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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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animation Black people fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums

Fictional Library of the Month: The Stanza in “Welcome to the Wayne”

Image of the Stanza

Hello everyone! This is the eighth edition of my feature series, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the ones for November, December, January, February, March, April, and May) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, this post will focus on the Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne.

About the library

It is a magical library within The Wayne. Clara Rhone is currently the chief librarian of the Stanza itself. It is an important part of the Wayne and it is organized well enough that it is easy to find information.

Role in the story

Apart from Rhone, many others work there like John Keats, Numerous squidgets, and temporarily Ansi Molina. The library is not only the only library located within the Wayne, but it is, as I noted in my post, a

…secret library…[which is] meticulously organized library…contains information on the inhabitants of the Wayne…Information from the library helps Ansi aid his friends…Saraline describes the library as one of the quietest places in the Wayne

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is a library that is well-lit, has people who work there who help patrons, and is not underground, then yes. Otherwise, it falls into the libraries-are-magical idea, which too many fantasies seem to do. It can be problematic as people can than think of librarians as more than people, but somehow those who can do magical things, when they are just doing their jobs, not engaging in magic.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Magical libraries occasionally up on this blog, with the other example I can think of being the one in What …If?, where Doctor Strange goes to a library. In a comment in responding to that post, I noted that:

…there can be harm in the notion that “librarians are magical.” There are some good examples of librarians who have magic, but balance it with their magical abilities, like Kaisa in Hilda, but in other cases, it can more more harmful….I think some animations have tried to make sure that librarians and libraries are shown as valued, like the Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne [is] run by a Black librarian named Clara Rhone, or even, to an extent, the librarian in Trollhunters, Blinky.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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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.

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action Black people Japanese people Korean people Librarians Libraries

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?

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animation Black people Comics fantasy Librarians Libraries school libraries webcomics

Wonderful library scenes in webcomics and animation

I’ve done a number of posts on here listing beautiful, stupendous, and amazing libraries. I could list more of those, but I think it would be fruitless, so I’d rather focus on some of my favorite library scenes in animation and webcomics. Here we go!

Zoophobia and reading books

A perfect entry for this post is a scene from one of my favorite webcomics, Zoophobia, by Vivienne Medrano. [1] It ran from August 2015 to March 2016 and was put on hiatus in November 2016 for an indefinite period, pending what she called a “complete reboot” in April 2017. Anyway, there is a library scene in the webcomic in the Zoo Phoenix Academy, within an interspecies sanctuary called Safe Haven, a protected escape for creatures ostracized in the human world, as it is described in the comic. Zill lovingly looks at Kayla, who later becomes his girlfriend. Libraries are not unique to the webcomic, however. In a September 2020 animated short, “Bad Luck Jack,” libraries make a reappearance. Jack is helped by his friend, Zill, who catches books before they fall on Jack’s head, which is so nice. The value of the library is communicated even in this short scene.

Look how many books are on the shelves! This library, at Zoo Phoenix Academy, is full of books, hopefully, ones that are helpful to the academy’s students. Animated Views said that Zill tries to do what he can to cheer up Jack and protect him “from the incoming accidents,” and noted that the animation is more family-friendly than Medrano’s other animations, but still has strong musical qualities. [2]

Azarath Public Library” in Teen Titans Go!

After Beast Boy foolishly destroys Raven’s spellbook, she has to go to this library to get a replacement. People are seen picking out books for other people, the librarian is stamping books to check them out, and people are sitting at computers, doing work. Just like any public library, but better! When she complains it will take forever to find a book in the library, Beast Boy asks her if she is familiar with the Dewey Decimal System. He later goes to the kids’ section and she chases after someone who takes the spellbook. Beast Boy comes to her rescue, saying he has magic powers now but has no pants, and now has a cloak. She then goes on a long journey with him to get the wizard to make her a new book after he accidentally destroys the second copy.

Raven traveling down the escalator to the library

In the end, she gets a new spellbook, thanks to Beast Boy, and gets her powers back. Unfortunately, the book wizard who made the book is still a burrito and is eaten by the patron who destroyed the second copy of the book in the library. Ha. How he is able to create a spellbook while being a burrito is beyond me.

