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Revisiting Clara Rhone: A fictional Black librarian who heads “The Stanza”

Clara talks to Ansi
Clara talks to Ansi in a friendly manner in the first episode of Welcome to the Wayne, giving off a lasting impression.

In April 2021, I gushed about my guest post reviewing Welcome to the Wayne for the ALA’s side publication, I Love Libraries, to the then-Content Strategy Manager at the ALA, Lindsey Simon, saying it was amazing “how many times libraries appear in this series” and described the article as “really exciting and fun to write about.” Simon called the series “awesome.” It would be the last post I would ever write while she was there. And while I did, later, publish posts about Milo Murphy’s Law and The Owl House, it would not be the same. Since that time, I considered that I had closed a chapter after finishing Welcome to the Wayne and didn’t consider re-watching it, especially with all the anime I began watching. However, for this last post of Black History Month in 2023, I took a deep dive into the series once more. This post will connect Clara Rhone (voiced by Harriet D. Foy), the chief librarian of the secret (and magical) library, The Stanza, in the series, to issues that Black people, especially Black women, experience as librarians.

In my post earlier this month, I described her as an “oft supporting character who runs the Stanza,” which is hidden within the Wayne apartment building. I further noted that she doesn’t do the library work all by herself but is helped by non-human library workers and that she becomes a central part of the story. There’s a lot more going on than that. She is fundamentally different from the other Black librarians I have highlighted on this blog. She is not a historian like George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Nor is she a sorcerer like Cagliostro in an episode of What If…?

All in all, there is no doubt that her character, as I described it in July of last year, steals the show. This is amazing considering that Clara’s voice actor, Foy, is well-known for film, TV, Broadway, and musical roles, but this is her first animated role! She does a great job in that respect. However, her character is likely “drawn and conceptualized by White people” as I theorized in a previous post. Even so, the library she manages is a place of knowledge, and is meticulously organized. She is more than a librarian too, meaning that her portrayal passes the Librarian Portrayal Test or LPT, and has a daughter, Goodness, who helps her, while she remains the chief librarian. She gets plaudits from me for not being a scary woman, which is too common in Western animation, sad to say. Her role gives me “hope yet for Western animation series” as I put it in March 2021.

This brings me to what I wrote about in April 2021. I noted that Clara is shown shelving books, encouraging the protagonist, Ansi, to become a member of the library, and giving them vital information for their adventures, all in the first episode! Then, in a later episode, episode 12, she even sends a library ninja, Goodness, to try and drive the protagonists from the library, with the role of role of librarians as gatekeepers is emphasized when she warns them that if the leave with the vampire they can never return. This threat is never fulfilled because in a later episode, episode 19, Goodness and Saraline break into the library, catch a creature, and spot Clara shelving books. Then, in the finale of season one, she offers her help to the protagonists.

She reappears in the seventh episode of the show’s second season, shushing her granddaughter, Goodness, telling her to use her “Stanza voice.” Although this corresponds to the stereotype of librarians shushing patrons, she makes up for it by showing the a book that shows them all that ever happened in the Wayne. Later, in the show’s final episode, she is briefly possessed by a weird gas and is shown, in the episode’s ending, doing exercises on her room’s balcony. She has all the time in the world, because the library is outside of time.

John keats, clara, and ansi
Clara motions to John Keats, a squidjit, while she holds Ansi there with her cane

Her fandom page, of a fandom site for the show that is barely updated, doesn’t provide much more information. It notes her appearance, wearing a pearl necklace, a brown blouse, and light red scarf, and describes her as “gentle and soothing, and is very kind to those who stumble upon the Stanza.” She only appears in one fan fic, where she doesn’t even appear to be mentioned by name! Even worse is the fact that in the reviews, apart from my own, she isn’t even mentioned, despite the fact that some mention the Stanza or just call her “the librarian”. [1] These reviewers and others erased her from existence, deeming her non-important. It is disgusting and disturbing, although not surprising considering that the show remains a bit obscure, despite the fact that it aired on Nickeloedon from 2017 to 2019 and was nominated for two Daytime Emmys in 2018 and 2019.

This erasure is nothing new. There has been a long-standing erasure of Black history, including art history, and culture, in favor of White narratives. It is something, as Brittany Spranos, now a staff writer for Rolling Stone, described as something which oppression and systemic racism feed off, saying it is everywhere from the (in)justice system to “art and popular culture” where being a Black creator has meant you are “only valuable if appetizing to a white consumer market, and…able to be reimagined as a form of art without non-white origins.” [2]

When it comes to Black librarians, they face more challenges than just erasure. Across work environments, Black people engage in code-switching, meaning that they can’t be “themselves or express themselves freely without suffering severe repercussions,” keeping their personal and work lives separate.  They further have to deal with  the norm of the white dominant culture with silly questions about people’s weekends, not sharing anything too personal, and with the idea that any time a Black woman objects they are manifesting the angry Black woman stereotype, with their thoughts ignored. [3] Clara does not experience any of this in Welcome to the Wayne, as she is the head librarian and manager of the library. She doesn’t have to experience discrimination, microaggressions (either microassaults, microinsults, or microinvalidations), or stereotypical thoughts directed toward her. She just can do her job without being disturbed. All the show’s characters respect her for that, even if they have their own ideas for how librarians are “supposed” to behave. Sadly, due to the characters who come into the library, she doesn’t have the opportunity to connect to other Black people. That is something real-life Black librarians experience, even if they are not valued for their work and contributions, despite the fact they should be, but continue to keep trying no matter what. [4]

Due to the fact that she is the head of the Stanza, she likely has the power to collecting materials for and by Black people, like many other librarians out there. But, how many of her patrons are Black? If we base it on the characters in the show, very few of them would be Black, with Ansi Molina as mixed-race or the Arcsine. This is reflected in Ansi’s voice actor, Alanna Ubach, who is part Mexican and Puerto Rican, while Katie DiCicco, who voices the Arcsine appears to be a person of color and this is one of her only roles over the years. Even so, for Clara the job may be a “calling” to her, a form of vocational awe, like with some librarians, or realize what a vital role she plays as a librarian, like other Black people in the library profession. Clara may even know about other Black librarians in the past, who have paved the way for her to be in her role. [5] That’s all up to speculation at this point, unfortunately, due to a lack of reviews of the show.

Beyond this, I’d hope that Clara has used her clear dedication and persistence to make contributions to her library, and librarianship as a whole. If she did so, she would be following in the footsteps of many Black librarians before her. This includes those like librarian Dorothy B. Porter who smashes the racist and sexist Dewey Decimal System (DDC) to pieces and built her own cataloging system which actually helped people find what they were looking for rather than maintaining the White status quo that DDC keeps in place. She may even have the time to create research collections documenting people in the Wayne itself, like Miriam Matthews in Los Angeles where she began as a librarian in 1927, or the first Black librarian employed by New York City, Nella Larson Imes, among many others. [6]

Clara talks to Tony Stanza
In the beginning of the second episode of this series, Clara talks to Tony Stanza, keeper of the Stanza Archives, while she holds an information file on Ansi, saying she will try to retrieve him.

