I first wrote this list a few years ago when a good friend’s sister graduated from library school and he requested I shoot her a list of movies featuring librarians on Twitter. I thought it would be more fun to throw together a quick list here on the blog instead. This week is National Library Week , a great time to resurrect the list…and update it a bit!
Desk Set: Our mighty profession is represented by Katherine Hepburn (whose sister was a librarian in real life) playing a smart, attractive librarian, so good at her job that she makes the best librarians I’ve known look like chumps. Throw in a computers vs. librarians plot (which gets resolved in the way it actually was resolved-why have computers or librarians when you can have librarians using computers?) and a fun, if lesser, Tracy/Hepburn romance and it is an excellent choice.
Party Girl, features, for all you Gen X types, Indy darling Parker Posey as the titular party girl who ends up becoming a librarian, giving us plenty of chances to see someone way cooler than most of us learning to value our profession. Throw in a helping of pop culture from the first half of the 90s, Posey’s fabulous friends, and a scene where a DJ’s records are organized by call number, and you have the only film I’ve heard listed as “favorite librarian movie” more than Desk Set.
Great Scenes Set in Libraries:
Ghostbusters: That famous opening scene in NYPL.
Hysterical: In this obscure early 80s horror spoof from Kate Hudson’s father and uncles, there is a scene where the Hudson Brothers must fend off a murderous reanimated ship captain (Richard Kiel) in a library. The librarian, played by comedian Franklin Ajaye, gets a few good lines in, one of which, “The library is closed. All white people must leave.” , is still quoted to me by my brother whenever I tell him a story involving closing the library.
They Might be Giants: Jack Gilford plays Justin Playfair’s (George C. Scott) childhood librarian who secretly wants to be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Definitely one of my all time favorite movie librarians!
The Music Man: Robert Preston sings “Marian the Librarian” to Shirley Jones. There may be other musical scenes set in libraries, but this is the one I know, and it’s a good one, though your enjoyment of the film overall will depend a lot on how much you like Robert Preston and mid-20th century musicals. My wife would occasionally call me Marian the Librarian during our courtship so I may be a little biased.
The Attic (1980): If you want to laugh heartily at one of the worst representations of librarianship ever, I recommend this piece of late 70s trash, featuring Carrie Snodgress as the saddest spinster librarian of all time. What librarian doesn’t want to see their screen counterpart pick up sailors, burn books in the middle of the stacks, desperately try to marry off her younger counter part so she can “live”, and buy a pet chimpanzee, all while fighting with her crazy, domineering, overbearing father (Ray Milland) who may know more about her long missing fiancé than he’s willing to let on?
Maybe that’s just me then.
The Pit: One of the objects of creepy Sammy’s perving is a librarian, who he tricks into stripping down to her old lady lingerie-under the advisement of his creepy talking Teddy Bear. It’s quite a thing, The Pit.
Movies that Feature Librarians Without Focusing Much on Actual Librarianship:
Foul Play has Goldie Hawn as a ditsy librarian who gets drawn into a plot to assassinate the Pope. Your enjoyment will depend on how much you can stand Hawn/Chase films. Although there are a few good moments I can’t fully recommend it as Chase is at his least appealing. The title song is by Barry Manilow, which could be enough to tip the viewer into 1970s poisoning.
Idiocracy: The lead is an army “librarian”, although from what we see he may actually be a book clerk or circulation assistant.
Behind the Mask: A pivotal scene happens in a library’s archives, and the librarian is played by that woman with the funny voice from Poltergeist, Zelda Rubenstein. Unfortunately that’s the only scene set there and (spoilers) the librarian dies.
It’s A Wonderful Life: Infamously depicts being a single librarian as the worst fate imaginable.
The Horror of Dracula: Re-imagines Jonathan Harker as a librarian who applies to organized Count Dracula’s library-so he can get close enough to kill Dracula! Harker doesn’t last long, but it is kind of fun to see such a proactively violent librarian.
The Mummy (1999): Rachael Weisz is technically a librarian, but seems to be more of a scholar of Egyptian lore, the plot revolves around a book, and one sequence is set within a library.
The Station Agent: Michelle Williams is a librarian that befriends Peter Dinklage, but she is a small part of this ensemble film.
Black Mask: In which Jet Li plays a superhero by night and a mild-mannered librarian by day.
Personally, the librarian I’m most likely to think of while working isn’t a librarian at all-he’s some kind of records clerk, a nasty fellow who shows up briefly in Chinatown, but then I’m also the guy who laughed his head off at The Attic. His “Sir, this is not a LENDING LIBRARY” line, dripping with condescension, comes to me whenever I’m denying someone’s request for petty reasons. Usually just thinking of it is enough to snap me into a more customer service oriented mindset! So what are your favorite movies/scenes that feature librarians? Which screen librarian do you most resemble?
Best of luck to KR and to other newly minted librarians-may good jobs be easier to find than good movies featuring librarians!
*That I’ve seen. There are many I’ve yet to get to!