Jedi Librarian

31st December. How did that happen? I thought I’d just get a sneaky one in before we hit the big 11…

Now, my recent Miranda post aside, I’m not usually one for obsessing about how librarians are portrayed in popular culture, but this morning I found myself watching another episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the best cartoon series ever made?) and the library and a Jedi librarian that featured in it could just not pass without comment, especially as I just did a turn as Obi-Wan Kenobi at the work Xmas do.

Apart from the completely predictable decision to have a be-bunned elderly lady librarian – Jocasta Nu – I was fascinated by its incredibly old-fashioned approach to the electronic library with shelves upon shelves of what appeared to be e-books and very few computer terminals. Below: Jocasta Nu gives Ahsoka Tano a library tour…

Now I know this all happened in a galaxy far away a long time ago, but we are clearly meant to accept this as a space-age library. I didn’t learn much more about the library – the Jedi Archives on Coruscant – from the episode other than the fact that its really really important as it also houses Jedi secrets that must be guarded at all times and Jocasta’s proud claim that it contains “More knowledge than anywhere else in the galaxy”, so I decided to do a bit of student-style research (i.e. bunging a couple of words into Google).

I soon found myself on  Wookiepedia ( Wookiepedia – brilliant!) and soon discovered a whole lot more about the Jedi Archives and its librarian, much of which confirmed just how old-fashioned the set-up of the Archives was. I know this is sci-fi territory so I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover as much detail as I did, but I was. It includes an explanation of what exactly was on those library shelves…

Apparently they were known as the Stacks and they are ‘holobook’ shelves (thought so) each containing ‘trillions of datatapes and datacards, carefully sorted and arranged into categories and subcategories’. So yes, Jocasta Nu in her infnite Jedi wisdom bought trillions of ebooks and decided that the best thing to do is to file them away on physical shelves (presumably cases with datachips in them?). Which is precisely what I think some librarians would love to do now if they had the chance!  Below: Floorplan of the Jedi Archives…

So what of the Jedi Library access policy? Well I am informed that the archives were open all hours (pleased to hear they got something right) and were accessible to all Jedi in need of information (ah but just Jedi you understand, not any old random members of the Coruscant populace researching for their GCSEs). What is more, Jedi were ‘welcome to scan or copy most any data in the Stacks’ although the next sentence of the policy rather contradicts this: ‘removal of any material from the Archives was strictly prohibited’ – some work needed on that policy methinks. Furthermore it transpires that remote access to databases was completely prohibited, meaning that Jedi had to find time in their busy droid-battling schedule to travel to the Library, which probably explains why its COMPLETELY EMPTY throughout the episode I was watching. I can’t imagine that Jocasta’s annual footfall stats are higher than mine and on the face of it she certainly appears to have a much more exciting collection.

It should be said though in Jocasta’s defence, the main reason for the remote access ban is because of ‘the Dark Side of the Force’ and their attempts to corrupt and alter data held in the Archives which on one occasion included the removal of information about an entire planet (Kamin0 – nope I hadn’t heard of it either). So maybe we’ll let her off this particular draconian measure.

I’m assuming that the lack of terminals is  is to do with the proliferation of hand-held Jedi devices, but Wookiepedia is silent on this, although we are told that the few computer terminals that are there are linked to the main index catalog. Which leads me on to muse that it would be a very brave LAS vendor who would take on the huge Jedi Archives! Apparently the Library catalogue is touchscreen, so I hope there are plenty of monitor-wiping droids about. Below: Jocasta Nu interrogates the touchscreen Library catalogue…

I’m very pleased to hear that Jocasta, and chief librarians before her, had clear reporting lines to the ‘Council of First Knowledge’ and were also responsible for ‘briefing Jedi preparing for missions’ (gathering data beforehand and presenting it in a quick session) and for creating portfolios of information which were transmitted to the Jedi High Council to help them reach more ‘informed decisions’. Now that’s more like it. 

Those shelves and shelves of e-books and those access restrictions still bother me though, but wait… what’s this, I’ve just found out that librarian Jocasta was eventually killed by the young Darth Vader himself for not providing the information he wanted, clearly a very dissatsified library user, and on the evidence of the approach largely taken, who can blame him? Below: Vader makes it very clear to the chief librarian that he’s not that impressed with her customer service skills…

So that’s what happened to Jocasta, but what of the Library? Well, before the collection was destroyed, I’m pleased to say that a male rookie Padawan librarian called Jin-Lo Rayce (I like to think of him as a Star Wars eqivalent of a Graduate Trainee) secreted the information from the Archives off-world.  He (pleasantly surprised that he’s a he!) went on to found the Agents of Ossus (much catchier than CILIP) who were tasked with protecting the information until a new (and presumably vast physical) Library could be built. Very high-up on the rebel alliances’s to-do list after Return of the Jedi’s Battle of Endor I don’t think.

