Categories
action adventure animation anime Black people drama empty libraries fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries mystery Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction White people

Bellissime librerie!: Library tourism from Venezia to Burano

Buongiorno! After getting my degree from library school in December 2019, I’ve been occasionally going to libraries, sometimes as a patron, and other times as a tourist. The latter was the case in Italy, where I went on a vacation with my parents, in September 2022. I traveled there, in part, to visit a town called Casola, in the mountains above Parma, where my cousins own a trattoria. It’s also where my great-grandfather and his siblings were born, and lived, some of whom immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. In this post, I won’t focus on my expanded albero genealogico (family tree), but rather on my library tourism, as it could be called, during my trip in Italy.

For the first part of my trip, I stayed in an agritourismo in the suburbs of Firenze, often known as Florence, a beautiful city in Northern Italy. Multiple times I attempted to enter a biblioteca (library) in the center of the city, known as the Laurentian Medici Library. The first time I tried, I was told by the attendant that the library was only open to students. The second time, I was informed that the library was “permanently closed.” Whether that is still the case, I’m not sure, but I believe it probably is. Later on in the trip, I attempted to enter the Galileo Museum library, in downtown Firenze. Unfortunately, I was turned away, by a nice middle-aged Italian librarian who was working there, and told that the library was only for researchers. Through all of this, I somehow overlooked the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. That library, also known as the National Central Library of Florence, is located on the Arno River.

Image of one of the library rooms at the Correr Museum. Sorry for the blurriness. (Photograph by me)

It wasn’t until September 18 that I visited my first library of sorts, in Venezia (Venice), Italy. It was within the Correr Museum on St. Mark’s Square. There were various library rooms filled with books and collections for tourists to examine. Some were rooms filled with artifacts collected by Francesco Morosini, Bessarion, and Venezia itself, like globes, manuscripts, and other items.

The next day, with my mom and dad, I visited the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, also known as the Marciana Library or Library of Saint Mark, which is inside the Correr Museum. Run by the Italian Ministry of Culture, it holds thousands of manuscripts, about one million post-16th century books, and many other artifacts, like globes, maps, and sculptures. While it is more of a museum than a library, it still has many library features. This includes pamphlets on a table which were labeled “for reference only” and beautiful paintings on the ceilings, in-keeping with Italian art. Some rooms were built by Joseph Sansovino, a famous Venetian architect.

A mangy library cat and the Venetian isle of Burano

On September 20, my next-to-last day in Italy, I traveled to Burano, an island near Venezia known for its colorful houses. It is a very tourist-centered island geared towards those who want to buy clothing, especially clothing with handmade lace, something the island is known for. A mangy, black cat guided me to a public library! It was almost like a dream. The library’s official website says the library, which is accessible to people with disabilities, has a “total of 5 rooms, 3 of which are reserved as reading rooms with 50 seats.” It is part of the Venice Library system.

Pamphlets on display inside the Burano library. (Photograph by me)

Not long after entering, my mom, dad, and I met an elderly Italian woman who was helpful, even though she knew very little English. She seemed to be the librarian on duty, helped by another Italian woman who was about the same age, sitting behind an information desk. On the wall in another room was an Italian-language version of the Dewey Decimal System. Both library workers were friendly and embodied an attitude of Italians I experienced throughout my vacation in Northern Italy: Italians want you to understand what they are saying, even if you speak very little Italian.

The librarian showed us around the small library, noting their collections, and what services they had to offer, such as a children’s corner. This even included a bathroom. While that might seem strange, elsewhere in Italy, you had to pay one Euro to use the bathroom, equivalent to about one U.S. dollar. In this library, the bathroom was open and could be used free-of-charge.

The library seemed like a place that Lady Elianna Bernstein or Myne, protagonists of Bibliophile Princess and Ascendance of a Bookworm respectfully, would be at home. However, both would probably complain that there weren’t enough books, even if they were enthralled with books about town’s history, teen fiction, or even children’s picture books. Myne would likely be overjoyed by the latter, since she tasked kids at a local orphanage with creating such books, in the anime series, in an attempt to make free books available. She did so despite pushback from her sponsor-of-sorts, a city merchant named Benno, who wanted to sell books rather than giving them out for free.

My parents and I were likely some of the only – or maybe even the first – tourists to enter the library in Burano. Many probably walk past it, as they’d rather shop or see the recommended sites. They might be thrown off by the mangy cat or the library itself. After all, black cats are, unfortunately, seen as bad luck, as witches in disguise, or many other silly superstitions. For me, the black cat was, in a sense, a form of good luck, as I wouldn’t have found the library if I hadn’t followed the cat! In order to respect the privacy of the librarians, I decided to not take their photographs. Instead, I only took photos of the library itself. In fact, I took all the photos displayed in this post.

Library entrance (left) and close-up of library sign (right). (Photographs by me)

There were no witchy librarians like Kaisa in Hilda, nor any like Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne. That didn’t matter. What was important is the fact that the library was there with services to help the community. I remain optimistic that those in the community use the library to learn more about the island they live on, the world in-large, and themselves, becoming more informed citizens in the process.

Bibliotourism + its benefits

While visiting libraries in Italy did not give me culture shock, it gave me a glimpse into how libraries in Italy function and serve patrons. That is something I believe is valuable. Some have praised library tourism, also known as bibliotourism, or argued that “public libraries should be a tourist destination the way museums are” since libraries are a reflection of the community they serve. Others even created blogs about this form of tourism, like The Library Tourist, considered integrating libraries in “the tourism sector” ,or called bibliotourism the “next big trend”.

Whether any of that is the case, the fact is that library tourism must be done respectfully without imposing one’s culture and beliefs onto another. Although this doesn’t always happen, as the trend continues, as libraries become tourist attractions, and some tourists are downright snobbish. Ultimately, library tourism is inevitable since libraries play an important role in tourism. Some even believe that since libraries interconnect with tourism, they can promote sustainable development in countries such as China. In any case, visiting a library as a tourist, and even better, as a patron, can allow you to experience the space, the architecture, and understand the library’s role in the society in which it resides.

While I was a tourist in Italy, along with my parents, I was also a patron, as I used available library services. It is possible for someone to be a patron and a tourist. Doing so is more respectful than coming into a library on a whim, taking some photos and leaving, then going on your merry way, without a care in the world. Library tourism is possible despite the continually raging COVID-19 pandemic, causing library practices to change. The latter includes renewed efforts to serve those coming to a library as tourists, in addition to serving patrons from the local community.

In the end, as I continue through my career, I plan to visit libraries, not just as a tourist, but as a patron, understanding the role that the libraries I’m entering play in the local community, while respecting those who work at the libraries, and fellow patrons.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is post is reprinted from my guest post on January 25 on Reel Librarians.

Sources used

Categories
adventure anime comedy drama fantasy Fiction genres idol iyashikei Japanese people Librarians Libraries magical girl music Pop culture mediums school libraries speculative fiction supernatural

Countering the norm: Fictional librarians who sleep at the information desk

As anyone knows, sleep is important for everyone. When it comes to libraries, like the New York Public Library, and across society, there is a tendency to crack down on anyone who is sleeping, with illustrator Steve Teare describing it as a criminalization of a basic human need which targets “the poor, vulnerable, and homeless.” In contrast, there is a residential library in the UK, Gladstone, which doubles as a hotel, and a hotel in Tokyo which allows people to “sleep between bookshelves” to give two examples. [1]

Some librarians say that anyone who is sleeping has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Others state that it doesn’t “cause any trouble” or say that it must be stopped because is a “public space” or “public shared spaces” and that can lead to other problems, declaring that “public libraries do not provide basic needs.” While the latter is true in a limited sense, it also comes off as elitist. It is less understanding than those who explain why homeless patrons can’t stay in a library overnight. Anti-sleeping policies come down on students, who some describe rightly as sleep-deprived, wanting a designated place to study, as working on one’s bed can “subconsciously affect” your sleep! [2]

Policies across libraries, however, vary. Some include bans on “excessive sleeping” or camping, allowing non-disruptive naps, or are discouraged for “security” and “safety”, wanting to avoid becoming shelters for the homeless no matter what, or even incorporating anti-homeless designs to prevent people from loitering and sleeping. This is despite the stories of homeless students who slept nights in library basements or students in Papua New Guinea who slept in a library after a fire razed their dorms. Such sleeping policies need to be, as one article put it, enforced against all patrons, not just the homeless, because they aren’t equal enforcement otherwise. [3]

Two fictional characters challenge this general paradigm, specifically in Laid-Back Camp and As Miss Beelzebub Likes, as they are librarians and they sleep while on the job! Being nothing like the Asian people sleeping in libraries focused on by undoubtedly racist Tumblr users, [4] it makes sense to analyze how these characters challenge existing perceptions of librarians in fiction and what it means for representation of librarians, and the library profession as a whole.

Saitou prepares to put a mountain in Rin’s hair in an episode of Laid-Back Camp

Rin Shima (voiced by Nao Tōyama) in the adventure iyashikei anime, Laid-Back Camp a.k.a. Yuru Camp, fits how librarians are oft-portrayed as she is a generally quiet girl. She’s probably socially awkward too, like other anime characters. With this, it comes at no surprise that she likes camping by herself, something which slowly changes over the course of the series. Rin is a student librarian who likely volunteers at her school and might even be receiving student credit for her library work.

During one episode, “Meat and Fall Colors and the Mystery Lake”, Rin puts down the book she is reading and is about to close the library, even opening up a portable grill she got. She chats with her friend, Saitou, who convinces her to give an energetic girl named Nadeshiko Kagamihara, a person who recently showed an interest in camping, a gift. Later, while shelving books, she finds Nadeshiko sleeping in the library and kicks her to wake her up. Despite this rude awakening, she happily accepts the gift from Rin, and even proposes barbecue camp to her which Rin accepts. Some librarians may wag their finger and say that you never kick patrons. I agree with that sentiment, even though Rin only very lightly kicked Nadeshiko to wake her up, but it is even richer based on what happens in other episodes.

Although in the episode “Cape Ohmama in Winter” and “The Izu Camp Trip Begins!” she is either awake, reading, and talking with someone about camping (either Nadeshiko or Ena) or just chilling in the library, like in “Winter’s End and the Day of Departure”, two episodes are different. Tired from her long day, in the episode “A Night of Navigator Nadeshiko and Hot Spring Steam”, Rin sleeps at the information desk. I can’t think of one library in the U.S. which would allow a librarian to fall asleep at the desk. Anyway, in a practical joke on her, Saitou plays with Rin’s hair, turning it into a mountain of some type. Later, she walks out of the school, not realizing what Saitou did to her hair, while other are shocked her hair is like that without thinking about it a second time. Its pretty hilarious.

That isn’t the last time she falls asleep in the library, either. At the end of the episode “Caribou-kun and Lake Yamanaka”, she also falls asleep at the information desk. Then she has a dream where she can hear the thoughts of every living thing. In short, it is somewhat hypocritical for her to kick Nadeshiko to wake up when she sleeps in the library herself! While some may say that Rin is wrong for this, she is more of a camper than anything else, and she likes to ride her moped. So, you could say she is a moped-riding student librarian. I can’t think of anyone else who fits that description.

Dantalion sleeping, with his eyes barely open

Rin is not the only librarian who sleeps on the job. One recurring character in the supernatural comedy anime, As Miss Beelzebub Likes, is plagued with sleepiness. Dantalion (voiced by Aoi Yūki), is part rabbit, and is the librarian of the Pandemonium Library. He apparently is so dedicated to his job that he reads but sometimes doesn’t eat, loving the smell of paper and ink. He is very knowledgeable about what is in the library’s stacks, filled with millions of books, and is hundreds of years old. He works alongside over 10 possible library assistants, and serves many patrons, as I counted at least 30 of them in “A Bit Bitter, Bibliomania”, the debut episode of Dantalion.

This isn’t the only time he is sleeping in the library. Although he has an annoying and loud friend, he remains attentive to the patrons. Unfortunately, has to deal with someone (Eurynome) having a crush on him because they weirdly see him as a little boy, which is known as shotacon. He is even helped by one of the recurring characters, Mullin, a young male demon who is an assistant of Beezlebub, current ruler of Pandemonium who secretly loves fluffy things, in the episode “They Pass Each Other by Sometimes / I had a Dream”.

Despite being frozen in ice in part 2 of the episode “Your Scent on a Cold Day”, he remains self-conscious and awake in his final episode appearance, “Her Assistant Knows Not Her Highness’s Heart / The Name of That Feeling Is…”. In those episodes he also continues to deal with his loud and annoying friend, while recommending to Beezelbub that she have a flower-viewing party. Then in the episode, “The Pandemonium Baths Are Great. You Should Visit”, he is lounging in the pool, reading a book, and is not in the library.

I do think it is interesting that Dantalion’s voice actor is a woman. I’m not exactly sure of the significance of his blue eyes, hair, and eyes, but I’m guessing it is symbolic somehow. He description of his character on Wikipedia says that he likes to read books at night, often falling asleep at the desk, even falling asleep while talking to others or even standing up! In some ways, he exhibits some librarians stereotypes, as he experiences Bibliomania and Bibliophilia.

Ratura “Rara” sees Lynette sleeping at the academy library in an episode of Lapis Re:Lights, who awakens her so they can perform in an orchestra together

It seems like a normal thing for people to get sleepy while they are at work. Often characters get sleepy in anime, but I don’t see it happening as much in Western animation. It especially doesn’t happen with librarian characters, as they are often portrayed as either stuck-up, curmudegonly, strict, or spinsters. While Dantalion is closer to information provider character type outlined by Jennifer Snoek-Brown, I’d say that Rin is an atypical character, in that her portrayal goes “beyond stereotypical constraints.”

Rin in Laid-Back Camp fits with the overall theme of iyashikei, a genre of anime which is “healing,” shying away from romance or action in favor of “meaningful connections with family and friends, and finding joy in the minutiae of life” as

The only series I can think of off hand which includes people directly sleeping in a library is We Bare Bears, with the librarian letting Chloe and her friends sleep in the library overnight! There isn’t any other Western animation to my knowledge which has such a plotline, apart from a sleep-deprived Blake in RWBY or Blinky in Trollhunters. Hopefully, this changes in the future with portrayals which are based more on reality, noting the hardships that librarians have to endure. Sadly, I am more confident that this is a possibility in anime than Western animation. [6] The latter too easily falls into the land of stereotypes, with their use as a result of hap-dash writing which would be better if the portrayals reflected reality, at least to the extent of what librarians experience.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] “Sleeping with Books,” Gladstone Library, accessed May 25, 2022; Ahmad Al Shirawi, “Book and Bed Hotel in Tokyo allows bookworms to sleep between bookshelves and live in the library,” Twitter, May 19, 2022.

