Librarians in popular culture

Librarians in popular culture

Stereotypes of librarians in popular culture are frequently negative: bookish characters who may be prim and introverted if female, or timid and mild if male. Such stereotypes are likely to have a negative impact on the attractiveness of librarianship as a profession to young people.cite journal
last = Peresie
first = Michelle
authorlink =
coauthors = Linda B. Alexander
title = Librarian stereotypes in Young Adult literature
journal = Young Adult Library Services
volume = 4
issue = 1
pages = 24–31
publisher =
location =
date = Fall 2005
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-10-16
] This article provides a collection of descriptions of librarians in popular culture, i.e., literature, film, television, and games.


Children's literature has a generally positive portrayal of librarians as young, helpful and friendly, becoming more positive over the course of the 20th century. Adult literature, however, portrays the profession more negatively. Between these, portrayals of librarians in young adult fiction are neutral to negative. Here librarians are predominantly female, middle-aged, usually unattractive in some way, and mostly unmarried. Personality is mixed between positive traits such as intelligence, likeability, and kind-heartedness; and negative traits such as strictness, timidity, and eccentricity. While some provide assistance to the main characters, several are the villains of the book. Duties generally include reference, but may only show housekeeping tasks; however the amount of technology used by librarian characters has increased over time.

A disproportionate number of the librarians represented in novels are in the detective fiction genre, frequently as an amateur detective and protagonist. Although the stereotype of the librarian as "passive bore" does not seem reconcilable with the intensity of a mystery, the stereotypical librarian does share many traits with the successful detective. Their mindset is focused, calm, unbiased in considering viewpoints, and interested in the world around them. By personality they are industrious perfectionists - and eccentric. The drab and innocuous look of the stereotypical librarian is perfect for avoiding suspicion, while their research skills and ability to ask the right questions allow them to procure and put together the information necessary to solve the case. The knowledge they have gained from wide reading successfully competes with a private investigator's personal experience. For example, Jacqueline Kirby is drawn into the mystery in Elizabeth Peters' novel "The Seventh Sinner" (1972) due to her awareness of her surroundings. Wearing the stereotypical bun, glasses and practical clothes - together with an eccentrically large purse - she is self-possessed and resourceful, knowledgeable in a variety of fields and skilled at research.cite paper
author = Reiman, Lauren
title = Solving the mystery: what makes the fictional librarian such a good sleuth?
version =
publisher = Washington State University
date = 2003
url =
format =
accessdate = 2007-10-19

A sampling of librarians featured in works of literature include:

*Neal Stephenson's novel, "Snow Crash" features both the "Central Intelligence Corporation" (a commercialized melding of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Library of Congress) and a virtual librarian which assists the main character, Hiro Protagonist. [ [ SIMILE Studies In Media & Information Literacy Education ] ]
*In the "Discworld" book series by Terry Pratchett there is a librarian who has been magically turned into an orangutan. In these stories, librarians frequently have supernatural powers related to books and library work, including access to a form of hyperspace known as L-Space. [ [ What is Lspace? ] ]
*In the comic book series "Batman", Barbara Gordon is a computer-savvy librarian using the name Oracle. Before she was shot by the Joker, restricting the use of her legs, she was known as Batgirl.
*Lucien, from Neil Gaiman's comic book series The Sandman, tends to The Dreaming's library, where all the books that are dreamt of, but never written, are contained.
*Henry De Tamble (from the novel "The Time Traveler's Wife") is a Chicago librarian with "Chrono Displacement" disorder; at random times, he suddenly disappears without warning and finds himself in the past or future, usually at a time or place of importance in his life.
*Jack and Annie in "The Magic Treehouse" series of children's books become "Master Librarians".
*Irma Pince is the librarian in several of the Harry Potter novels. She is a minor character as a disciplinarian in the Hogwarts library.
* Malachi is the scholarly librarian in Umberto Eco's medieval murder mystery The Name of the Rose who unlocks the secrets of a labyrinthine library to the novel's protagonists.
* In Jo Dereske's Miss Zukas series, Helma Zukas is a prim librarian sleuth who swears in such terms as "Oh, Faulkner!"
* L. R. Wright's crime series features a librarian as partner of lead detective Karl Alberg.
* In "It" by Stephen King the central narrator is Mike Hanlon, a librarian in the small town of Derry, Maine. He is described as "the keeper of the lighthouse"
* In Kingsley Amis' comic novel "That Uncertain Feeling", a Welsh librarian bored with his marriage casts his eye upon a new girl in town. In the film version, "Only Two Can Play", the librarian was played by Peter Sellers.
*The manga series "Read or Die" (a.k.a. R.O.D.) features protagonist bibliophile Yomiko Readman, who works for the Library of England in search of rare and powerful books.
*Richard Peck's book, "Here Lies the Librarian." "This book is dedicated to Living librarians everywhere And to my Dean Beth Mehalick Paskoff", who is Dean of Library and Information Sciences at Louisiana State University. On the cover is a cemetery with a gravestone that reads, "SHH!".
*Lilian Jackson Braun's popular mystery series "The Cat Who..." features Polly Duncan, head of the Pickax Library and companion of the main character, James Qwilleran. This series also features Qwilleran's two bibliocats, Kao K’o Kung (Koko) and Yum Yum.
* Charlaine Harris' "Southern Librarian" mysteries are solved by librarian Aurora "Ro" Teagarden.
* Scott Douglas' memoir "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian."
*The eponymous character in Garth Nix's Lirael (2001) is an assistant librarian whose curiosity about the library she works in leads her into trouble and whose research skills save her. The head librarian is intimidating and the library itself a dangerous place. [cite conference
first = Pierce
last = Jennifer Burek
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = What's Harry Potter doing in the library? Depictions of Young Adult information seeking behaviour in contemporary fantasy fiction
booktitle = International Association of School Librarianship: Selected Papers from the 2004 Annual Conference
pages = 73-82
publisher =
date = 2004
location = Brantford
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-10-16


