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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

Images of Leela Ladnier and Aasif Mandvi

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

In this third part, I am profiling Indian voice actors who voiced librarians, specifically in the series Mira, Royal Detective.

About the voice actors

Leela Ladnier voiced Mira in Mira, Royal Detective and was a librarian in the episode “The Case of the Missing Library Book.” In an interview in 2020, she talked about how she had been working on the show for two years (since 2018), how much goes into being a professional actor, have Mira come across as a good talent, sassy, intelligent, kind, compassionate, resourceful, everyone should be included. She also stated she had to change pitch of her voice, as she started when she was 14 years old, and isn’t a trained singer. She also noted that she does voice overs every other week and she still went to public high school. If she was 14 in 2018, that would mean that she is 18 years old now.

Aasif Mandvi voiced Mira’s father, Sahil in the same Mira, Royal Detective episode. He is much more well-known than her. He is known as British-American comedian and actor, a correspondent on The Daily Show. He has voiced a one-time characters for King of the Hill and Archer, King Raja in Elena of Avalor, to name a few.

They are the only two voice actors of Indian descent who I know, at this time, who voice librarians, even if only in one episode.

About the characters

(This is a video from the primary episode that features libraries in the series, although libraries also appear in other episodes)

In the episode, “The Case of the Missing Library Book,” Mira and her father Sahil work together on a bookmobile, with both serving as librarians of sorts. Mira serves as more of a librarian than Mira, however. I wrote about this episode for I Love Libraries, noting that the entire episode emphasizes the value of libraries, even proper etiquette for borrowing library books. Mira pedals a bike-powered bookmobile across Jalpur, trying to make sure that Jalpur has a movable library. Later in the episode, Sahil checks out books to patrons and says that the last step is returning the book after you are finished with it.

Mira does the same thing, helping to make Dimple understand the borrowing policies of a library, saying that she cannot just take books. Rather, she can have books, but only for a short period of time. This library is nothing like today’s libraries, however, as she stamps a book and has people full out a slip or the book, putting it in a box, which contains the names of everyone who have checked out books.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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From Lilith to Amity: LGBTQ librarians Shine Through

Today is National Coming Out Day, a day to celebrate the act of “coming out,” i.e. when an LGBTQ person publicly shares their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. In honor of that, I’d like to highlight some LGBTQ librarians I’ve written about on this blog, this year and years previously, and others on the List of fictional librarians that I put together in late 2021.

Lilith in Yamibou

She is the caretaker of the Great Library (after Adam), and travels through much of the series with a girl she has a crush on, Hazuki, going through book worlds, looking for Eve. The latter is later shown as another caretaker of the library, who loves Hazuki. Part of her duty is to make sure worlds within the books are secure, an interesting job as a librarian. Due to the fact she is one of the protagonists of this series, who has considerable knowledge and wisdom, it means that libraries are still a key part of the series.

Anne and Grea in Manaria Friends

Anne is one of the protagonists who is a soft-spoken girl, Princess, and honor student at Mysteria Academy, a prestigious magic school. Anne even ventured through the “forbidden” archives of the library in order to find something which would cure Grea of a fever. She and Grea appear to enter a relationship later on. Both work in the library as assistants, although not as full-fledged librarians.

Sophie Twilight in Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood

One of the protagonists of this anime, she drinks blood, but only when refrigerated, and she is shown weeding through her books in one episode. She has a refined appearance and liked going to comic book conventions. She brings in a high school girl, Akari, to live in her house, and appears to have feelings for her. Another vampire girl, Ellie, clearly is romantically attracted to her as well.

Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers

In one episode, she weeds books and remembers her kiss with Sugimoto. Later in the episode, she later talks with other students about the role and influence the Literary Club has on the library. In another episode, Fumi and Sugimoto go to the library and kiss there. Ultimately, Fumi at least knows some library skills, in terms of weeding, which is an important part of library work.

Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!

She works at the school library at Astrea Hill, known as Maiden’s Garden, and is a member of the literary club. She looks up to her fellow students and undoubtedly has a crush on Nagisa, one of the show’s protagonists. She checks out books and does other library duties well and efficiently. The library is a key location in the series.

Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words

In the episode “Did You See the Rain?,” she serves as the librarian in this episode, while the Girls Club members go on a treasure hunt to find a message, coming in and out of the library throughout the episode. Later, Azuza joins them in their quest. Azusa is a studious person who reads during breaks and takes an interest in learning, perfect for a librarian. She is a fan of yuri and loves Masaka Orino, unaware it is Ushio‘s older brother.

