A vampire librarian and the value of weeding collections

Sophie Twilight tries to impress her frend Akari Akano with her cleaning of two bookshelves. Hint: Akari is not impressed.

Blood. Vampires. And Libraries! What if I told you there is a show that has all three of these elements and is, mostly, in a cute, accessible package [1]? The show is a 12-episode 2018 anime series, Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood which can be watched legally on Crunchyroll, or not as-legally on an assortment of other websites. This is a show that LezWatch.TV described it as a hilarious comedy “if you like vampires” and Stig Høgset called “a pretty decent show altogether,” even though others were not as keen on it. Anyway, I was surprised and excited that this show has libraries as such an important part of the plot, appearing in one-fourth of the show’s episodes. One of the protagonists, as I’ll explain, can be considered a librarian, if we define that term broadly, as I did in November of last year, as anyone who works in a library, caring and managing the collections, whether they have a professional degree or not, often selecting and processing materials to meet the needs of users. As it should be obvious, you can be a librarian without having a degree, although having that professional experience certainly helps, and you can often get better-paying positions with the degree than if you don’t have it. Anyway, onto the review!

In the second episode of the series, “Akari’s Friend,” we find out that the protagonist, Sophie Twilight, a vampire, has a wide-ranging library of all the books she has collected over her lifetime, signed by the original authors, people like Edgar Allan Poe. She shows her 10-year-old friend and new housemate, Akari Amano, her written collections, and she is impressed by all the books there. She asks how old Sophie is and she admits she is “about 360 years old” even though she looks to only be thirteen. But then, she feels embarrassed about this and chides Akari on asking her age. Sophie later says that when an author dies, their work lives on, and calls the signed books to be momentoes, noting that there are books there of people no one even remembers anymore. For her, each book is full of memories, as she can remember when and where each was signed, what each day was like when she had the book signed.

Akari calls the books Sophie has a “wonderful collection,” notes that some of those memories are not pleasant, and adds that humans experience time in a “very different span” than vampires, who are immortal. When she says that seeing all sorts of eras of history and time pass would be nice, even though you would lose friends and lovers, Sophie says it is wrong to assume that everyone has friends and lovers. Later, she goes to get one of her favorite manga signed by the author, with long-sleeved clothing, and a parasol, to prevent her from being turned to ash by the sun’s rays. Akari saves her after her parasol blows away, she gets the signed book, they walk back to their home together (her mansion), and she happily shelves the book in her library, calling it “one more addition to my collection.” So, shelving books is a librarian duty, but then again, anyone can do that, especially if they have a system of organization for their library, as she does, clearly.

Akari returns a book to a bookshelf in Sophie’s library

Briefly, libraries appear in the third episode, “The Vampire Goes to School,” where Sophie goes to the school library with Akari and her friends, where they all study for their upcoming exams. Akari’s friends quiz Sophie on various phrases and she gets almost all of them right! Anyway, there isn’t much to say about that library because all that we see is a table, some chairs, and parts of bookcases, but not much of the library itself. It simply serves as a convenient setting. The library that is first shown in “Akari’s Friend” reappears in the show’s eighth episode, “The Last Day of Summer Break.” In that episode, Sophie reads a book (likely a manga) to her friend, and fellow vampire, Ellie.

One episode, however, blows it out of the park, and convinced me, in addition to the other episodes I’ve written about above, that Sophie is a librarian. She is convinced to begin paring down the amount of stuff she has stored up in her “collection room” including the books, with a “serious cleanup.” Not only does this indicate that the room is more than a place to store books, but has other materials, in line with the fact that libraries are more than just books, despite some popular perceptions. She creates boxes for books she didn’t need and books she wants to keep. She even tries to impress Akari by noting the number of shelves she has cleaned of books, but this does not work, as she claims they didn’t “get anywhere,” which is not really accurate. In order to help her, Akari agrees to pitch in, while Ellie sits there and cries to reading emotional manga, not lifting a finger. Hinata Natsuki, Akari’s friend, then comes to help out and is shocked by the number of boxes in the room. Sophie explains she agonizes over “every single item before I can throw it away,” this includes unnecessary items like an ugly styrofoam piece used for packing. Sophie continues packing boxes and they have fun with all the old stuff she has, like pagers, furry toys, a GameBoy, and an English newspaper from 1969 celebrating the moon landing by Apollo 11!

After Akari says that Sophie has a lot of books, she gives her an old version of The Travels of Marco Polo. She then admits that she came to Japan, not because of the book but because she wanted to buy Super Mario Bros. 2, which came out in 1988, surprising Akari. In the room, she also finds two pink hair ribbons that Ellie had given to Sophie in the past, before her hundred-year slumber, with Sophie thinking, not surprisingly, that Ellie had been killed. Of course, this did not happen, but since Ellie is staying with them, Sophie throws them away, realizing she doesn’t need something like the ribbons as a memento of Ellie, annoying her. Sophie finishes her weeding of the books and materials from the library, while Hinata helped organize the magazines and Akari finished vacuuming. The library sparkles from all their cleaning, looking as beautiful as the royal library shown in episodes of Mira, Royal Detective. Not long after, Sophie goes into a store and has to restrain herself from making “unplanned purchases” so the room doesn’t clutter again. The whole rest of the episode focuses on Ellie and Sophie, and later Hinata, helping care for Akari, who somehow contracted a cold, possibly while helping clean the library.

