Later on in her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves“, Fobazi Ettarh clarifies that she is challenging the “notion that many have taken as axiomatic that libraries are inherently good and democratic, and that librarians, by virtue of working in a library, are responsible for this ‘good’ work,” but is not dismissing the fact that librarians should take pride in their work. She says the former notion creates the expectation that when libraries fail, it is the “fault of individuals failing to live up to the ideals of the profession,” rather than the fact that libraries are fundamentally flawed institutions. Since today is the World Day Against Child Labour, it makes sense to publish this today.
There are certainly many librarians who are shown as passionate about their work, whether the old librarian in a She-Ra: Princess of Power episode (“Three Courageous Hearts”), the unnamed librarian in Sofia the First episode (“Forever Royal”?), the librarian in Sarah and Duck episode (“Lost Librarian”), Harold in Craig of the Creek, and even Swampy in Phineas and Ferb, to name a few. Arguably, the only series I can think of, apart from Moral Orel, which portrays libraries as institutions which are fundamentally flawed, is arguably The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends as Cletus Bookworm willingly sides with censorship and lets an armed vigilante take away the two protagonists without objecting. In fact, he agrees with them being taken away, declaring they are making too much noise. More on Cletus later on in this post, as what he does continues to be relevant.
This reminds me of an August 2006 episode of Totally Spies! In the beginning of the episode, Alex, Clover, and Sam are listening to music
together in the school library but are loud. They end up annoying other students, one of whom even shushes them. This doesn’t stop them from talking and they continue to do so, until they are whisked away.
Alex, Clover, and Sam recognize, as library patrons, the idea that libraries represent an “underused oasis”. It is a place provides access to information of a significant quality, a democratic space where people can read that they can’t read elsewhere. Some have argued that libraries can even given power to communities, dubbing it “information power”, which helps people learn more about their lives, and disseminate information to further struggle for “increasing social justice”. Others have said there is an importance of trust in libraries. 
Beyond this, there are lofty ideals hoisted upon librarians, whether that they should meet “vital needs” of librarians, be “information interpreters” by being advocates and active consultants of community groups. This includes librarians making libraries a space for gathering materials, future historical inquiries, and truth-seeking initiatives.  In some ways, the elderly White female librarian (voiced by Candi Milo) in the My Life as a Teenage Robot, embodies this, as she is shown working in bookmobile. She provides services to the neighborhood.
The aforementioned librarian in Totally Spies! undoubtedly has middle-class values. Some have written that these values cause libraries to be out of their depth, led some to critique White middle-class librarianship in and of itself, or talked about librarians doing their duty. Additional articles focus on linear productivity nodes that “undergirds capitalist exchanges”, intersectuality, neoliberal university, multiculturalism, and a world in which inequalities are growing. 
Some of this is manifested in librarians in literature, some of whom internalize the stereotypical librarian, one of whom is a spinster, and others who go beyond the stereotypical mold. In some cases, this librarian image is positive with the fictional librarians helping ensure intellectual freedom for society. This differs from those prim, meek, and unassuming librarians with hair buns, portrayed to be suspicious, whether they are a positive or negative character. Take, for example, Mary Hatch (voiced by Donna Reed) in It’s a Wonderful Life, who was able to devote time to being a librarian and enforce “rules of silence” when not being married to George Bailey (voiced by Jimmy Stewart). Her life as a spinster librarian is shown to be less desirable than her life as a wife and mother in the real world. This contrasts with videos on YouTube created by librarians, with 68% having librarians as heroes, 23% as parody, and 14% as fun or positive.  Such videos provide a way for librarians to counter stereotypes of the profession.
At the same time, as fictional librarians embody the ideals of the profession, it should be recognized that stereotypical librarians never actually existed, en masse, in the library profession. They have become symbols, shorthands, whether they appear in comic books, comic strips, films, and novels. This includes well-known ones in Party Girl, Ghostbusters, Foul Play, Soylent Green, Citizen Kane, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the latter film is one of the most hilarious library scenes ever on film, as Indiana Jones is putting a hole in the floor of the library while the librarian is slamming his stamp down. Through the whole thing he remains unaware that Indiana is breaking through the floor! He thinks the stamp has something wrong with it.  While you could say this comes with it the stereotype that the librarian is outdated and old, the film is set in 1938/1939, so it makes sense he would be using a stamp at that time, as computers hadn’t even come into existence at that time. In fact, the first automatic digital computer was not created until 1941, named Z3, and created by the Germans, although the U.S. Navy had developed electromagnetic computers for submarines starting in 1938.
