Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Case Study No. 0180: Miss Bookhart

Tomes & Talismans - Episode 01 - Tomes Entombed - Part 01 Of 02
Tomes & Talismans was a 1986 educational television series produced by Mississippi ETV, consisting of thirteen 20-minute episodes presented as a dramatic serial story. Each episode defines, illustrates, and reviews specific library/research concepts.
Tags: Episode 01 Tomes Entombed Part
Added: 1 year ago
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Chapter 1
Tomes Entombed
April 15, 1985
Crew, Breland
Length: 18:50
Director: Anderson


NARRATOR: Atmospheric pollution and overpopulation were serious concerns on Earth by the end of the 21st century. Human movement was severely limited. The Wiper colonization of 2103 could not be stopped. This primitive species from the Dark Star solar system found Earth perfect for their favorite pasttime - the disruption of all communication and data technology. The spread of Wipers and pollution increased the need for the scientific search for solutions. In 2117, the Worldwide Government voted for the gradual evacuation of all Earthlings to the White Crystal solar system. This report was completed in 2123, during our final days on Earth. We leave it, for those who may return here, in the Storage Vault for Human Learning, the last Earth library.
[scene opens with Lester and Ms. Bookhart typing on an old-fashioned computer, surrounded by card catalogs and bookshelves]
BOOKHART: Well done ... but a bit depressing, huh Lester?
LESTER: Yeah. Uh, what was that tape number again?
BOOKHART: Double oh six dash eighty four.
[Dundee enters carrying a newspaper]
DUNDEE: Look at the headline.
[the camera focuses on the headline, which reads "World Wide News Final Edition: Final Evacuation Set for Today!"]
BOOKHART: That's excellent! We must include it as one of the final items in the last library! Put it on microfilm and file it, Dundee!
DUNDEE: Right ...
[Dundee leaves]
BOOKHART: Now, is everything complete?
LESTER: The books about the history of the Wipers on Earth, shouldn't they be over in fiction?
BOOKHART: No, I want all the history books about Wipers to stay on the non-fiction shelves at 909. That's where they belong, according to the Dewey Decimal System. 900 through 999 are the call numbers for history and geography.
LESTER: Right! But, how will those who return know where to find the books that they need? How will they know what a call number is, or even what the Dewey Decimal System is?
BOOKHART: Lester, Melville Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal System precisely to help people find the books they're looking for. See on the wall?
[camera zooms in on a poster of Dewey Decimal classification numbers on the wall]
BOOKHART: I'm sure they'll be able to learn the system just as we have.
LESTER: I'm sure too, but--
BOOKHART: And to help them, I've prepared a complete set of instructions programmed in the computer.
[the computer screen flashes the message "Welcome to the Library Archive - The programs in this computer have been designed to help you use this library. For a list of programs key in LIBRARY", as Ms. Bookhart goes over how to use the Dewey Decimal Classification System]
BOOKHART: Here's the Dewey Decimal Classification System. In the card catalog, they'll find subject, title, and author cards guiding them to books based on facts and information.
LESTER: Oh yeah. You mean nonfiction like, uh, history, science, and art.
BOOKHART: Exactly, Lester, and they'll find cards guiding them to made-up books, written purely from the author's imagination.
LESTER: You mean fiction, like "The Golden Wiper Mystery" by Sandford Byte!
BOOKHART: That's always been your favorite, hasn't it Lester?
LESTER: Well actually, I prefer "How to Eat Fried Worms" by Thomas Rockwell ... but who listens to Lester around here?
[she gets up and starts wandering off]
BOOKHART: "The Great Brain" by John Fitzgerald and "Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell are two of my favorites. Oh Lester, I hate to leave these books behind. Who knows what will happen to all this when only the Wipers are left?
LESTER: Well, this library is well-hidden! I don't think the Wipers can find this underground vault, because it--
BOOKHART: I think it's more difficult to part with the fiction than nonfiction. But do you know what really seems impossible?
BOOKHART: Leaving behind all my reference books. All these encyclopedias with general information about everything we human beings know anything about!
[Lester rolls his eyes]
BOOKHART: And this unabridged dictionary, I've used it so often! It has definitions and pronunciations for every word in the English language.
BOOKHART: Look, here's the word "cloud." Seven definitions for a cloud, seven! And that's just for the noun!
[Lester rolls his eyes again]
