October 14, 2012

Librarians in Children's Media

Stereotypes seen in children’s media are much different from that portrayed in adult movie, books, music videos, etc. They librarians are typically softer, more polite, sweet, and helpful. It seems that something about adults brings the worst out in librarians. However, children need to view librarians as nice and helpful so that they will go to the library young,  learn that it is a place to gain knowledge, and use the resources as adults. Perhaps if this were the case more often, the illustrations in adult media would be more realistic and appropriate. Although the librarians in children’s media hold their own stereotypes such as older, unmarried women, and sweet dispositions, they are better than images in more mature shows and movies. Several examples of librarians appearing in kid’s movies and TV shows: 

Arthur; various episodes created by Cookie Jar Group for PBS 1996-present
Paige Turner

Paige Turner is the librarian at Elwood City Public Library. She is depicted as a sweet, caring woman who enjoys students checking out books and who wants to help the children. While she is not mean, she is somewhat strict, wanting everyone to behave and be reasonably quiet. She is respected by the characters as seen in episodes where D.W or Arthur dream they will be in trouble for damaging books or forgetting to return books. This image of a librarian is positive and encourages students and children to seek out the library as a place to gain knowledge or find books/information. 

Because of Winn Dixie 2005, directed by Wayne Wang and adapted from book by Kate DiCamillo
Miss Franny Block

Eva Marie Saint plays Miss Franny Block, an older librarian who works at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library. She is kind to Opal, the little girl who the story is about, and tells her stories about when a big bear came into the library. Miss Block is very caring, polite, and friendly. Opal likes talking to Miss Franny and wants to be friends with her. However, it is the usual friendly image of an older, unmarried woman who helps the children. It is a much better depiction than is usually found in adult media, as witnessed by the discussions of the other librarian stereotypes in additional posts. While it might not be an accurate illustration of librarians, it is a step closer to a better, more realistic representation at least in terms of behavior. 

Between the Lions, brainchild of PBS 2000-2010

This show was created to promote children to read and is set in a library starring a family of lions who run the Barnaby B. Busterfield III Memorial Public Library. All the characters are loving, nice and very helpful to all the patrons who come in. Outside of the main lion characters there are other characters who work in the library that give information or help users. For instance, Information Hen is the Information Specialist and works in the telephone reference department, answering questions about the library or reference materials. The show is a fantastic representation of not only what a librarian is, but also what a library should be—a place to learn new things and read. Since the librarians are lions, it takes away the stereotypes of physical appearance, focuses solely on encouraging kids to use the library, and shows how librarians are helpful people. 

Matilda 1996, directed by Danny DiVito and based on book by Roald Dahl
Miss Phelps 

Miss Phelps (Jean Speegle Howard) is shown only briefly when Matilda goes to the library to find books to read when her parents will not buy her any. However, Miss Phelps is kind to Matilda and offers to help her find books that she might like and shows her where the books she wants are in the library. The librarian is the stereotypical sweet older woman who really cares about the users, but this persuades children watching that if they go to the library they will be treated fairly and given the help they desire. While not all librarians are sweet old ladies, I think it’s important for children to view librarians as kind people that will assist them. Perhaps future illustrations can include younger people of other genders and various ethnicities that are still just as polite. 

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