If you’ve wondered what the real-life librarian behind ‘Reel Librarians’ sounds like, then this podcast is for you!
Happy New Year! It’s an annual tradition here on Reel Librarians to take a quick look back at favorite posts from the past year before launching into the new year. It’s also good to keep trying new things, so this year, I decided it would be fun to explore a podcast format for this “year in review” post. And yes, this is the first-ever podcast produced by Reel Librarians!
For this podcast, I invited my spouse, Sam, to chat about our favorite Reel Librarians posts this past year. And a big shout-out to Sam for editing this podcast. ❤
Enjoy the first podcast for Reel Librarians! Favorite posts of 2021 + a continuing goal for 2022
Spoiler alerts & sources
As I mentioned in the podcast, here’s a spoiler alert for plot points mentioned about 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. (And please, do not share any spoilers on this post about Wong and the new Spider-Man: No Way Home movie — I will watch that movie once it’s available for streaming.)
This may seem like another spoiler, but I’m a librarian, so OF COURSE I have to credit my sources. Below I have added quick links to the posts that are referenced in the podcast — but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to discover in which context they’re mentioned and by whom!
FYI, some of the posts linked below are not necessarily our faves (or even published this past year!); let’s just say we had a wide-ranging conversation. 🙂 I’ve also arranged the post links below in alphabetical order by title, not necessarily in the order that they’re mentioned in the podcast.
Did you enjoy this new podcast format? I have no intention of creating a regular podcast — I am most comfortable expressing myself through writing — but would you enjoy occasional or special podcasts on this blog? Do you have any sign-off catchphrases or podcast titles to suggest? (The nerdier, the better! 😉 ) Do you have any personal fave posts or themes from the blog this past year? Do you have any specific themes, ideas, questions, and/or reel librarian movies you would like me to explore in 2022? Please leave a comment and share.
I was browsing recently through the newly added movies on Amazon Prime, and a TV movie entitled A Winter Romance (2021) caught my eye because the word “librarian” was mentioned in the first line of its summary:
When librarian TAYLOR HARRIS suddenly loses her job, she moves back to her small hometown in Montana. There, she gets involved in the fight to help save her brother’s hotel from tycoon JOEL SHEENAN. But things become complicated when she ends up falling for Joel.
Jessica Lowndes, a White Canadian actress, stars as librarian Taylor, and Chad Michael Murray, a White American actor, co-stars as Joel in this GAC Family Channel TV movie — with all the hallmarks of a Hallmark or Lifetime TV movie. Since the librarian is the main character in this TV movie, it took me HOURS to watch this 85-minute movie. Since I had so many notes from all the pauses, replays, research tangents, etc., I was struggling with how to structure this post… which finally led me to the realization that I could structure it more stream-of-consciousness style, noting all my random thoughts and questions I had while watching this TV movie. I hope you enjoy this new kind of post format!
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* (But are there really any kind of spoilers for this kind of holiday romance?)
Here’s a preview trailer for the movie:
1. Why does this TV movie have multiple titles?
The opening scene clearly reveals the movie title to be A Winter Romance, as seen above. But when I tried to look up details about the movie using that title, I came up empty. Finally, looking up the director’s name, Bradley Walsh, led me to the TV movie’s original title, Colors of Love, which led me to other alternate titles, including An Autumn Romance when it was released on the GAC Family cable channel (and as seen above in the YouTube preview). And all of these titles are different from the source novel, The Tycoon’s Kiss, by Jane Porter. Why does this TV movie have 3+ titles? This does not feel like a good sign.
2. Is there a real “Seattle Reference Library”?
The opening title screen is of the Seattle cityscape. You can see the Seattle Space Needle in the upper right in the screenshot in #1 above, and the boomerang-shaped buildings along the bottom are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus. Is this movie set in Seattle? How do we get to Montana, as mentioned in the plot summary?
The next shot is the outside of a building with prominent black letters on the sign that read “Seattle Reference Library,” further emphasizing the Seattle location. Is there a real-life library called the “Seattle Reference Library”? Not that I know of, and I live in this region of the U.S. The glass architecture of this building seems to be suggesting the iconic glass building that houses the central Seattle Public Library building. If you recognize this real-life building that’s standing in for this library onscreen, please leave a comment.
3. Don’t piss off librarians by introducing a librarian character and then having that librarian immediately shush a patron onscreen.
There should be a moratorium on showing librarians shushing onscreen. It’s so stereotypical and so unnecessary, especially in a modern movie.
After Taylor helps a writer who is researching his book — the key is in primary sources, like land grants and diaries — the writer gets too excited (“I have to call my publisher!”) that Taylor shushes him, as seen above. Shushing WHILE smiling?! Insert rolling eyes emoji here: 🙄
4. Shushing aside, this librarian seems to be good at her job.
I think this line will be the set-up for the movie, as Taylor says to the patron, “I’m happy to help… Digging into history is what I love to do.” Shushing aside, Taylor seems to be good at her job, and we are clearly being encouraged to respect her skills as a librarian.
The library director, Linda (Jenni Burke), also happens to walk by while Taylor is wrapping up with the writer, and she compliments her work, “It’s like you have a sixth sense.” It’s SO RARE to see multiple librarians onscreen, and I appreciate that the library director is a Black woman. Linda has the power in this relationship, and Taylor, a White woman, is visibly happy to earn praise from her boss. The two librarians share a warm and professional dynamic together.
5. I am guessing that the importance of primary sources will be a theme.
In her exchange with Linda, Taylor also states, “There’s still some stuff that you can’t find on the internet.” So. True. Primary sources, y’all! I feel like this will be a theme in the rest of the movie… so let’s just put a pin in that here.
6. The lack of stable library funding is depressingly realistic.
Linda then reveals the bad news as the two walk down the stairs. The city is facing major budget cuts, and the library has used up some grant funding, which means… the research librarian position has been cut. Taylor’s out of a job, pronto. Yikes. It’s depressing, but I do appreciate the real talk about the inadequacies and instability of library funding. (This was also the crux behind TheTwelve Trees of Christmas TV movie!) However, the two part on good terms (Linda: “I’m already looking for other funding. The second I can bring you back, I… We’re gonna miss you so much.”), which is kind of refreshing.
7. Being a librarian IS a dream job.
Taylor then calls her brother, who’s in Montana, and shares that “was my dream job.” I may be mistaken, but I don’t recall EVER hearing a librarian job being described onscreen as a “dream job” before. Bless. And her brother is so supportive (“You were good at it, too”).
So, 2 minutes in, and we’ve already connected the dots between Seattle and Montana. And we’ve already seen multiple librarians onscreen!
