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).

A round-up of library, archives, and reel librarian scenes in MCU’s Phase One

Phase one of our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians!

When I was rounding up my first impressions of Wong in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), I was marveling (har har 😀 ) about how many Marvel movies I had written about on my site. Then I thought… why not finally go back through all the Marvel movies, this time in phase order, and make sure I’ve watched, reviewed, and analyzed them all for any library, archives, and reel librarian scenes? Thus, the idea of the Marvel Summer was born!

Yep, that’s right, this entire summer is going to be our own Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians, as I wind my librarian way through the MCU, starting with Phase One.

*POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERTS*

Iron Man (2008)

I can still remember going to the movie theater to watch this movie! And yes, I still tear up at the beginning when Yinsen (Shaun Toub) tells Tony Stark not to waste his life.

Alas, there are no library scenes in the “one that started it all” — not even a private library at Tony Stark’s house!

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

At 49 mins into this movie — is this the most overlooked Marvel movie in the bunch?! — Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is trying to get away from military soldiers, so he cuts through the Culver University Library to escape. No reel librarian is visible in this scene, but you can tell it was filmed in a real university library, because there’s a yellow sign that reads “Please Do Not Reshelve Books.” 😉 IMDb says University of Toronto and Drew University in New Jersey served as filming locations for the university. Most of the action in this brief scene happens in the bound periodicals section. This movie qualifies for the Class V category, because it has library scenes with no identifiable librarians.

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

Below is my Twitter thread breaking down this brief library scene, also with lots of screenshots:

Iron Man 2 (2010)

No library scene.

On a personal note, I remembered shockingly little about this movie when I rewatched it. Maybe if there had been a library scene, I would have remembered more about it! 😉

Thor (2011)

Archives or vault?

My husband wondered if the vault of treasures seen at 9:56 into the movie could be considered an archives, but it’s referred to clearly in the movie as “the weapons vault” with “these relics.” Loki also refers to this vault later, at 41 minutes: “So I am another stolen relic, locked up here until you have use of me.”

Public library scene

At 49 minutes into the movie, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) visits the public library because he needs to email a contact, after his laptop was confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. (I had vaguely remembered there being a library scene in this movie, but couldn’t remember why. But when Erik finds out his laptop had been taken, I shouted out loud, “He’s going to the library because they have internet access!” I clapped my hands in delight when this proved true. 😀 ) There’s even a “Free Internet” sign in the window of the library, along with READ posters (classic library decoration), computers, and bookshelves in an alcove. No obvious reel librarians, but we do see two other library patrons browsing the shelves.

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

Erik walks across the small library to pick up a book, The Giant Slayer by Iain Lawrence, on a rolling cart. He then picks up the book Myths and Legends from Around the World by Sandy Shepherd, and looks up entries for the Bifrost and for Thor (Thursday). Signs for “audio books” and “young adults” can be seen on the walls behind Erik.

Both of those titles are real books, by the way! The other titles on this cart that I could decipher, to the best of my ability, include:

Such a clever collection of book titles that reflect elements of this movie’s plot and characters — and they’re all real books. Props to the propmaster!

I noticed that there were no call numbers on the books on the cart, but there were call numbers on the books on the bookshelves lining the wall behind the cart. I immediately theorized that the books on the cart were book donations for sale, which is a common thing for libraries to do– and indeed, there is a “Book Sale” sign near the cart!

Again, this movie qualifies for the Class V category, because it has library scenes with no identifiable librarians.

Library book debate

At the 1 hour mark, we return to the book that Erik got from the public library, and that book then inspires a debate about science fact vs. fiction. Darcy (the ever-hilarious Kat Dennings) is flipping through the book on the table, and she points to the page for Mjolnir (which she pronounces as Myeu-muh, like a cat’s meow, and to this day, I cannot help but also say Mjolnir like that).

Jane: Where’d you find this?

Erik: The children’s section. [Turns to the page for Loki.] I wanted to show you how silly his story was.

Jane: But you’re the one who’s always pushing me to chase down every possibility, every alternative!

Erik: I’m talking about science, not magic!

Jane: Well, magic’s just science we can’t explain yet. Arthur C. Clarke.

Erik: Who wrote science fiction.

Jane: A precursor to science fact!

#TeamJane

And OF COURSE you know I looked up that Arthur C. Clarke quote, right? Right. 🙂 Clark’s original quote — known as “Clarke’s third law” — is:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

This was published in a 1968 letter to Science magazine and was added to the 1973 revision of the “Hazards of Prophecy” essay. But Clarke had written a similar sentiment earlier in 1952, and this Wikipedia entry traces earlier variations of this concept that pre-date Clarke. The bottom line? Science as magic, and vice versa, is not a new idea.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

No library scene.

Do I still tear up every time when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) explains the good he sees in Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)? Yes, yes, I do. No shame in feeling emotions, y’all. Movies are good for emotional catharsis. ❤

The Avengers (2012)

No library scene.

This movie is notable for Mark Ruffalo’s first outing as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, a role that Edward Norton did not reprise (thank goodness).

Keeping score

Phase One:

  • 6 movies
  • 2/6 library or archives scenes
  • 0/6 reel librarian sightings

The Avengers will return…

… in our next regular post! 😀 Yes, we will continue our Marvel Multiverse of Reel Librarians for Phase Two. Stay tuned!

Sources used

  • The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2012.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. Dir. Joe Johnston. Perf. Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Clarke, Arthur C. “Clarke’s Third Law on UFO’s.Science, vol. 159, issue 3812 (19 Jan. 1968): 255. doi: 10.1126/science.159.3812.255.c
  • Clarke’s Three Laws.” Wikipedia, 26 May 2022. Accessed 17 June 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • The Incredible Hulk. Dir. Louis Leterrier. Perf. Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth. Universal / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008): Filming & Production.” Internet Movie Database, accessed 17 June 2022.
  • Iron Man. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Iron Man 2. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2008.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One.” Wikipedia, 15 June 2022. Accessed 17 June 2022. CC BY SA 3.0 license.
  • Thor. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba. Paramount / Marvel Studios, 2011.

Reader poll write-up, Spring 2022 | A reel librarian gets shushed in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961)

“There you are, right in the public library!”

As per the winning entry in the most recent reader poll — thanks again to everyone who voted in the poll! — I am analyzing Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and its library scenes set in the New York Public Library. The Oscar-winning film, based on Truman Capote’s classic 1958 novella, was directed by Blake Edwards and written by screenwriter George Axelrod. The film stars Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, a New York “society gal” and free spirit who started out as Lulamae, a “wild thing” from Tulip, Texas. George Peppard co-stars as Paul Varjak, a once promising writer who now idles away his time as a “kept man” of married socialite Mrs. Emily Eustace “2E” Failenson, played by Patricia Neal. Buddy Ebsen and Martin Balsam also shine in supporting roles.

The film’s original trailer focuses primarily on Hepburn’s charm and style, which have helped make this movie a cultural and sartorial touchstone (especially Hepburn’s iconic “little black dress”).

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube License.

But this movie is dark, y’all. It has its issues, which I will get into, and every character has flaws. Beneath the glitter and parties, there’s an undercurrent of sadness and self-doubt; this is also reflective of the source novella’s tone. When I was a teenager, I remember a friend of mine couldn’t stand this movie because of how the cat was treated at the end of the movie. (Orangey, who played the no-name cat, has his own Wikipedia page!) The film’s saddest and most truthful moments are the ones I personally relate to and remember the most (e.g., “the mean reds“).

And I cannot write about this movie without mentioning that it features one of the most racist portrayals of an Asian character ever onscreen, with Mickey Rooney, a White actor, portraying Mr. Yunioshi, a Japanese photographer. Rooney reportedly wore false teeth, used tape for his eyelids, and wore “yellow face” makeup for this role. SO NOT OK. TV networks now showing this movie have either cut out the Mr. Yunioshi scenes altogether or inserted trigger warnings or context cards before showing the movie.

And I don’t think pointing out this film’s flaws and racism is unfairly holding up this 1961 film to 2022 standards. “It was considered a crude caricature even at the time of the film’s 1961 release,” and critics expressed qualms about Rooney’s portrayal from the beginning. For example, in 1961, the movie reporter in Variety called the film “whitewashed” and that “Mickey Rooney’s participation as a much-harassed upstairs Japanese photographer adds an unnecessarily incongruous note to the proceedings.” Rooney’s personal assertion in a 2008 interview that “Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it – not one complaint” is revisionist history.

