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Fictional librarians and ideals of librarianship

Later on in her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves“, Fobazi Ettarh clarifies that she is challenging the “notion that many have taken as axiomatic that libraries are inherently good and democratic, and that librarians, by virtue of working in a library, are responsible for this ‘good’ work,” but is not dismissing the fact that librarians should take pride in their work. She says the former notion creates the expectation that when libraries fail, it is the “fault of individuals failing to live up to the ideals of the profession,” rather than the fact that libraries are fundamentally flawed institutions. Since today is the World Day Against Child Labour, it makes sense to publish this today.

There are certainly many librarians who are shown as passionate about their work, whether the old librarian in a She-Ra: Princess of Power episode (“Three Courageous Hearts”), the unnamed librarian in Sofia the First episode (“Forever Royal”?), the librarian in Sarah and Duck episode (“Lost Librarian”), Harold in Craig of the Creek, and even Swampy in Phineas and Ferb, to name a few. Arguably, the only series I can think of, apart from Moral Orel, which portrays libraries as institutions which are fundamentally flawed, is arguably The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends as Cletus Bookworm willingly sides with censorship and lets an armed vigilante take away the two protagonists without objecting. In fact, he agrees with them being taken away, declaring they are making too much noise. More on Cletus later on in this post, as what he does continues to be relevant.

This reminds me of an August 2006 episode of Totally Spies! In the beginning of the episode, Alex, Clover, and Sam are listening to music
together in the school library but are loud. They end up annoying other students, one of whom even shushes them. This doesn’t stop them from talking and they continue to do so, until they are whisked away.

Alex, Clover, and Sam recognize, as library patrons, the idea that libraries represent an “underused oasis”. It is a place provides access to information of a significant quality, a democratic space where people can read that they can’t read elsewhere. Some have argued that libraries can even given power to communities, dubbing it “information power”, which helps people learn more about their lives, and disseminate information to further struggle for “increasing social justice”. Others have said there is an importance of trust in libraries. [1]

Beyond this, there are lofty ideals hoisted upon librarians, whether that they should meet “vital needs” of librarians, be “information interpreters” by being advocates and active consultants of community groups. This includes librarians making libraries a space for gathering materials, future historical inquiries, and truth-seeking initiatives. [2] In some ways, the elderly White female librarian (voiced by Candi Milo) in the My Life as a Teenage Robot, embodies this, as she is shown working in bookmobile. She provides services to the neighborhood.

Students look at Alex, Clover, and Sam, annoyed they are making a lot of noise

The aforementioned librarian in Totally Spies! undoubtedly has middle-class values. Some have written that these values cause libraries to be out of their depth, led some to critique White middle-class librarianship in and of itself, or talked about librarians doing their duty. Additional articles focus on linear productivity nodes that “undergirds capitalist exchanges”, intersectuality, neoliberal university, multiculturalism, and a world in which inequalities are growing. [3]

Some of this is manifested in librarians in literature, some of whom internalize the stereotypical librarian, one of whom is a spinster, and others who go beyond the stereotypical mold. In some cases, this librarian image is positive with the fictional librarians helping ensure intellectual freedom for society. This differs from those prim, meek, and unassuming librarians with hair buns, portrayed to be suspicious, whether they are a positive or negative character. Take, for example, Mary Hatch (voiced by Donna Reed) in It’s a Wonderful Life, who was able to devote time to being a librarian and enforce “rules of silence” when not being married to George Bailey (voiced by Jimmy Stewart). Her life as a spinster librarian is shown to be less desirable than her life as a wife and mother in the real world. This contrasts with videos on YouTube created by librarians, with 68% having librarians as heroes, 23% as parody, and 14% as fun or positive. [4] Such videos provide a way for librarians to counter stereotypes of the profession.

At the same time, as fictional librarians embody the ideals of the profession, it should be recognized that stereotypical librarians never actually existed, en masse, in the library profession. They have become symbols, shorthands, whether they appear in comic books, comic strips, films, and novels. This includes well-known ones in Party Girl, Ghostbusters, Foul Play, Soylent Green, Citizen Kane, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the latter film is one of the most hilarious library scenes ever on film, as Indiana Jones is putting a hole in the floor of the library while the librarian is slamming his stamp down. Through the whole thing he remains unaware that Indiana is breaking through the floor! He thinks the stamp has something wrong with it. [5] While you could say this comes with it the stereotype that the librarian is outdated and old, the film is set in 1938/1939, so it makes sense he would be using a stamp at that time, as computers hadn’t even come into existence at that time. In fact, the first automatic digital computer was not created until 1941, named Z3, and created by the Germans, although the U.S. Navy had developed electromagnetic computers for submarines starting in 1938.

This film, unfortunately, has all sorts of Arab stereotypes. There’s “unsightly” Egyptian Christians, a pro-Nazi sheikh. This includes Egyptians in fezzes chasing Indy, some even trying to burn him alive. There is even a famous chase scene through Venice’s canals. Even worse are the pro-Nazi Arabs, Egyptian Christians made to look fanatical and are never humanized. For some reason, even though Indy and the Egyptian Christians are on the same side, and against the Nazis, this is not shown in the film. At the same time, a European Christian knight is guarding the Holy Grail like saint. Indy’s Egyptian friend, Sallah, is also patronized as a “dumbbell” although he warns Indy about the German tank out to get him. [6]

As op culture isn’t always kind to librarians,” noting a few librarians in TV and film. Glazer and many others have made lists of librarians, whether in science fiction, fantasy, or in various mediums, sometimes even noting librarian cameos, asked why librarians are portrayed as “mean” characters. [7] One person, Marie of Pop! Goes the Librarian even pointed to a spirit owl-librarian Wan Shi Tong (voiced by Héctor Elizondo) in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, as one such example. She declares that his ancient library is amazing, that fox spirits assist patrons locate information, serving as public services and acquisitions staff members. She goes onto say that while he the “worst example” of a librarian as he is spiteful, mean, territorial, and single-minded, having an innate distrust of humans, with his main concern being protection and collection of knowledge, making him like an archivist. She adds this means he may dislike rare materials from the library getting in the “wrong hands” and then in “anyone’s hands”.

Reviewing the episode “A New Spiritual Age” she notes that Tong is even more hostile to humans, including Jinora, the granddaughter of Aang, who she is able to offer new knowledge in exchange and stay in the library. This gets worse as he is in league with the enemy of Korra, her uncle Unalaq. She adds that the library of Wan Shi Tong and the library itself is an “incredible story”, calling him a fan-favorite character, as he wants nothing more “than to cultivate a mass of knowledge and keep it safe” with a thirst for knowledge which makes him “lower his guard twice” and when he does, his belief in the “folly of human-kind is reinforced.” She seems to defend his actions, saying that he may be mean, old, and evil, but also tired.

This differs from Sam Cross of Pop Archives. [8] She describes, like Marie, how Jinora gets into the library, noting she offers to explain how a radio works. While she gets in, it turns out that Wan sided with Unalaq, claiming that Unalaq, who wants to free the dark spirits, because he cares about spirits while “Korra has shown no such interest.” Cross argues that he is Wan is interesting because he is a “spirit of contradictions”, not wanting knowledge in his library being used for ill-purposes, but doesn’t attempt to provide context, doesn’t do his own follow-up or research. Instead, he claims he is neutral, in Cross’s words, but actually favors those who see “spirits as more valuable or important than humans.” He is, in the words of Cross, the smartest spirit ever”, and ends up being a spirit which is unnerving, yet familiar, able to provide “access to knowledge” and possibly bite your head off like “real archivists/librarians/curators” in her words.

Wan, alongside Unalaq, falsely claims that Unalaq is a “true friend” unlike Korra, standing in a hallway, while Jinora, in the foreground, stands her ground

I have a different take on Wan. While I understand what Marie and Cross are saying, he seems akin to the strict librarians I often talk about in this blog. He declares humans can no longer enter the library, he says that the last human stayed there to read, grew old and died. He sets down ground rules for Jinora, saying she can look around, but can’t break anything. Although a fox spirit helps her, she is later betrayed by him. When he sides with Unalaq it is just like the librarian Cletus Bookworm letting Rocky and Bullwinkle be taken out of his library at gunpoint. We as the audience know that Unalaq is bad news, but due to the fact that Wan has walled himself off from everything, he has no idea of Unalaq’s true nature. The fact that he lets her be kidnapped and taken away is wrong on so many levels. What Cross and Marie are saying has a sense of truth, but it also is not recognizing the severity of the situation and how Wan is condoning a crime! What he allows to happen leads to further trauma for Korra.

His character proves the point of Alison Nastasi: that the librarian is “one of the most misunderstood figures in pop culture history,” noting various “negative, unflattering, and downright laughable images of librarians” that have inundated our society. This is especially the case when it comes to stereotypical representations of female librarians in pop culture, which Christina Niegel argues are rooted in the “gendered history of the profession” and social norms producing expectations about “service work as an extension of the caring and organizing work of women.” Such stereotypes are emblematic of the difference between real-life librarians and those in fiction, a disparity “between reality and fantasy” as Darlynn Nemitz puts it. Fictional librarians convey a certain meaning, even in more positive depictions like Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl, who many find inspiring. [9] The same can even be said for the unnamed Black male librarian in All the President’s Men.

All these depictions have a real-life impact. Some have even argued that librarian stereotypes and perceptions may be holding back library instruction, while others related fictional librarians to real life information behaviors of patrons. Additional pieces noted stereotypes in young adult literature, said that some fictional librarians can be good sleuths, or pointed to other depictions of librarians in fantasy and sci-fi, to name a few genres. This fiction differs from reality. Characters like Sam’s mom in Totally Spies, may say that librarians are a “safe” career option, but the reality is very different. [10]

In Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere, there is a continued need to rely on precious work to maintain their workforces. This is coupled with maintaining systemic barriers to those with disabilities. How can someone enforce the much-exalted “core values” of the profession, if your job is precarious? [11] The answer is that you can’t. Some librarians in fiction are shown as equivalent to precarious, like those experiencing burnout. Most prominently, apart from the blue-skinned librarian in Prisoner Zero, is Kaisa in Hilda, who is shown as exhausted at one point. I can’t think of any librarian in fiction whose labor is contingent, is precarious, but hopefully that changes in the future. That’s my hope at least. Until the next post.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Duff, Gary. “Actor Jeffrey Wright on Growing Up In D.C., the 2016 Election & Starring in ‘The Public’“. Capitol File, Apr. 17, 2019; Yamauchi, Haruko. “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters: An Emerging Radical Vision of Reference for the People, 1967-1973” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 28, 50; Forbes, Carrie and Jennifer Bowers, “Social Justice, Sentipensante Pedagog, and Collaboration: The Role of Research Consultations in Developing Critical Communities” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 270.

[2] Beilin, Ian. “Reference and Justice, Past and Present” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 19; Yamauchi, “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters,” p. 33, 36, 39; Buenrosto, Iyra S. and Johann Frederick A. Cabbab, “Unbound: Recollections of Librarians During Martial Law in the Philippines” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 70-1.