Fumio Murakumi in Girl Friend Beta

Fumio and Erena

Although she was originally introverted and lonely, she got more friends after meeting Erena. She works at the school library. Erena appears to be the closest one to her and both may be in a relationship with one another, although its implied.

George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

They call themselves historians, but run a family library/archives/museum. in a magical forest known as the Whispering Woods They are Bow’s dads. They are two middle-aged men and help the show’s protagonists translate an ancient message in the Season 2 finale. In a later episode, Bow and Glimmer meet George and Lance who tell them about an ancient rebellion and fail-safe on a superweapon. This information  becomes vitally important going forward.

Desiree in Too Loud

Desiree with her sister, Sara, and Sara’s friends at a slumber party

She is a trans woman. In an episode which was supposed to end the show, according to series creator Nico Colaleo, she begins to explore her trans identity, as she had been a closeted in her usual workday. This episode, “Slumber Party Sneak-In” was praised by reviewers. Desiree works every day with her sister Sara and co-worker Sarah at the local public library, but has a voice which is so loud, hence the name of the series, smashing library stereotypes along the way.

Amity Blight in The Owl House

Luz and Amity blush at one another in the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”

She is a librarian who works at the Bonesborough Public Library, is a witch, and a student at Hexside Academy. Over the course of the story, her relationship with a human witch named Luz Noceda develops and later they begin a romantic relationship.

Sabine in Sabine: an asexual coming-of-age story

Sabine working at the library desk in episode 115.

The protagonist of this webcomic, Sabine works in the local school library as a part-time job, beginning early in the comic. She a fully committed asexual girl who tries to make friends and not have any romantic relationships, just like the comic’s author. The later also implies that she is, as a result, aromantic as well as asexual. Not all aromantic people are asexual, and vice versa. She is still learning more about herself all of the time, while she majors in history. As the comic’s author stated, Sabine is unaware of her asexuality, and isn’t sure she is aromantic, just that she isn’t ready for sex.

Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For

Mo and Sydney

As the protagonist of this comic, and later comic book, she is a graduate of library school who worked at a feminist bookstore named Madwimmin Books, and appreciated “literary connectivity.” She is a committed lesbian feminist who later gets a job as a reference librarian. She has a lover in college named Clarice, but her eventual partner is a woman named Sydney. The comic’s creator, Alison Bechdel, recognized she was a lesbian after checking out books from the library, stating that an apparent “a key characteristic of queer people [is]…shamed persons who are drawn to lonely stacks and secret research,” and she worked at the circulation desk as a librarian while she was a college student, influencing the comic itself. She also stated that Mo had been drawn into “the pitfall of vocational awe, believing that her public library job is a religious calling.”

Concluding words

It is undetermined if Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words is LGBTQ. You could also argue that Kaisa in Hilda, a feisty character with unmatched knowledge of mystical items and cemetery records, who is a mysterious witch, is asexual based on her color scheme. There will likely be other LGBTQ librarians in the future, since many anime series have characters who go into libraries. [1]

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes the Mysterious Library house base in Smile PreCure (an anime) and Marisa Kirisame frequently going to the library in Touhou Project (a video game). There are also apparent library scenes in Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo (a visual novel), Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka (Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka) (an anime), Himawari-san (a manga), Kimi to Tsuzuru Utakata (a manga), Maria-sama ga Miteru (a manga), Shitsurakuen (a manga), Kamitsure (visual novel), Märchen Mädchen (an anime), Flowers (manga), Roundabout of Yuri Hime Collection (collection),  Lyrical Nanoha, Yuri Shimai (manga), BanG Dream!, Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo (manga), Himewari-san (manga), Yuri Shimai (manga), Kyuuketsuki-chan to Kouhai-chan (Vampire-chan x Junior-chan) (manga), Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk and Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (video games), Conflict Girl (visual novel), Watashi wa Succubus to Kiss o Shita (manga), Fuwafuwa Futashika Yume Mitai (manga), Please Be Happy (visual novel), The Caged Bird Sings Theme Of Love (manga), Sakura Sadist (visual novel), A Piece of Candy of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Once on a Windswept Night (visual novel), Yuri Hime Collection (manga), The Three-Second Rule of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Nuku Nuku Toshoiin (manga), The Three Second Rule of Yuri Hime Collection (manga), Man’in Chijo Densha 2 (manga), Nozomi Kanaetamae ~Daydream Reconstruct~, and Kohonya (visual novel), and Hanidebi! Honey & Devil (visual novel).

