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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

[5] Macias, “Looking the Part,” 118.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fictional trans librarians and the reality of trans library users

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, also known as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance or TDoR, which has been celebrated since November 20, 1999, with a small group, including Gwendolyn Ann Smith, creating the day to memorialize the murder of a trans woman, Rita Hester, in Allston, Massachusetts. Since then, this day remembers those murdered as a result of transphobia and draws attention toward continued violence that trans people experience on a daily basis. [1] As such, this post will talk about a few trans librarians in fiction, while noting the experience of trans librarians in real life, like the late Katherine Cummings who is noted in the video at the beginning of this post, and put out a book in 2007 entitled The Life and Loves of a Transgendered Lesbian Librarian. This post highlights two trans librarians in particular: Desiree in Too Loud and Oshima in Haruki Murakami’s 2002 novel, Kafka on the Shore.

I’ve written about her before, but Desiree is perhaps the most prominent trans librarian in fiction in recent memory. Given another name for much of the series, she works alongside with her sister Sara as a volunteer librarian at the local library, the episode “Slumber Party Sneak-In” was supposed to be the final episode of the series. In this episode, she dresses up as a girl and goes to a slumber party with her sister and when the girls find this out, they embrace her, and are accepting, saying they will like her whether she is a closeted boy or as a trans girl, and she feels better about herself as a result. [2] The episode itself was later described by the show’s creator, Nico Colaleo, as his favorite episode of the series and an important, “pro-transgender episode.” This is probably in part because Colaleo voices Desiree throughout the series. He also said that if the series was ever renewed for a third season, she would appear again and as a trans woman. [3] 

I wrote about her more in December of last year, describing her as “the only trans librarian I have ever written about on this blog” and adding that she is a series protagonist, noted that the series focuses on friendship, togetherness, and acceptance. I also argued that she smashes stereotypes about librarians by being very talkative while many librarians shush people and said she is unique as a trans woman but similar to other White female librarians in animation.

Desiree is not alone in this. Professor Caraway, the trans male professor in High Guardian Spice, who is voiced by the series creator Raye Rodriguez and has his own library of books. Shuichi Nitori, the protagonist of Wandering Son, goes to the school library with her friend, Saori Chiba, but feels unwelcome at first, and later sees it as a serious place of study as I wrote in August 2020. Additionally, in a webcomic of Sophie Labelle, known as Serious Trans Vibes, a curation of her more well-known comic, Assigned Male, a middle-schooler named Stephie is shown in a library, with Labelle writing, in one issue, that while some say the comic is absurd because it has “too many” trans characters, she asks whether readers have tried to randomly find “a book featuring trans characters in the library,” or tried to find a trans character in the “billions of pages.” She then calls both of those propositions absurd.

Beyond these characters is Oshima, the protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s novel, Kafka on the Shore. He is a 21-year-old intellectual gay trans man who owns a cabin near the Komura Memorial Library, where he works. He is also the mentor of Kafka, helping him get the answers he seeks. [4] The book features the manager of the private library, Miss Saeki, a former singer,and has a normal outward appearance but suffers after the death of her boyfriend. Some have even said that Oshima represents the “mind-body-spirit split within Kafka” and said that he is 21-years-old, and is a hemophiliac. He was prominent enough to be mentioned in rankings and listings of fictional librarians by Lit Hub and by Penguin Random House. [5]

On page 43 of Issue 108 of Transgender Tapestry, asking subscribers to promote the magazine, by the International Foundation for Gender Education, which ran from 1979 to 2008, in their libraries

There are undoubtedly other trans characters who are librarians out there, although none stick out particularly on the “List of fictional trans characters” Wikipedia page, in part because I haven’t watched or read many of those series. For now, I’d like to point to something beyond the fictional characters, and into reality: trans library users. This is abundantly clear from chatter below issues of Jocelyn Samara DiDomenick’s webcomic, Rain, with a trans girl protagonist, Liriel Rain Flaherty. People in the comments noting the value and limits of public libraries, in terms of what they can offer trans people, or how they were reading the comic itself in the library. Others heralded library computers as their “friend,” wanting to add the comic to their library, available library resources, and DiDomenick applauding a user who noted that they could read Rain in their local library. [6]

More directly, you can read views of trans people themselves in the aforementioned magazine, Transgender Tapestry. There were stories of students who lamented “invisibility on the shelves” and worked with librarians to ensure there would be more transgender titles on the shelves, a transgender doctor who smuggled out books from the library as they were too embarrassed to sign for them, and a librarian from a small university writing about trans representation in television and films. Additional articles described the dedication of the National Transgender Library & Archive, had an article by a trans female librarian, the library and archives of the magazine’s publisher housed at the Rikki Swan Institute, and noted a person’s offer of employment rescinded by the Library of Congress because she was trans, leading them to dub LOC the “Library of Bigots.”

