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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.


Notes

[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.

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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.

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action adventure Black people comic books Comics fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction

Smashing Stereotypes: Valerie the Librarian in “Spidey Super Stories”

Valerie the Librarian and E.Z. Reader in a cropped version of the “The Book-Worm Bully!” story in a Dec. 1975 issue of Spidey Super Stories

In February 7, in my weekly newsletter, I mentioned Valerie the Librarian, a character who appeared in 14 episodes of the Spidey Super Stories. Some described Valerie as defending the library she works at from villains, while working with Spider-Man and standing against many 1970s stereotypes in media of Black people, including Black women,and mimic’s Spider-Man’s crawling abilities with suction cups on her fingers. In that newsletter I also mentioned that her character appeared in the educational television series The Electric Company, with Hattie Winston voicing Valerie from 1973 to 1976. [1]

There is more to Valerie than her donning a Spider-Man costume and a lackluster page on the Marvel fandom site. She is shown as a side character in one issue. In another, she has a supporting role in a later comic which is based on a script of The Electric Company by Sara Compton. [2] The cover sets the scene for a battle with book worm. It begins with Valerie filing books in a box, while E.Z. Reader is reading a book, and they work together and uncover a book worm! One of my favorite parts is where Valerie says she heard about the bookworm in library school, meaning that she has a MLIS, often not acknowledged or recognized in many depictions of librarians, apart from Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For. They work with Spider-Man, who is quietly reading in the library, to stop the bookworm, but it escapes.

In one issue Valerie notes that patrons, even villains, are only able to take out a certain number of books at a time, has fun with E.Z. Reader (who has a button saying “word power”) as she does her librarian work, like asking someone for a library card before checking out their books, facing a villain who takes books including those other people are using. She gets help from Spider-Man often and even use a card catalog in order to try and defeat the Vanisher, a villain who makes objects vanish, causing him to read a spell which traps him in a jail. [3]

In others, a trickster sprays her in the face with water and so she traps him under a pile of books, dons an outfit as Spider Woman, and reads a magical mystery book. Spider-Man is always willing to lend a helping hand, but she is not incapable, even without spider powers, making wise cracks along the way. She has supporting roles in other comics, adding to stories even when she isn’t in the library. [4] In one comic, she deals with someone, Wanda, who steals huge number of books from the library, completely emptying the shelves, without checking them out with a library card. Despite this, Wanda is later satisfied when Valerie gets her a library card. [5]

Valerie tells the villain, The Vanisher, he can check out books, but only with a library card, on page 4 of a Spider Super Stories issue.

In later comics, Valerie is asked patron information about who had a book, gets her name in one comic on a placard at her desk, and realizes where she is a true hero: as a librarian, helping people. This is clear in one comic where the library is a mess when she isn’t there to help out, and it is noted that her job is important. [6] That’s not something you see in depictions of librarians every day. Her last mention in the Spidey Super Stories series is a comic in which she plays a secondary role, helping a detective, in some capacity, solve a case. She isn’t even seen in a library in that issue, which is unfortunate as its her last appearance in the comic, and it would have been better for her to go out on a better note than the last issue issue she appeared within.

So it makes more sense as to why she was not remembered, as Valerie does not have consistent secondary role in the comics, sometimes more in the background and other times having a more active role. At the same time, it appears, according to the Hattie Winston Wikipedia page, that Easy Reader (voiced by Morgan Freeman) was Valerie’s girlfriend in The Electric Company series, which explains their relation to each other a little more with how they interact with one another in the comics. Other sources show that Sylvia and Valerie, in the same show, are not the same, as I had previously thought. The Root said that Valerie’s actress joined the cast in the third season, playing a “groovy librarian” who sings a duet with Easy Reader in one episode while wearing sunglasses in a library for some reason. This really makes me want to watch The Electric Company, appearing in 520 episodes according to the listing on her IMDB page. [8]

There is more to Valerie the librarian than what I have previously mentioned. For one, she is the only one of Black female librarians that I have mentioned on this blog and I have found in animated shows, films, and comics that has a MLIS degree. Neither Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry, a Black woman who is voiced by a White actress, nor Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne, a Black woman voiced by Harriet D. Foy, are noted as having MLIS degrees, although it implied that both have such degrees. The same can be said about the unnamed Black male librarian in an episode of We Bare Bears. Unfortunately, some characters are not shown to have professional experience because they are in fantasy realms. This includes two gay Black men, George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, are self-declared historians who run a family library, making them de facto librarians, while O’Bengh / Cagliostro, a Nigerian man, in an episode of What If…?. As such, Valerie is the first Black librarian, male or female, that I have found who has a MLIS degree. And that it definitely significant!

People like Valerie are not common in the librarian profession, however. Currently the profession suffers from a “persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that has not changed significantly over the past 15 years,” with only 9.5 percent of librarians identified as Black or African American in the year 2020. [9] Despite this lack of diversity, there have been prominent Black female librarians who have their names etched in the annals of history. For instance, Catherine A. Latimer was the first Black librarian of New York Public Library. Dorothy Porter, who led Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, challenged the Dewey Decimal System’s racial bias and created her own classification system for Black scholarship. Marjorie Adele Blackistone Bradfield was the first Black librarian of Detroit Public Library, expanding the library’s Black literature collection. Belle Da Costa Greene was the personal librarian for J.P. Morgan, curating a collection of manuscripts, art, and rare books, but controversially passed as White. Alma Smith Jacobs was the first Black librarian in Montana, spearheading the construction of a modern library for the city of Great Falls. There are many more Black female librarians beyond the five mentioned in this paragraph, as these examples only scratch the surface of Black women’s impact on librarianship over the years. [10] In fact, one of the most outspoken Black female librarians in recent years is April Hathcock, who has been very prolific, passionate, and dedicated to librarianship. Her last post on her blog, to date, explains why she is leaving the American Library Association (ALA), calling it an organization “centered on promoting the ‘neutrality’ of white supremacy and capitalism.”

While the comic doesn’t show it, due to the fact that she is sometimes a background character and other times a secondary character, as a librarian who is a Black woman, she undoubtedly experienced racial microaggressions. This subject has been examined by scholars Shamika D. Dalton, Gail Mathapo, and Endia Sowers-Paige in a 10-page article in 2018 as it applies to Black women who are legal librarians, and more broadly by Caitlin M. J. Pollock and Shelley P. Haley the same year. In the latter article, they write that:

“Black women have always been integral to first literacy movements of the 1800s and later librarianship… literacy, social justice activism, and literary cultural production have always intersected for middle class, educated Black women…Activism, writing, and literacy have been interconnected in the history of Black women…These Black women [in the 1920s] were often librarians in white structures of power. They often had to struggle within those power structures that racialized and gendered them. For some of these women, they sought to contextualize their librarianship and libraries, some on a local level and some on a professional and national level. Regardless of the scope, these women had similar goals, to change, expand, and challenge libraries and librarianship…For some of these women, their work offered critiques of libraries that did not adhere to the ethos delineated by the laws…There were and are many more Black female librarians whose narratives are just as insightful and fascinating as the women described in this chapter…[but] these women do not have biographies written about them or their stories otherwise memorialized…Long before the practice became more accepted, Black women were critiquing and modifying the tools of library science, which were reinforcing the marginalization of Black Americans…we can infer that class and colorism played a role in which Black women were placed in librarian positions…One reason for the racial disparity is the continued structural whiteness and implicit racism in librarianship and libraries.” [11]

I wish some of this history informed the depiction of Valerie, Miss Lovely in Horrid Henry, or Clara Rhone in Welcome to the Wayne, to name the three Black female librarians I’ve written about on this blog. More likely than not, all three were drawn and conceptualized by White people, especially since one of these three characters, Miss Lovely, is voiced by a White person after all. On the positive side, there are resources like those provided by the Black Caucus of the ALA, the Free Black Women’s Library which “celebrates the brilliance, diversity and imagination of Black women writers,” and the Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship reading list. Hopefully, in the future, I come across media with Black librarians who challenge established power structures, but I’m not holding my breath for that. Unfortunately, stereotypes of librarians continue to remain plentiful in pop culture. Even those librarians who are prominent, tend to be White and female, as is the case for those in The Owl House, Hilda, and Too Loud, to give three examples of shows in the last few years.