Much of what I am saying is supposition, however. In the series itself,  Clara only appears in eight episodes, seven of which she is voiced by Foy, who lists Clara in her resume along with other characters, and elsewhere as “Miss Clara.” [7] Some day, I’d love to interview her about the role, and if that comes to pass, then I’ll be sure to post about it here. That’s all for this post. Until next week!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] See, for example, Walden, Jennifer. “Audio:’s ‘Welcome to the Wayne’.” Post Magazine, Apr. 1, 2015; Ashby, Emily. “Welcome to the Wayne TV Review.” Common Sense Media, Apr. 1, 2022; Damon Cap. “Welcome To The Wayne Review.” BSCKids, Jun. 30, 2017; “Show of the week: Welcome to the Wayne.” Television Business International, accessed May 29, 2022; Jurado, Peter. “Why We Love Welcome To The Wayne.” ComicsVerse, Aug. 7, 2017.

[2] Wabi-Sabi, Mirna and Fabio Teixeira, “Erasure of Black History in Favor of White Narratives Isn’t Limited to the US.” Truthout, Aug. 23, 2020; Eye Candy. “addressing black erasure in the arts: artists fight back.” AfroPunk, Aug. 16, 2018; Taking a Look at the Erasure of Black History.” PantherNow, Feb. 16, 2021; Saulson, Sumiko. “Diversity talk highlights anti-Blackness and Black erasure within the LGBTQIA+ community.” San Francisco Bay View, Nov. 7, 2019; Kelly, Kayla. “Black allyship or Black erasure?The Eagle, Feb. 9, 2022; Sehgal, Parul. “Fighting ‘Erasure’.” New York Times Magazine, Feb. 7, 2016; Spanos, Brittney. “The Year in Black Erasure.” Pitchfork, Dec. 22, 2014.

[3] Konata, La Loria. “Looking Through a Colored Lens: A Black Librarian’s Narrative,” Georgia State University, 2017, pp. 116-121

[4] Ibid, 123-4, 126.

[5] Patrick, Diane. “Developing Collections ‘By Any Means Necessary’“. Publisher’s Weekly, Jun. 30, 2013; Parker, Haillie and Allie Barton. “Invisible Chapters: Writing Tucson’s Black community into the stories of libraries, bookstores and publishing.” Tuscon Weekly, Dec. 14, 2020, Keeton, kYmberly. “A Personal Assessment: The African-American Librarian in the 21st Century“. University of Houston African American Studies, accessed May 29, 2022; Cooke, Nicole A. “Black Librarians Project.” LHRT News and Notes, accessed May 29, 2022; “Augusta Baker, Librarian, and Educator born,” AAREG, 1993.

[6] Dawson, Alma. “Celebrating African-Americans and Librarianship.” Library Trends Vol. 49, No. 1, Summer 2000, pp. 49-87; Hunt, Rebecca D. “African American Leaders in the Library Profession: Little Known History.” Black History Bulletin Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 14-19; Helton, Laura. “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading.” Humanities Commons, 2019; Kindig, Jessie. “Miriam Matthews (1905–2003).” BlackPast, Dec. 16, 2007; “Minnie Fisher (1896-1990), Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Interviewed by: Dorothy R. Robinson, December 29, 1979.” HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, Harvard University. Dec. 29, 1979; Johnson, Doris Richardson. “Nella Larsen (1891-1963).” BlackPast, Jan. 19, 2007; “Black Women Oral History Project Interviews, 1976–1981,” Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, accessed May 29, 2022; Reft, Ryan. “Fighting for Leisure: African Americans, Beaches, and Civil Rights in Early 20th Century L.A.” KCET, May 16, 2014; Hochman, Rebecca. “Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s“. Legacy, Vol. 31, No. 1 (2014), pp. 93.

[7] Foy, Harriet D. “Resume.” Accessed May 29, 2022; Foy, Harriet D. “Bio.” Accessed May 29, 2022. Foy’s IMDB page lists her as voicing Rhone in seven episodes: “Rise and Shine Sleepyhead” (s1ep1); “Like a Happy, Happy Bird” (s1ep2); “Wall-to-Wall Ping-Pong Ball” (s1ep12), “Keep an Eye on the Nose” (s1ep19), “So This is Glamsterdam” (s1ep20), “Wiles Styles Your Over” (s2ep7); “Some Sort of Bad Luck Curse” (s2ep9). She also appears briefly in  “Whoever Controls the Wayne, Controls the World” (s2ep10) but is not voiced.

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Bellissime librerie!: Library tourism from Venezia to Burano

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

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

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

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

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

A mangy library cat and the Venetian isle of Burano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliotourism + its benefits

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

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

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

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

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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

Sources used

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Real-life Black librarians who should also be in fiction

On the left is part of the cover of a current bestselling bookThe Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict (a White woman) and Victoria Christopher Murray (a Black woman) about a Black female librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, who passes as White. On the right is an actual image of Greene from Your Black World.]

Diversity has oft been a challenge in the library profession. It is even the subject of a little edited Wikipedia page entitled “Diversity in librarianship.” Currently, not even 6% of credentialed librarians are Black, with almost 16 times more White librarians having credentials than Black people. Even when other metrics are used, Black people are clearly under-represented, although there is a gap of U.S. between U.S.-born Latine people, Blacks, Whites, and immigrant Latines. Furthermore, there is a lack of Black librarians dating back to 1930s, with some arguing that Black people were relegated to inferior schools, and inadequate preparation for higher education. Others have stated that the library profession itself is racially constructed, with Black people having “perilous, uneven, or vulnerable education”. [1]

This reality is manifested in the various real-life Black librarians, like Clara Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. However, too few of them are in popular culture. As such, there are a number of these librarians in real life who should also be in fiction. As I wrote in June of last year, there should be more librarians, especially Black librarians, who criticize DDC and LCCO for being racist, like Reanna Esmail, a outreach and engagement librarian at Olin Library at Cornell University. Itheorized that this could be the case because either many of the librarians are White or that the writers are White and “don’t think about these issues.” With that being said, this post focuses on eleven Black librarians which should be in pop culture, either comics, animation, films, or any other medium.

The first of those librarians is Belle da Costa Greene. She is known due to a historical fiction by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, entitled The Personal Librarian, which is about her professional and personal life as the librarian of J.P. Morgan. She has attracted some controversy, as she spent her professional career while passing as a White person. [2] Even so, considering that romantic drama films like Passing, centered on two Black women who pass as White, are popular, The Personal Librarian, or stories about other librarians who are Black but pass as White might move into another form in the future. After all, the 1929 book of the same name is by Nella Larsen. She was a Black woman who worked as a librarian at the New York Public Library (NYPL), from 1921 to 1925, at the Harlem branch, according to pages 8-9 of George Hutchinson’s 2006 biography, In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line. There are many films, novels, music, and TV shows, which feature characters who are passing. [3] With growing interest and attention toward racial justice, racism, and Black nationalism, a White-passing character might fit with what some directors are going for. So, who knows, maybe there will be a White-passing librarian in animation in the future.

