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Countering the “shushing librarians” stereotype in animated series

A screencap from the fifth episode of the new series, City of Ghosts, “Bob & Nancy.” While these subtitles call it a “library person” (who later does the shhh! a second time), it is implied, if we use the stereotype as a basis, that this is referring to a librarian!

After watching the aforementioned series on Netflix, where an unnamed character shushes the protagonists, called a library person, but implied to be a librarian, as previously stated, I decided that it was time to examine shushing librarians in animation particularly since that’s the main form of popular culture I’ve focused on this blog. Clearly, the assertion by Beth Yeagley in 1999 that “wearing hair in a bun and shushing patrons” are gone and that librarians in major roles, between 1989 and 1999, are “portrayed even more positively than other movie librarians, especially regarding physical characteristics,” has not shown to not be true after that point. As such, this post analyzes librarians in DC Super Girls, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, The Owl House, Big City GreensCarl SquaredCourage the Cowardly DogKim PossibleThe Replacements, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Martin Mystery, Teamo Supremo, Codename: Kids Next Door, Dexter’s Laboratory, Timon & Pumbaa, Rugrats, and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, noting negative stereotypes in each of those series, along with a librarian in Archie’s Weird Mysteries countering the stereotype in an interesting way.

First, I’d like to summarize this stereotype, which is close to the Scary Librarian trope, related to other tropes like “sadist teacher,” “spooky silent library,” and “evil librarian.” More positive, obstinately, stereotypes, are “badass bookworm” and “magic librarian,” but can be problematic, as can the “hot librarian” trope. [1] There have been various explanations for this stereotype. Anna Gooding-Hall of Book Riot writes that the shushing librarian stereotype comes from the era when “libraries were silent, tomblike places where patrons were to be seen and not heard” which evokes a “petty tyrant enforcing a dumb minor rule to extremes,” the problematic idea of putting a shusher, often a woman, in a dominant position, and the fact that is “barely a match for reality” because such direct shushing happens very little these days. [2] Others have noted that this stereotype, manifested in a elder white woman as a ghostly librarian which famously appeared in the opening scene of Ghostbusters, the librarian with tentacles in Monsters University, or the librarian (Mrs. Lima) in Transformers: Rescue Bots. Librarians have rightly noted that librarians are more than “a silence-obsessed, stacks-dwelling hermit” or the middle-aged bun-wearing, shushing, and “comfortably shod” librarian. Librarians have objected to this, saying it is worrisome because they do not patrons to see them as someone to ignore because of assumptions they make about librarians from movie or TV show portrayals, waging war against these negative stereotypes.

Some have argued that that is a “lot to be said for shushing” because some patrons like quiet places, noted that there is still a need for “quiet” in our communities which should not be lost, or asserted that librarians themselves are perpetuating the stereotype in their actions. [3] The latter is the only one that seems to have some validity, even as some people do like quiet spaces, including this writer. On the other hand, it has been noted that there an ever-expanding, and exhaustive, list of job responsibilities for public librarians, coming far from the hackneyed hushing librarian stereotype, centered around personality traits, with libraries as more than warehouses that store books. A blogspot called Librarians on YouTube, abandoned over six years ago, says that many when they think of librarians think of “the stereotypical bespectacled old lady with a bun in her hair and a finger to her lips ready to shush anyone and everyone,” adding that librarians have spent a good deal of effort and time into breaking those stigmas, attempting to “highlight the breadth and variety of individuals…that make up this unique and extremely vital vocation.” [4] They add that still there is a “definite archetype” for how a librarian is supposed to act and look, which has permeated representation of the field, with librarians often ridiculed or portrayed with the “same basic broad strokes.”

As for Jennifer Snoek-Brown, she added that while she values the need for quiet zones in libraries, but that she will be in her community college library, “doing my job and helping my users — not with a bang or a whisper, but with a smile.” [5] Snoek-Brown says that this is close to the stereotypes of “spinster librarian” and “anti-social librarian” she has written about. I’d like to add to this based on a program which Snoek-Brown gave, titled “Shush-ers, Spinsters, and Sirens: Exploring Librarians in Film” which she shared with me when preparing some posts for Reel Librarians. In her introduction, she addresses those stereotypes, focusing on a number of Hollywood films with “Shush-ers, Spinsters & Sirens,” for instance. [6] Now, onto the series!