Valerie telling Spidey she is bored on page 15 of an issue of Spidey Super Stories

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] See Hunter, Nicholas. “Marvel’s Forgotten Original Spider-Woman Was A Black Librarian,” Screenrant, Jan. 28, 2022; Fraser, Ryan. “Spider-Woman (Character),” WorldofBlackHeroes, Jan. 27 2014; Gramuglia, Anthony. “How Many Spider-Women ARE There?,” CBR, Jun. 21, 2020. Jennifer Snoek-Brown described Valerie the Librarian as a recurring character from 1973 to 1976 in multiple episodes of The Electric Company.

[2] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 3, p. 27 (cover of “How to be a Super-Hero”); Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 6, p. 14-18.

[3] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 7, p. 1-5, 7-13.

[4] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 10, p. 18-19; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 11, p. 1-7, 9-13; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 27, p. 15-20; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 30, p. 4, 7, 12-13; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 32, p. 19-20; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 36, p. 15, 17, 20-22, 25, 27; Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 48, p. 15-17, 20;

[5] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 42, p. 16-20.

[6] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 49, p. 17-18, 22 (the story “Fargo’s Problem”); Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 53, p. 15-20

[7] Spidey Super Stories Vol 1 57, p. 17-18 (the story “Fargo’s Brother”).

[8] See episodes 130B (1977), 129B (1977), 128B (1977), 127B (1977), 126B (1977), 125B (1977), 124B (1977), 123B (1977), 122B (1977), 121B (1977), 120B (1977), 119B (1977), 118B (1977), 117B (1977), 116B (1977), 115B (1977), 114B (1977), 113B (1977), 112B (1977), 111B (1977), 110B (1977), 109B (1977), 108B (1977), 107B (1977), 106B (1977), 105B (1977), 104B (1977), 103B (1977), 102B (1977),- 101B (1977), 100B (1977), 99B (1977), 98B (1977), 97B (1977), 96B (1977), 95B (1977), 94B (1977), 93B (1977), 92B (1977), 91B (1977), 90B (1977), 89B (1977), 88B (1977), 87B (1977), 86B (1977), 85B (1977), 84B (1977), 83B (1977), 82B (1977), 81B (1977), 80B (1977), 79B (1977), 78B (1977), 77B (1977), 76B (1977), 75B (1977), 74B (1977), 73B (1977), 72B (1977), 71B (1977),- 70B (1977), 69B (1977), 68B (1977), 67B (1977), 66B (1977), 65B (1977), 64B (1977), 63B (1977), 62B (1977) , 61B (1977), 60B (1977),- 59B (1977), 58B (1977), 57B (1977), 56B (1977), 55B (1976), 54B (1976), 53B (1976), 52B (1976), 51B (1976), 50B (1976), 49B (1976), 48B (1976), 47B (1976), 46B (1976), 45B (1976), 44B (1976), 43B (1976), 42B (1976), 41B (1976), 40B (1976), 39B (1976), 38B (1976), 37B (1976), 36B (1976), 35B (1976), 34B (1976), 33B (1976), 32B (1976), 31B (1976), 30B (1976), 29B (1976), 28B (1976), 27B (1976), 26B (1976), 25B (1976), 24B (1976), 23B (1976), 22B (1976), 21B (1976), 20B (1976), 19B (1976), 18B (1976), 17B (1976), 16B (1976), 15B (1976), 14B (1976), 13B (1976), 12B (1976), 11B (1976), 10B (1976), 9B (1976), 8B (1976), 7B (1976), 6B (1976), 5B (1976), 4B (1976), 3B (1976), 2B (1976), 1B (1976), 130A (1976), 129A (1976), 128A (1976), 127A (1976), 126A (1976), 125A (1976), 124A (1976), 123A (1976), 122A (1976), 121A (1976), 120A (1976), 119A (1976), 118A (1976), 117A (1976), 116A (1976), 115A (1976), 114A (1976), 113A (1976), 112A (1976), 111A (1976), 110A (1976), 109A (1976), 108A (1976), 107A (1976) , 106A (1976), 105A (1976), 104A (1976), 103A (1976), 102A (1976), 101A (1976), 100A (1976), 99A (1976), 98A (1976), 97A (1976), 96A (1976), 95A (1976), 94A (1976), 93A (1976), 92A (1976), 91A (1976), 90A (1976), 89A (1976), 88A (1976), 87A (1976), 86A (1976), 85A (1976), 84A (1976), 83A (1976), 82A (1976), 81A (1976), 80A (1976), 79A (1976), 78A (1976), 77A (1976), 76A (1976), 75A (1976), 74A (1976), 73A (1976), 72A (1976), 71A (1976), 70A (1976), 69A (1976), 68A (1976) , 67A (1976), 66A (1976), 65A (1976), 64A (1976), 63A (1976), 62A (1976), 61A (1976), 60A (1976), 59A (1976), 58A (1976), 57A (1976), 56A (1976), 55A (1976), 54A (1976), 53A (1975), 52A (1975), 51A (1975), 50A (1975), 49A (1975), 48A (1975), 47A (1975), 46A (1975), 45A (1975), 44A (1975), 43A (1975), 42A (1975), 41A (1975), 40A (1975), 39A (1975), 38A (1975), 37A (1975), 36A (1975), 35A (1975), 34A (1975), 33A (1975), 32A (1975), 31A (1975), 30A (1975), 29A (1975), 28A (1975), 27A (1975), 26A (1975), 25A (1975), 24A (1975), 23A (1975), 22A (1975), 21A (1975), 20A (1975), 19A (1975), 18A (1975), 17A (1975), 16A (1975), 15A (1975), 14A (1975), 13A (1975), 12A (1975), 11A (1975), 10A (1975), 9A (1975), 8A (1975), 7A (1975), 6A (1975), 5A (1975), 4A (1975), 3A (1975), 2A (1975), 1A (1975), 520 (1975), 519 (1975), 518 (1975), 517 (1975), 516 (1975), 515 (1975), 514 (1975), 513 (1975), 512 (1975), 511 (1975), 510 (1975), 509 (1975), 508 (1975), 507 (1975), 506 (1975), 505 (1975), 504 (1975), 503 (1975), 502 (1975), 501 (1975), 500 (1975), 499 (1975), 498 (1975), 497 (1975), 496 (1975), 495 (1975), 494 (1975), 493 (1975), 492 (1975), 491 (1975), 490 (1975), 489 (1975), 488 (1975), 487 (1975), 486 (1975), 485 (1975), 484 (1975), 483 (1975), 482 (1975), 481 (1975), 480 (1975), 479 (1975), 478 (1975), 477 (1975), 476 (1975), 475 (1975), 474 (1975), 473 (1975), 472 (1975), 471 (1975), 470 (1975), 469 (1975), 468 (1975), 467 (1975), 466 (1975), 465 (1975), 464 (1975), 463 (1975), 462 (1975), 461 (1975), 460 (1975), 459 (1975), 458 (1975), 457 (1975), 456 (1975), 455 (1975), 454 (1975), 453 (1975), 452 (1975), 451 (1975), 450 (1975), 449 (1975), 448 (1975), 447 (1975), 446 (1975), 445 (1975), 444 (1975), 443 (1975), 442 (1974), 441 (1974), 440 (1974), 439 (1974), 438 (1974), 437 (1974), 436 (1974), 435 (1974), 434 (1974), 433 (1974), 432 (1974), 431 (1974), 430 (1974), 429 (1974), 428 (1974), 427 (1974), 426 (1974), 425 (1974), 424 (1974), 423 (1974), 422 (1974), 421 (1974), 420 (1974), 419 (1974), 418 (1974), 417 (1974), 416 (1974), 415 (1974), 414 (1974), 413 (1974), 412 (1974), 411 (1974), 410 (1974), 409 (1974), 408 (1974), 407 (1974), 406 (1974), 405 (1974), 404 (1974), 403 (1974), 402 (1974), 401 (1974), 400 (1974), 399 (1974), 398 (1974), 397 (1974), 396 (1974), 395 (1974), 394 (1974), 393 (1974), 392 (1974), 391 (1974), 390 (1974), 389 (1974), 388 (1974), 387 (1974), 386 (1974), 385 (1974), 384 (1974), 383 (1974), 382 (1974), 381 (1974), 380 (1974), 379 (1974), 378 (1974), 377 (1974), 376 (1974), 375 (1974), 374 (1974), 373 (1974), 372 (1974), 371 (1974), 370 (1974), 369 (1974), 368 (1974), 367 (1974) , 366 (1974), 365 (1974), 364 (1974), 363 (1974), 362 (1974), 361 (1974), 360 (1974), 359 (1974), 358 (1974), 357 (1974), 356 (1974), 355 (1974), 354 (1974), 353 (1974), 352 (1974), 351 (1974), 350 (1974), 349 (1974), 348 (1974), 347 (1974), 346 (1974), 345 (1974), 344 (1974), 343 (1974), 342 (1974), 341 (1974), 340 (1974), 339 (1974), 338 (1974), 337 (1974), 336 (1974), 335 (1974), 334 (1974), 333 (1974), 332 (1974), 331 (1974), 330 (1974), 329 (1974), 328 (1974), 327 (1974), 326 (1974), 325 (1974), 324 (1974), 323 (1974), 322 (1974), 321 (1974), 320 (1974), 319 (1974), 318 (1974), 317 (1974), 316 (1974), 315 (1974), 314 (1974), 313 (1974), 312 (1974), 311 (1973), 310 (1973), 309 (1973), 308 (1973), 307 (1973), 306 (1973), 305 (1973), 304 (1973), 303 (1973), 302 (1973), 301 (1973), 300 (1973), 299 (1973), 298 (1973), 297 (1973), 296 (1973), 295 (1973), 294 (1973), 293 (1973), 292 (1973), 291 (1973), 290 (1973), 289 (1973), 288 (1973), 287 (1973), 286 (1973), 285 (1973), 284 (1973), 283 (1973), 282 (1973), 281 (1973), 280 (1973), 279 (1973), 278 (1973), 277 (1973), 276 (1973), 275 (1973), 274 (1973), 273 (1973), 272 (1973), 271 (1973), 270 (1973), 269 (1973), 268 (1973), 267 (1973), 266 (1973), 265 (1973), 264 (1973), 263 (1973), 262 (1973), and 261 (1973)

