A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase Four TV series (so far)

Phase four, round two, of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

We are wrapping up our summer with our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians! I have written a lot about library scenes in various Marvel movies on this site, so this summer, I decided to go back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and make sure I watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes. Thank you for joining me as I finish cataloging all the library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in the MCU (so far):

Because Phase Four introduced TV series, and is therefore considerably larger than previous phases, I split Phase Four into two separate posts, a post for the Phase Four movies, and this final post (for now) for the Phase Four TV series.

There were a LOT more library, archives, and research-related scenes in the Phase Four TV series than I originally anticipated, so this is a super(hero)-sized post to finish out our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians summer. Feels appropriate, right? 😉

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*


WandaVision (Jan.-Mar. 2021)


WandaVision premiered as the first MCU TV series at the beginning of 2021 and has 9 episodes total. In this series, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are living in the suburbs, trying to act “normal” and conceal their powers. The series also features Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. Kat Dennings and Randall Park return as Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, respectively. WandaVision is a high-concept series, with each episode’s look and feel reflecting popular TV shows of different eras (i.e.g, the first episode looks like 1950s sitcoms, the second episode transitions into 1960s sitcoms, etc.). The series is set three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and its plot and ending directly lead into the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie, which also features Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch.

There is a squint-and-you’ll-miss-it reel librarian sighting in this series, as well as a few book-focused research scenes. The Westview Public Library is also the setting for a couple of key scenes.

Episode 2, “Don’t Touch That Dial”


At 6 minutes into this episode, which is all about wanting to fit in, Vision says, “There’s a gathering of the neighborhood watch at the public library.” Cut to 11:40 minutes, and we see Vision walking up the stairs to the library.

Vision: Pardon me, is this the neighborhood watch meeting?

Norm: Oh, hiya Vision, didn’t expect to see you here. This is sort of a “members only” type deal.

The neighborhood watch meeting is taking place in a central table in the middle of the library, and we see bookcases and a large card catalog along the walls, as well as microfiche readers. The interior of the library looks to be octagonal, with an open upper level supported by columns; this octagonal shape seems to be at (architectural) odds with the flat exterior of the library building.

Behind Norm’s head, there’s what looks to be a reference counter, and a woman with dark hair walks behind the counter, which indicates to me that she’s a reel librarian. This character goes unmentioned in the episode’s cast list but helps solidify the library setting, so she ends up a (nominal) Information Provider.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Vision sits down at the center table, saying he’ll “be as quiet as a church mouse.” It dawns on him, finally, that the “neighborhood watch” meeting is actually cover for guys to get together and gossip! Vision then tries a stick of gum — again, trying to fit in — but the gum gets stuck in his internal gears, which has hilarious consequences in the latter half of the episode.

The library scene ends at 14:34 minutes, lasting a total of 3 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “Now in Color”


This episode is set in the 1970s, and at 2 minutes into the episode, Vision comes out of the Westview Public Library in an establishing shot in the episode’s intro titles. The very next frame is a closeup of Vision reading a book about pregnancy while he’s walking. This visual continuation seems to suggest that this is a book Vision just checked out of the library, but there’s also no call number on this book. (Also, the front and back covers of the book seem to be the same, which is odd, isn’t it? Could this be another, very subtle hint that Vision and Wanda don’t actually fit in with everyone else? Also, does this red book cover remind you of the red book cover for Rosemary’s Baby? An unsettling thought!)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


At 5 minutes into the episode, Vision is reading another baby book in the nursery, a book entitled The Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book.

By the way, this is a real book which had many editions published from 1948 through 1977. Y’all knew I would look that up, right? 😉

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


Just 2 minutes later, Wanda experiences pregnancy pain, and asks Vision, “Do any of your books talk about this?”

Vision is ready with a new book from their home library, this time The New Complete Medical and Health Encyclopedia — remember when you kept encyclopedias at home?! — which is also a real book that went through many editions published by J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company. Vision looks up Braxton Hicks contractions.

Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home
Using a medical and health encyclopedia at home

Episode 9, “The Series Finale”


At 8 minutes into the finale, Wanda and Agatha have a showdown, and Agatha shares the prophecy in the Darkhold, revealing that there’s an entire chapter devoted to the Scarlet Witch: “Your power exceeds that of the sorcerer supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.” (Put a pin in that for the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie!) Agatha describes the Darkhold as “the book of the damned.”

Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch
Closeup of the Darkhold book and the Scarlet Witch

At 16 minutes into the episode, the townspeople confront Wanda in the town square, while The Vision (all in white) picks a fight with Vision and throws him through the public library’s windows.

The interior of the library looks to be the same octagonal set as seen in the previous episode, but we can see updates to the library, including a different card catalog along one wall (looks to be a boxier shape, like from the 1970s?), and a bulletin board to the right of the front door. This library bulletin board was my FAVORITE bit of this whole scene, as it’s SO cheesy — with a bee illustration and the phrase “The Library is the place to ‘bee'” — and SO true-to-life for a public library! I have created bulletin boards like this. In the gallery below, you can see the bulletin board and the library card catalog.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.


While this new Vision states that “my mission is to destroy the Vision,” it really seems to be about destroying the public library!

After all the destruction, I enjoyed that the two Visions then engaged in a philosophical debate and thought experiment whilst in a library; it felt fitting that The Vision restored his knowledge while in a place of knowledge.

This library fight scene ends at 20:56, lasting for 5 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The final scene in the series features Wanda with the Darkhold — the “book of the damned” — and in her Scarlet Witch costume. This scene will get referenced again in the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie.


The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Mar.-Apr. 2021)


In this TV series, which has 6 episodes, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) return and team up against the Flag Smashers and the Power Broker. Carl Lumbly has a memorable role as Isaiah Bradley, the first Black Captain America. Daniel Brühl returns as Helmut Zemo. This TV series is set six months after Steve Rogers handed the Captain America shield to Sam at the end of the Avengers: Endgame (2019) movie. This series delves into issues of racism in the U.S., and what it means and feels like to be both a Black man and Captain America.

There are no official libraries in this series, but there is an interesting example of a private library in a prison, as well as the related field of curation and museum exhibits that I felt was interesting to share.

Episode 1, “New World Order”


At 12 mins into this episode, Sam Wilson speaks at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum’s exhibit for Captain America.

Episode 3, “Power Broker”


At 7:15 minutes in to this episode, Sam and Bucky are going to see Zemo, who is in a private prison cell.

Bucky: What’s the book you’re reading?

Zemo: Machiavelli.

Zemo then picks up the book — which is laying beside a cluster of books in a private prison library of sorts — revealing a hidden key card, which helps him break out of prison.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “One World, One People”


At the end of the finale, at 41 minutes, Sam takes Isiah Bradley to the Smithsonian Museum, where he reveals a new section of the Captain America exhibit that spotlights Bradley and the other Black American men who were in the Super Soldiers program.

Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian
Isiah Bradley exhibit at the Smithsonian

Loki (Season 1, June-July 2021)


Tom Hiddleston returns to steal the small screen as Loki in this TV series, which has 6 episodes. After stealing the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), an alternate version of Loki winds up in trouble with the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) recruits Loki to help him track down another Loki variant and help fix the “Sacred Timeline.” The series co-stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Sophia Di Martino, Richard E. Grant, and Jonathan Majors.

We see the TVA’s archives quite a few times in this series, as well as the archivist in one episode!

Episode 1, “Glorious Purpose”


The credits of the first episode feature closeups of case files from the archives, dictionaries and notes, as well as “Archive” labels on card catalog drawers. It just makes sense that we see evidence of the archives in the first episode, as the TVA is the ultimate bureaucracy, right? This means lots of paper and filing clerks and archives!

Episode 2, “The Variant”


At 17:56 minutes into this episode, Mobius engages Loki in a research project in the archives, to help figure out how to catch the Loki variant. Our first glimpse of the archives reveals seemingly endless rows and levels of archives and bookcases. (IMDb’s Filming & Production page for this episode lists the Atlanta Marriott Marquis as the filming location for the TVA Headquarters, and photos of this hotel look like the backdrop for the archives. My guess is that they CGI’d all the bookcases and files visible in the background. And the letter combinations visible in the signage (and elevator) clearly signify an advanced classification system.)

Mobius: I need you to go over each and every one of the variants case files, and then give me your… how do I put it? Your unique Loki perspective. And who knows? Maybe there’s something that we missed.

Loki: Well, you’re idiots. I suspect you probably missed a lot.

Mobius: That’s why I’m lucky I got ya for a little bit longer. Let me park ya at this desk, and don’t be afraid to really lean into this work.

Loki [looking at the mountain of documents]: Oh my goodness.

A person in the background, who is dressed in a suit and tie, then shushes Loki, and Loki turns around and shushes them back! The shusher is credited as “Archives Shusher” (Zele Avradopoulos) in the cast list.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Loki, tired of doing research, tries to trick the Archivist (Dayna Beilenson) into giving him classified files. Let’s see how that turned out for him!

The Archivist, a White woman, is seated at her own station, cocooned within a low wall of glass partitions. Looking very no-nonsense in a tie and cardigan with pulled-back hair and 1950s glasses, she is typing away as Loki approaches.

Loki: Hi. Hello?

Archivist: [No answer, keeps typing]

Loki: Hello? [finally dings the bell on her desk]

Archivist: Can I help you?

Loki: Yes, I’m on some important TVA business. Follow-up to a field mission. You know how it goes. We redlined near the Apez, and well, it’s never good.

Archivist: [No reaction.]

Loki: I’d like all files pertaining to the creation of the TVA, please.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. I’d like all files pertaining to the beginning of time then.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. The end of time.

Archivist: Those are classified.

Loki: Ok. What files can I have?

Archivist [goes to the stacks and hands him a file]: Happy reading.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Lessons learned?