Lydia Lovely in Horrid Henry

While most of the librarians in Western animation are scary, old White women, as I’ve noted on this blog before, with a few exceptions in series like Welcome to the Wayne (with Clara Rhone), She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (George and Lance), and Mira in one episode of Mira, Royal Detective, Lydia Lovely, is another great example of a librarian. However, even though she is a Black female librarian, it would be wrong to call her a Librarian of Color because she is voiced by Joanna Ruiz, a British voice actress, a White woman, which is deeply problematic. She is the teacher of Henry, the show’s protagonist, who goes to the library in the episode “Horrid Henry: Computer Whizz,” later posted in June 2020 in a video titled “Henry the Super Geek,” and is the librarian in this episode, as she is on “library duty”. While Henry struggles to change his grades, he tasks Ms. Lovely with getting a book for him, telling her to keep reaching further and further to get the book, causing the whole stack of books to fall down, almost crushing her! Despite all of this, she gets the book he says he needed, and he comes out of the library.

Luckily, Henry does not come out of this unscathed, but due to his score on the test (5% rather than 0%) he has to do extra homework, ha! Ms. Lovely can’t catch a break, however, because, in another episode, he literally knocks a book out of her hand, as she slides away on the slide-ladder when helping in a bookstore, where his mom works. I wish I could point to any other episodes she was a librarian in more episodes, but finding the episodes of this show to watch is tough, as the names of the “full episodes” on the official YouTube channel are different from the listing on Wikipedia and the listings on the show’s fandom site.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This is related to the fear known as zoophobia or animal phobia, which Wikipedia defines as “an irrational fear or even simply dislike of any non-human animals.” In fact, Larry Cruz of CBR wrote that “as the title suggests, animals give Cameron the heebie-jeebies” adding that the citizens of Safe Haven are “very understanding and super-accommodating,” despite the fact that it “exists at some sort of pandimensional crossroads.” The webcomic list also calls Cameron a “neurotic young human guidance counselor…thrust unwittingly into a world beyond her wildest dreams (and FEARS).” She considered turning this into a webcomic in 2010, with the fandom page for the comic saying it was originally published in 2012, with a plan for over 10 books, but only one book was published before the comic was discontinued, with Medrano hinting at a reboot and retelling the story in a July 2018 Tumblr post. One writer explained that “Medrano began publishing ZooPhobia in 2012, but put the comic on pause by 2016 to focus on her Patreon page and developing Hazbin Hotel.” Medrano called the animated short “very special” to her.

[2] Later, after actor Benjamin Diskin shipped together two characters, Ruben “Rusty” and a stag named Autumn, Medrano implied that she would expand their relationship in the next animated short.

Categories
action adventure animation Black people fantasy Fiction genres Indian people Librarians Libraries school libraries White people

Another 10 amazing libraries

Continuing on my series of libraries in animated series, which I’ve written about on this blog in November of last year and in February, I’d like to focus on amazing libraries in a number of animated series that I’ve watched recently. So here it goes!

#1: Royal library in Mira, Royal Detective

In the episode “Mystery Below the Palace,” Mira goes into the library in the royal palace in the city of Jalpur, in an effort to discover a mysterious stomping sound. She catches books (and re-shelves them) that fall off the shelf as the room shakes from the sound, working to solve more of the mystery. The library also has spiral stairs which lead to a second level, but Mira never goes up to that second level in the episode, unfortunately. Since this is set in 19th century India, as noted on the Wikipedia page, there are only books and paper materials in this library. [1] The look of this library is beautiful and amazing for what it is! By 1882 four libraries in India had over a thousand marks [dead link]: SPG College, Triruchinapalli; Presidency College, Madras; Government College, Lahore; and Government College, Jabalpur, then by 1894, the Library of the Forman Christian College in Lahore had a collection of 13,000 books, with a librarian to administer the library. So, this puts this scene into context. Furthermore, as noted on the Wikipedia page on library classification, until the 19th century, most libraries had closed stacks, meaning that library classification was only used to organize a subject catalog, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that library stacks were opened to the public. The library again appears in the episode “Mystery of the Secret Room,” where Prince Neel falls into a secret room off the library. In that episode, we see that the library has a globe, tables to study, and other paper materials. They (Mira, Neel, and her friend Friya) fall into a secret room off the library, and after solving the mystery left by the previous detective (Gupta), they enter another hidden room of the library itself. Mira has them go through all the books in the library and just as it seems that hope is lost, Mira sees one last book which has a note from the detective in it! From there they enter yet another room and it turns out to be the training room of former Detective Gupta. Mira keeps reminding her friends that the royal detective has a saying to keep looking closer at something. She later finds a book the detective left for her, which lists all the unsolved mysteries in the city, and asks her to solve them.

