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

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

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

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

About the voice actors

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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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.

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Kaisa’s defense: Are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them?

Kaisa gets annoyed with the committee of Three Witches

Happy Book Lovers’ Day! On December 16, 2020, I submitted a post to I Love Libraries about Kaisa, the recurring librarian in the animated series, Hilda, titled “Witches, patrons, and the value of libraries in Netflix’s Hilda,” and included a section, where Kaisa argues that the “person who borrowed the book is liable for its return,” with the obligation passed from the librarian to the patron, while the witches say SHE is the one responsible. While this was included in the final article, which was published on January 8, 2021, and re-titled “The Mysterious Librarian in Netflix’s “Hilda” Finally Gets a Name,” it was worded differently, [1] and I didn’t explore it in-depth. So I’ll re-examine that part of the episode and note its implications more broadly in terms of relations between librarians and patrons, and the ever-present problem of missing books from libraries.

In the episode “Chapter 3: The Witch,” Kaisa comes before three witches who govern the tower and they tell her that she must return a book missing from the library for almost 30 years! She challenges this, saying that the person who borrowed the book is liable for its return, passing off the obligation from the librarian to the patron. The witches remind her of her responsibilities and say that if she does not find the book, she will be cast into the void! While librarians obviously are not cast into the void for misplaced books, the episode is right to highlight the problem of missing books and how librarians solve this problem. Later, Kaisa reveals why she had not tried to return the book until now: she was embarrassed that she could not use the right spell to find the book. They later return with the book and Tildy pleads with the witches to not punish them, the void of no return is unintentionally opened, trapping Kaisa, Hilda, and Frida.

The question at the title of this post still itches my brain: Are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them? Some on /r/Libraries and /r/librarians have shared that they give students who fail to return a book a warning, the terrible condition of returned books(which is kinda funny to read), stolen/lost book, and lending to the wrong person. Others shared the return of missing items, horrible patrons, weird sense of guilt when checking out books, getting patrons to return their books, presenting photo IDs to check out books, and libraries that give anyone a library card. [2] One of the most interesting discussions was one on /r/asklibrarians where librarians responded as to how a librarian could cover up a theft:

…Books disappear all the time. Depends on if the library uses any security measures like RFID tags…Here are a few ideas: Checking the book out to another user. Marking it as lost under that other users identity. Checking the book in but just taking it. Makes it appear lost in the shelves. Simply taking the book through an employee entrance with no security gates. Or simply desensitizing the security strip and walking the book out the front door. Or you can purge the user from the system making them not exist. Assuming a modern library, the librarian could alter the records if they had the right circulation authorizations. In most cases, there is likely to be an audit trail, but no one is likely to be looking for that unless alerted to the possibility that someone did that. Someone with the right IT privileges for the circulation software, could probably alter those audit trails as well.

In some ways, Kaisa may have done this when not getting the book back from Tildy. She probably as had to deal with those who return books with “illegal drugs, water damage, urine odors, cigarette burns, coffee stains, fecal matter, roaches, or peanut butter globs,” those who have tried to argue that they don’t need to pay library fines, while dealing with account issues, checking out books, and other tasks. [3] As one librarian put it, not only can the length of a loan period ” have a big impact on staff workload and patron satisfaction with a library,” but overdue materials are an issue “because they are not available to other library users” while fines lead to the perception that overdue fines allows the library to function and buy materials. In fact, many libraries spend a lot of money and time “attempting to retrieve overdue materials and collect various fines,” meaning these fines represent “a drop in the bucket for library revenues” and saying that while overdue fines may “provide some incentive for returning materials” some studies have shown they are “not a significant deterrent to the ultimate return of items. Libraries can also collect fines on lost and damaged materials or lost library identification cards, which are meant to ” replace or repair the material…plus a processing fee,” while it was said that there “should be some flexibility with overdue policies.” It has also been said that if a book is lost, then a fine should be collected, while for a missing book, “the library does not know where the item is.” [4]

The same librarian urged library personnel to be “familiar with registration procedures and be prepared to answer questions about the library’s services and resources,” and to have specific “procedures for dealing with security and medical emergencies and all staff should be thoroughly familiar with them.” This connects with the mission of a librarian to not only handling books, but books themselves serving a vital function, and the responsibility of the library to “adjust the time allotted for the patron to have the item to ensure it reaches the originating library on time.” It was also said that librarians should take into account copyright, freedom of information, privacy, duty of care, censorship, and confidentiality which assisting a patron. [5]

Committee of Witches annoyed with Kaisa

When it comes to actual libraries, there appears to be agreement with the idea that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them. In fact, of library policies I read, there was a consensus that patrons are responsible for book replacement, returning books on time (late books hinder ability of other patrons to use book), have to pay for damaged or lost materials, and responsible for books they have checked out under their name. [6] Some librarians even said that those who abuse privileges may be banned from interlibrary loan, holds placed on their student accounts, suspension of borrowing privileges, or being reported to a collection agency. [7]

There were libraries which laid out their responsibilities even more clearly. Some said they had the “responsibility of ensuring the availability of materials for the use of the community,” but that the person who borrows materials is responsible for materials borrowed and “agrees to return them in good condition and by the date they are due.” Others absolved the library from “liability, damages, or expense” from misuse of library devices, library materials, and asserted that librarians are responsible for renewing and returning items, with fees imposed if items are not returned. However, in some cases, librarians had the discretion to stop or restrict loans of materials or the ability to waive fines, charges, or fees in cases of hardship. [8]

Kaisa stands by her view that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them, while the witches say it should be the library’s responsibility after a book is overdue for 30 years. If this was the real world, the responsibility of the patron would likely still be emphasized, but at that point, the library would have declared the book “lost” and probably charged the patron a fee for the lost book. Kaisa does not do that as she knows exactly who has the book, but she doesn’t want to take responsibility for getting the book back, not at first.

