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Fictional librarians and ideals of librarianship

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. [1]

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. [2] 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.

Students look at Alex, Clover, and Sam, annoyed they are making a lot of noise

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. [3]

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. [4] 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. [5] 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. [6]

As op 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. [7] 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. [8] 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.

Wan, alongside Unalaq, falsely claims that Unalaq is a “true friend” unlike Korra, standing in a hallway, while Jinora, in the foreground, stands her ground

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. [9] 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. [10]

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? [11] 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.


[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 253-4.

[7] 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.

[8] Cross, Samantha. “Archivist Spotlight: Wan Shi Tong.” Pop Archives, April 12, 2019.

[9] 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.

[10] 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.

[11] 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“.

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Fictional librarians and the importance of storytime

Millie, the librarian in an episode of Madagascar: A Little Wild

Happy Better Hearing and Speech Month! For this post I’ll be focusing on fictional librarians and the importance of storytime.

Storytime is a vital program at many libraries, specifically public libraries. As Tom Bruno writes, storytime is “a great free form of entertainment for parents looking for activities for their children…[and] can provide a bonanza of cognitive benefits,” serving as the “heart and soul of the library…[and] showcases the depth and breadth of your local public library’s commitment to your community with respect to early literacy and child development.”

More than any other character, this is evident for Amity Blight in The Owl House. First shown working in the children’s section of the Bonesborough Library in the episode “Lost in Language”, in a flashback in the episode “Understanding Willow” and most recently in the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”, Amity understands what Bruno is saying to some extent. Whether she knows about the cognitive benefits of reading to children or enjoys it, the fact is that she is comfortable with this activity, even if she ends up getting embarrassed when seeing her-later girlfriend, Luz Noceda.

Amity, who is voiced by the talented Mae Whitman, also has the distinction of being a student, a lesbian,and wears her hair up, but not in a hair bun like some librarians are shown stereotypically to do. Instead, she wears a pony tail. Her look somewhat resembles those who work in religious libraries as I noted in a post this past November. All in all she displays the importance of the library as a welcoming place for all and reading itself, as I’ve pointed out.

More to the point than Amity is Millie, a librarian voiced by Johanna Stein. More than 15 minutes into the Madagascar: A Little Wild episode “Melman at the Movies”, Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, and Gloria the Hippo go inside the library to the pop-up books section, where they enjoy the pop-up books. Later, Melman the Giraffe finally joins his friends inside, after it starts raining. Melvin finds a book with the ending to the film, but none of them know how to read.

Following this, the librarian, Millie, announces that storytime starts in 15 minutes in the reading room. They have a plan to replace the book she is going to read with another one so they can know the end to the story, using the slide ladder in hopes  of getting behind the librarian’s desk to change the book before she returns.

After that, one of the elderly patrons thinks he hears something, then goes back to reading his book. Melvin tries a distraction but it doesn’t work and they are unable to pull off the book swap. But, Melman is happy nonetheless and sings a song. His actions cause the book to drop from the shelf, with the librarian shrugging as storytime begins. They are pleased with hearing the end of the book which they had looked forward to in the first place.

Through it all, Millie, who is shown shushing after she hears a loud sound, i.e. Melman’s “distraction”, is pretty chill. When a book falls from the top of a book case and on the information desk, a strange occurrence, she shrugs her shoulders and takes it in her hand, preparing to read that book rather than another one instead.

Her character has to be the most realistic depiction of a librarian doing storytime that I’ve seen to date. Perhaps there is another fictional librarian out there, apart from Amity, who could do it better, but I’m not sure who. None of the librarians I’ve covered extensively on this blog, like Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne or Kaisa in Hilda are ever shown reading books to children. Neither is Myne/Main in Ascendance of a Bookworm, George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and the unnamed presumably Thai librarian in We Bare Bears, to name a few, do this either. Perhaps it isn’t in their job descriptions.

In any case, storytime is described by libraries across the U.S. as important for developing “early literacy skills” of children, makes learning fun, teaches children to read, and helps build child development, ensuring “strong, resilient families.” [1] Again, it is not known whether Millie or Amity is aware of this. Even so, they likely realize its importance and enjoy reading stories to kids.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] “Storytime at the Library.” Cincinnati Public Library. Accessed June 11, 2022; “Storytime.” Austin Public Library. Accessed June 11, 2022; “Storytime.” Douglas County Libraries. Accessed June 11, 2022; “Storytimes.” Olathe Public Library. Accessed June 11, 2022; “Story Time & Resources.” Town of Vail Public Library. Accessed June 11, 2022; “Storytimes.” Flagstaff City Coconino County Public Library. Mar. 30, 2022; “Transforming Library Storytimes for Children with Sensory Integration Challenges.” Urban Libraries Council. Accessed June 11, 2022.

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Fiction and the realities of prison librarianship

Unnamed prison librarian comes by with a trolley full of books while Lisa uses weights while sitting in her cell in The Simpsons episode “Dial “N” for Nerder”

Back in January, I was writing about libraries in The Simpsons and came across an episode where Lisa imagines herself as an older prisoner, and the librarian says she had Danielle Steele rather than Joyce Carol Oates, causing Lisa to scream in terror. Although there have been other fictional librarians who work in prisons, the above-mentioned one in The Simpsons is the only one I have seen to date. She also gives off vibes to me of being a lesbian, but perhaps that’s just my perception. In this post, I’ll be talking about the realities of prison librarianship, using books and other resources, to expand on this topic. I am publishing this today because it is the anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on May 23, 2011 ordering California to alleviate prison overcrowding by reducing the size of the prisoner population to 30,000 by 2013.

The ALA has said that in today’s society, libraries play a role in addressing issues which “often lead individuals to become incarcerated.” They have further argued that disrupting the prison pipeline requires “access to literacy programming, information, and cultural acknowledgment” and stated that in 2022, the ALA was preparing to revise the Library Standards for Adult Correctional Institutions for “the first time since 1992.” [1]

Some reviewers have focused on fictional prison librarians. Jennifer Snoek-Brown noted that the first, according to her analysis, librarian in a prison environment appeared for one minute in the 1939 film noir crime film, Within the Law. She also noted librarians in short scenes in films such as You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939), Ricochet (1991), and Borstal Boy (2000). In other posts she pointed to prison librarians in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Gideon’s Trumpet (TV, 1980), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Escape from Alcatraz (1979), The Reader (2008), and Bound to Honor (1993). At point, she argued that, at the time, she didn’t create a category for prison librarians (she later did and created a “prison library” category) because in the eyes of society they are “considered failures” but often end up in these roles because “they exhibit good behavior while in prison.” She further noted that inside prisons these characters are or made to appear as “model citizens” but outside that they are “uncomfortable in social situations.” [2]

A Twitter thread begun by an Information Studies academic, Dr. Jane Garner asking people for “examples of prison libraries in popular culture beyond Orange..Black and Shawshank” shared many examples. This included Malcolm X reportedly as a prison librarian (more on that later in this article), season 3 of Professor T including various prison library scenes, the library in The Magicians being like a prison at times, romance in a prison library in Cara McKenna’s Hard Time, and the 1962 film, Birdman of Alcatraz. Others pointed to prisoners reading letters in Cool Hand Luke, a person murdered in a prison library in the second season of The Wire, Jim Carrey’s “I Love You Phillip Morris”, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich which focuses on a prison who uses books in a prison library to survive and “later works in a book shop once released”. One person, crime fiction writer Rachel Franks, even recommended the book Prison Life in Popular Culture as a resource, while others noted the library in Prison Break, and episode 5 of Porridge [series 1] entitled “Ways and Means” with a prison library scene. [3]

Scholars, such as Erin Rivero, Marisa Hernandez, Stephanie Osorio, and Vanessa Villareal, have argued that prison librarians in film and TV are a mix of exaggeration and accuracy. Others have been tied to some scenes “involving the prison library and reading” in Orange is the New Black. Front and center of such a depiction is Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson. Just as I refuse to watch anime with too fan service, I refuse to watch that live-action series, as it has vicious racism throughout as noted by critic Karol Collymore, so I’m avoiding it like the plague. [4]

In order to understand if these depictions are accurate or not, it is important to have grasp on what prison librarianship is all about in the first place. Scholars have argued that so-called correctional institutions are easily reduced to mere numbers needing basic needs to be fulfilled and it is unlikely that institutions will provide more than what is legally required. They have further said that prison libraries are key example of what may be required legally and what is needed to nourish souls and minds. As a result, prison libraries try to give inmates information access but the librarians are torn between duties to inmates as “information gatekeepers”. As such, unlike other librarians they have to prevent access to “certain information” while trying to keep general populace in prison “safe from any assumed dangers”. [5]

James Murray in Minor's prison library
James Murray (voiced by Mel Gibson), aspiring editor of what will later become the Oxford English Dictionary, at a library created by William Chester Minor (voiced by Shaun Penn) in his Broadmoor Hospital cell in The Professor and the Madman, a 2019 film mired in legal issues and generally slammed by reviewers

The same scholars describe the balance between want and need for information by prison libraries, information restrictions in prison, duties of librarians to their patrons. They added that reference in prison libraries involves reference transactions between library’s “trained inmate workers” and library patrons. This is followed by referral to a librarian or professional library staff which leads to potential to certain resources. Afterward, the librarian has the obligation to obtain information on the patron’s behalf, using the internet and other resources the patron can’t use. Through it all, the curiosity of inmates about the internet has to be “tempered” by library staff, as noted by the scholars. The same scholars conclude that information found within libraries, and through reference provided by librarians, plays an important role for inmates, allowing self-empowerment as inmates have little autonomy in their circumstances.

The scholars also include limits on prison library, as it requires reliance on in-person interactions, how groups of librarians can be empowered, the balance between legal/intellectual rights of inmates and complying with directives from prison authorities. This leads to a conflict when privacy and confidentiality are not recognized in prison, resulting in them having to engage in censorship, coupled with information restrictions on materials claimed to be a “threat to institutional security”. These scholars said that reference and collection policies should be designed in collaboration with prison authorities, recognizing some limits. Even so, library reference has the opportunity for inmates to seek “information empowerment”. The scholars conclude that the important work of prison librarians should be brought to light and argues that collaborating with prison authorities to ensure that library values and ethics can “penetrate prison walls” in order to serve a “information-starved community”. [5]

Additional scholars have argued that jails and prisons are “notorious information deserts” since they lack access to research materials, current events, and internet. They’ve also stated that prison in and of itself “emphasizes a lack of agency and choice, noted prison libraries in other places of the world (like Scandinavia), and argued that librarians have huge information need to fill in prisoners because most in prisons have no internet access. At the same time, it can be said that prison libraries act as sanctuaries for those in prison, prison librarians can change lives especially when prisoners are treated as humans. Similarly, it can be said that prisons can inspire youth, through prison-to-library transition, that prison libraries are often safe spaces, and that there is little drama in prison life. [6]

There are stories about micro-libraries in U.S. prisons known as “Freedom Libraries”, books banned in specific prisons, prisoners paying to read tablets in prison, a memoir by prison librarian Avi Steinberg, and attempts to get reading lists in prison libraries used against prisoners. More pointed are posts about fictional prison librarians, like prison librarian Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, who becomes the prison librarian, and “works tirelessly to turn the library from what is little more than a storage cupboard to a beautiful library”, helping inmates along the way. Another reviewer described him as saving his “fellow prisoners from hopelessness.” [7]

Adina Applebaum, Immigration Impact Lab project director, noted that reading has “played a role” in the lives on prisoners since penitentiaries were created, with religious materials given to prisons in late 1700s and early 1800 as a “means of reflection and rehabilitation.” This changed after the end of the Civil War, where southern prisons in the U.S. were almost entirely Black. This got worse when “bibliotherapy” was developed by prison librarian Herman Spector in 1940s and 1950s, claiming that reading could “cure” prisoners. In response where was actions toward prisoner rights in 1960s and 1970s, then a crackdown by administrators which asserted that change in prisons was futile,and U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that denying prisoners in solitary confinement access to periodicals didn’t “violate their constitutional rights”! Applebaum also noted prisons which restrict LGBTQ materials, books about race being heavily censored, and even medical textbooks as they have “nudity”. However, prisoners are allowed, according to her, read true crime books. [8] Some, like freelance writer Becky Stone, have even asked that people donate their extra books, within certain requirements to prisons.

Famously Malcolm X, once said, “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” Digging into that quote, it comes from the epilogue of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which also notes that he had a love for books. [9] He went on about the books he read while he was in prison, in the late 1940s, when he was drawn into the Nation of Islam, which he later left before his death. In earlier pages of the epilogue, he is quoted as saying

In the hectic pace of the world today, there is no time for meditation, or for deep thought. A prisoner has time that he can put to good use. I’d put prison second to college as the best place for a man to go if he needs to do some thinking. If he’s motivated,in prison he can change his life.” [10]

Many prison librarians may believe the same thing. Malcolm X’s experiences aligned with his words, as he used the prison library to request books he wanted to read, and later voraciously read at library of the Norfolk Prison Colony. He added that while he was there it was the first time be picked up a book to read and “begin to understand what the book was saying.” He also described the library at the prison colony as having classes taught by instructors from Harvard and Boston universities, with “weekly debates between inmate teams” and notes possible interest of Parkhurst, who donated the books in the first place. He added that he read more in his room than the library because he “referred reading in the total isolation of my own room.” [11]

While I didn’t, at first, recall a scene in Spike Lee’s 1992 Malcolm X film which showed Malcolm in a library, the above video shows that to be incorrect. In the scene, Baines (played by Albert Hall) brings Malcolm (played by Denzel Washington) to the prison library and shows him a dictionary, opening it and reading what “black” is defined as. He compares it to what White means. He indicates to him the symbolism of language, shifting the dictionary over to him, with Baine says you have to take everything the White man says and “use it against him”. After Malcolm reads the entry for “aardvark”, he then tells Malcolm to take one step toward Allah and he will take two steps toward you. Interestingly, the librarian who would have been there is absent from the library, and they are able to go into the library without restriction.

Beyond this, he is one of the many convicts who are said to have “turned their lives around via intensive reading.” His story reminds me of the 2019 film, The Professor and the Madman, which depicts William Chester Minor, a retired United States Army surgeon, sent to Broadmoor Hospital in the United Kingdom and forms a library of rare books which he uses to compile what becomes the Oxford English Dictionary. [12] So, he isn’t a librarian per say, but he has a library within his prison cell. Similarly, Malcolm X wasn’t a prison librarian but he extensively used prison libraries for his own self-empowerment. So, in that sense, there is a similarity.

Otherwise, I can’t think of any other prison libraries or prison librarians in fiction, at least not off the top of my head. Even films listed by Martin Raish in a list of hundreds of films with librarians which has been since been taken down from the Brigham Young University, as he retired from the library, are generally the same ones I’ve previously mentioned. This includes films he dubs the “A Group” (clearly defined librarians). However, he does point to, in the “B Group” of films (library is used for a useful purpose but librarian is set-dressing), to prison libraries in The Longest Yard (2005), possibly Love, Mary (1985), and A Clockwork Orange (1971).

In his “C Group” of films (librarians or libraries not shown, only mentioned in passing) he points to where a crooked accountant tells his partner that if their scheme fails “he’ll cope by getting a job in the prison library. He finally points to prison librarians, in his “D Group” of films (films that Raish hadn’t seen or found adequate description about), in Fun (1994), specifically voiced by Cindie Northrup, along with a prison library scene in Out of Sight (1998), to name ones that I haven’t mentioned in this post.

