Categories
adventure animation fantasy Fiction genres Latine people Librarians Pop culture mediums speculative fiction

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Mateo in “Elena of Avalor”

One of my favorite librarians, if you could call him that, Mateo in Elena of Avalor.

Hello everyone! This continues from the “Fictional Librarian of the Month” entries for November and December, with this series focusing on fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently shows, but also covering older shows, using entries from the “List of fictional libraries” from time to time. This month, I’d like to highlight Mateo from Elena of Avalor, who is also a wizard!

About the librarian

Mateo, whose full name is Mateo de Alva, is one of the closest friends of Princess Elena, whose namesake is in the series. He is a defacto librarian and is Latine, with his voice actor, Joseph Haro, a Miami-born gay actor with Cuban parents.

Role in the story

Mateo is a supporting character in Elena of Avalor who first appears in flashbacks in the film Elena and the Secret of Avalor and debuts in the show’s first episode, “First Day of Rule.” He helps Elena by serving as her advisor in royal matters and as a friend, as she faces off against villains and attempts to protect her kingdom.

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

In some ways, Mateo does because he is a Latine man who does not shush people, like many librarians have in animated series covered on this blog, he also bucks stereotypes of Latine people. He is not a cholo (a criminal / gang member), a immigrant, a person a homogeneous origin, a hard labor worker, shows any sort of machismo, or uneducated/lackadaisical, is all of the stereotypes of Latine men. [1]

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

Not necessarily. I can’t think of any Latine men in any series I have watched who are librarians. So, that makes him a unique character in many ways, many more than one. That is part of the reason I put together this post, so as to highlight not only one of my favorite characters but a character who is unlike other librarians on this blog.


Notes

[1] Latine women have, according to scholars summarized by the same Wikipedia page, been depicted in popular media as passive, dependent on men, sexy, promiscuous, tempestuous, hot-tempered, virginal, less intelligent, passive, and aggressive, leading them to be eroticized, especially in the marketing industry.

Categories
action animation comedy fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction Trans people White people

Sarah, the book jail, and the “sanctity of library property” in “Too Loud”

As you all might remember, back in February 2021, I wrote about Too Loud, a short-lived animated series, for I Love Libraries, calling it a “example of libraries in animation” which viewers of all ages can “enjoy its message about the value of libraries.” However, the above shown episode is something I’d like to revisit in this post. When writing that article, I was under the impression that my articles for I Love Libraries needed to be positive and upbeat, resulting in me downplaying some criticisms I had when shows portrayed libraries in a negative way, so I’d like to revisit that, building on my original perception that the episode “does sound pretty negative.” [1] In the future, I may revisit some of my other posts I wrote for I Love Libraries and be more critical than I was in the past. This post is part of that. I know that not everyone will agree with everything I write in this post, but decided to write this post anyway, even though it is obviously not comprehensive on any of the issues addressed in this article, only touching on the surface of them.

The episode begins with Desiree (presenting as Jeffrey), Sarah, and Sara crossing off late returns from the list, with Sara saying they don’t mess around with late library books. The viewers then see a book jail of offenders which is guarded by Mildred, another librarian. Desiree confirms that, declaring that as librarians they rule “with a iron fist.” This is a terrifying thought, with librarians coming and repossessing books through use of force, and it scares Sarah so much that she doesn’t even want go along with the scheme, at first.

They go to find the last book on their list, about juggling, but the person, Logan, says the book “ties the room together” and that it is his copy, closing the door on them. So, they break into a person’s house to get an overdue book. Sarah is unsure about this plan, calling it extreme, but Desiree keeps talking about the iron fist of the librarian and tells her to think about the “sanctity of library property.” Sarah agrees to help them and sneak into the house, becoming a rat queen, with Sara and Desiree distracting Logan. Eventually they get their handle on the book, with Sara describing it as “library property.” After the room collapses, it turns out the book they had grabbed is the wrong one, with Jeffrey having the book in his “cavernous pie hole” but had forgot to re-shelve it. Following this, Sara and Sarah leave, while Desiree is left there, as a piece of the drywall comes and seems to kill (or injure) Logan, and the episode comes to a close.