According to Ann Seidl, director of the documentary [ The Hollywood Librarian] , librarians in film are often portrayed as meek, timid, and unassertive in nature.cite journal
last = Kniffel
first = Leonard
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Hollywood Librarian vs. Real Thing
journal = American Libraries
volume = 36
issue = 6
pages = 22
publisher =
location =
date = Jun/Jul, 2005
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-10-16
] After indexing hundreds of appearances of librarians in film, she found that "the shorter the reference to a librarian in a film, the worse the stereotype."Quoted in cite journal
last = Worland
first = Gayle
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Librarians have their day in film
journal = Knight Ridder Tribune Business News
volume =
issue =
pages =
publisher =
location = Washington
date = Oct 4, 2007
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-10-16

By the 1950s, movies had established the stereotype of librarians as "spinsters" and "eggheads". Thus, female movie librarians are usually unmarried, prim and introverted. They are usually young and may be attractive, but dress drably and are sexually repressed: in movies such as It's a Wonderful Life and The Music Man their career is characterised as a "fate worse than death". Male movie librarians - mild, intelligent and timid - have fewer and less important roles.cite journal
last = Walker
first = Stephen
authorlink =
coauthors = V. Lonnie Lawson
title = The librarian stereotype and the movies
journal = MC Journal
volume = 1
issue = 1
pages = 17–28
publisher =
location =
date = 1993
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-10-19

Seidl's documentary discusses such stereotypes as:
* A wretched alternate fate is revealed for Mary Hatch Bailey (played by Donna Reed) in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946): "She's an old maid. She never married...She's just about to close up the library!"
* The staggeringly rude and unhelpful librarian (John Rothman) in Sophie’s Choice (1982), who barks at Sophie Zawistowski (Meryl Streep) “Do you want me to draw you a map?!”

in contrast with such more well-rounded characters as:
* Librarian Bunny Watson (played by Katharine Hepburn) who teaches Richard Sumner (played by Spencer Tracy) a few things about modern research methods in the movie "Desk Set" (1957).
* The no-nonsense "Marian the Librarian" Shirley Jones in the movie "The Music Man".

Librarians are usually every-man characters caught up in circumstances, rather than being heroes; likewise they are rarely villainous although they have have flaws, such as racism in Goodbye, Columbus.