 

Female librarian in the DC Super Hero Girls episode “#SoulSisters Part 2”

While this librarian, voiced by Kimberly D. Brooks (a Black woman), is justified in telling Diana to be quiet, as her phone is loudly going off and disturbing everyone, and shushes Diana’s friend, Tatsu, pointing to a sign labeled “no loud fighting,” which is kind of hilarious. Then, she shushes Diana and Tatsu again, for the third time in the episode. The librarian then says no loud fighting is the best they can hope for in Metropolis. Diana and Tatsu proceed to fight in the stacks, quietly, until they cause all the stacks to fall like dominoes, then they are, rightly, kicked out of the library. That’s the only thing this librarian does right! I mean, they probably should have been told to leave the library much earlier, since they are literally fighting there.

Turtle Princess in Adventure Time episode “Paper Pete

In this episode, Finn and Jake go to the library, with Finn trying to perk Jake up, who is reading a book about Rainicorns, as his girlfriend is a Rainicorn. The Turtle Princess (voiced by Steve Little) shushes Finn because he is making “too much noise” (he really isn’t). When he shouts that there are pages coming out of the books (later identified as the paperlings, everyone shushes him. He later works with the pagelings to discover the secret lair of the Moldos, and the episode goes from there. The Turtle Princess shushing him added nothing to the episode and was not needed, as it could have been written a different way. One librarian writes about this episode, noting that while the silent library is a “quickly changing idea, it is…sometimes necessary for a librarian to moderate the noise level in the space so that other patrons are not bothered” but adds that while this is necessary, “people still negatively relate the stereotype to librarians.” The same blogpost points to the episode “The Real You” where Turtle Princess kicks out Finn and Jake from the library because of their nose, calling it a “harsh reaction.” I agree with that, it definitely a harsh reaction. [7]

Female librarian in Steven Universe episode “Buddy’s Book

In this episode, Steven walks into a library, with Connie at his side, and yells “Books,” excited to see them, with the female librarian, who is uncredited, immediately shushing him, leading him and Connie to speak in whispers. Later in the episode, the same librarian shushes Steven a second time. Later, at the end of the episode, Connie and Steven realize that all the books in the library were written by Buddy Buddwick, and the librarian again, and unnecessarily shushes them. Three times in one episode! That seems a bit excessive.

Male librarian in The Owl House episode, “Lost in Language

After Luz says that she will read a book in the library about the wailing star, the librarian unnecessarily shushes her. Not only was this unnecessary for the plot, but it fed right into the stereotype. Even worse, other patrons later shush Luz as she accidentally hangs onto a book and travels through the library. This makes more sense because they are studying, but still. Luz, along with Emera and Edric, is later kicked out of the library by the same librarian, who claims that they have made reading “far too fun.” What a putz! The male librarian is uncredited.

The Librarian in Big City Greens episode “Quiet Please”

Librarian literally threatens Cricket over making a sound

Cricket goes to the library with his book-loving sister, Tilly, after his dad, Bill, tells him to read a book rather than watch television, where he says an “endless catalog of books” will be available, clearly not understanding that libraries don’t have everything. Cricket, Tilly, Bill, and Grandma, go to the Big City Library. When they enter, Bill says “the library is a quiet place” and later says that the librarians take their jobs very seriously. They come across the librarian, voiced by Linda Hamilton, who tells them they cannot make any more sounds and that if they do, they will be banned for life! A kid nearby sneezes and she literally abducts the kid because they caused a sound. Yikes. As a result, the protagonists communicate in ASL instead, which is, as I noted in my newsletter back in September 2020, “”a good step forward in terms of deaf characters,” but I still don’t know why this stereotype was used, which is one of the worst stereotypical librarians I have EVER seen in animation. She later abducts a second person for making a sound. I mean, there is even a sign in the library saying “I want you to shut up.” Oh no. The one positive is that they get some books for Cricket to read, although he later hides from the librarian, who makes a sound like a snake and hisses, after making a loud sound. The grandma, after adjusting her hearing aid, gives the librarian what she deserves and shushes her. In the end, it becomes a horror movie, when the librarian whispers and gets all the other librarians to “assemble.” They somehow get out of there, but Bill is banned, by making a noise, from “all libraries across the globe.” That’s messed up. The Librarian is later shushing the narrator at the very end of the episode, as well.

