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Fictional trans librarians and the reality of trans library users

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
action adventure animation fantasy Fiction genres Pop culture mediums speculative fiction

Intersex characters, libraries, and everything nice?

This design combines the intersex pride flag with the public library logo
This design combines the intersex pride flag with the public library logo, via Wikimedia. An alternate version is here.

Happy Intersex Day of Remembrance! Today is designed to raise awareness of the issues faced by intersex people and marks the birthday of Herculine Barbin, a French intersex person. It began as Intersex Solidarity Day, following an invitation issued by Joëlle-Circé Laramée, who was then the Canadian spokeswoman for Organization Intersex International. It is related, but different, from Intersex Awareness Day, which highlights human rights issues faced by intersex people and is celebrated every October 26th. I struggled to find intersex characters who are also librarians, only finding a passing reference on one blog. [1] To give a quick definition for those unaware, intersex people are those born with “reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male,” as noted by the Intersex Society of North America.

There are a few intersex characters who would undoubtedly be library users. One of those is Stevonnie in Steven Universe, who is intersex and non-binary, as a fusion of two friends, Connie and Steven. This is clearly the case in the long fan fiction series, “An Unlikely Alliance Against Evildoers” where Queen Angella gives Stevonnie a book from their private library. This is not unique to this one character, as there are intersex library patrons in real life as well. In June 2020, the ALA acknowledged this much, writing:

…[the] ALA seeks to support all transgender people, and…intersex people (who may or may not identify as trans)…ALA encourages library leaders and staff to create safe environments for gender diverse, transgender, and intersex library users, allowing everyone access to facilities, activities, and programs that are consistent with their gender identity and where possible providing gender-neutral restroom options for individuals who would prefer to use them

It has also been noted in LibGuides, FAQs, and in books exploring intersex identities. As the Charlie McNabb of the GLBT Roundtable
Resources Committee stated
in the beginning of a guide on intersex people, intersex does not mean the same thing as transgender, even “though some intersex people do not identify with the gender they were assigned.” Others pointed out how Library of Congress Subject Headings (LSCH) classifies intersex people, [2] noted an edited collection on LGBTQ themes, or that some intersex people may be non-binary. Others provided lists of intersex non-fiction and noted it is one way that people identify themselves.

Apart from the images on Wikimedia related to intersex people, including some from the British Library and elsewhere, some libraries have even hosted events on intersex activism. David Cameron Stratchan and Jim Van Buskirk made clear the responsibility of libraries to serve intersex library patrons:

Users may personally identify as intersex or they may be doing research on behalf of a family or friend…Libraries need to acknowledge intersex people with affirming information resources and services…libraries are obligated to make a concerted effort to provide distinct, intersex-specific resources and services. [3]

Apart from this, there are those which have written that “scientific evidence does not support the two sex theory” and that “the matrix of sex and gender” is unstable. [4] Some have pointed to a small number of records on intersex people in their library systems. Intersex people are, as a button states, just born that way. And we should respect that. Otherwise, I hope to find more characters who are intersex and are librarians in the future, and if so, I may have a more substantive post next year. That’s my hope, at least.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] While Ryo Asuka in Devilman Crybaby is a professor and intersex, he is not a librarian. The same can be said about Crimvael in Interspecies Reviewers, Luca Esposito in Astra Lost in Space, Iena Madaraba in Seton Academy: Join the Pack!, Ruby Moon in Cardcaptor Sakura, and Izana Shinatose in Knights of Sidonia. The same can be said for other characters listed on the “List of fictional intersex characters” Wikipedia page, sad to say.

[2] I haven’t read it as of yet, but Melodie J. Fox did an extensive analysis of changing definitions of intersex within LCSH in her article “Subjects in Doubt: The Ontogeny of Intersex in the Dewey Decimal Classification.”

[3] David Cameron Stratchan and Jim Van Buskirk, “Intersex Resources in Libraries” within Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users: Essays on Outreach, Service, Collections and Access (ed. Ellen Greenblatt, US: McFarland, 2014), p. 15.

[4] Morya Lang, “Library Rhetoric: The Canadian Library Association
Statement of Diversity and Inclusion & LGBTQ Advocacy,” Progressive Librarian, No. 32, p. 51.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid, 181-5.

[10] Ibid, 186-192.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah, the book jail, and the “sanctity of library property” in “Too Loud”

As you all might remember, back in February 2021, I wrote about Too Loud, a short-lived animated series, for I Love Libraries, calling it a “example of libraries in animation” which viewers of all ages can “enjoy its message about the value of libraries.” However, the above shown episode is something I’d like to revisit in this post. When writing that article, I was under the impression that my articles for I Love Libraries needed to be positive and upbeat, resulting in me downplaying some criticisms I had when shows portrayed libraries in a negative way, so I’d like to revisit that, building on my original perception that the episode “does sound pretty negative.” [1] In the future, I may revisit some of my other posts I wrote for I Love Libraries and be more critical than I was in the past. This post is part of that. I know that not everyone will agree with everything I write in this post, but decided to write this post anyway, even though it is obviously not comprehensive on any of the issues addressed in this article, only touching on the surface of them.

The episode begins with Desiree (presenting as Jeffrey), Sarah, and Sara crossing off late returns from the list, with Sara saying they don’t mess around with late library books. The viewers then see a book jail of offenders which is guarded by Mildred, another librarian. Desiree confirms that, declaring that as librarians they rule “with a iron fist.” This is a terrifying thought, with librarians coming and repossessing books through use of force, and it scares Sarah so much that she doesn’t even want go along with the scheme, at first.

