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Allow Us To Explain
According to Wikipedia, "stereotypes of librarians in popular culture are frequently negative: librarians are portrayed as puritanical, punitive, unattractive, and introverted if female, or timid, unattractive, and effeminate if male."
TVTropes, in fact, lists only two librarian tropes: the Hot Librarian, for a very specific kind of story; and the Scary Librarian (basically the shushing librarian with one notable subversion). Even J.K.Rowling admitted that she was unable to present a kind librarian in Harry Potter because otherwise all the mysteries would have been solved in a couple of days.
And so we thought to ourselves: there are plenty of kick ass librarians in fiction! Like all the time... when they are allowed to be main characters... and aren't one-scene jokes... um.
So, we made a Power Grid. Yes, this is usually how these things go. This week's Grid is dedicated to the runners up, and to the reference librarian who didn't bat an eye when I asked her where I could find books on Slavic Folklore, prison tattoos, and Marine snipers (preferably autobiographies).
Evelyn: “Look, I... I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am.”
Rick: “And what is that?”
Evelyn: “I... am a librarian.“
We’re only talking about the Rachel Weisz incarnation here, because the less said about The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the better. There’s plenty to talk about anyway, as Evie (née Evelyn Carnahan), encounters more over the course of two movies than most librarians would ever anticipate in their wildest Egyptology-section fantasies. Not-so-gainfully employed in the Cairo Museum’s extensive library, Evie’s life is turned upside-down when her lout of a brother, Johnathan, turns up with an odd artifact that just happens to lead the way to Hamunaptra, the fabled, treasure-laden City of the Dead. After breaking Brendan Frasier...I mean, Rick O’Connell out of prison, Evie, her brother, and their requisite prison warden/negative Arab stereotype manage to make it to Hamunaptra. But their adventure has only just begun. Yes, Evie may not be an explorer, or a gunfighter. But after being shot at by the tribe of sand-ninjas that protect the city, climbing into tombs, rejecting the advances of a 3,000-year-old animate magical corpse, stopping the ten plagues from advancing on the world at large, and nearly being a human sacrifice (to say nothing of putting up with the attitudes of academic men towards women in the 1930s), we’d say she more than earns her stripes.
In the blockbuster sequel, 2001’s The Mummy Returns, Evie not only gets an upgrade in wardrobe and the amount of eyeliner she dons, but an upgrade in back-story, as well. As the plot spools out in some amusing gold-spangled flashbacks of high Hollywood Orientalism that Cecil B. DeMille might have enjoyed, Evie is not just a direct descendant of an Egyptian line, but the re-incarnation Nefertiri herself. But this ain’t your grandfather Seti’s Nefertiri (yes, the entire movie it sounds like people are saying “Nefertiti”, but the Word of Wiki would have it otherwise). In a pair of bookending fight sequences against the reincarnation of her own nemesis, Anck-Su-Namun, the lady clearly knows her way around sais, spears, and a host of other edged weapons. Plus, she’s a crack shot with a rifle. Evie repeatedly saves her husband, her brother, and the world, even (oooh, spoiler) coming back from the dead to do so. And if she and Rick are some of the most neglectful parents to make it to the silver screen in recent years, well, we can almost forgive her. She’s got a lot on her flesh-eating-scarab-filled plate.
"Xander, don't speak Latin in front of the books."
Rupert Giles. Where do I even start. He drinks lot of tea, cleans his glasses when he's stressed (which is often), and helps a bunch of teenagers save the world on a regular basis. He's also a spectacular badass. A spectacular badass with a thing for tweed and sweater vests.
Sent by the shady Watcher's Council to help Buffy make sure the antics of one tiny Southern California town doesn't cause the world to implode, he is quintessentially British and academic, and for this Giles gets made fun of a lot at the hands of the teenagers who seem to be his only friends, but he always comes through for them nevertheless. He's always there for a timely "the world is doomed."
We find out in season two that Giles has hidden quite the wild adolescence under all that tweed; when he was a child he dreamt of being "a fighter pilot or maybe a grocer," but when his father informed him of his calling as a Watcher, he rebelled. He dropped out of Oxford, went by the name of Ripper, and pretended to be a founding member of Pink Floyd to impress the ladies. He was a general hoodlum, as is evidenced when his youthful spirit re-inhabits his body in the episode "Band Candy," causing him to break into a clothing store and sleep with Buffy's mom on top of a cop car. Twice. Oh, and there's black magic back there in his past, too. Lots of it.