There are undoubtedly other prison librarians in fiction out there, but as of the writing of this post, I haven’t come across any others apart from those I’ve mentioned. I hope to come across more in the future. In the meantime, I look forward to your comments, suggestions, and whatnot, on this topic. Until next week!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] ALA Annual Conference (2022, May 19). Interrupting systemic information poverty in prisons. Also see APA guidelines for citing emails.

[2] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A librarian ‘within the law’.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 5, 2013; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Naughty librarians vs. prison librarians: Who wins?Reel Librarians, May 1, 2013; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reader poll write-up, Spring 2015: ‘You Can’t Get Away with Murder’Reel Librarians, May 20, 2015; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Hey! Mr. Book Man, find a book for me in ‘Ricochet’“. Reel Librarians, Mar. 12, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A ‘borstal’ kind of librarian.” Reel Librarians, Dec. 12, 2011; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Librarian as Failure.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 3, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “5 movies featuring Black reel librarians in major roles.” Reel Librarians, Jul. 8, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Notable additional occupations for reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 16, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “3 reel librarians who have died in the line of duty.” Reel Librarians, Oct. 23, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Class II (major roles, non-integral).” Reel Librarians. Accessed June 11, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “War films and reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 11, 2014; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Best librarian films by decade, Part I: 1910s – 1950s.” Reel Librarians, Dec. 28, 2011; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A list of banned reel librarian movies.” Reel Librarians, Sept. 27, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians of color, 2021 update.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 27, 2021; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians in political-themed films.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 18, 2017.

[3] Garner, Jane. “Playing with an idea today and am looking for examples of prison libraries in popular culture beyond Orange..Black and Shawshank. Does anyone know of any others? All media & languages are of interest. Thanks!” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Garner, Jane. “Fantastic. I am in Australia and was aware that he had done some prison writing, but have never followed it up. Thanks for giving me a nudge to find out more.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Margy Maclibrary. “Professor T – great Belgian series, in Season 3 includes scenes in a prison library.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Tait, Lizzy. “I don’t know if Fantasy media counts (or if this is the right kind of example) but the library in The Magicians was sometimes a prison- a character got locked up there when she did follow the rules.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Flack, Katie. “Romance in the prison library?” Twitter, May 28, 2022; AndrewJ. “Cool Hand Luke has several scenes where the prisoners read letters and magazines to one another. Not quite a library but a good insight into reading culture.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Bob. “In that photo he’s in his cell but he goes to library earlier when first interested in birds.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Abby. “Yep, in the office, and made to look like a suicide.” Twitter, May 28 2022; Cobra. “Went through the list and nobody has added “I Love You Phillip Morris”, it is one of Jim Carrey’s greatest performances, based on a true story.” Twitter, May 28, 2022; Inglis, Kristin E. “The Sentence by Louise Erdrich looks at a prisoner who used books in prison library to survive then later works in a book shop once released.” Twitter, June 1, 2022; Franks. Rachel. “I haven’t looked at this book in a long time, but there might be something useful for you in “Prison Life in Popular Culture”“. Twitter, May 28, 2022; Trashcan Jorts. “I seem to remember that the library in Prison Break was a significant plot point?” Twitter, May 28, 2022; jon boy. “Porridge, episode 5 series 1, I am sure amongst others.” Twitter, May 28, 2022.

[4] Erin Rivero, Marisa Hernandez, Stephanie Osorio, and Vanessa Villareal,  “Dispatches from the Field of Prison Librarianship” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 160, 179; Hardenbrook, Joe. ““Why the hell would I want to leave the library?” – The Library on “Orange is the New Black”” Laptrinhx, 2014, reprinted from original on Hardenbrook’s former blog Mr. Library Dude.

[5] Sources for information from last two paragraphs comes from: Danielle Ball and Hannah Lee, “Reference Behind Bars: Information Needs, Rights, and Empowerment of Inmates” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 132-3, 139-148.

[6] Jacobson, Emily. “Reference by Mail to Incarcerated People” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 151, 158; Rivero, Erin, Marisa Hernandez, Stephanie Osorio, and Vanessa Villareal,  “Dispatches from the Field of Prison Librarianship” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 161, 164, 171-4, 178, 181-2.

[7] Flood, Alison. “Malcolm X’s former prison cell becomes first of 1,000 planned ‘freedom libraries’.” The Guardian, Dec. 7, 2021; Tanner, Courtney. “Why are these two books banned at the Utah State prison?Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 11, 2017; James, Eldon Ray. “Prisoners Pay to Read.” American Libraries, May 22, 2020; Page, Benedicte. “Memoir reveals prisoners’ book preferences.” The Guardian, Oct. 27, 2010; West, Jessamyn. “access to reading lists in prison libraries.”, Jul. 22, 2010; Kirsten. “Librarians in Fiction.” Youth, Popular Culture and Texts, Oct. 13, 2013; Wasserman, Tracy. “My Favorite Fictional Heroic Librarians.” INALJ, Nov. 13, 2014; “Prison Librarian.” NPR, Aug. 28, 2015; “The Accidental Prison Librarian.” American Libraries, Jan. 17, 2011. Also see “Books Have the Power to Rehabilitate. But Prisons Are Blocking Access to Them” by Samantha Michaels, “Best-Sellers and Controversial Books in 19th-Century Prison Libraries” post on Communicating with Prisoners website, “interview with a prison librarian” on Alison Green’s Ask a Manager website, “Library Outreach to Underserved Populations” on American Library Association website, Tommy Binh Vui’s “Prison Libraries: Shelves Bare and Minds Restless“,  “The Making of History and Improving Reference Services (in the 1980s)” on the Exploring Prison Librarianship website, “Libraries in Prison | Prison Library” on Zoukis Consulting Group, Jei Stewart’s “Librarians in Prison” post, “19th-Century Prison Libraries Had Diverse Holdings” on Communicating with Prisoners website; interview with Ann Turner on the Penguin UK website in a page entitled “A Q&A with a prison librarian“, “Our Story” on Friends of the San Quentin Prison Library website, and “Prisoners’ Right to Read: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” on American Library Association website. Steinberg’s book is entitled Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian.

[8] Applebaum, Adina. “What Are Prison Libraries Really Like?The Airship, Jun. 30, 2014.

[9] X, Malcolm. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley) (New York: Ballantine Books, First Ballantine Books Edition, Feb. 1992), 452. Malcolm also says, on page xii, “At the same time the Negro has remained a closed book to the white man, who has never displayed any interest in understanding the Negro.” He also talks, on other pages, about those in his family, and those who were close to him, who also loved books. He also argues, on page 187 that Black people’s history had been whitewashed by White people,

[10] Ibid, 450-451.

[11] Ibid, 179, 183, 189, 198-200. He also talks on page 201 about “the very first set of books” that first impressed him, and books that showed him “how the white man had brought upon the world’s black, brown, red, and yellow peoples every variety of the sufferings of exploitation” (see page 203 and again on page 204). He later stated, on page 206 and 207, that he had self-educated himself using the books from the prison library! He later talks about books that were removed form the prison library on page 213, and mention of his use of the prison library is noted on page 478. He also seems to imply, in this 1962 interview, that he became educated with his racial consciousness, while in prison.

[12] For more context on this story, see Lucas Reilly’s “The Murderer Who Helped Make the Oxford English Dictionary” article in Mental Floss, JMS Pearce’s “Dr. William Minor and the Oxford English Dictionary” article in Hektoen International Journal, Tjana Radeska’s “The sad life of William Chester Minor – one of the largest contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary who was held in a lunatic asylum for murder at the time“, to name a few articles.

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Vocational awe and fictional depictions of librarians

Some time ago, I came across tweets by Fobazi Ettarh expressing her disappointment that people defended a White female librarian who called a Black woman a racist term, then doubled down on her tweet. From there, I followed the links and came upon her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” I had read it before, but I decided to give it a read again and thought as to how this could be applied to what I’ve written about on this blog in the past. Originally I was planning to put every point she made in the article into one blogpost, but that seemed to be squeezing too many ideas into one place, so I split off many of her points into specific blogposts, to fully explore what she says and to explain more how can relate to fictional depictions of librarians.

Ettarh began her article noting librarians “administering the anti-overdose drug Naloxon,” saying that while this seems natural at first, with these librarians working to “save the democratic values of society as well as going above and beyond to serve the needs of their neighbors and communities,” the rhetoric around this “borders on vocational and sacred language” instead of “acknowledging that librarianship is a profession or a discipline, and as an institution, historically and contemporarily flawed, we do ourselves a disservice.” She goes on to define “vocational awe” as a “set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in beliefs that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.” [1]

There are undoubtedly fictional librarians believe that institutions are seen as “good and sacred,” and “beyond critique,” especially since these characters are almost universally created by those who haven’t been librarians, have worked in libraries, have library degrees, and so on. As such, their views of libraries are informed by popular perceptions. As such, some characters clearly see librarianship as a vocation or a calling, based on the Christian tradition of calling requiring a “monastic life under vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience” as Ettarh points out.

One of those characters is Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm who works in a church library, which she had been excited to be a part of. Unfortunately, in Part 3 of the series, she is not shown in the library. Instead, she is only shown being denied from the library and becomes subservient to authority, which is sad to see for her character.

This different from previous parts of the series, in which she undoubtedly sees her role as a librarian as one of obedience. Through all of the series, her role as a librarian becomes interconnected with her role as a gray-robed priest. This related to what Ettarh adds about  vocation within librarianship. She argues that she has “allusions to religiosity and the sacred” and states that libraries created with the “same architectural design as churches in order to elicit religious awe.” She goes onto say that awe is a overwhelming and fearful feelings rather than a comforting one, meant to elicit “obedience from people in the presence of something bigger than themselves.”

This differs from O’Bengh, also known as Cagliostro, in an episode of What If…?. He is a sorcerer who works in a library, which looks exactly like a temple. He is a manifestation of librarians as priests. Sometimes it isn’t as explicit as his character. As I noted in the aforementioned post, O’Bengh falls into the librarian as an information provider stereotype. The fact the library is a temple, this, as I noted in that post, furthers the perception that libraries, and by extension librarians, are sacred. In many ways, he acts like a monk inside of a monastery who never leaves the monastery, as he never appears in any other episodes.

Ettarh goes onto argues that vocational awe manifests itself in “response to the library as both a place and an institution,” with library workers easily paralyzed by the “sacred duties of freedom, information, and service.” As a result of these “grand missions,” advocating for a full lunch break or taking a mental health day “feels shameful.” This awe is “weaponized against the worker,” meaning that there can be vocational purity test of sorts in which a worker “can be accused of not being devout or passionate enough to serve without complaint.”

Shown at 45:29 in this film. She comes back for a scene at 47:24 where she is shelving books

In some ways this is weaponized against librarians. Take for instance Gabrielle (voiced by Victoire Du Bois) in I Lost My Body. She has an annoying supervisor who fits many librarian stereotypes and attempts to stop Gabrielle from talking to Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris), the show’s other protagonist, who is checking out books. While she is shown to be hard at work shelving books elsewhere in this mature film, she also is enforcing library rules and expectations all at the same time, with Gabrielle dubbing her “Mrs. Watchtower”. Since the library scene is so short and we see the movie mainly from Naoufel’s perspective, we don’t know the motivations of this annoying supervisor, who doesn’t even have a voice actor, and fellow librarian.

The same can be said about Amity Blight (voice by Mae Whitman) in The Owl House. In the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”, her boss, Malphas (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) fires her after she is found in a forbidden section of the library. Although she isn’t supposed to be there, she is trying to help Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah Nicole-Robles), who later becomes her girlfriend, find a book about a previous human traveler to this magical world. She accepts the consequences but Luz gets Amity’s library card back after going through a series of trials. Not surprisingly, Amity is grateful and kisses Luz on the cheek.

Ettarh writes that librarianship by its very nature privileges those within the status quo. She goes onto see that those outside of the center of librarianship can see more clearly, for the most part, disparities between reality of library work and “espouse values.” She goes onto say that vocational awe refuses to acknowledge libraries as flawed institutions, meaning that when marginalized librarians, including people of color, speak out, their accounts are “often discounted or erased.” She adds that vocational awe ties the twin phenomenon of undercompensation and job creep, when employees are pressured to “deliver more than the normal requirements of their jobs” which is gradually increased by the employer, within librarianship due to workplaces that are self-sacrificing and service-oriented.

This results in, as Ettarh puts it, librarians becoming self-selected. It leads to expectations that entry-level library jobs need usually voluntary experience within a library, coupled with “class barriers built into the profession.” What this means that those who have financial instability and cannot work for free have to take out loans or switch careers entirely. Furthermore, those librarians with family responsibilities cannot “work long nights and weekends” and librarians with disabilities can’t make librarianship a “whole-self career.”

In animation this is shown in terms of oft-stereotype of White female librarians who are elderly spinsters. It is implied that such librarians, who are often strict, have experience in library school, degrees, and have been in the library for ages. It is further indicated that even if one moves beyond White librarians in animation, I can’t think of one librarian who is physically disabled, which Ettarh seems to be talking about in her article. Many of the librarians may be mentally disabled though, through their demeanor and actions. Often they are characters for only one episode, so there isn’t enough of a focus on them to know who they are as actual people. That is the nature of current depictions

Back to Ettarh, she further says that having an “emotional attachment” to your work is often valued, and says that while it isn’t a negative, vocational awe is endemic and “connected to so many aspects of librarianship.” She goes onto say that the problem with this is that efficacy of a person’s work is tied to their amount or lack of passion rather than “fulfillment of core job duties”. She adds that if being a good librarian is “directly tied to struggle, sacrifice, and obedience,” then the more one struggles in their work, their institution / work becomes “holier”. This means that people are less likely to “feel empowered…[or] to fight for a healthier workspace.” [2]

Poor Kaisa, she just wants to finish her library tasks of re-shelving books, but Hilda has to be persistent.

Perhaps this is what Kaisa, the ever popular librarian in Hilda feels as she feels exhausted in one episode. More than that, she is experiencing burnout. As I wrote in that post, Kaisa exhibits many of the characteristics of burnout, or what some call librarian fatigue. However, it is hard to know whether her workload is sustainable, if she has a lack of personal control over her workplace, if is insufficiently compensated or recognized, or has a lack of social support, which often leads to burnout. As I put it in that post, librarian burnout/fatigue is something which librarians need to discuss more openly and it should be shown more directly in fictional depictions.

As a reminder, burnout, as noted in that article, means a “syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind”. It is caused by factors such as an “unsustainable workload, role conflict…lack of personal control at work, insufficient recognition…lack of social support, a sense of unfairness, and personal values…at odds with the organization’s values.” This is connected with feelings of detachment and cynicism, a lack of accomplishment, sense of ineffectiveness, and overwhelming exhaustion, with physical symptoms including hypertension, muscle tension, headaches, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, and more.