Further items focused on the importance of libraries, proud trans librarians, library organization (in an ad), a help wanted librarian ad, library use to search for information on intersex people, and making sure trans books are in libraries. In other transgender publications, there were mentions of the person serving as the National Librarian of the Renaissance Transgender Association, the career of a trans librarian (Cummings, who I mentioned earlier), a law librarian liaison, and tries to appeal to “budding librarians.” [7]

On the other side are trans librarians themselves. This has been occasionally covered in the existing literature, including a 2019 article by scholars Zoe Fisher, Stephen G. Krueger, Robin Goodfellow Malamud, and Ericka Patillo, providing “multiple ways of seeing the complexities of expressing gender identity and sexual orientation in the library workplace,” a column “dedicated to amplifying the voices of transgender, nonbinary (nb), and queer library people” which was named Trans + Script, and an article on LGBTQ information needs. There are also articles on creating “transgender and gender non-conforming inclusive library spaces” and an ALA page about affirming and supporting trans library staff and patrons. [8] Beyond this are oral history interviews with a gay trans man, a queer man, a non-binary person, and a trans woman, all of whom were librarians, by NYPL as part of the NYC Trans Oral History Project. [9] With that is an important reminder about deadnaming trans people from interested scholars and what they point out:

Describes a trans or non-binary person’s birth name that is no longer used, usually because it doesn’t reflect their gender identity. This concept has its origins in the trans community, and it is intended to reflect the intensity of the disconnect between the trans or non-binary person’s current identity and the birth name, and to indicate the level of discomfort, disrespect, and potential danger experienced by the trans or non-binary person when someone uses that name. Deadnaming is a microaggression wherein one uses a trans or non-binary person’s birth name without consent.

I am hopeful that I will find more trans librarians as I continue to watch animation, anime, and other forms of pop culture in the days, weeks, and months ahead. If there are any trans librarians, in fiction, that I didn’t mention here, [10] feel free to leave a comment below. I see this article as a way to open up this blog to cover many other subjects and not stay restricted within a small area, while educating the readers of this blog on important topics. That will be all for this post. Until next week! See you all then.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Gwendolyn Ann Smith, “Transgender Day of Remembrance: Why We Remember,” Huffington Post, Feb. 2, 2016, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Ethan Jacobs, “Remembering Rita Hester,” Edge Media Network, Nov. 15, 2008, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; “Transgender Day of Remembrance 2007,” Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, 2007, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; “Transgender Day of Rememberance,” Human Rights Campaign, Jun. 2015, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Lainey Millen, “North Carolinians mark Transgender Remembrance Day,” QnotesCarolinas, Nov. 20, 2008, accessed Feb. 26, 2022.

[2] Nico Colaleo, “That would be Dreamworks’ fault for airing this episode out of order. -_- This episode was intended to be at the end of this season,” Twitter, Oct. 17, 2019, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Owl Fisher and Fox Fisher, “‘It takes away the stigma’: five of the best cartoons with transgender characters,” The Guardian, Jun. 30, 2020, accessed Feb. 26, 2022.

[3] Nico Colaleo, “Yay for pro-trans cartoons. Here’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever gotten to create 🙂❤️,” Twitter, Dec. 2, 2020, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Nico Colaleo, “TOO LOUD SEASON 2 continues with “SLUMBER PARTY”! This is my favorite episode of Season 2 – And a very important one. Our pro-transgender episode. ❤️Tune in to this thread for production art and BTS! And please RT/Share! #TooLoudCartoon #TooLoudSeason2,” Twitter, Sept. 25, 2019, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Nico Colaleo, “I’m sorry! I’ve had to explain this to many people bummed about the same thing: This ep was intended to air at the end of the season, but DreamWorksTV aired it out of order and way too soon. Yes S3 would have more Desirée, but DWTV owns Too Loud and they haven’t ordered a S3,” Twitter, Aug. 28, 2021.

[4] “Oshima,” The Haruki Murakami Wiki, Jul. 13, 2019, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Charles Isherwood, “Review: ‘Kafka on the Shore,’ a Metaphysical Odyssey Adapted From Murakami’s Novel,” New York Times, July 25, 2015, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; David Mitchell, “Kill me or the cat gets it,” The Guardian, Jan. 7, 2005, accessed Feb. 26, 2022.

[5] Maria Flutsch, 2006, “Girls and the unconscious in Murakami Haruki’s Kafka on the Shore” [Abstract], Japanese Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1; Lisa Ito, “Characters,” Kafka on the Shore, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Books with Librarian Characters,” Penguin Random House Marketing, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; Emily Temple, “50 Fictional Librarians, Ranked,” Lit Hub, Oct. 16, 2019, accessed Feb. 26, 2022.