Although I don’t remember at the time (I probably tutted very loudly), Jocasta Nu briefly made into the big screen Star Wars prequels and due to her inability to help Obi-Wa Kenobi find the information he needed, and her proud boast that if they didn’t have it the information didn’t exist, she has been dubbed on YouTube as ‘the worst librarian in the galaxy’, a debate which still rages there if you want to join it. ‘Til next year…

January 17th edit: This post ended up having quite an impact,  to find out what happened next, read this

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29 thoughts on “Jedi Librarian

  1. ” What is more, Jedi were ‘welcome to scan or copy most any data in the Stacks’ although the next sentence of the policy rather contradicts this: ‘removal of any material from the Archives was strictly prohibited’ (…)”

    i think those policies are retfering to:

    1. your are allowed to COPY the information available on the Jedi Archives, BUT
    2. you CAN NOT DELETE the data available
    At least that’s how I understand them.
    Thanks for the entry, was a deligth to read it.

  2. Great stuff Andy and a very enjoyable read. That Jocasta Nu looks horribly familiar but I just can’t quite pinpoint the resemblance …..!

  3. Copying data and removing the data are two separate things, and wouldn’t be contradictory. The article was a lovely read otherwise. Good job.

  4. It depends if you mean removing the physical datachips or the data that’s on them. That the datachips are stored physically is a nonsense to me.

  5. Think of the “holobooks” more like Playaways: media and reader all in one. I’m sure Wookieepedia has an entry. :)

    Great post. To me, Jocasta Nu embodied the hubris of the Jedi that led to their downfall. This, however, doesn’t make her any better a librarian.

  6. I liked the original story before everything went retarded and they threw continuity out of the nearest window.

    It was just library droids and when Palpatine seized the jedi temple as his palace, nothing happened to the archives. Palpatine was not an idiot.

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  8. As a librarian-type person, the fact that the ebooks or whatever were stored in a physical location makes perfect sense to me. If it’s possible that electronic copies could be corrupted, the individual nature of these texts would make them more secure. Think of it like a Library of Congress for Jedi.

  9. First: You should try Nickelodeon’s “Avatar The Last Airbender” series. (Not the movie! The animated series!) There’s a librarian in it too.
    Second: The reason the library is Jedi only is because a lot of the information can only be accessed by a force user. There’s these Jedi Holocrons that are, essentially, flashdrives that contain a lot of material. In the devices, there were “gatekeepers” that could sense the ability and level of a Jedi, keeping information restricted from those who did not have enough ability. The idea was the if a padawan got too advanced stuff, he may hurt himself or others. Or blow up a planet. There was a lot of material that the library had that was “sensitive”. As in battle plans and such.
    Third: Those ebooks are safer than having all the information online! By having a sort of physical copy of the information, at least guards and Jedi could stop unauthorized people before they could get the information. Well, except that danged Cad Bane. That Duro simply must be stopped.
    Fourth: The whole “removal of any material from the Archives was strictly prohibited” was because Count Dooku went in and deleted a whole galaxy from the database. Yes, in the film Jocasta Nu was really arrogant, but at that point in time, she assumed (like everyone else in the the Star Wars universe) that the Jedi Library was the most comprehensive archives there is. If it wasn’t there, it didn’t exist.

    As you can probably tell, I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan. (Not as hardcore as some, though.) It’s true that librarians are not portrayed as accurately as they should be, although I have to say that I’ve met a lot of librarians like Jocasta. However, if George Lucas didn’t put in the glowing book-like slats in long shelves, would anyone recognize that it was a library?

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  11. I think they’re clearly stating that while any Jedi can copy any relevant information for themselves (onto their own datacard or datapad, for instance) the removal of the physical Libary contents (datachips, holobooks, etc.) is not allowed; they must remain inside the Library at all times.

  12. Hi Andy,
    Loved your comments on the Jedi library and ‘be-bunned’ stereotypical librarian – those moulds certainly seem to have been cast in stone for centuries – about time perceptions changed. Was just wondering if you were the same Andy Priestner who wrote the wonderful indepth guides to The BBC’s Secret Army series and Survivors? If so do you have any more books in the pipeline I’m a true fan?! Apologies if I’m singing the praises of another.

  13. Yep that’s me. If my blog readers will excuse the plug, when I’m not being a bun-less librarian I write and publish books. I’m currently writing a tome all about the BBC’s prison camp drama Tenko. My small publishing house is called Classic TV Press and there are 4 more books currently in the pipeline on different cult TV series. Before Xmas we published books on Doctor Who and Being Human. You can buy from us direct: http://www.classictvpress.co.uk or from Amazon. Very glad you enjoyed the Secret Army and Survivors books.

  14. Here is a nice shiny Internet which you have won, sir.

    The whole Star Wars librarian thing just makes me AAUUUUUUGH.

    Re ebook storage: the problem with physically storing individual data chips is the same problem with storing data for the long term on CDs or DVDs: auditing physical things with relatively small amounts of data on them to be sure nothing has been corrupted or stolen is so time-consuming and expensive that it doesn’t get done.

    Put it on spinning disk, replicate it properly in a few sites across the Galaxy (a galactic LOCKSS network!), and have audit processes constantly in action.

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