The answer to the question, are patrons who borrow books, liable to return them, is generally yes, but that does not justify patrons being treated in such a way that they are heavily penalized with fines which discourage them from borrowing from a library. It is certainly a “wonderful surprise” that Kaisa is the keeper of the books, i.e. the librarian who, with the help of Hilda and Frida, was able to convince an old lady to return a book. An impressive feat, you could say.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Worded as “the person who borrowed the book is responsible for it and the witches threaten to cast her into a void if she cannot locate the lost item.”

[2] See the “checking out books” (Nov. 2018), “Librarians: What’s the worst condition someone has returned a book?” (Apr. 2014), “Most stolen book at your library” (Jul. 2018),”I (accudentally) lent a book to someone who is NOT authorized to use the library. What to do?” (Jun. 2020), “Lots of (probably) missing items were returned!” (Nov. 2020), “Horrible Patrons: CoVid Edition” (Feb. 2021), “I’m struggling with a weird sense of guilt when checking books out now, it’s very irrational” (Sept. 2021), “Academic librarians: strategies for getting checked out books back from faculty?” (Mar. 2017), “Violating the spirit of the policy but not the letter of it…” (May 2017), “I think one of our patrons is a hoarder, and he isn’t returning our books.” (Aug. 2018), “Borrowing Policy Inquiry” (Dec. 2016), “Borrowing Out of Town” (Jun. 2016)

[3] See K.W. Colyard, “How To Piss Off Your Local Librarian,” Bustle, Jul. 16, 2015; Oleg Kagan, “Day in the Life: Reference Librarian at a Public Library,” Every Library, Nov. 29, 2017.

[4] “Basic library procedures: Circulation functions,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 18, 2008; “Basic library procedures: Library inventory,” Living in the Library World, Jan. 18, 2009.

[5] See “Circulation of nonbook materials,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 28, 2008; “Circulation’s role in security,” Living in the Library World, Dec. 28, 2008; “Basic library procedures: Processing library materials,” Living in the Library World, Jan. 7, 2009; “Library co-operation, interlibrary loan and document delivery,” Living in the Library World,  Jan. 25, 2010; “Ethics,” Living in the Library World, Nov. 22, 2010.

[6] “Library Policies,” Galveston College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Overdue Materials,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Lost/Damaged Item,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Outside Borrowers,” University Libraries of University of Georgia, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policies,” Princeton University Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow,” Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Caswell County, NC, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan Borrowing and Document Delivery Services,” University of North Texas University Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Fines and Fees,” New York Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies, Guidelines and Procedures: Lost or Damaged Materials,” Calvin T. Ryan Library, University of Nebraska Kearney, accessed October 3, 2021; “Step by Step Billing Patrons and Libraries for Lost Books in Horizon,” Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods and Fines,” Pasadena Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Studio Use Policy,” Pikes Peak Library District, Sept. 2019; “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” SRSU Library & Archives, accessed October 3, 2021; “Policies,” Proctor Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow Materials,” E.H. Butler Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “InterLibrary Loan (ILL),” Osceola Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing/Circulation,” SCSU Research Guides at Southern Connecticut State University, accessed October 3, 2021; Library Policies,” Orange Coast College, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing and Renewals,” Marriott Library, University of Utah, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrow,” UC Berkeley Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing,” Hawai’i Pacific University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Fine Free Library,” San Francisco Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; FAQ : Interlibrary Loan,” Smithsonian Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Checkout Periods and Protocols,” Fulton Library, Utah Valley University, accessed October 3, 2021 (discussed secondary borrowers); “Borrow, Renew & Return,” Georgia Tech Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Policies,” Stewart B. Land Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Materials,” Memorial Library of Nazereth & Vicinity,” accessed October 3, 2021; “Hennepin County Library goes fine-free,” Hennepin County Library, Mar. 9, 2021; Borrow Items,” Charleston County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021;Interlibrary Loan,” Omaha Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Book Club in a Bag,” Southeast Regional Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan,” Kenton County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Pageturners To Go,” Multnomah Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Remote Delivery,” UW-Madison Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Thesophical Society of America, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing Privileges,” Penn State University Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Materials,” Circulation Services, Research Guides at Broward College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Prince William libraries are now fine-free,” InsideNOVA, Jul. 7, 2021; “Your Library Account,” Boulder Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Services – Libraries,” LibGuides at St. Joseph’s College New York, accessed October 3, 2021; “Nevada State College Interlibrary Loan,” Nevada State College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Get a Library Card,” Laurel County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “InterLibrary Loan,” Queens College Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Bradley Library eliminates late fees,” Daily Journal, Sept. 9, 2021; “Library,” Amridge University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Checkout Privileges,” BYU Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Using the Library,” Linda Hall Library, accessed October 3, 2021; Borrowing from CSN Libraries,” CSN Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” Texas State Library and Archives Commission, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Library materials,” Simon Fraser University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library of Things: Home,” LibGuides at Milton Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Onsite Borrowing Program,” OCLC Research, accessed October 3, 2021; “Welcome to Your Library,” Grand Rapids Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Frequently Asked Questions,” El Dorado County Library, accessed October 3, 2021; Liam Griffin, “Libraries Become Fine-Free In July In Prince William County,” Manassas, VA, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation,” Mary and John Gray Library, Lamar University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Prince William Public Libraries to Go Fine-Free Beginning July 1,” Jul. 2021, accessed October 3, 2021; “James. E. Walker Library,” Middle Tennessee State University, accessed October 3, 2021 (mentions proxy borrowers); “Interlibrary Loan (ILL),” University of Idaho Library, accessed October 3, 2021.