When I originally looked at this series I said that Sarah, Sara, and Desiree learn the less that “being punitive with those who have overdue books is not worth it.” I don’t think that’s the lesson at all. Instead, I think this episode is highlighting the importance of proper organization and cataloging. If Desiree had cataloged the book correctly, then it wouldn’t have been on the overdue visit in the first place, and this whole incident would have been unnecessary. More than that, I would say this episode shows how libraries can be punitive with wanting to protect their property and implying the interconnection of this with the criminal legal system, embodied by the book jail:

You could easily interpret that the episode as criticizing this punitive nature of libraries. Even so, the episode is relatively short, not even six minutes long, so there isn’t that much time to explore these themes. However, the episode can still be related to how libraries, in the real world, work with the criminal legal system and the police force, something which has been contentious in recent years. This came to the fore when it was noted by Teen Vogue that the budget of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) prioritized policing since John Szabo became the head of the library system,  with organizers finding that 5% of the library budget went to security in 2020 alone, and funneled toward the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Other libraries have done the same, like Austin Public Library and Denver Public Library, while there has been cop-free library movements in “St. Louis, New York City, and at Ivy League University libraries.” A similar movement at the St. Louis County Library, the latter which was successful, and efforts to replace “police with social service workers,” while community policing is used by the LAPD in libraries themselves was also noted. This is all part of a push for more library policing. This has been resisted by groups like the Abolitionist Library Association (AbLA), described as “a group of library workers, students, and community members who aim to divest money from policing in libraries and redistribute resources to communities.” AbLA defines themselves as supporting a world without prisons or policing, with a goal to “create libraries that are rooted in community self-determination and intellectual freedom through collective action,” achieving this by establishing a group of “library and information workers to support each other in doing divestment work,” sharing ideas, support, and strategy for “abolition in libraries,” along with “creating and sharing resources about ending police involvement in information spaces and…pressuring stakeholders and decision-makers to divest from police.”

Whether you agree with AbLA or not, the fact is that libraries are intertwined with police departments in their respective cities and/or institutions. This makes sense since libraries are public entities, part of the government, university, or other institution, not something separate, for the most part, with some libraries created and run by their communities as an exception. Library literature itself, as noted by Ben Robinson in the publication In the Library with the Lead Pipe, often encourages library staff “develop close relationships with local police and security guards without considering the negative effects this closeness can have on patrons who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC), people experiencing mental illness, and people from other marginalized communities,” even though research has shown the latter. Robinson argues that in order to make libraries safe places for everyone, those working in libraries need to “incorporate insights from other disciplines into their practice and begin to meaningfully address the complicated roles of police and security guards in the public library.” Other articles noted that some libraries are revisiting how they have historically interacted with police, whether through hosting “police-led community programming…hiring off-duty police as security officers, or calling 911 on disruptive patrons,” with divestment for police also argued for by the Library Freedom Project.

There is evidence that public libraries in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Washington State, California, and Baltimore, teamed up with police to share their data. If libraries are willingly partnering with police, letting them provide security, and supporting them in different ways, then how effective can libraries be in “stopping the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts Black youth” which ALA President Wanda Kay Brown believed that libraries could do? It seems that if a library partnered with police it would invalidate any positive good which would come from anti-racist action. This would even be the case for the library preserving the websites of police unions, organizations which support the police no matter what, even if they brutalize and hurt people.

I would further argue that this episode of Too Loud notes the connection between libraries and the criminal legal system rather than accepting it  as a norm. While I don’t want to overthink this topic, I do think the fact that the books are described as “library property” that needs to be kept no matter the consequences to patrons is an interesting theme. It can easily be connected to the punitive nature of the criminal legal system, with some libraries coming down much harder on patrons than others. And this feeds into stereotypes about libraries, manifested by librarians aggressively shushing patrons in animated series after animated series. However, Too Loud does not fall into that stereotype. Instead, this enforcement, the library bringing down its “iron fist,” is just seen as part of the library itself.