So… do the library scenes fare any better? Let’s investigate.

Library scene #1

Let’s set the stage for the events that lead to the first library scene, seen in the video clip below.

At 1 hour and 8 minutes into the 114-minute film, Holly and Paul decide to go out and “spend the whole day doing things we’ve never done before.” Holly muses that “Of course I can’t really think of anything I’ve never done” — but she’s wrong!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Paul and Holly Go to the Library (13) – Audrey Hepburn” video uploaded by EverythingAudrey.com, Standard YouTube License

Five minutes later into the film — after a trip to Tiffany’s, as you do — Paul takes Holly… to the New York Public Library!

The lobby to the New York Public Library's central branch in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Note the Black male reel librarian at the right-hand counter.
The lobby to the New York Public Library’s central branch. Note the Black male reel librarian at the right-hand counter.

Holly: What is this place, anyway?

Paul: You said you wanted to sit down. It’s the public library. You’ve never been here?

Holly: No. That makes two for me. I don’t see any books.

Paul: They’re in there.

They take a peek into the Reading Room.

Peeking into the Reading Room at the NYPL Central Branch
Peeking into the Reading Room at the NYPL Central Branch

Then Paul takes her to the wall of card catalog drawers. (So dreamy! Happy sigh. 🙂 )

Paul then explain the basics about card catalogs and library organization.

Paul: Each one of these little drawers is stuffed with little cards, and each little card is a book or an author.

Holly: It’s fascinating.

Paul: V-A-R-J-A-K.

Holly: Really?! [flips through the cards] Look! Isn’t it marvelous? There you are, right in the public library. “Varjak, Paul. Nine Lives.” Then a lot of numbers. You think they really have the book itself, live?

Paul: Sure. Follow me. [He takes the drawer out]

They walk across the room to the desk, where a Black man, dressed in a brown suit and tie, stands beneath a sign that reads “File call slips here.” Holly and the man share polite smiles. This reel librarian is not included in the credits list.

Holly Golightly and the Black male reel librarian politely smile at each other at the "File Call Slips Here" desk
Holly Golightly and the Black male reel librarian politely smile at each other at the “File Call Slips Here” desk

A moment later, then a board lights up with the number 57 — it’s like waiting at the doctor’s office or at the DMW, hah! — and Holly and Paul walk up to another desk, where a middle-aged, auburn-haired White woman stands. She is also dressed in a suit, this one a dark blue plaid. This reel librarian is credited in the cast list, and was played by Elvia Allman.

The visual introduction to the female librarian in this scene is from the back and over her shoulder — a common visual introduction to minor reel librarian characters in movies

Holly [in a loud voice]: 57, please. Nine Lives by Varjak, Paul.

Librarian: Shhhhhh.

Holly: Did you ever read it? It’s simply marvelous.

Librarian: No, I’m afraid I haven’t. [Goes back to filing or typing cards.]

Holly: Well, you should. He wrote it. He’s Varjak, Paul in person. [To Paul] She doesn’t believe me. Show her your driver’s license or your diner’s club card or something. [To the librarian] Honest, he is the author. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow.

Librarian: Would you kindly lower your voice, miss?

Here is the reel librarian’s EPIC shushing face:

The librarian's shushing face
The librarian’s shushing face

Holly: [To Paul] Why don’t you autograph it for her, Paul? [To the librarian] Don’t you think that would be nice? Sort of make it more personal?

Librarian: Really, miss. [whispers something unintelligible]

Holly: [To Paul] Go on, then. Don’t be so stuck-up. Autograph it to her.

Paul: All right. What shall I say?

Holly: Something sentimental, I think.

Librarian: What are you doing? Stop that!

Paul: [To the librarian] Shhhhh!

Librarian [in a quieter tone]: You’re defacing public property!

Holly: Well, all right, if that’s the way you feel. Come on, Fred darling, let’s get out of here. I don’t think this place is half as nice as Tiffany’s.

And here’s the reel librarian getting shushed herself!

The librarian gets shushed!
The librarian gets shushed!

This first scene lasts 2 minutes total.

Here was my initial summation of this scene from my undergraduate thesis over 20 years ago:

“The films that provide glimpses of librarians for humorous purposes only also are the films that exhibit probably the crudest portrayals of librarian stereotypes. … George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) harass a middle-aged librarian (played by Elvia Allman) in the New York Public Library by signing a book, thereby “defacing public property.” (p.13)

Jennifer Snoek-Brown, “A Glimpse Through the Glasses: Portrayals of Librarians in Film.” Thesis, West Texas A&M U, 2001.

I think my initial view was a bit harsh and more than a little biased. Maybe I’ve mellowed as I’ve gotten older. 😉 I certainly don’t condone the dismissive and flippant attitude that Holly displays, but I also think that the librarian could have been a LOT friendlier and shown some basic human kindness to them with a greeting and small talk. I mean, she greeted Holly with a shush! NOT COOL. I realize that this script is played for laughs, and stereotypical portrayals of minor characters help set the foundation for easy laughs, but it still kind of irks me that the librarian character is written so stereotypically. The point is definitely to laugh AT this uptight, prissy librarian.

I do kind of love that the librarian gets shushed by Paul, though! That made me laugh. But honestly, these kinds of shushing scenes perpetuate the myth that libraries are these tomb-like, quiet places. Libraries DO often have designated quiet zones, but libraries also serve as community spaces where small groups and friends and family gather, so I almost always encounter a low-to-medium hum of noise whenever I visit public libraries.

I also quite like that the beginning of this library scene depicts joy in discovering how a library works. I love that little micro-scene at the card catalog wall because of the look of delight on Holly’s face! Also, this scene conveys the joy of writers having their names and resources in libraries. (I’m married to a writer, so this scene rings true for me on both counts. 😉 )

Card catalog joy!
Card catalog joy!

And Paul does a very efficient job in explaining the purpose of the card catalog system. (And thank you for being accurate in the call numbers, as they are indeed under the correct “U-V” section of the card catalog. Those kinds of details matter!)

This is also an example of a “closed stacks” library, where the public users do not have access to most of the library’s collection. Most public libraries have what are known as “open stacks,” or bookshelves and collections that are open for the public to wander around and browse. By the way, the NYPL Library website has a “Library Lingo” page that defines this common library term and concept:

“STACKS: The area where the library’s books and other materials are stored. In common with other major research libraries, The New York Public Library has “closed stacks”: you must request material instead of going to the shelf to retrieve it yourself. The New York Public Library’s Branch Libraries have “open stacks” where you may browse and retrieve material yourself.”

General Research Division, “Library Lingo,” New York Public Library, Nov. 1995

The White female librarian in this first library scene fulfills the Comic Relief character type, while the uncredited Black male librarian is your basic Information Provider character type. I think it’s interesting to note that the reel librarian of color is visibly friendlier than the White reel librarian, although the reel librarian of color has much less screen time and makes less of an impression onscreen.

Library scene #2

The second, and final, library scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) needs a little context, as well. At 1 hour and 24 minutes into the film, Paul dumps his lady friend and goes in search of Holly. He calls and looks everywhere and finally finds himself back in the New York Public Library, where he is surprised to see Holly!

This second library scene is in the video clip below:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Paul Tells Holly in the Library He Loves Her (16) – Audrey Hepburn” video uploaded by EverythingAudrey.com, Standard YouTube License

By the way, in earlier viewings, I had missed that a different reel librarian was on duty at the “File Call Slips Here” desk in the library lobby. This time, a younger White man, also dressed in a suit and tie, is standing at the desk and helping a library patron.

A different male librarian, this time a younger White man, helps a patron at the "File Call Slips Here" desk in the library lobby
A different male librarian, this time a younger White man, helps a patron at the “File Call Slips Here” desk in the library lobby

From the look of surprise on Paul’s face, it’s clear that he wasn’t expecting to see Holly there; rather, the NYPL must one of his own comfort spots.

Holly is reading at the NYPL
Holly is reading at the NYPL

Paul comes over to her and kisses her neck, which startles her. Dude is NOT READING THE (READING) ROOM.

Paul: Hi.

Holly [turns back to her book and adjusts her sunglasses]: What do you want?

Paul: I want to talk to you.

Holly: I’m busy. [turns a page of her book]

Paul: What are you doing?

Holly: Reading.

Leave the lady be, Paul. She’s reading!

Paul [picks up a book from the table]: South America: Land of Wealth and Promise?

Holly: It’s very interesting.