I end with words from Ettarh. She writes that libraries are only buildings and that people inside, the librarians, do the work, who need to be treated well. She adds that “you can’t eat on passion. You can’t pay rent on passion. Passion, devotion, and awe are not sustainable sources of income.” She goes onto say that while libraries may have a purpose to serve,but is that purpose so high and mighty when it “fails to serve those who work within its walls every day”. She concludes by saying “we need to continue asking these questions…and stop using vocational awe as the only way to be a librarian.” That is something I have to agree with wholeheartedly.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] She also says that the article tries to “dismantle the idea that librarianship is a sacred calling…describe[s] the institutional mythologies surrounding libraries and librarians…dismantle[s] these mythologies by demonstrating the role libraries play in institutional oppression….[and] discuss[es] how vocational awe disenfranchises librarians and librarianship” in hopes that librarianship can “hopefully evolve into a field that supports and advocates for the people who work in libraries as much as it does for physical buildings and resources.”

[2] Ettarh defines a healthy workplace as “one where working around the clock is not seen as a requirement, and where one is sufficiently compensated for the work done” and says it is not a workplace where “the worker [is] taken for granted as a cog in the machinery.”

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Honoring six fictional librarians of Asian descent

Three APALA librarians
From left to right, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada (executive director of APALA, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association), Candice Mack (previous APALA president), and Ray Pun (current APALA president). Images are from the and are used in accordance with fair use exception in U.S. copyright law. This is meant to illustrate real-life Asian librarians.

This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To honor that, I’m focusing on six librarians of Asian descent which I’ve come across when watching animation since I began this blog, excluding the over 50 Japanese fictional librarians I’ve listed on this blog in the past. With that, let me get started!

There are four librarians who are arguably from Southeast Asia. One of the earliest I came across is an unnamed librarian in an episode of We Bare Bears aptly named “The Library”. Although it is not directly stated, she is a woman of Thai descent since Ashly Burch, who is presumably her voice actor, is half-Thai, with her mother from Thailand and her father from the U.S., making her multiracial. However, in an interview for The Nerds of Color she told them “I was used to relating to characters that were either white or other types of Asian,” adding “I’ve never gotten to play a Thai character” before voicing Molly McGee, the protagonist of The Ghost and Molly McGee.

So perhaps the librarian was not directly Thai, but portrayed as just in the “other types of Asian” category? No matter, because she is still a librarian of color regardless, with the fandom page for the episode identifying her as Thai, confirming what I’ve stated before. [1] In the episode, this librarian is frustrated with the protagonists, goes on break, and seems harsh at first, wanting them to pay their late fee. She later appears to be overwhelmed and suffering from burnout. In the end, she ends up helping them and seems to let them sleep in the library overnight. The latter is unique because usually that would never be allowed. But, perhaps she saw them working so steadily that she let them stay there and rest in peace. It’s hard to know.

It is worth pointing out, for reference, there are several levels of education for librarianship in Thailand and there’s library organizations like the Thai Library Association. The group describes libraries as a “driving force of society” for knowledge and learning. It also has a code of ethics which prioritizes user convenience, professional ethics, being strong social leaders, and more. None of this would apply to the aforementioned librarian, as We Bare Bears is set in the San Francisco Bay Area and more particularly in San Francisco itself. At first I thought she would, as such, be working at the San Francisco Public Library. Looking at the image shown of the library at the beginning of the episode, I looked at images of one of the many branches within the library system itself. None of them seemed to align with the image.

The Glesson Library seemed like a good guess, from the images I saw, and it didn’t look like the Prelinger Library either. It made me think a little about the J. Paul Leonard and Sutro Library, as the image looked a little similar, but that didn’t seem right either. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what library this is! It isn’t the Mission Bay FAMRI Library, Parnassus Campus Library, or ZSFG Library. Although Chloe goes to the University of California, it would make sense it is at a UC library.

According to World Cat, one edition of the Fourth Edition of Beilstein Handbook of Organic Chemistry is available at UCSD Library in San Diego at Stanford University Libraries, and another at Southern Regional Library Facility in L.A., and Langston Library in Irvine, California. Another version is available at UCSB Library in Santa Barbara, California. None of those are near San Francisco, or in the Bay Area, though. Digging into Chloe’s fandom page it states that “her college is most likely based off of UC Berkeley” but also states that another possibility for her college is “based on is California State University of Los Angeles.” Although I think the creators may have based the library on real life, I also think it could have just been created by the animators to look that way and not connected to a real location.

Coming back to the characters, the aforementioned librarian contrasts with the Flippy in the Happy Tree Friends episode “Random Acts of Silence“. Voiced by Kenn Navarro, a Filipino actor, he is one unique librarian, to say the least. At first, he stamps books, shushes people, takes a chair away from a patron, and sharpens a pencil from another. He soon becomes annoyed when a patron is making a lot of noise and the amount of noise gets to him. It makes him so angry he begins murdering patrons in the most cruel ways possible whether by using pencils through the eyes, with a pencil sharpener, with paper, a sword. Yikes! Through all of this, he still checks out a book to a patron and shushes the viewer at the end.

This is also different from Wong, a man from Hong Kong, voiced by Benedict Wong, in an episode of What If…? entitled “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” Sometimes Hong Kong is considered part of Southeast Asia, even though officially it is part of the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. In any case, in the episode Wong helps Dr. Strange with his magical powers and fight to save the world from another version of himself. He is a librarian by association with the live-action films where he is shown as a librarian, although he isn’t directly a librarian in the episode.

first mention of Karma as a librarian in Mekanix
Narrator mentions, on issue 1 (possibly page 13), that Karma (with the silver hair) is a librarian and seemingly in love with Kitty (other woman in image)

Then, there’s Karma in Mekanix, who is a Vietnamese woman and is also a lesbian Mekanix is a six issue comic book limited series published from 2002 to 2003, which Chris Claremont wrote, Juan Bobillo pencilled and Marcelo Sosa inked. In the first issue it is noted she is a librarian who has the power to possess people and is also named Shan. Later issues introduce Katherine “Kitty” Pryde, former member of the X-Men, who has a shrink. It also turns out that Shan is a mutant as well and may be in love with Kitty, who is proud to be a mutant and a Jew. Kitty is also known as “Shadowcat.”

Sadly, the police suspect her of causing an explosion and turn her apartment upside down, even though she did nothing wrong, and she is at odds with Nazis known as “Purity” who are anti-mutant. It turns out that someone helped hack into the network and caused the explosion, while Kitty is on the run from terrorists out to kill her. Unfortunately, Shan is never shown as a librarian, just as an aspiring one in this comic, with hair that looks blue in a certain light.

She is shown as a badass with two kids and fighting robots with Kitty, though, who fights racists like no one’s business. However, according to her Wikipedia page, she worked as librarian for the University of Chicago as a student, as indicated in Mekanix, and later, in New Mutants  working as a librarian and French teacher.

In the latter, which is Vol. 2 of the collected edition, issues 4-7, where she is called Xi’an Coy Manh, and has a different appearance. In issue 4, she graduates from University of Chicago. She then later works as a librarian, shown behind the information desk, and helps some fellow students, even looking out a book for one, but he leaves before she can get the book. She later stands up for a fellow student who is a mutant.

Then, in issue 5, she looks at books at the Xavier Institute, and talks to Professor Xavier, and investigates into anti-Mutant groups. In later issues, she continues to fight those groups, and it indicates she is a teacher, specifically at the Xavier Institute.

Last but not least is Mira (voiced by Leela Ladnier), and her father, Sahil (voiced by Aasif Mandvi), in Mira, Royal Detective, which is set in 19th-century India, mostly taking place in the city of Jalpur. In the episode “The Case of the Missing Library Book”, Mira brings a mobile library to town. She even sings a song about it in the same episode and they (she and Sahil) do some library duties, and go on the case of finding a missing library book.

Later, in the episode “The Case of the Lost Puppy”; Mikku and Chikku help Mira return books to the mobile library.  Then, in “Mystery At The Sweet Sale“; Mira and others participate in a bake sale to raise money for the mobile library, so they can buy more materials. In this case, the more sweets they sell, more ability to fill empty shelves of the library, which is a good deal, if I ever heard one!

Shan at information desk in New Mutants
Shan at information desk in New Mutants

That’s all for this week. Until next week!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] The same page claims there is an elderly librarian in the episode. I’m not sure about that only because I’m not sure if the elderly woman is supposed to be a librarian or if she is just a helpful elderly patron. Interestingly, the Black librarian shown in episode 1 is shown sitting at a table with two other presumed librarians (a Black man with glasses and a White man), at one point, which I noticed on a rewatch, which I never noticed before, and then a second time.

action adventure animated animation anime Black people fantasy Fiction genres French people horror Librarians Libraries live-action magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction Thai people White people

Celebrating fictional library workers

Happy May Day! Today is also known as Labour/Labor Day and International Workers’ Day, celebrating working classes and laborers, which is promoted by the international labor movement. It is celebrated every year. In her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” Fobazi Ettarh stated that a lack of compensation for library work is nothing new, with underemployment issues as a continued source for unhappiness. Librarians continue to be paid hourly and isn’t a primary job for everyone, while the institution gains reduced price or free labor with the enforcement of awe through its “dramatic and heroic narratives.” Interconnected to this is the mythologies of vocational awe which reinforces “themes of sacrifice and struggle,” while librarianship sustained itself through labor of librarians who reap only the “immaterial benefits” of having done supposedly “good work.”

This interconnects to fictional librarians. In this article I’ll focus on librarians who presumably get a wage, rather than student librarians which I wrote about earlier this month, or salary. [1] These librarians include Kaisa in Hilda, Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too, Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry, and Ms. Herrera in Archie’s Weird Mysteries. There’s also unnamed librarians in We Bare Bears, Gabriel DropOut, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and Cardcaptor Sakura, to name a few who work in public or school libraries. All of those and more will be reviewed in this article.

Kaisa is a supporting character in Hilda and she works at the Trolberg Library. Although she is never shown getting a paycheck, there is no doubt that she is receiving some wages or salary. However, it is implied that she may be overworked and may be experiencing burnout. She often has to deal with annoying patrons, like Hilda herself. Even so, she is still helpful to patrons like Hilda and her friends. She is even a person who would stand up to her bosses, as she would have done in standing against them in a scene which never made it in Hilda and the Mountain King. Otherwise, she seems relatively content with her job, at least as her scenes in the show indicate, although the times we see her is relatively limited, so its hard to know for sure.

Since the show is set in an alternate version of Scandinavia, we can say she would earn an average salary of approximately 9,936 Euros or about $17,843 U.S. Dollars. [2] However, if we chose largest amount, she would earn about $42,274 U.S. Dollars a year, and around $3,386 U.S. Dollars a year at the minimum. Compared to those classified as Librarians and Library Media Specialists by the BLS, the average salary of $61,190 U.S. Dollars a year. Her salary is closer to those classified as Librarian Technicians and Assistants by the BLS which earn an average salary of $34,050 U.S. Dollars a year. Hopefully Trolberg has enough money to pay her, so I’m going to hope that she earns the equivalent of $37,000 a year, which means she would earn about $17.78 dollars an hour, assuming a 2,080 hour work year. That may be far too optimistic, but I’m really hoping here.

That brings me to Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too. She is a librarian and curator of local ceramics museum in the town of Tajimi. Since she has both jobs, she doesn’t devote all of her time to the library. However, she is from the city hall and is apparently a new hire. Now, librarians in Japan have an average salary of $5,882,809 Japanese Yen, the equivalent of $44,355 U.S. Dollars or $295,721.24 Chinese Yuan Renminbi. As for curators, they earn a bit more, $6,717,387 Japanese Yen. [3] That is equivalent of $337,578.57 Chinese Yuan Renminbi or $50,647 U.S. Dollars. If we average the two together, assuming she has a librarian-curator position, she would be earning an equivalent of $47,501 U.S. Dollars a year. If we use the same amount of hours per year I mentioned earlier, then she would earn about $23 dollars an hour! That’s pretty good for an amount of money to earn in a year.

The curator talking to the show's protagonist about pottery in Let's Make a Mug Here
The curator talking to the show’s protagonist about pottery

More broadly, the library that Isomura works in is one of the thousands of libraries in Japan. Some of those are listed on the “List of libraries in Japan” page. A small number of these libraries are “beautifully designed” and I’d guess that some of them are like temples, as some are said to be designed by so-called “master architects.” Libraries in Japan have evolved from being a study room and place for limited use to a place with attitudes about guarding the “people’s right to know” and ensuring equal and free access to information for everyone. Furthermore, librarians in Japan said to be “very passionate” about including “all areas of thought” in their daily discourse and collections, since library collections in World War II were heavily censored. [4]

There are many librarians in Japan who work at public libraries. Take, or example, the unnamed librarians Cardcaptor Sakura. The latter show has librarians shelving books and searching for items on their computers, helping the protagonists. They seem respected by those in the library itself. Unfortunately, looking at the listing on IMDB, it does not appear that the four, or even more, librarians in the episode are uncredited, unless they are listed as a character. The same can be said about the two unnamed librarians who appear briefly in the first episode Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, “My Senpai is a Bunny Girl”. Both work at Fujisawa Library, a public library.

Similarly, consider the librarian in Gabriel DropOut. She has a more direct role. In the episode “Fun Forever After…”, an unnamed female librarian helps Tapris, who stumbles at first when getting into the library and struggles to get on the internet. She doesn’t even know what a mouse is, and even touches the screen when its not a touch screen. The librarian helps her, guiding her to books on computers and programming, leading Tapris to read books about them. Again, unfortunately, the librarian is not credited.

This differs from the unnamed librarian in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform. She works at an all-girls private school, Roubai Girls’ Academy. In one episode, “There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”, she shushes protagonists Akebi and Erika after they excitedly talk to one another. After the librarian shushes them so they express themselves non-verbally and remain excited to hang out that upcoming Saturday, the following day, together. Like other school librarians, she likely takes training courses and work to make sure the services of the school library meets the needs of the school. [5]

This contrasts with Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry, a children’s animated series set in the United Kingdom. She works as a school librarian during the series but is generally disrespected by the show’s protagonist. Putting aside that a White woman voices her, even though she is a Black woman, as I’ve talked about how this is problematic in the past, lets consider an average salary. In the UK a librarian earns about £23,019 British Pounds a year, and £10.14 British Pounds an hour. [6] That’s the equivalent of about $28,788 U.S. Dollars a year, or about $13 USD an hour. That is relatively low compared to what I’ve mentioned before. I’ll get to librarians in the U.S. later.

Henry's teachers, with Lovely on the right
Henry’s teachers, with Lovely on the right

The diversity of UK librarians is even worse than in the U.S.: 97% of librarians identify as White! Compare that to the U.S. where 87% identify as White according to recent information. As such, Lydia Lovely is in the minority in terms of Black librarians in the UK. I don’t know whether there are Black librarian groups there like there are in the U.S., but I sure hope so, because they really need more diversity in their ranks of librarians, without a doubt.

They aren’t the only librarians in the UK which I’ve found in my watching of animated series. There’s the unnamed librarian in Sarah and Duck, a non-human librarian. Appearing in the episode “Lost Librarian” and voiced by Tom Britton, this librarian works at what appears to be working at the public library. Sarah and Duck who had gone to the library to learn about a periscope, help him after he loses his paper catalog . He eventually gets back the paper catalog, even as he shushes the duck at a later point. The one thing that is strange is that he has a paper catalog and there is no back-up. Strange and supports the idea of stereotypes of librarians and libraries as antiquated.