[6] See comments by Gilly and Eh below the issue “Comic 1297 – Only Two” on Oct. 14, 2020, AmbiguousMouse below the issue “Comic 357 – Bringing in the New Year” on Apr. 16, 2013, Artemis-Orion and nemo below the issue “Comic 838 – Non-Issue” on May 26, 2016, trans-meerkat below the issue “Comic 1317 – Ten Years of Rain!” on Nov. 29, 2020, YamiSelina below the issue “Comic 289 – Mopey” on Nov. 25, 2012, Marina below the issue “Comic 1444 – Eleven Years of Rain” on Nov. 29, 2021, drs below the issue “Comic 1247 – Important Message” on Mar. 13, 2020, mangocloud and Jocelyn (DiDomenick) below the issue “Comic 955 – Not Unfeminine” on Jun. 7, 2017.

[7] Bob Davis (2006), “Transgender Activism at City College of San Francisco,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 110, p. 42; Grace Goode (2008), “Trans/Gender Doc–Interview with Dr. Lisa O’Connor,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 110, p. 43; Teague, Gypsey (2003), “The Increase of Transgender Characters in Movies and Television,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 102, p. 33; Sandra Cole (2005), “Trans History Made in Ann Arbor,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 108, p. 2629; Stephe Feldman (2004), “Androgyne Online,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 108, p. 38-39; “Rikki Swan Institute” (2000), Transgender Tapestry, No. 90, p. 11; Helms, Monica F. (2005), “…And That’s the Way It Is,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 109, p. 11; Lisa Renee Ragsdale (2000), “Two Letters,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 92, p. 7; “Warm Welcome To” (2000), Transgender Tapestry, No. 92, p. 9; “Out and Proud” (2000), Transgender Tapestry, No. 92, p. 48; “Sande Nelson’s Get Organized,” Transgender Tapestry, No. 92, p. 56; “Help Wanted” (2000), Transgender Tapestry, No. 89, p. 33; Kiira Triea, “The Awakening” (2000), Transgender Tapestry, No. 89, p. 48; Arlene Istar Lev (2000), “Trans Forming Families [Review],” Transgender Tapestry, No. 89, p. 70; Lee Etscovitz (Oct. 1998), “Making Sense Of It All,” News & Views, Vol. 12, No. 10, p. 18; Dallas Denny (Summer 1993-Spring 1994), Review of Katherine’s Diary: The Story of a Transexual and Beyond Belief: The Discovery of My Existence, Journal of Gender Studies, Vol. XV-XVI, p. 65; “Resources” (Oct. 1997), News & Views, Vol. 11, No. 10, p. 23; “New Editor Takes Reigns” (Oct. 1997), News & Views, Vol. 11, No. 10, p. 24; “Tough Gender Questions” (Dec. 1994), News & Views, Vol. 8, No. 12, p. 20; “INTLEP, Inc. Resource Directory,” (Jun. 1995), p. 3; Jennifer (Sept./Oct. 1990), “A Visit to the Real World,” t.g.i.c news, p. 8.

[8] Zoe Fisher, Stephen G. Krueger, Robin Goodfellow Malamud, and Ericka Patillo, “What It Means to Be Out: Queer, Trans, and Gender Nonconforming Identities in Library Work,” Darmouth Digital Commons, Darmouth College, 2019; Elsworth Carman and Jayne Walters, “Trans and Nonbinary Library People Are Everywhere | Trans + Script,” Library Journal, Sept. 28, 2020; John Siegel, Martin Morris, and Gregg A. Stevens (2020), “Perceptions of Academic Librarians toward LGBTQ Information Needs: An Exploratory Study,” College & Research Libraries, Vol. 81, No. 1; Amy Giligan, “Transgender Allyship in Libraries,” University of San Francisco Scholarship Repository, Jun. 5 2020, accessed Feb. 26, 2022; “Libraries Respond: Protecting and Supporting Transgender Staff and Patrons,” American Library Association, accessed Feb. 26, 2022.

[9] See the interviews of Kyle Lukoff (also see here), Hayden Gibson, Sage, and Paris Milane.

[10] See the /r/transpositive post, “Trans Librarian Wins Alaska Court Case” article, Hazel Jane Plante, Sophie Ziegler, for examples of real trans librarians, along with Aydin Kwan, one of the founders of the Queer Comics Database, TransLibrarian. There’s also a fictional trans male librarian someone in created Picrew, or this adaptation on a scene.

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

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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

Eztli shushes Victor with her extended skeleton arm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images of Leela Ladnier and Aasif Mandvi

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

In this third part, I am profiling Indian voice actors who voiced librarians, specifically in the series Mira, Royal Detective.

About the voice actors

Leela Ladnier voiced Mira in Mira, Royal Detective and was a librarian in the episode “The Case of the Missing Library Book.” In an interview in 2020, she talked about how she had been working on the show for two years (since 2018), how much goes into being a professional actor, have Mira come across as a good talent, sassy, intelligent, kind, compassionate, resourceful, everyone should be included. She also stated she had to change pitch of her voice, as she started when she was 14 years old, and isn’t a trained singer. She also noted that she does voice overs every other week and she still went to public high school. If she was 14 in 2018, that would mean that she is 18 years old now.