[2] See responses by Valetta Cannon, James Taber, Peter Bartholoew, Becky Coleman, Kerry Hamlett Fountain, and Eric Erickson to the question “Should they allow sleeping in the library?” on Quora, along with pages on Quora entitled “Why aren’t you allowed to sleep in the library?“, “Why can’t citizens sleep at a public library? Isn’t sleeping your basic need?“, “Why can’t homeless patrons stay in the library overnight?“, “Is it ok to nap in a public library?“; and “Studying in the Library or at Home – What is Better for You?“, University of the People, 2022.

[3] “Library Sleeping / Camping Policy,” Indiana University, accessed May 25, 2022; “Can I take a nap or sleep in the Library?,” University Library, California State University San Marcos, accessed May 25, 2022; “Sleeping Policy,” Arizona State University, accessed May 25, 2022; Karen W. Arenson, “Yes, Some Students Live in the Library (But Not Like This),” New York Times, Apr. 27, 2004; Cailynn Klingbeil, No-sleeping rule at public libraries unwelcome change for Edmonton’s homeless,” Edmonton Journal, Apr. 13, 2015; Amy Mars, “Library Service to the Homeless,” Public Libraries Online, Apr. 26, 2013; Gloria Bauai, “Students sleeping in library after fire razed dorms,” The National, Mar. 18, 2022.

[4] Angry Asian Man, “asians sleeping in the library,” Angry Asian Man, Dec. 22, 2010.

[5]Marley Cursch, “Anime girls can finally chill,” Polygon, Aug. 17, 2021. The same article says that Iyashikei anime is seeing an increase in popularity, thanks to its “much-needed soothing effect on viewers,” and has a focus on the “smaller and more mundane, and…a heavy emphasis on visually stunning settings.” It also says that Laid-Back Camp takes “the chill vibes to the next level.” The article cites examples such as Flying Witch, Non Non Biyori (and all seasons on HIDIVE), Tamayura Hitotose, The Helpful Fox Senko-san, and Adachi and Shimamura all of which are on Crunchyroll, Yokohama Shopping Log which is an OVA, My Neighbor Totoro on the Internet Archive, Azumanga Daioh in HIDIVE, and Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear in Hulu.

[6] For instance, Myne is sleeping in a final scene of an episode of Ascendance of A Bookworm, or there is Operation Sleeping Books which is meant to transfer knowledge to the villain in R.O.D. the TV. There’s also Midori sleeping in a library basement in My-HIME and Aru sleeping in Kokoro Library, to give further examples.

Categories
academic libraries action adventure animated animation anime Black people comedy comic books Comics digital libraries drama fantasy Fiction genres floating libraries Indian people iyashikei Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries magical girl Movies music Pop culture mediums public libraries religious libraries slice-of-life special libraries speculative fiction supernatural Thai people Vietnamese people White people

Librarians of Color on “Pop Culture Library Review”: A 2022 Assessment

19 librarians of color written about on this blog in 2022
Left to right for top row: Mateo in Elena of Avalor, Myne in Ascendance of A Bookworm, Valerie the Librarian in Spidey Super Stories, Kokoro and Aru in Kokoro Library, Lilith and the woman she loves (Hazuki) in Yamibou, Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers, and Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!. Left to right for bottom row: Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Anne and Grea in Manaria Friends, Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood, unnamed librarians in We Bare Bears, and Mr. Anderson in The Public. I also wrote about Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne, Cagliostro in What If…?, and Mira and Sahil in Mira, Royal Detective this year. All are librarians of color. Another possible candidate is Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too!, a librarian-curator.

Since the early days of this blog, I’ve written about librarians of color, whether those in anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Gargantia, in animation such as She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (de facto librarians) or Mira, Royal Detective. Currently, there are over 40 posts with the “Librarians of Color” tag, along with various other posts under the “Latine librarians”, “Japanese librarians”, “Mexican librarians”, “Thai librarians”, “Vietnamese librarians”, “Cuban librarians”, “Indian librarians”, and corresponding terms for patrons of color. [1] Recently, I have also penned posts about Black, Asian, Latin American, Indian, and Japanese voice actors who voice librarians I have listed on this blog, along with other Japanese and English voices..

There is more to say about librarians of color beyond those I wrote about back in September 2021. Currently, I have 92 librarians of color listed on my “List of fictional librarians”. They break down into:

  • 67 Japanese people (at least 41 are Japanese women)
  • 12 Black people
  • 4 Asian people
  • 3 Latine people
  • 6 other people of color

And this isn’t counting the 27 non-human librarians. This compares to the 84 White people on the list, who are primarily White women. I’ll focus on this topic later in the year. I added the appropriate tags after reading posts from Jennifer Snoek-Brown about portrayals of librarians of color, noting it is a sensitive issue considering the racist history and present of U.S. society, and addressing the “lack of diversity in librarianship”. She also noted that are very few “cinematic representations of librarians of color,” and even fewer who are protagonists. [2] In highlighting librarians of color, I tend to agree with the argument by Snoek-Brown about exposing stereotypes and single stories which echo “throughout every part of our lives” since stories matter. The same is the case for the argument by Chris Bourg that there is continued lack of diversity in the library field, or the fact that poor representation of some ethnic or racial groups among libraries might lead to speculation that something about librarianship is “inherently unwelcoming or unattractive” to such groups. [3]

I plan to expand this further in the coming year with posts about ten fictional Black librarians, two Black reel librarians, real-life Black librarians who should be in fiction, Hanamaru Kunikida in Love Live! Sunshine!!, Arab and Muslim librarians in fiction, six fictional librarians of Asian descent, and fictional librarians of color and their counterstories. I hope that in the future I come across more Black librarians in fiction, especially Black women like those in Lovecraft Country, except ones that are credited, and connect this to the historical role of Black librarians. Alma Dawson of Louisiana State University wrote about this in a Summer 2000 issue of Library Trends:

Throughout their history, African-American librarians have been pioneers, visionaries, risk-takers, hard-workers, innovators, organizers, and achievers. Through dedication and persistence, they have developed library collections and archives in spite of limited resources. They have provided reference and information services, and their libraries have served as cultural centers for many blacks in all types of communities…They have served as mentors and role models for many individuals and have contributed to the scholarly record of librarianship. These achievements are an inspiration worthy of continued emulation and cause for celebration.” [4]

The article also notes documentation of the Black library experience, general studies and monographs such as the Handbook of Black Librarianship in 1977, What Black Librarians are Saying in 1972, in Black Librarian in American Revisited in 1994, Untold Stories: Civil Rights, Libraries, and Black Librarianship in 1998, and various dissertations on related topics. Furthermore, key Black librarians in the 20th century are noted, such as: Regina M. Anderson, Augusta Baker, Hannah Diggs Atkin, Thomas Fountain Blue, Virgia Brocks-Shedd, Doris Hargett Clack, and Jean Ellen Coleman. There is additional information about roles of Black librarians in professional organizations, like the Black Caucus of the ALA (BCALA), and many others, along with information about library development and services, library education, recurring themes, and other resources. [5]

I would add that highlighting librarians of color on this blog helps ensure, in some way that people of color need to be represented in the profession, inspiring people of color to become librarians, to be part of initiatives (either started by them or by others), and engage in related tasks to counter the unbearable Whiteness of the profession. That’s my hope at least. I further believe that the focus on librarians of color on this blog can provide inspiration or even support, in some way, to break down institutionalized inequity, either in academic librarianship or elsewhere, where librarians of color are given hidden workloads. The latter manifests itself when such librarians are told to take on or lead diversity special projects, even if they don’t necessarily have experience in area, leading to a vicious cycle. [6]

A focus on Japanese librarians can also help to counter Whiteness within pop culture depictions of librarians and even within the profession. It could even be used to support changes within librarianship for more librarians of Asian descent, especially within the U.S., where there is a myth of the Asian community as “model citizens”, which leads to social and psychological costs. At the same time, this blog’s focus on librarians of color may support existing progress for an increased number of real-life librarians of color, and hint at the role of institutions in diversifying the workforce. [7]

However, this could all be hogwash. I’m not sure how influential, or not influential this blog is to make those changes. In any case, I remain committed to continuing to write about and list librarians of color on this site, as I continue to learn more about the library field every day.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes tags such as “Japanese patrons”, “Black patrons”, “Indian patrons”, “Afro-Latine patrons”, “Mexican patrons”, “Korean patrons”, “Egyptian patrons”, “Taiwanese patrons”, and “Argentinian patrons”.

[2] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Revisiting reel librarian totals,” Reel Librarians, Aug. 2, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians of color, 2021 update,” Reel Librarians, Jan. 27, 2021. In the first post, for those who are Black or or African decent, she lists Jaye Loft-Lyn as Microfilm Library Clerk in Pickup on South Street (1953), Jaye Stewart as Male Librarian in All the President’s Men (1976), Paul Benjamin as English in Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Tim Reid as Michael Hanlon in Stephen King’s It (TV, 1990), C. Francis Blackchild as Wanda & L. B. Williams as Howard in Party Girl (1995), Aunjanue Ellis as Jo & Demene E. Hall as Mrs. Biddle in Men of Honor (2000), Orlando Jones as Vox in The Time Machine (2002), Merrina Millsapp as Hall of Records Attendant in Ella Enchanted (2004), Zarrin Darnell-Martin as Intern Wanda in Oscar-winning Spotlight (2015), Ronald William Lawrence as Library Clerk in The Ring (2002), Octavia Spencer as Hildy in Follow the Stars Home (TV, 2001), Noreen Walker as Librarian in Somewhere in Time (1980), Jeff Feringa as Librarian #1 in Dangerous Minds (1995), Mary Alice as Alice, a children’s librarian, in Bed of Roses (1996), Lynette DuPree as Librarian in Back When We Were Grownups (TV, 2004), Delores Mitchell as Librarian in Autumn in New York (2000), and an uncredited book cart shelver in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994). For those who are Asian or South Asian, lists Shakti as Kala in The Golden Child (1986), Alfred Ono as Mr. Fong in Elephant (2003), Sophia Wu as Librarian as Finding Forrester (2000), Anjali Jay and Hiro Kanagawa in Age of Adaline (2015), Tony Azito as Librarian and Juan Fernández as Attendant in Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993). Also four are listed as Latine: Liz Torres as Delores Rodriguez in Just Cause (1995), Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls (2000), Damian Chapa as Miklo in Bound by Honor (aka Blood In, Blood Out… Bound by Honor, 1993), and Rose Bianco as Bella in The Ultimate Gift (2006). Additionally, one is listed as Arab + Middle Eastern (1): Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bey in The Mummy (1999), and one as indigenous: Jane Lind as Noayak in Salmonberries (1991). These racial designations apply to the characters NOT those who voice them. Elsewhere, she notes, Duana Butler who plays the “Library Clerk” role in The Manchurian Candidate (2004), unnamed Black male law librarian in Fatal Attraction, along with other librarians of color like the unnamed librarian in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) (also see here), Wong in Doctor Strange (also see here, and here) and Avengers: Infinity War,

[3] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “‘The danger of a single story’ for reel librarians,” Reel Librarians, Nov. 2, 2016; Bourg, Chris. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship,” Mar. 3, 2014; Lance, Keith Curry (May 2005). “Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Library Workers,” American Libraries, p. 42.

[4] Dawson, Alma (Summer 2000). “Celebrating African-American Librarians and Librarianship,” Library Trends 49(1): 49-50. On page 77, Dawson adds: “there is still ample evidence from the literature to indicate that civil rights, discrimination, and racism are still concerns of African-American librarians”.

[5] Ibid, 52-78. Others include Gwendolyn Cruzat, Sadie Peterson Delaney, Virginia Proctor Florence, George W. Forbes, Nicholas Edward Gaymon, Eliza Gleason, Vivian Harsh, Jean Blackwell Huston, Mollie Lee Huston, Althea Jenkins, Clara Stanton Jones, Virginia Lacy Jones, Casper Leroy Jordan, E. J. Josey, Catherine A. Latimer, Mary F. Lenox, Ruby Stutts Lyles, Albert P. Marshall, Emily Moble, Daniel Murray, Major R. Owens, Annette L. Phinazee, Joseph Harry Reason, Charlemae Rollins, Henrietta M. Smith, Jessie Carney Smith, Lucille C. Thomas, Robert E. Wedgeworth, Dorothy Porter Wesley, John F. N. Wilkerson, Edward Christopher Williams, and Monroe Nathan Work.

[6] Agnes K. Bradshaw, “Strengthening the Pipeline-Talent Management for Libraries: A Human Resources Perspective” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 123-4; Shaundra Walker, “Critical Race Theory and the Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of a Librarian of Color: A Counterstory” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 146-7.

[7] Vince Lee, “Like a Fish Out of Water, But Forging My Own Path” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 187-189; Roland Barksdale-Hall, “Building Dialogic Bridges to Diversity: Are We There Yet?” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 267; Miguel Juarez, “Making Diversity Work in Academic Libraries” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 313.

Categories
action adventure animated animation anime Black people comedy comic books Comics drama fantasy Fiction genres French people idol Japanese people Librarians Libraries live-action magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries special libraries speculative fiction webcomics White people

End of the year wrap-up and looking forward to 2023

Views and visitors to this website as shown in the stats for Dec. 21, 2022. The numbers have undoubtedly gone up since then.

Hey everyone! This is my last post of 2022. I’d like to talk about what I’ve accomplished this year on this blog and look forward to the coming year. [1] I have continued to write about library classification, librarians of color, library stereotypes, library users, LGBTQ librarians, and much more, even more than I did in 2021.