[7] “Interlibrary Loan,” Air Force Research Laboratory D’Azzo Research Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies,” Galveston College, accessed October 3, 2021; “Loan Periods,” Richard E. Bjork Library at Stockton University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policies,” Princeton University Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library,” Caswell County, NC, accessed October 3, 2021; Andrew Scott, “11 Lehigh, Carbon County libraries ending fines on overdue items, starting Wednesday; 8,000 patrons being forgiven over $59,000 in fines,” The Morning Call, Aug. 31, 2021; “Library Fines and Fees,” New York Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Policies, Guidelines and Procedures: Lost or Damaged Materials,” Calvin T. Ryan Library, University of Nebraska Kearney, accessed October 3, 2021; “Policies,” Proctor Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing/Circulation,” SCSU Research Guides at Southern Connecticut State University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing and Renewals,” Marriott Library, University of Utah, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow,” UC Berkeley Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow, Renew & Return,” Georgia Tech Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrow Items,” Charleston County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Valparaiso University Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad),” accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrowing Policies,” Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Your Library Account,” Boulder Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Nevada State College Interlibrary Loan,” Nevada State College, accessed October 3, 2021; Your Card,” Berkeley Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Using the Library,” ABBE Regional Library System, accessed October 3, 2021;

[8] “Library Policy,” Ainsworth Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021;Hotspot Lending Policy,” Loomis Library & Community Center, accessed October 3, 2021; “Borrower Policy,” Charlotte Mecklenberg Library, accessed October 3, 2021; “Henderson-Wilder Library,” Upper Iowa University, accessed October 3, 2021; “Circulation Policy,” Fulton County Library System, accessed October 3, 2021; “Library Regulations,” The University of Hong Kong Libraries, accessed October 3, 2021; “Overdue Library Materials,” Leon County Public Library, accessed October 3, 2021.

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comic books Comics fantasy Fiction genres graphic novels Librarians speculative fiction webcomics White people

Fictional Librarian of the Month: Mo Testa in “Dykes to Watch Out For”

Left to right, panels of Mo in episodes 1, 3, 8, 11, and 13

Hello everyone! This continues from the “Fictional Librarian of the Month” entries for November, December, January, February, March, April, and May, 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 Mo Testa in Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For. Here we go!

About the librarian

Mo’s official description describes her as a “worrier and kvetch extraordinaire, with a job at now-defunct Madwimmin Books on the side” which also notes that she has “since graduated from library school.” It was also said she has a “dedication to social justice combined with red and white striped shirts” and has two cats, specifically named Virginia and Vanessa.

Role in the story

Mo is a protagonist in this series, which became a “countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet,” running from 1983 to 2008. In one comic, she applies for a job, but rejects it because previous librarian left as she disagreed with the Patriot Act, staying dedicated to her principles. She is later shown going to school, tries to remain informed, dealing with the death of her cat, and gets a library job. I love how the library was described as the “temple to the written word” in one comic as well.

Does the librarian buck stereotypes?

As a lesbian, she becomes a reference librarian and makes some personal calls at work. In the sense that she is White, female, and wears glasses, she falls into stereotypes of librarians. On the other hand, the fact she is passionate about her beliefs and this translates into her work as a librarian, and that stands against stereotypes.

Any similarity with librarians in other shows?

In some ways, she is similar with another librarian, Amity Blight, in The Owl House, who is a White woman and a lesbian. However, she is such a principled librarian which makes her unlike any other librarian on this blog, even more than someone like Kaisa in Hilda.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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“Accosting Mary”: George Bailey and Real-Life Sexual Harassment of Librarians

Mary, in It’s a Wonderful Life, terrified when George demands that she remember them together. In this alternate world, George is basically a creep.

Since 1946, Mary Bailey, otherwise known as Mary Hatch Bailey, a character voiced by Donna Reed in Frank Capra’s now-acclaimed film, It’s a Wonderful Life, has been perpetrating the spinster librarian stereotype. I mentioned this, in my second post on this blog, as have many others, whether cultural critics in the popular press or librarians. They have described Mary as a “lonely,” “weak,” “unhappy,” “homely,” “unmarried,” and visually challenged spinster. When she appears in Pottersville as a librarian, the film portrays her as a “tragedy” and “undesirable,” clearly an insulting portrayal. [1] Others have gone further. They proposed that Mary is happy about being a librarian, that she is better off without George, or is the film’s hero. Apparently, Capra said if he did the film again, he wouldn’t have included the part about Mary as a librarian. [2] Some fan fiction writers even imagined Mary as a librarian, either as the “best librarian” in Pottersville, enjoying her time in a “quiet place” with its collections limited by the town’s directives, or as a supposedly “old maid” in the library. There is a deeper, darker side to the short scene of Mary’s time as a spinster librarian which is glossed over by critics: unwelcome sexual advances by George. It is something which connects to larger issues which librarians, especially women, face on a day-to-day basis.

Before going further, as a fair warning, this post will discuss sexual assault and sexual harassment. If you are triggered by that subject or you do not wish to read about it for one reason or another, please don’t read beyond this paragraph.

By the time George has met Mary, he is drunk. He’s been thrown out of a bar and into the world of Pottersville. He demands that people remember HIM, scaring the townsfolk. After Clarence, who is physically attacked by George, reveals that Mary is an “old maid” who is “just about the close up the library,” George rushes over the library. The “uncomfortable undertones” in this scene are made even worse in the one to come. Mary, who is minding her own business, meets a disheveled man, George, who calls out her name.