#2: Library on wheels in Mira, Royal Detective

In the episode “The Case of the Missing Library Book,” Mira is shown as moving a library of books across Jalpur. She tells her two mongoose friends, Mikku and Chikku that everyone is amazed by the new mobile library. She works with her father to set it up and says she is excited that the city now has its own mobile library. When her friend, Prince Neel, asks her if there is any room in the library for additional books, she comments “there’s always room for more books,” and later says that the library is for the whole town. Therein begins a song about the importance of reading and libraries, noting that a library is like a “big buffet where you can try something different every day,” including mystery and fantasy books, with so many books and so many stories, with new worlds to enjoy, as people get lost in their imaginations in the process. We then see Mira’s father, Sahil, noting three steps: find the slip in the book, stamping the slip, and then giving the book to the patron. After that, the next step is returning the book after you are finished with it.

#3: Secret library on the Rogue in Prisoner Zero

In the show’s 6th episode, aptly named “The Librarian,” a wizard who calls himself “the librarian,” shows Zero, Jem, and Tag his personal library, with books upon books, some of which are flying, and trees which are throughout it. There also historical artifacts scattered throughout the library. It is not known how much this librarian uses the library, or if it is mostly for show, but it is still cool on many levels, with stacks upon stacks of books, likely in the thousands. There is also a tree nearby that contains many stacks of books, which are sadly disorganized, at least from the look of it. At the end of the episode, Tag calls this place “amazing” and I can’t agree more! While I thought it only appears in this episode, it makes a reappearance in the episodes “Schism,” “Ragnabook: Part One” and “Ragnabook: Part Two.” We later find out that the library was constructed by the librarian from his memory as a wizard and that he left it open to everyone in the universe. Cool!

#4: Bonesborough library in the Boiling Isles in The Owl House

In the episode, “Lost in Language,” Luz delivers a stack of books to the library which Eda had checked out but forgot to return. Before entering the library, we see the grand library, which looks a little like a cathedral, which, not surprisingly, amazes Luz. Inside it is organized like any other library, with the male librarian recommending she read a book about the wailing shower that night. The library itself has something called the Demon Decimal System, spoofing the Dewey Decimal System, with a sign saying to not feed it, reading areas, books floating above the ceiling you can choose from. Luz later finds Amity in the children’s section library (“Kids Corner”), and there are spoof posters like “Get Learned at the Stake,” which is kinda funny. In that section are areas labeled for manga and cyclops. Apart from the reference section, there are stacks of books and it is easy to browse the stacks for materials. Emera and Edric mess with parts of the library, like a chalk sign for non-fiction, causing a librarian to totally freak out about everything being fiction while messing with librarians who are putting away materials, causing cards from the card catalog to fly out, and such. She later breaks into the library that night, causing mayhem with the two siblings of Amity (Emera and Edric), where sections for romance, adventure, graphic novels, and more, are shown. The main action of the story happens in the library, with Amity and Luz working together to defeat a monster…and they succeed, ultimately.

#5: Riverdale public library in Archie’s Weird Mysteries

In the episode “The Haunting of Riverdale,” Archie travels to this library, which has two levels and various places to sit. People are quietly sitting in the library and Archie talks to the librarian, Ms. Herrera (who is uncredited in the episode), asking if his usual research table is available, and she indicates yes, so he uses that as a way of reading more in hopes of solving the mystery of who is haunting the town. The library is a major part of this episode, and it is amazing in its own right, so, it, without a doubt, deserves to be on this list.

#6: The Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne

Also known as the “secret library,” it first appears in the show’s first episode, hidden behind a mirror, found by Ansi by accident. He is introduced to the head librarian, Clara Rhone, who is re-shelving books. When he says he didn’t know the Wayne had a library, Rhone explains that the library is not easy to find. Ansi says his family moves around a lot but he likes it there because “libraries always feel like home.” He leaves the library, with Rhone wanting him to stay, but is ok with him leaving, as she knows that he will be back in the future.

#7: Library of Prayers in A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepard

People walking in the magic library in the episode.

