On Monday night, NELA sponsored a showing of the new movie, The Hollywood Librarian. About 70 librarians came to the showing, and were fairly vocal during the movie – lots of laughs, and many gasps of surprise.
The movie essentially chronicles the way librarians have been represented by Hollywood in film, from black-and-white movies to present day blockbusters. These library-related clips were interspersed amongst interviews with authors and librarians from across the country, giving their own views on the field and how we are viewed by the wider world.
A second theme that develops later in the movie follows the plight of the Salinas Public Library, in Salinas, CA (home of John Steinbeck). Faced with a shrinking budget, the town failed to pass tax measures that would keep the library and other vital services operating. The situation became national news, and following a local grassroots campaign, the voters approved funding to restore normal hours the next year.
The movie itself rambled and intertwined the interviews, film clips, and coverage of Salinas, which prompted some discussion afterwards. Most everyone enjoyed the movie, but felt that it was building to a climax or core theme that never materialized. It was both a humorous and sobering look at the place of libraries in society, and some felt that these two extremes weren’t meshed well enough to convey a single message, or appeal to anyone who isn’t a librarian.
Another goal of the movie seemed to be to combat the traditional stereotype of a librarian being a nose-in-a-book, shushing, middle-aged white woman. The movie did a great job of showing that modern librarians do much more than pass out books, and that libraries are no longer stiff, academic places of absolute silent independent research. However, with most of the librarians interviewed being middle-aged white women, that idea might be less of a stereotype and more of a reality. But also interviewed were male librarians, librarians of color, and a young library student, so the makeup of the field was indeed accurately portrayed.
The Hollywood Librarian is certainly worth seeing if it is playing in your area. Each of the movie clips were cited, and I for one was scribbling down titles I want to check out of my library. The coverage of the Salinas Library is also important viewing for any librarian, as in these days of uncertain budgets, we should all be prepared to face a similar situation. But the bottom line is that this movie makes you feel good to be a librarian, and reminds you that you’ve chosen a worthwhile and noble profession.
More information on The Hollywood Librarian
- Official Film Website
- Official Film Weblog
- Film Trailer on YouTube
- Film information on IMDb
- Other blog postings about the film
- Salinas Public Library website