This profoundly contrasts with the librarian in Totally Spies who may be voiced by Janice Kawaye, a voice actor of Japanese descent, as I’ve written before, most recently in March 2022. She works at the Liverpool Library, based off the Liverpool Central Library as I noted in my post on April 18. It is the largest of the libraries in Liverpool. If she continued to work there, even as a buff librarian, with some spinster qualities, she would be in a building with “Wi-Fi access throughout the building with 150 computers” according to the library’s official website. The library also has 15,000 rare books,  a local studies collection which provides the “rich and fascinating history of Liverpool“. Furthermore, in connection to what the librarian does in the episode, they charge for late returned items. This is something being phased out in many libraries, although Liverpool Central Library isn’t one of them.

That brings me to Gabrielle in I Lost My Body. In the mature animated film, set in France, this librarian, voiced by Victoire Du Bois, she is a young woman who becomes friends with the protagonist after he, a pizza delivery person, delivers a pizza to her. She asks if he is ok, says he should change jobs, and they talk through the intercom while there is a hard rain outside the apartment building. She tells him she works in a library. It is later revealed, she delivers medicine to a man named Gigi. That she works at the Guy de Maussurant Library, possible referring to Guy De Maupassant, who is a great French writer of short stories. As a librarian there, checks out books for him there, helps him, tells him to bring them back in four weeks. Through it all she has an annoying unnamed library supervisor, while acting thoughtful, elusive, and hip from time to time. She rides a motorcycle, like Rin Shima in Laid-Back Camp, and is unique in that way.

Currently, the average salary of librarians in France is €47,292 Euros. That is the equivalent of about $50,534 USD per year, or $24.2 per hour, assuming the same 2,080 hour work year I mentioned earlier. It is worth noting that there are over 16,000 “public reading spaces” in France, but only 17% of the population are registered library users, due to limited hours open, remoteness, and continued stereotypes. At the same time, libraries of American Committee for Devastated France, otherwise known as CARD, containing librarians from the U.S., served as the foundation of modern libraries in France. There are also various professional organizations for librarians in the country. [7]

For Gabrielle, her job is probably pretty secure, even recommending The World According to Garp when he brings back another book. She probably doesn’t he has a second job seems to imply that her librarian job may not be paying her enough to stay afloat. However, if a second job is emblematic of the librarian field in France, one might say it means there is precarity at play. As put it in American Libraries, “precarity within and outside of libraries is tied to larger structural forces.” If this is the case for Gabrielle, it could mean, on the one hand, that her job is not as secure and a symptom of larger trends. After all, it seems to be the case in France, at least to some extent, especially for those in the gig economy. [8]

Bookworm supports oppression against Rocky and Bullwinkle

That brings me to Cletus Bookworm in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. He is a librarian in the small town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Considering he is in the U.S., and in small town, what Jessi Baker, a small-town librarian said, is relevant here, that such librarians “often follow a different set of professional norms” since what may be considered “professional behavior in a larger area could be considered impersonal behavior by a small-town patron.” There is even an Association for Small and Rural Libraries. Other librarians also pedal around books and deliver them across the town. [9]

In the case of Bookworm, he appears to be respected enough to stay in his position even though he is complicit in kidnapping of his own patrons. Although this matters little to him, as all he wants in the library, similar to the general librarian stereotype of shushing librarians. is order in the library by any means necessary. He is very different from other librarians, like Archie the Archivist in Regular Show, which is set in an indeterminate location, who helps the protagonists, and is also the guardian of special laser discs, for some reason.

That brings me to the many librarians in the U.S. As I noted earlier, Librarians and Library Media Specialists earn an average of $61,190 U.S. Dollars a year and Librarian Technicians and Assistants earn an average salary of $34,050 U.S. Dollars a year. Most of the animated librarians in Western animation work in public libraries. Consider the unnamed librarian in We Bare Bears who is seemingly of Thai descent, who works at a branch of the the Los Angeles Public Library. She is shown as burned out and overworked, similar to Kaisa in Hilda.

She is not unique in this. Arguably Stewart Goodson and Myra in The Public may be be burned out to an extent. This differs from Mr. Anderson, the library manager. They all work at the Cincinnati Public Library. Also working in the Midwest is Bobby Daniels in The Ghost and Molly McGee and Clara Francis Censordoll in Moral Orel. Daniels is unique. He is one of the only Latine librarians apart from Mateo in Elena of Avalor and Eztli in Victor and Valentino that I know of in animation. Mateo is voiced by a gay man named Joseph “Joey” Haro, who is of Cuban descent, while Eztli is seemingly voiced by Jenny Lorenzo, who is also of Cuban descent. Daniels is voiced by Danny Trejo, he is presumably of Mexican descent since Trejo is of Mexican descent. There is a rich history of Mexican-American librarians, otherwise known as Chicano librarians, which tries to change the culture of the libraries they worked in to better suit their communities rather than White culture despite institutional resistance.

Censordoll is fundamentally different. In fact, her whole character stands against all the ethics and codes which librarians attest to. She dips books in kerosene so they can be burned and throws away books said to be “objectionable.” She is the equivalent of what the librarian-soldiers were fighting against in Library War and the present-day equivalent of book-banning/censorship efforts in the U.S., which seem to get worse every day. Such efforts are arguably a manifestation of fascism, although people don’t always use that word for them.

Other librarians appear in the Mid-Atlantic. This includes Harold in Craig of the Creek, who works at a librarian in the fictional town of Herkleton, Maryland in the Baltimore/D.C. metropolitan area. Additionally, the unnamed librarian in an episode of Steven Universe, “Buddy’s Book”, is located somewhere in Delmarva, along the Atlantic coast, in what can be called the Eastern Shore. Harold is voiced by Matt Burnett while the voice of the librarian in the Steven Universe episode is not currently known. The latter librarian may be more exhausted and tired than the former, although it is hard to know for sure because she is only shown very briefly in the episode itself.

three librarians in fiction
from left to right: Sherman “Swampy” in Phineas and Ferb, unnamed librarian in Rugrats and Mr. Ambrose in Bob’s Burgers

Apart from these is Sherman “Swampy” in Phineas & Ferb, possibly in the mid-Atlantic region, or other unnamed librarians in the series. This contrasts from Rugrats. Considering the series is seemingly set in Southern California, it means the unnamed librarian in that series is in the same area. This differs from Bob’s Burgers which is set somewhere in the Northeastern United States. Mr. Ambrose works in a school library there, specifically at Wagstaff School. He is said to be “flamboyant” on his fandom page, implying that he could be gay.

Similarly, Archie’s Weird Mysteries is set in New York, in the fictional town of Riverdale. The series includes Ms. Herrera, who may be Latine, and a librarian ghost named Violet Stanhope. In some scenes, she is shown as not a ghost. She remains in the town as she has unfinished business in the human world and can’t leave until it is completed. For all the hassle that Herrera goes through, I sure hop she is compensated well. That’s my hope, although I’m not sure if it is fulfilled or not

Then there is the unnamed librarian in Kim Possible who would fall within the “high school librarian” and “school librarian” category listed by the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. She is voiced by April Winchell. The series takes place in a possibly Midwestern town named Middleton, but still located in the U.S. Considering the fact that she is a menace in the school, she may have strong-armed the administration to pay her adequately. Alternatively, she might be underpaid and is lashing out at students because her pay is low. Its hard to know. I wish someone would write a fan fiction about her, one day.

That’s all for this post. Until next time!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] It is possible that Iku Kasahara and Asako Shibasaki in Library War are paid, although I can’t confirm that.

[2] “Librarian Average Salary in Norway 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary is 396,000 NOK (39,250.194 Euros); “Librarian [Sweden].” SalaryExpert. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary is 414,891 kr (39,575.039 Euros); “Librarian Average Salary in Iceland 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 467,000 ISK (3,376.6099 Euros); “Librarian Average Salary in Finland 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 3,170 EUR; “Librarian Average Salary in Denmark 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 28,600 DKK (3,844.6069 Euros); “What is the average salary of a librarian in Finland? Which source do I search for more information ? There is a librarian average salary history?” Ask a Librarian, Jun. 22, 2015. Used XE’s Currency Converter on June 6, 2022, inputting these average salaries then divided by five.

[3] “Librarian Salary in Japan.” Accessed June 6, 2022; “Museum Curator” [Japan]. SalaryExpert. Accessed June 6, 2022. Used XE Currency Converter on June 6, 2022.

[4] “Beautiful Libraries in Japan“. JapanTravel. Accessed June 6, 2022; “8 Beautiful Modern Libraries Designed by Master Architects in Japan.” Tsunagu Japan. Accessed June 6, 2022; Kawasaki, Yositaka, Genjiro Yamaguchi, and Ryoko Takashima. “The Development of Public Libraries in Japan After World War II.” 62nd IFLA General Conference – Conference Proceedings – August 25-31, 1996; Drake, Olivia. “Librarian Speaks on Intellectual Freedom in Japan.” The Wesleyan Connection. Oct. 5, 2006.

[5] Iwaski, Rei, Mutsumi Ohira, and Junko Nishio. “Pathways for School Library Education and Training in Japan.” IFLA, May 2019.  The library also appears in “Have You Decided on a Club?”, when the head of the literature club is talking to her friends in the library, and seems to read her books there to students as part of the club.

[6] “Average Librarian Salary in United Kingdom.” Payscale. Accessed June 7, 2022. Used XE Currency Converter on June 7, 2022.

[7] “Librarian Salary in France.” Accessed June 7, 2022; “France.” Libraries Without Borders. Accessed June 7, 2022; Dormant, Marcelline. “The French Connection.” American Libraries, Feb. 16, 2017; “Library Associations: France.” Internet Library for Librarians. Accessed June 7, 2022. The Economic Research Institute says something slightly different. Used XE Currency Converter on June 7, 2022.

[8] Lee, Yoonhee. “Bumpy Inroads.” American Libraries, May 1, 2020; Jensen, Kelly. “Librarians Under Pandemic Duress: Layoffs, Napkin Masks, and Fear of Retaliation.” Book Riot, Apr. 24, 2020; Babb, Mauren. “A Reflection on Precarity.” Partnership, Feb. 3, 2022; “Librarians fight rise of precarious work.” CBC, Mar. 27, 2016; Apouey, Bénédicte, Alexandra Roulet, Isabelle Solal, and Mark Stabile. (2020) “Gig Workers during the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being.” J Urban Health 97, no. 6: 776-795; Thorkelson, Eli. (2016) “Precarity Outside: The political unconscious of French academic labor.” American Ethnologist 43, no. 3: 476.

[9] Arata, Hannah. “Hometown Librarian: Q&A with a Problem-Solving Small-Town Librarian.” Programming Librarian, May 19, 2021; Arata, Hannah. “Library on Wheels: Q&A With a Book Biking Librarian.” Programming Librarian, Aug. 23, 2021.

action animation anime Black people comedy fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction White people

Invoking and promoting power: Examining fictional library institutions

Beilin, a Humanities Research Services Librarian at Columbia University and occasional writer on In The Library With The Lead Pipe, explains [1] how use of European classical and medieval architecture by libraries persists because of specific vision of academia, and due to of its association with class distinction, elitism, and exclusivity. He further argues that such structures are meant to promote or invoke power, yet another indication that libraries aren’t neutral.
Today is International Day For Monuments and Sites. Also known as World Heritage Day, it is held on April 18 every year, with activities including visits to monuments and heritage sites, and more, honoring world heritage. For that, many of these monuments and sites invoke power. This is abundantly clear when it comes to libraries, including those in fiction, which are influenced by those in real-life.

Scholars have argued that libraries are operated and designed with a specific “racial motive”. They further have said they served the “interests of a white racial project” by helping with maintenance and construction of a White American citizenry and perpetuate White privilege within the structures o the library profession. [2] Others have stated that racial thinking influenced establishment of information institutions with Whiteness itself, influencing specific forms of infrastructure and policies, resulting in racialized structures.

Additional scholars have said that collections, description, cataloging, and exhibitions have shown resistance to change, with libraries serving as a place which transmits, preserves, and reproduces “certain values and regimes of knowledge”. This happens as libraries remain a place where people study, work, and gather. [3] There has been further discussion as to how libraries “reproduce whiteness and white supremacy” in many ways. This has led to to practices which are undoubtedly non-neutral, and is manifested in collections, hosted in some institutions, containing a “heavy legacy of colonialism”. [4]

Beyond that, there has been discussion about how library spaces themselves are White places, with a close relationship between race, place, and space through history. It has been said that libraries are not a place of non-oppression, questions of how libraries can become a “a place of freedom, liberation, and justice” when there is a place of diversity, racist/colonial cataloging practices, biased and limited collections, and the library itself enacting racism through “the maintenance of its own historically racist structure”. [5]

In response, some have said that alternative spaces should be constructed, places which don’t use the “unmarked normativity” of Whiteness and its dominating power, with its internal orders and external borders. Such normativity relies on “physical and conceptual policing” of the bounds of so-called “shared spaces of normalcy” in whatever that entails, especially at predominantly White institutions. This has led some to resist this and say that their librarianship is not for White people and others saying that White people need to develop the stamina for anti-racist work, transforming libraries into “anti-oppressive spaces where racial diversity is actually possible”. [6]

One such library that invokes power is shown in the Totally Spies! episode “Totally Switched!”. Only shown briefly, it looks like a bit of a temple, and is based on the Liverpool Central Library as confirmed by the Liverpool Library itself. It is within a building called the William Brown Library and Museum according to the relevant Wikipedia page.

The library undoubtedly invokes and promotes power. Furthermore, the librarian inside, whom I’ve written about on two occasions, first in May 2021, and again in March 2022, manifests this as well, by throwing an unruly (or surly) patron across the room. This grand look to the library is almost made to make it look like a temple, to make people see it with awe. The spies care little for this, however, as they break-in to examine the librarian’s date book without any problem, which they later put back. This library is only one example of this in fiction.

Another example is the inside of the Trolberg library in Hilda. Although the outside is somewhat grand with its columns, what is inside would make anyone stare with awe. In the Witches’ Tower, there’s an inner room with stacks upon stacks of books. There, a committee of witches resides, ones which are high-ranking witches. They also appear to be Kaisa’s bosses at the library, getting angry at her for not returning a book on time, harshly threatening to cast her into the void if she disobeys them, despite her strong disagreement.

Even more than the outside of the library in Totally Spies, the Trolberg library is meant to have an aura of knowledge. After all, it is two stories, has cabinets of books on almost every subject, and has secret rooms, the equivalent of special collections, which contain spellbooks.

The same can be said for the inner room of the Buddy Buddwick Library in an episode of Steven Universe. The shelves are neatly organized and cleaned. In some ways, it is so organized that it almost seems that no one uses it, unlike the school library in the latter part of Oresuki, when it becomes more heavily used by students, or any of those in episodes of The Simpsons, to give two examples.

Invoking power more directly is the Biblioteca in various episodes of Elena of Avalor. Accessed by Mateo, a royal wizard who helps the show’s protagonist, Elena, it is accessible through the floor and filled with books, materials, and other items. It also appears, similar to the library in What If…? to be magical in some way or another, as Mateo, or Elena at times, appear to be the only ones who can access it.

In that way, the library has an inherent power of its own which is built into how it can be accessed and the original creator, Alacazar, who happens to be Mateo’s grandfather. This makes it unique from other fictional libraries described in this article.

