Over the last fortnight we’ve looked at a selection of ways in which libraries and librarians are portrayed in pop culture. While we had hoped to add “around the world” to that sentence, the fact is that, with a few exceptions, we found it difficult to find examples outside of American, British and Australian culture. This may reflect our own cultural awareness and language limitations – or it could be that this is a mostly Western ‘thing’.
We also noticed some interesting trends. Librarians in song were almost universally women with glasses (often dowdy or elderly, almost always conservative). Librarians in comics, however, were mostly male. Superhero librarians were usually male, sometimes female – but there were plenty of them.
Librarians in pop culture are portrayed in many and sometimes contradictory ways. They’re conservative, Luddite, scared of change. They’re also smart – almost always very smart. They’re keepers of special knowledge, powers or artefacts. They have a hidden or understated power – they’re not Superman, they’re the secret alter ego of Batgirl. There’s a sense that people think that librarians have other lives, that are almost in direct contrast to their public face. But then they’re also everyday people, working in bureaucratic organisations with fallible colleagues and frustrating patrons.
We’ve only highlighted a very small number of the libraries and librarians in pop culture that we found. In case you’d like to explore further, here is some further reading:
- Spectacles: How Pop Culture Views Librarians
- Librarians in popular culture from Wikipedia
- Librarians portrayed in comics from CCGC in Libraries
- This is what a librarian looks like a collection of self-submitted photos of librarians from around the world
- Library pop culture and ephemera a Pintrest board from the Clark County Public Library
- Pop culture librarians a Pintrest board from Mercyhurst Libraries
- Pop Goes the Librarian
- The Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee
- Pulp Fiction and Libraries a Pintrest board from Eden Kuhlenschmidt
- Movie Librarians: Notable Librarians & Libraries in Films a very exhaustive list