Categories
action adventure animated animation anime comic books Comics drama fantasy Fiction genres French people Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries religious libraries romance special libraries speculative fiction underfunded libraries Video games White people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

[5] Macias, “Looking the Part,” 118.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
action adventure animation anime fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction webcomics White people

Fictional trans librarians and the reality of trans library users

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
academic libraries action adventure animation anime Comics fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries slice-of-life speculative fiction webcomics White people

From Lilith to Amity: LGBTQ librarians Shine Through

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

Lilith in Yamibou

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

Anne and Grea in Manaria Friends

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

Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood

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

Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers

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

Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!

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

Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words

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

Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta

Fumio and Erena

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

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

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

Desiree in Too Loud

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

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

Amity Blight in The Owl House

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

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

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

Sabine working at the library desk in episode 115.

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

Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For

Mo and Sydney

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

Concluding words

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

Categories
action adventure animation anime comedy Comics fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Movies music Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries special libraries speculative fiction supernatural webcomics White people

Recently added titles (August 2022)

Blitzo and Stolas in the newest episode of Helluva Boss

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

Animated series recently added to this page

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

Anime series recently added to this page

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

Comics recently added to this page

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

Films recently added to this page

None this month.

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Categories
action adventure animation fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums special libraries speculative fiction White people

Miss Hatchet, Kim Possible, the complexity of library classification, and technocratic libraries

Recently, I began watching Kim Possible for the first time, apart from one episode: “Overdue.” I watched it before I began the series. When I first conceived this post, I thought that I would somehow change my opinion of Miss Hatchet. Long-time readers may recall I previously described her as a person who “rules the school library like a tyrant…[with] her own form of library organization.” After watching the episode, I feel no differently about her as I did before. However, I would argue that her character and the plotline says a lot more about libraries than I had previously guessed, meaning that Hatchet is more than a smorgasbord of librarian stereotypes, especially when it comes to library classifications of materials within libraries themselves.

There is no doubt that this librarian is “wound pretty tight” as Ron, a friend of Kim Possible, and series protagonist with her, remarks later in the episode. She has strict rules, like having a zero tardiness policy when it comes to overdue books. She has an enormous amount of power in the school as she is able to suspend Kim from cheerleading because she has an overdue book! Yikes. All the students seem to fear her and she acts like a villain throughout the episode, first by making Kim shelve stacks upon stacks of books based on her own, and more complicated, library classification system, known as the Hatchet Decimal System (HDS). Second, she takes away Kim’s communicator (equivalent to her cell phone) and makes her put adhesive labels on every book saying “property of MHS library.” In the end, Ron appears to come to the rescue, returning the book, but it turns out that this is the incorrect one, as it releases evil spirits which terrify her and cause destruction to the library. Her fate after that is unknown. Presumably, Kim and Ron save her life, although that isn’t shown on screen.

Even though she is one of the only Middleton High School staff employees shown in the show, Hatchet nothing much more than a basket of stereotypes harmful to librarians while acting like a supervillain of sorts, giving Kim busy work while in “library lockup,” as she calls it. Nothing about her is redeemable. However, I would venture that the episode is pointing to something more: the complexity of library classification. This has been an argument that has been rightly pointed out about the Dewey Decimal Classification system (DDC) have made in the past. This is despite the fact that this library classification system organizes to materials by subject. It can be hard for those who don’t know the intricacies of DDC, like ordinary library patrons, to understand how books are organized. [1]

In 2007, the Library of Congress warned of limiting the use of the number components field so that doesn’t become “confusing and complicated.” Some years earlier, scholars Luc Beaudoin, Marc-Antoine Parent, and Louis C. Vroomen described DDC as a huge and complex information hierarchy. [2] Additional classification systems have also been noted as complex. For instance, some said that the Library of Congress Classification System (LCC) [3] is more efficient and specific for new technical material and big collections but “more complex.” Others described the effort by Belgians Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, who used the DDC as a basis, to create the “complex multidimensional indexing system” known as the Universal Bibliographic Repertory (UBR). [4]

The Hatchet Decimal System on a book binding on the left and the DDC on a book bindings on the right. The latter is from this image on Wikimedia.

To come back to the episode, I would say that the focus on a classification system that Hatchet made by herself is meant to point to the complexity of library classification systems in general and how they can be confusing for ordinary people, in this case Kim. Her system is clearly more complex than the DDC and perhaps that is part of the point of this episode, which was written by Jim Peterson, directed by Steve Loter (who directs many of the episodes in the series), and storyboarded by Eugene Salandra, Jennifer Graves & Robert Pratt. It is incredible that Hatchet has enough authority that she can create her own system for organizing books in the library, which has become “her natural habitat” as it states on her short Kim Possible fandom page. Many librarians would not have that ability as their actions would be hemmed in by school administrators, school boards, national and state library associations, which have their own codes of ethics.

As Anne Gooding-Call has pointed out, “librarians of color don’t necessarily have the same support that white librarians enjoy,” with the MLIS and middling wages as a barrier to many. This is undoubtedly the case for Hatchet, who the school probably would have treated differently had she been Black, Latine, or Asian, for instance, as most of the librarian field is composed of White female librarians. She would not have the social support of other White people, even if the students feared her. In one way, the library that Hatchet occupies appears to be a white space, meaning somewhere that Black people may be reluctant to ask questions or use resources. On another, since students generally fear her, no one, of any race, may be asking her questions or for any help. Instead, they are presumably trying to spend the least amount of time in the library as possible, as they are afraid of her. I would even argue that if she wasn’t White, she couldn’t be as mean and menacing to the students, at least I would hope that would be the case.

Beyond this, there is no doubt in my mind that Hatchet obviously blatantly violates tenets 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9, at minimum, of the ALA’s Code of Ethics. This is not unique to her, as others are even worse offenders. [5] For instance, Francis Clara Censorsdoll in Moral Orel dipped “objectionable” books in kerosene and set them on fire. Cletus Bookworm in Rocky & Bullwinkle had no problem with an armed man taking two patrons of the library hostage. In fact, he encouraged their capture and applauded it. That’s just two of the most egregious examples I can think of, although there are many others. Gooding-Call says that librarians are mostly “sincere people who mean well…eager to grow and improve” who can become “vehicles of empowerment.” Hatchet does not seem to be this at all. Instead, she seems overly strict and harsh, not wanting to improve. She is the female equivalent of Steven Barkin, a former U.S. Army Ranger, who has a gruff, no-nonsense, attitude, and is abrasive with students in the series. Unlike Barkin, it is unlikely she has PTSD from wartime experiences.