8. Books are our brand!
After her car ends up in a ditch due to icy roads, Taylor gets a ride from Joel Sheenan (their first “meet cute” moment!) to her brother’s house. We meet her brother, Craig (played by Dennis Andres), who is married to a Black woman, Christine (played by Moni Ogunsuyi), and they have a cute-as-a-button daughter, Zoe (played by Delia Lisette Chambers). And I thought it sweet that Zoe gives her a picture she drew of her aunt Taylor in a library, surrounded by books. And then Zoe picks out a book for Taylor to read to her for bedtime.
Books are indeed our brand!
I’m not mad at that association. Of course, there are many more things in a library’s collection than books, and librarians NEVER have time to “read on the job” like some people assume. It’s just… the lowest common denominator. Associating books with librarians is easy and predictable. As is this TV movie.
9. WTF: “Maybe they’re right… Libraries are obsolete.”
At 14 1/2 minutes into this TV movie, Taylor is talking with her sister-in-law, Christine, about her love life, that she’s been dating these tech bros in Seattle. And then comes this line:
[T]he only books they read are on tiny little screens. But maybe they’re right. That, as much as I love what I do, libraries are obsolete.
W.T.F. Libraries are NOT obsolete, and no self-respecting librarian would ever say that. We librarians actually deal with constant changes in technology and ongoing reassessments of community needs, while also trying to preserve access to information in disparate, older formats. It takes skill to balance all that.
And it’s her brother and sister-in-law who push back on this! Craig responds, “Not as long as you have anything to say about it, right?,” and Christine says, “Somewhere out there, there’s a guy who’s gonna appreciate your love of books.” Why are all these supporting characters doing all the work of validating this central librarian character?! I’m sensing some White woman privilege here.
10. Does everyone think librarians judge people by their reading choices?
Craig, to his wife: Did I ever tell you that my little sister, back in high school, wouldn’t date a guy unless he could name all three Brontë sisters?
Taylor: That’s not true. Two out of three was OK.
This exchange was part of the scene above, and I rolled my eyes at the thought that everyone — or at least, this screenwriter — assumes that librarians judge people by their reading choices or knowledge. Not all of us are literary snobs! (I personally love reading mysteries and YA fantasy fiction. But our cat is named Brontë, so perhaps the lady doth protest too much, methinks? … 😉 )
11. Yes, librarians do visit other libraries wherever they go.
At 20 minutes into the film, Taylor visits the local public library in Forest Ridge. This rang true for me. One of the first things I do when I visit a new place is to visit a local library.
Note: Bracebridge Public Library in the Ontario province, Canada, served as the filming location for the fictional Forest Ridge Public Library.
12. Do they get the call numbers right?
As Taylor enters the library, we get treated to a closeup of Dewey Decimal call numbers. This public library uses the Dewey Decimal classification system, which is common for public libraries, plus there are red Reference labels on the book spines. Hallmarks of actual library books! But they must be older library books, as it turns out that the 819 call number is no longer being used, at least not in the U.S. (but perhaps still in Canada?). The 810’s are used for American literature in English, and the 819 range used to be used for American puzzle books. Who knew?! 🙂
13. Librarians deserve their own “meet cute” moment, too.
In this first public library scene, we get to meet another library director, Joyce, played by Darlene Cooke, a Black Canadian actress. Taylor and Joyce get their own librarians’ “meet cute” moment over a book display of “the greatest love stories of all time,” in which Taylor chooses Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Joyce convinces Taylor to get a library card in order to check out the book.
What purpose(s) does this scene serve? My guesses: To reinforce this Brontë thread that was introduced in the previous scene, and to introduce a way to get Taylor working at this library in order to stay in town.
And as lovely and warm as this “meet cute” moment is between the two librarians — and how appreciative I am that we are meeting multiple librarians of color in this TV movie! — I cannot help but notice that, once again, the persons of color seem to exist solely to direct attention toward Taylor (Joyce reveals that “Zoe always talks about her Aunt Taylor being a librarian too.”)
14. Is Anne Brontë the best Brontë?
The Brontë thread pays off in the next scene! At 23 minutes, Joel comes out of the coffee shop as Taylor walks by with her library book.
Taylor: I just stopped by the library and got myself a card [shows her book, Wuthering Heights]
Joel: Ohhh! That’s a good choice, although I’ve always been more of a Charlotte fan.
Joel: Charlotte Brontë. instead of Emily. You know, Jane Eyre.
Taylor: But we cannot forget their favorite sister.
Joel: And how could we ever forget Anne? Oh, I love Anne!
Taylor: You’re full of a lot of surprises, aren’t you?
I also personally prefer Jane Eyre. (Don’t @ me, Wuthering Heights fans. We can co-exist.) And is Anne the best Brontë? I should finally get around to reading my copy of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall… if there are any die-hard Anne Brontë fans reading this right now, please leave a comment! Also, it’s hilarious to me that no one ever mentions their brother, Branwell Brontë.
Also, how many “meet cute” moments does Taylor need?! This movie is working VERY hard to convince us that it’s actually a romance and that Taylor and Joel have chemistry together. (I’m not convinced. And I’m not the only one. In this online review of the movie, the critic observes that “Taylor … isn’t in search of love as much as she is in search of a job.” )
15. A third of the way into this movie, we finally arrive at the central conflict and plot device.
The next scene takes place at the community center, in which city councillors are holding public comments on the proposed permits to turn the 100-year-old Graff Hotel into a glossy new “destination” resort. The problem? Taylor’s brother works at (or manages?) the Graff Hotel, and Joel is the one who has bought the hotel. Taylor is conflicted! But then Taylor has her BIG IDEA.
Taylor: Isn’t the Graff Hotel 100 years old? So that means it’s eligible for a landmark status.
Phyllis (played by Andrea Davis, a Black American actress): For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.
Joel: That’s exactly right. Thank you, Phyllis. And according to our research, there’s no evidence of that with the Graff Hotel.
Taylor: Well, who did this research? […] So you’re saying that if we find a significant event happened at the Graff, then the hotel would be preserved?
Phyllis: According to the state of Montana, yes.
Craig: Phyllis, maybe we could take some time to explore this before the council makes their final decision?
Phyllis: All right, this is what we’ll do. We’ll take a week to look this over, then we’ll reconvene and hear what everyone has to say. Any objections?
Ah hah! This is where it pays off that Taylor’s a librarian, and that she knows her way around research. Librarians to the rescue!
16. Is this movie correct about the qualifications for landmark status in Montana?
So Phyllis, the city council chairwoman, stated above that, “For landmark status, the state of Montana says we have to prove that a significant historical event took place involving the building.” Is this accurate?