SIDE NOTE: Y’all *know* I looked up that title in WorldCat, the online catalog of the world’s libraries, right?! Right. From what I can tell, that book title was very likely made up, as there is no record in WorldCat for a book with that title.

Paul: Let’s get out of here. I said, let’s get out of here. I want to talk to you.

[Another patron shushes him, but the camera never pans to the other person.]

Paul [to Holly]: What’s the matter with you, anyway? What’s happened?

Holly: Fred, would you please just leave me alone.

Paul [grabs her arms]: Holly, I love you.

Holly gets up from the table and walks away with her purse, leaving the books on the table. Paul follows her and grabs her arm. He raises her voice, shouting at her, and Holly tells him, very clearly, “Let me go” three times. She tries to get away, but Paul roughly grabs her arms again several times.

Holly reveals that she’s going to marry a South American, Jose de Silva Pereira. (What Paul doesn’t know is that Holly is doing this so she can help take care of her brother when he gets out of the Army.) This further enrages Paul, who continues to shout at her and grab and shake her in front of several library patrons.

Physical assault alert in the library!
Physical assault alert in the library!

Paul [grabbing her again]: You’re crazy.

Holly: What, do you think you own me?

Paul: That’s exactly what I think.

Holly: I know, I know. That’s what everybody always thinks. But everybody happens to be wrong.

Paul: Look, I am NOT everybody. Or am I? Is that what you really think? That I’m no different from all your other rats and super-rats? [Holly walks away.] Wait a minute. [He takes his $50 writing check out of his breast pocket.] That’s it. If that’s what you really think, there’s something I want to give you.

Holly: What’s that?

Paul: Fifty dollars for the powder room.

He turns and walks away, and we see that everyone in the Reading Room is staring at him. No wonder! He just grabbed a woman and yelled at her in the library! Physical assault alert in the library!

Paul walks away at the end of this second library scene
Paul walks away at the end of this second library scene

THIS SCENE IS NOT OK. This is NOT romantic. Red flags EVERYWHERE. Paul is abusive, both verbally and physically, and he confirms that he thinks he “owns” her. NOPE. And then he gives her his $50 check and stalks away. This parting shot by Paul echoes what we had learned earlier, that one of the ways that Holly earns money is to get guys to pay her $50 every time she goes to the powder room. It’s a “gotcha” moment — a moment that, script-wise, works quite well on the page — but it’s a cheap moment focusing on shaming a woman trying to earn a living, for herself and for her brother. NOT OK. Even as a young woman, this scene made me feel uneasy when I first watched this movie; now, I am better able to articulate why this scene is problematic.

One thing about this scene that I realized is positive? That Holly went back to the library for research! Although she ended the first library scene with a flippant remark, “I don’t think this place is half as nice as Tiffany’s,” she DOES return when she needs some information, and when she needs a place to read and think. 🙂

This second scene in the library lasts 3 minutes. The second male reel librarian is also uncredited and serves as an Information Provider.

Altogether, we spend 5 minutes total at the New York Public Library in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Although they don’t last that long, the two library scenes are memorable, landing in the Class III category, in which reel librarians play supporting characters.

Continuing the conversation

It was an interesting exercise to revisit this movie — one I have seen several times, and a movie I do enjoy overall, despite some quite troubling scenes and portrayals, as I’ve detailed in this post. I can recognize the negatives — like the racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi and the physical assault in the library — while also enjoying the positives, like Holly’s style, the haunting “Moon River” song on the fire escape, and of course, Holly’s utter delight in learning about the card catalog system. ❤

I agree with this reviewer, who sums up Breakfast at Tiffany’s like this:

Holly’s ambiguities, flaws, and layers make her a much more interesting protagonist […] Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a weird, gorgeous, difficult, fascinating, dark film—and it’s all the better for it, but if you’re looking for something aspirational that you can watch purely for aesthetics, well, there are thousands of other films to choose from. So next time you claim this is your all-time favorite movie, I hope you’re able to back it up with some of the film’s flaws, and not just cite the fashion as the reason.

Elizabeth Logan. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s Problems No One Ever Talks About.” Glamour, 30 Dec. 2016.

What are your thoughts upon revisiting Breakfast at Tiffany’s and reflecting on its library scenes? Did anything new come to the surface for you? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

A research quest in ‘Winter’s Tale’ (2014) + how to tell the difference between microfilm vs. microfiche

And when you have a research quest, where do you go? The library, OF COURSE.

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day — or Galentine’s Day, whichever you prefer! ❤ And of course, I had to analyze a romantic movie for this post, and I chose Winter’s Tale (2014), starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly. The movie was adapted from Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel of the same name. (And if you were confused about this movie and thought it might be an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play “The Winter’s Tale,” then please know that you are not alone!)

This movie’s plot is impossible to describe — or follow that well, if you’re unfamiliar with the source novel, like me. The most straightforward way to describe it is that it is a time-bending fantasy romance that flashes between 1916 and 2014. The central romance is between Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) and Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay).

Spoiler alert: This movie is NOT GOOD. And I also get super CAPSY (which means cranky) throughout the following analysis.

Here was my reaction while watching this movie:

I do kind of love that the official trailer includes Jennifer Connelly asking, “What’s happening here?” (at 1:49 mins), which really does sum up this movie:

Winter’s Tale – Official Trailer [HD]” video uploaded by Warner Bros. Pictures, Standard YouTube License

Like I said, this movie is BONKERS. I can’t decide what’s worse… Colin Farrell’s haircut? Russell Crowe’s Irish accent? The endless parade of really good actors inexplicably popping up in minor or bit parts? (See my shout-out to legendary Broadway actor Norm Lewis in my tweet above.)

I have to imagine that the original novel is better able to capture the sweeping scale of the tale, right?! For example, the pop culture site Pajiba includes a review of the book (“I’m not sure if it’s the best… book I’ve ever read, but it’s pretty… close”), contrasted with a review of the movie adaptation (“The worst movie ever made can’t even touch this”).

If you have read Helprin’s book, please leave a comment and share.

Step 1 in the research quest: The New York Public Library scene

At 80 minutes into this 118-minute long movie, Peter is walking around with amnesia in 2014 but finds what he thinks is a clue to regaining his memory, a token that reads: “Coheeries Chocolates, Happy New Year!”

And when you have a research quest, where do you go? The library, OF COURSE. And not just any library. He heads straight for the central branch of the New York Public Library, with the iconic lion statues that are visible in the screenshot below. (I’m relieved that knowing about the NYPL withstands time-bending amnesia.)

The iconic lion statue(s) outside the New  York Public Library
The iconic lion statue(s) outside the New York Public Library

In a scene that lasts only a few seconds, we glimpse the famous Reading Room of the NYPL behind a White woman with long, straight blonde hair. She is wearing glasses and is sitting behind a tall counter with a laptop in front of her. The librarian doesn’t say anything — not even a greeting! — and doesn’t even look up at him until Peter comes up to the counter. Her facial expression is quite stern. (This is not realistic, from my experience. It’s almost Pavlovian for librarians to smile and say something encouraging like, “Hello, how can I help you?” when a patron comes anywhere near the reference desk.)

The NYPL librarian
The NYPL librarian

Peter hands her the token, and we get a closeup of the librarian picking it up.

A Coheeries clue
A Coheeries clue

The character is listed in the credits as simply “Librarian,” and is played by Caitlin Dulany. That’s all we see of this reel librarian, which lands this portrayal in the Class IV category, with librarian cameos.

Based on the next scene, the librarian is clearly successful in having found something useful and providing enough information for Peter to move to the next step. My guess is that she would have looked for any records of a company called “Coheeries Chocolates” and/or possibly just searched for “Coheeries” as a keyword; that is the research route that I would have taken in this situation.

Therefore, although we never hear the librarian speak or see any more of her, she serves as a successful Information Provider.

Step #2 in the research quest: The NY Sun’s Reading Room and newspaper archives

Next, at 1 hour and 22 minutes into the movie, we follow Peter to The Sun newspaper headquarters.

Next stop: The Sun's newspaper archives
Next stop: The Sun’s newspaper archives

As Peter walks up to another reference counter, we see the sign along the side wall that reads “Isaac Penn Reading Room.” Who is Isaac Penn? He’s played by William Hurt, and he is the father of Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), the woman Peter fell in love with back in 1916.

