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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

[5] Macias, “Looking the Part,” 118.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

Eztli shushes Victor with her extended skeleton arm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recently added titles (August 2022)

Blitzo and Stolas in the newest episode of Helluva Boss

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

Animated series recently added to this page

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

Anime series recently added to this page

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

Comics recently added to this page

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

Films recently added to this page

None this month.

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

Examining Isomura, a librarian-curator in “Let’s Make a Mug Too”

The library inside the ceramics museum in Let’s Make a Mug Too

Recently, when watching some currently airing anime series, I stumbled upon the slice-of-life 2021 anime, Let’s Make a Mug Too, otherwise known as Yaku nara Magu Kappu mo, which is based on a manga series of the same name, about high school girls making pottery together. With that, I was taken off guard when in one episode, “The Garden of Sky and Wind,” the protagonist, Himeno Toyokawa, visits a local ceramics museum with her teacher and the curator brings them inside to a library! Not expecting to see a library in series, so it made me very happy and more excited to keep watching it. In this post, I’ll examine the scene inside the library and whether the curator is a librarian, or not, and how this connects to libraries more broadly.

Early in the episode, the adviser of the Pottery Club, Mami, tells Himeno about the museum in Tajimi for local works behind the school is adding a section for youth pottery, hoping to inspire Himeno. They gather materials together, go up to a climbing kiln, and Himeno finds an interesting, majestic sculpture in the woods. Later on, Himeno and Mami meet Isomura, a woman who is from city hall, discusses plans to use the local museum space, until the year before when there was agreement to make it a youth pottery museum. Isomura explains that the monument was created by Tokigawa Himena, who happens to be Himeno’s late mother, a well-known pottery maker! This makes Isomura very excited (she geeks out), especially since Himeno is making pottery of her own, and notes how Himena’s sculpture was instrumental in the decision to keep and repurpose the building.

We then see the library in all its glory, with a screenshot of it shown as the beginning of this post, with Isomura laying out materials for them, noting the materials the museum collected. Himeno is excited to find, with encouragement from Isomura, her mom’s drawings and photographs of the ceramics she made, allowing her and her teacher to bond. Later, Isomura shows Himeno an article where her mom explained the sculpture project, reading her part of the article, making her connect with her mother that much more!

It seems evident to me that Isomura, is undoubtedly a curator, which the Dictionary of Archives Terminology defines as an “individual responsible for oversight of a collection or an exhibition” or the “administrative head of a museum or collection,” adding it often carries the connotation of an “individual who selects items based on artistic merit or connoisseurship.” More than that, she is a librarian, although not in the way of those in public libraries, as the museum has a special library which is geared toward those interested in ceramics. It is, as a public institution, open to the public, but only those in the town and makers of ceramics would come there. She seems to know where the materials are on the shelves very easily and with ease, making me think that she has been there before and likely helped organize the materials in the first place, continuing to shelve books and other records throughout the day. She is so nice, and cheerful, in contrast to many others in animation who are librarians:

I LOVE the attention to detail in this shot, like the call numbers. Is there a place like this in Tajimi? I think its definitely a possibility

Sadly, her character is uncredited from the listings on the official website and on Anime News Network. Isomura appears to be the only curator of this museum. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, “in small institutions, one curator may be responsible for many tasks, from taking care of collections to directing the affairs of the museum.” That seems to be her role, rather than a museum technician or conservator, as the fact she is coming from city hall seems to indicate she has some position of authority in the museum, rather than someone lower on the hierarchy of this local museum. But, maybe I’m reading into that too much? Anyone who has watched this episode and has a different interpretation of her role, I welcome them to chime in.

The two roles of “librarian” and “curator” can overlap, so much so at times that there are even blogs, albeit dated ones like this one which ended in 2008,  and a page on the Liturgy Institute London website about “library curators.” Of course, librarians and curators don’t have the same roles, for sure, but it appears that Isomura shares characteristics of both roles, all into one position. In fact, some curators directly oversee special collections libraries, and others work for libraries, like those who work for the Library of Congress.

I think it can definitely be said that Isomura is a librarian and as such, she is unique, because most of the Japanese female librarians noted on my list of fictional librarians are much younger, whether high school age or younger. [1] My guess is that Isomura is in her 20s or 30s. So that makes her a unique character in and of itself. And her experience in the museum inspires Himeno to make a sculpture the next day which is similar to what her mother made.

This has to be my favorite episode in the series and while I’m not sure if the library, or Isomura will continue, I have to say this one of the most positive depictions of libraries and museums that I’ve seen in a long time, with the Isomura being helpful, friendly, and courteous to her patrons, unlike many other librarians in animation. And that is laudable to say the least. I’d like hear your comments on this, including those which watched this series. Did you interpret her character the same way? What were your thoughts?