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

Fictional Library of the Month: Roubai Academy Library

Akebi and Erika look over at the librarian after she shushes them

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 Roubai Academy Library in Akebi’s Sailor Uniform.

About the library

It is a library at the Japanese private school, Roubai Girls’ Academy. It is shown to be scholarly and have lots of books to help students. It appears to be well-used and stocked with materials and is well-used by students in the episodes of the series it is shown in. The books are likely organized using the NDC system.

Role in the story

In the episode “Have You Decided on a Club?”; The head of the literature club, Tomono Kojou to be exact, who writes stories, is talking to her friends in the library, and seems to read her books there to students as part of the club. Not much is seen of the library in this episode, unfortunately, as it is a very brief scene.

In the episode, “There’s No School Tomorrow, Right?”; Akebi is encouraged by Erika to come to the in the school library. After Erika is impressed by Akebi, a nervous Akebi asks Erika to a fishing trip. They both are excited but the unnamed librarian tells the to keep it down, [1] so they express themselves non-verbally. Both are excited to hang out that upcoming Saturday, the following day, together.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is well-stocked and has active patrons, i.e. the students, I suppose so. But, the unnamed librarian who shushes the two protagonists fulfills the shushing librarian stereotype. So, on the whole, you could argue it bucks some stereotypes but accepts others.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say it shares some similarities with the school libraries in Classroom of the Elite, Bloom Into You, Whispered Words, Girl Friend Beta, and even the one in Strawberry Panic!to name a few. But, it is unique in and of itself, so its hard to say that it is exactly like any other library in any other series.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] In the dub she tells them to keep it down, while in the Japanese original she shushes them. This basically means the same thing.

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Behind the Screen: Asian and Latin American voices of fictional librarians

From left to right: Benedict Wong, Ashly Burch, Joey Haro, Elaine Del Valle, and Kenn Navarro

There are Asian and Latin American actors who have voiced many librarians in fiction over the years. Part of understanding fictional librarians is understanding those behind the screen and this article contributes to that. Part 1 of this series focused on Black women and men who voice fictional librarians.

In this part, I am profiling Asian and Latin American voice actors who voiced librarians.

About the voice actors

There are many talented voice actors who aren’t White men or White woman, who comprise the majority of those who voice animated librarians, especially in Western animation. These talented voice actors include Benedict Wong as Wong in What If…? episode (“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”), Ashly Burch who likely voices an unnamed librarian in a We Bare Bears episode (“The Library”), and Joseph “Joey” Haro as Mateo in Elena of Avalor. Specifically, Burch is of Thai descent, Wong is of Hong Kong descent, and Haro is of Cuban descent (and is gay).

There’s also Elaine Del Valle as Val the Octopus in Dora the Explorer episode (“Backpack”) who is Latine, and Kenn Navarro as Flippy in Happy Tree Friends episode (“Random Acts of Silence”) who is a Filipino animator. Additionally, there is Emanuel Garijo as Kaeloo in French in Kaeloo episode (“Let’s Play at Reading Books”). Doug Rand voices Kaeloo in the English dub, and Domenico Coscia in the Italian dub, to name another character. As it turns out, Navarro is one of the creators of Happy Tree Friends, while Valle is known  as the actor and writer of an one-woman stage play she created: Brownsville Bred. Garijo has done French voice work for years, while Rand has done English voice work, while I couldn’t find anything on Coscia.

Another person worth mentioning is Vivienne Medrano, a Latine animator of Salvadoran descent who created the animated shows Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss along with a video for her webcomic Zoophobia. She voices Sarah in Nico Colaleo’s series, Too Loud, replacing Julia Vickerman, who was racked by controversy following allegations that she engaged in pedophilia, after beginning her series, Twelve Forever, which was sadly cancelled by Netflix after the end of its first season. The reason for its cancellation is not known.

It is also highly probable that Janice Kawaye, an actress of Japanese descent who has voiced characters since 1983, likely voices the librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”). Kawayke has voiced characters like Couchpo in Edens Zero, Shiori in Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, Jenny / XJ-9 in My Life as a Teenage Robot, and Sara in Invader Zim, to name a few characters she has voiced.