There is the additional issue that the DDC system and other cataloging approaches were “designed in a racist and white-centered system,” [6] building upon my post in May about fictional acceptance of the DDC. Hatchet probably didn’t care much about this. Instead, what matters to her was lording this power over other people in a menacing way, or at least it appears that way. She says as much, as she declares to Kim that “There will come a day when you forget to return a book and I’ll be waiting for you.” It gives you the chills. Was she so self-centered that she created her own classification system? Did she care that DDC is, as Emily Ruth Brown points out, built around adult disciplines, is proprietary, and is negatively affected by changes in technology? We can’t know for sure, as she is a one-time character who never re-appears in the series. This isn’t surprising, given that Western animation has a habit of easily playing into librarian stereotypes, although this may be changing, with libraries shown much more positively in anime.

As I expected, not one person has written a fan fiction about Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible on Archive of Our Own, even though it could make an interesting story to see things from her perspective. Clearly her actions toward Kim, and presumed other students, are irredeemable. Even so, she may be under a lot of stress as the only librarian of the entire Middleton High School library, at least the only one we see as the audience. If she had been trying to get Kim to do extra work, like shelving books, then this was definitely not the way to go about it. There are the other library scenes in the series, but she never re-appears. She is never given a chance to redeem herself or for the audience to see who she is as a person. She is just a bunch of stereotypes all shoved into one person. I admit that I may be reading too much into this 11-minute episode. At the same time, this episode may be more than what it appears to be on the surface and interconnects with issues surrounding library classification systems and even broader issues within the library field itself.

Ms. Hatchet pushes a book cart piled high with books
Ms. Hatchet pushes a book cart piled high with books

When I first composed and finished this post in later February 2022, my last paragraph was the end of the article. However, I see Hatchet’s classification in a new light after reading a chapter by Rafia Marza and Maura Seale about White masculinity and “the technocratic library of the future” in Topographies of Whiteness. Although she is no technocrat, and neither are any of those on List of fictional librarians I have put together for this blog as most are either “old-school”, “traditional”, or “magical” for the most part, her complex HDS is akin to technocratic ideas. Marza and Seale note that as information technology has become a bigger part of librarianship in the 1990s and 2000s, the White female librarian has been replaced by ideas from Silicon Valley, with “technological solutions” which will supposedly free us. They further said that such a focus on technology as a “solution to complex social problems” is central to technocratic ideas, which is characterized by its “impartial, apolitical rationality,” with those who are technocrats interests in politics rather than efficiency, thinking that technological fixes can be universal. However, this ideology is bound up in White supremacy because White men have historically claimed rationality and White masculinity has been able to function as the “universal form,” while it can only claim to be neutral and objective due to Whiteness. At the same time it upholds patriarchy as well. [7] This interlinks with the historic investment of libraries in Whiteness and faulty notions such as rationality, objectivity, neutrality, and neoliberal tendencies. The latter is promoted by two ALA initiatives: Libraries Transform and the Center of the Future of Libraries (launched in 2015).

Such initiatives, Marza and Seale argue, engage internet-centrism, an idea described by Morozov as the idea that everything is changed and there needs to be fixes, while technology is permanent, fixed, has an inherent nature, and possess agency as it exists “outside of history.” They are interconnected to technological solutionism, the idea that  all complex social problems can be neatly defined and have definite solutions or processes that “can be easily optimized,” even though this can undermine support for more demanding or stimulating reform projects. [8] This comes with the assumption that it is neutral and objective, even though it is anything but that. This is reinforced by a focus on digital and quantitative skills, with an individual and “entrepreneurial” worker as the default, who are often male and White, especially when it comes to those in Silicon Valley, who are used as a basis for these “necessary” skill sets. At the same time, care and emotion work, service work, manual labor, and so on are seen as “feminized labor” At the same time, libraries are seen as akin those businesses in the so-called sharing economy, with racial prejudice as ingrained in such an economy, and labor of people of color and White women not visible due to the emphasis on technology and de-emphasis on the labor behind the technology itself, with its deadly environmental and labor consequences. [9]

While labor of those causing the technological solutions to be workable is erased, so is any quiet or reflective work, like that portrayed in Kokoro Library, while fewer workers are told to take on more work, leading to burnout. Additionally, libraries are viewed as platforms, like the sites created by Silicon Valley, which ends up prioritizing monetization and obscures any libraries seen as “non-technological,” pay is low, and librarianship itself is devalued while technocratic ideology is risen, and the value of library degrees has declined while information technology is seen as even more paramount. This is only strengthened with a focus on “short-term results,” market demands, just-in-time services, efficiency, and “return on investment,” even as emotional labor of women and physical labor of people of color is needed to make sure libraries, and society as a whole, function. In the end, such technocratic ideas are embedded in systems of privilege, while technology itself is subject to the same inequities as the rest of the world, with a necessary situated and historic understanding of technology and librarianship, and ways that both of those concepts “intersect with dominant conceptions of white masculinity.” [10]

Hatchet clearly does not embody any of this technocratic ideology, nor has any librarian I’ve ever seen in any popular culture I’ve come across to date. However, her ideas would fit right in with today’s technocratic push in librarianship, with their own inherent complexity. In fact, if the episode was to be done again today, it would not be a stretch to see Hatchet using robots to shelve the books in their own complex way, or even sitting at her desk while she ordered a robot to snatch Kim and bring her to the library in punishment for an overdue book. That may be a bit extreme, but the point is that her ideas fit within those who espouse technocratic ideas about libraries at the present. Ultimately, I enjoyed reexamining this episode and I look forward to your comments, criticisms, and anything else you’d like to leave in response to this post. Until next time!