[3] Yamauchi, “Urban Information Specialists and Interpreters,” 30-32, 44; Buenrosto and Cabbab, “Unbound,” 64; Adler, Kate. “Towards a Critical (Affective) Reference Practice: Emotional, Intellectual and Social Justice” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 110; Tewell, Eamon. “Beyond Efficient Answers with a Smile: Seeking Critical Reference Praxis” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 221-2; Forbes, “Social Justice, Sentipensante Pedagog, and Collaboration,” 262, 271.

[4] Allan, Adriane. “Librarians in Children’s and Teen Literature.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Allan, Adriane. “The Librarian with an Alterego Convention.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. November 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Attebury, Ramirose I. “Perceptions of a Profession: Librarians and Stereotypes in Online Videos.” Library Philosophy and Practice, October 2010. Accessed June 17, 2022.

[5] Bartel, Cheryl. “Past and Future Images vs. Current Actuality.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Berguson, Stephen M. “Librarians in Comics: Sources — Comic Books.” Libraries FAQ. n.d. [2002?] Accessed June 17, 2022; Berguson, Stephen M. “Librarians in Comics: Sources — Comic Strips.” Libraries FAQ. August 17, 2002. Accessed June 17, 2022; Firment, Erica. “Desk Set” [Review]. Librarian Avengers. November 11, 2006. Accessed June 17, 2022; French, Emily. “Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction.” OUP Blog. July 17, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2022; Gachman, Diana. “13 Of The Best Library Scenes In Movies.” Bustle, September 8, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2022.

[6] Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 253-4.

[7] Glazer, Glen. “Our Favorite Fictional Librarians, Ranked.” New York Public Library. April 14, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2022; Gunn, James. “Libraries in Science Fiction.” Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. n.d. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marcia, Maria J. “Images of Librarians in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Including an Annotated List.” Research Report. Eastern Kentucky University, June 1998; Marie. “Bunny Watson – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. March 11, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Evelyn Carnahan – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 18, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “It’s a Wonderful Life: How Mary Lost Her Groove,” Pop Goes the Librarian. December 20, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Marian the Librarian – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 7, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “On Crones, Meanies and Sex Kittens,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 15, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Rupert Giles – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 20, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Summer Movies Mean… Librarian Cameos?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 2, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “The Judgmental Ostrich: When book-pushers become meme fodder,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 10, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Visual Cues: What Makes a Librarian?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 22, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “vs. the Evil Librarians,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 8, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Who/what/why am I?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 2, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Why Are Librarians So Mean?,” Pop Goes the Librarian. October 26, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Wan Shi Tong – Pop! Profile,” Pop Goes the Librarian. December 5, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “‘Wonderfully Unhinged’ Librarian,” Pop Goes the Librarian. January 28, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Worse Than Murder,” Pop Goes the Librarian. July 11, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “‘You Don’t Look Like a Librarian!’,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 26, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Marie. “Zombie Librarian,” Pop Goes the Librarian. June 13, 2012. Accessed June 17, 2022.

[8] Cross, Samantha. “Archivist Spotlight: Wan Shi Tong.” Pop Archives, April 12, 2019.

[9] Nastasi, Alison. “Our Favorite Pop Culture Librarians.” FlavorWire. November 9, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2022; Neigel, Christina. “Loveless Frumps, Old Maids, and Diabolical Deviants: Representations of Gender and Librarianship in Popular Culture.” Ed. D., Simon Fraser University, 2018; Nemitz, DarLynn. “Image of Librarians and Libraries in Popular Literature.” Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022; Nemitz, DarLynn. “Library Cards: The Reflected Image of Libraries.” Image of Libraries in Popular Culture. Fall 2001. Accessed June 17, 2022;Scarlet, Janina. “The Psychology of Inspirational Women: Batgirl.” The Mary Sue. August 6, 2015. Accessed June 17, 2022; O’Neal, Jeff. “16 Great Library Scenes in Film.” Book Riot. July 26, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2022. Also see Oberhelman, David D. “A Brief History of Libraries in Middle-Earth: Manuscript and Book Repositories in Tolkien’s Legendarium.” In Truths Breathed Through Silver:  The Inklings’ Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy, edited by Jonathan B. Himes, 81–92. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.

[10] Pagowsky, Nicole, and Erica DeFrain. “Ice Ice Baby: Are Librarian Stereotypes Freezing Us out of Instruction?In the Library with the Lead Pipe, July 3, 2014. Accessed June 17, 2022; Pierce, Jennifer B. “What’s Harry Potter doing in the library? Depiction of young adult information seeking behavior in contemporary fantasy fiction.” Iowa Research Online, June 1, 2004. Accessed June 17, 2022; Peresis, Michalle and Linda B. Alexander. “Librarian stereotypes in Young Adult literature.” Young Adult Library Services, 4, no. 1 (2005): 24-31; Reiman, Lauren. “Solving the Mystery: What Makes the Fictional Librarian Such a Good Sleuth?” Honors Thesis, Washington State University, 2003; “Representations of Libraries and Librarians in Popular Culture, Particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Sci-Fi Librarian. February 27, 2016. Accessed June 17, 2022. Also see: Sweeney, Miriam A. “Not Just a Pretty Inter(face): A Critical Analysis of Microsoft’s ‘Ms. Dewey.’” Doctors Thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013. In the episode “Totally Busted!” [Part 1], Sam’s mother says being a librarian is a safer career option than being an international spy. She also says being a foot doctor is safer.

[11] Henninger, Ean. “Precarious Library Employment as a Professional Barrier.” British Columbia Library Association, accessed June 17, 2022; Moeller, Christine. “Disability, Identity, and Professionalism: Precarity in Librarianship.” Library Trends, Vol. 67, Number 3, Winter 2019, 455-470; “Core Values of Librarianship.” American Library Association, accessed June 17, 2022. Also see “Labor and Precarity Syllabus“.

animation anime Comics Movies Pop culture mediums

Recently added titles (May 2023)

Students studying hard for school midterns
Students studying for midterm exams, at library cubbies, at the Tokyo high school where Mitsumi is studying as shown in the fifth episode of Skip and Loafer, with the narration (words on screen) by Mitsumi

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of 2022, and January, February, March, and April 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 episodes from various animated series and other entries that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come, as there have been six anime episodes, two anime films, and multiple issues of webcomics noted here. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

None for this month.

Anime series recently added to this page

  • Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, “Nurse’s Office and Main Character”
  • Oshi No Ko, “Egosurfing”
  • Oshi No Ko, “Buzz”
  • Sailor Moon, “Death of Uranus and Neptune”
  • Skip and Loafer, “Prickly and Giddy”
  • Somali and the Forest Spirit, “The Footsteps That Stalk the Witches”

Comics recently added to this page

Films recently added to this page

  • Calamity of a Zombie Girl
  • Josee, the Tiger and the Fish
  • The Whisper of the Heart

Other entries recently added to this page

None for this month.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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Vocational awe and fictional depictions of librarians

Some time ago, I came across tweets by Fobazi Ettarh expressing her disappointment that people defended a White female librarian who called a Black woman a racist term, then doubled down on her tweet. From there, I followed the links and came upon her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” I had read it before, but I decided to give it a read again and thought as to how this could be applied to what I’ve written about on this blog in the past. Originally I was planning to put every point she made in the article into one blogpost, but that seemed to be squeezing too many ideas into one place, so I split off many of her points into specific blogposts, to fully explore what she says and to explain more how can relate to fictional depictions of librarians.

Ettarh began her article noting librarians “administering the anti-overdose drug Naloxon,” saying that while this seems natural at first, with these librarians working to “save the democratic values of society as well as going above and beyond to serve the needs of their neighbors and communities,” the rhetoric around this “borders on vocational and sacred language” instead of “acknowledging that librarianship is a profession or a discipline, and as an institution, historically and contemporarily flawed, we do ourselves a disservice.” She goes on to define “vocational awe” as a “set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in beliefs that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.” [1]

There are undoubtedly fictional librarians believe that institutions are seen as “good and sacred,” and “beyond critique,” especially since these characters are almost universally created by those who haven’t been librarians, have worked in libraries, have library degrees, and so on. As such, their views of libraries are informed by popular perceptions. As such, some characters clearly see librarianship as a vocation or a calling, based on the Christian tradition of calling requiring a “monastic life under vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience” as Ettarh points out.

One of those characters is Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm who works in a church library, which she had been excited to be a part of. Unfortunately, in Part 3 of the series, she is not shown in the library. Instead, she is only shown being denied from the library and becomes subservient to authority, which is sad to see for her character.

This different from previous parts of the series, in which she undoubtedly sees her role as a librarian as one of obedience. Through all of the series, her role as a librarian becomes interconnected with her role as a gray-robed priest. This related to what Ettarh adds about  vocation within librarianship. She argues that she has “allusions to religiosity and the sacred” and states that libraries created with the “same architectural design as churches in order to elicit religious awe.” She goes onto say that awe is a overwhelming and fearful feelings rather than a comforting one, meant to elicit “obedience from people in the presence of something bigger than themselves.”

This differs from O’Bengh, also known as Cagliostro, in an episode of What If…?. He is a sorcerer who works in a library, which looks exactly like a temple. He is a manifestation of librarians as priests. Sometimes it isn’t as explicit as his character. As I noted in the aforementioned post, O’Bengh falls into the librarian as an information provider stereotype. The fact the library is a temple, this, as I noted in that post, furthers the perception that libraries, and by extension librarians, are sacred. In many ways, he acts like a monk inside of a monastery who never leaves the monastery, as he never appears in any other episodes.

Ettarh goes onto argues that vocational awe manifests itself in “response to the library as both a place and an institution,” with library workers easily paralyzed by the “sacred duties of freedom, information, and service.” As a result of these “grand missions,” advocating for a full lunch break or taking a mental health day “feels shameful.” This awe is “weaponized against the worker,” meaning that there can be vocational purity test of sorts in which a worker “can be accused of not being devout or passionate enough to serve without complaint.”

Shown at 45:29 in this film. She comes back for a scene at 47:24 where she is shelving books

In some ways this is weaponized against librarians. Take for instance Gabrielle (voiced by Victoire Du Bois) in I Lost My Body. She has an annoying supervisor who fits many librarian stereotypes and attempts to stop Gabrielle from talking to Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris), the show’s other protagonist, who is checking out books. While she is shown to be hard at work shelving books elsewhere in this mature film, she also is enforcing library rules and expectations all at the same time, with Gabrielle dubbing her “Mrs. Watchtower”. Since the library scene is so short and we see the movie mainly from Naoufel’s perspective, we don’t know the motivations of this annoying supervisor, who doesn’t even have a voice actor, and fellow librarian.

The same can be said about Amity Blight (voice by Mae Whitman) in The Owl House. In the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”, her boss, Malphas (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) fires her after she is found in a forbidden section of the library. Although she isn’t supposed to be there, she is trying to help Luz Noceda (voiced by Sarah Nicole-Robles), who later becomes her girlfriend, find a book about a previous human traveler to this magical world. She accepts the consequences but Luz gets Amity’s library card back after going through a series of trials. Not surprisingly, Amity is grateful and kisses Luz on the cheek.