A view of the (fictional) Isaac Penn Reading Room
A view of the (fictional) Isaac Penn Reading Room

At the reference desk — and in the screenshot below, you can see a small brown sign on the wall that reads “Reference Desk” above the fire escape floor plan — is Norm Lewis. The Norm Lewis, who was the first Black American actor to play Javert in a production of the musical Les Misérables (in 2006) and the first Black American actor to play the title role in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (in 2014; Robert Guillaume was the first Black American actor to play the Phantom regionally, in 1990). The Norm Lewis, who has also starred in productions of Miss Saigon, Sweeney Todd, Dreamgirls, Chicago, Hair, The Little Mermaid, The Music Man, and Porgy and Bess. The Norm Lewis, who has been nominated for a Tony, a Drama Desk award, a Grammy, and a SAG award. (Can you tell I’m a fan? This man’s skill is undeniable.)

And in this movie, Norm Lewis gets stuck playing a bit character called “Custodian” (WTF?!!!), with his natural charisma muted to being a cardigan-wearing obstructionist to Colin Farrell’s floppy hair. Norm Lewis deserved better; we all deserved better. (To be clear, playing a reel librarian or reel archivist is not the problem here; the way this character is written and used in this scene is the problem.)

Norm Lewis in 'Winter's Tale' (2014)
Hi, I’m the Norm Lewis. Show some respect!

Let’s listen in as Peter walks up to the desk and asks to meet with Isaac Penn.

Custodian: This is the Isaac Penn Reading Room.

Peter: I’d like to speak to him if I could.

Custodian: Be a neat trick … Penn’s been dead 90 years. [He’s so deadpan! Peter is unamused.]

Peter: There’s a theater on Hudson Street, called the Theater of the Coheeries. Can you tell me if you have any information on it please? Isaac Penn donated it.

He taps on his computer, and as he leans forward, we also glimpse two more workers behind him, a Black woman at a desk and another shadow-y figure (a man?) seated at another desk behind a column. These two roles are uncredited in the cast list.

Three reel librarians in one screenshot!
Three reel librarians in one screenshot!

Custodian: I see it here. But the information on it hasn’t been cataloged from the microfiche.

Peter: Ok, might I see them please? These “micro fish.”

Custodian: Sure. Two forms of ID .[He reaches for a form.] Fill this out. Two-week approval period, and you can search back there til your heart’s delight.

Peter: Can I just —

Custodian: I’m sorry, can’t help you.

Let’s pause for the EPIC “I don’t give a f—” facial expression that Norm Lewis is giving Colin Farrell here. You can just tell the weariness behind trying to explain policies to a person — especially a White man? — who doesn’t want to listen and thinks those policies don’t apply to them. (For what it’s worth, the policies above sound pretty standard to me, for access to a private newspaper’s specialized collection of archives. It’s not a public library. Or am I just used to policies like these? Leave a comment and share what you think.)

That is also ALL OF US as we are forced to gaze upon Farrell’s haircut in this movie.

A closeup of Norm Lewis in 'Winter's Tale' (2014)
Dude, don’t give me attitude with that haircut.

At this point, Virginia Gamely (Jennifer Connelly) — the one who says, “What’s happening here?” in the trailer — walks over. I guess because reasons of PLOT, but also because I guess White-presenting people gotta stick together when a Black man is explaining the rules to a White man who doesn’t want to listen? It’s not a good look, y’all. 😦

Virginia: There are so many regulations these days. 

ROLLING MY EYES HERE. Ok, Karen.

After Virginia introduces herself and asks if she knows him from somewhere, Peter shares that he’s lost his memory but is starting to remember things again.

Peter: I’ve become convinced that if i can just learn what this Coheeries is, it may help jog my memory. And now they’re telling me [he gestures to Norm] I have to wait two weeks, and I have to have two forms of ID that I don’t have, just to even get back there. Although I have a growing suspicion that I may be able to get to what I need faster as soon as everybody goes home for the night… if only I knew what a “micro fish” looked like. 

Virginia: You know, places like this have all sorts of security systems.

Peter: Well, somehow I find myself undaunted.

Jennifer Connelly in 'Winter's Tale' (2014)
What are you even saying right in front of Norm Lewis?!

Ok, just to point out the obvious… so Peter is talking about breaking into a place of business, and he doesn’t even know what he’s looking for. Pause to point out that Peter is also saying all of this RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE PROFESSIONAL AT THE REFERENCE DESK. We’re not invisible, y’all! The Black man at the counter right next to you is not invisible! The White privilege rolling off Peter is so palpable it’s like its own character.

This is deeply disturbing and condescending behavior. Regardless, Virginia — inexplicably, because EVERYTHING IN THIS MOVIE IS INEXPLICABLE — decides to help him out.

Virginia: You’re in luck. I work here, so I don’t need any approval. Isn’t that right, Jack?

Jack: Reporters come and go as they please, Miss Gamely.

Pause to recognize that the “Custodian” listed in the credits gets a first name in the movie: Jack! Not a full name, just a first name. Still not enough to earn him that name in the credits. And Jack still calls her “Miss Gamely.” So it’s clear that they’re not on equal footing in this scene, and this scene is written to emphasize that. She is giving favors and bending the rules for a strange White man who just threatened to break into the place, after which she tells the Black man to step aside. Again, NOT A GOOD LOOK.

Norm Lewis, Jennifer Connelly, and Colin Farrell in 'Winter's Tale (2014)
#TeamNormLewis

But let’s applaud the fact that Norm Lewis is giving another “I don’t give a f—” facial expression to Virginia, similar to the expression that he gave earlier to Peter. How much of the resigned weariness in his face is informed by his own experiences as a Black man dealing with people who seem to have, and act upon, a sense of entitlement? Am I reading too much into this? Maybe, but that’s how I’m reading the scene at this point in time.

This scene ends at 1 hour and 24 minutes into the movie, so this newspaper reading room scene lasts two-and-a-half minutes.

What role does Norm Lewis play?

I struggled with how to classify the role that Norm Lewis plays in this film. He’s a staff member at a newspaper’s reading room reference desk, so it’s not a typical library. Or you could argue that this is an archives rather than a library.

I asked this on Twitter, if his role would be considered an archivist or a librarian working in an archives, or something else.

If you follow the tweet thread embedded above, you’ll see that Burkely Hermann (the real-life archivist behind the Pop Culture Library Review site) replied that “Maybe they’d be a records clerk or something? It might be a bit of a stretch to call them an archivist” but also that a “recordkeeper… is basically equivalent to archivist from what I’ve read.

So this role seems to fall more on the reel archivist side of the scale than a reel librarian, and I am also going to land more on the reel archivist side for Jack the Custodian, especially in contrast with the reel librarian role shown earlier at the New York Public Library scene.

The library and archives scenes last only a few minutes total, and only a few lines of dialogue for the reel librarians/archivists, so I would argue this lands the movie in the Class IV category, with cameo roles.

One final note to sum up this very odd scene in a very odd movie: I’ve NEVER heard of the term “custodian” being used before in our respective fields. A “custodian” is a more common term for a facilities worker who does the (often dirty but absolutely vital) work of cleaning and maintaining buildings. This is NOT THE SAME WORK as a librarian or an archivist or any kind of records keeper. They are different jobs. Yet one more tone-deaf strike against director/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman.

Or is this how this character was referred to in the source novel? (I hope not.) Is this newspaper reading room scene in the novel? Please leave a comment and share!

Archives scene: How to tell the difference between microfilm vs. microfiche

And now, for my final rant regarding this film. I also tweeted about this, that NO ONE in this movie seems to understand the difference between microfiche and microfilm.

Yes, fair warning, this is a personal pet peeve. I’m going to continue getting all CAPSY in this post.

So let’s do this.

Most of this stack of archival materials includes cardboard boxes of microfilm
Most of this stack of archival materials includes cardboard boxes of microfilm

After Virginia gets Peter past Jack, we next we see a stack of archival materials labeled “Coheeries.” Almost everything in this stack of materials is microfilm. You can tell by the boxes.

Then we see Virginia rolling a spool of microfilm (NOT microfiche, although that’s the word everyone used in the prior scene) into a microfilm reader.

That is a spool of microfilm, NOT microfiche

Something’s not working, so Peter fixes the machine with his magical power of feeling and fixing things with his mind and hands, because SURE WHY NOT.

“What’s happening here?” indeed.

Virginia: But you didn’t even know what microfiche was.

Peter: I’ve just got a knack with machines.

[Insert my real-life librarian’s scream here: Maybe the problem is that NO ONE knows what microfiche is… because THERE IS NO MICROFICHE IN THIS SCENE.]

