Finding the other librarian stereotypes in animation

Shermy in the series finale of Adventure Time, “Come Along With Me”

Continuing from my posts the last two weeks, Jennifer Snoek-Brown lists another stereotype of librarians, referring to who she calls “liberated librarians,” referring to a “trapped/naïve woman who discovers herself…with the help of a man or in face of an adventure/disaster,” usually as young women, and often “undergoes a change of appearance,” but is not “that committed to libraries.” It can also refer to men in a similar situation, who need an “outside force or action to aid in or instigate “liberation”.” She notes a number of other stereotypes: male librarians who are “failures,” with their failings “suggestive of flaws” in the library and prison librarians often fitting in this category. Those in this stereotype are middle-aged to old, dress conservatively, and are “uncomfortable in social/outside world situations.” In complete contrast to this is the stereotype of a spirited young girl who “works in the library—only a temporary job—and usually meets the leading man while working,” usually referring to a young woman, who has modern and fashionable clothing, is physically attractive, and is “intelligent and often spunky.” Then, there is the naughty librarian, embodied by either men or women, a person who is “flirtatious or sexually charged.” Just as bad is the librarian who is comic relief, and is “usually the target of jokes.” Finally, there is the librarian as an information provider, either providing information/or misinformation to a character, notes the importance of rules, and is “identified by occupational tasks.” Those in this role are supporting or minor characters, come in a variety of ages, are racially diverse, and their roles are often “too brief to establish personality,” meaning they are only listed as Librarian in the credits. In this post I’d like to highlight, when, and if, these stereotypes appear in animated series that I’ve seen. I have currently not seen any animated series which fulfill the stereotype of a librarians as a spirited young girl or a “liberated” male or female librarian, so they are not included in this post.

 

Male librarians who are “failure”

Mr. Snellson in Mysticons

Mysticons has an episode (“Happily Never After“) where there is a fight in the library. The Mysticons are inside the library, trying to stop Proxima from getting starfire ink. While the librarian, Mr. Snellson is curmudgeonly and smug (two big stereotypes), he ultimately helps them and saves them from being trapped in a book world which he had created for them. Sadly, the library is partially destroyed during the battle with Proxima, but most books are left untouched. It is worth noting that the library is only accessible with specific permission, a bit archivy, as it is a “special library,” which I’ve talked about on this blog before.

 

The librarian who is comic relief

Unnamed librarian in Steven Universe

In the episode “Buddy’s Book,” there is a running gag of the librarian going “shh” everytime Connie or Steven speak to too loudly, as TV Tropes notes. I’m willing to accept the argument by Jay, a children’s librarian, that the episode is a “fun and funny episode about research and narratives,” and what Sean pointed out, the modern library ecstatic was interesting even though an older look could be better because “all the books in the library where written by a guy who lived at least a hundred years ago,” making it a book depository rather than information center, which Jay noted. Additionally, it is great that libraries are magical places within Steven Universe, even though they aren’t literally magic, and are important to the story even as they are questions about how Steven hasn’t gone to the library or even knows what a library is before this. As such, some hated the episode, claiming it “adds absolutely nothing to the season’s plot or the world of Steven Universe,” not recognizing its importance at all. Sadly, we don’t know the person who voiced her. However, this librarian has the same taste in literature as Greg (or perhaps Rose), so that’s interesting. One critic for the School Library Journal described it as “a librarian was shushing the kids all the time,” saying it “looks like nothing so much as a library that has failed to get additional funding.” On the positive side, the library itself is beautiful and there was a comic in 2020 where Steven learned the organizational power of librarians. And the same librarian is shown and she doesn’t shush them this time and is helpful! Why couldn’t the episode have shown that! There are some great moments of that, like Connie lamenting that “all the powers of bibliographical organization” failed her.

 

The naughty librarian

Yamada in B Gata H Kei

Yamada with a BB gun and Kosuda with a camera to watch the stars

Multiple times, Yamada tries to get down with her crush, Kosuda. In the episode “Boy Meets Girl. Please Give Me Your ‘First Time’!!” [part 1], she is assigned to be a school volunteer at the library as is Kosuda. Yamada says she didn’t like the library because it smells but fantasizes about hiding spots to have love with Kosuda. She tries to seduce him there and it fails. In a later episode, “A Valentine of Sweat and Tears! Love(?) From Yamada is Put Into It” [Part 1],  Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. Then, in “Improve the Erotic Powers! It’s My First Time Feeling This Sensation…” [Part 2], they are both in the library again, with Yamada trying to get Kosuda interested in her romantically again. This doesn’t work, leaving her alone in the library after he leaves, he then comes back and is embarrassed by her actions. In the first of these episodes, she does perform some library duties, but she is mostly trying, and failing, to get Kosuda to like her in a long list of failed attempts, as she learns more about herself along the way and who she is as a person.

 

Librarian as an information provider

Dr. Oldham in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Dr. Oldham is a librarian and a medical doctor, working out of his own library atop a spire, equivalent to an ivory tower. Oldham has a shelf of books on various subjects, what I would call a reference shelf. In the first OVA episode for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (“Far Beyond the Voyage” part 1), we see another library on the ship where Dr. Oldham looks at records, lots of them gathered together! The library featured in the original series does not reappear in these episodes. However, the presence of Dr. Oldham, acting as a librarian is still interesting as these episodes further explore his character.

Turtle Princess in Adventure Time

This is from “Fionna and Cake and Fionna” (s9ep12). It’s Ice King reading his story in a library.

In the episode, “The Real You” (S2ep15), the Turtle Princess, who runs the library (and is basically serving as the sole librarian) kicks out Finn and Jake before which Finn says they were “enthusiastic about learning” which is an utter lie. Then, in the episode “Paper Pete” (s3ep22) they visit the library once more, and the Turtle Princess, apparently the only librarian of this library, tells him to “shush,” another librarian stereotype, while other beings, who are patrons, sit at desks behind her. In later episodes, the library is mentioned, with other characters adding books to it (“Gotcha!“), it is included in a flashback Finn has in “King Worm” episodes, and the bedroom of the Turtle Princess at the top of the library is shown in “Princess Monster Wife.”

Mrs. Higgins in Sofia the First

An old and White librarian with a strange accent, Mrs. Higgins is, unlike librarians in other series, helpful to Sofia and her friends, pointing out where the books that talk about how to be a princess are located in the library of the Royal Preparatory Academy where she works. While she helpful to these patrons, even giving them too books which are her favorites, she is clearly a stereotype, almost falling into the category of spinster librarian, but not doing so because she is actually nice to those coming to the library. So, this is only a partially positive depiction. It could have been better if she was a person of color as well, but the people who created this series decided to not make her one.

 

Additional: Boastful/inspirational librarian

Unnamed librarian in Sofia the First

While I think he may be uncomfortable in social situations outside the library, he doesn’t fall neatly into any of these categories, so I made one just for him. And he declares that he built the library and filled it with books, claiming that “not many have been able to follow in my footsteps.” He tells Sofia, also in the library with her horse, that the ultimate test lies before her, that she may have put everything on the line to defeat the evil. However, he is white, older, and has glasses, so he is still a stereotype, sadly.

Published by histhermann

Marylander with MLIS who loves archives, libraries, genealogy, reviewing pop culture, and writing fictional stories. UMD '19 & SMCM '16 grad. I've been running various WordPress blogs for a while now, about genealogy, libraries, archives, and more.

6 thoughts on “Finding the other librarian stereotypes in animation

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