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Recently added titles (July 2022)

Willow and Amity fight in the library in the The Owl House episode “Labyrinth Runners”

Building upon the titles listed for July/August, September, OctoberNovember, and and December 2021, and January, February, March, April, May, and June of this year, this post notes recent titles with libraries or librarians in popular culture which I’ve come across in the past month. Each of these has been watched or read during the past month. Not as many animated series or anime with libraries this past month, but I did come across a good deal in comics, whether in graphic novels or webcomics, and hopefully there will be more that I find in the days, weeks, and months to come. That’s my hope at least.

Animated series recently added to this page

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “Siege of the North, Part 2”
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, “The Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Secret Book Club”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Kelsey the Author”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Haunted Dollhouse”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Ferret Quest”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Last Game of the Summer”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Welcome to Creek Street”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Capture the Flag Part 4: The Plan”
  • Craig of the Creek, “The Legend of the Library”
  • Craig of the Creek, “Fire and Ice”
  • The Owl House, “Labyrinth Runners”

Anime series recently added to this page

  • A Couple of Cuckoos, “You Can’t Just Pretend It Didn’t Happen”
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero, “The Shield Hero”*

*Keep in mind that I do not recommend this series, and only watched two episodes before I stopped watching it. Read more about the controversy with this series here.

Comics recently added to this page

  • Greta the Red Wolf, “Foreboding”
  • Greta the Red Wolf, “A Series of Unexpected Events”
  • Sabine: an asexual coming of age story, “One Hundred Twenty Four”
  • Spellbound, “Ep116 – Weird”
  • Spellbound, “Ep117 – All good then!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep126 – Another game?”
  • Spellbound, “Ep127 – Sulky face”
  • Spellbound, “Ep128 – Not Happy!”
  • Spellbound, “Ep129 – Let’s make it ok”
  • Spellbound, “Ep2 – Organise – Season 2”
  • Tamberlane, “Issue 131”
  • The Siren’s Light, “Chapter 5 (4)”
  • Vixen: NYC, “Episode 4”
  • Winter Before Spring, “Episode 46”

Films recently added to this page

No films to add for this month.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Thank you to all the people that regularly read my blog. As always, if you have any titles you’d like to suggest, let me know. Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtright as quoted in a Dec. 2017 HuffPost article

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of the Stanza

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

About the library

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

Role in the story

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

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

Does the library buck stereotypes?

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

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Categories
action adventure animation comedy dimly lit libraries fantasy Fiction genres Libraries Pop culture mediums school libraries science fiction speculative fiction

More Than the “Internet on Paper”: Libraries in “Milo Murphy’s Law”

In recent years, libraries have become prominent in animated series, especially all-ages ones. This includes Disney animated series like DuckTales, Amphibia, Big City Greens, The Ghost and Molly McGee, and Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure. One Disney series goes beyond these examples: an exciting, sci-fi comedy named Milo Murphy’s Law. This 40-episode show is centered around Milo Murphy, who is a cyclone of calamity wherever he goes due to Murphy’s Law, meaning that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Unlike its related antecedent, Phineas and Ferb, no librarians appear in Milo Murphy’s Law. Libraries still play an important part in the series, beginning in the first season episode “The Math Book”. In this episode, Milo, Melissa, and Zack venture after hours into the dimly lit school library, which has cobwebs everywhere, to retrieve the key in the science classroom. When they walk inside the library, Melissa remarks that it is “like the internet, but on paper.” After Milo pulls a book with hope that it will open a secret passageway, a library shelf falls, a wall crumbles, and a passage is revealed, allowing them to get to the science classroom.

The library scene in the episode is short, but it’s similar to those in the animated series Hilda and Mira, Royal Detective, where characters travel through secret passageways from the library. Library stereotypes are common–Melissa’s comment makes the library appear old-fashioned and the library is a dark, uninviting place–but the library is still shown as a key place of knowledge, nonetheless.

Similar themes shine through in the Season One episode “Missing Milo,” where Milo, Dakota, and Cavendish travel into the future where they consult a library hoping to learn what allowed mutant pistachios (Pistachions) to take over the world and enslave humanity. The episode shows that the library is a crucial repository of knowledge. The scene reminded me of Vox, the librarian in the 2002 film, Time Machine, who is the heart and soul of the film.

The episode, “Backward to School Night,” finds Milo, Zack, and Melissa having to take on adult responsibilities to care for their parents, who are running wild like children. There is a scene where Melissa reads to the kid/parents in a makeshift storytime. When the storytime ends, the kid/parents grow increasingly impatient and run around with boundless energy, causing the library shelves to collapse.

A lesson that librarians could take away from this episode is that you should not make your young patrons unhappy, especially during storytime. The episode also communicates the value of libraries as a way to teach stories to children, just as Amity Blight did when she read to children at the local library in The Owl House.

One Milo Murphy’s Law episode directly references libraries and cataloging, despite the scene in question not taking place in a library.