Yes and no. Yes: one of the criteria for landmark status is association with a significant historical event. No: that’s not the ONLY criteria to be considered for landmark status.
1. Be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
2. Be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
3. Embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
4. Have yielded, or may likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history. In addition, properties must possess a high degree of integrity to qualify for listing in the Register – in other words, they must be relatively unchanged in appearance from the historic period.
I mean, y’all knew I would look this up, right?! Right. I’m glad y’all know me so well. 😀
17. I guessed correctly about the part-time library job opportunity!
This TV movie is very predictable. Thirty-eight minutes in, Joyce asks Taylor to work part-time at the library.
Joyce: Are you enjoying your visit with Catherine and Heathcliff?
Taylor: Very much.
Joyce: I was thinking, my part-time librarian recently moved to Denver, and I’ve been looking someone to help out around here, if you’re interested.
Taylor:Oh, I mean, that would be amazing, I just… I don’t know how long I’m here for.
Joyce: Well, while you are here, I could sure use your help. […]Come by tomorrow and we’ll get you started.
My next prediction? Taylor’s going to use the library’s resources to research the Graff Hotel. But uh, that’s not the same thing as working in the library. This is just being used as a plot excuse.
18. In two minutes, you can get a job AND a date!
At this point, my husband, Sam, joined me. He stayed long enough to comment on this next scene, in which Joel and Taylor have YET ANOTHER “meet cute” moment. Joel asks her for reader’s advisory recommendations as a way to actually ask her out on a date.
Joel: I was wondering if you could help me find a book. You see, I finished this one. Again.
Taylor: Jane Eyre. That’s impressive.
Joel: And I’m looking for something a little different. I figured, who better to ask than a librarian?
Taylor: Well, I don’t officially work here yet.
Joel [looking around and lowering his voice to a whisper]: Well, then we’ll make it unofficial.
Here is Sam’s tongue-in-cheek reaction to Joel essentially shushing himself:
Sam: She hasn’t even shushed him yet! Librarians are professionals. You can’t just shush yourself. You have to WAIT to be shushed.
Sam: Each other, yes. But not themselves. It’s a totally different thing to shush each other.
Sam: You are welcome for my contributions to this viewing experience. I am making this movie better.
19. “That’s not how any of this works!”
After three (!!!) “meet cute” moments, Taylor and Joel finalllllly go on a date, to a private dinner at the Graff Hotel. As they get to know each other beyond their mutual love of the Brontë sisters, we learn that Taylor doesn’t know the difference between library volunteers and actual, paid librarian professionals.
Craig and I grew up in Seattle. He’s actually the reason I got my first librarian job. […] We were in high school, and this one summer, our local library was looking for a volunteer, and I wanted the job more than anything, so Craig took the bus all the way downtown so that he could go talk to the head librarian, and he told him that no one loves books as much as I do, and that he would never have even opened a book if it weren’t for me. He must have been really convincing because I got the job, and… he’s been there for me ever since.
Sam beat me to it:
That’s not how any of this works! Volunteers are not the same thing as librarians!
I’m sure this backstory confessional had good intentions, but it unfortunately serves to reinforce the misconceptions that (1) loving books is the only requirement for a librarian, (2) anyone working in a library is a librarian, and (3) that you don’t have to pay librarians a fair wage. Real-life librarians are professionals with actual training and graduate-level education, and we deserve to be recognized and paid as professionals.
20. Yep, primary sources are important for historical research.
At 50 minutes into this TV movie, we get a library tour with Joyce — presumably on Taylor’s first day working at the public library — and OF COURSE Taylor asks about local history and primary sources. Joyce leads her to the archives room. So yes, the part-time librarian job IS a convenient plot device for Taylor to have time and access to research the Graff Hotel.
Taylor: The best way of digging up the hotel’s history was from some local sources. Perhaps a first person’s account?
Joyce: Much better than searching the internet, yes.
Taylor: And, considering you know the area so well, I was hoping you could point me in the right direction.
Joyce: Ah! I may have one idea. [takes her to the archives room]
Joyce: Over the years, the library’s collected a kind of archive of the town’s history. [points] Newspapers, photographs, letters and diaries.
Taylor: What do you do with all these?
Joyce: Well, the plan was to have it digitized and online, but as you can see, we haven’t made much progress. If you think it can help.
Taylor: It looks like a great place to start.
My next prediction is that Taylor’s going to parlay her short-term, part-time job into a long-term job digitizing the archives!
21. Pay attention to signage.
Along the way to the archives room, we do get some glimpses of other parts of the public library, including this children’s book zone. But the signage on the ends of the bookcases says “newspapers back issues” and “periodicals back issues.” My guess is that the real-life library did have periodicals in this part of the library, but the set dressers moved children’s books into this area to be more visually dynamic and colorful — but then forgot to remove the signs off the ends of the bookcases.
22. Is Taylor the luckiest librarian in Montana?
At 56 mins, Taylor goes back to the hotel to see her brother. Craig asks how the search is going, and Taylor responds that “I’m hoping something turns up.” The pair then stroll by the old maids’ quarters — which have apparently just been serving as storage for the past hundred years? — and Taylor starts looking around the wardrobes and drawers.
The plot is too predictable… I think it will come as no surprise to you that within 30 seconds, Taylor finds EXACTLY the evidence she was hoping would turn up, an old scrapbook of letters and photographs from a maid who worked at the hotel in the early 1900s — including a photograph of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the hotel! Historical significance and landmark status, I can smell you coming down the research trail. Zero stars for predictability, but a gold star for depicting primary sources as discovered treasure!
23. Librarians are like private detectives.
The next 10 minutes reveal how there are so many similarities between librarians and private detectives. (If you need more evidence, see this post, this post, and this post.)
I won’t get into all the details, but we next get a scene with Taylor, Joyce, and Craig in the public library’s archives room, and Taylor brandishes a magnifying glass to show the others how the photo is of Teddy Roosevelt during his time as U.S. President, between 1901 and 1909. (“Now that we know the timeframe, we can just narrow down the dates.”)
In the next scene, Taylor uses clues in the photograph to discover the probable reason Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge (a freak snowstorm in springtime).
24. Yes, librarians seek help from other librarians.
Taylor then reveals to Craig that she has a friend, Caitlin, who works at the National Archives in Washington DC. (Do you think Caitlin knows Dr. Abby Chase?!)
So I emailed her [Caitlin] the photo and she said she was going to search the records to see all the traveling that the president did during that time… She said she would get back to me as soon as possible, but I think it’s looking good.