An additional late entry to this list is Jenny Lorenzo, who presumably voices the skeleton librarian, Eztli, in an episode of Victor and Valentino. Lorenzo is known for her role as Lupe in the same show, but she has also voiced Choo Choo and Spooky in Jellystone. She is a Cuban-American actor known for her work on We Are Mitú and is a co-founder of BuzzFeed’s Pero Like, becoming a viral sensation for her Abuela character, and what her IMDB page calls “relatable, Latino-based content seen through the comedic and nostalgic lens of a 1st generation Cuban-American.”

Another additional entry is Danny Trejo. He voices Bobby Daniels, a bad-boy librarian in an episode of The Ghost and Molly McGee. Trejo, who is of Mexican descent, is best known for his role as Isador “Machete” Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise films. In terms of animation, he voiced Enrique, Victor Velasquez, and other characters in multiple King of the Hill episodes, along with assorted roles in El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, The Cleveland Show, Young Justice (as Bane), Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, and Tangled: The Series (as Wreck Marauder / Malice Marauder). He also voiced characters in Big City GreensElena of Avalor, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia (Tronos), Victor and Valentino, and The Casagrandes.

About the characters

From left to right: Wong, unnamed librarian, Val, Flippy, Kaeloo, Sarah, unnamed librarian, and Eztli

As I described Wong, he is the first librarian shown in the series What If…?, trying to guide Doctor Strange, warning him that tinkering with time will threaten the entire fabric of the universe, but he cares little. Even so, he later helps the good Strange train to fight the evil Strange. Unfortunately, he has less of a role in the episode as the other librarian, Cagliostro. Luckily, he has more of a role in the live-action films, as Jennifer Snoek-Brown has written about time and again.

The librarian in the We Bare Bears episode, on the other hand, is stern, has some characteristics of a spinster librarian, professional work attire, wanting to do her job and following the rules. I concluded that she is probably overworked and exhausted, something you don’t always see when you see depictions of librarians in animation. She also is helpful to patrons, even letting them sleep in the library, which I found surprising. Mateo, on the other hand, is a wizard and royal advisor to the show’s protagonist, Elena. He bucks stereotypes of Latine people, not shushing people at all, remaining as helpful as he can instead.

Val the Octopus is a minor character in Dora the Explorer, having a variety of odd jobs like running a cash register, driving a mail truck (or an ice cream truck), being a lifeguard, or a librarian. She is the latter in the episode (“Backpack”) and is vary courteous to Dora.

Flippy in Happy Tree Friends episode (“Random Acts of Silence”) is perhaps the most murderous librarian I have ever seen in animation to-date. This not unique to this episode, as he often causes other characters to die on purpose. Despite this, he seems to die very infrequently during the run of the series.

Kaeloo is the protagonist of Kaeloo. She is the guardian of the place known as Smileyland and has an ambiguous gender. And in the episode “Let’s Play at Reading Books” she acts as a librarian, attempting to shush people and get them to listen, even though this is a failure.

Sarah in Colaleo’s series, Too Loud, is a new librarian who joins Sara and Desiree (going by a different name for much of the series), brought in to help out with the library. While Sara nor Desiree are big fans of her at first, they come around to her, and she becomes more of their friend as the series moves forward, helping with librarian matters.

Librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”) is one of the most interesting librarian characters in fiction that I have ever seen. Due to a personality switcher, which switched her personality with that of a wrestler, she becomes buff and even throws a patron across the room. She is later shown listing weights and doing jump rope. Hopefully she becomes a stronger librarian and better to her librarian.

Another entry is Eztli in the Victor and Valentino episode “An Evening with Mic and Hun”. In the episode, Victor and Valentino, who are in the underworld, have to get past Eztli, a skeleton librarian, who shushes them. Victor won’t stand for this, while his brother, Valentino comes up with a plan. This is disregarded as the librarian is smashed by a boulder and they get the extra skeleton arm she is holding. In the episode, she is also shown putting a book on a cart and stamping a book with a past due stamp, with the fee of one soul.

One final entry is Bobby Daniels in an episode of The Ghost and Molly McGee which is aptly named “Bad Boy Bobby Daniels”. In the episode, Molly, her father, and Scratch go to the Mewline Public Library to find the Bad Boy of Brighton, Bobby Daniels, to help her elderly friend. They attempt to turn Daniels “back” into a bad boy but it doesn’t work and they let him stay as the librarian. Later, Bobby and Patty get together after Molly put in a false book delivery notice. Their love ends up blossoming and it seems that he is taken away from his library job.