I began the year with the recently added titles from December 2021, along with a post on Sarah, the book jail and the “sanctity of library property” in Too Loud. I followed that with posts on Mateo in Elena of Avalor, and the church library in Ascendance of a Bookworm. Posts in later months focused on Amity Blight in The Owl House, the fictional library in LoliRock, reprinted my review of libraries/librarians in The Owl House for I Love Libraries, Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony, the Library of the Eternal Equinox in Mysticons, and reprinting yet another post from I Love Libraries, this one about libraries in Milo Murphy’s Law. One of my favorites, from those first three months of this year was on the unnamed buff librarian in Totally Spies! (expanding from a post on the same subject I had written in May 2021), a post which garnered attention on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit. In that post, I wrote:

…The episode clearly is setting the expectation that librarians aren’t “supposed” to be this strong. Rather they supposed to be “wimps,” as the librarian herself remarks, and “mild-mannered” as Jerry, the head of WHOOP, head of the spy agency…put it. Without a doubt, it is wrong for a librarian to assault patrons. Her reaction is understandable…when it comes down to it, I would even venture that Sam, and maybe even Alex, are fine with this librarian being buff, as long as the librarian isn’t decking patrons of course…By the episode end, there is an open question as to whether those whose personalities have been switched are switched back. This is because the spies don’t have time to switch back the personalities of anyone, apart from Jerry and Clover. Did they switch the personalities of the librarian and wrestler? Or did they leave them intact? That is open to viewer interpretation…I would argue that by being buff, this librarian is going against usual depictions of librarians, often as those who are strict, elderly, and uptight, as Snoek-Brown explains…I still think it is possible she was voiced by Janice Kawaye, an actress of Japanese descent who has voiced characters since 1983…Although this librarian in Totally Spies! is the only fictional librarian that I am aware of who lifts weights, jumps rope, and does other exercises, there are actual librarians who are also weightlifters…In writing this post, I really got into it and found that there are two wrestlers out there who compete using a librarian gimmick…inaccurate image of a librarian in popular culture, a ‘petite, humorless woman…dressed in dowdy clothes, spectacles on her face, [and] hair knotted in a bun.’ A weightlifting librarian, or a wrestler-librarian…blows that completely out of the water, without question.

In April, I reprinted a post I wrote about Kaisa for Jennifer Snoek-Brown’s Reel Librarians, arguing that she is one of the best depictions of fictional librarians to date. That same month, I posted on the librarian, Barebones, in Brownie and Barebones, and the High Guardian Academy library in High Guardian Spice. This was followed by posts in May on Blinky’s library in Tales of Arcadia, and Gabrielle in the animated filmI Lost My Body. Some of my other favorite posts that I wrote which were published in May, and in later months, are as follows:

I also began my Behind the Screen series, profiling Black voice actors, Asian and Latin American voice actors, Indian voice actors, Japanese voice actors, and Japanese and English voices, who bring fictional librarians to life. Other posts were about The Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne, Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For, Cleopatra in Space and information deficits in libraries, Page Turner in the Arthur TV series, the Roubai Academy Library in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and intersex characters and libraries.

I am proud this year that I finally added a page on librarians and libraries in film and another on watching pop culture media which I watch on this blog, showing where you can find the shows / films I’m writing about on this blog, making it accessible to the readers.  I additionally did a huge update to the Bibliography page, so it now lists articles cited in each post and makes that available to users, while gutting the pages I had on Jennifer Snoek-Brown, who is often cited on this blog, and “Higgins o-rama.”

Upcoming next year will be a continuation of the Behind the Screen series with posts on White female and White male voice actors who bring fictional librarians to life, and revisiting the fictional librarians in Archie’s Weird Mysteries, which I had written about a while back. There will also be a post examining Hanamaru Kunikida in “Love Live! Sunshine!!”, a librarian and a school idol all in one!

Onward to 2023!

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Other than I ones I note in the main part of this post, I also posted recently added titles for January 2022, February 2022, March 2022, April 2022, May 2022, June 2022, July 2022, August 2022, September 2022, October 2022, and November 2022. There is an upcoming post in January which lists recently added titles for December 2022.

Categories
action adventure animation Black people Chinese people drama fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction Thai people

“Uncomfortable” interactions in the library: Librarians of color and their fictional depictions

April Hathcock, a Scholarly Communications Librarian and a lawyer, and former Library Journal editor Stephanie Sendaula, argued that Whiteness can take the form an ingrained belief that “only white people can hold positions of authority, and an assumption that people of color solely hold support positions.” This can lead to uncomfortable interactions between librarians of color and White patrons, especially at the reference desk. Some patrons declare they want to speak to a “real” librarian, which implies that such librarians of color aren’t real, that their knowledge isn’t recognized by those with positions of privilege, and more crucially that many White patrons still expect and prefer to be assisted by a person who “looks like them…to see someone who looks like them” sitting behind the reference desk. [1]

Putting aside the Japanese librarians in anime, as they would take up too much space in this post and deserve to have a whole post just about them, there are many other librarians of color for whom what Hathcock and Sendaula say is applicable. This likely includes the unnamed Black male librarian in We Bare Bears episode (“Our Stuff”), the unnamed Thai female librarian in We Bare Bears episode (“The Library”) who is presumably voiced by Ashly Burch, and the unnamed librarian voiced by Mindy Cohn in a Dexter’s Laboratory episode (“The Blonde Leading the Blonde”), and a Black man voiced by Jeffrey Wright named Mr. Anderson in The Public.

The unnamed Black male librarian in the first episode episode of We Bare Bears shushes bears as they enter library, while patrons at the local library, are annoyed. Later the librarian stares in quiet rage, while patrons are surprised to see him take off his shirt in front of them. He is wearing a tie and a green sweater vest. As a person who has given away all my sweater vests because I didn’t like how they looked on me, and general dislike of vests, I’ve never completely understood the appeal. His fashion is not part of a “resistant imaginings of fashion…pleasure, expression and embodiment” by library workers (or library users) by some library workers of color, including those who are gender nonbinary and women of color, as Vani Natarajan wrote in 2017 on the topic of library fashion. [2]

Instead, his style is in line with dress codes of hospitals, universities, colleges, courtrooms, and libraries which encourage or require more formal attire of their employees. Some even mandate that employees model “professional behavior,” adhere to “good professional norms,” and have “appropriate hygiene.” Others simply say there are standards on one’s “personal appearance,” require “proper attire” or necessitate natural hair color, neat/clean hair, and “acceptable” personal grooming. This is despite the fact that there are legal limits to such codes and these codes can (and do) discriminate. Unfortunately, any complaints about such dress codes can only be tie to either a category protected by Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, even though such laws likely do not “provide adequate relief for employees who have experienced appearance-based discrimination.” [3]

The Black male unnamed librarian in the left two images, and the presumed Thai female librarian in the right three images. Their looks show two different types of styles when it comes to librarians

The same can be said about the overworked, burned-out, and exhausted librarian in the We Bare Bears episode “The Library.” This librarian is Thai woman, a determination based on her likely voice actress (Ashly Burch). She does not shush the protagonists. Rather she gets tired of them after they won’t pay the overdue fines, even walking away from the information desk at one point, likely because she can’t deal with them. When it comes to her appearance, she looks a bit like a spinster, as she has a hair bun, and a conservative yet business casual look. She later helps another of the protagonists by getting a book they need, even mentioning the call number of a book, and even lets them stay over at the library for the night. That part is pretty unusual when it comes to libraries, as most usher people out so they don’t stay.  I suppose she saw them working so hard, she let them do an all-nighter. While saying this, possible that one of the other librarians may have allowed this instead, but she likely had a role in allowing it. Compare this to Rin Shima in Laid-Back Camp, which is also known a Yuru Camp, who, in one episode, kicks Nadeshiko and wakes her up when she is sleeping on the floor of the library.

For this librarian, her managers may have been like the psychology raters who favored women groomed “according to a managerial style,” preferring simpler, shorter hairstyles, hair removed from the face, tailored jackets and blouses, or even simple gold jewelry. It is significant that the male librarian wears glasses, in line with those who say that people wearing glasses are successful, hardworking, and “relatively intelligent,” but not outgoing, popular, athletic, or attractive. The latter is countered by the protagonist of Love Live! Superstar!!, Kanon Shibuya, who is attractive, intelligent, skilled with the guitar and singing, despite her stage fright, but ties up her hair and wears glasses at home. In public, she falls in line with this perception, but in private she bucks it.

The female librarian is the opposite of the male librarian. She likely uses some cosmetics, with makeup associated with “traditionally feminine jobs” and is affected by what John Kang called the “ideology of White aesthetics.” This means the belief that physical features of White people are objectively appealing to everyone while physical features of people of color are “deviant” and “subjective.” This affects how people express themselves and dress, meaning that those who aren’t White have to conform, or “suffer the consequences.” Dress codes that are based on those aesthetics communicate the message that people of color and their appearances don’t “belong” in the workplace. Furthermore, such codes suggest that men and women behave, and dress, in a specific way. Some have even said that appearance-based decisions in a workplace can sustain a social order founded on the domination of women and that judgments on appearance reflect those members of society who are “valued and entitled to control.” [4]

Both of these librarians, and the unnamed librarian in Dexter’s Laboratory episode (“The Blonde Leading the Blonde”), who also appears to be a person of color, are affected measures of appearance, especially when it comes to cosmetic user, dress, and grooming. How they dress is undoubtedly influenced by the perception that those who are more attractive are competent, honest, and likeable, while those are are less attractive are said to be unproductive and “lazy.” What is perceived as “attractive” is shaped by the culture, specifically by White attributes. This is reinforced in workplaces themselves as employees conform to organizational culture which have policies for grooming and dressing, sometimes wanting to maintain a specific image, boost morale, instill safety, or be productive. This is despite the fact that such policies can be troubling as they can lead employees to be judged on qualities not related to their job performance and “reflect certain prejudices.” For women especially, these policies weigh heavier on them, leading women to spent endless energy and time to measure up to an “ideal form” of female beauty. Those policies which are based on White male norms undermine the value of people of color and their appearance choices, and can be harmful when enforced against such people, not surprisingly. [5]

Mr. Anderson in his usual attire during one point in the film, looking very dressy with his bow-tie and suit-coat, along with a lanyard with his badge, indicating he is an employee at the library.

Compare this to Mr. Anderson in The Public. He is the head librarian of a Cincinnati Public Library branch in the film, and is arguably a “hero” who defends the library’s importance against “villains”. As Wright described his character, he is torn between institutional and personal pressures, and “has to make a choice as to which he will be beholden to,” and called this division something common for those in similar workplaces. He is a supervisor, the boss of the White protagonist, has responsibilities to his patrons and the library administrators, and even declares at one point that “the public library is the last bastion of true democracy that we have in this country.” He says this after he changes his mind and sides with the protesters, while a poster of Frederick Douglass hands on the wall next to him. Before this point, his orders are peacefully defied by 70 homeless people,after the library is sued by a homeless man who the head librarian and another threw out because of his body odor. He goes from a “serious-looking administrator” who stands against the library’s security team calling the police. All the while, through the film, he remains courteous and unhurried, loosens the bow tie on his shirt, and takes a seat among the homeless. [6]

While Rolling Stone and Oleg Kagan point to the film highlight issues of homelessness, human rights, race, class, addiction, mental illness and income inequality, neither expands on how race plays out in the film, or even mentions the word “Black” for some reason. Adding onto what I’ve pointed out so far, some argued that Mr. Anderson makes a “strong impression” in the film, despite only being a few scenes, as a “vivid, emotionally direct performer,” and later even rejects his “fellow authority figures,” and some saying the movie would have been different if he had been the lead rather than Estevez. Others say that Anderson is trapped in an ugly/escalating situation and call him a “criminally underutilized character actor.” [7]

As a supervisor, Anderson has coercive power when it comes to enforcing appearance regulations. However, those regulations, or policies to be more exact, undoubtedly cause him to internalize norms based on White aesthetics about how to dress and present one’s self. In fact, he tries to speak in a defined way and not deviate from his fellow administrators until he ends up joining the other homeless people at the end of the film. At that point, while is rejecting those norms and standards, throwing off his jacket and sitting among the homeless people, he is also still following them, even though he is not being rewarded for his conformity to the standards at that point. Unlike women who work at the library, he is not under pressure to engage in plastic surgery, excessively diet, or have eating disorders in order to meet the standards for attractiveness. These same standards, when it comes to women’s appearance and dress, tend to objectify women since they are based upon faulty presumptions of women’s “inferiority and incompetence.” [8]

Clara Rhone (voiced by Harriet B. Foy), a Black woman and head of the Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne, the two gay Black men named George and Lance (Regi Davis as George and Chris Jai Alex as Lance) in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and a Nigerian man named O’Bengh / Cagliostro in a What If…? episode (“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”), along with Mira (voiced by Leela Ladnier) and her father Sahil (voiced by Aasif Mandvi) in the Mira, Royal Detective episode (“The Case of the Missing Library Book”) likely do not experience uncomfortable interactions with White patrons, including those who de-legitimize such librarians as not being “real” and referring White librarians help them. More specifically, Rhone likely does not experience any racial microaggressions or discrimination as her staff are non-human beings, and her assistant is her granddaughter. This is further supported by the fact that very few people come into the library, apart from the protagonists, so she has very few interactions with patrons. The same can be said about George and Lance as there is no homophobia, as “in Etheria, when women thrive, queerness thrives.” There is likely no racism either, although a land without homophobia is not necessarily an anti-racist one. Furthermore, O’Bengh / Cagliostro he seems to work mostly alone in the huge and impractical library-temple where very few come to visit, while Mira and Sahil live in 19th century Indian city of Jalpur. In that city there is no racism or discrimination among the populace and it isn’t shown in the series from what I remember.

From left to right: Clara Rhone, George, Lance, Cagliostro, Mira, and Sahil

At the same time, Rhone, George, Lance, O’Bengh / Cagliostro, Mira, and Sahil all have their own style. Rhone has perhaps the most relaxed style of the six, with a scarf, and clothes which make it easy to be a librarian without much interruption. As she is the head of the library, she doesn’t have to deal with any rules on appearance and can wear what she wants. George and Lance have looks which are more stylized, even if a bit relaxed, trying to look more scholarly. Cagliostro looks like a priest (or monk) of some kind. Mira and Sahil have the most colorful outfits of the bunch, in line with colorful outfits of those in the show itself, which is filled with color and life.