Perhaps that is the takeaway from this episode, that libraries are not always the rosy places we see them as, but can have a “dark side” as it could be called, which can be punitive. This makes it no surprise that some are intimidated by libraries, as fines can be punitive in various ways, especially since fine-free initiatives have not reached all libraries, with some sticking to it, even if it draws away patrons. Unlike Little Free Library and others, which actively cooperate with the police,  from what I remember, no police are ever shown in the public library in Too Loud, nor is the library flying any flags which support police unconditionally. That doesn’t mean that police don’t exist, in that world. By having something like a book jail, the library is clearly supporting the criminal legal system, if we are to take the visualization of the book jail seriously, and not as something that Sarah created in her head, which is a possibility, I suppose.

With an episode that is so short, there are a multitude of explanations here, but I believe that people can take from the episode, at most, about the interconnection of libraries and the criminal legal system, and at minimum, about the too often punitive nature of libraries, even those which have committed themselves to anti-racist actions. While the latter has been addressed with fine-free initiatives, the former has largely been kept in place in many libraries. With continued police brutality and terrorizing of certain populations, in the U.S. (where the library in Too Loud is undoubtedly located), libraries should rethink their relation to police and make sure they are not playing a role in supporting oppressive systems. You could say there are many reasons you could come up with for using police presence in a library, especially for security reasons, when it comes to stopping so-called “problem patrons” (i.e. usually unhoused people), “theft,” or people protesting sensible mask mandates. Such approaches are often not done while considering that bringing police into a library will push away patrons, especially Black and brown people, who do not want to be in the same place as those who brutalize their communities, and the fact such people will not feel safe in those spaces. These approaches undermine the role of the library as a community space for all.

In the end, the Too Loud episode, “Checked Out,” could be interpreted in so many ways, and I’m, personally, not sure which interpretation is the right one, and which is the wrong one. One conclusion that could be drawn from the episode is that libraries, and librarians by extension, are not neutral, but rather they are political institutions which are part of oppressive systems, whether they state they are, or not. Just as museums, archives, and other cultural institutions are not, and have never been, neutral, the same applies to libraries as well. That could be the biggest takeaway from this, as they are not shown cooperating with the police directly like the superheroes in DC Super Hero Girls in many of the episodes, and rather are enforcing rules on their own. With that, this post comes to a close.

Sara declares a book on the shelf is library property and must be seized

Notes

[1] In an email on Feb. 2, I told Lindsey Simon, formerly of ALA, this, adding that I wasn’t sure about the episode, and saying that I believed they learn a lesson in the end, as the house the library is in literally collapses, adding that the book jail may be imagined, or even real, maybe in Sarah’s mind. Also, the post’s original title was “Having fun in the library: The uniqueness of “Too Loud”” but that was changed before its publication.

Categories
animation anime Comics

Recently added titles (December 2021)

The students in an episode of Girl Friend Beta (“Sweet Bitter Potato”) look in the library at old school records in a short scene to help solve a mystery.

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, October, and November, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during December. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries in December, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics. Hopefully there are more that I find in 2022.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • The Freak Brothers episode 6, “Gender Non-Binary”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • Girl Friend Beta episode 5, “Darjeeling with Everyone”
  • Girl Friend Beta episode 6, “Sweet Bitter Potato”
  • Girl Friend Beta episode 7, “Doggy & Scramble”
  • Komi Can’t Communicate episode 7, segment “It’s just a library”

Comics recently added to this page

  • Lady Knight, ep. 20, “With Honours”
  • Like Wind on a Dry Branch, ep 51, “To Each a Secret (8)”
  • My Awkward Princess, ep 29, “Help me study president’
  • Rêveal, “Ep. 011 – Girls Like Gifts, Right?”

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Thank you to all the people that regularly read my blog. As always, if you have any titles you’d like to suggest, let me know. Thanks!