  1. Take archivists seriously when they say something is classified.
  2. The archivist’s glare is as chilling as a librarian’s.
  3. Don’t mess with archivists, y’all!

And lo and behold, by actually engaging in the research process and studying the archival files, Loki discovers the answer to how to find the variant Loki!

It’s also interesting to note that the closeup of a document reveals a file number and more evidence of an advanced classification system. I don’t know what this classification system is or what it signifies, but I can tell you it’s not Dewey or Library of Congress (LC). Wait… is this how non-librarians view library call numbers, as undecipherable combinations of letters and numbers?! Oh no! 😉

File number and archival classification system
File number and archival classification system

This archives scene ends at 21:26, so this scene lasts 4 1/2 minutes.

Loki takes his discovery to Mobius, and they test out the theory, that the Loki variant is hiding in apocalypses. After they prove the theory correct, at 27:43 minutes, Mobius says they need to figure out how many apocalypses there are. Cue a return to the archives!

Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses
Loki and Mobius review archives of apocalypses

And at 31:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius returns again to the archives, inspired by something Loki says. He pulls out a packet of Kablooie gum from an old case file, an anachronism in another timeline. This archival clue leads them to research the gum and cross-reference apocalyptic events. Ahhh, the research process! (What goes unsaid is how classification systems and keywords help make this kind of cross-referencing possible in the first place. Archivists, librarians, and catalogers worldwide say you’re welcome. 😉 )

Mobius: All we got to do is cross-reference that with every apocalyptic event.  I’m gonna a give you half, have a competition, see who wins.

Loki: Found it!

Mobius: You’re gonna take my job if I’m not careful.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene ends at 33:09, lasting just under a minute and a half. Altogether, archival research dominates the episode… although the word “archives” or “archivist” is never stated out loud.

The credits also replay the bell scene from the archives!

Episode 4, “The Nexus Event”


There’s a short scene in the archives in this episode.

At 30:50 minutes into the episode, Mobius becomes suspicious of his friend and mentor Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and steals her TemPad mobile device. He then goes to a quiet corner of the archives to search the device’s contents. Obviously, the archives is where you go when you don’t expect to see anyone else!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The information he discovers on the TemPad, that the TVA workers all used to be variants, directly impacts the rest of the series. This scene ends at 32:14.

Episode 5, “Journey into Mystery”


Miss Minutes, voiced by Tara Strong, is not an official archivist (she’s more like a marketing spokesperson or mascot?), but she does undertake archival research in this episode.

At 9:40 minutes into the episode, Renslayer and Sylvie (a Loki variant) interact with Miss Minutes.

Renslayer: Miss Minutes, I need you to remote access a series of restricted files from the archives.

Minutes: Oooh doggy! On what?

Renslayer: The beginning of time. The founding of the TVA.

Minutes: Right away.

The animated archives look like a wheel. I think it’s interesting to contrast this scene with the previous scene with the uncooperative archivist.

However helpful Miss Minutes seems, Sylvie becomes suspicious of how long the search is taking — and indeed, this archival quest is a ruse to capture Sylvie! The scene ends at 11:26 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Later in the episode, at 29:12 minutes, Renslayer asks Miss Minutes for the files from the beginning of time, this time for real.

Episode 6, “For All Time. Always.”


Once again, the archives is an important setting, including in the final shots of the finale.

At 39:01 minutes into the episode, Loki is back in the TVA after being betrayed by Sylvia, and he runs through the archives. Computer screens in the background show how the timeline is splintering. Mobius and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) are also standing in the archives, panicked by the splintering timelines.

Mobius: That’s what, 63 new branches in this unit alone?

Hunter B-15: Does he want us to just let them all branch?

Loki [running up to them]: We freed the timeline!

[…]

Mobius: What’s your name?

Hunter B-15: Boots on the ground now. Archives.

The final shot of the series pans over the archives, this time with a statue of Kang. All reality, as this Loki knows it, has changed.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

It’s also significant that the final word of the series is “Archives,” yet it’s the first time the word “archives” is spoken aloud in the series.

The final shot of the credits has a closeup of a stamp, and atop an archival document, the stamp reads: “Loki will return in Season 2.”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

As Pop Archives summarizes:

Unfortunately, they don’t refer to the massive archive as an archives until the last minute of the last episode of season one. […]

That being said, records and files are everywhere in season one, including the closing credits of every episode. They are the bread and butter of the TVA, but they’re also a thematic tool. […]

Records and archival collections as the truth or a truth is entirely based on how you approach the postmodernist theory behind constructed narratives and the inherent power of the archives to facilitate those narratives.

Samantha Cross, “Archives on TV: Loki,” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022

What If…? (Season 1, Aug.-Oct. 2021)


This animated series, another first for the MCU, explores what would happen if pivotal moments from the MCU happened differently. This series, which has 9 episodes, is set after the multiverse concept is established in Loki‘s first season. Jeffrey Wright narrates the series as the Watcher. A few episodes feature libraries or archives.

Episode 2, “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”


In this episode and alternate reality, T’Challa is Star-Lord, and he leads the Ravagers to Knowhere in order to challenge the Collector, who oversees a vast collection (a personal archive or library?) of valuable and dangerous objects. At 15:23 minutes into this episode, T’Challa asks Howard the Duck where the “Embers of Genesis” are located, and we learn about a mini-library of Elvish literature! (LOTR and MCU fans unite! 😉 )

T’Challa / Star-Lord: Do you know where I can find them?

Howard the Duck: Cosmic flora, down the hall, take a Louie at the first giants, a hard Ralph at the Kronans, you’re gonna see a sign for Elvish literature. Ignore that, total snooze.

I’m not counting this as an official library or archives, but I thought it was a funny aside!

Tell me again about the Elvish literature
Tell me again about the Elvish literature

Episode 3, “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff (voiced by Lake Bell) is trying to figure out who or what is killing off the (potential) members of the Avengers.

At 18:29 minutes into the episode, Romanoff has broken into a public library in Manassas, Virginia, after the library has closed. (Note: There are several public library branches in Manassas, but the design of this animated library seems to most closely resemble the Manassas Park City Library branch.) All the lights are off as Natasha uses a library computer to try and log into the Avengers online system.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Agent Coulson [voice over the cell phone]: Why do you need my password?

Natasha: I need to get into the Avengers Initiative files, but I’m locked out of the system… and wanted for murder.

Natasha hears a noise and looks over her shoulder down an aisle of bookcases. An invisible foe attacks her, and they fight in the stacks. Natasha manages to call Nick Fury and calls out a clue, “It’s all about hope!”

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene in the public library ends at 20:18 minutes, so the scene lasts less than two minutes.

Episode 4, “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”

In this episode, Dr. Strange tries to prevent Christine’s death, which takes him on a journey to the Lost Library of Cagliostro.

At 4:17 minutes into the episode, we see a version of a scene in Doctor Strange (2016), in which reel librarian Wong (voiced by Benedict Wong) warns Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) about the Eye of Agamotto, which was discovered by Cagliostro, and its power to manipulate time. In this version, we see the Ancient One (rather than Mordo) in the Kamar-Taj library!

An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!
An animated look at the Kamar-Taj Library!

At 5:20 minutes, we revisit Wong and Strange back in the New York sanctuary, as Strange mourns the second anniversary of Christine’s death. Again, Wong serves as a voice of reason, warning Strange not to “do something reckless.”

Almost 6 minutes later, at 11:04 minutes, the Ancient One echoes Wong’s warnings:

Ancient One: The greatest sorcerers of the past could not reverse an Absolute Point.

Strange: You don’t know that. Books have been lost. Libraries destroyed.

Strange doesn’t listen. Less than a minute later, at 11:57 minutes, we see that Strange’s journey has led him to a jungle, where he meets a stranger, a Black man. This character is voiced by Nigerian actor Ike Amadi.

Strange: I’m looking for the Lost Library of Cagliostro. Library? Hello? You know, books? Reading? Knowledge?

[No answer, as the stranger walks away, and Strange follows him.]

Strange: Where can I find Cagliostro?

Stranger: Maybe here, maybe there, maybe nowhere.

Strange: Please tell me you’re not Cagliostro.

Stranger: The name’s O’Bengh, librarian for the books of Cagliostro.

O'Bengh introduces himself as a librarian
O’Bengh introduces himself as a librarian

They arrive at the Lost Library of Cagliostro, and what a sight this library is to behold! A cherry tree grows in the center, and a few books hang from chains along the ceiling (visually intriguing but very impractical). Strange refers to these as “the lost books.” (My spouse wondered if the Book of Vishanti was there, hah!) We also see bookcases lining the back walls of the large room.

O’Bengh: How long will you be staying here?

Strange: As long as it takes.

One of the books that Strange consults, a book on time manipulation, states that you can “gain the power through the absorption of other beings.” Strange ultimately rejects O’Bengh and the library, saying, “The library isn’t enough. Those beings have what I need.” Despite another librarian’s warnings (and first aid help), Strange continues on his destructive path of battling monsters and absorbing their powers.

Eventually, Strange returns to the library and finds O’Bengh on his deathbed.

Strange: O’Bengh, what happened to you?

O’Bengh: Time. Put that away [the Eye of Agamotto]. You used magic to remain frozen for centuries. I chose to live. Even in our world, death is part of the plan. Maybe the other Strange will [accept death].”

In this closeup, it’s clear that O’Bengh has one blue eye and one brown eye (this rare genetic phenomenon is called heterochromia).

O'Bengh on his deathbed
O’Bengh on his deathbed

This Lost Library of Cagliostro scene ends at 20 minutes into the episode, lasting 8 minutes total.

Strange’s actions have disastrous consequences back in the alternate reality’s New York sanctuary with Wong. At 22:17 minutes, Wong, as usual, gets straight to the point.