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Erin Sterling, “The Case of the Clunky Classification: The Elusive Graphic Novel,” May 2010, accessed February 25, 2022; Dewey Decimal System,” ScienceDirect, accessed February 25, 2022; “Information Literacy Tutorial: Finding Books,” University of Illinois Library, University of Illinois, LibGuides, Aug. 7, 2018, accessed February 25, 2022; Melinda Buterbaugh, “Lesson Three: Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and Call Numbers,” Teach Me How To Dewey,” Hillsborough County, Florida, Dec. 13, 2017, Why I Would Use Dewey,” Technical Processes for Education Media, Oct. 29, 2011,

[2] Luc Beaudoin, Marc-Antoine Parent, and Louis C. Vroomen (1996), “Cheops: A Complex Explorer for Complex Hierarchies,” IEEE, p. 87; “MARC DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 2007-DP06,” Library of Congress, Jun. 6, 2007, .

[3] Not the same as the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) which has “been actively maintained since 1898 to catalog materials held at the Library of Congress” and said to be the “most widely adopted subject indexing language in the world.” LCSH describes contents systemically, while LCC is a library classification system. Its also different from the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), a serially based system of numbering cataloged record.

[4] Robert McCoppin, “Who’s killing the Dewey decimal system?,” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 18, 2011, accessed February 25, 2022; Melvil Dewey and the classification of knowledge,” Science Lens, Dec. 10, 2012, accessed February 25, 2022; ; “How the index card launched the information age,” Multimediaman, Sept. 10, 2016, accessed February 25, 2022.

[5] Discounting the shushers, the most extreme include the librarian in multiple episodes of Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Rita Loud in a Timon & Pumbaa episode (“Library Brouhaha“), Mr. Snellson in a Mysticons episode (“Happily Never After”), Librarian in a Big City Greens episode (“Quiet Please”), Librarian in a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode (“Wrath of the Librarian”), and Bat Librarian in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode (“Mystic Library”).

[6] “Conducting research through an anti-racism lens,” University of Minnesota Libraries, University of Minnesota, Feb. 15, 2022, accessed February 25, 2022. Others have claimed that DDC can be reformed with librarians who have “deeply held values of equity, diversity, and inclusion” while others have pointed to racism within the DDC, by Dewey himself, noted Dewey was a sexual harasser and a clearly a bigot without any question. Even conservatives have pointed out that Dewey is ingrained in librarianship and there is no escaping him.

[7] Rafia Mirza and Maura Seale, “Who Killed the World?: White Masculinity and the Technocratic Library of the Future” within Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), pp. 175-177. They also say on page 175 that in the early 20th century, librarians participated in “civilizing” and assimilating the “tired, huddled masses into American democracy” as long as those people could become White.

[8] Mirza and Seale, “Who Killed the World?”, pp. 177-181. Libraries Transform describes itself as “spreading the word about the impact libraries and librarians make every day…[and] advocat[ing] for the value of librarianship” but the about page almost reads like a corporate webpage, and not surprising as Overdrive is the lead sponsor, with other big sponsors including Capital One, Dollar General, Biblioboard, and SAGE Publishing. The same can be said about the webpage of the Center of the Future of Libraries.

[9] Ibid, 181-5.

[10] Ibid, 186-192.

Categories
action adventure animation fantasy Librarians Libraries magic libraries mystery Pop culture mediums speculative fiction White people

Kaisa’s defense: Are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them?

Kaisa gets annoyed with the committee of Three Witches

Happy Book Lovers’ Day! On December 16, 2020, I submitted a post to I Love Libraries about Kaisa, the recurring librarian in the animated series, Hilda, titled “Witches, patrons, and the value of libraries in Netflix’s Hilda,” and included a section, where Kaisa argues that the “person who borrowed the book is liable for its return,” with the obligation passed from the librarian to the patron, while the witches say SHE is the one responsible. While this was included in the final article, which was published on January 8, 2021, and re-titled “The Mysterious Librarian in Netflix’s “Hilda” Finally Gets a Name,” it was worded differently, [1] and I didn’t explore it in-depth. So I’ll re-examine that part of the episode and note its implications more broadly in terms of relations between librarians and patrons, and the ever-present problem of missing books from libraries.

In the episode “Chapter 3: The Witch,” Kaisa comes before three witches who govern the tower and they tell her that she must return a book missing from the library for almost 30 years! She challenges this, saying that the person who borrowed the book is liable for its return, passing off the obligation from the librarian to the patron. The witches remind her of her responsibilities and say that if she does not find the book, she will be cast into the void! While librarians obviously are not cast into the void for misplaced books, the episode is right to highlight the problem of missing books and how librarians solve this problem. Later, Kaisa reveals why she had not tried to return the book until now: she was embarrassed that she could not use the right spell to find the book. They later return with the book and Tildy pleads with the witches to not punish them, the void of no return is unintentionally opened, trapping Kaisa, Hilda, and Frida.

The question at the title of this post still itches my brain: Are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them? Some on /r/Libraries and /r/librarians have shared that they give students who fail to return a book a warning, the terrible condition of returned books(which is kinda funny to read), stolen/lost book, and lending to the wrong person. Others shared the return of missing items, horrible patrons, weird sense of guilt when checking out books, getting patrons to return their books, presenting photo IDs to check out books, and libraries that give anyone a library card. [2] One of the most interesting discussions was one on /r/asklibrarians where librarians responded as to how a librarian could cover up a theft:

…Books disappear all the time. Depends on if the library uses any security measures like RFID tags…Here are a few ideas: Checking the book out to another user. Marking it as lost under that other users identity. Checking the book in but just taking it. Makes it appear lost in the shelves. Simply taking the book through an employee entrance with no security gates. Or simply desensitizing the security strip and walking the book out the front door. Or you can purge the user from the system making them not exist. Assuming a modern library, the librarian could alter the records if they had the right circulation authorizations. In most cases, there is likely to be an audit trail, but no one is likely to be looking for that unless alerted to the possibility that someone did that. Someone with the right IT privileges for the circulation software, could probably alter those audit trails as well.