Categories
animation anime fantasy Librarians Libraries

This blog in 2021 (and beyond)

Doctor Strange surrounded by books in a magical library in an episode of What If…?

In my last post in 2021, I thought I’d review what I’ve posted on this blog in the past year. From my first post on January 5, until this one, I’ve written about library stereotypes, library classification, librarians of color, library users, records, library workers, non-human librarians, and romance. Other posts have focused on LGBTQ librarians (esp. gay and lesbian ones), male librarians, female librarians, censorship, abandoned libraries, ethics, data files, jokes, and more.

For the whole year, apart from the archives on my homepage, for old posts, nine posts garnered a significant amount of views:

Of these posts, three of them, at least, focus specifically on Librarians of Color, specifically the first one listed here about the unnamed librarian in We Bare Bears, the second one listed about the vampire librarian, Sophie Twilight, in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood, and the seventh one about the librarian-soldiers in Library War. While I would note how many posts I have used the “librarian of color” tag, I know it is probably not even 50%, so I don’t even want to calculate that, as I’ll just end up depressing myself in the process, although, I may expand this in the future with other posts on other shows like Kokoro Library and Armed Librarians: Book of Bantorra. [1] While some of my best posts in 2020 were about POC librarians, like ones on librarians in Revolutionary Girl Utena, Gargantia (Dr. Oldham), Ascendance of a Bookworm (Myne), or Read or Die / R.O.D., some of my favorites, other than those on the above list, are as follows:

Of these posts, I loved watching Mira, Royal Detective, especially since it has a nice song and dance about the importance of libraries, reading, and learning. So, that was nice.

There was also a related post on BIPOC librarians in animated series (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Yamibou), a guest post on Reel Librarians, rehashed shows I watched in 2020, which I enjoyed writing. I hope that in the future I can write other guest posts on Reel Librarian.

In 2021, posted about recently added titles in July / August, September, October, and November, and added a page about librarians, and libraries, in comics and webcomics. I also began series about fictional libraries and fictional librarians of the month. I expect that will continue until sometime next year.

I liked writing about Kaisa in Hilda (also see here), the chief librarian, and Black woman, in the series Welcome to the Wayne, Clara Rhone, and the British wrestler-librarian, the wonderful buff librarian, in an episode of Totally Spies. The same can be said about the librarian protagonists in Too Loud, the vampire librarian Sophie Twilight and the value of weeding collections, and the quiet sanctum and “peaceful” reading in the Seiran Academy library in Dear Brother. I also proposed the Librarian Proposal Test in August 10 in a post about the We Bare Bears, and expanded upon it on August 31.

Onward to a productive year ahead!

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Others may include Craig of the Creek, The Loud House, China IL, Clone High, The Amazing World of Gumball, and Castlevania.

Categories
anime Libraries rural libraries

Fictional Library of the Month: Library in “Kokoro Library”

Hello everyone! This is the second edition of my new feature, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the one for November) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, let be begin with my second entry on the library in Kokoro Library.

About the library

The library is isolated on a mountain so there are few users, removed from where people live, and is relatively inaccessible as a result. However, the people who live and work there are dedicated to their jobs and their librarian work.

Role in the story

The series is set on a small library located on an unpopulated mountain, where there is a quiet girl, a strong-minded girl, and a girl who has the same name as the library, Kokoro.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

The library doesn’t fall into the stereotype of being abandoned or unkempt, even though there are very few patrons. Instead it is more like a rural library than anything else, something which I haven’t seen in animated series up to this point, although that could change, of course.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

It has some similarity to the library of George and Lance in that it is a place where people live, but other than that it is unique all on its own. It isn’t like any library in any series that I’ve seen to date.

Categories
animation Librarians Trans people White people

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Desiree in “Too Loud”

Desiree introduces themself in the episode “Slumber Party!”

Hello everyone! This continues from last month’s first “Fictional Librarian of the Month,” and features one fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently shows, but also covering older shows, using entries from the “List of fictional libraries” from time to time. This month, I’d like to highlight Desiree in Too Loud, the only trans librarian I have ever written about on this blog. [1] Hopefully there are more trans librarians in the future I can write about!