Other appearances of librarians in film include:
*In "No Man of Her Own" (1932), Clark Gable is a big city con man who falls for a local librarian (Carole Lombard) while on the lam.
*Virginia Mayo plays a librarian in Wonder Man (film) (1945), but the great quote is from Danny Kaye who plays the bookworm Edwin Dingle: "I enjoy it here very much ... uh, I love the smell of leather bindings."
* Alicia Hull (Bette Davis), a small town librarian, befriends young Freddie Slater (Kevin Coughlin) but is herself ostracised for refusing to remove a book on Communism from the public library during the height of the Red Scare in Storm Center (1956). This movie was inspired by the real-life dismissal of Ruth Brown, a librarian in Bartlesville, Oklahomacite book
title=The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown
first=Louise S.
publisher=University of Oklahoma Press
location=Norman, Oklahoma
] .
*Ingrid Pitt plays a "nymphomaniac librarian" (as she described it) in the classic British movie The Wicker Man (1973), who is found naked by Edward Woodward's virginal Christian policeman.
* Debbie gets friendly with a librarian in Debbie Does Dallas (1978).
*Goldie Hawn dons cat-eyed glasses when she plays San Francisco librarian Gloria Mundy who helps Chevy Chase solve an assassination plot in the comedy "Foul Play" (1978).
*Alice Drummond plays the librarian in Ghostbusters (1984) who first encounters the book-stacking ghost of a former librarian in the famous New York Public Library.
*"Weird Al" Yankovic plays Conan the Librarian, in a brief segment of the 1989 film "UHF".
* “Books are my life now,” explains librarian Lynn Weslin (Rene Russo) to her ex-boyfriend and baseball player Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) in Major League (1989).
* Circulation desk worker Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) breaks the rules and lets his fair-weathered friend George Willis, Jr. (Philip Seymour Hoffman) take a reserve book out of the library. From Scent of a Woman (1992).
* In Philadelphia (1993), a librarian (Tracey Walter) encourages AIDS patient Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) to use a private study room so his condition won't bother other patrons.
*A librarian assists Thora Birch's character in the 1994 film "Monkey Trouble" with information on a monkey she has found.
* Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) is led on a fantastical adventure through a library by Mr. Dewey (Christopher Lloyd), AKA The Pagemaster (1994).
* Mary (played by Parker Posey) is the ultimate "Party Girl" (1995) who discovers, "I want to be a librarian!" in an exception to the prim librarian stereotype.
*In "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996), Roy Martin (Tim Matheson) informs Greg Brady (Christopher Daniel Barnes) that he should date someone more of his "own speed", suggesting a librarian as an example.
*Jet Li's character in the movie "Black Mask (film)" (1996) works as a librarian.
*In "The Young Poisoner's Handbook" (1995) teenage library worker Sue (Samantha Edmonds) allows Graham (Hugh O'Connor) to take out chemistry and alchemy books which the librarian has already forbidden him, because they are adult materials. She stamps the return date on his hand, to show affection.
* Evelyn Carnahan is proud to be a librarian in the movies "The Mummy" (1999) and "The Mummy Returns".
* Heather Stephens plays Jill, the awkward librarian (and closet dominatrix), in the movie "Tomcats" (2001).
* Vox (played by Orlando Jones), a holographic entity possessing a "compendium of all human knowledge", works at a futuristic New York Public Library in the movie "The Time Machine" (2002).
* Jocasta Nu is an archivist in the film "" (2002).
*"Last Life in the Universe" (2003) is an intriguing tale about a male Japanese librarian. [ [ ] ]
*Michelle Williams plays a small part as a young, blonde, out-of-wedlock-pregnant, love-torn local librarian in The Station Agent (2003).
*Noah Wyle's character in the television movie ' (2004) and '. His mother: "Sixteen years of college and they've got you putting books on shelves?"


The portrayal of librarians on the small screen has usually followed the same stereotypes as those found in motion pictures. For example, in most animated cartoon series (such as Baby Looney Tunes or Rugrats) the librarian is often shown silencing the main/pivotal characters - especially younger children - when they're in a library area. Some even ban the characters from the libraries for making rude or strange noises.

In creating the Australian miniseries "The Librarians", however, co-producers and -writers Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler consulted with real librarians for research, and took their advice to avoid shooshing and cardigan-wearing librarian characters. [Citation
last = Taffel
first = Jacqui
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
title = Have a lend of us
newspaper = Sydney Morning Herald
pages =
year = 2007
date = 29 October
url =