Miss Dickens in the Carl Squared episode “Carl’s Techno-Jinx”

The episode of this Canadian series, also known as Carl2, begins when Carl’s friend, Jamie James, goes to the library, with Carl, to get an atlas to finish his geography assignment, and Carl doesn’t understand that librarians still exist, saying that everything in there, and more, would fit on his hard drive. The librarian cuffs him and interrogates him the back room of the library, because someone who looks like him (obviously his clone) had been taking books without signing them out (i.e. stealing them). Carl says he forgot and she shouts at him that he forgot about it 173 times, all the time his clone has been stealing from the library. She gives him until closing time to bring back the books, or the “mighty wrath” of the library will be brought down upon him. She then cackles evilly. His clone apologizes to Carl for taking the book, saying he wasn’t aware of those rules. The clone takes back the books and gives the librarian Carl’s library card, which she proceeds to put in a blender and literally drink. What. He tells Carl about what happened, with Carl asking if he really needs the library anymore because its the computer age, not the “Jurassic age.” He finds the one book about puberty the librarian says has been returned and he had it for over five years, with his friend saying the fine will be “sky high.” It turns out that Carl seems to have a curse on him, with Carl living on the tent outside. He has a dream where he returns the book and is eaten by the book return slip, which declares “if you can’t pay the fine, you must serve the time.” Carl’s clone signs up to be a library volunteer and the fine is forgiven. It turns out his clone had signed up to be the book fairy for storytime corner, with the librarian laughing maniacally.

Librarian” in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode “Wrath of the Librarian”

This episode, which followed the season 4 episode, “Cabaret Courage,” and was near the end of the series overall. Courage finds a book titled The Pixie and the Prickle Pirate which was supposed to be returned two years before, with Muriel, his caretaker, saying it is a wonder they haven’t all been sent to library prison. Terrified, courage returns the book to the nearby bookmobile, where the fine is said to be, as calculated on a cash register, almost $4,000 dollars! This is, after the librarian, as shown above, shushes Courage two times. The lions on the sides of the bookmobile tell him to return the money he owes. The book itself, cursed by the librarian, transforms Courage’s two caretakers (Muriel and Eustace) into characters in the book. They proceed to destroy some of the house, until they smash out of it, and into the wider world, as the Eastace-as-pirate, tries to kill Muriel-as-pixie, while Courage gets very injured, still holding the book in his hand, while everyone else cheers this on, for some reason. The two fight in front of a sign titled “Read the Book.” Courage goes to the nearby bookmobile, telling the librarian what happened, she shushes him, again, with the fine even larger now. He gathers money, at a show, to pay off the fine, but it is even larger now, absurdly, with Courage loudly objecting, as he should, with the librarian shushing him one more. The fine, ultimately, is $10,000.01, which is pretty ridiculous. The librarian appears out of the head of the snake at the end of the episode, shushing the audience.

Ms. Hatchet in the Kim Possible episode “Overdue”

Voiced by April Winchell, this librarian, who everyone in the school is afraid of, confronts Kim, telling her she has an overdue library book. She tries to explain to her, but the librarian tells her to be quiet, even having a button which says “quiet” and declares she has a “zero-tardiness policy,” suspending her from cheerleading until the book is returned. That’s way too harsh. Kim is forced to go to “library lockup” after school. It turns out that Kim’s friend, Ron, borrowed the book but forgot to return it. Kim is shown piles, upon piles of books, which she has to organize using the Hatchet Decimal System, meaning the library is based on the organizational system of the librarian. Oh no. Wade helps Ron find the book. In the meantime, the librarian keeps giving Kim busy work, like putting away books and putting labels on every book. He gives back the book (well, actually the wrong one), and says that there will be a day she will forget a book and that she will be waiting for her, as she laughs maniacally. She opens the book, and it releases spirits on the world, when it turns out he still has the overdue book. Oops.

Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements episode “Quiet Riot

Shushing the protagonists

In the second part of the show’s third episode, Todd goes in the library after his sister, Riley, takes him there, calling it a “cool place,” saying it is full of adventure, fun, and excitement. As soon as they go on, the librarian, named Mrs. Shusher, shushes them. She remains strict, taking away some of his items as “noisy,” shushing him a second time, after pulling up a sign titled “silence is golden,” and get shushed at again. While Riley still likes the library as a “wonderful sanctuary of peace and quiet,” but Todd is annoyed. Another student, Buzz, declares that libraries are for “nerds with mustaches.” So, using his phone, Todd calls Flemco and they send a replacement librarian who doesn’t hate noise, but is the opposite. Ms. Osborne, arrives and says that in the library “you do not talk, you rock!” This librarian is basically a punk rocker who declares you “don’t need no books,” with everyone in the school flocking to the library. Todd’s father says that libraries are awesome because you can jump over them and if you fall through them, the “books can break your fall.” When Riley tells her parents that Todd replaced the librarian with a rock-and-roller, his parents say this is “imaginative” and applaud it. Riley struggles to find somewhere to study. Eventually the punk rocker librarian is removed and Mrs. Shusher returns, as the library is cleaned up, with Todd admitting that they need “places for work, as much as we need places for play.” So, perhaps the episode is endorsing/supporting quiet areas of a library?