Aasif Mandvi voiced Mira’s father, Sahil in the same Mira, Royal Detective episode. He is much more well-known than her. He is known as British-American comedian and actor, a correspondent on The Daily Show. He has voiced a one-time characters for King of the Hill and Archer, King Raja in Elena of Avalor, to name a few.

They are the only two voice actors of Indian descent who I know, at this time, who voice librarians, even if only in one episode.

About the characters

(This is a video from the primary episode that features libraries in the series, although libraries also appear in other episodes)

In the episode, “The Case of the Missing Library Book,” Mira and her father Sahil work together on a bookmobile, with both serving as librarians of sorts. Mira serves as more of a librarian than Mira, however. I wrote about this episode for I Love Libraries, noting that the entire episode emphasizes the value of libraries, even proper etiquette for borrowing library books. Mira pedals a bike-powered bookmobile across Jalpur, trying to make sure that Jalpur has a movable library. Later in the episode, Sahil checks out books to patrons and says that the last step is returning the book after you are finished with it.

Mira does the same thing, helping to make Dimple understand the borrowing policies of a library, saying that she cannot just take books. Rather, she can have books, but only for a short period of time. This library is nothing like today’s libraries, however, as she stamps a book and has people full out a slip or the book, putting it in a box, which contains the names of everyone who have checked out books.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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From Lilith to Amity: LGBTQ librarians Shine Through

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day to celebrate the act of “coming out,” i.e. when an LGBTQ person publicly shares their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. In honor of that, I’d like to highlight some LGBTQ librarians I’ve written about on this blog, this year and years previously, and others on the List of fictional librarians that I put together in late 2021.

Lilith in Yamibou

She is the caretaker of the Great Library (after Adam), and travels through much of the series with a girl she has a crush on, Hazuki, going through book worlds, looking for Eve. The latter is later shown as another caretaker of the library, who loves Hazuki. Part of her duty is to make sure worlds within the books are secure, an interesting job as a librarian. Due to the fact she is one of the protagonists of this series, who has considerable knowledge and wisdom, it means that libraries are still a key part of the series.

Anne and Grea in Manaria Friends

Anne is one of the protagonists who is a soft-spoken girl, Princess, and honor student at Mysteria Academy, a prestigious magic school. Anne even ventured through the “forbidden” archives of the library in order to find something which would cure Grea of a fever. She and Grea appear to enter a relationship later on. Both work in the library as assistants, although not as full-fledged librarians.

Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood

One of the protagonists of this anime, she drinks blood, but only when refrigerated, and she is shown weeding through her books in one episode. She has a refined appearance and liked going to comic book conventions. She brings in a high school girl, Akari, to live in her house, and appears to have feelings for her. Another vampire girl, Ellie, clearly is romantically attracted to her as well.

Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers

In one episode, she weeds books and remembers her kiss with Sugimoto. Later in the episode, she later talks with other students about the role and influence the Literary Club has on the library. In another episode, Fumi and Sugimoto go to the library and kiss there. Ultimately, Fumi at least knows some library skills, in terms of weeding, which is an important part of library work.

Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!

She works at the school library at Astrea Hill, known as Maiden’s Garden, and is a member of the literary club. She looks up to her fellow students and undoubtedly has a crush on Nagisa, one of the show’s protagonists. She checks out books and does other library duties well and efficiently. The library is a key location in the series.

Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words

In the episode “Did You See the Rain?,” she serves as the librarian in this episode, while the Girls Club members go on a treasure hunt to find a message, coming in and out of the library throughout the episode. Later, Azuza joins them in their quest. Azusa is a studious person who reads during breaks and takes an interest in learning, perfect for a librarian. She is a fan of yuri and loves Masaka Orino, unaware it is Ushio‘s older brother.

Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta

Fumio and Erena

Although she was originally introverted and lonely, she got more friends after meeting Erena. She works at the school library. Erena appears to be the closest one to her and both may be in a relationship with one another, although its implied.

George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

They call themselves historians, but run a family library/archives/museum. in a magical forest known as the Whispering Woods They are Bow’s dads. They are two middle-aged men and help the show’s protagonists translate an ancient message in the Season 2 finale. In a later episode, Bow and Glimmer meet George and Lance who tell them about an ancient rebellion and fail-safe on a superweapon. This information  becomes vitally important going forward.

Desiree in Too Loud

Desiree with her sister, Sara, and Sara’s friends at a slumber party

She is a trans woman. In an episode which was supposed to end the show, according to series creator Nico Colaleo, she begins to explore her trans identity, as she had been a closeted in her usual workday. This episode, “Slumber Party Sneak-In” was praised by reviewers. Desiree works every day with her sister Sara and co-worker Sarah at the local public library, but has a voice which is so loud, hence the name of the series, smashing library stereotypes along the way.