He chases her, grabs her arm, asking what has happened to “us.” She rejects him, telling him she doesn’t know him and to let her go. He is persistent. He declares he “needs” her, asks about “their kids.” She screams, runs into a bar, declares there is a “wild man” after her who is chasing her, a correct assessment. George thinks someone will remember him. She asks someone to stop him. People in the bar claim he needs to be in a straitjacket. He keeps declaring that Mary is his wife and she, as a result, faints into the arms of an older woman. A crowd of men have surrounded George and say that the police need to be called. Ernie the cop (seemingly the only cop in the town) arrives. George slugs him in the face and escapes. Ernie wildly fires his gun over and over in George’s direction in a gross, and unnecessary, act of police force. People scream and the scene ends.

That’s telling the whole one minute scene from the perspective of those in the town and from Mary. Perhaps you can say that Mary is “shy, furtive, non-trusting, and scared of men.” This is a change from her personality earlier in the film as “warm and funny and sweet,” as Jennifer Snoek-Brown has explained. Even if we acknowledge this, which I’m willing to grant, what was Mary supposed to do in this situation? George is, if you view it rationally and push away the movie’s narrative which tries to make us sympathize with him, being creepy. He is accosting her, i.e. to approach of speak to someone in an “often challenging or aggressive way.” She runs to ask others for help.

Some have argued that George molested Mary, meaning that he is making unwanted or improper sexual advances toward her, especially to force “physical and usually sexual contact” on another person. [3] Clearly, George should have left her alone. Considering he is a person who humiliated Mary in the real world of Bedford Falls and even brought her to tears in that world, is it any surprise he has an outburst like that in Pottersville? Its not. He is acting like an asshole, a role which Jimmy Stewart overplays a bit. [4]

You could argue, in George’s defense, that he wasn’t thinking of Mary in a sexual way. You could further say that he only harassed her by annoying and bothering her, and physically attacked her, i.e. harassment and assault. These arguments, however, don’t hold water. He saw her as something to fulfill himself as a person, as he was in love with Mary with all his heart, going beyond any sexual advances. She clearly told him “no” in uncertain terms and to get lost.

His actions were unwelcome and uninvited. He made physical contact with her by touching her and grabbing a hold of her. As such, his actions fulfill the other definitions of sexual harassment, like the one outlined by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, commonly known as EEOC. It is harder to prove that he engaged in sexual assault, as that involves “force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent.” Even so, you could make that argument. George’s actions fall into the category of unwanted sexual attention, although not gender harassment or sexual coercion. [5] Ernie never catches him, he gets away with it, and never suffers any consequences for his actions in any way.

Reportedly, according to Thom Yorke, the song talks about a drunk man who he tries to get attention of a woman he is attracted to, following her around. He later lacks this self-confidence, and feels he subconsciously is her. Not exactly a parallel to George Bailey, but I like the song, so it is here for that reason.

What Mary experiences after-hours, specifically after the library has closed, is not an uncommon experience for librarians within physical or virtual walls of a library. It begins with Melvil Dewey himself,  founder of the American Library Association (ALA) and creator of the Dewey Decimal System. He was a such a serial sexual harasser that he was even expelled from the ALA!

With the pandemic, librarians are experiencing more sexual harassment and intimidation than before. Sometimes, approachable and helpful demeanor is even misinterpreted as an invitation for sexual attraction. This makes librarians more reticent to speak out to the patron (or fellow librarian) or to their managers. Workplaces push librarians to act more approachable to patrons, resulting in librarians feeling uncomfortable after they are harassed, but have little time to process it as they must continue working. To be clear, librarians aren’t there to fulfill people’s personal fantasies, in whatever form those come in.

Some have even argued that managers are unaware of the severity or persistence of harassment. Others have advocated for anti-harassment policies and procedures, and for managers to emphasize the importance of personal safety of staff while standing against “any instances of sexual harassment.” [6] While such policies would be welcome, it can come with the assumption that all managers will be good natured and take claims seriously enough to prevent a toxic workplace. That is a highly unrealistic supposition which will in fact, put librarians in a dangerous spot. This is especially the case when harassment comes from co-workers and can be part of a toxic organizational culture in some libraries. [7]

Often, sexual harassment in libraries is “routinely downplayed, ignored, or outright rejected” as a reality. It is seen as a “woman’s issue” by male managers and administrators, with harassers facing no or few consequences. It then becomes prevalent and endemic due to interactions with the public and the workplace cultures, either as light or verbal physical harassment, including sexual advances. There can be “negative, creepy, disgusting, or frightening encounters” as well, causing librarians to be afraid or even angry. Harassment can be overlooked because many believe that the “unwelcome behavior…is not extreme or not physical does not count as harassment.” They might even think that people are just giving them “nice compliments” or that those harassing them are “harmless weird people.”

This is not unusual. Female-majority professions experience a “high degree of workplace sexual harassment from supervisors, coworkers, and clients.” In response, some librarians have recommended training, clear reporting processes, and changes in workplace culture. Unfortunately, too many libraries don’t have policies for “what to do about sexual harassment” or sexual harassment and sexual assault training. [8] All librarians should work in environments free from harassment. Employers are legally required to prevent a hostile work environment even if a patron harasses a librarian.

