A black and whote photo of a boy with a cap writing on a tablet hooked up to a box-style TV.
A young conference attendee using an electronic tablet at the Library and Information Technology Association exhibit booth at the 1982 Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Caption: A young technology aficionado at the Library and Information Technology Association exhibit booth makes his mark on a Telewriter II electronic tablet and sees it appear simultaneously on a video monitor.  Image and caption from the ALA Archives.

Librarians seized upon video technology in the mid-twentieth century to promote their services and instruct their patrons, and librarians today continue that tradition through the production of creative web videos and virtual tours.

This section lists early films produced by various libraries and their allies.  Please email us suggestions for additional films.

Enjoy the show!

Historic Videos

The Speaker (1977)

One of the most influential–and controversial–films in library history.  ALA produced this film to stimulate discussion about intellectual freedom. Recently, the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign digitized the film for the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom and made it viewable through YouTube. For commentary about the film’s historical impact, please see this ALA site.

Dewey Decimal System: “Library Organization” 1951 Coronet Instructional Films

This is a delightful film for students about using the library effectively.

Your Library Work Series: The Librarian (1947)

Fabulous primary source from the Prelinger Archives within the Internet Archive. A recruitment and occupational film by Dr. Arthur P. Twogood, a professor at Iowa State College!

Unusual Occupations (1942)

We’ve heard of bookmobiles but have you heard of the Edmonton Street Car Railway library?  Take a look.  Paramount Pictures produced this film.

Rockingham County Library Book Truck Visits School (1939)

Priceless silent film of librarians hard at work delivering books and learning to a school.  You’ll love the “library dog” too!

The Books Drive On! (1947)

Take a trip down memory lane with Miss Huron, the Huron County Library Bookmobile.

The University Library: Instructional film on how to use the library at U.C. Berkeley (1945)

Librarians use video tutorials today to introduce patrons to their facilities and services–check out this early example from Berkeley.  The tips about using the card catalogs are neat.

Library of Congress (1968)

Take a tour of the Library of Congress in 1968.  The LOC activities were shown to benefit Americans everywhere.

The Library: a family affair (1950s)

“Meet the Greens, a typical 1950s Brooklyn family that LOVES their library! Produced by the Brooklyn Public Library in collaboration with the Curriculum Division of the Board of Education, N.Y.C., this film details the myriad of services offered by the library and the then-cutting-edge technology used by staff and patrons. A must-see for Brooklynites and library fans!”

The Library Story / presented by Friends of the Santa Rosa Public Library (c. 1960)

“Presents the case for building a new public library in Santa Rosa, Calif., the city designed for living.”

The Library Story (1952)

Encyclopedia Britannica created this Hollywood-style promotional/educational film about libraries.  It is loaded with meaning and covers most major aspects of public libraries of the day.  It shows how each library service benefits the community.  The music is pleasant too!

The Library – A Place for Discovery

Beautifully-done film about a girl who learns to use many library tools to create a puppet show about Paul Bunyan for her school project!

Lectures and Documentaries

The Greenville 8

Jillian Costello, a ninth grade honors student in Rhode Island, created this outstanding and inspiring video about the Greenville 8, the eight civil rights pioneer who integrated the Greenville Public Library (South Carolina).

History of Digital Libraries, Part 1

Dr. Jeffrey Pomerantz, a Senior Researcher with the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research presents “a brief history of digital libraries, focusing on the National Science Foundation’s role in the 1990s, and the Gore Bill.”  Fascinating talk.

The Ancient Library of Alexandria

Few libraries are as intriguing as the Library of Alexandria.  This Library of Congress video features expert Hassan M. Eltaher discussing the fabled library.

Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library, Book Discussion

Dr. Wayne Wiegand, the Dean of American Library Historians, discusses his book at the Kansas City Public Library.  He “explains why libraries remain one of the country’s most beloved cultural institutions. Not only are they places for accessing information, they’re also valued as social spaces for promoting and maintaining community. For many including Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, their impact has been transformative.”

Columbus Library Desegregation Roundtable (Columbus Museum, Georgia)

“In the summer of 1963, nearly 40 African American teenagers protested the segregation of Columbus’ public libraries through organized “read-ins.” Though they faced scorn and arrest, the young people continued their silent protests for weeks, leading to the libraries’ desegregation. For the first time together, four of the activists – Christine Dawson, Gwendolyn Jackson, Ibrahim Mumin, and Cleophas Tyson – will share their stories. This roundtable was moderated by Dr. Wayne A. Wiegand, author of The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South. Learn more about this vital moment in local Civil Rights history with the people who lived it.”

A History of School Librarianship

Dr. Wayne Wiegand discusses his current research project — a history of the American public-school library.  Video produced by the Library of Congress.

History of GPO’s Federal Depository Library Program

The USGPO presents a history of one of the largest publishing and dissemination systems on earth.

The History of Libraries

Rebekah Hosford, Youth Services Librarian at Mount Pleasant Public Library, has produced a creative short video about the history of libraries and books in general.

History of Libraries and LIS Professions

C. Â-Re, a doctoral student at the College of Communications and Information at The University of South Carolina, created many great videos for the classes she teaches, keep scrolling to find her three part series on the history of libraries.

The History of Reading Public Library

Berks Community Television broadcasted this video of the history of one of Pennsylvania’s premier libraries.

Cleveland Public Library History

Cleveland Public Library has produced an excellent promotional film that incorporates historic photos and recollections.  I like the timeline and interviews with current librarians.

History of Intellectual Freedom and Censorship

A free archived webinar from ALA: “Join intellectual freedom educators and advocates Emily Knox, Joyce Latham, and Candace Morgan as they discuss the history of intellectual freedom and censorship, covering issues from the Roman Empire through today. Explore why knowledge of these topics and how they occur is critical to work as a librarian, library trustee, or library staff member.”

Free for All: Inside the Public Library

“A multi-platform project about America’s most beloved institution, where doors are open to all and everything is free.”  Take a look at the available videos of Robin Williams and others’ talking about libraries, and librarian relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy.  A project of Serendipity Films.


The Rise and Fall of the Great Library of Alexandria: An Animated Introduction

A well-designed TED-Ed animated video of the history of the Library of Alexandria created by Elizabeth Cox.  Accompanied by an article from Josh Jones at Open Culture.

A man talking into a microphone in front of the U.S. Capitol, which has construction scaffolds in front of it.
Librarian and civil rights advocate E. J. Josey speaking in front of the Capital Building during it’s re-facing project from 1958-1962.  Image and caption from ALA Archives.