*On the television series "All That", there are several sketches that feature a silence-obsessed librarian (known as "The Loud Librarian" to some) that scolds someone for even making a coughing sound while she herself constantly makes loud noises while performing extremely inappropriate activities for a library (weeping openly at a soap opera she's watching, playing electric guitar, using power tools, etc.). She is eventually "fired" when Lori Beth Denberg leaves the cast in 1998.
*In the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", Anthony Stewart Head played the role of Rupert Giles, school librarian in earlier episodes and Buffy's watcher.
*In a "" episode "All Our Yesterdays", Ian Wolfe plays librarian Mr. Atoz: "The library serves no purpose unless someone is using it." Mr. Atoz's name apparently derives from the phrase "A to Z", a reference to his occupation as a librarian. Mr. Atoz's quiet competence speaks better for the profession than his obstinate belief that the Enterprise officers want to flee to the planet's past, as all the inhabitants have done. The episode was written by UCLA librarian Jean Lisette Aroeste.
*In the 1967 episode of The Avengers (TV series), "Murdersville", a gun is used with a silencer after the librarian points to the SILENCE sign. [ [ Plot summary and images] ]
*In an episode of "Seinfeld", Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) dates a librarian from the New York Public Library, much to the chagrin of Lt. Bookman, the "library cop."
*In one episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus wild animals are interviewed for the position of librarian.
*In one episode of The Simpsons a librarian questions Reverend Lovejoy about a Bible he has checked out every weekend for the past 12 years, asking wouldn't it be easier just to buy one, to which the Reverend replies, "Perhaps...on a Librarian's salary..."
*The television series Once Upon A Time centers around a librarian trapped in a witch's tower, who is forced to produce stories with a machine called 1Z2Z, and then read them.
* In an Orwellian future, a librarian (played by Burgess Meredith) fills the title role of “The Obsolete Man” (1961) in an episode from "The Twilight Zone".
* Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) pulls off a typical claims returned trick on an old and bitter librarian in the Married... with Children episode “He Thought He Could” (1988).
* In a few episodes of That 70s Show, Shannon Elizabeth played Kelso's librarian girlfriend.
*On the May 24, 2007 episode of the Colbert Report, Colbert interviewed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. During the interview, he showed on the screen the statement "Librarians are hiding something" and asked Wales how he would stop or prevent vandalism to Wikipedia based on that statement.

Computer and video games

There have been several characters associated with the library field in the realm of interactive entertainment [ [ Search Results for "librarian" on IGN ] ] , often portrayed as guides and/or purveyors of knowledge who help the user progress within the game:

*Miss Bluegarden, from the game "Secret of Evermore".
*Myrna Bookbottom, the stereotypical meek English librarian, from the game "Freaky Flyers".
*Brisketta, from the game "Brave Fencer Musashi".
*The Daguerreo Librarian, the unnamed overseer of the Daguerreo Library in "Final Fantasy IX".
*Darian, an anthropomorphic car from the children's educational game "Putt-Putt Travels Through Time".
*Alan Dinsdale, Velma's former school librarian, from the game "".
*Eike, the librarian of Budehuc Castle, from the game "Suikoden III".
*Geelo, from the game "Icewind Dale".
*Aldus T. Giles, Assistant Correspondence Clerk of the Tarantian Library, from the game "".
*Grendor, a Rhynoc, from the game "".
*Mayumi Himuro, from the game "Divi-Dead".
*Jaard, from the game "Soulbringer".
*Kairn, a librarian/vampire, from the game "Veil of Darkness".
*Manaka Komaki, from the game "ToHeart2".
*Kordava Librarian, the unnamed librarian of the city of Kordava, from the game "".
*Lady, from the game "".
*Lex, the bespectacled green worm caretaker of the Great Library, from the puzzle games "Bookworm" and "Bookworm Adventures".
*Librari, the Elder of the Town Minish, from the game "".
*Marcus, from the game "Siege of Avalon".
*Maria, from the game "Harvest Moon 64".
*Mary, from the game "".
*Master Librarian, the caretaker of Dracula's Long Library, from the game "".
*Mop Top Island Librarian, an anthropomorphic onion, from the children's educational game "".
*Nightshade, the super-hero alter ego of librarian Mark Gray, from the game "Nightshade".
*Natsume Oguro, a 15-year-old girl, from the game ".hack//INFECTION".
*Onett Librarian, the unnamed caretaker of the Onett Library, from the game "EarthBound".
*Phatt Island Librarian, the unnamed lady in charge of the library on Phatt Island, from the game "".
*Hester Primm, from the game "The Sims Bustin' Out".
*Victorian Principles, from the game "".
*Mrs. Stapleton, from the game "Fallout".
*Mr. Sullivan, from the game "Clock Tower".
*Swofford, from the game "Geneforge 2".
*Tar-Meena, an Argonian located within the Arcane University, from the game "".
*Trish, from the game "".
*Sherman Trout, head of the Library of Congress, from the game "The Final Scene".
*Cedrin Zil, from the game "Icewind Dale II".
*"World of Warcraft" features several librarian characters: Mae Paledust, Brother Paxton, Donyal Tovald, and Milton Sheaf.