In the show’s sixth episode, Kyotaro Kakei is brought to this magic library he always yearned for. It is a magic library with past and future memories of everyone in existence! It reminds me a bit of the library in Yamibou where every world in the universe is within a book of the library itself. A library assistant, Nagi Kodachi, is a shepherd trainee, who is bound to help him on his journey.

#8: Library in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Inside of the library shown in the episode “Sharing at the Library”

Appearing in the episodes “Sharing at the Library”, “Class Trip to the Library”, and “Wow at the Library”, this library is occasionally a location in this series, which is loosely based on the show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. While the characters are unable to go into the library in the episode “Class Trip to the Library,” they do enter it in the episodes “Sharing at the Library” and “Wow at the Library.” The library is very interesting, even from the outside alone, with its tree with books on it. One of the more interesting libraries I have seen in animation. While you might think the library only has books, at first, when looking at some of the scenes, it also has puppets, leading to a puppet show in the episodes “Sharing at the Library” and “Wow at the Library.”

#9: The “lost” Library of Alexandria in Winx Club

In the episode “The Lost Library,” after searching across the desert, in Egypt, the Winx Club and the Pixies comes across the Library of Alexandria, which had various books, items, and other treasures within. Some of the characters say it is “brimming with centuries of history.” The book they were looking for, which will help them lock away another book, used to reside inside the library itself. This search is complicated by the fact that the villains (like Selina and the Trix) summon mummies to attack them. They transform into their Winx magical girl forms and fight the mummies into the next episode, “Attack of the Sphinx,” with the Winx and Pixies working together to defeat them. In that episode, they fight the Sphinx, which is attacking the city of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Selina is teleported deep within the library to get the diary, but Bloom, one of the Winx, finds the diary first. One of the pixies, Chatta, answers the riddle of the sphinx and it is defeated!

#10: The Library of Solaria in Winx Club

The Winx enter the royal library

In the episode “Queen for a Day“, the Winx visit the biggest library in the entire magic dimension, to look for a spell to undo the invisibility spell covering the Cloud Tower from view. They get the key to get into the library because Stella (one of the Winx) is a queen for the day. They enter the library, with some of the Winx calling it “beautiful” and the Pixies getting books for them, literally riding the books like surfboards through the air, giggling along the way, down to the Winx so they can read them, with one of them calling it “service.” By reading the books, they find the invisibility spell can’t be nullified by fairy magic, but can only be enhanced with “master technology.” After that, they send the books back to their shelves, disappointing the Pixies, who have been enjoying riding the books around the library.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This is the first time libraries appear in this series. Interestingly, S. R. Ranganathan, a librarian, and mathematician from India proposed five laws of library science in 1931:

  1. Books Are For Use
  2. Every Reader His/Her Book
  3. Every Book Its Reader
  4. Save The Time Of The Reader
  5. The Library Is A Growing Organism

Ranganathan also created colon classification in 1933.

Categories
adventure animation Black people comedy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries

This Nickelodeon Show Features a Magical Secret Library

What if I told you that there was an all-ages animated series where a special, and magnificent library was so central, it even surprised the series creator? There is such a show—Nickelodeon’s Welcome to the Wayne, created by Billy Lopez. It features a library that exemplifies the series’ quirkiness.

The role of the library in the show goes beyond positive depictions of libraries and librarians in recent years in animated series such as Too Loud, Mira, Royal Detective, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hilda, and Cleopatra in Space. In Welcome to the Wayne, the chief librarian of a magical library, called the Stanza, is a Black woman named Clara Rhone—one of very few librarians of color in popular culture. She is voiced by Harriett D. Foy. In the first season, the library and its non-human employees are central to the series, a theme continued in the second season, emphasizing the value of libraries as places of knowledge, and understanding.

In the show’s first episode, one of the three protagonists, Saraline, is unable to find the secret library in her apartment complex, the Wayne. Her friend and new apartment resident, Ansi Molina, stumbles upon the library by accident, as he tries to retrieve his John Keats book taken by a squidlike creature he nicknames John Keats. In the meticulously organized library, which contains information on the inhabitants of the Wayne, he meets Clara, who is re-shelving books. While she is unsuccessful in getting Ansi to become a library member, he later helps her shelve books and uses a magic guardrail to travel to various parts of the library. Information from the library helps Ansi aid his friends and sets in motion coming adventures, like getting a shiny, and strange, card.