Ettarh writes that librarianship by its very nature privileges those within the status quo. She goes onto see that those outside of the center of librarianship can see more clearly, for the most part, disparities between reality of library work and “espouse values.” She goes onto say that vocational awe refuses to acknowledge libraries as flawed institutions, meaning that when marginalized librarians, including people of color, speak out, their accounts are “often discounted or erased.” She adds that vocational awe ties the twin phenomenon of undercompensation and job creep, when employees are pressured to “deliver more than the normal requirements of their jobs” which is gradually increased by the employer, within librarianship due to workplaces that are self-sacrificing and service-oriented.

This results in, as Ettarh puts it, librarians becoming self-selected. It leads to expectations that entry-level library jobs need usually voluntary experience within a library, coupled with “class barriers built into the profession.” What this means that those who have financial instability and cannot work for free have to take out loans or switch careers entirely. Furthermore, those librarians with family responsibilities cannot “work long nights and weekends” and librarians with disabilities can’t make librarianship a “whole-self career.”

In animation this is shown in terms of oft-stereotype of White female librarians who are elderly spinsters. It is implied that such librarians, who are often strict, have experience in library school, degrees, and have been in the library for ages. It is further indicated that even if one moves beyond White librarians in animation, I can’t think of one librarian who is physically disabled, which Ettarh seems to be talking about in her article. Many of the librarians may be mentally disabled though, through their demeanor and actions. Often they are characters for only one episode, so there isn’t enough of a focus on them to know who they are as actual people. That is the nature of current depictions

Back to Ettarh, she further says that having an “emotional attachment” to your work is often valued, and says that while it isn’t a negative, vocational awe is endemic and “connected to so many aspects of librarianship.” She goes onto say that the problem with this is that efficacy of a person’s work is tied to their amount or lack of passion rather than “fulfillment of core job duties”. She adds that if being a good librarian is “directly tied to struggle, sacrifice, and obedience,” then the more one struggles in their work, their institution / work becomes “holier”. This means that people are less likely to “feel empowered…[or] to fight for a healthier workspace.” [2]

Poor Kaisa, she just wants to finish her library tasks of re-shelving books, but Hilda has to be persistent.

Perhaps this is what Kaisa, the ever popular librarian in Hilda feels as she feels exhausted in one episode. More than that, she is experiencing burnout. As I wrote in that post, Kaisa exhibits many of the characteristics of burnout, or what some call librarian fatigue. However, it is hard to know whether her workload is sustainable, if she has a lack of personal control over her workplace, if is insufficiently compensated or recognized, or has a lack of social support, which often leads to burnout. As I put it in that post, librarian burnout/fatigue is something which librarians need to discuss more openly and it should be shown more directly in fictional depictions.

As a reminder, burnout, as noted in that article, means a “syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind”. It is caused by factors such as an “unsustainable workload, role conflict…lack of personal control at work, insufficient recognition…lack of social support, a sense of unfairness, and personal values…at odds with the organization’s values.” This is connected with feelings of detachment and cynicism, a lack of accomplishment, sense of ineffectiveness, and overwhelming exhaustion, with physical symptoms including hypertension, muscle tension, headaches, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, and more.

I end with words from Ettarh. She writes that libraries are only buildings and that people inside, the librarians, do the work, who need to be treated well. She adds that “you can’t eat on passion. You can’t pay rent on passion. Passion, devotion, and awe are not sustainable sources of income.” She goes onto say that while libraries may have a purpose to serve,but is that purpose so high and mighty when it “fails to serve those who work within its walls every day”. She concludes by saying “we need to continue asking these questions…and stop using vocational awe as the only way to be a librarian.” That is something I have to agree with wholeheartedly.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] She also says that the article tries to “dismantle the idea that librarianship is a sacred calling…describe[s] the institutional mythologies surrounding libraries and librarians…dismantle[s] these mythologies by demonstrating the role libraries play in institutional oppression….[and] discuss[es] how vocational awe disenfranchises librarians and librarianship” in hopes that librarianship can “hopefully evolve into a field that supports and advocates for the people who work in libraries as much as it does for physical buildings and resources.”

[2] Ettarh defines a healthy workplace as “one where working around the clock is not seen as a requirement, and where one is sufficiently compensated for the work done” and says it is not a workplace where “the worker [is] taken for granted as a cog in the machinery.”

animation anime Comics Movies Pop culture mediums

Recently added titles (April 2023)

In this first episode of season 2 of Tokyo Mew Mew New, Aoyama (shown looking toward the window, in the center of this image) has a vision about Ichigo (a girl he loves) in which she is crying, and comes back to his studying in the library, wondering what Ichigo is doing.

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of 2022, and January, February, and March 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. Unfortunately, there were no animated series or films with libraries I came across this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics, along with other entries. Hopefully, there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Animated series recently added to this page

None this month

Anime series recently added to this page

  • Tokyo Mew Mew New, “Step Up! Ichigo’s Romance Enters the Next Stage!” (s2ep1) [Apr. 2023]
  • Violet Evergarden, “Somewhere, Under a Starry Sky”
  • Violet Evergarden, “Surely, Someday, You Will Understand Love”

Comics recently added to this page

Films recently added to this page

None for this month

Other entries recently added to this page

  • Abbott Elementary (TV series)
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (TV series)
  • Murder, She Wrote (TV series)
  • Normal People (TV series)
  • Shadow and Bone (TV series)
  • Shelved (TV series)
  • The Diplomat (TV series)
  • Vera (TV series)
  • Young Sheldon (TV series)

© 2023 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!

action adventure animated animation anime Black people fantasy Fiction genres French people horror Librarians Libraries live-action magic libraries Movies Pop culture mediums public libraries speculative fiction Thai people White people

Celebrating fictional library workers

Happy May Day! Today is also known as Labour/Labor Day and International Workers’ Day, celebrating working classes and laborers, which is promoted by the international labor movement. It is celebrated every year. In her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” Fobazi Ettarh stated that a lack of compensation for library work is nothing new, with underemployment issues as a continued source for unhappiness. Librarians continue to be paid hourly and isn’t a primary job for everyone, while the institution gains reduced price or free labor with the enforcement of awe through its “dramatic and heroic narratives.” Interconnected to this is the mythologies of vocational awe which reinforces “themes of sacrifice and struggle,” while librarianship sustained itself through labor of librarians who reap only the “immaterial benefits” of having done supposedly “good work.”

This interconnects to fictional librarians. In this article I’ll focus on librarians who presumably get a wage, rather than student librarians which I wrote about earlier this month, or salary. [1] These librarians include Kaisa in Hilda, Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too, Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry, and Ms. Herrera in Archie’s Weird Mysteries. There’s also unnamed librarians in We Bare Bears, Gabriel DropOut, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and Cardcaptor Sakura, to name a few who work in public or school libraries. All of those and more will be reviewed in this article.

Kaisa is a supporting character in Hilda and she works at the Trolberg Library. Although she is never shown getting a paycheck, there is no doubt that she is receiving some wages or salary. However, it is implied that she may be overworked and may be experiencing burnout. She often has to deal with annoying patrons, like Hilda herself. Even so, she is still helpful to patrons like Hilda and her friends. She is even a person who would stand up to her bosses, as she would have done in standing against them in a scene which never made it in Hilda and the Mountain King. Otherwise, she seems relatively content with her job, at least as her scenes in the show indicate, although the times we see her is relatively limited, so its hard to know for sure.

Since the show is set in an alternate version of Scandinavia, we can say she would earn an average salary of approximately 9,936 Euros or about $17,843 U.S. Dollars. [2] However, if we chose largest amount, she would earn about $42,274 U.S. Dollars a year, and around $3,386 U.S. Dollars a year at the minimum. Compared to those classified as Librarians and Library Media Specialists by the BLS, the average salary of $61,190 U.S. Dollars a year. Her salary is closer to those classified as Librarian Technicians and Assistants by the BLS which earn an average salary of $34,050 U.S. Dollars a year. Hopefully Trolberg has enough money to pay her, so I’m going to hope that she earns the equivalent of $37,000 a year, which means she would earn about $17.78 dollars an hour, assuming a 2,080 hour work year. That may be far too optimistic, but I’m really hoping here.

That brings me to Isomura in Let’s Make a Mug Too. She is a librarian and curator of local ceramics museum in the town of Tajimi. Since she has both jobs, she doesn’t devote all of her time to the library. However, she is from the city hall and is apparently a new hire. Now, librarians in Japan have an average salary of $5,882,809 Japanese Yen, the equivalent of $44,355 U.S. Dollars or $295,721.24 Chinese Yuan Renminbi. As for curators, they earn a bit more, $6,717,387 Japanese Yen. [3] That is equivalent of $337,578.57 Chinese Yuan Renminbi or $50,647 U.S. Dollars. If we average the two together, assuming she has a librarian-curator position, she would be earning an equivalent of $47,501 U.S. Dollars a year. If we use the same amount of hours per year I mentioned earlier, then she would earn about $23 dollars an hour! That’s pretty good for an amount of money to earn in a year.

The curator talking to the show's protagonist about pottery in Let's Make a Mug Here
The curator talking to the show’s protagonist about pottery

More broadly, the library that Isomura works in is one of the thousands of libraries in Japan. Some of those are listed on the “List of libraries in Japan” page. A small number of these libraries are “beautifully designed” and I’d guess that some of them are like temples, as some are said to be designed by so-called “master architects.” Libraries in Japan have evolved from being a study room and place for limited use to a place with attitudes about guarding the “people’s right to know” and ensuring equal and free access to information for everyone. Furthermore, librarians in Japan said to be “very passionate” about including “all areas of thought” in their daily discourse and collections, since library collections in World War II were heavily censored. [4]

There are many librarians in Japan who work at public libraries. Take, or example, the unnamed librarians Cardcaptor Sakura. The latter show has librarians shelving books and searching for items on their computers, helping the protagonists. They seem respected by those in the library itself. Unfortunately, looking at the listing on IMDB, it does not appear that the four, or even more, librarians in the episode are uncredited, unless they are listed as a character. The same can be said about the two unnamed librarians who appear briefly in the first episode Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, “My Senpai is a Bunny Girl”. Both work at Fujisawa Library, a public library.

Similarly, consider the librarian in Gabriel DropOut. She has a more direct role. In the episode “Fun Forever After…”, an unnamed female librarian helps Tapris, who stumbles at first when getting into the library and struggles to get on the internet. She doesn’t even know what a mouse is, and even touches the screen when its not a touch screen. The librarian helps her, guiding her to books on computers and programming, leading Tapris to read books about them. Again, unfortunately, the librarian is not credited.

This differs from the unnamed librarian in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform. She works at an all-girls private school, Roubai Girls’ Academy. In one episode, “There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”, she shushes protagonists Akebi and Erika after they excitedly talk to one another. After the librarian shushes them so they express themselves non-verbally and remain excited to hang out that upcoming Saturday, the following day, together. Like other school librarians, she likely takes training courses and work to make sure the services of the school library meets the needs of the school. [5]

This contrasts with Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry, a children’s animated series set in the United Kingdom. She works as a school librarian during the series but is generally disrespected by the show’s protagonist. Putting aside that a White woman voices her, even though she is a Black woman, as I’ve talked about how this is problematic in the past, lets consider an average salary. In the UK a librarian earns about £23,019 British Pounds a year, and £10.14 British Pounds an hour. [6] That’s the equivalent of about $28,788 U.S. Dollars a year, or about $13 USD an hour. That is relatively low compared to what I’ve mentioned before. I’ll get to librarians in the U.S. later.