In some ways, Kaisa may have done this when not getting the book back from Tildy. She probably as had to deal with those who return books with “illegal drugs, water damage, urine odors, cigarette burns, coffee stains, fecal matter, roaches, or peanut butter globs,” those who have tried to argue that they don’t need to pay library fines, while dealing with account issues, checking out books, and other tasks. [3] As one librarian put it, not only can the length of a loan period ” have a big impact on staff workload and patron satisfaction with a library,” but overdue materials are an issue “because they are not available to other library users” while fines lead to the perception that overdue fines allows the library to function and buy materials. In fact, many libraries spend a lot of money and time “attempting to retrieve overdue materials and collect various fines,” meaning these fines represent “a drop in the bucket for library revenues” and saying that while overdue fines may “provide some incentive for returning materials” some studies have shown they are “not a significant deterrent to the ultimate return of items. Libraries can also collect fines on lost and damaged materials or lost library identification cards, which are meant to ” replace or repair the material…plus a processing fee,” while it was said that there “should be some flexibility with overdue policies.” It has also been said that if a book is lost, then a fine should be collected, while for a missing book, “the library does not know where the item is.” [4]

The same librarian urged library personnel to be “familiar with registration procedures and be prepared to answer questions about the library’s services and resources,” and to have specific “procedures for dealing with security and medical emergencies and all staff should be thoroughly familiar with them.” This connects with the mission of a librarian to not only handling books, but books themselves serving a vital function, and the responsibility of the library to “adjust the time allotted for the patron to have the item to ensure it reaches the originating library on time.” It was also said that librarians should take into account copyright, freedom of information, privacy, duty of care, censorship, and confidentiality which assisting a patron. [5]

Committee of Witches annoyed with Kaisa

When it comes to actual libraries, there appears to be agreement with the idea that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them. In fact, of library policies I read, there was a consensus that patrons are responsible for book replacement, returning books on time (late books hinder ability of other patrons to use book), have to pay for damaged or lost materials, and responsible for books they have checked out under their name. [6] Some librarians even said that those who abuse privileges may be banned from interlibrary loan, holds placed on their student accounts, suspension of borrowing privileges, or being reported to a collection agency. [7]

There were libraries which laid out their responsibilities even more clearly. Some said they had the “responsibility of ensuring the availability of materials for the use of the community,” but that the person who borrows materials is responsible for materials borrowed and “agrees to return them in good condition and by the date they are due.” Others absolved the library from “liability, damages, or expense” from misuse of library devices, library materials, and asserted that librarians are responsible for renewing and returning items, with fees imposed if items are not returned. However, in some cases, librarians had the discretion to stop or restrict loans of materials or the ability to waive fines, charges, or fees in cases of hardship. [8]

Kaisa stands by her view that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them, while the witches say it should be the library’s responsibility after a book is overdue for 30 years. If this was the real world, the responsibility of the patron would likely still be emphasized, but at that point, the library would have declared the book “lost” and probably charged the patron a fee for the lost book. Kaisa does not do that as she knows exactly who has the book, but she doesn’t want to take responsibility for getting the book back, not at first.

The answer to the question, are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them, is generally yes, but that does not justify patrons being treated in such a way that they are heavily penalized with fines which discourage them from borrowing from a library. It is certainly a “wonderful surprise” that Kaisa is the keeper of the books, i.e. the librarian who, with the help of Hilda and Frida, was able to convince an old lady to return a book. An impressive feat, you could say.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Worded as “the person who borrowed the book is responsible for it and the witches threaten to cast her into a void if she cannot locate the lost item.”

[2] See the “checking out books” (Nov. 2018), “Librarians: What’s the worst condition someone has returned a book?” (Apr. 2014), “Most stolen book at your library” (Jul. 2018),”I (accudentally) lent a book to someone who is NOT authorized to use the library. What to do?” (Jun. 2020), “Lots of (probably) missing items were returned!” (Nov. 2020), “Horrible Patrons: CoVid Edition” (Feb. 2021), “I’m struggling with a weird sense of guilt when checking books out now, it’s very irrational” (Sept. 2021), “Academic librarians: strategies for getting checked out books back from faculty?” (Mar. 2017), “Violating the spirit of the policy but not the letter of it…” (May 2017), “I think one of our patrons is a hoarder, and he isn’t returning our books.” (Aug. 2018), “Borrowing Policy Inquiry” (Dec. 2016), “Borrowing Out of Town” (Jun. 2016)

[3] See K.W. Colyard, “How To Piss Off Your Local Librarian,” Bustle, Jul. 16, 2015; Oleg Kagan, “Day in the Life: Reference Librarian at a Public Library,” Every Library, Nov. 29, 2017.

[4] “Basic library procedures: Circulation functions,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 18, 2008; “Basic library procedures: Library inventory,” Living in the Library World, Jan. 18, 2009.

[5] See “Circulation of nonbook materials,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 28, 2008; “Circulation’s role in security,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 28, 2008; “Basic library procedures: Processing library materials,” Living in the Library World, Jan. 7, 2009; “Library co-operation, interlibrary loan and document delivery,” Living in the Library World,  Jan. 25, 2010; “Ethics,” Living in the Library World, Nov. 22, 2010.