This film, unfortunately, has all sorts of Arab stereotypes. There’s “unsightly” Egyptian Christians, a pro-Nazi sheikh. This includes Egyptians in fezzes chasing Indy, some even trying to burn him alive. There is even a famous chase scene through Venice’s canals. Even worse are the pro-Nazi Arabs, Egyptian Christians made to look fanatical and are never humanized. For some reason, even though Indy and the Egyptian Christians are on the same side, and against the Nazis, this is not shown in the film. At the same time, a European Christian knight is guarding the Holy Grail like saint. Indy’s Egyptian friend, Sallah, is also patronized as a “dumbbell” although he warns Indy about the German tank out to get him. 
Asop culture isn’t always kind to librarians,” noting a few librarians in TV and film. Glazer and many others have made lists of librarians, whether in science fiction, fantasy, or in various mediums, sometimes even noting librarian cameos, asked why librarians are portrayed as “mean” characters.  One person, Marie of Pop! Goes the Librarian even pointed to a spirit owl-librarian Wan Shi Tong (voiced by Héctor Elizondo) in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, as one such example. She declares that his ancient library is amazing, that fox spirits assist patrons locate information, serving as public services and acquisitions staff members. She goes onto say that while he the “worst example” of a librarian as he is spiteful, mean, territorial, and single-minded, having an innate distrust of humans, with his main concern being protection and collection of knowledge, making him like an archivist. She adds this means he may dislike rare materials from the library getting in the “wrong hands” and then in “anyone’s hands”.
Reviewing the episode “A New Spiritual Age” she notes that Tong is even more hostile to humans, including Jinora, the granddaughter of Aang, who she is able to offer new knowledge in exchange and stay in the library. This gets worse as he is in league with the enemy of Korra, her uncle Unalaq. She adds that the library of Wan Shi Tong and the library itself is an “incredible story”, calling him a fan-favorite character, as he wants nothing more “than to cultivate a mass of knowledge and keep it safe” with a thirst for knowledge which makes him “lower his guard twice” and when he does, his belief in the “folly of human-kind is reinforced.” She seems to defend his actions, saying that he may be mean, old, and evil, but also tired.
This differs from Sam Cross of Pop Archives.  She describes, like Marie, how Jinora gets into the library, noting she offers to explain how a radio works. While she gets in, it turns out that Wan sided with Unalaq, claiming that Unalaq, who wants to free the dark spirits, because he cares about spirits while “Korra has shown no such interest.” Cross argues that he is Wan is interesting because he is a “spirit of contradictions”, not wanting knowledge in his library being used for ill-purposes, but doesn’t attempt to provide context, doesn’t do his own follow-up or research. Instead, he claims he is neutral, in Cross’s words, but actually favors those who see “spirits as more valuable or important than humans.” He is, in the words of Cross, “the smartest spirit ever”, and ends up being a spirit which is unnerving, yet familiar, able to provide “access to knowledge” and possibly bite your head off like “real archivists/librarians/curators” in her words.
I have a different take on Wan. While I understand what Marie and Cross are saying, he seems akin to the strict librarians I often talk about in this blog. He declares humans can no longer enter the library, he says that the last human stayed there to read, grew old and died. He sets down ground rules for Jinora, saying she can look around, but can’t break anything. Although a fox spirit helps her, she is later betrayed by him. When he sides with Unalaq it is just like the librarian Cletus Bookworm letting Rocky and Bullwinkle be taken out of his library at gunpoint. We as the audience know that Unalaq is bad news, but due to the fact that Wan has walled himself off from everything, he has no idea of Unalaq’s true nature. The fact that he lets her be kidnapped and taken away is wrong on so many levels. What Cross and Marie are saying has a sense of truth, but it also is not recognizing the severity of the situation and how Wan is condoning a crime! What he allows to happen leads to further trauma for Korra.