Although the episode is not specifically about libraries, is very rare for a series, especially an animated series, or even in live action, so that makes the episode unique. Cataloging one of the many tasks that librarians have to complete, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes, and is vital, as it involves creating metadata about resources like images, audio recordings, and books. This is further actualized in the role of cataloging librarians who prepare bibliographic records to represent library acquisitions and provide efficient retrieval and access for those accessing the catalog.

In “The Note,” Milo reveals that Melissa keeps a record of all his adventures, making them “easier to catalogue.” Zack is intrigued by this, so Melissa shows him her phone which has photos from all of Milo’s adventures. It’s also revealed that Milo uses the records to keep track of how many unexcused absences he has during a month.

The photo gallery in Melissa’s phone is likely nothing like a library catalog. It probably doesn’t contain image descriptions, as the metadata is in Melissa’s head rather than directly connected to the image. However, Melissa probably organizes the photos into specific folders, or even sub-folders, since she is smart but “sometimes a little scatterbrained.” She is shown to organize her information succinctly, so it is possible that the photo gallery has the same dedication to detail. She even keeps a complete record of their adventures, along with other objects and data, to document instances of Murphy’s Law that they experience in order to help her friend, Milo.

Libraries also appear in the Season Two episode, “Picture Day,” when Milo’s friends try to take a decent photograph of him for the school yearbook. This begins with Amanda Lopez, Milo’s love interest, trying to take a photo of him (and other students) in the library. Hilariously, Amanda has a library backdrop for her photos, even though she is taking student pictures in the library. Ever the perfectionist, Amanda justifies it by noting that her background depicts a “slightly nicer library” than the real school library. Milo’s friends carry Amanda’s backdrop with them throughout the episode as they try to photograph him for his student picture.

While libraries don’t have as large of a role in Milo Murphy’s Law as in the Disney series, Elena of Avalor, the show still asserts the value and importance of libraries.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is reprinted from I Love Libraries, where it was published on February 4, 2022 of this year.

Categories
action adventure animation fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries magic libraries Pop culture mediums speculative fiction

Fictional Library of the Month: Library of the Eternal Equinox in “Mysticons”

Library of the Eternal Equinox from the front in the episode “Happily Never After”

Hello everyone! This is the fifth edition of my feature series, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the ones for November, December, January, and February) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, this post will focus on Library of the Eternal Equinox in Mysticons episode “Happily Never After.”

About the library

A mythical and vast library which is high in the clouds, guarded very closely, only accessed by privileged top Astromancers or almighty gods or goddesses. There are thousands of spellbooks, with some of the strongest spells, in addition to ordinary books. Mr. Snellson is the enforcer of the library. He is a large snail who enforces the rules and wants a safe, happy, and quiet library for all. He is also a literary agent.

Role in the story

The protagonists come there to stop Proxima from acquiring an ancient ink but become trapped within the librarian’s ancient, mystical tome. Arkayna tries to reach Proxima, but Proxima pushes her away. The protagonists stop the library from burning, but Proxima escapes.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

Perhaps, but it also falls into the libraries-are-magic/librarians-are-magic idea, which, as has been explained on this blog, is a bad thing. However, the library itself is well-lit and above ground, so in that way, I suppose it does go against stereotypes.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Just like the libraries in What…If?Hilda, and Welcome to the Wayne, it is a magical library in more ways than one, which brings with it problems of its own. So, it does have similarities with libraries as a result of that.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Categories
action adventure animation Fiction genres Libraries magic libraries magical girl

Fictional Library of the Month: Library in “LoliRock”

Talia after putting a book back in the library

Hello everyone! This is the fourth edition of my feature series, “Fictional Library of the Month” (see the ones for November, December, and January) which includes a post of one fictional library every month, prioritizing currently airing shows, but also including older shows. And with that, this post will focus on the library shown in many episodes of LoliRock.

About the library

The library holds many magical books and items which can be used if needed, but it can also been corrupted, as it is in various episodes. It can easily be called a magic library.

Role in the story

The library is where characters practice their magic skills and learn new spells, but it is also a secret magical room where you can learn about spells from specific books. Talia specifically works to keep order in these rooms of the library.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

It easily falls into the libraries-are-magic stereotype. Since there are no librarians it doesn’t fulfill any of the stereotypes with librarians. So, in some ways, I suppose you could say it goes against library stereotypes, but in others it reinforces stereotypes.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

There are many magic libraries in other shows, like Hilda, What…If?, Mysticons, and Welcome to the Wayne to name a few. So, in that way, it does have similarities to other shows. Unlike those libraries, there are no librarians, which is unfortunate and something which could have been remedied easily, but sadly was not.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Mateo in “Elena of Avalor”

One of my favorite librarians, if you could call him that, Mateo in Elena of Avalor.

Hello everyone! This continues from the “Fictional Librarian of the Month” entries for November and December, with this series focusing on fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently shows, but also covering older shows, using entries from the “List of fictional libraries” from time to time. This month, I’d like to highlight Mateo from Elena of Avalor, who is also a wizard!

About the librarian

Mateo, whose full name is Mateo de Alva, is one of the closest friends of Princess Elena, whose namesake is in the series. He is a defacto librarian and is Latine, with his voice actor, Joseph Haro, a Miami-born gay actor with Cuban parents.