There are, added power dynamics at play between librarians and patrons when providing service to patrons in a library. This is an area where that has reportedly been a lack of discussion and research. Such harassment can, in the words of Karen Jensen “change the dynamics of a work environment” while men take offense to female passion at work. Such harassment is about, in her words, “anger and control and wanting to demean…making sure a woman understands her place in the world and at the work place,” even if this is perpetrated against men. It is a conversation which needs to be continued as the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) defends the right of patrons to “unfiltered internet access,” which includes pornography, in the words of James LaRue, formerly the OIF director. [9]

Such harassment is not the fault of any librarians or library workers. Something can be done to change the “culture of sexual harassment in the library,” as Kelly Jensen put it. There is responsibility to build a “toolbox of responses” and pull from if needed, to curb these behaviors. This includes protecting librarian colleagues, librarians, and what makes the library a “special place.” Women are the focus of harassment because the library field is female-majority, they are not the only ones harassed. Men and those of other genders are harassed as well, especially those who are LGBTQ or are people of color. [10]

In the end, even if you think that George Bailey didn’t sexually harass Mary, we can all agree, hopefully, that sexual harassment is wrong. Libraries should be a “safe place for every employee that walks through its doors,” treating each other with respect and professionalism. With soon-to-be-published books like Unwanted Interactions: Patron-perpetrated Sexual Harassment in Libraries, by Danielle Allard, Tami Oliphant, and Angela Lieu, on the horizon, this is bound to be a topic discussed by librarians, on Twitter and elsewhere, for years to come.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Chin, Elleanor. 69 Years of Slut Shaming: Spontaneously Deconstructing It’s a Wonderful Life,” Feministing, Jan. 27, 2015; Zeman, Marybeth. “Being a Librarian—It’s a Wonderful Life,” Public Libraries Online, Dec. 20, 2013; “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Holiday Film Reviews, Feb. 4, 2019; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “Revisiting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Reel Librarians, Dec. 14, 2016; Phelps, Rosa. “The perennial joys of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Variety, Dec. 22, 2021; bibliothecario. “Libertine Librarian Comes to Broadway,” The Why? Libraries Blog, Apr. 15, 2009; Snoek-Brown, Jennifer. “What Hollywood Gets Wrong (and Right!) About Librarians,” I Love Libraries, May 26, 2020; VanDerWerff, Emily Todd. “It’s A Wonderful Life shows the unending cost of being good,” A.V. Club, Dec. 21, 2012; Costello, Carol. “Is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ sexist?,” CNN, Dec. 20, 2017; Westbrook, Georgia. “Libraries and Librarians in the Movies,” Syracuse University School of Information Studies, Apr. 8, 2019; Lingan, John. “Water and Wonder,” The Paris Review, Dec. 14, 2012; Kamiya, Gary. “All hail Pottersville!,” Salon, Dec. 22, 2001; O’ Mahony, Ferdia. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Dec. 29. 2021; Hesse, Monica. “Mary Bailey is the true hero of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 24, 2021; Smith, Kyle. “Jump, George, Jump!,” New York Post, Nov. 25, 2007; Grondelski, John M. “Catholics Agree: It’s a Wonderful Life,” Crisis Magazine, Dec. 20, 2016; Sepulveda, Victoria. “I never wanted to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ again. Then 2020 happened.,” SFGate, Dec. 17, 2020; Wilson, Christopher. “What ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Teaches Us About American History,” Smithsonian Magazine, Dec. 16, 2021; Parker, Luke. “It’s A Wonderful Life: Everything That Changed When George Bailey Wasn’t Born,” ScreenRant, Jan. 6, 2020; Molumby, Deidre. “6 reasons why It’s a Wonderful Life shouldn’t be a Christmas classic as it’s a total downer,” entertainment.ie c. 2017; Atileno, Maria. “It’s a Wonderful Life: How Mary Lost Her Groove,” Pop Goes the Librarian, Dec. 30, 2012; McAllister, Ashley. “From the Library: The Librarian Stereotype on the Big Screen,” Bitch Magazine, Jul. 27, 2010.

[2] Kutner, Rob. “It’s a Wonderful Life: Top Nine Fan Theories,” McSweeney’s, Dec. 24, 2018; “According to Liberals, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is Now Sexist,” Conservative Zone, accessed Jan. 4, 2022; Thompson, Simon. “‘It’s A Wonderful Life’: Inside The Classic Holiday Movie And Why It Is Needed More Than Ever In 2020,” Forbes, Nov. 17, 2020; Hesse, Monica, “Mary Bailey is the true hero of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’,” Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2021; Nero, Dom. “In It’s A Wonderful Life, Pottersville Actually Looks Way More Fun Than Bedford Falls,” Esquire Magazine, Dec. 24, 2019. Some have even asked if the film itself has multiverses or is a sci-fi film or said they like Mary as a librarian.

[3] McAllister, Ashley. “From the Library: The Librarian Stereotype on the Big Screen,” Bitch Magazine, Jul. 27, 2010; Marshall, Jack. ““It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics, Part 3,” Ethics Alarms, Dec. 5, 2011; Barreca, Gina. “The Problem with “It’s a Wonderful Life”,” Psychology Today, Dec. 18, 2021; Schneider, Dan. “A Defense Of It’s A Wonderful Life,” Cosmoetica, Dec. 25, 2005.

[4] Jamieson, Wendell, “Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life,” New York Times, Dec. 18, 2008 (see page 1 here); Nero, Dom. “In It’s A Wonderful Life, Pottersville Actually Looks Way More Fun Than Bedford Falls,” Esquire Magazine, Dec. 24, 2019; Lipsitz, Jordana. “‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Would Be Different Today,” Bustle, Dec. 24, 2016. Some have even said that you could argue that in Bedford Falls, Mary is either “angelically patient or painfully submissive.” There is a fanfic which goes with the idea that George should have been more honest with Mary. Others have argued that George engaged in physically abusive behavior, or argued that George is a bit of perv (in the minds of those who put together the film’s TV Tropes page). One of the funnier pages was one which portrayed him as a criminal if he was caught for his financial crimes.

[5] These are definitions noted in a 2017 presentation by Amanda Civitello and Katie McLain entitled “It’s Not Just Part of the Job: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Harassment in the Library.” This presentation notes that unwelcome sexual advances and unwelcome touching are examples of harassing behavior.