Still, he grew up to be the buttoned-up tea-loving Giles we all know and love, as well as the closest thing Buffy has to a father figure in the series, even when her boyfriend decides to (spoiler alert) murder his girlfriend, Jenny Calendar. He often plays the straight man to Buffy's former mall-rat and the shenanigans of all those young people, but never let it be thought that Giles left his badassery completely in the past. He still knows how to hot-wire a car with the best of them, and when (spoiler) Evil Willow decides to destroy the world in grief, Giles storms in with one of the most studly cliffhangers the show ever saw, and, subsequently, one of the most studly of fight.
Oh, and he can sing. And he spends some time as roommates with Spike. God, now I have to go watch this show again.
"I've written over thirty-thousand cards, and I can find any book in this library."
We fell in love with Dylan Meconis as little bitty Sues when we were in high school and she was in college and producing Bite Me! a long-form webcomic about vampires, werewolves, spies, and saucy serving wenches during the French Revolution. Bite Me! was considerably fun; a self-described, self-aware cross between A Tale of Two Cities and Interview With a Vampire.
Meconis' next webcomic is/was the exhaustively researched Family Man; a tale of Luther Levy, a man of half-Jewish descent who was kicked out of Protestant seminary for being an Atheist. In 1768. Yes, Luther's life is very complicated. It becomes complicated in different ways, however, when he finally lands a job at a small secluded university in a town full of wolf statues that's willing to overlook the fact that he never quite finished his studies. There he meets Ariana, the spinster daughter of the university rector, and the inheiritor of the duties of librarian.
Essentially, Ariana took it upon herself to organize the university's collection (by independently inventing a card catalog system), housed in a gothic cathedral (because no one was really coming to services and the old library was flooded), and eventually her father simply stopped looking for another librarian and gave her the title. Impressive stuff for a lass in the 1770s, even if nepotism is involved.
Ariana is also an impressively non-standard woman of the times in that she's unmarried and has had several sexual liaisons... and, well, she's almost certainly a werewolf. Meconis' tale is moving along at its very own pace, thank you very much (we salivate over every extensive page of notes as we do over every update), but there's plenty of indication and we must simply wait. If you'd like to wait with us, you can do it here.
Robin: "You have cameras in the White House?"
Oracle: "No, silly, the White House has cameras in the White House!"
Barbara Gordon was introduced as Batgirl in 1966, and was consciously intended to sit in contrast to the Batwoman and Bat-girl of the last decade, who editorial forces had finally deemed too silly. Instead of a carbon copy of Robin with a genderflip, she was significantly older than Robin, her reasons to be a superhero didn't directly result from a tragic past, and, yes, she was gainfully employed as the head of Gotham City's public library and had a PhD in library science.
Yes, just like you remember from the TV show, Barbara Gordon was a librarian. One whose father refused to let her join his police force (technically she didn't meet the height requirements) and so she went out at night to wrangle criminals in the way she could, hung out with Supergirl, solved Batman's own mysteries for him and argued over whether Robin was more his sidekick or hers.
Her character origin was, like most, given several tweaks during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, instead of Commissioner Gordon's daughter, she was now his adopted niece, and the character was officially retired in 1988, some suspect so that she could be used by Alan Moore in his The Killing Joke in which Barbara Gordon is shot through the spine, stripped naked, and photographed by the Joker in order to get at her father James. Accounts of that particular decision differ on whether Killing Joke was intended to be canonical, but Kim Yale and husband John Ostrander were of the opinion that treating Barbara as a plot device to show the reactions of the men around her rather than as a character dealing with a restriction of her mobility that meant she would never be a superhero again and being sexually harassed by one of her worst enemies and several strangers was outrageous.
And so, in a world where the usual response to a plot point you didn't like is to pretend that it never happened at all, Yale and Ostrander started the development of a new persona for Barbara that would deny nothing of her past history and instead forge those hardships into an incredibly moving and heroic comeback.
Not the kind of comeback where your new secretly magical girlfriend sacrifices her sanity to fix your spine so you can go beat up the guy who won't give you back your old job, the kind where you take a look at the things in your life that you're still really freakin' good at, like technology, team leadership, programming, data acquisition, organization and multitasking (only some of the things you learned in your graduate library science program) and become a resource that most of the DC Universe depends on.
Look, we tried to make this blurb just about about the librarian aspects of Barbara's identity, but she's just too awesome, and we want to remind everyone of that before the DCnU.
Wan Shi Tong
"Humans only bother learning things to get the edge on other humans, like that Firebender who came to this place a few years ago, looking to destroy his enemy."