About the librarian

They are one of the protagonists in the series, called by a different name in the series, [2] one which I noted when I wrote about the series earlier this year for I Love Libraries. This, is, except for the episode “Slumber Party” where Desiree is shown as a closeted trans woman. Anyway, Desiree is a protagonist in this series, as a librarian along with their sister, Sara, and later another librarian, Sarah.

Role in the story

In the series, which talks about the importance of friendship, togetherness, and acceptance, Desiree is right at home. They help in the library every day, with patrons, problems, and other issues, anchoring the show. In the aforementioned episode, their friends are supportive, and has been described as positive representation which will “not only help fight stigma and help kids realise being trans is a positive thing, but also helps transgender kids and teenagers feel seen and supported.”

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

In a major way since Desiree is talkative while most librarians are shushing people, smashing that stereotype into a thousands pieces. In another way, Desiree breaks stereotypes by being a trans librarian. In the episode “Slumber Party,” Desiree, saying it feels “really good as a girl,” meaning that they are a trans woman, as Colaleo confirmed. The friends at the party say that she is their friend no matter what, whether as Desiree or their other name. However, since Desiree is still in the closet, they present as someone else for the rest of the series. [3]

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

In the sense that Desiree is a White woman, yes, they have similarities with Kaisa in Hilda, the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe, and Francis Clara Censordoll in Moral Orel, to name a few series. However, Desiree is different because they are a trans woman, albeit a closeted one, so that makes Desiree’s character unique.


Notes

[1] There are a dearth of trans characters in animation, the positive ones including Professor Caraway and Snapdragon in High Guardian Spice, a trans woman, Zadie, in the final episode of Danger & Eggs, Jewelstar in one episode of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Natalie in Big Mouth, Marbles, Cha-Cha, Glitter, and Marshmellow in Bob’s Burgers, along with Barney in the upcoming DeadEndia.

[2] The name is Jeffrey but Desiree doesn’t prefer this name. As pronouns are not known post-transition, I opted to choose they/them pronouns here, as he/him pronouns are usually chosen in the show, but it not known if Desiree would choose these after a transition, and she/her pronouns are not used for Desiree in the episode itself.

[3] This connects with other episodes about the value of friendship, whether at a competition or at a birthday party.

 

Categories
animation anime Comics Japanese people Librarians webcomics

Recently added titles (November 2021)

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, and October, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during this month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether graphic novels or webcomics. I did learn recently that Ascendance of a Bookworm is on Crunchyroll, with a banner reading “I’ll do anything to become a librarian!” so I’m really looking forward to the next season of that.

Antonia Rodriguez is thrown forward when Wonder Girl crashes through the window of the library

Animated series recently added this page

  • The Ghost and Molly McGee episode “Monumental Disaster”
  • Young Justice episode “First Impression”
  • Young Justice episode “Tale of Two Sisters”

Anime series recently added this page

  • Girl Friend Beta episode “Our First Promise” 
  • Girl Friend Beta episode “Blue Melon Buns”
  • Girl Friend Beta episode”Cameras and Shortcake”
  • Girl Friend Beta episode”Cats and a Rainy Night”
  • Komi Can’t Communicate episode “It’s just stage fright plus more”
  • Komi Can’t Communicate episode “It’s just a joke plus more”

Comics recently added this page

  • Everywhere & Nowhere, episode 1
  • Everywhere & Nowhere, episode 197
  • High-Class Homos, episode 22
  • Sabine: an asexual coming-of-age story, “One Hundred Five,” issue #109; “One Hundred Six,” issue #110
  • Sword & Sphere, episode 33
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 3, “The Tutor (Part 1)”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 4, “The Tutor (Part 2)”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 7, “Math is Hard”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 10, “Confrontations (Part 1)”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 11, “Confrontations (Part 2)”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 69, “Tell Me”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 70, “Deal”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 71, “Change of Plans”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 88, “Lunch Tutoring (Part 1)”
  • The Kiss Bet, episode 89, “Lunch Tutoring (Part 2)”
  • The Newlywed Diary of a Witch and a Dragon, episodes 26-31, 33-34

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Thank you to all the people that regularly read my blog. As always, if you have any titles you’d like to suggest, let me know. Thanks!

