Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)





Vol VII Issue VI

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Host Your Own Librarian Film Festival

By Carmine Rau
Winter break draws nigh at a breakneck gallop. How will you spend these cold, dark, rainy nights when you aren’t simultaneously writing a few papers, finishing group projects and keeping up with all your reading? One possibility is popping up some corn, curling up in front of the television and enjoying some librarian movies:

No Man to Call Her Own
(1932) Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
Gee, her life is boring. She’s just a sexy small town librarian surrounded by old, bun-wearing co-workers until she’s rescued from boring small town life by a slick big city guy. The catch is that he’s actually a card shark. She’s smart and figures it all out and is so naively good at heart that she decides she can reform him. After this, the library element fades and we’ll never hear another mention again of her life as a librarian. Watch out for lots of swooning in the stacks (you know how it is) and lines like “Do your eyes bother you? [pause] ‘Cause they sure bother me.”

Desk Set
(1957) Katherine Hepburn and Spenser Tracy
She’s a highly efficient corporate reference librarian with a mind like a steel trap and an MLS to go with it (not to mention a lovely bun). We should all have such a memory. He’s a “method’s engineer” with a new electronic brain (or “computer” in today’s parlance). Management keeps the smart and spunky librarians in the dark. Will they be replaced by this new technology? Or will the librarian + new technology prove to be the winning combination in the end? There will be falling in love along the way.

Music Man
(1962) Shirley Jones and Robert Preston
Here is another librarian and swindler duo. This time the fake boy’s marching band teacher doesn’t leave town when he ought to because he’s fallen for the local smart, sexy, singing librarian who with her smartness figures out he’s not what he claims to be. But whadya’ know, he really can teach those boys to be a marching band. Everyone sings, dances and has lots of fun and you will too if you appreciate American comedy musicals at their finest. Will yet another con man be changed by the love of a librarian? Perhaps a dating service could be set up to facilitate the coupling of librarians and con artists to make the world a better place.

The Name of the Rose
(1986) Sean Connery and Christian Slater
Unlike the stars of the aforementioned three movies, these two do not fall in love. They are medieval monks investigating murder in a state of perpetual darkness. Apparently the sun never rose in the 14th century. Was it the librarian in the library, with a book? Will Sean Connery figure out the obscure classification system in time to catch the real killer?
If you have the time, read the Umberto Eco’s book instead for a fantastic description the real star – the library.

The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
(1992) Penelope Ann Miller
This movie isn’t the most positive take on librarians. It only shows two sorts: the incredibly mean and the incredibly stupid. (You will know the mean one by the graying bun.) No one pays attention to Penelope Ann Miller, the quiet mousy librarian, not even her police detective husband, until she finds a gun recently used for murder, fires it off, claims to be the killer and gets thrown in jail where she gets sound life advice from the local hookers. She is transformed and will not be underestimated anymore. Now she must find the real killer before it’s too late. Luckily, she knows to check out the book with the “how to pick a lock” diagrams. If a completely ridiculous, unfunny comedy about people making nothing but bad choices is your thing, then this early-nineties film that feels like a leftover from the 1980s is for you.

Party Girl
(1995) Parker Posey
The decision to become a librarian may come as a drunken epiphany. While working in a branch library to pay back the librarian aunt who loaned her bail money, Parker Posey grows to find partying just not as fun as it used to be. Despite requiring that pesky advanced degree, she finds assisting people, especially a cute foreigner, with their information needs genuinely rewarding and decides to pursue librarianship. There is love among the stacks. The library workers look like “normal” urban people with nary a bun between them. Parker Posey, on the other hand, looks like Rainbow Brite until the library makes her all serious. She showcases the usefulness of library skills by devising a classification system for the record collection of a DJ friend, thus maximizing his mix master abilities.

Black Mask
(1996) Jet Li
“ I adopt a new identity…I am the librarian hero.” If you had your nerves removed at a top secret military base in an effort to create the perfect killing machine and then escaped, you might consider library work a nice change of pace, too. Jet Li plays the quiet, sweet librarian by day, but watch out when he puts on the black mask. Besides having a talent for getting books on the shelf in the right order he manages to live up to that perfect killing machine moniker. He takes on fetishist drug lords with an excessive amount of blood spray, carnage, explosions and general mayhem. Did you know that obsolete CDs could be taken from the collection, and with the right flick of the wrist, slice through a person’s neck? Neither did I. Even the really bad guys in this film recognize the value of a trained information professional when it comes time to hack into the Hong Kong police department’s records. No buns were observed.

Checked Out
(2003) Bryant Mainord and David Turnbull (director and producer)
I don’t know anything about this film, but I am quite curious. Below is a snippet of description I found on their Checked Out production blog. “Checked Out is a comedy set in a University library. The story follows four diverse librarians during one dramatic and chaotic day. They laugh. They cry. They test the bounds of the human spirit. They risk life and limb.” This independent, feature length, student film comes out December 11th if you happen to be in Anchorage, Alaska. It may be a while before Scarecrow Video gets it in stock.

Try any of those above or choose from the hundreds listed at the uncannily comprehensive Librarians in the Movies site compiled by Martin Raish, Library Director at BYU. There is a movie to perpetuate or shatter every librarian stereotype, more than you could watch in a year full of winter breaks (exaggeration alert).

Happy film festival!