[6] Beattie, Samantha. “Sexual harassment, intimidation, violence on the job worsened during pandemic, librarians report,” CBCOct. 2, 2021; Amanda Civitello and Katie McLain, “It’s Not Just Part of the Job: Breaking the Silence on Sexual Harassment in the Library,” 2017 Presentation; “Harassing Behaviors Handout,” Waukegan Public Library, Jul. 2017; magpielibrarian, “Please Don’t Say This to a Librarian,” The Magpie Librarian: A Librarian’s Guide to Modern Life and Etiquette, Jul. 9, 2012. There is are the stories of a librarian being sexually assaulted outside of a library in Darby, Pennsylvania, and a woman being assaulted outside a library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (also see here), along with stories of librarians being harassed in Waukegan, Philadelphia, and a library system in California. Don’t be taken in by that strange, anti-child porn site, i.e. SafeLibraries (librarians.cc), which is conservative and has some weird opinions, having it out for the ALA. I don’t care for defending the ALA, the views on SafeLibraries are a bit strange with a weird fascination with the idea that child porn makes people into sexual harassers but not that it could be something else instead? It is also a men’s rights activist site, run by Dan Kleinman, who opposes drag queen story hours and doesn’t seem to believe the idea that librarians should be trusted to filter and select for libraries. He was even sued, at one point, for defamation by the Chicago Library. Whether he is against “free speech” in libraries or not, he is clearly bad news, as a big defender of library filters on library computers.

[7] Valde, Kathleen S. and Henningsen, Mary Lynn Miller. “Facework in Responding to Unethical Communication,” International Journal of
Business Communication 2015, Vol. 52(4): 375, 398. The ALA says in their current guidance that “prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.”

[8] Jensen, Kelly. “Sexual Harassment In Libraries, Post-#MeToo: What Has and Hasn’t Changed?,” Book Riot, Apr. 8, 2019; Ford, Anne. “Stop Sexual Harassment in Your Library,” American Libraries, Nov. 1, 2017; Candice Benjes-Small, Jennifer E. Knievel, Jennifer Resor-Whicker, Allison Wisecup, and Joanna Hunter (2021), “#MeToo in the Academic Library: A Quantitative Measurement of the Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, Vol. 82, No. 5; Gomez, Filiberto Nolasco. “AFSCME Librarians Draw Attention to the Persistence of Sexual Harassment,” Workday Minnesota, Nov. 25, 2019; Jill Barr-Walker, Courtney Hoffner, Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco, and Nisha Mody (2021), “Sexual Harassment at University of California Libraries: Understanding the Experiences of Library Staff Members,” College & Research Libraries, Vol. 82, No. 2; Jensen, Kelly. “The State of Sexual Harassment in the Library,” Book Riot, Oct. 24, 2017. There hasn’t even been a “a keynote speaker headlining a conference which directly addresses sexual harassment in the library” as Jensen pointed out in Book Riot. And still, as the same article (written in 2017) says, the ALA has “no policies nor no guidelines available to members about protecting themselves from sexual harassment in the library.” Nothing has changed since then. There are even the case of a sexual harassment complaint filed by the executive director of the Ogdensburg Public Library against a city councilor dismissed because he “made the statement while as a city councilor…[and] is not subject to review by the state agency; and that the city’s decision about funding the library, as part of a government function,” meaning he can harass people if he is acting as a councilor. As Molly Osterag put it in her comic sharing how she was sexually assaulted by a man she knew, “I know this is not a story that is unique to me.”

[9] Taken to the extreme, this position would support people masturbating in a public library, which is wrong and disgusting. That shouldn’t be done in a public place.

[10] There are many posts on /r/libraries which talk about harassment (by patrons, especially men), a self-gratifying man, the case where librarians were sued by a man for “libelous comments”  (and they later retracted those comments, also noted here; also see here), and those preparing for a presentation about harassment of librarians (maybe one of them is Amanda Civitello or Katie McLain?)

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It’s All About That Kaisa: Analyzing the Breakout Witchy Librarian in “Hilda”

In recent years, librarians have become more prominent in animated series. Unfortunately, most of these librarians either only appear in one episode, like Wong and O’Bengh / Cagliostro in What…If?, and Mira and Sahil in Mira, Royal Detective, or are stereotypical and problematic. There are some exceptions. Librarians Sara, Sarah, and Desiree in Too Loud, Amity Blight in The Owl House, Naoufel in I Lost My Body, and Myne in Ascendance of a Bookworm all defy stereotypes in their own ways. Apart from these characters, one character shines through. She has become one of the best depictions of librarians in fiction, especially in animation for some time. Her name is Kaisa. She is a casually gothic, witchy librarian in Hilda, an all-ages animated series. This article will analyze this character, noting her significance in representations of librarians in fiction.

Although Kaisa’s character only appears in six of the show’s 26 episodes – not even 23% of the series – she has become a smash hit among fans. She even appeared in three graphic novels by Luke Pearson that the series is based on: Hilda and the Great Parade, Hilda and the Nowhere Space, and Hilda and the Ghost Ship. There is a subreddit for her, which has over 180 subscribers, voluminous fan art, and cosplays!

Currently, fans have written over 90 fan fictions featuring her character on Archive of Our Own. The UK retail seller Forbidden Planet has shirts, keychains, and pins featuring the character. While Kaisa’s name is not revealed until the second season, she is based on the name of a Swedish actress with the same first name: Kaisa Hammarlund. As such, her voice is an “amalgamation of Nordic accents.”

Kaisa after casting a spell in the episode “Chapter 3: The Witch,” in the show’s second season, with Hilda and Frida alongside her.