They go to find the last book on their list, about juggling, but the person, Logan, says the book “ties the room together” and that it is his copy, closing the door on them. So, they break into a person’s house to get an overdue book. Sarah is unsure about this plan, calling it extreme, but Desiree keeps talking about the iron fist of the librarian and tells her to think about the “sanctity of library property.” Sarah agrees to help them and sneak into the house, becoming a rat queen, with Sara and Desiree distracting Logan. Eventually they get their handle on the book, with Sara describing it as “library property.” After the room collapses, it turns out the book they had grabbed is the wrong one, with Jeffrey having the book in his “cavernous pie hole” but had forgot to re-shelve it. Following this, Sara and Sarah leave, while Desiree is left there, as a piece of the drywall comes and seems to kill (or injure) Logan, and the episode comes to a close.

When I originally looked at this series I said that Sarah, Sara, and Desiree learn the less that “being punitive with those who have overdue books is not worth it.” I don’t think that’s the lesson at all. Instead, I think this episode is highlighting the importance of proper organization and cataloging. If Desiree had cataloged the book correctly, then it wouldn’t have been on the overdue visit in the first place, and this whole incident would have been unnecessary. More than that, I would say this episode shows how libraries can be punitive with wanting to protect their property and implying the interconnection of this with the criminal legal system, embodied by the book jail:

You could easily interpret that the episode as criticizing this punitive nature of libraries. Even so, the episode is relatively short, not even six minutes long, so there isn’t that much time to explore these themes. However, the episode can still be related to how libraries, in the real world, work with the criminal legal system and the police force, something which has been contentious in recent years. This came to the fore when it was noted by Teen Vogue that the budget of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) prioritized policing since John Szabo became the head of the library system,  with organizers finding that 5% of the library budget went to security in 2020 alone, and funneled toward the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Other libraries have done the same, like Austin Public Library and Denver Public Library, while there has been cop-free library movements in “St. Louis, New York City, and at Ivy League University libraries.” A similar movement at the St. Louis County Library, the latter which was successful, and efforts to replace “police with social service workers,” while community policing is used by the LAPD in libraries themselves was also noted. This is all part of a push for more library policing. This has been resisted by groups like the Abolitionist Library Association (AbLA), described as “a group of library workers, students, and community members who aim to divest money from policing in libraries and redistribute resources to communities.” AbLA defines themselves as supporting a world without prisons or policing, with a goal to “create libraries that are rooted in community self-determination and intellectual freedom through collective action,” achieving this by establishing a group of “library and information workers to support each other in doing divestment work,” sharing ideas, support, and strategy for “abolition in libraries,” along with “creating and sharing resources about ending police involvement in information spaces and…pressuring stakeholders and decision-makers to divest from police.”

Whether you agree with AbLA or not, the fact is that libraries are intertwined with police departments in their respective cities and/or institutions. This makes sense since libraries are public entities, part of the government, university, or other institution, not something separate, for the most part, with some libraries created and run by their communities as an exception. Library literature itself, as noted by Ben Robinson in the publication In the Library with the Lead Pipe, often encourages library staff “develop close relationships with local police and security guards without considering the negative effects this closeness can have on patrons who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC), people experiencing mental illness, and people from other marginalized communities,” even though research has shown the latter. Robinson argues that in order to make libraries safe places for everyone, those working in libraries need to “incorporate insights from other disciplines into their practice and begin to meaningfully address the complicated roles of police and security guards in the public library.” Other articles noted that some libraries are revisiting how they have historically interacted with police, whether through hosting “police-led community programming…hiring off-duty police as security officers, or calling 911 on disruptive patrons,” with divestment for police also argued for by the Library Freedom Project.

There is evidence that public libraries in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Washington State, California, and Baltimore, teamed up with police to share their data. If libraries are willingly partnering with police, letting them provide security, and supporting them in different ways, then how effective can libraries be in “stopping the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts Black youth” which ALA President Wanda Kay Brown believed that libraries could do? It seems that if a library partnered with police it would invalidate any positive good which would come from anti-racist action. This would even be the case for the library preserving the websites of police unions, organizations which support the police no matter what, even if they brutalize and hurt people.

I would further argue that this episode of Too Loud notes the connection between libraries and the criminal legal system rather than accepting it  as a norm. While I don’t want to overthink this topic, I do think the fact that the books are described as “library property” that needs to be kept no matter the consequences to patrons is an interesting theme. It can easily be connected to the punitive nature of the criminal legal system, with some libraries coming down much harder on patrons than others. And this feeds into stereotypes about libraries, manifested by librarians aggressively shushing patrons in animated series after animated series. However, Too Loud does not fall into that stereotype. Instead, this enforcement, the library bringing down its “iron fist,” is just seen as part of the library itself.

Perhaps that is the takeaway from this episode, that libraries are not always the rosy places we see them as, but can have a “dark side” as it could be called, which can be punitive. This makes it no surprise that some are intimidated by libraries, as fines can be punitive in various ways, especially since fine-free initiatives have not reached all libraries, with some sticking to it, even if it draws away patrons. Unlike Little Free Library and others, which actively cooperate with the police,  from what I remember, no police are ever shown in the public library in Too Loud, nor is the library flying any flags which support police unconditionally. That doesn’t mean that police don’t exist, in that world. By having something like a book jail, the library is clearly supporting the criminal legal system, if we are to take the visualization of the book jail seriously, and not as something that Sarah created in her head, which is a possibility, I suppose.