The Librarian” in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil

In the episode “If Books Could Kill,” after one of his friends returns the wrong book to the Mellowbrook Elementary School library, Kick, he tries to get his book back. But, the librarian (voiced by Suzanne Blakeslee) remains obstinate, literally closing down the library so he can’t get his book. As a result, he breaks into the library with the help of one of his friends to get the book back, trying to avoid the librarian, who is re-shelving books. She literally tries to kill Kick, throwing library cards, books, and other objects at him, later declaring that “everything in the library belongs to me, including YOU.” He escapes with what he thinks is the book, but it’s a trick. Not long after, he returns to the library on a bike, grabbing the book, only to be chased by the librarian, who rides a motorbike which is somehow behind the stacks. What kind of strange library is this, anyhow? They chase each other through the stacks as Kick tries to get his book back. He finally does get the book back and wins the battle against the librarian, even getting the sandwich his friend had accidentally put in the book slot. The librarian gets the last word, saying “you may have one this time, but you’ll be back. They always come back to the…LIBRARY!” and laughs maniacally. Over a season later, in the Season 2 episode “Shh!,” she reappears, when Kick has to go back to the library (begrudgingly) to research an animal, the Nuzzlet, for his report. He encounters the scary librarian, who says the next time he tries to get his book back, she will literally kill him. The Nuzzlet, of course, bites a hole in his bag and he has to chase it across the library, trying to act quietly when around the librarian, who is re-shelving books and is able to get to the study area, somehow, still with the animal. He gives the animal candy and it becomes a monster, which attacks him, biting him on the hand, comically, later throwing books at him. It even hilariously uses the card catalog to hit him across his body and later explodes the whole library, destroying everything. The librarian thinks Ronaldo, one of Kick’s rivals, caused the destruction and tries to kill him with a laser as a result of this. Again, a harsh treatment, which is unnecessary. The librarian apparently re-appears in the episode “Last Fan Standing.” At the end of the episode, Kick is crushed by a card catalog, just like the Nuzzlet did to him.

Libro Shushman in Teamo Supremo episode “Word Search”

Teamo Supremo and his friends travel to the State Library where they meet a librarian tired of people returning library books overdue so she “plans to steal all the words in the state using her Dictionary of Doom.” The librarian turns out to be a villain in this series and the main antagonist in this episode, sucking all the words from the books (and signs) in the library into her dictionary of doom, with Team Supremo and his friends trying to stop her. She even slides away on a slide-ladder to get away from them, ha. Her assistants trap the heroes in the library, between two bookcases, but they escape and stop her evil plans. The governor says their work will be included in the archives of superheroes, as the episode comes to a close.

Kaeloo in Kaeloo episode “Let’s Play at Reading Books

Kaeloo shushes her friends for making too much noise in the library

In the fourth episode of this French-Australian-Italian animated series, “Let’s Play at Reading Books,” a library forms around the show’s protagonists (Stumpy and Quack-Quack), thanks to Kaleoo (voiced by Emmanuel Garijo in French and Doug Rand in English dubs), and they play at “reading books.” Kaeloo says that in a library no one makes noise, and threatens her friends Stumpy and Quack-Quack for making any noise while reading books. Kaeloo, as the librarian, constantly shushes her friends for making a sound in the library. She says that Mr. Cat, her friend, can play “reading books” but can’t even make a sound “not any” because it is the rules. Stumpy, the squirrel, says he hates the library because he can’t find any comics or books with pictures, but finds one of their favorite superheroes. Mr. Cat steals the book of Quack-Quack, which is a little risque, as they both fight each other over trying to get the book. After that, Kaeloo goes through the library, throwing out the “not nice” and “dirty” books, getting so angry she burns them all in a fire, including the comics Stumpy likes so much, causing them to chase each other around the book fire. The episode ends with Kaeloo reading her friends a story to make up for what happened. All in all, this episode reinforces the stereotype of the library shusher, unfortunate for a series as fun and zany as this one. There are also scenes in libraries in other episodes, like one in the episode “Let’s Play Replicating,” where the clones of Stumpy, a squirrel and series protagonist, are reading books in a library. Additionally, in “Let’s Play Paper Balls,” Kaeloo is shelving books, getting some for her friends, including the Harry Rotter series, a spoof of the Harry Potter series, even directing her friend to another part of the library. Stumpy figures out a trick when a paper ball is thrown at Kaeloo’s head it changes her personality. When Kaeloo figures out they are tearing out pages of a book to make paper balls, she is annoyed that she becomes a monster, but her friends attack first, sending her far away. She later comes back, but she is so angry that she destroys the whole library in the process.

