Lego minifigures, a visual history

Earlier this summer, I posted the news about a new Lego librarian minifigure, which included my experience hunting one down. I also celebrated the second anniversary of this blog with a librarian minifigure giveaway, here and here. I thought I had thoroughly explored the librarian-themed minifig universe…

I was mistaken. 😉

Last week, while I browsed the shelves at a huge Scholastic book fair warehouse (does anyone else get really excited and wax nostalgic about Scholastic book fairs?), when lo and behold, I turned a corner and encountered the book, LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History (published by DK, 2013).

Reel Librarians | Lego minifigures, a visual history

Front cover — click for larger image

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Back cover — click for larger image

So OF COURSE I had to take photos. You’re welcome 😉

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Reel Librarians  |  Lego minifigures, a visual history

Turns out the modern Lego minifigure was first introduced in 1978. Who knew?! The librarian minifigure didn’t show up until this year, in the 2013 Series 10 series, meaning it took 35 years to get around to including a Lego librarian minifigure. We came after the mime, super wrestler,  zombie, cheerleader, musketeer, sleepyhead, lederhosen guy, and lawn gnome, just to name a few.

And when I mentioned that to my husband, here’s how the conversation went:

Me:  It took them 35 years to feature a librarian?!

My husband:  Well, they kept bringing it up, but they kept getting shushed.


Gotta admit, that got a chuckle — or two — out of me. 😀


Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew logoThis past holiday weekend, my husband and I settled down to play the latest Nancy Drew adventure game, The Silent Spy, the 29th installment in the computer game series by Her Interactive. We are hard-core Nancy Drew fans (I grew up on the book series, as well as related spin-off series like The Nancy Drew Case Files), and we look forward to playing each new computer game together. This latest game release is set in Scotland and involves a highly affecting backstory about Nancy’s deceased mother, Kate. We both enjoyed The Silent Spy, especially as it had so many elements right up my husband’s alley:  Scotland, clan tartans, old coins, archery, the “Samantha Quick” tie-in (you have to be a longtime fan and player of the computer game series to get this reference), etc.

But what does this have to do with librarians? I was surprised — very pleasantly so! — that a librarian reference was worked into a phone conversation between Nancy and her father, Carson Drew (he’s a lawyer and protective single father). This conversation occurred about 2/3 of the way into the game, with Carson continuing to urge Nancy to stay safe and return home as quickly as possible. Here’s how this specific conversation begins:

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

Nancy is quite surprised at Carson’s suggestion of a career change! The conversation concludes:

Reel Librarians  |  Nancy Drew as a librarian?

What I love about this:  Carson Drew (or rather, the game writers) know about library science. Score! And he recognizes us as “the world’s unsung heroes”? ♥ LOVE ♥ (But pssst, Carson, you might want to check out The Librarian TV movie trilogy. That’s one reel librarian who DOES get himself involved in all sorts of adventures, and I’m pretty sure Flynn “The Librarian” Carsen has found himself kidnapped a time or two… )

But I digress … Nancy Drew as a librarian? Gotta say, Nancy Drew would be an AWESOME librarian. Am I right or what?! Her ability to recognize patterns and organize information would definitely be put to good use as a librarian. As would her lifelong quest to ask questions and find out info relevant to whatever adventure she is currently pursuing. Plus, in the games, Nancy is always seeking out books to read up on whatever topics are relevant to the game’s backstory and puzzles; for example, in The Silent Spy, we (through Nancy) get to read about clan tartans, Mary Queen of Scots, the history and construction of bagpipes, as well as different kinds of archery bows.

For  librarians — especially those of us who work with the public at the Reference Desk, like yours truly — every day holds the promise of learning something new, every day is like a scavenger hunt, every day is an opportunity to hunt down useful information. So there actually are quite a few similarities between detectives and librarians, however much our tools in trade and work locales may differ. And similar to private detectives, our job is to locate relevant info as efficiently and seamlessly (read:  quietly) as possible.