With an episode that is so short, there are a multitude of explanations here, but I believe that people can take from the episode, at most, about the interconnection of libraries and the criminal legal system, and at minimum, about the too often punitive nature of libraries, even those which have committed themselves to anti-racist actions. While the latter has been addressed with fine-free initiatives, the former has largely been kept in place in many libraries. With continued police brutality and terrorizing of certain populations, in the U.S. (where the library in Too Loud is undoubtedly located), libraries should rethink their relation to police and make sure they are not playing a role in supporting oppressive systems. You could say there are many reasons you could come up with for using police presence in a library, especially for security reasons, when it comes to stopping so-called “problem patrons” (i.e. usually unhoused people), “theft,” or people protesting sensible mask mandates. Such approaches are often not done while considering that bringing police into a library will push away patrons, especially Black and brown people, who do not want to be in the same place as those who brutalize their communities, and the fact such people will not feel safe in those spaces. These approaches undermine the role of the library as a community space for all.

In the end, the Too Loud episode, “Checked Out,” could be interpreted in so many ways, and I’m, personally, not sure which interpretation is the right one, and which is the wrong one. One conclusion that could be drawn from the episode is that libraries, and librarians by extension, are not neutral, but rather they are political institutions which are part of oppressive systems, whether they state they are, or not. Just as museums, archives, and other cultural institutions are not, and have never been, neutral, the same applies to libraries as well. That could be the biggest takeaway from this, as they are not shown cooperating with the police directly like the superheroes in DC Super Hero Girls in many of the episodes, and rather are enforcing rules on their own. With that, this post comes to a close.

Sara declares a book on the shelf is library property and must be seized

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] In an email on Feb. 2, I told Lindsey Simon, formerly of ALA, this, adding that I wasn’t sure about the episode, and saying that I believed they learn a lesson in the end, as the house the library is in literally collapses, adding that the book jail may be imagined, or even real, maybe in Sarah’s mind. Also, the post’s original title was “Having fun in the library: The uniqueness of “Too Loud”” but that was changed before its publication.

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“Take them away”: Cletus Bookworm’s acquiescence to censorship

Shadowy figure threatens Rocky and Bullwinkle with a gun in the library

Forty-three years before Francis Clara Censordoll, the librarian of Moralton who spends her time destroying and censoring books, appeared in Moral Orel‘s first episode on December 13, 2005, was a White male stereotypical librarian named Cletus Bookworm, appearing in a 1962 episode of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, also known as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which aired from 1959 to 1964. [1] In this post, I’ll explain Bookworm’s role in the episode, how he supports censorship, and again shows, like Censordoll, that librarians are not neutral and can end up actively supporting oppression through their actions.

Seeing the massive weather changes in their community (Frostbite Falls, Minnesota), Rocky the Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose are concerned. Rocky becomes suspicious after he learns that the weatherman has an unlisted number, sees that the weather report in the newspaper is “classified information,” and reads in the newspaper the report has been cancelled during “the emergency.” Realizing it is his duty as a citizen to know the weather, he and Bullwinkle travel to the Frostbite Falls Library in hopes of finding books about the weather. Little did they know, but a pack of beady eyes is watching them, with a mysterious/malignant figure bonking Rocky on the head and blocking the way out of the library for Rocky and Bullwinkle.

When the story continues, Rocky and Bullwinkle are stopped by a strange figure who tells them to hold it, pointing a gun at them, as they are carrying out books. Rocky thinks that the person with the gun is the librarian, saying he is threatening them because of their overdue books, ha. That is one vivid imagination, Rocky! They get threatened by the stranger and with their hands up, leaving the books behind, despite wanting to know about the weather. They go right by the desk of Cletus Bookworm, the town librarian. Rocky believes that it will all be fine, thinking that Bookworm will save them. Instead, he snarls and declares “I see that you got both of them. Good work.” Rocky tries to appeal to Bookworm, and he is unwavering, adding “take them away.”

As a result, Rocky and Bullwinkle are pushed out of the library by the shadowy figure, X3, at gunpoint, and through the streets of the town, still moving forward by gunpoint until they get to an office building, They come to a door titled “censored” and are brought inside. There they meet Captain Peter Peachfuzz who tells them that the weather is classified and that the weather is changing because the world is turning upside down. Ultimately, we learn in later episodes that the accumulation of ice at the North Pole tilts the world so the South Pole lies in the Pacific Ocean, with the villain, Boris, trying to steal people’s presents so he can become the next Santa Claus. [2]

Bookworm lets Rocky and Bullwinkle be taken away by gunpoint in two scenes in the second segment of “Topsy Turvy World”. He also supports their removal from the library.

It says a lot that Rocky, one of the show’s heroes, believes that Bookworm will be on their side, but then he literally lets them be taken out of the library by a man at gunpoint. Is he also part of the conspiracy to keep the reality of the changing weather from the public? Has he been paid off? Its something that is never answered in the episode, although it is implied. Furthermore, by not standing for the patrons, he is allowing and facilitating state violence against citizens, as it turns out that X3 is a secret agent who works for the government.

If we apply the Librarian Portrayal Test here, it would obviously fail. While the depiction of Bookworm would pass the first criterion, he would fail the next two as he is defined primarily as a librarian, and while he is integral to the plot, he is a stereotype in many ways. Unlike other librarian depictions, he is not a foil, nor is he there for laughs or does he shush patrons. He isn’t an information provider either, naughty (he is presumably prudish), or fulfilling any of the character types Jennifer Snoek-Brown outlines, but he also is not atypical. However, his appearance and demeanor seems to fulfill the old, miserly, curmudgeon stereotype embodied by librarians in animation time and time again. A recent example is the unnamed White female librarian in an episode of DC Super Hero Girls, although there are other examples as well.