Wong: Ok, wait, so the fabric of reality is breaking, and only you can stop it because you are causing it.

Strange: Let’s be honest, we’ve been through weirder.

Wong: Do you want to stop him?

Strange: At the very least, to save you.

At this point, my spouse shouted out:

He’s not wrong. Without Wong, there is no MCU!

Both Wong and O’Bengh serve primarily as Information Providers, as they provide information (and warnings) to Strange and the viewers. I would also argue that both also serve as Comic Relief, as they both display senses of humor (Wong refers to the bathroom as “the little sorcerer’s room” while O’Bengh calls Strange “Sorcerer Armani.”)

Is O’Bengh indeed Cagliostro? Burkely Hermann, in this thoughtful analysis post of this episode, states that this is implied. Hermann also brings up some interesting points to reflect on with this reel librarian portrayal:

It is disconcerting the number of roles he [O’Bengh] takes on in the episode: an all-knowing person, a medic, and a sorcerer, to name the three most prominent. Archives in Fiction (AIF) makes a good point that while the space was beautifully rendered, it is “utterly impractical” and argued that the episode has the subtext that “librarians are magic” or that they are “expected to work miracles.” In response to AIF saying that they since when anyone calls “us” (archivists, librarians) miracle workers, even if it comes “from a good place,” saying that there is “really nothing miraculous about the work we put into making things findable,” I said that that perspective makes sense.

Burkely Hermann, “Doctor Strange’s quest for power and the Black sorcerer-librarian,” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.

Episode 5, “What If… Zombies?!”


Benedict Wong has no lines (other than grunts) in this episode, but I had to include a look at Zombie Wong!!!

Zombie Wong first shows up at 3:39 minutes into the episode, and (SPOILER), he gets his head chopped off by a portal at 4:11 minutes.

Zombie Wong
Zombie Wong

Episode 7, “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?”


Although there is no library in this episode, there is a running gag in this episode about Thor’s so-called study group and how “knowledge is magic.”

At the end of this episode, at 28:50 minutes, Captain Marvel flies down to Thor and hands him a tablet full of info about humans, in order to help Thor save face in front of his mother, Frigga. It’s interesting to note what resources made the cut!

Thor, here’s the information you requested on human civilizations, and I loaded a few documentaries, PBS specials, NPR podcasts.

Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.
Knowledge is magic, indeed. Marvel provides Thor a table full of info about human civilization.

Episode 8, “What If… Ultron Won?”


In this episode, Natasha Romanoff and Hawkeye team up to try and figure out a way to stop Ultron. This journey takes them to the KGB Archives, while the Watches watches them and agonizes about whether or not to intervene. The KGB Archives are housed in a vast warehouse of seemingly never-ending rows of bookshelves and file boxes. No archivist is ever seen, or even mentioned.

At 10:54 minutes into the episode, Natasha and Hawkeye arrive at the archives.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Watcher: One last hope.

Natasha: Welcome to the KGB archives.

Hawkeye: Your country ever heard of PDFs?

Natasha: Hard copies are harder to steal, easier to destroy. But code, code is slippery, and it never dies.

Hawkeye: So, where do we start?

Natasha: Just pick a box.

[Pause here to scream into the void while I go all capsy. NO!!! Any kind of library or archival material is organized according to a system, a classification system, and there would be finding aids or signs or SOMETHING to help explain that system and where things are generally located. This archives warehouse looks VERY organized, by the way, with every file labeled within each box, so there’s no reason to think that there wouldn’t be a system for these archives. “Just pick a box” is NOT a system, and the time these two waste going through random boxes makes me want to scream for an archivist!]

They also mention the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie as they’re walking down the shelves of archives. (Read here at Pop Archives about how annoying it is that Raiders of the Lost Ark has helped create everlasting public confusion between archaeologists and archivists).

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

The Watcher spies the exact file they need and debates on whether or not to intervene. The scene also includes an archives ladder, plus an Easter egg where they find the Red Guardian’s shield (a connection back to Black Widow).

Hawkeye finally has had enough.

Sorry to break it to you, Natasha, but the Death Star plans are not in the main computer.

Star Wars and MCU crossover alert! This is referencing the archives adventure plot of Rogue One! 😀

Conveniently for reasons of PLOT, Natasha then immediately finds the Zola file. The Watcher is relieved, whilst archivists and librarians collectively roll our eyes at this purposefully (and needlessly) frustrating archives scene.

This archives scene ends at 14:06 and lasts 3 minutes total.


Hawkeye (Nov.-Dec. 2021)


In this TV series, which is set post-Blip, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) reluctantly teams up with the young Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to confront enemies from his past. Will Hawkeye be able to make it back to his family in time for Christmas? The series, which has 6 episodes, co-stars Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova (the new Black Widow), Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (Kingpin), Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez (Echho), and Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez.

I could not see any library or archives scenes in this entire TV series. There are a few research scenes, but they all entail Kate utilizing Bishop Security’s private database of security and criminal intel.


Moon Knight (Mar.-May 2022)


In this series, which includes 6 episodes, Oscar Isaac plays three different men, who are all distinct identities, or alters, stemming from a dissociative identity disorder (DID): Marc Spector / Moon Knight, Steven Grant / Mr. Knight, and Jake Lockley. The TV series co-stars May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly (the first Arab superhero in the MCU!), F. Murray Abraham as the voice of Khonshu, Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow, and Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart. The mystery plot of the series involves Egyptian gods and their human avatars.

Similar to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series, there are no official libraries or archives in this series, but there ARE several interesting examples of private libraries, as well as related (but distinctly different) fields of archaeology and museums that I thought would be interesting to share.

Episode 1, “The Goldfish Problem”


As the series begins, Steven Grant wakes up in bed, and we can spy bookcase shelves behind him — and those bookcases are arranged haphazardly (perhaps also an external reflection of his splintered mind?).

We also learn that Steven works at the British Museum in London, in the gift shop, although he not-so-secretly wishes he were a tour guide at the museum. He clearly knows more about Egyptology than the tour guides, as evidenced when he chats with a little girl at the museum.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Note: The British Museum and the British Library used to be united, but the British Library separated from the Museum in 1973. However, the British Museum continued to host the Library in its iconic Reading Room (the architectural inspiration behind the Library of Congress Reading Room, as seen here) until 1997. Therefore, I’m NOT counting this location as a library, as the British Museum and the British Library are separate entities now.

Confused yet? Even more confusingly, the actual external location used in this series for the British Museum was actually the National Gallery. Staff members wear uniforms with “National Art Gallery” printed on them, but there is no such place. London has the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, but only the British Museum has Egyptian artifacts. WHEW. Y’all still with me? 😉

At 10 minutes into the episode, we witness how Steven uses reading as a tactic to stay awake. He listens to an app (“Welcome to staying awake! … Bored with puzzles? Try a book!”), and he reads about Egyptian gods, highlighting passages in books. That’s how he knows more than the tour guides at the museum! This reading and research montage lasts under a minute.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 2, “Summon the Suit”


At 12:30 minutes into this episode, Steven is walking through a storage unit facility (archives of personal lives?), and the automatic lights click off. My spouse remarked how these lights echoed the automatic lights coming on in the archives scene in Captain Marvel.

Dramatic lighting in the archives scenes in Captain Marvel (2019)
Click the arrows to slide and compare the automatic lights in the storage facility in Moon Knight (left) versus the archives in Captain Marvel (right)

At 15:44 minutes, Steven brings Layla back to his apartment. We see many more bookcases, with books stacked everywhere, even on the floor. Steven also has card catalog drawers along one back wall, as well as a library ladder!

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 3, “The Friendly Type”


In this episode, we learn more about Layla’s dad, who was an archaeologist. Again, just to be clear, archaeology and archives are NOT the same thing. (Sam @ Pop Archives delves more into this misconception here in this post.)

But I found this quote interesting. Less than 2 minutes into the episode, Layla’s forger friend, Lagaro (Barbara Rosenblat), quips:

Archaeology. One big mess of obsessive bookworms.

Also, later in the episode at 26:30 minutes, Layla has a brief exchange with Anton Mogart (Gaspard Ulliel, who tragically died in a ski accident this year) about the nature of private collections of cultural artifacts.

Anton: I hope you understand this is more than a collection to me. Preserving history is a responsibility I take very seriously.

Layla: A self-appointed responsibility that you alone are able to enjoy, no?

BINGO. I love that Layla is calling out his privilege here. Anton describes this kind of private collecting in a way that probably sounds similar to how an archivist could describe their work. But most archival collections are meant to be shared with the public — even if that public has to make appointments in order to view or use the collections — and not hidden away for just one person to enjoy. If you’re an archivist and reading this post, please leave a comment and share your perspective on this scene!

Episode 5, “Asylum”


At 3:53 minutes into this penultimate episode, Ethan Hawke is portraying a psychiatrist who is trying to explain trauma and its effects to Steven. And he mentions a library in this explanation!

Harrow: The struggling mind will often build places to seek shelter for different aspects of the self from our most traumatic memories. It’s called just an organizing principle, ok? Some people, they see a castle right? Somebody else will see a name, or a library.

Steven: Or…a psych ward?

Harrow also has a bookcase in his office, and most of the books are white or neutral-colored. Is it just my (biased) librarian perspective, or do you find it suspicious when people match their books with their decor? (Side note: PLEASE never go to a library and ask a librarian or staff member for “you know, the book with the blue cover.” We do NOT organize books by color, and we do not make note of the color of a cover in an item record in the library catalog. We do sometimes make funny book displays, like “Books with Blue Covers,” though, when we’re feeling snarky. 😉 ) In the screenshot below, you can also see colored stickers on some of the book spines, which makes me think these books props came from a real library.