[6] “Library Policies,” Galveston College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Overdue Materials,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Lost/Damaged Item,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Outside Borrowers,” University Libraries of University of Georgia, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policies,” Princeton University Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow,” Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Caswell County, NC, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan Borrowing and Document Delivery Services,” University of North Texas University Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Fines and Fees,” New York Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies, Guidelines and Procedures: Lost or Damaged Materials,” Calvin T. Ryan Library, University of Nebraska Kearney, accessed October 3, 2021; “Step by Step Billing Patrons and Libraries for Lost Books in Horizon,” Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods and Fines,” Pasadena Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Studio Use Policy,” Pikes Peak Library District, Sept. 2019; “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” SRSU Library & Archives, accessed October 3, 2021; “Policies,” Proctor Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow Materials,” E.H. Butler Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “InterLibrary Loan (ILL),” Osceola Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing/Circulation,” SCSU Research Guides at Southern Connecticut State University, accessed October 3, 2021; Library Policies,” Orange Coast College, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing and Renewals,” Marriott Library, University of Utah, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrow,” UC Berkeley Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing,” Hawai’i Pacific University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Fine Free Library,” San Francisco Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; FAQ : Interlibrary Loan,” Smithsonian Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Checkout Periods and Protocols,” Fulton Library, Utah Valley University, accessed October 3, 2021 (discussed secondary borrowers); “Borrow, Renew & Return,” Georgia Tech Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Policies,” Stewart B. Land Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Materials,” Memorial Library of Nazereth & Vicinity,” accessed October 3, 2021; “Hennepin County Library goes fine-free,” Hennepin County Library, Mar. 9, 2021; Borrow Items,” Charleston County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021;Interlibrary Loan,” Omaha Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Book Club in a Bag,” Southeast Regional Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan,” Kenton County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Pageturners To Go,” Multnomah Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Remote Delivery,” UW-Madison Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Thesophical Society of America, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing Privileges,” Penn State University Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Materials,” Circulation Services, Research Guides at Broward College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Prince William libraries are now fine-free,” InsideNOVA, Jul. 7, 2021; “Your Library Account,” Boulder Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Services – Libraries,” LibGuides at St. Joseph’s College New York, accessed October 3, 2021; “Nevada State College Interlibrary Loan,” Nevada State College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Get a Library Card,” Laurel County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “InterLibrary Loan,” Queens College Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Bradley Library eliminates late fees,” Daily Journal, Sept. 9, 2021; “Library,” Amridge University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Checkout Privileges,” BYU Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Using the Library,” Linda Hall Library, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing from CSN Libraries,” CSN Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” Texas State Library and Archives Commission, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Library materials,” Simon Fraser University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library of Things: Home,” LibGuides at Milton Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Onsite Borrowing Program,” OCLC Research, accessed October 3, 2021; “Welcome to Your Library,” Grand Rapids Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Frequently Asked Questions,” El Dorado County Library, accessed October 3, 2021; Liam Griffin, “Libraries Become Fine-Free In July In Prince William County,” Manassas, VA, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation,” Mary and John Gray Library, Lamar University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Prince William Public Libraries to Go Fine-Free Beginning July 1,” Jul. 2021, accessed October 3, 2021; “James. E. Walker Library,” Middle Tennessee State University, accessed October 3, 2021 (mentions proxy borrowers); “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” University of Idaho Library, accessed October 3, 2021.

[7] “Interlibrary Loan,” Air Force Research Laboratory D’Azzo Research Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies,” Galveston College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policies,” Princeton University Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Caswell County, NC, accessed October 3, 2021; Andrew Scott, “11 Lehigh, Carbon County libraries ending fines on overdue items, starting Wednesday; 8,000 patrons being forgiven over $59,000 in fines,” The Morning Call, Aug. 31, 2021; “Library Fines and Fees,” New York Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies, Guidelines and Procedures: Lost or Damaged Materials,” Calvin T. Ryan Library, University of Nebraska Kearney, accessed October 3, 2021; “Policies,” Proctor Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing/Circulation,” SCSU Research Guides at Southern Connecticut State University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing and Renewals,” Marriott Library, University of Utah, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow,” UC Berkeley Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow, Renew & Return,” Georgia Tech Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow Items,” Charleston County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Valparaiso University Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad),” accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Policies,” Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Your Library Account,” Boulder Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Nevada State College Interlibrary Loan,” Nevada State College, accessed October 3, 2021; Your Card,” Berkeley Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Using the Library,” ABBE Regional Library System, accessed October 3, 2021;

[8] “Library Policy,” Ainsworth Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021;Hotspot Lending Policy,” Loomis Library & Community Center, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrower Policy,” Charlotte Mecklenberg Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Henderson-Wilder Library,” Upper Iowa University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policy,” Fulton County Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Regulations,” The University of Hong Kong Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Overdue Library Materials,” Leon County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021.

Categories
action adventure animation anime Comics drama fantasy Fiction genres horror Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries magical girl Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries speculative fiction webcomics White people

Recently added titles (July 2022)

Willow and Amity fight in the library in the The Owl House episode “Labyrinth Runners”

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, and June of this year, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics, and hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “Siege of the North, Part 2”
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “The Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Secret Book Club”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Kelsey the Author”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Haunted Dollhouse”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Ferret Quest”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Last Game of the Summer”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Welcome to Creek Street”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Capture the Flag Part 4: The Plan”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Legend of the Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Fire and Ice”
  • The Owl House, “Labyrinth Runners”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • A Couple of Cuckoos, “You Can’t Just Pretend It Didn’t Happen”
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero, “The Shield Hero”*

*Keep in mind that I do not recommend this series, and only watched two episodes before I stopped watching it. Read more about the controversy with this series here.

Comics recently added to this page

  • Greta the Red Wolf, “Foreboding”
  • Greta the Red Wolf, “A Series of Unexpected Events”
  • Sabine: an asexual coming of age story, “One Hundred Twenty Four”
  • Spellbound, “Ep116 – Weird”
  • Spellbound, “Ep117 – All good then!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep126 – Another game?”
  • Spellbound, “Ep127 – Sulky face”
  • Spellbound, “Ep128 – Not Happy!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep129 – Let’s make it ok”
  • Spellbound, “Ep2 – Organise – Season 2”
  • Tamberlane, “Issue 131”
  • The Siren’s Light, “Chapter 5 (4)”
  • Vixen: NYC, “Episode 4”
  • Winter Before Spring, “Episode 46”

Films recently added to this page

No films to add for this month.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

Categories
comic books Comics fantasy Fiction genres graphic novels Librarians speculative fiction webcomics White people

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Mo Testa in “Dykes to Watch Out For”

Left to right, panels of Mo in episodes 1, 3, 8, 11, and 13

Hello everyone! This continues from the “Fictional Librarian of the Month” entries for November, December, January, February, March, April, and May, with this series focusing on fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently shows, but also covering older shows, using entries from the “List of fictional libraries” from time to time. This month, I’d like to highlight Mo Testa in Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For. Here we go!