Kaisa in the first season

In the show’s first season, she remains mysterious, only appearing briefly. She is still shown as having an unmatched knowledge of cemeteries, the dead, and mystical items. At first, she helps Hilda and her friends, giving them books of interest and anticipating their questions.

At one point, she reminds Hilda that reference books are not taken from the hidden special collections room. She gives Hilda, who is a bit snobbish in how she treats a reference book in one episode, the right materials so she can raise the dead! At the end of the season, she is shown outside the library, walking across the streets of the city of Trolberg. According to a new interview, Kaisa was supposed to have more scenes in this initial season, but the crew and producers weren’t sure how to develop her character at the time. Despite this, by the end of that first season, she had become a breakout star.

Kaisa in the second season

In the second season, which aired in December 2020, Frida and Hilda help Kaisa find a missing book, with all three of them fighting beasts and finishing challenges on their way. Although they eventually find the book, the committee of three witches chastise them for not turning it in on time (it’s over 30 years late at that point) and they are sucked into a void, where a monster awaits them. This was the beginning of an expansion of plot points from season 1.

While Kaisa uses her witch powers to try and save them, she is helped by Frida and Hilda. They give her the right book so she can make sure the void is subdued, and all three escape unscathed! After all of that, she is still grateful to an elderly patron and powerful witch who was her mentor, a person who is pleasantly surprised to see her as a librarian. She is later shown outside the library in the same season, fighting Tide Mice who can take over people’s minds.

Kaisa asks Frida and David about body swapping in the film

Kaisa in the new movie, Hilda and the Mountain King

Not surprisingly, Kaisa appears in the recent film, Hilda and the Mountain King, a continuation of the animated series. Although she only has a guest appearance, she has an important part in the film. Frida asks her for help in reversing a spell cast on Hilda which has made her swap bodies with a troll. At first, Kaisa agrees to help but stops when she realizes it wouldn’t work, having a “purely mechanical understanding of the situation,” as one fan put it. While Frida is annoyed by this, when she tries to use the spellbook anyway, it doesn’t work, as witch magic can’t be mixed with troll magic.

Kaisa is shown to be right all along, to the chagrin of Frida, and David, to a lesser extent. Reportedly, in early stages of the film’s development, the crew tried to incorporate Kaisa into the climax of the film. Acording to the movie’s director, Andy Coyle, the scene had Kaisa rebelling against the rule that witches shouldn’t interfere in a fight. Sadly, the scene was cut from the final film because of a “limited amount of screentime.”

Characteristics of the Trolberg library and Kaisa the librarian

The library where Kaisa works appears to be “ordinary” on the outside. It is grand inside, with secret passageways going through one special collections room after another. This ultimately leads to an inner chamber with a committee of three witches controlling the Witches Tower. There are so many resources that someone could stay there for hours and days, studying to their heart’s content. It is a magic library in more ways than one, and is amazing, as real-life librarians have recognized.

Kaisa explains why she can’t help Frida and David in the film

Kaisa is a principled librarian who likely has a MLIS degree and is an atypical librarian who has a life outside the library. Her portrayal fulfills what I’ve termed the “Librarian Portrayal Test.” She is twenty-something who wears headphones, like Kino does in Kino’s Journey, has a cassette player, and is skilled with magic. Despite this, Kaisa, like any librarian, is tasked with enforcing the roles. In one episode, she tells the show’s protagonists to “keep it down,” but never shushes them.

Her character has led some librarians to “feel seen” and others to note she used skills from her “previous career path” (as a witch) to save the day. Others have used Kaisa as a way to praise librarians more broadly. While some have said that her job isn’t as realistic as it might seem, some have countered this by saying that Kaisa and the series as a whole, communicates “very positive messages about libraries.”

She has a unique appearance since the series is in an intentionally nebulous time frame. It has a setting that is something familiar, something foreign. The series and the film was described by the director of Hilda and the Mountain King, to be set, vaguely, in the early 1990s. The series, and the film, are also inspired by Scandinavian folklore. This makes it no surprise that the two-leveled Trolberg library has “outdated” elements like library slips and card catalogs, along with “newer” elements like copiers. Despite this, it is abundantly clear that she has experienced burnout as a librarian. In one episode, she argued that patrons who borrow books are liable to return them, tying into the debate among librarians and libraries over the role of patrons.

Some have argued that Kaisa might be asexual, basing it on her character’s colors (purple, black, grey, and white), even though this supposition has not been confirmed, or denied, by the show’s creator or anyone on the show staff. If this is the case, Kaisa would be one of the recent depictions of LGBTQ librarians in pop culture such as Desiree in Too Loud and Amity Blight in The Owl House.

Undoubtedly, Kaisa will reappear in the show’s next, and final, season, which will go beyond the graphic novel series by Luke Pearson that the series is based on, and likely into new, and exciting, places. The season, which may premiere later this year, will likely be 13 episodes long, allowing for Kaisa to, once again, get a chance to shine in the animated series, serving as an important depiction of librarians in popular culture.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


This is post is reprinted from my guest post on March 9 on Reel Librarians.

Sources

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adventure comic books Comics Fiction genres Librarians Libraries public libraries White people

Redemption of the librarian shusher…sort of: Steven, Connie, and the missing books

Connie and Steven in the library in the cover of this comic, setting the stage for the comic

In the past, I criticized the unnamed librarian of the Buddy Buddwick Public Library, in the Steven Universe episode “Buddy’s Book,” specifically for shushing Steven and Connie, three times in the same episode! However, I also noted in April that there was a comic “where Steven learned the organizational power of librarians,” with the librarian not shushing them, being helpful, and Connie even lamenting that “all the powers of bibliographical organization” failed her. So, I set out to read this comic, known as Issue #36 which came out over a year ago on January 22, 2020, over seven months before I started this blog, in July 2020. [1] Spoilers for those who haven’t read this comic, as I’m gonna summarize what happens and then give my thoughts.

