Diversity has oft been a challenge in the library profession. It is even the subject of a little edited Wikipedia page entitled “Diversity in librarianship.” Currently, not even 6% of credentialed librarians are Black, with almost 16 times more White librarians having credentials than Black people. Even when other metrics are used, Black people are clearly under-represented, although there is a gap of U.S. between U.S.-born Latine people, Blacks, Whites, and immigrant Latines. Furthermore, there is a lack of Black librarians dating back to 1930s, with some arguing that Black people were relegated to inferior schools, and inadequate preparation for higher education. Others have stated that the library profession itself is racially constructed, with Black people having “perilous, uneven, or vulnerable education”. 
This reality is manifested in the various real-life Black librarians, like Clara Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. However, too few of them are in popular culture. As such, there are a number of these librarians in real life who should also be in fiction. As I wrote in June of last year, there should be more librarians, especially Black librarians, who criticize DDC and LCCO for being racist, like Reanna Esmail, a outreach and engagement librarian at Olin Library at Cornell University. Itheorized that this could be the case because either many of the librarians are White or that the writers are White and “don’t think about these issues.” With that being said, this post focuses on eleven Black librarians which should be in pop culture, either comics, animation, films, or any other medium.
The first of those librarians is Belle da Costa Greene. She is known due to a historical fiction by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, entitled The Personal Librarian, which is about her professional and personal life as the librarian of J.P. Morgan. She has attracted some controversy, as she spent her professional career while passing as a White person.  Even so, considering that romantic drama films like Passing, centered on two Black women who pass as White, are popular, The Personal Librarian, or stories about other librarians who are Black but pass as White might move into another form in the future. After all, the 1929 book of the same name is by Nella Larsen. She was a Black woman who worked as a librarian at the New York Public Library (NYPL), from 1921 to 1925, at the Harlem branch, according to pages 8-9 of George Hutchinson’s 2006 biography, In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line. There are many films, novels, music, and TV shows, which feature characters who are passing.  With growing interest and attention toward racial justice, racism, and Black nationalism, a White-passing character might fit with what some directors are going for. So, who knows, maybe there will be a White-passing librarian in animation in the future.
On the other hand, others may decide that instead of choosing a mixed-race character, they will chose someone different. That could lead to a focus on more prominent real-life librarians like the founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), E.J. Josey. He was even described as one of the “pioneering” Black librarians in the U.S., founding BCALA in 1970 around the same time that REFORMA, Asian American Library Caucus, and American Indian Library Association came into existence.  With characters like Mr. Anderson in The Public, it is just the right time to have a film, novel, or some other form of pop culture about him.
The same can be said for Clara Stanton Jones, the first Black president of the ALA. She was also key in pushing for segregation of libraries and improving library culture by pushing for the passage of an ALA “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness.”  Clearly ahead of her time, especially in the latter. Relatively similar, in terms of her leadership role, was Effie Lee Morris (not to be confused with children’s librarian Effie Lee Newsome). She served as the first Black president of the Public Library Association, and is known for her role in helping library services for visually impaired people and people of color. During her career, she worked at Cleveland Public Library, New York Public Library, an San Francisco Public Library. 
Surely there were record-setting librarians like Edward C. Williams, an early Black librarian, who joined the ALA in 1896, Fisk University librarian Jessie Carney Smith, who worked at the university beginning in 1965, or Eliza Atkins Gleason, the first Black person to earn a doctorate of library science from the University of Chicago in 1940. She is known for her 1941 book which pioneered Black library history, entitled The Southern Negro and the Public Library: A Study of the Government and Administration of Public Library Service to Negroes in the South. On a related noted were books by Josey, like his famous 1970 book, The Black Librarian in America, its 1994 follow-up, The Black Librarian in America Revisited, his 1972 book, What Black Librarians Have to Say, and theMarva Deloch. This, and other books, like the 2012 book, The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges (edited by .J. Josey: Transformational Leader of the Modern Library, and the Aisha M. Johnson-Jones’ 2019 history, The African American Struggle for Library Equality were pointed out by BCALA in a 2018 call for abstracts. 
In addition to Williams, Smith, and Gleason, there’s Virginia Lacy Jones. She is said to be the second Black person to earn a library science doctorate, who went on to be dean of the Atlanta University School of Library Service from 1945 to 1982, overseeing the “training of approximately 1800 black librarians,” during her time at the university. Just as important is Catherine Latimer, the first Black librarian of the New York Public Library, who began working there in 1921, beginning at the Harlem branch. She was even defended by W.E.B. DuBois, when a supervisor tried to demote her.