Amity Blight in The Owl House

Luz and Amity blush at one another in the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”

She is a librarian who works at the Bonesborough Public Library, is a witch, and a student at Hexside Academy. Over the course of the story, her relationship with a human witch named Luz Noceda develops and later they begin a romantic relationship.

Sabine in Sabine: an asexual coming-of-age story

Sabine working at the library desk in episode 115.

The protagonist of this webcomic, Sabine works in the local school library as a part-time job, beginning early in the comic. She a fully committed asexual girl who tries to make friends and not have any romantic relationships, just like the comic’s author. The later also implies that she is, as a result, aromantic as well as asexual. Not all aromantic people are asexual, and vice versa. She is still learning more about herself all of the time, while she majors in history. As the comic’s author stated, Sabine is unaware of her asexuality, and isn’t sure she is aromantic, just that she isn’t ready for sex.

Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For

Mo and Sydney

As the protagonist of this comic, and later comic book, she is a graduate of library school who worked at a feminist bookstore named Madwimmin Books, and appreciated “literary connectivity.” She is a committed lesbian feminist who later gets a job as a reference librarian. She has a lover in college named Clarice, but her eventual partner is a woman named Sydney. The comic’s creator, Alison Bechdel, recognized she was a lesbian after checking out books from the library, stating that an apparent “a key characteristic of queer people [is]…shamed persons who are drawn to lonely stacks and secret research,” and she worked at the circulation desk as a librarian while she was a college student, influencing the comic itself. She also stated that Mo had been drawn into “the pitfall of vocational awe, believing that her public library job is a religious calling.”

Concluding words

It is undetermined if Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words is LGBTQ. You could also argue that Kaisa in Hilda, a feisty character with unmatched knowledge of mystical items and cemetery records, who is a mysterious witch, is asexual based on her color scheme. There will likely be other LGBTQ librarians in the future, since many anime series have characters who go into libraries. [1]

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes the Mysterious Library house base in Smile PreCure (an anime) and Marisa Kirisame frequently going to the library in Touhou Project (a video game). There are also apparent library scenes in Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo (a visual novel), Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka (Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka) (an anime), Himawari-san (a manga), Kimi to Tsuzuru Utakata (a manga), Maria-sama ga Miteru (a manga), Shitsurakuen (a manga), Kamitsure (visual novel), Märchen Mädchen (an anime), Flowers (manga), Roundabout of Yuri Hime Collection (collection),  Lyrical Nanoha, Yuri Shimai (manga), BanG Dream!, Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (manga), Himewari-san (manga), Yuri Shimai (manga), Kyuuketsuki-chan to Kouhai-chan (Vampire-chan x Junior-chan) (manga), Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk and Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (video games), Conflict Girl (visual novel), Watashi wa Succubus to Kiss o Shita (manga), Fuwafuwa Futashika Yume Mitai (manga), Please Be Happy (visual novel), The Caged Bird Sings Theme Of Love (manga), Sakura Sadist (visual novel), A Piece of Candy of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Once on a Windswept Night (visual novel), Yuri Hime Collection (manga), The Three-Second Rule of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Nuku Nuku Toshoiin (manga), The Three Second Rule of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Man’in Chijo Densha 2 (manga), Nozomi Kanaetamae ~Daydream Reconstruct~, and Kohonya (visual novel), and Hanidebi! Honey & Devil (visual novel).

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anime fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums school libraries slice-of-life speculative fiction

Fictional Library of the Month: Roubai Academy Library

Akebi and Erika look over at the librarian after she shushes them

Hello everyone! This is the eighth edition of my feature series, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the ones for November, December, January, February, March, April, and May) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, this post will focus on the Roubai Academy Library in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform.

About the library

It is a library at the Japanese private school, Roubai Girls’ Academy. It is shown to be scholarly and have lots of books to help students. It appears to be well-used and stocked with materials and is well-used by students in the episodes of the series it is shown in. The books are likely organized using the NDC system.

Role in the story

In the episode “Have You Decided on a Club?”; The head of the literature club, Tomono Kojou to be exact, who writes stories, is talking to her friends in the library, and seems to read her books there to students as part of the club. Not much is seen of the library in this episode, unfortunately, as it is a very brief scene.

In the episode, “There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”; Akebi is encouraged by Erika to come to the in the school library. After Erika is impressed by Akebi, a nervous Akebi asks Erika to a fishing trip. They both are excited but the unnamed librarian tells the to keep it down, [1] so they express themselves non-verbally. Both are excited to hang out that upcoming Saturday, the following day, together.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is well-stocked and has active patrons, i.e. the students, I suppose so. But, the unnamed librarian who shushes the two protagonists fulfills the shushing librarian stereotype. So, on the whole, you could argue it bucks some stereotypes but accepts others.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say it shares some similarities with the school libraries in Classroom of the Elite, Bloom Into You, Whispered Words, Girl Friend Beta, and even the one in Strawberry Panic!to name a few. But, it is unique in and of itself, so its hard to say that it is exactly like any other library in any other series.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] In the dub she tells them to keep it down, while in the Japanese original she shushes them. This basically means the same thing.

