You’ve never seen a library like this. At least, I don’t think you have. The Unshelved books are collections of the comic strip by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. Bill is a cartoonist, Gene is a librarian, and they’ve been publishing this strip since 2002. And that information comes straight from the website unshelved.com.

unshelved 1 unshelved 2

I don’t remember how I came across this comic, but I’m glad I did. Whenever there’s a new strip it makes me laugh. That’s what it’s meant to do! Main character Dewey (doomed from birth, perhaps?) is the Mallville Library Teen Librarian (according to his character description on the website, at least). Tamara is the extremely bubbly Children’s Librarian, and Mel is the manager. Mel deals with all the insanity that Dewey brings her way. She also can’t state an opinion without the opposite happening (“It’s so quiet today.” and suddenly there’s a marching band through the library).

The strip is hilarious and if you like comics give it a try. Or you can visit their website and start at the beginning.

Heather: I do enjoy this strip and I signed up for getting e-mails. On Fridays they have book recommendations. It’s a total blast and the Eckhart Public Library does have some of the books that they’ve recommended over the years. I’ve noticed it just browsing along the shelves or even looking up titles if I’m really curious. They recommend a variety of materials.

The Librarian in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series manages the often dangerous grimoires at Unseen University while frequently navigating L-Space (Library -Space).  In L-Space [represented as Books = Knowledge = Power = (Force x Distance^2) ÷ Time], the collection of many magical books acts as a power source that opens a portal connecting all libraries that allows librarians to traverse time and space to fulfill library functions such as retrieving books and scrolls from long lost libraries, as seen briefly in Small Gods. While The Librarian can bend space and time to gather books, he, like all librarians, must abide by the following rules:

  1. Silence
  2. Books must be returned by the last date stamped
  3. Do not interfere with the nature of causality

Once upon a time, The Librarian was human, but a magical accident in The Light Fantastic turned him into an orangutan and he found he preferred this form. It’s much easier to reach the high shelves when one is an orangutan. Don’t even think of trying to change him back! Despite the fact that The Librarian at Unseen University communicates through a series of Ooks and Eeks, all of his colleagues understand him and know, above all else, to never refer to this orangutan as a monkey.  He might go all librarian-poo on them.

"Librarian (Discworld)" by Paul Kidby - Scanned from The Pratchett PortfolioCopyright Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Librarian_(Discworld).jpg#/media/File:Librarian_(Discworld).jpg

“Librarian (Discworld)” by Paul Kidby – Scanned from The Pratchett PortfolioCopyright Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

flothelibrarian

Stephen Pastis’ wildly popular Timmy Failure series features one of our favorite pop culture librarians, Flo.

From Timmy Failure:

That’s an unhappy Flo. And Flo isn’t short for Florence. It’s short for “Misshelve my books and the blood may FLOw.” So people do not misshelve books at my library. They do not tear pages out of magazines.”

Flo has attitude, but at the end of the day, he shows up and supports Timmy Failure when he needs him. And, along with Timmy Failure himself, Flo makes us giggle.

Katy and Jan both appreciate the absurdity of Timmy Failure and Pastis’ transgressive take on the traditional image of the librarian.

batgirlTV

“I was just doing my duty as a citizen” -Batgirl (from Batman: The Unkindest Tut of All #3.6, 1967)

Originally created as a love-interest for Robin, Batgirl has appeared in several iterations within the DC canon*.  The first Bat-Girl was Betty Kane, niece of Batwoman Kathy Kane.  Kathy Kane  was introduced a few years prior as, you guessed it, a love interest for Batman. The most famous and long-running Batgirl is Dr. Barbara Gordon, daughter of police commissioner Jim Gordon.

Spoilers below!

Barbara Gordon was introduced in both the Batman television series and DC Comics #359 in 1967 when producers realized they needed a modern, female character.  Gordon had a Ph.D in library science and served as director of Gotham Public Library before being elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 1970s.  Brilliant, tough, and independent, this Batgirl was popular enough for fans to demand more, and she made appearances in several books before being officially retired in 1988’s Batgirl Special #1.  In 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed by The Joker in a controversial and violent story arc that divides fans and critics to this day.