That’s all for this post! Until the next one!

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

How every episode of the series begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
adventure animation anime comedy comic books Comics fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums public libraries romance school libraries speculative fiction

A Lack of Imagination: Fictional Acceptance of Dewey Decimal System Without Question

Fiction is a medium which allows people to question and challenge existing norms, beliefs, and systems of our world. It provides the opportunity to create new places, characters, and situations, which might mirror the real world, but are something entirely new, even if that is inspired by existing fictional works. Despite this, there seems to be a profound lack of imagination when it comes to the well-known library classification system, the Dewey Decimal System (DDC), in fiction. Instead, there seems to be an acceptance of this system  of classification at face value, without challenging the values and beliefs which undergird the system. This is the case for animated series like Futurama, Ascendance of a Bookworm, The Owl House, Teen Titans Go!, and We Bare Bears, a comic associated with Steven Universe, and fan fictions. This article will look at those fictional works and provide comments on DDC and other library classification systems.

In the Futurama episode “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid,” one of the Big Brains remarks that humans had doomed themselves by arranging knowledge by category, making it “easier to absorb.” He then declares that the DDC played right into their hands, laughing maniacally. In an episode of Ascendance of a Bookworm, Myne, the anime’s protagonist, advocates for re-organizing all the books in a temple library using the NDC (Nippon Decimal Classification) system, which is the Japanese version of the DDC, which she remembers from her previous life. Although she can’t organize all the books, she is able to make sure the books are more ordered than elsewhere they were before. She even had a PSA on the role of Melvil Dewey, argues later about the importance of giving away books for free rather than for profit, and industrious.

In contrast, the public library in The Owl House, the Bonesborough library, has something called the Demon Decimal System, which spoofs the DDC. It has a sign saying to not feed it, reading areas and books floating above the ceiling you can choose from. In Teen Titans Go!, when Raven 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. In We Bare Bears, a branch of the San Francisco library is shown which uses the Library of Congress classification system (LCCO) and DDC numbers. In a comic associated with the Steven Universe series, Connie tells Steven that you find things in the library with the DDC. This confuses him because he thinks Mayor Dewey (the mayor of Beach City) organizes the books with math. Connie then declares that, no, it is referring to Melvil Dewey, who invented it in 1876, allowing books to be organized by topic, which impresses Steven.

Mind map style of DDC classification. Reposted from “The library, and step on it

This fealty in fiction is not limited to animation series. Fan fictions about Marvel, Supernatural, Person of Interest, Royal White & Royal Blue, Simon Snow, Carry On Series, The 100, Brothers & Sisters, The Flash, Wheel of Times, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Music Man, and Stargate Atlantis characters have parts about the DDC which is stated as a fact and not questioned. The same is for fics about characters from the Schitt’s Creek, The Avengers, BTS, Game of Thrones, Final Fantasy XIV, Genshin Impact, Teen Wolf, Haikyuu!, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sherlock Holmes, and Batman fandoms. [1]

It makes sense that the DDC is used and referenced in fiction, including by those writing stories who are librarians. It can cement a story in something that people deal with day to day. Even so, there are some stories which buck this trend. For instance, there is a Good Omens fic with character saying “I go by category…Dewey’s system might have worked well for public libraries, but it’s laughable for my collection.” There’s even an explicit Schitt’s Creek fic describing the DDC as “a needlessly complicated system designed by a misogynist and a racist” and a Criminal Minds fic which calls the system “sadistic.” Another fic has Levi Ackerman of the Attack on Titan describes it as an “an important system that has organized the world’s knowledge for centuries” and then explains why specific books are categorized in certain sections, stating to a stranger:

…books on domestic skills like cleaning and dinner etiquette used to always be grouped together with topics on women. As if domestic spaces are inherently gendered. Of course, that’s no surprise, seeing as how Melvil Dewey was a well-known sexual harasser of women. The groupings were changed once people realized this bias, but if you think about what that says in terms of who is pushed towards certain knowledge…the system has an effect on — or at least is representative of — how we bias our knowledge…Another example is the categorization of LGBTQ topics. Did you know queer discussions were originally labelled under the numbers 132 and 159.9?…They were categorized under mental derangements and abnormal psychology…Yeah, well. It switched around to the 300’s — sociology — and skipped around from social problems to social deviations. A lot of libraries still use those labels today. But the most current one is 306.7, sexual relations.

