Geek Culture Promotional poster for the Librarians on TNT

Published on January 6th, 2015 | by Elizabeth Willse

The Librarians: Recap of the Series So Far

It sounds like a typical semester of library school. An intellectually curious group with disparate skill sets gets thrown together, researching in the library stacks, learning from experienced mentors, sharing their skills on group projects, and developing competency in ready reference, leadership, problem solving, and acquisitions and collection development, with a focus on special collections and archival management. They work with questions of ethics and professionalism in becoming a coherent team. And, of course, they track down and preserve key magical artifacts, escape the clutches of the Serpent Brotherhood and save the world.

Okay, maybe The Librarians isn’t as rooted in the principles of traditional librarianship as it is a goofy romp of an adventure that balances genre cheese with several smart touches.

Just about at the midpoint of the series, which airs on Sunday nights on TNT, it’s safe to say I’m thoroughly hooked on both the series and the discussions springing up on the Twitter hashtag #TheLibrarians. While the series builds on some of the concepts of three made-for-TV Librarian movies starring Noah Wyle (Quest for the Spear, Return to King Solomon’s Mines and The Curse of the Judas Chalice), the series pulls in enough context to stand alone reasonably well.

Here’s what you need to know to settle in for a good binge-watch and catch up.

Screenshot from The Librarians: Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen & John Larroquette as Jenkins

Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen & John Larroquette as Jenkins

We have Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle), the Librarian, accustomed to working alone and not training newbies. We have the grumbling Jenkins (John Larroquette), who just wants to be left alone in the stacks.

The new Librarians arrive on the scene in the pilot. Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), former NATO agent, kicks butt in great fight choreography. Ezekiel Jones (John Kim), a thief and mischief-maker, seems to be out for number one. Jake Stone (Christian Kane), a taciturn country boy who has an encyclopedic knowledge of art and history. Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) can solve complex math and physics problems in her head.

Screenshot from The Librarians episode "The Horns of a Dilemma"

L to R Librarians-in-Training Eve Baird, Jake Stone, Cassandra Cillian, Ezekiel Jones

These librarians are somewhere between Indiana Jones and Encyclopedia Brown: solving puzzles and tracking down magical artifacts to save the world, learning as they go, facing certain death, and learning to trust one another.

With silliness, banter, and tons and tons of snark.

Thus far, they have gotten lost and found in the labyrinth, met Santa with varying degrees of skepticism, and each had an opportunity to chew some campy, evil scenery thanks to the Apple of Discord. For more detailed episode recaps (obligatory spoiler warning!) see posts by Kammie Settle on I won’t be the first to point out similarities to Warehouse 13, or Leverage (no surprise, considering the number of show personnel who are alums of Leverage.)

Screenshot from the pilot of The Librarians

The Librarians saving the day with the ingredients from a picnic lunch in the series premiere. Just go with it .

While it would be easy to dismiss the show as a goofy genre cheese-fest, I’ve been consistently impressed with the level of detail that goes into character development, both at the individual and ensemble level. Slightly silly setups like the need to escort Santa to safety, or a doorbell that wasn’t the pizza delivery arriving, give characters reasons to stretch their beliefs and their comfort zones with surprising levels of depth. Adventures that split the librarians into different pairings give them a chance to navigate their skills and their level of trust in an impressively nuanced way. Yes, this is definitely genre cheese, but it’s genre cheese that skirts a few obvious tropes with impressive thoughtfulness. (I have some reservations about one or two characterizations, most notably the bubbly-girly strain seen in Cassandra Cillian, the hallucinating mathematician. That may be fodder for a separate post.)

#TheLibrarians hashtag on Twitter is enough fun to warrant making time to watch The Librarians live on Sunday night. Some of the show’s writers are Tweeting and blogging behind-the-scenes tidbits and look like they’re having great fun with the fans. Some of the show writers are especially responsive and whimsical with fans on Twitter: : Geoff Thorne @GameofThornes, Jeremy Bernstein @fajitas and especially John Rogers @jonrog1. Rogers is warm and funny with fans on Twitter and posts a weekly Q&A for fan questions about episodes.

Best of all, there’s been some outstanding, timely social media outreach from the Cincinnati Library @cincylibrary, live-tweeting during episodes. Here’s a sampling from recent weeks.

Browsing through their entire Twitter feed, which I did after noticing them on #TheLibrarians hashtag, it’s clear that the Cincinnati Library is consistently terrific on social media: blending whimsy and relevance to showcase the collection. A good lesson for any library on using pop culture effectively.

So are these artifact-finding, world-saving, bantering librarians really… librarians? They know how to solve puzzles with esoteric knowledge. They’re willing to work as a team, and hash out their ideals as they grow and learn to make the world a better place. If you really squint, you can see hints of metaphors for open stacks versus closed stacks, classroom versus practicum, and the evolution of information-seeking in some elements of the show. (You really have to squint, though.) The MLIS program I just finished definitely didn’t cover swordfights, dragons or labyrinths (I knew I should have done the archives concentration!) I’ll keep watching, blogging, and staying curious about how the show will play out.

I’ll be back next week with more on The Librarians.

The Librarians airs on TNT on Sunday nights, at 8 PM, Eastern.

About the Author

Elizabeth Willse is an academic librarian and the author of the book Using Tablets and Apps in Libraries. She tweets @ewillse and blogs about books, librarianship and pop culture at Surrounded by Books.

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