Although I’ve noted how Bookworm contributes to the episode, about his depiction in the episode, I’d like to pose whether the episode itself could have worked without this. I believe that it could have been more interesting if Bookworm has stood up for the heroes and against censorship, even if he got injured in the process by X3. However, this was an animation for kids, so that storyline would have never been considered. The existing storyline and his actions, have an even deeper meaning, in terms of librarians supporting oppressive systems, and oppression itself.

For Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Frostbite Falls Library was undoubtedly seen as a respected “center of truth,” free, open to research, and disseminating knowledge, which has a “social responsibility to inform and educate for progress” as some libraries have stated about themselves. [3] They may have also seen the library itself as one that is inclusive and accepting, with “circles of knowledge.” However, they likely did not think about how their small town of 48 people, presumably with all White inhabitants, is immune to racism, nor how oppression and privilege play out in public libraries, whether institutionally or interpersonally. The latter has been stated by various libraries and an ALA division in the past. [4]

In this specific instance, Bookworm sides with the forces of censorship, represented by X3 and Captain Peachfuzz, all of which are White people. The supposition that librarians are said to be committed to education and open access to information is thrown into question with Bookworm allowing a X3 to remove the weather-related books from the library and remove library patrons from the library at gunpoint! Even so, the portrayal of the library as a place where commercial values dominate, but rather one with “democratic freedom” and “critical reason” is maintained, unlike the library in a few issues of the well-known webcomic, Girly, which is literally owned by a corporation, to give one example. [5] However, even advocates of these values in libraries have to admit that libraries can be “implicated in neoliberalism” and oppressive, abut can be “liberatory” and “allow the noncommercial values of freedom, equality, democracy, and reason.” And that brings us to further discussion of oppression within libraries.

Children looking at a window display in Asheville Colored Public Library, courtesy of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and section of Digital Public Library’s exhibit on history of public libraries focusing on segregated libraries.

Some librarians have argued, rightly, that libraries aren’t neutral in fighting against White supremacy and systemic racism, and said that current and historic inequities are inherent in libraries themselves, with librarians having their own internal biases. [6] Others have argued that oppression manifests itself in the oppression itself, including gender oppression, with gender-based stereotypes, sexual harassment, and men advancing more quickly to leadership positions than women, or noted institutional racism in libraries. Some have also noted systemic social issues which have plagued the library and information science professions, and called for cultural an structural change to institutions to address these issues, including adjusting and analyzing collecting policies and library practices. A number of libraries went further in their arguments, saying that libraries are not neutral, as they have “benefited from a system that privileges a dominant narrative and the perspectives and experiences of a select portion of our society,” have a history of systemic inequity and bias in collections, services, spaces, cataloging, and recruitment, and other library work, even described libraries themselves as as institutions which “hold power and privilege born from white supremacy culture.” [7] Then there are those who have said that libraries, like other institutions, have systems with inequity, as they have been “traditionally centered on whiteness and patriarchy as a default,” and has professional policies which have “furthered systemic oppression against under-represented groups.” These arguments make clear that libraries are not neutral, as stated by Chris BourgDavid Lankes, and Emily Drabinski, noting that neutrality is impossible.

This is in opposition to those like Ron Kelley, a former librarian in Arizona, who complained about the ALA asking people to supposedly join in Black Lives Matter protests. He declared that libraries should be apolitical and neutral, and grumbling about critical librarianship supposedly going against “a free society” and the values of a library, declaring that librarians should “provide access to information from all points of view, and let people make up their own minds,” acting like librarians have no opinions, biases, or whatnot, which is a clear lie. [8] His argument also invalidates the opinions of those like Meredith Farkas, a faculty librarian at Portland  Community College. She stated that neutrality upholds inequality, represents indifference toward marginalized communities, and said that if the majority of what is published representing “a white, male, Christian, heteronormative worldview, then we are not supporting the interests of other members of our communities by primarily buying those works.” This connects with the argument of librarian Sofia Leung, who stated, to the consternation of some, that much of library collections in the U.S. are “written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people,” and things stole from people of color, then “claimed as white property,” adding that the library field and educational institutions have been “sites of whiteness.” She went onto say that library collections which have materials by mostly White authors continue to promote Whiteness, with these collections indicating that said libraries don’t care what people of color think, consider them to be scholars, or as “valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.”

Beyond this, other librarians argued that the dominant culture of the librarian profession normalizes bias, stated that libraries are on the one hand an intersection of “the individual, communities and knowledge” but are also places where “structures of injustice, exploitation, control, and oppression are nourished, normalized and perpetuated,” asked  about the current reality of academic, school, and public libraries in today’s society. Some, in noting efforts by Cuba after 1959 to build their own information infrastructure and computing industry, called for being skeptical of claims attached to algorithms and models of information retrieval, designing “alternative models and algorithms” outside of those in Silicon Valley, and having a project of critical search which qualification of what is relevant an inherently “interpretive, normative, and politically consequential act.” [9] Digital Projects Librarian at York University, nina de jesus, argued that since libraries exist within a culture and society of oppression and great disparity, they entrench oppression through their structure and values. de jesus also noted that, in their opinion, libraries contribute to ongoing colonization, are political (and liberal) institutions which are not neutral, stabilize intellectual property itself, rooted in ongoing Indigenous genocides, and are far from neutral, with information organized to construct whiteness as the “default, normal, civilized and everything else is Other.” They later noted that libraries, due to their relationship to the state itself are oppressive, and argued that libraries as they currently exist in the U.S. and Canada are “a tool of oppression, rather than of liberation.” [10]

