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Restricted access and the unnamed librarian in “Merlin’s Story”

Librarian speaks to the protagonists, Merlin and Ringo, in episode #94.

Hello everyone! As I’ve said on her previously, I’m trying to focus more on webcomics, comics, and the like, as I’ve written a lot about anime and animated series. I’ll still keep writing about those, but other mediums need to be covered on here too. One of my favorite webcomics, Merlin’s Story, which has some mature themes, includes an unnamed librarian, which I’d like to talk about in this post, analyzing the librarian and her role in the comic.

The two protagonists, Merlin and Ringo (not visible to anyone but Merlin) go to the local school library to ask about a yearbook. The librarian says it isn’t open to the public, so she wants to know why Merlin wants to look at it, and she says that she is searching for a specific student. The librarian helps her, after she gives a bit of a description, telling her that she is looking for a model from the school which was used 20 years in the past. And she gets all the yearbooks from back then for her, and she sits on a table looking through them. For the librarian this seem weird because it looks like Merlin is talking to herself, but she is actually talking to Ringo! In a later episode, she finds that there are 100 students matching the description of the person she is looking for, and she has a hunch that one of the girls is the right one. It turns out, in the episode that follows, that the librarian went to the same school over 22 years ago, and the person they were looking for was one of their classmates, recognizing the school uniforms. What a coincidence! So, that makes the story more interesting, in the case of the librarian, and the story goes further from there.

The story deepens, as the librarian, in a further comic, says she knows the girl they are thinking of, calling her a clumsy girl who was “always bullied,” noting she always wanted to help her, but she was a “cowardly girl” in the past. She notes how the girl changed, became more cheerful, and when Merlin asks where the girl lives now, the librarian gives them an address. With this, they can find the girl they are looking for…Misaki. Merlin later tells her ghost friend, Endah, in a part of the school that they got the address from the librarian, and Endah lets them go off and find Misaki. Ringo suspects Endah has something to do with Misaki and may be an evil spirit. Later on, they can’t find the exact address of where Misaki lived, and it turns out Misaki is gone. Merlin is distressed by this, commenting “the librarian also said she became a much more cheerful person.” The story later concludes by Merlin (and Ringo as an astral projection) meeting with the living parents of Misaki, and she laments that “the Misaki Endah is looking for is long gone.” Following a nice talk with the parent of Misaki, Merlin prays at her altar, and it turns out Misaki died in an attempt to save the man (Misaki’s brother maybe?) they met in the house. Ultimately, Endah decides to stay in the warehouse after learning about Misaki’s death.

Scenes from episodes 100 and 102 when the librarian remembers the girl they are thinking of

Now, the question comes to mind: does this librarian in these six comic episodes fulfill the Librarian Portrayal Test (LPT)? As I noted back on August 17, the unnamed librarian of the Buddwick Public Library, in a Steven Universe comic, only fulfilled some of the criteria, but not all of them as we never saw her outside of the library itself. As I noted on August 31, the LPT is not a be-all-end-all, saying “if a librarian only appears in one episode of a series and it is a good depiction of a librarian, I’ll still write about it, even if it doesn’t fall under this criteria.”

Anyway, onto the LPT. This comic has a character which is clearly a librarian, who works in a public library, more specifically in a school library, the school the protagonists go to, I believe. So, that means that this librarian portrayal fulfills the first criterion. [1] Due to the fact that the librarian gives the protagonists the information they need to fulfill their request, that means that she is integral to the plot of the comic. As such, her removal from the story itself would significantly impact the plot, not allowing it to be fulfilled and move forward as it did. That means that her portrayal also fulfills the third criterion, as she is not just a foil, there for laughs, or falls into existing stereotypes. She is relatively well-dressed, is not wearing glasses, and is middle-aged, likely in her 30s or 40s. Unfortunately, due to the fact she is never seen outside of the library, this portrayal fails the second criterion, that the character not be primarily defined by their role as a librarian.

While the librarian notes that she is a student, her association with being a librarian as her primary function is so deep rooted that in issue 115 of the webcomic, Merlin, one of the protagonists, just calls her “the librarian,” not even giving her a name. This sort of description, you could argue, makes sense in the story as they did not interact with the librarian for very long, but it also dehumanizing to the librarian. This librarian is a person too! So it is dispiriting that she is never given a name. The best counter to this I’ve seen in popular culture is this scene from the most recent season of Hilda, in the episode “Chapter 11: The Jorts Incident“:

I wish more comics, animated series, anime, and the like would have scenes like this and make the librarians in their stories full characters, rather than monsters or characters that have no purpose other than appearing in one isolated episode and never again. That isn’t right.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] I was confused by this myself, but you could use the word “criteria” or “criterion” here, but the use of criteria in a singular way is not generally used, so I stuck with criterion to use in a singular way and criteria to apply to all three points of the LPT.

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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