Hollywood Librarian

Read a review this morning of a movie, actually documentary, I'd like to see. Hollywood Librarian was a labor of love for Ann Seidl, a consultant. When Ms. Seidl was obtaining her master's in Library and Information Studies in 1997, she was inspired to create a cinematic offering to refute the long-held view of librarians.

The result is Hollywood Librarian, financed mostly by private donations. Premiered at the recent American Library Association convention in Washington D.C., the movie features, among other American librarians, Houston's own Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library with its 600 employees.

Unfortunately, I probably won't find this at my local theater. Features like this are usually shown only at what passes for Houston's art house cinema. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will come to DVD fairly soon.

Reading this, made two memories pop into my head. The first was something that happened when my first book SUMMER'S FORTUNE was published. The mother of one of my daughter's friends had bought the book. With a wide smile, she told me that she particularly enjoyed the fact that the heroine was an elementary school librarian - just as she was. She said, "I loved that there was no bun or spectacles in sight. It's about time someone depicted a librarian as something other than an old sourpuss."

The second memory was of Miss Zelma Berry, the school librarian and sponsor of the Library Club which I joined in ninth grade. Miss Berry was what people called an old maid, and she had a twin sister named Thelma. They lived together until their deaths at a ripe old age.

I loved books and thought, in my naivette, that nothing could be better than a library club. Boy! Was I wrong.

From the first moment I met Miss Berry, she traumatized me. We're talking the black spectacles, the hair style that had been all the rage in 1945, a sharp arrogant glance that could freeze you in mid-motion, and the imperious voice that could shush a varsity football tackle in a nano second. The woman scared the bejeebers out of me.

So of course we had a run in the first time we met. She ordered me to shelve returned books. To my dismay, I learned immediately that the library club had nothing to do with reading and everything to do with labor. I told her okay.

She fixed me with her sharp gaze and said, "I beg your pardon."

"Uh, okay," I mumbled, face red.

In an icy voice, she repeated, "I beg your pardon."


She never blinked. "I beg your pardon!"

My brain froze. I stared into her unblinking eyes, magnified by the thick glass lenses. Then my poor fourteen-year-old brain thawed and went into overdrive, trying to figure out what the proper response was because if I didn't come up with the proper response, I just knew I'd be standing there, staring into her flinty eyes for the rest of my life.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. "Yes, ma'am," I whispered, and added for good measure, "I will."

She smiled. Or I think she did. It happened so fast that I really can't be sure.

Miss Berry and I had a stilted relationship, but she instilled knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System that I retain to this day. Funny thing was, after I was grown, I ran into her at the grocery store during one of my visits to my hometown, and she beamed at me. Beamed! She said how wonderful it was to see me again and how fondly she remembered my time in the Library Club. She asked me if I still loved books.

Isn't that just weird?

I made sure to say, "Yes, ma'am."

1 comment:

  1. If you want to see this film, ask your local library or "friends of the library" group to host a screening this fall. See http://www.hollywoodlibrarian.com and http://hollywoodlibrarian.wordpress.com .