Shadowy figure blocks heroes from leaving the library

Some readers may be asking why these last three paragraphs were added. Such readers might even say “I’m reading a pop culture review, not an academic article!” While it might have seemed like a bit a tangent, I will assure you that it is not. Instead, I was summarizing some perspectives from the librarian community which note, rightly, oppression within libraries, the librarian profession, and among librarians themselves. In a broader note, libraries themselves, as noted by Joshua Note, are “potentially key tools of oppression because they target the mind” and is connected to the conception that information literacy is a “potential tool of oppression.” [11] This is possible even if librarians consider all forms of racism and bigotry as wrongheaded, anti-intellectual, and unethical, and promote openness to rational dialogue and ideas, as Thomas B. Wall, University Librarian of Boston College stated in June 2020. Information literacy was once defined by the ALA as a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” On the one hand, Bookworm is impeding this literacy by giving official sanction to the forces of censorship, as I stated earlier. On the other, he is shaping this literacy by limiting the resources available to fulfill the information needs of Rocky and Bullwinkle (finding out the weather). Even so, by aligning with censorship, he is clearly violating standing ethics of the library profession, but I don’t think he cares much about that, just as Censordoll was totally fine with literally burning books she declared “obscene” and despised.

Bookworm, by allowing an armed g-man to take away the protagonist at gunpoint, is obviously not engaging in any racism, sexism, or the like. But, he is actively encouraging and applauding violence and intimidation, even of his own patrons, so he can lord over his quiet library “temple.” If Rocky or Bullwinkle had made too much noise, I imagine he wouldn’t be opposed to shushing them. Not in the slightest. It is definitely in his nature to do so. However, what he is doing does not seem to be systemic. That makes it different than, for example, segregation of libraries in the Jim Crow era when Black patrons either had to enter through segregated entrances, go into different reading rooms than White people, have worn-out books, and those who entered the White areas were asked to leave, ignored, or even police escorted them, with others “beaten and ended up in jail.” Protests against segregation in libraries began in the 1930s, but more were emboldened in 1950s and 1960s to integrate public libraries with sit-ins and lawsuits. Now, that is a story I’d love to see in film, animation, or some other media, in whatever way, shape, or form worked best. The closest we have come to this is a segregated library shown in scenes of Hidden Figures, where the reel White librarian is a gatekeeper, “literally keeping Black and Brown library users from knowledge and resources available to White members of the public.”

There’s another factor: violence and intimidation against librarians themselves, including sexual harassment against female librarians by patrons, or even murder in some cases. Is it possible that Bookworm was siding with the g-man in an effort of self-preservation? That might be one of the reasons for his actions. While one could say that he would have sided with the protagonists if the g-man didn’t have a gun, as I’ve already demonstrated, he was almost gleeful that that they were ejected from the library. Perhaps he was annoyed at them for not returning their late books? In any case, his acceptance of an armed man literally coming into the library and escorting out two loyal patrons, from what one can imply from how Rocky describes the library and even Bookworm, is inexcusable. No librarian should allow anyone to intimidate and threaten their patrons, as it makes the library environment itself unsafe. In the end, Cletus Bookworm’s acquiescence to censorship connects to systemic problems within libraries themselves and the librarian profession, but to values of libraries and what they stand for in society as a whole.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] The episode is “Topsy Turvy World,” and it aired in 1962. The segments analyzed in this post are three shorts within a YouTube video on the show’s official channel: “Topsy Turvy World” (1:44-5:13), “Funny Business in the Books” /”The Library Card” (17:55-21:22).

[2] William D. Crump, Happy Holidays–Animated!: A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Cartoons on Television and Film (US: MacFarland, 2019), p 5. The episode itself ended up running afoul of censors, but not because of the plot about censorship, but due to something else they deemed offensive.

[3] James Hilton, “U-M Library statement: work against systemic racism,” University of Michigan Library, June 10, 2020; Holly Mercer, “A Message from UT Libraries,” University of Tennessee Knoxville Libraries, June 4, 2020; Nancy Dwyer, “Library Statement on Racial Injustice in Our Society,” Vanderbilt University, June 5, 2020; Staff of the William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library, “A Pledge to Our Students and Community,” University of Houston Libraries, July 7, 2020; “Special Message from the University of Georgia Libraries,” University of Georgia Libraries, June 12, 2020; Robert McDonald, “Statement from Dean Robert McDonald: Social Justice for All,” University of Colorado Boulder University Libraries, June 4, 2020; Melissa Cox Norris, “Standing in solidarity against systemic racism,” University of Cincinnati Libraries, June 3, 2020.

[4] “Understanding Power, Identity, and Oppression in the Public Library,” Public Library Association, American Library Association, accessed October 6, 2021; David Leonard, “Reflections on this week,” Boston Public Library, June 5, 2020; “In support of eliminating racism,” University of Iowa Libraries, June 17, 2020.

[5] In Issue #259, Autumn is seen at the Cute Town Library, which is owned by a corporation. It appears again in Issue #300, owned by Happy Co., later seen in Issue #545, where the protagonists go to the library to learn more, having arguments about what they know about specific subjects. In Issue #560, HappyCo. prides itself on fixing up old buildings to make them better, like the library. For an advocacy for these values in library’s see Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s smug post, and his comments, titled “Libraries, Neoliberalism, and Oppression.”