Do we have any doubt that the information she gets from Caitlin will be exactly what she needs to save the hotel? I don’t think so!
And yes, librarians do get help from colleagues and other librarians, archivists, and information professionals. We take our own advice; when we’re stuck in a research dead end, we ask each other for help!
25. A librarian gets a Poirot moment.
Reinforcing that link between librarians and private detectives… just like the literary private detective Hercule Poirot loves a rapt audience when he solves the mystery at the end of an Agatha Christie novel (I told you I like mysteries), Taylor gets her Poirot moment at the city council meeting, when she gets to reveal the hotel’s historical significance.
And this movie drags this out to the wire — complete with frantic texting and her brother knocking over the microphone stand to stall for time– even though there is zero suspense about what the outcome will be. (What I find most interesting during this bit are glimpses of the evidence Taylor was compiling on her laptop, including 1903 Montana weather maps and historical photos of 1900s Montana. Again, primary sources for the win!)
Here’s how Taylor’s Poirot moment goes down, complete with a slideshow, historic photographs, handwritten letters, diary entries, and official government documents:
Phyllis, city council chairwoman [to Craig]: Being old doesn’t qualify a building for landmark status. I’m afraid unless you have something new to add, you’re going to have to yield the floor.
Taylor [rushing into the community center]: I may be able to help with that! I think I may have found proof that shows that the Graff Hotel deserves to be a historic landmark. […] In April 1903, [the hotel maid] Mary Catherine had her photograph taken next to President Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Graff Hotel.
Phyllis: Teddy Roosevelt was in Forest Ridge?
Taylor: That spring, he was at Yellowstone National Park to lay the cornerstone of the Roosevelt Arches, which still stand at the north entrance today. Teddy loved this part of the West more than anything, so he decided to stay and do a little bit more exploring. What nobody was expecting was that it was going to be the coldest spring on record. A freak snowstorm rolled in, leaving three feet of snow, leaving Teddy and his entire crew stranded just outside forest Ridge. By the time that the party made it back into town they spent three nights at the Graff Hotel until the roads were clear.
Phyllis: And you have proof of all this?
Taylor: I do, actually. Right here, I have a diary entry from Roosevelt. He kept one most of his life, and in April 1903, he wrote: “Snowed in at a little scrappy town called Forest Ridge. Beautiful country. Good and amiable folk. Stayed at the Graff Hotel. Best three nights of sleep in years…“
But it wasn’t just the Graff that inspired him. It was… Forest Ridge. It was Montana. It was this entire part of the country and its people and the culture that inspired him while he was snowed in. So, shortly after he went back to Washington, he decided to sign the Antiquities Act, which gave him and all the future presidents the power to preserve the beautiful country of ours so that future generations could enjoy everything that he had. By making the Graff Hotel a historic landmark, we are not only celebrating Roosevelt’s legacy, we are celebrating the spirit that makes this city, this country so special. Thank you.
The city council announces that they will be applying to the state of Montana for the Graff Hotel to be granted landmark status. The town erupts in applause, while Craig hugs his sister who just saved the hotel! Librarians are heroes!
As a librarian, I appreciate this scene because of its focus on research, but I suspect that not everyone does. This reviewer commented that “Some scenes take place only to deliver information rather than emotions.”)
This presentation lasts 3 minutes total, with 10 minutes remaining in the film, just enough time for Taylor and Joel to wrap up their supposed romance.
26. How historically accurate was all that?
I do appreciate how confident Taylor is in her Poirot moment — and the suspension of disbelief in how quickly she set up her laptop to project onto the big TV screen! — but you know I had to wonder, how historically accurate was her evidence? So yes, I paused the movie to spend time digging into the possibilities and online archives of Teddy Roosevelt’s presidential papers.
Roosevelt did sign the Antiquities Act, which allowed for the creation of national monuments and national parks… in 1906, a full three years after the events Taylor described. So her line that “shortly after he went back to Washington, he decided to sign the Antiquities Act” is not accurate and would not be valid evidence to signify an historical event.
So all in all, even if not totally historically accurate — I mean, Forest Ridge is a fictional town — then it is, for the most part, historically probable for the purposes of this film’s plot. A solid B, with marks off for the handwriting mismatch and fudging of the dates.
27. The real romance is not between Taylor and Joel.
The final few minutes of the TV movie try to create suspense about whether or not Taylor will stay in Forest Ridge and whether or not she and Joel will get together. For me, the ending didn’t hold much interest — except for when I realized there was a(n unintended?) love triangle. Before Taylor goes to the Harvest Ball, we learn that she has been offered the Seattle research librarian job again (“The library in Seattle called and they want me back”). A woman’s love story with primary sources… which archives will she choose, the Seattle reference library or the archives room of the Forest Ridge Public Library?
Taylor’s joyful face when she’s researching in the Forest Ridge Public Library archives sealed the deal, right? 😉
And my final evidence for the TRUE love story of a librarian and her primary sources is in the final closeup at the end: A framed photo of the couple kissing alongside framed primary sources, including the Teddy Roosevelt photograph and historical letters!
28. Is Montana this ethnically diverse?
This TV movie did seem to be making an effort to make this small town in Montana quite ethnically diverse. Two Black Americans are serving on the city council, including Phyllis as the council chairperson; Craig’s family is multiracial; Craig mentions that Forest Ridge was his wife’s hometown; Craig works with a woman of Asian descent at the hotel; and there seems to be a racially diverse array of townspeople at the city council meeting.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Montana is this ethnically diverse? So I looked up the most recent census records for Montana, and per 2021 estimates, the White population in Montana totals almost 89%. The Black population in Montana clocks in at .6%. So it would seem that this TV town is more ethnically diverse onscreen than it would be in real life. But I also researched if there was a history of Buffalo Soldiers in Montana — Buffalo Soldiers were Black American soldiers during the Civil War and into the 20th century — and lo and behold, I learned that many of the Buffalo Soldiers resettled in Montana after the Spanish-American War and also served as the state’s first park rangers. Very interesting!
Although I applaud the attempt at onscreen diversity in this TV movie’s cast list, I also noticed that the people of color do not have distinctive backstories or experiences of their own. We only hear about Christine growing up in Montana because Craig mentioned it. We learn nothing personal about Taylor’s niece Zoe and perhaps how it feels to grow up biracial; she exists solely to set up plot points for Taylor. We learn nothing about Craig’s Asian co-worker. And Joyce’s main function seems to be to react to Taylor’s research findings. Everyone is very pleasant to each other, and there are no overt racist acts, but it’s like the TV movie is striving to be colorblind. They don’t mention race at all. It’s like “Montana nice,” ultimately making the onscreen diversity very surface-level… only skin-deep, so to speak.
