In 2021 Daniel Clarkson Fisher inaugurated an online Tumblr site with the goal of documenting instances of actual libraries appearing in film (https://costarringyourlocallibrary.tumblr.com). Inspired by Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself (2004), it is a mix of public scholarship, architectural appreciation, and audiovisual essayism. It came about because Danny was struck by three things:
First, many of the fictional libraries that dominate the discourse about depictions of librarianship in popular culture are, in fact, sets: including Desk Set, The Mummy, The Music Man, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among others.
Second, when real libraries are used in films, they very often are not “playing themselves.” To use just one fun example, the Delmar T. Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge, portrays “Starfleet Academy” in J.J. Abrams’s recent cycle of Star Trek films.
Third, dozens of examples of libraries appearing in films incidentally, often in the background with little or no emphasis. In many cases, these appearances are very interesting from the standpoint of architectural history. By way of illustration, the featured image of this post is a shot from Duck Soup (1927) which shows the Main Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library before the addition of the substantial Tom Bradley wing, a defining feature of the library today.
At present the Tumblr has collected over 220 posts. Visit Danny’s Tumblr to explore and contribute: https://costarringyourlocallibrary.tumblr.com/
Transcript: Coming Soon
Host: Alex Mayhew
Guest: Daniel Clarkson Fisher