Due to the fact that very few people come into the Stanza, Rhone likely isn’t internalizing Western beauty ideals like other Black women, or even White women. However, there is a “significant relationship between skin tone and perceived levels of trustworthiness” as one 2017 Masters Thesis by Connor Key Birdsong noted, with those with lighter skin seen as more trustworthy than those with darker skin. Birdsong, writing about how disparities between Blacks and Whites in criminal sentencing containing the “presence of colorism,” i.e. discrimination and prejudice which happens because of darkness or lightness of a person’s skin,with those people with lighter skin given preferential treatment over those with darker skin. He further argues that color is an “important component” of individual appearance which could “activvate attitudes about one’s demeanor, values, remorse, honesty, and even guilt.” [9] This doesn’t necessarily affect how people perceive Rhone, George, Lance, O’Bengh / Cagliostro, Mira, and Sahil in their environments, however. It likely doesn’t affect a Latine man named Mateo voiced by Joey Haro in Elena of Avalor  who is a wizard but also a librarian of sorts, or even the Hong Kong librarian named Wong (voiced by voiced by Benedict Wong) in the same What If…?. In the latter case, however, he may experience racism. Although he is a priest-librarian who often stays in the sanctum, but also sings at karaoke at a nightclub in San Francisco, making him open to racism from those from outside his usual world.

At the same time, Rhone, George, Lance, O’Bengh / Cagliostro, Mira, Sahil, Mateo, or Wong realize the ability to act in a space where “silence can be transformed into language and action” like Audre Lorde while taking into account limitations and opportunities in our workplaces. Lorde, as scholar Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz recalls, became a librarian in order to “effect social change” but left the library when it wasn’t enough for her, not feeling a sense of joy anymore. This led her to  become a poet, revolutionary, and lesbian all at the same time. Using arguments from Lorde, Smith-Cruz argues that the library will not “shield us from social death,” that the library is an apparatus which upholds the nation-state, that silence itself can feed the “tools of whiteness,” and notes Lorde’s survival formula of resource sharing, stretching, and acknowledgement. She further argues that librarians should locate themselves as marginal (i.e. as an identity) before being able to make changes to remedy implications of “capitalist collusion” at the core of library service, even as librarians are seen as support or administrative workers rather than scholars or professionals. [10]

Most of what Smith-Cruz talks about isn’t directly applicable to Rhone, George, Lance, O’Bengh / Cagliostro, Mira, Sahil, Mateo, or Wong, as all of them are in fictional worlds or barely affected by the outside world (in the case of Rhone) although Cagliostro and Wong probably prefer quieter environments, as does Mateo. As such, these aforementioned librarians are spared from the unofficial redistricting which keeping few patrons of color in libraries within majority-White communities, while librarians of color face Whiteness at the reference desk, manifested in racialized judgments and bias. However, the two unnamed librarians in We Bare Bears, or even the one in Dexter’s Laboratory, who I mentioned earlier in this post undoubtedly are affected by these societal pressures. There have likely been patrons who have questioned their qualifications, intellect, and authority, forcing them to perform above and beyond their White colleagues, or even those who have engaged in racial microaggressions against them by White patrons and patrons of color. Not surprisingly, we see none of this in the episodes, perhaps because those who wrote the episodes did not want to display this, and wanted a “simpler” story instead. The librarians in We Bare Bears and Dexter’s Laboratory undoubtedly faced barriers, especially if they were the sole librarians of color even when support staff has a “balanced racial distribution.” I hope one day we see White librarians engaging in bystander intervention by standing up and getting involved to stop “microaggressions and other forms of racist action” as they happen, or engaging in micro-affirmations. The latter means mostly public (and small) behavioral and vernal acts of confidence, support, and encouragement to make clear to colleagues of color that they are an integral and valued part of the team. [11]

Four different styles of Black librarians. Images via the Dillard University Library Blog, Colorlines, toronto.com, and nowthisnews. The second librarian here is Carla Hayden, the head librarian of the Library of Congress, while the third is Ashley Buckley, a library assistant for the Blackstone Foundation Library. The fourth is Ola Ronke, founder of The Free Black Women’s Library (TFBWL)

Putting aside other librarians of color I either haven’t read or written about, [12] future fictional librarians will undoubtedly continue to have   unique styles, maybe even with afro-punk, afro-retro, or hip-hop styles. On the other hand, perhaps these librarians will be more plain. In any case, I hope to see more librarians of color in animation, comics, anime, and anywhere else, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, as there are far too many White librarians, many of which I’ve written about on this blog, as they often fall into the character types outlined by Jennifer Snoek-Brown. I hope to find more librarians of color, regardless of their fashion styles, [13] so I can insure that the librarians I write about on here are more diverse than the library field itself! With that, my post comes to a close.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] April M. Hathcock and Stephanie Sendaula, “Mapping Whiteness at the Reference Desk” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 251-2.

[2] Vani Natarajan, “Nostalgia, Cuteness, and Geek Chic: Whiteness in Orla Kiely’s Library” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 137. She also writes that “we could work to undo the white supremacist structures that control and police library space and the people who move through them.”

[3] “Dress Code and Professional Appearance,” UC Health, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Professional Appearance Standards,” UMMC Health Care, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Personal Appearance and Dress,” New Jersey City University, Jan. 1, 2019; “Appearance & Dress Code,” University of Puget Sound, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Professional Dress Code and Personal Appearance,” Delta State University, Apr. 29, 2019; “Minimum Appearance Standards,” Central Arkansas Library System, Jul. 25, 2019; “Standards of Dress and Appearance Policy,” Garner-Webb University, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Employee Conduct – Standards of Dress and Personal Appearance,” Randolph Community College, Jul. 17, 2008; “Standards of Personal Appearance and Dress,” Purdue University, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Personal Appearance Standards,” Villanova University, accessed Mar. 29, 2022; “Standards of Dress and Appearance,” Emory University School of Medicine, Jul. 8, 2021; Barbara Bevis, “What Do I Wear to Court?: Courtroom Appearance and Decorum Standards,” Library of Congress, Sept. 23, 2014; “Illegal Workplace Policies: Appearance, Dress Codes, and Grooming Policies,” EmploymentLawFirms, Mar. 29, 2022; Beeta Lashkari, “On the Basis of Personal Appearance,” HospitalityLawyer.com, Aug. 15, 2019; Kira Barrett, “When School Dress Codes Discriminate,” National Education Association, Jul. 24, 2018; Harry F. Corey, “Dress Codes,” The First Amendment Encyclopedia, 2009; Ritu Mahajan, “The Naked Truth: Appearance Discrimination, Employment, and the Law,” Asian American Law Journal, Vol. 14, p. 165-166, 177-183, 187-188, 194-196, 201-203, noted here and here.

[4] Mahajan, “The Naked Truth,” 168, 171-173.

[5] Ibid, 166-7, 169-70, 173.

[6] Gary Duff, “Actor Jeffrey Wright on Growing Up In D.C., the 2016 Election & Starring in ‘The Public’,” Capitol File, Apr. 27, 2019; Jeffrey Anderson, “The Public,” Common Sense Media, Mar. 2, 2022; Oleg Kagan, “Movie Review: “the public” (written and directed by Emilio Estevez),” EveryLibrary, Feb. 8, 2018; Michael O’Sullivan, “Emilio Estevez’s new movie has a good message, if you don’t choke on it,” Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2019; Josh Terry, “Movie review: Libraries as homeless shelters? Salt Lake-inspired ‘The Public’ checks it out,” DeseretNews, Apr. 8, 2019; Anthony Lane, “Flesh Meets Machine in “High Life”,”The New Yorker, Apr. 5, 2019; Peter Travers, “‘The Public’ Movie Review: Life, Liberty and the Library as a Battlefield,” Rolling Stone, Apr. 5, 2019; Tricia Olszewski, “‘The Public’ Film Review: Emilio Estevez’s Homeless Drama Is Sincerely Clunky,” The Wrap, Apr. 2, 2019; Alan Ng, “The Public,” Film Threat, Apr. 5, 2019; THR Staff, “‘The Public’: Film Review | TIFF 2018,” The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 9, 2018. Earlier in the film, “We’re a public library, we’re not a shelter for the homeless.” This discussion partially fulfills what I noted in my review of The Public, “some have been critical of how the librarians were all white and racial (and gender) dynamics in the film.”

[7] Matt Zoller Seitz, “30 Minutes on: “The Public”,” Rogerebert.com, Apr. 7, 2019; Brian Orndorf, “The Public Review,” blu-ray.com, Apr. 4, 2019; “MOVIE REVIEW: The Public,” everymoviehasalesson.com, Apr. 3, 2019; Jen Johans, “Movie Review: The Public (2018),” Apr. 5, 2019.

[8] Mahajan, “The Naked Truth,” 174, 176.

[9] Deana L. Jefferson and Jayne E. Stake, “Appearance Self-Attitudes of African American and European American Women: Media Comparisons and Internalization of Beauty Ideals,” Psychology of Women Quarterly, Dec. 1, 2009; Connor Key Birdsong, “Does Appearance Matter?: The Effect of Skin Tones on Trustworth and Innocent Appearances,” Masters Thesis, The University of Alabama, 2017, p. ii, 1-2. He also says on page 3 that “skin color has been an important determination of social, legal, political, and economic opportunities for Blacks since colonial times.” One day I may order the dissertation “Black Beauty, White Standards: Impacts on Black Women and Resources for Resistance and Resilience” through inter-library-loan and expand on Black female characters featured on this blog.

[10] Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “A Blueprint on Self-Exploration to Justice: Introduction to ‘Referencing Audre Lorde’ & ‘Lesbian Librarianship for All'” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 278; Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Referencing Audre Lorde” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 279-281, 283-284, 289-290; Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Lesbian Librarianship for All: A Manifesto” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 293-296. On page 295, she says that public service librarians struggle with the contradiction between capitalist-focused and justice-seeking at the core of library service, specifically the aim to “uphold national values, through referencing the canon, promoting academic publishers, assisting teaching faculty, assigning access policies, and other practices.”

[11] Hathcock and Sendaula, “Mapping Whiteness at the Reference Desk,” 251-9. On Page 252 Hathcock and Sendaula write that “the history of public resistance towards African Americans and other people of color inside the library, as both patrons and employees, is rooted in the segregation laws of the early twentieth century.”

[12] Specifically, I haven’t read Archival Quality which features a queer Black librarian-protagonist, Celeste Walden, who begins working for a haunted museum as an archivist. The same can be said about Clarice in Girls with Slingshots, a porn store employee who really wants to be a librarian, and unnamed female librarian in Namesake, although I don’t think either of them are people of color. This is unrelated to the ingrained racism of lists like the one by Emily Temple for Lit Hub, which lists 50 fictional librarians and only ONE is Black, while the rest are White. The same can be said about Glenn Glazer’s all-White list of “Favorite Fictional Librarians” for NYPL, or almost all-White list of “fierce female librarians” by Lacey deShazo for Book Riot. It is any surprise that Temple, deShazo, and Glazer are all White women? Its erasure for them to have almost all-White lists.

[13] One list of fashion styles notes styles such as aztec, bollywood; Bon chic, bon genre (BCBG); bro (Bronies, Scrumbro, Snowbro, Surfer Bro, Tech Bro); Bubble Goth; California(n); cyberpunk, dasakawa, decor, dieselpunk, disco, e-girl/boy, emo, ero-kawaii, futuristic, , gothic lolita, gyaru, hadeku, harajuku, indian, kampala blend, kawaii, kodona/ouji/boystyle, kowa-kawaii, lolita, lunarpunk, mori girl, psychobill, rasta, seapunk, skandi, solarpunk, southwestern (American), steampunk, tiki goth, ulzzang, Visual Kei, Vsco Girl/Boy, and Zoot Suiters.

Categories
action adventure animated animation anime comic books Comics drama fantasy Fiction genres French people Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries religious libraries romance special libraries speculative fiction underfunded libraries Video games White people

Beauty, dress codes, and fashion: Examining twenty fictional White female librarians

In her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” Fobazi Ettarh rightly points out that “librarianship is dominated by white women,” noting the history of White women in the profession due to their characteristics, the fact that libraries have been “complicit in the production and maintenance of white privilege,” how these librarians participated in “selective immigrant assimilation and Americanization programs,” and that librarianship “plays a role in creating and sustaining hegemonic values,” while contributing to a culture of white supremacy like other institutions. She further asserts that depictions of libraries as “places of freedoms” like intellectual freedom, freedom of access, education, and more “do not elide libraries’ white supremacy culture with its built-in disparity and oppression,” adding that values that librarianship builds itself upon is “inequitably distributed amongst society.” She gives the example of segregation of public libraries in the U.S. South, desegregation efforts of those libraries,with access to materials “often implicated in larger societal systems of (in)equality.” She also pointed to libraries gathering “large amounts of patron data in order to demonstrate worth” or can “operate as an arm of the state” by working with library vendors which work with government entities.

I could easily build off every single one of her points in a long and drawn out post. Instead, in this post, I will examine over 20 White female librarians across various animated series and how these fictional depictions are emblematic of the overwhelming Whiteness in librarianship. More directly I’ll look at what this means when it comes to appearance, fashion, and standards imposed on librarians by Whiteness itself. Simply put, Whiteness is a socially constructed classification which conveys certain privileges, comforts, and advantages that those who not White do not enjoy automatically. It ends up setting the standard for reality and normality itself. Any deviations are seen as subversions, offenses, disruptions, or disturbances, policing its borders in a literal and figurative way. It can sometimes operate in hidden ways at different strata within library profession, while remaining multidimensional. [1]

I’ll start with Kaisa, who is one of the most prominent librarians in animation to date, in the series Hilda. [2] As librarian and library instructor Gina Schlesselman-Tarango put it, library professionals often navigate White grooming and beauty standards, while people of color are policed within library spaces. Librarian Jessica Macias added that librarians often face dress and grooming codes. It is something which women of color doesn’t always fit into, feeling alienated and different. Macias argued that these unwritten codes ban so-called “distracting” and “unnatural” hairstyles, unkempt clothing, hygiene, and hair. She, along with April Hathcock and Stephanie Sendaula adds that this is restrictive for people of color, facing implicit barriers, claims of unprofessionalism, and the idea that librarians of color are not librarians, as perceived by fellow patrons and librarians. [3]

Four screenshots spliced together in order to show Kaisa’s librarian outfit during the course of the first two seasons of the series

Her unique appearance fits within White beauty standards, even though she is casually gothic and witchy. In the series, she wears a gray sweater, grey leggings, black skirt, black cloak, and white blouse. She often wears black-grey headphones attached to a media player. Librarians are often shown wearing skirts, cardigans, while others have been more stylish with dresses, cardigans, sweaters, tights, and coats. [4] While Kaisa has her own unique style it fits within those standards. It fits with her calm personality, although she can be strict at enforcing rules, or even stern. At other times, she can be secretive and soft-spoken, but has an ability to know what people are looking for. Undoubtedly, this leads to certain insecurities, and feeling like an outcast, despite the fact she can be nice, supporting Hilda, Frida or David in their tasks throughout the series.