I don’t believe the author of that fic is a librarian, but they do say in the author notes that they spent two hours learning about the DDC, and shared a link about homophobia in the DDC, which is an article by Doreen Sullivan entitled “A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification.” I wish there were more fics like that, [2] as too many seem to accept the DDC on face value.

Comes from an interview Berman did with Tina Gross of St. Cloud University in 2017. Berman was known as a cataloger, and librarian, who directly challenged mainstream views on librarianship, including criticizing LCCO subject headings, describing them as biased in terms of race, sex, etc. and described poor cataloging as a form of censorship. Others have followed in Berman’s footsteps, especially when it comes to terms about immigration.

There has been a move, as of late, to challenge the DDC and make changes. Some have noted that Dewey himself harassed four female librarians, and that there is a “push to slowly shift away from some of Dewey’s overtly biased categorizations comes amid a greater effort to decolonize—or build racially equitable—libraries in general,” hoping to be more inclusive of “voices of color, to highlight diverse perspectives, and to decenter whiteness,” a process which isn’t easy and can’t be done immediately, but is a “thoughtful, continuous process.” School librarians, as an article put it, “dismantling Dewey one section at a time,” creating new library sections, having a library with social justice objectives not only in “the labeling, but…the display and the promotion,” making spaces inclusive, but not having one approach for everyone, even creating sections for specific ethnicities if needed. [3]

There are others who have criticized DDC rightly. It has been described as an “outdated mess,” is flawed, racist, sexist, and does not work. Additionally, politics about rights for immigrants, Indigenous people, and women are not classified under history, Black and African culture are pushed “into smaller and smaller boxes,” and LGBTQ content is marginalized. Some have added that DDC does not make reading exciting, noted that there are other ways of organizing information which is concerned more with substance of knowledge than structure, allowing for very little “creative interpretation of the classification.” [4] Even those who favor DDC admit that squeezes subjects which don’t fit into the 10 main categories into a division called “others,” “bias towards Protestant/American aspects prevalent in both the history and religion disciplines,” and that, among other aspects, that it is “not as easily expandable” as LCCO. These issues with DDC put into question whether it can really be an effective means to “organize all knowledge” as the Dewey Program at the Library of Congress (LOC) claims on their website, especially since it reflects Dewey’s worldview imposed on everyone else from beyond the grave.

Although LOC says that DDC is the “most widely used library classification scheme in the world,” there are many other classification systems out there, apart from those based on DDC [5] or LCCO. It is nothing new. Dorothy B. Porter, a Black female librarian who worked for Howard University, pushed aside DDC, classifying works by genre and author to “highlight the foundational role of black people in all subject areas,” with these areas being “art, anthropology, communications, demography, economics, education, geography, history, health, international relations, linguistics, literature, medicine, music, political science, sociology, sports, and religion,” creating a classification system which “challenged racism…by centering work by and about black people within scholarly conversations around the world.” Porter helped build Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, which “remains one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of African-American history in the world” according to one article on the subject. [6]

Furthermore, there are other non-proprietary classification systems apart from DDC which not the only classification system that all libraries, which some have incorrectly claimed. For example, some have expanded the main categories in their libraries, with a flexible, child-centered, browsable system, known as Metis, even ditching author cutters on the book spines, while others have gone the bookstore-model which is word-based instead. [7] There’s the Bliss bibliographic classification system which is used by British libraries and is said to be based around societal needs (and created by a critic of DDC), and S.R. Ranganthan’s colon classification system used by libraries in India which uses 42 main classes “combined with other letters, numbers, and marks” somewhat resembling LCCO. Of note is the Chinese Library Classification (CLC) system, also known as Classification for Chinese Libraries (CCL) which is used in China, which has 22 major categories and a Marxist orientation from its earlier editions (first published in 1975), along with over 43,000 categories in total. The Brian Deer Classification System, otherwise known as BDC, is said to reflect an Indigenous worldview with “an emphasis on relationships between and among people, animals, and the land.” [8]

