Fictional librarians really crack me up. In popular culture, librarians usually represent the most questionable stereotypes about the profession, from the dowdy and disappointing alternate universe Mary in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life to the biting, book-hating Mr. Ambrose on TV’s Bob’s Burgers. Children’s media is one place where depictions of librarians tend to make me feel warm, but even that is not a guarantee. Still, whether the characterizations are gruff, exaggerated, adventurous, or caring, I get a thrill every time I see my chosen profession woven into a story.
Below I’ve listed some of my favorite librarians from children’s books and shows. The list is disappointingly white when I stick to fictionalized accounts, which tells us a lot about how our culture sees this job. However, I couldn’t resist some bonus biographies about amazing Black and brown librarians who have done so much to make libraries welcoming places for all.
Miss Brooks from Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t!) by Barbara Bottner and Michael Emberely
I love that this story features a main character who is completely uninterested in reading. It’s so important to normalize the feeling of not being immediately sucked into the magic that can be reading for some kids. Miss Brooks is undaunted by her unenthused student. She faces the challenge with vigor, hunting and hunting until she finds the just-right story for her ogre-and-booger loving patron. Miss Brooks is the librarian who helped me vocalize my mission to help reluctant readers find something in the book world to hook them.
Lyric McKerrigan from Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein and Vera Brosgol
Secret Agent Librarian? Yes, please! Lyric McKerrigan is the embodiment of the saying ‘books are the most powerful weapons.’ From her unassuming stance in the background, Lyric introduces the perfect book at just the right time. Carefully chosen titles help the henchmen organize for workers rights and overcome giant moths. Fun and bright and honestly a perfect Halloween costume, Lyric truly delivers.
The Librarian from the movie Monsters University
So this is not the most positive librarian representation (we’re back to the shushing), but The Librarian is too fun to skip. Hitting every stereotype from elderly to hating noise, this monster unfurls her tentacles to literally throw out any noise offender in her hallowed halls. Sure, I want more librarians who encourage their patrons. But I’m also here for raising your voice to protect the books you love!
The Librarian from the show Hilda
Hilda is one of my absolute favorite shows, child-friendly or otherwise. The entire aesthetic is cozy and adventurous at the same time. In season 1 episode 8, Hilda visits the library looking for help for a friend and wanders into the special collections room. This is the first time we meet a stylish, accented, cape-wearing Librarian. I am waiting for more episodes of Hilda for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’m dying for more from the library.
Miss Merriweather from Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes
I almost alway cry when I read Library Lion. There is just a lot here to celebrate. Characters growing, fairness being valued over how things have always been done, overcoming jealousy, and a joyous reunion at the end. Miss Merriweather is firm and gentle. Her library is a wonderful place where boundaries are held for the comfort of all. And when you read about her, you get to roar.
As promised, here are a few nonfiction titles to expand on the dated white female idea of what a librarian looks like. These biographies feature real life librarians to admire and adore.
Luis Soriano from Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra
Told through the eyes of patron Ana, this story details a library carried on the backs of two mules, Alfa and Beto. This heroic librarian brings books to hard to reach villages all over Columbia, instilling a love of reading and encouraging patrons to write books of their own.
Arturo Schomburg from Schomburg: The Man Who Built A Library by Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez
Where most librarians are tasked and organizing what has been deemed culturally important, Schomburg took on a greater and more noble mission. Flying in the face of the incorrect assumption that Africans in America had no history worth learning, he collected books, letters, music, and art from the African diaspora. His impressive amassment is a national treasure, and his story a true inspiration to librarians.
Pura Belpre from Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar
A celebrated storyteller and puppeteer, Pura Belpre is a champion of bilingual literature. Sharing folktales from her native Puerto Rico during her popular bilingual storytimes at the New York Public Library, Pura realized how few stories were available to Spanish speakers. This became her life’s work—culturally diverse books and library events that made many feel welcome in the library for the first time.
Who are your favorite fictional librarians? Do you prefer warm fuzzy feelings or the silly stereotypes we sometimes see? Curious to see which pop culture librarian YOU would be? No matter what you like in your fictional librarians, I hope you got the same silly thrill I do from this collection of book champions.