Libraries in the Mainstream Banner

One of the Fox network’s biggest hits of the year, Glee, is a very charming musical parody of the stereotypical high school universe in a ho-hum Ohio town. Lucky for me, an addmitted “Gleek” (no matter how much I despize that marketing term), Season 1, Episode 4 (“Preggers”) features a brief mention of libraries. High school football star, Finn Hudson says the following during a deep, personal conversation with his Glee Club coach/Spanish teacher:

“I got this at the school library. Did you know you can borrow books from there? All of ’em. Except for the encyclopedias.”


Why this quote matters

Though written and delivered somewhat tongue-in cheek, this remark would make my childhood librarian roll over in her grave. I fully understand that some young people may not realize that encyclopedias are for library use only. They may never have touched a printed encyclopedia in their lives. However, not knowing that libraries exist to circulate books free of cost is alarming. Within the diegesis of the show, Finn is a high school upperclassman, which would land him at about 16 years old, born in 1993 or so. Looking back at my high school years, which weren’t that long ago (2001-2005), a large part of my high school language arts education involved learning to write proper research papers and, specifically to use both electronic databases as well as traditional encyclopedias. At this point in my academic career, I am very grateful that my school had the resources, both in the form of the databases/encyclopedias as well as teachers and librarians, to equip me with these skills. While I fully acknowledge that many schools and even libraries can no longer afford to provide all print and electronic reference sources to their patrons, I’m absolutely floored that someone soon to graduate from high school wouldn’t know the purpose of a library.

Again, I totally get that this is a show, specifically a high school [musical] parody show, but the joke does come loaded with some interesting implications.

For other quotes unrelated to libraries, check out the Glee Quotes page at the Glee Wiki, and the Glee IMDB listing.