A personal library in a doctor's office
A personal library in a doctor’s office

Ms. Marvel (June-July 2022)


In this TV series, which includes 6 episodes and occurs post-Blip, we get to know Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a 16-year-old fangirl of the Avengers — and specifically Captain Marvel — who navigates the complications of daily life as a Pakistani-American as well as her own superpowers that develop after she puts on a mysterious bangle that used to belong to her great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). The series co-stars Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan, Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan, Matt Lintz as Bruno Carrelli, Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia Bahadir, Rish Shah as Kamran, Nimra Bucha as Najma, and Aramis Knight as Kareem / Red Dagger. This series is based on the graphic novel series by G. Willow Wilson, and the ending of this TV series directly sets up the plot of the upcoming movie, The Marvels.

This TV series has scenes set in and around the school library. Confusedly, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be INSIDE the school library (???), but I’m not counting the guidance counselor character as a reel librarian.

Episode 1, “Generation Why”


At 5 minutes into the first episode, we get a closeup of the school sign, which reads Coles Academic High School. The real-life inspiration behind this high school is the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School, located on Coles Street in Jersey City, NJ. The McNair HS even issued a press release about how proud they are to be connected with this series!

It has been a point of pride to be a real-life example of the various identities that this history-making character and story represents.

McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” press release, Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
Coles Academic High School plaque
Coles Academic High School plaque

You can also see “G. Willow Wilson” included as the first name on the Coles Academic sign. Wilson wrote the original Ms. Marvel comics, and also has a cameo on the series!

Onto another Wilson reference… at 7 minutes, we get our first glimpse of the school library and the office for the guidance counselor, Mr. Wilson (Jordan Firstman). Mr. Wilson is trying to be super cool and chill, but the teens obviously view him as a lame poser. Through the blinds of the guidance counselor’s office, we can see library shelves, and what looks like a common room with other offices? This school library’s layout seems really confusing! Also, note the cheesy inspirational sign on the back of the office door (“You Can Totally Do This”), as you will see more inspirational posters in upcoming scenes in this office!

Is the guidance counselor's office inside the school library?
Is the guidance counselor’s office inside the school library?

The guidance counseling session lasts 2 minutes.

Episode 2, “Crushed”


At 20:30 minutes into this episode, Bruno has a session with the guidance counselor. This time, the blinds are up, so we can see more clearly the library bookcases along the back and side walls, along with tables in the open area. Several students are using the school library space and browsing books on the shelves. (Click on the first screenshot in the gallery below to view the inspirational poster in this scene, which has a cat hanging off a tree branch below the words “Hang in there!”)

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

This scene lasts under 2 minutes.

Episode 4, “Seeing Red”


At 19:39 minutes into this episode, which is set in Pakistan, we enter the hideout of the Red Daggers, where we see their private library and collection of artifacts. I’m not counting this as an official library, but I thought it served as an interesting and different example of a private library.

We also see this private library again at 31:34 minutes, when Kamala is training with the Red Daggers.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Episode 6, “No Normal”


In this finale episode, Kamala and her friends hide out at the high school and create a plan for how to deal with the law enforcement officers who are coming for them. (Fair warning, there is a “trigger warning” at the beginning of this episode, as it is EXTREMELY disturbing to view cops tracking down and shooting at kids in a school.)

At 15:42 minutes into the episode, Kamala’s brother, Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), grabs a fire extinguisher in the school library. Call numbers are visible on the book spines.

A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher
A closeup of school library call numbers and a fire extinguisher

At 21:28 minutes, Kamala and Kamran run through the library and hide in the guidance counselor’s office. Kamala is able to calm Kamran down, and they almost kiss before Bruno interrupts them. Kamala and Kamran escape out the back of the counselor’s office, where we see more bookcases and books with call numbers in a back room. It’s unclear if this back room is a storage room or a browsable extension of the school library? (Also, note the corner of one more inspirational poster in the guidance counselor’s office, with the words “Get Ready for College!”). Bruno distracts the cops by dancing in the library. The scene ends at 23:15 minutes.

Click on any image in the gallery below to view in a larger window.

Because of the additional back room glimpse, the guidance counselor’s office seems to be located in the MIDDLE of the school library. Is he supposed to be both the school’s librarian and the guidance counselor? Mr. Wilson is never seen doing anything other than counseling, so I’m still not listing him as a reel librarian. I don’t understand this set design. My best guess is that if this is a real school location, that they used the actual school librarian’s office and just turned it into the guidance counselor’s office, in order to save money and space.

Phase Four TV series yet to come

These TV series have not yet been released, or fully released:

  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (the first episode aired Aug. 18 and is currently scheduled to run for 9 episodes through Oct. 13th — and I’m waiting to watch this series until I can binge-watch the entire series, and I’m crossing my fingers for some law library scenes!)
  • Untitled Halloween special (scheduled to premiere Oct. 2022)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (scheduled to premiere Dec. 2022)

Last month, Marvel provided updates about Phase Four and revealed more detailed plans for Phase Five and Phase Six.

These TV series are currently scheduled to be part of Phase Five:

  • What If… ?, season 2
  • Secret Invasion
  • Echo
  • Loki, season 2
  • Ironheart
  • Agatha: Coven of Chaos
  • Daredevil: Born Again
  • Note: No additional updates on Armor Wars or a follow-up Wakanda series

Since this post is going live before Phase Four officially finishes, I will revisit the completed Phase Four TV series at a later date. Until then… the Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians is a wrap! 😀

Keeping score

PHASE ONE:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes
    • The Incredible Hulk – university library
    • Thor – public library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE TWO:

  • 6 movies
  • 1/6 library or archives scenes
    • Thor: The Dark World – college library
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

PHASE THREE:

  • 11 movies
  • 3/11 library or archives scenes
    • Doctor Strange – Kamar-Taj library
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming – school library
    • Captain Marvel – U.S. Air Force archives
  • 3/11 reel librarian sightings – all Wong!
    • Doctor Strange
    • Avengers: Infinity War
    • Avengers: Endgame

Note: Except for Doctor Strange, the movies in this phase either included a library or archives but had no corresponding librarian or archivist — or vice versa, with a reel librarian never seen in a library.

PHASE FOUR (THUS FAR):

  • 6 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 6/13 library or archives scenes
    • Eternals – archives
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Kamar-Taj Library
    • WandaVision – public library in 3 episodes
    • Loki – archives in 3 episodes
    • What If…? – public library in 1 episode, Kamar-Taj Library and the Lost Library of Cagliostro in 1 episode, archives in 1 episode
    • Ms. Marvel – school library in 3 episodes
  • 6/13 reel librarian sightings
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Wong cameo
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home – Wong cameo
    • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Wong as a main character
    • Wanda Vision – public librarian in an uncredited cameo in 1 episode
    • Loki – archivist in 1 episode
    • What If… ? – Wong and O’Bengh

Half of the Phase Four movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians. It definitely helps that Wong is such a fan favorite!

OVERALL (THUS FAR):

  • 29 movies + 7 TV series (thus far)
  • 14/36 library or archives scenes (39%)
  • 12/36 reel librarian sightings (33%)

Ultimately, a third or more of the MCU movies and TV series included a library or archives scene and/or reel librarians.

Sources used

  • British Library.” Wikipedia, 20 July 2022. Accessed 21 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Cross, Samantha. “Archives on TV: Loki.” Pop Archives, 24 June 2022.
  • Cross, Samantha. “They’re Digging in the Wrong Place: The Influence of Indiana Jones on the Archives.” Pop Archives, 7 Jan. 2019.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Created by Malcolm Spellman. Perf. Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Erin Kellyman, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “New World Order” (1.1, 19 Mar. 2021), “Power Broker” (1.3, 2 Apr. 2021); “One World, One People” (1.6, 23 Apr. 2021).
  • Hawkeye. Perf. Jeremy Rinner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
  • Hermann, Burkely. “Doctor Strange’s Quest for Power and the Black Sorcerer-Librarian.” Pop Culture Library Review, 12 Oct. 2021.
  • Keane, Sean. “Marvel Cinematic Universe: All the Phase 5 and 6 Release Dates Revealed.” CNET, 31 July 2022.
  • Loki. Created by Michael Waldron. Perf. Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Glorious Purpose” (1.1, 9 Jun. 2021); “The Variant” (1.2, 16 Jun. 2021); “The Nexus Event” (1.4, 30 Jun. 2021); “Journey into Mystery” (1.5, 7 Jul. 2021); “For All Time. Always” (1.6, 14 Jul. 2021).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Five.” Wikipedia, 21 Aug. 2022. Accessed 22 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four.” Wikipedia, 7 Aug. 2022. Accessed 8 Aug. 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • McNair Academic Brought to Life as ‘Coles Academic’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” (press release). Jersey City Public Schools, 3 June 2022.
  • Moon Knight. Created by Doug Moench. Perf. Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “The Goldfish Problem” (1.1, 30 Mar. 2022); “Summon the Suit” (1.2, 6 Apr. 2022); “The Friendly Type” (1.3, 13 Apr. 2022); “Asylum” (1.5, 27 Apr. 2022).
  • Ms. Marvel. Created by Bisha K. Ali. Perf. Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Rish Shah. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2022.
    • Episodes: “Generation Why” (1.1, 8 Jun. 2022); “Crushed” (1.2, 15 Jun. 2022); “Seeing Red” (1.4, 29 Jun. 2022); “No Norma: (1.6, 13 Jul. 2022).
  • Simons, Roxy. “‘Moon Knight’ Filming Locations: Where in London was the Marvel Show Shot?Newsweek, 6 Apr. 2022.
  • WandaVision. Created by Jac Schaeffer. Perf. Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “Don’t Touch That Dial” (1.2, 15 Jan. 2021), “Now in Color” (1.3, 22 Jan. 2021), “The Series Finale” (1.9, 5 Mar. 2021).
  • What If…? Perf. Jeffrey Wright, Chadwick Boseman, Jeremy Renner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lake Bell, Benedict Wong. Marvel Studios / Disney, 2021.
    • Episodes: “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” (1.2, 11 Aug. 2021); “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” (1.3, 25 Aug. 2021); “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” (1.4, 1 Sep. 2021); “What If… Zombies?!” (1.5, 8 Sep. 2021); “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?” (1.7, 22 Sep. 2021); “What If… Ultron Won?” (1.8, 6 Oct. 2021).