[6] “Preserving history, telling stories: in the service of justice and equity,” Arizona State University, June 3, 2020; Virginia Steel, “A Message from University Librarian Virginia Steel – June 2, 2020,” UCLA Library, June 2, 2020; “Statement from the Dean: Shouts for justice,” Indian University Bloomington, June 5, 2020; “A message from the Iowa State University Library: A stand against racism,” Iowa State University Library, June 3, 2020; “UK Libraries’ Commitment to Equity,” University of Kentucky Libraries, accessed October 6, 2021; Deborah Jakubs and staff of Duke University Libraries, “A Statement of Our Commitment,” Duke University Libraries, June 8, 2020; Andrea Smith, “A statement from the UIC University Library,” University of Illinois Chicago, July 1 2020; MIT Libraries and MIT Press, “A Message from the MIT Libraries and MIT Press,” MIT Libraries, June 3, 2020; “Our Commitment to Anti-Racism,” NYU Libraries, June 23, 2020; “A Statement of Solidarity,” UW-Madison Libraries, June 2, 2020; Laura Saunders, “Connecting Information Literacy and Social Justice: Why and How,” Communications in Information Literacy, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2017.

[7] Simon Neame, “Dean’s Statement on Acts of Racial Violence,” University of Massachusetts Amherst, June 2, 2020; Neil Romanosky, “Ohio University Libraries’ Commitment to Social Justice,” Ohio University Libraries, June 9, 2020; “A Statement from University Libraries Supporting Black Lives Matter,” Ohio University Libraries, June 15, 2020; Constantia Constantinou, “The Penn Libraries Stands Against Racism,” Penn Libraries News, June 5, 2020; Gwen Bird, “The SFU Library stands against anti-Black racism — progress update from the Dean,” Simon Fraser University, May 25, 2021; Catherine Quinlan, Nancy Olmos, Louise Smith, and Chiméne E. Tucker, “Message from the Dean and Faculty and Staff Leadership of USC Libraries,” USC Libraries, June 3, 2020; Cristina Hatem, “From the Dean and the SU Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Team,” Syracuse University Libraries, June 4, 2020; Multiple authors, “Library faculty and staff members add their individual voices to national issues of race and racism,” Virginia Tech Libraries, accessed October 6, 2021; Elaine L. Westbrooks, “The University Libraries’ Role in Reckoning with Systemic Racism and Oppression,” UNC University Libraries, June 1, 2020; Lizabeth (Betty) Wilson, “Responding to the Call: George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and Systemic Change,” UW Libraries Blog, June 5, 2020; Jessica Aiwuyor, “Association of Research Libraries Condemns Racism and Violence against Black Communities, Supports Protests against Police Brutality,” Association of Research Libraries, June 5, 2020; “Critical Cataloging and Archival Description,” UW Libraries, accessed October 6, 2021.

[8] His views were summarized in a Washington Free Beacon article with an inflammatory title “Arizona Librarian Fired for Push to Keep Politics Out of Libraries” and published on January 21, 2021, with the article reprinted in various conservative websites.

[9] This article also said that critical search would “actively strive to increase the visibility of counterhegemonic intellectual traditions and of historically marginalized perspectives” and called for building “systems of information diffusion and circulation that seek to amplify critical voices and to cut across linguistic, national, racial, gender, and class barriers.”

[10] de jesus also stated that the solution is decolonization, disrupting the system of intellectual property and other capitalist aspects, supporting Indigenous resistance, working to dismantling anti-Blackness, calling for daring and drastic changes if libraries are seen as “fundamentally white supremacist institutions,” while saying that libraries have “some emancipatory potential,” noting that if this is done then “libraries really could come to represent and embody freedom…becom[ing] focal points for the free exchange and access of ideas, knowledge, and imagination.”

[11] The original outline of de jesus’s article for In the Library with the Lead Pipe, stated that libraries, as “sites of indoctrination” even “target our minds,” and noted the perception that White people are the only ones with stories, with people of color not existing, while saying the police should be feared, and noted the faulty idea that people should “defer to white men.”

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Examining representations of librarians in stock photos and gifs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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


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

Categories
Comics fantasy Librarians Libraries webcomics White people

Sassy witch and the library

Last week, I wrote about the librarian in one of my favorite webcomics, Tamberlane, and I’d like to focus on another webcomic I like, titled Diamond Dive. In issue 3, one of the protagonists, Karta Kloss (also known as “Pinky”), heads to the library at the Montgomery University, which you can only get to when traveling through a door with an eye, named winky. She first meets a librarian who helps her with telling her where to get school books. But when she tries to grab a book, it hits her on the head, and she meets a new girl, Bailey, who helps her. She sassily criticizes Bailey, in issue 4, and begins reading a book, which leads her to another dimension and they continue arguing in this combat area. After Pinky collapses, Bailey later takes her to her room.

Librarian in issue 3, Bailey with Pinky in front of the library book stacks in the webcomic.

Since libraries are only shown so briefly, there isn’t much more I can comment on. However, this librarian, by helping Pinky is fulfilling a number of the ALA’s Code of Ethics, specifically around service:

We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.

That’s all I can really say for this because the library is only featured briefly, a lot less than the libraries featured in webcomics like Lore Olympus, which has more archivy themes than library-related ones.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Categories
animation comedy fantasy Librarians Libraries White people

These Animated Librarians Have Big Hearts and Big Heads

Animated series such as Hilda, Cleopatra in Space, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power have portrayed libraries in a positive light; Too Loud, a 16-episode, two-season animated comedy web series on YouTube, is another great example of libraries in animation. Created by Nico Colaleo, the series focuses on two clumsy and loud volunteers at the Chestertown Public Library somewhere in the Western United States: Sara (voiced by Kelsey Abbott) and Jeffrey (voiced by Colaleo), with abnormally large heads, have fun even while they do their jobs. The show has already garnered a wiki, fan art, and a loyal group of fans. While the show is geared toward children, viewers of all ages can enjoy its message about the value of libraries.