[9] AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees, “Library Professionals: Facts & Figures,” Fact Sheet, Jun. 10, 2021. Of course, being Black and a professional, as not stopped incidents like Stephanie Bottom, a Black female librarian in Atlanta, from being assaulted by police, who don’t care about professional credentials, seeing Black people through their racist mindsets.

[10] Evans, Rhoda. “Catherine Latimer: The New York Public Library’s First Black Librarian,” New York Public Library, Mar. 20, 2020; Nunes, Zita Christina. “Remembering the Howard University Librarian Who Decolonized the Way Books Were Catalogued,” Smithsonian magazine, Nov. 26, 2018, reprinted from Perspectives of History; Audi, Tamara. “Marjorie Bradfield: Put black history into library,” Detroit Free Press, Nov. 20, 1999; Bates, Karen Grigsby. “J.P. Morgan’s Personal Librarian Was A Black Woman. This Is Her Story,” NPR News, Jul. 4, 2021; Milner, Surya. “Honoring Montana’s first Black librarian,” High Country News, Feb. 15, 2021. Other examples of prominent Black female librarians include, as noted by Book Riot, Charlemae Rollins as head librarian at the Chicago Public Library, Clara Stanton Jones as the first Black president of the American Library Association, Eliza Atkins Gleason as the “first Black American to earn a doctorate in library science at the University of Chicago” in 1940, Sadie Peterson Delaney who was key in bibliotherapy, Annette Lewis Phinazee as the “first woman and the first Black American woman to earn a doctorate in Library Science from Columbia University,” Carla Diane Hayden as the current Librarian of Congress, Effie Lee Morris as the “first woman and first black person to serve as president of the Public Library Association,” Mollie Huston Lee as the “first black librarian in Raleigh, North Carolina,” Virginia Lacy Jones as the second black person to earn a doctorate in Library Science, Virginia Proctor Powell Florence as the “first black woman in the United States to earn a degree in library science from the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library School,” and Vivian Harsh became the “first black librarian for the Chicago Public Library where she passionately collected works by Black Americans” in February 1924.

[11] Pollack, Caitlin M. J. and Shelley P. Haley, “When I Enter’: Black Women and Disruption of the White, Heteronormative Narrative of Librarianship,” chapter of In Pushing the Margins: Women of Color and Intersectionality in LIS, p. 1-4, 21, 35-36, 40. On pages 5-33, the article focuses on five Black women in particular: Nella Larsen, Pura Belpré, and Regina Anderson Andrews, Ann Allen Shockley, and Audre Lorde.

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Fictional Library of the Month: George and Lance’s family library

Hello everyone! Like my last post, I am beginning a new feature which I’m calling “Fictional Library of the Month” with posting one fictional library every month, prioritizing those in shows currently airing, but also including those in older shows. And with that, let be begin with my first entry, the library of George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, located in the Whispering Woods.

About the library

The library is a residence, a library/archives/museum all in one. It contains books collected by George and Lance, the fathers of Bow.

