Motion Picture Research Libraries

Nontraditional Workplaces for Librarians

Motion Picture Research Libraries? I've Never Heard of Such a Thing!

When you think of a library, the natural instinct is to then think: books. It may come as quite a surprise to find that there are entire libraries dedicated to Motion Picture Research and Archiving. Three of the most prominent are: the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney's Animation Research Library, and the Lucasfilm Research Library.

Librarian duties may include, but are by no means limited, to:

  • Digital Archiving- digitizing photos, manuscripts, posters, etc. in order to preserve materials and make them more accessible to the public.
  • Cataloging- items used in production, duplicates, etc.
  • Storage and Conservation- maintaining temperature and humidity controlled rooms with sensitive documents
  • Providing Education
  • Research for Production- providing historically accurate details for set designers and costumers, providing artist with inspirational materials, fact checking plausibility of scenarios, etc.
  • Basic Reference Duties

Examples from Librarians

  • Mary Ann Williams, Digital Archivist for the Disney ARL: "Many of our requests can be quite challenging, but one of the more odd questions in recent history was for artwork featuring eyelashes-made by production staff while working on The Princess and the Frog. I suppose they wanted to make Tiana’s eyelashes really sparkle!" ("Disney Animation Research Library")
  • Jo Donaldson, Manager, Lucasfilm Research Library & Robyn Stanley, Research Librarian: For the Indiana Jones movies, we provided story research on a wide variety of subjects to George Lucas, and costume and set research for the designers. We often get interesting requests during the script development phase which sometimes requires contacting experts in various fields. For the infamous “nuking the fridge” scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we contacted a nuclear physicist to discuss the plausibility of various scenarios. ("Lucas Film Research Library")