BOOKHART: And to think, we will never see another cloud in the Earth's sky after today.
[a woman in glasses appears from the stacks]
MARGARET: Ms. Bookhart! Ms. Bookhart! Ms. Bookhart!
BOOKHART: Yes, Margaret?
MARGARET: I was making the final check of the nonfiction library and bookmobile shelves, and in the 909s there is a volume missing from the history of Wipers on Earth!
LESTER: Oh no ...
BOOKHART: Are you sure? I thought you and the others who were here checked those shelves days ago.
MARGARET: Well, they must have overlooked it, and now everyone is at the evacuation site and I can't find the book anywhere!
BOOKHART: Now, you're sure you were in the 909s, Margaret? Did you look at the labels on the shelves?
MARGARET: [offended] Yes, I'm sure I was in the 909s! Look, see here?
[she holds up Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of "The History of Wipers on Earth"]
MARGARET: See here? "The History of Wipers on Earth." They're all here, I'm telling you, every one except for Volume 3!
BOOKHART: Volume 3 ... That's the volume which covers the capture and defection of the Singing River Wipers! It gives the history of the Byte family, how they came to live as Earthlings. A great deal of information about Wipers ... Maybe it was mishelved. Lester, I want you to search the fiction section, particularly all the fiction ever written about Wipers!
LESTER: Okay, all the made-up books about Wipers, got it!
BOOKHART: Yes, Margaret can help you. Perhaps the history volume is mixed up with the fiction books about Wipers. Where's Dundee?
LESTER: Uh, you sent her to get a microfilm of the final edition of the World Wide News.
BOOKHART: Oh yes ... I'll go check with her, maybe she knows where Volume 3 is. Start looking now, we've only got two hours before we're due at the evacuation site!
[she leaves, then (once they make sure she's gone), Margaret and Lester both give out an annoyed sigh]
LESTER: Well, come on Margaret. Let's look in the fiction section, and look for the authors' last names.
MARGARET: [grabs his arm] Why?
LESTER: Because ... all the fiction books are on the shelves. In alphabetical order.
[Margaret shakes her head]
LESTER: By the author's last name!
MARGARET: Oh ... Wait, we don't know all the authors' last names! We can't even look for the author card in the card catalog!
LESTER: You're right ... Come over here, Margaret. C'mere!
[they head for the card catalog shelves]
LESTER: Now, we can look up the titles in the card catalog.
[he pulls out one of the drawers]
LESTER: Now, there's a card in here for each book title. The cards are in alphabetical order. The author's names are right on the title cards, so we could get the authors' names off the title cards and look for the books on the shelves!
MARGARET: But, we don't have the titles of all the fiction books about Wipers!
LESTER: Well, I guess all we know is that we want all the fiction books about Wipers.
MARGARET: Sigh, we don't know the authors, so we can't look for author cards. We don't know the titles, so we can't look for title cards.
LESTER: But, we do know the subject! We can look for the subject cards!
MARGARET: And the subject is ...
LESTER: Wipers! That's it!
MARGARET: Oh yeah!
LESTER: We'll look at the subject cards under "Wipers!"
[he looks at one section of the card catalog]
LESTER: "Ti through Un" ... "Up through Vu" ... "W through Wi," Wipers! This is it!
[he pulls out the drawer]
[he starts flipping through cards filed under "Wipers" ... even though the cards themselves are for books with titles like "Adventure holidays" and "The Age of Beethoven, 1790-1830"]
MARGARET: Gosh, I didn't know there were so many books in here about Wipers!
LESTER: Well, this is the official Earth archive on Wipers. We have all the books about Wipers here. Now, we better start making our list of the fiction right now ...
[he takes out a pen and paper]
MARGARET: But, the cards for the fiction and the nonfiction books are all in here together. We only need the fiction books, so how do we know the difference on these cards?
LESTER: Well, by the call numbers. See, here, in the upper-lefthand corner. These are numbers that tell us where the books are on the shelves.
[he stops at the card for "Golden Wiper Mystery" with the call number "F B"]
LESTER: Fiction books, though, have an "F" and the first letter of the author's last name.
MARGARET: Well, which ones have the Dewey Decimal numbers?
[he flips to the card for "History of Wipers on Earth" with the call number "909.8 B"]
LESTER: Well, the nonfiction books carry Dewey Decimal numbers and are shelved numerically. Fiction books use the author's last name, and are shelved alphabetically.
MARGARET: [excited] So we can tell the difference!
MARGARET: We need to find only the subject cards that have an "F" and the author's last name!
LESTER: Right!
MARGARET: [laughs]