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action animation fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction

“Respected by the characters”: Paige Turner, the librarian in the Arthur TV series

Trading card of Paige Turner formerly on the PBS Kids website

In October 2012, a librarian described Paige Turner, a librarian at the Elwood City Public Library in the series, Arthur, as a “sweet, caring woman who enjoys students checking out books and who wants to help the children,” adding that she is “somewhat strict” as she wants people to be reasonably quiet and behave, often respected by characters. The librarian further said that this librarian portrayal is positive, encouraging “students and children to seek out the library as a place to gain knowledge or find books/information.” Turner was also mentioned by TV Tropes as an example of a “scary librarian.” The latter made me question whether it would be worth watching episodes just for her, but upon reading the wiki page for her, noting she appears in 47 episodes, I decided it would be worth a try to watch each of those episodes and come to an assessment here.

Turner, librarian at the Elwood City Library, and has been described as a “minor adult character who is not seen outside of the library.” Her character doesn’t change much during the series, and her name itself is a pun in and of itself. A running gag is how her patrons fear her due to their worries of responsibility of failure. Over the course of the series, her hair colors changes, while she remains polite, calm, and friendly to patrons and others, wearing various watches and glasses. [1] Unlike some other librarians, she is not human, but is, rather, a rabbit!

She begins the series as a minor character in the episode “Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn” alongside another librarian, Mrs. Lancaster. The latter character appears later as an apartment resident, and is locked out of the library’s computer network system in the episode “Arthur Makes a Movie” as is Turner. Her voice actress is not currently known. Turner has a role in a later episode, enforcing rules, and helps Arthur check out a book. Beyond this, she reminds Arthur and his friends about the time the library will close, helps fulfill their information needs, appears to remove books at the request from a parents’ organization, hosts an event about safety, and has minor roles in other episodes. [2] This isn’t all. She helps people get their own library cards, puts out an open call for a musician to perform at the library, asks for assistance in holding a fundraiser for a new library reading room, mentions the replacement of books with so-called “bookazines“, and convinces a character to become an author! She, additionally, checks out book for patrons, is able to get patrons to appeal to the City Council so the library can be saved from closure, and deals with patrons who shush other patrons who makes “too much noise in the library.” [3] She is so popular that the kids even try and set her up with another character, Mr. Ratburn, although this doesn’t work because he is gay.

One moment where she shines in the series is the episode “Arthur’s Almost Live Not Real Music Festival” where she sings two versions of the song “Library Card.” It is a song about more books, story time, puppet shows, and offerings of the library. This is where her voice actress really comes through. At first it isn’t clear who that voice actress, is however. It is confirmed that Kate Hutchinson voiced her in Season 16, and Felicia Shulman in Season 21, but its not known who voiced her in this song, as even Behind the Voice Actors only names Hutchinson and no one else. IMDB clears it up: Hutchinson voiced Turner from 1996 to 2012. That means she is the one singing here! [4]

Turner is said to be “kind and friendly to people who check out books” but not afraid to be strict, disliking those who get too noisy or misbehave. She is even pictured as an antagonist in the dream sequences the kids have, interestingly enough. This is because she is an authority figure who is in charge of the library. [5] She is not to be confused with the drag queen of the same name!

On the whole, she appears to be a much more positive depiction of a librarian than many of the librarians on this blog, perhaps on par with Kaisa in Hilda, Desiree in Too Loud, or Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta but not directly supporting the forces of oppression and censorship like Cletus Bookworm or Francis Clara Censordoll. She is not magical like Cagliostro in What If…? or Blinky in Trollhunters, and definitely not a washed up former rock star like Swampy in Phineas and Ferb. While it is not known if she is overworked like the unnamed librarian in an episode of We Bare Bears, she definitely isn’t some librarian-soldier fighting enemies. That is clear.

Turner appears to pass the first tenant of the Librarian Portrayal Test, and the final tenant, as she isn’t necessarily stereotypical. However, she completely fails the second tenant: that her character be not only, or primarily, defined by their role as a librarian. This is because she is, from the sources I consulted, never seen outside the library.

Onto the next post!

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] See Dee Ann Wotring’s “Librarian by Day, Dance Queen by Night” (Mar. 1, 2010); Wikipedia list of fictional librarians, and list of Arthur characters, “Arthur,” JCP Live Productions, accessed December 23, 2021.