Categories
animation Black people fantasy Librarians Libraries

Fictional Library of the Month: George and Lance’s family library

Hello everyone! Like my last post, I am beginning a new feature which I’m calling “Fictional Library of the Month” with posting one fictional library every month, prioritizing those in shows currently airing, but also including those in older shows. And with that, let be begin with my first entry, the library of George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, located in the Whispering Woods.

About the library

The library is a residence, a library/archives/museum all in one. It contains books collected by George and Lance, the fathers of Bow.

Role in the story

The library first appears in the episode “Reunion” where Adora and Glimmer stumble upon it when worried about the disappearance of Bow, and they meet him and his dads there. While there, a monster is released and Bow reveals he is a fighter for the Rebellion to his dad. The library again appears in the episode “Return to the Fright Zone” when it is damaged and left abandoned.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is a place to live and a library, yes, but the fact that vines grow on the outside gives it the appearance of being abandoned, which plays into library stereotypes.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Not really. There really aren’t any family libraries in other series that I know of, so that makes it unique in and of itself.

Categories
action anime fantasy Japanese people Librarians

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Fumio Murakumi in “Girl Friend Beta”

Kokomi Shiina (left) thanks Fumio Murakami (right) for giving her information about the whereabouts of Chloe Lemaire in the first episode of Girl Friend Beta

Hello everyone! In order to ensure I have enough posts on here, hopefully one for every week, I’m starting this new feature, which I like to call “Fictional Librarian of the Month” with one post of a fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently airing shows, but also covering those in older shows, only focusing on the ones which are not problematic in one way or another, whether falling into stereotypes or something else. [1] Without further ado, let me begin with my first entry, Fumio Murakami (voiced by Kaori Nazuka), in the 2014 anime series Girl Friend Beta which I’m currently watching.

About the librarian

Murakami is a third-year student on the library committee who has partly braided silvery-blue hair. As such, she is a librarian of color, and is friends with many people in this Japanese high school. She works at the library only two days a week, Wednesday and Friday.

Role in the story

Murakami debuts in the show’s first episode when the show’s protagonist, Kokomi Shiina, comes there in hopes of finding Chloe Lemaire, a French exchange student, at the school, as Lemaire dropped a photograph and Shiina wants to return it to her. In the second episode she helps Kokomi when she wants to ask about dieting but do in such a way that it doesn’t embarrass her. In the third episode, Erena Mochizuki tries to recruit her to be a model, but her friends describe Murakami as introverted and hard to approach. This backfires as it gives Mochizuki her more motivation, with Murakumi tentatively accepting it, and later regretting this choice. She later tells Mochizuki that she can’t be her model as she feels the photographing of her throughout her life is too disruptive, although she believes she said it the wrong way. She continues to be close friends with Mochizuki, who tells her she has many expressions and there are wonderful things about her she hasn’t even noticed. She ultimately is glad she agreed to model as she got new friends while photos of her won a contest.

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

In some ways she does in that she does not shush anyone, is dedicated to her work, and is willing to help patrons by answering requests. She also is much more than a librarian, not chained to her desk, guiding patrons to the resources they need and not trying to assume what they are asking for in terms of book selections. She also is introverted and her favorite hobbies are reading and pressing flowers, so in that way you could say it might be stereotypical, although there is more to her character than these traits, however. She clearly doesn’t like people invading her personal space, like Mochizuki who thinks of her as a model in the show’s third episode, and that sentiment is understandable. She says that she is alone because she gets absorbed in her books, not that she doesn’t want to connect with others. She does ask Mochizuki to be quiet, while others are in the library, saying she will disturb people, but doesn’t shush her. She may also be a lesbian, as she seems to show some attraction to Mochizuki, who asks her out on a date in the show’s third episode. Both are close friends.

