The Hollywood Librarian (2007) debut at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Do not be fooled, this is definitely a propaganda piece, not that that’s a bad thing. Filmmaker Ann Seidl wants to promote librarians and all we offer, and plans to distribute this film by having it shown in libraries across the country during Banned Books Week in September. She even suggests charging admission since a movie about librarians should garner the same respect as any other film.
With that in mind, I have to say that this is a fairly uneven documentary. At first it’s presented as seeing librarianship through the lens of Hollywood movies. Clips of films showing dowdy, glasses and bun-wearing librarians are contrasted with interviews with actual librarians and their active roles in their libraries and community. About halfway through, the Hollywood angle is ditched and it becomes more of an advocacy piece showing various librarians persevering against political pressure. Both parts are pretty good, but they don’t mesh together well. I get the sense the filmmakers weren’t certain what kind of movie they were going to make. Watching this in a room with thousands of other librarians made it all the more entertaining, especially the clips from vintage occupational guidance films were show. Even if I were alone, there was a lot in this movie that would make me laugh, cry, and cheer. What effect it will have on the general public, I don’t know, but it’s probably worth getting it out there. I think some people may like it a lot, but I fear that it may only end up preaching to the choir.
Watch the trailer here:
I arrived Thursday evening and registered but didn’t have much else to do conference-wise, so I visited the Smithsonian museums of American Art and National Portrait Gallery nearby. Later I met up with friends Edward and Charlene for supper at a restaurant punningly called Thai Tanic.
Friday morning I walked down to the Mall and visted the Air & Space Museum for old times sake and then the US Botanical Garden.
After lunch I tried to visit the Library of Congress Open House, but the Capitol Police had the street in front of the Jefferson Building closed. I gave up and visited the Madison Building instead. The interior is eerie, and I wandered through the windowless corridors lined with solid, closed doors. I visited the Periodicals Reading Room but there was not much to see there. I had better luck at the Veterans History Project where the very friendly staff sat down with me and told me about their oral history program. They even took pictures of me for the LOC Gazzette. Meanwhile another alert went up from the Capitol Police as the Adams Building was evacuated due to a chemical spill. The LOC staff seemed very blase about emergencies and alerts in this paranoid city (I went through 4 metal detectors this day by the way). I also stopped by the Manuscripts Division and saw Abraham Lincoln’s childhood sums book and Alexander Graham Bell’s somewhat childish drawings of the first telephone. Finally I went to a reception upstairs and lots of LOC staff talked with me.
I went back to the convention center for the New Members Round Table Conference 101 program. The room was packed, but I stole a chair from another room and was actually able to sit at the same table as my co-worker Leslie.
Following this I walked to the RUSA STARS Happy Hour at the Elephant & Castle pub. As expected this was noisy and awkward but I did meet some friendly people.
I returned to the convention center for the premiere of the Hollywood Librarian, a moving and funny tribute to all of us librarians through the lens of the movies. It’s actually a great documentary and a sometimes not too subtle propaganda people. But our public sometimes need to be hit across the head.
There’s a long line waiting at the internet cafe so I will try to write more later.