Latimer would later describe, in letters to DuBois, the “acts of prejudice against her, specifically by white librarians”. Even so, she would still re-catalog items about the African diaspora so it was “actually accessible to researchers,” clip files on topics covering the Black experience and turn “those clipping files into scrapbooks.” She collected works of great Harlem Renaissance writers, oversaw the Division of Negro Literature and History, worked with researchers, and created a black poetry index with Dorothy B. Porter, a fellow Black librarian at Howard University.  She additionally was Instrumental in founding the NYPL Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints.
The latter brings me to Porter. I wrote about her briefly in June of last year, noting that she pushed aside the Dewey Decimal System by classifying works by author and genre to highlight the “foundational role of black people in all subject areas” which included religion, communications, art, economics, demography, music, political science, linguistics, and sociology. This was all part of a classification system which challenged racism on its head, centering works about and by Black people within scholarship.
Her work helped build the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, which is now one of the most comprehensive, and largest, collections of Black history in the world. She followed in the footsteps of Vivian Gordon Harsh, first Black librarian for the Chicago Public Library, beginning work there in 1909, a system she continued to work within until 1958. Harsh passionately collected works by Black people, setting the precedent for others to follow. 
The fact that neither Latimer, Porter, or Harsh has been portrayed in any fictional form, to my knowledge, is a shame. It is further unfortunate, considering that Williams wrote a fictional novel entitled When Washington Was in Vogue: A Love Story in the 1920s which “portrays the 1920s African-American high society of which he was a part”. Considering the issues around gender and racial bias, the division between African and Black communities, the fact that some librarians have community service (or adventure) motives, or that many Black people work in multicultural environments, all of these could be adapted into fictional worlds. 
The same could be said about accurately showing how microaggressions toward Black librarians are rooted in historical racial stereotypes, how these microaggressions manifest themselves, either in rejection/dismissal of professional experience, hateful/ignorant comments. This is only heightened by separation from other communities, like Asian communities, mistrust of those outside the Black community by Black people, vulnerability and anxiousness inside the community, and the idea of racial realism. The latter is defined by Derrick Bell as the idea that Black people, and people of color, recognize and understand the systemic combination of racism and white racial framing in society. 
Such characters may not be appearing for one simple reason: racism. The latter is already an impediment to Black mobility and is so systemic that society would have to be “fundamentally changed” for the racism to be removed. As such, more people of color may realize they need to advance and protect their interests, rather than thinking that society will remedy injustice and inequality, and realizing that struggle for freedom is manifestation of humanity that grows stronger through resilience to oppression. However, these efforts can easily be blunted by nepotism and racial discrimination.  Such creators may be stymied, and held back by others. Or, they may be a lower level, and others may stop them there. As such, depictions which show that Black librarians have different experiences than others may never come to fruition in the first place. 
These experiences have been manifested in some fiction, which I’ve highlighted this month, either looking at librarians in animation, TV series, or films. There’s also Kimberly Garrett Brown’s 2022 novel, Cora’s Kitchen, which focuses on a 35-year-old Black librarian at the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, and is encouraged by Langston Hughes to write poetry. Sadly, she ends up leaving her job so she can become a cook at White woman’s home. Other characters include Queenie, a Black packhorse librarian who moved to Philadelphia in Kim Michele Robinson’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. These and other characters may agree with what Stacie Williams, a librarian/activist/writer, said, that she tended to “eschew the idea of neutrality because nothing about my lived experience, as a black librarian, is neutral.” Other books which appear to include libraries, librarians, or library themes include The Camel Bookmobile, Large Print: An Unshelved Collection, Murder by Page One, Changes, Say You Need Me, and The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries to name a few books found on a listing on Alibris for “Afro American librarians”. 
Fictional librarians, who are Black, are important considering the critical role that Black librarians have in the communities they serve. This is valuable considering the smaller number of credentialed librarians who are Black, and an even smaller group who are Black men. As Library of Congress researcher Julius Jefferson put it, “whatever you want to do in life, there’s a librarian behind that.” There needs to be more Black librarians in real life and in fiction, whether they are part of the ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship program or not. 
© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.