‘Pride and Prejudice’ follow-up

From clergyman to librarian (and back again)

One major benefit of going back through every post while updating the site — other than, you know, updating the site! — was getting reacquainted with past posts. And I took note when I wrote that I wanted to follow up on some thing, to close the loop on specific questions or ideas. This post is one of those threads I wanted to follow up.


From clergyman to librarian:


Back in Feb. 2014, I analyzed the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice, in which the character of the “odious Mr. Collins” was changed from a clergyman in Jane Austen’s original novel to a librarian. And not just any librarian! Lady Catherine de Burgh’s personal librarian.

Here’s how he introduces himself in the 1940 film version (and how I reacted):

How Mr. Collins introduces himself as a librarian
How Mr. Collins introduces himself as a librarian

Back then, I researched a couple of theories about why his character was changed, which included both the height of the “screwball comedy” genre in cinema at the time, as well as the influence of the “Hays Code” that forbid “ridicule of the clergy.”

I also took note back then of the screenwriters and their source material:

[T]he film’s writing credits are lengthy: Aldous Huxley (!) and Jane Murfin are credited as co-authors of the screenplay, which also borrowed heavily from Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts. I haven’t obtained a copy of the play — and only bits of it are available to read for free online — to check if the character of Mr. Collins was turned into a librarian in Jerome’s version. I doubt it, but it would be nice to close that loop.

When I revisited that original 2014 post during my “revisiting favorite posts” series in Summer 2016, I continued to note that:

Rereading this post made me remember that I still need to get a copy of Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, in order to close the loop on whether or not Collins’s profession is changed in the play this film is based on.

So. I finally requested a copy of Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization, Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts, through my college library’s InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service.

1934 Pride and Prejudice play
1934 Pride and Prejudice play

I now have my answer:

No doubt about it, Mr. Collins is a clergyman in this play.


Clergyman clues in the play:


Here’s how he is introduced, when Mr. Bennet breaks the news that Mr. Collins is coming to visit, in Act I:

ELIZABETH [to her father, Mr. Bennet]: Can he [Mr. Collins] be a sensible man, sir?

LYDIA: He sounds to me a bit of an ass.

MRS. BENNET: Now, Lydia, my love, is that a nice way to speak of a clergyman?

LYDIA: I thought I heard you refer to him as an odious creature a few minutes ago, Mama?

Clergyman introduction in Pride and Prejudice 1934 play
Clergyman conversation

And moments later, Mr. Collins arrives:

MR. BENNET: Mrs. Bennet, let me present the Reverend Mr. Collins, our esteemed cousin.

Act II drops in bits about Mr. Collins’s professional duties as a clergyman. For instance, Mrs. Bennet mentions that:

I suppose our dear cousin Collins is preparing his sermon for Sunday.

And right before he proposes to Elizabeth, Collins confirms that:

I had two sermons to prepare in readiness for my return to my parish.

It only took 5 years to get around to answering that question… but better late than never, right? 😉

Given the fact that this 1934 dramatization, which, along with the source novel, provided the foundation for the 1940 film version — and that this play still highlighted Mr. Collins as a man of the cloth — I think it makes sense that the screenwriters changed (or were forced to change?) Mr. Collins’s profession due to the main reasons I outlined previously. I think it likely that the Hays Code played a more prominent role in this character switch. As I noted back in 2014:

The occupational change seems to serve the absurd and ridiculous qualities of Mr. Collins — we do not pause and wonder at a bumbling librarian, whereas we might be offended at a bumbling clergyman.

Sigh.


Mentions of libraries in the play:


While I had the play on hand, I noted when/if libraries were mentioned at all, as Mr. Bennet uses his own private library as a retreat of sorts — from his wife, assuredly, but also probably from the world? — in the novel. And yes, both Mr. Bennet’s private library AND Lady Catherine de Burgh’s private library are mentioned.

In Act I, Scene I, right at the beginning of the play:

MR. BENNET: Hill! [a manservant] Take this book to the library! I don’t want Miss Lydia to read it.

In Act II, Scene I, Mr. Bennet’s library is also used as a retreat for Elizabeth, during Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal to her:

ELIZABETH: No, Mr. Collins, I will as plainly as possible say no. (She crosses to library door. He tries to get to door. She brushes him aside.) And you need not try to scamper in front of me again. This time I am going out by this door. (Exits R.)

Later, in Act II, Scene III, we get the only mention of Lady Catherine’s private library, during this brief exchange with Elizabeth:

LADY CATHERINE: Ah, you are writing letters, I see, Miss Bennet.

ELIZABETH: I was.

LADY CATHERINE: But why in this rom. We always write our letters in the library.

ELIZABETH: Yes, I know, Lady Catherine — But the library does not possess such a view — and I write with so much more inspiration when looking out on green trees and flowers.

In Act III, Scene I, the library is mentioned in the stage directions, when Lady Catherine is visiting Longbourn to try and intimidate Elizabeth before leaving in a huff:

LADY CATHERINE: I take no leave of you. I send no farewell message to your mother! Miss Bennet, I am seriously displeased.

(Mrs. Bennet comes in quickly from the library R. where she has probably tried to eavesdrop. Looking around room for Lady Catherine.)

Finally, in Act III, Scene II, Mr. Bennet’s library is again mentioned in stage directions, as Darcy makes his move (again) for Elizabeth’s hand. He knocks at the library door, which Elizabeth answers. She comes out of the library, and they sit on the sofa for the final proposal scene.


Library props:


And last but not least, props! I really enjoyed that the play included lists of costumes and props at the end.

Library props in 1934 Pride and Prejudice play
Library props

I’m assuming the following were included as props for the library:

  • 1 hanging shelf (in two sections) is listed in the “Bric a brac, etc.” heading
  • 70 leather bound books are listed in the “Small properties” heading

Comments?


Did you enjoy this trip down memory lane? Have you seen the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice and ever wondered why Mr. Collins was a bumbling librarian, rather than this usual bumbling clergyman self? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


Reader poll write-up, Fall 2018 (scary movie edition) | ‘Horror of Dracula’

“My name’s Jonathan Harker. I’m the new librarian.”

As per the winning entry in the most recent reader poll, this week I am analyzing Horror of Dracula (1958)! The first in the series of Hammer horror films starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, Horror of Draculawas a critical and commercial success when it was first released in 1958, and it has remained a go-to classic ever since. The film was directed by Terence Fisher and clocks in at a brisk 82 minutes long.

Horror of Dracula Official Trailer #1 – Christopher Lee Movie (1958) HD” video uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

This film adaptation differs in several ways from Bram Stoker’s original and groundbreaking source novel. I will not take time out here to enumerate those differences; for a list of them, visit the film’s IMDb.com trivia page. The broad strokes of the main storyline remain relatively intact, however, so I will not go into detail about the plot. Finally, I am also assuming that the reader is familiar with the basic storyline of Dracula and characters like Harker, Lucy, Van Helsing, and Arthur Holmwood.

***SPOILER ALERTS THROUGHOUT***


Meet Jonathan Harker, librarian (?)


John Van Eyssen, a South African actor who later became a literary agent-turned-movie producer, plays Jonathan Harker. Although he only earned seventh billing in the film’s credits, he essentially opens the film, narrating from his diary upon arrival at Count Dracula’s castle in Klausenburg. (Note that the entire film takes place in Germany.)

The diary of Jonathan Harker
The diary of Jonathan Harker

His first words:

The Diary of Jonathan Harker. The 3rd of May, 1885. At last, my long journey is drawing to its close. What the eventual end, I cannot foresee. But whatever may happen, I may rest secure that I have done all in my power to achieve success. […] I deemed myself lucky to have secured this post and did not intend to falter in my purpose.

First glimpse of Jonathan Harker, who poses as a librarian in this Dracula adaptation
First glimpse of Jonathan Harker, who poses as a librarian in this Dracula adaptation
Count Dracula's castle in Horror of Dracula (1958)
Count Dracula’s castle in Horror of Dracula (1958)

Right away, it’s clear that Harker is on a mission.

While Harker eats dinner in the castle and waits for Dracula, he takes out a couple of books from his case. The slim volume with the red cover is Harker’s diary — we will see that volume several times throughout the film. In fact, that diary is so important and onscreen so frequently it’s a wonder the film wasn’t retitled The Diary of Jonathan Harker!

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
My self, my diary

A beautiful but mysterious woman enters the room. Harker hastens to introduce himself.

My name’s Jonathan Harker. I’m the new librarian.

This is the first mention of Harker being a librarian. And tellingly, the word “new” in that introduction indicates there has been a prior librarian. This thread is never followed, but it’s an interesting idea to think about. (The fan fiction practically writes itself, right?! “To all the librarians I’ve loved and lost, XOXO Dracula” ♥ )

His next words are also interesting:

How can I help you?

What I found intriguing about this line is that this is TOTALLY what a (real) librarian *would* say, but Harker says this line in a completely different context than how a librarian would mean it while at, say, a reference desk. Harker says this in response to the lady’s distress, who is insistent that she is being kept in the castle against her will.

She runs away, and then we get our first glimpse of Christopher Lee’s iconic portrayal of Dracula, as he pauses for full dramatic effect at the top of the stairs. (My husband mused at this point, “Why did capes EVER go out of style?!” 😉 )

Dracula and Harker then “meet cute,” and Harker puts away his diary.

Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, and the all-important diary
Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, and the all-important diary

They continue talking as Dracula shows him up the stairs to his room, when Dracula references his private library collection.

HarkerHow soon may I start work, sir?

DraculaAs soon as you wish. There are a very large number of volumes to be indexed.

When they get into his room, Dracula reveals Harker’s qualifications to be engaged as his private librarian.

DraculaI consider myself fortunate to have found such a distinguished scholar to act as my librarian.

HarkerI like quiet and seclusion. This house, I think, offers that.

DraculaThen we are both satisfied. An admirable arrangement.

Dracula then leaves. But after Harker unpacks a few things, Dracula comes back into the room and gives him a key.

Dracula:  As I shall be away so long, I think it’s better that you have a key to the library, Mr. Harker. You will find the library to the left of the hall.

The key to the library from Horror of Dracula (1958)
The key to the library!

Dracula then leaves for the night, and he utters the last words we will hear him speak onscreen, “Sleep well, Mr. Harker.” (Dracula only speaks 13 lines in the entire film, all to Harker!)

Harker then sits down to write in his diary, and he reveals to the audience the specifics of his mission — and his subterfuge!

At last, I have met Count Dracula. He accepts me as a man who has agreed to work among his books, as I intended. It only remains for me now to await the daylight hours, when with God’s help, I will forever end this man’s reign of terror.

Ending at less than 15 minutes, this is quite an efficient opening sequence.


First fight in the castle library:


Harker dozes off in a chair by the fire and awakes when he hears his door knob start to turn. He goes downstairs and into the library, the room opposite the main dining hall. It’s our first peek at the library, and considering what we had heard Dracula say before (“There are a very large number of volumes to be indexed“), the first impression is… underwhelming. There seem to be only a few rows of bookshelves along the back wall. I think the fireplace in this set may be larger than Dracula’s private library!

First glimpse of Dracula's private library
First glimpse of Dracula’s private library

As Harker enters the room, he is startled to find the mysterious woman behind him.

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
I don’t think she’s there to help index the books

Once again, she pleads with him to help her escape Dracula… and of course she turns out to be a vampire! (The three brides of Dracula in the novel are condensed into this sole role.) After she bites his neck, Harker pushes her away as Dracula rushes in through a door in the middle of the bookshelves. Harker attempts to stop Dracula from hurting the woman, but Dracula pushes him away and then grabs his bride and takes her through the door in the library.

Fight in the library!
Fight in the library!
Harker and Dracula duel in the library
Harker and Dracula duel in the library
There's a shortcut tunnel in and out of the library!
There’s a shortcut tunnel in and out of the library!

Lights out:


Harker then wakes up on his bed, still fully clothed, and realizes that he has been bitten. He takes out his diary again and writes:

I have become a victim of Dracula and a woman in his power. It may be that I am doomed to be one of them; if that is so, I can only pray that whoever finds my body will possess the knowledge to do what is necessary, to release my soul. I have lost a day. Soon it will be dark. While my senses are still my own, I must do what I set out to do. I must find the resting place of Dracula and there, end his existence forever.

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
Dear diary

He then hides his diary in a boulder outside the house. This detail will be important later!

Hiding the diary before he looks for Dracula's lair
Hiding the diary before he looks for Dracula’s lair

Harker then discovers a door to an underground lair, where he finds caskets for both Dracula and his bride. He has a wooden stake and hammer, yet his instincts are not as sharp as his stake. Instead of fulfilling his stated mission — “I will forever end this man’s reign of terror” — he starts by staking the woman.

Dracula's lair
Dracula’s lair
Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
Stake and shake
Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
Uh-oh!

Dracula wakes up, and OF COURSE night then falls, right on cue. Harker’s brain starts to work again, as he realizes the mistake he’s made when he finds Dracula’s casket empty. But it’s too late, and it’s (literally) lights out for Harker.

And I know what y’all must be thinking right now… will Dracula’s books NEVER get indexed?! 😉


The diary of Jonathan Harker:


But never fear, at least ONE book doesn’t get forgotten: Harker’s diary!

The next scene takes us into the village, where Dr. Van Helsing, played by top-billed Peter Cushing, enters a local inn. Van Helsing starts immediately asking questions about his friend, but the innkeeper is reticent to tell him any information. Inga, the innkeeper’s daughter, lets slip that she remembers Harker and a letter he had her post.

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
Do you remember this letter?

The innkeeper and Van Helsing continue talking, and Van Helsing reveals more information about why and how he and Harker were working together.

InnkeeperLook, sir, you’re a stranger here in Klausenburg. Some things are best left alone, such as interfering in things which are beyond our powers.

Van HelsingPlease don’t misunderstand me. This is more than a superstition, I know. The danger is very real. If the investigation that Mr. Harker and I are engaged upon is successful, then not only you, but the whole world will benefit. 

The innkeeper’s daughter then comes back to serve Van Helsing dinner, with a little extra on the side.

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
Have you seen this diary?

IngaThis was found at the crossroads near that place. He told me to burn it. But your friend was such a nice gentleman, I couldn’t.

This then leads Van Helsing to Dracula’s castle, where he finds the underground lair… and his friend, Harker.

Librarian turned vampire?
Librarian turned vampire?

As a distraught Van Helsing takes up the stake and hammer Harker had left on the floor, the camera fades.

The next scene reveals Van Helsing informing Arthur Holmwood and his wife, Mina, about Harker’s death. In this film, Arthur is the brother of Lucy, Harker’s fiancée. In this short scene, when learn that Arthur is suspicious of Harker’s death; that Harker died 10 days ago; that Harker was cremated (“As his friend and colleague, he told me some time ago that he would wish it“); that Arthur and his wife will tell Lucy the news; and that Lucy is ill. This film is certainly efficient in its storytelling, isn’t it?!

Thirty-five minutes into the film, Van Helsing reviews Harker’s diary while a recording plays on a gramophone. The recording is Van Helsing’s own voice, detailing the dangers and signs of vampires. Again, a clever way to include a lot of expository details in a short amount of time!

Reviewing Harker's diary
Reviewing Harker’s diary

Van Helsing then starts recording himself, likening vampirism to drug addiction. He also invokes the death of Harker as an additional reason to kill Dracula:

Since the death of Jonathan Harker, Count Dracula, the propagator of this unspeakable evil, has disappeared. He must be found and destroyed.

So although Harker is no longer physically part of the film, he and his diary remain central to the film and propel the plot forward. This time, it’s personal!

The last mention of Harker’s diary occurs at 47 minutes into the film, when Arthur is upset at Van Helsing and blames him for (SPOILER!) Lucy’s death. Van Helsing gives Jonathan’s diary to Arthur, stating:

I cannot expect you to believe me, but you will I know believe Jonathan. Here are his last words, his diary. When you have read it, you will understand.

Screenshot from 'Horror of Dracula' (1958)
The diary holds the key

Final fight in the castle library:


The final scene and showdown between Van Helsing and Dracula occurs five minutes before the end of the film.

As Van Helsing follows Dracula to this castle, they meet up in the library — where else?! — and Van Helsing spies sunlight peeking in through the heavy curtains at one end of a large table scattered with piles of books. Van Helsing dashes across the table and throws upon the curtains. Van Helsing leaps back upon the table — scattering books in his wake, and the librarian in me could not help but exclaim, “Don’t take it out on the books!” — and grabs candlesticks to form a cross and force Dracula into the sunlight. Dracula then starts crumbling to ash in the sunlight.

Final showdown in the library
Final showdown in the library — don’t take it out on the books!
Aftermath in the library
Aftermath in the library

Why a librarian?


Harker is clearly posing as a librarian, as the line in the opening sequence that Dracula “accepts [Harker] as a man who has agreed to work among his books, as [Harker] intended” reveals. It does stand to reason, therefore, that Harker is a scholar of some merit. It would be too easy to check otherwise, especially as the action takes place in such a limited geographic area. And Van Helsing is a scientist, so it is plausible that he and Harker met because of common scientific, or psychiatric, interests.

The idea that Jonathan is a scholar does provide some kind of plausibility about him being able to pass himself off as a librarian — or rather a freelance kind of indexer or cataloger — for Count Dracula’s private library.

I also wonder if the screenwriter, Jimmy Sangster, chose “librarian” for Harker’s reason for being at Dracula’s castle (rather than as a solicitor arranging real estate transactions for Dracula, as in the source novel) as a way for Harker to throw Dracula off the scent; i.e. that posing as a librarian would not arouse suspicion in Dracula, as librarians are (stereotypically) seen as mild-mannered. Of course, that reasoning only works when Harker goes in knowing about Dracula to begin with, as is obvious from the beginning narration of this film.

Ultimately, although Harker has quite a significant role in this film, his attempts at being a reel librarian really only amount to that of being an Information Provider. He is there to provide context for thwarting Dracula, and his diary provides clues along the way for Van Helsing, as well as for the audience.


Final tidbits:


Although we don’t really learn much about Harker on a personal level, I was greatly amused by the variety of facial expressions John Van Eyssen packed into his role.

Behold:

The many faces of Jonathan Harker
The many faces of Jonathan Harker

Although Harker’s change of occupation did not get mentioned on the VHS copy I have of this film, I was amused to discover that the first library scene DID make the side cover!

VHS cover of Horror of Dracula (1958)
VHS cover of Horror of Dracula (1958)

Past classification struggles:


I first saw this film years ago — clearly, when VHS tapes were commonplace! — and I have to admit, that I have found it difficult to classify this film within my usual “Reel Substance” categories.

I first classified this film under the Class V category, films in which there are no actual librarians, because Harker is posing as a librarian in this film. But that never felt quite right, so I eventually decided to reclassify the film under the Class I category, because the fact that he’s posing as a librarian serves as the catalyst for the rest of the film’s plot as well as Van Helsing’s (re)commitment to destroying Dracula.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this or other aspects of Horror of Dracula.