The second episode begins with the library. Ansi’s new friend, Julia Wilds, travels with Saraline and her brother, Olly, to the library, as they continue to try to unravel the mysteries of the Wayne. While Julia appears to be overwhelmed, Team Timbers (Saraline, Olly, and Ansi) are successful in fending off the mysterious masked man, Tony Stanza, keeper of the Stanza archives, who is trying to seize a card Ansi received from the library in the previous episode. Despite the fact he appears to be a villain, near the end of the episode, Tony surprisingly Olly and Saraline cards of their own, telling both of them, and Ansi, to return their cards before “time runs out.” This sets in motion the events of the next episode.

Eight episodes later, in episode 12, a new character, a vampire named Andrei, is informed that his book is overdue and that he must return it. He and Team Timbers follow a creature to the library that snatched his book. The episode that follows highlights the issues of underfunded libraries and the value of knowledge, even as they fight off a library ninja voiced by Charnele Crick. Clara sends the ninja to kill the vampire, because vampires attacked residents in the Wayne in the past, and drive Team Timbers out of the library. As the whole library mobilizes against Team Timbers, the ninja, who happens to be Clara’s granddaughter, is trapped between card catalogs. Andrei uses his superhuman strength and agility to save her. At one point, Olly jokes that the catalogs are attacking them because they are “angry about being replaced by the internet” as he continues to film everything for a viral video. The role of librarians as gatekeepers is emphasized when Clara warns Team Timbers that if they leave with Andrei, they can never return. Ansi, who loves the library, accepts this, even as he later laments his inability to access the library as a result.

A few episodes after this, the library ninja helps Team Timbers and introduces herself as Goodness, officially becoming part of the team defending the Wayne from evil forces. In the show’s 19th episode, Goodness and Saraline break into the library, catching a creature that looks like a running nose and spot Clara shelving books. In the season one finale, Clara offers her help to the eight-person team of protagonists, which has expanded beyond the original members of Team Timbers to form what is known as the Gyre.

In the show’s second and final season, Saraline describes the library as one of the quietest places in the Wayne in one episode; this library is also where her friend Annacile/the Arcsine goes to find out who has received her magical powers. A few episodes later, the show emphasizes the importance of the library as a quiet place for contemplation and study. Katherine Alice travels with Goodness to the library, with Clara shushing Goodness, telling her to use her “Stanza voice.” While this corresponds with the shushing librarian stereotype, Clara makes up for this by showing them the Wayne Cyclodex, a book that records “everything that has ever happened” in the Wayne. This book becomes central in the episodes that follow, her words becoming a warning to those in the Gyre. In the penultimate episode of the series, the characters briefly return to the library, which is described as a place where time stands still, before they enter a trap set by the show’s villains. While the characters do not travel to the library in the final episode, Clara is briefly possessed by rainbow gas and is shown, in the ending montage of the episode, doing exercises on the balcony of her room in the Wayne.

Although the series ran from 2017 to 2019 and likely will not return in the future, all 30 episodes can be purchased online. This short-lived but memorable series makes clear the value of libraries and librarians to society, as places of knowledge, and diversity, more than most animated series.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is reprinted from I Love Libraries, where it was published on April 22. I had originally titled this “The Integral Role of Librarians and Libraries in “Welcome to the Wayne”” but Lindsey Simon, who I worked with at I Love Libraries for all of my articles there, proposed a new title. This was the last article she worked on with me before departing as Content Strategy Manager of the ALA’s Communications and Marketing Office.

Categories
adventure animation anime Black people Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries live-action Movies White people

BIPOC librarians in animated series: She-Ra to Yamibou

Libraries have often appeared on the silver screen, whether in the form of stereotypes like the spinster librarian, Mary, in It’s A Wonderful Life and the glimpse of a librarian in Jennifer’s Body. Streaming shows have had their share of librarians too, like the unnamed librarian in the second episode of The Queen’s Gambit, or the value of the library emphasized in the first season of My Brilliant Friend. In the past year, I’ve come across a number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) librarians in Western animated and anime series. I’d like to review some of the ones I know of at the present in order to shed some light on these characters.