On the other hand, others may decide that instead of choosing a mixed-race character, they will chose someone different. That could lead to a focus on more prominent real-life librarians like the founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), E.J. Josey. He was even described as one of the “pioneering” Black librarians in the U.S., founding BCALA in 1970 around the same time that REFORMA, Asian American Library Caucus, and American Indian Library Association came into existence. [4] With characters like Mr. Anderson in The Public, it is just the right time to have a film, novel, or some other form of pop culture about him.

The same can be said for Clara Stanton Jones, the first Black president of the ALA. She was also key in pushing for segregation of libraries and improving library culture by pushing for the passage of an ALA “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness.” [5] Clearly ahead of her time, especially in the latter. Relatively similar, in terms of her leadership role, was Effie Lee Morris (not to be confused with children’s librarian Effie Lee Newsome). She served as the first Black president of the Public Library Association, and is known for her role in helping library services for visually impaired people and people of color. During her career, she worked at Cleveland Public Library, New York Public Library, an San Francisco Public Library. [6]

three real-life Black librarians
Photographs of, from left to right, Edward C. Williams (via Case Western University), Jessie Carney Smith (via Fisk University), and Eliza Atkins Gleason (via UC Berkeley School of Information)

Surely there were record-setting librarians like Edward C. Williams, an early Black librarian, who joined the ALA in 1896, Fisk University librarian Jessie Carney Smith, who worked at the university beginning in 1965, or Eliza Atkins Gleason, the first Black person to earn a doctorate of library science from the University of Chicago in 1940. She is known for her 1941 book which pioneered Black library history, entitled The Southern Negro and the Public Library: A Study of the Government and Administration of Public Library Service to Negroes in the South. On a related noted were books by Josey, like his famous 1970 book, The Black Librarian in America, its 1994 follow-up, The Black Librarian in America Revisited, his 1972 book, What Black Librarians Have to Say, and the Handbook of Black Librarianship, a book he co-edited with Marva Deloch. This, and other books, like the 2012 book, The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges (edited by Andrew P. Jackson, Julius Jefferson, Jr., and Akilah S. Nosakhere), Renate L. Chancellor’s 2019 book, E.J. Josey: Transformational Leader of the Modern Library, and the Aisha M. Johnson-Jones’ 2019 history, The African American Struggle for Library Equality were pointed out by BCALA in a 2018 call for abstracts. [7]

In addition to Williams, Smith, and Gleason, there’s Virginia Lacy Jones. She is said to be the second Black person to earn a library science doctorate, who went on to be dean of the Atlanta University School of Library Service from 1945 to 1982, overseeing the “training of approximately 1800 black librarians,” during her time at the university. Just as important is Catherine Latimer, the first Black librarian of the New York Public Library, who began working there in 1921, beginning at the Harlem branch. She was even defended by W.E.B. DuBois, when a supervisor tried to demote her.

Latimer would later describe, in letters to DuBois, the “acts of prejudice against her, specifically by white librarians”. Even so, she would still re-catalog items about the African diaspora so it was “actually accessible to researchers,” clip files on topics covering the Black experience and turn “those clipping files into scrapbooks.” She collected works of great Harlem Renaissance writers, oversaw the Division of Negro Literature and History, worked with researchers, and created a black poetry index with Dorothy B. Porter, a fellow Black librarian at Howard University. [8] She additionally was Instrumental in founding the NYPL Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints.

The latter brings me to Porter. I wrote about her briefly in June of last year, noting that she pushed aside the Dewey Decimal System by classifying works by author and genre to highlight the “foundational role of black people in all subject areas” which included religion, communications, art, economics, demography, music, political science, linguistics, and sociology. This was all part of a classification system which challenged racism on its head, centering works about and by Black people within scholarship.

Her work helped build the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, which is now one of the most comprehensive, and largest, collections of Black history in the world. She followed in the footsteps of Vivian Gordon Harsh, first Black librarian for the Chicago Public Library, beginning work there in 1909, a system she continued to work within until 1958. Harsh passionately collected works by Black people, setting the precedent for others to follow. [9]

Dorothy Porter at her desk
Porter at work at her desk in the Moorland Room in the 1940s (image via page 4 of the article “Scarupa: The Energy-Charged Life Of Dorothy Porter Wesley“). Some said this image was in 1939, but I’m sticking with the date given in the original source. Porter later took on the name Dorothy Louise Porter Wesley. In 1952, her husband, James Amos Porter, painted a portrait of her, which was gifted to the National Portrait Gallery by Porter herself.

The fact that neither Latimer, Porter, or Harsh has been portrayed in any fictional form, to my knowledge, is a shame. It is further unfortunate, considering that Williams wrote a fictional novel entitled When Washington Was in Vogue: A Love Story in the 1920s which “portrays the 1920s African-American high society of which he was a part”. Considering the issues around gender and racial bias, the division between African and Black communities, the fact that some librarians have community service (or adventure) motives, or that many Black people work in multicultural environments, all of these could be adapted into fictional worlds. [10]

The same could be said about accurately showing how microaggressions toward Black librarians are rooted in historical racial stereotypes, how these microaggressions manifest themselves, either in rejection/dismissal of professional experience, hateful/ignorant comments. This is only heightened by separation from other communities, like Asian communities, mistrust of those outside the Black community by Black people, vulnerability and anxiousness inside the community, and the idea of racial realism. The latter is defined by Derrick Bell as the idea that Black people, and people of color, recognize and understand the systemic combination of racism and white racial framing in society. [11]

Such characters may not be appearing for one simple reason: racism. The latter is already an impediment to Black mobility and is so systemic that society would have to be “fundamentally changed” for the racism to be removed. As such, more people of color may realize they need to advance and protect their interests, rather than thinking that society will remedy injustice and inequality, and realizing that struggle for freedom is manifestation of humanity that grows stronger through resilience to oppression. However, these efforts can easily be blunted by nepotism and racial discrimination. [12] Such creators may be stymied, and held back by others. Or, they may be a lower level, and others may stop them there. As such, depictions which show that Black librarians have different experiences than others may never come to fruition in the first place. [13]

These experiences have been manifested in some fiction, which I’ve highlighted this month, either looking at librarians in animation, TV series, or films. There’s also Kimberly Garrett Brown’s 2022 novel, Cora’s Kitchen, which focuses on a 35-year-old Black librarian at the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, and is encouraged by Langston Hughes to write poetry. Sadly, she ends up leaving her job so she can become a cook at White woman’s home. Other characters include Queenie, a Black packhorse librarian who moved to Philadelphia in Kim Michele Robinson’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. These and other characters may agree with what Stacie Williams, a librarian/activist/writer, said, that she tended to “eschew the idea of neutrality because nothing about my lived experience, as a black librarian, is neutral.” Other books which appear to include libraries, librarians, or library themes include The Camel Bookmobile, Large Print: An Unshelved Collection, Murder by Page One, ChangesSay You Need Me, and The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries to name a few books found on a listing on Alibris for “Afro American librarians”. [14]

Fictional librarians, who are Black, are important considering the critical role that Black librarians have in the communities they serve. This is valuable considering the smaller number of credentialed librarians who are Black, and an even smaller group who are Black men. As Library of Congress researcher Julius Jefferson put it, “whatever you want to do in life, there’s a librarian behind that.” There needs to be more Black librarians in real life and in fiction, whether they are part of the ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship program or not. [15]