Although Kaisa is perhaps the prominent librarian character in an animated series in recent years, there are other librarians which fit the White standards of appearance. These same standards, of course, exclude and restrict librarians of color, as Macias pointed out. [5] Other fictional librarians dress even more conservatively, even if their style is not as distinctive as the one that Kaisa has in Hilda. This includes the curmudgeon librarian in the DC Super Hero Girls episode “#SoulSisters Part 2.” She wears horn-rimmed glasses, a hair bun, a whitish high collar, cuffed sleeves, and a bluish dress of some kind, I believe. She fully fits the spinster librarian stereotype as outlined by Jennifer Snoek-Brown on her blog, Reel Librarians.

The same can be said for the Violet Stanhope, the librarian ghost in an episode of Archie’s Weird Mysteries (“The Haunting of Riverdale“), Francis Clara Censorsdoll in multiple episodes of the mature animated series Moral Orel, Mrs. Higgins in a Sofia the First episode (“The Princess Test”), and Rita Book in a Timon & Pumbaa episode (“Library Brouhaha“). All of these librarians are dressed in a “proper” way and well-groomed, even if not all of them conduct themselves professionally. What I mean is that Francis burns books she doesn’t like and Rita demands total quiet, while Violet and Mr. Higgins are more helpful. The latter two characters fulfill what the UMW Libraries called “quality service, positive attitude, good patron relations, and pleasing personal appearance.” The clothing of the characters, is in line with existing library dress codes that ban shorts, halter tops / tank tops, flip flops, backless shoes, ill-fitting clothing, or t-shirts with writing / slogans, no bare shoulders, no or few face piercings, no denim pants, and no torn jeans. It often goes beyond what could be called “business casual” ins some contexts. [6]

Apart from the above-mentioned older librarians, there are some librarians who have a bit more style. This includes the unnamed librarian in a Steven Universe episode (“Buddy’s Book”), one of the protagonists of I Lost My Body, an animated film set in France, Gabrielle, and Marion the Librarian in various episodes of Hanny Manny. The most casual of these is the Steven Universe librarian who is shown wearing what looks like a green cardigan and glasses, with a green undershirt of some kind shown in the comics. However, she may be more casual in the comics than in the animated series, as she could be wearing a collared shirt in the episode, as shown below:

Her style is in line with librarians who say [7] that they wear cardigans, black dress pants, oxford shirts, dressy shoes, casual pants, slacks, blouses, sweaters, button downs, leggings, tights, and skirts. I haven’t seen any fictional librarians in dresses that I can recall, however nor in sundresses, jumpers, t-shirts, shirt and tie, khakis, with tattoos or with piercings. It is likely that the Buddwick Public Library in Beach City has a business-professional dress code that prohibits shorts, sneakers, t-shirts with writing, backless shoes, and blue jeans. We can’t know for sure, because we never see the librarian, or any other librarians, outside of their work behind the information desk. [8]

Compare the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe to Gabrielle in I Lost My Body and Marion the Librarian in Hanny Manny. Both characters wear business casual more than casual, looking comfortable in their workplaces while they look professional. However, it is unlikely that either of them have “highly regularized” librarian dress, but rather that there are continuing struggles over what it means to “dress professionally” in their jobs. Even so neither are wearing t-shirts, jeans, gym shoes, jeans, or even open-toed shoes in line with varied dress codes, or anything similar to the variety of adorable outfits out there which are inspired by librarians. Instead, they have a practical, curated, and straightforward style, likely recognizing that what you wear has a “lot to do with identity” even if they aren’t aware of the cultural stereotypes out there of librarians. [9]

There are other librarians who have style, even if in a more “traditional” way. This includes elderly librarians enforcing rules, like the librarian in Uncle Grandpa episode (“Back to the Library”), Miss Dickens in Carl Squared episode (“Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible episode (“Overdue”), Mrs. Shusher in an episode of The Replacements (“Quiet Riot“), and the unnamed librarian in a few episodes of Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil. The same can be said for the stickler librarian in an episode of Rugrats, Ms. L in an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory (“Book ‘Em“) and the briefly appearing librarian in an episode of Martin Mystery (“Return of the Dark Druid“). [10] What they are wearing is reflect of what Brytani of The Intrepid Nerd pointed out: that often librarians are portrayed in fashion catalogs, Pinterest, and elsewhere with “vintage looks.” This includes dresses or skirts, sweaters / cardigans / blazers, “smart” shoes, and glasses. She concluded that people give librarian’s this look because there is “something nostalgic about reading books” and working somewhere that is full of them, or a more disturbing conclusion: that people dress librarians this way “because they think the career is outdated.” Hopefully, the creators of Uncle Grandpa, Carl Squared, Kim Possible, The Replacements, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Martin Mystery don’t think this way about librarians.

This dress doesn’t take away from the fact that the librarian in Uncle Grandpa and the librarian in Rugrats are super kind [11] even though they are dressing conservatively. This is in contrast to the sadistic Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible and the unnamed librarian in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil or the strict shushing librarians Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements, Miss Dickens in Carl Squared, Ms. L in Dexter’s Laboratory, and a librarian in Martin Mystery. What they all have in common is what they are wearing fulfills what eHow has called the “classic librarian costume,” admitting it goes along with the librarian stereotype. [12] At the same time, how they dress may be about appearing professional and some of those libraries may even have formal dress codes.

Screenshots taken from fandom gallery of “Through the Looking Glass Ruins” episode of The Owl House; a Dutch nun in 1992 and a Hungarian priest in 1935

Even more simplified is Amity Blight in The Owl House, who is directly shown as a librarian in the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”. As she travels into a dangerous/forbidden section of the library to help her friend Luz Noceda, she wears a library employee card in a lanyard around her neck, a black short sleeve dress, black point shoes, and orchid leggings. In the episode, she ties up her hair in a typical librarian style, as shown in the image above. She looks similar to those working in religious libraries, especially a nun or even a priest.

When I saw what she was wearing, it immediately make of something religious. Wearing the color black can express self-confidence, sensitivity, an attempt to impress someone, could indicate someone has a rebellious nature that doesn’t accept authority, exudes a person’s feelings of power and influence, and building walls to protect themselves. It doesn’t necessarily make you “part of a suspicious sect” or anything like that. Rather, wearing black-colored clothes can be classy, mysterious, or distinguished. More specifically, some have argued that wearing black can be slimming, elegant, sexy, chic, or even overbearing and evil. Most of the positive qualities are the reasons that Amity is watching it, as the wearing black-colored clothes can signal “a desire to reclaim one’s power.” [13]

Inter-related with this is the fact that librarian and library perform a specific role “in the language of fashion,” employed in phrases like librarian chic, conjuring imperatives and fantasies on librarians, their labor, and recognition. This centers “class-privileged white women” as the stewards of librarianship and space of the library itself. Furthermore, cuteness can compel viewers to place value on what is cute, worthy to be desired, protected, and cared for. As such, if Whiteness is seen as cute, it is devoid of its “power to inflict violence” and is not threatening. The latter is the case with Amity, as often seen by fans, as she is clearly attractive, delightful, appealing, or even clever and mentally keen, and is White. [14] In that sense, the styles of Amity and Kaisa are somewhat similar.

Amity is also a lesbian, something which I mentioned back in October. Like everyone else, lesbians internalize societal standards of appearance and weight, even though they were more critical of “traditional social norms” when it came to roles and rights of women. A large number saw physical attractiveness as “important in a partner,” even though such attractiveness was functional rather than a concern for looks like straight women. Not surprisingly, there is even a fashion style known as “lesbian chic.” [15] Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, archivist at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, argued that librarians are marginal due to enduring values just as lesbians are marginal, noted that lesbian is a sexual orientation and a “constructed political identity.” She also said that all lesbians may not be “equipped to be librarians” with a lesbian “subject specialty.” [16] Amity may not have that specialty, nor may she know nothing about lesbian herstory, lesbian separatism, or lesbian feminism, but she would provide service of a high caliber to patrons and fight lesbian erasure at the same time.

Like Amity, other librarians also have their own style. This includes Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For, public librarian Myra in The Public, Sabine in Sabine: an asexual coming-of-age story, Desiree, Sara, and Sarah, her two work colleagues. The latter three characters are in Too Loud, an animated web series. Starting with Mo, a lesbian feminist and reference librarian, is described as a “worrier and kvetch extraordinaire” on the comic’s official website, she has a “penchant for striped clothing” just like the comic’s author, Alison Bechdel. This means that Mo is falling into the style of being “overly conventional,” and not as colorful as, let’s say, drag queens. [17] The same can be said about what Desiree, Sara and Sarah wear while working at the library. Their clothes falls into typical wear like cardigans, dresses, brown pants, and sensible shoes. However, when Desiree finally dresses up in more girly clothes during the episode “Slumber Party,” it makes clear what the now defunct Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog blog tried to prove: that librarians are stylish people despite some a perception of the opposite. [18]

Myra and Sabine also wear simple clothes, but nothing that could be called “dated” or “conservative”. Sabine, even more than Myra, exudes a level of coolness as she is also a student as well as a part-time librarian at the college library. This is something that even the New York Times recognized years ago, noting that emergence of hip and cool librarians in a profession described as “nerdy” and a haven for “left-wing social engagement.” More than any of the other librarians in this post, Sabine is more trendy and fashionable, although not as dedicated to fashion trends as those like Sam, Alex, and Clover in Totally Spies! to give three examples. Very few of the librarians I’ve described in this post are those are either wear hair in a bun, wear glasses, or a cardigan, with librarians getting a bad rap for the latter. [19] Rather they tend toward being more stylish, especially in terms of Amity, who dyes her hair green (her original hair color is brown) and later lilac, and Kaisa, who has put purple streaks in her black hair.

Three screenshots of the unnamed librarian in the Totally Spies! episode. The last one is after she starts to become buff.

There are some exceptions, however. For instance, the librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”), who becomes “way buff,” as I wrote about back in March when I rewatched the episode. She wears a blazer, a collared shirt, has on glasses, and has her hair in a bun. This similar to how The images of librarians in cinema 1917-1999 displays librarians, or smocks worn by New Zealand librarians into the 1980s, while some librarians adopted corporate uniforms or t-shirts. [20] This unnamed librarian, likely voiced by Janice Kawaye, has an even more professional outfit. She doesn’t wear anything that invokes the problematic and is not a degrading sexy librarian stereotype. In her own way, she is classy and chic, or even cool. If she was an actual librarian, she would be among those which author and photographer Kyle Cassidy profiled in his 2014 photo-essay “This is What A Librarian Looks Like” for Slate magazine. [21]

Of the librarians I’ve named in this article, arguably the unnamed librarians in Rugrats, Uncle Grandpa, DC Super Hero Girls, and Kick Buttoswki all could be considered spinster librarians of some type, using the definition Snoek-Brown outlines. The same could be said for Violet Stanhhope, Mrs. Higgins, Rita Book, Miss Dickens, Ms. Hatchet, Mrs. Shusher, and Ms. L. Contrasting this would be Kaisa, Gabrielle, Marion the Librarian, Amity, Mo, Myra, Sabine, Desiree, Sara, Sarah, and even the unnamed librarians in Martin Mystery, Steven Universe, and Totally Spies!, who are all information providers. Most extreme is Francis Clara Censordoll, who is not anti-social, a failure, naughty, comic relief, or liberated. She is the librarian-censor. Some might say she is the anti-librarian since she stands against everything that librarians seem to stand for. However, as Matthew Noe, the ALA GNCRT President, pointed out in March, it is going to be hard “to put a stop to this massive censorship lobby harassing libraries and schools when we can’t even convince all library workers to stop doing censorship.”

On a stylistic note, some of these librarians have an aristocratic style, along with avant-garde and celtic styles. I haven’t seen any librarians with art deco, art nouveau, beach bum, beatnik, biker, black loli, babushka bois, bohemian, equestrian, flapper, heavy metal, hippie, hipster, punk, retro / vintage, surf, to name a few styles. Characters like Malkuth in the Library Of Ruina, a simulation game that followed the 2008 game Lobotomy Corporation would fall into the aristocratic and possibly avant-garde styles. I also haven’t seen any military librarians. The closest I’ve come to that are the characters in Library War. Such librarians would likely be bound, if they were in the U.S., by very specific grooming and personal appearance standards. [22]

Those librarians who work in public spaces, especially, would likely be pushed to accept the idea that you need to “dress for success” either with business casual or casual attire which is “smart.” This would be reinforced by the common perception in Western society that conflates appearance and health, affecting women, and leading to potential harm. This is made worse by the fact that unattractiveness leads to negative judgment from people. Such negativity can cause isolation, dieting, and emotional distress. Appearance, for humans, is “one of the most direct sources of information about other people.” In workplaces, there are additional stresses, like so-called “common standards of professional appearance,” which look down upon those with visible piercing and tattoos. This is obviously interlinked with the “societally sanctioned standards of appearance.” [23]

There are many librarian styles. Whether they are depicted in pop culture matters since real-life librarians exist and embody those styles. Furthermore, whether librarian styles in real-life translate over to pop culture, in animation, anime, comics, or elsewhere, is anyone’s guess.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Todd Honma, “Forward” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. ix; Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, “Introduction” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 2; Ian Beilin,”The Academic Research Library’s White Past and Present” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 83.

[2] I am putting aside the librarian in Futurama episode (“The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”), Librarian in Zevo-3 episode (“Zevo-3”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“The Warlock Returns”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), Librarian in Amphibia episode (“True Colors”), Librarian in Beavis and Butt-Head episode (“Cyber-Butt”), Librarian in Bob’s Burgers episode (“Y Tu Ga-Ga Tina Tambien”), Arlene in Phineas & Ferb episode (“Phineas and Ferb’s Quantum Boogaloo”), Librarian in Phineas & Ferb episode (“The Doonkelberry Imperative”), Librarian in The Flintstones episode (“The Hit Songwriter”), Librarian in The Owl House episode (“Lost in Language”), Unnamed librarian in Sofia the First episode (“Forever Royal”?), Librarian in Sarah and Duck episode (“Lost Librarian”), Librarian in Boyfriends, Lara in Action Comics, The Librarian in Detective Comics, Rupert Giles in Giles: Girl Blue, Skeezix in Guillotine Public Library, Barbara Gordon in Huntress: Year One, Ghost in Library Ghost, Crawley in Library of Ruins, Librarian in Meau!, Rabbi Rava in Monolith, Marten Reed in Questionable Content, Claire in Questionable Content, Rex Libris in Rex Libris, Suzie in Sex Criminals, Prysia in Smitty and Majesty, Lazurus Luca in Sword & Sphere, Daniel in The Library, Jane Case / Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman, as they either have minor roles or I haven’t read the comics enough to cover them here.

