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Is Jocasta Nu in “Star Wars” an archivist or…a librarian?

A figurine of Nu released by Hasbro based on her look in the 2002 Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones.

Jocasta Nu is a oft-misinterpreted character. Wookieepedia, the premier Star Wars wiki site, makes clear that baked into the Star Wars canon is the confusion between libraries and archives, as her role as a “librarian” and an “archivist” is said to be synonymous. The Jedi Archives is called the “Jedi Temple Library,” and “Great Library” at different times, with the archives operated by an assembly of librarians, and is overseen by a group of Jedi, devotees of a religious order dedicated to calmness, peace, and passiveness, who only use their abilities for defense and knowledge. In the show’s expanded universe, she was one of the Jedi who maintained knowledge repositories, which some called “Lore Keepers,” consisting of librarians, historians, and archivists. [1]

There is no consensus among librarians if she is a librarian or an archivist. For example, Jennifer Snoek-Brown of Reel Librarians calls Nu a librarian at times, who plays off “librarian stereotypical traits and behaviors, like hoarding information and enforcing rules and regulations” but also has “positive librarian skills and traits” in her summation, while also calling out Nu for being “imperious, condescending, and ultimately unhelpful.” On the other hand, Snoek-Brown described Nu as an “archivist librarian” in 2013 and 2018, while also listing Nu in the “hall of shame,” and calling her a “reel archivist” in her Master List of English-language films. There are others like Snoek-Brown who describe Nu as a librarian, like S.W. Sondheimer of Book Riot, Jessy Randall of Library Shenanigans, Librarians on YouTube, audiovisual archivist Anne Loos, and the Society of American Archivists UW Madison Student Chapter.

On the other hand, former SAA President Randall C. Jimerson described Nu as an archivist, with Researcher/Curator at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Krista McCracken, describing Nu as the same, while Sam Cross says that Nu may be a lone arranger/archivist in the Jedi Archives and Rebecca Harrison describing her as the only “professional archivist who appears onscreen.” As Maddy Myers wrote in The Mary Sue, “shout-out to these librarians and archivists for their valuable work and…for their fun Star Wars observations.” [2] For my part, in the past, I have described Nu as an archivist, whether in the 2002 Attack of the Clones film or the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, noting that Star Wars franchise is a muddled mess where “creators couldn’t determine whether…Nu worked at a library or an archives.”

Although some have claimed have claimed that in the Star Wars galaxy, distinctions between librarians and archivists are meaningless, that is not an accurate assessment. While librarians, like archivists, preserve, collect, and make materials accessible for research, materials in archival collections are unique, often irreplaceable, while libraries, for the most part, can obtain new versions of lost or worn-out books. There is no doubt that Nu is terse, absolute, and stern in her belief that the records are complete, something which no archivist will ever say. She is also arguably a spinster who is old and stubborn, and as a character she embodies many archivist and librarian stereotypes as an old White woman, in line with how archives and archivists are often portrayed. Furthermore, I have questioned whether the Jedi Archive has records management tools or something to check their records, asking why they blindly trust that no one tampered with the records, wondered whether she faced any consequences for missing a planet, and my takeaway from the Attack of the Clones that archives shouldn’t be totally trusted. Nu is very experienced as she worked in the Jedi archives for over 30 years, reliant on data of the archives, with her archival knowledge acknowledged in some fan fictions. Apart from this, in August of last year, I outlined her role in the 2002 film, writing that

…the archives of the Jedi Temple said to contain “possibly the single largest source of information in the galaxy,” a bit like the Library of Congress, having blue-glowing books/records…Nu…the lone arranger of the Jedi Archives, asks him if he needs any assistance, helping him try to find the planet of Kamino, which does not appear in the archival star charts…After not helping him, declaring that the archives is totally immutable, Obi-Wan is literally left to contemplate, like he is in the wrong and she is in the right…This [film] has a few implications for archivists, specifically on the fact that the perception of archivists that everything in their collections is all there is, that they have everything, that records could not be tampered with.”

Any question she is a librarian quickly fades away as she is described elsewhere as records custodian, even though she works within an library, reportedly based on the Long Room of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, the main chamber of the Old Library, filled with “200,000 of the Library’s oldest books.” Although some characters in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars called her a librarian, she described herself at one point as an archivist. On the other hand, since the Jedi Archives is supervised by an assembly of librarians, as I noted earlier, it is no surprise she is given the official title of “Chief Librarian,” as these librarians may not know the difference between an archivist and a librarian, as they are removed from what she does day-to-day, leading to further confusion. More evidence that she is an archivist is hinted in the fact that the holobooks in this library, described by some as “glowing books” are not like regular books you would find at a public library. The holobooks are literally a form of user-friendly data storage technology which requires very little energy, displayed alongside data tapes (equivalent to analog media) and ancient crystalline information storage devices which can fit in a hand, known as holocrons. [3] The latter contain well-guarded secrets of the Jedi.

On the left, a trading card of Nu from the Star Wars Trading Game. On the right, Nu calls herself an archivist in the comic Star Wars: Darth Vader no. 9.