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Walker, Shaundra. “Critical Race Theory and the Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of a Librarian of Color: A Counterstory” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 135, 140, 142-4; “Librarian Demographics and Statistics In The US,” Zippia, accessed May 28, 2022; “University Librarian Demographics and Statistics In The US,” Zippia, accessed May 28, 2022; Sokanu, “Librarian demographics in the United States,” CareerExplorer, accessed May 28, 2022; Brown, Anna and Mark Hugo Lopez. “Public Libraries and Hispanics.” Pew Research Center, Mar. 17, 2015. There is also a listing of BIPOC resources for Children’s, MG, and Young Adult books, authors, and industry professionals by Melanin in YA, Edith Bazile’s article entitled “The lens of whiteness won’t close gaps in BPS”, La Loria Konata’s publication entitled “Looking Through a Colored Lens: A Black Librarian’s Narrative“,  Diane Patrick’s “Developing Collections ‘By Any Means Necessary’” in Publisher Weekly, and Haillie Parker and Allie Barton’s “Invisible Chapters: Writing Tucson’s Black community into the stories of libraries, bookstores and publishing” in Tuscon Weekly. Additional stories of note include Ann Althouse’s “The black female librarian introvert at the 5-day conference” blogpost, kYmberly Keeton’s “A Personal Assessment: The African-American Librarian in the 21st Century” post, Dr. Nicole A. Cooke’s post on the Black Librarians Project on the LHRT NEWS AND NOTES site, which highlights Black librarians such as Regina Anderson Andrews (librarian between 1921 and 1966), Florence E. Borders (librarian in 1940s), Virgia Brocks-Shedd, Mary Rayford Collins, Adelina Coppin Alvarado, Katie Hart, Anita Hemmings [passed as White, with her descendants not knowing she was Black until 1990s], Julie Hunter, Latanya Jenkins, Mexico Mickelbury, Grace Lee Mims, Reynolda Motley, Beverly Murphy, Nancy Mildred Harper Nilon, Charlotte Shuster Price, Pauline Short Robinson, Effie Stroud Frazier, Thelma Horn Tate, and Bertha Pleasant Williams. Others pointed to librarian Augusta Baker.

[2] See, for example, Bates, Karen Grigsby. “J.P. Morgan’s Personal Librarian Was A Black Woman. This Is Her Story.” NPR, Jul. 4, 2021; Napp, Francky. “She Was a Black Librarian Who Could Equal America’s Most Powerful Man,” Messy Nessy, Jun. 3, 2020; Scutts, Joanna. “The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library,” Time, May 17, 2016; McAlpin, Heller. “J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.” Christian Science Monitor, Jun. 29, 2021. There are many other sources listed on her Wikipedia page, for those more interested in her story, which is ripe to be used in fictional narrative beyond The Personal Librarian.

[3] While there are many examples listed on the “Passing (racial identity)” Wikipedia page, I’m most familiar with Melvin Van Peebles’s 1970 film Watermelon Man (which is still a great classic film, by the way), and think that the 1960 film I Passed for White could be interesting.

[4] Smith, Katisha. “13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.” Book Riot, May 8, 2020; “About BCALA,” Black Caucus of the American Library Association, accessed May 29, 2022;  Walker, “Critical Race Theory and the Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of a Librarian of Color,” 136.

[5] Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.”

[6] Ibid; Landgraf, Greg. “Blazing Trails: Pioneering African-American librarians share their stories.” American Libraries, Jan. 2, 2018.

[7] Also see The Black Librarian in America: Reflections, Resistance, and Reawakening by Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire, The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library by Louise S. Robbins, Black Librarians Matter 2022 (on Amazon) by MS Swazino Publishing, Proud Black Librarians (on Amazon) by MS Swazino Publishing, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism by Wayne and Shirley Wiegand, the Black librarians Instagram account, African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers which is edited by Binnie Tate Wilkin, Stop Talking, Start Doing!: Attracting People of Color to the Library Profession by Gregory L Reese and Ernestine L Hawkins, Carla Hayden: Librarian of Congress by Kate Moening, Underground: From Deadbeat to Dean: A Memoir by Peter MacDonald, An Independent Woman: The Autobiography of Edith Guerrier by Edith Guerrier, Molly Matson, and Polly Kaufman, and Johnnie E. Blunt’s The Professional Life of an African American Male Librarian blogspot. Anna Gooding-Call of Book Riot added that the “library profession is extremely white….even some of the few books about librarians of color were written by white authors,” noting that Jackson, Jefferson, and Nosakhere attempt to “add diversity to librarian narratives with these excellent essays by African American library professionals.” See an interview with the authors of The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism here.

[8] “HISTORY: Pioneering African-American Librarians Share Their Stories,” Good Black News, Jan. 22, 2018; Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know”; Betit, Jessica. “In Celebration of Black History Month: Black American Librarians.” Gardiner Public Library, Feb. 1, 2022. Betit also lists Thomas Fountain Blue (first Black person to head a public library in the U.S.), Jean Ellen Coleman (founding director of ALA’s Office of Outreach Services), Virginia Procter Powell Florence (first Black woman to earn a library science degree, in 1923). Also see Dawson, Alma. “Celebrating African-Americans and Librarianship.” Library Trends Vol. 49, No. 1, Summer 2000, pp. 49-87; Hunt, Rebecca D. “African American Leaders in the Library Profession: Little Known History.” Black History Bulletin Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 14-19; Helton, Laura. “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading.” Humanities Commons, 2019.

[9] Nunes, Zita Christina. “Cataloging Black Knowledge.” Perspectives on History. American Historical Association, Nov. 20, 2018; “Dorothy B. Porter, A Library Hero.” New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, Apr. 8, 2021; Taylor, Mildred Europa. “Dorothy Porter, the librarian who stood up against racism in Howard University’s library.” Face2Face Africa, Sept. 23, 2021; Grossman, Ron. “Flashback: A heroine to history: Vivian Harsh, Chicago’s first black librarian, preserved black history, literature with massive collection.” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 31, 2020; Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.” Other prominent Black librarians include the late Miriam Matthews, the first Black librarian hired by the Los Angeles Public Library in 1927,  who created a research collection documenting contributions of Black people, city librarian Minnie Fisher (not to be confused with suffragist Minnie Fisher Cunningham) in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and Nella Larsen Imes as the first Black librarian employed by New York City and later a librarian, from 1921 to 1926. These individuals are noted by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and KCET. Matthews is briefly mentioned in Jennifer Velez’s article in Bustle entitled “How Afro-Latinx People Made Huge Contributions To Black History — Then Got Erased” and there is a further article on JSTOR entitled “Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s“.

[10] Nosakhere, Akilah Shukura. “Serving With a Sense of Purpose: A Black Woman Librarian in Rural New Mexico” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 161-3, 169, 170; “WHEN WASHINGTON WAS IN VOGUE: A Love Story,” Publishers Weekly, accessed May 29, 2022.

[11] Nosakhere, “Serving With a Sense of Purpose,” 180, 180-1; Vince Lee, “Like a Fish Out of Water, But Forging My Own Path” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 190, 193; Hankins, Rebecca. “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism: An African American Muslim Woman in the Field” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 209, 211; Hankins, Rebecca and Miguel Juarez, “Introduction” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 5.