About the librarian

Mo’s official description describes her as a “worrier and kvetch extraordinaire, with a job at now-defunct Madwimmin Books on the side” which also notes that she has “since graduated from library school.” It was also said she has a “dedication to social justice combined with red and white striped shirts” and has two cats, specifically named Virginia and Vanessa.

Role in the story

Mo is a protagonist in this series, which became a “countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet,” running from 1983 to 2008. In one comic, she applies for a job, but rejects it because previous librarian left as she disagreed with the Patriot Act, staying dedicated to her principles. She is later shown going to school, tries to remain informed, dealing with the death of her cat, and gets a library job. I love how the library was described as the “temple to the written word” in one comic as well.

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

As a lesbian, she becomes a reference librarian and makes some personal calls at work. In the sense that she is White, female, and wears glasses, she falls into stereotypes of librarians. On the other hand, the fact she is passionate about her beliefs and this translates into her work as a librarian, and that stands against stereotypes.

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

In some ways, she is similar with another librarian, Amity Blight, in The Owl House, who is a White woman and a lesbian. However, she is such a principled librarian which makes her unlike any other librarian on this blog, even more than someone like Kaisa in Hilda.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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

“Accosting Mary”: George Bailey and Real-Life Sexual Harassment of Librarians

Mary, in It’s a Wonderful Life, terrified when George demands that she remember them together. In this alternate world, George is basically a creep.

Since 1946, Mary Bailey, otherwise known as Mary Hatch Bailey, a character voiced by Donna Reed in Frank Capra’s now-acclaimed film, It’s a Wonderful Life, has been perpetrating the spinster librarian stereotype. I mentioned this, in my second post on this blog, as have many others, whether cultural critics in the popular press or librarians. They have described Mary as a “lonely,” “weak,” “unhappy,” “homely,” “unmarried,” and visually challenged spinster. When she appears in Pottersville as a librarian, the film portrays her as a “tragedy” and “undesirable,” clearly an insulting portrayal. [1] Others have gone further. They proposed that Mary is happy about being a librarian, that she is better off without George, or is the film’s hero. Apparently, Capra said if he did the film again, he wouldn’t have included the part about Mary as a librarian. [2] Some fan fiction writers even imagined Mary as a librarian, either as the “best librarian” in Pottersville, enjoying her time in a “quiet place” with its collections limited by the town’s directives, or as a supposedly “old maid” in the library. There is a deeper, darker side to the short scene of Mary’s time as a spinster librarian which is glossed over by critics: unwelcome sexual advances by George. It is something which connects to larger issues which librarians, especially women, face on a day-to-day basis.

Before going further, as a fair warning, this post will discuss sexual assault and sexual harassment. If you are triggered by that subject or you do not wish to read about it for one reason or another, please don’t read beyond this paragraph.

By the time George has met Mary, he is drunk. He’s been thrown out of a bar and into the world of Pottersville. He demands that people remember HIM, scaring the townsfolk. After Clarence, who is physically attacked by George, reveals that Mary is an “old maid” who is “just about the close up the library,” George rushes over the library. The “uncomfortable undertones” in this scene are made even worse in the one to come. Mary, who is minding her own business, meets a disheveled man, George, who calls out her name.

He chases her, grabs her arm, asking what has happened to “us.” She rejects him, telling him she doesn’t know him and to let her go. He is persistent. He declares he “needs” her, asks about “their kids.” She screams, runs into a bar, declares there is a “wild man” after her who is chasing her, a correct assessment. George thinks someone will remember him. She asks someone to stop him. People in the bar claim he needs to be in a straitjacket. He keeps declaring that Mary is his wife and she, as a result, faints into the arms of an older woman. A crowd of men have surrounded George and say that the police need to be called. Ernie the cop (seemingly the only cop in the town) arrives. George slugs him in the face and escapes. Ernie wildly fires his gun over and over in George’s direction in a gross, and unnecessary, act of police force. People scream and the scene ends.

That’s telling the whole one minute scene from the perspective of those in the town and from Mary. Perhaps you can say that Mary is “shy, furtive, non-trusting, and scared of men.” This is a change from her personality earlier in the film as “warm and funny and sweet,” as Jennifer Snoek-Brown has explained. Even if we acknowledge this, which I’m willing to grant, what was Mary supposed to do in this situation? George is, if you view it rationally and push away the movie’s narrative which tries to make us sympathize with him, being creepy. He is accosting her, i.e. to approach of speak to someone in an “often challenging or aggressive way.” She runs to ask others for help.

Some have argued that George molested Mary, meaning that he is making unwanted or improper sexual advances toward her, especially to force “physical and usually sexual contact” on another person. [3] Clearly, George should have left her alone. Considering he is a person who humiliated Mary in the real world of Bedford Falls and even brought her to tears in that world, is it any surprise he has an outburst like that in Pottersville? Its not. He is acting like an asshole, a role which Jimmy Stewart overplays a bit. [4]

You could argue, in George’s defense, that he wasn’t thinking of Mary in a sexual way. You could further say that he only harassed her by annoying and bothering her, and physically attacked her, i.e. harassment and assault. These arguments, however, don’t hold water. He saw her as something to fulfill himself as a person, as he was in love with Mary with all his heart, going beyond any sexual advances. She clearly told him “no” in uncertain terms and to get lost.

His actions were unwelcome and uninvited. He made physical contact with her by touching her and grabbing a hold of her. As such, his actions fulfill the other definitions of sexual harassment, like the one outlined by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, commonly known as EEOC. It is harder to prove that he engaged in sexual assault, as that involves “force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent.” Even so, you could make that argument. George’s actions fall into the category of unwanted sexual attention, although not gender harassment or sexual coercion. [5] Ernie never catches him, he gets away with it, and never suffers any consequences for his actions in any way.

Reportedly, according to Thom Yorke, the song talks about a drunk man who he tries to get attention of a woman he is attracted to, following her around. He later lacks this self-confidence, and feels he subconsciously is her. Not exactly a parallel to George Bailey, but I like the song, so it is here for that reason.

What Mary experiences after-hours, specifically after the library has closed, is not an uncommon experience for librarians within physical or virtual walls of a library. It begins with Melvil Dewey himself,  founder of the American Library Association (ALA) and creator of the Dewey Decimal System. He was a such a serial sexual harasser that he was even expelled from the ALA!