Progress is not sticking a bunch of people of color [into a show or movie] and having them speak like everyone else.
29. This movie is NOT a “winter romance”
On a lighter note, I’m assuming that this TV movie’s title got rebranded to A Winter Romance because of the popularity of Christmas-themed TV romances during the end-of-year holidays. But it’s clear throughout the film that “An Autumn Romance” is a much more appropriate title. I mean, the central social event in the movie is the “Harvest Ball,” for goodness sake, and each set is drowning in orange-and red-colored leaves, pumpkins, and sunflowers.
30. These librarians have style
I also have to point out how every librarian in this TV movie has their own distinctive style.
I love the patterns and bright colors here in this screenshot from the Seattle research library:
Joyce sports long necklaces and free-flowing silhouettes throughout the movie, including in her black floral evening wear at the Harvest Ball:
And Taylor rocks amazing coats and jackets throughout the movie:
31. Was this movie good? It doesn’t really matter.
This movie has quite a few positives, including several library- and librarian-focused scenes that I have rarely seen onscreen, including the repeated joy Taylor expresses when researching and looking through historical documents and primary sources. And the fact that Taylor is a librarian is absolutely critical to this movie’s plot, which is why it ends up in the Class I category of films.
There are also several negatives, which I’ve detailed in this post, including the surface-level view of librarian qualifications as well as the missed opportunities to explore the community’s diversity. The screenplay is super predictable, and the central romance between Taylor and Joel is not very compelling.
Do these positives and negatives cancel each other out? Is this a good movie? No, not really. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. I do not begrudge people who watch and enjoy this kind of lightweight romance, especially in these turbulent, stressful times. But perhaps highlighting my own thoughts and questions and research tangents that came up while I was watching this movie can spur some deeper thoughts and questions — and research explorations! — of your own.
Have you seen this TV movie? Do you like this kind of post? Would you like to see more of these stream-of-consciousness types of posts? Please leave a comment and share!
A Winter Romance (aka Colors of Love, An Autumn Romance). Dir. Bradley Walsh. Perf. Jessica Lowndes, Chad Michael Murray, Dennis Andres. Hideaway Pictures via Amazon Prime Video, 2021. Based on the novel The Tycoon’s Kiss by Jane Porter.
“The existence of the Southside Colored Library in Lovecraft Country speaks to the segregation prevalent within the American Midwest”
One of my favorite TV series last year was Lovecraft Country (2020), a horror drama series developed by Misha Green, a Black American screenwriter, producer, and director. This Emmy-winning series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff and produced by Jordan Peele, was one of the most innovative, compelling, and groundbreaking TV shows I’ve seen in awhile. It wasn’t a perfect series — the pacing was all over the place, for one — but watching this show was an exhilarating experience! And I’m not the only one who loved it. The show earned 2 Emmys this past September: Courtney B. Vance won Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role as George Freeman, and the series also won for Sound Editing. Among the show’s 16 other Emmy nominations: Outstanding Drama Series, Writing for a Drama Series (Misha Green), Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Jurnee Smollett as Letitia “Leti” Lewis), Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Jonathan Majors as Atticus “Tic” Freeman), Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Aunjanue Ellis as Hippolyta Freeman), and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (RIP, the iconic Michael K. Williams as Montrose Freeman).
And although it was reported in February 2021 that showrunner Misha Green was working on a second season, HBO (inexplicably) cancelled the series in early July 2021. Worst of all, they cancelled the series shortly before the show earned the 18 Emmy nominations that I mentioned above. For shame, HBO. For shame. We need innovative, creative, diverse shows like Lovecraft Country!
As detailed in a Rolling Stone article:
“The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams),” HBO said in its synopsis for the series, which premieres in August . “This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.”
Here’s a look at Episode 4, “A History of Violence,” which includes a scene in a library!
Library scene in Episode 4, “A History of Violence”
There are a LOT of different threads and characters in this series, so I’m not going to be able to summarize this episode very well. I mean, I’ve watched the entire series, and even I found the recap of this episode hard to follow! Before this episode, we had earned that Titus Braithwhite, a slave trader, had founded a secret occult society of (White, male) wizards called the Sons of Adam. In the beginning of this episode, Montrose learns where some pages from the Book of Names are located, and Tic does some research on Braithwaite and the Sons of Adam.
At 6 minutes into the show, Leti — having learned some startling news about Tic — stomps up the stairs to the Southside Colored Library to confront him. Although this part of the episode is set in Chicago, we know that this is a segregated library by the sign and name. Again, this show finds ways to reiterate that segregation and racism extended beyond the American South.
The outside of the library looks very traditional, with the red brick and white detailing. (I was not able to find out where this scene was filmed. If you know, please leave a comment and share!) Inside, the traditional feel continues, with dark wood tones, book-lined walls, and a fireplace. A portrait of Carter G. Woodson, a well-respected Black American historian, author, and journalist, watches over the library from its perch above the fireplace.
In the screenshot below, we can see a “Quiet Please” sign by the door, and we also glimpse the back and shoulders of a Black woman librarian at the central wooden counter, checking out books to a young Black man. (Both seem to be uncredited in the cast list.)
As Tic comes back to a table loaded with books, Leti confronts him — and earns the ire of a young boy (Ian McKay as “Cute Kid in Glasses”) who’s reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, a classic science fiction novel by Jules Verne.
Leti: Answer me.
Young boy: Shhhh.
Tic: Could you calm down?
The young boy shushes them!!! And the book he’s reading? It totally foreshadows the adventure we’re about to see in the rest of the episode. It’s too cute — I’m dying, y’all! 😀
Tic takes Leti to the stacks so they can talk. (We can just spy the young boy seated at the table in the background. I feel that both he and Carter G. Woodson are keeping a watchful eye on them!) Tic and Leti discuss Christina Braithwhite, a descendent of Titus Braithwaite, who is protected under a spell of invulnerability.
During their heated, yet hushed, conversation in the library stacks, Tic reveals why he’s at the library — that through research, he’s trying to figure out a way to stop Christina. Leti then stalks back to the table to look at the books that Tic has gathered.
Leti: All right. So what’s all this got to do with her? Go on, tell me.
The young boy then scrapes back his chair, stands, and throws his book down in disgust as he rolls his eyes and walks off. EPIC. This kid knows how to steal a scene. He says so much without saying a word.
Leti and Tic continue their conversation, as she picks up books and looks through them. They discuss the lost Book of Names and a vault that Titus Braithwaite kept his pages in.
Tic: If I can get my hands on those pages, I can learn the Language of Adam and start casting some spells of my own to protect us.