His character proves the point of Alison Nastasi: that the librarian is “one of the most misunderstood figures in pop culture history,” noting various “negative, unflattering, and downright laughable images of librarians” that have inundated our society. This is especially the case when it comes to stereotypical representations of female librarians in pop culture, which Christina Niegel argues are rooted in the “gendered history of the profession” and social norms producing expectations about “service work as an extension of the caring and organizing work of women.” Such stereotypes are emblematic of the difference between real-life librarians and those in fiction, a disparity “between reality and fantasy” as Darlynn Nemitz puts it. Fictional librarians convey a certain meaning, even in more positive depictions like Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl, who many find inspiring.  The same can even be said for the unnamed Black male librarian in All the President’s Men.
All these depictions have a real-life impact. Some have even argued that librarian stereotypes and perceptions may be holding back library instruction, while others related fictional librarians to real life information behaviors of patrons. Additional pieces noted stereotypes in young adult literature, said that some fictional librarians can be good sleuths, or pointed to other depictions of librarians in fantasy and sci-fi, to name a few genres. This fiction differs from reality. Characters like Sam’s mom in Totally Spies, may say that librarians are a “safe” career option, but the reality is very different. 
In Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere, there is a continued need to rely on precious work to maintain their workforces. This is coupled with maintaining systemic barriers to those with disabilities. How can someone enforce the much-exalted “core values” of the profession, if your job is precarious?  The answer is that you can’t. Some librarians in fiction are shown as equivalent to precarious, like those experiencing burnout. Most prominently, apart from the blue-skinned librarian in Prisoner Zero, is Kaisa in Hilda, who is shown as exhausted at one point. I can’t think of any librarian in fiction whose labor is contingent, is precarious, but hopefully that changes in the future. That’s my hope at least. Until the next post.
© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.
 Duff, Gary. “Actor Jeffrey Wright on Growing Up In D.C., the 2016 Election & Starring in ‘The Public’“. Capitol File, Apr. 17, 2019; Yamauchi, Haruko. “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters: An Emerging Radical Vision of Reference for the People, 1967-1973” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 28, 50; Forbes, Carrie and Jennifer Bowers, “Social Justice, Sentipensante Pedagog, and Collaboration: The Role of Research Consultations in Developing Critical Communities” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 270.
 Beilin, Ian. “Reference and Justice, Past and Present” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 19; Yamauchi, “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters,” p. 33, 36, 39; Buenrosto, Iyra S. and Johann Frederick A. Cabbab, “Unbound: Recollections of Librarians During Martial Law in the Philippines” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 70-1.
 Yamauchi, “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters,” 30-32, 44; Buenrosto and Cabbab, “Unbound,” 64; Adler, Kate. “Towards a Critical (Affective) Reference Practice: Emotional, Intellectual and Social Justice” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 110; Tewell, Eamon. “Beyond Efficient Answers with a Smile: Seeking Critical Reference Praxis” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 221-2; Forbes, “Social Justice, Sentipensante Pedagog, and Collaboration,” 262, 271.
 Allan, Adriane. “Librarians in Children’s and Teen Literature.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Allan, Adriane. “The Librarian with an Alterego Convention.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. November 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Attebury, Ramirose I. “Perceptions of a Profession: Librarians and Stereotypes in Online Videos.” Library Philosophy and Practice, October 2010. Accessed June 17, 2022.
 Bartel, Cheryl. “Past and Future Images vs. Current Actuality.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Berguson, Stephen M. “Librarians in Comics: Sources — Comic Books.” Libraries FAQ. n.d. [2002?] Accessed June 17, 2022; Berguson, Stephen M. “Librarians in Comics: Sources — Comic Strips.” Libraries FAQ. August 17, 2002. Accessed June 17, 2022; Firment, Erica. “Desk Set” [Review]. Librarian Avengers. November 11, 2006. Accessed June 17, 2022; French, Emily. “Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction.” OUP Blog. July 17, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2022; Gachman, Diana. “13 Of The Best Library Scenes In Movies.” Bustle, September 8, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2022.
 Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 253-4.
 Glazer, Glen. “Our Favorite Fictional Librarians, Ranked.” New York Public Library. April 14, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2022; Gunn, James. “Libraries in Science Fiction.” Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. n.d. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marcia, Maria J. “Images of Librarians in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Including an Annotated List.” Research Report. Eastern Kentucky University, June 1998; Marie. “Bunny Watson – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. March 11, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Evelyn Carnahan – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 18, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “It’s a Wonderful Life: How Mary Lost Her Groove,” Pop Goes the Librarian. December 20, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Marian the Librarian – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 7, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “On Crones, Meanies and Sex Kittens,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 15, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Rupert Giles – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 20, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Summer Movies Mean… Librarian Cameos?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 2, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “The Judgmental Ostrich: When book-pushers become meme fodder,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 10, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Visual Cues: What Makes a Librarian?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 22, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “vs. the Evil Librarians,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 8, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Who/what/why am I?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 2, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Why Are Librarians So Mean?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 26, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Wan Shi Tong – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. December 5, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “‘Wonderfully Unhinged’ Librarian,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 28, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Worse Than Murder,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 11, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “‘You Don’t Look Like a Librarian!’,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 26, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Zombie Librarian,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 13, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022.
 Cross, Samantha. “Archivist Spotlight: Wan Shi Tong.” Pop Archives, April 12, 2019.
 Nastasi, Alison. “Our Favorite Pop Culture Librarians.” FlavorWire. November 9, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Neigel, Christina. “Loveless Frumps, Old Maids, and Diabolical Deviants: Representations of Gender and Librarianship in Popular Culture.” Ed. D., Simon Fraser University, 2018; Nemitz, DarLynn. “Image of Librarians and Libraries in Popular Literature.” Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Nemitz, DarLynn. “Library Cards: The Reflected Image of Libraries.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022;Scarlet, Janina. “The Psychology of Inspirational Women: Batgirl.” The Mary Sue. August 6, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2022; O’Neal, Jeff. “16 Great Library Scenes in Film.” Book Riot. July 26, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2022. Also see Oberhelman, David D. “A Brief History of Libraries in Middle-Earth: Manuscript and Book Repositories in Tolkien’s Legendarium.” In Truths Breathed Through Silver: The Inklings’ Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy, edited by Jonathan B. Himes, 81–92. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.
 Pagowsky, Nicole, and Erica DeFrain. “Ice Ice Baby: Are Librarian Stereotypes Freezing Us out of Instruction?” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, July 3, 2014. Accessed June 17, 2022; Pierce, Jennifer B. “What’s Harry Potter doing in the library? Depiction of young adult information seeking behavior in contemporary fantasy fiction.” Iowa Research Online, June 1, 2004. Accessed June 17, 2022; Peresis, Michalle and Linda B. Alexander. “Librarian stereotypes in Young Adult literature.” Young Adult Library Services, 4, no. 1 (2005): 24-31; Reiman, Lauren. “Solving the Mystery: What Makes the Fictional Librarian Such a Good Sleuth?” Honors Thesis, Washington State University, 2003; “Representations of Libraries and Librarians in Popular Culture, Particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Sci-Fi Librarian. February 27, 2016. Accessed June 17, 2022. Also see: Sweeney, Miriam A. “Not Just a Pretty Inter(face): A Critical Analysis of Microsoft’s ‘Ms. Dewey.’” Doctors Thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013. In the episode “Totally Busted!” [Part 1], Sam’s mother says being a librarian is a safer career option than being an international spy. She also says being a foot doctor is safer.
 Henninger, Ean. “Precarious Library Employment as a Professional Barrier.” British Columbia Library Association, accessed June 17, 2022; Moeller, Christine. “Disability, Identity, and Professionalism: Precarity in Librarianship.” Library Trends, Vol. 67, Number 3, Winter 2019, 455-470; “Core Values of Librarianship.” American Library Association, accessed June 17, 2022. Also see “Labor and Precarity Syllabus“.