Henry's teachers, with Lovely on the right
Henry’s teachers, with Lovely on the right

The diversity of UK librarians is even worse than in the U.S.: 97% of librarians identify as White! Compare that to the U.S. where 87% identify as White according to recent information. As such, Lydia Lovely is in the minority in terms of Black librarians in the UK. I don’t know whether there are Black librarian groups there like there are in the U.S., but I sure hope so, because they really need more diversity in their ranks of librarians, without a doubt.

They aren’t the only librarians in the UK which I’ve found in my watching of animated series. There’s the unnamed librarian in Sarah and Duck, a non-human librarian. Appearing in the episode “Lost Librarian” and voiced by Tom Britton, this librarian works at what appears to be working at the public library. Sarah and Duck who had gone to the library to learn about a periscope, help him after he loses his paper catalog . He eventually gets back the paper catalog, even as he shushes the duck at a later point. The one thing that is strange is that he has a paper catalog and there is no back-up. Strange and supports the idea of stereotypes of librarians and libraries as antiquated.

This profoundly contrasts with the librarian in Totally Spies who may be voiced by Janice Kawaye, a voice actor of Japanese descent, as I’ve written before, most recently in March 2022. She works at the Liverpool Library, based off the Liverpool Central Library as I noted in my post on April 18. It is the largest of the libraries in Liverpool. If she continued to work there, even as a buff librarian, with some spinster qualities, she would be in a building with “Wi-Fi access throughout the building with 150 computers” according to the library’s official website. The library also has 15,000 rare books,  a local studies collection which provides the “rich and fascinating history of Liverpool“. Furthermore, in connection to what the librarian does in the episode, they charge for late returned items. This is something being phased out in many libraries, although Liverpool Central Library isn’t one of them.

That brings me to Gabrielle in I Lost My Body. In the mature animated film, set in France, this librarian, voiced by Victoire Du Bois, she is a young woman who becomes friends with the protagonist after he, a pizza delivery person, delivers a pizza to her. She asks if he is ok, says he should change jobs, and they talk through the intercom while there is a hard rain outside the apartment building. She tells him she works in a library. It is later revealed, she delivers medicine to a man named Gigi. That she works at the Guy de Maussurant Library, possible referring to Guy De Maupassant, who is a great French writer of short stories. As a librarian there, checks out books for him there, helps him, tells him to bring them back in four weeks. Through it all she has an annoying unnamed library supervisor, while acting thoughtful, elusive, and hip from time to time. She rides a motorcycle, like Rin Shima in Laid-Back Camp, and is unique in that way.

Currently, the average salary of librarians in France is €47,292 Euros. That is the equivalent of about $50,534 USD per year, or $24.2 per hour, assuming the same 2,080 hour work year I mentioned earlier. It is worth noting that there are over 16,000 “public reading spaces” in France, but only 17% of the population are registered library users, due to limited hours open, remoteness, and continued stereotypes. At the same time, libraries of American Committee for Devastated France, otherwise known as CARD, containing librarians from the U.S., served as the foundation of modern libraries in France. There are also various professional organizations for librarians in the country. [7]

For Gabrielle, her job is probably pretty secure, even recommending The World According to Garp when he brings back another book. She probably doesn’t he has a second job seems to imply that her librarian job may not be paying her enough to stay afloat. However, if a second job is emblematic of the librarian field in France, one might say it means there is precarity at play. As put it in American Libraries, “precarity within and outside of libraries is tied to larger structural forces.” If this is the case for Gabrielle, it could mean, on the one hand, that her job is not as secure and a symptom of larger trends. After all, it seems to be the case in France, at least to some extent, especially for those in the gig economy. [8]

Bookworm supports oppression against Rocky and Bullwinkle

That brings me to Cletus Bookworm in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. He is a librarian in the small town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Considering he is in the U.S., and in small town, what Jessi Baker, a small-town librarian said, is relevant here, that such librarians “often follow a different set of professional norms” since what may be considered “professional behavior in a larger area could be considered impersonal behavior by a small-town patron.” There is even an Association for Small and Rural Libraries. Other librarians also pedal around books and deliver them across the town. [9]

In the case of Bookworm, he appears to be respected enough to stay in his position even though he is complicit in kidnapping of his own patrons. Although this matters little to him, as all he wants in the library, similar to the general librarian stereotype of shushing librarians. is order in the library by any means necessary. He is very different from other librarians, like Archie the Archivist in Regular Show, which is set in an indeterminate location, who helps the protagonists, and is also the guardian of special laser discs, for some reason.

That brings me to the many librarians in the U.S. As I noted earlier, Librarians and Library Media Specialists earn an average of $61,190 U.S. Dollars a year and Librarian Technicians and Assistants earn an average salary of $34,050 U.S. Dollars a year. Most of the animated librarians in Western animation work in public libraries. Consider the unnamed librarian in We Bare Bears who is seemingly of Thai descent, who works at a branch of the the Los Angeles Public Library. She is shown as burned out and overworked, similar to Kaisa in Hilda.

She is not unique in this. Arguably Stewart Goodson and Myra in The Public may be be burned out to an extent. This differs from Mr. Anderson, the library manager. They all work at the Cincinnati Public Library. Also working in the Midwest is Bobby Daniels in The Ghost and Molly McGee and Clara Francis Censordoll in Moral Orel. Daniels is unique. He is one of the only Latine librarians apart from Mateo in Elena of Avalor and Eztli in Victor and Valentino that I know of in animation. Mateo is voiced by a gay man named Joseph “Joey” Haro, who is of Cuban descent, while Eztli is seemingly voiced by Jenny Lorenzo, who is also of Cuban descent. Daniels is voiced by Danny Trejo, he is presumably of Mexican descent since Trejo is of Mexican descent. There is a rich history of Mexican-American librarians, otherwise known as Chicano librarians, which tries to change the culture of the libraries they worked in to better suit their communities rather than White culture despite institutional resistance.

Censordoll is fundamentally different. In fact, her whole character stands against all the ethics and codes which librarians attest to. She dips books in kerosene so they can be burned and throws away books said to be “objectionable.” She is the equivalent of what the librarian-soldiers were fighting against in Library War and the present-day equivalent of book-banning/censorship efforts in the U.S., which seem to get worse every day. Such efforts are arguably a manifestation of fascism, although people don’t always use that word for them.

Other librarians appear in the Mid-Atlantic. This includes Harold in Craig of the Creek, who works at a librarian in the fictional town of Herkleton, Maryland in the Baltimore/D.C. metropolitan area. Additionally, the unnamed librarian in an episode of Steven Universe, “Buddy’s Book”, is located somewhere in Delmarva, along the Atlantic coast, in what can be called the Eastern Shore. Harold is voiced by Matt Burnett while the voice of the librarian in the Steven Universe episode is not currently known. The latter librarian may be more exhausted and tired than the former, although it is hard to know for sure because she is only shown very briefly in the episode itself.

three librarians in fiction
from left to right: Sherman “Swampy” in Phineas and Ferb, unnamed librarian in Rugrats and Mr. Ambrose in Bob’s Burgers

Apart from these is Sherman “Swampy” in Phineas & Ferb, possibly in the mid-Atlantic region, or other unnamed librarians in the series. This contrasts from Rugrats. Considering the series is seemingly set in Southern California, it means the unnamed librarian in that series is in the same area. This differs from Bob’s Burgers which is set somewhere in the Northeastern United States. Mr. Ambrose works in a school library there, specifically at Wagstaff School. He is said to be “flamboyant” on his fandom page, implying that he could be gay.

Similarly, Archie’s Weird Mysteries is set in New York, in the fictional town of Riverdale. The series includes Ms. Herrera, who may be Latine, and a librarian ghost named Violet Stanhope. In some scenes, she is shown as not a ghost. She remains in the town as she has unfinished business in the human world and can’t leave until it is completed. For all the hassle that Herrera goes through, I sure hop she is compensated well. That’s my hope, although I’m not sure if it is fulfilled or not

Then there is the unnamed librarian in Kim Possible who would fall within the “high school librarian” and “school librarian” category listed by the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. She is voiced by April Winchell. The series takes place in a possibly Midwestern town named Middleton, but still located in the U.S. Considering the fact that she is a menace in the school, she may have strong-armed the administration to pay her adequately. Alternatively, she might be underpaid and is lashing out at students because her pay is low. Its hard to know. I wish someone would write a fan fiction about her, one day.

That’s all for this post. Until next time!

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] It is possible that Iku Kasahara and Asako Shibasaki in Library War are paid, although I can’t confirm that.

[2] “Librarian Average Salary in Norway 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary is 396,000 NOK (39,250.194 Euros); “Librarian [Sweden].” SalaryExpert. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary is 414,891 kr (39,575.039 Euros); “Librarian Average Salary in Iceland 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 467,000 ISK (3,376.6099 Euros); “Librarian Average Salary in Finland 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 3,170 EUR; “Librarian Average Salary in Denmark 2022.” Salaryexplorer. Accessed June 6, 2022, says average salary of 28,600 DKK (3,844.6069 Euros); “What is the average salary of a librarian in Finland? Which source do I search for more information ? There is a librarian average salary history?” Ask a Librarian, Jun. 22, 2015. Used XE’s Currency Converter on June 6, 2022, inputting these average salaries then divided by five.

[3] “Librarian Salary in Japan.” Accessed June 6, 2022; “Museum Curator” [Japan]. SalaryExpert. Accessed June 6, 2022. Used XE Currency Converter on June 6, 2022.

[4] “Beautiful Libraries in Japan“. JapanTravel. Accessed June 6, 2022; “8 Beautiful Modern Libraries Designed by Master Architects in Japan.” Tsunagu Japan. Accessed June 6, 2022; Kawasaki, Yositaka, Genjiro Yamaguchi, and Ryoko Takashima. “The Development of Public Libraries in Japan After World War II.” 62nd IFLA General Conference – Conference Proceedings – August 25-31, 1996; Drake, Olivia. “Librarian Speaks on Intellectual Freedom in Japan.” The Wesleyan Connection. Oct. 5, 2006.

[5] Iwaski, Rei, Mutsumi Ohira, and Junko Nishio. “Pathways for School Library Education and Training in Japan.” IFLA, May 2019.  The library also appears in “Have You Decided on a Club?”, when the head of the literature club is talking to her friends in the library, and seems to read her books there to students as part of the club.

[6] “Average Librarian Salary in United Kingdom.” Payscale. Accessed June 7, 2022. Used XE Currency Converter on June 7, 2022.

[7] “Librarian Salary in France.” Accessed June 7, 2022; “France.” Libraries Without Borders. Accessed June 7, 2022; Dormant, Marcelline. “The French Connection.” American Libraries, Feb. 16, 2017; “Library Associations: France.” Internet Library for Librarians. Accessed June 7, 2022. The Economic Research Institute says something slightly different. Used XE Currency Converter on June 7, 2022.