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

As Girl Friend Beta is a romance anime set in a school, it is different than something like Library War, but there are other librarians like Murakami who work in school settings like Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D. the TV, Yamada in B Gata H Kei, Anne and Grea in Manaria Friends, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers, and Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!. This makes Fumio Murakumi the twenty-fifth Japanese female librarian featured on this blog, including those in Library War, the unnamed librarians in that Cardcaptor Sakura episode, and many others.


Notes

[1] For instance, Himiko Agari, a librarian who appears in Komi Can’t Communicate, will not be included in these lists as she is a masochist who wants to be the “dog” of the protagonist, Komi, which is just…weird and makes me uncomfortable to write about, as it also feeds into lesbian stereotypes.

Categories
action animation Librarians Libraries White people

Is Kaisa, the librarian in “Hilda”, experiencing burnout?

Poor Kaisa, she just wants to finish her library tasks of re-shelving books, but Hilda has to be persistent.

When I first wrote about the librarian in Hilda for I Love Libraries, I was excited. In the process, I accepted removals of some content in hopes that would allow it to be published. And the article was published in September of last year. One of those removals was a description of a season 1 episode where the librarian, at that time unnamed but later is revealed to be named Kaisa, being exhausted and fatigued. I’d like to focus on that aspect of the episode in this post.

Jade Geary and Brittany Hickey in an article for In the Library with the Lead Pipe use the definition of Christina Maslach, a creator of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) with Susan E. Jackson, defining it as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind.” Geary and Hickley note that the primary factors which lead to such burnout are: “an unsustainable workload, role conflict and a lack of personal control at work, insufficient recognition or compensation, lack of social support, a sense of unfairness, and personal values that are at odds with the organization’s values.” This is coupled with concepts of burnout like feelings of detachment and cynicism from a job, a lack of accomplishment, sense of ineffectiveness, and overwhelming exhaustion, while physical symptoms include hypertension, muscle tension, headaches, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, cold/flu episodes, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name a few.

Now, the question remains: Is Kaisa experiencing burnout, or what could be called “librarian fatigue” (or just “librarian burnout”)? Well, in the episode “Chapter 9: The Ghost,” Hilda, Frida, and David enter the Trollberg library. They see Kaisa behind the circulation desk and she is putting books on a cart. Hilda asks for information about ghosts and Kaisa guesses what Hilda wants (a book on getting rid of ghosts) before Hilda can say anything else. She pulls the book back, saying the book “just slipped,” and she wasn’t recommending it. Following that, we see this expression on her face:

While she seems dedicated to finish her task of reshelving books, pushing a book cart, she is intrigued when she learns about a ghost which used to clean Frida’s room, striking that itch in her brain, and her interest. So, she begins asking Frida about the ghost, bringing the conversation to a morbid place, saying that “the hardest thing about dying is leaving all your stuff behind.” Frida, Hilda, and David determine that the book Frida lost was owned by the ghost. Somehow she knows the exact location of the ghost who “took” Frida’s book an when she is asked by Hilda if she knows the location of every grave, she scoffs. So, she climbs up to a tall ladder to find the city records to double-check herself. In the book of city records, what she finds confirms what she said before. When Hilda points out she said the same thing before, she denies that it is true. She then secretly gives Hilda the tools to raise the dead, and warns her that using them will break the veil between the world of the dead and the world of humans. Hilda insists that she needs the tools, Kaisa tells her it will be “fun” and she climbs back up the ladder to shelve the city records book.