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm, Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D. the TV, Yamada in B Gata H Kei, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers, Anne in Manaria Friends, Grea in Manaria Friends, Lilith in Yamibou, Iku Kasahara in Library War, Asako Shibasaki in Library War, Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta, Hasegawa Sumika in Bernard-jou Iwaku a.k.a. Miss Bernard said, Himeko Agari in Komi Can’t Communicate, Aruto, Iina, and Kokoro in Kokoro Toshokan a.k.a. Kokoro Library. While the age of Lilith in Yamibou is not known, the unnamed librarians in Cardcaptor Sakura episode (“Sakura and Her Summer Holiday Homework”), librarian in Little Witch Academia episode (“Night Fall”), are likely the same age while Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood is older. The same can be said, I think, about Hamyuts Meseta, Mirepoc Finedel, Noloty Malche, and Ireia Kitty in Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra.

Categories
anime drama fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries Pop culture mediums rural libraries special libraries speculative fiction

More than “frilly outfits”: librarian work, weeding, and library marketing in Kokoro Library

How every episode of the series begins

In September of last year, I came across Kokoro Library, an anime series from the early 2000s. I watched it, it was apparent that librarians were likely consulted when this was produced because of the number of issues about libraries this animation raises. This was further buttressed by the fact that in March 2002, the Japan Library Association announced that copies of the Kokoro Library anime would appear in 500 libraries across Japan. Although all thirteen episodes are available in Japan on Amazon Prime Video, the series has not seen an official English translation. Luckily, there are fan translations, one of which I watched on the Internet Archive. Provided that there are many library-related themes in this anime, it would be wrong to cram them all into one post. Given criticisms of this anime [1] for possibly implying that all librarians have to do is “look cute and sit behind a desk” and that the series is “inconsequential”, I may reassess it in the future.

This slice-of-life anime, which is named Kokoro Library or Kokoro Toshokan, follows the daily lives of three sisters (Kokoro, Aruto, and Iina) who live in a remote, rural library, seemingly somewhere in Western Europe. Although the show is peaceful, cute, and relaxing, some people might be turned off by the art style, the slow pacing, or the fact that the librarians are wearing “frilly French maid outfits,” trying to fulfill their jobs, although they mostly do maintenance and groundskeeping. The library gets very few patrons, reportedly with very little “real” librarian work to do.

Kokoro remains optimistic and kind, serving as the “soul of the show,” and learns to become more confident. There are later stories about exotic stories about androids, but it said to not be about “anything important or deeply philosophical,” relying more on feeling than anything else, with the characters symbolic in their own way. Other reviewers praised voice acting in the series by Chiwa Saitō, who voices Kokoro, and said it is a type of anime that you watch when you get home after a hard day at work, comparing it to Read or Die. Viewers praised the opening and ending songs of the anime, and the anime itself was one of the most popular anime in February of 2002. [2]

The first episode, “I’ll Become a Librarian” begins with introducing the show’s three protagonists, and the library cat, Kit. Kokoro lives at the library with her sisters, a little like George and Lance in a few episodes of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Kokoro begins her first day at the library, isolated on a mountain and away from the city, working alongside her sisters Aruto and Iina. She learns that the library gets few users. All three sisters engage in library tasks like opening up the library’s windows, shelving books, checking the mail, data entry, cart pushing, and book arranging.

Apart from library itself which has old computers, some sort of classification system, tables, seats, and computers for people to use, there are many library-related issues covered in the anime. For one, Kokoro and Aruto differ on describing library patrons, with Kokoro describing them as “customers” and Aruto saying they are “users.”

Kokoro (left) talks to a patron who is asking if she can borrow a book

She is helpful to patrons, helping patrons by finding them books they are looking for, or check out items, or giving someone a library card, all instances of “librarian work.” This is later described as a “reference” experience. She even later tracks down one user who came to the library, in hopes of retrieving a book, going on an adventure of sorts. Her sisters claim that the “job of a librarian…is to believe in people.”

When they talk about “reference,” they are likely not referring to a reference librarian. Instead to the idea of a reference interview, the process which “determines the information needs” of a patron, and tries to translate the questions of a patron into one that “can be answered with the library’s resources.” In this case, Kokoro clearly did a great job of helping a patron and felt fulfilled while she did it. It was a bit extreme, though, for her to go on a whole journey to find one book which wasn’t returned to the library, as libraries lose books all the time. I’m also not convinced that the job of a librarian is to believe in people, as sometimes you really can’t do that. I’d say the job is to help patrons in the best way you can, but not believe in people, as people can be wrong, hostile, or dangerous, depending on where you are a librarian.

In the show’s second episode, “What I Can Do At This Moment,” Kokoro begins asking herself what she is good at, knowing that her sister Aru likes to bake and sleep everywhere, Iina who likes taking photos and is good with computers. She later realizes she is good at singing. The episode features book shelving, a truck coming to deliver boxes of books, book cataloging, and carrying stacks of books. The library also appears to have a scanner, a laptop, and a printer, technology which was advanced at the time.