Library revealed in Elena of Avalor

When the library appears first in the episode “Spirit of the Wizard”, Mateo is in awe of the library after Alacazar reveals it to him and Elena. Their animal friend is impressed, as is Mateo, amazed by all the spellbooks that are there. This awe somewhat fades when they realize that Alacazar will only last as long as the book that contains him remains intact. If it fades into nothingness, so does he. They only stay their briefly and move onto their main mission.

This is not the only instance in which the library projects power. Consider the enchanted library in Sofia the First, by the same creator as Elena of Avalor, Craig Gerber. The library is within a tree and and in a secluded area, only accessible through a secret hole in the bedroom of Princess Sofia, and then a boat ride. After that, it has been opened up with a book-like blue key. Speaking of exclusive! The fandom page for the library states that it “contains hundreds, if not thousands, of books,” many of which contain “unfinished stories of lives” that need good endings, something the Storykeeper, a sort of librarian, fulfills.

Just as imposing on the viewer (and character) is the Bonesborough Library in The Owl House. Luz Noceda, one of the show’s protagonists, first travels there when she is delivering a stack of books for her friend and guardian-of-sorts, Eda. She a little intimidated and undoubtedly in awe of this library. The library’s collections are organized by the Demon Decimal System (feeding them will cause them to sneeze and mess up the card catalog). There are also areas for manga and cyclops, and a children’s section. It is a public library with forbidden stacks and is staffed by an unnamed glasses wearing librarian at the information desk, Amity Blight in the children’s area, and a master librarian named Malphas. Additional parts of the library include a reference, fiction, non-fictions section, along with Amity’s hideout.

Even the library operated by George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, two gay Black men who are the fathers of Bow, is imposing in its own way. The fandom page simply calls it a “giant multi-floor residence, museum and library” containing a large staircase, piano, a “grand collection of books”, and a fireplace. The outside is covered with vines making it a bit mysterious and hidden from onlookers. It is so hidden that Bow didn’t tell his friends Adora and Glimmer about it, who only found out when they were worried about about him when he didn’t report back to them.

The same can be said about the library of sorts which appears over and over throughout LoliRock. It is a magical library which the princess can practice their magic and learn new spells. It is a secret magical room which can be “accessed through a basement beside the rehearsal studio” and Talia works to keep order in the library. However, it isn’t as imposing as some of the other libraries, however, in part because it is smaller. Due to its magic, it has a strong effect.

library in RWBY
Library in RWBY

Other libraries have such a powerful effect as well. For instance Nigel in Tangled episode “Pascal’s Dragon” reads books in the library inside the Corona castle to learn more about dragons. While there, he learns about their dangers and why should be stopped. The same can be said for the library that Marcy and King Andreas are in the Amphibia episode “Lost in Newtopia.” Both are library users.

There’s also the libraries in RWBY, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, Classroom of the Elite, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and El-Hazard. All of these libraries have a grand feel to them. The same can be said for libraries in Star Wars, Mysticons, Bravest Warriors, or the self-created library in Prisoner Zero. The latter is unique because similar to the bookmobiles in Mira, Royal Detective, the blue-skinned librarian in Prisoner Zero creates his own library in the hull of a ship. Although it is sadly destroyed, the library is filled with knowledge and materials of all types, although it mainly stores different types of books.

The same can even be said about The Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne. It is meticulously organized and it is meant to awe the patron. At the same time, it is accessible to people with a handrail that allows you to move across the library or non-human library assistants who will bring books to you. This is different than many of the other grand libraries shown in animation which have been covered in this article.

None of these libraries experience the decay and disarray which faces real-life libraries in Africa, due to Western designs being imposed on Africa rather than using decentralized models. Instead, these libraries are akin to real-life libraries which are said to be “beautiful” or “gorgeous”, with their imposing and monumental structures claimed to impress and dazzle people. [7] What is not always considered is if these structures are practical for the librarians and for the patrons. That is usually never mentioned in animated series and may be ignored in real-life too, so things can stay the way they are, even if problems exist within an institution which cause it to be rotten to the core.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] 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. 88-89

[2] Ibid, 85.

[3] 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. xi; Beilin, 80-81.

[4] Beilin, 82; Megan Watson, “White Feminism and Distributions of Power in Academic Libraries” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 166; Section by Nicole A. Cooke in chapter by Nicole A. Cooke, Katrina Spencer, Jennifer Margolis Jacobs, Cass Mabbott, Chloe Collins, and Rebekah M. Loyd, “Mapping Topographies from the Classroom: Addressing Whiteness in the LIS Curriculum” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 237; Natalie Baur, Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, and George Apodaca, “Breaking Down the Borders: Dismantling Whiteness Through International Bridges” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 287.

[5] Beilin, 83, 86, 91, 93; 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. 130.

[6]  David James Hudson, “The Whiteness of Practicality” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 206, 213-214; Jorge R. Lopez-McKnight, “My Librarianship is Not For You” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 261, 265; Section by Kristyn Caragher entitled “Anti-Oppression Workshop Series at the University Library” within Melissa Kalpin Prescott, Kristyn Caragher, and Katie Dover-Taylor, “Disrupting Whiteness: Three Perspectives on White Anti-Racist Librarianship” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 301.

[7] Silver, Richard. “22 Pictures Of Beautiful Libraries That I Took While Traveling Around The World.” BoredPanda, May 2022; Ganea, Simona. “10 Of The Most Impressive And Inspiring Libraries Around The World.” Homedit, Jan. 25, 2012; Waldek, Stefanie. “10 of the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World.” Galerie, Jul. 5, 2018; “Library Buildings : Architecture.” e-architect, Sept. 5, 2021.

animation anime comedy Comics fantasy Fiction genres harem Japanese people Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries romance romantic comedy school libraries slice-of-life special libraries speculative fiction webcomics

From action to romance: Examining student librarians in anime

The Japanese Library Association (JLA) reports that almost all of the schools in Japan have libraries, with tens of thousands in elementary and junior high schools, and less in high, middle, and special schools. Specifically, there are many more libraries in elementary schools than in other schools, due to the number of schools. Even so, there is a School Library Law first enacted in 1953, which states that schools “should have libraries,” and a 1997 amendment which led teacher librarians to be sent to schools with more than 12 classes. However, they aren’t excepted from regular duties as teachers of specific subjects in classrooms. [1] In addition there is a library law which was first enacted in 1950, with amendments from 1952 to 1965. This focus is reflected in anime, which I’ll focus on in this post, bringing together many other scattered posts on this blog which have included student librarians.

All these characters work in school libraries, otherwise known as school library media centers, which are libraries within schools where students, staff, and parents of the school have access to resources, with a mission to allow all members of the school’s community to have equitable access to resources,while using different types of media, the internet, and books. They are distinct from public libraries because they extend, support, and individualize the curriculum of the school, and as the coordinating and central agency for school materials. They have been praised for positively supporting student assessment. [2] These libraries are meant to serve small and large groups,having a learning space for students, functioning as a central location of information available. It also allows students to safely access internet, and has collaborative ventures with staff, providing opportunities for students. At the same time, the budget is important, while school libraries are staffed either by librarians, teacher librarians, or others who have a library science degree. [3]

When it comes to librarians in anime, they are student librarians. Speaking broadly, not specifically about Japan, but about these librarians in general, they provide valuable input for library development and “raise the profile of the library among their peers”. They also ensure day-to-day operations of libraries, although they only work during lunch and break times, but has to perform their duties or they will be replaced or fired. In such schools where this is available, many students have the opportunity to become a librarian. However, in some higher education institutions, students can be paid. In other cases, they might be student library aides. [4]

One of the first librarian characters I came across was Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D. the TV. Voiced by Taeko Kawata in Japanese, and by Megan Taylor Harvey in English dub, Hisami is a student librarian. Her character also is, in keeping with how librarians are usually portrayed, quiet, shy, and lover of books. At the same time, she is a friend with the protagonist, Anita King, who she has a crush on. She further has the distinction of being a 13-year-old author as well. Such characters appear as they are in line with preferences of anime viewers who are mostly in high school themselves, meaning that many anime are set in high school, although that doesn’t always limit the storytelling. [5]

Some examples of student librarians in anime
Some examples of student librarians in anime. From left to right: Yamada, Azusa Aoi, Fumi Manjōme, Fumio Murakumi, and Himeko Agari

This contrasts with Yamada in B Gata H Kei. Voiced by Yukari Tamura in Japanese, and Brittney Karbowski in English dub, she goes to a high school in Japan. Using data summarized by the JLA, elementary schools have four times more libraries than high schools, because there are many more elementary schools than junior high schools, middle schools, or special schools. Similarly, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, who is voiced by Mayuki Makiguchi, and Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers, who is voiced by Ai Takabe, are both student librarians in their respective anime. Additionally, there’s Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta, voiced by Kaori Nazuka, who goes to a high school, and Himeko Agari in Komi Can’t Communicate, voiced by Yukiyo Fujii. If I remember right, Hasegawa Sumika in Bernard-jou Iwaku a.k.a. Miss Bernard said, voiced by Aya Suzaki, is at an elementary school or some school lower than a high school.

Beyond this is Rin Shima in Laid Back-Camp, voiced by Nao Tōyama, Nagisa Yasaka in My Roommate is a Cat (“What Connects Us”), who is voiced by Hisako Tōjō, and Sumireko Sanshokunin a.k.a. “Pansy” in Oresuki, voiced by Haruka Tomatsu. There’s also an unnamed and uncredited librarian in Kin-iro Mosaic aka Kinmoza (“The Girl on My Mind”). In fact, the only male student librarian with a name I know of at present is Yuu Izumi in Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie (“Cultural Festival I”). He is voiced by Shūichirō Umeda and he works alongside Kamiya, who is voiced by Ayaka Fukuhara.

There are two or three unnamed librarians in a Revolutionary Girl Utena episode (“The Sunlit Garden – Prelude”). From my current listing of fictional librarians, I’m not aware of any student librarians in Western animation as of yet, apart from the library clerk in The Simpsons episode (“Bart’s Girlfriend”), who is voiced by Hank Azaria. That’s it. Most are much older. Sabine in Sabine; an asexual coming of age story, is a student librarian, but she is in a webcomic and it is unlikely that will become an animation. However, if it does become an animation, she will be the first asexual librarian that I’m aware of in an animated series.

Some student librarians go to special schools. For instance, Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, voiced by Chiwa Saitō, goes to an elite all-girls school. She goes to St. Miator’s Girls’ Academy, which is affiliated with two other all-girls schools, specifically St. Spica’s Girls’ Institute and St. Lulim’s Girls’ School. Comparably, in Manaria Friends, Anne and Grea go to the Mysteria Academy of Magic. Anne, who is voiced by Yōko Hikasa, and Grea, voiced by Ayaka Fukuhara, both help out in the library during the episode “Hide-and-Seek”. They also serve as library patrons in various other episodes.

There are various characters who are not student librarians, like Lilith in Yamibou, who is voiced by Sanae Kobayashi, an unnamed librarian in a Little Witch Academia episode (“Night Fall”), or characters in Library War like Iku Kasahara and Asako Shibasaki. Furthermore, Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood is a personal librarian and does not go to school. This is just a small listing of those librarians who are not students and are not, as a result, student librarians. [6]

The same can be said for the librarian in the strange first-person series, Makura no Danshi, also known as Makuranodanshi. Although he is apparently a “librarian boy”, he is 28 years old. Named Shirusu Mochizuki and voiced by: Kōsuke Toriumi, he appears in the episode “Librarian Danishi”, talking to the audience while shelving books and waking up a sleeping patron. In a connection to my review of librarians who sleep at the information desk back in January, he declares that naps disturb the other patrons and to not sleep in the library.

He also remembers frequent patrons, sees what people are reading in the library and he says he enjoys selecting books for patrons to read. He later makes an exception for the audience saying to rest there until his shift is over and goes further and declares that the library can become a place of “emotional healing.” That connects, in some way to my next example, this time of a student librarian.

Izumi and Kamiya working in the library together
Izumi and Kamiya working in the library together

One of the more intriguing student librarians I have come across during my anime watching is a blue-haired girl Kamiya, also known as Kamiya-san, in Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie. She is friends with the purple-haired protagonist, Izumi. She is on the library committee and he helps her put away some books, which all have Japanese call numbers. Although she is described as having a “cool but kind exterior,” with male and female fans, along with the ace of the volleyball team, this, and Izumi’s description of her as calm, composed, and pretty, is somewhat thrown into question.

She may be socially awkward as despite her popularity she wants to get away from it all and find a place that is quiet, the library. That is, in fact, how they first met, a year and half before, when she showed him how to enter books and items into the library catalog. At the present, she first tells Izumi he is different because he has a girlfriend, Shikimori, then grills him about it. She becomes impressed with his story and is a bit of a romantic rival to her in more ways than one.

It is later revealed to be a coincidence that both are paired for couples photos for the cultural festival and are on library duty together. In many ways, Kamiya is fulfilling the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto of 1999 which states that school libraries equip “students with life-long learning skills and develops the imagination, enabling them to live as responsible citizens”, as the skills he learns while working at the library will likely help him in the future.

Then, in the episode “Cultural Festival II”, Izumi and Kamiya are again in the library for library duty while the cultural festival is going on. They both talk about a recent movie they both watched. She has a vision or dream before that, at the beginning of the episode that she is losing Izumi to Shikimori, which makes her sad. While Izumi says he wasn’t expecting a conversation about lost love and expectations with Kamiya, he is glad they are talking about it. Kamiya even has the grace to trade e number with Shikimori so she can be with Izumi during the festival, something she didn’t have to do, but it says a lot about her as a character. As such, she is a librarian character, and so much more, who has a strong supporting role in this anime.

This is in stark contrast to other librarians in anime. Take for example the unnamed student librarians in an episode of Azumanga Daioh (“One Spring Night”). Seen helping patrons at the beginning of the episode while at the information desk, these two librarian aides, one of whom is a woman and the other a man, tell the protagonists, who are studying there, that they are leaving for the day. They ask them to turn off the lights when they leave. While this would be unthinkable for some librarians to ask patrons to close up for them, it is in-keeping with the slice-of-life vibe of the series, which sometimes is a bit chill and at other times wades into surreal comedy. In any event, the protagonists end up turning off the light and leaving before it gets too dark, as they have no reason to stay there and have to get back home.

Joro sitting next to Pansy
Joro sitting next to Pansy at a table in the school library

Diametrically opposed to the previous examples is Sumireko Sanshokunin a.k.a. “Pansy” in Oresuki. Voiced by Haruka Tomatsu, she wears glasses, braids, and has a “sharp tongue,” to say the least. In the first episode, she is described as a quiet and plain library aide by the show’s protagonist, Amatsuyu “Joro” Kisaragi, at first. This is thrown into question when it turns out she has been stalking and watching him, while she holds the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The novel is said to be a book defining in the gothic horror genre, while the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde”refers to those who appear outwardly good but are actually shockingly evil. In this episode, she has some of that nature in that she ships a bench Joro had been sitting on to the library and pressures (and manipulates) him to coming to the library every day during lunch after confessing her love to him. He agrees on the proviso that the library is a “secluded” space.

Her actions on the face, violate the Code of Ethics for Librarians outlined by the JLA. In fact, Joro calls her a “demonic stalker” in the next episode. However, she remains aware of everything going on, an helps him out, and is later called, in the episode “I Met You Before” as a “formidable woman”. As rumors swirl across the school about Joro, she uses her role as a student librarian to encourage Oga, a star athlete at the school, to reveal he set up Joro, by convincing two other students, Himawari and Cosmos, that he lied to them. It is then that she reveals to Joro that she is the girl he fell in love with at a baseball game and is only taking on the appearance of a quiet, reserved librarian to hide her true nature from everyone else, especially from a supposed “demon” who is after her.

