Minorities in cartoons: “Unshelved”

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Updated on December 10, 2021

Too Much Information
Art by Bill Barnes.

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the webcomic “Unshelved.” The strip’s written by Gene Ambaum and drawn by Bill Barnes, and debuted in 2002. The strip went on hiatus in 2016.


Unshelved” features the daily goings-on at the “Mallville Public Library” and its staff of librarians. (Wikipedia claims the library’s name is a play on “Smallville” of Superman fame.) The strip makes fun of various aspects of life at a public library; besides writing “Unshelved,” Ambaum also works as a librarian himself. The main characters deal with both each other and with the library’s patrons.

Among the cast of characters include the punnily-named lead character Dewey, a librarian in the young adult section, who tends to be particularly snarky toward his patrons. Other characters include Tamara, an African-American woman who works in the children’s section. She tends to be cheerful, and is also vegan. Another character, Mel, is the library’s manager, who’s particularly interested in office supplies. She’s also a lesbian, though her relationship is infrequently mentioned. There’s also a character named Buddy who’s never seen outside of his old summer reading program mascot costume (a beaver).

“Unshelved” had a crossover in 2014 with Barnes’ other webcomic, “Not Invented Here.” The entire sequence involved a character from “Here,” Desmond, going to the library to find a needed book.

Fridays sees “Unshelved”‘s website show a weekly “Book Club” feature, a comic that briefly summarizes a different actual book of interest to the strip’s readers.

(Updated 11/22/16)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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