Role in the story

The library first appears in the episode “Reunion” where Adora and Glimmer stumble upon it when worried about the disappearance of Bow, and they meet him and his dads there. While there, a monster is released and Bow reveals he is a fighter for the Rebellion to his dad. The library again appears in the episode “Return to the Fright Zone” when it is damaged and left abandoned.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is a place to live and a library, yes, but the fact that vines grow on the outside gives it the appearance of being abandoned, which plays into library stereotypes.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Not really. There really aren’t any family libraries in other series that I know of, so that makes it unique in and of itself.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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action Black people Japanese people Korean people Librarians Libraries

Examining representations of librarians in stock photos and gifs

The top part of the search on Unsplash for the word “librarian.” I removed the ad here, and these are the top photos which appeared in the search result, already disturbing me as to their lack of diversity.

Some time ago, I learned about Unsplash, calling itself the “internet’s source of freely usable images,” I think from an article in a library publication. It is currently a subsidiary of Getty Images. As a test, I decided to search for the word “librarian.” 21 photographs come up, tagged with this term, under the heading “Results for Librarian.” I hoped for the best in my search, but seven of them have White people, ten include books stacked or the library stacks themselves. If we include the four librarians in the ads sections at the top and bottom, titled “Browse premium images on iStock | 20% off at iStock”, it is a little better, as three are Black, one is presumably Asian, and four are White.  Even so, they could still do be better, especially since most of the librarians are in the iStock images and not in the main results! Disappointed and disturbed by these results, which had a lack of diversity, I decided to look at Giphy instead to see if the results would be better. As a disclaimer, which should be obvious, this post is only a beginning of an analysis, is NOT comprehensive, and is NOT an academic analysis and should never should be treated as such. Despite those qualifiers, I hope it is helpful to librarians out there, in some way. On with the post!

There are 153 gifs when someone searches the word “librarian.” Of these images, at least forty one are White people, one is non-human, one is a person of color, I think, and there is only ONE Black woman, pictured in a gif added by NARA, going through a card catalog:

There are also two giphy clips at the top with White female librarians. So, that doesn’t bode well, even though some of these gifs were added by librarians themselves! Yikes.

I looked on Tenor, another gif site, searching for the word “librarian,” and there were similar results, although there was more variety than those on Giphy, as there was one Asian female librarian moving books from one shelf to another, which I’ll show below. Unfortunately, the “sexy librarian” gifs were at the top of the search and throughout the search itself. There were some non-human librarians shown, and at the very, very end was a gif from Library War, so that was cool.

I searched on gfycat for the word, “librarian,” and found nothing but a mix of strange, bizarre, and disturbing results which are replete with stereotypes. It was almost as bad as the search I did for images on Imgur for the word “librarian.” The subreddit for gifs didn’t have much, the word “librarian” doesn’t even show up on one site, or another site also focused on gifs. Results on Tumblr were not that promising, and worst of all is imgflip. After seeing the categories they had, I felt like that was enough and I didn’t need to go any further than that to see the type of images on the site:

These results were originally in a long column, but I stuck the two columns together for convenience sake

These results are not altogether surprising. Sophia Noble, who authored the book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism has said that while people “think of search engines as neutral, objective fact-checkers, reliable, and curated by experts” they are anything but that, as she noted that “Google Search is rife with disinformation and propaganda.” She then said that social media, internet searches, and the internet itself are “profoundly distorting,” with some technologies are predatory, platforms “implicated in trafficking in hate on the internet and in real life,” and so on. I’d argue the same applies to sites such as the ones I’ve talked about in this article, as those sites reflect biases, stereotypes, and prejudices held by society as a whole, and more specifically those individuals, organizations, and such which add the gifs (or stock images in the case of Unsplash) in the first place! A good first step would be for people to add more gifs to these sites of librarians who are people of color, although much more needs to be done beyond that.

GIFs and memes are not harmless, as made clear by White people using gifs of Black celebrities to express their feelings, which some have called “digital blackface.” While generally the “images used to share emotions and feelings of relatability over social media and text messages…are almost overwhelmingly black” as noted by Erinn Wong, when it comes to librarians, those shown are overwhelmingly White! This is not much of a surprise, however, as the latest demographic data from the ALA shows an overwhelmingly White membership base (over 86% white), and there are, as of 2016, over 140,000 librarians in the U.S. alone. [2] It was also argued by Jennifer Vinopal that the library field is “starkly lacking in diversity based on race and ethnicity…age…disability, economic status, educational background, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other demographic and identity markers of difference.” Even so, there should still be more diverse depictions of librarians. If we use ALA statistics of members by race and family origin, then out of every hundred librarians portrayed, the minimum would be as follows: one should be Indigenous and/or Hawaiian / Pacific Islander, three to four should be Asian, four should be Black, four should be other, and all the others would be White. This doesn’t account for the 4-5 would be Latine, as 4.7% said they identify as this when asked to describe their ethnicity. In total, this would mean that there should be a minimum of 16-18 librarians who are people of color in popular culture mediums each year, in order to reflect the field. From now on, I’m going to try and measure that, each year in what I’ll call the 16-18 Rule and may rename that in the future to something else. [3] It would only apply to productions, like animated series, made within the U.S., not those made elsewhere, in countries like Japan, for instance. It would NOT apply to these stock image sites, just to be clear.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes a White middle-aged woman in the Netherlands, an old White woman, an old White man sitting at desk, a stack of books and a White woman, and three of a sexy White librarian. Also, a book bag, a book quote, and a castle in distance are pictured.

[2] In the UK it is even less diverse, according to a joint study in July 2017 by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), saying on page 4 that “45% of the current library and information workforce will reach retirement age by 203097% of the UK library and information workforce selfidentify as whitethe library and information workforce is 79% female and 21% male.” This led some to rightly say that UK librarians need to “work harder to get rid of our unconscious biases, both on an individual and organisational level.”

[3] Appended to this can be what I’d tentatively call the three disabled librarian rule, as the ALA survey in 2017 noted that the library field “remains about 86% white and 97% able-bodied,” although this is assuming that the ALA accurately represents the library field, which has been thrown into question. That survey, which did not ask about sexual orientation, noted that 19% identified as male and 81% as female, so you could have an 2-8 rule, meaning that for every eight librarians shown, two others should be male. Whether I actually put in place these rules or not, I don’t know, but using metrics like this can be useful.


Note, update on 9/21/21: In my original article, in my analysis of Unsplash, did not include the ads at the top of the page. I can’t go back in time to when I did this analysis, about a month ago, but I think I didn’t include those because they didn’t load when I looked at it. Because if they had been there, I definitely would have noted it. So, today I just saw those and updated the article accordingly. I did this in response to one person on Reddit who seemed to say my analysis was faulty, declaring: “But there are only 4 people in the Unsplash search that the author is complaining about. If 18% should be people of color, that is actually 0. So, we don’t have enough info as to whether UnSplash is not representative,” and adding “at least for me, the iStock photo ads all over the page feature ONLY librarians of color (and not sexy librarians either.) I’m curious if that is what others see too?” The tone of the comment negative, from what I could tell, but I responded to it the best I could. Not sure why people make comments like that, trying to pick away at the post. It is sad to see. Aren’t librarians supposed to support one another? As it turned out, the commenter was only concerned about Unsplash not being a good example site, and I said “…I felt like I should include them because they had come up on some library lists…I’m not really a fan of Unsplash either, but they are definitely useless for that search, sure. Google Images is ok, but the problem with analyzing it is that the filter bubble can skew your results, so one person’s Google results may not be the same as another person’s.” So, I guess it ended up being positive in the end?