Courtright as quoted in a Dec. 2017 HuffPost article

I’d love to see more fiction about this and building off this rather than blandly including DDC in their stories and then moving on, without challenging it. It seems like weak writing without substance to me. Why can’t there be characters similar to Reanna Esmail, a outreach and engagement librarian at Olin Library at Cornell University, who criticized DDC and LCCO for being racist? [9] Is it that many of the librarian characters are White or that the ones writing the stories are White and they don’t think about these issues? Sure, there were some stories I found which challenged DDC, but far too few. There should be many more. Personally, if I have an opportunity, I would definitely try and incorporate inclusive library classification into a story.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] See “Dewey Decimal System” (Nov. 12, 2020) by nepenthe_writer, “The Dewey Decimal System” (Feb. 16, 2018) by justanotherbusyfangirl, “The Dewey Decimal System of Love” (Aug. 10, 2018) by orphan_account, “The Dewey Decimal System Will Always Save You” (Jul. 25, 2016) by strawberriesandtophats, “The Dewey Decimal System, and Other Love Languages” (Sept. 28, 2019) by HMS Chill, “Lessons on Love and the Dewey Decimal System” (Dec. 25, 2020) by effing-numpties (avenging_cap), “The Dewey Decimal System is Not That Hard” (Nov. 4, 2016) by Musiclurv, “Shelving” (Apr. 13, 2013) by romanticalgirl, “the beauty of a thousand variations” (Aug. 14, 2015) by super-gingerholly, “Universal Knowledge: A series of Dewey Drabbles” (Jan. 24, 2010) by whenrabbitsattack (Maya), “Card Catalog” (May 1, 2020) by primeideal, “Four Letter Words in Purple Prose” (Dec. 19, 2020) by CelticxPanda, “The Proper Classification of Lovemaking” (Dec. 10, 2019) by MarianneGreenleaf, “Take My Hand” (Aug. 5, 2018) by BeccabooO1O, “MarianSue: An SG-15 Sex Fantasy” (Aug. 29, 2011) by delphia2000, “The Contractual Obligations of Loving Patrick Brewer” (Jan. 17, 2020) by paleredheadinascifi, “Hayalci” (Feb. 4, 2013) by purpleshrub (Viola25), “840” (June 19, 2012) by pollyrepeat, “check me out” (May 29, 2019) by constellatte, “The Stapler Thief” (July 21, 2017) by WauryD, “Sumire” (March 7, 2021) by CelticxPanda, “And Now I Know My ABCs” (Aug. 11, 2019) by semantics, “Electric Love” (Oct. 25, 2020) by winstonsfolly, “Operation: Stileswatch” [Chapter 2] (Mar. 1, 2014) by antpower, “the dragon, the witch, and the mistakes we made along the way” (Nov. 2, 2018) by crocustongues, “That Notable Librarian” (Mar. 1, 2021) by LizzieMack, “And so beguile thy sorrow” (May 26, 2021) by hapax (hapaxnym), “Quiet in the Library” (Sept. 30, 2018) by sharkinterviewee, “In The Library” (Aug. 1, 2016) by Quesarasara, “How To Make A Photopoetry” (Mar. 18, 2021) by pilongski, “when he sees me” (June 3, 2021) by asteriasera. This includes the main fics I found when searching for the DDC here and with the tag (which includes 10 fics).

[2] One fic talks about an equivalent to the DDC and another even set a fic at a place that Dewey founded, criticized how the system is portrayed, or used as background information. Even Hermoine, in one fic, says that the library should be organized using DDC! In another, it is stated that a shelving system is “not based on the Dewey Decimal system or any other human invention.”

[3] See Christina Joseph’s “Move Over, Melvil! Momentum Grows to Eliminate Bias and Racism in the 145-year-old Dewey Decimal System” Aug. 2021 article in School Library Journal.

[4] See Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla’s “The Trouble with Dewey” Oct. 2019 article in School Library Journal, and Isadora Lumbert’s “Melvil Dewey Day: Examining the Problematic Roots of the Dewey Decimal System” Dec. 2021 article in Video Librarian, Colin Ainsworth’s “5 Controversial Facts About Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System” Dec. 2018 article in Mental Floss, Sarah Hume’s “Challenging DDC – an introduction” Sept. 2015 article in Hack Library School, Anna Gooding-Call’s “Racism in the Dewey Decimal System” Sept. 2021 article in Book Riot, Something is rotten in the Dewey Decimal system” on Care Harder, and Michelle Anne Schingler’s “How Dewey Do: Head-Scratching Library Categorizations” Aug. 2015 article in Book Riot.

[5] The DDC trademark is owned by OCLC (operated WebDewey) and is supported by the aforementioned LOC Dewey Program. I’m specifically referring, when I say other classification systems to Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), Korean Decimal Classification (in Republic of Korea), the New Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries (in Taiwan), the Nippon Decimal Classification (in Japan), and the Swedish library classification system (SAB system).  The BBC’s Lonclass system is based on UDC, which itself is reworking of DDC, while Freinet classification is based on DDC, Iconclass based on DDC, the Moys Classification Scheme based on LCCO, the National Library of Medicine classification system based on LCCO, and the Sears List of Subject Headings based on DDC. We don’t need to celebrate Dewey Decimal System Day either, NYPL.

[6] For more information on Porter, see her NY Times obituary, the “Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley: Enterprising Steward of Black Culture” article in The Public Historian, Laura E. Helton’s article “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading,” “Dorothy Porter Wesley papers” at Yale University, “Dorothy Porter Wesley papers, 1867-2002” at Emory University, “Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995)” on BlackPast, “Dorothy Porter Wesley Collection” at Broward County Library, “Dorothy Porter Wesley: Librarian, Bibliophile, and Culture Keeper” blogpost, “Dorothy Porter Wesley: preserver of Black history – Afro-American librarian” page in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Katisha Smith‘s “13 Pioneering Black American Librarians You Oughta KnowBook Riot article (notes, other than Porter, Charlemae Hill Rollins, Clara Stanton Jones, Edward C. Williams, Eliza Atkins Gleason, Sadie Peterson Delaney, Annette Lewis Phinazee, Carla Diane Hayden, Effie Lee Morris, Mollie Huston Lee, Virginia Lacy Jones, Virginia Proctor Powell Florence, and Vivian G. Harsh), Washington Post obituary, “Initiative Named for Dorothy Porter, Dewey Decimal De-Colonizer” article in Ombud, “HISTORY: Library Science Pioneer Dorothy Porter Wesley Created Archive at Howard University that Structured New Field of Africana CollectionsGood Black News article, “What Dorothy Porter’s Life Meant for Black StudiesThe Weekly Challenger article, and mention within “Mitigating Bias in Metadata: A Use Case Using Homosaurus Linked Data” article.

[7] See the Sept. 2012 article by Tali Balas Kaplan, Andrea K. Dolloff, Sue Giffard, and Jennifer Still-Schiff, entitled “Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?: Libraries Nationwide Are Ditching the Old Classification System” in School Library Journal and Schuyler Velasco’s “What are public libraries for?” May 2019 article in Experience Magazine.

[8] There is even a classification for Chinese language materials in the U.S., called the Harvard–Yenching Classification system. LCCO used that system and had some its top categories based on the Cutter Expansive Classification system and revised their classification due to a focus on geographical aspects by Bartol Brinkler. LCCO is not the same as DDC in terms of how categories are organized, although there are similarities. There’s also the industry-friendly BISAC Subject Headings, which book publishers would love. UNESCO has their own specific nomenclature as well, while Canadian Subject Headings follows LCCO’s subject headings, music items in the University of Buffalo Music Library classified by original medium, i.e. Dickensonian Classification, the Garside Classification Scheme which was modeled around the “subject reading rooms” into which the collection had been divided, trying to “utilise the expertise of the departments, and their teaching needs in drawing up the divisions within the scheme,” the Superintendent of Documents Classification system developed by Adelaide R. Hasse which relies on “the origin of the document (its provenance) as the major organizing feature, rather than an arbitrarily determined subject,” the Information Coding Classification system which is said to present “a flexible universal ordering system for both literature and other kinds of information, set out as knowledge fields,” the Putnam Classification System which was developed by George H. Putnam, a “handwritten system of classification, dividing the books into categories and subcategories” (likely with shelfmarks), Social History and Industrial Classification system which is used by “many British museums for social history and industrial collections,” and the U.S. Geological Survey Library classification system which was first developed in 1904.

[9] See Maya Rader’s “Cornellians Confront Anti-Asian Racism at Virtual Teach-In Event” May 2021 article in Cornell Daily Sun. She also said libraries have a “fraught history of being complicit in racism and in some cases upholding and disseminating racist ideas” and should be accountable for that and argued that “libraries are predominantly white fields, and Cornell is no exception in this regard,” both of which are correct.

Categories
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.