Rare books are parts of a library which do not fit the “usual distinctions between libraries and archives” as these books are kept in strong rooms, have limited access, even if the rare books are not necessarily archival. As such, you could say that rare books, like special collections and local studies are archives-lite in more ways than one. While holobooks seem like a combination of e-books, actual books, and perhaps something like DVDs all in one, the data tapes seem more like analog media that archives would keep, holocrons seem to more like rare books. This means they would require specific maintenance, care, and preservation, even more than the holobooks which I had previously argued could be rare books. Its good to revisit this subject again, although I am doubting that I will broach this subject in a future post at any point, even while acknowledging that anything is possible.

This seems to lean in favor of the Jedi Archives being an archives rather than a library. In sum, it is clearly evident that the Jedi Archives is a special library as it is providing specialized information resources for a specific group, specifically the Jedi in this case, and it delivers specific services to the Jedi. In this way, you could say that special libraries are archives-lite, and that Nu is working in a repository, as it is storing records of continuing value. I think that is the best way to describe the Jedi Archives. Of course, those who have written stories with Nu have not realized this nuance, thinking of her as just an information provider and nothing more, nothing less.. Nu is doing much more than what librarians describe as a “reference interview,” a way of describing a conversation between a library user and librarian, often at a reference desk, with a librarian explaining to a user’s information need by trying to clarify what the user is saying and directing them to the appropriate resources.

Nu can be, and still is, an archivist even if she is working in a special library, as she clearly has archival duties, including controlling access to the contents of the Holocron Vault. She also has duties which some might attribute the librarians like helping Jedi find information using the data terminals of the Jedi Archives, said to be the greatest repository of knowledge in the galaxy. Those duties can easily be part and parcel of archival work. The issue here is that Nu, who is overconfident in the role of the archival records and thinking they are immutable, is treated as an archivist and a librarian at the same time, even those these professions are not the same. The creators easily blended the two together, despite the fact those in each position have different roles, even if they work together. Libraries can exist within archives and vice versa, but libraries and archives are not the same, and should not be treated as the same. To act like they are interchangeable is to devalue the work of archivists and librarians alike, and contribute to misinformation and narratives which result in the loss of funding to archives, and likely even libraries as well.

In the end, I hope that a live-action or animated series within the Star Wars franchise has a better archivist character in upcoming series [4] and doesn’t fall into the trap of acting like libraries and archives, librarians and archivists, are the same thing, as some of the fan fictions, which feature Nu as a character, likely do. They never have been the same thing and they never will be the same thing. The professions can surely work together, but the distinctions between each profession are important to ensure that necessary work can be completed, people are paid fairly, and inequities solved.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Notes

[1] Wookiepedia. n.d. “Chief Librarian.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Chief_Librarian; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Chief Librarian–Legends.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Chief_Librarian/Legends; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Lore Keeper.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Lore_Keeper; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi archivist–Legends.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_archivist/Legends; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi librarian–Legends.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_librarian/Legends; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi historian.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_historian; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Council of First Knowledge–Legends.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Council_of_First_Knowledge/Legends; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi Archives.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_Archives; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi Archives–Legends.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_Archives/Legends; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Council of First Knowledge.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Council_of_First_Knowledge; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi Order.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_Order;  Wookieepedia. n.d. “Jedi.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi. These sources are formatted using author-date Chicago Style on the official website for Chicago Style.

[2] For analyzes of archives in Rogue One, see Gabriel McKee’s “Ancient Archives, Modern Libraries, and Star Wars: Rogue One,” Jon Tilbury’s “How not to build a digital archive: lessons from the dark side of the force,” and Robert Havey’s “Don’t Store Your Data Like the Empire in Star Wars.” Related is the article “Presenting Records Management to Archivists (using The Force).”

[3] Wookiepedia. n.d. “Holobook.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Holobook; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Data-tape.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Data-tape; Wookieepedia. n.d. “Holocron.” Accessed November 16, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Holocron.

[4] According to CBR, the upcoming Star Wars: Crimson Reign #1 comic (available starting on December 1) includes a mysterious character known as The Archivist, who is Force-sensitive character, and is recounting the events from the comic from a holocron where she recorded what she experienced, but as CBR notes, “nothing is known about her other than her sensitivity to the Force and her radical belief that there is no difference between the light and dark sides of the Force” with her design seemingly “inspired by Iain McCaig’s early concept art for Darth Maul.” There’s also an archivist appearing in the book, Star Wars: The High Republic: Mission to Disaster, which will be available beginning in January 2022, named Lyssa Votz. Starwars.com describes her as a “Jedi temple on Dalna, a human female in her late 20s and a fully trained Jedi Knight” who hates fighting, and is described by Lucasfilm Publishing creative director Michael Siglain as “always forgetting her lightsaber” but often carries a datapad in her hand at all times. So, I look forward to those.

By histhermann

Marylander with MLIS who loves archives, libraries, genealogy, reviewing pop culture, and writing fictional stories. UMD '19 & SMCM '16 grad. I've been running various WordPress blogs for a while now, about genealogy, libraries, archives, and more.

6 replies on “Is Jocasta Nu in “Star Wars” an archivist or…a librarian?”

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