We learn what Coheeries is — it doesn’t matter, because nothing in this movie matters, but I’m a completist, so I will share that Coheeries is a town — and the photos of Isaac Penn and his daughter, Beverly, help Peter’s memory restore itself.

So this archival research was vital to the plot, after all! Hurray???

This scene lasts less than a minute and a half total, but it is rage-inducing — to me, at least — for showcasing a careless mix-up of microfilm vs. microfiche. I guess they just wanted the verbal comedy (?) of Peter saying “micro fish” instead of “microfiche,” like the, uh, fish out of water (sorry, terrible pun) he is in the year 2014? Y’all, microfilm and microfiche are still important in the field of research. Many primary sources, such as newspaper articles, have been converted into microfilm or microfiche over the past century (for preservation and storage purposes), and there are soooooooooo many of these resources that have not yet been digitized and are not accessible online. I know I’m a librarian, so I’m biased, but it’s true: Not. Everything. Is. Online. It’s good to know that these microform formats still exist, and why they’re still important.

So, to clear up any confusion for an issue you have probably never thought about twice, or even once ( 😉 ), here are the major differences between microfilm vs. microfiche, which are both types of microforms:

Microform:

  • Microform is the umbrella term used to describe scaled-down reproductions of documents for the purposes of easier storage.
  • Microform images are commonly reduced to about 4% or 1/25 of the original document size.
  • Microforms are commonly used to store newspaper archives in library and archival collections, because newspapers are bulky and take up a lot of space, and the material used to print newspapers easily decomposes.

Microfilm:

  • Microfilm” is a type of microform is that is printed on reels or spools, often referred to as cartridges.
  • Microfilm is stored in a cardboard box because of the circular shape of the cartridge (this is how I instantly knew that most of the archival materials in the screenshot above were microfilm, because of the cardboard boxes).
  • Microfilm is not as easy to use, as the spool of film has to be looped carefully into a microfilm reader, as demonstrated in this movie.
  • Microfilm is older technology, and reader machines have often been adapted to read both microfilm and microfiche. So you’ll often hear librarians say “microfilm reader” even when the machine can read, or project, both microfilm and microfiche. (Maybe that helps explain where the confusion between the two stems?)

Microfiche:

  • Microfiche” is another type of microform that is printed on flat cards.
  • Microfiche is stored in a paper sleeve that is open along the top.
  • Microfiche is easier to use, as it slides easily under a projector, similar to how you slide things under a microscope.
  • Microfiche is newer technology and developed from microcards, which are no longer produced but were similar to microfiche but printed on cardboard.

It’s REALLY EASY to visually tell the difference between microfilm vs. microfiche, as seen in the comparison graphic below. Use the slider on the graphic below to compare the microfilm, on the left, which looks like a miniature film reel, versus the microfiche, on the right, which is a flat sheet seen stored in a paper sleeve.

Microfilm vs. microfiche. Image credits: Microfilm image (left) by Ianaré Sévi for Lorien Technologies via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA 2.5 / Microfiche sleeve image (right) by SCARC via Flicker, CC BY NC SA 2.0

It’s NOT HARD, y’all, to tell the difference. Right? And honestly, just ASK A LIBRARIAN. Propmasters and screenwriters of the world, please just ask a librarian.

And that’s just good life advice in general, y’all. Ask a librarian. We answer questions for a living! And I promise not to get all capsy on you in real life if you ask me how to tell the differences between microfilm and microfiche. But I WILL get capsy on you if you ask me to watch Winter’s Tale again. 😉

Continuing the spool of microfilm?

You’ve made it through my rant about microfilm vs. microfiche — congrats! — and while it is a pet peeve, it’s not quite on the same level for me as getting call numbers wrong onscreen. But would you like me to write a longer post about how and when movies get it wrong about microfilm vs. microfiche, similar to what I did in this epic post about call numbers? Leave a comment and let me know!

In the meantime, if you’re jonesing for more library or archives scenes with microfilm or microfiche — and why wouldn’t you be?! — here are some past posts to enjoy:

Sources used

31 thoughts and questions I had while watching ‘A Winter Romance’ (2021)

“Digging into history is what I love to do.”

I was browsing recently through the newly added movies on Amazon Prime, and a TV movie entitled A Winter Romance (2021) caught my eye because the word “librarian” was mentioned in the first line of its summary:

When librarian TAYLOR HARRIS suddenly loses her job, she moves back to her small hometown in Montana. There, she gets involved in the fight to help save her brother’s hotel from tycoon JOEL SHEENAN. But things become complicated when she ends up falling for Joel.

Jessica Lowndes, a White Canadian actress, stars as librarian Taylor, and Chad Michael Murray, a White American actor, co-stars as Joel in this GAC Family Channel TV movie — with all the hallmarks of a Hallmark or Lifetime TV movie. Since the librarian is the main character in this TV movie, it took me HOURS to watch this 85-minute movie. Since I had so many notes from all the pauses, replays, research tangents, etc., I was struggling with how to structure this post… which finally led me to the realization that I could structure it more stream-of-consciousness style, noting all my random thoughts and questions I had while watching this TV movie. I hope you enjoy this new kind of post format!

*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* (But are there really any kind of spoilers for this kind of holiday romance?)

Here’s a preview trailer for the movie:

1. Why does this TV movie have multiple titles?

Title screen for 'A Winter Romance' (2021)
Title screen for ‘A Winter Romance’ (2021)

The opening scene clearly reveals the movie title to be A Winter Romance, as seen above. But when I tried to look up details about the movie using that title, I came up empty. Finally, looking up the director’s name, Bradley Walsh, led me to the TV movie’s original title, Colors of Love, which led me to other alternate titles, including An Autumn Romance when it was released on the GAC Family cable channel (and as seen above in the YouTube preview). And all of these titles are different from the source novel, The Tycoon’s Kiss, by Jane Porter. Why does this TV movie have 3+ titles? This does not feel like a good sign.

2. Is there a real “Seattle Reference Library”?

Seattle Reference Library exterior
Seattle Reference Library exterior

The opening title screen is of the Seattle cityscape. You can see the Seattle Space Needle in the upper right in the screenshot in #1 above, and the boomerang-shaped buildings along the bottom are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus. Is this movie set in Seattle? How do we get to Montana, as mentioned in the plot summary?

The next shot is the outside of a building with prominent black letters on the sign that read “Seattle Reference Library,” further emphasizing the Seattle location. Is there a real-life library called the “Seattle Reference Library”? Not that I know of, and I live in this region of the U.S. The glass architecture of this building seems to be suggesting the iconic glass building that houses the central Seattle Public Library building. If you recognize this real-life building that’s standing in for this library onscreen, please leave a comment.

3. Don’t piss off librarians by introducing a librarian character and then having that librarian immediately shush a patron onscreen.

Shushing WHILE smiling?!
Shushing WHILE smiling?!

There should be a moratorium on showing librarians shushing onscreen. It’s so stereotypical and so unnecessary, especially in a modern movie.

After Taylor helps a writer who is researching his book — the key is in primary sources, like land grants and diaries — the writer gets too excited (“I have to call my publisher!”) that Taylor shushes him, as seen above. Shushing WHILE smiling?! Insert rolling eyes emoji here: 🙄

4. Shushing aside, this librarian seems to be good at her job.

I think this line will be the set-up for the movie, as Taylor says to the patron, “I’m happy to help… Digging into history is what I love to do.” Shushing aside, Taylor seems to be good at her job, and we are clearly being encouraged to respect her skills as a librarian.

The library director, left, enjoys a (brief) happy moment with research librarian Taylor, right
The library director, left, enjoys a (brief) happy moment with research librarian Taylor, right

The library director, Linda (Jenni Burke), also happens to walk by while Taylor is wrapping up with the writer, and she compliments her work, “It’s like you have a sixth sense.” It’s SO RARE to see multiple librarians onscreen, and I appreciate that the library director is a Black woman. Linda has the power in this relationship, and Taylor, a White woman, is visibly happy to earn praise from her boss. The two librarians share a warm and professional dynamic together.

5. I am guessing that the importance of primary sources will be a theme.

In her exchange with Linda, Taylor also states, “There’s still some stuff that you can’t find on the internet.” So. True. Primary sources, y’all! I feel like this will be a theme in the rest of the movie… so let’s just put a pin in that here.

6. The lack of stable library funding is depressingly realistic.

Linda then reveals the bad news as the two walk down the stairs. The city is facing major budget cuts, and the library has used up some grant funding, which means… the research librarian position has been cut. Taylor’s out of a job, pronto. Yikes. It’s depressing, but I do appreciate the real talk about the inadequacies and instability of library funding. (This was also the crux behind The Twelve Trees of Christmas TV movie!) However, the two part on good terms (Linda: “I’m already looking for other funding. The second I can bring you back, I… We’re gonna miss you so much.”), which is kind of refreshing.