One of the more interesting parts of the episode when they worry about declining number of library patrons. During their discussion, Aru proposes they get rid of the “old, unpopular books” and replace them with new popular books and it will draw in users, gathering best sellers and popular comics, picture books, CDs, and videos. However,  Kokoro isn’t sure about this and Iina agrees. She declares that library is a place to “deepen knowledge and education.” In response, Aru justifies her position by using the stats of declining patronage to the library, even saying that modern libraries should focus on entertainment, something which Iina calls “vulgar.” Aru later remarks that young novels and picture books can “cultivate knowledge and education” too. Poor Kokoro though, as she isn’t sure what side to take. She tells them both that if people knew about the library, then they would come, and she proposes advertising the library!

This makes me think of the difference between the collections of two libraries I know very well: the Baltimore County Library (BCPL) and the Pratt Library. From my experience as a patron who uses both systems, and as a person who worked at a Pratt Library branch, I can say with confidence that the BCPL tends to have more popular books and weed old and unpopular books. On the other hand, the Pratt has vast collections, able to easily accommodate old and new materials which much more ease. This is not much of a surprise as the Pratt has 22 branches, with the Pratt itself saying that Maryland residents continue to “depend on the Pratt’s collections to supply materials that are not available elsewhere in the state or electronically.” [3] Compare this to BCPL, which has 19 branches and many other services, with goals asserted in their Strategic Plan focused on quality of life, education and lifelong learning, equitable access, and organizational wellness, which doesn’t provide much room for older materials, but much more for newer materials. Even so, we must acknowledge that the Pratt has a bigger budget, more support, and more storage space than BCPL, which undoubtedly affects which materials are chosen and kept within the library’s collections for users, or which are discarded.

How many librarians do you know who have this ability, like Aru? I don’t even have that ability…and I can’t think of anyone else who has that ability.

Later in the episode, Kokoro tries to determine what she can do to bring in more patrons, while her sister Iina wants a music appreciation gathering, with a well-known artist, and inviting a well-known programmer. Aru rejects this, with an idea for super care of users like serving tea, reading books to them, and massaging their shoulders, but Iina worries about how this would affect Kokoro. Ultimately, all three sisters work together on a flyer to promote the library, and they are able to rope in their delivery driver in distributing the flyers.

While Kokoro is dispirited after her sisters say that she might have unreasonable expectations about the library, she returns to find a whole group of people at the library, a line of cars snaking down the road! This communicates the idea that library advertising does work. Weirdly, there is the idea that overnight work is ok “from time to time.” But, is that work really fine? I would have to lean toward no, as it can lead to burnout. After the end of the episode, we are all probably crying tears of joy like Kokoro at the end, as she accomplished her goals.

This makes me think of the Marketing Libraries Journal (MLJ), a peer-reviewed, independently published, open access scholarly journal which “focuses on innovative marketing activities libraries are engaged in,” trying to publish “research and practical examples of library marketing campaigns…tools used for marketing” and much more. Kokoro Library has to be the only animated series I have come across which has discussed library advertising or marketing as part of the plot! So that makes this series unique in that respect. When putting together this article, I thought back to my time in library school, when I wrote papers about marketing, library promotion, library engagement, target audiences, and many more topics. [4]

Kokoro clearly knew who the target audience she was trying to reach with this campaign: people from the nearby town. She believed she could influence them to come to the library, increasing the patronage, even though her sisters were not sure this would be a success. While you could say that, the library caused “miracles” to happen, as Iina put it, more accurately, people were intrigued by the poster and excited to visit it, coming to a place they didn’t know. It was a successful, but simple public relations campaign you could say, even though it has the downside of being completely based on the fliers, with no other way of the message being shared. This is exactly what Kokoro’s sisters were afraid of, they believed the fliers wouldn’t be enough to bring more people to the library. As I wrote back in 2018, “no one is immune to advertising and marketing.”

As Ned Potter, an information professional, put it, one-off marketing usually never works. Rather, libraries try to build awareness overtime of relevant services, appeal to people “at the right time,” as putting out too many messages at once means there is “nothing for anyone to hold on to.” He argues that marketing campaigns are what has an “impact and make[s] a tangible difference to the Library.” He concludes his piece by saying that such campaigns need to “the primary focus of your comms for a concerted period of time,” with the same message going out through multiple platforms, having a strong call to action, and measuring outcomes rather than outcomes, even if that takes time. During the time this series was set, in the early 2000s, there was no Twitter (founded in 2006), YouTube (founded in 2005), TikTok (founded in 2016), Facebook (founded in 2004), Instagram (founded in 2010), Reddit (founded in 2005) or Tumblr (founded in 2007), so using fliers makes sense, even though they could have used other methods, like their presumed dial-up internet to promote the library as well.

