Recently, going through the shows on the “List of animated television series by episode count” on Wikipedia, I came across a Canadian and French animation titled Totally Spies, which ran between 2001 and 2014, with some of the episodes even airing on Cartoon Network at one point. While this show, which centers around three high school girls (Samantha “Sam”), Clover, and Alexandra “Alex”) who are also spies isn’t usually my cup of tea, I still watched all four episodes of the series which were said to have libraries. A couple episodes had very short scenes in a university library, one episode stands out apart from the others: “Totally Switched“.
The first of these episodes begins at the Liverpool Library in England. A man comes to the circulation desk to return books and a librarian, a middle-aged White woman with a hair bun (presumably a spinster) likely voiced by Janice Kawaye, tells him that the books are overdue. Of course, he refuses to pay the fines, after she says it is their policy for him to pay the fines, to which he responds “too bad!” He walks away in a huff and the librarian accepts this, not knowing what else to do. Unfortunately for the patron, a man hides in the shadows, swinging a pendant that shines a bright light into her face. She presumably jumps over the circulation desk, grabs the patron, by his shirt, holds him up in the air, and throws him across the room! The students are shocked as the patron lies on the ground, disoriented about what is happening. She breathes deeply and seems to calm down until she laughs at his misfortune. Don’t return books late to her! She’ll deck you!
Ok, let’s be honest, there are some librarians who would have liked to do this to some annoying patrons, although you obviously can’t for various reasons. I shouldn’t have to say why this is a huge problem to have a librarian assaulting patrons. Anyway, the patron was a bit of a jerk and he should have paid the fine. Later in the episode, Jerry (the boss of Sam, Alex, and Clover), expresses surprise that the “mild-mannered” librarian started acting “like a professional wrestler.”
Sam, Alex, and Clover first later go to the apartment house of the librarian, who remains unnamed and uncredited in the episode despite the fact her scene begins the episode, in Liverpool. They are surprised to hear she is a librarian, with Clover calling her “way buff.” The librarian tells them how she became this way, saying she was “no longer a wimp” but became a wrestler, lifting only books in the past, but now she can “bench 150” as she lifts weights, does jump rope, and other exercises. As they leave, she declares she has to “go work on my abs.” Later, as they walk onto the street, Clover calls it a “freak show”  and asks “how often do you meet a wrestling librarian?” How so, indeed! Not long after, Sam finds out that the librarian and wrestler have switched personalities, with the wrestler, named Birmingham Brawler, not fighting anymore and sitting on the side, reading books. Ha. Sadly, later, the spies break into the Liverpool library (why is the librarian not there?), pick a lock, and grab the librarian’s datebook! This seems unnecessary as they could have asked the librarian about it rather than stealing her book. Just saying. Bad spies!
By the end of the episode, with the capture of the person responsible for the personality switching, possibly the personalities of the librarian and the wrestler are switched back. But if they aren’t, the buff librarian is still out there! It also says a lot that they actually found this personality switching to be a “problem,” when the villain just wanted to see how people felt in another’s shoes, meaning they want people to not deviate from their set roles in society and personalities, apparently. This episode is even better than the other episode, “Black Widows,” where Clover is disgusted by the fact she has to go to the school library for a spelling bee at their high school, which Sam is attending, then Sam pulls on a dictionary on a shelf and it leads them down a tunnel. Clover hilariously yells “I KNEW going to the library was a bad idea!”
For one, the librarian at first seems to fulfill the spinster librarian stereotype which Jennifer Snoek-Brown writes about on Reel Librarians, but when she becomes buff, then she becomes scary. On the one hand, you could say that by throwing the patron to the ground, she is showing her authority, making everyone afraid enough to cross her. However, is she still a “rule-monger who hoards information”? She is clearly neither meek nor timid anymore, as she is portrayed at first. Some could say she is comic relief since the scene of her slamming the patron on the ground was a little funny only because of how absurd it was, but she isn’t sexy or flirtatious either. Anyway, I hope that if her personality did change, she becomes more assertive and stands up to people who don’t follow library rules in the future. So, I have a mixed view of this buff librarian, although you could argue she busts existing stereotypes I suppose. For sure, her character is definitely different than the shushing librarians or anything else I’ve seen in any of the reviews on this blog, for sure!
© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.
 This shows she does not like the librarian bucking from the “norm” and implies that it is bad to break out of those societal norms imposed on you. Also, this term is deeply problematic because the word freak is “a particularly ugly word when applied to a person with a disability.”