[2] See “Locked in the Library! (episode)“, “Francine Frensky, Superstar“, “Arthur and the True Francine (episode)“, “I’m a Poet“, “The Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club“, “Binky Barnes, Art Expert“, “Buster Hits the Books“, “Arthur’s Faraway Friend“, “Sue Ellen’s Lost Diary“, “D.W. Blows the Whistle“, “D.W.’s Name Game“, “Buster’s Back“, “Background Blues“, “Arthur’s Dummy Disaster“, “Prunella’s Special Edition“, “Fernkenstein’s Monster“, “Sue Ellen Chickens Out“, “Unfinished“, “Mind Your Manners“, “Phony Fern“, “The Making of Arthur“, “Dancing Fools“, “Mr. Alwaysright“, “Do You Believe in Magic?“, “Brain Gets Hooked“, “To Eat or Not to Eat“, “Get Smart“, “The Best Day Ever“, “Brain Freeze“, “The Case of the Girl with the Long Face“, “The Tardy Tumbler“, “Brain Sees Stars“, “Binky Can’t Always Get What He Wants“, and “Muffy’s House Guests” pages on the Arthur Wiki. She also had cameo in the episode “Moose on the Loose” of Postcards for Buster.

[3] “D.W.’s Library Card (episode)“,  “My Music Rules“, “You Are Arthur“, “Breezy Listening Blues“, “Fern and Persimmony Glitchet“, “Prunella Packs It In“, “Last Tough Customer“, and “Sue Ellen and the Last Page” pages on the Arthur Wiki.

[4] This is further confirmed by her CV, for instance.

[5] See the “Paige Turner” page on the Heroes Wiki, “Pagie [sic] Turner” page on the TVOKids Arthur Wiki, and the “Elwood City Public Library” page on the Elwood City Wiki.

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Recently added titles (August 2022)

Blitzo and Stolas in the newest episode of Helluva Boss

Happy Read a Book Day! Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, June, and July of this year, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Helluva Boss, “The Circus”
  • Totally Spies!, “WOOHP-Ahoy!”
  • Totally Spies!, “Little Dude”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • K-On!, “Finals”
  • Noir, “Two Hands of the Soldats”
  • Smile of the Arsnotoria the Animation, “Sniff…”

Comics recently added to this page

  • As the Crow Flies, “Episode 8.5”
  • Sabine: an asexual coming of age story, “One Hundred Twenty Eight”
  • Smity and Majesty, Episode 51
  • The Siren’s Light, “Chapter 5 (5)”
  • The Siren’s Light, “Chapter 5 (6)”
  • Vixen: NYC, Episode 11
  • Winter Before Spring, Episode 50

Films recently added to this page

None this month.

Picatrix reads about Devils Tongue in an episode of Smile of the Arsnotoria the Animation, within the castle’s library, in hopes of helping Arsnotoria regain her super-sense of smell by learning about something with an awful smell, hoping it will shock her back to reality.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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action adventure animation Chinese people fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries special libraries speculative fiction Thai people White people

Behind the Screen: Asian and Latin American voices of fictional librarians

From left to right: Benedict Wong, Ashly Burch, Joey Haro, Elaine Del Valle, and Kenn Navarro

There are Asian and Latin American actors who have voiced many librarians in fiction over the years. Part of understanding fictional librarians is understanding those behind the screen and this article contributes to that. Part 1 of this series focused on Black women and men who voice fictional librarians.

In this part, I am profiling Asian and Latin American voice actors who voiced librarians.

About the voice actors

There are many talented voice actors who aren’t White men or White woman, who comprise the majority of those who voice animated librarians, especially in Western animation. These talented voice actors include Benedict Wong as Wong in What If…? episode (“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”), Ashly Burch who likely voices an unnamed librarian in a We Bare Bears episode (“The Library”), and Joseph “Joey” Haro as Mateo in Elena of Avalor. Specifically, Burch is of Thai descent, Wong is of Hong Kong descent, and Haro is of Cuban descent (and is gay).

There’s also Elaine Del Valle as Val the Octopus in Dora the Explorer episode (“Backpack”) who is Latine, and Kenn Navarro as Flippy in Happy Tree Friends episode (“Random Acts of Silence”) who is a Filipino animator. Additionally, there is Emanuel Garijo as Kaeloo in French in Kaeloo episode (“Let’s Play at Reading Books”). Doug Rand voices Kaeloo in the English dub, and Domenico Coscia in the Italian dub, to name another character. As it turns out, Navarro is one of the creators of Happy Tree Friends, while Valle is known  as the actor and writer of an one-woman stage play she created: Brownsville Bred. Garijo has done French voice work for years, while Rand has done English voice work, while I couldn’t find anything on Coscia.

Another person worth mentioning is Vivienne Medrano, a Latine animator of Salvadoran descent who created the animated shows Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss along with a video for her webcomic Zoophobia. She voices Sarah in Nico Colaleo’s series, Too Loud, replacing Julia Vickerman, who was racked by controversy following allegations that she engaged in pedophilia, after beginning her series, Twelve Forever, which was sadly cancelled by Netflix after the end of its first season. The reason for its cancellation is not known.