[12] Hankins, “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism”, 211-212; Barksdale-Hall, Roland. “Building Dialogic Bridges to Diversity: Are We There Yet?” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 272-80.

[13] Barksdale-Hall, “Building Dialogic Bridges to Diversity,” 288-9.

[14] Other books, which I’m not sure if they have Black librarians or not, include Just Like Beverly, Super-Duper LibrarianAmber By Night, and Librarian’s Night Before Christmas, and The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries Omnibus 2. For sources for this section, see “Inanna Fall 2022,” Inanna Publications & Education Inc., p. 3; Baker, Dee. “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.” Bookconscious, Jun. 5, 2021; Potkovic, Athena. “Library Neutrality,” CCP Journal, Apr. 10, 2018; Williams, Stacie. “Librarians in the 21st Century: It Is Becoming Impossible to Remain Neutral.” Lit Hub, May 4, 2017; ALA Support. “Equity in Librarianship in ALA Collections.” American Library Association, accessed May 29, 2022. There are additional Black writers who are librarians, like Alechia Dow, possibly Daren a.k.a. the Dope Librarian, a librarian who hosts the Adventures in YA podcast, and Alexander “Alex” Brown who is a queer Black librarian, writer, and local history, as noted by FIYAHCON 2021 and BuzzFeed News, who tweets on Twitter @QueenofRats. Of note is also Librarians in Fiction: A Critical Bibliography by Grant Burns and Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada edited by Deborah Lee and Mahalakshmi Kumaran.

[15] Contreras, Natalia E. “‘Must reflect the communities we serve’: The critical role that Black librarians play.” Indianapolis Star, Aug. 12, 2021; “‘Endangered Species’: Black Male Librarian,” NPR, Jun. 27, 2008; Cooper, Breanna. “New essay collection celebrates Black librarians.” Indianapolis Recorder, Feb. 24, 2022; “About Us,” National Conference of African American Librarians, accessed May 29, 2022; , Maya. “Why Aren’t There More Black Librarians?” Word in Black, Feb. 10, 2022; Hodge, Twanna. “On Being Black in Librarianship.” I Love Libraries, Jul 15, 2020; “Pre-Lit Fest 2022: The Black Librarian in America,” #StayHappening, Jun. 2022.

action adventure Black people fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries live-action Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries romance speculative fiction

A place of honor?: Examining two Black reel librarians

In 1961, a Black reel librarian appeared in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In later years, acclaimed actors, and others, would play Black librarians  in Men of Honor, A Winter’s Romance, Dangerous Minds, It: Chapter Two, Escape from Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, Follow the Stars Home, Fatal Attraction, Party Girl, and The Time Machine, and in the series, Stephen King’s It. There are even Black records clerks in Winter’s Tale and BlacKkKlansman. Additionally, there have been plotlines in Lovecraft Country and Hidden Figures which feature segregated libraries, and Black librarians in the case of the former but not the latter. [1] On her site, Reel Librarians, Jennifer Snoek-Brown counted less than 30 librarians who are Black or of African descent. Apart from the films I’ve listed previously, there are a number of librarians who only have supporting or cameo roles. These roles date back to 1953, which she states is the first Black reel librarian she can find, and go up to 2019. [2] Having written about Mr. Anderson, in The Public, on this blog in the past, for this post, I’d like to focus on librarians in The Time Machine and All the President’s Men. Neither have not been featured on this blog before this post, and expand the total of Black librarians I’ve listed on this blog.

Unnamed Black male librarian in All The President’s Men before he gives them the checkout slips. The whole scene can be watched here.

In the classic 1976 political thriller, All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein travel to the Library of Congress after their research seems to be stalled and having a librarian have a strange conversation with one them. They go to one librarian, who declares that the records they want are confidential, and that he can’t fulfill their request of library card checkout slips since July 1971. The other, the image of which is shown above, fulfills their request. Voiced by Jaye Stewart, he tells them “I’m not sure you want ’em, but I’ve got ’em.”

Woodward and Bernstein proceed to go through perhaps thousands of check-out slips in the Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Unfortunately, the work is for naught, as it doesn’t confirm if a White House staffer checked out books on Ted Kennedy.Later, however, they find a wind to confirm the information. Snoek-Brown did an in-depth look at the film, saying that while she was happy that a librarian had a “friendly” face on screen, that it is not ethical to “give out checkout slips or records without a court order” as librarians have an “obligation to protect the privacy rights of our patrons.” [3]

I agree with Snoek-Brown entirely on that point. On the other hand, I am glad that a Black librarian has such a vital role in the story. Snoek-Brown herself has called the scene “pivotal” as this librarian is the only one who gives them a helping hand, giving them the request circulation records, although another unnamed one gives help later in the film. The information he gives pushes the reporters down a “successful trail” and toward uncovering the Watergate story. [4]

The 2002 sci-fi film, The Time Machine, a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, is completely different. It features a librarian of the future named Vox, who is played by Orlando Jones. He is a hologram and an information provider, serving as heart and soul of the film, in Snoek-Brown’s words. He has a timeless style and has a wealth of knowledge, providing information to a wayward inventor, who travels hundreds of thousands of years into the future, about time travel, history, and evolution of the planet and its population. He is able to do this as the compendium of all human knowledge. [5] He is the equivalent of MENTOR, the supercomputer in the comedy mini-series, The Pentaverate, but in a more appealing and less awful nature.

Vox tries to get the attention of Dr. Alexander Hartdegen in a scene from the film. The whole scene can be found here.

Interestingly, even though the film is about time travel, he never goes anywhere. He remains, as Snoek-Brown put it, the “sole, stationary witness to the continuous collapse and rebuilding of civilizations throughout centuries.” As such he is a quintessential information provider and arguably the “holographic heart” of the film. He does this while being a fully-fledged supporting character, in one of the many sci-fi/library crossover films where a futuristic information source provides “library-style information.” [6]

Unlike the unnamed Black librarian in All the President’s Men, he is not alive. He is a hologram, a librarian who can go anywhere, but is likely tied to the library servers for his survival. His existence implies that a Black programmer made him that way and even that he was based off an actual Black men. What White programmer would create an intelligent Black man? More likely, they would create a White man, with their racial biases and prejudice bleeding through into their thinking.

Beyond this, Vox has been described as a library computer system, a “ virtual reality librarian” or a “computer-generated librarian” in the words of his voice actor. It has also been said that his character makes it “easier to find the information you need at the touch of a button,” as a person tied to the world’s databases, artificial intelligence, and a data retrieval system. It is further said that his interactions imply that “human” interaction “will still be required.” Some call him a database hologram “with attitude” who is sarcastic and spirited. [7] He fulfills what TV Tropes describes as the Projected Man.