Western animation does not have a good track record when it comes to BIPOC librarians. Shows such as Zevo-3 and The Simpsons feature librarians, but both are White. The female-coded librarian named Turtle Princess in Adventure Time and a male librarian named Mr. Snellson in Mysticons are voiced by White men. DC Super Hero Girls has Kimberly D. Brooks, a Black American actress who famously voiced Jasper in the Steven Universe series, voice a White female librarian, rather than have her voice a Black female librarian as a character. There are almost no BIPOC female librarians in Western animated series like the White young female librarian in Hilda, who is given a name in the show’s most recent season. Even Mira, the protagonist of the children’s animation, Mira, Royal Detective, based on late 19th century India, who sings about libraries with the people of Jalpur, is only a librarian for one episode, serving at the pleasure of the queen as a royal detective for the rest of this series. However, one series showcases BIPOC male librarians unlike any other: Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a remake of the 1980s series, She-Ra: Princess of Power.

Lance and George, two librarians in the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power animated series

In the season 2 finale, Princess Glimmer and her friend, Adora, travel deep to the magical woods to find their brown-skinned friend, Bow, who has gone “missing.” They find a library and believe they need to “rescue” him. They discover that Bow is there visiting his two dads, George, and Lance, claiming he is on break from a boarding school, when he is actually fighting in a war against the show’s villains. As it turns out, George and Lance run the library, which serves as a residence and a museum. It is beautiful in its own right even if it has vines growing on the outside. You could call it a hybrid between an archives, a museum, and a library. In any case, George and Lance call themselves historians, like Bow’s brothers, but they are librarians who have collected books as part of their research on the planet’s first settlers. Both are enthralled when they learn that Adora, who can transform into a warrior-princess named She-Ra, can read the ancient and dead language of the first settlers. Later, a battle with a creature, accidentally released by Adora, destroys part of the library, and Bow is forced to reveal who he is to his shocked dads. After they embrace him and his friends, these librarians help the protagonists by giving them information to help with their quest to find out more about the planet’s past.

George and Lance later attend the coronation of Glimmer in the show’s fourth season. The library is revisited by Bow and Glimmer in the show’s fifth, and final, season. Sadly, the library has been abandoned and trashed. George and Lance leave a note for Bow, telling him where they went into hiding with a riddle. Bow and Glimmer find George and Lance in the ruins of a former castle, who tell them about writings they discovered about an ancient rebellion against the planet’s first settlers. They play a recording that details a fail-safe that could destroy the superweapon in the center of the planet. Bow and Glimmer share this information with their friends, helping them defeat the villainous Horde Prime later in the season. In the end, the value of libraries, librarians, and conducting detailed research is emphasized in the episode.

In contrast to Western animation, anime series feature various librarians, almost all of whom are women, at least from the series I’ve seen so far. Some like Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D the TV, Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana, Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, or Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words are students behind the circulation desk, while others engage in more wide-ranging duties. For instance, Anne and Grea, two friends who love each other, in Manaria Friends close up the school library, shelve books, and play a game of hide-and-seek within the library. Similarly, Yamada, the protagonist of B Gata H Kei, fails to seduce her male friend, Kosuda, in the library, on multiple occasions, embarrassing herself over and over again. Apart from the unnamed librarians in Cardcaptor Sakura who help the protagonists Sakura, Sayoran, and Tomoyo, find a book in the local public library, which is literally flying away from them, there are three librarians who stand out. They are: Doctor Oldham in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm, and Lilith in Yamibou.

A collage of screenshots from Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (left) and Ascendance of a Bookworm (right)

The first of these examples, in the series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, is Oldham, a middle-aged man living in Gargantia, an interconnected fleet of ships that travels across the world, which is completely covered by water. He is a medical doctor, considered a sage and wise man by those in the fleet. He lives atop a spire, perhaps a nod to the idea of an “ivory tower.” Anyway, Amy brings Ledo, a soldier who crashed on the planet by accident, to his dwelling, which has a degraded library filled with books and not much else, so he can learn more about the Gargantian society. While the library seems to be a book depository, Oldham does inform Ledo about the social organization in Gargantia and laughs at him for his absurd ideas about society. As such, he fulfills the role of a librarian as an Information Provider, even though he is not called a librarian and does not call himself a librarian. He later appears in an original video animation where he helps at a library on another part of the fleet, aiding others in looking through records there with Bebel, Amy’s brother.