 Walker, Shaundra. “Critical Race Theory and the Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of a Librarian of Color: A Counterstory” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 135, 140, 142-4; “Librarian Demographics and Statistics In The US,” Zippia, accessed May 28, 2022; “University Librarian Demographics and Statistics In The US,” Zippia, accessed May 28, 2022; Sokanu, “Librarian demographics in the United States,” CareerExplorer, accessed May 28, 2022; B and Public Libraries and Hispanics.” Pew Research Center, Mar. 17, 2015. There is also a listing of BIPOC resources for Children’s, MG, and Young Adult books, authors, and industry professionals by Melanin in YA, Edith Bazile’s article entitled “The lens of whiteness won’t close gaps in BPS”, La Loria Konata’s publication entitled “Looking Through a Colored Lens: A Black Librarian’s Narrative“, Diane Patrick’s “Developing Collections ‘By Any Means Necessary’” in Publisher Weekly, and Haillie Parker and Allie Barton’s “Invisible Chapters: Writing Tucson’s Black community into the stories of libraries, bookstores and publishing” in Tuscon Weekly. Additional stories of note include Ann Althouse’s “The black female librarian introvert at the 5-day conference” blogpost, kYmberly Keeton’s “A Personal Assessment: The African-American Librarian in the 21st Century” post, Dr. Nicole A. Cooke’s post on the Black Librarians Project on the LHRT NEWS AND NOTES site, which highlights Black librarians such as Regina Anderson Andrews (librarian between 1921 and 1966), Florence E. Borders (librarian in 1940s), Virgia Brocks-Shedd, Mary Rayford Collins, Adelina Coppin Alvarado, Katie Hart, Anita Hemmings [passed as White, with her descendants not knowing she was Black until 1990s], Julie Hunter, Latanya Jenkins, Mexico Mickelbury, Grace Lee Mims, Reynolda Motley, Beverly Murphy, Nancy Mildred Harper Nilon, Charlotte Shuster Price, Pauline Short Robinson, Effie Stroud Frazier, Thelma Horn Tate, and Bertha Pleasant Williams. Others pointed to librarian Augusta Baker.
 See, for example, Bates, Karen Grigsby. “J.P. Morgan’s Personal Librarian Was A Black Woman. This Is Her Story.” NPR, Jul. 4, 2021; Napp, Francky. “She Was a Black Librarian Who Could Equal America’s Most Powerful Man,” Messy Nessy, Jun. 3, 2020; Scutts, Joanna. “The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library,” Time, May 17, 2016; McAlpin, Heller. “J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.” Christian Science Monitor, Jun. 29, 2021. There are many other sources listed on her Wikipedia page, for those more interested in her story, which is ripe to be used in fictional narrative beyond The Personal Librarian.
 While there are many examples listed on the “Passing (racial identity)” Wikipedia page, I’m most familiar with Melvin Van Peebles’s 1970 film Watermelon Man (which is still a great classic film, by the way), and think that the 1960 film I Passed for White could be interesting.
 Smith, Katisha. “13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.” Book Riot, May 8, 2020; “About BCALA,” Black Caucus of the American Library Association, accessed May 29, 2022; Walker, “Critical Race Theory and the Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of a Librarian of Color,” 136.
 Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.”
 Ibid; Landgraf, Greg. “Blazing Trails: Pioneering African-American librarians share their stories.” American Libraries, Jan. 2, 2018.
 Also see The Black Librarian in America: Reflections, Resistance, and Reawakening by Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library by Black Librarians Matter 2022 (on Amazon) by The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism by Wayne and Shirley Wiegand, African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers which is edited by Binnie Tate Wilkin, Stop Talking, Start Doing!: Attracting People of Color to the Library Profession by Gregory L Reese and Ernestine L Hawkins, Carla Hayden: Librarian of Congress by Kate Moening, Underground: From Deadbeat to Dean: A Memoir by Peter MacDonald, An Independent Woman: The Autobiography of Edith Guerrier by Edith Guerrier, Molly Matson, and Polly Kaufman, The Professional Life of an African American Male Librarian blogspot. Anna Gooding-Call of Book Riot added that the “library profession is extremely white….even some of the few books about librarians of color were written by white authors,” noting that Jackson, Jefferson, and Nosakhere attempt to “add diversity to librarian narratives with these excellent essays by African American library professionals.” See an interview with the authors of The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism here.