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Recently added titles (July/August 2021)

Hey everyone! I’m thinking of doing the same thing as Jennifer Snoek-Brown on her wonderful blog, Reel Librarian, who will be posting “on the first Wednesday of the month…to document the new titles of reel librarian titles” which she has added to various movie lists on her site during the previous month. She noted that her titles won’t necessarily be films which have been added recently, but they are ones newly added to the site. I’ll be posting on here on the first Tuesday of each month noting recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across. Each of these has been watched or read by yours truly. I’d never add anything on this site which I haven’t reviewed myself first, that’s just a rule I’ve come up with. I also have a page on comics which I’m working on, and I’ll publish that as soon as I have finished it, as I don’t think it has enough entries on it at this point to justify it being its own page.

Luz and Amity, in The Owl House, shush each other in hopes of hiding from Amity’s library boss…

Animated series recently added this page

  • “#WorldsFinest” episode of DC Super Hero Girls
  • Milo Murphy’s Law 
  • “Mystery At The Sweet Sale” episode of Mira, Royal Detective
  • Phineas and Ferb
  • “Through the Looking Glass Ruins” episode of The Owl House
  • Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans [film]
  • “The Library” episode of We Bare Bears
  • What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” and “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” episodes of What If…?
  • Young Justice
  • Trese

Anime series recently added this page

  • The Ancient Magus Bride: Those Awaiting a Star
  • To Heart 2 adnext

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Thank you to all my regular readers. As always, if you have any titles or anything to suggest, let me know, because I’m basically just building off what I know for the posts on this blog. If you like this idea, let me know. Feel free to keep sharing any titles that may have been missed in this post.

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animation Black people Comics fantasy Librarians Libraries school libraries webcomics

Wonderful library scenes in webcomics and animation

I’ve done a number of posts on here listing beautiful, stupendous, and amazing libraries. I could list more of those, but I think it would be fruitless, so I’d rather focus on some of my favorite library scenes in animation and webcomics. Here we go!

Zoophobia and reading books

A perfect entry for this post is a scene from one of my favorite webcomics, Zoophobia, by Vivienne Medrano. [1] It ran from August 2015 to March 2016 and was put on hiatus in November 2016 for an indefinite period, pending what she called a “complete reboot” in April 2017. Anyway, there is a library scene in the webcomic in the Zoo Phoenix Academy, within an interspecies sanctuary called Safe Haven, a protected escape for creatures ostracized in the human world, as it is described in the comic. Zill lovingly looks at Kayla, who later becomes his girlfriend. Libraries are not unique to the webcomic, however. In a September 2020 animated short, “Bad Luck Jack,” libraries make a reappearance. Jack is helped by his friend, Zill, who catches books before they fall on Jack’s head, which is so nice. The value of the library is communicated even in this short scene.

Look how many books are on the shelves! This library, at Zoo Phoenix Academy, is full of books, hopefully, ones that are helpful to the academy’s students. Animated Views said that Zill tries to do what he can to cheer up Jack and protect him “from the incoming accidents,” and noted that the animation is more family-friendly than Medrano’s other animations, but still has strong musical qualities. [2]

Azarath Public Library” in Teen Titans Go!

After Beast Boy foolishly destroys Raven’s spellbook, she has to go to this library to get a replacement. People are seen picking out books for other people, the librarian is stamping books to check them out, and people are sitting at computers, doing work. Just like any public library, but better! When she complains it will take forever to find a book in the library, Beast Boy asks her if she is familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. He later goes to the kids’ section and she chases after someone who takes the spellbook. Beast Boy comes to her rescue, saying he has magic powers now but has no pants, and now has a cloak. She then goes on a long journey with him to get the wizard to make her a new book after he accidentally destroys the second copy.

Raven traveling down the escalator to the library

In the end, she gets a new spellbook, thanks to Beast Boy, and gets her powers back. Unfortunately, the book wizard who made the book is still a burrito and is eaten by the patron who destroyed the second copy of the book in the library. Ha. How he is able to create a spellbook while being a burrito is beyond me.

Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry

While most of the librarians in Western animation are scary, old White women, as I’ve noted on this blog before, with a few exceptions in series like Welcome to the Wayne (with Clara Rhone), She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (George and Lance), and Mira in one episode of Mira, Royal Detective, Lydia Lovely, is another great example of a librarian. However, even though she is a Black female librarian, it would be wrong to call her a Librarian of Color because she is voiced by Joanna Ruiz, a British voice actress, a White woman, which is deeply problematic. She is the teacher of Henry, the show’s protagonist, who goes to the library in the episode “Horrid Henry: Computer Whizz,” later posted in June 2020 in a video titled “Henry the Super Geek,” and is the librarian in this episode, as she is on “library duty”. While Henry struggles to change his grades, he tasks Ms. Lovely with getting a book for him, telling her to keep reaching further and further to get the book, causing the whole stack of books to fall down, almost crushing her! Despite all of this, she gets the book he says he needed, and he comes out of the library.

Luckily, Henry does not come out of this unscathed, but due to his score on the test (5% rather than 0%) he has to do extra homework, ha! Ms. Lovely can’t catch a break, however, because, in another episode, he literally knocks a book out of her hand, as she slides away on the slide-ladder when helping in a bookstore, where his mom works. I wish I could point to any other episodes she was a librarian in more episodes, but finding the episodes of this show to watch is tough, as the names of the “full episodes” on the official YouTube channel are different from the listing on Wikipedia and the listings on the show’s fandom site.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This is related to the fear known as zoophobia or animal phobia, which Wikipedia defines as “an irrational fear or even simply dislike of any non-human animals.” In fact, Larry Cruz of CBR wrote that “as the title suggests, animals give Cameron the heebie-jeebies” adding that the citizens of Safe Haven are “very understanding and super-accommodating,” despite the fact that it “exists at some sort of pandimensional crossroads.” The webcomic list also calls Cameron a “neurotic young human guidance counselor…thrust unwittingly into a world beyond her wildest dreams (and FEARS).” She considered turning this into a webcomic in 2010, with the fandom page for the comic saying it was originally published in 2012, with a plan for over 10 books, but only one book was published before the comic was discontinued, with Medrano hinting at a reboot and retelling the story in a July 2018 Tumblr post. One writer explained that “Medrano began publishing ZooPhobia in 2012, but put the comic on pause by 2016 to focus on her Patreon page and developing Hazbin Hotel.” Medrano called the animated short “very special” to her.

[2] Later, after actor Benjamin Diskin shipped together two characters, Ruben “Rusty” and a stag named Autumn, Medrano implied that she would expand their relationship in the next animated short.

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abandoned libraries animation Black people empty libraries Fiction genres Librarians Libraries

Librarians, abandoned libraries, and a hunger for knowledge

In Little Witch Academia, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Glitch Techs, libraries are either shown as abandoned, in bad shape or literally become battlefields. This is not unique to those animations, however. For instance, in an all-ages animation She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a screenshot of which is shown at the beginning of this post, and the Australian animated series, Prisoner Zero the value of libraries is conveyed, even as the libraries themselves are abandoned or damaged in one way or another.

