The ways that libraries and librarians are represented on-screen provide alternately frustrating and funny insight into the ideas that others have about our profession. But when we think more deeply about these representations they express complicated positions that can bring up important questions about our collective identity. I have looked at the ways libraries are portrayed in two acclaimed comedy series, Parks and Recreation and Community, and how library anxiety is represented in them
. The catch phrase from Parks and Recreation describing the fictional town’s librarians, “Punk ass book jockeys,” is part of the show’s tongue in cheek characterization of librarians, yet an undercurrent of distrust and unease with libraries is present within this satirical take. Film and libraries have a long history together, but relatively little research has been done in this area. Contemporary movies appear in the library literature more often, including an analysis of Party Girl
, the classic 90s take on one young woman’s turn from the club scene to pursuing a library degree, and the information seeking habits manifested in The Big Lebowski
. What many of these library/film studies combinations have in common is an interest in critically evaluating the media’s conceptions of libraries and using film analysis as a lens to examine larger issues of professional identity.
While these are just two areas of the intersection between libraries and film that I have considered, there is lots of great work being done in the realm of applying visual and popular media to aspects of librarianship. Joel Burkholder’s This Is Info Lit tumblr focuses on real world examples of information literacy, while Stephanie Alexander’s recent LOEX presentationdescribed how she used satirical news sources in her classes to teach aspects of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. These creative projects make apparent that there is no shortage of ideas to be explored within librarianship to meaningfully improve the work that we do, whether through theoretical approaches or everyday practices.
Eamon Tewell is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. Eamon has published and presented on the topics of popular media and active learning in library instruction, televisual representations of libraries, and critical information literacy. He tweets at @eamontewell.