Leti: Okay. So where’s this vault?
Tic: I don’t know. I’ve been reading everything I can on Titus to try and find a clue. [Leti starts looking through the books on the table.] I might have to go back to Ardham.
Leti: And what? So you can excavate something out of the rubble? They teaching colored boys paleontology in the army now? You need to talk to your father.
Leti: He probably did all this research and more once he got wind of your mama’s connection.
Tic: I don’t want him involved, or you either, for that matter. [He takes the book out of her hands.] Go home.
Leti leaves, and Tic looks at the book she was holding. That’s when he spies the check-out card in the front, where “Montrose Freeman” name is written. He then checks other books, and sure enough, Montrose’s names is in those books, as well.
How does Tic react to the realization that Leti was right, and that his father, Montrose, has done all this research already?
Cute Kid in Glasses: Shhh!
I was laughing so hard, y’all! I mean, can’t a kid just read a book in peace?! I know it plays into stereotypes that libraries are quiet tombs, rather than the not-so-quiet centers of community they are in real life, but it’s. just. too. cute.
And the production design and cinematography in this show is top-notch excellent. This boy and his book, set against the backdrop of these card catalog drawers? Chef’s-kiss perfection!
This library scene ends at 9:43, so the scene lasts in total for 3 1/2 minutes. And it is an efficient 3 1/2 minutes, as they cram in a lot of exposition — and humor!
Although we only see a glimpse of the reel librarian from behind, it’s clear that this library serves the role of Information Provider, as she helps establish the library setting. The role appears to be uncredited in the cast list.
Although we don’t see this reel librarian doing much — I mean, the patrons are shushing each other! — I loved this critic’s take on this scene and the library’s collection:
In a whirlwind of world-building and backstory downloading, Tic and Leti meet up in the Southside Colored Library underneath a portrait of Carter G. Woodson to do some research on Titus Braithwaite and the Sons of Adam. I love the idea that this random Chicago library has a huge, extensive section on White Magical Racism. Look, I love libraries and librarians but I do have some questions about the idea that Tic just rolled up to the information desk and was like “Good afternoon, I’m looking for any journal articles or published works relating to a secret society of white men who are trying to destroy the Black race through time travel” and the librarian was like “Oh, that again? There’s a whole shelf dedicated to it next to the Farmer’s Almanacs.”
But, libraries are magical in their own right and Tic and Leti get the information they need.
A history of segregated libraries & what this scene reveals
Although I found this scene quite humorous — the rest of the episode gets real dark, real fast — it’s important to note the serious undercurrents this scene reveals and reiterates.
As Sabrina Reed points out:
Lovecraft Country has unrelentingly made the point that Jim Crow’s reach went further than the South and actually encompassed the Midwest and the Northeast as well. […]
The existence of the Southside Colored Library in Lovecraft Country speaks to the segregation prevalent within the American Midwest … Here, Black library patrons can access information or read at the leisure. While the building is not spacious and the collection isn’t vast — Leti makes a quick circuit of the library in mere seconds before finding Tic — the Black citizens of Chicago’s Southside are fortunate in that it they at least have a library. […]
The history of libraries is one rife with a continuous reckoning and evolution stipulated on who has access to information, who is allowed in the room, who is allowed on the stacks, and whose work is displayed, recommended, and purchased for distribution. It’s a history that moves toward increased equity even if progress is slow or hampered by old schools of thought. But, like American history overall, racism and racist practices under the guise of betterment still permeated library institutions.
I have organized the entries and excerpts for the 10 poet-librarians below in chronological order by birth year.
Marianne Moore (1887-1972)
Marianne Moore, born in Kirkwood, Missouri, was a celebrated modernist poet, critic, and translator. Moore worked as an assistant librarian at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library from 1921-1925. According to this post from the NYPL blog, her commute was only 42 steps! Moore’s poems were first published in 1915, and her first book of poetry was published (against her wishes!) in 1921. She published many more collections, and her Collected Poems in 1951 was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the National Book Award for Poetry, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Moore’s personal private library is preserved in its original layout — and available for public and digital viewing! — at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia.
In the meantime, if you demand on one hand, in defiance of their opinion – the raw material of poetry in all its rawness, and that which is on the other hand, genuine, then you are interested in poetry.
Marianne Moore, excerpt from “Poetry,” published in the literary magazine Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, 1919
Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
Mao Zedong (also spelled as Mao Tse-Tung), born in a Hunan village in south central China, became known as Chairman Mao and was founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He worked as a librarian’s assistant at Peking University from 1918-1919 and reportedly “earned only $8 a month carrying periodicals to the readers and organizing shelves” (Newton). This American Libraries article argues that Mao’s independent studying in libraries and experiences as a library worker helped shape his revolutionary outlook and ideas. He wrote poetry his entire life, typically in the style of traditional Chinese poetry.
Filled with student enthusiasm Boldly we cast all restraints aside. Pointing to our mountains and rivers, Setting people afire with our words, We counted the mighty no more than muck.
Mao Zedong, excerpt from “Changsha,” 1925 (English translation)
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
Jorge Luis Borges, born in Buenos Aires, worked as a municipal librarian at the Miguel Cané Library in Buenos Aires from 1937 to 1946 and became Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955. However, he was forced to resign from his library posts — twice, in 1946 and in 1973 — due to political clashes with Juan Perón. Borges was most famous for his short stories, but he also wrote poetry, essays, screenplays, and literary criticism. Borges’s most famous line has to be “I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library” from “Poem of the Gifts”/”Poema de los Dones” (1960), but I have chosen another poetic excerpt to share here.
Beyond the greying window night is fading And in the stack of books whose lopped shadow Makes it seem taller on the dim-lit table, There’s one we’ll never get around to reading.
Jorge Luis Borges, excerpt from “Limits” published in Poetry, June 1993, translated by R. G. Barnes and Robert Mezey
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
Stanley Kunitz, born in Worcester, Massachusetts, to parents of Jewish Russian Lithuanian descent, was a poet and editor. Although he never worked a librarian, he had the honor of being appointed — TWICE! — Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, first in 1974 and then again in 2000. While working at H.W. Wilson, he edited Wilson Library Bulletin, a well-known and respected trade journal for librarians, published 1914-1995. He also edited major reference works for libraries, such as the Twentieth Century Authors series, so I think he deserves to be included here — or at least an honorable mention? — for being directly involved in producing several professional journals and reference works for librarians and libraries. Kunitz’s first collection of poems, Intellectual Things, was published in 1930, and his 1959 collection, Selected Poems, earned the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.
Though I lack the art to decipher it, no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written. I am not done with my changes.