Role in the story

Mateo is a supporting character in Elena of Avalor who first appears in flashbacks in the film Elena and the Secret of Avalor and debuts in the show’s first episode, “First Day of Rule.” He helps Elena by serving as her advisor in royal matters and as a friend, as she faces off against villains and attempts to protect her kingdom.

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

In some ways, Mateo does because he is a Latine man who does not shush people, like many librarians have in animated series covered on this blog, he also bucks stereotypes of Latine people. He is not a cholo (a criminal / gang member), a immigrant, a person a homogeneous origin, a hard labor worker, shows any sort of machismo, or uneducated/lackadaisical, is all of the stereotypes of Latine men. [1]

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

Not necessarily. I can’t think of any Latine men in any series I have watched who are librarians. So, that makes him a unique character in many ways, many more than one. That is part of the reason I put together this post, so as to highlight not only one of my favorite characters but a character who is unlike other librarians on this blog.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Latine women have, according to scholars summarized by the “Stereotypes of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States” Wikipedia page, been depicted in popular media as passive, dependent on men, sexy, promiscuous, tempestuous, hot-tempered, virginal, less intelligent, passive, and aggressive, leading them to be eroticized, especially in the marketing industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

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

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

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Desiree in “Too Loud”

Desiree introduces herself in the episode “Slumber Party!”

Hello everyone! This continues from last month’s first “Fictional Librarian of the Month,” and features one fictional librarian every month, prioritizing those in currently shows, but also covering older shows, using entries from the “List of fictional libraries” from time to time. This month, I’d like to highlight Desiree in Too Loud, the only trans librarian I have ever written about on this blog. [1] Hopefully there are more trans librarians in the future I can write about!

About the librarian

She is one of the protagonists in the series, called by a different name in the series, [2] one which I noted when I wrote about the series earlier this year for I Love Libraries. This, is, except for the episode “Slumber Party” where Desiree is shown as a closeted trans woman. Anyway, Desiree is a protagonist in this series, as a librarian along with their sister, Sara, and later another librarian, Sarah.

Role in the story

In the series, which talks about the importance of friendship, togetherness, and acceptance, Desiree is right at home. She helps in the library every day, with patrons, problems, and other issues, anchoring the show. In the aforementioned episode, their friends are supportive, and has been described as positive representation which will “not only help fight stigma and help kids realise being trans is a positive thing, but also helps transgender kids and teenagers feel seen and supported.”

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

In a major way since Desiree is talkative while many librarians in animated series are shushing people, smashing that stereotype into thousands of pieces. In another way, Desiree breaks stereotypes by being a trans librarian. In the episode “Slumber Party,” Desiree, saying it feels “really good as a girl,” meaning that she is a trans woman, as Colaleo confirmed. The friends at the party say that she is their friend no matter what, whether as Desiree or their other name. However, since Desiree is still in the closet, she presents as someone else for the majority of the series. [3]

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

In the sense that Desiree is a White woman, yes, she has similarities with Kaisa in Hilda, the unnamed librarian in Steven Universe, and Francis Clara Censordoll in Moral Orel, to name a few series. However, Desiree is different because she is a trans woman, albeit a closeted one, so that makes Desiree’s character unique.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] There are a dearth of trans characters in animation, the positive ones including Professor Caraway and Snapdragon in High Guardian Spice, a trans woman, Zadie, in the final episode of Danger & Eggs, Jewelstar in one episode of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Natalie in Big Mouth, Marbles, Cha-Cha, Glitter, and Marshmellow in Bob’s Burgers, along with Barney in the upcoming DeadEndia.

[2] The name is Jeffrey but Desiree doesn’t prefer this name. Although pronouns are not known post-transition, I opted to choose she/her  pronouns here, as he/him pronouns are usually chosen in the show. Even though it isn’t completely known if Desiree would choose these after a transition, she/her pronouns are most likely.

[3] This connects with other episodes about the value of friendship, whether at a competition or at a birthday party.

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

Fictional Library of the Month: George and Lance’s family library

Hello everyone! Like my last post, I am beginning a new feature which I’m calling “Fictional Library of the Month” with posting one fictional library every month, prioritizing those in shows currently airing, but also including those in older shows. And with that, let be begin with my first entry, the library of George and Lance in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, located in the Whispering Woods.

About the library

The library is a residence, a library/archives/museum all in one. It contains books collected by George and Lance, the fathers of Bow.

Role in the story

The library first appears in the episode “Reunion” where Adora and Glimmer stumble upon it when worried about the disappearance of Bow, and they meet him and his dads there. While there, a monster is released and Bow reveals he is a fighter for the Rebellion to his dad. The library again appears in the episode “Return to the Fright Zone” when it is damaged and left abandoned.

Does the library buck stereotypes?

In the sense that it is a place to live and a library, yes, but the fact that vines grow on the outside gives it the appearance of being abandoned, which plays into library stereotypes.

Any similarity with libraries in other shows?

Not really. There really aren’t any family libraries in other series that I know of, so that makes it unique in and of itself.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.