[8] Lee, Yoonhee. “Bumpy Inroads.” American Libraries, May 1, 2020; Jensen, Kelly. “Librarians Under Pandemic Duress: Layoffs, Napkin Masks, and Fear of Retaliation.” Book Riot, Apr. 24, 2020; Babb, Mauren. “A Reflection on Precarity.” Partnership, Feb. 3, 2022; “Librarians fight rise of precarious work.” CBC, Mar. 27, 2016; Apouey, Bénédicte, Alexandra Roulet, Isabelle Solal, and Mark Stabile. (2020) “Gig Workers during the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being.” J Urban Health 97, no. 6: 776-795; Thorkelson, Eli. (2016) “Precarity Outside: The political unconscious of French academic labor.” American Ethnologist 43, no. 3: 476.

[9] Arata, Hannah. “Hometown Librarian: Q&A with a Problem-Solving Small-Town Librarian.” Programming Librarian, May 19, 2021; Arata, Hannah. “Library on Wheels: Q&A With a Book Biking Librarian.” Programming Librarian, Aug. 23, 2021.

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Examining Arab and Muslim librarians in fiction

Scholars sitting at an Abbasid library.
Scholars at an Abbasid library. Illustration by Yahyá al-Wasiti in 1237 entitled “Maqamat of al-Hariri”, downloaded from Wikimedia.

This month is Arab-American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions Arab-Americans have made to the U.S. In that vein, I’d like to highlight some fictional librarians who are Arabs, Muslims, and others in real life for this post.

First, I’d like to point out some facts. Currently there are, according to Arab America, over 3.5 million Arab Americans in the U.S., an inexact number since they are not recognized as a minority group on the federal level, 90% of whom live in urban areas. Furthermore, 66% of them live in 10 states, and 33% live in a few states: California, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey. 40% even have a bachelor’s degree or higher, showing high educational attainment. There are various stories which can be read. There is a Arab/Middle Eastern librarian listed by Jennifer Snoek-Brown in 2017 on her site, Reel Librarians: Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bey in The Mummy (1999). This film, unfortunately, has wretched stereotypes of Arabs, which some have examined, noting Egyptian workers are shown as “disposable, frightened props”, with some calling it an anti-Arab film and a “racist masterpiece” that is a “consummate example of bigotry”. It was so bad, that there is the story of Amir El Bayoumi, a young Egyptian-American who has originally signed onto the film, left the movie set, arguing that it was a “blatant humiliation” of his culture. [1] On the other hand are real-life Arab-American librarians like Ghada Kanafini Elturk, a person of Lebanese descent who was working as a librarian in Boulder, Colorado in September 2001, or the director of Morrow Library at Marshall University, Majed Khader, who was born in Jordan. There’s others who speak Arabic but are American and live in the Mideast like librarian David Hirsch.

Beyond this is author Ameen F. Rihani (1876-1940). He is first American with Arab heritage to “devote himself to writing literature, to publish a novel in English,” and author of Arab descent “to write English essays, poetry, novels, short stories, art critiques and travel chronicles.” That’s just one example. This differs from the issues and struggles that librarians, in the Arab world, have to deal with, distinct from those in the U.S., obviously. The late Lebanese-American scholar and journalist Jack G. Shaheen in one of his seminal works, Reel Bad Arabs, defines Arabs as the hundreds of millions of people who reside in, and the millions around the world in the diaspora, from 22 Arab states (Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen). Shaheen also notes that many English words, like algebra, chemistry, and coffee, have English roots, while Arab intellectuals made it possible for Western scholars to practice and develop “advanced educational systems.” Arabs also pioneered water works, irrigation, measuring latitude and longitude, invented the water clock, and were advanced in astronomical discoveries, along with the concept of gravity and tradition of legal learning which Jews played an important role in. Arabs have lifestyles which defy stereotyping, which has endured for centuries, especially in Europe. [2]

While there are some assorted fictional librarians who are Arabs, like an unnamed librarian in a puzzle game, more of them exist in real-life than any in fiction. Consider the Muslim woman, writer, and librarian Essraa Nawar, an Islamic school librarian named Kirin, or the eight Muslim librarians behind Hijabi Librarians, a site which reviews young adult and children’s literature featuring Muslim communities and characters. Unfortunately, even a search on their website pulls up very few Arab or Muslim librarians, other than Yasmin the Librarian, a Pakistani American second-grader. Further searches pulled up many more books, however. Nour, the protagonist of Nour’s Secret Library, and her friend, go a library named Fajr, in Syria, collecting books to stock shelves and checking out books, even making their own secret library. Additionally, there’s Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, which is based on the story of a Muslim woman who saved 30,000 books from destruction during the Iraq War, or the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra, Iraq, in the book The librarian of Basra. [3]

There are further library scenes in other books with Muslim characters. In You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? You Choose the Ending, the protagonist can stay a longer time or shorter time in the library depending on how loud or quiet she is. In Lailah’s Lunchbox, a school librarian encourages the Muslim protagonist to express herself. In Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties, which has a Pakistani Muslim protagonist, a slug comes out of a substitute librarian. In Layla’s Head Scarf, a librarian gives Layla, the Muslim protagonist, a book about her country. In Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle, the protagonists reach out to their parents in the library to learn about recycling. Also, in Muktar and the Camels, the Somali Muslim protagonist becomes a traveling librarian who rides a camel and in The Library Bus, Pari and her mother takes education on the road with a library bus in Afghanistan. The same author of the latter book wrote another about Afghans, titled A Sky-Blue Bench, focused on a disabled young girl. Despite these books, however, there is still a general lack of Muslim and Arab librarians, which sadly isn’t a surprise considering the lack of Muslim librarians in librarianship as a whole. [4]

When it comes to real librarians who are Muslims, Arabs, or both, there are scattered blogs and resources online, either of those in the West, Mideast or elsewhere. Others shared history of libraries in Spain, during the Islamic golden age, how a novel by Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book is based on a “true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian”, a Black Muslim librarian sparing the interest of José “Cha Cha” Jiménez in social justice and leading him to found the Young Lords Party. Some scholars argued that progress achieved by Muslims in science “during the caliphate was greatly supported by the existence of libraries”. [5] Others pointed out that historians divided the libraries in the early centuries of Islam into three types: public (schools or mosques), semi-public (only open to a specific group) and private (owned by scholars and for their personal needs) libraries. The greatness of these libraries was recorded by Ibn Sina and others, noting libraries with tens of thousands of volumes.

Children's section of Azadi library in Karkhark village, Iran
Children’s section of Azadi library in Karkhark village, Iran. Image by Saadatnia95, posted on Wikimedia, Feb. 17, 2017

There were further stories on heroic Islamic librarians and the Muslim women who restored an old library in Morocco. Others worked to combat stereotypes, met together with other Muslim librarians, or provided history of past libraries. Some have even proposed Islamic classification schemes or used a revised version of the Dewey Decimal System (DDC). Some scholars pointed to the role of Islamic librarianship,  noting that Islamic knowledge traditions raised librarians as so-called “knowledge workers” and scholars, and became a manifestation of their faith. This interconnects with the association of librarianship with what is sacred, religious, and even seeing librarians as priests. It may even be part of what some claimed was the “great borderless empire” of libraries which have the power to build civilization and have a “special place of honor” in society. There is also the role of WCOMLIS, the World Congress of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists, which appears to meet every year, and Islamic ethical codes, which some argue can be applied in library settings. [6]

Through it all there is the continued problem of low productivity of Arab librarians in contributing scholarship. This is in part with very few Arabic library journals, difficulties in determining how many librarians there in the Arab world, and a gender gap. The scholar Mahmoud Sherif Zakaria found that men published almost 83% of the articles in Arabic journals, while women published the other 17%, rooted in the fact that women may not have the time to publish or develop their research skills. The author concluded that the proportion of contributions of Arab librarians to the library literature “seems weak” and called for further scholarship from such librarians to promote professional library staff, and strengthen / gain professional and research recognition in the academic community” [7]

Rashid Siddiqui, a scholar at the University of Leichester in the UK, called for, in 1988, the Islamizing of librarianship with Islamic-based classification systems. In his four-page article, he argued, with merit, that “library science, as developed in the West, is bound to reflect the image of Western civilization. Subject classification, the rules for cataloguing, lists of subject headings and other techniques employed to exploit literature all portray the Western way of life.” He pointed out that there was trouble at cataloging Muslim authors with librarians continuing to follow “Anglo- American cataloguing rules”, argued that the DDC had an “American and Christian bias”, pointed to lack of bibliographical indexes and bias within “Western bibliographic data” has led to problems. He concluded by calling for Islamizing librarianship to open up “avenues of knowledge”, to make sure Islamic scholarship and learning is recognized. [8]

Hopefully, in the future, there are characters who are Muslims, Arabs, or both, which are librarians. It is more likely in Western animation and webcomics than anime, as the latter medium continues to be a bit of a monolith and lacks in representation of characters beyond Japanese culture for the most part. This is mainly the case due to the ethnic composition of Japan itself. After all, librarians have been said to influence young adult fiction trends, influence what teens read, can promote diversity, and libraries hold key places in neighborhoods, including in the Black community, but undoubtedly elsewhere too. [9]

With that, I conclude this post and hope to find more characters in the future which I can write about on this blog and share with you all. As always, comments on this post are welcome.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 9, 333-335

[2] Ibid, 2-3, 6-7, 11, 539.

[3] “Arab Librarian.” edu-fun store Egypt. Accessed June 20, 2022; Peters, Alison. “Cool Stuff Diverse Librarians Do.” Book Riot, Feb. 5, 2016; Younus, Zainab bint. “Muslim Bookstagram Awards: A Chat With An Islamic School Librarian.” Muslim Matters, Mar. 19, 2022; “Bios.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “About Us.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Favorite Books of 2021.” Hijabi Librarians, Feb. 2, 2022; Kirin, “Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa’ Tarnowska illustrated by Vali Mintzi.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 29, 2021; Kirin, “Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Sept. 25, 2020; Kirin. “Non-Fiction.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian. Accessed June 20, 2022; “The librarian of Basra.” Diverse Book Finder. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin. “The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq By Jeanette Winter.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Jul. 26, 2015. Also see Mahasin and Ariana, “Evaluating Muslims in KidLit: A Guide for Librarians, Educators, and Reviewers,” Hijabi Librarians, Oct. 3, 2020; “Welcome to Hijabi Librarians!Hijabi Librarians, June 15, 2018; “Author Interview: Sana Rafi.” Hijabi Librarians, Mar. 13, 2022; Aleem, Mahasin Abuwi. “Interview with Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow.” Hijabi Librarians, Feb. 10, 2019; “Saffron Ice Cream: A Book Discussion.” Hijabi Librarians, Aug. 15, 2018; Salamah, Hadeal. “Author Interview: Rukhsana Khan.” Hijabi Librarians, Aug. 11, 2018; “Author and Illustrator Interview: Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly.” Hijabi Librarians, Jul. 31, 2018; “Author Interview: Hena Khan.” Hijabi Librarians, Jun. 14 2018; “Author Interview: Alexis York Lumbard.” Hijabi Librarians, Jun. 12, 2018; “Blogroll.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Advocacy, Grants and Scholarships, and Research.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “PK-12 Resources.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Books.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022.