[Ms. Bookhart finds Dundee in the microfilm room]
BOOKHART: How are you doing?
DUNDEE: Oh fine, I just finished the microfilm. Listen ...
[she reads from the microfilm screen]
DUNDEE: "Final evacuation of Earth is set for 15:00:00 hours today. The few remaining Earthlings are now registered at the evacuation sites. Classified workers, including the Earth mission teams, are preparing up to the minute records for our descendants who may, in the future return to Earth--"
BOOKHART: [curtly] Okay, that's enough Dundee. We don't have much time ... Do you know where Volume 3 of "History of Wipers on Earth" is?
DUNDEE: No, but have you looked in the checkout records? Perhaps it was checked out and never returned.
BOOKHART: We closed our checkout records weeks ago. We've had every book in this library or the bookmobile for over a week. There can't be any books left out there, unless ...
DUNDEE: Unless what?
BOOKHART: On the last run of the bookmobile, we were out in the Greenwood section of the city. We had the loudspeaker on, calling in the last of the books.
DUNDEE: Of course!
BOOKHART: Naturally, Sandy Byte came out to the bookmobile, his arms loaded down with books.
DUNDEE: That old fellow must've read three books a week ...
BOOKHART: A day! Anyway, most of the books he returned were about the Wipers, a couple his great-grandfather wrote.
DUNDEE: Oh yes, "Golden Wiper Mystery" by Sandford Byte.
BOOKHART: That's when I last saw it.
DUNDEE: Saw what?
BOOKHART: Volume 3! Volume 3 of "The History of Wipers on Earth!"
DUNDEE: Well then, Sandy gave it to you.
BOOKHART: Well, it was in the pile, but I'm not sure ... I don't think he actually gave it to me. He was still looking at a page, and then I turned to--
DUNDEE: [annoyed] Well then, he didn't give it to you! Why not?
BOOKHART: Maybe he just wanted it to take a few more notes ... I just can't believe Sandy would ever steal anything!
DUNDEE: Well, maybe he thought he could bring it to you later.
BOOKHART: Maybe ... Look, I could be wrong. Maybe he did turn it in that day, and it just got mixed up with the fiction books. Lester and Margaret are searching the fiction books right now.
DUNDEE: Well good, then it will probably show up.
BOOKHART: But if Sandy did keep it, I've got to get it back. It's essential to our archive. It is my duty to make sure that every important book be in this archive ... Listen carefully, Dundee. If Volume 3 doesn't show up in Lester and Margaret's search, leave immediatley for the evacuation site.
[she leaves, and Dundee follows after her]

DUNDEE: What're you going to do?
BOOKHART: I'm going to the Greenwood section, to the Byte home. Maybe I can find the book there and bring it back to the library on the way to the evacuation site.
DUNDEE: But isn't that a little risky? You only have two hours!
BOOKHART: There's enough time if I leave right now! Anyway, I don't really have a choice. Explain it to the others, will you? I'll see you there!
[she leaves]
DUNDEE: [yelling after her] But are you sure you're going to have enough ... time?