[3] Jessica Macias, “Looking the Part” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 113-5; Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, “Introduction” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 5; April M. Hathcock and Stephanie Sendaula, “Mapping Whiteness at the Reference Desk” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 254-5.

[4] See Jennifer Snoek-Brown’s “Librarian action figure,” “Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’,” and “Stylish female reel librarians” for instance.

[5] Macias, “Looking the Part,” 118.

[6] “Dress Code,” UMW Libraries Public Services, accessed Mar. 15 2022; “Dress Code Policy…,” Adventures of a Misfit Librarian, Oct. 26, 2010; Comments on “Dress Codes” discussion on /r/librarians in May 2014; Comments on “Does your library have a dress code for librarians, aides, etc.?” discussion on /r/librarians in September 2014.

[7] See Comments on “Dress Codes” discussion on /r/librarians in May 2014 and Comments on “Does your library have a dress code for librarians, aides, etc.?” discussion on /r/librarians in September 2014.

[8] Alexa Newman, “Workplace Dress Codes – Does Your Library Have One?,” ALSC Blog, Dec. 28, 2017.

[9] , “How should I dress for a library job?,” Janetpanic.com, Dec. 19, 2019; Ruthann Robson, “Dress Code for Librarians,” Dressing Constitutionally, Jun. 7, 2013; Lisa Knasiak, “Dress Codes at the Library,” Public Libraries Online, Sept. 14, 2015; “The Ladies Of A Beautiful Mess Love Libraries…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Mar. 17, 2012; “Sister Style: Library Inspired,” A Beautiful Mess, Mar. 8, 2012; “Dotty The Librarian From Little Chief Honeybee…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Sept. 6, 2011; Kaelab Beauregarde, “Dotty the Librarian,” The Charming Life, Sept. 2011; “Library Date Dress From A Beautiful Mess…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Aug. 22, 2011; “The Library Date Dress: 3 Ways To Wear It,” A Beautiful Mess, Aug. 22, 2011; Molly Wetta, “What makes a work wardrobe?,” Librarian Style, Jun. 1, 2021.

[10] I can’t get a photograph as of now, but Ms. Herrera in the same Archie’s Weird Mysteries episode as Violet might be another character.

[11] These words are used by Angeline to describe her work outfit on her June 2011 post “The librarian ‘do [outfit]” on her blog The New Professional.

[12] Rachel Sawaya, “Ideas for a Librarian Costume,” eHow, accessed Mar. 15, 2022. They specifically outline options that follow the librarian stereotype, including, “a pencil skirt…for women…a pair of dark, formal slacks for men….a crisp, pale, high-necked blouse or collared shirt…[or] a dark vest with buttons..a tie or bowtie…for men. A plain silk scarf…for women. [or] a classic cardigan…stockings or pantyhose for women. [or] plain, dark leather shoes or ankle boots.” They also say that “classic items” include spectacles with thin rims, a small pile of books, hollowing out an old book, and “literary-themed accessories.”

[13] Here is What Wearing Black Says About You (and the 5 most common personality traits of these people),” iheartintelligence, May 28, 2020; Cassandra Sethi, “How to Wear Black,” ehow, Feb. 21, 2022; Ada Polla, “5 Rules for Wearing All Black Clothing,” HuffPost, Dec. 6, 2017; “What does black clothing symbolize?,” Colorbux, access date March 22, 2022; Cameron Wolf, “Study Confirms That Wearing Black Clothing Makes You Appear More Attractive, Intelligent, and Confident,” Complex, Aug. 28, 2015; bethany, “In Defense of Wearing All-Black,” College Fashion, Jan. 31, 2019; Ellie Krupnick, “14 Reasons Black Is The Only Color Worth Wearing,” HuffPost, Dec. 6, 2017; Brianna West, “The Psychological Reason Some Women Love Wearing All Black,” Thought Catalog, Jan. 30, 2022.

[14] Vani Natarajan, “Nostalgia, Cuteness, and Geek Chic: Whiteness in Orla Kiely’s Library” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 122, 132; “Cute,” Dictionary.com, accessed March 22, 2022.

[15] Karen Heffernan, “Lesbians and the Internalization of Societal Standards of Weight and Appearance” [Abstract], Journal of Lesbian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4, Oct. 12, 2008; “How to Dress Lesbian Chic,” Wikihow, Jan. 31, 2022.

[16]  Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Lesbian Librarianship for All: A Manifesto” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 298-299, 301, 304. I’m not even getting into the somewhat problematic and strange idea that all librarians can be “lesbian librarians” even those who aren’t lesbian. I think she just chose the wrong term for it. Maybe “social justice librarian” or something like that would have been better.

[17] “Cast Biographies,” Dykes to Watch Out For Official Website, accessed March 22, 2022; Janine Utell, “The Comics of Alison Bechdel: From the Outside In,” University Press Scholarship Online, Sept. 2020; Michael Rhode, “Alison Bechdel at Politics and Prose bookstore,” May 4, 2012, Wikimedia Commons; Elizabeth Fernandez, “It’s just a drag, darling, but this is a big election,” F.M.I.: Female Mimics International, Vol. 20, No. 1, #57, 1990, p. 41. My favorite part of this quote was this: “Other critics offer a more unusual complaint: The contest has become overly conventional. Candidates nowadays resemble librarians more than drag queens, some say.” It made me laugh a lot as it says a lot about what people see as librarians.

[18] Molly Wetta, “What makes a work wardrobe?,” Librarian Style, Jun. 1, 2021.

[19] “Bookworms’ backs up,” Sunday Star Times, Jan. 31, 2009; Kara Jesella, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” New York Times, Jul. 8, 2007; Brytani, “A Study of Librarian Fashion,” The Intrepid Nerd, Oct. 6, 2011; Heather Slania, “Welcome to the Librarian Fashion blog!,” Librarian Fashion, Mar. 22, 2011. Slania is now the Director of the Decker Library at MICA and was formerly the Director of the Library at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

[20] “Library fashion slideshow,” New Zealand History, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; The Sassy Librarian has a tag on their website with stylish librarian outfits; Roberta, “Rounding Up,” The Chic Librarian, Oct. 18, 2013. Wikihow has a whole article entitled “How to Wear the Sexy Librarian Look” in which they describe it as “playing on the idea of a quiet library with a quiet librarian” with clothes like: “partially unbuttoned shirts, dark stockings, sexy heels, and red lipstick.” A perfect example of this is a cutaway gag of a librarian in a Family Guy episode where the librarian tries to act sexy but the man looks away.

[21] Kyle Cassidy, “About,” This is What a Librarian Looks Like, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; Jordan G. Teicher, “This Is What a Librarian Looks Like,” Slate, Feb. 11, 2014. There is also a Tumblr which ran from 2010 to 2020 which smashed stereotypes about what librarians wear, called “Librarian Wardrobe.”

[22] “Personal Appearance: Beards and mustaches in the US Navy,” Naval History and Heritage Command, May 7, 1963; Devon Suits, “Army announces new grooming, appearance standards,” Army News Service, Jan. 28, 2021.

[23] “Dress for Success,” Harvard University Facility of Arts and Sciences, Office of Career Services, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; Helen Monks, Leesa Costello, Julie Dare, and Elizabeth Reid Boyd (2021), “‘We’re Continually Comparing Ourselves to Something’: Navigating Body Image, Media, and Social Media Ideals at the Nexus of Appearance, Health, and Wellness” [Abstract], Sex Roles, 84, 221-237; Atefeh Yazdanparast Ardestani, “The Quest for Perfect Appearance: an Examination of the Role of Objective Self-awareness Theory and Emotions” [Summary], Aug. 2012, UNT Digital Library; D.J. Williams., Jeremy Thomas, and Candace Christensen, “‘You Need to Cover Your Tattoos!’: Reconsidering Standards of Professional Appearance in Social Work” [Abstract], Social Work, Volume 59, Issue 4, October 2014, Pages 373–375; Leslie J. Heinberg, J. Kevin Thompson, and Susan Stormer, “Development and validation of the sociocultural attitudes towards appearance questionnaire” [Abstract], International Journal of Eating Disorders, Jan. 1995; Oleg O. Bilukha and Virginia Utermohlen, “Internalization of Western standards of appearance, body dissatisfaction and dieting in urban educated Ukrainian females” [Abstract], European Eating Disorders Review, Dec. 21, 2001.

Categories
action adventure anime comedy drama fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries special libraries speculative fiction

Behind the Screen: Japanese voice actors who bring fictional librarians to life!

Top row, from left to right: Sanae Kobayashi, Kaori Nazuka, Yumi Ichihara, Miyuki Sawashiro, Chiwa Saitō, and Marina Inoue. Bottom row, from left to right: Tomoaki Maeno, Akira Ishida, Tatsuhisa Suzuki, Kanji Suzumori, Haruo Satō, and Takahiro Sakurai.

Part of understanding fictional librarians is understanding those behind the screen, specifically when it comes to those who voice animated characters. Part 1 of this series focused on Black voice actors, Part 2 on Asian and Latin American voice actors, and Part 3 on Indian voice actors.

In this fourth part of this series, I am profiling the over 12 Japanese voice actors, men and women, who have voiced librarian characters over the years, in various anime.

About the voice actors

There are 12 Japanese voice actors which I’m describing here who voice librarians. One of the first I saw was Sanae Kobayashi, who voices Lilith in Yamibou and is a seasoned voice actress. Most recently, I was acquainted with Kaori Nazuka, as she voiced Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta. She has voiced over 200 other roles in shows like Restaurant to Another World 2, Revue Starlight, Akame Ga Kill, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Fairy Tail, and RIN: Daughters of Mnemosyne. 

There’s also the three voice actresses who have roles in Kokoro Toshokan, otherwise known as Kokoro Library: Yumi Ichihara who voices Aruto, Miyuki Sawashiro who voices Iina, and Chiwa Saitō, who voices Kokoro, the main protagonist. Sawashiro also voices Asako Shibasaki in Library War and Mirepoc Finedel in Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra, perhaps the only person on this list who is shown as voicing three librarian characters. Miyuki, on other hand, is also a seasoned voice actress, even voicing a character in My Little Pony. The final actor I’d like to mention is Marina Inoue who voices Iku Kasahara in Library War. She has voiced many anime characters over the years.

There were five other Japanese actors, all in Library War. This included Tomoaki Maeno (who voiced Atsushi Dojo), Akira Ishida (who voiced Mikihisa Komaki), Tatsuhisa Suzuki (who voiced Hikaru Tezuka), Kanji Suzumori (who voiced Ryusuke Genda), and Haruo Satō (who voiced Kazuichi Inamine). Meano voiced characters in well-known anime series while Sato voiced characters in anime too, but also Western animations like the Powerpuff Girls and Totally Spies.

There is also Takahiro Sakurai as Riichi Miura in The Ancient Magus Bride: Those Awaiting a Star. [1] He is known for he voicing of characters in Le Chevalier D’Eon, Naruto Shippūden, Ace of Diamond, and many other series, like Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra where he voiced Ruruta Coozancoona. Ishida also voiced a character in the same series, Mokkania Fluru. There are undoubtedly many more, so this is only scratching the surface when it comes to these characters.

About the characters

top row, left to right: Lilith, Fumio Murakumi, Riichi Miura, Aruto, Kokoro, Iina, Asako Shibasaki, and Iku Kasahara. Bottom row: Atsushi Dojo, Hikaru Tezuka, Ryusuke Genda, Mikihisa Komaki, Kazuichi Inamine, Ruruta Coozancoona, Mokkania Fluru, and Mirepoc Finedel.

Lilith in Yamibou is the library’s guardian. She is the third creator of worlds. She is also a lesbian attracted to Hazuki who she flirts with throughout the series. She dislikes Eve, who is the love interest of Hazuki, her adopted sister. She also is considerably wise and has a wide range of knowledge, while wanting to get Eve back to the library.

Fumio Murakumi is a main character in Girl Friend Betaand third year student. She was once introverted and lonely, but Erena becomes one of her closest friends and she likely has a crush on her. She is often carrying a book and has a strong inner personality, while she can speak politely when needed, from time to time.

Riichi Miura in The Ancient Magus Bride: Those Awaiting a Star is a librarian of a library within a forest. He can be nurturing and gentle, even if a bit awkward at times. He helps out Chise Hatori, who took refuge from evil spirits in the library. Riichi later gets Chise a library card, lets her explore around the library, but she accidentally leaves the door open letting in monsters which eat all the books and seem to put him at death’s door. In the final episode, Chise watches as the monster swallows up the library and Riichi while she gives the book back to the person she intended to go to. She tries to go back there later and the library is gone, with no evidence of it being there. Her mentor later tells her the library is like something out of a legend, and she bonds with her mentor, and others over the story.

Aruto in Kokoro Library is one of the protagonists and is a quiet girl. She works at the small library located on an unpopulated mountain, with a strong-minded girl named Iina and a girl who has the same name as the library, Kokoro. All three are sisters.

Asako Shibasaki, Iku Kasahara, Atsushi Dojo, Hikaru Tezuka, Ryusuke Genda, Mikihisa Komaki, and Kazuichi Inamine are all characters in Library War. Asako is a library clerk supervisor who is an intelligence specialist and helps Iku study the catalogs. She also tries to give Iku advice and later falls in love with Hikaru, another library clerk supervisor. Iku, the protagonist, is a new member of the Library Defense Force who struggles in training. Atsushi is another librarian who is part of the defense force and develops romantic feelings for Iku, with both later marrying. Ryusuke is a supervising librarian and veteran field commander. Kazuichi commands the Library Defense Force and is a big part on the battle with the Media Betterment Committee. Mikihisa is another librarian who is often  smiling or laughing at his coworkers, and pushed Iku to join the task force.