[4] Kirin, “You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? You Choose the Ending by Connie Colwell Miller illustrated by Victoria Assanelli.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Mar. 2, 2020; Kirin, “Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad & Henry White illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Oct. 25, 2019; “Lailah’s lunchbox.” Diverse Book Finder. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin, “Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi illustrated by Lea Lyon.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Jul. 7, 2016; Kirin, “Layla’s Head Scarf by Miriam Cohen illustrated by Ronald Himler.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 10, 2018; Kirin, “Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle by Fehmida Ibrahim Shah.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 10, 2018; “Muktar and the camels.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin, “Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber illustrated by Scott Mack.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Feb. 2, 2018; Kirin, “The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Apr. 14, 2021; “The Library Bus.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022; “A Sky-Blue Bench.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022. “2020 Ramadan Reads: Recommended Books.” Hijabi Librarians, May 18, 2020; “How and Why We Started this Site and Why We Chose Our Name.” Hijabi Librarians, June 10, 2018. There’s also a mention of a library being built in David Macaulay’s Mosque. Additionally, the books The Most Pleasant Festival of Sacrifice: Little Barul’s Eid Celebration, Alana’s Bananas, Rashid and the Haupmann Diamond (there’s library research) which are by Muslim authors and have Muslim characters all have library scenes. Kirin also noted that some people would criticize a Muslim character’s identifying as LGBTQ and others “angered by my mentioning of them as potential flags”. She also noted in one review about reserving “recommendations to college age”.

[5] Blogger Profile. Muslim Librarian in Amman. Blogger, Google. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Home.” Muslim Librarian in Amman. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Home.” Early Muslim libraries in Spain. Accessed June 20, 2022; Ursula K Le Guin. “The shelf-life of shadows.” The Guardian, Jan. 28, 2008; Reichard, Raquel. “5 Things History Books Won’t Tell You About the Young Lords’ Activism.” Remezcla, Sept. 26, 2018; Antonio, Muhammad Syafii, Aam Slamet Rusydiana, Yayat Rahmat Hidayat, Dwi Ratna Kartikawati, and Amelia Tri Puspita. “Librarian in Islamic Civilization.” Library Philosophy and Practice, Dec. 3, 2021, p. 15-18.On the final page, it notes librarians in the history of Islamic civilization, including Al-Nadim, Abd al-Salam ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Bashri, Al-Qayrawani, Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin Zarrarah al-Tha’I, al-Ukhbari, and al-Wasithi. This latter name sees to be different from the Arab painter and calligrapher Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti, while Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani may have been different from Al-Qayrawani mentioned in the article. However, Ibn al-Nadim is the same as Al-Nadim mentioned in the article, with his Wikipedia page noting his role in libraries. The “Libraries of the Muslim World (859-2000)” page which is mentioned in the next note, points to Ibn Miskawayh who headed the Library of Abu’l-Fadl ibn al-‘Amid in Shiraz, a public library in Bukhara, librarians in Islamic Spanish cities like Dar al-Kitabat getting a salary, Amir Khusraw having a valued position as a librarian in the Sultanate of Delhi, chief librarians of libraries in Mughal India, director and librarians of the Library of Zayb al Nisa, chief librarians in an Indian royal library in Rampur, and librarians of the National Library of Pakistan. That is only scratching the surface.

[6] Brooks, Geraldine. “The Book of Exodus.” The New Yorker, Dec. 3, 2007; Breeding, Jordan, Brittini Patterson, and Kian Lastman. “5 Amazing Acts Of Mercy Toward Horrible People.”, Jun. 25, 2017; Fugard, Lisa. “All the World’s a Page.” New York Times, Jan. 20, 2008; Werft, Meghan. “Meet The 2 Muslim Women Who Built & Restored The World’s First Library.” Global Citizen, Jul. 27, 2016; “Librarian Combats Muslim Stereotypes.” LISNews, Jan. 14, 2009; “Muslim Librarians to Meet in Malaysia.” LISNews, Oct. 6, 2008; Virk, Zakaria. “Libraries of the Muslim World (859-2000).” Muslim Heritage, Nov. 26, 2019; Wong, Megan A. “A comic about truth, justice, and the Islamic way.” Christian Science Monitor, Apr. 25, 2007, excerpted on LISNews; “The Catalogues of the Queen of Sheba.”, Apr. 29, 2009; Monastra, Yahya. (1996). “The Fourth Congress of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists.” American Journal of Islam and Society, Vol. 13, No. 1, 133-134; Khaldi, Omar. (1989) “Third Conference of Council of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists (COMLIS III).” The American Journal of Islam and Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, 185-186; “Libraries.” Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Muslim Journeys and Your Community: Managing Controversy, Maximizing Impact.” Programming Librarian, Oct. 24, 2013; Molazem, Nola. “An Islamic Directory of Library and Information Professional Ethic Codes” [Abstract]. Researchgate, 2011; Baharuddin, Mohammad Fazli and Shaharom TM Sulaiman(2015). “The Challenges of Strengthening Islamic Librarianship: Retrospect History to Shape the Future,” Journal of Information and Knowledge Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, 23-29. Also see: “I’m a librarian who banned a book. Here’s why” There’s also various stock photography and videos, like “Medium slowmo of Muslim female librarian in eyeglasses and headscarf talking to African American university student with disability sitting in wheelchair by wooden desk reading thick book” on storyblocks, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab, smiling crossed arms confidence gesture against book shell in library stock video” on iStock, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab and smiling, woman standing against books in library” on Adobe Stock, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab, looking at camera and smiling, woman standing against books in library” on alamy.

[7] Zakaria, Mahmoud Sherif (2015). “Scholarly productivity of Arab librarians in Library and Information Science journals from 1981 to 2010:.” IFLA Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, 72-78. For more on the IFLA Journal, see here.

[8] Siddiqui, Rashid. (1988) “The Intellectual Role of Islamizing Librarianship.” The American Jounal of Islamic Social Sciences, Vol. 5, No. 2, 275-278. Link to abstract is here.

[9] Eldemerdash, Nadia. “Why YA Literature Leads The Pack In Muslim Representation.” Headscarves and Hardbacks, Jun. 26, 2017; Nadia, “Stop Telling Teenagers What They Should Be Reading.” Headscarves and Hardbacks, Mar. 5, 2017; Nicole, Angie. “Our Stories Matter 1st Annual African American Read-In.” Black Children’s Books and Authors, Mar. 1, 2017; “What’s Your Story?: Jacquelyn Randle: Founder of C & E Reflections Inc.Black Children’s Books and Authors, Nov. 10, 2021. There is one article which intersects both, a chapter by Rebecca Hankins entitled “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism: An African American Muslim Woman in the Field” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), which I mentioned in my post in February about real life Black librarians who should also be in fiction. She pointed out, on page 213 that there are only a “few African American women who lead academic librarianship” while the archival world has traditionally been the domain of white male librarianship, with very little happening “to interrupt that paradigm,” including very few Muslim archivists.

animation anime Comics Fiction genres Movies Pop culture mediums

Recently added titles (March 2023)

Three librarians sit around an information desk, situated within a grand library.
The library shown in the 4th episode of Is The Order a Rabbit?, “Your Lucky Items Are Vegetables, Crime, and Punishment”

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of 2022, and January and February of this year, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics, and hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Kiff, “Career Day”
  • Kiff, “The Five Pigeons of the Acapellapocalypse”
  • Kiff, “Club Book”
  • Molly of Denali, “Have Canoe, Will Paddle”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • Is the Order a Rabbit?, “Your Lucky Items Are Vegetables, Crime, and Punishment”
  • Princess Principal, “Case 9 Roaming Pigeons”

Comics recently added to this page

  • The Vampire Librarian, “Part 38”
  • The Vampire Librarian, “Part 39”

Films recently added to this page

None this month

Other entries recently added to this page

None this month


© 2023 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!

animated animation anime fantasy Fiction genres idol Japanese people Librarians Libraries Movies music Pop culture mediums special libraries speculative fiction

School idol or librarian?: Examining Hanamaru Kunikida in “Love Live! Sunshine!!”

Hanamaru behind the library desk, smiling after the school idol group comes to the library to drop off some books. Ruby stands behind her.

When I began watching Love Live! Sunshine!!, an anime about girls who try to become school idols and is filled with music, I didn’t expect to come across a character who is a librarian, who is relatively popular among fans of the show. For this post, and on my blog in general, I use librarian broadly to mean anyone who works in a library, specifically those who care for the contents of the library, selecting and processing materials, engaging in information delivery, library instruction, or loaning out materials to meet user needs. Librarians may have a MLIS or MLS, but not having a professional degree does not disqualify someone from being a librarian despite what some snobbish people in the library field say. [1] This definition is apt for Hanamaru Kunikida, whose journey from being a librarian to a school idol fits into existing stereotypes in some ways, as I’ll explain.

Hanamaru is a first-year student who lives in a temple with her her family, as noted on the Wikipedia page for the series, voiced by Kanako Takatsuki in Japanese and Megan Shipman voices her in the English dub. She refers to herself as “ora” or “Mura” and ends many sentences with “Zur” due to her specific dialect. She is more than an “avid reader” at the library at Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy or a person who “loves to read” as a press release for the series put it. [2] Instead, she is a student assistant who volunteers at the school library as she is shown behind the information desk during the fourth episode, “Their Feelings”. In that episode, in a narration, she describes that the library has become her quiet place, her retreat, and that Ruby Kurosawa is her dear friend, who she says she will marry one day, [3] coming to the library with her often to read idol magazines.

In that episode, she returns to her world of books, as a librarian, rather than become a school idol, after she feels that her “trial” as a school idol was a “failure.” Later Ruby and the other school idol members, Chika Takami (who created the group), You Watanabe, and Riko Sakurauchi (a transfer student), convince her to join a group they call Aqours. She becomes a liberated female librarian in some ways as a result. Even though she is not a trapped or naïve woman who discovers who she is and what she is capable of with the help of a man, as Jennifer Snoek-Brown defines as a “liberated librarian” on her Reel Librarians blog, she is pushed by her friend Ruby and the other members of the school idol club to realize her passion to become a school idol. This “liberation” is a net positive for her as she is no longer suppressing a part of herself. On the other hand, this “liberation” is not part of the plot.

Like other “liberated” librarians she is young but isn’t wearing conservative or reserved clothing. When she practices as an idol her appearance does change but into clothes that are more casual. As such she doesn’t become attractive or more feminine but not less attractive. She is just as attractive as before. She is undoubtedly intelligent and seems committed to libraries in terms of it being an escape for her, and seems to stop volunteering as a librarian. She also has a lack of exposure to modern technology, whether it comes to laptops, hair dryers, or motion-activated water fountains. [4] In some ways she is similar to Swampy in Phineas and Ferb as I’ll explain later.

Hanamaru bucks the librarian stereotype, as she is on screen more than a “short period of time” in order to advance the story, and is not a stock character in the slightest. Although librarians may not need to take these stereotypes completely “to heart,” such stereotypes can be damaging if it is the main plot of an episode, as is the case in many animated series. Her fashion goes against the “common” style of librarians which cab be shown in “dowdy suits in muted tones,” and is completely blown out of the water as the series continues.