As some have argued that being a librarian is “something of honor for the African American community,” these fictional librarians are important. After all, there is a continued need in popular culture not only for more librarians, but more librarians of color, and need to avoid a single story for reel librarians or any fictional librarians. [8]

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Current Oscar nominees who have played reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 23, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “31 thoughts and questions I had while watching ‘A Winter Romance’ (2021).” Reel Librarians, Dec. 22, 2021; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Research and high school library scenes in ‘Dangerous Minds’.” Reel Librarians, Sept. 9, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Class III (minor roles).” Reel Librarians, accessed May 28, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Class I (major roles, integral).” Reel Librarians, accessed May 28, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Class II (major roles, non-integral).” Reel Librarians, accessed May 28, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A research quest in ‘Winter’s Tale’ (2014) + how to tell the difference between microfilm vs. microfiche.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 9, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “5 movies featuring Black reel librarians in major roles.” Reel Librarians, Jul. 8, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Library research montage in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004) remake.” Reel Librarians, Apr. 8, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians and archivists in 16 sci-fi films.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 11, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Law librarian sighting in ‘Fatal Attraction’.” Reel Librarians, Dec. 11, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First impressions: ‘It: Chapter Two’ (2019) and the town librarian hero.” Reel Librarians, Oct. 9, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Graduate library school discussion in ‘Party Girl’.” Reel Librarians, May 22, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First impressions: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018).” Reel Librarians, Nov. 7, 2018; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First impressions: ‘It’ (2017) and its library scene.” Reel Librarians, Oct. 10, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Revisiting reel librarian totals.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 2, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Scary clowns + reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Oct. 12, 2016; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “‘Spotlight’-ing a news library.” Reel Librarians, May 4, 2016; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Meet Hannah in ‘Follow the Stars Home’.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 12, 2015; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “‘South Street’ librarian.” Reel Librarians, Sept. 10, 2014; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “‘Somewhere’ in the library.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 4, 2014; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A not-so-enchanting librarian in ‘Ella Enchanted’.” Reel Librarians, Apr. 10, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A tale of seven shushes in ‘City Slickers II’.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 9, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Best librarian films by decade, Part II: 1960s-2000s.” Reel Librarians, Dec. 30, 2011; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “With or without honors.” Reel Librarians, Dec. 26, 2011; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Lovecraft Country’s ‘A History of Violence’ and segregated libraries.” Reel Librarians, Nov. 10, 2021; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A closer look at the library scene in ‘Hidden Figures’ (2016).” Reel Librarians, Mar. 10, 2021; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “First impressions: ‘Hidden Figures’ and its library scene.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 15, 2017; Rampell, Ed. “TCM Classic Filmfest wrapup: Hooray for Hollywood!People’s World, Apr. 18, 2019.

[2] This includes Jaye Loft-Lyn as a microfilm library clerk in Pickup on South Street (1953), Jaye Stewart as a librarian in All the President’s Men (1976), Noreen Walker as a public librarian in Somewhere in Time (1980), an uncredited Black male shelver in Fatal Attraction (1987), an uncredited Black male shelver in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), an uncredited Black female librarian in With Honors (1994), Jeff Feringa as a school librarian in Dangerous Minds (1995), C. Francis Blackchild as Wanda and L. B. Williams as Howard who are both public librarians in Party Girl (1995), Mary Alice as a children’s librarian in Bed of Roses (1996), Dolores Mitchell as a research librarian in Autumn in New York (2000), Demene E. Hall as Mrs. Biddle in Men of Honor (2000), Octavia Spencer as a public librarian named Hildy in Follow the Stars Home (2001), Ronald William Lawrence as a library clerk in The Ring (2002), Lynette DuPree as a public librarian in Back When We Were Grownups (2004), Merrina Millsapp as a Hall of Records attendant in Ella Enchanted (2004), Duana Butler as a library clerk in The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Norm Lewis as a newspaper librarian in Winter’s Tale (2014), Zarrin Darnell-Martin as a newspaper librarian in Spotlight (2015), and Jeffrey Wright as a head public librarian named Mr. Anderson in The Public (2018).

[3] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “All the president’s librarians in ‘All the President’s Men’.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 1, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Law librarian sighting in ‘The Pelican Brief’.” Reel Librarians, Jul. 24, 2019.

[4] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Favorite reel librarian posts, 2017.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 10, 2018; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “All the president’s librarians in ‘All the President’s Men’.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 1, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Any reel librarians in the AFI Top 100 list?Reel Librarians, May 17, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians in political-themed films.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 18, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Heard but not seen.” Reel Librarians, Sept. 2, 2015; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Information Provider librarians.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 24, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer, “Class III (minor roles)” [All the President’s Men section], Reel Librarians, accessed May 28, 2022. It is also one of the films that Snoek-Brown covered in her undergraduate thesis on libraries in popular culture.

[5] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians of color, 2021 update.” Reel Librarians, Jan. 27, 2021; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Stylish male reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 3, 2016; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Character Types [see Information Provider (all genders) section],” Reel Librarians, accessed on May 28, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer, “Class III (minor roles)” [The Time Machine section], Reel Librarians, accessed May 28, 2022; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “5 movies featuring Black reel librarians in major roles.” Reel Librarians, Jul. 8, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Revisiting reel librarian totals.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 2, 2017; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Information Provider librarians.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 24, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians and archivists in 16 sci-fi films.” Reel Librarians, Mar. 11, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians vs. reel archivists.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 1, 2018; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Actors.” Reel Librarians, accessed on May 28, 2022.

[6] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel librarians take a trip.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 5, 2015; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Travelin’ librarians.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 17, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reel Substance: A look at Classes III and IV.” Reel Librarians, Jun. 17, 2015; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Reader Q and A.” Reel Librarians, Jun. 18, 2013; Goodfellow, Tom. “In the eye of the survivor.” Reel Librarians, Aug. 28, 2012; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Hall of Fame.” Reel Librarians, Oct. 5, 2011; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Master List of English-Language Films.” Reel Librarians, accessed on May 28, 2022.

[7]  The Time Machine Wiki. “Vox.” Last revised Sept. 5, 2021; Teacher’s Notes on The Time Machine, Film Education, accessed May 28, 2022, p. 10; Emma Smart and Sarah Currant. “The 10 best librarians on screen.” BFI, Feb. 5, 2016; “The Time Machine,” screenit, Mar. 8, 2002; Bourne, Mark. “A Time Machine (2002).” DVD Journal, 2002; Laura and Robin. “The Time Machine.” Reeling Reviews, accessed May 28, 2022; Fuches, Cynthia. “The Time Machine (2002).” Pop Matters, Mar. 7, 2002; Weinkauf, Gregory. “Future Shock.” Riverfront Times, Mar. 6, 2002; McCarthy, Todd. “The Time Machine.” Variety, Mar. 7, 2002; “Cultural Images of Librarians,” Clubul Tinerilor Bibliotecari, Feb. 2011; Tucker, Betty Jo. “Time Travel Wins Again.” Reel Talk Movie Reviews, accessed May 28, 2022; Young, M. Joseph. “The Time Machine,” Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies, accessed May 28, 2022. Reportedly Brown said “I play the role of Vox in this film and Vox is a third generation fusion-powered photonic with verbal and visual link capabilities connected to every database in the planet. Now, what does that mean? What that means is that Vox is basically a computer-generated librarian.”