Toys and Hobbies

*In 2003, Archie McPhee brought out a [ librarian action figure] , modelled on Seattle Public Library librarian Nancy Pearl. Wearing a suit, bun and glasses, the action figure sparked controversy. particularly for the button-triggered shushing motion. Many librarians took it in a light-hearted spirit, while others felt it perpetuated negative stereotypes. [Citation
last =
first =
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
title = Outcry over librarian doll
newspaper = Sydney Morning Herald
pages =
year = 2003
date = 6 September
url =
*Space Marine Librarians are characters from the collectible miniatures game "Warhammer 40,000" ; these superhuman fighters come equipped with potent psychic powers, rather than just being deskbound intellects. Wielding force staffs and psychic abilities, they are found on the battlefield battling alongside their non-psychic battle brothers delivering justice to the Emperor's enemies, while at the same time advising the Space Marine Commander.


*"Librarian" by My Morning Jacket, from their "Evil Urges" album.
*"Sweet Librarian" by Railroad Jerk, from "The Third Rail" album
*"The Librarian's Nightmare" by Phil Hammon, from "The Librarian's Nightmare" album
*"Love in the Library" by Jimmy Buffett, from the "Fruitcakes" album
*" Librarian" [ [ YouTube - Librarian ] ] by New Zealand band Haunted Love
*"Karen" by the Go-Betweens, from the "Lee Remick/Karen" 7" single
*"Tales of a Librarian", album by Tori Amos
*The Librarians, defunct Californian power pop band
*Librarians, rock band from West Virginia
*"Librarian" by Jonathan Rundman, from "Public Library" album
*"Library" by Cursor Miner, from "Library / Our Day Will Come" [ [ uncharted | audio | cursor miner - library video (by Cheeky Beef) ] ]

Comic strips

*Unshelved is an online daily comic strip set in Mallville Public Library reflecting changes in the real world of libraries and with an eye for popular culture. [ [ See the latest comic strip] or go to the [ "Unshelved" primer] ]
*Questionable Content is another webcomic that recently began featuring a character who works in an academic library setting.
*One Big Happy often features Ruthie at Story Time at her local library. The Library Lady is often despairing of Ruthie's non-sequtorial interruptions. [ [ See the latest strip] ]

* [ Rex Libris] by James Turner. Not your average stereotype of a librarian, not your average anything. Rex Libris is passionate about the public library system and will go to the ends of the galaxy to retrieve an overdue book. The traditional comic strip format is subverted with insertions of Rex's discussions with the editor who keeps trying to sex things up. Like any good librarian though, Rex marches to the beat of his own drum. Something quite different and a bit special.


External links

* [ Librarians: We're Not What You Think] includes photo gallery
* [ Songs about Libraries and Librarians]
* [ Dispatches from a Public Librarian]
* [ Film Librarian]
* [ The Hollywood Librarian]
* [ Librarians in the Movies]
* [ Movie Librarians]
* [ Reel Librarians: Connecting Librarians and Film]
* [ The Loveliest Librarian]
* [ You Don't Look Like a Librarian!]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Culture of Tunisia — The National Foundation, Beit El Hikma, Tunis Carthage Reconstruction of a traditional steam ba …   Wikipedia

  • Culture Club — Culture Club, R L: Jon Moss, Roy Hay, Boy George and Mikey Craig. Background information Origin London, England …   Wikipedia

  • Library — Reading room redirects here. For other uses, see Reading room (disambiguation). For other uses, see Library (disambiguation). Reading room of the library at the University of Graz, in Austria …   Wikipedia

  • Librarian — A librarian is an information professional trained in library and information science, which is the organization and management of information services or materials for those with information needs. Typically, librarians work in a public or… …   Wikipedia

  • Portal:Library and information science — Wikipedia portals: Culture Geography Health History Mathematics Natural sciences People Philosophy Religion Society Technology The Library and Information Science Portal …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Jackson — For other people named Michael Jackson, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation). Michael Jackson …   Wikipedia

  • Barbara Gordon — Not to be confused with the homonymous character Barbara Gordon, ex wife of James Gordon. Barbara Gordon Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. Promotional art for Legends of the DC Universe #10 (Nov 1998). Art by Kevin Nowlan …   Wikipedia

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

  • Readers' advisory — portal|Library and information science|Nuvola apps bookcase.svg |year = 2007 |isbn = 9780786429257] HistoryNorth America Setting a date for the start of what we now call readers advisory service, particularly readers advisory in the public… …   Wikipedia

  • The University Libraries at Bowling Green State University — Jerome Library The Building Created to support the University’s expanding educational role, construction of the Bowling Green State University Library began in 1965. Although the official opening did not occur until almost two years later, the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”