As the show goes on, the library becomes a place that Joro, and his newfound friends, Cosmos, Himawari, and Oga, study, while Pansy gains new friends of her own. It even becomes a place to whether the crises he weathers, like a libelous article claiming he has three girlfriends written by a jealous reporter, Asunaro. In the meantime, she becomes more comfortable with herself, and a new student even meets everyone in the library.

The “demon” of Pansy is revealed when there is a concerted effort to save the library, in the latter part of the show’s second season, a boy from her previous school, Hose. The school administration declares that there needs to more traffic from people using the library, i.e. more patrons, to prevent it from being closed. This is successful, and the library becomes a social hub for students, but its role as a secluded place is lost. Even so, more students means she can more effectively serve library patrons and beats an attempt to impede library activities, standing against the JLA’s statement on intellectual freedom in libraries which was last revised in 1979.

It turns out that Hose once had a crush on her in middle school, and he will stop at nothing to make her his, with two girls almost serving as his lackeys. This means she changed her appearance in order to avoid a possessive man who still loved her. Ultimately, Hose loses a bet with Joro, and Pansy says they can keep meeting in the school library, saying she still loves Joro, despite the fact she calls him “industrial waste” after he asked Pansy, Cosmos, and Himawari to be his girlfriends. The latter is seemingly a plea to get Pansy to have more friends, showing he cares about others beyond himself, at least in this case, even though he is generally a despicable character.

Library in Seitokai Yakuindomo
As of the writing of this post, I have not yet watched Seitokai Yakuindomo, the screenshot of which is shown above, but according to the fandom page, in this series the library is a “popular place during exam season” and many characters hang out there.

What Pansy experienced is not at all surprising considering there are reports of people sexually molesting girls in Japanese libraries, which are known as toshoshitsu in Japanese, ongoing sex-child prostitution involving high school girls, and sexual assault of schoolgirls on public transit. On a non-terrifying and disturbing note, there’s also a dedication to the privacy of library users, in line with the JLA’s statement I mentioned earlier, saying that it isn’t right if “people cannot use a library free from anxiety.”

Topics in libraries in Japan are organized by subject and letter, along with reference and foreign language books. What’s in the library would differ depending on whether the library is in a preschool, elementary, junior high, or high school. Furthermore the fact that attendance is almost universal with no absences, the education is intense, rules for uniforms are strict, students clean the bathrooms, classrooms, and cafeterias of their schools, and balanced meals provided in schools undoubtedly influence library environments in schools. [7]

There are other libraries in Japan too, beyond those in schools. This includes the National Diet Library, which made an appearance in R.O.D. the TV, the National Film Center Library, Automobile Library, Asia Library, Japan Aeronautic Association Aviation Library, an anime library, a manga library, and the related Diplomatic Archives and National Archives of Japan, to name a few. There’s also, apart from the ALA, the Japan Association of National University Libraries, Japan Special Libraries Association, and Japan Society of Library and Information Science. There’s even overnight libraries which are styled after remolded traditional homes which can be used by students as a place to study after school or relax. At one time they were even lending libraries at hospitals, library festivals in some places in Japan, and books just devoted to autobiographies. [8]

More broadly, there are libraries in “nearly every town and neighborhood in Japan,” meaning that is common to see people during their commutes or outside reading books and other materials. These libraries are “cultural facilities for the dissemination of knowledge” in Japan, sometimes having unique designs, water fountains, and library committees (at least in schools) where students are assigned library duties. Due to this role, it is no surprise that many libraries in the country prohibit photography. [9]

All of these libraries in Japan is not much of a surprise. After all, in Japan, having “harmonious relations with others” with reciprocity and fulling social obligations is more important than a relationship someone has to a so-called “higher power”. As such, order, harmony, and self-development underlie much of Japanese social interaction, which is why substitutes are rarely used, lunches are eaten in classrooms, and summer break is only 5 weeks long. Some schools even have classes on Saturday and there are various student clubs. Most also walk or bike to school if the distance isn’t that long. [10]

The fact that many Japanese librarians in anime are schoolgirls is in line with the audience of such animated series and likely current dynamics in school itself. Japan is a patriarchal society where men are portrayed  to be the leaders and not in “feminized” professions like librarianship, with more men in the workforce, for all professions, than women. This is happening while Japan’s society is greying with an estimated 40% of the population to be elderly by 2060. [11] In the end, there will continue to be Japanese librarians in school environments going forward, a trend which isn’t going to end anytime soon.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Teachers who are part of the JLA are part of its School Library Division. There are also divisions for public libraries, university libraries, junior college libraries, special libraries, and education. There are also committees and working groups which focus on, according to the JLA, “library policies, library management, copyright, intellectual freedom, bibliography, preservation and conservation, services for the handicapped, publications, library services for children and young adults, international relations, etc.” A June 2020 article in Nippon also stated that the number of libraries in Japan is increasing.

[2] “Standards for the 21st Century Learner,” American Association of School Librarians (AASL), 2007; “Frequently Asked Questions.” American Library Association, May 12, 2008; “School Library Campaign.” American Library Association,” November 23, 2008;  Morris, Betty J. Administering the school library media center (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited), 2013, p.32; “Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries : The Ohio Research Study.” Ohio Educational Library Media Association, Feb. 21, 2004; Lonsdale, Michele. Impact of School Libaries in Student Achievement.” Australian School Library Association, 2003. Also see AASL position statements.

[3] Morris 2004; De las Casas, Dianne. (2010). “Tag! you’re it!”: playing on the digital playground. Knowledge Quest, 39(1), 80-82; “School Library Handbook.” The Wyoming State Library, Jun. 6, 2021; Thomas, Margie J. and Patsy H. Perritt. “A Higher Standard: Many states have recently revised their certification requirements for school librarians.” School Library Journal, Dec. 1, 2003; “School Libraries & Education.” American Library Association, accessed June 4, 2022; “Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students.” AASL, 2013. Also see some sources listed on the School library Wikipedia page.

[4] “Student librarians.” National Library of New Zealand. Accessed June 5, 2022; “School student librarians.” St. Augustine’s CE High School. Accessed June 5, 2022; “2019-2020 Student Librarians.” Ilako Library. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Student Librarians.” Co-Op Academy Walkden. Accessed June 5, 2022; Slater, Lewis. “The Student Librarians.” Unity College, Jun. 1, 2019; “Student Librarians.” Tarlton Law Library. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Student Librarians Update Library.” Cambian University, Apr. 3, 2022; “Librarians for First-Year Students.” Harvard Library. Accessed June 5, 2022; Pollock, Natasha. “Student Librarians: Contributors in Our Learning Community.” Books Are Just the Beginning, Feb. 14, 2017; “Student Librarians.” Kettering Science Academy. Accessed June 5, 2022; Onwubiko, Emmanuel Chidiadi. “An Assessment of the Effect of Self-efficacy, Reading Culture, Utilization of Library Habits on the Academic Achievements of Student-librarians.” Library Philosophy and Practice, May 2022; “History.” Board Of Student Librarians. Methodist’ Boys School Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 23, 2010; Heraper, Sue. “Managing a Successful Student Library Aide Program.” Student Library Aide. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Student Library Aide.” Mississippi Department of Education. Accessed June 5, 2022.

[5] Kemner, Louis. “25 Best High School Anime, Ranked.” CBR, May 15, 2022.

[6] Others include Aruto, Iina, Kokoro in Kokoro Toshokan a.k.a. Kokoro Library, Hamyuts Meseta, Mirepoc Finedel, Noloty Malche, Ireia Kitty, Mattalast Ballory, Volken Macmani, Ruruta Coozancoona, Mokkania Fluru, Fhotona Badgammon, and Makia Dekishart in Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra, Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too episode (“The Garden of Sky and Wind”), unnamed librarian in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform episode (“There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”), unnamed/uncredited librarian in Gabriel DropOut (“Fun Forever After…”), four unnamed/uncredited librarians in Cardcaptor Sakura episode (“Sakura and the Summer Holiday Homework”), and two librarians in Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (“My Senpai is a Bunny Girl”), Atsushi Dojo, Mikihisa Komaki, Hikaru Tezuka, Ryusuke Genda, and Kazuichi Inamine in Library War, and Riichi Miura in The Ancient Magus Bride: Those Awaiting a Star.

[7] “Man arrested for sexually molesting junior high school girl in library.”  JapanToday, Oct. 19, 2021; “Japanese Vocabulary – School Rooms.” PuniPuni, accessed June 4, 2022; “Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries.” Japan Library Association, 1979; “Japanese School System.” Education in Japan, accessed June 4, 2022; “Explore Japan: Schools.” KidsWebJapan. JapanLinks, accessed June 4, 2022; Dom Alex, “Japanese High School Library Tour,” YouTube, Feb. 6, 2016; xxDotheMonkeyDancexx. “RYE Japan #30 – school library.” YouTube, May 16, 2013; Schaub, Michael. “Haruki Murakami’s library list is published, and Japanese librarians are up in arms.” LA Times, Dec. 5, 2015; Fifield, Anna. “For vulnerable high school girls in Japan, a culture of “dates” with older men.” The Denver Post, May 16, 2017, reprinted from The Washington Post; Ripley, Will. “Fascination with Japanese schoolgirl culture hiding a darker side?CNN, Dec. 27, 2015; Ekin, Annette. “Sexual assault in Japan: ‘Every girl was a victim’.” Al-Jazeera, Mar. 8, 2017. Also see the Wikipedia page “Education in Japan” for more information.

[8] “Libraries & Archives: National & Administrative Libraries.” JapanLinks. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Libraries & Archives: Library Associations.” JapanLinks. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Libraries & Archives: Libraries in Specific Fields.” JapanLinks. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “What’s Cool: Sleeping Surrounded by Books – Bookstores and Libraries that Double as Accommodation.” KidsWebJapan. JapanLinks. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Reading for All: “Barrier-Free” Picture Books for Children.” Trends in Japan, Dec. 9, 2002; “Library Festival.” KidsWebJapan. JapanLinks. Accessed June 5, 2022; “This is My Life: Young and Old Producing Autobiographies.” Trends in Japan, Sept. 22, 2000; “What’s Cool: Suginami Animation Museum.” KidsWebJapan. JapanLinks. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Apr. 2005; “Exploring the History of Manga.” Trends in Japan, Jan. 22, 2007. The National Diet Library is said to have more books (and presumably materials) than any other library in Japan.

[9] “Japan in Photos – Japan Celebrates Reading Week.” Japan Up Close. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Dec. 1, 2021; “Seaside Momochi: Waterfront Development for a Multimedia Society.” JapanAtlas. WebJapan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Japan’s Blue Created With Indigo Dye.” Trends in Japan, Jan. 2014; “In the Morning.” KidsWebJapan. WebJapan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Special Feature on Schools in Japan: Classroom Duties.” WebJapan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Jan. 2021; “Feeling Like a Protagonist on Location.” Trends in Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Japan, Land of Water.” niponica, no. 15, 2015.

[10] “Values and Beliefs” within Japan: A Country Study (Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1994, ed Ronald E. Dolan and Robert L. Worden), reprinted on; “Explore Japan: Schools.” KidsWebJapan. WebJapan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; Freeman, Ellen. “9 Ways Japanese Schools Are Different From American Schools.” Mental Floss, Dec. 18, 2015; “Japanese Educational System.” Japan Educational Travel.” Accessed June 5, 2022;  Johnson, Marcia L. and Jeffrey R. Johnson, “Daily Life in Japanese High Schools.” ERIC Digest, Oct. 1996. School cleaning by students is intended to make students responsible for their surroundings, although there are cleaning staff as well. Also see Nishioka, Kanae. “Historical overview of curriculum organization” in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Japan: Beyond Lesson Study (ed. Koji Tanaka, Kanae Nishioka and Terumasa Ishii, New York: Routledge, 2017), pp. 11-27; Tokyo Five. “13 Ways Japanese Schools Are Different From American Ones.” Business Insider, Jul 17, 2014; “Top Performing Countries: Japan.” NCEE. Accessed June 5, 2022; Ooman, Emily Joy. “10 Facts About Education in Japan.” The Borgen Project, May 20, 2020; Mandrapa, Nebojsa. “Interesting Facts about Japanese School System.” Novak Djokovic Foundation, Mar. 11, 2015; Abe, Namiko. “The Japanese Education System.” ThoughtCo, Sept. 8, 2018; “Japanese high-school students.” Contents Library. Japan Foundation. Accessed June 5, 2022.

[11] “Labor force in Japan from 1973 to 2021 by gender.” Statista, Feb, 2022; “Labor force, female (% of total labor force) – Japan.” WorldBank, Feb. 8, 2022; “Labour force participation rate by sex and age (%) – Annual.” ILOSTAT Explorer, 2021; “Country Profiles.” ILOSTAT. International Labour Organization, select “Japan” from drop-down menu; “Labor force, total – Japan.” WorldBank, Feb. 8, 2022; “Japanese Workforce Statistics 2022: Digging Into the Labor Market of Japan.” TeamStage. Accessed June 5, 2022; “Demographic Change in Japan.” Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. Accessed June 5, 2022; “How Japan can take the lead with an ageing workforce.” World Economic Forum, May 8, 2019. Recent statistics from the Statistics Bureau of Japan (see table 1 on this page) show more women working in the education field than men. Furthermore, e-Stat shows 144,000 men and 201,000 women working in education learning support in Japan in 2021, 136,000 women and 99,000 men working in school education in 2021. The same chart shows that 22,000 men and 12,000 women work in video picture, sound information, character information production, and distribution in 2021, which I’m assuming is referring to anime production. There does not appear to be a category for libraries, unlike the BLS in the U.S. Also see the badly sourced and poorly maintained “Labor market of Japan” page on Wikipedia for further information.

action adventure fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries speculative fiction White people

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

From left to right: Nico Colaleo, Matt Burnett, Kelsey Grammer, and Gary Martin.

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, Part 3 on Indian voice actors, Part 4 on Japanese voice actors, Part 5 on Japanese-speaking and English-speaking voice actors, and Part 6 on White female voice actors.

In this seventh part of this series, I am profiling White men [1] who have voiced librarian characters over the years.

About the voice actors

There are a number of prominent White male voice actors. This includes Nico Colaleo as Desiree in Too Loud, the only transgender librarian I’ve covered on this blog so far. He is the creator of Too Loud and Ollie & Scoops, while he has works as an animation timer for Netflix Animation, Nickelodeon, Disney TVA, and Titmouse. Then there’s Matt Burnett who voices Harold in Craig of the Creek. Burnett is a co-creator of the same show, with Ben Levin as the other co-creator.

Actors Kelsey Grammer and Gary Martin mentioned prominent librarian characters as well. Grammer voices Blinkous “Blinky” Galadrigal in Tales of Arcadia. Martin voices the unnamed librarian in Prisoner Zero. Both are talented actors, with Grammer known for voicing Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons. Martin voiced characters, by contrast, in many video games and animated films.