As the series goes forward, her talent for singing, as a member of the local choir, shines through. This is especially the case when she works alongside Chika Takami and many other friends as part of a school idol group called Aqours which tries to prevent her school from shutting down. Basically, she goes from “a shy and un-athletic bookworm” [5] to a school idol after Ruby tells her of Rin’s journey to self-confidence. In becoming a school idol, she is not a librarian as failure, nor a spinster, spirited young girl, naughty librarian, comic relief, or information provider. In later episodes of the series, as now a school idol, she remains “fascinated by the modernity” in a larger city, comes dressed in a silly outfit, id distracted by candy and sweets, works on songs with her fellow school idols, and puts together a fortune-telling booth with another group member. [6]

Hanamaru looking sad, while she looks up, taking a break before she reads more in the school library during the episode “Their Feelings”

Unlike Swampy, Hanamaru is not a failure and her presence in the library is not “suggestive of flaws in library” although she can be “uncomfortable in social/outside world situations.” Like him, she does not return to the library and her portrayal is not completely stereotypical as she never shushes anyone. Rather, the library is an escape of sorts for her, a refuge. It is a safe place for her, a places of calmness which seems removed from the pressures of the outside world, although she isn’t escaping any evil spirits like those in other series who flee to libraries for safety. In this way, the school library is doing exactly what physical library spaces often do, according to librarian Fobazi Ettarh, serving as sacred spaces, while being treated as sanctuaries by keeping people and sacred things, and becoming places of refuge or shelter. [7] This is true even though, apart from her saying that books dropped off by the school idol club will be shelved, she is never shown engaging in any typical librarian tasks.

While becoming a school idol allowed Hanamaru to not suppress a part of herself which and to not remove herself from everything else, quietly reading, and staying in her own world of sorts, the series series seems to be saying that you shouldn’t hold back yourself and that you can do anything. In the process, it gives the perception that quietly reading, and being a librarian who oversees a librarian by extension, is “bad” while becoming a school idol is “good.” This is just as problematic as Phineas and Ferb basically saying that libraries are outdated and outmoded, especially through Swampy going being a rockstar to a librarian, then back to a rockstar again, when pushed by the show’s two persistent protagonists. It is never answered what happens to the library after she leaves. The series portrays her time in the library as depressing and drab, apart from her interactions with her friend Ruby. However, after she becomes a school idol she is shown as happy and joyful. Does this mean that libraries can’t be joyful or happy places? I sure hope not, because that is definitely not true.

It is a big change for Hanamaru, a Brazilian-raised do-gooder and classic country girl, to go from being a librarian in her quiet place, the seaside Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy, to Tokyo and the back to Uchiura, Numazu, Shizuoka when they are not successful the first time when entering the Love Live! competition. [8] This setting has reportedly led tourists to come to Numazu, while various things in the city have special Love Live! designs. Currently, Uchiura is a village within Numazu. According to official websites, there are libraries in the area, like the Heda, Numazu City, and Shiritsu (Municipal) libraries. [9] In that way, while it could be a loss for students for her no longer to be a librarian, there would likely be someone who would take her place, perhaps another student, and anyone at the school could still go to local libraries as well, if they needed additional information.

The idol industry in Japan has horrific working conditions. There are strict rules imposed on Japanese and South Korean pop stars known as “idols” including bans on dating and getting married requiring permission, with such idols having little control over their personal lives. Some have described them as “corporate slaves” who cannot disobey their employers, with the industry pulling in 60 billion yen annually. Even those as young as two are billed as “junior idols,” with people interested in underage girls, with the innocence they have being sold as a “major commodity.” At the same time, there is a trend of preteen girls “striking provocative poses in slinky bathing suits” which has become big business. All the while idols are assaulted, bullied, intimidated, and harassed, even as they have the legal right to “happiness” and dates not under the control of managers, although it is not known how much this is enforced, as there have been strict measure imposed on idols in the past. After all, as one critic put it, “idols are universally acknowledged as manufactured—even by their fans,” meant to provide a “vision of accessible femininity to girls” and a celebrity girlfriend for boys. Another person argued that in Japan, an idol is in “the business of selling dreams…[an] illusion of a cute, slightly idealized person who is there for…the fan” while music is secondary since many idols can barely sing, with producers not putting in work to making them look or sound perfect. At the same time, idols have been popular in Japanese anime, including franchises like Love Live! of which Love Live! Sunshine!! is a part of, as has their fictional music. [10]

Hanamaru (left) performing as a school idol, with her friend Ruby (right)

As for this anime, Hanamaru is a school idol. While there are idol anime about male idols, like Starmyu, Uta no Prince Sama, and B-Project, with a focus on the idea of performance, Love Live! is unique in that it seems to exist in a world without men, even though it is, like other idol shows, targeted at men. The idea is to “emphasize the female characters’ relationships and moe appeal,” with everyone on screen seen as a “potential object of desire” whether through romantic yearning, a yearning for that character to have romance with their friends, or anything in-between. There is some evidence of the school idol trope, as TV Tropes calls it, in reality, with some idols who are high school classmates, and variations of these schools existing, but not many of them, with such schools having strict dating, personal presentation, and uniform rules. This is bolstered by the fact that some idols wear school uniforms during their performances. [11]

Despite all their efforts, Aquors is unsuccessful in saving their school, as shown in the season 2 episode “The Time Left.” In that episode, in fact, we see Hanamaru in the library, working as a library assistant. This is short lived se agrees with the leader of Aquors, Chika, and the other group members that they can perform and win at the Love Live! contest in order to immortalize the school’s name. All the while, she tries to make sure the group stays inspired. This is significant for her because she reveals on another episode, “Awaken the power”, that she doesn’t like to be other people (i.e. she is socially awkward) and before she joined Aquors she enjoyed her time in the library with her friend Ruby, something which their fellow school idol, Leah, sympathizes with. In episodes that follow, she works together with her friends Yohane, Ruby, and Leah on a song, and participates in a closing ceremony for the Uranohoshi Girls’ High School, in the episode of the same name, even helping Yohane draw a summoning circle.

In the show’s final episode, “Our Own Shine,” she works with Ruby to pack up everything in the library, with the books read at a new school. She admits that she is afraid of going to a new school, something which Ruby agrees with. She, Yohane and Ruby, touch the library door together and close it, symbolically closing a chapter of their lives. Later in the episode, Chika visits the empty library in the now-abandoned school building. As one reviewer put it, it is hard watching these girls say goodbye to their school, especially affected by the scene when Hanamaru, Ruby, and Yohane closed the door to the library. [12]

By the end of the series, there are open questions about the future of Aquors with the departure of Kanan, Dia, and Mari, and whether their efforts were worthwhile since the school would be closed anyway. In some ways, Hanamaru somewhat addresses that in the episode “Sea of Light. She notes that while reading books in the library with her friend Ruby was “always enough” to make her happy, that her time in Aquors allowed her to venture into the world outside of the library, and realize things about herself. Basically, she gained self-confidence from the experience and became a better person.

In the series proper she is clearly identifiable, but is not stereotypical, nor does she wear frumpy clothes. She does not have her hair in a bun, and she does not have glasses in a chain around her neck. She is, arguably, a regular person who happens to be a librarian, specifically a student library assistant who is likely volunteering at the school library. She is arguably “sexy” but likely not in the way that straight men tend to see librarians as noted by David Austin who notes the stereotype of librarians as “sexually repressed.” At the same time, she is not, in any way, a person whose primary job is to keep “order and quiet.” Rather, the library itself is a sanctuary for her, a place away from the outside world, a place where she can access its “storehouse of knowledge.”

Hanamaru packing up the library’s books in boxes in the show’s final episode, asssited by her friend, Ruby

This is self-confidence is further bolstered in the Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow film, which serves as the series capstone. She sings and dances in the film and trains for live shows, but also comforts her friends. She even travels to Italy with them to find Kanan, Dia, and Mari, the former three members of Aquors. She later assists Mari in her desire to have independence from her seemingly strict mother and cajoles Yohane to connect with the members of their new school. During the film, she also assists Ruby in choosing outfits for their performance, and is part of a performance win a mock Love Live! competition meant to buoy the spirits of one member of Saint Snow, a fellow school idol group.

Unlike in the series, she is shown wearing glasses multiple times in the film, alluding to a “shy bookworm” stereotype often associated with librarians, who are shown wearing glasses. Famously this was used for the alternative Mary Bailey in the film It’s a Wonderful Life. As Marie wrote, people who wear corrective glasses are “often stereotyped as bookish, intelligent, and socially inept” with those glasses as a barrier or shield, but can also be removed to “let a dormant attractiveness and sensuality shine through.” And there is no doubt that many librarians are well-educated and smart, and many undoubtedly wear eyeglasses. It is a symbol, a stereotype, that Marie says should would fully embody, while rejecting the trope that librarians are smart, but weird and unapproachable. For Hanamaru, she is similar in some ways to Kanon Shibuya, the protagonist of Love Live! Superstar who ties up her hair and wears glasses at home but in public does not wear glasses. Kanon fulfills what Marie wrote about librarians. Unlike her, Hanamaru doesn’t mind wearing glasses in public. It fits with her warm personality, including a love of chocolate and eating a lot, and support for her friends. She could care less whether she is “attractive.”

Toward the end of the film she performs a song and dance number together as a part of Aquors. The school library is also shown, in a short scene, empty in the still-standing school, which Chika declares will stay. This is despite the fact that is seems strange that a school building would be left abandoned with no apparent use and not be torn down a la the Gama Gama Aquarium in The Aquatope on the White Sand. Perhaps they wanted to keep the show upbeat so a similar scene was not included in the film.

The film serves as an end to Hanamaru’s story within the franchise. However, her future beyond the film is uncertain. Will her future include her pushing her friend Ruby on a book cart, working in a library, study Japanese language, operate a library, and be a writer as some fan art and fans have guessed? [13] Or will it be a combination of all of the above or none of these? Its hard to know. It is likely she will continue to be a school idol, which puts into question if she would still work within the library as she might be too busy.

No matter whether she returns to the library or not, there is no doubt that her experience in the library shaped her as a person. If she does return to being a library assistant, or pursues being a librarian, the self-confidence she gained from being a school idol could bolster her ability to help patrons and be a great person. She could even put on shows either by herself or with her friends to promote the library. The possibilities ahead for her are endless. She is not someone who neatly falls into a librarian character type, but is a fully-fledged character who is unique in her own way, with her own hopes and desires.

Hanamaru perks up in the film when Chika mentions that the library of their former school will still be there.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] For this I am using definitions from Merriam-Webster, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the now-defunct LISWiki, and Librarian Avengers. More specific terms include reference librarian, bibliographers, reader’s advisors, interns, library technicians (formerly a BLS category), and those with a practicum. It is different from other roles  such as, archivists, scribes (defunct profession), and superintendents of documents. Some of these librarians may be what some call “paraprofessionals“. Another example of a librarian like Hanamaru, who is a school assistant, is Rin Shima in Laid-Back Camp, who appears to work in the library. Like Hanamaru, she appears to be a student assistant, and is also not shown doing any actual library tasks (although Hanamaru does accept books), and is shown reading in the library. However, the number of scenes and times in the library are so short, and the library is just another place she hangs out, reading, relaxing as she camps during the winter, sometimes with Nadeshiko. In another episode, however, she kicks Nadeshiko, to wake her up when she is sleeping on the floor of the library, and shelves books in the library.

[2] Crystalyn Hodgkins, “Love Live! Sunshine!! Idol Group’s Name, 1st Single Date Revealed,” Anime News Network, Jun. 27, 2015. A fandom page also describes her as a “fan of reading” who has “a deep fondness for Japanese literature” or another image which describes her as lover of books.