[8] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Video lecture: ‘The African American Struggle for Library Equality: The Untold Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund Library Program’.” Reel Librarians, Feb. 24, 2021; Rosenberg, Rachel. “Why Aren’t There More Librarians in Pop Culture?Book Riot, Mar. 2, 2020; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “‘The danger of a single story’ for reel librarians.” Reel Librarians, Nov. 2, 2016.

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Black History Month special: Examining ten Black fictional librarians

Clara doing exercises on the balcony of her apartment at the end of the final episode of Welcome to the Wayne

On this blog, I’ve occasionally written about Black librarians in fiction and am trying to write about it more, as long as I can find characters to write about. In fact, in The Public, a film by Emilio Estevez, which I reviewed in one of this blog’s first posts, appears a Black man named Mr. Anderson. Voiced by Jeffrey Wright, he is unique as he is a Black library administrator, something which is sadly seen too little in pop culture. In this first post for Black History Month, I’d like to highlight librarians I’ve written about on this blog and beyond.

With White librarians as the norm, so-called “diverse librarians”, which is code for non-white, are said to be “in demand”. Some have even said in response that their librarianship is not for White people and they are not the folks they are trying to reach or center in their work. [1] However, fictional Black librarians often can’t choose which patrons they are serving. In fact, the unnamed Black male librarian in a We Bare Bears episode (“Our Stuff”) and a Black woman named Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry episode (“Horrid Henry: Computer Whizz”) serve multiracial and multiethnic patrons.

Furthermore, in keeping with past practices in animation, which have seemingly been retired, for the most part, some Black fictional librarians were voiced by White people. One example of this is Ms. Lovely, voiced by Joanna Ruiz, a White woman. Kimberly Brooks turned this paradigm around, however, when she voiced a strict White female librarian in an episode of DC Super Hero Girls.

There are a few Black fictional librarians who shine through, however. Most prominent is Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne. She is a Black woman and is voiced by Harriet B. Foy. Although she is not a main character, she is an oft supporting character who runs the Stanza, a magical library hidden within the Wayne apartment building. She does not do all the work on her own, but is, instead, helped by non-human library workers who fetch books for her, and help her to ensure that the library remains organized for anyone who can use it. She becomes a central part of the story as Ansi Molina, Olly, and Saraline Timbers work together uncover the Wayne’s mysteries before it is too late.

Just as prominent is O’Bengh / Cagliostro in an episode of What If…? (“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”). He is a Nigerian man and is voiced by Ike Amadi. He tries to help Doctor Strange harness his powers and attempts to tell him to not go to the side of evil. Although he is unsuccessful, he remains an important part of the episode. Unfortunately, his character carries with it the implication that librarians are magicians and that what they do is “magic.” This can’t be further from the truth. In some ways, however, this is inevitable as his character is a sorcerer, so there was no way they could have gotten around this when depicting him in the episode. It is further disappointing that he will likely never appear again in the series, meaning this episode is his one and only episode, becoming one-episode-wonder, nothing more, nothing less.

Then there’s George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. They are gay Black men who are voiced by Regi Davis and Chris Jai Alex respectfully. Although both are technically historians, they are de facto librarians as they run, and live-in, a library in the Whispering Woods. Although they only appear very infrequently in the series, the episodes they do appear in they have an impact. They help the protagonists solve a riddle which leads them to a barren desert, and uncover the clues needed to uncover the biggest mystery of all about the planet of Etheria. On top of all of that, they are supportive of their son, Bow, who reveals he is a fighter for the rebellion. Even though they are opposed to joining in as part of the fight by themselves, which led him to come up with an elaborate story that he was going to a boarding school, they don’t want to hold Bow back.

Marienne Bellamy and Amarie Treadeau
Marienne Bellamy (left) and Amarie Treadeau (right)

Now, there are many other Black fictional librarians out there, with those in major film roles described by Jennifer Snoek-Brown on her Reel Librarians blog. I haven’t seen the psychological thriller series, You, but there is a smart, non-nonsense librarian named Marienne Bellamy (played by Tati Gabrielle) who observes the citizens of the neighborhood but does not get taken in by the entitlement and privilege of the patrons. While she holds in her own personal struggles, she is helped by another librarian, Dante Ferguson, a White male family man with damaged eyesight who wants to expand his family. [2]

Then, there’s Amarie Treadeau, otherwise known as “Amma”, who is voiced by Viola Davis, in Beautiful Creatures, a 2013 romantic fantasy film. She is the combination of two characters from the 2009 novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. She is wicked smart, skilled with magic, brave, and well-read. Davis described her character as more than what is on the surface, a person with “different secrets to be discovered,” including a tribal scarification on her back, channeling spirits, and serving as a “keeper of a library that’s the gateway to different worlds.” Davis further said she liked that, saying she likes “when there are different layers to peel away,” adding that “it was just subtle enough to play and to craft” and saying that this is what appealed to her about the role.” [3]

These are not the only Black librarians in fiction, however. One of the most prominent is Valerie the Librarian, who appears in multiple issues of Spidey Super Stories. She also appears in episodes of The Electric Company, where she is voiced by Hattie Winston. In her role, she often bucks stereotypes of Black women and of librarians, sometimes at the same time! She is clearly a groundbreaking character, even though she doesn’t appear as much in the comics as she should.

As for this blog, it has come a long way from August 2020, when I said that George and Lance where “the only non-white (and Black) librarians in animation” I could think of off hand. Then in March 2021, I wrote about them in a guest post for Reel Librarians. Since then, I’ve written about Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne, Black librarians in stock footage and GIFs, Black voice actors, depictions of librarians of color (including Black characters) and the micoaggressions they face, and more. Although I hope to come across more Black librarians in fiction, I have a sinking suspicion that come next year and I’ll have the same number of Black librarians listed on this blog as before. Here’s to hoping that I come across Black librarians in the future!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] David James Hudson, “The Whiteness of Practicality” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 218, 220; Jorge R. Lopez-McKnight, “My Librarianship is Not For You” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 268.

[2] Petski, Denise. “‘You’ Season 3: Saffron Burrows Upped To Series Regular, Dylan Arnold, Tati Gabrielle Among 12 Cast In Netflix Series.” Deadline, Nov. 18, 2020. Also see the You (TV series) Wikipedia page. Bellamy appears in multiple episodes and becomes the titular deuteragonist in the second half of the show’s third season.

[3] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “A reel librarian’s multi-faceted role in ‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013).” Reel Librarians, Feb. 10, 2021; Wood, Rachel Noelle. “The Best Fictional Librarians from Popular Culture.” KQED, Apr. 11, 2017; The Caster Chronicles Wiki. “Marian Ashcroft.” Last modified Jan. 16, 2020, see “Appearance and Personality” section; Kroll, Justin. “Viola Davis books two feature roles.” Variety, Feb. 2, 2012; Anderton, “Viola Davis Lands Roles in ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘Beautiful Creatures’,” FirstShowing.Net, Feb. 3, 2012; “Viola Davis: The Beautiful Creatures Interview,”, Sept. 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onward to 2023!