And thanks to everyone who voted for Horror of Dracula! It was fun to revisit this horror classic.


Sources used:


Past reader poll winners:


Interested in write-ups of past reader poll winners? Check out them out below:

‘Indiana Jones and the’ reel librarian

“Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library.”

One of my librarian colleagues recently asked me if I had done an analysis post for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), one of her personal favorites. I have included the film in prior posts on this blog — see here in my post about Comic Relief librarians and here in this post in which I likened the reel librarian in the film to Stan Lee’s reel librarian cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man— but I realized I hadn’t done an in-depth analysis yet. So, Heather, this one’s for you! 🙂

I have watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade many times over the years, and goodness, how this film holds up! It’s just a really solid — and really re-watchable — action adventure movie with romance and comedy perfectly mixed in. It’s the third film in the series, and in this installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) sets off to find the Holy Grail… and his missing father (Sean Connery), who is also a professor and historian. Such good casting!

Here’s a quick trailer for the film:

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Trailer #1,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

Facts, libraries, and research:


Before we get to the library scene, we first have to visit a pivotal scene that occurs 14 minutes into the film. After the introductory scenes of “Young Indy” and a glimpse of Indiana Jones in full adventurer mode at sea, we swing back to spy on Indiana Jones in the classroom. Instead of wearing a fedora and leather jacket, Indiana is in full professor mode in a three-piece tweedy suit, bow tie, and round glasses. (Put a pin in that, as we will revisit that costume.)

Screenshot from the classroom scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
FACT, Indiana Jones is still very handsome in a three-piece suit and polka-dotted bow tie. FACT.

He writes “FACT” on the chalkboard, underlines the word, and then states what is arguably the most important speech in the entire film:

“Archeology is the search for FACT, not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”

Screenshot from the classroom scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
Hurray for libraries!

Why is this speech so important?

Not just because of the focus on the library, researching, and reading — that’s all gravy! — but because this character is setting up the rest of the film’s plot for us. Even though he’s in denial, we viewers know we’re set for lost cities, exotic travel, maps to buried treasure… and libraries!


The library scene:


Flash forward 10 minutes, almost to the half-hour mark of the film, to when Indiana Jones goes to Venice to meet Dr. Elsa Schneider (Allison Doody). She takes him to where his father was last seen, a local library.

Elsa SchneiderI have something to show you. I left your father working in the library. He sent me to the map section to fetch an ancient plan of the city. When I got back to his table, he’d gone, with all his papers, except for that scrap, which I found near his chair. Here is the library.

Indiana JonesThat doesn’t look much like a library.

Marcus BrodyLooks like a converted church.

Elsa SchneiderIn this case, it’s the literal truth.

A reel library in a converted church
A reel library in a converted church

Trivia alert: The exterior is St. Barnaba church in Venice, but it’s actually still a regular church, not a library. (Bummer, right?!) The interiors were filmed elsewhere.

Below, watch a video of the entire library scene, which lasts about four minutes in total:

“X Marks the Spot Indiana Jones,” uploaded by elder rod, Standard YouTube license

I love the “X marks the spot” reveal in this scene — harkening back to that pivotal speech in the classroom.

X marks the spot!
X marks the spot!

The reel librarian:


And of course the BEST PART of this scene is the reel librarian stamping his books, which exactly syncs up when Indiana Jones hits the floor tiles with the end of a metal post. (Suspension of disbelief? Yep.) It only takes three hits to crack the tile, and the closeups of the reel librarian’s face after each stamp are priceless. He never says a word, yet says SO MUCH through his facial expressions.

My favorite moment of this scene is when the reel librarian — an older man, dressed in a suit, formal collar, and bow tie — stares at the stamp in his hands, then puts the stamp atop the last book softly, in a daze, like he can’t fathom the power he just unleashed. Thus is the power of the library stamp! 😉

The power of the library stamp
The power of the library stamp
Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
With great power comes great responsibility

Reel librarian as comic relief:


This reel librarian is onscreen for a maximum of 30 seconds in a 4-minute scene (thus landing the film in the Class IV category), and the actor goes unidentified in the film’s credits. Yet he makes such an impact! Literally. 😉

This reel librarian is a prime example of the Comic Relief character type. The purpose of this character type is the most obvious of all reel librarian roles, to entertain, but the reel librarians of this type do not necessarily entertain themselves or other characters in the film — rather, they entertain the audience. Exclusively minor characters, the Comic Relief librarians serve as the target of jokes, and the audience is encouraged to laugh at them.

They are also the most extreme physically — note how the reel librarian in this film is rail-thin, which is emphasized by the slightly oversize nature of his suit. And these physical characteristics are part of the humor; marveling at this heretofore unseen and unknown strength (!), this reel librarian could not fathom that something other than his stamp could be making noise in the library.

Now for a few additional things I noted while rewatching this film…


Library organization:


First up, I enjoyed the peek at the signs at the end of each bookcase, which give hints about the organization and classification system for this part of the library collection. They’re obviously in the Arts & Literature section of the library, including literature, dramatic arts, and music.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
I love getting peeks of reel library organization!

Reel library goof:


I watched this film on Amazon Prime, which also provides trivia and goofs. I had never noticed this goof before, that when Indiana Jones gets to the top of the spiral staircase, you can tell the backdrop is made up of book spines glued on a black background, rather than real books. Wow!

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
Reel library goof!

You can click the screenshot below to view a larger image of it in a new tab. Tip: Look for the shadows on the shelf behind Indiana’s elbow, which reveal that the books are really just book spines.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
I love this facial and body expression, like Indiana Jones is apologizing for the book spines glued onto the backdrop.

A tale of two personal libraries:


The two Dr. Joneses like to think they’re so different — yet they’re so alike! And this goes to the state of their personal spaces, as well.

For example, here’s a screenshot of Dr. Jones, Sr., in his personal library at home, in the film’s introductory scenes. The room is lined with bookcases, but none of the items in the bookshelves — books, artifacts, scrolls — look to be very well organized or neatly arranged. Quite disheveled! And the father is dismissive of his own son.

A messy private library for the father...
A messy private library for the father…

But the younger Dr. Jones is equally dismissive of his own students — he escapes by his office window! — plus his own office, full of bookcases and artifacts, is equally messy.

... a messy private office for the son
… a messy private office for the son

Attention to detail:


I also appreciate the attention to detail in this film. In that same scene I mentioned above, when Young Indy tries to enlist his father’s help, we see a closeup of his father’s hands sketching a stained glass window in a small book.

We see that drawing again in the library scene, when Indiana Jones takes out his dad’s diary and flips to the page with the stained glass drawing.

Drafting the library stained glass window...
Drafting the library stained glass window…
... and a peek at the finished drawing of the stained glass window and accompanying notes. Love that attention to detail!
… and a peek at the finished drawing of the stained glass window and accompanying notes. Love that attention to detail!

A tale of two suits:


And here’s one final thing I noted this time around while rewatching this film. Remember when I said put a pin in the costume Indiana Jones wore while teaching? Let’s revisit that. And I used the word “costume” very deliberately, as Indiana Jones only looks truly comfortable when he’s in his leather jacket and fedora. His entire being — posture, manner, etc. — gets stiff when he’s wearing the three-piece suit and bow tie.

And notice just how similar that costume is to what the reel librarian is wearing:

Tales of two suits, the adventurer and the reel librarian
Tales of two suits, the adventurer and the reel librarian

Both of them are wearing a three-piece suit, a bow tie, and round eyeglasses. There are differences, of course:  Indiana Jones’s suit is lighter in color, and a different texture, while the librarian’s suit looks shabbier, and his collar is more old-fashioned. Both bow ties have polka dot patterns, however, and it’s the same outfit formula. It’s like they’re wearing a uniform to do research!

Ultimately, this subtle bit of costume design sartorially links the theme of the library throughout this first part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.


Continue the conversation:


Do you remember the library scene from this film? If so, what were your thoughts in revisiting this memorable scene? Did it make you laugh? Please leave a comment and share!


Sources used:


Private libraries + librarians onscreen, reader question follow-up

I am primarily interested in the purpose of librarians onscreen, but it’s an interesting exercise to extend that question to thinking about the purpose of showing private libraries onscreen.

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:

Every novel and every adaptation of a novel set in a big house in England will, at some point, feature a library. This is a rule. Every novel and every adaptation of a novel where any of the characters are at university will feature a scene where a character is studying in the university library. These are the rules!

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

This is so true! I primarily focus on the portrayals of librarians, rather than just libraries, but I have also often written about onscreen libraries, especially in film analysis posts of Class V films. I have thought about writing a post about private libraries, like the ones seen in films or series set in a big house in England (have you found your Gutenberg Bible, yet, Lord Grantham of Downtown Abbey?!)


What is the purpose of private libraries onscreen?


I am primarily interested in the purpose of librarians onscreen, but it’s an interesting exercise to extend that question to thinking about the purpose of showing private libraries onscreen. As I went through my own lists and prior posts that mentioned private libraries, I noted a few recurrent themes about what purposes private libraries served when seen onscreen:

  • Private libraries are used to reflect personal OR work collections of books or materials
  • Private libraries often help establish setting, particularly of characters in upper social classes (like those seen in English country homes) and/or characters whose occupations are in academia or education.
  • Private libraries can be used to reflect the level of education or culture for a character, even if that character is seen as coming from a lower social class
  • Private libraries can be used to contrast with a public or college library setting — a smaller, personal collection versus a larger, more impersonal collection
  • Private libraries can sometime serve as the setting for a main action in the film, providing a contrast to heighten the plot and provide interest (such as a brutal murder taking place against the relatively sedate backdrop of a private collection of books)
  • The collection or items within a private library can serve as the reason or impetus for the main plot, like a rare book or artifact that someone would steal or kill for.