[3] Apart from RubyMaru (a ship of Ruby and Hanamaru), there is YoshiMaru (a ship of Yoshiko Tsushima and Hanamaru), ChikaMaru (Chika Takami and Hanamaru), DiaMaru (Dia Kurosawa and Hanamaru), LeahMaru (Leah Kazuno and Hanamaru), RinMaru (Rin Hoshizora and Hanamaru), YouMaru (You Watanabe and Hanamaru), AZALEA  (Kanan Matsuura, Dia Kurosawa, and Hanamaru), and ChikaMariMaru (Chika Takami, Mari Ohara, and Hanamaru). The same page also notes Chika Takami, You Watanabe, Riko Sakurauchi, Ruby Kurosawa, Yoshiko Tsushima, Hanamura, Mari Ohara, Kanan Matsuura, and Dia Kurosawa as Aqours [friends]. There is a lot of wonderful yuri fan art of Hanamuru on /r/wholesomeyuri and a few on /r/lovelivefanart, along with fan art, fan videos, cosplays, news, and more about Hanamaru on /r/lovelive, along with other posts on /r/SIFallstars.

[4] “Kunikida Hanamaru,” Fandom of Pretty Cure Wiki, Feb. 11, 2020. As one reviewer put it, she somehow has “never seen a computer before” which seems strange, leading to a “couple of great scenes” like seeing windows for the first time, accidentally turning off a laptop, and recognizing Yoshiko’s chuuni tendencies in order to “distinguish herself” so she isn’t just “normal.” One post on /r/lovelive pointed out that in “Their Feelings” she is “seated at the librarian’s desk and there was a very clear computer monitor on the desk.” Some commenters responded that the library computer doesn’t have internet access or is “locked to some library system,” said the computer is small and “made specifically for a library management system,” common for rural Japan. Others theorized that the “librarian taught Hanamaru how to use the computer and how to do her work” and since Hanamaru doesn’t know about the internet, she “doesn’t venture far and only goes on whatever program the librarian told her to” or that she was confused when she saw the laptop in the next episode. Some said the scene in that next episode is “explaining Hanamaru’s fascination with technology” more than anything else, said that the computer in the library could be “strictly for books,” that the writing might be sloppy, or that there are “tiny plotholes and inconsistencies” in the series.

[5] Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 4 [Review],” Anime News Network, Jul. 23, 2016. Another WordPress site also noted that she “helps out at the school library, and her ambition is to become a writer some day,” one of the first places calling her a librarian. A page for the doll of her calls her a “daughter of a temple and a freshman of the library committee.”

[6] Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 6 [Review],” Anime News Network, Aug. 7, 2016; Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 7 [Review],” Anime News Network, Aug. 14, 2016; Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 15 [Review],” Anime News Network, Oct. 15, 2017; Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 22 [Review],” Anime News Network, Dec. 3, 2017; Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 24 [Review],” Anime News Network, Dec. 18, 2017.

[7] Fobazi Ettarh, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Jan. 20, 2018. This similar to one of the one of the seven reasons that libraries are essential according to freelance writer and book reviewer Sadie Trombetta: “Libraries are safe refuges for the homeless and underserved populations.” Her other other reasons are self-explanatory and seem like non-brainers, although they can have political implications: “[Libraries] offer free educational resources to everyone…help boost local economies…play an important role in English language learning…make communities healthier…preserve history, and more importantly, truth…[and] help connect communities.”

[8] “ABOUT Love Live! Project,” PROJECT Lovelive! Sunshine!!, 2017; “Hanamaru Kunikida,” Bleach: The King of Fighters Wiki, 2022; “Hanamaru Kunikida,” Heroes Wiki, 2021; “Hanamaru Kunikida,” Love Live! School Festival Wiki, Aug. 10, 2020;

[9] “Temporary Closure of Libraries,” Numazu Newsletter [English Edition], Koho Numazu, Mar. 2018, p. 1; “City Library’s Summer Program,” Numazu Newsletter [English Edition], No. 330, Koho Numazu, Jul. 15, 2016, p. 2-3; Various articles, Numazu Newsletter [English Edition], No. 319, Koho Numazu, Feb. 1, 2016, p. 2;Japanese Classes for Foreign Residents,” Numazu City Official Website, Apr. 1, 2020; Various articles, Numazu Newsletter [English Edition], No. 335, Koho Numazu, Oct. 1, 2016, p. 1-3.

[10] Mariko Oi, “The dark side of Asia’s pop music industry,” BBC News, Jan. 26, 2016; Patrick W. Galbraith, “Innocence lost: the dark side of Akihabara,” Japan Today, Jul. 8, 2009; Jun Hongo, “Photos of preteen girls in thongs now big business,” Japan Times, May 3, 2007; and Why a pop idol’s stand against her assault sparked outrage in Japan,” CNN, Jan. 16, 2019; “Court rules pop idol has right to pursue happiness, can date,” Japan Times, Jan. 19, 2016; Eric Stimson, “Idol Fined 650,000 Yen for Dating Contract Violation,” Anime News Network, Sept. 20, 2015; Catherine Komuro, “Sacrificial idols: In J-pop, Teen Dreams Become Nightmares,” Bitch media, Jan. 9, 2018; Patrick St. Michael, “Rino Sashihara: Can one ‘idol’ beat the system?,” Japan Times, May 30, 2019; Patrick St. Michael, “For Japan’s Justin Biebers, No Selena Gomezes Allowed,” The Atlantic, Aug. 15, 2012; “Japanese pop star sacked over sex scandal,” AsiaOne, Aug. 9, 2011; “Ex-Morning Musume star Ai Kago blazing a trail back to top (using a cigarette lighter),” Mainchi Daily News, 2008; Jason Sevakis, “Why Can’t Idol Singers Have Lives Of Their Own?,” Anime News Network, Jul. 24, 2015; Rafael Antonio Pineda, “pixiv Representative Director Resigns From Company Amidst Lawsuits,” Anime News Network, Jun. 6, 2018; Karen Ressler, “Former Niji No Conquistador Idol Sues pixiv Representative Director for Sexual Harassment,” Anime News Network, Jun. 1, 2018; Brian Ashcraft, “After Idol’s Death, Bullying And Intimidation Allegations Surface,” Kotaku, Oct. 15, 2018; “Suicide of teen draws attention to poor working conditions, harassment of idols,” The Mainichi, Nov. 18, 2018; Misa Hirabayashi, “The dark side of Japan’s underground idols: Little pay, long hours and unbreakable contracts,” Japan Times, Dec. 21, 2018; Mari Yamamoto and Jake Adelstein, “Inside the Weird, Dangerous World of Japan’s Girl ‘Idols’,” The Daily Beast, Jan. 21, 2019; Satetsu Takeda, “No More Objectification of Me!” [in Japanese], GQ Japan, Mar. 5, 2019; “AKB48 member’s ‘penance’ shows flaws in idol culture,” Japan Times, Mar. 1, 2013; Fraser McAlpine, “The Japanese obsession with girl bands – explained,” BBC News, Jun. 30, 2017; Kara Dennison, “Creamy Mami Character Goods Prove Showa Idols Are Forever,” Crunchyroll, Jul. 11, 2019; Richard Eisenbeis, “The Fictional (Yet Amazingly Popular) Singers of Japan,” Kotaku, Sept. 7, 2012; “Animated pop star Hatsune Miku is only 10, but she has had a huge impact on music,” Japan Times, Aug. 24, 2017; “New Market Scale Estimation for Otaku: Population of 1.72 Million with Market Scale of ¥411 Billion— NRI classifies 5 types of otaku group, proposing a “New 3Cs” marketing frame —,” Nomura Research Institute, Ltd., Oct. 6, 2005. The latter article says “The archetype for the “takes it seriously otaku” is the “single male in his 20s and 30s with an interest in mechanical and idol fields.”

[11] Lauren Orsini, “What is a Fujoshi?,” Anime News Network, Dec. 21, 2016; Jordan, “The Idol Phenomenon in Japan and Anime,” The Artifice, Dec. 30, 2015; Guest mihsayam, Horikoshi High School (a Real-life High School For Idols),” soompi, Feb. 20, 2009; “So “school idols” do they actually exist?,” Gamefaqs, Jan. 2000, also see page 2;     “アイドルの衣装のスタンダード“制服ふう”衣装、いつから始まった!?” [Translation: When did the standard “uniform fuu” costumes for idols begin! ??], VIP Times, Aug. 8, 2017; “AKB48 (pictured 2010) popularized stylized school uniforms as costumes,” Wikimedia, 2010. This is also the case in South Korea, per an article entitled “Idols who were high school classmates.” In Catherine Komuro’s article, “Sacrificial idols: In J-pop, Teen Dreams Become Nightmares” in Bitch media, she says that “due to the manufactured nature of idols, their image of accessibility may do more harm than good” with fans often unable to “respect boundaries between an idol’s public character and private life.” This is manifested in the 2020 anime series If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die, where the protagonist in some ways did not respect the boundaries between the idol’s public and private life.

[12] Bamboo Dong, “Love Live! Sunshine!!: Episode 26 [Review],” Anime News Network, Dec. 31, 2017. . Closing doors happens a lot in episode, equivalent of closing chapters in their life and moving on. She later stands with her fellow students as they say one last goodbye to the school, then closing the school gate with them. Hanamaru is part of those who greet Chika for one last song together. Chika realizes she has been searching for her own shine the whole time.

[13] Baserdc, “What jobs do you think μ’s is doing and the future jobs the girls of Aqours would go for?,” /r/LoveLive, Dec. 27, 2017; isaactanyien1234, “Happy Birthday Hanamaru,” /r/LoveLive, Mar. 4, 2020; Offlinelol, “Librarian Hanamaru ~,” /r/LoveLive, Dec. 6, 2017. There are also a few fan fics which seem to have Hanamaru as a librarian. There is even a cargo ship, in which fans jokily ship a character with an inanimate object, or crack! ship of Hanamaru×Books, i.e. “the ship between Hanamaru Kunikida and books” as this page explains.

action adventure animation anime comedy Comics fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries Movies mystery Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries speculative fiction webcomics

Recently added titles (February 2023)

A villain transforms into a stereotypical librarian and annoys a Black girl
The Beyonder shapeshifts into the librarian and surprises Lunella who is trying to divide her project into pieces, so Eduardo doesn’t mess it up. His appearance embodies the stereotypical depiction of librarians.

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December of 2022, and January of this year this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, and hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, “The Beyonder”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady aka Tensei Oujo to Tensai Reijou no Mahou Kakumei, “The Magic Lecture of the Founder and the Assistant”

Comics recently added to this page

  • Daybreak, “Episode 46”
  • Ice Cold, “Bonus Episode: Hard questions”
  • I Seduced the Hero’s Mother, “Episode 10”
  • The Vampire Librarian, “Part 36”
  • Vixen: NYC, “Episode 40”
  • Vixen: NYC, “Episode 40”
  • WBM: Black Joy Anthology, “Bakery Man – 2”

Films recently added to this page

None of this month

Other entries recently added to this page

None of this month


© 2023 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!

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

A place of honor?: Examining two Black reel librarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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