In the 10th episode of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power‘s final season, “Return to the Fright Zone,” Bow is worried about his dads, George and Lance, in the well-hidden library, since he hasn’t heard from them. When Bow reminds Glimmer of the mission to stop Horde Prime, she tells him that finding his dads is just as important. They later teleport near the library and Bow says that something “doesn’t feel right.” They find the library abandoned and artifacts damaged. Glimmer checks the other rooms and can’t find them. Bow feels that he is lost and wishes he had just stayed at home, never doing his own thing, until he snaps out of it, with the help of Glimmer. He finds a message saying that his dads are at the ruins of the Crystal Castle.

They find George and Lance in the ruins of Crystal Castle, as it was the “last safe place to go,” in Bow’s words. Both of them show Glimmer and Bow a recording from a rebel squadron known as Greyskull that there is a fail-safe for the superweapon at the heart of Etheria. There are many questions remaining from this: did the Horde bots cause this destruction in their library? Or, alternatively, did they purposely make their library a mess before fleeing? The latter seems the case, but it does raise the question of why the Horde wouldn’t even care about the library at all, since the information within it could have helped them better conquer Etheria. But, I digress. The self-declared historians, but actually family librarians, George and Lance, give them the information they need to defeat the Horde. This shows they don’t need the library to give information helpful to the protagonists, although having the library would help, of course. I hope that the library was repaired following the defeat of the Horde in the final episode and its knowledge spread across the planet.

Prisoner Zero is very different, in many ways. In the episodes “Ragnabook: Part One” and “Ragnabook: Part Two,” a monster from the past escapes from the Forbidden Section of the library on the Rogue. It attempts to, like the Brain Spawn from Futurama, take in all the knowledge from the universe, although this monster doesn’t have something like the Infosphere. It is more malevolent, in that it wants to change the course of history itself and turn it back to something darker, and depressing. It almost succeeds, only to be stopped by the Librarian (shown below), along with Zero, Tag, and Jem.

In this case, a monster is literally destroying the library and sucking in all its knowledge so it can control the course of the universe going forward. Sadly, when it is destroyed, all the knowledge it has accumulated is lost with it. Even worse, the library itself is destroyed and is NEVER seen in any future episodes. Not only is this a major oversight by the creators of the series, as it creates a bit of a plot hole, it also makes me very sad. However, this is not unique, however, as libraries, through the course of history have been “deliberately or accidentally destroyed or badly damaged,” as noted on the “List of destroyed libraries” Wikipedia page, including the Library of Alexandria, famously, or the Library of Congress when the British set Washington, D.C. ablaze in 1814. In fact, in R.O.D the TV series, an anime I’ve reviewed on this blog before, one of the characters accidentally caused a whole library to go up in flames, traumatizing another character and scarring her for life!

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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Another 10 amazing libraries

Continuing on my series of libraries in animated series, which I’ve written about on this blog in November of last year and in February, I’d like to focus on amazing libraries in a number of animated series that I’ve watched recently. So here it goes!

#1: Royal library in Mira, Royal Detective

In the episode “Mystery Below the Palace,” Mira goes into the library in the royal palace in the city of Jalpur, in an effort to discover a mysterious stomping sound. She catches books (and re-shelves them) that fall off the shelf as the room shakes from the sound, working to solve more of the mystery. The library also has spiral stairs which lead to a second level, but Mira never goes up to that second level in the episode, unfortunately. Since this is set in 19th century India, as noted on the Wikipedia page, there are only books and paper materials in this library. [1] The look of this library is beautiful and amazing for what it is! By 1882 four libraries in India had over a thousand marks [dead link]: SPG College, Triruchinapalli; Presidency College, Madras; Government College, Lahore; and Government College, Jabalpur, then by 1894, the Library of the Forman Christian College in Lahore had a collection of 13,000 books, with a librarian to administer the library. So, this puts this scene into context. Furthermore, as noted on the Wikipedia page on library classification, until the 19th century, most libraries had closed stacks, meaning that library classification was only used to organize a subject catalog, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that library stacks were opened to the public. The library again appears in the episode “Mystery of the Secret Room,” where Prince Neel falls into a secret room off the library. In that episode, we see that the library has a globe, tables to study, and other paper materials. They (Mira, Neel, and her friend Friya) fall into a secret room off the library, and after solving the mystery left by the previous detective (Gupta), they enter another hidden room of the library itself. Mira has them go through all the books in the library and just as it seems that hope is lost, Mira sees one last book which has a note from the detective in it! From there they enter yet another room and it turns out to be the training room of former Detective Gupta. Mira keeps reminding her friends that the royal detective has a saying to keep looking closer at something. She later finds a book the detective left for her, which lists all the unsolved mysteries in the city, and asks her to solve them.

#2: Library on wheels in Mira, Royal Detective

In the episode “The Case of the Missing Library Book,” Mira is shown as moving a library of books across Jalpur. She tells her two mongoose friends, Mikku and Chikku that everyone is amazed by the new mobile library. She works with her father to set it up and says she is excited that the city now has its own mobile library. When her friend, Prince Neel, asks her if there is any room in the library for additional books, she comments “there’s always room for more books,” and later says that the library is for the whole town. Therein begins a song about the importance of reading and libraries, noting that a library is like a “big buffet where you can try something different every day,” including mystery and fantasy books, with so many books and so many stories, with new worlds to enjoy, as people get lost in their imaginations in the process. We then see Mira’s father, Sahil, noting three steps: find the slip in the book, stamping the slip, and then giving the book to the patron. After that, the next step is returning the book after you are finished with it.

#3: Secret library on the Rogue in Prisoner Zero

In the show’s 6th episode, aptly named “The Librarian,” a wizard who calls himself “the librarian,” shows Zero, Jem, and Tag his personal library, with books upon books, some of which are flying, and trees which are throughout it. There also historical artifacts scattered throughout the library. It is not known how much this librarian uses the library, or if it is mostly for show, but it is still cool on many levels, with stacks upon stacks of books, likely in the thousands. There is also a tree nearby that contains many stacks of books, which are sadly disorganized, at least from the look of it. At the end of the episode, Tag calls this place “amazing” and I can’t agree more! While I thought it only appears in this episode, it makes a reappearance in the episodes “Schism,” “Ragnabook: Part One” and “Ragnabook: Part Two.” We later find out that the library was constructed by the librarian from his memory as a wizard and that he left it open to everyone in the universe. Cool!

#4: Bonesborough library in the Boiling Isles in The Owl House

In the episode, “Lost in Language,” Luz delivers a stack of books to the library which Eda had checked out but forgot to return. Before entering the library, we see the grand library, which looks a little like a cathedral, which, not surprisingly, amazes Luz. Inside it is organized like any other library, with the male librarian recommending she read a book about the wailing shower that night. The library itself has something called the Demon Decimal System, spoofing the Dewey Decimal System, with a sign saying to not feed it, reading areas, books floating above the ceiling you can choose from. Luz later finds Amity in the children’s section library (“Kids Corner”), and there are spoof posters like “Get Learned at the Stake,” which is kinda funny. In that section are areas labeled for manga and cyclops. Apart from the reference section, there are stacks of books and it is easy to browse the stacks for materials. Emera and Edric mess with parts of the library, like a chalk sign for non-fiction, causing a librarian to totally freak out about everything being fiction while messing with librarians who are putting away materials, causing cards from the card catalog to fly out, and such. She later breaks into the library that night, causing mayhem with the two siblings of Amity (Emera and Edric), where sections for romance, adventure, graphic novels, and more, are shown. The main action of the story happens in the library, with Amity and Luz working together to defeat a monster…and they succeed, ultimately.