Thanks to the efforts of writer/editor Kim Yale, Barbara Gordon resurfaced as Oracle, fighting crime with her intellect.  At various points, Oracle appeared in The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey (as a founding member with Black Canary!) and teamed up with Batman to train a new Batgirl**.  More recently, Barbara Gordon is pulling double duty working on her doctorate and fighting crime as Batgirl in DC’s New 52, having regained the ability to walk following surgery.

batgirlnew52

As both Batgirl and Oracle, Barbara Gordon resonates with readers for many reasons.  She is smart and strong and resilient.  As Oracle, she provides unprecedented representation of differently-abled people in comics.  She reinvents herself and navigates personal struggles with unimaginable, life-altering trauma.  In an America where someone is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds, Barbara Gordon’s is the story of a survivor.

Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is one of my favorite pop culture librarians because she’s so multifaceted.  She is a great librarian, but she’s also a crime fighter.  In fact, she uses her library science training to fight crime!  She is committed to her “duty as a citizen” to the point of running for and being elected to public office.  In that respect, she perfectly embodies the spirit of public librarians.  We may not all be crime fighters, and we couldn’t really tell you if we were (secret identities and all that), but we’re all committed to the principles of a free society.  For a character originally envisioned as a romantic after-thought for Batman’s sidekick, Batgirl fully transformed into a modern, relatable superhero.  ​   ​

*This is a very simplified history of Batgirl focusing on Barbara Gordon.  It’s a little problematic because comics, like life, are anything but simple.  The author is aware of various retcons and continuities.  The author doesn’t care.

**Cassandra Cain was a great Batgirl, the first to have her own on-going book, and she is completely deserving of her own blog entry.

“Well, we start, not surprisingly, with research.” – Rupert Giles

Giles

Librarian. Watcher. Stable father figure with an edgy, questionable past.

Rupert Giles is all of the above and exactly what you get when you combine and academic librarian, high school, and demonology. He walked into our television screens and hearts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Created by Avengers director Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired on the WB in 1997 and has since become a cult classic. Buffy Summers was your average California high school student with the exception of being chosen to fight evil and slay vampires. Rupert Giles was her school librarian and watcher, guiding her through the trials and tribulations of her mystical destiny while always stressing the importance of research.

Buffy and her friends spend a great deal of their time in the Sunnydale High School Library. The library is where they plan, where the train, and where they research how to defeat the newest evil to hit the scene. Giles knows that the key to prevailing is to truly know your subject matter and enemy.

Willow: How is it you always know this stuff? You always know what’s going on. I never know what’s going on. 

Giles: Well, you weren’t here from midnight until six researching it. 

Through the course of the series Giles has had his own struggles along with Buffy and their troop of evil-fighting, mystery solvers aptly titled, The Scooby Gang. Giles is there at devastating times in the lives of those around him often providing much needed comfort and understanding when the world is brutal and unforgiving.

Giles Buffy

And when life gets awkward? He cleans his glasses

When he is not battling demons and vampires, he also fights for intellectual freedom.

Giles: They’re confiscating my books. 

Buffy: Giles, we need those books. 

Giles: Believe me, I tried to tell that to the nice man with the big gun. This is intolerable. Snyder has interfered before, but I won’t take this from that twisted little homunculus. 

Snyder: I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning. 

Giles: You get out… and take your marauders with you. 

Did I mention that he sings? Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired for 7 years and has continued its story in the form of graphic novels.

marian

Marian Paroo in “The Music Man” was one of the first pop culture librarians I remember seeing. At first glance, she seems like your stereotypical librarian – a fussy spinster, not fond of fun.

However, Marian the Librarian is actually a forward-thinking, no-nonsense woman worthy of admiration.

the-music-man-library-scene

Early in the movie version, we see Marian (played by Shirley Jones) defending young Zaneeta’s right to read “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” to Zaneeta’s mother, Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, the wife of the mayor. Standing up to political pressure! Later on, Eulalie and the other town biddies sing, in the song “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little,” that Marian “advocates dirty books” (Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac, shocking!). She’s definitely defending everybody’s First Amendment freedom to read what they want.

Marian is also, clearly, the smartest person in town. She’s the only person who sees through Professor Harold Hill and knows that he’s scamming the town. (She uses her superior librarian research skills to confirm this fact.)

She’s also well-rounded, being a piano teacher as well as a librarian, and she is a very caring individual to her mother and brother. And, she’s not content to “settle” – the reason she’s single is because she is waiting for the right man, somebody who can match her intellectually and treat her right. She’s not afraid of being alone, if the alternative is being with somebody who isn’t right for her!

By the way, Marian Paroo was based on a real librarian, Marian Seeley of Provo, Utah, who was a medical records librarian who worked with “The Music Man” writer Meredith Willson.

Check out “The Music Man” from Eckhart Public Library today, and see just how great Marian is!