In this comic, written by Taylor Robin, illustrated by S.S. Mara, colored by Whitney Cogar, and lettered by Mike Fiorentino, focuses on libraries, as made clear from the comic’s cover, part of which is shown above. The story begins by Connie and Steven traveling to the library again, with Steven saying he had so much fun, Connie wanting to find a new series by the author who wrote the Unfamiliar Familiar series. Steven wants to find Buddy’s book again, and Connie gets excited, wanting to find out books that Buddy Buddwick wrote. The second they walk in, the librarian shushes them and they joke about it. Once in the stacks, Connie tells Steven that you find things in the library with the Dewey Decimal System which confuses him because he thinks Mayor Dewey (the mayor of Beach City) organizes the books with math, lol. Poor Steven. 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.

After this, they work to find books by using the library catalog, sitting at one of the library’s computers, and are amazed at how much they found. They are both excited to find books, using the call numbers, but the books are missing! Of course, Steven and Connie get nervous, and realize they both have the same problem. They are jokingly shushed by the librarian, the same one in that episode, who seems to be having some fun with them, and helps them out:

She makes the same laugh and shush on page 2.

The librarian says the books should all be there, with Steven telling her they are all gone. They then retreat to library chairs, with Connie lamenting that “all the powers of bibliographical organization” has failed her. Steven floats the idea that someone stole them, with Connie unsure about that, as you are allowed to take books from the library and thinks they were shelved incorrectly. They search high and low across the library, under the stacks, and they chase a worm into a room which is closed for repairs. It turns out this corrupted Gem has been taking all the books. Steven uses his rose shield to stop it from leaving, and Connie is able to poof it by throwing a book at it. They proceed to read books in the room, including Buddy Buddwick’s journal, and silently read to together, learning more about him. The rest of the comic, they share parts of the books with each other, and Steven later says the Gem felt lonely, so it came there. So he sends it back to the Crystal Temple, where it can be with other Gems, with Pearl looking at it with interest. And… that’s the end.

I honestly thought there would be more to this comic, but I’m still glad I read it. In terms of the Librarian Portrayal Test (LPT), as I’m calling it, this comic clearly fails. Yes, it has a character which is clearly a librarian, fulfilling the first part of the criteria, but the librarian is primarily defined as a librarian, and I’m not altogether convinced that they are integral to the plot. Perhaps they are important to the plot, but the story could have still happened if the librarian hadn’t been there, but the fact they were there was a help.

This librarian only appears across three pages (2, 10, and 11), while the comic is 22 pages long. More accurately, the librarian appears in the equivalent of one page, which is 5% of the comic. That’s terrible for a comic that is supposed to about an adventure in a library! Furthermore, she is middle-aged, White, female, and wears glasses, fulfilling many stereotypes I’ve talked about on this blog before. I also am convinced that the librarian has some sort of in-joke with Steven and Connie, with her laughs and shushes at the same time. I’m just guessing here. On the other hand, Connie just calls her “the librarian” rather than using a name, so perhaps she doesn’t know her that well? Its hard to say. I did a quick search on AO3 to see if anyone had written fan fics about this librarian, and they have one about Steven meeting a cute librarian, and the latter flirting back with him, but there aren’t any about the librarian in this comic and in the “Buddy’s Book” episode, unfortunately. [2]

Librarian stumped when Steven tells him about the missing books

There really isn’t much else I can say about this librarian, unfortunately, except to say that she had a much better role in the comic than in the episode. I wish she had more of a role in the comic, however. Until next time, fellow readers!

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] This comic appeared in Steven Universe: Cherished Memories, a paperback book that was released on January 5, 2021.

[2] Others, apart from fics like “Drifting Across Unsettled Seas: The Off Colors’ Gargantian Dilemma” and “The Universe Runs Through It: Cheering Gargantians, Snotty Peridots, Calm Etherians, and a Perplexed Kipo“, have Pearl as a librarian and Peridot as a librarian.

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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
animation comedy fantasy Fiction genres Librarians Libraries public libraries White people

Libraries in the Simpsons

Libraries come up time and again in The Simpsons, many more times than they show up in Futurama, despite the fact that some of the same people made the latter show. There are some mentions of the library in the series which I’m not going to mention here, [1] so I’ll try to mention the important ones in this short post.

The first time, I believe, a library is shown is the episode “Bart the General,” where Bart is explaining the costs of war (with some exceptions like World War II, the American Revolution, and the Star Wars Trilogy), imploring people to learn more about it by traveling to their local public library:

Apart from Sideshow Bob smoking a cigar in “Cape Feare,” at a showing of a film at the library, in “Dog of Death,” there is a news report about “lottery fever,” which includes a bulletin saying that every book about the lottery has been checked out from the local library, the Springfield public library:

In “Marge the Lam,” there is a joke about the convenience store and the public library, as Homer confuses both. And a librarian challenges the preacher about borrowing a book (the Bible specifically) in the episode “Bart the Mother.” And he has a spat with the librarian after that.

And the joke about a librarian who “only read about dancing in books” in the episode “Last Tap Dance in Springfield.” That’s all I could find in a search on Frinkiac, although I know this isn’t comprehensive.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] I’m talking about episodes like “Much Apu About Nothing,” “Bart After Dark,” “I Love Lisa,” “Lisa’s Substitute,” “Lady Bouvier’s Lover,” “Homerpalooza,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,” “Homer vs. Patty and Selma,” “You Only Move Twice,” “Treehouse of Horror VI,” “Krusty Gets Busted,” “Marge on the Lam,” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”

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.