#5: Riverdale public library in Archie’s Weird Mysteries

In the episode “The Haunting of Riverdale,” Archie travels to this library, which has two levels and various places to sit. People are quietly sitting in the library and Archie talks to the librarian, Ms. Herrera (who is uncredited in the episode), asking if his usual research table is available, and she indicates yes, so he uses that as a way of reading more in hopes of solving the mystery of who is haunting the town. The library is a major part of this episode, and it is amazing in its own right, so, it, without a doubt, deserves to be on this list.

#6: The Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne

Also known as the “secret library,” it first appears in the show’s first episode, hidden behind a mirror, found by Ansi by accident. He is introduced to the head librarian, Clara Rhone, who is re-shelving books. When he says he didn’t know the Wayne had a library, Rhone explains that the library is not easy to find. Ansi says his family moves around a lot but he likes it there because “libraries always feel like home.” He leaves the library, with Rhone wanting him to stay, but is ok with him leaving, as she knows that he will be back in the future.

#7: Library of Prayers in A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepard

People walking in the magic library in the episode.

In the show’s sixth episode, Kyotaro Kakei is brought to this magic library he always yearned for. It is a magic library with past and future memories of everyone in existence! It reminds me a bit of the library in Yamibou where every world in the universe is within a book of the library itself. A library assistant, Nagi Kodachi, is a shepherd trainee, who is bound to help him on his journey.

#8: Library in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Inside of the library shown in the episode “Sharing at the Library”

Appearing in the episodes “Sharing at the Library”, “Class Trip to the Library”, and “Wow at the Library”, this library is occasionally a location in this series, which is loosely based on the show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While the characters are unable to go into the library in the episode “Class Trip to the Library,” they do enter it in the episodes “Sharing at the Library” and “Wow at the Library.” The library is very interesting, even from the outside alone, with its tree with books on it. One of the more interesting libraries I have seen in animation. While you might think the library only has books, at first, when looking at some of the scenes, it also has puppets, leading to a puppet show in the episodes “Sharing at the Library” and “Wow at the Library.”

#9: The “lost” Library of Alexandria in Winx Club

In the episode “The Lost Library,” after searching across the desert, in Egypt, the Winx Club and the Pixies comes across the Library of Alexandria, which had various books, items, and other treasures within. Some of the characters say it is “brimming with centuries of history.” The book they were looking for, which will help them lock away another book, used to reside inside the library itself. This search is complicated by the fact that the villains (like Selina and the Trix) summon mummies to attack them. They transform into their Winx magical girl forms and fight the mummies into the next episode, “Attack of the Sphinx,” with the Winx and Pixies working together to defeat them. In that episode, they fight the Sphinx, which is attacking the city of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Selina is teleported deep within the library to get the diary, but Bloom, one of the Winx, finds the diary first. One of the pixies, Chatta, answers the riddle of the sphinx and it is defeated!

#10: The Library of Solaria in Winx Club

The Winx enter the royal library

In the episode “Queen for a Day“, the Winx visit the biggest library in the entire magic dimension, to look for a spell to undo the invisibility spell covering the Cloud Tower from view. They get the key to get into the library because Stella (one of the Winx) is a queen for the day. They enter the library, with some of the Winx calling it “beautiful” and the Pixies getting books for them, literally riding the books like surfboards through the air, giggling along the way, down to the Winx so they can read them, with one of them calling it “service.” By reading the books, they find the invisibility spell can’t be nullified by fairy magic, but can only be enhanced with “master technology.” After that, they send the books back to their shelves, disappointing the Pixies, who have been enjoying riding the books around the library.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This is the first time libraries appear in this series. Interestingly, S. R. Ranganathan, a librarian, and mathematician from India proposed five laws of library science in 1931:

  1. Books Are For Use
  2. Every Reader His/Her Book
  3. Every Book Its Reader
  4. Save The Time Of The Reader
  5. The Library Is A Growing Organism

Ranganathan also created colon classification in 1933.

Categories
action adventure animation anime Black people fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries public libraries school libraries

“Peaceful” reading and quiet “sanctum” of the Seiran Academy library

Why indeed, Kaoru-sama… and yes, this one of favorite lines in this episode, of course

Recently, I was watching the seventh episode, titled “The Darkness in the Clock Tower,” of one of my favorite anime, Dear Brother (known as Oniisama e… in Japan) about an ordinary girl named Nanako Misonoo who attends a prestigious girls school named Seiran Academy and faces hostility over her admission to the school’s sorority. And about half way through that episode was, lo and behold, the school library! Nanako searches through the stacks of the school library for something on Saint-Juste. She is helped by a fellow tomboyish student, Kaoru Orihara (hereafter called Kaoru-sama), who happens to know where the books she is looking for are. This surprises Nanako, with Kaoru-sama seeming to say the books will be in high demand in a few months from first-years, and after Nanako tries to clarify something, Kaoru-sama says, “reading for any reason is better than not reading at all.” Nanako apologizes, Kaoru-sama hands her the four books she needs, then a group of noisy female students walk through the library, not really seeming to care about the people around them. Of course, Kaoru-sama is annoyed, asking who they think they are, declaring it is a library and they should talk outside. Right after that, Nanako borrows books from the male librarian. Later, Kaoru-sama declares “one can’t even read peacefully in the library these days!” They talk about the books, butterflies fly around them, while Kaoru-sama explains about Rei Asaka‘s past, with Nanako sitting beside her with the books she got at the library in her lap, patiently listening to the story. After the story is over, they part ways, a group of high-class girls assault Nanako, and her friend Tomoko Arikura comes to her rescue!

This episode connects to a lot of what I have been talking about in this blog before. The quiet library that Kaoru-sama wants, is a sanctum, or what Merriam-Webster describes as “a place where one is free from intrusion.” [1] More directly, this conception of a quiet library is often brought to an extreme in animation, especially Western animation. I made this clear in the post I published in late April about shushing librarians. Some of the worst examples are the curmudgeon librarian in DC Super Hero Girls, the librarian in Big City Greens who assaults a patron making noise, Miss Dickens in Carl Squared who interrogates the protagonist for having late books, the sadistic librarian in Courage the Cowardly Dog who demands an absurdly huge fine for ONE late book, Miss Hatchet in Kim Possible who rules the school library like a tyrant (and has her own form of library organization), the librarian in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil literally tries to kill the protagonist for trying to get back his book which was wrongly delivered to the library. [2] This episode reminds me of the episode of The Replacements, “Quiet Riot,” which features a librarian named Mrs. Shusher, and seems to support (or endorse) quiet areas of the library, with one of the protagonists, Todd, admitting that they need “places for work, as much as we need places for play.” It also makes me think of the people (likely patrons) who shushed the protagonists in an episode of City of Ghosts for making too much noise. Relevant here is a passage of that article where I talked about quiet spaces/places within libraries:

Some have argued that that is a “lot to be said for shushing” because some patrons like quiet places, noted that there is still a need for “quiet” in our communities which should not be lost, or asserted that librarians themselves are perpetuating the stereotype in their actions. The latter is the only one that seems to have some validity, even as some people do like quiet spaces, including this writer…Jennifer Snoek-Brown, she added that while she values the need for quiet zones in libraries, but that she will be in her community college library, “doing my job and helping my users — not with a bang or a whisper, but with a smile.”