So, who are you trying to destroy?"
Wan Shi Tong is the keeper of Spirit Library, and its creator. Initially, the spirit kept his vast and comprehensive collection of all knowledge firmly in the Spirit World but eventually decided that mankind should not be denied access to such treasure.
The spirit, who looks basically like a fifteen foot tall barn owl, however, believes that knowledge should be coveted only for its own sake, and not for application. Particularly, he really doesn't like it when his research in his library is used for violence, as it was when a young Admiral Zhao plundered the library's resources on both astrological events and the locations of other spirits who reside in the human world. Zhao found the mortal identities of the spirits of the moon and ocean, and then burned that section of the library to ash and made his escape from an enraged Wan Shi Tong.
And so when the Aang Gang shows up in order to find something, anything, that will give them a bit of an edge over the Fire Nation, and Wan Shi Tong asks them to swear that they will not use the power of his library to hurt people... they lie.
And they barely escape with their lives.
Liana Telfer: You work for money I take it.
Dean Corso: What else?
Sly, dirty-dealing, and world traveling are hardly descriptors that leap to mind when confronted with the traditional image of “librarian”. Not to mention chain-smoking, open to bribes, and fighting a cult of Satan-worshipers. But you’ve got to give Dean Corso a break. Though not technically a librarian, bibliophile Dean Corso is close enough for government work, and simply too good to pass up for this Grid.
Corso is the main character from Roman Polanski’s unintentionally hilarious piece of horror camp The Ninth Gate, in which he is played by none other than the always-enjoyable Johnny Depp. A rare-books expert who procures his wares by somewhat questionable means, Corso knows every back-alley slimeball paper-peddler from here (wherever here is) to Timbuktu. Motivated entirely by money and the chance of one-upmanship, Corso is called in to authenticate a wealthy collector’s seventeenth-century manuscript of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, a book purportedly authored by the Devil himself. Having heard that two other copies exist in European collections, the Satan-obsessed book hobbyist, Boris Balkan, is concerned that his is not the real version, and pays Corso to go and inspect the others to determine which is the forgery. Why of so much concern? The ‘real’ copy contains engravings that, when decoded and spoken aloud, are supposed to summon Lord Morningstar. Some people have too much time on their hands.
What starts out as a curious but straightforward job gets strange and messy fast, as Corso ends up on the run across the Continent from mysterious thugs, murderous Satanic cultists, and the succubus-like widow of the owner of a copy of The Nine Gates who died under...suspicious circumstances. Everyone wants to get their hands on these books. That’s not even mentioning the strange woman who keeps showing up to help him, who may or may not be an archangel, like he’s going to buy into any more of this nonsense. Near exsanguination, thrice near-immolation, and few good old-fashioned beatings would be enough to turn most people away, but here is a man set to get his job done, and collect a big, fat paycheck. He might be the least moral guy on this Grid, but boy, is he fun to watch get into trouble.
"Please," said Lirael..."I think I would like to work in this Library."
"The Library," repeated Sanar, looking troubled. "That can be dangerous to a girl of fourteen. Or a woman of forty, for that matter."
Lirael, protagonist of the second two books in Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, before she finds the truth to her past, the secret of her childhood loneliness, and her true destiny; finds happiness and purpose as an Assistant Librarian in the great Library of the Clayr. The Clayr are a hereditary tribe of soothsayers to which Lirael's late mother belonged. The identity of Lirael's father is unknown, and a partial source to her feelings of alienation. But Lirael has also never experienced the Sight that would mark her as a true daughter of the Clayr. And so, after one near suicide attempt, she is assigned to the Library, which is only a marginally less dangerous place than the tall cliff she had intended to throw herself off of.
All Librarians of any level in the library are equipped with three things: a whistle, pinned to their collars so that they don't need their hands to whistle for help, in case a thing is holding them; a magical dagger, to stab the thing that is holding them, and a voice-activated mechanical mouse powered by magic, to run like the blazes for help.
For the Clayr, as seers, live perhaps too much in the future, and it seems that they sometimes forget all the imprisoned spirits and monstrosities in the depths of their library, one of which Lirael almost immediately stumbles across, accidentally frees, and is almost killed by. Of course, she wasn't supposed to be in that part of the library to begin with, and so instead of going for the authorities, she dispatches the thing herself, with the Head Librarian's sword, stolen from her office.
"Do you know how long it's been since I mislaid a book? Well, let's just say the continents weren't in their current shapes, not that that means anything to you."
