The librarian is one of the most misunderstood figures in pop culture history. The patronizing character John Rothman played in Sophie’s Choice and the “old maid” Donna Reed portrayed in It’s a Wonderful Life are just a few of the negative, unflattering, and downright laughable images of librarians that our society has been inundated with. There are, however, several fine examples of realistic, intelligent, competent, and yes, even sexy librarians in cinema, television, and beyond. We’ve detailed 15 of our favorite fictional librarians, below.
Mary in Party Girl
Eschewing librarian stereotypes is Parker Posey’s party girl Mary who started working at a library to repay a bail loan and wound up falling in love with the profession. She fiercely defends the Dewey Decimal System and ditches the cliché bun and horn-rimmed glasses for a totally ‘90s getup. Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s film treats librarians with respect, and real librarians love it for that reason.
Alice and the Ghost Librarian in Ghostbusters
The library is the first place we see the ghosts in Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters — and the film boasts not just one, but two librarians we love. Alice Drummond’s librarian looks like your stereotypical meek and mousy bookworm, but she works at the New York City Public Library so that makes her a badass. She also claims that her uncle believes he’s St. Jerome — the patron saint of librarians and libraries. Better yet is the ghostly librarian who shushes and scares the Ghostbusters during an investigation.
Rupert Giles in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series
Who didn’t have a crush on Giles? A Watcher with an interesting past, he dabbled in black magic and the music scene when he was younger, earning the nickname “Ripper.” Eventually he followed his destiny to prepare (and protect) Slayers like Buffy to fight the Big Bad. Giles takes librarianship seriously and charmed the pants off viewers when he monologued to fellow teacher and ladylove Jenny Calendar about the importance of books.
Tammy II in Parks and Rec
“Tammy seems scary, but really she’s just a manipulative, psychotic, library book-pedaling sex-crazed she-demon.”
Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy
Adorably klutzy, 1920’s fierce, and a whip-smart Egyptologist, Rachel Weisz’s Evie joins a dangerous expedition in search of an ancient book, and her cleverness aids the group on several occasions. She also has a drunken moment in the movie where she exclaims how proud she is to be a librarian, because obviously.
Charles Halloway in Something Wicked This Way Comes
The 1983 retelling of Ray Bradbury’s supernatural tale Something Wicked This Way Comes features Jason Robards as a small-town librarian. He seems to be the only adult (apart from the young boys at the center of the story) who has the determination to face the mysterious leader of an evil carnival, Mr. Dark.
The librarian in Monsters University
Monster University’s grumpy school librarian isn’t fond of noise and doesn’t think twice about tossing rowdy students out the window into a pond below. Behind the desk, she’s unassuming, but when challenged, she reveals her massive and monstrous cephalopod self. The librarian can also shelve books with her giant tentacles (jealous).
Bunny Watson in Desk Set
Katharine Hepburn and real-life partner Spencer Tracy have great chemistry in Walter Lang’s 1957 film, Desk Set. The actress plays sassy reference librarian Bunny Watson, who falls in love with “efficiency expert” and computer guru Richard Sumner (Tracy) while working at a TV network. The film features multiple librarians, but the witty Bunny steals the show. Fun fact: Hepburn’s sister Margaret was a librarian.
Marian Paroo in The Music Man
Before you groan, let us just say that we know Shirley Jones’ Marian in The Music Man appears to be the stereotypical prim and proper spinster-in-the-making type, but we appreciate her desire to enlighten the town’s residents about great (“dirty”) books by authors such as Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac. And hey, she gets her own song in the musical.
John Lewis in Only Two Can Play
Frustrated, lusty librarian John in this 1962 adaptation of Kingsley Amis’ That Uncertain Feeling is great for one reason: Peter Sellers. The role came before the actor achieved fame in Lolita, The Pink Panther, and Dr. Strangelove, but his brand of dry humor was already a standout.
Conan the Librarian in UHF
Made during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s height of fame playing Conan the Barbarian, Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF parodied the Austrian actor in this segment featuring the sword-wielding Cimmerian as a librarian. All people should be sliced in half for not returning their books on time.
Alicia Hull in Storm Center
Bette Davis plays a librarian fighting McCarthy-era censorship. What more do you need? Time magazine’s review said the film “makes reading seem nearly as risky a habit as dope.” Truth. We love Davis’ resolute character for standing up to the man in the name of books.
Dr. Barbara Gordon in the Batman series
Yvonne Craig portrayed Batgirl in the 1960’s Batman series. Her alter ego was librarian Barbara Gordon. Don’t let Batgirl’s (awesome) frilly, purple motorcycle fool you. The character has been praised as a feminist icon. Seeing a crime-fighting superwoman in the media was a rarity for the times, but so was seeing a powerful and intelligent woman (who held a doctorate in library science and ran the Gotham City public library) in a leading role.
Madam Irma Pince in the Harry Potter series
The witchy Madam Irma Pince, head librarian at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter book and film series, wasn’t a warm or kindly person — but she was fiercely protective of all books. We have to respect anyone who casts spells on library books, compelling them to whack people on the head should anyone doodle inside their covers.
Lt. Bookman in Seinfeld
We’re fudging the definition of librarian here, but for a good reason. Philip Baker Hall’s Lt. Bookman in Seinfeld’s season three episode, “The Library,” is a doggedly determined investigator for the New York Public Library — and he’s hilarious. We count him as an honorary librarian, because his passion for books is unparalleled. Bookman — a character straight from the annals of film noir — strolls the aisles making sure kids aren’t subject to drawings of “pee-pees and wee-wees.” He gives Seinfeld the business about a severely overdue book and shares plenty of amusing anecdotes about the days when “hippies were burning their library cards.”