That’s how I feel about it too. Although Kaoru-sama was harsh, the students seemed to only care about themselves, walking through a study area where students wanted it to be quiet! And libraries being quiet places away from the noisiness of the rest of society is important, for sure.

This episode contrasts the first episode of We Bare Bears, titled “Our Stuff,” where the three bears (Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear) travel to the local library to find their belongings which were stolen when they weren’t looking. They go there to use the “phone finder” so Panda can use the phone finder, and Grizzly is immediately shushed by the librarian when entering, even as this makes sense as he is being pretty loud. Grizzly apologizes and Ice Bear takes off his shirt, which hilariously goes off in the scanner, as it is probably stolen. Going on the computer, fast-paced Mission Impossible-like music plays as Panda uses the Phone Finder. He then tries to print out the map and the printer jams, adding a dose to reality of how these things usually work. Grizzly has to fix the paper jam, and the map prints out fine. They leave the library and use the map to find where their stuff is.

Unnamed Black librarian shushes bears as they enter library, while patrons at the local library, are annoyed; in second image, librarian stares in quiet rage, while patrons are surprised to see him take off his shirt in front of them

Back to this episode, it brings me back to “the venerable concept of the library as a quiet place,” as Kerry Vash, Reference Librarian at St. Thomas University Library, calls it. He writes that failure to comply with lowering voices to a whisper in the library has often been associated with a shushing librarian who is often female, with glasses, and a spinster, saying this image has done a disservice to libraries themselves. He explains that real-life shushing librarians were probably trying to uphold a standard vital the library, specifically to “provide a quiet environment in which people could contemplate the knowledge of the world through the library’s array of resources.” He goes onto point out that fostering quiet spaces is critical and patrons have voiced this need in various surveys over the years, even as important as Internet access! He adds that at his library all are welcome into quiet spaces, but that a library should also be a social space as well, concluding that debating that whether a library is a” social space or quiet space is a futile effort,” because a library can be both. Libraries can also seek feedback from patrons to provide them with “a comprehensive library experience that offers the varied types of spaces and services they both need and desire.” Others point out that people expect silence in libraries based on the acoustic properties of the space, expectation of quiet, and getting away from noise, so they can get some work done. There is even a WikiHow post by Kim Gillingham, a retired library and information specialist, outlining ten steps for “How to Get People In a Library to Be Quiet,” which is actually more detailed than I would have thought it would be. [3] Roz Warren, librarian and humorist, had a hilarious/part-true post about quietness about libraries, which is very apt here too.

One writer, Katie LaFever, a middle school librarian in North Tonawanda, New York, put it well: “some libraries have back rooms, quiet corners, and separate computer lab areas, but many do not…[in my library] what happens in one area of the library, happens throughout the entire space….it is impossible to have quiet study areas and active learning happening at the same time [in my library].” Pew Research notes that Americans want quiet study spaces, but also “programs and classes for children and teens,” which is something that is not quiet, while, as Ciara McCaffrey and Michelle Breen argued, “the importance of quiet space to users should not be underestimated.” What Kaoru-sama wanted to do by telling the noisy female students to quiet down is understandable. After all, as Julia Seales notes in Bustle, one of the best things about libraries “is that they’re peaceful and quiet” as long as you aren’t being the one shushed by a librarian, and others note the importance of libraries having a “quiet space for contemplation,” especially places where people can study, while having amenities to provide patrons with various other services, which means they will talk. [4] However, Kaoru-sama’s sentiment that you can’t read peacefully in the library anymore is just not true, as a majority of patrons support quiet spaces/quiet in libraries.

If Kaoru-sama gets on your case, you are clearly not going something right. Some librarians definitely feel like this sometimes.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] The other definition is a “sacred place” and whether libraries are sacred is a whole different discussion, discussed by books like Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship, a Big Think article titled “The Sacred Space of Libraries in Our Lives,” Metro UK’s “Libraries are more than just books – they are sacred spaces that need protection,” David S. Porcaro‘s “Sacred Libraries in the Temples of the Near East,” and elsewhere, to mention a few resources.

[2] Other terrible examples are: Libro Shushman in Teamo Supremo who tries to steal all the words and put them into her doom dictionary, the extreme shushing librarian named Rita Loud in Timon & Pumbaa, the Bat Librarian in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ms. L in Dexter’s Laboratory who has goons to catch the protagonist whose sounds exceeded the “noise level” in the library. Although the stickler librarian in Rugrats, the shushing male librarian in The Owl House, the shushing librarian in Steven Universe, Turtle Princess in Adventure Time could be said to be harsh, none of them are terrible. Oh and there is Count Spunkulout in Codename: Kids Next Door who spanks the protagonists for not paying library fines. Yikes! The only one on that page which goes against existing stereotypes of the shushing librarian is the Librarian ghost in Archie’s Weird Mysteries named Violet Stanhope. At the same time, the librarians in Martin Mystery episodes are just annoyed, rightly so, with the protagonist, who is a jerk. You could say that Kaeloo in Kaeloo is a problematic librarian as she, in one episode, throws out the “not nice” and “dirty” books, even burning them all in a fire. Oh no! That’s almost like Censorsdoll in Moral Orel which I wrote about last week.

[3] Her ten steps are organized into three categories: “Asking Loud Library Patrons to Tone it Down” (has four sub-steps), “Getting Outside Help” (has three sub-steps), and “Avoiding a Scene in the Library” (has three sub-steps). In response to one of the questions in the Q&A (“As a librarian, how can I successfully and tactfully get people to lower their noise?”) the community response is “Calmly ask the people to please lower their voices or talk outside. If the do not, call the security guard.” Another question is “Would it be a good idea to find security to escort the noisy person out?” is answered as: “if you want to risk being laughed at or sworn at, by all means escort the noisy person out. Unless you’re staff, you have no “rights” to force people to leave. Ask the librarian for assistance if you’re so disturbed or just find somewhere else to sit where it’s quieter.” Although most people rated this as “not helpful,” I think it is the CORRECT response. Other tips suggest you become familiar with people who frequent the library so you can known which parts of the loudest, suggest you come at off-peak hour or a few hours before somewhere closes, and to stay after official closing time (even though this is bound to annoy librarians), and suggest you tell the library/bookstore if an employee is “rude to you in regards to creating a more enjoyable environment.”

[4] State Librarian of NSW, Alex Byrne noted this duality in 2012: “We have quiet places in the library for people who want to concentrate but we don’t insist on quiet libraries. That is because we realise it is a social activity.” Additionally, an article in the New York Times quoted librarians pointed out who said that “as neighborhood needs change, so has the mission of the library,” adding that no matter what “the library must keep its doors open.”