List of notable private libraries/librarians onscreen:


Below are a list of films, organized alphabetically by title, that I’ve analyzed thus far on this site that feature notable personal libraries or personal librarians and their purpose in their respective films. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather I tried to spotlight films in which private libraries serve one, or more, of the purposes I outlined above.


Abandon (2002):


College senior Katie (Katie Holmes) deals with exams, finishing her thesis, job interviews, and a cop (Benjamin Bratt) investigating the disappearance of her ex-boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam). Then Katie starts seeing her boyfriend again around campus—is she hallucinating, or is he stalking her? A few scenes highlight the socially awkward Mousy Julie, a student library assistant at the college library.

When I analyzed this low-key horror film, I noticed that in addition to several scenes set in the college library, there were also quite a few private library collections featured in the film, including rows of books and bookshelves in:

  • the thesis advisor’s office
  • the counselor’s office
  • the cop’s home
  • Katie’s dorm room
  • Embry’s dorm room
  • and… you could argue the thesis-related collection Katie builds in her private study cubicle in the college library serves as a miniature version of a personal library collection!
Personal cubicle in Abandon (2002)
Personal cubicle in Abandon (2002)

[Click here for my full analysis post, “An Abandon-ed reel librarian“]


Fast and Loose (1939):


This comedic mystery revolves around a stolen manuscript and the rare books business. A personal library in a private home serves as the main setting for the film — and the library’s collection serves as the main motive for the murder mystery!

Joel Sloane (Robert Montgomery), a rare books dealer, takes a commission to buy a Shakespeare manuscript from a personal collection and private library. Joel meets up with his protégé, Phil Seargent (Anthony Allan), who is currently working as private librarian and secretary. The plot quickly spirals into murder. As Joel says early on, “something funny is going on at that library.”

Here’s an original trailer for Fast and Loose, which includes footage of a private office library starting at the 1:37 mark, as well as a larger country home’s private library at the very end of the trailer, at the 2:16 mark:

FAST AND LOOSE 1939 trailer,” uploaded by One Minute Move, 2016, Standard YouTube license

From a Whisper to a Scream, aka The Offspring (1987):


In this film, a private library serves as the main setting and structure for the plot — a collection of “short stories,” so to speak.

In a small Tennessee town named Oldfield, a local private librarian and historian (Vincent Price, in one of his later roles) retells four horror stories — stories about the town’s “long history of violence” — to a nosy reporter (Susan Tyrrell). White and the stories from his library serve as a framework for the film, but none of the stories he retells involve a library or librarian.

The historian’s private library is set in his private home, and the reporter walks through decaying, crumbling hallways until she stumbles upon the equally decaying, crumbling library. The room is filled with books, antique furniture, books piled over a big desk, and red velvet curtains. The librarian/historian sits in a red leather chair, his own personal throne amidst a crumbling empire.

Private library setting in From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
Private library setting in From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)

[Click here for my full analysis post, “Welcome to Oldfield“]


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973):


Two siblings, Claudia and her brother, Jamie, run away from home to stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They try to solve the mystery of the new angel statue, rumored to be the work of Michelangelo, which leads them to the statue’s donor and famous recluse, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (played by Ingrid Bergman).

At the end of the film, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes Claudia to her private library to find a particular file. Her private library and filing cabinets are organized from floor to ceiling. I love that in this film, the personal library — or rather, the files within them — serve almost as title characters! 😉 It also shows a bit of diversity in what constitutes a private library collection, as her library is a collection of files more so than books.

Private library and files from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)
Private library and files from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973)

[Click here for my full analysis post, “From the mixed-up files“]


Ghostbusters (2016):


In this recent remake of the 1984 original Ghostbusters with female leads, the personal library in a private home has become part of a museum — and it is the main setting for the opening scene, which puts into motion the rest of the film.

The film begins in a library, a private library in a house museum called the Aldridge Mansion Museum. The ghost in the opening scenes is not a reel librarian, however, but rather the ghost of an Aldridge family member. (Definitely not as memorable as the original film’s opening scene in the New York Public Library, which I analyzed in-depth in this post.)

It is an impressive private library, although the word “library” is not mentioned at all during the tour. However, there is an “Announcements” sign by the guest book that includes “library hours,” as well as a large sign beside the velvet ropes in the atrium, which reads, “Aldridge Family Library, circa 1830.”

Tour of the Aldridge Mansion library in Ghostbusters (2016)
Tour of the Aldridge Mansion library in Ghostbusters (2016)

The Aldridge Mansion Museum’s historian, Ed Mulgrave (played by Ed Begley Jr.), then seeks out help from scientist Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig), because of a book she wrote years ago, Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal.

[Click here for my full analysis post, “Analyzing the library scene in the ‘Ghostbusters’ remake“]


The Kennel Murder Case (1933):


In the first five minutes of the film, we are introduced to a private library, as well as a book called Unsolved Murders that becomes central to the “locked room” mystery plot. Another private library that serves as the main setting and impetus for the film’s plot!

The private library in question belongs to Brisbane Coe (Frank Conroy), who employs a private secretary, Raymond Wrede (Ralph Morgan). Five minutes into the film, we are treated to a classic cinematic shot of a bookshelf, revealing a close-up of Brisbane’s face. The bookshelves serve as a natural framing device. Brisbane grabs a book entitled Unsolved Murders, places it in an overnight bag, and prepares to leave on a trip.

Book closeup and private library central to The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
Book closeup and private library central to The Kennel Murder Case (1933)

A little over a half-hour into the film, Philo Vance (William Powell) leads the detectives to Grand Central Station, where they locate Brisbane’s bag. Philo takes out the Unsolved Murders book, which has a bookmark opening up to a chapter that includes a description just like the murder scene of his brother. The plot thickens from there!

[Click here for my full analysis post, “Kennel clubs and unsolved murders“]


Pride and Prejudice (1940):


The 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice changes the already humorous character of Mr. Collins from a clergyman in Jane Austen’s original novel to a personal librarian for Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The occupational change seems to serve the absurd and ridiculous qualities of Mr. Collins — we do not pause and wonder at a bumbling librarian, whereas we might be offended at a bumbling clergyman.

Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

It is also interesting to note that we, the audience, never actually get to see the inside of the library that Collins curates for Lady Catherine; his profession is mentioned once at the beginning and never referred to again. And it is quite revealing on retrospect that Mr. Bennet, who has his own personal library which serves as an important personal retreat, does not mention libraries or books at all with Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet does not take the opportunity of using an apparently mutual love of libraries to bond with his cousin and heir.

[Click here for my full analysis post of “Pride and Prejudice and librarians“]


Soylent Green (1973):


Another major character who serves as a private librarian! Edward G. Robinson, in his final film role, plays Sol Roth, and we meet him within the first five minutes of the film. He’s described in the trailer as:

Sol Roth, Thorn’s private library. A Living Book in a world without books.

This futuristic world has stopped printing books for almost 20 years. The word “Book” now refers to people, to former scholars and librarians who serve as personal researchers for others. Sol is a self-described “Police Book,” assigned to Detective Sergeant Thorn (Charlton Heston), and there is a “Supreme Exchange” where he goes almost daily for information and to talk to other Books.

Real books are treasures to be hoarded in this overcrowded, dirty, violent nightmare of a future, and Thorn and Sol live together in comparative luxury, in an apartment filled with bookcases. You could argue that they live inside their own private library.

Private library in Soylent Green (1973)
Private library in Soylent Green (1973)

[Click here for my full analysis post, “Reader poll of runner-ups: Soylent Green and the Books“]


A real-life private librarian:


Before wrapping up this post, I had to mention Casanova, the famous lover — who in real life ended up a private librarian on a private estate. However, in the 2005 film version of his adventures in Venice, in which Heath Ledger plays the title role, libraries and librarians are never mentioned in this film. There is, however, a literary angle explored in the film, and a young lady, Francesca Bruni (played by Sienna Miller), visits a libreria, which is Italian for bookstore. There are a few scenes throughout the film set in this bookstore.

[Click here for my full analysis post, “Casanova, the lover and the librarian“]


Private and personal:


And a final note about private libraries, you can tell a lot about a person’s interests by looking at their personal collection of books. Private libraries are therefore quite personal, in both real and reel life. As Douglas Groothius stated in this blog post, “Thoughts on Your Personal Library” from his personal blog and website:

If your collection of books crosses the mystical threshold and becomes a library, then you should curate it well. It is both a reflection of you and you are reflection of it.

What does your own private library reveal about you? Is there a notable private library in a film that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment — or two! — and share.


Sources used:


  • Abandon. Dir. Stephen Gaghan. Perf. Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel. Buena Vista, 2002.
  • Casanova. Dir. Lasse Hallström. Perf. Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Lena Olin, Charlie Cox. Buena Vista Pictures, 2005.
  • From a Whisper to a Scream (aka The Offspring). Dir. Jeff Burr. Perf. Vincent Price, Susan Tyrrell, Rosalind Cash. Conquest Productions, 1987.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (aka The Hideaways). Dir. Fielder Cook. Perf. Ingrid Bergman, Sally Prager, Johnny Doran. Warner Home Video, 1973.
  • Ghostbusters. Dir. Paul Feig. Perf. Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones. Columbia Pictures, 2016.
  • Groothuis, Douglas. “Thoughts on Your Personal Library.” Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., 19 May 2016.
  • The Kennel Murder Case. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. William Powell, Mary Astor. Warner Bros., 1933.
  • Pride and Prejudice. Dir. Robert Z. Leonard. Perf. Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Maureen O’Sullivan, Edna May Oliver, Edmund Gwenn. MGM, 1940.
  • Soylent Green. Dir. Richard Fleischer. Perf. Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson, Brock Peters, Joseph Cotten. MGM, 1973.
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