Rita Book in Timon & Pumbaa episode “Library Brouhaha”

I could have made many other screenshots, but these are all moments of the library being a total autocrat in the first two minutes of the episode! She later beats them with a baseball bat and shushes them

At the Don B. Loud Library, there are all sorts of signs telling patrons to be quiet and a library that runs a tight ship, even smacking a bird that comes by the widow and makes a chirp! Of course, Pumbaa, coming into the library, which is portrayed as a scary, foreboding place, knocks over the unnecessary library signs, annoying the librarian (Rita Book), who is voiced by Tress MacNeille, and her name means “read aloud” (the opposite of what she wants in the library) who shushes him, and he speeds up, saying that each of the books is a “doorway to adventure” and defends books when Timon says “books are for mooks.” They run from the librarian again, Pumbaa defines the term bookworm to Timon, with the librarian saying they will be “history” if they make “one more sound” and of course they make sounds, so she throws them out of the library. They sneak back into the library disguised as books, trying to find the bookworm, who keeps messing with them; the librarian beats them with a baseball bat and apparently kicks them out. Later, Timon puts headphones on her so she can’t hear them, with the bookworm continuing to mess with them, putting all sorts of noisy stuff in their way, and they continue to chase him throughout the library stacks, with the whole library being destroyed by their antics, later chasing him through various worlds created by books and films. Sadly, the shushing librarian gets the last word. There is an interesting contrast between the silence the librarian wants and the noise that Timon, Pumbaa, and the mischievous bookworm make, but no major point comes from this, unfortunately. So, in the time that Timon, Pumbaa, and the bookworm are in the other “worlds” they are unconscious, and who likely brought them to the hospital? The librarian! So, maybe they should thank her or at least understand things from her point of view.

Bat Librarian in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode “Mystic Library”

Bat Librarian threatens Raphael for making so much noise

In this episode, the turtles break into the public library to find information on how to save a creature from the mirror, with Donatello saying a library is a “treasure hunt” and that you never know “what gems you will find along the way.” They are transported to the Mystic Library by mistake. Donatello tries to talk to the Bat Librarian (also called “Yokai Librarian” in the credits of the episode), voiced by Gillian Vigman, who can’t tolerate even a small amount of noise inside the library. She shushes him and reluctantly helps him. Still, she tells him, and his friends (Leonardo and Raphael), that if she hears more than a whisper, her hush-bats will lock them up in the kiddie room, Donatello searches through the library catalog, finds where the book is. Ultimately, only Raphael of them is left and has to go through the library stacks, chased by the hush-bats. He gets the book, but much of the library is destroyed in the process.

Stickler librarian in Rugrats

Librarian annoyed with Kimi messing with the stapler on her circulation desk

In the episode”Quiet Please!,” they all go to the library, so their parents can return a book, with Chas saying that the library is a special place, with books taking you everywhere you want to go, and calls it your “special ticket to the world.” Chas also tries to get his children Kimi and Chuckie their own library cards. The librarian (voiced by Beverly Archer) agrees, handing him an absurdly high stack of papers, and outlines library rules: total silence, no food allowed, and all books have to be returned to the shelves. She says that the children of Chas are adorable…if they remember the rules. Chas tells Chuckie that the library card is his “ticket to the world.” Of course, Kimi says that the rules don’t matter, while Chuckie wants to stick by the library rules. While they all go to library storytime, Kira looks for Chas, her husband, while the librarian interrogates Chas on a small rip on a book. Meanwhile, Chuckie, and his siblings, look for his library card. The librarian tasks Chuck with doing various tasks to make the library more efficient. So, maybe she wasn’t the worst after all?

Honorable mention: Count Spunkulout in Codename: Kids Next Door 

Count Spunkulout after spanking Hoagie, Kuki, Wallabee, and Abigail

In the episode “Operation: C.A.N.N.O.N.,” Spunkulout (voiced by Daran Norris) joins several villains, attacking the Sector V Treehouse when its defensive systems are down, proceeding to spank Hoagie, Kuki, Wallabee, and Abigail for not paying library fines before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Yikes! If a librarian ordered that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Second honorable mention: Ms. L in Dexter’s Laboratory episode “Book ‘Em”