Stanley Kunitz, excerpt from “The Layers,” 1978, published in The Collected Poems by Stanley Kunitz, 2000
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
Philip Larkin, born in Coventry, England, was a poet, novelist, and librarian. After graduating from St. John’s College, Oxford, with a first in English Language and Literature, Larkin completed professional librarian studies, and he worked in libraries his entire adult life! He started out in public libraries, first working in 1943 at the public library in Wellington, Shropshire. After working as librarian at University College, Leicester, and at Queen’s University of Belfast in Northern Ireland, Larkin became University Librarian in 1955 at the University of Hull in Yorkshire, England, where he stayed the rest of his life. Larkin was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1975. His first poem, “Ultimatum,” was published in the Listener in 1940, and he only published 4 complete poetry collections during his lifetime. Nevertheless, Larkin was “one of post-war England’s most famous poets, and was commonly referred to as ‘England’s other Poet Laureate’ until his death in 1985″ (Poetry Foundation).
Life is first boredom, then fear. Whether or not we use it, it goes, And leaves what something hidden from us chose, And age, and then the only end of age.
Ana Rosa Núñez, born in Havana, Cuba, was a librarian and poet who published more than a dozen works, including collections of poetry, prose, and translations. She earned a library degree from the University of Havana in 1955 and worked as head librarian of the Tribunal de Cuentas de la Republica de Cuba (National Audit Office) from 1950-1961 and was a founding member and vice president of the Colegio Nacional de Bibliotecarios Universitarios (National College of University Librarians) from 1957-1959. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1965, and worked as a reference librarian at the University of Miami’s Otto G. Richter Library, where she helped found the Cuban Heritage Collection. As a poet, Núñez had a particular interest in Japanese haiku, and below is one of her haikus from the California State Library’s American Haiku Archives.
Nothing of the old cypress remains light makes its nest on the railroad tracks
Ana Rosa Núñez, haiku published in the collection A Dozen Tongues: Our Vanishing Wilderness, 2001
Christopher Okigbo (1932–1967)
Christopher Okigbo, born in Ojoto, Nigeria, was a poet, teacher, and librarian. He was killed fighting in the Nigeria-Biafra war in 1967 and was posthumously awarded the National Order of Merit of Biafra. While working as a librarian at the University of Nigeria, he founded the African Authors Association. You can read more about his life and publications here at the Christopher Okigbo Foundation site. I came across a couple of beautiful readings of Okigbo’s works by another Nigerian poet, Uche Ogbuji, and the following excerpt comes from that post and interview about Okigbo’s poetry and literary legacy.
Then we must sing, tongue-tied without name or audience, making harmony among the branches.
Audre Lorde, a prolific poet and writer, was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants. A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” (as qtd. in Poetry Foundation), Lorde’s poetry has been published in many collections, including her own anthology Chosen Poems: Old and New (1982) and in the anthology The 100 Best African American Poems (2010, edited by Nikki Giovanni). Lorde earned an MLS from Columbia University and worked as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library from 1961 to 1963 and at New York City’s Town School Library from 1966 to 1968. Lorde also served as New York State Poet laureate from 1991-1992. Two years after her death, the Audre Lorde Project, a Brooklyn-based organization for LGBT+ people of color, was founded.
Love is a word another kind of open— As a diamond comes into a knot of flame I am black because I come from the earth’s inside Take my word for jewel in your open light.
Audre Lorde, excerpt from “Coal,” The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, 1997
Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990)
Reinaldo Arenas, born in the Holguín province in Cuba, was a poet, novelist, and playwright. His posthumously published autobiography, Before Night Falls (1992), was adapted into a film of the same name in 2000; lead actor Javier Bardem, who is from Spain, was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Arenas. Arenas was a researcher in the José Martí National Library from 1963 to 1968 and an editor for the Cuban Book Institute from 1967 to 1968. In the 1970s, he was imprisoned in Cuba for his writings and his open homosexuality. In 1980, Arenas escaped to the U.S. and settled in New York City, where he mentored several other Cuban writers in exile.
I am that child with the round dirty face who on every corner is bothering you with his “can you spare one quarter?”
Reinaldo Arenas, excerpt from “Viejo Niño,” 1983, translated by Lázaro Gómez Carriles
Kavevangua Kahengua (?-present)
Kavevangua Kahengua, born in Botswana and living in Namibia since 1993, is a contemporary poet and currently works as a Special Collections senior librarian at the University of Namibia. In addition to being a librarian scholar, Kahengua has also published a book of poetry called Dreams in 2002 and another collection, Invoking Voices: An Anthology of Poems, in 2012. A reviewer in the Journal of African Poetry described Kahengua as “a leading Namibian poet” (Malaba). You can enjoy videos of Kahengua reading his poem “The Walk” and Windhoek High School students in Namibia reciting his poem “Old Man Walking.”
Yet happiness is concealed in the privacy Of mansions one wonders What sins have their owners committed To possess such riches! Or whose labour have they exploited?
Kavevangua Kahengua, excerpt from “From Within,” Dreams, 2002
Archivist Burkely Hermann delves into BIPOC archivists in animated series, including the characters of Arizal in ‘Recorded by Arizal’ and Grampa Park in ‘Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters’
Burkely is back this month with another guest post, this time about archivists of color in animated series. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Burkely Hermann’s first guest post on this blog about librarians of color in animated series. Some background: I highlighted one of Burkely’s posts about librarians in animated series back in November, and he also contributed lots of insightful comments on the Twitter round-table thread about archivist/librarian depictions in pop culture from Students and New Archives Professionals Section (@SNAP_Section), which I highlighted in this post from January, a post that set out my goals for this year to research and focus more on POC librarians. Therefore, I asked Burkely to contribute a couple of guest posts for this blog, because I think readers of this blog will enjoy his different perspectives of archivists and animated series. For this guest post, Burkely is going to delve into depictions of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) archivists in animated series, including the characters of Arizalin Recorded by Arizal andGrampa Park in Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters.
A bit about Burkely:
Burkely Hermann is an archivist and researcher living in the U.S. He graduated from University of Maryland with an MLIS degree with a concentration in Archives & Digital Curation in December 2019, and earned a B.A. in Political Science, minoring in history, in May 2016 from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He started three blogs in the summer of 2020 about libraries, archives, and genealogy in popular culture: Genealogy in Popular Culture,Libraries in Popular Culture, and Wading Through The Cultural Stacks. He currently writes pop culture reviews for Pop Culture Maniacs, runs several genealogy blogs where he writes about his family history roots, and occasionally writes pieces for I Love Libraries, an initiative of the American Library Association. He has also been published in the American Archivist Reviews Portal, the SNAP Roundtable, Issues & Advocacy, and Neurotastic. He is currently a writer for the Geekiary, an online pop culture review site, is exploring other sites to publish his work, and writes fictional works on the site Archive ofOur Own about some of his favorite animated characters who travel to archives and libraries. Additionally, he volunteers as a judge for National History Day, likes hiking, reading webcomics, and swimming in his spare time.