[Lester and Margaret are searching through the stacks]
MARGARET: Okay, our list of fiction books about Wipers is complete.
LESTER: Now, let's see if they're on the shelves. What's the first one?
MARGARET: Uh, "300 Light Years from Home" by Leonard Hope.
LESTER: Okay, where are the H's?
MARGARET: Okay, now you said the fiction books are on the shelf in alphabetical order according to the author's last name, the first letters of the name.
LESTER: Right! Okay, here the H's are! "Ha" ... "He" ... "Hi" ...
MARGARET: "Hills" ... "Holm" ... "Holton" ... "Hope, Leonard!" "300 Light Years from Home!"
LESTER: That's the right book!
MARGARET: And in the right place ... and it's not the missing Volume 3.
LESTER: Okay, what's next?
MARGARET: Uh, "The Golden Wiper Mystery" by Sandford Byte. Your favorite?
LESTER: ... The B's are over here, Margaret.
[they head to a different section of the stacks]
MARGARET: Sigh, where are the B's?
LESTER: Uh, well they're around here somewhere! I'll find them!
MARGARET: [starts reading from the shelf] "Babson" ... "Balzac" ... "Bennett" ...
LESTER: "By" is after that! Come on, down here ...
[he checks the lower shelf]
LESTER: "Brinkley" ... "Brown" ... "Burton" ... "Bush" ... "Byte!" Sandford Byte!
MARGARET: Oh ... and it's not the missing Volume 3 of "The History of Wipers on Earth."
LESTER: Oh boy ...


[Ms. Bookhart drives the bookmobile to an old cabin in the woods, where she finds a crazy old lady ripping pages out of books and throwing them into the fireplace]
OLD LADY: [looking up] Oh!
BOOKHART: What're you doing? What's happened to Sandy?
[the old lady starts dancing around and babbling nonsense]
BOOKHART: [starts backing away] Ah, right. Well, if you see Sandy, would you tell him that ... Oh, never mind, I'll tell him myself.
[she quickly exits]
OLD LADY: Oh ...


[Miss Bookhart is trying to use the CB radio in the bookmobile]
BOOKHART: This is Library Mission Team Member Bookhart, calling from coordinates 10-8. Emergency assistance requested.
[the radio only picks up static]
BOOKHART: Why can't I get through? Oh, Wipers jammed all signals!
[the bookmobile breaks down]
BOOKHART: Oh no, this can't be! I'm gonna be stranded ... Maybe there's some tools.
[she goes to the back of the bookmobile but finds nothing]
BOOKHART: Oh, what next?
[a hooded figure suddenly materializes behind her]
BOOKHART: Who are you?
UNIVERSAL BEING: I am a Universal Being, riding on a golden zephyr, weaving time and space.
BOOKHART: Can you help me?
UNIVERSAL BEING: From this moment you shall begin, passing the years ten times ten.
[he sprinkles some dust over her]
UNIVERSAL BEING: Sleep now in this place, appointed since all thought began, there is a wise and wondrous plan, of tomes and talismans ...
[she falls asleep, and the being disappears]


Ms. Bookhart ... Nicki Wood
Dundee ... Denise Halbach
Lester ... Michael Stewart
Margaret ... Shari Schneider
The Wizard ... Brian Ward

Producer/Director ... Les Anderson
Instructional Developer ... Constance Queen
Writer ... Denise Matthews

A Production of Mississippi Educational Television
(c) 1985, MAET



In 2123 humanity is evacuating Earth for the White Crystal Solar System, due to an attack carried out by the nefarious Wiper race, a group of aliens that are determined to interfere with communication and data technology. A special group is preparing a complete library of all Human knowledge which is hidden underground. Here, all fiction and non-fiction books are sorted by an alphabetical and numerical ordering system but an important volume is missing. A desperate search for it begins in the library in the outskirts of the city. The library team leader Ms. Bookhart, played by Niki Wood, is stranded in her bookmobile and is suddenly metabolically suspended for 100 years by a being known only as "The Universal Being". She awakens in a world under the control of beings known as "The Wipers" and is discovered by another group of extraterrestrials in the form of four children known as "The Users". The children, along with Ms. Bookhart, rediscover the hidden library, and in the course of the series she teaches them how to use it. In turn, they discover how to defeat "The Wipers" and create a communicator to call the Human refugees back to Earth.

