Monday, June 10, 2019


The Hollywood Librarian

I was at the American Library Association annual conference in 2007 when I met a feisty and energetic librarian named Ann Seidl. Ann was in the process of putting together a documentary about libraries called The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians Through Film. She showed some clips and her enthusiasm for her film and librarianship in general was infectious. The film can be viewed today through the library streaming service Kanopy. It features interviews with librarians talking about their profession, readership, running a library and dealing with shrinking budgets. It intersperses these interviews with dozens of clips featuring libraries on films-So you'll see Donna Reed closing the library in the alternate universe part of  It's a Wonderful Life, Parker Posey learning about the Dewey Decimal System in Party Girl, and Katherine Hepburn answering reference questions in Desk Set. Hepburn's sister was Peg Hepburn Perry, a real life librarian and was also interviewed for the film.

Party Girl

"Don't you know the Dewey Decimal System?" Ann Seidl used this quote from the movie Party Girl during her speech in 2007 to the delight of several librarians familiar with the film. (I wasn't at the time). In fact, I just now got around to seeing this film about a mid-90's party girl named Mary who earns some extra money by becoming a clerk at the library. 

She gets the job through her Godmother and Mary doesn't take the whole thing too seriously at first, but eventually she finds that books are her true calling! How could I not love a closing scene where the main character declares she wants nothing more than a career in library science? If there is another film that has this as a dramatic declaration in the denoument, I am not aware of it. Party Girl is a slight but fun film and I always find Parker Posey and references to Melvil Dewey most charming.

The Public

Many of us in the library world have been waiting for Emilio Estevez's film about the homeless and public libraries the way most of the move-going public was awaiting the last Avengers movie. Luckily, The Public was playing in one theater in town for one week and was able to catch it. We at the public library (at least at the Mobile Public Library, and most downtown libraries) do have the issue of dealing with the homelessness. and their needs. How the library deals with these citizens is the topic that is the centerpiece in this film. Librarian and author Ryan Dowd (The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness: An Empathy Driven Approach to Solving Problems, Preventing Conflict and Serving Everyone) actually traveled around with Estevez to promote the movie.

The Public has Estevez playing a librarian that leads a sit-in in the Cincinnati Public Library with many homeless men who have run out of places of shelter on a below zero degrees night. The librarian has to deal with the media circus that ensues, as well as the political ramifications unfolding around him. The film is insightful and humanizes many of the characters here in terms I can very much relate too. The resolution of the crisis is also a doozy.

And don't forget to visit your local public library.

 Librarian Peg Hepburn Perry's sister
playing a librarian in Desk Set

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