Dexter goes to the public library and a shape is seen in the distance, with music like that in Jaws, which ends up being his sister, Didi. He talks to her softly, saying you have to keep quiet because it is a library, with a sign behind him saying “silence is golden.” After checking out all sorts of books from the library, back in his laboratory, he finds a book that isn’t checked out that Didi brought back, and has nightmares about being banned from the library for life. He decides to return the book, breaking in at night to return it. Unfortunately, Dexter yells and two muscular men, led by the librarian (voiced by Kath Soucie), go to get them because they exceeded the “noise level,” absurdly triggering an alarm. Didi decides to give up, with the librarian congratulating her for “apprehending” him. As punishment for talking loud, Dexter has to tell a story at library storytime. In the episode “The Blonde Leading the Blonde,” Dexter has to return a book because it is three hours overdue. The librarian in that episode, voiced by Mindy Cohn is much more helpful, just doing some work on his library account and gives his card back. He doesn’t even have to pay a fine!

Third honorable mention: Librarian in Martin Mystery episode “Return of the Dark Druid”

The library in this university, Torrington Academy, was located on the “first floor with shelves of books that are stacked properly, wooden desks with tables, benches, chairs, computers, lamps and the librarian’s desk” as noted on the fandom page. The episode begins with one of the characters dropping a bunch of books she had balanced on her head and everyone else in the library shushing her. Martin talks to her and sings loudly, causing the glass to shatter, and the librarian to scowl at them, leading them to leave the library. In this case, getting angry at Martin, and Diana by extension was definitely justified. After they leave, some students walk by and laugh, but the librarian does not shush them. Still, you could say she falls into this stereotype, in terms of her portrayal as a scary, menacing figure. They later go to a local records center/historical society/local library to learn more about the local town, but no librarian is present there. In the episode “The Warlock Returns,” there is another librarian, younger and still with glasses, who says there are books in the basement of the library which allow one to view valuable books about local legends. Of course, he sneaks down into the basement, finds a book, and has the librarian get annoyed at him (rightly so) for going down to the basement. He escapes out the window and somehow survives without getting terribly injured. Later, he returns to the basement in hopes of stopping the evil wizard he freed from turning everyone in the school into small animals. On IMDB, neither librarian is unfortunately not credited, as is typical for animated series, sadly.

Countering the shushing librarian stereotype?: Librarian ghost in Archie’s Weird Mysteries

Librarian ghost talks to Jughead and explains her actions

In the episode, “The Haunting of Riverdale,” Riverdale is haunted by a ghost librarian, Violet Stanhope (uncredited), who is “apparently liking her job too much.” Archie tells Jughead to go to the Riverdale Archives to dig up any similar occurrences, but he runs away, so Archie goes to the library by himself. He talks to the librarian, Ms. Herrera, sets up at his usual research table “for weird mysteries,” and looks through a whole stack of books, but he can’t find what he is looking for. He says that whatever the answer to the mystery is “it isn’t here at the library.” Stumped, he hears from one of his friends, Betty, about a similar experience someone had, of clutching an overdue library notice and muttering “Quiet Violet,” supporting what he saw his friend at school (Reggie) tell him earlier in the episode. When he returns to the library Ms. Herrera pulls Archie aside and tells him that she doesn’t want to alarm the library patrons, but a lot of “unusual occurrences” had been happening recently since she took over as head librarian. Archie after talking with her a little more continues to look through the library stacks from the poltergeist, but can’t find anything. He comes across her and she turns out to be the former head librarian, who is haunting the library itself, telling him to be quiet, respect the library, and more, scaring away all the other library patrons, not surprisingly. Jughead tells a story of how, at age 6, Violet told him to go to the children’s section, said he had a book “not for him,” and after she told him to be quiet (and come back), he ran away from the library, never to come back. Betty counters this by saying that Violet helped her get her first library card. Jughead, Archie, and Betty go back to the library which is deserted except for Ms. Herrera, who explains that for Violet she never wanted to scare anyone away but that the library was her life, and she even published a memoir of her time as a librarian. She explains to Jughead why she did all those things to Jughead and put it into context, so he understands her actions, which he had misinterpreted completely, adding she always waited for him to come back so she could show him “how enjoyable our library was.” She further says that people who like books should “never be judged by others” and saying she never meant to frighten anyone. She agrees with Betty, who tells her that Ms. Herrera will take care of the library, on the condition that Jughead gets a library card. He agrees to this, she says goodbye to them. Archie concludes that while she is gone, as a ghost, her good influence on Riverdale will never go away, with Jughead rediscovering the library after years of avoiding it. Yay for the librarian! Yay!

