Loving the Library

A message from Curator of Film Dean Otto:

Loving the Library

This week—April 19-25—is National Library Week and we’re so lucky to have such a wonderful library system in Louisville that allows us all access to the Kanopy streaming service. As things started shutting down during the early phases of the pandemic and I knew I would be working from home for a while, I had made a note to stop by the library to load up on books and videos. However, I wasn’t fast enough and they closed before I could make it there. The library has so many e-books and videos to stream, but I do miss browsing through the stacks.

That ability to wander through the stacks is what led to my exploration of film. While growing up in Janesville, WI, I would bike down to the library and spend hours just exploring. I would grab a stack of books and records and sit at one of the tables with a record player and headphones and just loose myself in discovery. When I found J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Midnight Movies book, I discovered a new genre of films that I had to unearth.  There wasn’t an art house cinema in my town, but there was one 45 minutes away Madison, Wisconsin. I spent many hours delving into film history, carefully honing my list of films that I’d see when I left my hometown. Through the library I also found the New York Times and the Village Voice film reviews that helped to pad my list.  When I started college with my list in hand, I was ready to spend hours of bliss in the darkened spaces of the campus film societies, the Majestic Theatre—the art house, and the screenings for Communication Arts classes. I would get the syllabi for all of the classes and crash the screenings. My passion for film was ignited by the library.

Kanopy has a fascinating documentary that it perfect for National Library Week. On Kanopy you can stream Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris, his film on the New York Public Library. Wiseman has a unique approach to documentary film-making with long takes, no formal interviews, and no voiceover. This allows the viewer to become immersed in the worlds of the institutions he explores.

Ex Libris goes behind the scenes of one of the greatest institutions of knowledge in the world and reveals it as a place of welcome, cultural exchange, and learning.  With 92 branches throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, the New York Public Library is committed to serving as a resource for all inhabitants of its multifaceted and cosmopolitan city, and beyond. The library exemplifies the deeply rooted American belief in the individual’s right to know and be informed. It is one of the most democratic entities in America—everyone is welcome. The library strives to inspire learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen communities.