I firmly believe libraries can solve most problems we encounter in our lives. Maybe that’s just the bookworm in me, but I turn to libraries and their librarians for a multitude of issues I encounter. Have a research paper for class? Ask a librarian for sources. They always come through with so many sources I wouldn’t have found through cold searching. Want somewhere to hang out for a little while between appointments? Tables, chairs, and reading material galore for the picking. Have a new medical diagnosis or symptom? I’m at the library, reading up on others’ experiences, treatments, management, and more. Curiosity, fear, boredom, all of it sends me scurrying to the library.
It’s no surprise characters in TV shows and movies think the same thing when they encounter something new, something scary. Vampires, werewolves, old newspaper clippings, it’s all there ripe for the searching inside a library’s walls. Time and time again, especially in movies set in pre-internet days, we see our protagonist take to the library to find out how to kill whatever threatens them, be it monster or man.
Don’t believe me? Here are ten scenes from movies and TV shows that prove the library can save lives after all.
Stranger Things (2016 – )
In season 2 when Dustin finds himself caring for a strange new pet monster, he heads to the library to figure out how. In true bookworm fashion, he tries to check out more than the 5-book limit on reptiles, earning a scolding from the librarian. In season 4, Nancy and Robin have the same thought, using the library’s microfiche resources to find out information about their enemy in the upsidedown.
After encountering Pennywise, Ben decides to do some research on the town of Derry where strange things seem to keep happening. As he’s looking through a book on the town’s history and finds more and more tragedy in the pages, the patrons around him start to act strangely and Pennywise’s red balloon lures him down into the basement.
Tormented by a serial killer using the seven deadly sins to justify his killings, Detective Somerset turns to the classics. In the scene set after dark, classical music playing in the background, Sommerset plucks Canterbury Tales, The Divine Comedy, Dante’s Inferno, and more off the shelves to help their investigation.
Intrigued by an urban legend about a woman who kidnapped a baby and went on a killing rampage in the ’70s, Anthony, a visual artist, goes to a housing project in Chicago to find inspiration for his art. In a laundromat in the area, a man tells him the story of Candyman, the spirit of a man who was killed by police after being falsely accused of putting razor blades into candy. Where does Anthony go to learn more about Lyle and the Candyman? The library of course! Catch a glimpse of the scene in this trailer:
The Changeling (1980)
New York composer John Russel moves to Seattle, Washington after his wife and son die. In the mansion he’s renting, though, he starts to hear banging on the walls and hidden, closed-off doors. To research the history of the house and find some answers, John takes a trip to the library.
Zodiac is rife with references to the library. Investigating the serial killer who terrifies the police and public with his cyphered letters and open taunting, Robert Graysmith, does some code-breaking with the help of, you guessed it, library books. There’s also a scene in a nondescript newspaper archive, a evidence reveal involving the sealing of books from the public library, and many-a-mention of going to the library.
Urban Legend (1998)
After a series of murders on her college campus appear to be based off of urban legends, Natalie heads to the library to do some digging. Using the Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Natalie and Sasha start making connections to the real-life murders happening around them.
Lovecraft Country (2020)
Traveling the country in the 1950s, Tic is in search of his missing father. On the journey, though, he encounters many strange things and discovers a connection to a bloodline full of powerful magical powers. We see Tic doing some library-based research in episode 4.
Curious about other movies and TV shows that have scenes in a bookworm’s favorite place? Check out this list of great library scenes and film or this breakdown of scenes at libraries around the world!