Some of the many characters in Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra, also known as Armed Librarians include Ruruta Coozancoona, Mokkania Fluru, and Mirepoc FinedelRuruta is director and founder of the Bantorra Library, while Mokkania is one of the strongest armed librarians, and Mirepoc is a third-grade armed librarian.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] IMDB breaks this up into Part 2, and Part 3 rather than putting them all under one show even though they all part of the same OVA, but doesn’t have Part 1, so this ANN page serves as a source here.

Categories
action adventure animation anime dimly lit libraries drama fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries live-action magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries religious libraries special libraries speculative fiction

“Shh!”: Examining the skeleton librarian Eztli in “Victor and Valentino”

Eztli shushes Victor with her extended skeleton arm

This post is a scary and spooky one for sure! I wrote this post specifically to appear right before Halloween on October 31st, and the beginning of the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos), which is celebrated between November 1st and 2nd. Today’s post examines Eztli, the skeleton librarian in the Victor and Valentino episode “An Evening with Mic and Hun“, and is likely voiced by accomplished actress of Cuban descent, Jenny Lorenzo.

Let’s start with what she is wearing: she has a black dress with a white collar, a medallion around her neck, and horn-rimmed glasses. This seriously invokes the spinster librarian stereotype, as she has her hair tied up in a bun, even though that seems somewhat unnecessary. Her first contact with Victor and Valentino, the two protagonists, is to shush them with her extended skeleton arm. Val, often the rule follower, accepts this, saying “she’s a librarian, she wants us to be quiet.” Victor rejects this and she then scares them away by doing something that is the equivalent to yelling.

After they run away, she starts putting books on a cart with the extra skeleton arm, and is sitting at the information desk, with a stack of card catalogs behind her. I loved the part when she stamped on the book “Past Due Fee: One Soul.” That made me laugh a little. Val comes up with a plan, distracting the librarian by ringing a bell, annoying her. That is until a huge orb, looking a planet, falls down on the librarian and scatters her bones. Val is annoyed at Vic, as that wasn’t the plan, as he was supposed to swing down and grab the arm. Funny enough, Vic shushes Vic with the arm, they subdue one of the other people trying to get the arm of Hun, and flee the library.

While the scene in the library is only a little more than a minute long, there is a lot going on here. More than anything, the library and librarian can be portrayed with vintage looks because there is “something nostalgic about reading books” and possibly even gives the implication that the librarian career is outdated. [1] The latter seems to be somewhat true in this episode, as there are card catalogs behind Eztli at the information desk and a bell to ring sitting on the same desk. What Eztli is wearing seems more sinister, evil, and mysterious than classy, distinguished, slimming, elegant, sexy, or chic like the outfits that Amity Blight in The Owl House or Kaisa in Hilda, which are either partly or fully black in their color. I’ll focus on that topic in my post next month, “Beauty, dress codes, and fashion: Examining twenty fictional White female librarians,” so look forward to that!

Eztli behind the information desk with a wall of card catalogs behind her, while Val comes up to the desk

Eztli is not the only skeleton librarian out there. Mumm-Ra in the Fudêncio e Seus Amigos episode “Biblioteca Maldita” is a librarian/priest and an evil figure. He considered the librarian his own private domain, claiming that time means nothing to him. But, he can be tricked, as the  characters fool him into thinking that he has the real eye of Thundera after they destroy the actual one. Then there’s the librarian in an issue of the 1992 Detective Comics who is the enemy of Batman as he has a library of souls or the soul records in the webcomic 180 Angel. Beyond this, in the webcomic, Guillotine Public Library, a librarian named Skeezix a.k.a. Jonathan von Abendroth finds out that a patron, Lavii, is a skeleton/reaper, causing him to freak out. It turns out that this librarian is Lavii’s mentor, causing her some shock, and he tells her that if she tells anyone about him then she will lose her powers! They later catch-up and he gets her a library card. [2]

In Mexican culture, skulls represent death and rebirth, as a skull represents life and afterlife, while skeletons, in Mesoamerican cultures were considered a symbol of fertility, good luck, and the “dicotomy of life.” On top of this, there are decorative skulls known as calaveras which are often created with cane sugar put on altars (known as ofrendas) for Día de Muertos, with José Guadalupe Posada creating skeleton imagery like La Catrina beginning in 1910, with its influence still felt today. Skulls and skeletons in Mexican folk art also reflect a dualism of balancing forces, like life and death, and without that duality in all parts of life, then ‘the universe loses its equilibrium.” At the same time, Indigenous Mexican art is said to celebrate the skeleton, using it as a “regular motif,” with the festival of the Day of the Dead along with its iconography of skeletons and skulls becoming part of works by those like Diego Rivera and becoming a “celebration of uniquely Mexican identity.” Such art of skeletons and skulls is also meant mock death in a powerful way. This is relevant to Eztli as Victor and Valentino puts a spotlight on mythologies and folklore from Mesoamerican cultures like the Maya, Olmec, Aztec, and other indigenous peoples. [3]

In Victor and Valentino more broadly, some of the episodes completely or partially are from the underworld (also called The Realm of the Dead or The Land of the Dead), as a Latin American folk-themed show, and various characters like Mic, Hun, El Toro, Elefante, Moreno, and Alfonso all live there. There’s even a sarcastic dog named Achi who occasionally joins or pushes Victor and Valentino in their adventures on the surface or in the underworld. The show itself premiered two days before a local Day of the Dead ceremony. Victor is voiced by the show’s creator, Diego Molano, a former writer for The Powerpuff Girls and background designer for OK K.O.!: Let’s Be Heroes, among many other series, while he hoped that the show would be a “good lesson for kids,” making Victor a bit of a self-insert. The show itself was even described as a “richly designed homage to the folk art and traditional storytelling of Mesoamerica” and said to creating “digestible content” which is rated for kids. [4]

Keeping this in mind, Molono, through Vic, is saying he won’t be stopped or silenced on his path forward. Eztli may represent those forces which are trying to hold people back and need to be resisted. Perhaps this is reading too much into it, but it would not be too far-fetched considering that Molono voices Vic. The episode writer David Teas, storyboarder Kayla Carlisle, and story writer, Julie Whitesell, may be able to shed more light on the themes in this episode. Teas previously has worked on shows like The Casagrandes and The Loud House, while Carlisle previously storyboarded for The Adventures of Puss in Boots and Whitesell for many comedy and drama sketch shows since 2010, almost exclusively live-action.

Eztli puts a book that Vic dropped on the ground onto the book with the help of the extra skeleton arm

There’s another aspect which I noticed when re-watching this episode for the purpose of this post: the religious imagery and intellectualism exuded by this library. You can’t say that Eztli is a priest, but the library itself, which is hidden away in the underworld house of Mic and Hun, is a bit of a sacred space. Librarian Fobazi Ettarh has argued that the physical spaces of libraries have often been seen as sacred spaces, treated as sanctuaries by keeping people and sacred things, serving as a refuge or shelter. This idea, she argues, is based in the fact that original libraries were monasteries, with buildings meant to “inspire awe or grandeur.” This still holds true today as libraries continue to “operate as sanctuaries in the extended definition as a place of safety,” centering themselves as “safe spaces.” [5] This isn’t the case for this library, however, as it isn’t really a place safe for anyone, but more of somewhere that is hidden away, almost the private domain of Eztli which needs to be quiet (and orderly) no matter what.

This is in contrast to libraries that are safe spaces, like the public library shown in the independent film by Emilio Estevez, The Public. It is one of the first films I reviewed on this blog back in 2020, and which I am thinking of revisiting sometime in the future, even though that library does not inspire “awe or grandeur.”At the same time, libraries in shown in the series Ascendance of a Bookworm, What If…?, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, are all sacred in their own ways. Specifically, the library in the latter animated series is a refuge (and home) for the two dads of one of the show’s protagonists. This is also the case for the magical secret library known as Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne and the huge library at the center of Yamibou, which allows people to access worlds. I have further explained on this blog how libraries are shown as a “place of refuge” in the animated series RWBY, with one character hiding in the library to escape her controlling father.

Many libraries which I have mentioned on this blog in the past are grand, like those in Classroom of the Elite, Macross Frontier, Adventure Time, Revolutionary Girl Utena, RWBY, El-Hazard, Steven Universe, Equestria Girls, Sofia the First, Elena of Avalor, and Simoun, to name a few. One series which somewhat counters this is Hilda, which has a relatively ordinary library on the outside but has a grand inner chamber called “Witches Tower” which is under the library itself. This means that most ordinary patrons would never be in “awe” of the library.

Getting back to Ettarh, she says that if libraries are sacred spaces, then the workers would be priests, noting that the earliest librarians were priests, noting that the service orientation of the profession motivates many to become librarians. This means that librarians are seen as “nobly impoverished,” working selflessly for the community and “God’s sake,” having a calling, with “spiritual absolution through doing good works for communities and society.” She continues the librarians-as-priests comparison to argue that the primary job duty of librarians is then to “to educate and to save,” with the idea of creating an “educated, enlightened populace, which in turn brings about a better society,” meaning that librarians who do this “good work” are the ones who “provide culture and enlightenment to their communities.” This carries with it the expectation that “fulfillment of job duties requires sacrifice…and only through such dramatic sacrifice can librarians accomplish something ‘bigger than themselves.'” [6]

Eztli happily stamps a book with an overdue stamp, using the skeleton arm, saying that the person who gave her the book (Vic in a sense, as he dropped the book) has to hand over his soul!

In the case of Eztli, she is less of a priest than characters like Iku Kasahara, Asako Shibasaki, and many others on the Library Protection Force in Library War. They are a manifestation of librarians as those who sacrifice, fighting those who try and censor books, although this is always with the idea that the library is neutral and that the books will enlighten society. The same can be said about Aruto, Iina, and Kokoro in Kokoro Toshokan a.k.a. Kokoro Library who live in a rural library and get very few visitors, or Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too episode (“The Garden of Sky and Wind”), to give two examples. Perhaps the same could be said about Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D. the TV, Himeko Agari in Komi Can’t Communicate, Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta, and many other librarians out there in fiction. [7]

The library that Eztli presides over may have a tenor of sacredness, but she is no priest. She is more akin to the spinster librarians of other series, in that she shushes the two protagonists and wants the library to remain quiet. This library is no temple either. It may be dated in what it has, but perhaps this isn’t a surprise as I don’t even think that the series itself is set in the present-day, although I can’t be totally sure about that. She has to deal with disruptive, problem patrons, who don’t follow the library’s rules, and crush her body into many pieces. How is she supposed to do her library work if her information desk is smashed and her body is in pieces? We never get the answer to that, because Victor and Valentino go to the next room, leaving as quickly as they came in, on their quest to find the rest of Hun’s body before is too late, and beat any of the other skeletons trying to get the body first.

Although I could be hoping too much, I think it would be interesting if she returns in a later episode, maybe even as a ghost who haunts them. Who knows. There’s a lot of interesting storylines with her that could be done. In any case, she is unlike any librarian I have seen since, and I hope to see more skeleton librarians, whether her or someone else, in animated series in the future. Criticisms and commentary on this post are welcome in the comments below this post, which I vet to make sure that I can make sure comments from spammers aren’t published and to publish those comments which are genuine instead.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Brytani, “A Study of Librarian Fashion,” The Intrepid Nerd, Oct. 6, 2011.

[2] See episodes 1, 2, and 3, named “Skeleton in the Library“, “Chance Reunion“, and “Catching up” respectfully. There’s also skeletons in the world of Hilda as an elderly patron, Matilda “Tildy” Pilqvist, checks out a book entitled “The Skeleton Whisperer”.

[3] “what do skeletons represent in mexican culture,” lisbdnet, Dec. 20, 2021; Tom Swanson & Marianne Menditto, “So What’s With the Skeletons in Mexican Folk Art?,” PVAngels, Apr. 15, 2013; Gayle Trim, “Day of the Dead Sweets and Treats,” History.com, Nov. 2, 2012; “What’s Up with All of Skeletons in Mexican Art?,” Galeria de Ida Victoria, Oct. 26, 2017; “Why Are There So Many Skulls In Mexico ?,” Inspired Nomad Adventures, Oct. 8, 2017; Mary Jane Gagnier Mendoza, “Dia de los Muertos: the dead come to life in Mexican folk art,” MexConnect, 2003; ““La Catrina:” Mexican representation of Death,” The Yucatan Times, Dec. 8, 2017; Jonathan Jones, “Skull art is not a new idea,” The Guardian, May 2, 2008; David Agren, “Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival rises from the graveyard and into pop culture,” The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2019; Tracy Novinger, ““Catrinas” and Skeletons: Mocking Death in Mexican Culture,” Patzcuareando: Peripatetic in Patzcuaro, Oct. 28, 2007; Tracy Brown, “Spooky new cartoon ‘Victor and Valentino’ channels Mesoamerican folklore,” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 30, 2019; “Animated People: Diego Molano, Creator of Cartoon Network’s ‘Victor and Valentino’,” Animation Magazine, Apr. 25, 2019.

[4] Carolina del Busto, “Jenny Lorenzo, AKA Abuela, Lends Her Voice to Latino Series Victor & Valentino,Miami New Times, Mar. 29, 2019; “Cómica y sobrenatural: habla el director de la nueva serie de Cartoon Network” [translated title: Comic and supernatural: the director of the new Cartoon Network series speaks], Culto, Apr. 20, 2019; Dylan Hysen, ““Victor and Valentino” is off to a Fun, Adventurous Start,”  Overly Animated, Oct. 29, 2016; Brown, “Spooky new cartoon ‘Victor and Valentino’ channels Mesoamerican folklore,” Mar. 30, 2019; Michael Betancourt, “Diego Molano Aims to Teach Mesoamerican Mythology to Latino Kids With Animated Adventure Series ‘Victor and Valentino’,” Remezcla, Mar. 30, 2019; Carlos Aguilar, “‘Victor & Valentino’ Art Directors On Designing Cartoon Network’s Mesoamerica-Set Show,” Cartoon Brew, Apr. 25, 2019; “Animated People,” Apr. 25, 2019.

[5] Fobazi Ettarh, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Jan. 20, 2018.