Librarian hug!
Librarian hug!

7. Being a librarian IS a dream job.

Taylor then calls her brother, who’s in Montana, and shares that “was my dream job.” I may be mistaken, but I don’t recall EVER hearing a librarian job being described onscreen as a “dream job” before. Bless. And her brother is so supportive (“You were good at it, too”).

So, 2 minutes in, and we’ve already connected the dots between Seattle and Montana. And we’ve already seen multiple librarians onscreen!

8. Books are our brand!

After her car ends up in a ditch due to icy roads, Taylor gets a ride from Joel Sheenan (their first “meet cute” moment!) to her brother’s house. We meet her brother, Craig (played by Dennis Andres), who is married to a Black woman, Christine (played by Moni Ogunsuyi), and they have a cute-as-a-button daughter, Zoe (played by Delia Lisette Chambers). And I thought it sweet that Zoe gives her a picture she drew of her aunt Taylor in a library, surrounded by books. And then Zoe picks out a book for Taylor to read to her for bedtime.

Books are indeed our brand!

I’m not mad at that association. Of course, there are many more things in a library’s collection than books, and librarians NEVER have time to “read on the job” like some people assume. It’s just… the lowest common denominator. Associating books with librarians is easy and predictable. As is this TV movie.

Her niece draws her a picture of her aunt in a library
Is that me? Of course, you’re a librarian, and you’re surrounded by books!
Reading a bedtime story to her niece Zoe
“We have some reading to do!”

9. WTF: “Maybe they’re right… Libraries are obsolete.”

At 14 1/2 minutes into this TV movie, Taylor is talking with her sister-in-law, Christine, about her love life, that she’s been dating these tech bros in Seattle. And then comes this line:

[T]he only books they read are on tiny little screens. But maybe they’re right. That, as much as I love what I do, libraries are obsolete.

W.T.F. Libraries are NOT obsolete, and no self-respecting librarian would ever say that. We librarians actually deal with constant changes in technology and ongoing reassessments of community needs, while also trying to preserve access to information in disparate, older formats. It takes skill to balance all that.

And it’s her brother and sister-in-law who push back on this! Craig responds, “Not as long as you have anything to say about it, right?,” and Christine says, “Somewhere out there, there’s a guy who’s gonna appreciate your love of books.” Why are all these supporting characters doing all the work of validating this central librarian character?! I’m sensing some White woman privilege here.

Taylor gets comforted by her sister-inlaw
I’m not given any agency or storyline of my own in this TV movie; rather, I’m just here to comfort your White woman tears about your love life.

10. Does everyone think librarians judge people by their reading choices?

Craig, to his wife: Did I ever tell you that my little sister, back in high school, wouldn’t date a guy unless he could name all three Brontë sisters?

Taylor: That’s not true. Two out of three was OK.

Craig, Christine, and Taylor at breakfast
Craig, Christine, and Taylor at breakfast

This exchange was part of the scene above, and I rolled my eyes at the thought that everyone — or at least, this screenwriter — assumes that librarians judge people by their reading choices or knowledge. Not all of us are literary snobs! (I personally love reading mysteries and YA fantasy fiction. But our cat is named Brontë, so perhaps the lady doth protest too much, methinks? … 😉 )

11. Yes, librarians do visit other libraries wherever they go.

Exterior shot of Forest Ridge Public Library building
A librarian visits another library… so meta!

At 20 minutes into the film, Taylor visits the local public library in Forest Ridge. This rang true for me. One of the first things I do when I visit a new place is to visit a local library.

Note: Bracebridge Public Library in the Ontario province, Canada, served as the filming location for the fictional Forest Ridge Public Library.

12. Do they get the call numbers right?

A closeup of Dewey Decimal call numbers
A closeup of Dewey Decimal call numbers

As Taylor enters the library, we get treated to a closeup of Dewey Decimal call numbers. This public library uses the Dewey Decimal classification system, which is common for public libraries, plus there are red Reference labels on the book spines. Hallmarks of actual library books! But they must be older library books, as it turns out that the 819 call number is no longer being used, at least not in the U.S. (but perhaps still in Canada?). The 810’s are used for American literature in English, and the 819 range used to be used for American puzzle books. Who knew?! 🙂

So they do get the call numbers mostly right in this TV movie. An A for effort. You can read more about call number shenanigans here in this post, and how you can spot the difference between a bookstore and a library here in this post.

13. Librarians deserve their own “meet cute” moment, too.

In this first public library scene, we get to meet another library director, Joyce, played by Darlene Cooke, a Black Canadian actress. Taylor and Joyce get their own librarians’ “meet cute” moment over a book display of “the greatest love stories of all time,” in which Taylor chooses Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Joyce convinces Taylor to get a library card in order to check out the book.

A librarians’ “meet cute” moment!

What purpose(s) does this scene serve? My guesses: To reinforce this Brontë thread that was introduced in the previous scene, and to introduce a way to get Taylor working at this library in order to stay in town.

And as lovely and warm as this “meet cute” moment is between the two librarians — and how appreciative I am that we are meeting multiple librarians of color in this TV movie! — I cannot help but notice that, once again, the persons of color seem to exist solely to direct attention toward Taylor (Joyce reveals that “Zoe always talks about her Aunt Taylor being a librarian too.”)

14. Is Anne Brontë the best Brontë?

The Brontë thread pays off in the next scene! At 23 minutes, Joel comes out of the coffee shop as Taylor walks by with her library book.

Joel and Taylor meet up on the sidewalk after Taylor has checked out a library book
Are we having our second “meet cute” moment?

Taylor: I just stopped by the library and got myself a card [shows her book, Wuthering Heights]

Joel: Ohhh! That’s a good choice, although I’ve always been more of a Charlotte fan.

Taylor: Charlotte?

Joel: Charlotte Brontë. instead of Emily. You know, Jane Eyre.

Taylor: But we cannot forget their favorite sister.

Joel: And how could we ever forget Anne? Oh, I love Anne!

Taylor: You’re full of a lot of surprises, aren’t you?

I also personally prefer Jane Eyre. (Don’t @ me, Wuthering Heights fans. We can co-exist.) And is Anne the best Brontë? I should finally get around to reading my copy of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall… if there are any die-hard Anne Brontë fans reading this right now, please leave a comment! Also, it’s hilarious to me that no one ever mentions their brother, Branwell Brontë.

Also, how many “meet cute” moments does Taylor need?! This movie is working VERY hard to convince us that it’s actually a romance and that Taylor and Joel have chemistry together. (I’m not convinced. And I’m not the only one. In this online review of the movie, the critic observes that “Taylor … isn’t in search of love as much as she is in search of a job.” )

15. A third of the way into this movie, we finally arrive at the central conflict and plot device.

The next scene takes place at the community center, in which city councillors are holding public comments on the proposed permits to turn the 100-year-old Graff Hotel into a glossy new “destination” resort. The problem? Taylor’s brother works at (or manages?) the Graff Hotel, and Joel is the one who has bought the hotel. Taylor is conflicted! But then Taylor has her BIG IDEA.

Joel and Taylor at the city council meeting
Taylor and Joel are at odds

Taylor: Isn’t the Graff Hotel 100 years old? So that means it’s eligible for a landmark status.

Phyllis (played by Andrea Davis, a Black American actress): For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.

Joel: That’s exactly right. Thank you, Phyllis. And according to our research, there’s no evidence of that with the Graff Hotel.

Taylor: Well, who did this research? […] So you’re saying that if we find a significant event happened at the Graff, then the hotel would be preserved?

Phyllis: According to the state of Montana, yes.

Craig: Phyllis, maybe we could take some time to explore this before the council makes their final decision?

Phyllis: All right, this is what we’ll do. We’ll take a week to look this over, then we’ll reconvene and hear what everyone has to say. Any objections?

Ah hah! This is where it pays off that Taylor’s a librarian, and that she knows her way around research. Librarians to the rescue!

16. Is this movie correct about the qualifications for landmark status in Montana?

City council chairwoman Phyllis commands attention at the community meeting
City council chairwoman Phyllis commands attention at the community meeting

So Phyllis, the city council chairwoman, stated above that, “For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.” Is this accurate?