Other White men voiced librarians as well. For instance, Steve Zahn voices Swampy in Phineas and Ferb, George DiCenzo voiced the unnamed elderly librarian in the She-Ra: Princess of Power episode “Three Courageous Hearts,” and John Cygan as Archie the Archivist in Regular Show, who is a mix of an archivist and a librarian. In addition, Jamie Watson voiced Mr. Snellson, named after a snail, in the Mysticons episode “Happily Never After.”

There is also a rash of White men who voiced female librarians, which is strange, because it is not known why women weren’t cast for those roles instead. First and foremost this includes Steve Little as Turtle Princess in Adventure Time and Adventure Time: Distant Lands. It also includes Jay Johnston, David Herman, and Scott Adsit, all of whom voiced Francis Clara Censorsdoll in different parts of Moral Orel.

Additional White male voice actors included those voicing humanoid or non-human librarians, like Tony Daniels as Mr. X in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Thiago Martins as Mumm-Ra in the Fudêncio e Seus Amigos episode (“Biblioteca Maldita”), Tom Britton as the librarian in an episode of Sarah and Duck entitled “Lost Librarian”. There’s also Richard Epcar as Mr. Noisy and Paul Greenberg as Mr. Quiet, both in the The Mr. Men Show episode, “Library”. Arguably, Tom Kenny, who voices Gary in Spongebob Squarepants is a librarian in the episode “Library Cards” as is Jeff Bergman who voices Foghorn Leghorn in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode “Weirdest Story Ever Told”.

Daniels is known for various animated roles while very little is known as about Martins apart from being a director and writer, and nothing about Britton. On the other hand, Epcar is said to have voiced “over 600 characters in Video games, Animation and Anime” according to his IMDB page, while Greenberg who is a writer and performer. Bergman has voiced iconic characters like Bugs Bunny, Fred Flintstone, The Joker, Yogi Bear, Droopy, and Zap, to name a few roles.

About the characters

From left to right: Desiree, Harold, Blinky, unnamed librarian, Swampy, and another unnamed librarian

Desiree in Too Loud, is the only transgender librarian I’ve covered on this blog so far. She is a volunteer librarian at the local library along with her sister, Sara, and another volunteer, Sarah. Harold in Craig of the Creek is just as helpful as Desiree, and works at the local library.

Blinkous “Blinky” Galadrigal is a protagonist in Tales of Arcadia. He is a tall troll who likes books, history, teaching and training Jim, an going on quests and adventures with his friends. He also his highly knowledgeable about history, and even has a library of his own with books he created and ones his brother created. He is also a master tactician, can manipulate people, can serve as a leader, is a skilled piano player, and can craft (or upgrade) weapons

Another key librarian character is the unnamed librarian in Prisoner Zero. He has blue skin and a large head, along with a shell on his back from which he can pull objects, including books. He is very old, but also very knowledgeable, having a library of his own.

Swampy in Phineas and Ferb, is also named Sherman. He works at a local public library, the Tri-State Area Public Library, an some say he is a washed-up rock star who is a librarian who believes he doesn’t have any talent anymore. Phineas and Ferb are able to get Swampy to get out of the library and re-join the band. In the process, however, they cause disruption in the library and probably make it worse for those who come into the library, which is a bad thing.

There’s an unnamed elderly librarian in the She-Ra: Princess of Power episode “Three Courageous Hearts.” He oversees a library in the Valley of the Lost, something which very few people visit. Then there is the Inner Library, which has books in a language not used in many years. Inside there is a nameless glowing book.

Left to right: Archie the Archivist, Mr. Snellson, Turtle Princess, Francis Clara Censordoll, and Mr. X

That brings me to Archie the Archivist in Regular Show, who is a mix of an archivist and a librarian. He is one bizarre character, a mix of a person who helps the protagonists and a laser disc guardian. His character is so strange that I wrote about it for my other blog.

Mr. Snellson, named after a snail, in the Mysticons episode “Happily Never After.” He is an enforcer of the mythical Library of the Eternal Equinox, enforcing the rules and priding himself on running a library which safe, quiet, and happy. He also has a literary agent.

Then there’s Turtle Princess in Adventure Time and Adventure Time: Distant Lands. She is a princess and head of a library within the Land of Ooo. She is very strict about rules in the library, wanting everything to be quiet as she enjoys silence and peace.

Francis Clara Censorsdoll in Moral Orel is perhaps the most out-there librarian I have ever seen. She dips “obscene” or “objectionable” books in kerosene and burns them. She also has weird diets, like loving to eat eggs and strange habits. She is a socially conservative librarian, a Protestant, picketer of “evil” films at the local theatre, and a terrifying reminder that libraries are not neutral.

Mr. X in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is sometimes referred to X the Owl or Uncle X. He is shown wearing brown shoes and a green bow tie. He works as a librarian in the town and is always courteous to those who work there in the best way that he can.

left to right: Mumm-Ra, unnamed librarian, Mr. Noisy, Mr. Quiet, Gary, and Foghorn Leghorn

There’s six other characters I’m going to highlight in this post: Mumm-Ra in the Fudêncio e Seus Amigos episode “Biblioteca Maldita“, Librarian in the “Lost Librarian” episode of Sarah and Duck, Mr. Noisy and Mr. Quiet in The Mr. Men Show episode “Library,” Gary as a librarian in the Spongebob Squarepants episode “Library Cards,” and Foghorn Leghorn in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode “Weirdest Story Ever Told“.

Mumm-Ra is an interesting librarian. He is a bit like a priest, but also a librarian at the same time, if that makes sense. He an evil figure of this new library who seeks the eye of Thundera. He is also a librarian who considers the library his own private domain and claims that time means nothing to him. The characters trick Mumm-Ra into thinking they have given him the real eye after they destroy the actual one.

Librarian in the “Lost Librarian” helps Sarah and Duck look for a book on periscopes. He becomes lost when he loses his catalog which tells him where all the books in the library are. In the process, he travels with them across the library. He eventually finds that book and the book they were looking for, on periscopes.

Mr. Noisy and Mr. Quiet in The Mr. Men Show are opposites of each other. Mr. Noisy is loud with a megaphone-styled bullhorn and makes a lot of noise even though he is the librarian. In contrast, Mr. Quiet, is accident-prone but his voice is barely audible and he is blamed by people when he tries to speak out, but can’t.

Gary acts as a librarian by overseeing the library while Patrick tries to grow more and more intelligent. His head becomes so big he can’t get through the door. Spongebob tries to make Patrick leave but his attempts fail until he shows him an inane cartoon show, causing him to become “dumb again,” weirdly enough.

Foghorn Leghorn is a bit like Mr. Noisy, Desiree or Sara in that he is overly loud but is also a librarian. In the episode, he tells Buster and Babs to be quiet even though he is being very loud. It is supposed to be ironic, but in another way it goes against the librarian stereotype that librarians are shushers. On the other, however, it implies that such shushing is the norm, even though it is not.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Voice actors not known: librarian in The Owl House episode (“Lost in Language”), unnamed librarian in Sofia the First episode (“Forever Royal”?), and Cletus Bookworm in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.

adventure animation anime dimly lit libraries fantasy Fiction genres iyashikei Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums school libraries slice-of-life speculative fiction supernatural Thai people White people

“Against the hair of your professions”: Fictional librarians and hair buns

Often librarians are portrayed as quiet, bookish people, who shush those who are noisy, and act in a stereotypical manner. However, librarians come in many types and kinds, either with an MLIS/MLS or not, and those stereotypes can be disrupted when a librarian changes professions as it changes audience expectations. Even so, librarians aren’t united on what the image of librarians should be changed into in order to counter the stereotypes. Through all of this, many librarians are portrayed with hair buns, part of the oft-stereotype. [2] Today, I’ll explore that, determining why this is the case, its significance in librarian portrayals, and what it means overall. As Swallow said in Act I of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy play, The Mary Wives of Windsor, “if you should fight, you go against the hair of your professions,” meaning that you are going against the grain.

Fictional librarians are often shown with so-called “traditional” outfits, looks, and hairstyles, including hair buns, which are symbolic in research around stereotypes themselves. This has even cropped up in webcomics. This is in part because styling one’s hair can be “highly politicized” and complicated, especially for people of color, who experience microaggressions when people want to “touch” their hair or question it entirely. Some have even argued that different hair styles can be empowering and resist stereotypes, even as a library can be a “very conservative” place to work, although this may not be as strict in university library environments. Hair can also be an opportunity to communicate change, while serving as an intricate part of the identity and responsibility of the profession itself, with different hair styles having the potential to dispel stereotypes. [3]

In Western animation, this is clear as librarians of color, like Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne, and Mira in Mira, Royal Detective episode (“The Case of the Missing Library Book”) don’t wear hair buns. Neither does Ms. Herrera in a Archie’s Weird Mysteries episode (“The Haunting of Riverdale”). However, the unnamed librarian in a We Bare Bears episode (“The Library”) prominently wears a hair bun, and serves as the only librarian of color that I know of, in Western animation, that does so. This could be a function of her role in the library and set rules which may establish that she dresses to “impress” in a semi-formal outfit. So, it could be a consequence of that, as other librarians I’ve mentioned may work in environments which are more open with their rules around self-expression or care little about how people look.

When it comes to White female librarians in animation, it is a different story. Apart from Kaisa in Hilda, the unnamed librarian in a Steven Universe episode (“Buddy’s Book”), the librarian in the first Zevo-3 episode, Mrs. Higgins in a Sofia the First episode (“The Princess Test”), and Amity Blight in The Owl House, who briefly wears her hair in a pony trail, which became a sensation among fans of the series, to give a few examples, many of the other librarians wear hair buns. [4] This includes the librarian characters, who are effectively one-episode-wonders or only appear very briefly, in episodes of Futurama, DC Super Hero Girls, Rugrats, Kim Possible, Timon & Pumbaa, Dexter’s Laboratory, Totally Spies, Phineas & Ferb, and The Simpsons, to name a few shows.

Also, Francis Clara Censorsdoll in Moral Orel wears a hair bun. Even, the blue-glasses wearing librarian in The Flintstones episode “The Hit Songwriter” wears a hair bun. At times, it appears that librarians with hair buns are meant to symbolize social conservative and prudish people, like the librarian in an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head (“Cyber-Butt”), who faints when she sees a nude image on a computer screen. Although she doesn’t wear a hair bun, what she symbolizes is similar to how some librarians are portrayed in Western animation.

Others have declared that the perception of librarians with hair buns or lace collars should be discarded, as librarians are highly active and high tech now. While someone can easily agree with this, it is harder to push away the image of a spinster librarian with a hair bun, with some wearing buns and braids while working in the library. There is the further point that many librarians may not have enough hair to put into a bun in the first place. At one point, librarians adopted the hair bun style at one time, giving life to what became the stereotype and cliche. However, nowadays many younger librarians have different hair styles, and some might even have better eyesight than anyone else as they don’t need glasses! [5] Still, tropes like the”Prim and Proper Bun” remain, with those with this hairstyle said to be in charge or be respected. This is somewhat countered with the “Loony Librarian” trope, which is said to describe a librarian who’s let “their profession mess with their mind a little.”

11 fictional librarians without hairbuns
Top row, from left to right: Violet Stanhope in Archie’s Weird Mysteries, Miss Dickens in Carl Squared, Sara in Too Loud, Sarah in Too Loud, and Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements. Bottom row, from left to right, Marion the librarian in Hanny Manny, Millie in Madagascar: A Little Wild, unnamed librarian in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, unnamed librarian in Martin Mystery, unnamed librarian in Martin Mystery, and unnamed librarian in Uncle Grandpa.

The stern librarian with hair tied tightly behind their head, peering at patrons from behind their glasses, still remains a go-to-stereotype for too many, even perpetrated by journalists who should know better. Some even try and make it sexy, serious, while others highlight other hairstyles or fashions instead. [6] The shushing librarian remains, despite the fact it doesn’t reflect reality, with uptight librarians fading from existence except in pop culture, where they remain a negative stereotype. They appear as early as a 1921 silent film, with hair buns becoming an “occupational indicator” of librarians over time, even as there is no single image of a librarian. [7] Instead, actual librarians are different, and have varying styles. Jennifer Snoek-Brown, who runs Reel Librarians, has recognized this with posts about librarian style, like a librarian-themed clothing collection she posted about in May 2022.

Of course, there are actual librarians out there, like the elderly White woman with grey hair in a bun shown at the beginning of Ghostbusters, and others who embody the stereotype or wear librarian costumes for Halloween. However, there are just as many who run afoul of that stereotype, either by not shushing any patrons. The stereotype itself has its roots in gender with the profession dominated by White woman, although it is not accurate in the slightest. [8] There is supposed “greying” of the profession which only reinforces the images of frumpy stereotypical librarians, an image with unknown origins. The latter image is something which has become a signifier of the profession, for better or worse, despite efforts to counter it. The fight to counter such images continues, with some showing they are more than a librarian, like those who also bellydance, and others who thrive on change and want to dispel of the bun entirely. [9]

There are various librarians in Western animations who don’t wear hair buns. Apart from Amity, who I mentioned earlier, there’s Violet Stanhope in an episode of Archie’s Weird Mysteries (“The Haunting of Riverdale”), Miss Dickens in Carl Squared episode (“Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), Sara and Sarah in Too Loud, Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements episode (“Quiet Riot”), Millie in Madagascar: A Little Wild episode (“Melman at the Movies”), and Marion the Librarian in Hanny Manny. There are additional unnamed librarians in Martin Mystery, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Uncle Grandpa, Phineas and Ferb, and Amphibia, none of whom wear hair buns either.

But there is something more to the bun hairstyle. In some ways, it can be practical, despite being a stereotype for librarians, and is claimed to add “glam” or “chic” to any outfit, with no “right or wrong way to wear a bun” as one site declared. This can also be pushed away by people of color who want to move away from being called a “bun lady”. At the same time, apart from the types of buns, some of which are said to show that a person is “sophisticated.”

Ancient Chinese, Koreans, Polynesians, and Greeks, often women, all wore hair buns. The hair style was popular in Korea and Japan among men, for one reason or another. It became popular beginning in the 1800s, as styles from ancient Greeks and Romans entering into high society, and again in the 1870s, during the Victorian period. [10]

Nagisa Yasaka overjoyed

This isn’t the case for all librarians, however. The above librarian, Nagisa Yasaka (voiced by Hisako Tōjō), appears in one episode of My Roommate is a Cat, “Ones Who Can’t Be Controlled”, and is overjoyed when the protagonist gives her a book, thinking she’d be interested in it, after struggling to decide what to give her, not knowing her interests. She tells him that she is a school librarian. Unfortunately, we only see her in this one episode and never again, so it isn’t known whether she wears a hair bun while working in the library or not.

She is not alone in this. Hair buns are somewhat rare for the librarians I’ve seen in anime to-date, with even Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta having her hair braided into tails, but not tied up in a hair bun. The same is the case for Hasegawa Sumika in Bernard-jou Iwaku a.k.a. Miss Bernard said, while Himeko Agari in Komi Can’t Communicate has hair too short to put into a hair bun. Even the two librarians briefly shown in the first episode of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai don’t have a hair bun, as one as her hair in a ponytail and the other doesn’t have her hair tied up. The unnamed and uncredited librarian shown in an episode of Kin-iro Mosaic aka Kinmoza (“The Girl on My Mind”) doesn’t have her hair in a hair bun either. Instead, its just in a pony tail.

