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MOVIE LIBRARIANS: NOTABLE LIBRARIANS & LIBRARIES IN
The label "librarian" evokes a strong mental picture in our culture,
and as such provides a handy short-cut for filmmakers who want to
get to the point with the minimum of exposition. The label says it all.
The most common reason a librarian appears in a film is task-related: the
librarian acts as a human interface to information, usually in a brief
exchange. Three reasons a film might FEATURE a
librarian are: (1) the character's image is confirmed (librarians are
really like their stereotype), (2) to evoke irony (betcha didn't expect a
librarian to behave this way!); or (3) to expand on the traits and
behaviors of the public image, good and bad.
Numerous lists of library/librarian appearances in film are posted on
the Internet. Here is another one. These are all films I have personally
screened, hence the list is not comprehensive. This list will be expanded
as research continues.
I do have one personal caveat -- I believe these movies need to stand
alone. If a character is listed as "Librarian" in the credits but does not
appear as a true librarian in the film (The Wicker Man, The
Rosary Murders, The Dunwich Horror, etc.), then I discount the
film for librarian image research, even if the film's literary roots (the
book or story on which the script is based) clarify that a character
functions as a librarian. Since it is hard to tell film librarians from paraprofessionals from student workers, if it quacks like a librarian it is labeled as such.
YOUR INPUT IS SOLICITED.
Please send responses, suggestions and corrections to:
This site has four sections:
- Librarian Characters (63): Movies with a major character who is identified or behaving as a librarian or library worker. (This section is below.)
- Honorable Mentions (93): Click this for movies with at least one speaking (or shushing) character identified or behaving as a librarian or library worker in a minor or supporting role.
- Library Scenes Without Librarians (and Miscellany) (37). Click this for movies with libraries as settings.
- Listing Errors (4): Movie titles that appear on other librarian film lists but feature neither library nor librarian.
For related links, click here.
Recent addition(s): Mr. Moto in Danger Island and Liburied (in Honorable Mentions).
Coming soon: The Color of Magic. (Okay, I lie. This has been listed as "coming soon" for more than a year. I confess I haven't figured out that librarian character yet, not even after reading the book. One of these days, though. Maybe.)
Note: Click on any live link of a film or book title to go directly to Amazon.com's listing for that DVD, video or book. A new browser window will open so you don't lose your place. (If you use a pop-up blocker, you may have to enable links from this page. Not to worry -- no pop-up ads here.)
Also: Interested in posters? Click on any of the poster illustrations to find a wide selection to spruce up your home, library, or office. Some are smaller reproductions that fit nicely in tighter spaces.
"You know what I do with books that suck?
Wait for the movies to come out that suck."
Dave, The War at Home, "High Crimes"
"Movies are important. They tell us about stuff. And other stuff."
Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show, CBS, Feb. 25, 2008
Tony: "I hate libraries." Tim: "What's to hate about libraries?"
Tony: "The smell gets me every time." Tim: "What does a library
smell like?" Tony: "Lonely, smart people."
Tony DiNozzo and Timothy McGee, NCIS, "Engaged, Part 2"
INDEX TO MOVIES FEATURING
MAJOR LIBRARIAN CHARACTERS
AGNES AND HIS BROTHERS
Original Title: Agnes und seine Brüder
Roehler, Oskar (Director). Agnes and his Brothers. Germany: X-Filme Creative Pool, 2004. Subtitled.
Starring: Moritz Bleibtreu (Hans-Jörg Tschirner, University Librarian); Martin Weiss (Agnes Tschirner)
This German film is the story of three disparate, damaged brothers, one of whom is an unremarkable man of fading youth named Hans-Jörg (Moritz Bleibtreu) who is a sex maniac and pervert. The film opens with him ogling co-eds in the library, all gorgeous as models and scantily clad. His reference desk has a clear view of legs and midriffs of students at computer terminals. At various times throughout the film he removes books to peep at girls in the stacks, and he's in the habit of following them into the ladies room where he takes the adjoining cubicle and peers through a hole while ... well, we needn't be indelicate here but it's rather disgusting. While he is eager to help pretty girls with reference questions, he rudely spurns an unattractive one. He gets called an asshole more than once, and everyone in the library including his boss recognizes a loser when they see one. Hans-Jörg's mother committed suicide. He was a bed-wetter until at least age 12, went through a punk phase, and had brushes with the law. He keeps a store mannequin in his bedroom to help stimulate self-pleasures. His own father thinks he's a loser. ("He's not normal. He takes after his mother.") Hans-Jörg has been in therapy for years and we see him interact during sex therapy group sessions, but they don't seem to be helping. He's a lonely man sharing an odd dynamic with his brothers and father, but then there isn't a healthy relationship in this entire film. Hans-Jörg is of average size and weight, with thinning brown hair and a proclivity for polo shirts with horizontal stripes that broadcast his nerdiness. His pants are too short, his socks too light, and he clutches a brown leather satchel like a baby blankie. He sips in odd moments from a small liquor bottle. Still, he is well spoken and wants love like everybody else. He is capable of kindness when it's self-serving, but the only genuine love he has is for Agnes, his transsexual half-brother. [Spoilers ahead ...] As desperation and loss of control build, Hans-Jörg commits murder to destroy the root of his family's degeneration. Three brothers look for love in their own way but none truly succeeds. One finds peace in death, one clings to the best he deserves, and our librarian finds himself swept into new adventures that can't possibly end well. Hans-Jörg is one of the least likeable librarian characters ever filmed, and Agnes and her Brothers offers rich fodder for character analysis in librarian studies either independently or comparatively across the growing number of films that include librarians lost to mental illness.
ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN
Ruzowitzky, Stefan (Director). All the Queen's Men. United
States: Warner Bros., 2001.
Starring: Nicolette Krebitz (Romy, Head Librarian); Heinrich
Herki (Assistant Librarian); Matt LeBlanc (Capt. O'Rouke)
Along the same lines as Evie Carnahan in The Mummy, the head librarian
(Romy) of this World War II German library is strong, fearless and
intelligent (not to mention slender and pretty). Book-learning, however,
is not as important as how clever and quick-thinking Romy is in her role
as resistance fighter. What is interesting is that the undercover Allied
forces, in attempting to make contact with the "head librarian,"
immediately address the male behind the counter, who turns out to be
Romy's assistant, and who immediately telephones the Gestapo. Of note is
how Romy uses book titles to warn the good guys that they are in danger,
and to show them an escape route.
Edwards, George (Director). The Attic. United States: Atlantic Releasing Corp., 1980.
Starring: Carrie Snodgrass (Louise Elmore, Librarian); Frances Bay (Emily, Assistant Librarian); Ray Milland (Wendell, Louise's father)
NOTE: The characters of Louise and her father are first introduced in the film The Killing Kind, listed on the Honorable Mentions page.
You know right off this is no comedy when you see the librarian's wrists are bandaged after a botched suicide attempt. Louise (Carrie Snodgrass) wears her hair up but no glasses, dressed in a Victorian blouse and a cardigan. Her young assistant and friend, Emily (Frances Bay), sports large reading glasses when needed, and wears her hair in a page boy. When Emily is asked if she likes working at a public library she replies, "It beats being a college librarian." We learn that Emily will be replacing Louise, who is leaving after 19 years. "I guess they do need new blood," she tells Emily, who responds, "Being a head librarian is not exactly my idea of a lifetime career choice." We suspect it wasn't Louise's lifetime career choice, either. Louise is clearly younger than her appearance allows, yet she acts old. She is dressed in shades of tan. If she wore makeup, she might even be pretty. All this tells us a lot about poor and desperate librarian Louise, including the implied fact that her leaving isn't by her own volition. The library is large and nice, with the requisite card catalog, and at the end of the workday Louise shelves a final book before leaving (a cinematic cliché). She is in no hurry to get home to her crippled, manipulative father who demands her time and attention although she's around 40 years old. Louise is still lonely years after her fiancé disappeared on their wedding day. She smokes and she likes margaritas -- too much, it appears, as alcohol is blamed for her destructive behavior at work. At a Mexican restaurant she explains to Emily, "I don't know what happened that day in the library. Suddenly I felt this anger creeping up from the tip of my toes to the top of my head, surrounded by all those books that I've fingered a hundred times before. They all seemed to have eyes, staring at me, watching me, following me all around. They started to come at me like huge, swooping hawks. The books were my enemy. 'Destroy them before they destroy you,' a voice whispered to me. It felt so wonderful seeing all those books going up in flames. I'd won the battle!" In a flashback scene we see her pile books on the library floor and set them ablaze. "I think that's how it happened. It's a little mixed up in my mind." But she says she'd do it all over again, so the nervous breakdown didn't teach her anything (and we're left to wonder why she was allowed to keep working at all). Minor spoilers ahead ... Louise acts out by picking up a young man at the movies and taking care of her physical needs, after which she dresses in blue and applies lipstick. This fix doesn't last, however. We can see by the juvenile toys and stuffed animals decorating her bedroom that she's really into monkeys (in actuality most are chimpanzees). Emily buys her a real chimp (the pet shop sign reads "Special Sale Monkey" – grrrr) which Louise keeps despite her father's demands that she get rid of it. When dining with her friend's mother and little brother, Louise confirms that she has worked as a librarian for 19 years. "It sounds so dreadfully long," Emily's domineering mother adds, then ironically, "I wish Emily would settle down to a job like that." Emily reminds Louise of herself when young, and she does not want her to end up with a dead-end life under the thumb of an abusive parent. Louise admits, "I wish I had had the good sense to try some other jobs when I was young. I mean, I may not have been a librarian." Emily's mother protests that it's a perfectly respectable job. "Respectable, yes," Louise answers, "and awfully boring." Emily's mother closes, "A job is what you make of it." Louise's goodbye party at the library introduces her very odd coworkers, one of whom tells her, "You're free as a bird." Louise can travel now (maybe after she stops crying). Wearing a silly party hat, Louise tearfully waves at the books. "Goodbye all you bastards. If I never see you again it'll be too soon." This is considered a "terror" film, but most of the terror is psychological. Louise can feel better about her own sorry life because she helps Emily avoid a similar fate. It's all too depressing, especially the chimp (named Dickey after Richard, her one-night-stand) that serves as a surrogate child in his cute little sailor suit. This film is rich in librarian public image themes, by the way, and Louise is generous, full of love to give, but too weak to save herself.