Yes and no. Yes: one of the criteria for landmark status is association with a significant historical event. No: that’s not the ONLY criteria to be considered for landmark status.

According to the National Register of Historic Places page on Montana’s official state government website, there are four criteria for consideration:

1. Be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

2. Be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or

3. Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

4. Have yielded, or may likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history. In addition, properties must possess a high degree of integrity to qualify for listing in the Register – in other words, they must be relatively unchanged in appearance from the historic period.

I mean, y’all knew I would look this up, right?! Right. I’m glad y’all know me so well. 😀

17. I guessed correctly about the part-time library job opportunity!

This TV movie is very predictable. Thirty-eight minutes in, Joyce asks Taylor to work part-time at the library.

Joyce asks Taylor to work part-time at the public library
Your niece Zoe gave you a great reference. Would you like to work part-time at the library?

Joyce: Are you enjoying your visit with Catherine and Heathcliff?

Taylor: Very much. 

Joyce: I was thinking, my part-time librarian recently moved to Denver, and I’ve been looking someone to help out around here, if you’re interested.

Taylor:Oh, I mean, that would be amazing, I just… I don’t know how long I’m here for. 

Joyce: Well, while you are here, I could sure use your help. […] Come by tomorrow and we’ll get you started.

My next prediction? Taylor’s going to use the library’s resources to research the Graff Hotel. But uh, that’s not the same thing as working in the library. This is just being used as a plot excuse.

18. In two minutes, you can get a job AND a date!

At this point, my husband, Sam, joined me. He stayed long enough to comment on this next scene, in which Joel and Taylor have YET ANOTHER “meet cute” moment. Joel asks her for reader’s advisory recommendations as a way to actually ask her out on a date.

Joel and Taylor at the public library
Can I get some librarian help over here?

Joel: I was wondering if you could help me find a book. You see, I finished this one. Again.

Taylor: Jane Eyre. That’s impressive.

Joel: And I’m looking for something a little different. I figured, who better to ask than a librarian?

Taylor: Well, I don’t officially work here yet.

Joel [looking around and lowering his voice to a whisper]: Well, then we’ll make it unofficial. 

Here is Sam’s tongue-in-cheek reaction to Joel essentially shushing himself:

Sam: She hasn’t even shushed him yet! Librarians are professionals. You can’t just shush yourself. You have to WAIT to be shushed.

Me: I’ve written so many posts in which patrons shush each other. [Example: The school library scene in Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before]

Sam: Each other, yes. But not themselves. It’s a totally different thing to shush each other.

Me: 🙄

Sam: You are welcome for my contributions to this viewing experience. I am making this movie better.

Indeed.

19. “That’s not how any of this works!”

After three (!!!) “meet cute” moments, Taylor and Joel finalllllly go on a date, to a private dinner at the Graff Hotel. As they get to know each other beyond their mutual love of the Brontë sisters, we learn that Taylor doesn’t know the difference between library volunteers and actual, paid librarian professionals.

Craig and I grew up in Seattle. He’s actually the reason I got my first librarian job. […] We were in high school, and this one summer, our local library was looking for a volunteer, and I wanted the job more than anything, so Craig took the bus all the way downtown so that he could go talk to the head librarian, and he told him that no one loves books as much as I do, and that he would never have even opened a book if it weren’t for me. He must have been really convincing because I got the job, and… he’s been there for me ever since.

Sam beat me to it:

That’s not how any of this works! Volunteers are not the same thing as librarians!

I’m sure this backstory confessional had good intentions, but it unfortunately serves to reinforce the misconceptions that (1) loving books is the only requirement for a librarian, (2) anyone working in a library is a librarian, and (3) that you don’t have to pay librarians a fair wage. Real-life librarians are professionals with actual training and graduate-level education, and we deserve to be recognized and paid as professionals.

20. Yep, primary sources are important for historical research.

At 50 minutes into this TV movie, we get a library tour with Joyce — presumably on Taylor’s first day working at the public library — and OF COURSE Taylor asks about local history and primary sources. Joyce leads her to the archives room. So yes, the part-time librarian job IS a convenient plot device for Taylor to have time and access to research the Graff Hotel.

A glimpse at the public library's archives room
A glimpse at the public library’s archives room

Taylor: The best way of digging up the hotel’s history was from some local sources. Perhaps a first person’s account?

Joyce: Much better than searching the internet, yes. 

Taylor: And, considering you know the area so well, I was hoping you could point me in the right direction.

Joyce: Ah! I may have one idea. [takes her to the archives room]

Joyce: Over the years, the library’s collected a kind of archive of the town’s history. [points] Newspapers, photographs, letters and diaries. 

Taylor: What do you do with all these?

Joyce: Well, the plan was to have it digitized and online, but as you can see, we haven’t made much progress. If you think it can help. 

Taylor: It looks like a great place to start.

My next prediction is that Taylor’s going to parlay her short-term, part-time job into a long-term job digitizing the archives!

21. Pay attention to signage.

The library signage (newspapers and periodicals) doesn't match what's in the shelves (children's books)
The library signage (newspapers and periodicals) doesn’t match what’s in the shelves (children’s books)

Along the way to the archives room, we do get some glimpses of other parts of the public library, including this children’s book zone. But the signage on the ends of the bookcases says “newspapers back issues” and “periodicals back issues.” My guess is that the real-life library did have periodicals in this part of the library, but the set dressers moved children’s books into this area to be more visually dynamic and colorful — but then forgot to remove the signs off the ends of the bookcases.

Details matter.

22. Is Taylor the luckiest librarian in Montana?

At 56 mins, Taylor goes back to the hotel to see her brother. Craig asks how the search is going, and Taylor responds that “I’m hoping something turns up.” The pair then stroll by the old maids’ quarters — which have apparently just been serving as storage for the past hundred years? — and Taylor starts looking around the wardrobes and drawers.

The plot is too predictable… I think it will come as no surprise to you that within 30 seconds, Taylor finds EXACTLY the evidence she was hoping would turn up, an old scrapbook of letters and photographs from a maid who worked at the hotel in the early 1900s — including a photograph of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the hotel! Historical significance and landmark status, I can smell you coming down the research trail. Zero stars for predictability, but a gold star for depicting primary sources as discovered treasure!

Taylor finds an old scrapbook of letters and photos
I am the fastest research librarian in Montana!
A closeup of an historical photograph
Primary sources, like photographs and letters, for the win!

23. Librarians are like private detectives.

The next 10 minutes reveal how there are so many similarities between librarians and private detectives. (If you need more evidence, see this post, this post, and this post.)

I won’t get into all the details, but we next get a scene with Taylor, Joyce, and Craig in the public library’s archives room, and Taylor brandishes a magnifying glass to show the others how the photo is of Teddy Roosevelt during his time as U.S. President, between 1901 and 1909. (“Now that we know the timeframe, we can just narrow down the dates.”)

Taylor uses a magnifying glass to show Joyce and Craig that the historical photograph includes Teddy Roosevelt
If I told you I was Nancy Drew, y’all would believe me

In the next scene, Taylor uses clues in the photograph to discover the probable reason Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge (a freak snowstorm in springtime).

24. Yes, librarians seek help from other librarians.

Taylor then reveals to Craig that she has a friend, Caitlin, who works at the National Archives in Washington DC. (Do you think Caitlin knows Dr. Abby Chase?!)

So I emailed her [Caitlin] the photo and she said she was going to search the records to see all the traveling that the president did during that time… She said she would get back to me as soon as possible, but I think it’s looking good.

Do we have any doubt that the information she gets from Caitlin will be exactly what she needs to save the hotel? I don’t think so!

And yes, librarians do get help from colleagues and other librarians, archivists, and information professionals. We take our own advice; when we’re stuck in a research dead end, we ask each other for help!

25. A librarian gets a Poirot moment.

Reinforcing that link between librarians and private detectives… just like the literary private detective Hercule Poirot loves a rapt audience when he solves the mystery at the end of an Agatha Christie novel (I told you I like mysteries), Taylor gets her Poirot moment at the city council meeting, when she gets to reveal the hotel’s historical significance.

Taylor has her Poirot moment at the city council meeting
Librarians also have presentation skills, y’all

And this movie drags this out to the wire — complete with frantic texting and her brother knocking over the microphone stand to stall for time– even though there is zero suspense about what the outcome will be. (What I find most interesting during this bit are glimpses of the evidence Taylor was compiling on her laptop, including 1903 Montana weather maps and historical photos of 1900s Montana. Again, primary sources for the win!)

