Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2003 / 19 Elul, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Librarian action figure will be taking no guff | If you were terrified by the prospect of a George W. Bush doll in a flight suit, you may want to dive under your bed before the release of Librarian Action Figure.

Marketed by Archie McPhee and Co., the 5-inch doll is modeled after 58-year-old Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl. The bespectacled woman in a cardigan, long plain skirt and sensible shoes does not look particularly threatening, but it is her actions that have librarians across the nation in an uproar.

Does she haul off and hurl a copy of "War and Peace" at a misbehaving child? No. Does she declare the Dewey Decimal System to be the work of Satan? No. Does she overlook a small overdue fine for a physically handicapped, unemployed homeless person? Gracious sakes, no.

No, what Librarian Action Figure does is far, far worse. She lifts her finger to her lips and whispers "Shush."

"The shushing thing just put me right over the edge," said Diane DuBois, library director of Caribou Public Library in Caribou, Maine. "We're so not like that anymore. It's so stereotypical I could scream."

One unsigned e-mail accused Pearl of setting the profession back 30 years, upsetting the librarian so much that she has stopped reading about the Librarian Action Figure online. (This may be the only positive outcome from all of this.)

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"It's a little bit disconcerting to read about how dowdy you are on somebody's blog," Pearl told the Associated Press.

Clearly, librarians have made quite a few strides if they are able to bandy about the word "blog" as easily as they once said "dust jacket." Still, I don't have any problem with a Librarian Action Figure that says "shush" even if some librarians would prefer to be portrayed in a more vibrant, politically engaged way. (I am not sure I would be interested in purchasing a Librarian Action Figure where you squeeze its hand and it goes off on a 10-minute screed about the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act. If I want a headache, I'll watch Fox News.)

True, Pearl's 5-inch, $8.50 action figure does not show her skidding to a halt on the deck of an aircraft carrier, nor does she have presidential superpowers, such as the ability to invade another country or run up a $400 billion deficit.

But that doesn't mean she's in the least bit ashamed of her profession. "The role of a librarian is to make sense of the world of information. If that's not a qualification for superherodom, what is?"

The Bush action figure and the Librarian action figure are both expected to appear on store shelves next month.

Let the best man, or woman, win.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune