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Beauty, dress codes, and fashion: Examining twenty fictional White female librarians

In her 2018 In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves,” Fobazi Ettarh rightly points out that “librarianship is dominated by white women,” noting the history of White women in the profession due to their characteristics, the fact that libraries have been “complicit in the production and maintenance of white privilege,” how these librarians participated in “selective immigrant assimilation and Americanization programs,” and that librarianship “plays a role in creating and sustaining hegemonic values,” while contributing to a culture of white supremacy like other institutions. She further asserts that depictions of libraries as “places of freedoms” like intellectual freedom, freedom of access, education, and more “do not elide libraries’ white supremacy culture with its built-in disparity and oppression,” adding that values that librarianship builds itself upon is “inequitably distributed amongst society.” She gives the example of segregation of public libraries in the U.S. South, desegregation efforts of those libraries,with access to materials “often implicated in larger societal systems of (in)equality.” She also pointed to libraries gathering “large amounts of patron data in order to demonstrate worth” or can “operate as an arm of the state” by working with library vendors which work with government entities.

I could easily build off every single one of her points in a long and drawn out post. Instead, in this post, I will examine over 20 White female librarians across various animated series and how these fictional depictions are emblematic of the overwhelming Whiteness in librarianship. More directly I’ll look at what this means when it comes to appearance, fashion, and standards imposed on librarians by Whiteness itself. Simply put, Whiteness is a socially constructed classification which conveys certain privileges, comforts, and advantages that those who not White do not enjoy automatically. It ends up setting the standard for reality and normality itself. Any deviations are seen as subversions, offenses, disruptions, or disturbances, policing its borders in a literal and figurative way. It can sometimes operate in hidden ways at different strata within library profession, while remaining multidimensional. [1]

I’ll start with Kaisa, who is one of the most prominent librarians in animation to date, in the series Hilda. [2] As librarian and library instructor Gina Schlesselman-Tarango put it, library professionals often navigate White grooming and beauty standards, while people of color are policed within library spaces. Librarian Jessica Macias added that librarians often face dress and grooming codes. It is something which women of color doesn’t always fit into, feeling alienated and different. Macias argued that these unwritten codes ban so-called “distracting” and “unnatural” hairstyles, unkempt clothing, hygiene, and hair. She, along with April Hathcock and Stephanie Sendaula adds that this is restrictive for people of color, facing implicit barriers, claims of unprofessionalism, and the idea that librarians of color are not librarians, as perceived by fellow patrons and librarians. [3]

Four screenshots spliced together in order to show Kaisa’s librarian outfit during the course of the first two seasons of the series

Her unique appearance fits within White beauty standards, even though she is casually gothic and witchy. In the series, she wears a gray sweater, grey leggings, black skirt, black cloak, and white blouse. She often wears black-grey headphones attached to a media player. Librarians are often shown wearing skirts, cardigans, while others have been more stylish with dresses, cardigans, sweaters, tights, and coats. [4] While Kaisa has her own unique style it fits within those standards. It fits with her calm personality, although she can be strict at enforcing rules, or even stern. At other times, she can be secretive and soft-spoken, but has an ability to know what people are looking for. Undoubtedly, this leads to certain insecurities, and feeling like an outcast, despite the fact she can be nice, supporting Hilda, Frida or David in their tasks throughout the series.

Although Kaisa is perhaps the prominent librarian character in an animated series in recent years, there are other librarians which fit the White standards of appearance. These same standards, of course, exclude and restrict librarians of color, as Macias pointed out. [5] Other fictional librarians dress even more conservatively, even if their style is not as distinctive as the one that Kaisa has in Hilda. This includes the curmudgeon librarian in the DC Super Hero Girls episode “#SoulSisters Part 2.” She wears horn-rimmed glasses, a hair bun, a whitish high collar, cuffed sleeves, and a bluish dress of some kind, I believe. She fully fits the spinster librarian stereotype as outlined by Jennifer Snoek-Brown on her blog, Reel Librarians.

The same can be said for the Violet Stanhope, the librarian ghost in an episode of Archie’s Weird Mysteries (“The Haunting of Riverdale“), Francis Clara Censorsdoll in multiple episodes of the mature animated series Moral Orel, Mrs. Higgins in a Sofia the First episode (“The Princess Test”), and Rita Book in a Timon & Pumbaa episode (“Library Brouhaha“). All of these librarians are dressed in a “proper” way and well-groomed, even if not all of them conduct themselves professionally. What I mean is that Francis burns books she doesn’t like and Rita demands total quiet, while Violet and Mr. Higgins are more helpful. The latter two characters fulfill what the UMW Libraries called “quality service, positive attitude, good patron relations, and pleasing personal appearance.” The clothing of the characters, is in line with existing library dress codes that ban shorts, halter tops / tank tops, flip flops, backless shoes, ill-fitting clothing, or t-shirts with writing / slogans, no bare shoulders, no or few face piercings, no denim pants, and no torn jeans. It often goes beyond what could be called “business casual” ins some contexts. [6]

Apart from the above-mentioned older librarians, there are some librarians who have a bit more style. This includes the unnamed librarian in a Steven Universe episode (“Buddy’s Book”), one of the protagonists of I Lost My Body, an animated film set in France, Gabrielle, and Marion the Librarian in various episodes of Hanny Manny. The most casual of these is the Steven Universe librarian who is shown wearing what looks like a green cardigan and glasses, with a green undershirt of some kind shown in the comics. However, she may be more casual in the comics than in the animated series, as she could be wearing a collared shirt in the episode, as shown below:

Her style is in line with librarians who say [7] that they wear cardigans, black dress pants, oxford shirts, dressy shoes, casual pants, slacks, blouses, sweaters, button downs, leggings, tights, and skirts. I haven’t seen any fictional librarians in dresses that I can recall, however nor in sundresses, jumpers, t-shirts, shirt and tie, khakis, with tattoos or with piercings. It is likely that the Buddwick Public Library in Beach City has a business-professional dress code that prohibits shorts, sneakers, t-shirts with writing, backless shoes, and blue jeans. We can’t know for sure, because we never see the librarian, or any other librarians, outside of their work behind the information desk. [8]

Compare the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe to Gabrielle in I Lost My Body and Marion the Librarian in Hanny Manny. Both characters wear business casual more than casual, looking comfortable in their workplaces while they look professional. However, it is unlikely that either of them have “highly regularized” librarian dress, but rather that there are continuing struggles over what it means to “dress professionally” in their jobs. Even so neither are wearing t-shirts, jeans, gym shoes, jeans, or even open-toed shoes in line with varied dress codes, or anything similar to the variety of adorable outfits out there which are inspired by librarians. Instead, they have a practical, curated, and straightforward style, likely recognizing that what you wear has a “lot to do with identity” even if they aren’t aware of the cultural stereotypes out there of librarians. [9]

There are other librarians who have style, even if in a more “traditional” way. This includes elderly librarians enforcing rules, like the librarian in Uncle Grandpa episode (“Back to the Library”), Miss Dickens in Carl Squared episode (“Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible episode (“Overdue”), Mrs. Shusher in an episode of The Replacements (“Quiet Riot“), and the unnamed librarian in a few episodes of Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil. The same can be said for the stickler librarian in an episode of Rugrats, Ms. L in an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory (“Book ‘Em“) and the briefly appearing librarian in an episode of Martin Mystery (“Return of the Dark Druid“). [10] What they are wearing is reflect of what Brytani of The Intrepid Nerd pointed out: that often librarians are portrayed in fashion catalogs, Pinterest, and elsewhere with “vintage looks.” This includes dresses or skirts, sweaters / cardigans / blazers, “smart” shoes, and glasses. She concluded that people give librarian’s this look because there is “something nostalgic about reading books” and working somewhere that is full of them, or a more disturbing conclusion: that people dress librarians this way “because they think the career is outdated.” Hopefully, the creators of Uncle Grandpa, Carl Squared, Kim Possible, The Replacements, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Martin Mystery don’t think this way about librarians.

This dress doesn’t take away from the fact that the librarian in Uncle Grandpa and the librarian in Rugrats are super kind [11] even though they are dressing conservatively. This is in contrast to the sadistic Ms. Hatchet in Kim Possible and the unnamed librarian in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil or the strict shushing librarians Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements, Miss Dickens in Carl Squared, Ms. L in Dexter’s Laboratory, and a librarian in Martin Mystery. What they all have in common is what they are wearing fulfills what eHow has called the “classic librarian costume,” admitting it goes along with the librarian stereotype. [12] At the same time, how they dress may be about appearing professional and some of those libraries may even have formal dress codes.

Screenshots taken from fandom gallery of “Through the Looking Glass Ruins” episode of The Owl House; a Dutch nun in 1992 and a Hungarian priest in 1935

Even more simplified is Amity Blight in The Owl House, who is directly shown as a librarian in the episode “Through the Looking Glass Ruins”. As she travels into a dangerous/forbidden section of the library to help her friend Luz Noceda, she wears a library employee card in a lanyard around her neck, a black short sleeve dress, black point shoes, and orchid leggings. In the episode, she ties up her hair in a typical librarian style, as shown in the image above. She looks similar to those working in religious libraries, especially a nun or even a priest.

When I saw what she was wearing, it immediately make of something religious. Wearing the color black can express self-confidence, sensitivity, an attempt to impress someone, could indicate someone has a rebellious nature that doesn’t accept authority, exudes a person’s feelings of power and influence, and building walls to protect themselves. It doesn’t necessarily make you “part of a suspicious sect” or anything like that. Rather, wearing black-colored clothes can be classy, mysterious, or distinguished. More specifically, some have argued that wearing black can be slimming, elegant, sexy, chic, or even overbearing and evil. Most of the positive qualities are the reasons that Amity is watching it, as the wearing black-colored clothes can signal “a desire to reclaim one’s power.” [13]

Inter-related with this is the fact that librarian and library perform a specific role “in the language of fashion,” employed in phrases like librarian chic, conjuring imperatives and fantasies on librarians, their labor, and recognition. This centers “class-privileged white women” as the stewards of librarianship and space of the library itself. Furthermore, cuteness can compel viewers to place value on what is cute, worthy to be desired, protected, and cared for. As such, if Whiteness is seen as cute, it is devoid of its “power to inflict violence” and is not threatening. The latter is the case with Amity, as often seen by fans, as she is clearly attractive, delightful, appealing, or even clever and mentally keen, and is White. [14] In that sense, the styles of Amity and Kaisa are somewhat similar.

Amity is also a lesbian, something which I mentioned back in October. Like everyone else, lesbians internalize societal standards of appearance and weight, even though they were more critical of “traditional social norms” when it came to roles and rights of women. A large number saw physical attractiveness as “important in a partner,” even though such attractiveness was functional rather than a concern for looks like straight women. Not surprisingly, there is even a fashion style known as “lesbian chic.” [15] Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, archivist at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, argued that librarians are marginal due to enduring values just as lesbians are marginal, noted that lesbian is a sexual orientation and a “constructed political identity.” She also said that all lesbians may not be “equipped to be librarians” with a lesbian “subject specialty.” [16] Amity may not have that specialty, nor may she know nothing about lesbian herstory, lesbian separatism, or lesbian feminism, but she would provide service of a high caliber to patrons and fight lesbian erasure at the same time.

Like Amity, other librarians also have their own style. This includes Mo Testa in Dykes to Watch Out For, public librarian Myra in The Public, Sabine in Sabine: an asexual coming-of-age story, Desiree, Sara, and Sarah, her two work colleagues. The latter three characters are in Too Loud, an animated web series. Starting with Mo, a lesbian feminist and reference librarian, is described as a “worrier and kvetch extraordinaire” on the comic’s official website, she has a “penchant for striped clothing” just like the comic’s author, Alison Bechdel. This means that Mo is falling into the style of being “overly conventional,” and not as colorful as, let’s say, drag queens. [17] The same can be said about what Desiree, Sara and Sarah wear while working at the library. Their clothes falls into typical wear like cardigans, dresses, brown pants, and sensible shoes. However, when Desiree finally dresses up in more girly clothes during the episode “Slumber Party,” it makes clear what the now defunct Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog blog tried to prove: that librarians are stylish people despite some a perception of the opposite. [18]

Myra and Sabine also wear simple clothes, but nothing that could be called “dated” or “conservative”. Sabine, even more than Myra, exudes a level of coolness as she is also a student as well as a part-time librarian at the college library. This is something that even the New York Times recognized years ago, noting that emergence of hip and cool librarians in a profession described as “nerdy” and a haven for “left-wing social engagement.” More than any of the other librarians in this post, Sabine is more trendy and fashionable, although not as dedicated to fashion trends as those like Sam, Alex, and Clover in Totally Spies! to give three examples. Very few of the librarians I’ve described in this post are those are either wear hair in a bun, wear glasses, or a cardigan, with librarians getting a bad rap for the latter. [19] Rather they tend toward being more stylish, especially in terms of Amity, who dyes her hair green (her original hair color is brown) and later lilac, and Kaisa, who has put purple streaks in her black hair.

Three screenshots of the unnamed librarian in the Totally Spies! episode. The last one is after she starts to become buff.

There are some exceptions, however. For instance, the librarian in Totally Spies episode (“Totally Switched”), who becomes “way buff,” as I wrote about back in March when I rewatched the episode. She wears a blazer, a collared shirt, has on glasses, and has her hair in a bun. This similar to how The images of librarians in cinema 1917-1999 displays librarians, or smocks worn by New Zealand librarians into the 1980s, while some librarians adopted corporate uniforms or t-shirts. [20] This unnamed librarian, likely voiced by Janice Kawaye, has an even more professional outfit. She doesn’t wear anything that invokes the problematic and is not a degrading sexy librarian stereotype. In her own way, she is classy and chic, or even cool. If she was an actual librarian, she would be among those which author and photographer Kyle Cassidy profiled in his 2014 photo-essay “This is What A Librarian Looks Like” for Slate magazine. [21]

Of the librarians I’ve named in this article, arguably the unnamed librarians in Rugrats, Uncle Grandpa, DC Super Hero Girls, and Kick Buttoswki all could be considered spinster librarians of some type, using the definition Snoek-Brown outlines. The same could be said for Violet Stanhhope, Mrs. Higgins, Rita Book, Miss Dickens, Ms. Hatchet, Mrs. Shusher, and Ms. L. Contrasting this would be Kaisa, Gabrielle, Marion the Librarian, Amity, Mo, Myra, Sabine, Desiree, Sara, Sarah, and even the unnamed librarians in Martin Mystery, Steven Universe, and Totally Spies!, who are all information providers. Most extreme is Francis Clara Censordoll, who is not anti-social, a failure, naughty, comic relief, or liberated. She is the librarian-censor. Some might say she is the anti-librarian since she stands against everything that librarians seem to stand for. However, as Matthew Noe, the ALA GNCRT President, pointed out in March, it is going to be hard “to put a stop to this massive censorship lobby harassing libraries and schools when we can’t even convince all library workers to stop doing censorship.”

On a stylistic note, some of these librarians have an aristocratic style, along with avant-garde and celtic styles. I haven’t seen any librarians with art deco, art nouveau, beach bum, beatnik, biker, black loli, babushka bois, bohemian, equestrian, flapper, heavy metal, hippie, hipster, punk, retro / vintage, surf, to name a few styles. Characters like Malkuth in the Library Of Ruina, a simulation game that followed the 2008 game Lobotomy Corporation would fall into the aristocratic and possibly avant-garde styles. I also haven’t seen any military librarians. The closest I’ve come to that are the characters in Library War. Such librarians would likely be bound, if they were in the U.S., by very specific grooming and personal appearance standards. [22]

Those librarians who work in public spaces, especially, would likely be pushed to accept the idea that you need to “dress for success” either with business casual or casual attire which is “smart.” This would be reinforced by the common perception in Western society that conflates appearance and health, affecting women, and leading to potential harm. This is made worse by the fact that unattractiveness leads to negative judgment from people. Such negativity can cause isolation, dieting, and emotional distress. Appearance, for humans, is “one of the most direct sources of information about other people.” In workplaces, there are additional stresses, like so-called “common standards of professional appearance,” which look down upon those with visible piercing and tattoos. This is obviously interlinked with the “societally sanctioned standards of appearance.” [23]

There are many librarian styles. Whether they are depicted in pop culture matters since real-life librarians exist and embody those styles. Furthermore, whether librarian styles in real-life translate over to pop culture, in animation, anime, comics, or elsewhere, is anyone’s guess.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Todd Honma, “Forward” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. ix; Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, “Introduction” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 2; Ian Beilin,”The Academic Research Library’s White Past and Present” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 83.

[2] I am putting aside the librarian in Futurama episode (“The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”), Librarian in Zevo-3 episode (“Zevo-3”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“The Warlock Returns”), Librarian in Martin Mystery episode (“Return of the Dark Druid”), Librarian in Amphibia episode (“True Colors”), Librarian in Beavis and Butt-Head episode (“Cyber-Butt”), Librarian in Bob’s Burgers episode (“Y Tu Ga-Ga Tina Tambien”), Arlene in Phineas & Ferb episode (“Phineas and Ferb’s Quantum Boogaloo”), Librarian in Phineas & Ferb episode (“The Doonkelberry Imperative”), Librarian in The Flintstones episode (“The Hit Songwriter”), Librarian in The Owl House episode (“Lost in Language”), Unnamed librarian in Sofia the First episode (“Forever Royal”?), Librarian in Sarah and Duck episode (“Lost Librarian”), Librarian in Boyfriends, Lara in Action Comics, The Librarian in Detective Comics, Rupert Giles in Giles: Girl Blue, Skeezix in Guillotine Public Library, Barbara Gordon in Huntress: Year One, Ghost in Library Ghost, Crawley in Library of Ruins, Librarian in Meau!, Rabbi Rava in Monolith, Marten Reed in Questionable Content, Claire in Questionable Content, Rex Libris in Rex Libris, Suzie in Sex Criminals, Prysia in Smitty and Majesty, Lazurus Luca in Sword & Sphere, Daniel in The Library, Jane Case / Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman, as they either have minor roles or I haven’t read the comics enough to cover them here.

[3] Jessica Macias, “Looking the Part” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 113-5; Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, “Introduction” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 5; April M. Hathcock and Stephanie Sendaula, “Mapping Whiteness at the Reference Desk” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 254-5.

[4] See Jennifer Snoek-Brown’s “Librarian action figure,” “Christmas with a reel librarian in ‘My Side of the Mountain’,” and “Stylish female reel librarians” for instance.

[5] Macias, “Looking the Part,” 118.

[6] “Dress Code,” UMW Libraries Public Services, accessed Mar. 15 2022; “Dress Code Policy…,” Adventures of a Misfit Librarian, Oct. 26, 2010; Comments on “Dress Codes” discussion on /r/librarians in May 2014; Comments on “Does your library have a dress code for librarians, aides, etc.?” discussion on /r/librarians in September 2014.

[7] See Comments on “Dress Codes” discussion on /r/librarians in May 2014 and Comments on “Does your library have a dress code for librarians, aides, etc.?” discussion on /r/librarians in September 2014.

[8] Alexa Newman, “Workplace Dress Codes – Does Your Library Have One?,” ALSC Blog, Dec. 28, 2017.

[9] , “How should I dress for a library job?,” Janetpanic.com, Dec. 19, 2019; Ruthann Robson, “Dress Code for Librarians,” Dressing Constitutionally, Jun. 7, 2013; Lisa Knasiak, “Dress Codes at the Library,” Public Libraries Online, Sept. 14, 2015; “The Ladies Of A Beautiful Mess Love Libraries…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Mar. 17, 2012; “Sister Style: Library Inspired,” A Beautiful Mess, Mar. 8, 2012; “Dotty The Librarian From Little Chief Honeybee…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Sept. 6, 2011; Kaelab Beauregarde, “Dotty the Librarian,” The Charming Life, Sept. 2011; “Library Date Dress From A Beautiful Mess…,” Misfit Librarian’s Style Catalog, Aug. 22, 2011; “The Library Date Dress: 3 Ways To Wear It,” A Beautiful Mess, Aug. 22, 2011; Molly Wetta, “What makes a work wardrobe?,” Librarian Style, Jun. 1, 2021.

[10] I can’t get a photograph as of now, but Ms. Herrera in the same Archie’s Weird Mysteries episode as Violet might be another character.

[11] These words are used by Angeline to describe her work outfit on her June 2011 post “The librarian ‘do [outfit]” on her blog The New Professional.

[12] Rachel Sawaya, “Ideas for a Librarian Costume,” eHow, accessed Mar. 15, 2022. They specifically outline options that follow the librarian stereotype, including, “a pencil skirt…for women…a pair of dark, formal slacks for men….a crisp, pale, high-necked blouse or collared shirt…[or] a dark vest with buttons..a tie or bowtie…for men. A plain silk scarf…for women. [or] a classic cardigan…stockings or pantyhose for women. [or] plain, dark leather shoes or ankle boots.” They also say that “classic items” include spectacles with thin rims, a small pile of books, hollowing out an old book, and “literary-themed accessories.”

[13] Here is What Wearing Black Says About You (and the 5 most common personality traits of these people),” iheartintelligence, May 28, 2020; Cassandra Sethi, “How to Wear Black,” ehow, Feb. 21, 2022; Ada Polla, “5 Rules for Wearing All Black Clothing,” HuffPost, Dec. 6, 2017; “What does black clothing symbolize?,” Colorbux, access date March 22, 2022; Cameron Wolf, “Study Confirms That Wearing Black Clothing Makes You Appear More Attractive, Intelligent, and Confident,” Complex, Aug. 28, 2015; bethany, “In Defense of Wearing All-Black,” College Fashion, Jan. 31, 2019; Ellie Krupnick, “14 Reasons Black Is The Only Color Worth Wearing,” HuffPost, Dec. 6, 2017; Brianna West, “The Psychological Reason Some Women Love Wearing All Black,” Thought Catalog, Jan. 30, 2022.

[14] Vani Natarajan, “Nostalgia, Cuteness, and Geek Chic: Whiteness in Orla Kiely’s Library” in Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science (ed. Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2017), p. 122, 132; “Cute,” Dictionary.com, accessed March 22, 2022.

[15] Karen Heffernan, “Lesbians and the Internalization of Societal Standards of Weight and Appearance” [Abstract], Journal of Lesbian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4, Oct. 12, 2008; “How to Dress Lesbian Chic,” Wikihow, Jan. 31, 2022.

[16]  Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, “Lesbian Librarianship for All: A Manifesto” in Reference Librarianship & Justice: History, Practice & Praxis (ed. Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, & Eamon Tewell, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA: 2018), p. 298-299, 301, 304. I’m not even getting into the somewhat problematic and strange idea that all librarians can be “lesbian librarians” even those who aren’t lesbian. I think she just chose the wrong term for it. Maybe “social justice librarian” or something like that would have been better.

[17] “Cast Biographies,” Dykes to Watch Out For Official Website, accessed March 22, 2022; Janine Utell, “The Comics of Alison Bechdel: From the Outside In,” University Press Scholarship Online, Sept. 2020; Michael Rhode, “Alison Bechdel at Politics and Prose bookstore,” May 4, 2012, Wikimedia Commons; Elizabeth Fernandez, “It’s just a drag, darling, but this is a big election,” F.M.I.: Female Mimics International, Vol. 20, No. 1, #57, 1990, p. 41. My favorite part of this quote was this: “Other critics offer a more unusual complaint: The contest has become overly conventional. Candidates nowadays resemble librarians more than drag queens, some say.” It made me laugh a lot as it says a lot about what people see as librarians.

[18] Molly Wetta, “What makes a work wardrobe?,” Librarian Style, Jun. 1, 2021.

[19] “Bookworms’ backs up,” Sunday Star Times, Jan. 31, 2009; Kara Jesella, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” New York Times, Jul. 8, 2007; Brytani, “A Study of Librarian Fashion,” The Intrepid Nerd, Oct. 6, 2011; Heather Slania, “Welcome to the Librarian Fashion blog!,” Librarian Fashion, Mar. 22, 2011. Slania is now the Director of the Decker Library at MICA and was formerly the Director of the Library at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

[20] “Library fashion slideshow,” New Zealand History, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; The Sassy Librarian has a tag on their website with stylish librarian outfits; Roberta, “Rounding Up,” The Chic Librarian, Oct. 18, 2013. Wikihow has a whole article entitled “How to Wear the Sexy Librarian Look” in which they describe it as “playing on the idea of a quiet library with a quiet librarian” with clothes like: “partially unbuttoned shirts, dark stockings, sexy heels, and red lipstick.” A perfect example of this is a cutaway gag of a librarian in a Family Guy episode where the librarian tries to act sexy but the man looks away.

[21] Kyle Cassidy, “About,” This is What a Librarian Looks Like, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; Jordan G. Teicher, “This Is What a Librarian Looks Like,” Slate, Feb. 11, 2014. There is also a Tumblr which ran from 2010 to 2020 which smashed stereotypes about what librarians wear, called “Librarian Wardrobe.”

[22] “Personal Appearance: Beards and mustaches in the US Navy,” Naval History and Heritage Command, May 7, 1963; Devon Suits, “Army announces new grooming, appearance standards,” Army News Service, Jan. 28, 2021.

[23] “Dress for Success,” Harvard University Facility of Arts and Sciences, Office of Career Services, accessed Mar. 22, 2022; Helen Monks, Leesa Costello, Julie Dare, and Elizabeth Reid Boyd (2021), “‘We’re Continually Comparing Ourselves to Something’: Navigating Body Image, Media, and Social Media Ideals at the Nexus of Appearance, Health, and Wellness” [Abstract], Sex Roles, 84, 221-237; Atefeh Yazdanparast Ardestani, “The Quest for Perfect Appearance: an Examination of the Role of Objective Self-awareness Theory and Emotions” [Summary], Aug. 2012, UNT Digital Library; D.J. Williams., Jeremy Thomas, and Candace Christensen, “‘You Need to Cover Your Tattoos!’: Reconsidering Standards of Professional Appearance in Social Work” [Abstract], Social Work, Volume 59, Issue 4, October 2014, Pages 373–375; Leslie J. Heinberg, J. Kevin Thompson, and Susan Stormer, “Development and validation of the sociocultural attitudes towards appearance questionnaire” [Abstract], International Journal of Eating Disorders, Jan. 1995; Oleg O. Bilukha and Virginia Utermohlen, “Internalization of Western standards of appearance, body dissatisfaction and dieting in urban educated Ukrainian females” [Abstract], European Eating Disorders Review, Dec. 21, 2001.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid, 181-5.

[10] Ibid, 186-192.

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

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

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

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

Countering the “shushing librarians” stereotype in animated series

A screencap from the fifth episode of the new series, City of Ghosts, “Bob & Nancy.” While these subtitles call it a “library person” (who later does the shhh! a second time), it is implied, if we use the stereotype as a basis, that this is referring to a librarian!

After watching the aforementioned series on Netflix, where an unnamed character shushes the protagonists, called a library person, but implied to be a librarian, as previously stated, I decided that it was time to examine shushing librarians in animation particularly since that’s the main form of popular culture I’ve focused on this blog. Clearly, the assertion by Beth Yeagley in 1999 that “wearing hair in a bun and shushing patrons” are gone and that librarians in major roles, between 1989 and 1999, are “portrayed even more positively than other movie librarians, especially regarding physical characteristics,” has not shown to not be true after that point. As such, this post analyzes librarians in DC Super Girls, Adventure Time, Steven Universe, The Owl House, Big City GreensCarl SquaredCourage the Cowardly DogKim PossibleThe Replacements, Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil, Martin Mystery, Teamo Supremo, Codename: Kids Next Door, Dexter’s Laboratory, Timon & Pumbaa, Rugrats, and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, noting negative stereotypes in each of those series, along with a librarian in Archie’s Weird Mysteries countering the stereotype in an interesting way.

First, I’d like to summarize this stereotype, which is close to the Scary Librarian trope, related to other tropes like “sadist teacher,” “spooky silent library,” and “evil librarian.” More positive, obstinately, stereotypes, are “badass bookworm” and “magic librarian,” but can be problematic, as can the “hot librarian” trope. [1] There have been various explanations for this stereotype. Anna Gooding-Hall of Book Riot writes that the shushing librarian stereotype comes from the era when “libraries were silent, tomblike places where patrons were to be seen and not heard” which evokes a “petty tyrant enforcing a dumb minor rule to extremes,” the problematic idea of putting a shusher, often a woman, in a dominant position, and the fact that is “barely a match for reality” because such direct shushing happens very little these days. [2] Others have noted that this stereotype, manifested in a elder white woman as a ghostly librarian which famously appeared in the opening scene of Ghostbusters, the librarian with tentacles in Monsters University, or the librarian (Mrs. Lima) in Transformers: Rescue Bots. Librarians have rightly noted that librarians are more than “a silence-obsessed, stacks-dwelling hermit” or the middle-aged bun-wearing, shushing, and “comfortably shod” librarian. Librarians have objected to this, saying it is worrisome because they do not patrons to see them as someone to ignore because of assumptions they make about librarians from movie or TV show portrayals, waging war against these negative stereotypes.

Some have argued that that is a “lot to be said for shushing” because some patrons like quiet places, noted that there is still a need for “quiet” in our communities which should not be lost, or asserted that librarians themselves are perpetuating the stereotype in their actions. [3] The latter is the only one that seems to have some validity, even as some people do like quiet spaces, including this writer. On the other hand, it has been noted that there an ever-expanding, and exhaustive, list of job responsibilities for public librarians, coming far from the hackneyed hushing librarian stereotype, centered around personality traits, with libraries as more than warehouses that store books. A blogspot called Librarians on YouTube, abandoned over six years ago, says that many when they think of librarians think of “the stereotypical bespectacled old lady with a bun in her hair and a finger to her lips ready to shush anyone and everyone,” adding that librarians have spent a good deal of effort and time into breaking those stigmas, attempting to “highlight the breadth and variety of individuals…that make up this unique and extremely vital vocation.” [4] They add that still there is a “definite archetype” for how a librarian is supposed to act and look, which has permeated representation of the field, with librarians often ridiculed or portrayed with the “same basic broad strokes.”

As for Jennifer Snoek-Brown, she added that while she values the need for quiet zones in libraries, but that she will be in her community college library, “doing my job and helping my users — not with a bang or a whisper, but with a smile.” [5] Snoek-Brown says that this is close to the stereotypes of “spinster librarian” and “anti-social librarian” she has written about. I’d like to add to this based on a program which Snoek-Brown gave, titled “Shush-ers, Spinsters, and Sirens: Exploring Librarians in Film” which she shared with me when preparing some posts for Reel Librarians. In her introduction, she addresses those stereotypes, focusing on a number of Hollywood films with “Shush-ers, Spinsters & Sirens,” for instance. [6] Now, onto the series!

 

Female librarian in the DC Super Hero Girls episode “#SoulSisters Part 2”

While this librarian, voiced by Kimberly D. Brooks (a Black woman), is justified in telling Diana to be quiet, as her phone is loudly going off and disturbing everyone, and shushes Diana’s friend, Tatsu, pointing to a sign labeled “no loud fighting,” which is kind of hilarious. Then, she shushes Diana and Tatsu again, for the third time in the episode. The librarian then says no loud fighting is the best they can hope for in Metropolis. Diana and Tatsu proceed to fight in the stacks, quietly, until they cause all the stacks to fall like dominoes, then they are, rightly, kicked out of the library. That’s the only thing this librarian does right! I mean, they probably should have been told to leave the library much earlier, since they are literally fighting there.

Turtle Princess in Adventure Time episode “Paper Pete

In this episode, Finn and Jake go to the library, with Finn trying to perk Jake up, who is reading a book about Rainicorns, as his girlfriend is a Rainicorn. The Turtle Princess (voiced by Steve Little) shushes Finn because he is making “too much noise” (he really isn’t). When he shouts that there are pages coming out of the books (later identified as the paperlings, everyone shushes him. He later works with the pagelings to discover the secret lair of the Moldos, and the episode goes from there. The Turtle Princess shushing him added nothing to the episode and was not needed, as it could have been written a different way. One librarian writes about this episode, noting that while the silent library is a “quickly changing idea, it is…sometimes necessary for a librarian to moderate the noise level in the space so that other patrons are not bothered” but adds that while this is necessary, “people still negatively relate the stereotype to librarians.” The same blogpost points to the episode “The Real You” where Turtle Princess kicks out Finn and Jake from the library because of their nose, calling it a “harsh reaction.” I agree with that, it definitely a harsh reaction. [7]

Female librarian in Steven Universe episode “Buddy’s Book

In this episode, Steven walks into a library, with Connie at his side, and yells “Books,” excited to see them, with the female librarian, who is uncredited, immediately shushing him, leading him and Connie to speak in whispers. Later in the episode, the same librarian shushes Steven a second time. Later, at the end of the episode, Connie and Steven realize that all the books in the library were written by Buddy Buddwick, and the librarian again, and unnecessarily shushes them. Three times in one episode! That seems a bit excessive.

Male librarian in The Owl House episode, “Lost in Language

After Luz says that she will read a book in the library about the wailing star, the librarian unnecessarily shushes her. Not only was this unnecessary for the plot, but it fed right into the stereotype. Even worse, other patrons later shush Luz as she accidentally hangs onto a book and travels through the library. This makes more sense because they are studying, but still. Luz, along with Emera and Edric, is later kicked out of the library by the same librarian, who claims that they have made reading “far too fun.” What a putz! The male librarian is uncredited.

The Librarian in Big City Greens episode “Quiet Please”

Librarian literally threatens Cricket over making a sound

Cricket goes to the library with his book-loving sister, Tilly, after his dad, Bill, tells him to read a book rather than watch television, where he says an “endless catalog of books” will be available, clearly not understanding that libraries don’t have everything. Cricket, Tilly, Bill, and Grandma, go to the Big City Library. When they enter, Bill says “the library is a quiet place” and later says that the librarians take their jobs very seriously. They come across the librarian, voiced by Linda Hamilton, who tells them they cannot make any more sounds and that if they do, they will be banned for life! A kid nearby sneezes and she literally abducts the kid because they caused a sound. Yikes. As a result, the protagonists communicate in ASL instead, which is, as I noted in my newsletter back in September 2020, “”a good step forward in terms of deaf characters,” but I still don’t know why this stereotype was used, which is one of the worst stereotypical librarians I have EVER seen in animation. She later abducts a second person for making a sound. I mean, there is even a sign in the library saying “I want you to shut up.” Oh no. The one positive is that they get some books for Cricket to read, although he later hides from the librarian, who makes a sound like a snake and hisses, after making a loud sound. The grandma, after adjusting her hearing aid, gives the librarian what she deserves and shushes her. In the end, it becomes a horror movie, when the librarian whispers and gets all the other librarians to “assemble.” They somehow get out of there, but Bill is banned, by making a noise, from “all libraries across the globe.” That’s messed up. The Librarian is later shushing the narrator at the very end of the episode, as well.

Miss Dickens in the Carl Squared episode “Carl’s Techno-Jinx”

The episode of this Canadian series, also known as Carl2, begins when Carl’s friend, Jamie James, goes to the library, with Carl, to get an atlas to finish his geography assignment, and Carl doesn’t understand that librarians still exist, saying that everything in there, and more, would fit on his hard drive. The librarian cuffs him and interrogates him the back room of the library, because someone who looks like him (obviously his clone) had been taking books without signing them out (i.e. stealing them). Carl says he forgot and she shouts at him that he forgot about it 173 times, all the time his clone has been stealing from the library. She gives him until closing time to bring back the books, or the “mighty wrath” of the library will be brought down upon him. She then cackles evilly. His clone apologizes to Carl for taking the book, saying he wasn’t aware of those rules. The clone takes back the books and gives the librarian Carl’s library card, which she proceeds to put in a blender and literally drink. What. He tells Carl about what happened, with Carl asking if he really needs the library anymore because its the computer age, not the “Jurassic age.” He finds the one book about puberty the librarian says has been returned and he had it for over five years, with his friend saying the fine will be “sky high.” It turns out that Carl seems to have a curse on him, with Carl living on the tent outside. He has a dream where he returns the book and is eaten by the book return slip, which declares “if you can’t pay the fine, you must serve the time.” Carl’s clone signs up to be a library volunteer and the fine is forgiven. It turns out his clone had signed up to be the book fairy for storytime corner, with the librarian laughing maniacally.

Librarian” in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode “Wrath of the Librarian”

This episode, which followed the season 4 episode, “Cabaret Courage,” and was near the end of the series overall. Courage finds a book titled The Pixie and the Prickle Pirate which was supposed to be returned two years before, with Muriel, his caretaker, saying it is a wonder they haven’t all been sent to library prison. Terrified, courage returns the book to the nearby bookmobile, where the fine is said to be, as calculated on a cash register, almost $4,000 dollars! This is, after the librarian, as shown above, shushes Courage two times. The lions on the sides of the bookmobile tell him to return the money he owes. The book itself, cursed by the librarian, transforms Courage’s two caretakers (Muriel and Eustace) into characters in the book. They proceed to destroy some of the house, until they smash out of it, and into the wider world, as the Eastace-as-pirate, tries to kill Muriel-as-pixie, while Courage gets very injured, still holding the book in his hand, while everyone else cheers this on, for some reason. The two fight in front of a sign titled “Read the Book.” Courage goes to the nearby bookmobile, telling the librarian what happened, she shushes him, again, with the fine even larger now. He gathers money, at a show, to pay off the fine, but it is even larger now, absurdly, with Courage loudly objecting, as he should, with the librarian shushing him one more. The fine, ultimately, is $10,000.01, which is pretty ridiculous. The librarian appears out of the head of the snake at the end of the episode, shushing the audience.

Ms. Hatchet in the Kim Possible episode “Overdue”

Voiced by April Winchell, this librarian, who everyone in the school is afraid of, confronts Kim, telling her she has an overdue library book. She tries to explain to her, but the librarian tells her to be quiet, even having a button which says “quiet” and declares she has a “zero-tardiness policy,” suspending her from cheerleading until the book is returned. That’s way too harsh. Kim is forced to go to “library lockup” after school. It turns out that Kim’s friend, Ron, borrowed the book but forgot to return it. Kim is shown piles, upon piles of books, which she has to organize using the Hatchet Decimal System, meaning the library is based on the organizational system of the librarian. Oh no. Wade helps Ron find the book. In the meantime, the librarian keeps giving Kim busy work, like putting away books and putting labels on every book. He gives back the book (well, actually the wrong one), and says that there will be a day she will forget a book and that she will be waiting for her, as she laughs maniacally. She opens the book, and it releases spirits on the world, when it turns out he still has the overdue book. Oops.

Mrs. Shusher in The Replacements episode “Quiet Riot

Shushing the protagonists

In the second part of the show’s third episode, Todd goes in the library after his sister, Riley, takes him there, calling it a “cool place,” saying it is full of adventure, fun, and excitement. As soon as they go on, the librarian, named Mrs. Shusher, shushes them. She remains strict, taking away some of his items as “noisy,” shushing him a second time, after pulling up a sign titled “silence is golden,” and get shushed at again. While Riley still likes the library as a “wonderful sanctuary of peace and quiet,” but Todd is annoyed. Another student, Buzz, declares that libraries are for “nerds with mustaches.” So, using his phone, Todd calls Flemco and they send a replacement librarian who doesn’t hate noise, but is the opposite. Ms. Osborne, arrives and says that in the library “you do not talk, you rock!” This librarian is basically a punk rocker who declares you “don’t need no books,” with everyone in the school flocking to the library. Todd’s father says that libraries are awesome because you can jump over them and if you fall through them, the “books can break your fall.” When Riley tells her parents that Todd replaced the librarian with a rock-and-roller, his parents say this is “imaginative” and applaud it. Riley struggles to find somewhere to study. Eventually the punk rocker librarian is removed and Mrs. Shusher returns, as the library is cleaned up, with Todd admitting that they need “places for work, as much as we need places for play.” So, perhaps the episode is endorsing/supporting quiet areas of a library?

The Librarian” in Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil

In the episode “If Books Could Kill,” after one of his friends returns the wrong book to the Mellowbrook Elementary School library, Kick, he tries to get his book back. But, the librarian (voiced by Suzanne Blakeslee) remains obstinate, literally closing down the library so he can’t get his book. As a result, he breaks into the library with the help of one of his friends to get the book back, trying to avoid the librarian, who is re-shelving books. She literally tries to kill Kick, throwing library cards, books, and other objects at him, later declaring that “everything in the library belongs to me, including YOU.” He escapes with what he thinks is the book, but it’s a trick. Not long after, he returns to the library on a bike, grabbing the book, only to be chased by the librarian, who rides a motorbike which is somehow behind the stacks. What kind of strange library is this, anyhow? They chase each other through the stacks as Kick tries to get his book back. He finally does get the book back and wins the battle against the librarian, even getting the sandwich his friend had accidentally put in the book slot. The librarian gets the last word, saying “you may have one this time, but you’ll be back. They always come back to the…LIBRARY!” and laughs maniacally. Over a season later, in the Season 2 episode “Shh!,” she reappears, when Kick has to go back to the library (begrudgingly) to research an animal, the Nuzzlet, for his report. He encounters the scary librarian, who says the next time he tries to get his book back, she will literally kill him. The Nuzzlet, of course, bites a hole in his bag and he has to chase it across the library, trying to act quietly when around the librarian, who is re-shelving books and is able to get to the study area, somehow, still with the animal. He gives the animal candy and it becomes a monster, which attacks him, biting him on the hand, comically, later throwing books at him. It even hilariously uses the card catalog to hit him across his body and later explodes the whole library, destroying everything. The librarian thinks Ronaldo, one of Kick’s rivals, caused the destruction and tries to kill him with a laser as a result of this. Again, a harsh treatment, which is unnecessary. The librarian apparently re-appears in the episode “Last Fan Standing.” At the end of the episode, Kick is crushed by a card catalog, just like the Nuzzlet did to him.

Libro Shushman in Teamo Supremo episode “Word Search”

Teamo Supremo and his friends travel to the State Library where they meet a librarian tired of people returning library books overdue so she “plans to steal all the words in the state using her Dictionary of Doom.” The librarian turns out to be a villain in this series and the main antagonist in this episode, sucking all the words from the books (and signs) in the library into her dictionary of doom, with Team Supremo and his friends trying to stop her. She even slides away on a slide-ladder to get away from them, ha. Her assistants trap the heroes in the library, between two bookcases, but they escape and stop her evil plans. The governor says their work will be included in the archives of superheroes, as the episode comes to a close.

Kaeloo in Kaeloo episode “Let’s Play at Reading Books

Kaeloo shushes her friends for making too much noise in the library

In the fourth episode of this French-Australian-Italian animated series, “Let’s Play at Reading Books,” a library forms around the show’s protagonists (Stumpy and Quack-Quack), thanks to Kaleoo (voiced by Emmanuel Garijo in French and Doug Rand in English dubs), and they play at “reading books.” Kaeloo says that in a library no one makes noise, and threatens her friends Stumpy and Quack-Quack for making any noise while reading books. Kaeloo, as the librarian, constantly shushes her friends for making a sound in the library. She says that Mr. Cat, her friend, can play “reading books” but can’t even make a sound “not any” because it is the rules. Stumpy, the squirrel, says he hates the library because he can’t find any comics or books with pictures, but finds one of their favorite superheroes. Mr. Cat steals the book of Quack-Quack, which is a little risque, as they both fight each other over trying to get the book. After that, Kaeloo goes through the library, throwing out the “not nice” and “dirty” books, getting so angry she burns them all in a fire, including the comics Stumpy likes so much, causing them to chase each other around the book fire. The episode ends with Kaeloo reading her friends a story to make up for what happened. All in all, this episode reinforces the stereotype of the library shusher, unfortunate for a series as fun and zany as this one. There are also scenes in libraries in other episodes, like one in the episode “Let’s Play Replicating,” where the clones of Stumpy, a squirrel and series protagonist, are reading books in a library. Additionally, in “Let’s Play Paper Balls,” Kaeloo is shelving books, getting some for her friends, including the Harry Rotter series, a spoof of the Harry Potter series, even directing her friend to another part of the library. Stumpy figures out a trick when a paper ball is thrown at Kaeloo’s head it changes her personality. When Kaeloo figures out they are tearing out pages of a book to make paper balls, she is annoyed that she becomes a monster, but her friends attack first, sending her far away. She later comes back, but she is so angry that she destroys the whole library in the process.

Rita Book in Timon & Pumbaa episode “Library Brouhaha”

I could have made many other screenshots, but these are all moments of the library being a total autocrat in the first two minutes of the episode! She later beats them with a baseball bat and shushes them

At the Don B. Loud Library, there are all sorts of signs telling patrons to be quiet and a library that runs a tight ship, even smacking a bird that comes by the widow and makes a chirp! Of course, Pumbaa, coming into the library, which is portrayed as a scary, foreboding place, knocks over the unnecessary library signs, annoying the librarian (Rita Book), who is voiced by Tress MacNeille, and her name means “read aloud” (the opposite of what she wants in the library) who shushes him, and he speeds up, saying that each of the books is a “doorway to adventure” and defends books when Timon says “books are for mooks.” They run from the librarian again, Pumbaa defines the term bookworm to Timon, with the librarian saying they will be “history” if they make “one more sound” and of course they make sounds, so she throws them out of the library. They sneak back into the library disguised as books, trying to find the bookworm, who keeps messing with them; the librarian beats them with a baseball bat and apparently kicks them out. Later, Timon puts headphones on her so she can’t hear them, with the bookworm continuing to mess with them, putting all sorts of noisy stuff in their way, and they continue to chase him throughout the library stacks, with the whole library being destroyed by their antics, later chasing him through various worlds created by books and films. Sadly, the shushing librarian gets the last word. There is an interesting contrast between the silence the librarian wants and the noise that Timon, Pumbaa, and the mischievous bookworm make, but no major point comes from this, unfortunately. So, in the time that Timon, Pumbaa, and the bookworm are in the other “worlds” they are unconscious, and who likely brought them to the hospital? The librarian! So, maybe they should thank her or at least understand things from her point of view.

Bat Librarian in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode “Mystic Library”

Bat Librarian threatens Raphael for making so much noise

In this episode, the turtles break into the public library to find information on how to save a creature from the mirror, with Donatello saying a library is a “treasure hunt” and that you never know “what gems you will find along the way.” They are transported to the Mystic Library by mistake. Donatello tries to talk to the Bat Librarian (also called “Yokai Librarian” in the credits of the episode), voiced by Gillian Vigman, who can’t tolerate even a small amount of noise inside the library. She shushes him and reluctantly helps him. Still, she tells him, and his friends (Leonardo and Raphael), that if she hears more than a whisper, her hush-bats will lock them up in the kiddie room, Donatello searches through the library catalog, finds where the book is. Ultimately, only Raphael of them is left and has to go through the library stacks, chased by the hush-bats. He gets the book, but much of the library is destroyed in the process.

Stickler librarian in Rugrats

Librarian annoyed with Kimi messing with the stapler on her circulation desk

In the episode”Quiet Please!,” they all go to the library, so their parents can return a book, with Chas saying that the library is a special place, with books taking you everywhere you want to go, and calls it your “special ticket to the world.” Chas also tries to get his children Kimi and Chuckie their own library cards. The librarian (voiced by Beverly Archer) agrees, handing him an absurdly high stack of papers, and outlines library rules: total silence, no food allowed, and all books have to be returned to the shelves. She says that the children of Chas are adorable…if they remember the rules. Chas tells Chuckie that the library card is his “ticket to the world.” Of course, Kimi says that the rules don’t matter, while Chuckie wants to stick by the library rules. While they all go to library storytime, Kira looks for Chas, her husband, while the librarian interrogates Chas on a small rip on a book. Meanwhile, Chuckie, and his siblings, look for his library card. The librarian tasks Chuck with doing various tasks to make the library more efficient. So, maybe she wasn’t the worst after all?

Honorable mention: Count Spunkulout in Codename: Kids Next Door 

Count Spunkulout after spanking Hoagie, Kuki, Wallabee, and Abigail

In the episode “Operation: C.A.N.N.O.N.,” Spunkulout (voiced by Daran Norris) joins several villains, attacking the Sector V Treehouse when its defensive systems are down, proceeding to spank Hoagie, Kuki, Wallabee, and Abigail for not paying library fines before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Yikes! If a librarian ordered that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Second honorable mention: Ms. L in Dexter’s Laboratory episode “Book ‘Em”

Dexter goes to the public library and a shape is seen in the distance, with music like that in Jaws, which ends up being his sister, Didi. He talks to her softly, saying you have to keep quiet because it is a library, with a sign behind him saying “silence is golden.” After checking out all sorts of books from the library, back in his laboratory, he finds a book that isn’t checked out that Didi brought back, and has nightmares about being banned from the library for life. He decides to return the book, breaking in at night to return it. Unfortunately, Dexter yells and two muscular men, led by the librarian (voiced by Kath Soucie), go to get them because they exceeded the “noise level,” absurdly triggering an alarm. Didi decides to give up, with the librarian congratulating her for “apprehending” him. As punishment for talking loud, Dexter has to tell a story at library storytime. In the episode “The Blonde Leading the Blonde,” Dexter has to return a book because it is three hours overdue. The librarian in that episode, voiced by Mindy Cohn is much more helpful, just doing some work on his library account and gives his card back. He doesn’t even have to pay a fine!

Third honorable mention: Librarian in Martin Mystery episode “Return of the Dark Druid”

The library in this university, Torrington Academy, was located on the “first floor with shelves of books that are stacked properly, wooden desks with tables, benches, chairs, computers, lamps and the librarian’s desk” as noted on the fandom page. The episode begins with one of the characters dropping a bunch of books she had balanced on her head and everyone else in the library shushing her. Martin talks to her and sings loudly, causing the glass to shatter, and the librarian to scowl at them, leading them to leave the library. In this case, getting angry at Martin, and Diana by extension was definitely justified. After they leave, some students walk by and laugh, but the librarian does not shush them. Still, you could say she falls into this stereotype, in terms of her portrayal as a scary, menacing figure. They later go to a local records center/historical society/local library to learn more about the local town, but no librarian is present there. In the episode “The Warlock Returns,” there is another librarian, younger and still with glasses, who says there are books in the basement of the library which allow one to view valuable books about local legends. Of course, he sneaks down into the basement, finds a book, and has the librarian get annoyed at him (rightly so) for going down to the basement. He escapes out the window and somehow survives without getting terribly injured. Later, he returns to the basement in hopes of stopping the evil wizard he freed from turning everyone in the school into small animals. On IMDB, neither librarian is unfortunately not credited, as is typical for animated series, sadly.

Countering the shushing librarian stereotype?: Librarian ghost in Archie’s Weird Mysteries

Librarian ghost talks to Jughead and explains her actions

In the episode, “The Haunting of Riverdale,” Riverdale is haunted by a ghost librarian, Violet Stanhope (uncredited), who is “apparently liking her job too much.” Archie tells Jughead to go to the Riverdale Archives to dig up any similar occurrences, but he runs away, so Archie goes to the library by himself. He talks to the librarian, Ms. Herrera, sets up at his usual research table “for weird mysteries,” and looks through a whole stack of books, but he can’t find what he is looking for. He says that whatever the answer to the mystery is “it isn’t here at the library.” Stumped, he hears from one of his friends, Betty, about a similar experience someone had, of clutching an overdue library notice and muttering “Quiet Violet,” supporting what he saw his friend at school (Reggie) tell him earlier in the episode. When he returns to the library Ms. Herrera pulls Archie aside and tells him that she doesn’t want to alarm the library patrons, but a lot of “unusual occurrences” had been happening recently since she took over as head librarian. Archie after talking with her a little more continues to look through the library stacks from the poltergeist, but can’t find anything. He comes across her and she turns out to be the former head librarian, who is haunting the library itself, telling him to be quiet, respect the library, and more, scaring away all the other library patrons, not surprisingly. Jughead tells a story of how, at age 6, Violet told him to go to the children’s section, said he had a book “not for him,” and after she told him to be quiet (and come back), he ran away from the library, never to come back. Betty counters this by saying that Violet helped her get her first library card. Jughead, Archie, and Betty go back to the library which is deserted except for Ms. Herrera, who explains that for Violet she never wanted to scare anyone away but that the library was her life, and she even published a memoir of her time as a librarian. She explains to Jughead why she did all those things to Jughead and put it into context, so he understands her actions, which he had misinterpreted completely, adding she always waited for him to come back so she could show him “how enjoyable our library was.” She further says that people who like books should “never be judged by others” and saying she never meant to frighten anyone. She agrees with Betty, who tells her that Ms. Herrera will take care of the library, on the condition that Jughead gets a library card. He agrees to this, she says goodbye to them. Archie concludes that while she is gone, as a ghost, her good influence on Riverdale will never go away, with Jughead rediscovering the library after years of avoiding it. Yay for the librarian! Yay!

Final words

Contrasting all these examples is Too Loud, where the town’s mayor is tired of Jeffrey and Sara being so loud, so he tells them to be quiet, which impairs their ability to help patrons, the episode “Chapter 11: The Jorts Incident,” in the second season of Hilda where Kaisa, the librarian, tells Frida, David, and Hilda to “keep it down, because this is a library after all,” but is never shown shushing them. Too Loud turns the stereotype on its head, a brilliant way of countering it. In the future, I’ll continue this and point out other series which have negative portrayals of librarians or libraries while looking for more positive ones at the same time. I hope there are more positive portrayals, like the ones I have written about on I Love Libraries, [8] than negative ones, but each one of them needs to be countered and pointed out.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] TV Tropes points out examples of the Scary Librarian trope in Arthur (in the character Miss Turner), Avatar: The Last Airbender (in the knowledge spirit Wan Shi Tong in the episode “The Library”), Big City Greens (in the episode “Quiet Please” with a strict librarian), Carl Squared (Miss Dickens in the episode “Carl’s Techno-Jinx”), Codename: Kids Next Door (Count Spunkulout who seems to work for librarians), Courage the Cowardly Dog (old librarian in the episode “Wrath of the Librarian”), Dexter’s Laboratory (Dexter becoming a scary librarian while assisting an actual librarian), Kaeloo (Kaeloo becomes a librarian in one episode), DuckTales (In this series which began in 2017, Miss Quakfaster, in the episode “The Great Dime Chase!” she takes her job dramatically and very seriously, threatening Webby and Dewey with a huge sword for “disrespecting the archives”), Hilda (in terms of Kaisa being a witch, but this is solved in season 2), Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil (Kick deals with a librarian, who has gone bonkers, and has to break into a library), Kim Possible (Mrs. Hatchett in the episode “Overdue”), Martin Mystery (One librarian at Martin’s university growls at him for messing with books), Moral Orel (the school librarian is a scary old woman who pickets in front of a cinema and  burns books!), The Replacements (In the episode “Quiet Riot,” the librarian who replaces Miss Osborne fits every stereotype), Teamo Supremo (Libro Shushman becomes a supervillain), and says that a ghost of a librarian in Archie’s Weird Mysteries subverts this. Examples of the “hot librarian” trope in Western animation, according to the same site, is The Simpsons (the episode where Marge and Lisa go to see the movie Tango de la Muerte), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Professor Bertinelli), episodes of King of the Hill and Pinky and the Brain. TV Tropes further lists three series as having spooky silent library: an episode of Arthur, the episode “The Library” of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the “Buggin’ The System” episode of Megas XLR. The site lists Wan Shi Tong in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Scary Librarian in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes “Wrath of the Librarian” and “The Pixie and the Prickle Pirate,” the witchy librarian in Hilda (Kaisa), Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Mrs. Clara in Welcome to the Wayne as magic librarians.

[2] Gooding-Call, Anna. “The History and Debunking of Librarian Stereotypes.” Book Riot, Jan. 20, 2020; Manser, Jamie. “Shushing the Librarian Stereotype,” Zocalo Magazine, Mar. 2, 2015; “The Shushing Stereotype and Communicating with Heart,” Moving Train Library, Feb. 11, 2017; Barone, Gabrielle. “‘I don’t shush’: Local Librarians share their thoughts stereotypes rooted in their profession,” The Daily Collegian, Nov. 15, 2017; Keer, Gretchen; Carlos, Andrew, “The Stereotype Stereotype,” American Libraries, Oct. 30, 2015; “Unfriendly Librarian,” Librarian Stereotypes, Oct. 14, 2012; Shaw, Katy. “Buns on the Run: Changing the Stereotype of the Female Librarian,” Oct. 2003; Radford, Marie. “Shushing, Shelving, and Stamping” in Chapter 11: Media and Culture: The “Reality” of Media Effects (by Mark P. Orbe) within Part III: Navigating Inter/Cultural Communication in a Complex World of Inter/Cultural Communication: Representation and Construction of Culture (by Anatascia Kuylo, US: Sage Publications, 2013), 240-242; “No more shushing: Meet SUNY Broome’s Librarians,” SUNY Broome, Nov. 25, 2014; “Librarian Stereotypes and Library Heroes,” The Hub, Sept. 23, 2014; Moulder, Becky. “Five Things I’ve Learned about Penn Librarians as a Faux Librarian,” Penn Libraries Teaching, Research, and Learning, Oct. 19, 2018; “Librarians and their stereotypes,” Cakealicious Cakes, Jun. 12, 2016; Radford, Marie L. “Librarian Stereotypes, Alive & Well, Alas,” librarygarden, May 21, 2010.

[3] Miller, Laura. “Bring back shushing librarians,” Salon, Jan. 31, 2013; Cowell, Jane. “Silence: Should Librarians Apologize for providing quiet?,” Medium, Aug. 5, 2017; Fernandez, Michelle L. “Why Aren’t More Public Librarians Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine?,” Feb. 22, 2021; Hutton, Rachel. “Beyond books: Minnesota’s rural libraries find playful ways to remain relevant,” Star Tribune, Nov. 25, 2019; Guion, David. “The librarian’s job,” Reading, Writing, Research, May 18, 2011; Blackburn, Heidi, “Gender Stereotypes Male Librarians Face Today,” Library Worklife, Sept. 2015; Spitzer, Gabriel. “Librarians Go Wild For Gold Book Cart,” NPR, Jul 13, 2009; “The Librarian Stereotype,” The Cranky Librarian, Jan. 9, 2008; Oliver, Amanda. “Working as a librarian gave me post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 19, 2019; LaGarde, Jennifer. “‘Librarians Don’t Shush Anymore!’ And Other Things I Wish Were True,” The Adventures of Library Girl, Apr. 6, 2020; “School and Public Librarians: Warriors for Literacy,” Sowing Seeds Librarian, Nov. 3, 2018; Rebecca, “Shushing and Shelving: Librarians in Pop Culture,” SCALA Oregon, Oct. 26, 2010; Anderson, Kristen Julia. “More to Librarians Than a Stereotype,” Luna Station Quarterly, Apr. 5, 2016; Allen, Mary Elizabeth. “Focus On Your Skills,” Hack Library School, Jan. 14, 2021; Halverson, Matthew. “A Talk with Marcellus Turner, City Librarian, the Seattle Public Library,” SeattleMet, Jul. 22, 2011; Lewin, Livia. “Lib Loop: Dispelling the shushing librarian,” SierraSun, Oct. 10, 2017; Kipen, David. “Librarians arrive, whoop it up, give prizes,” SFGate, Feb. 1, 2012; “Meet Your Librarian: Melanie Trotter,” School libraries of Robertson County, Jan. 4, 2018.

[4] The blog says that for them, a librarian is “someone who works in a lending library,” meaning that they might not have an MLIS, and that “para-professionals, library assistants, student workers, and the like are all fair game.” I can understand this, but I would say it could exclude special libraries from the mix, so I’d say a librarian shouldn’t be, strictly, someone who works in a lending library. In fact, Merriam-Webster calls a librariana specialist in the care or management of a library,” so that’s pretty broad. So, I think that librarians who are in lending libraries should be highlighted more than other librarians, but it doesn’t mean that those not in lending libraries should be ignored when it comes to representation.

[5] Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “The shushing librarian: Celebration or scorn?,” Reel Librarians, Feb. 5, 2013; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Typical or stereotypical?,” Reel Librarians, Jan. 11, 2012.

[6] Specifically scenes from The Philadelphia Story (1940), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Tomcats (2001), and Hammett (1982) when it came to shushers, spinsters, and sirens. She also highlighted a brief library scene in Pickup on South Street (1953), a scene in the film Party Girl (1995), and a monstrarial library in Doctor Strange (2016), along with many other films. I’d recommend reading her whole handout used in her lecture.

[7] The blog, since abandoned, discussed five stereotypes in popular media: the “sexy” librarian, the frumpy librarian, the male librarian, the unfriendly librarian, and the timid/introverted librarian.

[8] For I Love Libraries, I’ve written about Cleopatra in Space, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Hilda (two times here and here), Too Loud, and Mira, Royal Detective.

Categories
action adventure animation anime Black people fantasy Fiction genres Japanese people Librarians Libraries live-action Movies romance science fiction speculative fiction White people

Lacking “proper, consistent representation”: Librarians in popular culture

As I continue to chronicle mentions of libraries and librarians in popular culture, mainly in animation, I came across an article in Book Riot by Rachel Rosenberg, who says she enjoys “storytimes, books, movies, travel, cross-stitching and sarcasm,” calls herself a “library tech & soon full librarian” on Twitter, and has written about children’s books on libraries and librarians, quaranzines collected by libraries, picture books written by librarians, NYPL-recommended books, the first Puerto Rican librarian in NYC (Pure Belpré), and many other topics. [1] The article, published back in March, is titled with a valid question: “Why Aren’t There More Librarians in Pop Culture?” She begins by saying that librarians are still “lacking proper, consistent representation in pop culture,” asking how “many librarian characters can you name,” specifically not those librarians who are in a scene either running or shushing people, rather someone who is “interesting and funny, perhaps with nuance and more to do than just reminding someone about fines or telling them to be quiet.” She goes onto say that “librarians often get a bad rap,” saying that librarians are “information detectives” and “Knowers of Things! Doers of research! Creators of fun, free programs!,” adding that the characters she will highlight are those which “reflect aspects of the real job of a library professional,” lamenting that her list is very White, arguing that “pop culture needs (a) more librarians and (b) more POC librarians,” an argument which I completely agree with. She goes onto mention the following librarians on the silver screen in-depth, complete with relatable moments: Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lizzie Benson in Jenny Offhill’s book (Weather), Mary in Party Girl, Tammy Swanson/Tammy II in Parks and Recreation, and Bunny Watson in Desk Set.

She concludes by telling people to ask librarians about their daily work, expanding the understanding of the “strange and delightful lives” of librarians, saying they can “probably tell you some very interesting stories that you won’t soon forget.” While I can’t comment on any of the examples she pointed out, as I haven’t watched any of those series or films, I would like to provide ten examples of positive librarians [2] in Western animations and anime. Merriam-Webster defines librarians broadly as anyone who works in a library, specialists in care and management of a library, and as library directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also defines the word broadly as those who help people “find information and conduct research for personal and professional use,” typically needing an MLIS or MLS, with some positions having additional requirements. Similarly, the now-defunct LISWiki describes librarians as those “responsible for the care of a library and its contents, including the selection and processing of materials and the delivery of information, library instruction, and loan services to meet the needs of its users” with most possessing some type of library degree. [3] While this definitely differs from archivists, scribes (defunct profession), and superintendents of documents, one could say that library technicians (formerly a BLS category) easily fall into the category of librarians (as they would be paraprofessionals) and librarianship as a whole. As such, I am using librarian broadly here, as Hisami Hishishii, Yamada, Azusa Aoi, Fumi, and Chiyo Tsukudate are student assistants, while others (George, Lance, Dr. Oldham, and Lilith) are self-taught. Perhaps “The Librarian” in Hilda is the only one with a professional degree, and a presumed reference librarian, along with Myne in her former life. None of those on this list, however, are bibliographers, reader’s advisors, interns or those with a practicum. I thought I’d point this out before going forward.

Anyway, like Rosenberg’s list, my list is composed of mostly light-skinned, with the exception being George and Lance. So here it goes! Enjoy! Comments are welcome.

Dr. Oldham in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Dr. Oldham is a light-skinned Japanese male sage and medical doctor, who works in a library on a spire, an equivalent to an ivory tower. They spend over two and a half minutes in the library, with bookshelves shown, with Oldham having a shelf of books nearby, which could be called a reference shelf. In this way, he does fulfill his library duties as he is serving a patron, although not in the way we usually envision. In another episode, a library is shown which has data files and not books. Sadly, he does not appear in any other episodes. Still, this laughing librarian (laughing at Ledo, who acts arrogant and declares that the social organization of Gargantia doesn’t make sense) lives on for me in so many ways.

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

Lance (on the left) and George (on the right)

This show, which is known for its LGBTQ representation, included two characters which can arguably be seen as librarians, although they call themselves historians. They are George and Lance, the middle-aged Black dads of series protagonist Bow, and they run a library in a magical forest called the Whispering Woods. In the season 2 finale, Bow and his friends, Adora and Glimmer, work with them to translate an ancient message. Adora accidentally releases a monster into the library and Bow reveals his true identity to his dads, who end up embracing him for who he is, accepting it, something which many see as echoing family coming-out stories from the LGBTQ+ community. In a later episode, Bow and Glimmer meet George and Lance who tell them about an ancient rebellion and fail-safe on a superweapon, information which becomes vitally important going forward.

Myne in Ascendance of A Bookworm

Myne loudly declares she wants to reorganize the church library

Myne, the protagonist of this anime, advocates for re-organizing all the books in a temple library using the NDC (Nippon Decimal Classification) system, the Japanese version of the Dewey Decimal System” and even though she is unable to organize all the books she wants since magic books are “off-limits,” she still makes her “mark on this society,” with libraries shown to have value various times in the episode. Myne, a librarian in her former life, tries to make books so she can share them with others, creating a library. Anyway, she is dedicated to reorganizing information, first by her own design, then following a library classification system, which is amazing, as I haven’t seen any animation to date do this, or have a PSA about it, so that’s cool.

“The Librarian” in Hilda

While she has not yet gotten a name in the show’s first season, she has become a fan sensation, is a feisty character, and has been a subject of a lot of chatter on the fan base. She is, so far, a mysterious librarian who has an extensive, and unmatched “knowledge of cemetery records and mystical items.” In one episode, she drops a book on a nearby table, telling Hilda and her friends that it might be of interest, giving them what they need. In another, Hilda comes upon the hidden special collections room, and she is told that reference books cannot be circulated, so she copies a page from the book, able to lift the enchantment on her friend and mother just in time thanks to the information she learns in the episode. In yet another episode, the librarian anticipates her question, able to draw upon her expertise to help them, even giving Hilda the necessary materials to raise the dead, even while warning her, doing so in order to help Hilda, a patron, with something important. In the final episode of the first season, we see her walking across the streets of Trolberg, and she will likely have a role in the show’s upcoming season, which will begin streaming sometime in December 2020. The series is popular enough that it even spurred a fan-made cartoon titled Zilda which is inspired by the show, ha.

Hisami Hishishii in R.O.D the TV

Hisa in various episodes of R.O.D. the TV

Although she only a library club member at a high school in Japan, she still seems to fulfill her library duties to the best extent possible and likes to hang out there with others. She never shushes anyway and helps other patrons, although she is not seen in her library duties as much as I would like. Even so, she is friends with the protagonist and Anita King (a papermaster), who puts on the persona, at times, of a bratty young girl. This series also features an episode which focuses on the National Diet Library, the equivalent of the Library of Congress in Japan, which was awesome, and book burning by the villains who want to “make a point” and engage in thought control in a plan which is megalomaniacal from the start.

Lilith in Yamibou

Lilith is a caretaker of the Great Library, a repository that contains “all of the worlds in the universe within books.” While much of the series is her traveling with her crush, Hazuki, searching from book world to book world looking for Eve, which Hazuki knows as “Hatsumi,” who she has romantic feelings for. Later, it is shown that Eve is another caretaker of the library. By making sure that the worlds within the books are secure, in this sense you could say that Lilith is doing her duty as a librarian. Libraries don’t come up in this series as much as I would have wanted, but they are still a key part of this series as a whole.

Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words

In the episode “Did You See the Rain?,” Azusa Aoi 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 to discover what the message means. Azusa is a studious person who reads during breaks and takes an interest in learning, perfect for a librarian!

Yamada in B Gata H Kei

In the episode “Boy Meets Girl. Please Give Me Your ‘First Time’!!” [part 1], Yamada is assigned to be a school volunteer at the library as is her crush Kosuda. Yamada says she didn’t like the library because it smells but fantasizes about hiding spots to have love with Kosuda. She tries to seduce him there and it fails. In a later episode, “A Valentine of Sweat and Tears! Love(?) From Yamada is Put Into It” [Part 1],  Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. Then, in “Improve the Erotic Powers! It’s My First Time Feeling This Sensation…” [Part 2], they are both in the library again, with Yamada trying to get Kosuda interested in her romantically again. This doesn’t work, leaving her alone in the library after he leaves, he then comes back and is embarrassed by her actions. In the first of these episodes, she does perform some library duties, but she is mostly trying, and failing, to get Kosuda to like her in a long list of failed attempts, as she learns more about herself along the way and who she is as a person. In a later episode, of the show, “Throbbing Christmas Eve. What Does a First Kiss Taste Like?” [part 1], Yamada and Kosuda are volunteering in the library together. The scene of them in the school library is noticeably short.

Fumi Manjōme in Aoi Hana / Sweet Blue Flowers

In the episode “Winter Fireworks,” Fumi does weeding of books in the library and remembers her kiss with Sugimoto. Later in the episode, she later talks with other students about the role/influence the Literary Club has on the library. In another episode, “Adolescence is Beautiful,” Fumi and Sugimoto go to the library and kiss there. In any case, Fumi at least knows some library skills, in terms of weeding, which is an important part of library work, even if it can be controversial at times (if you get rid of the “wrong” books).

Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!

In the library, doing her library duties

In the episode, “Hydrangeas,” one of the places they look for Nagisa’s umbrella is at the library and there is a librarian named Chiyo Tsukidate, a fellow student at the school. She is a member of the Library Club who works as a librarian in Astraea’s Library, looking up to people like Nagisa and Tomao, likely having a crush on Nagisa. She is shown, various times, engaging in her librarian duties, checking out books and the like. She is such a nice person and does her library duties well and efficiently, as shown in the episodes.

Closing words

And that’s all I have for now. There are many other series I mention on my pages reviewing animation and anime, but none of them have librarians I can remember by name, just featuring libraries. [4] One exception to that is Cardcaptor Sakura. In the episode “Sakura and Her Summer Holiday Homework,” the protagonists (Sakura, Tomoyo, and Kero) look for the piglet book, the librarian tells them that one copy should be there after looking at her computer, saying that it is still within the library somewhere, so they look through the stacks for it. Later, Sakura looks through the main study area, to see if anyone has the book, and the book somehow teleports across the library, probably with the use of a Clow Card. In the episode, various librarians are seen going about their duties. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of their faces are shown, so they are basically in the background. However, this is better than other anime or even Western animation.

© 2020 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This includes posts celebrating NYPL’s 125th anniversary, drag queen storytimes, NYPL and mental wellness, books that could be included in kindergarten libraries, and a variety of other posts.

[2] As such, I am excluding the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe, the librarian made dumb in Futurama, the old librarian in She-Ra: Princess of Power, Turtle Princess in Adventure Time, the curmudgeon librarian in DC Super Hero Girls, the elderly librarian in Zevo-3, the librarian susher in The Owl House, and the curmudgeon and smug librarian in Mysticons, along with a woman in a cloak, presumably a nun in the stacks of the library, in Aoi Hana (also known as Sweet Blue Flowers), The Mystic Archives of Dantalian (if Dantalian is considered a librarian at all), and a small mention of a librarian in Little Witch Academia.

[3] According to the Australian Library and Information Association [dead link], librarians and information specialists have a “strong focus on assisting people and organisations and possess unique technical skills to manage and retrieve information. They thrive on change and seek challenges that require creative solutions.” In addition, the Special Libraries Association notes that librarians are among those who have “responsibility for elements of knowledge and information management,” putting them into the category of “information professionals.”

[4] For Western animation, this includes LoliRock, RWBY, Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, Carmen Sandiego, Neo Yokio, OK K.O.: Let’s Be Heroes!, Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths, and Legends, Sym-Bionic Titan, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Glitch Techs, Bravest Warriors, Amphibia, Victor & Valentino, and Tangled. For anime, this includes Read or Die, R.O.D the TV, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Manaria Friends, El-Hazard, Classroom of the Elite, Kandagawa Jet Girls, Ice (anime), Kampfer, Macross Frontier, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Bloom Into You, Kuttsukiboshi, Lapis Re: Lights, Paradise Kiss, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, Wandering Son, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches to name the ones I have listed so far.