[6] She also says that considering the conjoined history of librarianship and faith, it is “not surprising that a lot of the discourse surrounding librarians and their job duties carries a lot of religious undertones. Through the language of vocational awe, libraries have been placed as a higher authority and the work in service of libraries as a sacred duty. Vocational awe has developed along with librarianship from Saint Lawrence to Chera Kowalski,” and says this idea has become so “saturated within librarianship” that Nancy Kalikow Maxwell can write Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship which details the connections between faith and librarianship while advising libraries to nurture the “religious image conferred upon them.”

[7] This includes Hamyuts Meseta, Mirepoc Finedel, Noloty Malche, and Ireia Kitty in Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra, along with unnamed librarians in Cardcaptor Sakura episode (“Sakura and Her Summer Holiday Homework”), librarian in Little Witch Academia episode (“Night Fall”), Yamada in B Gata H Kei, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers, Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, Anne in Manaria Friends, Grea in Manaria Friends, Hasegawa Sumika in Bernard-jou Iwaku a.k.a. Miss Bernard said, Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood.

Categories
action adventure animation anime Comics drama fantasy Fiction genres horror Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries magical girl Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries speculative fiction webcomics White people

Recently added titles (July 2022)

Willow and Amity fight in the library in the The Owl House episode “Labyrinth Runners”

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, and June of this year, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics, and hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “Siege of the North, Part 2”
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “The Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Secret Book Club”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Kelsey the Author”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Haunted Dollhouse”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Ferret Quest”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Last Game of the Summer”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Welcome to Creek Street”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Capture the Flag Part 4: The Plan”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Legend of the Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Fire and Ice”
  • The Owl House, “Labyrinth Runners”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • A Couple of Cuckoos, “You Can’t Just Pretend It Didn’t Happen”
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero, “The Shield Hero”*

*Keep in mind that I do not recommend this series, and only watched two episodes before I stopped watching it. Read more about the controversy with this series here.

Comics recently added to this page

  • Greta the Red Wolf, “Foreboding”
  • Greta the Red Wolf, “A Series of Unexpected Events”
  • Sabine: an asexual coming of age story, “One Hundred Twenty Four”
  • Spellbound, “Ep116 – Weird”
  • Spellbound, “Ep117 – All good then!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep126 – Another game?”
  • Spellbound, “Ep127 – Sulky face”
  • Spellbound, “Ep128 – Not Happy!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep129 – Let’s make it ok”
  • Spellbound, “Ep2 – Organise – Season 2”
  • Tamberlane, “Issue 131”
  • The Siren’s Light, “Chapter 5 (4)”
  • Vixen: NYC, “Episode 4”
  • Winter Before Spring, “Episode 46”

Films recently added to this page

No films to add for this month.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Thank you to all the people that regularly read my blog. As always, if you have any titles you’d like to suggest, let me know. Thanks!

Categories
anime drama fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums rural libraries special libraries speculative fiction

More than “frilly outfits”: librarian work, weeding, and library marketing in Kokoro Library

How every episode of the series begins

In September of last year, I came across Kokoro Library, an anime series from the early 2000s. I watched it, it was apparent that librarians were likely consulted when this was produced because of the number of issues about libraries this animation raises. This was further buttressed by the fact that in March 2002, the Japan Library Association announced that copies of the Kokoro Library anime would appear in 500 libraries across Japan. Although all thirteen episodes are available in Japan on Amazon Prime Video, the series has not seen an official English translation. Luckily, there are fan translations, one of which I watched on the Internet Archive. Provided that there are many library-related themes in this anime, it would be wrong to cram them all into one post. Given criticisms of this anime [1] for possibly implying that all librarians have to do is “look cute and sit behind a desk” and that the series is “inconsequential”, I may reassess it in the future.

This slice-of-life anime, which is named Kokoro Library or Kokoro Toshokan, follows the daily lives of three sisters (Kokoro, Aruto, and Iina) who live in a remote, rural library, seemingly somewhere in Western Europe. Although the show is peaceful, cute, and relaxing, some people might be turned off by the art style, the slow pacing, or the fact that the librarians are wearing “frilly French maid outfits,” trying to fulfill their jobs, although they mostly do maintenance and groundskeeping. The library gets very few patrons, reportedly with very little “real” librarian work to do.

Kokoro remains optimistic and kind, serving as the “soul of the show,” and learns to become more confident. There are later stories about exotic stories about androids, but it said to not be about “anything important or deeply philosophical,” relying more on feeling than anything else, with the characters symbolic in their own way. Other reviewers praised voice acting in the series by Chiwa Saitō, who voices Kokoro, and said it is a type of anime that you watch when you get home after a hard day at work, comparing it to Read or Die. Viewers praised the opening and ending songs of the anime, and the anime itself was one of the most popular anime in February of 2002. [2]

The first episode, “I’ll Become a Librarian” begins with introducing the show’s three protagonists, and the library cat, Kit. Kokoro lives at the library with her sisters, a little like George and Lance in a few episodes of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Kokoro begins her first day at the library, isolated on a mountain and away from the city, working alongside her sisters Aruto and Iina. She learns that the library gets few users. All three sisters engage in library tasks like opening up the library’s windows, shelving books, checking the mail, data entry, cart pushing, and book arranging.

Apart from library itself which has old computers, some sort of classification system, tables, seats, and computers for people to use, there are many library-related issues covered in the anime. For one, Kokoro and Aruto differ on describing library patrons, with Kokoro describing them as “customers” and Aruto saying they are “users.”

Kokoro (left) talks to a patron who is asking if she can borrow a book

She is helpful to patrons, helping patrons by finding them books they are looking for, or check out items, or giving someone a library card, all instances of “librarian work.” This is later described as a “reference” experience. She even later tracks down one user who came to the library, in hopes of retrieving a book, going on an adventure of sorts. Her sisters claim that the “job of a librarian…is to believe in people.”

When they talk about “reference,” they are likely not referring to a reference librarian. Instead to the idea of a reference interview, the process which “determines the information needs” of a patron, and tries to translate the questions of a patron into one that “can be answered with the library’s resources.” In this case, Kokoro clearly did a great job of helping a patron and felt fulfilled while she did it. It was a bit extreme, though, for her to go on a whole journey to find one book which wasn’t returned to the library, as libraries lose books all the time. I’m also not convinced that the job of a librarian is to believe in people, as sometimes you really can’t do that. I’d say the job is to help patrons in the best way you can, but not believe in people, as people can be wrong, hostile, or dangerous, depending on where you are a librarian.

In the show’s second episode, “What I Can Do At This Moment,” Kokoro begins asking herself what she is good at, knowing that her sister Aru likes to bake and sleep everywhere, Iina who likes taking photos and is good with computers. She later realizes she is good at singing. The episode features book shelving, a truck coming to deliver boxes of books, book cataloging, and carrying stacks of books. The library also appears to have a scanner, a laptop, and a printer, technology which was advanced at the time.

One of the more interesting parts of the episode when they worry about declining number of library patrons. During their discussion, Aru proposes they get rid of the “old, unpopular books” and replace them with new popular books and it will draw in users, gathering best sellers and popular comics, picture books, CDs, and videos. However,  Kokoro isn’t sure about this and Iina agrees. She declares that library is a place to “deepen knowledge and education.” In response, Aru justifies her position by using the stats of declining patronage to the library, even saying that modern libraries should focus on entertainment, something which Iina calls “vulgar.” Aru later remarks that young novels and picture books can “cultivate knowledge and education” too. Poor Kokoro though, as she isn’t sure what side to take. She tells them both that if people knew about the library, then they would come, and she proposes advertising the library!

This makes me think of the difference between the collections of two libraries I know very well: the Baltimore County Library (BCPL) and the Pratt Library. From my experience as a patron who uses both systems, and as a person who worked at a Pratt Library branch, I can say with confidence that the BCPL tends to have more popular books and weed old and unpopular books. On the other hand, the Pratt has vast collections, able to easily accommodate old and new materials which much more ease. This is not much of a surprise as the Pratt has 22 branches, with the Pratt itself saying that Maryland residents continue to “depend on the Pratt’s collections to supply materials that are not available elsewhere in the state or electronically.” [3] Compare this to BCPL, which has 19 branches and many other services, with goals asserted in their Strategic Plan focused on quality of life, education and lifelong learning, equitable access, and organizational wellness, which doesn’t provide much room for older materials, but much more for newer materials. Even so, we must acknowledge that the Pratt has a bigger budget, more support, and more storage space than BCPL, which undoubtedly affects which materials are chosen and kept within the library’s collections for users, or which are discarded.

How many librarians do you know who have this ability, like Aru? I don’t even have that ability…and I can’t think of anyone else who has that ability.

Later in the episode, Kokoro tries to determine what she can do to bring in more patrons, while her sister Iina wants a music appreciation gathering, with a well-known artist, and inviting a well-known programmer. Aru rejects this, with an idea for super care of users like serving tea, reading books to them, and massaging their shoulders, but Iina worries about how this would affect Kokoro. Ultimately, all three sisters work together on a flyer to promote the library, and they are able to rope in their delivery driver in distributing the flyers.

While Kokoro is dispirited after her sisters say that she might have unreasonable expectations about the library, she returns to find a whole group of people at the library, a line of cars snaking down the road! This communicates the idea that library advertising does work. Weirdly, there is the idea that overnight work is ok “from time to time.” But, is that work really fine? I would have to lean toward no, as it can lead to burnout. After the end of the episode, we are all probably crying tears of joy like Kokoro at the end, as she accomplished her goals.

This makes me think of the Marketing Libraries Journal (MLJ), a peer-reviewed, independently published, open access scholarly journal which “focuses on innovative marketing activities libraries are engaged in,” trying to publish “research and practical examples of library marketing campaigns…tools used for marketing” and much more. Kokoro Library has to be the only animated series I have come across which has discussed library advertising or marketing as part of the plot! So that makes this series unique in that respect. When putting together this article, I thought back to my time in library school, when I wrote papers about marketing, library promotion, library engagement, target audiences, and many more topics. [4]

Kokoro clearly knew who the target audience she was trying to reach with this campaign: people from the nearby town. She believed she could influence them to come to the library, increasing the patronage, even though her sisters were not sure this would be a success. While you could say that, the library caused “miracles” to happen, as Iina put it, more accurately, people were intrigued by the poster and excited to visit it, coming to a place they didn’t know. It was a successful, but simple public relations campaign you could say, even though it has the downside of being completely based on the fliers, with no other way of the message being shared. This is exactly what Kokoro’s sisters were afraid of, they believed the fliers wouldn’t be enough to bring more people to the library. As I wrote back in 2018, “no one is immune to advertising and marketing.”

As Ned Potter, an information professional, put it, one-off marketing usually never works. Rather, libraries try to build awareness overtime of relevant services, appeal to people “at the right time,” as putting out too many messages at once means there is “nothing for anyone to hold on to.” He argues that marketing campaigns are what has an “impact and make[s] a tangible difference to the Library.” He concludes his piece by saying that such campaigns need to “the primary focus of your comms for a concerted period of time,” with the same message going out through multiple platforms, having a strong call to action, and measuring outcomes rather than outcomes, even if that takes time. During the time this series was set, in the early 2000s, there was no Twitter (founded in 2006), YouTube (founded in 2005), TikTok (founded in 2016), Facebook (founded in 2004), Instagram (founded in 2010), Reddit (founded in 2005) or Tumblr (founded in 2007), so using fliers makes sense, even though they could have used other methods, like their presumed dial-up internet to promote the library as well.

Kokoro watches her sister, Iina at a computer. Kokoro is apparently bad with using computers, although Iina is not and is very skilled.

While there are many other marketing strategies, resources on library marketing, tips, and more, I believe I’ve given enough of an overview of this topic without getting too much in the weeds on this topic. [5] This post is one of the many which connects to library themes unlike other series out there, even with those which have librarians as supporting characters like Welcome to the Wayne or The Owl House. That makes the series unique and worthy of note, so much so that it can’t all be summarized in one post, making this the beginning of a series.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This review also says that “it takes a whole lot more than minimum alpha brain waves to earn a degree in library sciences. Certainly Kokoro wouldn’t hack it in the ALA – she’d do good to make it to the Special Olympics” and goes onto say “for a much more exciting and interesting tour of the world of library sciences, we recommend Read or Die. Either that, or read a book. Both are infinitely preferable to this inconsequential series.” Harsh words! As of the writing of this post, I have only watched TWO episodes, so my opinion on it may change as I watch more episodes.

[2] Cornblatt, Cassidy. “10 Best Unpopular Anime Series,” Reel Rundown, Sept. 15, 2021; Grisham, Paul. “Kokoro Library Vol. #1,” Mania Entertainment, Apr. 14, 2002; Beard, Jeremy A. “Kokoro Library,” THEM Anime Reviews, c. 2002; Hikawa, Ryusuke. Kokoro Library Bandai Channel New Arrivals This Month!,” Bandai Channel, 2006; Macdonald, Christopher. “Top Televised Anime in Japan,” Anime News Network, Mar. 11, 2002; “Anime News in Japan(^^),” Anihabara!, c. 2004.

[3] “How Baltimore Chooses: The Selection Policies of the Enoch Pratt Free Library,” Eighth Edition, 2007, p. 6. According to the most recent annual report of the BCPL (see page 6), the library has over 1.2 million physical items and over 192,000 downloadable items. The Comptroller of Baltimore City notes that the Pratt Library system,  in fiscal year 2020, had over 216 million in capital assets including “books, land, buildings, equipment, fine arts, and special collections” (see pages 5 and 28), while library books are said to have a short life, of only 10 years, less than the buildings or building improvements (see page 19). The library has over 2.3 million items, and 1 million database downloads in fiscal year 2020 (see page 36).

[4] See “Strategic Plan Analysis–Maryland State Library Resource Center (SLRC),” 2018, p. 6, 8; “Uggles and the University of Illinois: a very furry situation indeed!,” 2018, p. 1-7. The Uggles article is where I believe it was this article where I learned about MLJ. I also wrote about preservation, data collection, data creation, and a homeless library, in grad school, and many other topics when in college.

[5] For more information, see these resources about marketing & promotion, this article about how libraries use content to tell stories, the Library of Congress rebrand (which was somewhat controversial), and Ad/Lib which is about advertising in libraries. If you work at a university or are a student, there are some articles of note, like “It’s not just what you know but who you know: Social capital theory and academic library outreach,” “Connecting best practices in public relations to social media strategies for academic libraries,” “Grassroots Strategic Planning: Involving Library Staff from the Beginning,” and “Applying Return on Investment (ROI) in Libraries.”