The second example is Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm. Unlike any of the characters previously described in this post, she is the anime’s main protagonist. In fact, before she took on her form as a sickly, but highly intelligent, young child, she was a book-loving librarian, killed, ironically, by a stack of books. To her horror, she lives in a medieval town in an era before the printing press or public libraries, and she makes it her life mission to become a librarian. This was made clear in one episode where a priest, angry at her for threatening his position in the society’s elite, purposely wrecks the church library to stop her from coming to an important festival. Upon seeing this, she declares that the priest should be executed for this “crime.” Luckily, she calms down, re-organizing the library using the principles of the Nippon Decimal Classification System, after rejecting her own proposal to organize the library based on her own ideas. The latter system is the Japanese version of the Dewey Decimal System. Myne is gleeful to organize everything inside the library itself. Even more than this, the episode features PSAs from Myne about this system and the role of Melvil Dewey. Later, Myne even argues the importance of giving away books for free rather than for profit, angering Benno, who is the sponsor at her guild. It is unique that a character would have a song about re-organizing books, even while the library is portrayed as a book depository, with other materials not mentioned. She is the most positive depiction of a librarian in anime I’ve seen to date.

The third example is Lilith in Yamibou, a caretaker of the Great Library, a repository containing thousands of books that contain all the book-worlds of the universe. For most of the series, she travels with Hazuki, her crush, looking for Eve, who is another caretaker of the library. You could say that Lilith is doing her librarian duties by making sure that worlds within the books are secure, meaning they are a key part of the series. While she, like Oldham, is not identified as a librarian in the series, the official site of the visual novel that the anime is based on calls her a library administrator at the “center of the library world,” and says that she “manages all the books in the library.” The same is stated on the anime’s official website when translated into English. Unlike Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet and Ascendance of a Bookworm, the mechanics for the world’s shifting is “an interdimensional library,” with each of the books representative of another reality and the “home base” of Lilith, as pointed out by the Anime News Network. It turns out she is a “reluctant cosmic librarian,” as Eve, the real librarian and administrator of the Great Library, vanished years before into a “world of books.”

While Western animation series do not, generally, have BIPOC librarians, there are various BIPOC librarians of note in anime series, specifically in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Ascendance of a Bookworm, and Yamibou. Although these are not all of the examples of BIPOC librarians in animated series, there is the possibility for upcoming series to include libraries as settings for characters and BIPOC librarians as characters themselves. After all, with Clara Rhone, a Black woman who runs a library, appearing in the series Welcome to the Wayne, there is hope yet for Western animation series. The same can be said for anime as Myne will be making a reappearance in the third season of Ascendance of a Bookworm.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is post is reprinted from my guest post on March 24 on Reel Librarians.

 

Sources

Categories
action adventure animation fantasy Librarians Libraries White people

A curmudgeon librarian and superheroes in the library

For this post, I’d like to highlight an episode of DC Super Hero Girls, the 2019 reboot of a series in the earlier 2010s, titled “#SoulSisters Part 2” (s1ep25), that extensively focuses on libraries. This goes far beyond another scene in the same show (noted in an upcoming post on August 20). This is clearly a different library, as this is a city library,  and the one in the episode was the high school library. [1] We begin by seeing the grand library, almost looking like a temple, looming over the landscape, possibly modeled after the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

Below is what that main branch at New York City’s fifth avenue, the Schwartzmann Building, looks like, with some similarities. This building has a remarkable facade which has also been mimicked in Futurama with the New New York Public Library shown in a few episodes (especially in the episode “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”) some of which have been This is not to be confused with the hilariously named “pubic library.” Of course, there are many differences here, but part of it, like the lions, may have been modeled on the NYPL branch.

This picture is from the NYPL website back in August 2015.

Anyway, on with the episode. We first see the wide expanse of the library.

Then, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) looks for a book on spells. It is aptly named Ancient Weaponry: Myths & Magic.

 

As the fandom page on Katana notes, Diana reads this book, finding out information about the Soul Taker, a sword “forged in the 14th century by “the legendary swordsman Urasawa Sengo” and “rumored to steal the souls of its enemies,” those which can “only be freed if the wielder says a certain Japanese incantation.” That becomes key later in the episode. Anyway, there is a hilarious scene where Diana’s phone rings and she can’t turn it off, annoying everyone. I had a similar experience once when I didn’t know how cell phones worked, so I can completely sympathize.

She finds Katana is sitting nearby, but…

It attracts the attention of the librarian, an older White lady who fits all the stereotypes, which are commonly associated with them. These stereotypes are not unique to this show, as librarians portrayed in Steven Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Futurama are shown similarly: as people with glasses and occasionally old (as is the case in She-Ra: Princess of Power). Even the character in Gargantia, one of the more positive portrayals of libraries, has the appearance of an elderly White man, while the two gay male librarians, George and Lance, in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, are the only non-white (and Black) librarians in animation I can think of offhand, although there may be others.