Final words

Contrasting all these examples is Too Loud, where the town’s mayor is tired of Jeffrey and Sara being so loud, so he tells them to be quiet, which impairs their ability to help patrons, the episode “Chapter 11: The Jorts Incident,” in the second season of Hilda where Kaisa, the librarian, tells Frida, David, and Hilda to “keep it down, because this is a library after all,” but is never shown shushing them. Too Loud turns the stereotype on its head, a brilliant way of countering it. In the future, I’ll continue this and point out other series which have negative portrayals of librarians or libraries while looking for more positive ones at the same time. I hope there are more positive portrayals, like the ones I have written about on I Love Libraries, [8] than negative ones, but each one of them needs to be countered and pointed out.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] TV Tropes points out examples of the Scary Librarian trope in Arthur (in the character Miss Turner), Avatar: The Last Airbender (in the knowledge spirit Wan Shi Tong in the episode “The Library”), Big City Greens (in the episode “Quiet Please” with a strict librarian), Carl Squared (Miss Dickens in the episode “Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), Codename: Kids Next Door (Count Spunkulout who seems to work for librarians), Courage the Cowardly Dog (old librarian in the episode “Wrath of the Librarian”), Dexter’s Laboratory (Dexter becoming a scary librarian while assisting an actual librarian), Kaeloo (Kaeloo becomes a librarian in one episode), DuckTales (In this series which began in 2017, Miss Quakfaster, in the episode “The Great Dime Chase!” she takes her job dramatically and very seriously, threatening Webby and Dewey with a huge sword for “disrespecting the archives”), Hilda (in terms of Kaisa being a witch, but this is solved in season 2), Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil (Kick deals with a librarian, who has gone bonkers, and has to break into a library), Kim Possible (Mrs. Hatchett in the episode “Overdue”), Martin Mystery (One librarian at Martin’s university growls at him for messing with books), Moral Orel (the school librarian is a scary old woman who pickets in front of a cinema and  burns books!), The Replacements (In the episode “Quiet Riot,” the librarian who replaces Miss Osborne fits every stereotype), Teamo Supremo (Libro Shushman becomes a supervillain), and says that a ghost of a librarian in Archie’s Weird Mysteries subverts this. Examples of the “hot librarian” trope in Western animation, according to the same site, is The Simpsons (the episode where Marge and Lisa go to see the movie Tango de la Muerte), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Professor Bertinelli), episodes of King of the Hill and Pinky and the Brain. TV Tropes further lists three series as having spooky silent library: an episode of Arthur, the episode “The Library” of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the “Buggin’ The System” episode of Megas XLR. The site lists Wan Shi Tong in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Scary Librarian in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes “Wrath of the Librarian” and “The Pixie and the Prickle Pirate,” the witchy librarian in Hilda (Kaisa), Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Mrs. Clara in Welcome to the Wayne as magic librarians.

[2] Gooding-Call, Anna. “The History and Debunking of Librarian Stereotypes.” Book Riot, Jan. 20, 2020; Manser, Jamie. “Shushing the Librarian Stereotype,” Zocalo Magazine, Mar. 2, 2015; “The Shushing Stereotype and Communicating with Heart,” Moving Train Library, Feb. 11, 2017; Barone, Gabrielle. “‘I don’t shush’: Local Librarians share their thoughts stereotypes rooted in their profession,” The Daily Collegian, Nov. 15, 2017; Keer, Gretchen; Carlos, Andrew, “The Stereotype Stereotype,” American Libraries, Oct. 30, 2015; “Unfriendly Librarian,” Librarian Stereotypes, Oct. 14, 2012; Shaw, Katy. “Buns on the Run: Changing the Stereotype of the Female Librarian,” Oct. 2003; Radford, Marie. “Shushing, Shelving, and Stamping” in Chapter 11: Media and Culture: The “Reality” of Media Effects (by Mark P. Orbe) within Part III: Navigating Inter/Cultural Communication in a Complex World of Inter/Cultural Communication: Representation and Construction of Culture (by Anatascia Kuylo, US: Sage Publications, 2013), 240-242; “No more shushing: Meet SUNY Broome’s Librarians,” SUNY Broome, Nov. 25, 2014; “Librarian Stereotypes and Library Heroes,” The Hub, Sept. 23, 2014; Moulder, Becky. “Five Things I’ve Learned about Penn Librarians as a Faux Librarian,” Penn Libraries Teaching, Research, and Learning, Oct. 19, 2018; “Librarians and their stereotypes,” Cakealicious Cakes, Jun. 12, 2016; Radford, Marie L. “Librarian Stereotypes, Alive & Well, Alas,” librarygarden, May 21, 2010.