Sophie gifts a book of Macro Polo’s travels to Akari while standing in front of one of her library bookshelves

While I obviously wrote this article, on the one hand, because I’m clearly an otaku in more ways than one, as I have written about scores of anime on this blog, even having a whole page listing episodes with libraries, or librarians, in anime series, on the other, it has connections to an essential library task: weeding. One librarian, Margery Bayne, wrote that realistically, you need to “downsize your book collection” at some point in your life, suggesting people categorize books into those you are not reading, those that are out-of-date, those only kept for aesthetic reasons, those you feel guilty about getting rid of, those which are easily replaceable, and those which don’t bring you joy. She suggests that people give some of your books to friends, sell them, or donate them. In the case of Sophie, she had boxes of books she didn’t need and those she wanted to keep. For her, whether a book was out-of-date didn’t matter, as she was 360 years old. Presumably, she sold the books online, on the in-show Amazon equivalent, Amason, but she may have gifted some books to a library too. And she also talked about getting rid of books she also had in an e-book form, another form of weeding as well. Beyond this, the ALA’s Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries says the following about weeding:

Regardless of the type of institution, collection maintenance and weeding are important components of a library’s collection management system and are often related to the goals and mission of the organization…Weeding or the deselection of material is critical to collection maintenance and involves the removal of resources from the collection. All materials are considered for weeding based on accuracy, currency, and relevancy. Space limitations, edition, format, physical condition, and number of copies are considered when evaluating physical materials…Weeding and collection maintenance are based on the availability of newer, updated resources or the circulation statistics and use of materials…While reports and automation have made weeding easier, evaluating collections should be executed with a trained librarian, as certain titles…may be worth keeping on the shelves despite low usage statistics — especially if only one library in the consortium or interlibrary loan group owns and will loan a copy…In an academic library, collection maintenance and weeding are usually driven by library faculty and staff and reflect the college/university’s mission, goals, and curricula needs. In most academic libraries, the subject specialist librarian and/or departmental liaison plays a significant role in weeding the collection.

Much of this, obviously, does not apply to Sophie’s library, as it is her personal library geared toward her, as the primary patron, apart from friends who may want to borrow books or materials. Like any good library, Sophie recognized the value of “properly maintaining” a library collection that is relevant, and viable, although she only came to this conclusion after being crushed by a stack of boxes due to the number of materials inside the room itself. However, unlike public, special, academic, and other types of libraries, she did not have a collection development policy and a selection policy, rather she just cleaned the room bit by bit, with the help of her friends. But for a personal library like that, it would too cumbersome to have such a policy, although for a bigger institution, even a small community library, it would make sense. Rebecca Vnuk wrote in American Libraries that while weeding has a bad reputation, leading some to think that no books should ever be discarded, something which isn’t feasible, adding that libraries should weed out their collections on a regular project and plan out, carefully a major weeding project, with communication a “key part of that planning” as it is not difficult to let staff and patrons know about it. Vnuk also notes that librarians should describe weeding in positive terms rather than negative ones, never complaining to patrons about “bad materials that were on the shelf,” instead, saying that the library is “making room for new materials, making the shelves easier to navigate, and replacing outdated information with current information,” and letting the public know how materials will be discarded.

You can read many, many more articles about weeding, and have fun with it. [2] However, I think I have covered this topic enough since there aren’t any articles about this anime series and the libraries within it, which is a much deeper connection than nameless and faceless librarians in that episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, or the library in RWBY where Yang Xiao Long distracted Blake Belladonna, the catgirl, with a laser pointer, to give two recent examples.


Notes

[1] Høgset says it can be considered PG-13 because of “some black humor based around settings of violence and deaths.”

[2] See “Why We Weed” on Awful Library Books, “Weeding out of Library Materials” on the Library & Information Science Network, “Weeding Collections” on Public Libraries Online, “Weeding — Love It or Hate It” on Public Libraries Online, “Weed The Racist Books, Libraries” on Book Riot, “CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries,” “ON LIBRARIES – Weeding and Leading,” “Library ‘weeding’? Or ‘clear-cutting’?,” “To Weed or Not to Weed? Criteria to ensure that your nonfiction collection remains up to date,” “Weeding is fundamental,” “The Library is a Growing Organism: Resources for Weeding Collections,” “Practical Advice for Weeding in Small Academic Libraries–Collection Building (v. 26, no. 3, 2007), p. 84-87,” and “Collection Weeding as Dendrochronology: Rethinking Practices and Exposing a Library’s Sponsors of Literacy” as some of the many articles out there

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.

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