Kokoro watches her sister, Iina at a computer. Kokoro is apparently bad with using computers, although Iina is not and is very skilled.

While there are many other marketing strategies, resources on library marketing, tips, and more, I believe I’ve given enough of an overview of this topic without getting too much in the weeds on this topic. [5] This post is one of the many which connects to library themes unlike other series out there, even with those which have librarians as supporting characters like Welcome to the Wayne or The Owl House. That makes the series unique and worthy of note, so much so that it can’t all be summarized in one post, making this the beginning of a series.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This review also says that “it takes a whole lot more than minimum alpha brain waves to earn a degree in library sciences. Certainly Kokoro wouldn’t hack it in the ALA – she’d do good to make it to the Special Olympics” and goes onto say “for a much more exciting and interesting tour of the world of library sciences, we recommend Read or Die. Either that, or read a book. Both are infinitely preferable to this inconsequential series.” Harsh words! As of the writing of this post, I have only watched TWO episodes, so my opinion on it may change as I watch more episodes.

[2] Cornblatt, Cassidy. “10 Best Unpopular Anime Series,” Reel Rundown, Sept. 15, 2021; Grisham, Paul. “Kokoro Library Vol. #1,” Mania Entertainment, Apr. 14, 2002; Beard, Jeremy A. “Kokoro Library,” THEM Anime Reviews, c. 2002; Hikawa, Ryusuke. Kokoro Library Bandai Channel New Arrivals This Month!,” Bandai Channel, 2006; Macdonald, Christopher. “Top Televised Anime in Japan,” Anime News Network, Mar. 11, 2002; “Anime News in Japan(^^),” Anihabara!, c. 2004.

[3] “How Baltimore Chooses: The Selection Policies of the Enoch Pratt Free Library,” Eighth Edition, 2007, p. 6. According to the most recent annual report of the BCPL (see page 6), the library has over 1.2 million physical items and over 192,000 downloadable items. The Comptroller of Baltimore City notes that the Pratt Library system,  in fiscal year 2020, had over 216 million in capital assets including “books, land, buildings, equipment, fine arts, and special collections” (see pages 5 and 28), while library books are said to have a short life, of only 10 years, less than the buildings or building improvements (see page 19). The library has over 2.3 million items, and 1 million database downloads in fiscal year 2020 (see page 36).

[4] See “Strategic Plan Analysis–Maryland State Library Resource Center (SLRC),” 2018, p. 6, 8; “Uggles and the University of Illinois: a very furry situation indeed!,” 2018, p. 1-7. The Uggles article is where I believe it was this article where I learned about MLJ. I also wrote about preservation, data collection, data creation, and a homeless library, in grad school, and many other topics when in college.

[5] For more information, see these resources about marketing & promotion, this article about how libraries use content to tell stories, the Library of Congress rebrand (which was somewhat controversial), and Ad/Lib which is about advertising in libraries. If you work at a university or are a student, there are some articles of note, like “It’s not just what you know but who you know: Social capital theory and academic library outreach,” “Connecting best practices in public relations to social media strategies for academic libraries,” “Grassroots Strategic Planning: Involving Library Staff from the Beginning,” and “Applying Return on Investment (ROI) in Libraries.”

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Fictional Library of the Month: Church library in “Ascendance of a Bookworm”

Hello everyone! This is the third edition of my feature series, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the ones for November and December) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, this post will focus on the church library in Ascendance of a Bookworm, where the protagonist, Myne, wants to work.

About the library

Also called the “temple book room,” this church library is a place which holds sacred books. It is reorganized by Myne in the episode “Harvest Festivals and Staying Home” and while it doesn’t have every sacred or magic book, it is easier to use than before.

Role in the story

Myne tries to become a librarian and has said that “If there aren’t any books, I’ll just have to make them myself.” She is obsessed with books, and in her previous life, she was crushed by her own book collection during an earthquake. Her previous name, Urano Motosu, reportedly is a Japanese word play meaning “books must be mine.” Myne later finds the temple library, but begs to be an apprentice shrine maiden so she can look at the books. After she becomes a maiden, she becomes entranced by the books and everything they say. Myne later proposes her own classification system for the books. She likely goes to the library again when she gains a new form, and to the new library, the Royal Academy Library, which has not yet appeared in the animated series, but likely will in the next part of the series.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In some ways, in that it is well-organized, above-ground, and well-lit. On the other hand it is very institutional and associated with a church, leading some to believe that libraries are “sacred” and their books are as well, stopping any attempts to weed books.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

I haven’t seen many religious libraries in other shows, so I can’t say there is any similarity with the libraries elsewhere. As such, it is a unique library in and of itself, without a doubt.