It is also highly probable that Janice Kawaye, an actress of Japanese descent who has voiced characters since 1983, likely voices the librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”). Kawayke has voiced characters like Couchpo in Edens Zero, Shiori in Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, Jenny / XJ-9 in My Life as a Teenage Robot, and Sara in Invader Zim, to name a few characters she has voiced.

An additional late entry to this list is Jenny Lorenzo, who presumably voices the skeleton librarian, Eztli, in an episode of Victor and Valentino. Lorenzo is known for her role as Lupe in the same show, but she has also voiced Choo Choo and Spooky in Jellystone. She is a Cuban-American actor known for her work on We Are Mitú and is a co-founder of BuzzFeed’s Pero Like, becoming a viral sensation for her Abuela character, and what her IMDB page calls “relatable, Latino-based content seen through the comedic and nostalgic lens of a 1st generation Cuban-American.”

Another additional entry is Danny Trejo. He voices Bobby Daniels, a bad-boy librarian in an episode of The Ghost and Molly McGee. Trejo, who is of Mexican descent, is best known for his role as Isador “Machete” Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise films. In terms of animation, he voiced Enrique, Victor Velasquez, and other characters in multiple King of the Hill episodes, along with assorted roles in El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, The Cleveland Show, Young Justice (as Bane), Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, and Tangled: The Series (as Wreck Marauder / Malice Marauder). He also voiced characters in Big City GreensElena of Avalor, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia (Tronos), Victor and Valentino, and The Casagrandes.

About the characters

From left to right: Wong, unnamed librarian, Val, Flippy, Kaeloo, Sarah, unnamed librarian, and Eztli

As I described Wong, he is the first librarian shown in the series What If…?, trying to guide Doctor Strange, warning him that tinkering with time will threaten the entire fabric of the universe, but he cares little. Even so, he later helps the good Strange train to fight the evil Strange. Unfortunately, he has less of a role in the episode as the other librarian, Cagliostro. Luckily, he has more of a role in the live-action films, as Jennifer Snoek-Brown has written about time and again.

The librarian in the We Bare Bears episode, on the other hand, is stern, has some characteristics of a spinster librarian, professional work attire, wanting to do her job and following the rules. I concluded that she is probably overworked and exhausted, something you don’t always see when you see depictions of librarians in animation. She also is helpful to patrons, even letting them sleep in the library, which I found surprising. Mateo, on the other hand, is a wizard and royal advisor to the show’s protagonist, Elena. He bucks stereotypes of Latine people, not shushing people at all, remaining as helpful as he can instead.

Val the Octopus is a minor character in Dora the Explorer, having a variety of odd jobs like running a cash register, driving a mail truck (or an ice cream truck), being a lifeguard, or a librarian. She is the latter in the episode (“Backpack”) and is vary courteous to Dora.

Flippy in Happy Tree Friends episode (“Random Acts of Silence”) is perhaps the most murderous librarian I have ever seen in animation to-date. This not unique to this episode, as he often causes other characters to die on purpose. Despite this, he seems to die very infrequently during the run of the series.

Kaeloo is the protagonist of Kaeloo. She is the guardian of the place known as Smileyland and has an ambiguous gender. And in the episode “Let’s Play at Reading Books” she acts as a librarian, attempting to shush people and get them to listen, even though this is a failure.

Sarah in Colaleo’s series, Too Loud, is a new librarian who joins Sara and Desiree (going by a different name for much of the series), brought in to help out with the library. While Sara nor Desiree are big fans of her at first, they come around to her, and she becomes more of their friend as the series moves forward, helping with librarian matters.

Librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”) is one of the most interesting librarian characters in fiction that I have ever seen. Due to a personality switcher, which switched her personality with that of a wrestler, she becomes buff and even throws a patron across the room. She is later shown listing weights and doing jump rope. Hopefully she becomes a stronger librarian and better to her librarian.

Another entry is Eztli in the Victor and Valentino episode “An Evening with Mic and Hun”. In the episode, Victor and Valentino, who are in the underworld, have to get past Eztli, a skeleton librarian, who shushes them. Victor won’t stand for this, while his brother, Valentino comes up with a plan. This is disregarded as the librarian is smashed by a boulder and they get the extra skeleton arm she is holding. In the episode, she is also shown putting a book on a cart and stamping a book with a past due stamp, with the fee of one soul.

One final entry is Bobby Daniels in an episode of The Ghost and Molly McGee which is aptly named “Bad Boy Bobby Daniels”. In the episode, Molly, her father, and Scratch go to the Mewline Public Library to find the Bad Boy of Brighton, Bobby Daniels, to help her elderly friend. They attempt to turn Daniels “back” into a bad boy but it doesn’t work and they let him stay as the librarian. Later, Bobby and Patty get together after Molly put in a false book delivery notice. Their love ends up blossoming and it seems that he is taken away from his library job.

That’s all for this post! Until the next one!

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