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Who Loves Doctor Who?

Who Pals

Librarians Matthew Winner and Sherry Gick rock their Doctor Who tees at the 2013 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) UnConference in Hartford, Connecticut. (photo used with permission by Matthew Winner)

I love two things (well, three, but we’ll leave chocolate out of this!) — libraries and the hit BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who. With the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who approaching (November 23rd), I thought why not combine my love of the two into one, big celebratory blog post?

Both of these loves hearken back to my childhood in which I spent many a happy time tucked away with an adventure book in some corner of my local library or at home with my Dad, watching Tom Baker with his mop of curly hair and ridiculously long scarf play the fourth incarnation of the Doctor.

I wanted to find out what connections could be made between libraries and Doctor Who, so I went to the best authorities on these beloved subjects–librarians and educators. For this post, I interviewed six librarians and one teacher who are fans of Doctor Who.

Tells a Good Story

Christie Ross Gibrich, a Teen Librarian Toolbox blogger and Senior Librarian at the Bowles Life Center Branch Library in Grand Prairie, Texas, attributes Doctor Who’s appeal to the “element of storytelling and detail with each and every arc” to the show.  Ms. Gibrich and others also note that some of the episodes were written by legendary writers, such as Neil Gaiman.

Timeless and Ageless Appeal

Several of those I interviewed speak of the timeless and ageless appeal of the show. Karen Jensen, creator of the Teen Librarian Toolbox and Youth Services Librarian at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, TX, was struck by how much her kids loved Doctor Who as much as she did. And while Doctor Who is perceived as a sci-fi show, it is also sui generis—or unique of its kind.  “Even if you don’t like science fiction,” points out Jan LaRoche, Young Adult Librarian of Moline Public Library of Moline, Illinois, “Doctor Who dabbles in all sorts of genres including history, mystery, romance, and even westerns. Because he can go anywhere and anytime, he’s kind of like literature itself.”

 Makes Knowledge Cool

Another common thread that educators and librarians remarked about the show was how, underneath its fantastical adventures, it makes the pursuit of knowledge cool. Each episode of the show involves problem solving and the acquisition and application of knowledge. “Not only does he make bow-ties and fez’s cool,” says Sarina La Torre, children’s librarian and author of the Nerd Craft Librarian blog, “he makes knowledge cool.”

Library Media Specialist Elizabeth Zdrodowski of Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Florida, points out that the literary allusions and historical connections make the show “such a fun way to peak further interest about major events or characters throughout history.” 

The respondents noted how caring the Doctor is toward his companions and the human race in general. Matthew Winner, a teacher librarian at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Maryland, and author of The Busy Librarian blog, supposes that the Doctor’s “neverending compassion” might be what draws teachers and librarians to the show.  “He’s always been portrayed as a character whose constant surprise toward the admirable qualities of the human race draws him closer and closer to the species,” says Winner. “He does, after all, find us the one race in all of the galaxy worth saving.”

How Are Teachers and Librarians Like Doctor Who?

Winner ties in the Doctor’s compassion with how teachers and librarians feel toward their students. “No matter what trouble, embarrassment, or otherwise threatening situation our students find themselves in, we are constantly compelled to help out…because we see the hope in each and every one of them.”

Gibrich notes that just as the Doctor “brings out the best” in his companions, “librarians have a little bit of the Doctor quality because if we’re any good, we can be what teens need the most and bring out the best in them…”

“For librarians,” says Jensen, “there are no meaningless stories or people, something which the Doctor speaks about often: ‘You know that in 900 years I have never met anybody that wasn’t important.'”

Compassion, the desire to help, and recognizing the importance of others aren’t the only qualities teachers and librarians share with the Doctor. When I asked a high school English teacher  to compare educators with the Doctor, she noted their shared love of learning new things:

“How are teachers like Doctor Who? I’d be flattering myself if I drew very many comparisons between myself and The Doctor, but I will say that any teacher worth their salt is going to share The Doctor’s love for learning new things. A perfect example is that when he is confronted with a new and terrifying monster, he does not react like most people would by running – he usually quips something like ‘Oooh – look at you!  You’re gorgeous!’  English teachers and librarians are like that with books. Big and ‘scary’ or intimidating books that others shy away from appear as opportunities for learning to us.”—Jennifer Hall, Glades Central Community High School, Belle Glade, Florida

How Are Libraries Like the TARDIS?

Along with a companion or two, the Doctor goes on civilization-saving adventures through time and space in a ship called the TARDIS that looks like a blue British police box. A running joke in the series is about how the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. (It even has a swimming pool!) Several respondents noted how just like the TARDIS, libraries are bigger on the inside, especially since the books they contain can transport you to other worlds. And, libraries house so many other resources besides books. Here is my favorite response I received when I asked, how is a library like the TARDIS? –

“You can always find something unexpected in the TARDIS. While we may not have swimming pools in our libraries, we have many things you would never think of. For example, there are libraries that loan out tools and cake pans and even prom dresses. And if a library doesn’t have what you need, the friendly staff will help you find out who does and print out a map to get you there.”— Jan LaRoche, Young Adult Librarian of Moline Public Library, Moline, Illinois

Celebrate!

chocolate

Yum! I guess I can combine all three of my loves! Check out this chocolate Dalek and TARDIS for library parties celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. (photo used with permission by Teen Librarian Toolbox)

On November 23rd, BBC will be airing a 50th anniversary special called The Day of the Doctor. It will be broadcast in several countries, including the US. Many libraries and schools are celebrating with parties, classroom activities and more. If you’d like to host a Doctor Who event at your school or library, Teen Librarian’s Toolbox has a Doctor Who Central with resources and information.

You can also check out the Google Doc and other links on The Busy Librarian’s blog post, WHO Loves Libraries (#SaveTheDay).

And, Nerd Craft Librarian has nifty Doctor Who craft ideas, such as how to make a bow tie (because bow ties are cool!)

Watch a NerdyCast on Doctor Who and Education

The Busy Librarian also has a NerdyCast in which teacher/technology curriculum specialist and author of The Nerdy Teacher blog, Nick Provenzano, has a conversation with educators Sherry Gick and Matthew Winner on Doctor Who and education.

Research Doctor Who in ProQuest

Are you doing a classroom project on Doctor Who? If so, check out our eLibrary Research Topic, Doctor Who, for newspaper articles, transcripts, vintage photographs and more. Also, explore the genre of Science Fiction in SIRS.

Share with Us!

If you are doing something special in your school or library for the anniversary and would like to share with us, please let us know on Facebook or Twitter @ProQuest! Also, feel free to contact me if you’d like to see the questions I asked along with the complete list of responses.

 

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