April 2007 Number 83
The Best-and Worst-of "Reel Librarians"
by Jennifer Snoek-Brown, Reference Librarian
Editor's Note: The second of a two-part article on how library staff are portrayed in film (see The Open Book, December 2006, issue 81), the following information is from Jennifer Snoek-Brown who recently presented a poster session, "Connecting Librarians and Films: Identifying Stereotypes" at the 2006 Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference.
Top 5 Portrayals (in alphabetical order)
- Desk Set (1957): The librarians at a TV network's research department are pitted against an efficiency expert's data computer. The librarians are depicted as both intelligent and feminine - a rarity for reel librarians.
- Foul Play (1978): Shy librarian Gloria (played by Goldie Hawn) battles the villain with an umbrella in the library, solves a mystery, and falls in love - what's not to like?
- Major League (1989): One of the few films to highlight an athletic librarian. Lynn (played by Rene Russo), a former swimmer and Olympic alternate, is smart and feisty. She even has a license plate that urges you to "READ."
- Party Girl (1995): A comedy, about a "party girl" who finds her true calling as a librarian, that flips librarian stereotypes upside down and sideways - and my personal favorite librarian film!
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983): A town librarian challenges the film's villain and saves the day and the whole town! Here is a rare depiction of a male librarian as the hero.
Also check out these good reel librarians in:
Goodbye, Columbus (1969), The Mummy (1999), The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004), The Music Man (1962), My Side of the Mountain (1969)
Bottom 5 Portrayals (in alphabetical order)
- It's a Wonderful Life (1941): This film features arguably the most recognizable of all reel librarians. Lovely Mary becomes - what else? - a librarian in the film's nightmare alternate reality, after her husband George is granted his wish that he had never been born. In this classic film - which is one of my favorites as a film but not as a librarian film - the message is depressingly clear: get married soon, or you will end up an old-maid librarian.
- Off Beat (1986): A ridiculous film - one that involves satiny cop costumes, a bank heist, and show tunes - with a cast of library employees who are all dysfunctional and socially inept in some way.
- Rollerball (1975): A thoroughly depressing depiction of libraries and librarians in the future. Librarians have turned into censors, and they are completely ineffectual as computers have replaced them; one librarian flippantly laments a computer's loss of all data from "the whole of the thirteenth century."
- A Simple Plan (1998): This quote sums up why this good film is on the bottom list: "What about me - spending the rest of my life 8 hours a day with a fake smile plastered on my face, checking out books?" Shudder.
- Sophie's Choice (1982): After Sophie dares to ask a question, an intimidating and rude librarian causes her to faint! Enough said.
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Staff Picks - What We're Reading
Reviewed by John Leonard Berg
Coordinator of Public Services
German Milwaukee: Its History - Its Recipes by Trudy Knauss Paradis
Shelved on the Third Floor with the call number F589.M6 P8 2006
German Milwaukee is a wonderful book that examines the cultural and food history of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This copiously illustrated book includes photographs of historical landmarks connected with Milwaukee's early German population and sumptuous food camera work. This book includes chapters on the churches, businesses and tavern that were associated with the German people. Many of Milwaukee's famous breweries, with their respective beers are chronicled and critiqued for the reader. Leisure time activities like music, dancing and athletics are all equally considered in the history section of German Milwaukee.
Next the reader will encounter a collection of authentic family recipes dating back to the early immigrants and their homeland. Meat dishes of sauerbraten, goulash and spaetzle are followed by dessert delicacies like sugar cookies and apfelstrudel. Four of Milwaukee's best German restaurants each receive their own special chapters and incorporate signature recipes never before shared with the public. This cornucopia of German history and food is essential reading for people of German descent interested in reconnecting with their ethnic heritage.
Kay Young, Editor