With the pandemic, librarians are experiencing more sexual harassment and intimidation than before. Sometimes, approachable and helpful demeanor is even misinterpreted as an invitation for sexual attraction. This makes librarians more reticent to speak out to the patron (or fellow librarian) or to their managers. Workplaces push librarians to act more approachable to patrons, resulting in librarians feeling uncomfortable after they are harassed, but have little time to process it as they must continue working. To be clear, librarians aren’t there to fulfill people’s personal fantasies, in whatever form those come in.

Some have even argued that managers are unaware of the severity or persistence of harassment. Others have advocated for anti-harassment policies and procedures, and for managers to emphasize the importance of personal safety of staff while standing against “any instances of sexual harassment.” [6] While such policies would be welcome, it can come with the assumption that all managers will be good natured and take claims seriously enough to prevent a toxic workplace. That is a highly unrealistic supposition which will in fact, put librarians in a dangerous spot. This is especially the case when harassment comes from co-workers and can be part of a toxic organizational culture in some libraries. [7]

Often, sexual harassment in libraries is “routinely downplayed, ignored, or outright rejected” as a reality. It is seen as a “woman’s issue” by male managers and administrators, with harassers facing no or few consequences. It then becomes prevalent and endemic due to interactions with the public and the workplace cultures, either as light or verbal physical harassment, including sexual advances. There can be “negative, creepy, disgusting, or frightening encounters” as well, causing librarians to be afraid or even angry. Harassment can be overlooked because many believe that the “unwelcome behavior…is not extreme or not physical does not count as harassment.” They might even think that people are just giving them “nice compliments” or that those harassing them are “harmless weird people.”

This is not unusual. Female-majority professions experience a “high degree of workplace sexual harassment from supervisors, coworkers, and clients.” In response, some librarians have recommended training, clear reporting processes, and changes in workplace culture. Unfortunately, too many libraries don’t have policies for “what to do about sexual harassment” or sexual harassment and sexual assault training. [8] All librarians should work in environments free from harassment. Employers are legally required to prevent a hostile work environment even if a patron harasses a librarian.

There are, added power dynamics at play between librarians and patrons when providing service to patrons in a library. This is an area where that has reportedly been a lack of discussion and research. Such harassment can, in the words of Karen Jensen “change the dynamics of a work environment” while men take offense to female passion at work. Such harassment is about, in her words, “anger and control and wanting to demean…making sure a woman understands her place in the world and at the work place,” even if this is perpetrated against men. It is a conversation which needs to be continued as the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) defends the right of patrons to “unfiltered internet access,” which includes pornography, in the words of James LaRue, formerly the OIF director. [9]

Such harassment is not the fault of any librarians or library workers. Something can be done to change the “culture of sexual harassment in the library,” as Kelly Jensen put it. There is responsibility to build a “toolbox of responses” and pull from if needed, to curb these behaviors. This includes protecting librarian colleagues, librarians, and what makes the library a “special place.” Women are the focus of harassment because the library field is female-majority, they are not the only ones harassed. Men and those of other genders are harassed as well, especially those who are LGBTQ or are people of color. [10]

In the end, even if you think that George Bailey didn’t sexually harass Mary, we can all agree, hopefully, that sexual harassment is wrong. Libraries should be a “safe place for every employee that walks through its doors,” treating each other with respect and professionalism. With soon-to-be-published books like Unwanted Interactions: Patron-perpetrated Sexual Harassment in Libraries, by Danielle Allard, Tami Oliphant, and Angela Lieu, on the horizon, this is bound to be a topic discussed by librarians, on Twitter and elsewhere, for years to come.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Chin, Elleanor. 69 Years of Slut Shaming: Spontaneously Deconstructing It’s a Wonderful Life,” Feministing, Jan. 27, 2015; Zeman, Marybeth. “Being a Librarian—It’s a Wonderful Life,” Public Libraries Online, Dec. 20, 2013; “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Holiday Film Reviews, Feb. 4, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Reel Librarians, Dec. 14, 2016; Phelps, Rosa. “The perennial joys of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Variety, Dec. 22, 2021; bibliothecario. “Libertine Librarian Comes to Broadway,” The Why? Libraries Blog, Apr. 15, 2009; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “What Hollywood Gets Wrong (and Right!) About Librarians,” I Love Libraries, May 26, 2020; VanDerWerff, Emily Todd. “It’s A Wonderful Life shows the unending cost of being good,” A.V. Club, Dec. 21, 2012; Costello, Carol. “Is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ sexist?,” CNN, Dec. 20, 2017; Westbrook, Georgia. “Libraries and Librarians in the Movies,” Syracuse University School of Information Studies, Apr. 8, 2019; Lingan, John. “Water and Wonder,” The Paris Review, Dec. 14, 2012; Kamiya, Gary. “All hail Pottersville!,” Salon, Dec. 22, 2001; O’ Mahony, Ferdia. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Dec. 29. 2021; Hesse, Monica. “Mary Bailey is the true hero of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 24, 2021; Smith, Kyle. “Jump, George, Jump!,” New York Post, Nov. 25, 2007; Grondelski, John M. “Catholics Agree: It’s a Wonderful Life,” Crisis Magazine, Dec. 20, 2016; Sepulveda, Victoria. “I never wanted to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ again. Then 2020 happened.,” SFGate, Dec. 17, 2020; Wilson, Christopher. “What ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Teaches Us About American History,” Smithsonian Magazine, Dec. 16, 2021; Parker, Luke. “It’s A Wonderful Life: Everything That Changed When George Bailey Wasn’t Born,” ScreenRant, Jan. 6, 2020; Molumby, Deidre. “6 reasons why It’s a Wonderful Life shouldn’t be a Christmas classic as it’s a total downer,” entertainment.ie c. 2017; Atileno, Maria. “It’s a Wonderful Life: How Mary Lost Her Groove,” Pop Goes the Librarian, Dec. 30, 2012; McAllister, Ashley. “From the Library: The Librarian Stereotype on the Big Screen,” Bitch Magazine, Jul. 27, 2010.

