My Favorite Fictional Heroic Librarians

by Tracy Wasserman, Senior Assistant, INALJ Florida

My Favorite Fictional Heroic Librarians

Who doesn’t love a great story featuring a heroic librarian? TV shows, books, and movies have portrayed many librarians as not only heroic, but intelligent, industrious and doggedly stubborn. Librarians are a diverse bunch, and the world should know it! One thing they all have in common? They care about YOU! Yes, that’s right. These are caring librarians. What other profession has so many good vibes in fiction? Here’s my list of favorites:

the-music-manPhoto credit: Flickr Commons photo

1. The Music Man (where librarians are exceedingly brave and extremely intelligent): This 1962 musical film written by Robert Meredith Wilson stars Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo, the librarian of River City, Iowa. She’s outspoken and brave, standing up to censorship and the closed-mindedness of Iowa country folk. She converts a con artist/ traveling musical instrument salesman to honesty, winning his respect and affection, thereby pleasing her mother, who fears Marion’s superior intelligence will doom her to a life of spinsterhood. What librarian can’t help but be amused by this lyrical exchange between Marian and her mother:

Marian: Mama, a man with a suitcase followed me home.
Mrs. Paroo: Oh–Who?
Marian: I never saw him before.
Mrs. Paroo: Did he say anything?
Marian: He tried.
Mrs. Paroo: Did you say anything?
Marian: Of course not, Mama!
Mrs. Paroo: If you don’t mind my saying so, it wouldn’t have hurt you to find out what the gentleman wanted.
Marian: I know what the gentleman wanted.
Mrs. Paroo: What, dear?
Marian: You’ll find it in Balzac.
Mrs. Paroo: Excuse me for living but I never read it.
Marian: Neither has anyone else in this town.
Mrs. Paroo: There you go again with the same old comment about the low mentality of River City people, and takin’ it all to much to heart.
Marian: Now, Mama, as long as the Madison Public Library was entrusted to me for the purpose of improving River City’s cultural level, I can’t help my concern that the Ladies of River City keep ignoring all my council and advice.
Mrs. Paroo: But, darlin’–when a woman has a husband and you’ve got none, why should she take advice from you? Even if you can quote Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other highfalutin’ Greeks.

mr.atozPhoto credit: Flickr Commons photo

2. Star Trek, Espisode “All Our Yesterdays” (where librarians are fearlessly efficient and nobly selfless): Remember the sci fi cult classic TV series starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nemoy as Mr. Spock, from which multiple spin- offs have sprung? Well, Mr. Atoz, a librarian on the planet Sarpiedon (get it – Mr. A to Z), turns out to be a selfless (albeit, misguided) hero of the episode, “All Our Yesterdays,” which first aired on March 14, 1969. Like any good librarian, Mr. Atoz keeps well stock shelves of reference material of his planet’s history, which he has uses to help the inhabitants of Sarpeidon escape the death of their sun by transporting them through a time portal into a past time period of their choosing. He has remained on the planet as the last inhabitant, first making sure (with the help of his android “replica” librarians) that everyone else has safely escaped before joining his own family in their chosen time period:

ATOZ: May I help you? I am the librarian. May I be of assistance?
KIRK: Perhaps you can, Mister . . ?
ATOZ: Mister Atoz. I confess that I’m a little surprised to see you. I had thought that everyone had long since gone. But the surprise is pleasant one. After all, a library serves no purpose unless someone is using it.
KIRK: You say everyone is gone? Where’d they go?
ATOZ: It depended on the individual, of course. If you wish to trace a specific person, I’m sorry, but that information is confidential.
SPOCK: Forgive me, sir. It is my fault. I must have miscalculated. Our readings indicated that there was no one here at all.
ATOZ: Of course I know. Everyone on this planet was warned of the coming nova long ago. They followed instructions and are now safe. And you had better do the same.
KIRK: Did you say they were safe?
ATOZ: Absolutely. Every single one.
KIRK: Where did they go?
ATOZ: Wherever they wanted to go, of course. It is strictly up to the individual’s choice.
KIRK: I see. And you personally sent all these people on the planet to safety?
ATOZ: Yes, yes, yes. They are all gone, except you three. Of course, I had to delegate the simple tasks to my replicas.
KIRK: You are the real one, Mister Atoz?
KIRK: Of course. I am the real Mister Atoz.
MCCOY: As a matter of fact, he’s quite real, Jim.
KIRK: Let us take you with us to a place of safety.
ATOZ: No, thank you. I plan to join my wife and family when the time comes. Now, don’t be concerned about me. Think of yourselves. I warn you most urgently. Make your escape before it’s too late. The library is at your complete service. I will gladly supply you with all reference material to help you. History of the planet is available in every detail. Just choose what interests you the most. The millennium, the century, the date, the moment. The library is your key.

shawshank-redemptionPhoto credit: Flickr Commons photo

3. Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (where librarians are quietly industrious and dauntlessly determined): Stephen King, the horror novelist, wrote this 1982 novella that was made into a movie entitled The Shawshank Redemption in 1994 starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (nominated for seven Academy Awards). Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a banker falsely accused of murder and sent to Shawshank Prison for life, where he turns his hard-working mentality into running the prison library and winning the respect of both his fellow inmates and the prison guards. As the prison librarian, he wages a tireless letter-writing campaign to the state legislature for funds to expand the library with material to help many fellow prisoners obtain high school equivalency diplomas. Andy is a hero, and you have a definite feel-good vibe when he successfully escapes from prison after 27 years of incarceration.

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons

ouat-belle-remusImage quote: ”We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Photo credit : Flickr Commons photo

4. Once Upon a Time (where librarians are unfailingly loyal and impossibly nice): This currently running fantasy-drama TV series in its fourth season (check it out Sunday nights on ABC) features as one of its main characters, Belle, played by actress Emilie de Ravin, the fairy-tale character from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast who in a parallel universe (ie., our “real” world), is the town librarian. She rehabilitates Rumpelstiltskin, Mr. Gold in our world, the “dark” one a/k/a The Beast, to whom she gives her devotion and trust. She knows he is flawed, but counsels him that she believes there to be goodness within him. As a further manifestation of her own goodness and loyalty, she rescues Little Red Riding Hood from a mob by hiding her in the library, after it is discovered that the wolf who is Little Red Riding Hood’s nemesis is actually Little Red Riding Hood herself (she turns into a werewolf at full moon – isn’t this show clever?).

“Sometimes the best book has the dustiest jacket. And sometimes, the best teacup is chipped.” – Belle to Mr. Gold.

So there you have it – librarians who save their fellow townsfolk from ignorance, who save their fellow planet inhabitants from certain death, who save their fellow prisoners from hopelessness, and who save their fellow parallel universe companions from their dark sides. What other profession has so many heroes?

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