[3] Miller, Laura. “Bring back shushing librarians,” Salon, Jan. 31, 2013; Cowell, Jane. “Silence: Should Librarians Apologize for providing quiet?,” Medium, Aug. 5, 2017; Fernandez, Michelle L. “Why Aren’t More Public Librarians Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine?,” Feb. 22, 2021; Hutton, Rachel. “Beyond books: Minnesota’s rural libraries find playful ways to remain relevant,” Star Tribune, Nov. 25, 2019; Guion, David. “The librarian’s job,” Reading, Writing, Research, May 18, 2011; Blackburn, Heidi, “Gender Stereotypes Male Librarians Face Today,” Library Worklife, Sept. 2015; Spitzer, Gabriel. “Librarians Go Wild For Gold Book Cart,” NPR, Jul 13, 2009; “The Librarian Stereotype,” The Cranky Librarian, Jan. 9, 2008; Oliver, Amanda. “Working as a librarian gave me post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 19, 2019; LaGarde, Jennifer. “‘Librarians Don’t Shush Anymore!’ And Other Things I Wish Were True,” The Adventures of Library Girl, Apr. 6, 2020; “School and Public Librarians: Warriors for Literacy,” Sowing Seeds Librarian, Nov. 3, 2018; Rebecca, “Shushing and Shelving: Librarians in Pop Culture,” SCALA Oregon, Oct. 26, 2010; Anderson, Kristen Julia. “More to Librarians Than a Stereotype,” Luna Station Quarterly, Apr. 5, 2016; Allen, Mary Elizabeth. “Focus On Your Skills,” Hack Library School, Jan. 14, 2021; Halverson, Matthew. “A Talk with Marcellus Turner, City Librarian, the Seattle Public Library,” SeattleMet, Jul. 22, 2011; Lewin, Livia. “Lib Loop: Dispelling the shushing librarian,” SierraSun, Oct. 10, 2017; Kipen, David. “Librarians arrive, whoop it up, give prizes,” SFGate, Feb. 1, 2012; “Meet Your Librarian: Melanie Trotter,” School libraries of Robertson County, Jan. 4, 2018.

[4] The blog says that for them, a librarian is “someone who works in a lending library,” meaning that they might not have an MLIS, and that “para-professionals, library assistants, student workers, and the like are all fair game.” I can understand this, but I would say it could exclude special libraries from the mix, so I’d say a librarian shouldn’t be, strictly, someone who works in a lending library. In fact, Merriam-Webster calls a librariana specialist in the care or management of a library,” so that’s pretty broad. So, I think that librarians who are in lending libraries should be highlighted more than other librarians, but it doesn’t mean that those not in lending libraries should be ignored when it comes to representation.

[5] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn?,” Reel Librarians, Feb. 5, 2013; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Typical or stereotypical?,” Reel Librarians, Jan. 11, 2012.

[6] Specifically scenes from The Philadelphia Story (1940), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Tomcats (2001), and Hammett (1982) when it came to shushers, spinsters, and sirens. She also highlighted a brief library scene in Pickup on South Street (1953), a scene in the film Party Girl (1995), and a monstrarial library in Doctor Strange (2016), along with many other films. I’d recommend reading her whole handout used in her lecture.

[7] The blog, since abandoned, discussed five stereotypes in popular media: the “sexy” librarian, the frumpy librarian, the male librarian, the unfriendly librarian, and the timid/introverted librarian.

[8] For I Love Libraries, I’ve written about Cleopatra in Space, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hilda (two times here and here), Too Loud, and Mira, Royal Detective.

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23 replies on “Countering the “shushing librarians” stereotype in animated series”

[…] Kaisa is a principled librarian who likely has a MLIS degree and is an atypical librarian who has a life outside the library. Her portrayal fulfills what I’ve termed the “Librarian Portrayal Test.” She is a twenty-something who wears headphones, like Kino does in Kino’s Journey, has a cassette player, and is skilled with magic. Despite this, Kaisa, like any librarian, is tasked with enforcing the roles. In one episode, she tells the show’s protagonists to “keep it down,” but never shushes them. […]

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[…] Kaisa is a principled librarian who likely has a MLIS degree and is an atypical librarian who has a life outside the library. Her portrayal fulfills what I’ve termed the “Librarian Portrayal Test.” She is twenty-something who wears headphones, like Kino does in Kino’s Journey, has a cassette player, and is skilled with magic. Despite this, Kaisa, like any librarian, is tasked with enforcing the roles. In one episode, she tells the show’s protagonists to “keep it down,” but never shushes them. […]

Like

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