Lucien was first introduced as the caretaker of a great castle in Transylvania, a haunted place with a great library that Lucien knows intimately, and he will gladly share the tales of its contents with anyone willing to listen. Or at least anyone willing to pick up Tales of Ghost Castle, one title of DC Comics' line of horror comics intended to fill a void left when EC Comics abandoned its horror lines (in the face of an inhospitable market) and added a few articles to Mad Comics so they could sell it as Mad Magazine.
Lucien, along with his other DC horror comic counterparts Cain, Abel, and Eve, was utilized by Neil Gaiman Sandman, making references that anyone who wasn't reading comics by at least the early '80s might not recognize as references to comics instead of the Bible. Lucien's castle was revealed to be only one manifestation of the home of the King of Dreams, located at the center of his realm; a shifting, nebulous building that suits any whim or purpose the Sandman has for it. At its heart, of course, lies the great library containing every book ever written, and every book that never was (including Road Trips to the Emerald City by Frank Baum, The Lost Road by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Emperor Over the Sea by C.S. Lewis, and The Conscience of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and many, many books by authors who never published, or, indeed, even wrote down their creations).
Naturally, Lucien knows the whole of the library intimately, and is more than willing to help any friendly visitors to the book they are looking for, whether or not they even know what they want, whether or not they are even human. He is also a humble but fierce protector of his tomes, and one of the Dream King's most faithful servants; keeping the Library locked down and safe from roaming nightmares during Dream's unexpected seventy year absence (at least until it up and completely disappeared within a week, leaving him tending only the castle), and also during the corruption of the Kindly Ones.
"Peace to the books of the world, an iron hammer to those who would abuse them, and glory and wisdom to the British Empire!"
The various stories laid out by the Read or Dream manga and the Read or Die novels, manga, feature length anime, and R.O.D. the TV the twenty-six episode anime series which brings Read or Die and Read or Dream characters together in one series all take place in a world where Britain remained the world's only superpower.
Most of the disparate elements of the Read or Die universe also involve Yomiko Readman (literally: Reading-woman Readman, according to Wikipedia), a papermaster and agent of the British Library's Special Operations Division known by the codename The Paper.
This still leaves me some explaining to do. A papermaster is essentially a Bender, of Avatar fame, except with paper. Got that? And the British Library is a powerful political organization dedicated to promoting literacy around the world, but as one of their most powerful papermasters, Yomiko spends her greatest adventure facing superpowered clones of historical figures who are trying to steal a copy of a book in which Beethoven noted down his Death Symphony, a piece of music so powerful that anyone who hears it commits suicide.
Yomiko has the book, and is desperate to keep it, but ... because she hasn't finished reading it yet. The people behind the rash of clones intend to send a rocket equipped with an organ and a clone of Beethoven high enough to broadcast the symphony over all of Earth's radio channels.
Then Yomiko's partner turns out to be a double agent clone of Mata Hari and she turns some $100 bills into a lightsaber.
Just... just watch/read it.
The Librarian of the Discworld's Unseen University is an orangutan. But his colleagues don't seem to mind. In fact, if you told them there was an orangutan working at the library, they would probably go call the Librarian to sort it out. The Librarian actually used to be a human and was turned into an orangutan by a strong wave of magic. While it has never been confirmed, he is presumed to be one Dr. Horace Worblehat. And while some might do everything in their power to return to their human form, the Librarian actually found his primate features to be very useful in the Library of Unseen University (scaling shelves, wrestling with living grimories, for example). Because of that, he made efforts to erase his human identity, making it even harder for his colleagues to remember him the way he was.
As a senior Librarian, he is privy to the knowledge of all great Librarians, which is that any library, regardless of the contents of its books, is a very powerful thing. After all, knowledge is power. And power is energy, and energy is equal to mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared. The library of Unseen University is a great weight in the rubber sheet of L-Space, the phenomenon that allows all libraries everywhere to connect to one another. Travelling through the stacks of L-Space is not with out its hazards and unique geography (wild roaming herds of thesauri, scuttling step stool crabs) but the Librarian wanders them freely and easily. Sometimes leaving large banana-ry fingerprints behind him.
And he isn't just the Librarian -- he's also a Special Constable of the City Watch and mysterious ape-about-town. He's known to sneak into Patrician's Palace Menagerie some nights and come out...more relaxed than he came in. No one really knows what he's doing in there, but suffice it to say that there are no other orangutans hanging out in there. But he's a frequent visitor to the pub (he especialy likes the peanuts in the little bowls) and seems like a very easygoing cat... in a manner of speaking.
Just do not, ever, call him a monkey.
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