*SPOILER ALERTS BELOW*
Archivists of color in animated series: Arizal and Grampa Park
~ Guest post by Burkely Hermann, MLIS
Archives are often portrayed stereotypically in popular media and confused with libraries, as is the case in the Star Wars franchise, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, and The Mystic Archives of Dantalian. Archivists themselves are often portrayed similarly to librarians and, as such, embody many of the same stereotypes. Archives are places where people can access, in person or online, first-hand accounts of events, including various original materials, whether paper documents, maps, photographs, and digital records, and are staffed by specially trained individuals called archivists. The records within these repositories are kept due to their continuing, and long-term, value to users and those creating the record. Archivists often attempt to make their collections publicly available, whether through outreach or digitization of existing records. While libraries also make their collections available, they include secondary sources, like books, non-print, and other print materials which are organized by author and subject, and can be checked out for home use. Archives, in contrast, are arranged according to the person, organization, or community which created them. Their records cannot be checked out by patrons because they include inactive, and unique, documents no longer needed for day-to-day operations, with specific guidelines in place for accessing those records.
Archivists are often shown negatively in popular culture, and when shown, they are mostly White women, with a lack of BIPOC archivists. This echoes the dynamics of the archival field, which is, as stated in the last census of archivists in 2004, and will be shown in the upcoming census of the field, majority White. Furthermore, Samantha Cross of POP Archives, a fellow archivist who has examined portrayals in popular culture, mostly points to White archivists and archives in her reviews. I have found the same when examining animated series with archives and archivists.
Two animated shows stand out in featuring BIPOC archivists: Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters and Recorded by Arizal. Both series will be highlighted in this post.
When I came across the animated series Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters, I was excited to see an archivist of color, voiced by Sab Shimono (a Japanese–American actor), which inspired me to watch all the episodes of the series. While he never gets a proper name — only called Grampa Park — this archivist is the grandfather of a Korean-American kid named Nathan, who helps his grandson and his friend, Ricardo, do research in his “newspaper archives,” when the internet goes down. Unfortunately, the archives is in his basement, perpetrating another common stereotype of archives which is repeated in fictional works. Even so, federal records were once stored in basements of government buildings, although this soon ended after the records were under the control of the National Archives. At the same time, there are questions as to how well the newspapers are preserved and the fact the archives itself is his personal hobby, with archivists having a professional job to preserve records, not because it is their hobby to do so. There are some hobbyists who archive documents, but they likely do not have the professional training to do such archival work. While the basement archives of Nathan’s grandfather are a bit messy, with some records which are melting, he, a former reporter, asks what they need (engaging in reference work). They look through the stacks, organized by newspapers which are either local or worldwide. The newspaper archives reappear several times in the series, and the characters use it to access information which the villains try to keep hidden. Even with the reservations about the series, as I’ve previously explained, I still chuckled at his joyful declaration in one episode: “some say I’m packrat, archivist I say!” A proud archivist indeed.
A much more positive portrayal of archives is embodied in the protagonist of Recorded by Arizal, a 16-year-old Filipina girl named Arizal (voiced by Christine Marie Cabanos, an American voice actress of Filipino descent). She is an aspiring recordkeeper, known as keeper for short, who will travel across the world, gathering materials along the way to add to the global archive, to preserve the history of humanity. Arizal lives in a futuristic city named Maktaba with her cousin, uncle, and aunt. She composes a series of vlogs during her summer vacation, as an extra credit assignment and part of a formal application to become a keeper. While she decides whether she wants to pursue this career path, and the episodes released so far are a coming-of-age story, a main driving theme is “the discussion of record keeping and learning” as confirmed by series creator Yssa Badiola. On other occasions, Badiola has stated that future record keeping and vlogging is archival in and of itself. As an aside, the word “maktaba” means library or place of study in Arabic, showing that the show paid close attention to cultural and historical notions.
Throughout the series, Arizal struggles to define why she wants to be a keeper. She begins the series by saying she became interested in becoming a keeper because of her friends Lia and Rizella. Afterward, a keeper tells her the harsh reality of gathering information, causing her to have a personal crisis, as she worries about leaving her prized possessions behind before making the journey. Later, she reflects on her dream when standing on a secretive overlook and how she got through it with the help of friends. In the final part of the series, it is shown that her application to become a record keeper is accepted by the athenaeum, a literary and scientific organization that advances learning. If the series is greenlighted for a full season, her role as a keeper will be explored as she “records her journey to adulthood” and tries to make the history of humanity all the more complete.
There is one character who gets honorable mention in this post: Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr, a Black American actor and writer) in the mature animation, Futurama. It is worth asking if he can even be considered an archivist since he is described and shown as the Planet Express company bureaucrat who has a deep love for filing and organization. He is able to quickly look through the Physical File Archive so effectively that he secretly takes out a file hiding his role as an inspector of Bender Rodriguez, a robot who is part of the company’s crew. In order to spare himself from Bender’s wrath, he later destroys the file. The so-called “archive” is a single file cabinet with three drawers in an out-of-the-way location, hidden deep in the Central Bureaucracy. Brad Houston, an archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, countered the notion, saying that this “physical file archive” is a records center because it contains semi-active records, rather than an archive.
I am optimistic there will be further BIPOC archivists in future animations, due to the hopeful premiere this year of shows like S.A.L.E.M.: The Secret Archive of Legends, Enchantments, and Monsters on YouTube, and the other shows on a growing number of streaming platforms. I say this because popular animated series such as Amphibia, Carmen Sandiego, Little Witch Academia, andBloom Into You, all feature either archives or archivy settings. The same can be said about The Bravest Knight, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, Steven Universe, andManaria Friends all of which feature archives.Even so, these shows are cases of archives that have absent archivists, with some of these archives literally being abandoned. Furthermore, this article could be expanded further if George and Lance, the self-declared historians of the archive-library-museum in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and the possible manager of the Ancient Egypt special collections room of the PYRAMID school library in Cleopatra in Space, Khensu, the mentor of the show’s protagonist, Cleopatra, are included. In the latter case, however, it is not known if Khensu is the one that organized the information or if it was someone else instead. In the end, I’ll keep writing about this subject to engender continued discussion while pushing for more, and better, representation of the archives profession in popular culture.