However, there are a couple librarians in anime who have a hair buns. Take for example, the unnamed librarian in an episode of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform episode (“There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”). More prominently, there’s Rin Shima in Laid-Back Camp. Apart from her sleeping at the information desk, from time to time, as I described in a post back in January, she seems comfortable with a hair bun. It allows her to keep her hair tied up while she works, and doesn’t serve as a distraction. She might be the most prominent Japanese fictional librarian who wears a hair bun.

This difference in fictional librarians is one of the many aspects which sets apart librarians in anime from those in Western animation. If the photographs on Wikimedia and scattered images online are any indication, Japanese female librarians often don’t often wear hair buns. So, in this sense, the anime may be reflecting reality. The same may be the case for Western animation, to an extent, except that there has been a strong resistance to the “bun lady” perception in Western countries, especially by librarians of color, who don’t want to tie up their hair in buns. Hopefully, Western animation, in coming years, features more librarians without hair buns, and guts the stereotype entirely, even if it is too easy to rely on old cliches of librarians (often White) who are strict, curmudgeonly, and have hair buns.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Top row, from left to right: unnamed librarian in Futurama, unnamed librarian in DC Super Hero Girls, Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible, Rita Book in Timon & Pumbaa, unnamed librarian in Rugrats. Bottom row, from left to right: Mrs. L in Dexter’s Laboratory, unnamed librarian in Totally Spies!, unnamed librarian in We Bare Bears, Eztli in Victor and Valentino, Francis Clara Censordoll in Moral Orel, unnamed librarian in Big City Greens, Arlene in Phineas and Ferb, and Censordoll again.

[2] Matthew Wood. “10 Most Awesome Librarians in Pop Culture,” Comic Book Resources, Aug. 22, 2019; Stephen Walker, V. Lonnie Lawson. “The Librarian Stereotype and the Movies,” MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship1, no. 1 (1993): 16-28; Dana Vinke. “Unconventional Librarians,” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture, Fall 2001, accessed May 27, 2022; Sadie Trombetta. “11 Of The Coolest Librarians From Pop Culture,” Bustle, Mar. 2, 2015. For additional resources, see Ashanti White’s Not Your Ordinary Librarian: Debunking the Popular Perceptions of Librarians, Nicole Pagowsky’s The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work, to mention two books. There are librarians like Lani in Diner Dash and Myrna Bookbottom in Freaky Flyers who both embody librarian stereotypes, but there are others that buck these stereotypes.

[3] Raymond Pun and Jesus Lau, “Hair and Hairstyles as Metaphors for Librarians,” IFLA WLIC 2018, pp. 1-5.

[4] Amity is beloved by fans since she is a somewhat prominent recurring character and she is a lesbian who is in a romantic relationship with the show’s protagonist, Luz Noceda.

[5] Christine Sharbrough, “What Does a Librarian Do All Day?,” BellaOnline, 2013; DarLynn Nemitz, “Male Librarians: Stereotypes and Role Models,” Image of Librarians in Popular Culture, Fall 2001; Amy P., “Librarian Who Hadn’t Updated Her Look In 8 Years Underwent An Extreme Head-To-Toe Makeover,” LittleThings, May 12, 2022; “So, what does a librarian do all day?,” Iowa State University University Library, Apr. 11, 2007; UNH Library, “The Top 10 Misconceptions about Libraries and Librarians,” The Charger Bulletin, Nov. 14, 2012; David Levy, “Reel Librarians: Images and Stereotypes of Librarians and Libraries in film and literature,” Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Boston, MA – June 18-20, 2018), pp, 1-3; “How to Style Your Hair Into an Upside Down Bun,” StepByStep, accessed May 27, 2022; “More Librarian Misconceptions,” Bound: A Blog About Books & Libraries, Apr. 1, 2014; Glenn A. Hascall, “Larry & The Librarian,” accessed May 27, 2022; Megan Halsband, “Let’s Talk Comics: Librarians,” Headlines & Heroes, Library of Congress, Jul. 3, 2019; Jodi McFarland, “Saginaw Valley librarians ride Internet age forward,” mlive, Jul. 7, 2008;Michelle Reilly, “Librarians,” It’s a Dog’s Life, Jul. 10, 2008.

[6] Jesse Chadderdon, “Video: Librarians shake their book carts in national dance competition,” The Bulletin, Jul. 13, 2009; Eric, “One of the Wonders,” It’s all good, Jul. 8, 2007; Roger Ebert, “Party Girl,” Roger Ebert website, Jul. 7, 1995; Phyllis Korkki, “Spare a Hair Band? A Man Bun to Go,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2012; “Hair Dos: 10 Beautiful Buns & Tucks,” The Frisky, Oct. 8, 2019; Lawrence Feldman, “The librarian’s bun — A ‘tail’ for the High Holy Days,” Times of Israel, Sept. 24, 2017; Emma Smart and Sarah Currant, “The 10 best librarians on screen,” BFI, Feb. 5, 2016; Ruth A. Kneale, “Librarians’ views of public perception in the Internet age,” You Don’t Look Like a Librarian!, Jun. 2002; Deliala Yasin, “Sexy Librarian Stereotypes,” Oct. 7, 2010; Kelly Jensen, “Queer Phobia and The Public Library,” Book Riot, Oct. 13, 2016; “Marian the Librarian – Pop! Profile,” Pop! Goes the Librarian, Jun. 7, 2012; “Image of Librarians,” LISWiki, Feb. 1, 2016; Caroline Murray, “What Do Men Think Of Buns?,” Stylecaster, Jun. 9, 2012; Heather, “Welcome to the Librarian Fashion blog!,” Librarian Fashion, Mar. 22, 2011.

[7] Pam Hayes Bohanan, “Librarians in Pop Culture,” Bridgewater State University, Sept. 12, 2013; “Librarian Stereotypes,” Life is Just a Bowl Full of Queries, Sept. 28, 2008; Jed Lipinski, “‘This Book Is Overdue!’: Hot for librarian,” Salon, Feb. 21, 2010; Joe Hardenbrook, “28 Lego Librarians (PHOTOS),” HuffPost, Oct. 5, 2013; Marcia J. Myers, “Images of Librarians in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Including An Annotated List,” Jun 1998, p. 3, 6, 8-9; “When it rains it pours… and other cliches,” lclibraries, May 28, 2013; Antoinette G. Graham, “Sign of the Librarian in the Cinema of Horror: An Exploration of Filmic Function,” Florida State University Libraries, 2010, pp. v, 12, 21, 23, 28, 47, 54; Carly Bedford and Chelsea Misquith, “Old Maid, Old Maid, How Librarians are Portrayed,” University of Toronto, 2015. Also see Kathleen Low’s book, Casanova Was a Librarian: A Light-Hearted Look at the Profession and another book by Ray Tevis and
Brenda Tevis entitled The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917–1999.

[8] Julie Manser, “Shushing the Librarian Stereotype,” Zócalo Magazine, Mar. 5, 2015; Monique L. Threatt, “Bad to the Bone, Librarians in Motion Pictures: Is It An Accurate Portrayal,” Indiana Libraries, The Image of Librarians, p. 7; Eric Sherman, “Librarians Confess Their Naughtiest On-the-Job Moments,” AOL, Oct. 8, 2013; Aaron Gouveia, “Librarians show off their moves,” Cape Cod Times, May 9, 2008; Arianna Rebolini, “Here’s What It’s Actually Like To Be A Librarian,” BuzzFeed News, Nov. 17, 2018; ““When they take of their glasses and put down their hair”: Defogging the Glasses Girl Stereotypes,” Things He Says, Feb. 17, 2016; Jenni Bean, “Teens rebel…. Library closes. WHAT?!?!,” My Life as a Married Super Librarian!, Jan. 2, 2007; Gabrielle Barone, “‘I don’t shush’: Local Librarians share their thoughts stereotypes rooted in their profession,” Daily Collegian, Penn State University, Nov. 15, 2017; Jeff Voyt, “Librarian Stereotypes,” A Year in the Life, Apr. 24, 2014; Macy Haford, “The New Sexy Librarian,” The New Yorker, Oct. 2, 2011;

[9] “On the Great Myth of the Librarian Grays,” Guardienne of the Tomes, Sept. 3, 2010; Jessamyn West, December 2002 entries,, Dec. 2002; “Katharine L. Kan, MLS,” Librarian to Librarian, accessed May 27, 2022; Bari L. Helms, “Reel Librarians: The Stereotype and Technology,” Masters Thesis, Apr. 2006, pp. 3, 5, 9-10, 256; David James Brier and Vickery Kaye Lebbin, Learning Information Literacy through Drawing,” Hawaii University, accessed May 27, 2022; Katy Shaw, “Buns on the Run: Changing the Stereotype of the Female Librarian,” University of Washington, October 2003; Chelsea Fregis, “Quick & Easy Curly Hair Styles for Finals Week,” NaturallyCurly, Nov. 7, 2011; Scholastica A.J. Chukwu, Nkeiru Emezie, Ngozi Maria Nwaohiri, and Ngozi Chima-James, “The Librarian in the Digital Age: A Preferred Nomenclature, Perceptions of Academic Librarians in Imo State Nigeria,” Library Philosophy and Practice, Dec. 2018, p. 5; Aja Carmichael, “The Changing Role of Librarians,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 5, 2007; Ana Tintocalis, “Young, Hip Librarians Take Over,” KPBS, Jan. 10, 2011; “Hairstyle with Pins for Parties : Pinned to Perfection,” fashioncentrel, 2011; “Black History Month: Plainfield librarian challenged segregation, created literacy programs,”, Feb. 12, 2010; Eris, “The Bellydancing Librarian,” Nov. 21, 2013;Kay Oddone, “Change in the Library,” National Education Summit, Jan. 26, 2022; Genevieve Zook, “Technology and the Generation Gap,” LLRX, Aug. 27, 2007; Amanda Thomas, “Some minority librarians seeking to update image of white ‘bun lady’,” The Decatur Daily, Associated Press, Dec. 17, 2006. Also see the article entitled “The Graying of Academic Librarians: Crisis or Revolution?“, and many others, like: “Why I suck at blogging,” You have to go to college for that?!, Sept. 12, 2006; “Easy does it.,” You have to go to college for that?!, Jun. 24, 2006; Erin, “Gallery of Bellydancing Librarians,” The Bellydancing Librarian, Jul. 27, 2002; Dan Evon, “Tattooed Librarians Of The Ocean State Calendar Goes On Sale,” Inquisitr, Oct. 28, 2016; Kristy Gross, “Testing, Testing…,” Not Your Typical Librarian, Dec. 26, 2011; Jess Carter-Morley, “The updo is back,” The Guardian, Aug. 10, 2010; Regina Sierra Carter, “Librarians: Do Any Look Like Me?,” Inside Higher Ed, Mar. 29, 2017; Jack Broom, “Toymaker finds librarian who’s a real doll,” Seattle Times, Jul. 10, 2003; Leslie A. Pultroak, “The Image of Librarians in Poetry, 1958-1993,” MLS Research Paper, Kent State University, Aug. 1993; “Wend of the Webolution,” Anne of Green Labels, Mar. 12, 2009; Cynthia L. Shamel, “Building a Brand: Got Librarian?,” Searcher, Vol. 10, No. 7, Jul./Aug. 2002; Steven M. Bergson, “Librarians in Comics: Sources,” Aug. 17, 2002; Aimee Graham, “Debunking 10 Librarian Misconceptions,” INALJ, Jan. 12, 2015; Eliza, “7 Beautiful and Stylish Hair Dos to Give You a Whole New Look …,” All Women’s Talk, accessed May 27, 2022; Marcus, “Google Book Search and the Psychology of Librarians,” Marcus’ World, Apr. 28, 2007; Gabriel Spitzer, “Librarians Go Wild For Gold Book Cart,” All Things Considered, NPR, Jul. 13, 2009; Emelie Svensson and Evelina Magnusson, “Books, libraries and beige” [Abstract], Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper, Dec. 31, 2012; Julie, “[Untitled],” A day in the library…, Jan. 24, 2010; Ruth Kneale, “Librarian Image Study,” Marketing Library Service Vol. 16, No. 8, Nov/Dec. 2002; Rachel Sawaya, “Ideas for a Librarian Costume,” eHow, accessed May 28, 2022; Sarika Sawant, “Women librarians in traditional and modern attires in India: Nationwide scenario,” IFLA WLIC 2018, pp. 1-17; Angeline Evans, “The librarian ‘do [outfit],” The New Professional, Jun. 2, 2011; Ted Menten, “The Naughty Librarian,” Sasha Street, Feb. 27, 2010; Manda Sexton, Samantha Reardon, Jennifer Carter, and Matthew Foley, “The Inked Experience: Professionalism and Body Modifications in Libraries,” Georgia Library Quarterly, Vol. 58, No. 4, Fall 2021, p. 1-2; Melissa Wooton, “Warrior Librarian: How Our Image is Changing (A Personal Look),” Indiana Libraries, c. 2003, p. 24; Catherine Butler, “[Review of] Margaret Mahy: Librarian of Babel,”Online Research @ Cardiff, Cardiff University, 2015, p. 3, reprinted from article of same name in Lion and the Unicorn, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 129-145; Miss Cellania, “Tattooed Librarians,” Neatorama, Aug. 3, 2009; Ellie D., “Bunning Without Breakage — The 5 Rules of Bunning Natural Hair,” BGLH Marketplace, Feb. 3, 2015; Adriane Alan, “Librarians in Children’s and Teen Literature,” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture, c. 2000, authorship shown here.

[10] “23 Types of Women’s Hairstyles – Do You Know them All?,” Headcurve, accessed May 27, 2022; Fiorella Valdesolo, “Why the Bun Is the Power Hairstyle of Our Multi-Tasking Age,” Vanity Fair, Apr. 4, 2019; Melanie Green, “Why Black people (including me) are cutting our own hair in Vancouver — and what that says about our city,” Toronto Star, Nov. 10, 2019; Amanda Thomas, “Some minority librarians seeking to update image of white ‘bun lady’,” The Decatur Daily, Associated Press, Dec. 17, 2006; “Hair Buns,” Black Hairspray, accessed May 27, 2022; “Is Fall Here, Yet?,” The Designer Librarian, Aug. 13, 2013; “Five-Minute Braided Bun,” A Beautiful Mess, accessed May 27, 2022; “Popular Ladies’ Hairstyles of the 1870’s,” Poughkeepsie Public Library District, accessed May 27, 2022; Tori, “12 Easy Messy Buns You Can Do in Under 5 Minutes,” TerrificTresses, accessed May 27, 2022; “How to Create Space Buns for a Fun, Effortless Look,”  Beauty Magazine, L’Oreal Paris, Mar. 21, 2022; Christine George, “How to Do a Quick and Easy Hair Bun,” WikiHow, Sept. 15, 2021; “How To Create A Messy Bun In 3 Just Steps,” Beauty Magazine, L’Oreal Paris, May 27, 2022; Andrea Haba, “40 Easy & Cute Bun Hairstyles Trending in 2022,” Hairtyle Camp, Jun. 1, 2020; “The History of the Hair Bun,” Vieda, 2017; Wes, “Hair History: Topknots & Buns,” Hairstory, Sept. 12, 2017; Ellie Crystal, “Hairstyles Through the Ages,” Crystalinks, accessed May 27, 2022; “The allure of the bun,” The Australian Ballet, Jan. 3, 2012; “Buns & Braids,” History & Culture of Chinese Women’s Hair, Apr. 28, 2019.