Now, this library scene itself is not even two minutes long, only one minute, 33 seconds by my count, to be exact. Her demeanor during this exchange, with a demanding patron (in the case of Hilda) points to emotional exhaustion. Scholars Thomas A. Wright, Russell Cropanzano, and Dov Zohar describe it being exhausted by your work and being “emotionally overextended,” manifested by physical fatigue and feelings drained emotionally and psychologically. [1] How about depersonalization? Well, scholars Mauricio Sierra, German E. Berrios, Daniel Hall-Flavin, Filip Radovic, and Susanna Radovic define this as being detached from one’s self, in terms of their body or mind, or when one is a detached observer of themself. [2] The best example I can think of is how Jahy, in The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, acts in the 10th episode “The Magical Girl Will Not Lose!” when she feels she is working as a server at the pub on autopilot, without much thought. It doesn’t seem that Kaisa is experiencing this. Evan so, she does seem to downplay her personal knowledge, when she scoffs at the idea that she knows all the cemetery records by heart and denies when she finds the same information in city records. I would argue that qualifies as “reduced personal accomplishment.” So, you could say that Kaisa exhibits many, but not all, of the qualities of burnout.

On the other hand, we can’t say for certain that her workload is sustainable or unsustainable, if she has a lack of personal control over her workplace, is insufficiently compensated or recognized, or has a lack of social support, all of which are said to be main factors which lead to burnout. She also does not seem to have personal values which are not in alignment with the organization’s values. While she clearly shows pride in being able to answer questions and show her knowledge, she also seems to doubt herself and her accomplishment, as she could have saved herself the trouble of looking through the city records and could have used her own knowledge instead. But, you could also say that perhaps this was a plan by Kaisa all along so she could separate Hilda from the rest of her friends and give her what she needed to raise the dead. So, maybe she could see the future and let it unfold this way in order to assist Hilda and her friends. If that is true, it is ingenious.

Kaisa excited while reading a book which abstracts city records

We do not know how many other people work at the Trolberg Library and hopefully she isn’t the only one! Since viewers never see her home life, we will never know if Kaisa experiences colds, flues, muscle tension, hypertension, headaches, disturbances in sleep, or more, as a librarian. However, her experience of librarian burnout/fatigue is not unique.

For instance, the librarian in Prisoner Zero (literally just called “Librarian” and is never actually given a real name) who is exhausted by his duties and was the first character I saw as showing librarian burnout. Furthermore, there is the unnamed female librarian of color in We Bare Bears, who looks like a spinster librarian in some ways, wanting to enforce the rules, and becomes frustrated with the protagonists “so much that she leaves them and walks away,” arguing that perhaps she “can’t deal with them and has been through a lot that day, is overworked, and needs a break,” even though she goes on a short break, and she even lets the protagonists sleep in the library! Unlike her, Kaisa is White, so she isn’t experiencing from some level of race fatigue. [3]

All in all, librarian burnout/fatigue is undoubtedly something which librarians need to discuss more openly. It is also something that should be shown more directly in depictions of librarians, so they are more realistic as to actual librarianship, not seeped in stereotypes of excessive shushing or penalizing people for the tiniest infractions (like overdue book fines) with draconian rules that make librarians out to look as some sort of villains, portrayals which hurt the profession.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This comes from Wright and Cropanzano’s 1998 article in the Journal of Applied Psychology entitled “Emotional exhaustion as a predictor of job performance and voluntary turnover” and Zohar’s March 1997 article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior entitled “Predicting burnout with a hassle-based measure of role demands.” There are many more sources on the citation list on the Wikipedia page for emotional exhaustion, but these are two of the sources on that page.

[2] This summarizes definitions noted in a 2001 The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease article by Sierra and Berrios entitled “The phenomenological stability of depersonalization: Comparing the old with the new,” Daniel Hall-Flavin of The Mayo Clinic in a page entitled “Depersonalization-derealization disorder,” and F. Radovic and S. Radovic in a 2002 Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology article entitled “Feelings of Unreality: A Conceptual and Phenomenological Analysis of the Language of Depersonalization.” Other sources can be found on the citation list of the Depersonalization Wikipedia page for starters.

[3] April Hathcock defines race fatigue as the “physical, mental, and emotional condition that people of color experience after spending a considerable amount of time dealing with the micro- and macro-aggressions” that happen in the presence of White people.