Magical libraries, book panic, and archives

I review fictional libraries, along with various articles about libraries and archives

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great Labor Day Weekend. I’d like to begin my newsletter with a recent post on my blog which continues my series of reviewing recent depictions on libraries in popular culture.

I looked at two of my favorite shows, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Carmen Sandiego. The first one of these was the season 2 finale of She-Ra and was mainly based in a library. Of course, this would one of the most positive depiction of libraries in cartoon animation I’ve seen so far, with the main plot focused on a library in a mystical woods, with one of the main characters revealing his secret that his dads run a library there and are serious scholars on the planet’s first settlers. During the course of the episode, the library is wrecked by a monster, but they figure out a message, and move on. My favorite line of the episode is uttered by one of the characters, Glimmer, who tells Adora that "we have to find Bow and get him out of this...uh...library?" Anyway, the library depicted here is welcoming, full of knowledge, but more about research, making it a bit like an archive, which I expanded on in my fan fiction about it which I’m not going to explicate here. Apart from that, there are mentions in two past Carmen Sandiego shows of libraries, but they mainly just use them as a backdrop, as in the first one (Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?) it is literally just a plot point, while in the newer one (Carmen Sandiego) it is just part of Carmen’s studying there while in the the VILE crime school. I feel that reviews like this are important because it can be used to bring more people into the library field, while also making those who are in the field aware how libraries are depicted in popular culture so they can call for better representation going forward.

There are also some articles I’d like to talk about. The first of these is an article in Smithsonian magazine focuses on the book scare in the 19th century that contaminated books in library would spread disease, not only leading to panic, but also demonized libraries, tied with a fear of public libraries themselves. Some books were even burnt for the idea they would spread disease. The ideas that books could spread disease was dismissed by the early 20th century, proven to be a falsehood, while the idea still lingered around in parts of the medical profession into the 1940s! I thought this article was definitely worth mentioning in this newsletter because it shows that public libraries have faced challenges in the past and it can be, at times, a rocky ride.

I’d also like to talk about a few recent posts on NARA blogs. In the first of these is a post on about a rulebook on football in the Hoover Presidential Library’s records, which is bit interesting. While the post highlighting the photographs of Mount Vernon in NARA’s holdings was fascinating, telling the history of such a historic landmark, I liked the one about pneumatic tubes. I didn’t know they were once a “ubiquitous feature of Federal buildings both in Washington, DC, and around the country” or that the Pneumatic Tube Service operated in the Post Office Department from 1892 to 1953, overseeing “underground networks of pneumatic tubes, which used compressed air to swiftly send mail around several major cities in the United States,” with paper that could go up to 35 miles an hour! It comes as no surprise then, that pneumatic tubes facilitated NARA’s reference service startling in the 1930s but this ended long ago, with those remaining were removed “during a major building renovation in the early 2000s.” I guess we can have huge tubes like in Futurama. Oh well. The only place you see them, anymore, is at banks. Times have definitely changed, without a doubt.

I’d like to end this newsletter with a few other posts. One is the beginning of a community transcription campaign by the Library of Congress of “notebooks and letters of folklorist Alan Lomax, his family, fellow musicians, colleagues, and collaborators,” documents which serve as a bedrock of “understanding of 20th-century American and Caribbean folk music.” I’d recommend you contribute if you haven’t already. I’d also like to mention the annual report of the Native American Archives Section (NAAS) of the Society of American Archivists. In the report they note that they continue to press for “meaningful relationships between Tribal archival professionals and the SAA,” helping archivists implement the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials(PNAAM), expanding outreach, while clarifying any misunderstandings about PNAAM despite the fact they continue to face obstacles in promoting awareness to this standard. As such, they have worked with others, like the Human Rights Archives Section (HRA), trying to create more forums to ask how archival professionals “affect historical research and representation,especially with regard to disenfranchised people and marginalized communities.” Clearly, there is work going forward, but the work of NAAS and other allies within SAA should be praised, without a doubt.

That’s it for this week. Hope you all have a good week!

-Burkely