In the first two episodes of season one, the so-called “loud mouth librarians,” Sara, and her brother, Jeffrey, help patrons: Sara uses her huge cranium to find a book on an obscure topic, while Jeffrey licks a library card to discern whether a book is overdue. Both explain the personal importance of helping library patrons, saying it brightens their day. In the second episode, both work together to save the library from being shut down by the town’s mayor. In later episodes, they meet friends in the library, with Jeffrey using the size of head to give a sci-fi author an idea for a new book, breaking his writer’s block, and a new librarian named Sarah is introduced.

Although the library is not shown as many times in the second season, the show emphasizes the library’s value to the community over and over again. In the third episode of the season, Sara is overwhelmed with her library duties and joins a group of “bad girls.” But when they approach the library and prepare to egg it, she remembers the positive memories and experiences she had there and tells the girls to leave. Afterward, Jeffrey and the head librarian, Mrs. Mildred Abbott, thank Sara for her hard work, saying they appreciate her efforts. In the fifth episode of the season, on the 100th anniversary of the library, Mildred’s twin and the chancellor of the libraries, Muriel, declares that the library will be sold off so the area can become a parking lot, all due to a long-standing grudge against her sister. The usual patrons are horrified by this, as are Jeffrey and Sara. Just in time, they help bring the two sisters together, and they reconcile, saving the library from destruction.

Other episodes highlight the importance of libraries and proper organization. In one episode in particular, the story centers on the Jeffrey and Sara picking up overdue library books and punishing those responsible is emphasized. They convince a skeptical Sarah, a fellow librarian, to help them break into someone’s house to get an overdue book, but in truth Jeffrey had the book the whole time, for over eight years, and had forgotten to re-shelve it. After the person’s house collapses when they grab the book, all three of them learn that being punitive with those who have overdue books is not worth it.

The same can be said for an episode where Jeffrey and Sara travel deep into the library’s stacks to search for their friend, Molly, and find their long-lost cousin, Steven, who had been stranded there. In this abandoned part of the library, which has not been touched since the 1980s, there is even a VHS rental section!

Due to their role in the library, Sara and Jeffrey, along with their new colleague Sarah, are valued by those in the community. For example, in one episode, after Sara and Jeffrey get head reduction surgery, they have trouble doing their jobs, and ordinary patrons miss the usual banter of Sara and Jeffrey. It turns out this is a nightmare and both vow to never change the size of their “big, glorious heads” for anyone.

Even Mildred, the head librarian, bucks librarian stereotypes in several ways. At first, viewers may see the older white woman with glasses as dotty and clueless. For instance, she buys a burned sign for $100 dollars to eat in one episode, and is unsure how to answer reference calls from patrons. However, she has institutional knowledge dating back to the founding of the library, which her father built and founded. She helps Jeffrey, Sara, and Sarah with their duties from time to time and values their work at the library. Since the series is focused on Jeffrey and Sara and those who interact with them, she does not appear as much, but she adds an interesting dimension to the series.

While showrunner Nico Colaleo has proposed ideas for a third season, the season has been on an extended hiatus since November 2019—but viewers are still discovering the show and enjoying its depiction of libraries to this day. Even as the library’s size and layout differs from episode to episode, Colaleo has shared designs of the library on his Twitter account, including new angles of the library and the rainy day version of the library’s exterior, and a poster of a pop star promoting literacy displayed in one of the episodes. Hopefully, the series will be renewed, as having a show centered around libraries, like this one, would be a boon for representation of libraries and librarians in animation.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is reprinted from I Love Libraries, where it was published on February 4, 2021.

Categories
anime fantasy Japanese people Librarians Libraries

Myne the “bookworm” librarian and the Nippon Decimal Classification System

Myne loudly declares she wants to reorganize the church library and she does so

Last week, on Twitter, I penned a couple of tweets about an episode of Ascendance of A Bookworm, “Harvest Festivals and Staying Home,” where the protagonist, Myne (who wants to be a librarian), “loudly declares she wants to reorganize all the books using a NDC (Nippon Decimal Classification) system, the Japanese version of the Dewey Decimal System.” She later explains this system to the priest, who has no idea what she is talking about because Melvil Dewey “doesn’t exist in this world,” and the “episode ends with an illustration of her lying a desk with books around her.” I further noted that while Myne is unable to organize all the books she wants since magic books are “off-limits,” she still makes her “mark on this society” and there are numerous parts in the episode which libraries could use to promote their value. I mean, I had to write about a series where people literally ride on books through the sky in the opening, right! Ha. Anyway, there’s a lot more going on in this episode and the series as a whole which related to libraries, which I’d like to talk about in this post.