Episode Guide
1. Tomes Entombed - overview of library/research skills and concepts
2. Fact or Fiction - fact and fiction; alphabetical shelving
3. Under Cover - parts of a book
4. In the Cards - card catalog
5. The System - Dewey Decimal Classification System
6. Information Quick - encyclopedia; typographical clues
7. Hidden Meaning - dictionary; thesaurus
8. Preference for Reference - special subject reference sources
9. Direction Unknown - maps; atlases; world almanac
10. SOS: Skim or Scan - skimming; scanning; paraphrasing; taking notes
11. Guide to Light - Reader's Guide; Children's Magazine Guide
12. Show and Tell - audiovisual resources
13. Final Report - summarizing reports; concluding research; bibliographic sources



If for some strange reason you've never heard of "Tomes and Talismans," just know this: it's quite possibly the finest post-apocalyptic educational series about library science ever produced by Mississippi Public Television.

Set in the year 2223, the thirteen-episode dystopian drama follows the saga of Miss Bookhart, an impossibly devoted - and improbably named - librarian. Earth has been colonized by a race of malevolent beings known as "Wipers," whose favorite pastime is the destruction of communication technology, especially books. After an unlikely series of events involving a bookmobile and some microfiche, Miss Bookhart finds herself the last human on the planet. She quickly befriends a group of extraterrestrial tweens called "the Users," and (spoiler alert!) through their collective mastery of library science - from the card catalog to "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" to the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature - they ultimately vanquish the evil Wipers.

By the time I watched it in Ms. Finke's sixth-grade library class in the early nineties, "Tomes and Talismans" (made in 1985) already seemed dated. As a sophisticated adolescent at the dawn of the grunge era, I of course laughed derisively at this ancient relic of the mid-eighties. "What's with that feathered hair? And all that canned expository dialogue about the Dewey Decimal System? I'd rather watch 'Voyage of the Mimi,' for crying out loud," I thought to myself while writing Pearl Jam lyrics on my backpack with Wite-Out. But on the inside, I secretly looked forward to each installment of the show, and not just because of the surprisingly catchy "Clockwork Orange"-inspired theme music.

During a recent bout of nostalgic procrastination (the best kind), I discovered that "Tomes and Talismans" had been digitized and uploaded to YouTube in its entirety (thank you, emjameson, whoever you are) and proceeded to watch more of the show than I care to admit publicly. Twenty-five years after it was made, "Tomes and Talismans" still provokes easy laughs: the hair still looks ridiculous, the acting is still wooden, and the talking computer still has a conspicuously Southern accent.

But as dated as "Tomes and Talismans" is in some ways, it's downright prophetic in others. The Wipers are nothing but a bunch of cyber terrorists (who, if they existed, would probably want to use one of these). Then there's the fundamental premise of the show, which is that books have been made obsolete. We're not quite there yet, obviously, but there's a moment in episode two that stands out as particularly relevant for today's dead-tree lovers. The plucky girl heroine Abakas - sort of a futuristic Kristy McNichol - is holding a book for the first time and can't mask her enthusiasm for this unfamiliar object. "The print in these bound paper sheets is readable, just as it is in the display terminal," she tells her brother, Aphos. "But the words remain affixed to sheets of material. They never disappear. It's permanent!" Aphos, a real stick in the mud, isn't so easily impressed. "It's primitive. These so-called books do not allow for instant information access," he says, showing off his giant computer.

When it comes to educational shows from the eighties, "The Voyage of the Mimi" might have had all the starpower, but "Tomes and Talismans" will always have my (book)heart.

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