Unsung heroes, y’all. Carson Drew, YOU are my hero. 

And if you’re interested in learning more about The Silent Spy, click here for more info, including character profiles, trailers, screenshots, and reviews.

The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn?

Library Services in the Digital Age screenshot

“Library Services in the Digital Age” report from the Pew Research Center

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center, “Library Services in the Digital Age,” has been getting quite a bit of attention by writers clamoring for the return of quiet zones in libraries and the shushing librarian. Why? Because quiet study spaces rank high in the section on desirable library resources, just below librarians to help people find information, borrowing books, and free access to computers and the Internet.

I value the need of quiet zones in libraries. Most libraries, if provided enough space and funds (that’s the catch), have zones for both quiet and group study — proving that serving one need does not necessarily negate another need. Libraries serve diverse needs of diverse communities, as this study shows. My own workplace, a community college library, has a designated quiet study zone, as well as a group study space near the entrance.

No objections here to serving multiple needs of our community, including the need for a little quiet in a loud, busy world.

What I do object to, however, are phrases like this:

Even some libraries, whose professional shushers were once celebrated in cartoon and sitcom, now have music and special segregated areas designated for “quiet study,” which is what a library used to be.

~ Tim Kreider, “The Quiet Ones,” The New York Times Sunday Review

Professional shushers? Really?! Celebrated in pop media, eh? Righhhhht.

How about this New York Public Library worker in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Not seeing too much celebration or dignity in this shushing librarian cameo.

The opening paragraph in this essay was encouraging:

Librarians hate to be depicted as bun- and glasses-wearing shushers, hellbent on silencing any and all noisy activities within their sacred domain. Fair enough: Librarians are highly skilled, well-educated and socially aware as a rule, and should not be reduced to a cultural stereotype ranking only a notch or two above a church lady on the hipness scale.

~ Laura Miller, “Bring back shushing librarians,”

But the next line?

Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for that shushing.


How about we return to the first shushing librarian in film, Hugh E. Wright in The Good Companions (1933)? His shushing is met not with a round of (quiet) applause, but with a young woman’s dismissive attitude. And continued breaking of the silence rule. Yep, total respect for that initial cinematic shush. 😉

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieOr how about the school librarian in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie who yells out, “This is a library. Not a fun fair!” to two giggling young girls? I’m not detecting anything but mutual loathing in those collective facial expressions, seen in the screenshot at right. I’m pretty sure that school librarian was NOT voted Most Popular School Staff Member at the end of the school year.

Or what about the public librarian in Waitress! or the school librarian in The Last American Virgin who both nearly faint at the shouting and fights that erupt in their libraries. Or the Quaker librarian in The Philadelphia Storyshushing and spouting off thees and thous, earning derision and wide-eyed stares from stars James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn.

Unflattering portrayals all, with librarian characters who serve as the butt of jokes, not as the receiver of esteem or respect.

So next time you’re in the mood for a shushing librarian, I suggest picking up the librarian action figure with the patented shushing super power, as seen below, and shush away to your heart’s content.

I’ll be in my library, doing my job and helping my users — not with a bang or a whisper, but with a smile.

New year, new resources

In the midst of a review-and-reorganize mode that happens to me every January, I wanted to highlight a few sites and resources that I’ve added recently to my Resources page. Enjoy!

Pop! Goes the Librarian

This new blog by new librarian Maria Atilano began as a Social Media Management class project this past summer, and has since continued past library school. Fun, bright, cheeky, thought-provoking. I like it all. 😀

Pop Goes the Librarian header

Libraries/Librarians in the Movies

Go Pinterest! The “library ninjas” at Saint Mary’s College Library started this Pinterest board to showcase reel libraries and librarians — and have even used some pics from this here blog. 🙂 I also periodically check back in for any new titles I need to add to my Master List. Also, their other Pinterest boards are fun, too, including Mad About Austen and Books You Pretend to Read.

