It’s hard to condense the best librarians from TV and film into one list. What criteria are we using? Librarians who are good at their job? Librarians who embody the stereotypes most precisely? Or do we applaud the librarians who shatter the stereotypes in bombastic ways? Maybe it’s the librarians who make us laugh the hardest, regardless of their commitment to the profession. When I decided to rank 10 of the best librarians from shows and movies, I realized pop culture offers very few competent, well-rounded librarians. I’m forever grateful to Parks and Rec for giving us the term “punk-ass book jockey,” but that’s where the helpfulness ends.
Below, I’ve chosen 10 of the best librarians from TV and film and ranked them. I try to explain my criteria below, but basically, I’ve shoved down my personal preference and tried to identify librarians who are intelligent, helpful, and have made an impact on our collective consciousness. Extra credit was given for librarians who break out of the pathetic mold solidified by the horror of Mary Bailey’s character in her George-less alternate universe. (Think spectacles, dowdy clothes, and eternal tutting over her spinster state.) Be it cartoon, film, broadway, sketch, or sitcom, I searched wide and far to bring a range of wonderful and terrible librarians for your consideration.
10. Mr. Ambrose from Bob’s Burgers
Mr. Ambrose is a dramatic, pissy, practicing witch. He is also one of the funniest characters in the extremely hilarious Wagstaff School faculty. If this was a ranking of my favorite characters, Mr. Ambrose would top the list. Since I’m currently ranking best librarians, he falls much lower. He hates books and kids, but I’ll never stop thanking him for telling Louise (and me) about Topsy.
9. Conan the Librarian from UHF (and more!)
The only difference between this librarian and the barbarian character he is modeled after is the profession. I do respect Conan the Librarian for his dedication to book returns and the Dewey Decimal system. There is, of course, the small matter of terrifying and maiming disappointing patrons. Conan the Librarian shows up in late-night TV sketches and talk show pranks, but it’s his cameo in Weird Al’s UHF that cements him in pop culture.
8. The Loud Librarian from All That
All That holds a special place in my heart, and I just love Lori Beth Denburg. Sure, she’s a terrible librarian who screams at kids and creates an uncomfortable and unsafe environment. But she’s not all bad! Thank you, Loud Librarian, for destroying the stereotype of quiet, mousey librarians.
7. Tammy II from Parks and Rec
Tammy II is a toxic human, but her powers of manipulation are impressive. We love a librarian who wields her sexuality like a weapon. Yes, she tortures Ron, Leslie, Tom, and anyone who gets in her way. But her commitment to growing her library system by emotionally exploiting people in local government has to be applauded. Watch out for those whale tails.
6. Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
Twilight Sparkle is the only non-human to make the list. While she is an excellent pony, friend, and adventurer, her skills as a librarian leave a bit to be desired. Organization is a crucial skill for a librarian, and our equine friend initially struggled with the stacks. However, she’s made it this far up the list for her commitment to matching readers to books.
5. Rupert Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Giles is possibly the most classic librarian of modern pop culture. Daylighting in the library at Sunnydale High, Giles spends most of his time helping Buffy and crew decipher clues and defeat the monster of the week. I admire Giles for his guidance of his students and his handy expositional skills. As a school librarian, I cannot support the fact that only a small handful of students were ever served in the library.
4. Barbara Gordon (AKA Bat Girl) from Batman
An amazing PhD in Library Science and a badass superhero? Yes, thank you. There is an obvious two-ends-of-the-spectrum duality that DC Comics was going for when they created Barbara Gordon. Whether she is “losing herself in the mundane world of [Gotham City Public] library” or fighting crime by night, this woman is giving it all to her community.
3. Marian the Librarian from The Music Man
We love a multifaceted librarian. Marian is a piano teacher on top of her library duties, but it’s her dedication to the books that earns her such a high spot on this list. In a time when librarians everywhere are searching for inspiration against book challenges, Marian shines. Does she cower from the anger of powerful public figures? No, ma’am, she defends The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám not based on her personal preferences, but on the fact that young people deserve to expand their minds. Mic drop.
2. George and Lance from She Ra Princesses of Power
Gay librarians are better than straight librarians. (Obviously, this is just my opinion, but my opinion is right.) These two men use their skills in research and history to fight the First Ones and arm the rebellion with the most powerful weapon- knowledge. Of course, their dedication to the profession led to a few mix-ups with allowing their son Bow to follow his own path, but once they communicated and all secrets were in the open, all was well. Talk about badass book jockeys!
1. Kasia (AKA The Librarian) from Hilda
Kasia is a librarian and a witch, as well as a character in one of the calmest and most lovely cartoons ever. Kasia is stern and omniscient, speedy, and excellent at finding the perfect book for her patrons. Hilda and her friends are often in awe of how Kasia knows exactly what they need, and even though Kasia is capable of magic, it’s actually her amazing librarian skills that get that particular job done. Her organized library, rational mind, and almost spooky sense of connection to her patrons drive Kasia to the very top of my list.
The most exciting part of writing a list like this is hearing about all the ways I am wrong. Bring it on! Who did I miss? Who did I wrongly rank? Let me know! Looking for more great fictional librarians? Check out this article about librarians in pop culture by Rachel Rosenberg.