Books, Magic, and Representation: Libraries and Librarians in The Owl House

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This is a guest post by Burkely Hermann, the librarian behind Pop Culture Library Review.

The Disney Channel young adult animated series, The Owl House, is known for its LGBTQ representation, voice acting, visuals, animation, and writing. Less recognized, however, is the fact that one of the supporting characters, Amity Blight (voiced by Mae Whitman), is a librarian. The library plays a significant role in the show, as well.

The show follows a teen girl named Luz who stumbles upon a portal to the magical world of Boiling Isles. The public library in Bonesborough, the largest town in the Boiling Isles, appears three times in the show's first season. In the episode “Lost in Language,”  Luz travels to the library to return a stack of overdue books. There are signs to stay quiet, and the librarian (Fred Tatasciore) shushes Luz for being "too loud," making it clear that the library is a place for study.

Amity counters these notions. She displays the importance of reading and the library as a welcoming place for everyone by reading to children. The rest of the episode involves Luz trying to become better friends with Amity, even teaming up with Amity's mischievous siblings, Emira and Edric. Luz and Amity later work together to fight off a book monster, which Amity's siblings forced her to create.

The episode has some fun visual gags, like the card catalog for the Demon Decimal System (a play off the Dewey Decimal System). There are also books about cyclops, extinct birds, ancient texts, including those with funny titles like Quacks Eats Snacks, Barely a Duchess, Pride and Pythius, and Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome. There's even a poster aimed at witches, saying the library lets them "get learned at the stake."

The library in The Owl House is organized like other libraries. It has reading and children's areas, a reference section, and books floating in the air, along with sections for manga, graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, adventure, and romance. Alluding to feelings between Luz and Amity, a hidden hideaway for Amity can be found behind the library’s romance section.

While it is funny to see a librarian get exasperated when he thinks there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction, Luz, Emira, and Edric, are clearly disruptive patrons. Especially when they disturb librarians shelving materials or cause card catalog cards to fly onto the floor. It's no surprise when all three get kicked out of the library, with the librarian claiming that they make reading "far too fun."

The library briefly appears a few more times in the first season. In the episode “Sense and Insensitivity,” a party for the sentient demon King (Alex Hirsch) is held at the library. And a publisher offers Luz a chance to be a writer while walking in the library stacks later in the episode. In “Understanding Willow,” a flashback scene shows Amity and a former friend, whom Amity slowly reconciles with over the course of the series. In “Witches Before Wizards,” Luz and King travel to a castle where a wizard lives with his personal library of many volumes. The library is also seen in the closing credits of the show's first season.

The library returns

In the show's second season, the library returns in “Through the Looking Glass Ruins,” as does Amity, who is now a librarian. Manifesting library energy, she wears a library employee card in a lanyard around her neck. The official description of the episode states that Luz and Amity journey into the "most dangerous section of the library," leading enthusiastic fans to chatter about the episode even before it aired. Some even drew fan art of Amity as a librarian.

In the episode, Luz learns that another human has donated a journal to the library and asks Amity for help finding it. Luz is hesitant to involve Amity, but her friend rejects this and puts her job on the line to help find the book. For Amity, helping Luz is even more important than keeping her job; it is the ultimate sacrifice for a patron. At one point, Amity grabs Luz and declares “We’re getting that diary!” She goes above and beyond her role as a librarian, and acts as a very good friend.

Amity and Luz successfully find the journal, but a mouse —who happens to store memories of book pages it has eaten—has eaten a portion of it. Amity’s boss, a mysterious librarian named after the demon Malphas (Fred Tatasciore), catches them in the act. He eventually fires Amity because she entered the library's "forbidden section," showing the power of library management over rank-and-file librarians.

Feeling bad for Amity, Luz goes through a series of "trials," including fighting monsters, to help get her friend’s job back. Amity is forever grateful and boldly kisses Luz on the cheek, surprising her and bringing them closer together. There is also a cute scene that bucks the shushing librarian stereotype where Luz and Amity shush each other in hopes of not getting caught.

Fan theories

Fans have theorized that the head librarian in The Owl House resembles a character from the video game, The Legend of Zelda. Others posit that Amity resembles an older version of the witchy librarian, Kaisa, in animated series Hilda and that she gives off vibes similar to Star Wars character Sabine Wren. Despite such similarities, Amity, as a lesbian woman, has the distinction of being the most prominent LGBTQ librarian in a currently airing animated series.

There have been other LGBTQ characters who are librarians in animated series, such as George and Lance, who ran a family library in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power; Desiree, a closeted trans woman, in Too Loud; and Mo Testa, a lesbian and librarian with a MLIS degree, in Alison Bechdel's comic series, Dykes to Watch Out For. There are many LGBTQ librarians in anime, as well, such as Lilith in Yamibou, Azusa Aoi in Whispered Words, Fumi Manjōme in Sweet Blue Flowers, and Chiyo Tsukudate in Strawberry Panic!, to name a few.

Like George and Lance, the fathers of a show protagonist in She-Ra, Amity is more than a librarian—she’s a full-fledged character. Her job as a librarian is only one aspect of her life and her portrayal fulfills all three tenets of the Librarian Portrayal Test.

Since that episode, Luz and Amity have made their relationship official, and the pairing was even one of the top ships on Tumblr last year. Hopefully, in the second half of Season Two airing later this year and in the show's upcoming final season, the library will reappear and the show will continue to highlight the importance of libraries and librarians for people of all ages, especially young adults.