For one, libraries are central to the anime itself. In the first episode, “A World Without Books,” Myne is introduced as a librarian in her former life who liked all kinds of literature but an earthquake crushed her under a pile of books. A few episodes later, in “Forests and Clay Tablets,” Myne and her friend Lutz exchange their future dreams. While Lutz wants to be a “traveling merchant,” Myne wants to be a librarian. There is a large gap until the time that libraries re-appear. In the show’s 12th episode, “Baptism and Divine Paradises,” Myne stumbles across the temple library but cannot enter because the only clergy are allowed inside. Later she pays the High Bishop the highest currency, and he says that her parents will have to approve and says that she can come by and read whenever. There are a number of interesting themes there, especially when it comes to access to materials. This is one of the major issues for the ALA (American Library Association), as they are about ensuring equitable access to library resources and services. I’ll just quote a little from their webpage on the subject:

Equity extends beyond equality…to deliberate and intentional efforts to create service delivery models that will make sure that community members have the resources they need…Libraries are major sources of information for society and they serve as guardians of the public’s access to information…Core values of the library community such as equal access to information, intellectual freedom, and the objective stewardship and provision of information must be preserved and strengthened, now more than ever…Access to materials, without prejudice, to every member of the community must also be assured. As one of the core values of librarianship, ‘Equality of access to recorded knowledge and information’ which involves ‘insuring that all library resources are accessible to all overcoming technological and monetary barriers to access’ goes hand in hand with democracy and freedom.

So, by making the library exclusive to just priests, they are sealing off the information from the population and putting in place barriers. These impediments are also social as well, which the ALA doesn’t focus on, but are important to note. In the episode after “Baptism and Divine Priestesses,” which is titled “The Choice to be an Apprentice Priestess,” Lutz scolds her for collapsing from excitement when she learned should be a librarian at the temple, and her stepfather, Gunther, refuses to let her leave, convinced that the role of priestess if for those who are orphans, as they have to stay at the temple. This is inherently a class barrier, filled with prejudices. Lutz may have a valid point as he cares about Myne’s well-being, but Gunther only says what he does about the temple because of his views about the temple and religion itself, which he projects on Myne. In that sense, it serves as another barrier for her in her quest to bring more knowledge to the world.

Many episodes later, in “Apprentice Priestess,” episode 15 of the anime, libraries reappear. Specifically, Myne lays out her terms to Benno, the head of a local guild, which includes being able to live at home, be treated like nobility, maintain her paper-making studio, and have…access to the temple’s library! As always, having access to the library is vital for her, as it has been since she learned it existed. In the episode after this one, named “Blue Robes and Uncommon Sense,” Myne comes closer to her goal of being a librarian. She makes her way to the library so she can memorize scriptures, then distances herself from her “retainers” (servants) and reads the scripture through the whole day blissfully.

Then there is “Harvest Festivals and Staying Home,” the 23rd episode, the one where the screenshot, at the beginning of this post, is from. There’s a lot to analyze from that episode, which I will do in the next few paragraphs, with some helpful videos and screenshots to assist in that endeavor. The nobles are getting afraid of Myne, calling her a “plebeian,” leading one of them to wreck the library in order to delay her from coming to a specific festival. When she enters the library, she looks at the books on the ground in terror:

Yikes! Myne quickly figures out who did it, as a blue-robed priest had given her a snide comment earlier, and Fran brings her back to the head priest, Ferdinand. She expresses her outrage someone would do such a thing, declaring there should be a bloody carnival for people who ruin libraries. She says that ruining a library is a “declaration of war,” saying that the person who did it deserves the guillotine. Wow. Eventually, Ferdinand says that the library was likely destroyed as a way to keep her from the harvest. She says she will clean up the library herself, with Ferdinand saying that everything is ordered by date of acquisition, and then tells her that she can’t handle it. That is where Myne says she will sort them in her own way:

Here are clips of those moments, as the screenshots obviously do not suffice:

 

Then, of course, Myne explains what the NDC is, which is a great PSA. One user has assembled the best moments from when Myne talks about the system earlier in the episode, not including when she talks to Ferdinand about it later, as that would be a repeat, into a video:

After all that, she gets a list of books Ferdinand donated to the library. When Myne’s gray-robed servants see the library in such disarray, they predict she will “blow her lid,” if she sees it, but instead, she comes to them with a smile. Only a librarian would have a response like this, seriously:

She then develops a system to separate the paper and tablet-based books, then placing them on specific shelves based on their marker. She knows where the books in the library will be shelved and has a shelf dedicated to just magic books, hoping she will find some and is excited to read them. We see the library not only with books but with scrolls and tablets as well. This is similarly reflected in the flashback to Japan in the 26th episode, “Dreamlike World,” the last one which has aired to date. We then get a PSA about Melvil Dewey from Myne, which is nice, something which I haven’t seen in any animation or anime to date:

She first asks him about how he would organize the magic books, hanging on every word of the priest, until he says that classifying magic books isn’t something she should be concerned with. He says this is because they will never be on the shelves of the church libraries since magic is the “exclusive domain” of the nobility in this world. As such, he adds that blue robes have “no right” to peruse those books and that even though they are nobles, they are not truly nobles until they graduate from the Nobles’ Academy. Then Myne reacts like this, desperately trying to get him to change his mind:

She fails in doing so and is depressed about it, as anyone would be! So, she decides to direct her energy into helping to create more books to keep her spirits up, working with her friends, and the kids in the orphanage, who using sewing skills her stepsister Turi taught them to bind the books. She then presents the picture book she made for kids to the head of the guild. And of course, she gets into a fight over wanting to give the books to the orphanage for free rather than selling them.

As the episode goes on, she tells Benno of her idea: to create a printing press and/or to mass-produce books, admitting it will take a “lot of capital.” Later she gets fitted for her ceremonial outfit, spends time with her adopted family, and thinks she will be spending time with them over the winter. That is until she finds out that she will be spending time at the temple instead of Ferdinand, who predicted in an earlier scene that she will turn “society on its head.” He describes her correctly when he says that she loses herself “when books are involved.” The episode ends with a drawing of Myne sleeping in the library:

Concluding this post, I really do feel like a real librarian today, ha:

© 2020 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.