Screen Shot 2012-12-29 at 3.02.32 PM

From Spinsters to Cyberpunks: The Changing Face of Female Librarians

Library Student Journal 2011 imageThis is an essay available online through the open-access Library Student Journal, from the December 2011 edition. It’s always illuminating to be able to view a library science student’s perspective (see Pop! Goes the Librarian above), and this article’s author, Rosemary Kiladitis, was a media student before turning to library science. This article is an interesting read, with such observations as:

This discomfort, even shame, over a stereotypical image threatens to overwhelm the profession as it continues the vicious cycle of passing this discomfort onto newcomers. Dupré (2001) argues in “The Perception of Image and Status in the Library Profession” that the obsession with the stereotype, not the stereotype itself, is the problem.

When considering the image of the librarian and how the bun-headed spinster is played for laughs throughout the years, I go to the familiar: the movies. The cinema creates a snapshot of society in a given time period, and the image of the librarian is there for all to see.

What happens to the bun-headed spinster? Despite the professional angst, I believe she is a beloved touchstone.

Any new resources you’ve come across lately, or new movies you’ve seen featuring librarians? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Battle of the sexes

The keeper of knowledge has always been a powerful position. Although modern librarianship is moving from a “sage on the stage” perspective and toward more of a “guide on the side” outlook, one traditional depiction of librarians is that we are the modern gatekeepers of books and knowledge.

A clever twist on this traditional depiction are the Books in the 1973 sci-fi cult classic Soylent Green. The Books are people (see below), or as Matthew Battles put it, “a clear-eyed cabal of aged worthies ensconced deep within the ragged stacks of a library.”

Belle Mitchell as Book #3 in Soylent Green

Cyril Delevanti as Book #4 in Soylent Green

The materials librarians select help reflect, perhaps even shape, society’s collective knowledge. Perhaps the greatest influence of librarians is on children; the suggestive power of influencing what young children read can help determine future career and life choices (see the library scenes in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945, and The Human Comedy, 1943, as examples).

Exercising a feminist standpoint, the users of this knowledge — those who run the world in political offices, the military heroes, the broadcast news anchors — are still mostly men. Despite progress made toward sexual equality, we still live in a patriarchal society. However, those traditional “gatekeepers” of the knowledge men use to obtain and sustain those powerful positions are mostly women. Most librarians, in reality AND in film, are female. Only about 1 out of 4 real-life librarians are male (see source here).

The 1941 classic Citizen Kane is an interesting example of this battle of the sexes in miniature. A brief but memorable scene shows how a female librarian/archivist — a woman in an aggressively gender-neutralized exterior, see right — controls access to the personal papers of a prominent male figure, in this case the archives of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane. See also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Librarians hold one key — the key of access — to potential knowledge. Thus, the battle for knowledge crosses over, intersecting with the battle between the sexes. One could argue that this tension — male users wanting the knowledge that female librarians possess — has helped cause negative, stereotypical portrayals of reel librarians (Spinster Librarian, anyone?), as well as the overly sexed “Naughty Librarian” kind of roles.

Marilyn Johnson, in her book This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (read my review post here), puts forward the theory that:

As a rule, librarians cultivate a professionalism that projects sexual neutrality, which permits them to guard their trove of both innocent and risque books from a position of high-minded principle, and also helps keep the stalkers at bay. But there is a tension between the business-like and the generally modest librarians and the occasionally racy books they guard that finds expression in the culture in a stream of winks and leers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. One of the points of this blog is to show a greater diversity of reel librarians, and many positive examples in roles both big and small exist (see my Hall of Fame and Honorable Mention lists for a start). In the specific blog post, I am trying to explore possible reasons behind negative portrayals of female reel librarians, of which, unfortunately, there are still plenty of examples.

It is also interesting to note that the invention of film emerged about the same time that women became the major force in the field of librarianship (both in the late 1800s). Also, an overwhelming majority of film directors and producers are men — perhaps further shifting more tension between knowledge/power and men/women, resulting in more negative characterizations of reel librarians?

Something to think about. And the beat goes on….