bibliothecaresse uit Breakfast at Tiffany’s valt in de categorie Female Types – Comic Relief (Personality: Prefers books over people; Anal-retentiveness makes them […]

  3. mcallaha09 says:

    When did you post this?

  4. […] and her only function seems to be stamping books and shushing people. She is most definitely a Spinster Librarian character type, a minor character who is an uptight “old maid” and rule-monger who hoards information. She is […]

  5. […] by a young Korean pop star meets all the stereotypes of a “reel librarian” spinster librarian (https://reel-librarians.com/rolecall/femaletypes/). She is more concerned with rules than people, she is rude and impatient and attempts are made to […]

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