Here’s how Taylor’s Poirot moment goes down, complete with a slideshow, historic photographs, handwritten letters, diary entries, and official government documents:

Phyllis, city council chairwoman [to Craig]: Being old doesn’t qualify a building for landmark status. I’m afraid unless you have something new to add, you’re going to have to yield the floor.

Taylor [rushing into the community center]: I may be able to help with that! I think I may have found proof that shows that the Graff Hotel deserves to be a historic landmark. […] In April 1903, [the hotel maid] Mary Catherine had her photograph taken next to President Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Graff Hotel. 

Phyllis: Teddy Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge?

Taylor: That spring, he was at Yellowstone National Park to lay the cornerstone of the Roosevelt Arches, which still stand at the north entrance today. Teddy loved this part of the West more than anything, so he decided to stay and do a little bit more exploring. What nobody was expecting was that it was going to be the coldest spring on record. A freak snowstorm rolled in, leaving three feet of snow, leaving Teddy and his entire crew stranded just outside forest Ridge. By the time that the party made it back into town they spent three nights at the Graff Hotel until the roads were clear.

Phyllis: And you have proof of all this?

Taylor: I do, actually. Right here, I have a diary entry from Roosevelt. He kept one most of his life, and in April 1903, he wrote: “Snowed in at a little scrappy town called Forest Ridge. Beautiful country. Good and amiable folk. Stayed at the Graff Hotel. Best three nights of sleep in years…

But it wasn’t just the Graff that inspired him. It was… Forest Ridge. It was Montana. It was this entire part of the country and its people and the culture that inspired him while he was snowed in. So, shortly after he went back to Washington, he decided to sign the Antiquities Act, which gave him and all the future presidents the power to preserve the beautiful country of ours so that future generations could enjoy everything that he had. By making the Graff Hotel a historic landmark, we are not only celebrating Roosevelt’s legacy, we are celebrating the spirit that makes this city, this country so special. Thank you.

The city council announces that they will be applying to the state of Montana for the Graff Hotel to be granted landmark status. The town erupts in applause, while Craig hugs his sister who just saved the hotel! Librarians are heroes!

As a librarian, I appreciate this scene because of its focus on research, but I suspect that not everyone does. This reviewer commented that “Some scenes take place only to deliver information rather than emotions.”)

This presentation lasts 3 minutes total, with 10 minutes remaining in the film, just enough time for Taylor and Joel to wrap up their supposed romance.

26. How historically accurate was all that?

A (fictional) diary entry about Forest Ridge by Teddy Roosevelt
They didn’t even try to match Teddy Roosevelt’s actual handwriting

I do appreciate how confident Taylor is in her Poirot moment — and the suspension of disbelief in how quickly she set up her laptop to project onto the big TV screen! — but you know I had to wonder, how historically accurate was her evidence? So yes, I paused the movie to spend time digging into the possibilities and online archives of Teddy Roosevelt’s presidential papers.

So all in all, even if not totally historically accurate — I mean, Forest Ridge is a fictional town — then it is, for the most part, historically probable for the purposes of this film’s plot. A solid B, with marks off for the handwriting mismatch and fudging of the dates.

27. The real romance is not between Taylor and Joel.

The final few minutes of the TV movie try to create suspense about whether or not Taylor will stay in Forest Ridge and whether or not she and Joel will get together. For me, the ending didn’t hold much interest — except for when I realized there was a(n unintended?) love triangle. Before Taylor goes to the Harvest Ball, we learn that she has been offered the Seattle research librarian job again (“The library in Seattle called and they want me back”). A woman’s love story with primary sources… which archives will she choose, the Seattle reference library or the archives room of the Forest Ridge Public Library?

Taylor’s joyful face when she’s researching in the Forest Ridge Public Library archives sealed the deal, right? 😉

Taylor in the archives room
I love digitizing archives!

And my final evidence for the TRUE love story of a librarian and her primary sources is in the final closeup at the end: A framed photo of the couple kissing alongside framed primary sources, including the Teddy Roosevelt photograph and historical letters!

The final shot of the movie, framed photographs and letters
The photograph of the kiss is the smallest frame on this wall… just sayin’

28. Is Montana this ethnically diverse?

This TV movie did seem to be making an effort to make this small town in Montana quite ethnically diverse. Two Black Americans are serving on the city council, including Phyllis as the council chairperson; Craig’s family is multiracial; Craig mentions that Forest Ridge was his wife’s hometown; Craig works with a woman of Asian descent at the hotel; and there seems to be a racially diverse array of townspeople at the city council meeting.

An ethnically diverse audience at the city council meeting
An ethnically diverse audience at the city council meeting

I couldn’t help but wonder if Montana is this ethnically diverse? So I looked up the most recent census records for Montana, and per 2021 estimates, the White population in Montana totals almost 89%. The Black population in Montana clocks in at .6%. So it would seem that this TV town is more ethnically diverse onscreen than it would be in real life. But I also researched if there was a history of Buffalo Soldiers in Montana — Buffalo Soldiers were Black American soldiers during the Civil War and into the 20th century — and lo and behold, I learned that many of the Buffalo Soldiers resettled in Montana after the Spanish-American War and also served as the state’s first park rangers. Very interesting!

Although I applaud the attempt at onscreen diversity in this TV movie’s cast list, I also noticed that the people of color do not have distinctive backstories or experiences of their own. We only hear about Christine growing up in Montana because Craig mentioned it. We learn nothing personal about Taylor’s niece Zoe and perhaps how it feels to grow up biracial; she exists solely to set up plot points for Taylor. We learn nothing about Craig’s Asian co-worker. And Joyce’s main function seems to be to react to Taylor’s research findings. Everyone is very pleasant to each other, and there are no overt racist acts, but it’s like the TV movie is striving to be colorblind. They don’t mention race at all. It’s like “Montana nice,” ultimately making the onscreen diversity very surface-level… only skin-deep, so to speak.

As Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote the 2019 book How to Be An Antiracist, stated in an interview:

People who say they don’t see race are, “not seeing the diversity of humanity, whether that diversity is about skin color, or hair texture, or culture.”

I also cannot help but recall Sandra Oh’s comments in a recent interview in People and how her words also apply to this movie:

Progress is not sticking a bunch of people of color [into a show or movie] and having them speak like everyone else.

29. This movie is NOT a “winter romance”

On a lighter note, I’m assuming that this TV movie’s title got rebranded to A Winter Romance because of the popularity of Christmas-themed TV romances during the end-of-year holidays. But it’s clear throughout the film that “An Autumn Romance” is a much more appropriate title. I mean, the central social event in the movie is the “Harvest Ball,” for goodness sake, and each set is drowning in orange-and red-colored leaves, pumpkins, and sunflowers.

Autumn decorations for the Harvest Ball
I thought I was starring in a movie called “An Autumn Romance”

30. These librarians have style

I also have to point out how every librarian in this TV movie has their own distinctive style.

I love the patterns and bright colors here in this screenshot from the Seattle research library:

Three librarians onscreen at the same time! They are also stylish in their own ways, in either bright colors or dynamic patterns.
Three librarians onscreen at the same time! They are also stylish in their own ways, in either bright colors or dynamic patterns.

Joyce sports long necklaces and free-flowing silhouettes throughout the movie, including in her black floral evening wear at the Harvest Ball:

Joyce at the Harvest Ball
I would wear Joyce’s black floral caftan and long gold pendant necklace

And Taylor rocks amazing coats and jackets throughout the movie:

I will definitely have to add to my stylish female reel librarians post one of these days!

31. Was this movie good? It doesn’t really matter.

This movie has quite a few positives, including several library- and librarian-focused scenes that I have rarely seen onscreen, including the repeated joy Taylor expresses when researching and looking through historical documents and primary sources. And the fact that Taylor is a librarian is absolutely critical to this movie’s plot, which is why it ends up in the Class I category of films.

There are also several negatives, which I’ve detailed in this post, including the surface-level view of librarian qualifications as well as the missed opportunities to explore the community’s diversity. The screenplay is super predictable, and the central romance between Taylor and Joel is not very compelling.

Do these positives and negatives cancel each other out? Is this a good movie? No, not really. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I do not begrudge anyone who watches and enjoys this kind of lightweight romance, especially in these turbulent, stressful times. But perhaps highlighting my own thoughts and questions and research tangents that came up while I was watching this movie can spur some deeper thoughts and questions — and research explorations! — of your own.


Have you seen this TV movie? Do you like this kind of post? Would you like to see more of these stream-of-consciousness types of posts? Please leave a comment and share!

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