Practically everyone has been portrayed as a hero at one time or another.
The American movie industry has lionized teachers, cops, coaches, soldiers, reporters, doctors, dogs and even dolphins.
One species, however, has seldom received more than a bit part in a movie, and the role has practically never been glamorous: the librarian.
It's easy to understand why. Librarians, as we all know, are stiff, stern, humorless people who prowl their territory like guards. They wear their hair in buns so not a single strand can conceal their scowls or muffle the constant “shhhhh,” their favorite word.
That's the stereotype, at least, and it's not entirely inaccurate. There are stern librarians who view books as subjects to be protected and the library as a domain that must be treated with reverence.
Most librarians, one suspects, view the stereotype with a little bit of humor. In fact, there's even a librarian action figure, patterned after a real bun-wearing librarian, who, at the touch of a button, raises her hand to her mouth in a shushing motion.
A new movie, though, is taking on that stereotype. “Hollywood Librarians,” a documentary, takes scenes from movies that involve librarians - scenes that usually portray them as harsh, mousy, mean, angry, too focused, boring or sexless - and mixes interviews with real-life librarians.
It is probably the first time any film has focused on the profession.
If you haven't seen it, don't feel left out. Practically no one's seen it yet. It won't premiere until next week, during Banned Book Week, in selected locations around the country. In Fort Wayne, the movie will be shown at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Gunderson Auditorium in Achatz Hall at the University of Saint Francis.
The movie will also be shown for the first time in other libraries around the country, but if you want to see it somewhere besides Saint Francis, be prepared to drive to Chicago, Cleveland or Indianapolis.
While the movie doesn't try to shatter the image of librarians, it does try to cast a little light on what the business is really like. It lets people chuckle at the way film has always treated the job and marvel at the way librarians have been portrayed as people who like to hug books.
“Do you like books?” an early vocational film asks. “Are they your friends? Then maybe you could be a librarian.”
The focus of the movie will undoubtedly please real-life librarians, such as Lynn Hoffman, who has been with the Allen County Public Library for 11 years.
Yeah, she said, sometimes she does take the stereotype a bit personally. She wears her hair in a bun once in a while, and she wears glasses, too.
But, she adds, she likes to think of herself as a relatively young person and sort of cool. She was a cheerleader in high school, so she can't be too dull, and she's not a spinster. She's married. And on the day of the interview, when a gathering of senior citizens was making an incredible racket in the library, not once did she shush anyone.
“People say, ‘You gotta have a degree to do this?' It hurts a little,” Hoffman says. “Most of what I do the public isn't aware of.”
Katie Jacobs, who has been a librarian in the young-adults section in Fort Wayne, has been a librarian for six years.
“When people come up and say, God, what a boring job, I just think, ‘Oh, go away.' ”
Her job is way cooler than the jobs most people will ever have, she says.
But there's still that stereotype, that librarians' main responsibility is protecting books from people and shushing visitors to the library. It's still widespread.
“I think it's funny,” Jacobs said. “Kids come up and whisper, and I can't hear them.”
No, Jacobs, who is an expert on comic books and graphic novels - and who got kicked out of a library when she was 12 for using the copy machine to make copies of her face - isn't going to raise a ruckus if you try to have a conversation with someone, especially in the young-adults section.
A library isn't supposed to be dull and stodgy. It's supposed to be a place where things happen, she says.
That's the real danger of the librarian stereotype. It leaves the impression that the library is a place of oppressive seriousness, a place where fun is strictly forbidden and tomblike silence is demanded. How are you going to attract 17-year-olds to the library, how are you going to teach them to appreciate the library and to teach their kids to appreciate the library, if visitors feel they're being monitored by swift-to-retaliate guards?
Granted, not all librarians are extroverts. Take Byron Black, who has been a librarian since 1992. He's quiet and doesn't seem comfortable in conversation. But he's written graphic novels and is known at the library as the most tenacious researcher they have. He's the library detective, one official said. If you want something found, he'll find it.
If you're interested in the movie, admission is $8 for adults, $5 for ages 61 and older and children 7 to 11.
But if you're a librarian or a library science student, you get in for free.
People can reserve tickets in advance by calling 260-399-7700, ext. 6056, or by going online at www.sf.edu/library/HollywoodLibrarian.