[2] Kutner, Rob. “It’s a Wonderful Life: Top Nine Fan Theories,” McSweeney’s, Dec. 24, 2018; “According to Liberals, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is Now Sexist,” Conservative Zone, accessed Jan. 4, 2022; Thompson, Simon. “‘It’s A Wonderful Life’: Inside The Classic Holiday Movie And Why It Is Needed More Than Ever In 2020,” Forbes, Nov. 17, 2020; Hesse, Monica, “Mary Bailey is the true hero of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2021; Nero, Dom. “In It’s A Wonderful Life, Pottersville Actually Looks Way More Fun Than Bedford Falls,” Esquire Magazine, Dec. 24, 2019. Some have even asked if the film itself has multiverses or is a sci-fi film or said they like Mary as a librarian.

[3] McAllister, Ashley. “From the Library: The Librarian Stereotype on the Big Screen,” Bitch Magazine, Jul. 27, 2010; Marshall, Jack. ““It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics, Part 3,” Ethics Alarms, Dec. 5, 2011; Barreca, Gina. “The Problem with “It’s a Wonderful Life”,” Psychology Today, Dec. 18, 2021; Schneider, Dan. “A Defense Of It’s A Wonderful Life,” Cosmoetica, Dec. 25, 2005.

[4] Jamieson, Wendell, “Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life,” New York Times, Dec. 18, 2008 (see page 1 here); Nero, Dom. “In It’s A Wonderful Life, Pottersville Actually Looks Way More Fun Than Bedford Falls,” Esquire Magazine, Dec. 24, 2019; Lipsitz, Jordana. “‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Would Be Different Today,” Bustle, Dec. 24, 2016. Some have even said that you could argue that in Bedford Falls, Mary is either “angelically patient or painfully submissive.” There is a fanfic which goes with the idea that George should have been more honest with Mary. Others have argued that George engaged in physically abusive behavior, or argued that George is a bit of perv (in the minds of those who put together the film’s TV Tropes page). One of the funnier pages was one which portrayed him as a criminal if he was caught for his financial crimes.

[5] These are definitions noted in a 2017 presentation by Amanda Civitello and Katie McLain entitled “It’s Not Just Part of the Job: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Harassment in the Library.” This presentation notes that unwelcome sexual advances and unwelcome touching are examples of harassing behavior.

[6] Beattie, Samantha. “Sexual harassment, intimidation, violence on the job worsened during pandemic, librarians report,” CBCOct. 2, 2021; Amanda Civitello and Katie McLain, “It’s Not Just Part of the Job: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Harassment in the Library,” 2017 Presentation; “Harassing Behaviors Handout,” Waukegan Public Library, Jul. 2017; magpielibrarian, “Please Don’t Say This to a Librarian,” The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian’s Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette, Jul. 9, 2012. There is are the stories of a librarian being sexually assaulted outside of a library in Darby, Pennsylvania, and a woman being assaulted outside a library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (also see here), along with stories of librarians being harassed in Waukegan, Philadelphia, and a library system in California. Don’t be taken in by that strange, anti-child porn site, i.e. SafeLibraries (librarians.cc), which is conservative and has some weird opinions, having it out for the ALA. I don’t care for defending the ALA, the views on SafeLibraries are a bit strange with a weird fascination with the idea that child porn makes people into sexual harassers but not that it could be something else instead? It is also a men’s rights activist site, run by Dan Kleinman, who opposes drag queen story hours and doesn’t seem to believe the idea that librarians should be trusted to filter and select for libraries. He was even sued, at one point, for defamation by the Chicago Library. Whether he is against “free speech” in libraries or not, he is clearly bad news, as a big defender of library filters on library computers.

[7] Valde, Kathleen S. and Henningsen, Mary Lynn Miller. “Facework in Responding to Unethical Communication,” International Journal of
Business Communication 2015, Vol. 52(4): 375, 398. The ALA says in their current guidance that “prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.”

[8] Jensen, Kelly. “Sexual Harassment In Libraries, Post-#MeToo: What Has and Hasn’t Changed?,” Book Riot, Apr. 8, 2019; Ford, Anne. “Stop Sexual Harassment in Your Library,” American Libraries, Nov. 1, 2017; Candice Benjes-Small, Jennifer E. Knievel, Jennifer Resor-Whicker, Allison Wisecup, and Joanna Hunter (2021), “#MeToo in the Academic Library: A Quantitative Measurement of the Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, Vol. 82, No. 5; Gomez, Filiberto Nolasco. “AFSCME Librarians Draw Attention to the Persistence of Sexual Harassment,” Workday Minnesota, Nov. 25, 2019; Jill Barr-Walker, Courtney Hoffner, Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco, and Nisha Mody (2021), “Sexual Harassment at University of California Libraries: Understanding the Experiences of Library Staff Members,” College & Research Libraries, Vol. 82, No. 2; Jensen, Kelly. “The State of Sexual Harassment in the Library,” Book Riot, Oct. 24, 2017. There hasn’t even been a “a keynote speaker headlining a conference which directly addresses sexual harassment in the library” as Jensen pointed out in Book Riot. And still, as the same article (written in 2017) says, the ALA has “no policies nor no guidelines available to members about protecting themselves from sexual harassment in the library.” Nothing has changed since then. There are even the case of a sexual harassment complaint filed by the executive director of the Ogdensburg Public Library against a city councilor dismissed because he “made the statement while as a city councilor…[and] is not subject to review by the state agency; and that the city’s decision about funding the library, as part of a government function,” meaning he can harass people if he is acting as a councilor. As Molly Osterag put it in her comic sharing how she was sexually assaulted by a man she knew, “I know this is not a story that is unique to me.”

[9] Taken to the extreme, this position would support people masturbating in a public library, which is wrong and disgusting. That shouldn’t be done in a public place.

[10] There are many posts on /r/libraries which talk about harassment (by patrons, especially men), a self-gratifying man, the case where librarians were sued by a man for “libelous comments”  (and they later retracted those comments, also noted here; also see here), and those preparing for a presentation about harassment of librarians (maybe one of them is Amanda Civitello or Katie McLain?)