 “HISTORY: Pioneering African-American Librarians Share Their Stories,” Good Black News, Jan. 22, 2018; Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know”; Betit, Jessica. “In Celebration of Black History Month: Black American Librarians.” Gardiner Public Library, Feb. 1, 2022. Betit also lists Thomas Fountain Blue (first Black person to head a public library in the U.S.), Jean Ellen Coleman (founding director of ALA’s Office of Outreach Services), Virginia Procter Powell Florence (first Black woman to earn a library science degree, in 1923). Also see Dawson, Alma. “Celebrating African-Americans and Librarianship.” Library Trends Vol. 49, No. 1, Summer 2000, pp. 49-87; Hunt, Rebecca D. “African American Leaders in the Library Profession: Little Known History.” Black History Bulletin Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 14-19; Helton, Laura. “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading.” Humanities Commons, 2019.
 Nunes, Zita Christina. “Cataloging Black Knowledge.” Perspectives on History. American Historical Association, Nov. 20, 2018; “Dorothy B. Porter, A Library Hero.” New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, Apr. 8, 2021; Taylor, Mildred Europa. “Dorothy Porter, the librarian who stood up against racism in Howard University’s library.” Face2Face Africa, Sept. 23, 2021; Grossman, Ron. “Flashback: A heroine to history: Vivian Harsh, Chicago’s first black librarian, preserved black history, literature with massive collection.” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 31, 2020; Smith, 13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta Know.” Other prominent Black librarians include the late Miriam Matthews, the first Black librarian hired by the Los Angeles Public Library in 1927, who created a research collection documenting contributions of Black people, city librarian Minnie Fisher (not to be confused with suffragist Minnie Fisher Cunningham) in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and Nella Larsen Imes as the first Black librarian employed by New York City and later a librarian, from 1921 to 1926. These individuals are noted by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and KCET. Matthews is briefly mentioned in Jennifer Velez’s article in Bustle entitled “How Afro-Latinx People Made Huge Contributions To Black History — Then Got Erased” and there is a further article on JSTOR entitled “Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s“.
 Nosakhere, Akilah Shukura. “Serving With a Sense of Purpose: A Black Woman Librarian in Rural New Mexico” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 161-3, 169, 170; “WHEN WASHINGTON WAS IN VOGUE: A Love Story,” Publishers Weekly, accessed May 29, 2022.
 Nosakhere, “Serving With a Sense of Purpose,” 180, 180-1; Vince Lee, “Like a Fish Out of Water, But Forging My Own Path” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 190, 193; Hankins, Rebecca. “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism: An African American Muslim Woman in the Field” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 209, 211; Hankins, Rebecca and Miguel Juarez, “Introduction” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 5.
 Hankins, “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism”, 211-212; Barksdale-Hall, Roland. “Building Dialogic Bridges to Diversity: Are We There Yet?” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), 272-80.
 Barksdale-Hall, “Building Dialogic Bridges to Diversity,” 288-9.
 Other books, which I’m not sure if they have Black librarians or not, include Just Like Beverly, Super-Duper Librarian, Amber By Night, and Librarian’s Night Before Christmas, and The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries Omnibus 2. For sources for this section, see “Inanna Fall 2022,” Inanna Publications & Education Inc., p. 3; Baker, Dee. “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.” Bookconscious, Jun. 5, 2021; Potkovic, Athena. “Library Neutrality,” CCP Journal, Apr. 10, 2018; Williams, Stacie. “Librarians in the 21st Century: It Is Becoming Impossible to Remain Neutral.” Lit Hub, May 4, 2017; ALA Support. “Equity in Librarianship in ALA Collections.” American Library Association, accessed May 29, 2022. There are additional Black writers who are librarians, like Alechia Dow, possibly Daren a.k.a. the Dope Librarian, a librarian who hosts the Adventures in YA podcast, and Alexander “Alex” Brown who is a queer Black librarian, writer, and local history, as noted by FIYAHCON 2021 and BuzzFeed News, who tweets on Twitter @QueenofRats. Of note is also Librarians in Fiction: A Critical Bibliography by Grant Burns and Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada edited by Deborah Lee and Mahalakshmi Kumaran.
 Contreras, Natalia E. “‘Must reflect the communities we serve’: The critical role that Black librarians play.” Indianapolis Star, Aug. 12, 2021; “‘Endangered Species’: Black Male Librarian,” NPR, Jun. 27, 2008; Cooper, Breanna. “New essay collection celebrates Black librarians.” Indianapolis Recorder, Feb. 24, 2022; “About Us,” National Conference of African American Librarians, accessed May 29, 2022; , Maya. “Why Aren’t There More Black Librarians?” Word in Black, Feb. 10, 2022; Hodge, Twanna. “On Being Black in Librarianship.” I Love Libraries, Jul 15, 2020; “Pre-Lit Fest 2022: The Black Librarian in America,” #StayHappening, Jun. 2022.