Moving back to the episode, we then get the strict rule on the wall, declaring “no cell phones!” which seems a bit absurd, as it is vague on what it means.

Katana jokes with Diana until she figures out that she is the villain who stole the souls of her friends, leading to a fight in the library itself.

Again, the librarian is annoyed, but for a different reason this time. Some librarians have taken this attitude and embraced it, with an ongoing blog called “The Curmudgeonly Librarian” published by a librarian in their late 60s or a “Library Curmudgeon” written by a Canadian librarian. Others have said that library pioneers like Frederick Beecher Perkins, a member of a prominent religious family in the U.S. in the 19th century, was a curmudgeon. Some joked that their work in a library had turned them into a curmudgeon. While librarians are often shown as unpleasant and bespectacled in popular culture, interrupting protagonists and shushing them, as Kevin McElvaney points out, being a “librarian is no career for the lazy curmudgeon” because it takes years of “advanced study even to be considered for a position.”

It’s because they are breaking a rule hilariously called “no loud fighting.” When Diana asks about this, the librarian has her only substantive line in the episode: “It’s Metropolis, it’s the best we can hope for.” Diana and Katana apologize for their behavior, but their fighting doesn’t stop. Diana even catches Katana’s hand in a book, and they continue girly fighting.

Of course, this sound catches the attention of the librarian, again. As the audience, we see the expanse of the library as a whole…

Until their fighting causes the stacks of the library to collapse, falling like dominoes, with expressions of shock on their faces afterward. The librarian, cast as a curmudgeon, kicks out Diana and Katana for property destruction, a reason more justified than Turtle Princess asking Finn and Jake to leave the library in one of the Adventure Time episodes. The librarian might be portrayed badly in this episode, almost equivalent to “the original librarian stereotype…of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon” except it’s a White woman, [2] but what she does is completely justified!

The fact that Katana and Diana apologize for their action afterward doesn’t make up for what they did. It’s good they have to deal with the consequences of their actions and being banned from the library, presumably. Their fight then continues outside the library and onto the streets of the city.

Toward the end of the episode, we see the librarian, at night, pushing a cart of books. It makes me think of books being moved around on hover carts in Cleopatra of Space, although there are probably other examples.

While this episode doesn’t counter stereotypes of librarians, [3] it is fun since many other episodes do not focus that much on libraries. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.

© 2020 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] It also goes far beyond “Frenemies” where Batgirl/Barbara Gordon says, as an excuse, “O have a library book I… need to write for the library. So people can read it. Because you gotta have books for the library. Otherwise, it’s just a big empty building, I guess,” which is a bit funny but not true! Other episodes feature a library card (“Ally Cat”), while, the short Taco Tuesday “features the library, where Karen is asked by the librarian to keep quiet when her stomach is growling” while in another short, Kara spends detention “reshelving books in the library while trying to finish in time to get to a concert” while the library is also mentioned in another episode (“Giganta”).

[2] The same article talks about librarian stereotypes more, saying, “there are numerous librarian stereotypes, with the most recognizable being the middle-aged, bun-wearing, comfortably shod, shushing librarian. Others include the sexy librarian, the superhero librarian, and the hipster or tattooed librarian. These stereotypes are all characterized predominantly as feminine, white women. Newer librarian stereotypes, particularly those proffered by librarians themselves, tend to be depicted as younger white women. The original librarian stereotype, which was superseded by the introduction of his prudish sister, was that of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon.”

[3] As one example, most of the librarians listed on Early Bird Books [dead link] either are wearing glasses and are curmudgeons (Evelyn O’Connell in The Mummy, Margaret Gesner in Monsters University, Barbara Gordon in Batman), are snotty elitists (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), seeming cops (The Library Cop in Seinfeld), drinkers (Tammy 2 in Parks and Rec), are ghosts (Ghost Librarian in Ghostbusters), or buff (Conan the Librarian in UHF) apart from Taystee in Orange is the New Black. Parks and Rec features one character, Marlene Knope (played by Pamela Reed) who hates libraries because of interpersonal issues, declaring “the library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well-read, which makes them dangerous.”

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!