libraries in film

Public Libraries in Film and TV

Ok, so I have a slight addiction with the tv show Criminal Minds. Though I only recently started to watch them in sequence, I have been watching this season religiously. I was surprised that twice in the last few weeks they have made public libraries significant to the plot line:

[*Spoiler Alert*]

  1. In Season 9, Episode 6 “In the Blood” the plot centered around a volunteer at a local public library who is obsessed with a library book and kills all the people who take an interest in it. He is shown shelving books, but a library staff member (librarian?) tells the police that he is a volunteer. [Though one of the criminal minds wiki’s called him a volunteer librarian, good grief]
  2. In Season 9, Episode 16 “Gabby” a child is abducted. At the very end of the episode they have figured out who has done it, and has them in custody, but not where the child is. The guilty party doesn’t have a computer or internet connection in their home, but Penelope Garcia figures out that they have been using the public library to get online and connect with people to give away the abducted child. Garcia says that she used to go to the public library to do her computer hacking [although, for clarification, I think her character was actually doing hacktivism, though I don’t believe that word is used in the show itself].

My first reaction in both cases was “How cool that they’re acknowledging that the library exists!” My second reaction was “Kind of sad that it’s in such a negative context, but this is a crime show.” My current thoughts are more along the lines of “How does this reflect on my profession?” I love it that the show features people using the library but am thinking it creates a stereotype that only criminals use library services. In the episode “Gabby”, it is specifically mentioned that public libraries don’t retain internet records of patrons to protect their privacy—but Garcia manages to find it anyways! This sort of gives the impression that public libraries are a place for criminal activity which could lead to people feeling like the library isn’t a safe space. However, I have some glimmer of hope that maybe it reminds people that the public library is a place to get free internet access and that we care about user privacy. I need to find another Criminal Minds fan who is a librarian so that we can discuss the issues and implications. Or,  I could write a research paper?


Anyone interested in this librarians in film should definitely check out the documentary The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film. It’s a really great look at libraries and librarians in popular film and television. Check out the trailer below:


Other resources I’ve found on libraries in film include the following websites:

  • Wikipedia article on librarians in popular culture
  • Pinterest board of films with scenes of libraries
  • Website of Movie Librarians [Search engine doesn’t seem to work well, just scroll down and click on links)

I’d welcome any comments about how people feel librarians and libraries are portrayed in the media. It’s an ongoing issue that is constantly changing and it is definitely something that I would like to explore more at some point.