These Animated Librarians Have Big Hearts and Big Heads

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by Burkely Hermann

Animated series such as Hilda, Cleopatra in Space, and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power have portrayed libraries in a positive light; Too Loud, a 16-episode, two-season animated comedy web series on YouTube, is another great example of libraries in animation. Created by Nico Colaleo, the series focuses on two clumsy and loud volunteers at the Chestertown Public Library somewhere in the Western United States: Sara (voiced by Kelsey Abbott) and Jeffrey (voiced by Colaleo), with abnormally large heads, have fun even while they do their jobs. The show has already garnered a wiki, fan art, and a loyal group of fans. While the show is geared toward children, viewers of all ages can enjoy its message about the value of libraries.

In the first two episodes of season one, the so-called “loud mouth librarians,” Sara, and her brother, Jeffrey, help patrons: Sara uses her huge cranium to find a book on an obscure topic, while Jeffrey licks a library card to discern whether a book is overdue. Both explain the personal importance of helping library patrons, saying it brightens their day. In the second episode, both work together to save the library from being shut down by the town’s mayor. In later episodes, they meet friends in the library, with Jeffrey using the size of head to give a sci-fi author an idea for a new book, breaking his writer’s block, and a new librarian named Sarah is introduced.

Although the library is not shown as many times in the second season, the show emphasizes the library’s value to the community over and over again. In the third episode of the season, Sara is overwhelmed with her library duties and joins a group of “bad girls.” But when they approach the library and prepare to egg it, she remembers the positive memories and experiences she had there and tells the girls to leave. Afterward, Jeffrey and the head librarian, Mrs. Mildred Abbott, thank Sara for her hard work, saying they appreciate her efforts. In the fifth episode of the season, on the 100th anniversary of the library, Mildred’s twin and the chancellor of the libraries, Muriel, declares that the library will be sold off so the area can become a parking lot, all due to a long-standing grudge against her sister. The usual patrons are horrified by this, as are Jeffrey and Sara. Just in time, they help bring the two sisters together, and they reconcile, saving the library from destruction.

Other episodes highlight the importance of libraries and proper organization. In one episode in particular, the story centers on the Jeffrey and Sara picking up overdue library books and punishing those responsible is emphasized.  They convince a skeptical Sarah, a fellow librarian, to help them break into someone’s house to get an overdue book, but in truth Jeffrey had the book the whole time, for over eight years, and had forgotten to re-shelve it. After the person’s house collapses when they grab the book, all three of them learn that being punitive with those who have overdue books is not worth it.

The same can be said for an episode where Jeffrey and Sara travel deep into the library’s stacks to search for their friend, Molly, and find their long-lost cousin, Steven, who had been stranded there. In this abandoned part of the library, which has not been touched since the 1980s, there is even a VHS rental section!

Due to their role in the library, Sara and Jeffrey, along with their new colleague Sarah, are valued by those in the community. For example, in one episode, after Sara and Jeffrey get head reduction surgery, they have trouble doing their jobs, and ordinary patrons miss the usual banter of Sara and Jeffrey. It turns out this is a nightmare and both vow to never change the size of their “big, glorious heads” for anyone.

Even Mildred, the head librarian, bucks librarian stereotypes in several ways. At first, viewers may see the older white woman with glasses as dotty and clueless. For instance, she buys a burned sign for $100 dollars to eat in one episode, and is unsure how to answer reference calls from patrons. However, she has institutional knowledge dating back to the founding of the library, which her father built and founded. She helps Jeffrey, Sara, and Sarah with their duties from time to time and values their work at the library. Since the series is focused on Jeffrey and Sara and those who interact with them, she does not appear as much, but she adds an interesting dimension to the series.

While showrunner Nico Colaleo has proposed ideas for a third season, the season has been on an extended hiatus since November 2019—but viewers are still discovering the show and enjoying its depiction of libraries to this day. Even as the library’s size and layout differs from episode to episode, Colaleo has shared designs of the library on his Twitter account, including new angles of the library and the rainy day version of the library’s exterior, and a poster of a pop star promoting literacy displayed in one of the episodes. Hopefully, the series will be renewed, as having a show centered around libraries, like this one, would be a boon for representation of libraries and librarians in animation.

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