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

action adventure animation Black people comedy fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries special libraries speculative fiction

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

From left to right: Harriet D. Foy, Regi Davis, Chris Jai Alex, Ike Imadi, and Kimberly D. Brooks

Part of understanding fictional librarians is understanding those behind the screen, especially when it comes to anime and animation. [1] I plan to do more posts like this if I find additional fictional librarians, so this post is the beginning of what I call the “Behind the Screen” series, hopefully getting some interviews with some of these voice actors too. I’m starting with Black voice actors in this first part of the series.

About the voice actors

Perhaps the most prominent Black voice of an animated librarian is Harriett D. Foy. She steals the show with the chief librarian of the Stanza, named Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne. Foy is known for roles on Broadway, television, film, regional plays, regional musicals, and concerts. Rhone was her first animated role.

Just as powerful is Ike Amadi, a Nigerian man who voices a librarian named voices Cagliostro in a What If…? episode (“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”). Imadi has voiced characters like Agency Boss / Subquatos in Kid Cosmic, Officer Mantus / Platoon Sergeant in Love, Death & Robots, Angor Rot and Detective Scott in Tales of Arcadia, to name a few.

Most curious of all, in terms of Black people voicing animated librarians is Kimberly Brooks, also known as Kimberly D. Brooks. She voices an uptight librarian in a DC Super Hero Girls episode (“#SoulSisters Part 2”). Apart from voicing Elephant Grandma in The Cuphead Show!, she voiced characters such as Sky Young in Arcane, Teela and Eldress in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Skara in The Owl House, Amsaja in Cleopatra in Space, Allura in Voltron: Legendary Defender, young Mari in Vixen, and over 10 characters [2] in Steven Universe and Steven Universe Future, most prominently Jasper.

Other Black voice actors include two Black men: Regi Davis as George and Chris Jai Alex as Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Davis and Alex are seasoned voice actors. Davis has been in countless television, theatre, and film productions. Alex has been working in the entertainment industry since 2005, starting at the bottom. He has voiced at least 40 characters according to Behind the Voice Actors. [3]

About the characters

From left to right: Clara Rhone, O’Bengh, Unnamed librarian, George, and Lance

As I wrote in my review of Welcome to the Wayne, Clara Rhone is one of the “very few librarians of color in popular culture” and works with others at the library, emphasizing the value of these institutions as places of knowledge and understanding. Clara also has a granddaughter named Goodness, who is a library ninja, and is voiced by another Black woman: Charnele Crick.

Just as striking of a character is Cagliostro in What If…?. As I wrote in my review of that episode, he masquerades under the name “O’Bengh,” and runs the Lost Library of Cagliostro, a library-temple. He tries to the best of his ability to help Doctor Strange, as he “grows out of control.” He attempts to warn Strange but is unsuccessful and ends up dying in the library, taking on a number of roles in the episode at the same time: all-knowing person, a medic, and a sorcerer, while happening to be the only librarian. It is unfortunate that he is never shown outside the library.

The librarian that Brooks voices is interesting, as the unnamed librarian in the DC Super Hero Girls episode is uptight. I suppose this makes the character interesting and gives more life to it, but the character is very stereotypical and straight-lace. She voices two characters in that episode: Bumblebee and the Librarian, according to IMDB. One day, if possible, I’d like to ask her about that character.

Then there’s George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Both call themselves historians but they run a family library. They help the protagonists Adora, Glimmer, and Bow translate an ancient message and keep their library open for as long as they can, before abandoning it. Even then, they provide vital information which helps Adora and her friends stop the vile Horde from destroying the world and universe.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Not profiled in this series is Emilio Estevez (who voiced Stewart Goodson), Jeffrey Wright (who voiced Mr. Anderson), and Jena Malone (who voiced Myra) in The Public. For Malone, also see her Facebook and Instagram pages here and here. I also cannot include the 30 webcomic characters I have included on my “List of fictional librarians” page, nor the unnamed librarians in a Revolutionary Girl Utena episode (“The Sunlit Garden – Prelude”), the Black male librarian in a We Bare Bears episode (“Our Stuff”), Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too episode (“The Garden of Sky and Wind”) as her voice actress is not known. Voice actors of the librarian in Steven Universe episode (“Buddy’s Book”), Librarian in Futurama episode (“The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”), Librarian in Zevo-3 episode (“Zevo-3”), librarians in The Simpsons, librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“The Warlock Returns”), unnamed librarians in Phineas and Ferb episode (“Dude, We’re Getting the Band Back Together”), another librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), librarian in Amphibia episode (“True Colors”), Arlene in Phineas & Ferb episode (“Phineas and Ferb’s Quantum Boogaloo”), Librarian in Bob’s Burgers episode (“Y Tu Ga-Ga Tina Tambien”), librarian in Phineas & Ferb episode (“The Doonkelberry Imperative”), and a librarian in The Flintstones episode (“The Hit Songwriter”) are also not known. Also, librarian in Teen Titans Go! episode (“Magic Man”) of Azarath Public Library and Little Squeak in Colonel Bleep do not have any voices either. It is further not known who voiced librarian in Courage the Cowardly Dog episode (“Wrath of the Librarian“), librarian in Uncle Grandpa episode (“Back to the Library”), the librarian in Beavis and Butt-Head episode (“Cyber-Butt“), Violet Stanhope and Ms. Herrera in the Archie’s Weird Mysteries episode (“The Haunting of Riverdale“),  Miss Dickens in Carl Squared episode (“Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), or Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements episode (“Quiet Riot“).

[2] Jasper, Cherry Quartz, Superfan Rose, Shy Rose, Hippy Rose, Angel Aura Quartz, Zebra Jasper, Ocean Jasper (2), Flint, Malachite, Carnelian, and Skinny. She also voiced eight characters in Winx Club.

[3] Also see his IMDB bio, Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube channel, Instagram, and LinkedIn profile, or the website of Davis.

animation Black people fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums

Fictional Library of the Month: The Stanza in “Welcome to the Wayne”

Image of the Stanza

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 Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne.

About the library

It is a magical library within The Wayne. Clara Rhone is currently the chief librarian of the Stanza itself. It is an important part of the Wayne and it is organized well enough that it is easy to find information.

Role in the story

Apart from Rhone, many others work there like John Keats, Numerous squidgets, and temporarily Ansi Molina. The library is not only the only library located within the Wayne, but it is, as I noted in my post, a

…secret library…[which is] meticulously organized library…contains information on the inhabitants of the Wayne…Information from the library helps Ansi aid his friends…Saraline describes the library as one of the quietest places in the Wayne

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is a library that is well-lit, has people who work there who help patrons, and is not underground, then yes. Otherwise, it falls into the libraries-are-magical idea, which too many fantasies seem to do. It can be problematic as people can than think of librarians as more than people, but somehow those who can do magical things, when they are just doing their jobs, not engaging in magic.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Magical libraries occasionally up on this blog, with the other example I can think of being the one in What …If?, where Doctor Strange goes to a library. In a comment in responding to that post, I noted that:

…there can be harm in the notion that “librarians are magical.” There are some good examples of librarians who have magic, but balance it with their magical abilities, like Kaisa in Hilda, but in other cases, it can more more harmful….I think some animations have tried to make sure that librarians and libraries are shown as valued, like the Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne [is] run by a Black librarian named Clara Rhone, or even, to an extent, the librarian in Trollhunters, Blinky.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.